Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I always thought that animals were hard-wired to remember where they get food, so that they could keep on going back to get that food. Therefore, I've decided that my cat has that kind of amnesia where he can't form any new long-term memories, perhaps brought on by a tumble when trying to descend his bulk from a fence, or in one of those terrifying, hair-flying cat fights he used to have with our old neighborhood cat. It's hard to say when it began.

Because every day he sells me the same, waif story. I'm hungry. You're never going to feed me. Oh god, I'm dying of hunger!!! You cruel human eat your juicy, tasty human food while I, all 20 insane pounds of me, must live on mosquito hawks and the particles I dig out of the carpet!

It is the same song every day, no matter that I have fed him (and some would say over-fed him) for the past nine years every day of his life with me. If I have not personally been there to feed him, my husband has, or we have had some kind soul stay in the house to do the job. This is not a cat who has gone without feeding, I promise you:

So the only other option is that he's obsessive compulsive. And trust me when I say that I am not being facetious.

Monday, May 29, 2006

People with jobs, and other reasons to leave the house, gain a repertoire of interactions and experiences. Then, when you get together with these people, they talk to you about things they have seen and done. That's sort of how friendships tend to work.

So I can't decide if it's cool or geeky (though I'm leaning towards geeky)when, in the middle of a conversation, half the time I have something to say it's in this context:

"That's like in the novel I'm writing, there's this character who..."

The very phrase, "In the novel I'm writing," while not exactly a conversation-stopper comes pretty darn close. But what do you do when that's the truth? When the most interaction you've had (okay, other than with my husband, the clerk at the coffee place and my cat) is with people you made up yourself in your own head?

The scary thing is, I actually feel as though I've been interacting with real people, that their conversations are real ones I've been privy to.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

HOW is it Thursday? I can't understand. Wasn't it just Monday? Oh god...it's happened. I've cracked right through the space-time continuum. Please don't tell me I went back in time. Forward I can handle. But I don't want to come within fifteen years of my teens!


But in other news...I'm glad for Taylor Hicks. Really. I wanted him to win all along in my deep down secret pouch (no, I can't tell you where that is). I really do think that Elliott Yamin deserved it more, and is a truly good soul, but I am proud of Taylor for being so unlike all idols. Never has Idol had such a fabulously spastic, tic-driven, gray-haired bundle of harmonica-playing soul-funk. He's not the best singer of all the Idols, but he has more personality than all of them combined and the fact that he won tells me that maybe America is full of sheep, but sheep who still long for something a little bit different.

And I applaud LOST for continuing to withhold answers and confound their plot into stickier, trickier, hatch-less, radioactive, rag-wearing island-fever insanity. I gave NINE YEARS to the X-Files. So i'm in for the long haul, people. Bring it on. Give me the worst you got. Go all Magus on me, I dare you! I waited out the alien conspiracy. I waited out that long sought-after Mulder/Scully heat and alien love-child. Don't think you can get unnerve me with a few unanswered questions and strange electromagnetic charges. I always knew that Mulder wasn't going to die...or stay dead. Try me, punks!



Monday, May 22, 2006

When i started working on my novel, The Night Oracle (whose title I'm thinking of changing), I knew that a certain minor character was desperate, unstable even. A person inclined to make bad decisions on the level of embarrassing others in public with rude comments or extreme jealousy of the kind that makes most men wonder what they've gotten themselves into. I didn't, however, realize just how desperate she was, and to what lengths she would go, nor really how her part in this larger story would unfold. It has been a revelation to see how selfish, how completely at the edge and unable to see clearly this character is. If I met her in real life, I'd know her instantly, and I would run far from her and her shaky psyche.

How magnificent.

Sometimes, when my characters suddenly spin out of control, even as i'm writing them, I'm thinking 'no, no, it isn't possible! Why are you doing that?' That's the miraculous edge that us writers thirst after. The high that keeps us coming back. When I interviewed authors for Word by Word, I often asked them about things I thought were intentional. "Did you set out to plant images of dead animals throughout the novel leading up to the kid's suicide?" I remember asking of Charles Baxter. He stopped, took a puzzled breath. He had not. He didn't even consciously remember that there was more than one incident.

Roxana Robinson sounded downright irritated after the sixth or seventh question of "how much thought did you put into planning X?"

"I don't plan it. I don't think about my characters when I'm not writing. I just write when I'm there writing."

While I do actually spend a lot of time thinking about my characters when I'm not writing, and I do in fact try, probably a little too hard, to insert images that will give resonance to later events, I too have to admit that the muse has a logic of its own. It is always running ahead of us, spotting moments and openings and parallels and places inside which to slip allusions and refrences and tie off threads and offer up dazzling metaphors just when we most need them.

And that blows my mind. That my conscious mind is plodding along laboring to make words into sentences, making sure that I have explained everything, and some other part of me is worrying about the larger fabric, the themes and the mysterious images that later on seem to have been carefully, even obsessively wrought.

I wonder what it's like for painters or dancers or glass blowers...


Saturday, May 20, 2006

If you're bored, curious, jaded, done with the internet...drop everything and go to Post Secret's site. And keep going back. It's fantastic.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Be Afraid, be Very Afraid!

A friend emailed this missive about new "smart chip" technology that will soon be finding its way into your merchandise! Read on.

" ... the federal government and their pet company Verichip are gearing up to use the immigration issue as a convenient and expedient excuse to begin chipping humans. As a related side-note, all US passports released from this year forward will contain embedded tracking chips unique to each citizen / individual. US driver's license implementation will be enstated by 2008 or earlier.

For those who may be fuzzy on RFID technology: RFID (radio frequency identification) chips continually broadcast a unique signal that allows a monitoring agent to ascertain the exact whereabouts of the chip and its carrier (this means YOU). the chips are about the size of a large grain of sand and can be hidden within price tags, clothing material, shoe soles, packaging, etc. these chips can be read from a stationary monitoring (spy) position, even if the carrier (YOU) is traveling down a freeway at 60 miles per hour. your location and activity (shopping, purchases, travel, movement, etc.) can be scanned and/or monitored 24/7/365 without your permission or knowledge. you, your movements, habits, haunts, and all that you do, buy, use, wear, eat, drink, and discard are about to be tracked and monitored by corporate interests and the federal government. the high-tech call for the elimination of paper money, the global enstatement of National ID Cards and Ecash, are all wrapped up in the above mandate.

Our chance to speak out against this sinister technology begins NOW! Levi Strauss has broken a call for a moratorium on US RFID retail implementation (barring further review and study) and has begun releasing chipped clothing "as a market test" here in the states. Levi's is refusing to reveal the location of this chip "test."

Please speak out, and by all means boycott all Levi's products, including Docker's etc. and spread the word.

Our freedom depends on it.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An Editor's Rant

Fie on you evil sentences! Your conjugations defy me. Your nouns slip like water through my fingers. Your pronouns stand down a distant corridor, separated from their wards, never to be joined again. Because of you, my eyeballs are both pasted to the center of my face, my neck muscles wound like angry snakes poised to attack at the base of my skull, and my mood is dark...ever so dark on your behalf.

Learn to write please. LEARN TO WRITE, rather than paying someone else to massage it into beauty. Because I will be honest with you--just as I gave up being in the field of beauty-care because I couldn't care less about how perfect anyone's eyebrows or bikini line were, I care not for your tepid, broken, humdrum little excuses for sentences, and nothing I do will save them. They will always be crooked and ugly. They are unnatural things, never meant to be. Theirs is is a half-life at best, a bedraggled, painful, half-life where they will be teased and stared at and ridiculed, and they can't be saved. Do you hear me? They CAN'T be saved.

You will never know how painful it has been.

Don't worry--it isn't you. You would never think to come here.


Monday, May 15, 2006

I'm the kind of girl who indulges in things to such excess that I eventually max out on them. You know, for awhile it's a certain kind of pasta, or cookies, or a jogging route, or reading an author...some kind of routine...and then, one day, bam, I can't stand the smell of tomato sauce, and if I have to look at those ugly begonias one more time on my jog I might just hyperventilate.

Well friends, the same thing has begun to happen to me with the internet, blogs, and email. I still try to respond to email, but I find that I don't just reply to every single email that comes in, but more in waves, when I really have something of substance to say. I still read an enormous number of blogs for someone who is supposed to be working during the day, but I don't have it in me to post, too. I rarely surf the net. I am coming back to a place of stillness. It is enough to rise early and write, then edit other people's writing on the egregiously tiny computer screen of my laptop, exercise, eat healthy, carry on an ever-deepening and meaningful relationship with my husband, read all the things I want to read, and watch the minimal tv programming I like (Daily Show, American Idol, The Office...), journal, talk with/meet with friends, etc.

I feel as though I've hit stimulation overload. I still enjoy going to the bookstore, but I only skim the celebrity rags anymore. Television commercials feel like visual hammers on my psyche. I can't help when I enter a store nowadays but feel that I am just being crowded out by merchandise, by stuff. Then there's all the information out here, on the internet. I think I have stopped blogging as much because I want to offer less opportunity to snag others away from their lives. And, I'm too overwhelmed lately to keep it up. I feel inundated, dripping in information and ways to connect and suggestions of how I should engage in the material world via my checkbook, not my heart, without any actual connection.

This weekend the Creating Space retreat at the Wellspring Renewal Center was small, so I really got to retreat in the truest sense of the word. I spent whole hours on my quaint cabin porch in an insect-buzz and bird-song induced trance. It's funny, I really was trying to write, but then the particular cadence of all that frothy nature would tickle my ear, and I'd drift off on it as if I was listening to a rapturous Bach Ensemble. It was magnificent. For someone who has a hard time stopping, nature helps you do it. It just pulls on you with its creaturely, messy, smelly claws. It made me feel deeply nostalgic for not an exact experience that I've had, but of one I haven't had, actually, of a time when we were not separate from nature, or not as much as we are today.

Some might say this is a form of withdrawing from life, but I swear to you, I want nothing more than to plunge deeply back into life. Real life. Not packaged life that comes in shopping malls and in pre-packaged entertainment. I'm craving the authentic, I guess, that stuff that exists whether humans ever showed up on the planet or not. I'm craving deep silence and connection to everything. And if you want to call me a hippie for it, go ahead, everyone always does.

But I'll leave you with Mary Oliver:


Every spring
the ambiguities
of childhood

the hillsides grew white
with the wild trilliums.
I believed in the world.
Oh, I wanted

to be easy
in the peopled kingdoms,
to take my place there,
but there was none

that I could find
shaped like me.
So I entered
through the tender buds,

I crossed the cold creek,
my backbone
and my thin white shoulders
unfolding and stretching

From the time of snow-melt
when the creek roared
and the mud slid
and the seeds cracked

I listened to the earth-talk,
the root-wrangle,
the arguments of energy,
the dreams lying

just under the surface,
then rising
at the last moment

flaring and luminous
the patient parable
of every spring and hillside
year after difficult year.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Only someone as brave and innovative as Sue Henderson, who regularly does interesting things at her blog, and is a deft, talented and poised-on-the-brink-of-success writer, would be willing to take on my zany "interview with myself." But she did, and HERE is the result.

And P.S. to my blog-idol friends...Goodbye Chris, and Good riddance!!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

To all ye bloggers who are also freelance writers hoping to publish your blog essays, take heed.

One of the odd things about being self-employed is that frequently I'll raise my gluey eyeballs from the text I'm editing or the article I'm writing with a frisson of panic--"What day is this??" I will cry to the silence of my office. But since my eyes are generally past the point of focus I cannot simply flip open my calendar, no, I must shout, down the stairs and across the house to my husband, or far worse, send someone an email in order to discover the day. Not that there is much point to discovering said day except to prove to myself that I haven't lost total touch with reality.

This chaos of daylessness is made only worse by the fact that I'm working on a novel in which five chapters can unravel in the course of a character's twenty-four hour span.

I've learned a lot about my habits the past couple weeks of novel writing. I have lots of steam on Monday and maybe even into wednesday, but by the time thursday morning rolls around my characters are as glib and one-dimensional as a Bud Lite commercial. They're insulting each other in cliches and falling for bad lines and traipsing about wastelands that make Waiting for Godot look positively cluttered, due to my inability to describe a single thing. It isn't pretty.

And so you have to find ways to stay excited about this world and its crazy inhabitants that you've created. You have to convince yourself there's a reason for it, one that will have editors drooling to purchase it--(yes, purchase damn it, I'm using the big, complicated word where the little one would do: buy.)

At any rate, to convince myself there was some purpose behind my novel, I decided that, since no one is clamoring to interview me about anything, I would interview myself. After all, I know what questions to ask. And I know how to make me sound...well, if not smart...oh I'll quit while I've not yet made an ass of myself. Anyways, the gracious Sue Hendersen will be running that conversation on her blog on Thursday--which, I think, is the day that comes after that other day, which might be tomorrow, but you really shouldn't take my word for it.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Late, but the Party's Still on...

I barely ever have any commentary on events as they happen. It takes me months to process headlines before my brain metabolizes anything worthy of blogging about.

James Frey gave the outraged public a voice to vent how much they HATE it when people make up stuff that causes them to feel REAL feelings (damn those fiction writers, damn them!), and Kaavya Viswanathan reminded us that $500K does indeed equal too much pressure and that literati abhor a plagiarist (Scarlet Letter P, anyone?).

But I admit I have suddenly grown paranoid. Have I unconsciously absorbed the work of others, modeled my own little sentences after, say Lorrie Moore or Borges? Haha, I wish! (That reminds me of this exercise I had to do in a COMS class in college--where we had to write a paragraph modeled after an author. I chose Tom Robbins! In a communications class! Such a rebel)The part that gets me the most, after the daftness of anyone who would bother to plagiarize material such as Ms. Viswanathan did, is who has the time on their hands to go, line for line, through the books she borrowed from and compare? Sorry, Ms. Kinsella--I'm sure your books are faboo, but really, so much trouble. These must be the same people the FCC pays to watch all the television shows for outrages of swearing and nudity.

Do you know what's odd? In art, if you make fun of a famous painting, by using some of the imagery, it's legal. Parody is legal! Plagiarism is not. Get your p's straight. So if you want to mimic your favorite author, simply make fun of him or her. Look out Philip Roth, here I come to satirize your butt!

So,had you had known the Literary World contained so much scandal, you might have become a writer, huh?

* * *
In other apalling trivia, how is it possible to charge $96 for a pair of shorts? HOW? These are not shorts made out of woven gold threads and caviar, nay. Nor are they shorts that once graced the ass of Marilyn Monroe. These are slightly faded, boring green shorts sold by the boutique down the street from my house. SHORTS! For airing out your hot summer legs--and these were especially long, allowing lazy shavers like myself to not have to worry about the top half. I could understand if that extra two inches of fabric cost me an extra couple of bucks. But at that price I could have bought twenty pairs of shorts at ROSS! I handled my shock by heading over to the Goodwill, where I bought yet another $3.99 skirt. Nice, too.



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Today's Wednesday Essay...is a Wednesday Poem!

Awful April
by Laurie Lessen-Reiche

It is gone now with its awful
births and hesitancies---its
Amusement Park ride jerks and whiplashes,
its plummets.
It has slipped over the horizon out of sight
like a skier on his disappearing descent down the Matterhorn.
It's gone now and I am glad.
It left, a cry-baby, with its suitcase full of rain.
I feel no remorse,
won't turn around and call it back, in fact,
I'm relieved to be free of its infuriating kvetching,
its pushy mooching off my heart:
a hungry month, a naughty month,
I might even go so far as to say,
a hopelessly psychopathic month.
I'm done with it---
now it is May! the new birds and bees
move into the air in a downright Dionysian jubilation,
like liberated Munchkins they are reveling in the witch's liquidation,
spinning down sidewalks, bouncing off supple
branches, French-kissing stranger roses in front of the cheering
blades of grass whose green cheeks blush even greener,
tumbling and somersaulting through the swimming pool-blue air---
all taking one big collective breath
as willow seeds fall:
lucky-star confetti anointing us all!

Laurie S. Lessen-Reiche is a fulltime person living fully for writing in Petaluma, California. She has published widely in magazines such as The Princeton Arts Review, Kingfisher, The Southern Poetry Review and The California Quarterly." She is the recent winner of Lilith's Magazine's 2006 Charlotte Newberger Poetry Award. She loves talking to people about all things, especially poetry, philosophy, literature, and politics, and welcomes any and all email from other writing, painting, singing, dancing, stressing, lolling, strangers! Email Laurie at: p.reiche@comcast.net

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Do yourself a favor and indulge in the latest installment of Searchlights & Signal Flares at Tiny Lights .This one is themed, "What Scares You the Most about Writing?"

Here's a teaser from Christine Falcone:

What scares me the most about writing is getting too close to the edge, revealing too much about myself, allowing the world to see who I really am. It's the same feeling I get around heavy machinery or power tools. Just standing next to a skill saw, or a running lawnmower with its whirling blades is enough to make me pale. When I'm really writing the truth, writing what's real, I have the sensation that I'm walking on the edge of a razorblade. It's dangerous. It's exhilarating. And there's usually a little bit of blood involved. It's the way the words flow out of me before I can stop them, seize them and take them back. It's a reckless sort of abandon that leaves me chasing after myself, after my characters sometimes, wondering: what was I thinking revealing THAT!?

But isn't that part of being a writer? Revealing everything, tunneling into every dark crevice, every hidden cavity looking for gold? Throwing the doors to our heart open like the shutters of some provincial inn and asking the world, no, daring the world to look inside, to come on in? Writing is a kind of invitation to readers to stop, look and listen to me. And having that kind of attention, that measure of an audience who might judge, misunderstand, ridicule or even contradict what I have to say scares the hell out of me. Somehow the idea of writing isn't as scary if I think it's just for myself. But then where's the risk? It's a bit like walking a tightrope two inches off the ground. No, the real danger in being a writer is letting go of your writing, giving it over to the world to do with it, make with it what it will. And that letting go is quite possibly the thing that scares me more than anything else.

Searchlights columnist Christine Falcone's fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in various print and online publications. Her work has also aired locally on public radio and nationally on public television. She is currently working on her first novel entitled, This Is What I Know.