Leaving on a Jet Plane

Leaving on a Jet Plane
Leaving on a Jet Plane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I’m off.  Don’t forget to empty the dishwasher, it’s clean, and tomorrow is trash day.  I’ll be back on Thursday.

I’m not fond of leaving home.  In fact, you could say I’m terrified of it and you wouldn’t be exaggerating. Back ten years ago when I started this job, I loved to travel, but now I am sick of it.  Maybe it is because, the older I get, the more aware I am of my own mortality.

A list of the things my head is full of as I wait for the taxi:

  • When is the last time the taxi driver had his breaks checked?
  • What if a flock of Canadian geese appear out of nowhere during take off?
  • What if a large man sits next to me on the plane. What if he has no concept of personal space and didn’t use deodorant this morning?
  • What if the pilot is new and has never landed a plane full of passengers before and he gets all panicky at the last moment and freaks out and flips the plane over on the runway?
  • Will the hotel pillows smell bad?

Oh I know, I am being ridiculous.  Luckily, I have a very logical side to my mind which is constantly reassuring the insane, imaginative side.  Don’t worry – you’ve done this a million times, it will all be fine. You’ll be home in no time.

Yeah well, the taxi will be here in a moment, and my stomach is in knots.  Hard to hear the logical voice when the panicked voice is screaming so loud.

New York District Responds To U.S. Airways Fli...
New York District Responds To U.S. Airways Flight 1549 Crash in the Hudson River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s in a name?

Would my blog, by any other name, stink?

I have been thinking about my renaming my blog.

I’ve been thinking about it since November.

When I started this ‘thing’ I had no idea what I was doing…

User Name = Blog Name = Site Title = URL???

But now I know…  Now I am an expert at this blogging thing. (Please don’t snicker like that, it is unnerving to hear a computer snicker.)

I am happy with my URL, that can stay.  If I wasn’t afraid of confusing my followers and friends, I would change my user name from ‘jaschmehl’ to ‘Jill Ann.’  Change is hard, though… one thing at a time.  But it is time to change the Site Title.

I spent an hour scrolling through the Freshly Pressed page, reading site title’s. (It took an hour because I kept reading the posts I missed before) and I learned a few things about successful titling.  (Titling? Doesn’t that look so wrong? – but Google says I spelled it right and we all know Google is the God of Knowledge.)

First – Don’t pick something that is only meaningful you now.  This is like getting a tattoo of your first boyfriends name on your chest.  Stupid for obvious reasons, but let me spell it out in case you are sixteen:  You will change.  A lot. More quickly than you can ever believe.   The things that are important to you today will be irrelevant if not down right silly tomorrow.  (i.e. “Clean up – Aisle Seven” – a blog you start during your job at a grocery store, which lasts a month.  Or, “Achoo!”- a blog about the cold you have, right now.)

Second – Don’t commit yourself to a herculean task in your title. Life will interfere, and you will miss a deadline.  It will happen.  And every tenth post or so will start with:  “Well, so sorry readers… I know I missed a few days of my ‘10,000’ word a day goal, but you see, my neighbor’s aunt’s cat died, and well, it’s a long story, but I’m back now…” Besides, One Goal blogs get boring – quickly.

Third – Don’t just use your name – as I did, it is boring and says nothing about your blog.  Unless you are already famous – but then, if you are – you are probably not reading this.  Your fun famous life is probably jam packed with all sorts of famous-y fun things to do, all the time, right?  No time for reading silly blogs by silly people.

Fourth – I like titles that tell me about the Blogger – not the Blog.   I know that is probably against someone else rules.   The Blog title needs the flexibility to adapt to the changes in the Bloggers life.   I like a title that tells me a tiny bit about your personality.

I’m thinking about the One Word Test I blogged about recently. Is there one word to describe me?   A word to describe ALL of me and ALL of my posts?  Ok, probably not.  How about two words?  This is really hard to do.

Who am I?

A reader, a gamer, a storyteller, a PowerPoint pusher.
I am occasionally wheezing, often panicking, and easily startled.
An honest liar. A Foot-in-Mouth-er.  A wannabe writer.

Who?

My boyfriend just told me I’m over thinking it.  “You should call it ‘Mind of a Mouse’,” he says, looking over my shoulder at the screen. “You scurry all over the place – looking for something to nibble on, convinced a cat is about to attack at any moment.”

Alright – that will work for now – but I might change it again….

very cute mouse
I’m cute, like a mouse (Photo credit: pshab)

Ten Minutes

Ten Minutes.  Impossible.  I make too many mistakes.  I already did.  I meant to start with the word, ‘word.’  The words fill my mind, swirl around my soul until I am drowned.  I can’t take another breath until I’ve breached the dam and they pour out like a flood onto the screen.  The squiggly red lines, like poisonous worms under every word, telling me I made yet another mistake. Fix me, fix me they cry.  I must remember to spend the last minute fixing the mistakes.

If only life would provide me with such perfect clues.  I don’t know when I’ve made a mistake, until later, “Jill I can’t believe you said that to her!”  But, wait, I didn’t mean, oh no.  Not again.  Open mouth, insert foot.  It is the story of my life.  All these constant mistakes.  And no little red worms to cry ‘fix me’ before I publish myself into reality.

Words and stories, they are everything to me.  Dull reality holds no value.  Flat, boring always now, never then.  Never that shiny bright future of my imagination.  Always the now of reality.  Boring.  The in and out of wake, sleep, wake, sleep.  It is always now.

I’m not as fast a typist as I think.  The time is… up.

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Daily Prompt: Ready, Set Go – Set a timer for ten minutes. Open a new post. Start the timer, and start writing. When the timer goes off, publish.

Stephen Donaldson: Introduction

This is the way I remember it.

I was fourteen years old, we were down the shore and my uncle was visiting. He was in his mid-twenties or so. He might have been married to my aunt by then, but she doesn’t figure into this memory.

My uncle took us to the used book store. It was my favorite thing to do on that island full of scratchy sand and stingy salt water. At that used bookstore down the shore, you could buy books for a dollar. One Dollar! I didn’t care that they were used, that just meant that I didn’t have to feel guilty about breaking the spine or getting food on the pages. I didn’t just read books, I devoured them. I flew through them like a tornado. Ripped pages, chocolate fingerprints, cover pealing off. A book never quite recovered from my reading of it.

My mother paid pretty close attention to the books I read. Up to that point, it was mostly young-adult, and a few fantasy books by authors like Piers Anthony and Terry Brooks. They hinted at sex the same way soap operas did, with a lot of groping and moaning but nothing that would lift the veil from my naïveté.

My uncle, probably as naive as I was, didn’t think to question the suitability of my choice when I asked him if I could buy the book with the bright orange cover and the drawing of a man raising his arms to a glow of light on a curved bridge. He probably thought it was religious. The synopsis on the back cover hinted at the story of a man who is sick and finds himself healed in a magical alternative-reality. And how this man will use the power of a ring to fight off the bad guy.

Stephen Donaldson – Lord Foul’s Bane

Sounds a bit like Tolkien, right? And everyone, especially my uncle who was a teenager in the seventies, knew about Tolkien. There was nothing bad in Tolkien. Cute little hobbits and grizzled old wizards. No sex or drugs or humans being evil to other humans. Things you might want to keep away from the mind of your innocent, young niece.

Lord Foul’s Bane, book one of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson, begins with the hero raping an innocent, young girl.

Ok, it doesn’t immediately start that way, but by the time the rape occurs, I had already learned more about human misery and the crushing sadness of despair than I ever wanted to know. When Covenant rapes the poor girl, the reader is not surprised. Covenant does almost nothing good or kind for himself or for anyone else throughout the entire three books of the initial series. He was my first encounter with a true antihero.

This book, which I still have, was my introduction to real, grown-up books. Where not only did bad things happen to good people, sometimes good people did bad things. Piers Anthony and Laura Ingalls Wilder would never again satisfy my newly matured mind. I had seen the power of the gray side, and I would never go back to the black and white worlds of clear cut good vs. evil.

Stephen Donaldson is at his best when writing about the dark side of human nature. If you can handle it, read his Sci-Fi books, the Gap Series. They are harsh, difficult books to get thorough. I have read the series through more than once, and I might do so again.

But only if I am sitting on a bright, sunny beach with loads of happy people around me to deflect some of the despair.

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One Word Test

Brandon Sanderson: Legacy

Maybe if Robert Jordan hadn’t died, I might not have discovered Brandon Sanderson.  My taste for pure fantasy has waned as I’ve grown older.  It makes me sad.  I want to love swords and sorcery as much as ever, but my heart just isn’t into it anymore.

Anyway – It was a strain to read book 11 of the Wheel of Time in 2005.  I did only because I was so invested in the characters and Jordan promised the end was near.   I waited for book 12, the last book, with the idea that I would just read it to get it over with.  To be done with Rand and the others, characters that I didn’t even like anymore.  But I craved that sense of completion that the last book would provide.   I waited… 2006, 2007…   I read his blog.  I knew he was sick.  I didn’t think he would die.

Robert Jordan
Robert Jordan (Wikipedia)

But he did.

The Wheel of Time did not.

English: Author Brandon Sanderson at Utopiales...
Brandon Sanderson (Wikipedia)

Brandon Sanderson saved it.  He really saved it.  In the three books that replaced the promised last book, Sanderson gave me back the love I had lost for Jordan’s creation.

With an astounding seamless-ness, Sanderson wove Jordan’s beloved Pattern into a whole cloth.

I just finished that last book, six years later than I expected to, but it was worth the wait.

Thank you Mr. Sanderson, for taking on such a daunting task, and giving me my much needed closure.

You did good.

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One Word Test

Never Been Kissed

My Sixteenth Birthday
My Sixteenth Birthday

I was the most immature 16 year old on the planet. I blush now to read my diary then. It sounds like a twelve year old’s thoughts.  I had no plans for the future when I was 16.  I was interested in Right Now, or maybe, Five Minutes From Now.

After reading all of the entries from my sixteenth year, I can extrapolate two parts of ‘future me’ from the text.  One, I loved to write stories then as much as I do now.  The diary pages, when not talking about boys, are full of references to stories I am working on.  Two, the reason I never seriously entertained thoughts of being a writer: I never finished a single one of those stories.

My boyfriend often wonders why my parents and teachers never encouraged me to become a writer.  The diary entries make it obvious, I never wanted to be one.  I don’t remember ever showing any of my stories to anyone either, so how would anyone know I was writing them? And besides all that,  I couldn’t spell, and I was a terrible student.  My 16th year was full of ‘D’s.

I can’t answer the question: Does my life now look like what I imagined it to be when I was 16? Apparently, at 16 I wasn’t concerned with anything beyond ‘tommarro.’

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P.S. I won the bet.

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Daily Prompt: Sweet Sixteen 
When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look like that? Is that a good thing?

Ernest Hemingway: Brief

Cover of "The Old Man and The Sea"To be honest, I’m not sure I much care for Hemingway.  No, not sure at all.  I mean, he’s a writer.  A good writer. One of the best.  You know all that already.  But his stories, well, they’re sad.  Nothing good happens in them, nothing happy.  But you gotta read them, right?  Because he’s a great writer, everyone knows that.

The best thing, about his stories, is that they’re short. To the point. Brief. I like brief.  I like stories that say a lot with a little.

The Old Man and the Sea, that’s the only long one that I read all the way through. I had to, for school.  I didn’t like it.  Not much anyway.  It just went on and on about those damn sharks until I was hoping they’d just bite the old man and get it over with.

The best one, the best short one, was The Killers.  It’s sad, but it tells a whole story with almost no words at all. No extra words.

Can’t help but admire a guy who can say so much with so little.

Maybe if he can do it, I can too.

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One Word Test

Dave Duncan: Love

I learned about Love from Dave Duncan. 

There are a hundred different kinds of love in this world and he covers them all.  The unconditional, instinctual love for a child.  The often conditional, but forgiving love for a spouse.  The patient love for a beloved parent. The comfortable love for a true friend.  And even the respectful love for a close enemy.

His books are not romantic, although they are full of romance.  Magic and dashing heroes, human-like gods and god-like humans, wars and death and redemption.  It’s all in there.  But throughout all of his worlds and characters  there is a common theme.  That love motivates us all.  Even the bad guys love something – money, power, ambition, sometimes themselves.  (When you understand the motivation of the enemy, it makes what they do tangible.  And terribly frightening.)

I found Dave Duncan while I was in college, and his books sustained me through trying times.  I could not find love around me then, not even for myself, but I could lose myself in a story of a stable boy who loved a queen and all would be well.  As I grew older, and as I found more of his books to read, I discovered that, unlike so many fantasy writers, the love he wrote about did not end at the altar and a “they lived happily ever after.” He wrote about grown-up love between long wedded couples, something I’d not witnessed in real life.  He showed me the casual, physical affection that could exist between two people who’d known, and loved, and fought with each other for decades.

I don’t understand why more people don’t know about Dave Duncan.  There is no other author in my collection of books that I re-read as often. There is no other author, (except perhaps Larry McMurty, and then only in Lonesome Dove) that pours as much love into their characters.

I re-read Dave Duncan’s books to meet up with old friends.  And although I know how their stories end, I never tire of hearing them.

(see also: One Word Test)