Why do I read? Why write? Why do anything, for that matter

When I read fiction, I do it in part to live other lives. To see into a world that appeals to me, but which I’ve never experienced. (And to “live” vicariously by experiencing events and thoughts through the filters of that main character.) Or sometimes I want to see my own world reflected differently, filtered through the consciousness of the main character, to whom my familiar sights may be novelties. (This is why I look at Southern gothics or read novels set in Dallas or small-town Texas. The familiar, seen differently. Sometimes even seen in “my” way or similarly.)

I also like to learn something when I read. A famous author advised that most readers like to feel they’ve learned something, even something as small as how to tip a cab driver in New York or how many inches of snow generally fall in New Mexico in December. So do I.

Maybe part of what that person meant when asking “why do you write” could be the answer to “why do you read?”

* * *
For those interested in fan fiction and why you see so much “slash” in it, here’s a scholarly paper touching on that. I really am not a fan of fanfic. I think I talked about that earlier. I’m aware of it, but it’s not my bag. Still, I think this paper might interest those who read fanfic or are into writing it.

* * *
I miss tan M&Ms.

In fact, I miss M&Ms in general. Can’t have them any more. *pout*

And now something IMPORTANT–Xbox Music Mixer Karaoke Software

. . . right, I got that last Christmas to play on hubby’s Xbox so I could do karaoke. Thinking it would be fun at parties. I had it working, to some degree, last year, and bought about $40 worth of songs in their .KRK format at $2 per song, which didn’t seem so bad. But the microphone volume is too low. You have to SCREAM into the mike (which does not make for a good nuanced vocal performance) to get any sound on playback. Does anyone else have this software? I also wish there were some way to transfer these songs back to the PC, with or without the vocal track, so we could use them some other way. They’re really just WMA files with a vocal track that goes on top. What it needs is some kind of pre-amp for the mic. I think you can buy those microphones with pre-amps, but (1) they might not plug into the controller, and (2) they cost over $200, mostly. Whew.

Anyhow. I thought I’d try to get that working so we could use it if we have people over during the holidays. All the forums seem to have stopped having posts back last year. Maybe it is now a has-been format. That means I’d REALLY like to get the stuff off that xbox to use elsewhere. Got some great SoundChoice and Chartbusters accompaniments that really sound nice. Just can’t USE them. Grr!

(If I could get to the E: drive on the xbox itself, I could copy them off. I don’t have a modification chip, so that’s not going to work. Is it?)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled noshing.

Doing nothing is hard work!

Whew . . . that was a tiring day. Even though all I did was a bit of cooking and heating up of food. We got up at 5 AM and headed to the mall about 5:25, but we still weren’t one of the first 500 people! (There was a gift card of $10 at stake at Sears, and one of $15 at Foley’s, which I managed to end up with anyhow–one of the few times I’ve ever beaten the system. Didn’t get the Sears one, and Sears was out of what I came to get, too.) People were buying what was in the ads as loss leaders and whatever was on sale, walking around with armloads of Craftsman tools and pairs of boots. It was crazy. We got back home at 7:30 and I fell back asleep. Got up at noon and reheated a version of Thanksgiving dinner . . . though I knew better than to eat anything more than a baked potato and some crackers and ham. A food-focused day. What a crazy holiday. *grin*

I’m too tired even to do the song meme, though I may later. However, let’s cover this bit of background info.

It has come to my attention that my rants may, on occasion, be sounding a bit . . . tough. Perhaps even nasty.

During a discussion with someone on my friends list who’s ready to do a bit of critiquing, I discovered that perhaps I come across a little strong. I decided to paraphrase here in part the e-mail that I sent to her, explaining why some of my stuff may sound a little harsh when we’re not talking in person.

She said that her work has sex scenes, saying I’d made it clear that I don’t like them. (Which is, in general, accurate. I don’t think I’ve ever met one I liked. Even in “The Competition,” the film, I was like, okay, I get it, let’s get the sweaty rolling around over already. *eyeroll*)

I did cover that (from the perspective of a fiction reader/writer) in a previous post. I hope I wasn’t too obnoxious about it. Something like 80% of readers read primarily romance and women’s fiction (I’m pulling that number out of my hat); I also read somewhere a few years ago that most book buyers are women. It’s the choice for leisure reading of the majority of those who read for pleasure, it seems, so there’s nothing amiss if you’re doing that. If you write one because you love reading them, it’s going to have a much better chance to sell than other types of novels, as well. *Most* books and virtually all films now rely on explicit scenes. It’s almost expected. So I’m not your typical audience member. Who else would seek out books with math geniuses or “good” witches or autistic detectives as protags?

When I write in my LJ, it’s just my unbridled musings. I speak out (er, type, actually) about whatever’s on my mind or whatever I think might interest y’all. It’s like sitting around with my friends from school or (later on) from college, shooting the breeze. It’s not intended to be an attack on any one persuasion, but just the way I see things. It probably wouldn’t sound quite so strident if several of us were sitting in the living room together with Miles Davis on jazz in the background munching on hot broccoli dip with cats in our laps, rather than reading it in pixels.

And . . . as I’ve said . . . I’m almost definitely undersexed in the first place.

Not that I’d necessarily change that. I can’t imagine having to go back and do the entire dating/courtship ritual/going out thing all over again, given the current “world” and environment. It was tough enough back then! (In the olden days, when my suitors drove up in a coach pulled by seven white horses. Or on a motorcycle, a shiny Hawg, upon which event my dad would walk out on the patio and glower at them until they went away and came back in their family’s beat-up Vega hatchback. I never got a second date with Charles R., either.)

And I’m not completely set against category, or saying it can’t be useful. One ex-“category” author whose category books I enjoyed is Judith Arnold. She wrote a number of books for Harlequin years ago. Now she’s doing single title women’s fiction. Her _Love at Bloom’s_ and the sequel are really neat books. I wouldn’t have discovered her had I not been trying to learn how to write a category novel, though. The category books of hers I liked were offbeat–one was a computer nerd futuristic titled _A:/loverboy_ or something like that. Another one was about people being isolated in a log cabin over Hanukkah or something like that. Her prose could be simply transcendent and luminescent (in the book about the lights of faith, anyway.) I know I kept a copy of the computer nerd one on my keepers shelf. I also liked Jennifer Crusie’s early books, especially _Charlie All Night_ and _Manhunting_ and the Cinderella one, all of which were really cute, IMHO. I would like to see her now move away from some of the sex scenes in her blockbuster best-sellers, and she would *not* like to do that (which is her call, obviously!), so I am not really a big fan of her current books–though they are best-sellers, and obviously she has a loyal and strong following. And what do *I* know, anyway? Still, a good romance can be a great subplot, I think.

So I’m not trying to put down the entire genre wholesale. I simply couldn’t write that way. The stories and characters come to me differently, and they’re always thinking about something other than the butt of the guy in front of them (alas, because as Tom Wolfe–the living author, a contemporary of Allen Ginsberg, not Thomas Wolfe of _Look Homeward, Angel–said the other night on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” most people actually *are* thinking about stuff like that all the time. Or they appear to be. That must be what they mean by “normal.” *grin*)

That’s not to say that works can’t transcend genre. For example, I never have liked space opera–my family insists on watching every Trek clone and everything that’s billed as “SF” on TV, so I have to shudder a lot. But John M. Ford’s “Star Trek” series novel, _How Much For Just the Planet_, is a very fine novel that transcends genre. There are plenty of other examples.

But if you don’t WANT to transcend genre, that’s OK, too.

The best book about writing and about the myth of romance is Sarah Bird’s _The Boyfriend School_. I can look at it now and see that it has some flaws, but it’s still one of my favorite novels. It’s a romance without really being a romance. But the funny parts are the bits about the heroine going to cover the romance authors convention. And the early bits where the “mystery man” comes into her life. Anyway, if you come across a copy, it’s well worth reading. If you like humor, I mean. Bird has now done some more “serious” work that is also really good, if you like her style.

I’ll close for the moment with a quotation posted by Will Shetterly on his weblog in answer to the question, “What does God want?”

“What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

Until next time, y’all walk humbly and I’ll do the same, to the best of my ability.

The Biggest Shopping Day Of The Year–also Buy Nothing Day

Depends on your belief system. I have friends who are celebrating “Buy Nothing Day,” and others who are (along with me) prepping for the 6AM opening of various stores. We need some little odds and ends to stuff into the stockingtoes, OK? *gronk*

Yes, I was thankful yesterday for family/pets, health, friends, LiveJournal readers, a roof over our heads, stable job status, computers, the Macy’s parade, and so forth. I just didn’t feel like ranting on about it. I ate crackers and managed to keep down a little bit of deli ham and a piece of toast, so that’s good. I think I’m gonna be well today, as long as I don’t eat anything rich.

Here’s some thoughtfood about copying others’ intellectual property and incorporating it (or using it as inspiration) into part of your own work, and what vibes surround the concept. First, a somewhat non-negative view of “synthesis” and building on others’ work in this discussion of outright plagiarism:
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?041122fa_fact

Kinda interesting that the author feels that way, after getting his own words lifted, huh?

And from
Cleolinda’s Plagiarism-Fest Rules
, a more traditional writerly view. Here’s a sample (fair use! fair use! don’t hit!):

“Apparently this week is Plagiarfest and nobody told me. […] For those of you new to this whole interweb thing and perhaps the concept of authorial credit entirely, lemme splain. And remember, this does not apply just to me because I am OMG so speshul; this goes for ANY AUTHOR ONLINE OR OFFLINE, ANYWHERE, EVER:

“Theft is not limited to literal plagiarism, which is “Hey, guys! Look what I wrote! (cough cough)!” Theft includes plagiarism by omission, which is simply posting something without saying who wrote it at all–you or anyone else. If you see any of the following, please alert the actual author:

1. The work posted in its entirety ANYWHERE without permission
2. The work posted in its entirety on a message board without credit
3. The work posted in its entirety in a journal or on a website without credit
4. “I don’t know who wrote this, but I got it off a message board and they didn’t know who wrote it, either”
5. “Hey guys, this isn’t mine, but I thought I’d post it to fanfiction.net anyway!”
6. The work posted on a site/board/journal/whatever with edits and changes ( * )(substituting “s—” or “s***” for “shit” is okay; substituting a wholly different word like “poop” is not, as far as I’m concerned)
7. The work is only excerpted, which is good, but the author’s name is completely misspelled and no link to the original online (if there is one) is given
8. The work is quoted without adaptation that could fall under the category of parody and without attribution. ESPECIALLY IN CAPTION CONTESTS.

“You’ll notice there’s a lot of overlap in that list. You know why? Because PEOPLE DON’T SEEM TO GET IT.”

Read more at .

* * *
Three (3) is a symbol of the unity of body, mind, and spirit. This number is of universal significance – it is found throughout history and all over the world. The Holy Trinity and other religious symbols, the three crones in the opening of Macbeth, “third time’s the charm,” and of course the way we’re each made up of the physical body, mind (intellect), and soul (spirit). . . you know, all that neat stuff.

Multiplying by 9 reveals a mirror symmetry among numbers. If any number is multiplied by nine, the resulting digits always add to nine. For example, 2 x 9 = 18; 3 x 9 = 27, 4 x 9 = 36; and so on. Nine has been referred to as the symbol of immutable Truth. (I don’t make this stuff up, I promise.)

On this note: As a math nerd, I feel it is my duty to inform you that to determine divisibility by three, add the digits and see if the result is divisible by three (as in numerology, you can keep adding until you get the smallest result.) If it’s divisible by three and two (even numbers), then it’s divisible by six, if I remember correctly.

In a minor key–if six were nine, I don’t [sic] mind.

(Yes, that should be “wouldn’t,” but I’m quoting the lyric unedited. SO there.)

* * *
When the first income tax rate was being debated on the Senate floor, a senator opposed to it shouted, “If we let them get away with 1%, someday they might raise it as high as 5%!”
* * *
I want you to read Cat’s Cradle. It is very very easy reading. It has a rich subtext (deep deep meaning), but it is easy reading on the surface.

Also, to see omniscient POV handled well:
The Circus of Doctor Lao by Charles Finney
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (the lady we discussed earlier)

And (just for general edification) Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. No, I’m not kidding. If you still want more Bellow or you want a more coming-of-age novel, try The Adventures of Augie March, which has just been reissued in an anniversary edition.

I assume you’ve read some Heinlein, if you’re here. No? Try The Door Into Summer. Still up there among my favorite novels. Also love the song of the same name (you know, the Monkees sang it on their best album.)

I’m pointing out the really quirky, oddball, special little books here because you may never have heard of them. I’m assuming you’ve read Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, et al. If not, consider reading them. They’re worthy of your time.

As the wag wrote: “I told no lies, and of the truth all I could (bear).”

That’s all–for now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope yours is a peaceful day of reflection. Or a happy day of reunions and togetherness, if you have a group coming to your home!

In our household, we’re all still sick with whatever this stomach bug is, so we’re not going to eat anything rich, despite having TWO SPIRAL-CUT HAMS in the house. We’ll see if I can just subsist on crackers another day. Because I feel almost human this morning, and don’t want to put anything into that traitor of a stomach that’d give it an excuse to start hurting.

The parade starts in a little bit!! (On TV. I couldn’t get out in the weather. It’s supposed to be bad weather up there in New York, so expect the balloons to really blow around.)

Morning pages, of a sort, for a change

Tried something new today: I got up early to write. I started working on the NaNo at 6:30 and have made good progress. I’m taking a brief break, but will go back to it and continue until 8:30. I’ll probably be right in line for the month’s goals. (For me, though, except when I’m taking a life-induced or disappointment-induced break, every month is write-daily month.)

This larkish behavior is unusual, for I am normally a night owl. But what with having been sick (I had a five-day intestinal/stomach flu thing that also apparently affected me with a respiratory component, meaning I have had stuffy nose, dizziness, weak/feverish spells, and general malaise on and off–yuck) and all the family-holiday chores this past weekend, I somehow got on a “normal people” schedule. Been going to sleep around 12:30 or a little after, and therefore waking up around 5:30 or 6. So has the dog, who wants to go out as soon as I stir in the morning (or will wake me up if I don’t get him up to go.)

There’s a blue Norther blowing in this morning, around forty-four degrees according to my outdoor weather station. After six days of rain, rain, rain and last night’s thunderstorms, we’re ready for a little sunshine. Richardson didn’t flood, though the streets crew came to the WallyWorld parking lot and had to pump some creek water out from under the cars yesterday when I came to shop for all that food–the ground was saturated from the constant rain, and then we had a little gully-washer that the storm sewers couldn’t handle. All over the Hill Country and down in Houston, though, they’re floating. (When we lived in Houston, flash flooding was a reliable seasonal event.)

Someone asked “why do you REALLY write?” The short answer may be, for posterity. “Litera scripta manet” (the written word endures.) I suppose most people are thinking about that, even though they say that they “have to” write because they need the creative outlet. Having seen the way that a course in cartooning, a few months of seriously preparing to play the piano in public, or a week or two of doing lots of homely little crafts can take that creative drive and subvert it away from prose, I suspect it’s not a “have to write” vibe so much as a “let this creative force out somehow” vibe. Still, if writing is what we’re best at (ahem), then that’s the proper channel. And there’s always that chance we’ll be “discovered.” Whee.

Back to the prose stream. . . .

Holiday Wishes meme goin’ around

There’s a Holiday Wishes meme going around. Basically, you list your wants/desires and then anyone who reads your journal and is able/willing to fulfill one of those desires contacts you and . . . does that. It’s a nice, warm, fuzzy concept. I’m looking forward to hearing that some good things happen. Maybe there’ll be someone who needs a . . . something that I have.

What would *I* want? You already know, if you are a regular reader, but unfortunately there are no acquiring editors nor agents who would like to take on an unproven unknown reading this journal, and there’s never any guarantee that if you *do* get someone to read the stuff, they’re gonna think it’s worthy. The standing orders include the family and pets staying healthy, safe, and alive . . . which isn’t something you can put on a list, but which makes for extra gratitude at the upcoming holiday, Thanksgiving. I can’t think of too much that I want/need in terms of material “gifts.”

Still, though, there’s something in me that wants something under the tree. Some mysterious boxes . . . a few little trinkets inside, but for the time of anticipation, they’re thrilling. Since I was about eight or nine, my family hasn’t really given big gifts . . . my in-laws had a gift exchange that broke down after the two of them were gone a few years ago. My husband doesn’t really buy gifts. (This year, for our 20th wedding anniversary, he didn’t even get me a card; that was a first, however, and I suppose since we did go out to lunch that day, he thought it was copacetic. Sigh.) My mother can’t afford gifts. It’s not that I *need* anything. This is kind of a toughie to explain except with a parable or metaphor (i. e., the tale of the kid looking under the tree every afternoon to see if he has a package, then going up to his room to hand-make little gifts for everyone he knows, y’know the drill. . . .) I really never got over Santa, I suppose.

Although my homemade/handmade gifts have never been much of a hit since I turned eighteen, I still like them because there’s something of the giver invested in them. Now you can only get that at a craft mall, and even then, you don’t know the person who made the item. Though you can always pretend. (“Grandma would have made me one of these. My friends would have made these if they’d existed when I was in school.”) Remember in “Like Water for Chocolate,” when the baker’s emotions went into the wedding cake she was baking and made the reception into a nuthouse? It’s kind of like that.

But now if I give a handmade card . . . people seem to feel that I was a cheapskate. My mother-in-law actually resorted to writing up a list of things her grandchildren (my niece and nephew) wanted that you could get at a store. Usually computer games, games for those standalone playstation things, etc. Those were what they wanted and expected. Why should Auntie give what she wants them to have? They definitely didn’t appreciate my handmade soap or the hand-painted pink wooden stool and shelf I made when they were a couple of years old. The stool and shelf went into the family’s next garage sale. They said the soap smelled funny.

When I was in school, I always had at least one and usually two special friends with whom I swapped small gifts. Usually these were handmade, such as a purse sewn out of denim (we used to sew in those ancient times, for the free-trade acts hadn’t come into being yet, and store-bought stuff was more expensive) or a knitted scarf/gloves/house-socks set. Or maybe some little piece of art and a gift book or record. Gift books were a biggie with me. Remember those Holly Hobbie books? And the Peanuts hardcover gift books? And various others over the years, “a friend is” and so forth, or little “quiz” books. Yeah, books were always a biggie. My grandmother used to get me books. I especially remember an illustrated Peter Pan one year, but got Bobbsey Twins most years. Nobody gives those little gift-y books any more.

Or mix tapes! Remember mix tapes? Oh, well, maybe you didn’t have a boyfriend or a special friend in jr hi/high school who used to record a lineup of songs as a mix tape. You’d probably do it with CDs now. The last time I had someone who’d do something like that was the last year of high school. Last time I did a mix CD, it was for my cousin, who’s four years older than I am. She’d just gotten a CD thing in her computer and was busy with MP3 downloads. I decided to rip some tracks from CDs that I have with songs that are “the music of our lives,” and made her a CD for her birthday. She unwrapped it and looked at it, confused, then laid it aside. Her hubby stuck it in his computer later on, while we were having cake (he’s anti-social then because he doesn’t eat sweets) and played each track for a quarter of a second and then ejected it. He was not impressed. I don’t know what happened to it then, but she never mentioned it. I don’t think it had the effect I (living up here on the pink/orange cloud of reverie) expected. I suppose I’m too old for stuff like that. I dunno . . . I suppose there’s a reason I love “Peter Pan” so much.

Gifts are different now. Now, it’s all electronics. Something shiny. Something needing batteries. Something that makes pretty pictures and sounds that we can all stare at. My concepts are outdated, old-fashioned.

Anyway, that’s all nostalgia, probably not healthy for me to be musing about. Fact is, I don’t need a thing this Christmas.

It’s enough just to be here to experience it.