Not So Good Omens

I haven’t been feeling terribly well, lately—particularly in the mornings when I eat. I suppose I could just stop eating all together and that would really help with my weight loss goals, but the cramping in the stomach, the nausea and other related issues seem to indicate that something bigger is amiss. I don’t know what that something is, but I have an appointment with my doctor to see what we can do about it. My fear is that the medicines I’m taking are affecting my liver, and I want to nip that in the bud if that’s the case. If it’s something that will pass and I just need to press through it, then so be it.

Meanwhile, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in my bedroom either sleeping or sitting in my chair reading, or watching Good Omens on my laptop. The cats, Anastasia and Raku, are thrilled for me to be there, inasmuch as a cat will ever express that they’re thrilled about anything. I have a new-to-me chair that I’m happy with, and I cleaned up another one that I’ve had, one that I’ve never actually been able to use because the cats claimed it immediately. So, new life, new me. I have chairs.

The other day I came in to find this:

This is not my cat

I’m not trying to start problems or anything, but Anastasia has already established that this is her chair when I’m not sitting in it. I fear that Cleo is either inadvertently going to cause a war, or that’s precisely what her plan is. To be honest, she’s my partner’s cat, so it’s not like she wandered in out of nowhere, but this is not a room or building that she comes in, until the past few weeks. All I ask is, if there is fur shed in this fight, let it not be on my chair, and let my chair not be collateral damage.

I Know a Published Author!

I have met a couple of published authors in my life. However, recently a friend I hadn't seen or heard from in years showed up in a Tweet from Book People, a fabulous local independent bookstore. They were going to be hosting a book signing for him and his debut novel, The Mirror Thief. Martin Seay, friend of mine, had become a published author. That was new. And... WOW.

Martin Seay - Author
From The Elliot Bay Book Company

Of course, I went. I was there early. I brought friends. I listened to the question/answer session shared with Kirk Lynn, another author. Martin looked tired, but what do you expect from somebody in the middle of a fabulous national book signing tour?! There were other people there that I knew, from the same time that I knew Martin. It was like a mini-reunion of people who used to work together. (We worked together in a bookstore, no less.) Afterward, I wanted to hang around and chat with him, but he looked so busy and so tired that I really just wanted to give him a hug. He even had a handler, if I'm not mistaken. (A guide would be a better word, perhaps? An agent? An escort? Somebody from the bookstore or the publishing house to make sure he was where he needed to be when he needed to be there?) (I want a handler.)

Now, I am reading the book. It took a while to get around to it, mostly because it's not small and it's not particularly light reading from the looks of it and I wanted to be sure that I was in the right mindset. Plus, I discovered that it's on Audible, recorded by the wonderful Edoardo Ballerini . Since I have a 30-mile commute to and from work five days a week, I enjoy listening to audiobooks. (This narrator is truly gifted. And the accents he can do! He has an Italian/American inflection when he's not in character, but he IS the character when they are speaking.) Now, I wonder why exactly I waited. I take that back; it's got a lot going on and the prose is incredible. I do have to be able to pay attention. But, I LOVE it. I mean, first it was awesome when a friend of mine had a book published. I had read some of his writing before and I knew he had talent. But, when I know somebody who actually produced THIS?! Incredible.

He described it as literary fiction, with mystery added to give it more popular appeal. I'm still in the beginning, but I know from the blurbs and discussion that there are three distinct parts: 16th century Venice, 1958 California and a close-to-modern-day Las Vegas. It involves a mirror (duh) and a book. I LOVE books that have an obsession with a specific book (as in that particular physical object, not just any version or publication) as part of the story. I love it. Have I ever read another story with that aspect? I have no idea! But, I love it!

The most truly amazing thing, though, was to read the first pages – and then hear them when I restarted the book as an audiobook – and hear Martin. I think that's why it's so amazing for me to know somebody first and then for them to be published. It would seem on the surface that if I recognize the author in the prose then it means I'm not able to suspend disbelief properly, which could almost seem like a criticism of the writing. But, it's not that. It's intriguing. From page one, the story hits the ground running, even if the only character in the scene is unable to convince himself to get off the bed. It moves. It pulled me in. But, at the same time I just kept thinking, "That's so Martin!" This is what it's like to have friends who become fiction writers. I had no idea.

The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge

So, to get me back into reading and writing I looked online for a challenge. I came across an oh-so-popular challenge by The Book Riot. She has some interesting categories, the challenge being to read one from each category in 2015. The link is here, if you're interested:

As I was reading through the categories it struck me that I've already read books from so many of them. Out of 24 I could name books from 17 of them, without repeating authors. I mean, Agatha Christie alone could be several of them, so I made it a point to not use the same author twice. Sometimes the same book fit more than one category, sometimes the nature of the categories lend themselves to this. (LGBT and Indie Presses, for instance.) I think it's a very well-rounded list that took some thought and I appreciate the time and effort that she put into it.

For the challenge I'll start with the ones I haven't already read from and go from there. If it's a category I haven't read by now, then it's probably one that I'm not interested in. But then I suppose that's the point – to reach outside of our interests and try new things.

These are the categories, and the books that I've already read in them.

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25The Mysterious Affair at StylesAgatha Christie
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65News of a KidnappingGabriel Garcia Marquez
A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)For the Relief of Unbearable UrgesNathan Englander
A book published by an indie pressRolling the R'sR. Zamora Linmark
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQBecoming a ManPaul Monette
A book by a person whose gender is different from your ownThe Face of a StrangerAnne Perry
A book that takes place in AsiaRed AzaleaAnchee Min
A book by an author from AfricaThe Power of OneBryce Courtenay
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans,Aboriginals, etc.)The Bean TreesBarbara Kingsolver
A microhistory
A YA novelThe Prince of MistCarlos Ruiz Zafón
A sci-fi novelFahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury
A romance novel
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decadeHow Late It Was, How LateJames Kelman
A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)WickedGregory Maguire
An audiobookDeath of an Expert WitnessP.D. James
A collection of poetry
A book that someone else has recommended to youPatron Saint of LiarsAnn Patchett
A book that was originally published in another languageThe History of the Siege of LisbonJosé Saramago
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind (Hi, have you metPanels?)
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)Any of the 413,417,491,274 mysteries I've read
A book published before 1850
A book published this year
A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

Give Me Back my Mind!

I sit here in Corporate Coffee Shop with a friend. My friend and I aren't seeing eye to eye at the moment. We look at each other across the table warily. I don't trust her, and I can't figure out exactly what she's feeling. There is still a mutual need between us that keeps us tied to each other, but our relationship has been a little rocky lately. Nameless tells me that she is trying to come between us. He might be right. (Though I could and have said the same for some of Nameless' friends as well.)

I've named my friend Miss Marple. Literally. I went in and programmed the name. My friend is my Samsung Galaxy III smartphone. I just now picked it up and checked a website. In my car outside of the coffee shop I checked all of my notifications for Facebook before I turned the engine off. Is this healthy? Nameless accuses me of being addicted to it. Is he right?

When I first got the new phone my neck started aching from looking down at it. It was a new toy and I was looking at it constantly. I played the games and got bored with them. I downloaded the Nook app for it, so that I could read anytime, anywhere. I love having a camera and phone in one device. (These cameras are incredible.) It has my calendar; it has my address book, the internet, maps. It is superbly useful.

One of Nameless' friends – the one I took issue with earlier – is the TV. He has it on at all times. It's background noise for him, which I can understand. I generally keep music going for the same reason. However, I find it difficult to be in the presence of a television (one that's turned on) and not stare at it. It sucks my brain out. Even commercials. Especially commercials, I'd say. Those people know what they're doing when they make them. Somebody can be talking to me and I hear nothing of what they're saying because I'm looking at the TV and my mind his held hostage. I don't turn my TV on at home; I don't like the way it makes me feel. It's too much background noise; too much going on. It raises the anxiety level and I can't pay attention, even if it's in the other room. Nameless will have a dinner party and if the TV is on in the next room I find it difficult to pay attention to what people are saying.

I've noticed something about me and my phone. It involves the coffee shop, which is why I came here to write this. I used to sit here and read. I'd get to know some of the people who come in regularly and chat a little. I eventually bought a Nook eReader. That was a step up technologically. (There's not much more room in my apartment for books.) Lately, however, I've noticed that I don't read as much as I used to. Not just in the coffee shop; I just don't read as much. It started when I got my smartphone. The other day I left my phone at home when I went to work. On my way home I stopped at Corporate Coffee Shop because I had my Nook with me. I didn't read, though. I stared at people and not in an interesting way. My hands felt like they wanted to reach for something. I'd read half a page and I'd look up. I couldn't get lost in my book like I used to. What has happened to me? Is my smartphone as big a brain-sucker as the television? Or bigger, even? I mean, it doesn't even have to be making a noise or showing anything and it has half of my attention. The smartphone doesn't have the moving images of the TV shows or the conversations and sound effects of commercials. (It would if I'd let it, but I never do.) But still, it sucks me in. I might go to it to look up a word, and I notice that I have an email and facebook notifications. Before I know it, I've put the phone back down 10 minutes later and I never looked up the word I like I started to. If I pick up the phone again, it will all start all over again. I might never learn what that word means.

There is a difference between my smartphone and a TV, though. The smartphone is useful.  I need a phone. I like having the calendar and camera on my phone. I could downgrade, but the calendar wouldn't sync with my Google calendar; the camera wouldn't be as good. I wouldn't be able to use it as well to listen to music, which I'm doing right now because the noise here is getting a little out of hand.

Maybe I can retrain myself. Maybe with effort I can learn to not look at Facebook so frequently, and other social media outlets. It would take more than that. I would have to learn to not WANT to look at those things. I would have to learn how to HAVE a smartphone and not feel the NEED to LOOK at it. This runs counter to everything that smartphone programmers are working toward. Of course they want us addicted to our devices. of course they want us to always be looking at it. I would have to be fighting against what Very Intelligent People are doing to get my attention. I would do this because it is a very useful divice to have. It is phone, calendar, texting, camera, internet, social media. All of those things are good. All of those things are healthy. They are fine, taken in moderation. But, can I do it? I have counted 6 times that I've picked up the phone since I started writing this. And writing it has been agony. Words are not flowing; Ideas are not taking shape as easily. The smartphone knows what I'm doing and it's fighting me.

I think I can do it, though. I miss the eArnie that read on rainy days. I miss the me that had a book and read it in the coffee shop without half of my brain wondering what other people were doing in Facebook, etc. Rather than give up the things that are good about it; I will try to take back control of my device. I will keep it in the pocket of my messenger bag. It will take a while. In less than a year my brain is acutely atuned to seeing tiny cues as notifications from Facebook, email and other social things. But, there is too much good to be had with this device to give it up for the sake of some of the vendors that I've invited into it. Dark Side vs. Light Side.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Written in 1953. How accurate it was.

Books I've Read

February 23, 2014

I love finding a good book. Not just any old read, but a book that I can spend time with, get to know, take to coffee, snuggle up with on the sofa. A book that captures my mind and leaves me feeling its lack while I'm at work, that distracts me when I'm hanging out with friends. A book for which I will steal away during a dinner party for a few covert pages.

Sometimes I find myself looking at used books. It might be at a used bookstore, or a thrift store that sells books. I might be glancing at titles in a garage sale or coveting novels on somebody's bookshelf. I'm glancing through the shiny dust covers and something catches my eye – something different, something interesting. Something promising. Like the furtive eye contact made from across the room with a stranger. Something in their eyes says that they, too, are looking for something. Maybe you're looking for the same thing - be it romance, lust or just to get the hell out of there with somebody and have an intelligent conversation. Maybe what you're longing for doesn't correspond with their needs; maybe you'll never even know. But the spark happened and it will not be ignored. This first contact stirs something in the belly, and I felt this the other day as I was looking at the hardcovers on top of the bookcase in the mass market paperback mystery section of a used bookstore. Between the garish and tawdry dustcovers a trade paperback in a matt, darker-color was tucked in, with typeface that called attention to itself by being subtle – a lighter color on the darker background – along with filligree in just slightly darker shade than the type. This could be my next romance. Something just felt right in the second that my eye passed over the spine. A couple of seconds later, though, I realized that I already knew this work. We had already spent our time together on the sofa, in the coffee shop and even – dare I write it here – in my bed. I had held it in my hand as I talked with friends, so that I could feel its presence even when I wasn't able to read its pages. Indeed this one was special; the design on the cover did not lie. Our affair was intense and lasted longer than most of my other affairs. But, it had already come to its inevitable end, and oh, but it's sad when a love affair dies – as the song says.

It's too soon yet, Meaning of Night. Maybe someday we will revisit our romance, but for now, love, let us keep fond the memories we have of each other.

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