Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To Nathan Allen Ball

I feel like I could write a book for you right now.  I remember being 16, a Band Aide for all the drummers in 7th/8th grade.  I can't remember when you turned from one of the "little kids" I had to teach into one of my closest friends, but by your freshman year and my senior year we had some undeniable connection that neither one of us really understood . . . until not much later when we both came out of the closet!

I remember your notes, your quote collection, the songs you sang, the fact that you never stopped liking cartoon movies, the times I went to your house and even your church.  And I'll never forget the time I rode my bike and you walked and we met half-way between our houses out in the middle of nowhere and sat under the trees, surrounded by bright yellow and red autumn leaves, and hung out.    I think playing the drums helped us both transform from insecure, awkward kids into people with more confidence, because we had proof that we were good at something.  I knew you had a rough past, but I always thought things were going to get better for you. 

We were in and out of contact after high school, then lost touch for 5 or 6 years, but I'm glad we found each other again.  I thought last February was the beginning of a new start for us, not the last time I would ever see you.  When you went to the hospital in May, I should have tried to see you immediately.   I will never stop thinking I could have and should have done more to be there for you. 

I keep thinking of you singing "Somewhere Out There".  I wish in your darkest hour you would have pictured me singing that with you, called me, called anyone, done anything except end your life.  I still don't know all the details, and probably never will. I wish you hadn't done it.  Yeah, sometimes I feel mad.  And exhausted.  I lost my Mammaw and Dad last year.  And now you?  It can't be possible.   You have broken my heart.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review, "Servant of the Bones", Anne Rice

It's very rare that I read a book and then want to review it, but Anne Rice is one of my favorite authors, and I would like to write not only about the book I just read, but about her in general. 

I first read Servant of the Bones a few years ago, having borrowed it from the library.  I had since forgotten what it was about, though, and have spent more time focused on Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  But a few months ago I purchased Servant at a used bookstore and just now re-read it.  In the first chapter or so, I was disappointed.  It seemed like the same old theme she had done before:  Supernatural Creature meets up with Human Writer who records his life story on tape.  However, by the next couple of chapters Rice hit her stride, and I became transported.  And, I would like to add, Rice's goal in most if not all of her books is to sort of suck the reader in and take them on a  spiritual journey.   She says it herself on her web site:  "I would like to submit that my vampire novels and other novels I’ve written, such as the Mayfair family trilogy, and the novels, Servant of the Bones, Violin, Cry to Heaven and Feast of all Saints are attempting to be transformative stories . . ."  (http://www.annerice.com/Bookshelf-EarlierWorks.html  This is an essay Rice wrote after she starting the stories about Jesus, and she attempts to explain to her Christian readers what her prior books were really about.)

The characters in Anne Rice's novels attract me in a way that few other characters ever do, and this book is no different.  In The Vampire Chronicles, the main characters have been transformed, usually unwillingly, into immortal beings who have no choice but to survive off human blood.  The angst in the books is what many readers can relate to, especially those who have also had a religious upbringing that they now doubt.  Many people who read these surely relate to the vampires on some level of their own, and have the same questions:  "Why am I and the world this way?  Is there nothing I can do to change things?  Is there a God?  I feel like it's in my nature to be a certain way, yet the world views this as wrong . . . should I continue to be this way, ignoring those who say I am immoral, or should I destroy myself since there is no way to change it?" 

To a young lesbian who grew up in the church, for me the turmoil of the characters made me relate to them in my own way, and I think the allure to any other group of people who feel like "freaks" or "damned" are attracted to these books for the same reason.  These days, however, I sometimes grow impatient with some of the hand-wringing in the Vampire books.  I'm more accepting of myself, not as worried about my past religion, and if I read a Vampire book now, I find myself skimming through some of the more lengthy questions over good and evil very quickly, when before I would soak up every word, hoping to find an answer to my own despair.

For this reason, Servant of the Bones ended up being a very enjoyable read.  This book was written after the Chronicles, and Rice's views on religion, or at least this main supernatural character, are more logical and in tune with what I feel.  Again, the supernatural creature is a former human who was turned into something he doesn't understand, and he does wonder if he will ever make it to whatever form of Heaven there is, but he decides to let go of his anger and hatred and live a life of love, and that makes all the difference.  The main character is named Azriel, a Jew who was human during the time his people were exiled in Babylon.   As always, Rice's research and presentation of the past is so rich and complete that I could completely believe I was reading about the actual place.  I think this book is great and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Waiting on Responses

I haven't been writing much lately, but I currently have 5 short stories out in submissions.  In the past year I have focused more on my writing class and told myself that first I should learn new things before seeking publication.  But right now I'm on a leave of absence from Long Ridge Writer's Group, and I am only half-way through the course.  The arrival of my son has convinced me that I shouldn't wait to complete the course before I get serious about making submissions on my own.  I'm making sure that the places I submit to are legit, but I'm not being picky about payment and things like that; the first step is getting my foot further in the door!

As far as my writing class goes, so far I love it.  It's affordable, you have online as well as snail mail interaction, you get several books, and also college credit, along with a one-on-one mentor who takes you step by step through the writing, editing, and submission process.  If anyone is interested, their web site is http://www.longridgewritersgroup.com/.  

In just a few weeks, the results of the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition will be revealed!  I entered, as I have for the past three years now, and I'm excited to find out the results!

To writers:  what is your preferred medium for short story submissions:  magazines or anthologies?

To readers:  do you read short stories, or do you prefer novels?

Friday, January 14, 2011

A New Beginning

Hi!  My previous blog was deleted months ago, and I'm still not sure why!  But I have finally decided to return.  Right now it is a challenge for me to write because I have a newborn baby and have been recovering from a C-section, but I'm finally learning how to make time . . . and I'm no longer so tired that I need to sleep every single time the baby does.

This blog will probably be similar in many ways to my old one: I will highlight upcoming contests or submission opportunities that I find, review books, share writing tips, and comment on news in the book and writing world.  One thing I also plan to do that I never got around to in my last blog is to include some of my writing for others to see.  I write YA fiction the most, but also like to experiment with dystopian and social commentary.  In the past year I have begun writing GLBT literature for the first time.  I'm taking a course through Long Ridge Writer's Group where I surprised myself by making my focus non-fiction.  Today I will share the best piece I have worked on.  It needs more editing, since I was pregnant at the time I wrote it, but this is something I'm working on for submission. 

Alternative Conception