Off-Topic

(c) CLAMP/Dark Horse – a picture I took from my English translation of “Cardcaptor Sakura”

As long-time readers of my site know, I am fond of Cardcaptor Sakura, and in particular of Touya and Yukito, who are probably my favorite fictional couple. After almost twenty years, CCS is back in a new series called “Clear Card.” The above shot of Yue (Yukito’s alter ego) and Touya aired this past weekend. It was a lovely scene, but I did have one problem with it. Touya tells Yue that Yuki told him Yue’s name. But in the manga (and, I thought, also in the original animated series—though I could be misremembering), Yue tells Touya his name when they first meet. So someone failed to check the continuity.

That aside, it’s a lovely, tense scene. Though I’m not sure why Touya is being so cagey about his new powers. Is he worried Yue will want them, too?

Romanticizing Darcy

So I read this article today about how Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy is a less worthy hero than Bhaer from Little Women. I’ll admit here and now that I love Jane Austen and never could get into Louisa May Alcott, so I’m probably biased from the get go. But I also am not the type to enjoy “bad boy” stories, alpha male romantic interests, etc. And so I think this article misses the mark.

One of the fundamental assumptions of the article is that Mr. Darcy changes personality over the course of the novel—Lizzie changes him. I agree that in fiction I find the woman-makes-him-a-better-man thing annoying and problematic. But I’ve never read P&P that way. To me, Darcy doesn’t change. He’s always himself. He just has a really hard shell and a gooey center. Lizzie doesn’t change him, she cracks him open in a way only those close to him have ever been able to do.

Take it from Darcy’s side. Here is a man who (a) must fend off women on a regular basis, and (b) also has a young sister to worry about. He has many responsibilities and a lot on his mind. One can hardly blame him for knowing Mrs. Bennet for who and what she really is—a grasping mama. He’s surely dealt with his share of them before coming to Netherfield. He’s learned to be wary, and he’s put up necessary defences that make him standoffish and seemingly rude. But that’s a matter of self-preservation, really.

I’m probably making excuses because I so adore the book, but I still believe my argument is valid. On the flip side, I do prefer nice men to dominant alphas, which is why there are scads of books I don’t read. I don’t find the alpha male trope hot or romantic. Which is why you won’t find them in anything I write, either. And yes, I think it’s possible to write a nice guy character that is still interesting. (Well, they’re interesting to me, anyway. But maybe I’m alone in that.)

What do you think? Darcy: yea or nay? Is he just a Georgian-era bad boy? Who are your favorite romantic heroes?

We Need the Media

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about “the media” lately, mostly aimed at the news outlets as they attempt to cover the new presidency. Yes, the news can be biased. But it also acts as a kind of filter, an interpreter for the masses. And we need that.

Imagine you’re deaf. Someone is saying something really important, and you need to know what it is and perhaps also what it means. An interpreter steps forward and begins to sign. Relief! Sometimes the signs they choose are a little off from what’s being said because there is more than one way to sign something—it’s all about context and connotation. Sometimes the interpreter signs something in a way that makes you think, Huh. I would have used this sign instead, but I get what they mean. Better to have an interpreter than no one at all.

“But I can read lips!” you say. Okay, good for you. But how fast can you read them? And can you understand everything that is being said?

I suppose if I wanted to devote the time and energy, I could do a ton of research and slowly learn to interpret everything the president and Congress does for myself. Just like if I wanted to get a degree in theology I could interpret holy texts for myself and disregard the millennia of knowledge of others. But in the process of getting that degree, I would have to take all that knowledge into account anyway. That would actually be part of the learning process. There is no unfiltered, unbiased, raw data. It doesn’t exist.

We don’t all of us have time to hunt down every fact, every historical precedent, etc. That’s what journalists are for. The things the White House and Congress might hope we’ll overlook—the media won’t, and they’ll let us know what’s happening. And yeah, they may “spin” it, but better to know what is happening than not. We can see through spin, but we can’t see through the obfuscating smoke that the government is attempting to cloud things with.

2016 Review

Yes, I know the year is not over, but it’s close, right? Anyway, this post is about one particular aspect of 2016 that I only just noticed thanks to Angelorum’s review prompts. Namely that in 2016, I swapped a lot of old groups of people for new ones.

For example, we left our old place of worship after four years because we didn’t really feel very connected to the group of people there. No one was mean or anything, it just wasn’t the right fit. And then we found a great new group that we actually really like.

A similar experience happened with my writing group. It sort of imploded a bit, and I wasn’t feeling as though I was getting the support I needed. It got messy. But after taking a break, I ventured out and found a new writing group I really enjoy.

The lesson here, I think, is that sometimes you have to let go of what you have in order to find something better. That can be hard because we tend to want to stay with who and what we know, even when sometimes those aren’t the best things for us. We’ll stick with where we’re not getting what we want or need simply because it’s familiar and that makes us comfortable. Except we’re not really comfortable or even happy. We’re just too scared to let go and start over.

I’ve written in the past about personal Tarot years, and how for me this was a Justice/Libra year. Things balanced out in the end. For everything I lost, I also gained. Some of the losses still hurt, but that’s life. As I move into a Hanged Man year, I’ll work to gain new perspectives. There will be more letting go, I’m sure. Sacrifice. But, like Odin hanging from the World Tree, one hopes the enlightenment will be worth any pain.

Plea Bargain

People who know me know I have a soft spot for children and animals. (Also that I hate string theory, but that’s not important right now.) Which is why I’m sending up the call to help these kitties. They are in imminent danger of losing their home and being tossed onto the streets just in time for winter. Please, PLEASE—if you can give anything, do. If not, at least spread the word.

NOTE: NOT LOOKING FOR HOMES (though I’m sure they’d consider rehoming a few); LOOKING FOR DONATIONS TO MOVE TO A PLACE WHERE THEY’LL BE ALLOWED TO KEEP THE CATS.

And if you’d like to get something for your troubles, I’ve even made this lotus t-shirt. The proceeds go toward helping these kitties, and you get a nice, super soft, meditative shirt. When people ask what the lotus stands for, you can tell them the truth or just make up something. Wouldn’t that be fun? It’s a simple enough shirt, nothing special, but send it to me and I’ll sign it and send it back to you with a copy of Manifesting Destiny or The K-Pro if you like. THAT’S how serious I am about helping these kitties. It’s breaking my heart to think they might get evicted. So help if you can!

24 Questions

There’s a study that shows asking another person a certain 36 questions will prompt greater intimacy between you and at a more rapid rate. “36?” I hear you asking. “But the headline says 24.” That’s because I’m only going to answer the first 24 of these questions. Though I might do the final set in an upcoming newsletter, so if you haven’t signed up, do it now.

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

I’m not sure there’s anyone I really want to bring into my house as a dinner guest. I’m very aware of the fact my house probably doesn’t make a fabulous impression because I’m not a keen housekeeper. Also, I don’t cook. So I’d probably only invite people I don’t actually like and subject them to my dirty house and bad cooking.

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

Yes, actually. Or maybe not famous so much as known? I think there’s a slight difference. I’d like my work to be noteworthy so that, in certain circles, my name was known. If that makes sense.

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

Depends on who I’m calling and why! I don’t talk on the phone much. I prefer text or email because then I can compose what I say. As a writer, that’s important to me. But people I’m close to—my parents and good friends—I have no reason to rehearse anything.

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

A day in a foreign city like London or Paris. There would be some time spent in a museum and then a walk in the park. A nice meal or two in there somewhere. A bookstore probably.

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

I do this all the time. I sing to myself, the cat, the kids. I don’t even notice any more, so I’m not sure when I was last doing it.

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

Well, wait a minute. Any 30-year-old? Or me when I was 30? Because I’d just had my first child then and my body was not in great shape at the time. And are you saying that if I choose body my mind would necessarily be addled? There’s an implication here but it’s not explicit. I’d need to know more before deciding.

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

No, thank God, and I don’t really want to know either.

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

We like to quote movies. We both have parents who are still together. We have similar values and ways of rearing the children.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

My health.

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

More family vacations. We only ever seemed to visit relatives; I wish we’d gone other places sometimes.

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

Should I type for four minutes? No? Look, you can read my bio on IMDb if you like. Maybe some day I’ll have a Wikipedia page. Wouldn’t that be cool?

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

To be able to write faster. It takes me a long time to write a book (or screenplay), and I wish it didn’t. I wish I had better focus and could sit down and crank stuff out—quality stuff, that is.

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

Whether I ever become a well-known author or screenwriter. Or maybe, more specifically, whether I ever win any awards. That’s shallow, but there you have it. I don’t especially want to know what others think of me, and I don’t want to know how I or anyone I love dies. So something simple and concrete. That way I know whether I’m wasting my time or should just be satisfied with what I’ve already accomplished.

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Living abroad. I’ve wanted to do that my entire life, but the opportunity has never arisen. I’ve tried to “make” opportunities, too, but it’s never worked out.

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

I should say something like “my kids,” right? But that’s a joint effort—that’s me and my husband and the teachers and the kids themselves. So what is MY greatest accomplishment? Getting a play staged and then turned into a short film—I consider that my most noteworthy accomplishment thus far.

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

Intellect + humor. I look for good conversation but also a lightness of being.

17. What is your most treasured memory?

Oh, God, I don’t even know. I have so many wonderful ones, I can’t pick just one to be “most treasured.” They carry equal weight. Most are from childhood, though. Fresh-mown grass. Catching fireflies. Stargazing with my dad. Long drives in the car, just for the fun of driving around.

18. What is your most terrible memory?

My entire junior year of high school.

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

I’d write faster, or at least leave a comprehensive set of notes so someone could finish my work for me. Then I’d travel and make memories with my family.

20. What does friendship mean to you?

It’s a very specific bond. You can’t fake it. There’s a connection there that’s very strong and endures even the greatest strain. That’s why they say you only know who your true friends are when you’re in a crisis.

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

I’m not sure I understand the question. I’m an only child and am very close with my parents. Still, I’m very independent in a lot of ways, and I have a difficult time giving and receiving affection in a demonstrative way. I show my affection to friends and family in other ways—visits, calls, sending little gifts, just trying to be generally thoughtful. The one exception is my children. That love and affection, the hugs and kisses, comes very naturally to me.

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

Well, my husband isn’t here, but I’ll say this: he’s supportive, smart, funny, a good cook, and family-oriented.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

I mentioned I’m an only child. We are very close. At the age when other kids were trying to distance themselves from their parents, I was still happy to hang out with mine. I don’t know about “happier than most other people’s.” I know I had a happy childhood, relatively sedate.

My family now, it’s large and chaotic. I like to think we’re warm, but I don’t know if we’re close because there’s so many of us. But we do a lot of things together. It’s difficult for me to judge, really, because I’m too close. I’m in it and part of it and not objective about it.

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Ooooh. That’s complicated. We’re fine, I think. I’m closer to my dad because he and I have similar temperaments, but Mom and I had our fun, too. We would go see the movies Dad wouldn’t see. Stuff like that.

My mom is the social one in our family and I wasn’t the type to be on the phone or out with my friends all the time. We’re just very different. But she’s always meant well.

Okay, those are the 24 questions. As I mentioned, I may or may not do the final 12 in my newsletter. A quick glance at the remaining questions shows there are a few similar to #22 in that they ask the responder to say something to a partner, or else have the partner answer in some way. So we’ll see which, if any, I can use in the newsletter, which I expect to put out next week. Sign up now on the sidebar!

WIP Wednesday

Switching tracks this week by posting the first little bit I’ve written for A Blue Jay on Friday, the sequel to The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller.

Simeon didn’t even look over when the paper fluttered to his desk, landing not far from where his elbow winged out unnaturally while he typed. He was used to things being tossed at him, stuff to type or file or have Mr. Stoller sign. He’d get to it when he was bloody well ready, but as slow as he was at typing, it was going to be a while.

Clack. Simeon squinted at the paper to be sure it was the correct letter then began the hunt for the next one.

“Mr. Martin.”

Simeon hopped in his chair with surprise and turned to see Peter Stoller standing at his shoulder. The man was unnaturally quiet. Brought a whole new level to the term “spook.”

Peter nodded at the paper on the desk, and Simeon transferred his attention to it. Not a full-sized sheet, but slim and—

“An airline ticket?” Simeon asked. “Who for?”

“You.”

Simeon’s dark eyes went back to Peter.

“You don’t want to spend the whole of your career as an assistant, do you?” Peter asked. He nodded at the ticket envelope again. “Go on.”

Simeon put his hand out and let it hover over the desktop. “You’re sending me somewhere.”

Peter’s tiny sigh struck Simeon like a dart. His boss was fair but difficult to please, and Simeon knew he was often a disappointment. The problem was, Simeon wasn’t always clear on what exactly he said or did that was so disappointing. So he didn’t know how to fix himself.

“Very good, Mr. Martin. You’ve cracked the case.”

Simeon squinted up at his boss. Everything Peter said came out in more or less the same tone, so Simeon couldn’t always tell when he was joking. “Alone?” he asked.

Peter blanched. “Of course not.”

Then Simeon blanched. “With you?”

Peter looked at Simeon as if he’d spoken one of the maybe four languages Peter didn’t know. “No. Woodall will accompany you. He’ll brief you, too. I suggest you go over there now.”

Pleased at the very least to be relieved from typing, Simeon pushed back in his chair, taking care not to roll over Peter’s feet. As he stood, Peter said, “You haven’t even looked at it.”

Simeon froze, not wanting to give away he didn’t know what Peter was talking about.

“Aren’t you curious?” Peter went on.

Still not daring to move, Simeon stared at him blankly.

“The ticket.”

“Oh!” Simeon snatched it off the desktop. “Right.”

Another sigh, this one not so small as before. “Don’t make me sorry for giving you this assignment, Mr. Martin.”

“Yes, sir. I mean . . . No?” Simeon mentally combed through Peter’s words in an attempt to work out the correct way to answer. But Peter’s office door was already closing behind him.

As you can see, this book is meant to be from Simeon’s point of view. The book title is derived from an old superstition that on Fridays blue jays fly to Hell to tell the devil everyone’s misdeeds. Some say the jay brings a grain of sand to Hell each Friday to make sure the fires keep burning. But a final legend tells of how the jays tried to trick the devil, and then devil tried to catch and burn the jays’ souls, too, and they put his eyes out and now they no longer go to Hell on Fridays but instead all go picnic together.

How’d That Justice Turn Out?

At the end of last year I looked at my Solar Return and also at my personal Tarot year and noticed it was a double whammy of Libra + Justice. So how’s that going?

All right, I guess. I feel like it’s been a pretty balanced year overall with both highs and lows. I had two books come out. One has done fairly well, the other not so much. I’ve lost some friends and gained some new ones. I’ve accomplished a number of my goals, but then there’s always another one; you can never really check off your to-do list because for every completed task a new one is added (sometimes more). Still, it all balances out.

I feel very level. It’s refreshing actually. I’ve worked hard but had a lot of family time and socializing to balance that out.

hangedmanNow I’m looking ahead (the new Solar Return begins to bleed into the mix approximately three months before one’s birthday), staring down a Hanged Man year. Gulp. The Hanged Man and I are not on the friendliest terms. I’m an impatient person, for one thing. He insists I wait. I like to be in control. He insists I let go. I want it all. He insists I compromise and make sacrifices.

On the plus side, the Hanged Man offers new perspectives and enlightenment if only I’ll take the time to look at things his way.

Will I see my life get turned upside down in the next year? If so, will it be for the better or… ??? I won’t lie. I’m nervous about it. But I’m just going to have to ride the wave and see where things go.

Where’s My Brick?

Comparison, they say, is the thief of joy. Still, one can’t help being compared, even when actively avoiding it.

I was thinking about Emerson College, where I got my M.A. They send out a lot of emails and post a lot of Facebook stuff, so maybe I wasn’t so much thinking about Emerson as having it forcibly brought to mind. Emerson has a long list of impressive alumni, so I guess it’s no wonder they don’t much care about anything I’ve done since leaving. But it hurts a little to be overlooked like that. And I figure I’m overlooked by them because I’m simply not worth the attention when compared to the rest.

So then I asked myself why I don’t feel slighted by UT. They’ve never recognized me or my work either. But they’re so much bigger, you know, and then I also don’t get constant emails from them about how great all their alumni are. So I don’t feel like I’m being left out of anything.

If and when I make “real” money as a writer, I’ll have one of those little plaques put on a bench or the back of a chair in an auditorium somewhere. Or maybe I’ll buy one of those bricks and have my name carved in it so people can literally walk all over me, but I can feel good about it.

Yes, I’m being snarky. And I’m [half] joking. This post isn’t meant to signal contempt for either Emerson or UT; it’s a study of my own motivations and psyche. WHY do I crave recognition? Part of it is the system I grew up with—the drive for gold stars and good grades. When you get out into the real world, there aren’t stars and grades any more, and if you don’t work in a hierarchy there aren’t promotions and job titles either. So you seek validation elsewhere. Something, anything to prove you’re on the right track, that someone is noticing, that it isn’t all for naught. Book sales are nice and all, but what I really want is to be mentioned in a newsletter.

September 11th

This is actually my dad’s birthday. Until 15 years ago, there was nothing particular about having a birthday on 9-11. But now it feels awkward for my dad, a veteran, to “celebrate” on such a day.

Fifteen years ago, I was living in Boston. My personal 9-11 story is here; no reason to type it again. Five years ago, I happened to be in New York City on the 10th anniversary. That was surreal.

I don’t have much of anything to add. But it continues to feel important to acknowledge this day in some way. Despite all our ensuing precautions, I don’t think any of us feel much safer. In fact, I think I recently read that Americans feel more afraid now than ever. At the same time, however, I’ve noticed the memorials and such have dwindled. Not that we should wallow, because that wouldn’t be healthy either. I think it’s natural in some respects to move on. The farther we get away from a point in time . . . It’s strange to think at some point there will be more people in the world who weren’t alive, or at least can’t remember 9-11-01 than there will be who do. “Primary sources” we’re called in schoolbooks. Kids will be assigned to ask us questions about where we were and what we remember. Huh.

Well, happy birthday to my dad all the same.