They Live

The other day, I had the opportunity to talk to some younger writers. One of them mentioned Salinger and how he used to find his characters so real, he would often refer to them as real people. For instance, according to this young woman, he would say things like, "Holden would never do that." She said this in a tone of awe, like it was unusual. Abnormal, even.

For once, the little safety mechanism that's supposed to keep me out of mental hospitals activated in time. I said not a word. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Thing is, I thought all writers viewed their characters as real people. I thought it was normal. At least for writers.

Hell, even the members of my writing group refer to my characters as if they were real people and I talk about theirs the same way. Last December, I was having trouble with a scene and, after patiently listening to my frustrations, one member of my group just turned to me and said, "But she would never do that. She would..."

It can be so annoying when other people know your characters better than you.

Earlier this year, this same character -- she lives to cause trouble -- got mad at me and stormed out of my head and went and stayed with another member of my writing group for a few days. Eventually, she got tired of tormenting that person's muse and came home. And then, a week or so ago, the sister of the trouble-making character got bored because I was overworked and stressed and had no time for her, although it was her turn to have my full attention, so she just up and left for a couple of days.

No lie, the spot in my brain where she normally resides was blank. Empty. Hollow. She did come back, but I still have no idea where she was or what she did while she was gone. I doubt she'll ever tell me.


A literary meme

Swiped shamelessly from The Crankiest Quaker Alive.

1. Take first five novels from your bookshelf.
2. Book 1 -- first sentence
3. Book 2 -- last sentence on page 50
4. Book 3 -- second sentence on page 100
5. Book 4 -- next to the last sentence on page 150
6. Book 5 -- final sentence of the book
7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph.
8. Feel free to "cheat" to make it a better paragraph.
9. Name your sources
10.Post to your blog.

Here's ours:

This time there would be no witnesses.

"I have been instructed to tell you, if it seemed necessary, that Khorov, as you probably will not be surprised to hear," and here the white face took on something uncommonly like a sneer, "is well known to our Department of Security as an agent of Trantor."

"Don't fret so much, Ms. Andrews."

Ayla had spent many long afternoons when she was alone in her valley practicing bird whistles and calls. But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
Emma by Jane Austen

Okay. TAG!
Kira Conally/Loving Twilight
Jason Evans/The Clarity of Night
MacAllister Stone/Stones In the Field

You're it!



The sun is shining, but the veils between worlds feel thin. Transparent. Something is stirring within this world. What is moving, I don't know.

My soul feels restless. It wants to go...


Of Tattoos and Youth

I was in the convenience store the other day buying a soda and a candy bar. Not that this fact is relevant to this post or anything, except to establish that I was in the convenience store and I wasn't just there hanging out. I had reason for being in there. The reason I was there was to buy a soda and while I was there I decided I wanted a candy bar, too.

So, I took my purchases -- the candy bar and soda -- to the cashier. The clerk was a young woman who just started working there recently. I know this because I do stop in at this store quite a bit. But not to hang out. She looks nineteen, but since she and the young man she was flirting with were talking about Rockin' Robins, a local bar, we'll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she's twenty-one. (She can't be twenty-one. She looks way too young to be twenty-one.)

The young man was trying to impress her by talking about getting a tattoo. She responded in the flirtatious, squeamish fashion designed to let him know she's not out to overpower his masculinity then informed him, "My friend's mother just got one."

"No way? What she'd do something like that for?"

"I don't know. She just turned forty and she's going through that thing where she wants to be young again."

Now, as I'm leaving, after paying for my soda and candy bar, I find myself thinking, They are so young to think that forty is old and that tattoos and things are exclusive to the twenty-something crowd. This shows how not so young I am these days.

Then I found myself wondering, What do they think would happen to their tattoos when they turned forty if they got one now? I mean, those things don't magically fade away on your thirtieth birthday.


A Challenge

During the US Civil War, Mrs. Rose Greenhow, nicknamed "Wild Rose" spied on the north for the Confederacy. She transmitted her messages using a cipher. Imprisoned by the North, she still managed to pass messages to fellow conspirators by using her fan and signals arranged in the window of the house where she was held until the Union government deported her to the Confederate states. The cipher was finally cracked when the code was discovered on her body following her death.

Ann Blackman, a Greenhow biographer, offers the first five individuals who can break Wild Rose's cipher and interpret the encrypted parts of one of her messages an autographed copy of the book she has written. Only three people have succeeded so far.

Are you Coyote enough to take Ms. Blackman up on her challenge?


A Touch of Ego

I have recently been studying everything from Plato to Nabokov. As part of this experience, I've been examining not just the published works of these authors, but also their biographies. When and how they lived, who they interacted with, what was important and not important to them. And, in a touch of ego, I've found myself wondering if I make it as an author, if my works survive through the generations, what will future biographers say about me and the life I've lived? How will they summarize it? What, or who, will be seen as the greatest influences on my writing and my beliefs?

More importantly, I've wondered which of the writers emerging alongside me future scholars will hold in high regard. As I move deeper and deeper into the current literary world, I am developing friendships and relationships with other aspiring writers and literary critics, each with their own style and voice and goals. In these hypothetical future biographies, which of these friendships will be noted and which will never be mentioned because one or both of the parties involved failed to achieve literary success?

Who, among the many writers striving to find their way to the top of today's slush pile, will achieve immortality tomorrow?


No Escape

A good friend once told me that you should only try to save the people who are trying to escape the quicksand, that you can't save those who aren't struggling to escape. Recently, I've realized I don't necessarily know the difference between the two.

If a person says they want to escape but keeps finding a reason not to reach for the rope that is being tossed to them, is it because they don't want to escape or because they've never seen a rope before and mistake it for something frightening, like a snake?

*sigh* That sounds absurd even as I type it.

If someone doesn't reach for the rope, if they make no effort to move toward firm ground, if they, in fact, move closer toward the center of the quicksand, they are not trying to escape, are they?

I just have to close my eyes and cut the rope so I can move on; I'm not certain I know how.