Sunday miscellany

Saturday’s book signing was swell. Barnes & Noble had me front and center. Several of my friends and family stopped by and I also sold a handful of books to other folks in the store. I spoke with aspiring writers, one of whom was astonished to hear about the vast writing community in Austin (seriously, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a writer). He was taking creative writing courses as Southwestern University up in Georgetown, and I have to say, what are they teaching kids up there these days? He hadn’t heard about Texas Writers League, which is one of the biggest writers leagues in the country. How can you train upcoming new writers without letting them know about one of the huge resources in the area? Sheesh.

Sunday we saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This was one of the better Harry Potter installments. Darker, yet with moments of humor, and the kids are becoming better actors. Rupert Grint has the thankless role of the second banana, and he manages it well.

I’ve read all of the books and I only liked the first three. The remaining four were bloated, self-indulgent, and increasingly poorly written. I admire Rowling tremendously for her accomplishment, and I think the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone) is an incredible children’s book, but after Chamber of Secrets and Azkaban, the books all went downhill. I don’t think I even saw the last movie.

One of the things I liked about this one was that the producers and directors have thankfully settled down with the special effects. God, that first movie was so annoying, what with all the flashpowder whiz-bang magic going on. With HBP, the special effects serve the story instead of the other way around. Even though I write fantasy, I don’t like magic (that’s why in Gordath Wood there’s very little of the stuff). Well, it’s not like I don’t like magic, it’s just that I think it gets in the way of a good story. Okay, that’s not it either. Magic just makes things easy, that’s all.

A room of her own — slavish article on writer’s den

The New York Times’ article on author Roxana Robinson’s writing office is typical of the New York Times — over-the-top breathless. The photo is to die for. The room is a sparsely furnished, sparsely decorated bedroom. Robinson sits on the bed and types away at her laptop, and one can imagine that she never even thinks of her surroundings, so perfectly calibrated are they to fade into unconsciousness.

If there were any justice in the world, the article will make it impossible for her to ever work in there again.

Well… no. But I compare it to my own nook and I think that Robinson has got the right idea, even if she does have a ton of money and plenty of literary cred, and even if the article makes the space look like an idealized version of the writer’s garret, like a movie set or something.

You can’t write without a room of your own, and the room itself can’t be distracting.  In my pantry/laundry room, I have my computer and my pile of papers, books, and music. This is where I write and edit. It’s off the kitchen and I can close the sliding door (it gets hot but I have a fan). There are no windows. I look up and I stare at pegboard. In another life the room was a workroom. It isn’t lavish and it isn’t pretty but it gets the job done.

I don’t know what I would do with the meticulously kept office showcased in the Times. I’d probably get nothing done.

Anyway, here’s what mine looks like (and yes, off to the right, that is toasted sesame oil and supermarket-brand cheerios):

office-photo.JPG

Just a little different.

The writing life

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I was sidetracked by the American Experience documentary on the Native Americans, starting with the Pilgrims vs. the Wampoag. Then I got ready to write, but family intervened and I chatted with my dear sister-in-law for close to an hour. Great conversation, but there went that.

Earlier I sat in on A’s cello lesson. His teacher was away in China for six weeks, and just got back last week. She commented that he’s grown since she’s been away, and I think she’s right. He’s been using a three-quarter size cello that is now officially too small for him. We’ll upgrade him to a full-size instrument this summer.

I’ve been reading Paul Kearney’s The Ten Thousand, and it’s really good. I think Kearney and I read the same books on military history and strategy. I had a jolt of recognition in this one scene about a character ascending stairs that were hard to walk up but just right for a horse to travel with ease — not exactly my stairs at Trieve, but close enough.

But reading the Ten Thousand after The Steel Remains, I think my tolerance for machismo is on the wane. I need to read something that is slightly less butch. I wonder if this is why I’m writing a romance now? This seems to be part and parcel with the streak of movies that I wrote about the other day. It might be time for a double bill of The Devil Wears Prada and any of the Jane Austen oevre. Not the zombie one — as much as I am looking forward to reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it is my reward for finishing the first draft on the new work. It will have to wait til then.