Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Something for Thursday

Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello almost defy commentary for me. They simply...exist. A lot of Bach has that feel for me -- it's almost as if Bach didn't so much create his music as present it, as found, from some primordial realm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Punnery is afoot

There was a thing on Twitter where Bell.ca decided to raise money for mental health awareness by donating five cents for every use of the hashtag "BellLetsTalk". Author Guy Gavriel Kay turned this into an excuse for puns, since he has a long-standing love of punnery. He solicited puns on the hashtag, and he got a lot of fun, creative ones in return.

This was mine:



And a few minutes later, Mr. Kay responded (which I then retweeted with added exclamation at the front):



Yup. I retire tonight with the warm glow of accomplishment!

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

So here's a question that I posed the other day on The Twitters, after seeing it discussed by a few other folks. There's an awful lot of writing advice that counsels writers to "grab the reader on Page One!". You have to hook your reader immediately, and if you can do it with a great opening line, so much the better.

Here's my problem with that: My own experience as a reader runs deeply contrary to this. I honestly can remember very few books I've read where I knew on the first page that I didn't like the book. This seems to me the equivalent of walking out of a movie after the first ninety seconds. Now, I don't really have a hard-and-fast rule as to how long to give a book. Some readers I know say "Six chapters", while others have said "One hundred pages". I tend to keep going until I find myself realizing that I simply am not invested at all in the events of the book or its characters, and not only does it seem unfair to me to conclude that I don't have that investment on Page One, but it also generally takes me a while to get to that level of investment. Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is as beloved a book to me as any, but I distinctly remember not really getting into it until quite literally halfway through the first installment, at which point something shattering happens. (By construction, one of his characters is a fellow who initially seems a bit on the "soul-dead" side, and then you get the explanation for why he's that way, and that's when GGK has you. But that's for another time.)

I've also had any number of times the experience of starting a book, abandoning it because it wasn't "grabbing" me, and then giving it another go a while later and loving it.

Ditto first lines. A great first line is a wonderful thing indeed, and even when I write I try to come up with a first line that hints of amazing things to come. But to insist on a "great" first line from a novel always seems to me an awful lot of pressure to put on just a few words. There are many great first lines, but I'm not convinced that every great novel has a great first line. I certainly don't recall the first lines of many of my most beloved books -- the afore-mentioned Fionavar Tapestry, or GGK's The Lions of Al-Rassan, which might well be my favorite book ever. I know the first line of The Hobbit ("In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit"), but I couldn't tell you the first line of The Lord of the Rings. Everybody knows "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" from A Tale of Two Cities, but that's not even the entire first line; who can recite that entire amazing opening paragraph? I certainly can't. Lather, rinse, repeat, across my entire library.

What say you, readers? How much do you expect from first lines or first pages? Do you have general rules for when to abandon a book that's not getting the job done at that point in time?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Instaweeks

I haven't done one of these in quite some time, but here are some photos from recent weeks here at Casa Jaquandor....

The road through the wood #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark

Watching for something.... #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

I think every farm should have something to delight people who drive by! #wny

The dee-oh-gee and his kitteh friend! #Cane #Julio #DogsOfInstagram #CatsOfInstagram

For #NationalHandwritingDay. I only print now; my cursive is a barely-remembered skill. From THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. #KingArthur

Lester is hoping for sushi. He won't get any, but hope springs eternal! #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

Moon over Buffalo #moon #sky

Knox Farm in East Aurora, NY

Snowy alley stairs #EastAurora #wny

Winter sky #winter #wny

Your daily dose of sleeping Lester. #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

And 12 hours later, I'm right back at it. #AmWriting

Reviewing my notes. Parts of this book flow wonderfully; others, not so much. #AmWriting #overalls #DoubleDenim

Stretccccchhhh...guess I oughta get something done today.... #overalls #Dickies #sleepysunday

All in all...I am greatly enjoying this winter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Non-sentential Links

Just to shake things up, some links which are not sentential in nature. Wow!

::  Writer-acquaintance Ashley Carlson (whose new book, The Charismatics, is both available and good!) has some thoughts on strategy for men who are trying to appeal to women on e-dating sites.

::  A good question, asked by Anne Leigh Parrish: "What if we all wrote with the idea that no one might ever read us? Would this silence us, or set us free?" I'm not sure. I don't like the idea of not being read...but I can't write with the assumption that a specific group of readers will read me. Good question...thoughts?

::  Wow! SamuraiFrog, one of my favorite bloggers, has been blogging for ten years! Congrats to him!

::  Who cares if the movie came out last summer? I love it to pieces, so here's Lance Mannion's review of Guardians of the Galaxy. (My review here.)

::  Ach, I wasn't paying attention and missed the birthday of Robert Burns! Sheila O'Malley, as always, had things well in hand, though. (We did watch an episode of Outlander, which...well, it doesn't count at all, I guess. But a time-travel romance drama set in Scotland is nice.)

::  Finally, I have to end on a sad note. I started reading John Scalzi's blog right around the time they acquired a fuzzy little kitten. That kitten became a beautiful long-haired cat, who has just passed away after twelve years. Don't read this right before driving or handling cutlery.

Keep on truckin', folks, and if you live in NYC or Boston or points in between, stay warm and safe!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A few odd items

Because oddness abides, man.

:: Since he's playing in the Super Bowl next week, it stands to reason that someone out there is writing erotica featuring Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Because...um...I got nothin'.

:: "Let It Go", in Welsh. Because the old tongues of Northern Europe make everything better.

:: A photo gallery of shopping malls, taken in 1989. I do kinda miss malls, sometimes. I mean, we still have 'em and all, but I rarely go there anymore, because the stores are...well, they're the same everywhere, and my needs in terms of "stuff" have changed and diminished over time.

More next week!

(Sorry about the relative lack of new content recently, but the usual reason applies. I've got some decent momentum going on Princesses III: Even Princessier (not the actual title), and I have to keep the pedal to the floor!)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Something for Thursday

Seems a bit of light-hearted music is called for this morning, so here are a few selections of such.





Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Who's your favorite sidekick? Can be from any genre of anything!

Monday, January 19, 2015

From the Books: "I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like"



I borrowed this book from the library a few weeks ago, and after plowing through it (and finding it quite hilarious), I reviewed in on Goodreads. But for this space I wanted to excerpt a particular chapter that I found interesting. Author Todd Snider is a folk singer by trade, so his advice here is directed specifically at singers, but I think it can be applied to anyone in a creative endeavor.


Young singers sometimes think it's about making people like you, but it's not. It's about how many people you can get to decide whether or not they like you. That's what you have to do to fill your refrigerator. Do it every day, nine to five.

You are not trying to be liked. You are trying to be judged, as often as you possibly can, so you can keep your refrigerator full.

If I was better at what i did, people would say nastier things about me.

...

The truth of this is that you asked someone -- everyone -- to feel something. And if they do feel something, you do not get to control what that feeling is. Whether it's a fan, your mom, a journalist, or the paper boy, you sing them your song and ask them to feel. Don't be a dick and try to control what and how they feel after that. Do the world a favor and leave those people alone. They already did you the favor of listening to your whole f***ing song. Now you want to tell them to do something else? Or you want to be angry because they did what you asked them to do? Jesus Christ.

When my first record came out, I saw a review of myself. The writer began, "I hate Todd Snider." That was the first line of the review. It got me past my waist into the water. Come on in, kid, the water is freezing. "I hate Todd Snider, and I'm about to tell you why," was the full first line, in a San Diego newspaper article that was supposed to be previewing my show. When's the last time someone told you they hated you, un-ironically? Teenage girls don't count.

I wrote a letter back to the person who wrote that review. I still have the letter. I pull it out and read it when I need to feel embarrassed for myself.

...

Making up songs, critics will tell people that you've done well or poorly. Again, those are the critics that you have asked -- begged, really -- to have an opinion. And then they give you one, if you're lucky. A bad review is a good review. The worst review they can give you is no review at all, and that's the one they give almost everybody.

That's an interesting notion: by reacting to your work at all, someone is doing you a favor, even if they think your work is the worst thing ever and they are willing to tell people that. I'm not entirely sure I agree here, but the general notion seems to be that if you're going to be an artist, you do not want to inspire indifference, and that's something I completely agree with.

(Good book, by the way, if you're interested in stories from the world of country-folk music.)