Monday, June 28, 2004

Listening to Keith Jarrett, the two disc rarum set. Really nice. Just what I need these days.

To paraphrase Bart Simpson, I didn't think it was possible, but moving both sucks and blows. Tonya and I have worked out butts off this weekend and I feel like I'm barely any closer to being ready. Of course, if the little ones would quit dumping boxes or taking things out of boxes I've packed....

Trying not to be too cynical (cynicism is second nature to me), but I probably won't feel right about the move until we are actually in the house. And for a while after then I'm likely to keep expecting someone to show up at the door and say, "Oops, sorry, made a mistake, you'll have to leave." We close on the first and Tonya wants to move in right away. That's the middle of the week though, and I don't know how much help we will have. I certainly can't afford real movers. John, who brought some boxes by the other day, said he'd help if he wasn't working. And I think the little ones will stay with Tonya's parents the night before, so we should be able to get a thing or two accomplished. But I have my doubts.

Writing? Well, I even feel guilty doing this weblog. Tonya found ten more of my old short stories. They were in some slightly stinky folders with drafts of each. I wrote most of these when I was going through a self-indulgent phase (as if writing a blog isn't self-indulgent) where I assumed that long after I was gone, people would want to read every draft and note about every story I wrote, so I kept them together. Well, I took the final drafts out, scanned them, and threw away the rest of the stuff. I planned to throw away the final drafts too once they were scanned and I had made sure I had everything okay. But I've decided to keep them in a separate folder (I hope the Lysol helps). I have edited about four or five and even submitted three. I don't like most of these all that much, but they seem okay. I believe a few are worth publishing though they do represent a slightly different person than the writer I am now.

Have also, I suppose, been working on an essay. I started it a few days ago, and it was then a kind of comparison of my mother after her miscarriage and my wife at various difficult times in her life. But it has turned, it seems, into a different animal altogether. I wrote last about a funeral and a graveyard I used to walk through. I remembered a few things about growing up right before my Mom got remarried. I'm not sure what the essay will be eventually, but I suppose I have to write it to find out. I really don't know why it bothers me to think about some of this stuff, but it does, and I know I won't quite feel right until I finish this piece.

I don't believe, in all the ramblings I have made here about what I read, that I have mentioned the reading that I do with my kids. Pity. Anyway, we usually let the three youngest take turns choosing what "chapter book" we'll read next, and I sort of talked Christina into reading L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. We finished the chapter called "The Happy Medium" tonight. This is a wonderful book. I think the kids really liked it. The other day Max brought me one of the other books in the series and said that he might choose it when we are done (he has the next turn). Anyway, every time I look at this book I wonder why I don't read more by L'Engle. I have read one of her journals, a book of poetry, and maybe one of the other novels. She's terrific no matter what one experiences.

On a side note, I realized something as I read tonight. "The Happy Medium" is the chapter where the kids get to Camazotz. They see everything bland and the same. I could not help thinking of Ayn Rand's Anthem, which I read several months ago. I did not care for Rand's book so much, though I didn't hate it. I probably would have loved it in high school or college. Anyway, I was thinking about how both authors seemed to protest mindless conformity, but I like L'Engle's vision better. I don't think it is just because she is Christian while Rand is not, though I'm sure that has a little to do with it. I'm not sure I'll have to mull it over some. I just remember thinking of the two as I read.

Well, I don't know if I'll write again before the move, but who knows. Can't get much done at night anyway.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Listening to: Eberhard Weber's rarum xviii (the very good collection series from ECM). Will likely go to Wayne Shorter or Brad Mehldau after that.

I'm sitting in the library at Collin County Community College as my twins are at Girl Scout "Camp". Making some minor changes to the webpage and maybe getting a little writing done.

The move appears to be very much on! We met with the builder yesterday for the "walk through." I actually got excited seeing my backyard that needed mowing. I've been fantasizing about the computer in my new study and letting the kids watch television or play in a room that is not where I am reading and not having to chase away a roach when I get a drink of water. I sure hope Royce City is ready for the Morris family.

So far, I have not done much writing on the novel. I did manage to put together a chapter or so, but in the past week, I think I've contributed about 1,000 words to the project. That doesn't depress me as much as I thought it would, I suppose because I have been working on a couple of essays. I think it I came out of the summer with some publishable stories and essays, I might be okay.

Have been submitting work pretty much every day I can. So far I have probably a dozen or so decent stories under consideration. That does make me feel like I'm getting something done. Most of the publications are online. This is because I just have not had the time (I work on this mostly at night) or resources (do you know how much postage and paper costs, never mind that my printer dies some time ago?) to commit to much for print journals. I also see a couple of other advantages here. Most of these "zines" are pretty good. I do think they get read by some important people. I also have been able to read sample work before submitting. This, I know, increases my chances because I won't waste their time sending something that is nowhere near the kind of story, poem, or essay they publish.

Some places take novel excerpts. I have only submitted the first chapter of Of All Things, a couple of time, and was rejected each time. Perhaps, however, something online would like that.

Now listening to Brad Mehldau Trio's Songs: The Art of the Trio, Volume 3. Should probably go somewhere and write. It occurred to me the other day that I have never attempted a sestina. So I've been thinking about it, but haven't gotten very far.

Speaking of not getting very far, I'm still muddling through (not really the best word choice, I know) the Best American Mystery Stories of 2000. Finally finished this novella that is in the middle of the dang book. I really like most of this, and the stuff I don't love is still entertaining, but I hate taking so long to get through a book. But I suppose despite my vacation, I've been pulled in many directions. At least most of these directions are good ones. I'm broke, tired, and stressed, but having a pretty good summer so far.

Have yet to write anything about Father Chuck leaving. His leave taking service was Sunday and I admit I did cry a little during his last regular service. Not so much during his sermon, but at communion. Communion is a pretty emotional moment of church for me anyway, and I guess looking up at him as he said, "Body of Christ" for what is likely the last time got to me a little.

Chuck has meant a great deal to me as a spiritual man, but he has been a wonderous champion for my family. He is not only a well-grounded man as far as all the spiritual "stuff" of theology, scripture, and tradition is concerned. He is also a well-grounded man of this world. He understands real life. His patience and love for us has taught me a great deal and while the many ways he has helped me in temporal way has meant a great deal to us, he has helped me hang on during some rather tough spiritual times. I sure hope the congregation in Waco really understands the blessing they have coming to them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Listening to Coltrane, but not very loud. The more "out there" pieces are on and everyone else is asleep. I ought to be, but I've screwed that up by taking a long nap.

We have been doing some cleaning in anticipation of the move. Tonya found some folders of my junk the other day and one had some important stuff, at least to me. There was a volume of my personal journal from around 1986 or 9, I don't remember which. There was a small note pad that I must of gotten to write some sort of devotional pieces in. And there were a couple folders with some stories and poems I wrote a long time ago.

The really great thing about this discovery is not just that I found some writing that I had pretty much forgotten, but that I found a few pieces I didn't hate. There were two decent short stories, one I think is still pretty good. I have scanned it all in and the stuff I think is publishable will go out with the rest of the stuff I've been sending out this summer. I've already sent off the story I liked most, "Promise."

A few weeks ago, I got the idea of collecting some old poems in a small chapbook and perhaps shopping it around, entering it in a contest or two, or making an e-book to sell somewhere. When I had this idea, I spent the better part of an afternoon finding and retyping some poems I thought wouldn't be too embarrassing to publish (some have been). But I only had 13 poems, and a couple of those were written in graduated school. I have found 11 more. After some editing and revision, this might make a nice little volume. It is not a project I had expected to work on this summer, but I think it might be worthwhile.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Can't sleep...again! Seems if I take a nap, I can't sleep until two or three in the morning, but if I don't, I'm able to conk out about one.

Finished The Best American Mystery Stories 2003 the other day. I'll write more about it when my hand doesn't hurt so much. Let me say that I only hated one story. Out of twenty, that's pretty good.

Reading the 2000 book of the same series. I read a couple of the stories some time ago, but I don't remember when, so I guess some of it is getting re-read. Plan to read some New Yorker stories in the next few days as well.

Have submitted some work, a little each day, for the past few days. Most of these are to online publications. This isn't exactly what I want all the time, though some of these are really, really good. But this is easier. I can research and submit on the Net without printing and mailing and all the hassles. I wish more print publications accepted e-mail submissions, though I can see why many don't.

Fingers numbing. Typing too loud. Gotta stop for now.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Can't sleep. It's two something in the freakin' morning. I'm listening to Bill Evans Live at the Village Vanguard. Fine disc. Wish I could play it a little louder, but oh well.

Maymester is over. Glad of it. Did like my class. I think it went well.

Thought I'd ease into writing this week. Piddle around a bit with some stories and essays and then next week try to get back to the novel that was started last summer. Have stumbled partial drafts of two essays and started a draft of a story. The story will have Eddie Pacer, speaker and protagonist of the mystery I am writing, as one of its characters. This will be in third person going between the killer and the investigator (Pacer).

Finished Block's Hit Man a couple days ago. Really liked it. Each chapter is a short story, and the episodic tale works. Very enjoyable as a read. Some stories bothered me, but I think that was on a personal level. I didn't like some of what Keller (protagonist) does. But he's a hired killer, so how much of him should I like. But maybe that's the point. Block makes him a real person and I DO like him at times. I think this is a strength. I'm interested in Keller and not just to see what he will do next. Not as dark as the Scudder books and certainly not as light as the Burgler stories, this may be Block at his most philosophical. Certainly one of the better Block books I have read so far. I had intended to wait a bit for the second in the series, but I may change my mind.

Have been reading The Best American Mystery Stories 2003. I'm up to the story by Joyce Carol Oates. So far, I've only really disliked one of the stories. I'll probably write more when I have finished the whole book.

Well, time to go for now. Happy reading!