• Tag Archives novels
  • Whoa. Just Backup.

    Imbolc                                       Woodpecker Moon

    Woodpecker hacking away this morning as I awoke.  Yesterday the crows cawed, setting on the branches of our big cottonwoods, 40 feet or so off the ground.

    A few snow flakes fluttered to the ground, but nothing like the original forecast.  Now they’re talking slush and smelting snain.  Yuck.  I’m in favor of snow, more snow.  And cold.  Show me the winter.

    When Kate and I came home Saturday night after the birthday dinner with Anne, I noticed the neighbor had a fire going in the large depression between our homes, a storm water runoff feature.  He did some brush clearing over the last week or so and stacked up a good sized mound of branches and limbs.

    Since the significant feature of this winter has been drought, his fire worried me a bit since a woods occupies about an acre and a half of our property.  When I cataloged what I would lose in case of a fire (all this as I tried to go to sleep), after getting the dogs and Kate and me to safety, I sat up and thought, my novels!

    The answer is, yes, I do backups.  But.  The backups are on external hard drives physically connected to my computers.  They protect against system failure, but not against fire.

    The next morning I went downstairs, took out my 16 gigabyte thumb drive and backed up my entire documents folder.  That was about 2 gigs.  While I was at it, I added another 10 gigs of photos.  Now the question is what do I do with the thumb drive?  Carry it with me all the time?

    Gonna have to check out cloud based backups.

  • Why Do I Write Novels?

    Winter                                     First Moon of the New Year

    So, why do I write novels?

    In a writing group some years ago, maybe 20, a writing exercise turned into 120 pages of Even the Gods Must Die, a novel inspired by the Norse Ragnarök.  The doom of the gods, Ragnarök foresees the end of the nine worlds, the death of the Aesir and the Vanir with plenty of teeth-rattling battles.  Fenrir fights with and kills Odin.  Thor fights the Midgard Serpent, kills it, but dies later from its poison.  What’s not to like?

    The exercise came in the midst of a writing group I formed to help me as I wrote my dissertation for McCormick Seminary.  My dissertation on the decline of the Presbyterian Church satisfied the writing requirement for a Doctor of Ministry which I received in 1991.

    By that point I had met Kate and discussed with her leaving the ministry. If I left the ministry, what would I do?  The skills I’d learned didn’t transfer readily.

    Well, there was that 120 page story.  Hmm.  Maybe I’ll write.

    Not a big stretch, really, since my Dad had earned his living as a journalist and columnist.

    Early on I decided to focus on ancient religions as a fundamental component of my novels, fantasy novels all, so far.

    So, in one important sense, I wrote novels to escape the ministry after it had become a swamp.  Do I write to overcome existential alienation or do I write so that others can overcome their existential estrangement?  No.  I write because the process and the stories fascinate me.

    At some point I hope I can make some money, too.  And, if you read my work and find your angst or your anomie lessened, all the better.  But I’m not counting on it.

  • Why Write Novels At All

    Winter                                    First Moon of the New Year

    I’ll respond to this in another post, but for those of you interested in the novel, it’s worth a read.  You can reach the whole article through the central question link.

    The central question driving literary aesthetics in the age of the iPad is no longer “How should novels be?” but “Why write novels at all?”*

    *The roots of this question, in its contemporary incarnation, can be traced back to the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who at the dawn of the ’80s promulgated the notion of “cultural capital”: the idea that aesthetic choices are an artifact of socioeconomic position. Bourdieu documented a correlation between taste and class position: The scarcer or more difficult to access an aesthetic experience is — the novel very much included — the greater its ability to set us apart from those further down the social ladder. This kind of value is, in his analysis, the only real value that “refined” tastes have…

    The idea that “the deepest purpose of reading and writing fiction is to sustain a sense of connectedness, to resist existential loneliness” crops up all over the writing of the Conversazioni group: in Franzen’s nonfiction, and in Wallace’s, and in Smith’s beautiful encomium to Wallace in her book of essays, “Changing My Mind.” It also helps to explain these writers’ broad turn away from various postmodern formalisms and toward the problems of the human heart. Indeed, when we consider the web of influence that connects them to old roommates and friends and lovers and students — a list that includes David Means, Rick Moody, Mary Karr, Donald Antrim and Jonathan Safran Foer — and to newer work by writers like Karen Russell or the Irish novelist Paul Murray, “Here is a sign that you’re not alone” starts to look like the ascendant trope of and about literature today…

    But will we be alone? Literature, to a degree unique among the arts, has the ability both to frame the question and to affect the answer. This isn’t to say that, measured in terms of cultural capital or sheer entertainment, the delights to which most contemporary “literary fiction” aims to treat us aren’t an awful lot. It’s just that, if the art is to endure, they won’t be quite enough.

  • On Moving Toward Doing the Work Only I Can Do

    Winter                              First Moon of the New Year

    Spent yesterday shifting to my new work schedule.  A couple of hours on Ovid, plus analyzing some of Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  Edited three portions of the Tailte Mythos:  Book I and began clipping postings from Ancientrails to consult for my first essay in the Reimagining project.

    Also learned that I can’t go to sustaining status at the MIA until I’ve had 8 years as a docent.  Sustaining would cut my tour requirements in half.

    This means I’m going to have duck out of the Sierra Club sooner than I had planned.

    No plant starts this year.  I’m going to buy already started plants and of those only those we decide to grow for particular, planned uses.  We’re going to shift our gardening now toward minimalism, toward those things we’ll preserve.  Two colonies of bees.  Emphasizing less maintenance everywhere, planting towards a time when the gardens will need even less, eventually very little care.

    Life’s focus changes as our lives change and now I’ve become focused on those kind of things only I can do.  Only I can write the Tailte books.  Only I can set down my scattered thoughts about a sort 0f ur-faith, a common reverence all of us on the planet might share.  Others might/will translate Ovid, but only I will work toward a beginner’s level commentary, one similar to Pharr’s commentary on Vergil.

    Not sure why now for this shift except to say that I know my time is finite.  Yes, it always has been, that’s true, but now it seems existential.  No, I’m not covering something up here, I’m not ill, in fact, I just got a set of labs that Kate says are typical of a 40 year old.

    Long ago, in my 20’s, I read an article about when certain professions reach their maturity.  You know the material about mathematicians and scientists, early ripe, but certain other professions matured much later, writers and artists, for example, with the oldest age of maturation according to this reckoning being 50, for philosophers.

    Factoring in my drinking and an early career emphasis on politics and the practical side of religion, I don’t find 65 to far out of range for me.  I feel mature in my thinking and writing skills now and I need to deploy them or my unique contribution will be lost.

  • Home Is Where the Garlic Is

    Imbolc                                       Waxing Bloodroot Moon

    This journey has begun to bend toward home.  I”m more eager know to go home than I was to come here when I left.  That seems good to me.  Home is the place you know you’re away from when you’re gone.  No place else on earth has that lodestone attraction for me.

    Home is where the heart is, yes, and my heart is with Kate, with Vega, Rigel and Kona, with the raised bed and the garlic, the asparagus, the strawberries, with the bees and the grandkids play house, with the flower beds and the woods, with our house which, in exactly the same way a church is sanctified, has become sacred.  The life and the love,, our history there, has made it a sacred realm, a realm of the heart and a sanctuary for our life.

    I have two yellow pads, one full, the other on its way, scribbled with this story of another world and these people I’ve come to know over the course of writing it.  Brag, Constance, John, Aeric, Gullen, Arton, Isaac, Cern.  Well, maybe a couple of these are speaking animals and one is a god, but they’ve come alive for me over the months I’ve spent on Missing.  Their journey, I see now, has only just begun, will only finish its first phase as this novel draws to a close in another 30,000 words or so.

    This writing is and has been such a strange act for me, virtually solitary save for Kate, who has stuck with me in my up and down moments, my more confident moments and, most important, in my melancholy.  Otherwise, I’ve written these novels, these short stories and they go in a  file or in a box and sit, George Plimpton once called an unpublished work of his, A Monster In A Box.  This will be my sixth or seventh monster.

    Not complaining just observing that’s been strange.

  • A dark and stormy day

    Lughnasa                        Waxing Harvest Moon

    When the storm clouds rolled in on Tuesday, I went into a writing place almost immediately.  My novel bones got itchy, wanted to scratch out a new book.  Fall, as it gets darker and grimmer, colder somehow turns a creative crank, my engine sputters to life.

    Life’s richness right now jolts me, makes me feel able.  This is not a constant feeling, so I like to ride it when it arrives.  How to work a novel’s discipline into my days?  As the garden winds down, those hours can go for writing.  I could write at night, after working out.  I have the juice later in the day and early in the morning.

    Maybe the next stormy day I’ll get started.

  • More Radical Than Thou

    80  bar falls 29.66  0mph E  dew-point 76!  sunrise 5:55  sunset 8:43  Summer

    Waning Crescent of the Thunder Moon

    Jerry Stearns sent word that he worked with rebels in Central America and served a stint as a bodyguard for Rigoberta Minchu, the Mayan activist.  This reminded me, though I don’t think it was his intent, of the old game, More Radical Than Thou.

    This was a game of gotcha and it drove the Everything Matters part of the personal is political.  If I, say, was a draft resister and an anti-war marcher, you might say that you planned to go to Canada.  If I planned to go Canada, you might say you were going underground.  If I said I was going underground, you might say, me too, but I’m going to bomb federal buildings, too.  This macho ratcheting up of the stakes in a round of how far can you travel away from middle-class morality and conventional politics lasted for a long, long time.

    It was an aspect of movement politics in which I always felt one step behind, never quite outré enough.  I was back then, as now, stuck with this dipolarity, radical and conservative, both alive and well, never reconciled, perhaps irreconcilable. Come to think of it this same dipolarity might have been the tense spring that kept me going back to the bar for one more round.

    Nowadays I cherish this peculiarity.  I can engage radical environmental politics, continue in my radical analysis of American society while loving the MIA and my docent role there.  I can continue opposition to conservative politics while loving the classics, poetry and faith traditions.  These two poles now serve as a creative edge for me, a sort of tectonic junction where volcanoes are born and subduction feeds the volcano.  Back then I felt the need to exist on only one end of the pole, rather than embracing the tension that came from them.

    More Radical Than Thou pushed me to one end of the pole.  I ended up denying, repressing the conservative part of me that wandered art museums, read Ovid and Homer and yearned for a connection with God.  Seminary and a stint as a Presbyterian minister only reversed the pressure.  While I could affirm my love of biblical study and prayer, I felt constant pressure to be more radical, to engage in more and more radical political activity.   This change from one end of the see-saw to the other was no resolution either.

    Only now, in these days when the introvert has settled into a quiet writing existence have I begun to live from both ends of the dialectic.  I can work as a docent amongst the fascinating details of art history while I the Sierra Club work blossoms.  I can write novels while I search nature and the American literary tradition for a pagan faith relevant to today.  Though the Jungian analysis moved far along this ancient trail, only unconditional love can heal these splits and I have found such love in Kate. We are soulmates.

  • Steamed Dumplings Stuffed With Yak

    78  bar steady  30.03  0mph ENE dew-point 56  Summer, warm and sunny

    Waning Gibbous Thunder Moon

    A trifecta.  In to Minnehaha.  Back to Andover.  In to Kenwood.  Back to Andover.  In to Sierra Club and the MIA.  Back to Andover.  Geez.  As I said, I gotta check with my scheduler.

    Katarina is an intern from east Germany, Jena.  We folded letters and surveys to candidates for Minnesota House races.  She’s a bright young lady whose lucky boyfriend lives here.  They both study political science and enjoy comparing US and German culture/society.  She gave the example of her parents:  “They have never worried.  They have no debt.  They live modestly.”  She said her mother was not allowed to finish high school in the old East German regime because her husband was a mathematics professor.  If you had an intellengentsia in the home, you also had to have a proletarian.  Odd logic, even for Marxists.

    After doing the mailing, I called about half a list of candidates who received the survey by e-mail last Friday.  This was just a reminder call.  Margaret Levin cajoled me into making phone calls and I’m glad she did.  It wasn’t so bad.  Of course, these were all friendly folk, too.

    Across the street from the Sierra Club is the Himalaya, a Nepalese restaurant.  It was noon, so I stopped in for steamed dumplings stuffed with yak and a tasty sauce.  The next course was a soup with potatoes, black-eyed peas and bamboo shoots.  Nan accompanied this dish.  Hmmm.  I enjoy finding these small ethnic places and sampling cuisine from countries I have not visited.  Food is one of the fastest ways into a culture, even faster, because more immediate, than language.

    I discussed purchasing a Nepalese thangka with the owner.  When I said I would like a Yamatanka, he said, “Oh, you like Yama?” He stuck his tongue out and down, Yama’s typical presentation. “Yes,” I said.  “Scary.”  I’ll speak with him about it again when I go in to the Sierra Club political committee meeting next Wednesday.

    Before I went to the Sierra Club, I stopped at the Northern Clay Center and picked up a small plate.  It is my intention, over the next few years, to replace our Portmerion with unmatched pieces from many potters.  This is the fifth or sixth acquistion so far.

    Each quarter I define a retreat.  It can be brief, three days or so, and it can be long, like the stay in Hawai’i.  I find I need to punctuate my normal routine with these caesuras or I get stale.  This habit began when I was in the ministry and I’ve found it a good carry over, so I’ve continued it.  Here’s my retreat for the fall quarter:

    7/22/08   No traveling for this retreat.  I will take two weeks and stop writing, stop using the internet (except for the blog and e-mail) and study books on novel craft.  In this retreat I will create a reading program and a writing program that will guide my work for the next ten years.

  • Novels In Vitro

    48  bar rises 29.83  1mph NW dewpoint 38  Beltane

                First Quarter of the Hare Moon

    Once again the papers and books pile up while I focus on the task du jour, getting the garden planted, cleaned up, preened, weeded and planned.

    Significant news on the hydroponic front.  The heirloom tomato plant I’ve kept inside has flowers.  That means tomatoes sometime in the near future.  Most of the early work with the hydroponics has come to fruition, literally.  I eat a salad from it at least every other day and the tomato plant flourishes.  Three tomato plants, four cucumbers, six basil and four morning glories have gone outdoors. 

    Phase II starts soon.  Phase II will see cherry tomatoes, peppers and eggplant first as seedlings, but then as plants to continue growing indoors.  If this works well, we might expand the hydroponics to include flowers and more plant starting for outdoors.  We’ll see.

    I have two or three novels in various stages of development.   Two of them, one about werewolves and the other about witches and magicians, both set in Minnesota have promise, but I’d have to get back to work on them full time.  Again, I don’t seem to do it.  Thinking about this because there are so many bad werewolf movies and books out there.  I did, though, mention Sharp Teeth here, I believe.  This one’s a keeper.  Done in blank verse.