Tag Archive: Books

Aug 19

Writing Isn’t Always Champagne and Violets

WHAT’S PLAYING: Alicia Keys “Tell You Something (Nana’s Reprise)”

 

So, I’ve put my first novel aside for a bit and started work on a new book. It’s not going well.

The words are coming, but the little tingle I get when a story finally clicks into place is missing. With my first book, most mornings I’d sit down in front of the computer and the words would just tumble out of my head, one after the other, like some sort of shimmering fountain of awesomeness.  

Awash with inspiration, I’d write for hours, stopping only to answer the demands of my coffee-filled bladder. I’d get up, only to discover that my legs had fallen asleep, and lie there, trying not to piss myself or scream as the pins and needles worked their torturous way through my lower extremities.

*Sigh*

Those were the days.

 

 

 

When it comes to this new book, instead of a shimmering fountain of awesomeness, I get a viscous deluge of shit. It’s depressing. Like I need a nap after every 2-3 thousand words type of depressing.

Dead moms, madness, ghosts, monsters, trauma, prejudice, all my personal demons are in there. Add to that the knowledge that I’ll have to go back and tease some kind of hope out of all this despair, and you have yourself one tired, morose writer.   

Don’t get me wrong. The book is good, probably the best thing I’ve ever written. (Which, at this point, is not saying much. But I’m saying it anyway. So, shut up.) More importantly, it’s the story I need to tell now.

Still, in the words of the immortal B.B. King, the thrill is gone.

 

 

I love writing, but days like this remind me that it’s a job, which requires work. That’s why I spend six hours a day slogging through this first draft, pushing through resistance, and forcing the words out when they refuse to emerge on their own.                                                 

Because I’m a writer. And that’s what writers do.

In the meantime, if I want thrills and tingles, I’ll call my boyfriend.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2013/08/writing-isnt-always-champagne-and-violets/

Feb 17

My Book a Week Challenge – Week 7

WHAT’S PLAYING: Dashboard ConfessionalVindicated

This week’s book is “Everything is Broken” by John Shirley.

When twenty-year-old Russ arrives in the northern California town of Freedom to visit his dad, he finds a town cut off from state and federal government. Thanks to the local mayor’s ideas of “decentralization,” Freedom enjoys minimal public services including medical care and law enforcement. Before Russ can get to know much about the town and its people – including an interesting young woman named Pendra – a massive tsunami strikes the West Coast, killing most of the town’s inhabitants and leaving Freedom helpless to combat the wave of human brutality that soon follows. A local gangster, Dickie Rockwell, has plans for Freedom and they include the town’s increasingly unhinged mayor and a lot of killing. Now, it’s up to Russ, his father, Pendra, and the other townsfolk to find the strength to survive and find real freedom.

On his website, John Shirley describes this book as a “thriller and political allegory,” but it’s so much more than that. In just a few hundred pages, this book manages to shock, frighten, and enrage, all while making the reader think. What struck me most about this book was Shirley’s powerful use of imagery, both during the tsunami and in the aftermath. He has this unique ability to observe people, places, and events and then distill them down to their purest, most basic forms.

Word of caution: packed with action, violence, and depravity in its purest form, this book is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. Seriously, after I finished reading it, my first instinct was to go out and buy a whole bunch of guns. Then, I remembered how clumsy and absent-minded I am and decided against it. (But I still sleep with a switchblade under my pillow…just in case.)

Bottom line: A different kind of disaster novel. One well worth reading.

Favorite Line/Image (WARNING – disturbing imagery): “A little later: A gasping, semiconscious young woman trapped in her slime-swamped Audi, mud up to her neck. People digging her out. Finding that her belly was sheared open by a big shard of metal from the car door, mud crammed up inside her, she hadn’t lived long after they’d dug her out. Russ had made the mistake of letting her get a grip on his hand as she lay dying. Just couldn’t bring himself to break the grip. Had to watch her die.”

What I learned: Details matter. The line above isn’t really my favorite, but it’s one of the many images that kept repeating in my head long after I’d put the book down. I think what makes this book so compelling is Shirley’s exquisite attention to detail, even in the midst of huge events like the tsunami. He knows which details to include and which to leave out. This makes for a realistic experience without overwhelming the reader with information.

Coming up next week: “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/02/my-book-a-week-challenge-week-7/

Nov 28

Why You Should Get Lost in Discworld or How Terry Pratchett Changed My Life

WHAT’S PLAYING: AdeleLovesong

I received a strange package in the mail last Monday, but because of work and the general chaos that is my life, I didn’t get a chance to open it until the night before Thanksgiving. Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope to reveal a signed copy of Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel “Snuff”.

Cue happy dance!

Happy Dance

After jumping around and screaming for about twenty minutes, I settled in and started reading. Bedtime came and went, chores went undone, and phones and e-mails unanswered.  (Sorry, Dad.) I finished it around 3AM, and fell asleep still wanting more.

Now, I could tell you how great the Discworld books are. Funny, relevant, and brilliantly written, they are an awesome combination of fantasy, humor and satire.

Instead, I think I’ll tell you how these books changed my life.

When I was nine years old – per a custody agreement drawn up before I was even born – I left my home on the reservation and moved in with my father. I still visited my mother fairly often, but it wasn’t the same as living with her. I was something of a loner before I left the rez. After, I became down right reclusive. I rarely spoke and spent most of that summer in my room, only coming down for meals or at my father’s insistence.

Problem was that I didn’t speak English very well. I could barely string three words together.  So, that fall, my father enrolled me in a Catholic school that specialized in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). I excelled at math and science, but my grasp of the English language remained sketchy at best. Truth is, I didn’t want to learn. I already spoke one language fluently. How many did I need?

Then one day, a nun handed me an old, dog-eared copy of “The Color of Magic”. It took me over a month to finish it, but after that, I was a goner. I decided that if I had to learn English to read books like that, then I would learn. Six months later, I had reached “proficient” level. Two months after that, I was fluent. My love of reading didn’t end with Discworld – over the years, I discovered Twain, Gaiman, Shirley, Norton, McCraffrey, Lackey, and so many others – but it began there. And the result is that I now get to make my living doing the two things I love most: chemistry and writing.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything is roses. There are mornings I wake to the gray and featureless void of depression. When the very act of breathing is a struggle and I feel about as worthless as tits on a telephone pole. It’s on these days that I force myself to look for pleasure in small things: a funny movie, an uplifting piece of music, a hot shower, even a spoon of ice cream. (To paraphrase Raymond Carver: eating is a small, good thing in a time like that.)

And, of course, a good book.

The Discworld novels saw me through my first transition from reservation life to the mainstream. Ten years later, they helped me cope when I lost my twin brother, and my fiancée five years after that.

I’m not saying that reading is some sort of magical cure for depression. It’s not. But, you have to admit that a world in which books like “Snuff” or “The Color of Magic” exist can’t be all bad.

What about you? What cheers you up when life gets  hard? Friends? Family? Music, art, or books? Where do you find your little wonders, your small pleasures?

Stories not only shape our perceptions, but can also shape our lives if we let them. They remind us that there is no such thing as a hopeless cause, that we can all be better if we choose. If they’re really good, stories can leave us feeling uplifted and a bit wiser.

And that is no small thing.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2011/11/why-you-should-get-lost-in-discworld-or-how-terry-pratchett-changed-my-life/

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