The “Normal” World vs. Otherworldy Ones: A Mash-Up of Book Looks.

And then there’s the world that belongs to writers, who have to straddle both the “real” world, and the “unreal” ones.

Which leads me to the first book I’ll take a looksie at.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. (Link: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King | Goodreads) I loved the stories he shared. And I wished things were still “old-school” when it came to writing: pen, paper, hard copies, mailed-in submissions, things like that. But I don’t have much to say about the book, overall. Except my takeaway is that writing is private, until the day comes when it can’t be private anymore. And reading books on writing is also a private experience. I can’t share what I was thinking and feeling when I read his book. Maybe some can. There’s a whole bunch of people that have written about it on Goodreads. I think why I struggle in writing reviews sometimes is that my experiences with literature tend to not only be personal, but multilayered and multidimensional and that writing about how I felt when I was reading a book is like sharing that wonderfully vivid dream you had last night that ends up being profound and mystical and discernable only to you.

And I was thinking about the need for a certain level of privacy, either as a writer, or as the person undergoing an intensive deconditioning process to find their real selves. Living in both my past livespace, and my current one, has helped me realize that, as much as I’d like to have the low-maintenance condo-type livespace to own, it’s just not private enough. I feel like I’ve lost an imagined, perhaps never-had, autonomy.

Then I was cleaning out some of my files on my computer, and deleting the blog posts I’d saved back from when I first started blogging. (Ouch!) And I realized that maybe privacy is old-school, but one habit I still like to indulge in, even though everything in today’s world seems to demand otherwise. But I had one thought while scanning through my old blog posts: “This shit belongs in a diary.” So I’m going to try to unearth at least one diary from my unpacked boxes, and have a place for my private thoughts. And for my dreams of a livespace surrounded by wilderness and animals and no neighbours that go bumping around in the daytime.

This talk of privacy is a segue in to my next book look: Normal People by Sally Rooney. (Link: Normal People by Sally Rooney | Goodreads )One of the characters, Marianne, is defined as a private loner in contrast to the other main character,who is one of the more popular kids in school. These two characters have an off-again, on-again relationship, and I wanted to relate to Marianne, but I couldn’t. Maybe just memories, the past, I don’t know. It has nothing to do with the writing or the quality of the book, which was excellent, but I felt so sad and sometimes irked reading about the characters’ fates and life choices. I have a hard time getting into literary fiction these days, despite the fact I loved reading the classics back when I was a kid. But maybe it’s the drama I struggle with. I can’t bear the reality, even as displayed through fictional characters, of their pain, their struggles, their heartbreak, their…drama. I can handle it through other genres but literary fiction is just too…real?…maybe. And Marianne reminded me of an certain friend.  With literary fiction, I come with oversensitivity baggage (I feel every little pinprick of people’s hurt and confusion and moods), and it’s difficult for me to read books, no matter how good they are, that vicariously provide an examination of emotional baggage through their characters and the story. So I’ll just have to leave the literary fiction analysis to more experienced, and, perhaps, more impartial readers. Readers who are okay with life being a little messy in their fiction.

Which is not to say I can’t handle messy loss and emotional upheaval or even messier blood-n-guts in genre literature. It’s different somehow, in genres like speculative fiction.

I read somewhere online that people are really turning to thrillers (Found it! Link: Now, More Than Ever, Is the Time for ‘Escapist Fiction’ ‹ CrimeReads) right now, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that not only do I like “escapist fiction” it’s okay to like it, and it doesn’t make me unintellectual and such (part of my current deconditioning process).

It’s okay not to embrace literary fiction right now, if ever. It has its place among readers, definitely!

So, in the words of the author of the above article, V. M. Burns (Link: VM Burns – Mystery Writer) I much prefer books that  “…create an imaginary world that the reader can escape into rather than focusing on the deeper realities/issues of the characters imaginary existence.”

And two books I recently read were perfect in that role.

Mrs. Perivale and the Blue Fire Crystal and Mrs. Perivale and the Dragon Prince–both by Dash Hoffman. They are the first two books in the series. I think there may  be at least another one coming, but I don’t have too much information on forthcoming books. I do know that I can’t wait to read the other books this author has penned.

The book series opens with seventy-three year-old Mrs. Alice Perivale who feels undervalued in the world, but is about to begin her biggest adventure(s) yet! Even better, she’s accompanied on this fantastical new adventure by her seven cats! Check it out to see if the knitting-needle-wielding Alice Perivale saves the magical village from a dire fate: Got-Moxie Bookshelf (got-moxie.com).

The only problem with escapist literature is that I haven’t yet found the key to a magical world of my own imagination…yet!

But I’ll keep looking…the portal has to be around here, somewhere!

Six Degrees of…Neighbours!

A festive winter season to all!

If there’s magic of the season floating about, I hope it finds you!

And me…to be honest.

If I were to make a holiday wish, it would be to live surrounded by nature, with a whole lot trees and flowers and animals and plants and insects for neighbours. And lots and lots of unkempt ‘weeds’ and brambles and thickets.

That was one of the hard things I found about the place where I lived before. When I first moved to New Mexico, I expected it to be the wild and untouched vista you see on TV. It’s the desert, I assumed in my naivety, who landscapes the desert? I thought it was going to be a much-welcomed vacation from leaf blowers and weed whackers and the suburban mania for perfect lawns/landscaping that was characteristic of Florida.

New Mexico wasn’t my ideal locale, but the spot that I lived was quiet and peaceful and there was even a creek close enough to make things a little green to ameliorate the brown upon brown upon brown landscape. And a beautiful meadow full of flowers and lovely waving grasses and even deer. It was like right out of Bambi. But, sadly, it didn’t last long. Soon the meadow fell to the weekly weed whackers and not only was the peace ruined by the drone of leaf blowers but there were pesticides being sprayed to the extent that, one day, a worker in a white hazmat suit with a hose attached to a truck was dousing everything in sight. 

Ugh. 

(Yes, there’s a point to this story. And not just me characteristically kvetching on Christmas Eve. Keep reading!)

And don’t get me started on the snooping around and the internet sabotage and lots of other weirdness going on.

So, when I begun Good Neighbors* by Sarah Langan, I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into. That I was going to be immersed in a chilling thriller that was uncomfortably and yet wonderfully-spooky close to home.

Of course, Sarah Langan’s Maple Street suburban community takes things to a horrifying extreme after an equally terrifying and tragic event, but the seeds were there. Tiny little mowed-to-an-inch-of-their-lives seedlings, but still, I would swear the mentality was the same. Or that my creative writer’s imagination decided it was going to believe as I clung to the pages of Langan’s book late at night. (I think this was the week I had a couple of nightmares, mind you.)

As a result, this was one of the creepiest books I’ve read in a while. I was both haunted by never-happened memories of suburbanites coming for me in full lethal force and it made me even more nervous about my move to a perfectly manicured residential complex.**

On top of that, I related so much to the Wilde family in the book, as one misfit to another.

A misfit dreaming of a place where I feel I belong. Where I fit. Where I’m safe and sound and have my happily ever after. Not just me, but for the wildling animals and trees and plants and insects and all other non-human life forms. Because they belonged here first.

That’s my magical winter season wish.

(*I believe I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway, but with all the craziness of the out-of-state move for internet and cell phone service and jobs, I lost track, unfortunately.)

(**The oddest part of all of this, is that within this landscaped, water-hungry, pesticide-reliant area I relocated to, I have not heard ONE leaf blower since I moved in. Or weed whacker, or lawnmower, or even apocalyptic-looking people in white hazmat suits spraying clouds of pesticides over every square inch of the compound. How’s that for irony?)

Oh, here’s the book link for Good Neighbors. Read it, even if you live in suburbia. It’s so good. (Especially if you need a break from all the “goodwill towards men”.) https://bookshop.org/books/good-neighbors-9781982144364/9781982144364

Now I’m going to go keep watch for any creepy, hostile neighbours. (Though I think the recent spate of earthquakes were a little more terrifying than obsessive suburbanites.) Let me know what you think about the book, if you read it!

And for more tragic ‘fun’ in the suburbs, you could always follow up your read with Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086589/.

Winter Solstice and Ice Dreams…

I hope you all are enjoying this winter solstice and have hot chocolate and blankets ready for the conjunction viewing tonight. Alas, there is so much light pollution here, and my new locale is lit up so brightly I’m surprised you can’t see it from outer space.

There’s a little teeny part of me that’s expecting something momentous to happen, even though I fall more on the skeptic’s side of things. But I’ll settle for the veil between worlds to thin so that I can spend some time with my ghost cats of season’s past. I miss them.

I don’t even know about the veil-thinning thing, but I have been thinking a lot about the past. Many of my poems have elements taken from experiences I’ve had in the past, and turned into what-might-have-been second chances, or alternate dimensions.

The spec fic story (“The Ice Dream of the Crow”) I wrote for Excalibur’s Books’ Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020 was inspired by my grandmother’s boyfriend Ernie (he died some time ago). As the story goes, he was an excellent skater, and worked at the Lake Placid Olympics. From the family’s written record of the story, he laid the flag under the ice, and escorted Sonja Henie onto the ice. He was gifted an ice skater ornament for his work on the Olympics, which is still in the family.

So, if you’re looking to escape into an alternate reality and want to experience a fictional journey to the Games, and can’t wait for them to start next year, check out the anthology by clicking on the link here: Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020 or here https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Games-Dimensions-2020/dp/B08KQP53X2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Thanks, and enjoy the rare conjunction tonight! Merry solstice!