Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gaming for the Holidays

With this past weekend serving as first "official" notice that Christmas is just around the corner, we checked out a few gaming systems on Saturday. Walking around the electronics store, the first system to catch my eye was the Wii. Well, more specifically, the game that was being demo'd in-store: Disney's Epic Mickey.
I've wanted to check this out ever since I learned of the game . . . whenever that was. so I grabbed the controllers -- because the game requires both -- and stood in front of the flat screen in the store, watching about 10 minutes of story before actually being able to test the game. The graphics looked amazing, very colorful and very Disney, and then seeing Oswald sneak into the laboratory -- that was kinda cool, too. And yes, being a Disney fan, even though my rabidity has slackened over the past year, I was won over completely by what little I saw of the actual gameplay. The Wii does have some decent titles that both Caesar and I would most likely play. But the question remains: is getting a Wii simply because of a single game, the right thing to do?

The other system I tested out -- and found very exhausting due to my current lack of being in shape -- was the Kinect from Xbox. Another interesting, more involving way to play video games, the Kinect uses a camera to capture your movements and translate those into the game. So when you jump in real life, your character on the screen or in the game jumps as well. Wave your right hand, the character waves his right hand. Awesome enough to have me jumping around the floor of the electronics store for fifteen minutes. We live on the second floor of an apartment building so I don't think the game is that conducive to where we live. And I doubt our neighbor below would enjoy having us fall through his ceiling/our floor into his apartment.

Decisions. . .decisions. Does anyone out there have a wII? What are your impressions of it?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Reviews: Two Short Story Collections

I've always had a love of short stories. I find them a great way to catch a first glimpse of an author's style, helping me decide whether or not to pursue any novels by that particular author. Plus, to me, a short story is more difficult to craft, creating a story that draws you in and ends (or sometimes leaves you hanging) in a brief span of time. So I am a fan of those authors that excel with short stories, such as the authors of these two collections:

The Complete John Silence Stories by Algernon Blackwood
Considered one of the best writers of weird fiction -- tales of the supernatural, other worlds, ghosts, etc. -- Algernon Blackwood created a psychic detective know as John Silence. Think of Silence as an early ghost hunter, helping those suffering from ghostly or supernatural experiences and working to convince others that the spirit world does exist and can have a dangerous effect on the living. This collection of six tales shows the charismatic Silence at his best, whether exorcising a nasty spirit from a house in A Physical Invasion, protecting an young woman from a werewolf in The Camp of the Dog, or confronting the restless spirit of a mummy transported to early 20th century England in Nemesis of Fire.

And, as I wrote in a previous post, all the stories are atmospheric, filled with tremendous attention to detail and move at such a pace as to build the tension so that the reader feels like one of the characters, looking over his or her should at the slightest sound. If you are in the mood for a stories that truly creepy, then The Complete John Silence Stories is the collection for you.

The Collection by Bentley Little
If you're in the mood to be scared, then the stories in Bentley Little's The Collection will do just that. Each of the stories begins with a brief blurb about how he came up with the idea -- from everyday things about which no one really bothers. Like those random scraps of paper and trash that litter every gutter and fence no matter the city: those little papers have an agenda of their own in Paperwork. Or how about the guy who delivers the phone books: what if he never left you along, like in the story The Phonebook Man. Even boiling a pot of macaroni and cheese becomes a task from Hell in the short story Blood. Little doesn't just stop with skewering the views of the mundane. He also turns his view on more heady topics, such as what if everything we knew about George Washington wasn't the truth? A simple piece of paper with the terrifying words sheds new light on the former President in The Washingtonians. Or, what if the United States was still part of the British empire, but the government was keeping it under wraps, as in The Colony?

The Collection is a fantastic -- collection -- of deftly told bizarre and terrifying tales that will definitely cause a shiver or three to spill down your spine.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Beginning of the End
I usually consider the Friday after Thanksgiving one of the worst days to drive to a mall or other shopping venue in order to see a movie. Yet that's exactly what we did. However, I think we were both caught off guard by how few people were at both The Pike and the movies. The matinee we chose for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows turned out to be somewhat underpacked for the 11:20 AM showing. In fact, I think five others were in the theater when we stepped through the doors. We both thought perhaps that parents would drop their kids off at the movies while they in turn hit the stores or the restaurants, but that wasn't the case. At least not at The Pike.

As for the movie, I quite enjoyed the darker tone of the film, finally seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione as adults and dealing with life outside Hogwarts. The film is also loaded with special effects, but rather than sticking out like sore thumbs, they weave seamlessly into the story and add quite a bit to the film's overall effect and appeal. I will say that more characters seemed to pop up and were never explained -- like the Seekers, who appeared quite a few times throughout the film. Even having read the books, I was still overwhelmed by so many people popping in and out for the briefest of moments for some apparently important scene, never to be seen or heard from again, and I wondered if they had appeared in previous movies or the books.

Though I found it to be a good movie, I don't think it can stand on its own. Not having seen the previous films will most likely leave some viewers at a disadvantage, trying to understand who is who and where those references came from and so on. (I think at one point even Ron forgot the story as he misstated the number of Horcruxes left to be destroyed.)

Also, I didn't like how a few scenes tried to mimic the reality show look, with jittery camera movements as in The Blair Witch Project. But overall, the film was a great lead in to the final confrontation with He Who Shall Not Be Named, and I am looking forward to it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

Yes, this is a day late, but sitting around my parents' table late in the afternoon, I thought about what made me thankful this year. I seriously considered saying it aloud, but that would have garnered some bizarre looks from my family. Not to mention, it would have seemed too much like a cheesy Lifetime Holiday Movie.

I was (and still am) most thankful that my Dad was around to sit at the head of the table, tell jokes, reminisce about the honeymoon trip to Europe then my Mom being roped into cooking Easter dinner -- for my Dad's entire family -- the day after they returned. He walked around without a cane for most of the day, his selective hearing finely tuned so that he didn't hear when my Mom asked for help with something (but he had no problem with the James Bond movies on TV). Everyone forgot about the accident from April and enjoyed the wonderful turkey, my Mom's candied sweet potatoes, lots of stuffing and lots of lively and funny conversation.

We sat in the family room afterward, my brother falling asleep on the couch while the rest of us talked about -- well, I don't exactly remember as I was falling asleep in the rocking chair.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Tunnel

"Just keep moving!" The two men swerved through the trees, sometimes tripping down the hillside on slick leaves and mud but catching themselves before tumbling. Dogs barked frantically behind them, and once or twice, they heard warning gun shots followed by the bellowing of men on the hunt.

Garver saw the railroad tracks through a break in the trees and signaled to Ryder. "Down there. Quick!"

He slid a few feet toward the tracks, grabbing at the thinner trees to slow him down, until he reached the solid ground a few feet from the tracks. Ryder followed, too fast, landing hard on his ass. Garver helped him up, and pulled him along until the both ran at a steady pace beside the tracks.

The echoes of the dogs faded as they rounded a bend in the path. "Need to rest . . . for a minute." Ryder slowed to a stop, bent over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath. Garver reluctantly stopped as well, circling back to his companion. He breathed just as heavily as Ryder, but his nerves were on edge. He did not want to stay too long in one place. Who knows how much closer those hunters could be?

"We need to keep moving."

"I know," Ryder gulped at the air. "Just give me a sec."

Garver walked farther down the track to scout the area. The trees thinned out as the path moved farther along the hillside. They were just trees, but to him they didn't look right. No leaves, almost sickly or skeletal. That made him uneasy. And no birds. There should be birds.

Ryder's footsteps rushed toward him. "I heard the dogs. They sounded like they were getting closer." He started down the tracks toward another bend, but Garver hesitated. "Come on, man! We need to get out of here!" Ryder disappeared around the bend.

Something was wrong, something he could not quite put a finger on, and Garver was reluctant to follow Ryder. He started to head back the way they'd come when the sound of dogs barking nearby forced him to turn on his heels and scramble to catch up with Ryder.

When he rounded the bend, the hillside rose sharply, creating a small valley with the tracks leading to a tunnel. Ryder was nowhere to be seen and didn't answer when Garver quietly shouted his name. The only place he could be was inside that tunnel. Garver walked quickly but soon slowed to a stop when he saw that the tracks came to an end a few feet before the tunnel. The iron rails looked as if they had been chewed and torn, the thick ends resembling pulled taffy rather than thick metal.

He heard movement from the tunnel and called for Ryder. No answer, but he thought something blurred by in the darkness. "Ryder? You in there?" He inched forward.

He felt a subtle warm breeze coming from the tunnel, carrying with it a strong unpleasant odor. He gagged and stepped back when the ground pitched suddenly. Garver feel backwards and felt himself sliding toward the tunnel. He reached blindly around for something to hold onto and struck his hand against one of the ties. He flipped over and started pulling himself away from the tunnel. He felt his feet dangling in the air below him which spurred him on, hefting his weight as best he could using one railroad tie, then another like a ladder. Something soft brushed against his feet, and he kicked at it, not wanting to know what it was. One foot finally reached a tie, and he used that as leverage to pull himself farther up the tracks.

A few feet away from the tunnel he stopped and turned back. The tunnel, the ground were still, as if nothing had happened. No gaping hole waiting to swallow him. No warm stench flowing over him from the tunnel. He struggled to his feet and backed away from the tunnel, bumping into the hillside and using it as a guide to exit the small valley. Once around the bend, the hillside sloped down to his right, with its thinning trees coming closer together as they headed toward the river below. The barking dogs picked up again, closer than before. He quickly stepped down the hillside, disappearing into the trees.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Random Acts of Culture

A different kind of flash mob . . . .

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Another Country by James Baldwin
In 1950s Harlem, Rufus, a young black man, walks around the wintry city, tired and hungry, remembering the good times that lead him to his current destitute situation. The music he once loved, now gone from his life, as were the two people he cared about in the world -- besides his sister Ida. Unable to bring himself to confront his friends, he makes a drastic move, jumping from the George Washington Bridge into the frigid Hudson River.

Word of his death spreads quickly among his friends, triggering long hidden tensions to come into the light. Vivaldo, a young, white wannabe writer, who considered Rufus one of his best friends, now finds himself falling for his sister Ida. Ida, in the meantime, has aspirations of her own to make it big as a jazz singer. Cass and Richard, married for so many years and but realizing that they were just holding things together until Richard's novel was published. Then there's Eric, a young white boy from Alabama who moved to New York to pursue acting and found himself falling for Rufus. Unable to take the strain of their relationship, he fled to France, hoping that would help to put things in perspective.

With the sad blues of Bessie Smith lingering the background, Another Country gathers Rufus' friends together and allows their pent up emotions to pour onto the pages. From the racial tensions of the 1950s, shown in great detail through the troubled relationship and jealousies between Vivaldo and Ida to sexual identity involving Eric's feelings for Rufus and for his new romantic interest Yves -- a man much younger than himself -- and how both pairs were different yet the same. And, it also covers the decline of marriage, focusing a lens on the affect Rufus' death had on Cass and Richard's marriage and how each handles it: one by hiding away behind a typewriter, the other by finding another in the same situation and striking up a clandestine love affair.

It is a slow-moving tale, and for me, though it dealt with those heavy issues of race and sexuality, the story seemed to be nonchalant about the sexual relations, almost as if the characters had given up caring about not just what society thought but what they themselves thought. They seemed to jump from bed to bed as if it were almost a tedious, tiresome task that was expected of them. That indifference carried throughout the entire book. As for the racial tensions, it was interesting to read how Ida and Vivaldo handled their differences in the face of both acceptance and non-acceptance within both the black and white communities.

After reading a few mini-biographies of the author James Baldwin, it almost seems to mirror what he felt was a disinterest by Americans to take a closer look at sexuality and issues of race which lead him to leave the United States for Paris in the late 1940s. Another Country provides a fine examination of those issues and is a definite recommended read.

Another Country
by James Baldwin
Vintage International
trade paperback, 436 pgs.

purchased book

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writing and More Writing

I broke the 30K word mark on my NaNoWriMo writing!

Okay, no one needs to throw a ticker tape parade or anything special like that, but I'm excited! The last NaNoWriMo in which I participated turned out to be a dud for me storywise. I completed that original story after about 17K words, then because I couldn't think of anything to continue the story, started writing a bunch of nonsense.

Seriously. I sat in front of my computer randomly typing words, copying and pasting sections that I'd already written, anything to get me past the 50K mark. Looking back, what prevented me from carrying the story farther than I did was how I approached it. I believed that to write the story, I had to start at the beginning and write sequentially, in order, never veering from the idea's timeline. So if while typing another idea popped into my head, I pushed it aside and forgot about it.

This time around, I wrote what I thought would be the beginning. Then the next day, a better idea came along so I furiously committed that to my computer and realized that I did not have to follow a strict order. As of now, a number of characters have changed sexes, the action jumps back and forth in time, many scenes have two or three versions from which I will either pick and choose or mishmash into a bigger scene. And I am having a blast writing. I like the idea behind the story, and the way I've approached it, the story is still intact, but I have been able to explore varying "what ifs".

By the end of this, I think my word count should surpass the 50K target. I am seriously considering editing and re-editing it to see if I can actually create a viable book.

Anything is possible.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music Filler Post

Only because I am really sinking my teeth into the NaNoWriMo this time around. I actually LIKE the story I've created, though it needs quite a bit of editing, re-writing and so on. And, I made it passed the halfway mark last night with just over 26K words! So enjoy this video from a local a cappella group known as SONOS. . . .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What a Jackass

This afternoon, we finally went to the movies -- something we had not done in I don't know how many weeks. This past Summer didn't offer much to tempt us, but now, with the awards season approaching, more films are being released that we do want to see.

But that isn't what we chose today.
We were two of the few people to catch a matinée screening of Jackass 3-D, the third installment of Johnny Knoxville and the crew creating and participating in some dangerous and stupid stunts -- like allowing oneself to be attacked by a trained security dog, or strapping oneself into a filled Port-O-Potty and catapulting it into the air, or using someone's body sweat for -- ugh, I'm gagging just thinking about that one. It's silly fun, perfect to get your mind off NaNoWriMo or anything else that might have you down.

I'm not sure what it is about watching others do stupid things that seems to perk up your spirits. But throughout the film, the entire audience -- all seven of us -- cheered, jeered, gagged, cringed, groaned and laughed our heads off.

And I must say that this has to be one of the gayest straight films either of us has ever seen. More penises flew freely about than I thought possible. At least in something without any out gay men involved.

AS for the 3-D -- not really necessary for this film. Other than the opening and closing credits, the 3-D was nothing to speak of and only muted the overall picture. But hey, 3-D seems to be the "in" thing right now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walking with a Cane

That's what my Dad has finally decided to do. Since the accident -- well, even before the accident -- we all tried to get him to begin using a cane. His balance wasn't terribly good, and he complained of a feeling that his feet were in constant motion, even while seated in a chair. It made standing and walking a difficult enterprise, but he staunchly refused to use a cane.

At his request, I bought one as a Christmas gift last year. He used it in public exactly one time -- when my Brother and I treated both parents to Hairspray at the OC Performing Arts Center. Then, it disappeared into some vacuum that we affectionately call their hall closet.

But now that he's recovered for the most part from the brain surgery and most of his memory has returned, he realized that balance was still a big issue for him. So he found the cane and takes it wherever he goes. He uses it regularly now, and every time I've dropped in for a visit or they've come up to see me, he proudly walks around with his cane.

Now, if we could only convince him that he really doesn't want to drive.

NaNoWriMo word count: 18,076

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pic of the Night

With about 10 minutes left in the movie we were watching, Diesel the Cat decided it was time for some snuggling so he hopped onto Caesar's lap. Lately, he's been very people-focused, following us around the apartment, sleeping on his pillows between us on the couch, or laying with his head staring into one of our faces. He even deigned to spend some time with us when we had company over instead of hiding underneath the bed.

NaNoWriMo word count: 15,653

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Book Review: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Joe Hill's collection of short stories runs the gamut of both horror and fantasy. They range from the utterly horrific, such as Best New Horror about an editor who makes the mistake of tracking down an incredible new author to his home in order to convince him to publish more stories, or You Will Hear the Locust Sing which adds a horrific riff on Kafka's Metamorphosis when a young boy turns into an insect -- one that's still human sized and very hungry; to the downright creepy, including The Black Phone in which a young man is kidnapped and locked in a basement with a disconnected phone that rings at odd hours of the day, and Last Breath about a man who collects the dying words of people and keeps them in bottles. The horror fan in me absolutely loved these and the other creep-inducing jaunts into the darker corners of imagination. What I found surprising and quite a nice touch were a few stories that while on the surface may have touched on those dark corners, they actually carried a nice amount of sweetness and poignancy.

Take the story Pop Art, for example. When a young boy is severely picked on for being inflatable rather than flesh and blood, another outcast sticks up for him, forging a unique friendship that Hill uses to delve into how people react to differences in others. In 20th Century Ghost, a woman who haunts a movie theater shows the owner and others who've seen her what love and caring are all about. And in one of my favorite stories -- Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead -- two people find love in the midst of filming a zombie movie.

The stories collected in 20th Century Ghosts are all wonderfully crafted tales, filled with delight, terror, creepiness, gore, and love. A highly recommended read.

20th Century Ghosts
by Joe Hill
Harper (Harper Collins)
ISBN: 978-006-114798-2
trade paperback, 318 pgs.

purchased book

Monday, November 08, 2010

Sunday is for Cooking

And that's exactly what we did.

And by "We", I mean Caesar. I sampled the delicious chocolate chip cookies -- made with both Hershey Mini Kisses and Ghiradelli chocolate pieces. I also helped to mix the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and taco seasoning for the chicken enchiladas. We normally don't cook this much, but Sunday evening, we were attending a potluck at one of Caesar's nieces homes so we had to bring something.

The other family members brought roasted chicken, the most wonderful carne asada (so wonderful that I think it put me into a food-induced coma), chow mein, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue and ice cream sandwiches. Nine adults and two rambunctious children, and yet with all that food, we still managed a heap of leftovers. That's even with most of us going back for at least two more platefuls!!

The two little girls ran me ragged about the backyard, chasing them, twirling them about in the air and wearing them out. Or wearing me out. Still not sure which because I was so winded after all the horseplay. And they still demanded that I play with them while the other adults planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I tried to stay awake while we watched a George Lopez stand-up DVD, but the food resting in my belly was quickly lulling me to sleep.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Book Review: Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub
An unnamed grad student discovers that one of his favorite musicians, jazz legend Pork Pie Hat -- whom he thought had long since passed -- is performing at a small club in New York. Excited by the prospect of hearing a legend, he tracks down the small night club and settles in for some good music. The band on the little stage has some well-known musicians playing, but Hat hasn't shown up. Even so, the grad student's enjoying himself, almost hoping Hat won't show. But when he does and adds his saxophone to the mix, the music becomes more than notes and melodies, and the grad student gets so enchanted that he wants to learn more about Hat. Finding next to nothing in the university library on him, the grad student musters up enough courage and asks Hat himself for an interview.

Seeming to pay scant attention to the grad student, Hat agrees, asking the grad student to stop by his apartment in a few weeks, on Halloween. When he arrives, he gets more than he bargained for as Hat weaves a tale about his childhood, and that one night in the woods near the off-limits place known as The Backs where something happened that terrifies him to this day about Halloween.

Pork Pie Hat sets up the perfect tale for Halloween -- one of those spooky tales of kids traipsing into the woods, going to some place forbidden by everyone in town, just because they want a good scare and want to know why it has such a reputation. And the stories a good one, too, leaving much up to the imagination as to what's real and what's supernatural. The character of Hat is nicely drawn: from the 11 year-old Hat forcing himself to follow his friend into the woods to the older, grown-up Hat who has a way of talking that makes you feel as though you're being let in on some great secret.

For the most part, I got into the story following young Hat and his cohort, Dee Sparks, as they encountered the mysteries of The Backs, with the makeshift shacks and greasepaper windows, the eerie noises and glowing lights. But once I reached Part Three of the book, the story didn't so much lose steam as it lost some believability and puts into question everything that I just read. If some parts, like characters or sequence of events may have been changed, that would have seemed reasonable; memories can re-configure how events took place in our minds as we age, and I could understand Hat telling things slightly out of order or not remembering a name correctly. The way Pork Pie Hat left the story, I think I know what may have actually happened with Hat's tale, but not knowing for certain or being allowed to know either way, I felt dissatisfied.

Pork Pie Hat
by Peter Straub
Cemetery Dance Publications
ISBN: 978-1-58767-232-3
hardcover, 149 pgs.

borrowed book from Long Beach Public Library

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Okay . . . .

Against my better judgement, here's a small sampling of what I've written so far. Keep in mind that NaNoWriMo is all about the word count not about the quality. So I avoided contractions. And for the most part allowed my fingers to type what they wanted:

          I casually glanced back toward the bar. The bartender was clearing empty glasses and such from the bar, but smiled when he caught me looking. I swallowed some water down the wrong part of my throat and started coughing, turning around quickly so as not to embarrass myself any further.
          “Go over and talk to him,” Mark insisted.
          “Mark, leave him alone,” Tony chided.
          “He is obviously interested.”
          “He is only doing what bartenders do,” I responded. “Flirt with the customers, make them feel special, and hope it brings in more tips or more drinks.”
          “You do not know that for sure,” added Chuck.
          “Remind me again who keeps telling me to never get involved with a bartender? And for those exact reasons?”
          “Since when do you ever listen to me?” Chuck said, and we all laughed. He quickly downed the rest of his vodka and cranberry juice, handing me the empty glass. “Besides, I need another one of these.” I grudgingly took the empty glass, and taking a deep breath, turned and walked toward the bar.
          A short balding man stood in front of me, flirting like crazy with the bartender who nodded and smiled politely. I was surprised when the short man reached over the bar and tried to grope the bartender, but he stepped back quickly and turned on his heels to fetch two bottles of Heineken from the refrigerator. A bottle opener hung from his belt on a retractable chain, and he used it to pop open both bottles. As he turned back to his customer, he shot me a quick wink then placed the bottles on the bar, standing back to keep away the unwanted hands.
          The balding man grabbed the beers and left in a huff.
          With it being my turn, I stepped up to the bar, placing Chuck’s empty glass on the bar. “Another vodka and cranberry, and another bottle of water, please.”
          “Sure thing.” He smiled again and reached beneath the bar for a glass. “By the way, my name is Ryan. I have not seen you around here,” he asked.
          “I do not get out too much,” I said through an embarrassed smile and blushed like a schoolgirl. “Kent. My name is Kent.” Dammit! “The last time I set foot in here,” – was with Eric just before he decided to leave – “was a few months ago. I do not remember seeing you behind the bar."
          “No, I started about a week ago.” He pointed a small nozzle at the glass of ice, streaming cranberry juice into the glass while pouring vodka from the bottle at the same time. “I guess the usual barkeep just up and left without any notice.”
          “Wow. I did not know him well, but I hope nothing happened.”
          He turned away to grab a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “I am sure he is fine.” He set the bottle in front of me.
          I placed a hand on the bottle and before I could pick it up, his left hand covered mine. I should have felt a tingling or -- something pleasant – running up and down my arm, but the sensation of pins and needles traveled up my arm instead. I looked up and saw the face from the restaurant.
          “Whoever he was, it does not matter anymore. You are something special, Kent.” I slowly moved my hand but his hand gripped mine. I tried to pull away.
          “Are you okay?” I looked back up and it was the bartender again.
          “Uh, yeah. Sorry, I guess I am a little jittery tonight. Someone broke into my apartment today . . . .” I hoped that would hide the unease I suddenly felt.
          He gently held my hand. “I am sorry to hear that. Are you okay? Is anything missing?”
          “No, I am fine.”
          “Well, I hope so. But if you need anyone to come around and check the place out.” I almost did a double take when he flexed for me. And the whistles and mumbled comments from not just the rest of the bar but from Chuck, Mark and Tony especially stuck in my ears.
          I grinned. I had to give him credit; he was certainly moving smoothly and much faster than I thought possible. And for a forty-year-old codger, it certainly made me feel better. I gently squeezed his hand and would have jumped at the thought of him in my apartment. It was too soon, though, and would be too unfair to him. But Ryan was young and if I did not do anything, I would not hear the last of it from the Gang of Three. So I forced my hesitation into a far corner. “Thank you for the offer, Ryan. I may have to take you up on that.” With that, I took both the drinks and slowly walked backwards a few steps, smiling right into his eyes, then slowly turned and carried the drinks to our table.

Ugh! That was awful! I know the idea is to get the words out, but still. . . . How did I ever get a story published?! I'm going to go hide in a corner somewhere.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Dream Sequence

My foray into NaNoWriMo seems to be on schedule. I've written 3,378 words over the past two days. Which, according to the stats on their site is good, even putting me a little ahead of schedule. Something I'm really enjoying about this is that I find myself holding back on re-reading and editing what I've written. NaNoWriMo is all about getting the words onto the paper, not paying attention to whether or not they make sense or fit within the flow of the story. I needed something like this because I'm writing with reckless abandon, jotting down any stray thought that comes to mind and fitting my characters into it. My original story idea my only be surviving on a meager thread, but that can be fixed down the road if I decide to truly push this as my "Great Gay American Novel".

This morning on the drive to work, the idea of a dream sequence popped into my head, and I decided to run with it to what will happen. Should make for an interesting mini-turn in the story.

I'm not sure that I'll post any of the novel. It's pure drivel and at the moment, not worthy for human consumption . . . other than my own. So for now, I'll leave you with one of my favorite songs about dreams, performed by Madonna and written by Björk: Bedtime Story.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
When Robert Walton's ship becomes stuck in the Arctic ice, he and his crew spy a dark-clad figure, hunched on a sled and flying away from them over the ice. A short time later, they encounter another such sleigh, only this time, the lone driver is brought aboard the ship, exhausted and close on the heels of death. The crew tends to the mysterious man, and once he's able, he begins to tell Robert of the strange circumstances of his history and what brought him to be trapped on the ice.

The strange man begins with his origins as a young Victor Frankenstein, finding himself entranced by a book by Cornelius Agrippa discoursing his early views and ideas concerning science and natural philosophy -- especially those concerning the elixir of life. He carries this fascination with him to university in Ingolstadt where his studies finally allow him to reach his goal: creating life.

Instead of finding wonder in his new creation, he only sees the hideous face, the overly tall stature, and at once abandons the creature, hoping to leave it and all things concerning it behind. The months pass, and when Frankenstein readies himself to return home to Geneva, he learns of the murder of his younger brother. He intuitively knows who did it. From that moment on, he determines to find some way to rid himself and the world of his creation, even if it takes him to the ends of the Earth.

Frankenstein is one of those literary classics that you should have read in high school, but never got around to it. And as an avid reader of horror, I still don't know why I waited all this time to finally read it.

The one thing that struck me about the book is how vastly different it is from James Whale's 1931 film interpretation. In the movie, the creature's tall and green, with bolts protruding from his neck, eyes, half shut, can barely utter anything beyond a grunt or moan. In Mary Shelley's novel, the creature is also tall, but suffers emotionally from how others treat him. He has the ability to learn and teaches himself to read and to speak. He also becomes a very consummate student of humanity and turns what he learns into revenge against his maker.

Frankenstein is a novel about a monster, but who exactly is this monster? Is it Frankenstein's creation who is shunned because of his disfigured face and giant stature, who begins to hate only because that is what he has been shown? Or is it Frankenstein himself, who created and abandoned the creature because he found it monstrous? Or is it society itself, and how "civilization" fears that which it doesn't understand?

by Mary Shelley
Pocket Books
ISBN: 0-7434-8758-3
mass market paperback, 324 pgs.

borrowed from the Long Beach Public Library