Archive | September, 2011

The Great Email Disaster of 2011

29 Sep

Last night I kept getting these pop-up messages that my email had lost connectivity. A whole lot of them. Nothing seemed to be wrong, so I assumed, as I always do, that demons were playing with the internet again, crossed myself, burned incense, and swung a rubber chicken around my head three times to take off the curse, whatever it was. Duty done, problem solved, I went to bed.

This morning, when I went to my inbox I found out that my whole contact list had disappeared. Disaster! Calamity! The ship is going down by the bow and I have no lifeboat!

Confronting this event with the same sang-froid that my cats demonstrate when it’s raining and they want to come in, I yowled to my wife who sighed, interrupted her on-line slaughter of trolls, and figured out that I needed to contact my server to see if they could restore the list. Indeed they could, not in 24 hours as stipulated, but in minutes.

But dang, that’s thought-provoking. I hadn’t quite realized how enlaced into a email world I had become. Who am I now without my contact list? And it’s only going to get worse, if worse is the word for what it’s going to get. Better and worse, really. Like most things. Anyway, all is happy in electroworld again.

For the moment.

Hearing It Done Right

28 Sep

One of the reasons Shakespeare is opaque to us is that the way we speak has changed so much. Tis was inevitable, but it means that we no longer hear Shakespeare as he wrote to be heard. And even though Americans, with our hard R sound, are a little closer to the accents of his time than the Brits are, we still tend to get lost in the music of the speeches, losing the plain sense of many passages. Ever been to a Shakespeare production where every one of the actors sounded like every other one of the actors? That’s not the way they were written. But who now can hear, let alone reproduce, a Warwickshire accent, and who would want to hear Hamlet speak that way, even though there’s a good chance that’s how the part was written?

Which is why hearing Kimberly Scott do Mistress Quickly in Henry IV pt. 2 in Ashland last week was such a shot in the arm. Scott understood he value of every word in every sentence she spoke. She didn’t try to find whatever sounds the original accent was supposed to have. She just ┬ásaid what the lines meant. And, when she had a word like “swaggering” to speak, she reveled in it. I have no idea why she was so perfect, where she learned to value sense above sound, but I wish every actor who gets cast in an Elizabethan play could hear how she does it.

27 Sep

Release Day. The Juliet Spell is finally out. Feels more like relief day. It was a tough one to finish, and now it really, really is.
One thing writers wonder about is how you know for sure that a work is finally done. I have the answer. It’s finally done when the printer tells the publisher, “Any more changes are going to cost you extra.”

There Are Two Kinds of Writers

27 Sep

There are two kinds of writers. Those who outline, and those who don’t. I am definitely in the second category, but having had some experience with trying to be ┬áthe first, I have a couple of things to say about the whole outline thing that may help other category 2 people.

The main thing is, what writers and editors call an outline would get you flunked in English. As someone who learned the hard way to outline very well in English 1A, I assumed that what was wanted was more of the same, with lots of I, II, II and A, B, C, and 1,2,3, descending in an elegant cascade to (a1.) (b2.) (c3.)

Nope.

I don’t doubt there are some writers who do it this way, but the point is, most don’t and most editors don’t expect it. What they want is more properly a precis or a summary. You set down the story, add in such notes on characters or setting or whatever as you want — or don’t — and the editor is happy. You may be happy, too. Because it doesn’t really commit you to anyting. FOlllowing the outline you’ve sent in is no part of your contract. It’s just a document that shows you’ve thought your story through to the end, and if that changes — well, that’s what stories do almost every time.

So, if you’re a category 2 writer like me, you might want to try outlining just to see what it does for you if anything. You may find it helps you to think about your story, reduces your anxiety level, or makes the work go faster. But all of that said, I still like the words of Anne Lamott, who wrote, “Writing a novel is like driving at night by your headlights. You can’t see very far ahead, but you can get home that way.

Henry IV Part 2 — Epic Theatre?

24 Sep

I saw Henry IV Part 2 last night. It’s an odd play. It really has no main character. Or if it does, it’s not the same main character as Henry IV Part 1 or Henry V. That is, it’s not Prince Hal.
I had the thought somewhere in the middle of the second half that HIV2 (looks like a disease, but isn’t) might be a 16th century example of what Brecht called Epic Theatre, that is, a play without a central character but with a central theme instead. The second half of Angels in America is written this way.
But if HIV2 is about a theme, what is it? And how is it examined? And what did The Shake want us to look at?
The easy answer is, I guess, the nature of legitimacy. Who has the right to wear the crown? Henry IV doesn’t really believe he does. Neither does much of anybody else in England the way Shakespeare tells it. And although this is never made explicit,it may be that Prince Hal has embryonic doubts, ready to blossom when he has to wear the crown himself, which underlie his naughty ways and his cynical friendship with Falstaff.
This sounds to me like a pretty abstract topic for a play. It would have seemed less so to Shakespeare and his audience. The Tudor line, which was no more legitimate than the Plantagenets, was coming to an end with Elizabeth. There was a git in Scotland who seemed to have the inside track on the crown, but everybody knew that that was contingent on a lot of things happening, not least the git, James VI, getting the support of Lord Cecil who ran the security apparatus of the Elizabethan state. And no one could be sure how that worthy man would jump.
One word that get used over and over again in the play is “shallow”. There is even a character by that name, Justice Shallow. And the image of roots comes up a lot. That’s precisely what England has lost, and what, by implication, enables a scumbag like Falstaff to prosper.
But these are random thoughts, and very possibly shallow ones. Any other buffs out there want to weigh in?

Ashland #1

23 Sep

It’s still warm here, though it cools of at night to make you glad you brought a jacket if your sitting in the Elizabethan, the open-air theatre.

In spite of the decline of the independent bookstore and the collapse of dead tree publishing and the end of civilization that Dancing With the Stars clearly foretells, several new used book shops have opened since last we were here. I hit five yesterday. So far, I have not spent more than i should in them, but that can always change.
Saw Love’s Labour’s Lost last night. It worked very well thematically, and the acting was good, but for some reason I found it irritating that they set the thing in about 1962. The mannerisms of the ladies of the French court were annoying. Probably because girls like that are the ones who used to turn me down for dates right around then.
Anyway, a good beginning to the trip

The Czech is in the Mail

21 Sep

I heard yesterday that the Czechs have bought the rights to Vampire High and Vampire High S.Y. Nearly all of the money goes right into the coffers of Simon & Schuster to buy them shoes, but still.

Happy.

The Czechs.

I mean, Robots, Hussites, The Good Soldier Schweik, The Little Vixen, Dvorak, The Czech Legion, Kafka and the Golem. They’ve got all that going for them, and they still think publishing a couple of my books will make things better.

Love you, guys. Thanks

P.S. I have nine other books out in English.