“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

this is what i read when i was supposed to be writing
i distract you with an awesome book by someone else
Fri 2015-05-08 23:35:00 (in context)

So, I got nothing. No excuses, no good reasons, and almost nothing to show for this week on the writing front. Not even a blog post (barring this one). And now I am two fictionettes behind schedule, which is not a good sign.

You know how it is. Probably, I mean. You get behind in one thing, then you get behind in more things, and the more you think, "I will get All Caught Up now!" the more the pressure of that expectation weighs down on you until you can't move even the littlest bit, and then you get behind some more.

At least, that's how it is for me.

I'm going to try to get All Caught Up this weekend, but even making that statement in the form of an "I'll try" assertion gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Today was going to be my All Caught Up day, and I even managed to get up on time for it! (Part of this week's problem was a constant day-to-day wrestling match with my sleep schedule.) But we also had a plan to go to Loveland for lunch and roller derby shopping. Skate Ratz was having a sale (they still are!), and they are two blocks down from Mo' Betta Gumbo (I had a fried oyster po' boy and a swamp water cocktail with okra infusion). So as it got closer and closer to time to leave, my nemesis brain said, "You know, you can do all that work/writing stuff after you get home..." And then, after getting back to Boulder and dropping some items off at Hazardous Waste Disposal and picking up some boxes from storage and getting groceries and unloading the car, weasel brain said, "It's OK, you have time to nap. And read! You brought more books home! Read one!" And then after napping and reading it was... late. And stupid monkey brain said, "Well, you can always get All Caught Up tomorrow."

And that, my friends, is how my brain works. Or doesn't work, to be precise. That nasty little saboteur.

The book, by the way, was Ink by Damien Walters Grintalis. Damien is a fellow member of Codex, and I was privileged to meet her face to face for the first time at a recent World Horror Convention in New Orleans. I bought her book, eagerly asked her to deface it for me, brought it back to Boulder... and somehow never managed to read it until now.

It was awesome. Which is to say, it was an awesome novel in the creepy body horror genre with a variation on "the magic shop that isn't there when you look for it again later." These things, especially the creepy body horror, are not everyone's cup of tea. But if this is the sort of thing you would like, it is an excellent example of the sort of thing you would like. I liked it bunches.

I admit, me and this book got off to a rocky start, despite knowing and having a lot of respect for the author. The main character showed up on the first page of the second chapter sounding like a whiny boy-child griping about how his wife just up and left him, but he's glad she's gone because she was a horrible controlling jerk. Only he didn't say "jerk." And so I began to worry.

Actually, I expected his story to end very quickly, as the First Victim of the Big Bad. That is often the fate of the Horribly Sexist Stereotype introduced in the first pages of a horror novel. It lets you feel all schadenfreudy when the Big Bad gets him. Horror can be an intensely moralizing genre, where Bad People are Punished For Their Sins by being the First Victims by which we are introduced to the Big Bad. (Think of the slasher film trope wherein the first victims are the young couple who park their car somewhere remote and proceed to initiate sexyfuntimes.) This can be either problematic or satisfying to the reader, depending on how well the reader's sense of morality overlaps with those of the author.

But as the pages turned, it became clear that he would last at least most of the book through--it really was his story--and that the ex was exactly as awful as advertised. So I started to worry some more, despite my faith in the author. I have seen books that start that way, and they don't often end well.

But very, very soon, other female characters began showing up on the page, and it became abundantly clear that the controlling jerk ex was not a stand in for all women or all wives, because all the other women in the novel's cast of characters (mother, girlfriend, nieces, neighbors' kids, random encounters) are all different from each other in interesting ways. None of them are two-dimensional stereotypes. All of them have inner lives. The ones that come the closest to being stereotypes still each have at least one noticeable and deliberate moment of acting contrary to type. And the male protag, he rapidly gets more likable as he, too, gets to show off his other dimensions. I wanted to hug him and protect him from the Big Bad, and I was glad he had people in his life to do just that.

The care the author put into each character was obvious. And, well, I'm not surprised, since I know the author (for "converse online from time to time" values of know). But being unsurprised doesn't preclude being relieved, nor does it diminish what a refreshing read Ink was. That's how you do it, world. Go forth and do likewise.

Also, I would love to see more novels in which the characters occasionally talk to each other as though they've read Captain Awkward and have internalized some of those scripts. It tends to result in a plot that turns on actual problems and not artificial ones created by shitty communication. Seriously, when the protag says (and this is a paraphrase, not a direct quote, because I haven't reread enough to be able to find specific quotes quickly), "Mom, I'm sorry. You have to accept that the marriage has ended. You are free to stay friends with my ex, but you can't expect us to stay married for you." How awesome is that? That is so awesome. (And then Mom does accept it at last because Mom is not a stereotype. She is a character who also grows and changes through the story, despite being a supporting character who isn't on stage a lot. AWESOME.)

So: Sorry for taking so long to read it, Damien! But I've read it now and I loved it!

And now... wish me luck, because Catch-up Weekend starts tomorrow at 8 AM.

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