Moments in Writing: Know When to Give Up

I took on a writing commission months ago. The brief was to write a dozen children’s stories for someone’s niece and nephew, working in details of the kids’ lives to make a keepsake for Christmas. I was given a deposit and let loose.

I can’t do it.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried. But I just can’t wrap my mind around writing for children. C says it would be easier to fake it if I were a fantasy writer…“Kids like that kind of stuff.”

True, but I’m not elves-and-magic-beans. I’m murder-you-and-feed-you-to-pigs. I don’t have kids. I don’t know the first thing about age-appropriate stories. I didn’t even read kids’ books when I was one.

I think part of growing your artistic career is setting limits and knowing yourself. So as much as I’d love for those kids to get my stories under their tree, I’m going to have to refund that deposit.

I thought I would feel guilty. But instead I feel proud. Proud of myself for moving forward with my career the way I want, not the way other people expect. It feels good.

We’re Lucky to be Horror Fans

Last night I came across a blog about the atrocities of war. It’s graphic; there are pictures of the dead and brutalized victims of bombings, attacks, and the like. The photo that stuck with me all through today was of the aftereffects of a bombing: there is an eleven year old girl, screaming and blood spattered, and in the corner is a child who died smiling. I can’t get the image out of my mind.

It’s made me realize how lucky we are, us horror fans.

I live in Canada, and more often than not I take my country for granted. I don’t mean to, and I really do love being Canadian. It’s just that life here is…nice. People really are polite here (for the most part). We get all the seasons, so there’s something for everyone. The land is vast and largely green and just so damned nice. There really isn’t any other descriptor for it. And because it’s so lovely and safe, it’s easy to forget that life is not like this for most.

I can walk safely to my car in the dark (even though doing it drives my Mom crazy). I lock my doors out of reflex, but honestly? I probably don’t need to. I have never in my life worried about whether a bomb will hit my house. (I HAVE a house, in the first place, which is again more than many can say.) I grumble and bitch about my “bad days” like everyone else, but I rarely spare a moment of gratitude for the life I live.

It made me think: if you’re a horror fan (and if you’re here, there’s a good chance you are), you’re lucky too. No one in a war-torn country would welcome more horror. They have enough in their real lives. Those of us who can assume that we’ll return home unscathed at the end of the day have the luxury of “escaping” into horror. The monsters are different, but fear is fear. The difference is that we welcome the safe version, tucked cozily into our beds. The fact that we get to choose our horrors renders us lucky.

I don’t honestly know where I’m going with this. It’s just a thought that’s been with me today.

Today I am grateful.

The Ragweed is Eating My Brain

image credit

I love Fall. I really, really do. But somehow each year I manage to forget that this is the time of my nemesis.

Look at them. Those little pollen…fucks. See how pointy they are?

That’s about how they feel as they embed themselves in my nasal cavities. Microscopic little shards of misery and suffering. I’m pretty sure that when I inhale they burrow deep into my brainmeats, where they send up a collective cheer that their Godless mission has been accomplished. They’re in there right now, high-fiving each other.

It’s probably a bad idea to jam sharp implements up there. I must resist. Instead I will gorge on antihistamines, pray for colder weather, and curse ragweed’s very existence from the depths of my blackened heart.

Books: Sacred or Mundane?

If you look on my bookshelves, you can tell which books I’ve bought new, and which were used.

The used books are in all stages of wear: some are underlined in someone else’s pen, some are dogeared, almost all have cracked spines. The books I bought new, by comparison, are all pristine. No bends mar their covers. Their spines are unblemished. A coworker of mine likes to tease that I must barely open my books, pantomiming what she thinks I must look like: wrists bent unnaturally, thumbs barely breaching the pages.

It’s not like that. Honest. There’s just some part of me, ever since childhood, that respects the Book. Books are just…different than other media. Cassettes, and now CDs, become outdated. I know only a couple people with a VHS. But books are timeless; if treated well, they last for what seems like forever.

The funny thing is that I don’t mind at all if a book comes to me already damaged. In fact, I love the soft flexibility of a well-read novel. But I can’t bring myself to be the one defacing them. (I’ve actually had my husband “break” a couple books for me while I look away, a task which he takes on gleefully and which makes me shudder.)

I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy here: I’m an eBook author. I publish digitally. I’ve been in a couple “dead tree” books, but haven’t yet offered any of my own. I publish this way because I love the new world that eBooks have opened up to indies like me: they’ve leveled the field and let us writers represent ourselves. They’ve allowed those of us who want more control over our work a way to get it out there with minimal interference. I can carry thousands of books with me everywhere. And the convenience factor can’t be beat; see a book, want a book, have it within seconds, even at three a.m. on a Sunday. I love my Kindle for these reasons and more.

But I can’t deny: physical books have me in a trance. The smell of the paper. The heft of a good thick book in your hands. Seeing your progress through the story as the pages read overtake the pages remaining.

I’m planning to try paper publishing once I get this effing novel finished. I’d like to see my own work alongside the work of so many others on my shelves. You guys will be the first to know when I make that leap.

In the meantime, though, I’d like to hear your views. Do you flip your books inside-out and fold down corners to mark your place? Or do you treat them as “more” than just words, reverently and carefully?

Edward Scissorhands: the Tattoo

I found this on a list of “scary tattoos” at xaxor.com, but I beg to differ. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful tattoos I have ever seen. It’s so delicate. I love it.

(for the curious: see the rest of the list here.)

Abraham Lincoln: Matrix Meets Civil War

I expected to hate this movie. I’d borrowed the book from my friend Leslie (she of I Know I’m Not Normal Because…, who will be posting her own review shortly review is here) and struggled through the first…third?…before I gave up. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t interesting. It was too much blah blah and not enough action or suspense. Therefore, this review is about the movie only, which Leslie tells me is nothing like the book.

If you’re going to see this one, go into it with an open mind. (I mean, you have to be at least a little willing to suspend your disbelief; a President slaughtering vampires? Hokay.) But I mean really open your mind. This movie is wild, and over the top, and funny in a possibly unintentional way. It reminds me of Drag Me to Hell in that if you’re expecting scary, you’re out of luck. If you’re expecting to be entertained, you’ll have fun.

Super-quick summary: go see it, in 3D, before it’s out of theatres. The spoilers start below:

Abraham Lincoln is a total badass who spins his axe like a karate bow staff. He started picking off the vampires, blah blah, and I started to think it was going to be nothing but hack-and-slash. At one point his axe is revealed to be both a gun and a knife. (Really??)

Then it got pretty.

The movie is wonderful to look at, even in its most bizarre scenes. There’s a LOT of CGI. Sometimes it gets crazy, like a chase scene where we see Lincoln hopping Frogger-style across the backs of stampeding horses. And there’s a few too many slo-mo fight-scene Matrix backbends. But it’s also used subtly, and beautifully, as with the falling embers and the vampires’ reflective eyes.

The costumes are incredible: if I thought I could get away with wearing 1800’s period dresses I would be all over it. I especially loved Mary’s mourning dress, as seen at the dinner table with Lincoln. Not only would I wear the clothes, they would give me an excuse to knit a shawl like I’ve always wanted.

The sets looked fantastic, especially the burning train trestle and Lincoln’s office at the White House.

Standouts: THE VAMPIRES! They looked quite a bit different than your standard vamps: when they attack, they’re almost demonic in appearance. And the effects when a person has been bitten are impressive (you can see the veins pulsing beneath the skin). I also appreciated that the actors were able to speak normally with fangs in; none of the mushy mouth you usually get with vampire movies.

Watch out for: the bad 80’s riffs on the soundtrack to the fight after the ball, the axe-gun-knife, the flawless projection of a child’s tiny metal sword when fired from a gun, and Henry’s ability to hold up entire train cars without ripping his arms off. There are some plot gaps, too: Lincoln attacking Henry for lying about being a vampire (uh, no he didn’t) and Mary blaming Lincoln for hiding the whole vampire thing from him (nah, he told her right to her face).

Still? It grew on me. I really, truly liked it. Even if there were only three of us in the theatre.

Real Life Horror: LASIK Eye Surgery

I’ve decided to give contacts another go. I still love my glasses, but it’s nice having the option, especially for DayJob. I’m not at the point yet (and may never be) where I feel like wearing contacts every day. Sometimes they dry out. Sometimes I have trouble getting them lined up correctly (hello, astigmatism, you bastard). Sometimes I’d rather have the extra couple minutes of sleep in the morning.

Why don’t I just get LASIK, then?

This.

This is why:

THE EYE FLAP. If I was in an accident and part of my eye CAME OFF, you can bet your ass I’d be screaming all the way to the emergency room. I wouldn’t dream of getting it done on purpose.

I should be clear: I’m not saying LASIK is bad. Lots of people are happy with their LASIK results. More power to them; they’re braver than me. It’s the actual procedure that freaks me out: something about scalpels and eyeballs sets my hair on end. And yeah, yeah, bladeless options, blah blah, it’s too late. I saw the video. The damage has been done. I’ll keep my malformed eyeballs, thank you.

(It should be obvious: don’t watch this if you’re considering the procedure. Have this instead.)

For The Millionth Time: We Are Not Having Kids

I don’t see why it’s so difficult for people to understand. We’re not having kids. Period.

If you have kids, that’s great. Honestly. I know tone doesn’t always translate well on the internet, and for that I’m sorry, but believe me when I say that if you’ve always wanted children, you should have them. Enjoy them.

I’m not anti-kid. I have two nephews that I love like crazy, and any future nieces and nephews will also be welcomed with open arms and spoiled rotten. But enjoying kids is not the same as wanting your own.

I know most people mean well. They cherish their own kids, and find fulfillment and purpose in raising them. It saddens them that I’m “missing out”. I appreciate the concern.

Where it gets frustrating is when a simple “nope, not for us” goes unheeded. I’m a woman in my thirties. I’ve had lots and lots of time to think this over, and being female I’ve had lots of heavy encouragement to jump on the parent-wagon. I’ve been in a straight relationship for years; it’s not like we couldn’t have tried for kids, had we wanted them. The simple fact is that we’ve made our decision, and prodding us is irritating, not influential.

Flip it for a second: what would it be like if, instead of congratulating you on your pregnancy, I raised an eyebrow and said, “But what if you change your mind?”

I realize parenting is hard work. I know that parents make sacrifices in order to give the best to their children. If bowing out makes me selfish, then so be it. But my life, our life together, is just plain built differently. We have different goals and ambitions, and enjoy spending our time differently. We have different expectations for the future. We find satisfaction and contentment in other places.

If I wouldn’t force my life on you, why force yours on me?