?

Log in

An anniversary approaches.

Someone  brought this to my attention today, and it is eerily appropriate to some of my own recent thoughts.

Because, you see, there is an odd time coming.

In another fourteen days, it will be two years since I lost my father.

Second anniversaries are kind of weird. It's still close - it's still too close. You think back and the memories of the death, the dying, they are still here, close to the surface; if you pick at the scab, it still bleeds. This is not a scar yet. And yet it feels self indulgent to dwell on it. It isn't that first year, that searing first anniversary, where you you still have permission for the white-hot grief. I remember vivdly that last year on the day of his passing I took a bunch of flowers to Hospice House, where he died, to leave for them in his moemory - and I I was keeping it all under control, I was going to be just fine, I was going to explain everything clearly and calmly when i walked in through that front door and spoke to whoever was there on duty at the front desk. Except that's not what happened. Not at all. i walked in there through that doo which was the last door he ever passed out of, and a woman behind the front desk looked up and smiled, and I began, "my father..." adn burst into tears. Into great hacking heaving sobs that I couldn't hold in. We hammered out between us who I was and why i was there, and I was saying I just wanted to come and say thank you one more tiem for what they did for him, and they said the flowers were lovely, and I cried, and so did the woman at the front desk, and then I climbed back into my car with tears still blurring my vision... but that was raw grief, my grief, and his spirit was not there. He was long gone. However, I had permission for that grief. The Jewish tradition has a name for this - Jahrzeit - the one-year anniversary. And it was *okay*.

In the aftermath... I spoke of him less. I would remember individual incidents or sayings, not a general aching recollection, a sense of shadow, a feeling of missing something that should have been there. The speed dial on my phone still says "Mum and Dad" but I have stopped expecting my father to be there, I have stopped catching myself halfway to "oh, I should tell him this he would love it" if I find something he would have enjoyed on the Internet. The second year is a year of distancing, and I have distanced. Hospice House is now not longer the first image in my head when I think of him.

I remember him on other ways,

I remember him as the man who could not tell a joke (either because he couldn't get the beginning straight in his head and had to start the damn thing three times before he could be sure of the story by which stage him telling  the joke was usually far funnier than the joke itself ever was, or because he would flub or, worse, forget the punchline at the critical moment...). I remember him as an incarnation of that cartoon character of the bewildered man holding up a hammer, with all the fingers on his other hand bandaged up, a hole in the wall behind him, and the shattered remains of one of those stupid flying ceramic ducks on the floor at his feet. You did not point my father at handyman jobs. The best he could do was hang a picture, and even THAT took planning and procedure and twice as long as anyone else woudl have taken to do it.) I remember him when he found out about a particular novel of mine, which I had successfully kept under wraps right until I could announce that yes, it was being published, and his response when he was told about it was literally this: "You wrote a book and are getting it published without ever having told me about it? I will never forgive you. Now give me the manuscript." And he took the MS printout and sat down with it on the living room sofa, and did not let go of it until he had turned the last page. And then he cried. And on the heels of that I remember that "Random", the first book in my new series, bears a dedication to him... because this was the first book fo mine that he did not live to see, to gather up and to collect lovingly on his shelf which was groaning with copies of my books in every language in which they had ever appeared, to read carefully, to store up another helping of approval and pride.

I don't idealise him, nor idolise him. There are other memories and some are not wholly pleasant. But they're all memories now.

There is a definite sense of that. THis world has been empty of him for two years. His ashes are disepersed in the great quiet Pacific Ocean. His soul no longer clings to the dust of this dirtball of a planet. The things he loved are gone or are loved by someone else. There's a sense of inevitability and of progression - the sense of loss is no less but it is also no longer sharp, no longer acute. And it feels self indulgent, these days, to remember him and cry. People lose parents every day. It's the way of the world. It feels as though I should gird up my loins and wipe my nose and keep going, now. That part of my life is over, the part when I was this man's daughter-in-the-flesh. I am now daughter-in-spirit, daughter-in-memory, I am the daughter that was, half a daughter, with only one living parent left to anchor me to that identity now. There will come a day on which I will have to say that I USED to be a daughter, and on that day I become an ex-daughter, an orphan, but I suppose I am lucky in that have kept my beloved parents for longer than it is given to some. I suppose when the inevitable day comes that my ancestral walls are all down and the cold winds can blow freely through the ruins of that childhood house which will exist no longer I will have the right and the permission to re-indulge one last time in that rawest, sharpest grief.

But for now... it's the second anniversary. It feels too close, and too far away. I feel as though I am just far enough from shore not to know whether it's worth paddling back towards land, or resolutely setting sail towards the unknown horizon. Perhaps, next year, the shore will have gone a little more distant still and the choice won't be so hard to make. But now... right now... I still feel the tethers, invisible links to all that is left behind on that land I have left in my wake, and it feels... weird... almost dangerous... whatever I do. So right now, on this second anniversary, I will do nothing at all. I will letmyself float on the waters, and lie back in my cockleshell boat, and stare at the sky full of stars - and maybe I will see a star shoot across the sky, and know that on the second anniversary it might be okay if I let myself believe that my lost father was somehow remembering me.

My Sixth Worldcon... Sasquan, here I come...

My current (and NOW CORRECT (errors fixed) and as far as I know final) schedule for the con:

***

31 Flavors of Fantasy Devoured by Kids and Teens - Thursday 17:00 -17:45, 401C (CC)

Fantasy has become a catch all category for all of the subgenres featuring "fantastic" elements from action adventure to urban and epic fantasy, romantic fantasy, and more! How many sub genres are out there and what elements help to define them? Does the reader's age affect
the growth or definition of a subgenre? Join our panel of young adult and middle grade authors for a lively discussion that gives you a little taste of each subgenre as they share some of their favorite works across the fantastic spectrum that help to define the various subgenres.
James Van Pelt (M), Alma Alexander, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Esther
Jones, Brandon Sanderson


***

Kaffee Klatche - Alma Alexander - Friday 10:00 - 10:45, 202A-KK2 (CC)

Join me (and up to 9 other fans) for a small discussion.  Coffee and snacks available for sale on the 2nd floor. Please come along and hear all about recent projects, and ones on the drawing board!  (I will ALSO have some special books on offer - a Kaffeeklattch special!)

***

Autographing - Friday 14:00 - 14:45, Exhibit Hall B - (CC)

Katherine Addison, Alma Alexander, Marissa Meyer, L. E.Modesitt, Jr., Stanley Schmidt, Catherynne Valente


***

Reading - Alma Alexander - Saturday 15:30 - 16:00, Spokane Falls Suite A/B (Doubletree)

Reading from one of my recent works - I may give you a choice of material...

***
SpoCon Presents: Tea Party with the Duchess - Saturday 19:00 - 1945, Grand Ballroom: Salon IV (Doubletree)

SpoCon presents a RadCon tradition; join us for Tea with the Duchess! The Duchess, yes, that would be me. Chose a delicate tea cup to represent your unique personality. Every tea cup is different! Enjoy a variety of teas and delicate snacks. This is an experience to enjoy that memories are made on!

Alma Alexander (M)

***
When We Were Young - Sunday 11:00 - 11:45, 300C (CC)

Panelists share their favorite books from when they were teens, tweens, and children. Find out what books inspired their imaginations, which ones hooked them on SF and fantasy, and which ones made them want to try their own hand at creating stories. Are these books still inspiring today's young minds? Which of today's books might be tomorrow's great memories?

Alma Alexander (M),  Kevin J. Anderson, Steven Barnes, Scott Lynch, Marissa Meyer

***


Please do come along to things like readings, signings, kaffeeklatches. It's always lovely to meet new people, and to see old friends!

Likeability

In one of the most polarizing (series of) books I know, books which you either despise or passionately defend against all blasphemers, there is a character known as... Thomas Covenant. (yes, I see you all out there, alreasy bristling and taking your positions. But relax. In this instance, he just the lede, and an example...)

I am in THAT camp. The one over there. The one whose collective reaction to Thomas Covenant was to tell him to, oh, just DIE already and if he didn't believe anything he didn't have to believe anything but he should just GET OUT OF MY WAY and stop whining about everything.

My point, and I do have one, is that I could not get past the UNLIKEABLILITY of the protagonist. I could not get past it to the point that I simply could not find anything he said or did sympathetic, or understandable, or even defensible. He just flat out annoyed the snot out of me so much that I basically threw the books in which he lived across the room (once literally, I do believe) and refused to read any more books by that writer, for better or for worse.

In one sense that might be considered a vindication - ANY character that creates that strong a reaction is its own kind of success; it's a memorable character, and does not suffer from the wishy-washies in any way shape or form. Love him or loathe him, Thomas Covenant is someone you REMEMBER,

So - just how important is it to whether or not you read a book, to whether you are ABLE to read a book, is a character's basic likeablity? If you honestly and genuinely dislike/hate/despise the character who carries the story - for reasons that are good and true FOR YOU - can you ever allow yourself to get past that and read the story and even reach - if not sympathy - then an understanding?

There's a reason I ask.

See, I wrote a book called "Random". That book was narrated by a young lady by the name of Jazz, and Jazz had an older brother, Mal. In "Random", Jazz;s book, Mal is a secondary character - an important one, to be sure, but still, secondary. Mal is (at the moment in which this book takes place) seventeen-going-on-eighteen, he's a Bad Boy, he gets into fights, he's moody and bitter and sarcastic, even vicious. To summarise, he's something of a troubled teen. Readers of "Random" noticed him, however - they noticed his PRESENCE. Some called him intriguing and said that they were looking forward to seeing more of him. Others just called him "whiny", and "hard to like".

Ah. Unlikeability.

The second book in this series, "Wolf", came out not so long ago... and it is an answer to those who wanted to know more. This is MAL'S book, HIS version of events, told in first person, from the inside. And the responses have been interesting, to say the least.

Some readers have called him a "hostile witness". Some say he still whines, at least in the beginning of the book. All true. He is all these things, and more. He is, as I said, a troubled teen. At least one reader who loved "Random" confessed (after she bit into "Wolf") that she was uneasy about a whole book with Mal at the helm because she hadn't really "liked" him in the first book, and there it was in a nutshell, the potential problem on my hands.

I had created a Real Boy (TM) and I had a character on my hands who would not bend to public opinion in order to become "likeable". He was the way he was because of good solid reasons. These reasons would be touched on and explored and explained in "Wolf", and in my eyes they made this character one of the best people I've ever written about, flaws and all. But would those people who had found him "unlikeable" in the first book... follow him far enough into the second to learn more about him?

The reader who confessed to her uneasiness about Mal's being promoted to protagonist... also confessed to being in tears at the end of the story.

And to me, *that is the story*. This is a character who was tempered by life and events over which he either had no real control or which he might have botched his choices on... and it is a character who then took on the xonsequences of these events and these choices and made something real and unique and strong out of them. Built a life. He may not have easily fit anywhere, into any sort of box or slot, but that was okay - in the end he shaped the box to fit HIM.

I respect that. I admire it. I know that this is a flawed character, someone with cracks which are both deep and wide... but those cracks did not break him. In the manner of those wonderful Japanese pots, where cracks and crevices are fillled in with gold which both repairs them and throws them into stark relief - they are fixed, but their existence is freely confesed and not hidden or swept under a rug in any way, this is a character who allowed his damage to make him a better person, a stronger person, who used his cracks to build a more solid foundation on which to raise himself into something better, something bigger, something that transcends.

This is not an easy thing to do, and the process of doing it might render a character... somewhat less than likeable. But for those who persevered with Mal, the rewards were there. They ended up at the book's conclusion with tears in their eyes - but they were the tears of triumph. If they stuck with him long enough, if they stayed the course which he had set himself to run and ran it at his side, he redeemed both himself... and the reader. He grew.

In the end, what makes a character in a work of fiction compelling? Likeablity (someone who is acast-iron Hero with a Capital H and can do no wrong) or Respect (for someone who might have failed, might have failed hard, or often, but who will not let failure have the last word in his life)?

Read "Random". Then read "Wolf". Go meet Mal. I promise you, he's worth it,

Spamology...

Number One is being helpful - this is how the thing appears, the complete subject line:

[Spam] the Abu Dhabi Charity Donation!

Thank you for TELLING me you're spam, oh blessed message. I would never have known, otherwise.

Number two is a little ambivalent:

Enter the website to read Anghara's message

If you mean a message FOR Anghara, which would be my net name and not my real name so you don't know me and I don't need to see a message from you especially so announced, that's NOT WHAT YOU SAID. And if you're inviting me to the site to read my own message... to myself... well, unless I'm suffering from split personality disorder and don't know it, I DIDN'T SEND ONE. So, cheers, spamlet. Nice try.

Number three is... um...

Carmelina B. wants Anghara to EXPLORE her BOOBS

Perhaps they just want me to check for breast cancer. Yes, that must be it. On the other hand, it is from someone called Carmelina B. Carmelina. I, uh, thanks, but I'll pass.

Sigh.

And this was a LIGHT day.
http://writers-write-creative-blog.posthaven.com/literary-birthday-29-may-andre-brink

I was nineteen years old and a 'seasoned' novelist (I'd written anythng between three and six novels by this age, depending on whether you wanted tou count only the 'good' ones or everything...) when I hit upon a brililant idea.

I would rewrite the Matter of Britain.

In the first person.

As the Queen.

The book (entitled, amazingly enough, "I, Guinevere") was duly produced - and it worked, up to the point that I got so identified with it that my boyfriend at the time used to send me little cards adressed to "the Princess" (I still have those cards. They'are little reasures...) It was a serious attempt to get to grips with a topic I passionately loved, with characters whom I'd known well for years through dipping into their stories as told by many other folks,with the kind of lush language with which I was to become familiar as my writing later grew more fully into that shape.

"I, Guinevere" was promptly picked up and handed (by my father) to a South African publisher... who, against all odds, loved the thing. I was close enough to a published book to smell it... and then he said that the novel had to go to a beta reader first for his report.

And off it went.

Th beta reader... was Andre Brink.

One of South Africa's great writers, who died on ^ February 2015 aged 79. He was a Name, a famous and well regarded author, and I confess the breath was driven out of my body when I was told who it was that had gotten my little book thrust into his hands. But for all his stature Brink was perhaps the last person who might have had any sympathy for the kind fo writer I was - or I was shaping to be - or for hte subject matter that I had chosen.

I waited for his report with bated breath, and trepidation, and something like existential dread.

When it came back, it opened with a sentence which still takes my breath away.

"I have no doubt at all that this work was written by someone who will be a great writer one day."

If you can smell the next word, you're right.

It was "But..."

One of the reasons he gave for my novel's having missed its mark was that it lacked, as he put it, "what Nikos Kazantzakis called madness". (It was because of this that I went on to read Kazantzakis whom I had not read before then - so thank you, Mr Brink, for Zorba the Greek...) WHat he meant, I suspect, was the rawest kind of passion, a sexual energy with which this story was charged - but which I failed to imbue it with.

 It rankled, then, but of course he was utterly correct - I was nineteen years old, and a very young and innocent nineteen, and my attempts to write adultery in THE FIRST PERSON (even adultery decorously clad in the robes of High Chivalry) were probably laughable. I say "were probably" because, to my chagrin, I seem to have permanently lost every last copy of that manuscript - and I would have loved to have read it now all these decades later just to see by how much I had sailed past my mark but that is no longer possible. All I have is a memory of that nineteen-year-old girl and her romantic-but-attempted-to-be-gritty vision of Camelot and its shenanigans, and of the book that was born out of that.

And that sentence. The sentence that - in spite of himself - in sppite of all his misgivings and his caveats and eventually his veto - Andre Brink could not help but give me.

Thank you for that, sir.

With gratitude, and respect, I bid you farewell. And may Nikos Kazantzakis greet you with a does of 'madness' out there in the light where the passion of words (which you have always carried with you) blazes like a star,
So, as some of you may know, last year I went to the Rainforest Writing Retreat on the shores of beautiful Lake Quinault (there are those who might remember the occasion by my posts concerning my return home - through the worst snowpocalypse of the year...) During that time, last year, I wrote up a quiet storm - a large chunk of the novel then in progress, before I was blindsided by a short story which I had to write down right there and then no questions asked and which derailed the prospects of more of the novel being captured on screen, as it were.

There's always a chance that a literary mugging event might occur again this year, during the retreat to which I am once again going - life, as it has famously been said, is what happens when you're making other plans. But I can't just go in there and trust to the Muse to turn up on schedule along with me - I have to HAVE a plan, before one can possibly be derailed. So I am thinking about projects to concentrate on while I am there, and I have decided to see if all y'all have any preferences as to what you might want to see emerge FIRST, as it were.

Here are the options.

1) The novel I wrote there last year was "Wolf", the second book in the Were Chronicles series. That's coming out in May this year, and the third book in that series is also finished and with the publisher with a possible publication date of end of this year or possibly very early in 2016 (no firm date yet). In the meantime #1, "Random", has been doing quite nicely - people LIKE it, they really like it - and there's that to think of, the momentum that's being built up. But in any event, the first three books in that series are done and dusted, that particular arc complete... but... but... there are other stories that have presented themselves in that universe. I've just sketched out a few notes, so far. But this might be a good time to launch into the first of those...?

2) Another Fat Historical Fantasy is long overdue and I have one in the wings and it's been waiting there very patiently. This is a distinct possibility. I could dive in and let the waters of this thing close over my head and not come up for air until it's time to leave. And it will be a Big. Fat. Historical. Fantasy. Think Jin Shei.

3) Finishing up a half-written stand-alone fantasy which has been dropped several times as other more important things came along and passed it - but there are good bones there, and it might be time to put some flesh on them.

4) A project which WILL get worked on sooner rather than later and maybe it might as well be now - I am putting together a short story collection, a themed one. I have some of the content already complete and ready - but a number of stories (some six or seven of them) need to be written before the thing is done. Perhaps I should just use the time to put together those short stories, or at least the first drafts of them, and have a more or less finished collection ready by the time I leave the retreat...?

So - what do you think? Vote in the comments, for #1,#2,#3, or #4. And I will take it under advisement... you have the rest of this month to make your opinions known. Which door...?

Happy new year!

Well, here's a few bits of news and such.

First off, I guest blog today, about "Random", at Heather Rose Jones's blog, here

I did a Bitten by Books event yesterday which involved a nice little interview - and you can read that here (the contest is over but the interview remains...)

Also, the first three Worldweavers books are all now available in Sky Warrior Books paperback editions Gift of the Unmage, Spellspam, Cybermage. With the fourth and final book in the series now hanging imminent, this might be a good time to gather up the previous three and catch up to the story. Just sayin'. And if you buy these paperbacks, and let me know in email (or in comments, either here on on my Facebook page - and while you're there, "like" it - I'm THIS close to 600 likes - getting there might be nice!) - together with a mailing address - you can obtain a signed book plate or three for these shiny new books and have 'em all signed and sealed by yours truly...

Oh, and there will be a new book in March. COmpletely unrelated to any of these and utterly unlike anything I've ever done before. Watch this space...

The stars of the year(s) past...

We landed a probe on a comet this year. Read that again. We landed. A probe. On. A COMET.

We can do such great stuff when we set our minds to it.

Little Philae landed with a thump, malfunctioned when it came to anchoring itself, bumped off into an incovenient shadow where its solar power cells drifted gasped for breath and then shut off, sent a bunch of data we could never have dreamed of getting our minds and hands on before it touched down, and then curled up and went to sleep

We celebrated. We were proud (and jsutly so) even with all the snafus that went on during the mission and finally scuttled it. We DID this thing. We were mighty.

Today comes a different headline - one about a much older craft, one we sent off to Mars a decade ago.

The little Rover named Opportunity is developing Alzheimer's.

There's this thing, about its sister Rover, Spirit, which remains indellibly inscribed in my memory:

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/spirit.png

I am thinking about these sendings of the human spirit today, at the tail end of the scienc-fictionish year of 2014. With next year, we're halfway through the second decade of the 21st century. This is kind of amazing.

And out there, on other planets, on cometary detritus out of the Oort cloud, little machines work and sleep, and sometimes send news of the stars back home to the Earth from which they came.

This is even more amazing.

It's a kind of melancholy note to end a year on. But - rest, Opportunity, you've done way more than was asked or expected of you. Rest, little Philae, who did an impossible thing, even if it wasn't perfect. Rest, and dream, if you have to. Others of your kind - I raise my eyes to the heavens and I pray and I hope this is so - will follow where you have led. In the meantime... looking back over the year that is ending and the fourteen years that have elapsed since the beginning of the new century... I just wanted to say, I am proud of you, and I remember you, and even when you go silent and lost out there in that bleak black vastness there are minds down here below who will remain proud of you, who will always remember you.

For those of us down here, the flesh-and-blood folk still on the original beloved mudball... happy new year, everyone. May it bring you everything you are hoping for.

*I am not a Muse.*

http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/gender-blah-blah-blah

"And it’s a powerful thing, the learnt reflex to look at a woman and see someone who is by definition unaccomplished, a novice; someone’s disciple, companion, muse; someone with no power or expertise of her own."

The longer I move in the circles that I do, the more stories I hear whose kernel is the attitude encapsulated in that paragraph above. A man... is born knowing his craft, apparently. Even when he is bad, he is by definition somehow, better than any other poor fool who does not share that gender. It is just THAT easy to dismiss a woman at a gathering like this as a lackey, an assistant, a secretary, a junior editor who's been allowed out of the office/schoolroom as a treat for the child (as it were). That, or the "disciple... companion... muse" mentioned above. A man is born knowing his craft; a woman is incapable of ever transcending a certain level of foothills, as it were, because it is not for her alone to breathe the rare air of the high literary mountains unless she happens to be a disciple, a companion, a muse.

*I am not a Muse*.

Or, if I have inadvertently been one to anyone at all, it is not as an ethereal damsel floating in the first pink flush of the dawn light whispering wondrous words into someone else's ear, to be claimed by someone else's mind, and pen. If I am a Muse at all, it is my own Muse, listening to my own wondrous whispers at dawn. As much as some might seek to scoff at such claims, yes, I HAVE walked those mountains without either leaning on the arm of a man for support or floating before him as a wispy spirit guide into the dizzying heights above the eternal snows.

Why is the distillate of a man's mind automatically wisdom and truth and holy writ, and of a woman's nothing more than lullabies and sweet romance and laid-down fine needlework? Why can a woman's writing not be great and powerful and wise? WHy can it not be heard, and understood, and given its due? What is it that makes men walk into literary gatherings only to have their eyes slide over (the few) women in the group as though they were not there at all, as though they were there by accident, or (worse) by *permission*? What makes my mind inferior to that housed in a body which happens to have different plumbing than my own?

Time and time again women have taken the name of a man in order to stake a claim in the literary arena. Take the Bronte sisters (who ended up being the Brothers Bell). Take George Sand. Take James TIptree Jr. And it's a known thing (pace JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin) that all too frequently a woman author who wishes to hide her gender identity will take refuge behind the shield of the initials, just like JK Rowlings did.

It's insidious, a bitter little thread in the tapestry - it's known to happen, because it needs to happen, because so few of us who have to lay claim to a feminine gender finally have the stamina to stand our ground, to stay the course, to expect that at some point in our lives and our careers we might be seen as WRITERS - and by that I mean as writers of substance, and not just dismissed as those girls who just dabble in this writing lark, who write "silly penny-dreadful romances" or "children's books". Not LITERATURE. Not ever that. Our puny little fluffy brains cannot stretch to that. Literature is defined by men, apparently, and its first commandment is that its progenitors have to be men, too.

I believe I will speak for many of my (fairer) sex when I recoil from this patronizing head-patting, gather myself up to my full and not inconsiderable height, and declare... I AM NOT A MUSE - I am nobody's muse except perhaps my own. I am a writer. In my own right. I do not need to be a man's amanuensis or inspiration in order to have my own ideas and words heard. Never MIND the battle of the genders of the actual authors - I do not believe that my WORDS are tainted by my being female, or made worse by it. And neither are those of my sisters in the pen.

We are not here to guide you anywhere, gentlemen. Find your own way up the mountain. The only thing the "girls" ask of you is not to get in our way when we try to do the same, or, worse, attempt with all of your might to tell us that the mountains are just an illusion and we should lower our eyes and look back down to the ground, as we should, enver raising our gaze from the toes of our shoes. Don't tell me where I can't go. And if you can't get there by yourself, don't expect me to lead you there and then bow out as you plant your own flag on the summit and claim it for your own.

I am not a Muse. I am a WRITER. Get out of the way.

Latest Month

August 2015
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Subscribe to

Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Paulina Bozek