I really didn’t want to…

I really didn't want to get up this morning. That happens, y'know? I mean, I went to bed at 9, and set my alarm for 5:30, but Kevin called, and we ended up having a sort of upsetting conversation which ended up fine, even good, (one of those 'relationship' conversations) but which kept me up 'til about 10-ish. Not that late, but I seem to really need my eight hours these days, and this morning I just felt so tired when I got up that I wanted to go back to sleep, or weep.

But e-mail got me up, the compulsion to see what the world had sent me in my sleep (gods, we have such strong urges towards community/communications -- how I'd survive on a desert island I will never know...). And then I did a little work, and made my tea, and lit a candle (I have a simple votive candle holder; just an upside-down pyramid of deep red glass, propped on a metal tripod, yet it is so beautiful, even with the chip in its side from when I knocked it over in my sleep one night, just lighting it brings me pleasure). And still, I felt grumpy. Grumpy and tired and considering going back to bed, and so I put on some music.

Mush Mix II. A tape a boyfriend (now ex) made for me over six years ago. Songs like Bill Morrissey's "She's That Kind of Mystery", David Roth's "Rising in Love", Sally Fingerett's "Wild Berries". This is the boyfriend who introduced me to Christine Lavin, and there's a lot of her on the tape. A lot of mushy songs from musicals, because I like them, including "Is It Okay if I Call You Mine?", from Fame, which breaks my heart every time I hear it 'cause I can't help remembering that scene in the movie. I'm listening to this tape now and I'm feeling better, much better. The point of all this is not that music has charms to soothe the savage breast -- I know you knew that.

The point is rather how glad I am that a tape made by a boyfriend with whom I had a horribly messy breakup (pretty much entirely my fault, too) can make me so happy. If it calls up memories, they're good ones. I've managed to stay on good terms with pretty much everyone I've dated seriously, and that's important to me. Even casual lovers share a part of you that your best non-carnal friends will never know; it seems important to me that that part remain in the safe-keeping of someone I like and trust. I know people who deliberately walk away from exes, who think they'll be happier if they cut themselves off from someone who caused them pain. Maybe they are. Maybe I've just been lucky that my exes have been people I can still care about, people I can trust. Or maybe I trust too easily -- my father always tells me that. David and Roshani do too. *smile* My friends worry too much.

I try to imagine sometimes what my life would have been like if my parents had stayed in Sri Lanka. I emigrated with them when I was two years old; what if I'd grown up in a village or town or even city in Sri Lanka? My grandfather was a school principal; my father wanted to be a journalist, not a doctor, though he let the family guide him and he's very happy in his work now. But certainly, I would have still read, most probably in three languages. My mother, who left high school to get married, speaks Tamil, Sinhalese and English. I've forgotten most of my Tamil, almost all of my grammar school Polish, and am well on my way to forgetting Spanish. *sigh*

So I would have read, but would I have read science fiction? Maybe a little -- Clarke did settle in Sri Lanka, after all. (If you want to know about it, he wrote beautiful books about the country: The Reefs of Taprobane, A View from Serendip). Science fiction and fantasy shaped so much of whom I am; my ideas about family structure and love came directly from Heinlein; my rather rigid code of honor came straight from King Arthur, and I can't even begin to assess the effects of Frodo and Menolly and L'Engle's Meg and Taran on my developing psyche.

Who I would have been if I'd grown up on that lovely island is probably impossible to determine, or even fairly imagine. Is this rebellious streak ingrained or learned? Would I be even now married, with two children, like my mother at this age? Sri Lankans place a high value on education, and I might well have become a doctor, like my cousin who grew up there; she practices in Canada now, with a husband from an arranged marriage (a very sweet man, who she seems very happy with).

Would I ever have fallen in love with literature? With the joys of deconstruction and new historicism and French feminist critical theory? If my mind had been tangled up in glands and diseases and such instead, would that have been a bad thing? I sometimes think, if I had had a better memory, that I might have been a good doctor. People generally seem to trust me, and I think that would help. Of course, the first time I forgot where the aorta was, I'd probably be in trouble...

Would I even know how to swim? People don't swim in Sri Lanka (a vast generalization, but largely true). That's true for many island cultures, though it seems odd. Perhaps it's because the sea is so clearly vast and powerful -- people are less willing to trifle with it? I don't know. They do wade out into it, and take salt water baths to soothe the mosquito bites.

I'd sleep with a mosquito net over my bed, perhaps with a man who was a stranger when I married him. I'd have a child or two running about. Or perhaps we would have emigrated by that point, like my cousin, but I'd still know how to cook the best curries...

A totally different life. You would never have known me, I think. Even if I had published a paper or two in some obscure medical journal, it seems unlikely that any of you would have run across it. And perhaps I would have flunked out of med school (the way I flunked Calculus my freshman year), and my spouse would be supporting me, and the aunties would shake their head over my fate (ah, what a bright girl she was. If only she'd studied...at least she has the children, but just look at how lazy she is with them...)

I would never have known you. Even if I hadn't stayed there as a child, if my mother had simply sent me to a convent school as she so often threatened to do when I was an unruly teen, would I ever have gotten on-line? That same boyfriend who made me the tape dragged me onto the net in '92, kicking and screaming. What a world I would have missed.

Choices. Paths and diversions. It is of course foolish to try and say that this world is better than that one; that life better than this one. It might have had more security, more money, fewer questions -- or it might not have. I suppose all I'm coming to say is that I'm glad of the life I have, despite the fact that the last few weeks have been overwhelmingly stressful. I've glad of my old lovers, my friends and you, even of that flunked Calculus class.

I may covet Stephen King's income, or Amy Tan's movie rights, or even occasionally that woman from Mississippi Masala's looks. I even admit that in the dark of night I occasionally covet masses of red hair and deep green eyes. And what I wouldn't give to be tall, gorgeous and rich, instead of short, cute and broke... Yet I don't actually want anybody else's life; nobody I can think of, at any rate. Not a bad thought for what started as a grumpy morning.

Thank you, Paul.

Writing musings, taken…

Writing musings, taken from a discussion on my list.

I've been thinking about this some more, and I do think John and J have a valid point -- it's easy to mess up both present tense and second person. They're slightly more difficult to handle well than past tense and first or third person, and so may be a bit ambitious for a new writer to attempt. I think it's fair to warn writers of that, just as you might warn them that they're using too much description rather than action ("show, don't tell") or that they're relying on inane conversations between characters to fill in a lot of backstory ("As you know, Bob..."), or that they've got too much history/fact/exposition in one place (infodump).

I'm wandering off the subject. What I'm trying to say is that there's a reason for the 'rules' -- they're there to warn you of traps and pitfalls, so you can try to avoid the mistakes of your forerunners. On the other hand, remember that they're not really rules -- they're guidelines. Any guideline can be broken, and the best stories are often those that break one major rule really really well. (There's a sf story about a writer who sold to a major magazine that published a lot of rules in their guidelines. Each month he'd pick one of their rules and deliberately/flagrantly/beautifully break it. He sold every story to them.)

Of course, then we move to Conrad's practical question of HOW we effectively break the rules. And there is no simple answer, my children, much as I'd like to hand you one (or have one handed to me). One clear path, however, is to read lots of good stories that do break the rules. People ask me where I learned to write, and while I've taken many workshops, they didn't teach me how to write -- they simply refined. I learned (and learn) to write by reading. Learning by osmosis -- it really works, you know. It just takes patience.

Note: two of my stories are in second person, present tense. "Mint in Your Throat" and "Composition in Cream and Chocolate" both use that style, for different purposes and with different effects.

In other news, I have a cough and cold, but I am determined to work today regardless. I have a long list of things to do; if I get through a third of them, I'll be happy. I'm about to have my tea (El thoughtfully brought me chai yesterday, since I'd been complaining about not being able to find any; it was delicious, though I will stick with my Ceylon Breakfast first thing in the morning (do you know about chai? What I'm really referring to is masala (blend of spices) chai (sweet milky tea). Most masala chais are made with ginger or cinnamon or cardamom. The Masala Chai Co. brand actually uses ten different spices (ginger, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, allspice, cardamom, pepper and star anise). Chai in general tends to be more invigorating than regular tea, even when it's a decaf version.)).

Morning, everyone. A…

Morning, everyone. A bit sleepy; back to getting up at five, radio show at six. Hope my phone works properly. Would chat more, but really do have a huge pile of work to wade through soon...forgive me.

7:10. Me again. Well, the radio show was weird. I don't listen to morning rock radio, so I didn't realize how odd it was. Firstly, they forgot to call me. So I didn't actually get on the air until close to 6:30 -- I really hope those of you in Cincinatti hung in there. Secondly, they played rather raucous music over my reading, and chatted a lot. Strange. Also were slightly pushy, but maybe that's a morning dj's job. What do I know? I never listen to the radio...still, they said people were calling in about it (I read "Confession" and part of "Morningsong"), so I guess it was worth doing.

I've almost given up on that Carol Queen interview; she's being really hard to get ahold of. Wonder if I've said/done something to get on her bad side. Maybe she didn't like the column I wrote about her? I thought it was fairly complimentary... Anyway, I've pitched a couple other ideas to Puritan. Jeff's only mildly interested in one of them; an interview with local call girls (a friend of mine just got a job as a phone operator at an escort service). He was pretty into the other idea, though; an erotic weekend in Chicago -- an article that sort of sketches out, with time stamps, what a bored businessman might do with the tail end of his trip to the Windy City. So to speak. I'll probably do one on S.F. as well.

Well, I'm going to go exercise now. Meep. My thigh muscles were *so* sore yesterday that I had trouble walking. Hopefully today will be better. It gets better, right? A couple of people have asked what exactly I'm doing; just what I can do in my own room: stretches, upper and lower crunches, this weird V-exercise that's supposed to tone your thighs (so Roshani tells me anyway; she used to teach aerobics), arm-curls with 5-pound weights (yes, I'm a wimp, I admit it), toe-touches and jumping jacks. Oh, and a couple of girl push-ups. Just barely. So far, not too painful, although the first day I did 100 jumping jacks in a row and made myself exceedingly dizzy. I'm also slightly sick now, but if I let that stop me, I'm afraid I won't start again. Dale noted that he's found that he needs to give himself permission to miss a day now and then; otherwise it's too easy to let one day missed convince you you've failed and you should just give up. Enough procrastinating -- off I go. Pain is a good thing, right?

Hey, guys. Not much to…

Hey, guys. Not much to report; accepted another commission from Sizzle to write a story around their pictures (have I told you guys how HARD that is? Some of the photos are *so* unrealistic...luckily, not all. This last set is actually rather aesthetic). Added tons of poems to the the 1997 poetry page; finally collected almost all of the ones I've scattered around. There are a few left, I think, that I only have in hard copy, but it's certainly much more substantial than it was. A rather bizarre collection, though. Anyway, I'm going to get offline and go do some more work, talk to Roshani some more (her grandmother died yesterday, sadly (though not unexpectedly)) and get on with the day.

Note: yesterday, I once again attempted to start an exercise regime. We'll see how well I stick with it. It's a good thing I'm not afraid of failure, 'cause I've failed at this so many times...

Love Has Rendered Me…

Love Has Rendered Me Senseless

You think I exaggerate -- a conceit,
a thoughtless phrase.

My sight is useless. At night, wrapped
in a blanket cocoon, eyes
tight closed, his eyes still bright
before me, plainly visible.

Ears fail me. What I hear
is sweeter than angelsong,
tender as new leaf,
sun kisses.

And touch -- oh, do not speak
of touch. My skin against his
is holy, an incandescent flame,
an incoherence of desire,
thought extinguished.

His scent -- rain in winter;
woodsmoke, rust and ice.
Nothing human.

Speech is worst of all. Listen
to me now; my words are stolen
away, and all I can say
is love.
Love.

Love has rendered me senseless.

One of you wrote me last…

One of you wrote me last night and told me how much he liked the writing in the last few journal entries, when I was talking about rain. He wanted to see more of it. I wish I could promise you that, but I don't know that I can produce beauty on command. Beauty, or complexity or deep thought...oh, maybe, if I spent a lot of time on these entries and made them a priority, an example of my best writing. But I fear they would then quickly become an obligation, and then a chore (as so much of my work is feeling these days, even though I love it), and then I'd be dreading them. As is, I already feel a little guilty when I have nothing interesting to say...

So I think they'll remain what they are, an open, ongoing letter to my readers and friends, and hopefully some of you will continue to find something of worth even in the minutiae of my life...and perhaps occasional beauty or deep thought.

It's still early, but I've been up for a while. The rain woke me; pounding hard outside my window. I woke slowly, from a strange dream of murders and book promotions, into a very dark room and thundering. It was cold, yet still warm under the covers, so I reached out and picked up the phone and called Roshani. We talked for an hour, curled in our respective cocoons of blankets -- I'm so glad that Fridays start a little later this semester. Then a long, hot shower, and here I sit drinking my tea in a pale green dress and hiking boots with a dark blue towel piled high on my head; a rather silly sight, but warm and comfortable and happy. The semester is starting to wind up; the end is in sight, and I am so glad. Just a few more things to push through...

Tonight I go to a party at Romantasy; I'm modelling an outfit for them and having dinner with my friend Steve beforehand. That should be fun. Tomorrow, Lydia's children's birthday party (I got them the Harper Hall trilogy, by Anne McCaffrey (hope they don't already have it)) and a lip gloss each (Candy Cane and Bubblegum flavors). I have the odddest feeling that this is remarkably similar to what I gave them last year. Sunday, I catch up on work. (Saturday morning too, I think). Oh, and of course Saturday night is that Cincinnati show. (I now have no idea how to spell that city. Dale corrected me but I didn't keep the correction. Oh well. Apologies to the natives).

Have a good Friday, my dears, and a lovely weekend. The rain has stopped, and the sun is shining down on a new-washed world. Soon Cliff will be awake and I can practice without disturbing him. Roshani tells me it's snowing in Chicago; I'm surprised to find that I miss it, just a little.

9:20. Correction; Cincinnati is Q102, 6 a.m. my time next Wednesday. Saturday night at roughly 10:30 p.m. is Bakersfield, station KGEO. My confusion; sorry.

I was thinking about…

I was thinking about writing a thoughtful, insightful entry on the death penalty this morning, sparked by an article I read called The Pendulum Swings Wildly. Then I realized that I'd already done one intense entry in the last month, and I think I should ration them, to give y'all time to recover. So I'll save that argument for another day, and simply point you all to the article above, and note that my sympathies lie with the speaker.

In other news; observed an undergraduate fiction class this morning; interesting and illuminating. I'm thinking that class observation should be more a part of teacher training here. I'm going shopping with Thida and David, to buy Thida an interview suit and let David and I do our various wholesale dry goods shopping at Costco. I'm practicing today, dammit, and having a guitar lesson (David is progressing quite rapidly in his piano :-) Happy teacher). I'm calling Lisette tonight. I'm wishing I had less work piled up. I'm a little tired. I'm very hungry (I get to go home and eat in half an hour).

I had a really pleasant morning, drinking tea and talking to Roshani in between getting up, grocery store trip, and walking to campus. It was raining, which somehow makes me more visual; the colors are so much more intense. A man jogged by the front of my house, a man with a beautiful back. I'm not generally one for heavy muscles, but imagine this man, short blond hair, slightly wavy, sweatshirt pulled off and tied around his waist, rain falling on his naked, muscled back. The muscles moving and shifting underneath a sheen of water as he runs past; so beautiful. Mmm.... I just caught a glimpse, but it brightened my day; aesthetic appreciation of a beautiful human form. Well, mostly aesthetic.

I was just seeing things this morning, in a way I don't normally notice. Roshani was telling me about how when she lived with her friend Gabrielle, a photographer, Gabrielle would stop as they were walking, stop to take a photo of some strange image, some moment. Normally, the world kind of washes over us, in waves of images and scents and sounds.

That's one reason I love rain. It focuses things. The blather of sound is muffled, so you can concentrate. Light is richer, softer. Even the scent of wet grass and leaves; scents are stronger in the rain. After the rain stopped, I was staring out my window, staring at the black sheet of road. All around were green trees; evergreens and some deciduous plants that were hanging on determinedly to their green. Against the black glistening road was a single crimson maple leaf, sharp-pointed, perfect. I don't know how it got there -- there aren't any maple trees nearby. There was no other red in the view; just greens and browns and black and light, and this simple splotch of autumn red.

Overslept again;…

Overslept again; unsurprisingly. I'm inclined to let me body get as much sleep as it wants these days, considering how hard I'm driving it otherwise.

Goals for today: Reach Carol Queen about interview; book plane tickets for holidays; do some catch-up work on journals for class. Doesn't sound too bad, huh?

Not much else to say this early in the day -- I haven't even had my tea yet...

Tired, my dears. …

Tired, my dears. Unsurprising, since it's 9:45 p.m. I got *so* tired last night; luckily David rescued me from a meal of cold pizza and made me ginger-carrot soup with French bread instead. Yum. I can get the recipe from him if anyone wants it. I was so exhausted afterwards that I basically sat on his couch for two hours and stared at the wall, until he dragged me home and told me to go to sleep. At like 9 p.m. I slept until 7 a.m., and I gotta admit, felt much better today. Been working like mad lately, but that should stop soon. Classes end in less than a month, thank the goddess...

Had a good time this evening; the local Clarionites finally got together and we started a monthly critique workshop. That should be helpful, especially since next spring I won't be taking a fiction workshop; I'll be studying creative non-fiction instead, which will hopefully be interesting (I'm not sure what it is, which is probably a good reason to take it. :-)

Anyway, too tired for any deep thoughts tonight. For those of you in Bakersfield, CA or Cincinatti, I'll be having radio interviews there soon. Bakersfield this Saturday night, and Cincinatti next Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Will let y'all know when. Another exciting thing is that someone who writes for the L.A. Times is trying to talk his Features editor into letting him interview me. That would be way cool. :-)

Good morning, my darling…

Good morning, my darling readers. I'm happy 'cause it's raining here (which actually led me to sleep in this morning, and so I'm even further behind in my work, but it's hard to care with the world looking so lovely). I know many if not most of you probably don't like the rain. I must admit that I wish I had an adequate raincoat, rather than a mere umbrella. Still, it's delightful seeing the streets this way. A sheen of water covers everything, from the brown banister outside my window to the stone pathway and brick spiral staircase. The trees are so intensely green, and drops of water hang precariously from the underside of the leaves and banister. The pattering, quiet now, is so calming, and cars sound different as they drive by; sleeker, whooshier. :-) When I die, I'd like it to be on a misty morning, after a raging thunderstorm the night before. There's such peace in those mornings...

I wonder if other people plan their deaths, their funerals. Weddings, of course; almost every woman I know, including the stolidly anti-marriage, have at least once planned their wedding -- it's hard to avoid, given our culture. But deaths? We don't like to think about death, and yet it's fascinating as well. I know as a teenager I liked to invent horrifying, yet noble, deaths for myself. I would run into a burning building and save thirteen children, yet be trapped myself at the end, and go up in flames, and everyone who knew me would wish they'd been nicer to me. Typical teen fantasy, I imagine. I was not a very popular teen, though I was blessed with a few good friends. These days, I'm hoping to live past a hundred; I imagine it depends on whose genetics I get. All of my grandparents have died, some in their sixties. Two had a version of Alzheimer's, and another had multiple strokes. Not good odds, since I'm twenty-six already -- that leaves me only a little more than half my life. On the other hand, my great-grandmother lived to be past a hundred, in full possession of her faculties. She was the only one in the family to be even close to as short as I am (I'm 5'0"), so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I've gotten her longevity genes.

When I do die, I'll definitely be cremated. I'm an organ donor, and I've signed away the rest of the body as well, so the doctors will take whatever they can use, and whatever bits of skin and tissue left will be neatly burned. (Am I upsetting anyone? I know people get distressed by this sort of thing, but I never have, especially not when it applies to me. I tend to be very pragmatic about it.) I hope you're all organ donors. I definitely don't want a funeral. They tend to be morbid affairs (they could hardly help it) and I've been to too many, watched too many people sink in on themselves with grief. Rain may be appropriate for funerals, but I wouldn't want someone I loved to have to cope with following a coffin through the rain on top of missing me. Let the undertakers cope with the details, and when the ashes are safely in their urn, let them return them to my friends, who will hopefully scatter them in a garden or on the sea, rather than keeping them sitting maudlin on their mantelpiece. Or if they must keep them on the mantelpiece, let them tell bad jokes about them, and think fondly, rather than sadly, of me.

And when all the details are taken care of, let there be a wake, with wine and songs and even dancing. Let them make speeches, and cry on each other's shoulders. May no one be alone in their grief unless they wish to be. Let there be laughter along with remembrance. The Greyhaven folks knew how to do it right for Paul. I hope my friends are as kind to themselves.

Do other people think of these things? Is it maudlin, or morbid? I don't think so -- it doesn't depress me. Rather the opposite, in fact; I end up feeling very fond of the people in my life, very protective of them. Perhaps I'll call up my sisters tonight, and make sure they're doing okay. I'll remember my mother's birthday tomorrow. I'll purchase some Christmas presents, and carefully wrap and label them. I'll walk in the rain and think how lucky I am to be loved. After all, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow...

1:15. First, a quote: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - H.G. Wells.

Then a recommendation. I just finished an article in Wayne C. Booth's book, The Vocation of a Teacher. I cannot recommend this book too highly (and I say this on the strength of the table of contents and the single essay). He is careful. He is thoughtful. He is eminently readable and entertaining. He says important things, and if you teach at all, especially at the college level, I think you should read this book. I read this article on reserve, and now I'm going to walk over to Amazon.com and see if I can buy the darn book.