"Southland Tales" MegaRecap up at the Agony Booth!

I know I’m breaking my self-imposed hiatus, but I did promise to give you a goody for Christmas. Back in August, I worked with some other folks on a massive review of the movie Southland Tales, and it’s finally up at the Agony Booth! Head on over to http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/Southland_Tales_2006.aspx to read it–it’s best to read it from beginning to end, but if you want to know, my section is on Page 8.

Southland Tales, directed by Richard Kelly, tells the story of the Apocalypse through…ugh, why am I even bothering? I’ll let the recap speak for itself. Keep in mind, this is the Agony Booth–in other words, lots of whimpering, swearing, cussing, weeping, violence, rants, insane babble, and the very foul use of Moby and SUVs. So keep the kids away from this one. Enjoy!


It’s rest time; Cafe going on Christmas hiatus

So if I was Daniel a couple of years from now, I’d be like, “Wait a minute. We live about an hour away from Wisconsin Dells, with all the water parks and rides and fun, fun, fun…and we can go up anytime we want, and you didn’t tell me? Why aren’t we up there EVERY SINGLE DAY?!?!?

And the part of me that’s Daniel’s mom would be like, “Well, yes, sure it’s fun, but we can’t be up there every day.”

And the Daniel me would be like, “WHY NOOOOOOOT?!?!”

And the Mommy me would say, “Because we don’t have the money to go up, and even if we did, if you go up every single day, eventually you’d get bored and don’t want to go anymore.”

And the Daniel me would be all, “YOU SUUUUUUUUUCK!”

And the Mommy me would say, “All right. Time Out. NOW.”

And the Daniel me would stomp off, all sucky and pouty, and the Mommy me would be all “DON’T YOU MAKE THAT FACE AT ME!” and then there would be tears and gnashing of teeth and high drama, yadda, yadda, yadda…

The point being…I need a break.

Actually, I’ve needed one ever since I finished my short story and sent it off to WOTF. The relief in knowing that’s done, in combination with all the Christmas parties that’s been happening here, has made me one tired chick. I need to recharge, start going to bed a little earlier, get my creativity meter back to full again. And seeing that most of my energy nowadays seem to be focused on reading through the Willow draft (now that She’s All Light is done, I’ve been zipping through Willow; sometimes getting 3-4 chapters done a week instead of just 1-2. Now that’s nice), I’ve decided to cut down on my writing chores a bit. That means that the Cafe will be closed for a couple of weeks.

This will be a good thing. There’s some cleaning out I’ve been meaning to do, like taking down links I don’t go to anymore and doing some reorganization. I’ve also wanted to re-evaluate what exactly I want the Cafe to do. It feels like I’ve moved away from a lot of the mothering posts I did when I started the cafe–which makes sense, me no longer being a stay-at-home mom. At the same time, it seems like my book reviews are quite popular. Don’t know why…considering that everyone and his grandmother can post a book review. But go figure.

Anyway, don’t expect much from the blog in the next couple of weeks. I’m not going to be on total hiatus–there’s probably going to be a goody for you pretty soon, and if something really catches my interest, I’ll post it here. But don’t expect long winded posts either.

And yes, it is super, super cool to live an hour away from an awesome place. This past Monday, we spent a day at a water park. Yes, it was a balmy 85 degrees inside while outside the temperature read 9. Yes, I floated in a wave pool while overhead music played “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”. Yes, if I was Daniel and a few years older, I would be be begging to go up to Wisconsin Dells from now until I graduate with a PhD from UW-Madison.

But luckily, Daniel is only four. And apparently, he doesn’t like rushing water tunnels that disappear into pitch blackness…especially if ‘Mommy’ went into it head-first screaming her lungs out. It feels good to know that I probably contributed to my son’s first traumatic experience.

And on that note, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good rest.

Book Review: "Air" by Geoff Ryman

So I’ve been attending a Wiscon book club ever since we moved to Madison. It’s nice–I’ve never been in a face-to-face book group before. They mostly read works that are connect with Wiscon, like Tiptree Award Winners, so this is also my first time being in a fantasy/sci-fi book group.

Air by Geoff Ryman was the first book I actually finished for the group, and I gotta say, it blew my mind. It’s the story of Chung Mae, a ‘fashion expert’ in the fictional Asian village of Karzistan, who learns about ‘Air’–a new version of the Internet that works through minds rather than computers. Being in a remote area, the village is unprepared when Air has its first test. Mae’s elderly neighbor, Mrs. Tung, dies as a result, and somehow her mind gets interlinked with Mae’s as she tries to make adjust to the strangeness in her own head. When the test ends, Mae is shaken, realizing that the advent of Air will mean death for the village–it’s culture, it’s way of life, even her own status. What use is a ‘fashion expert’ if everyone will be able to access fashion in their heads.

I loved Mae, scheming woman that she is. Being the only one of the village who is still connected to Air, instead of giving up or fighting against this new technology, Mae embraces it. She starts using computers (“TVs” is what they’re called in the book) and her connection to Air to expand her business. She gets other women in the village involved in making tribal clothes to sell outside of Asia. She takes it upon herself to teach the villagers how to use the Internet, so when Air finally comes, the village will be ready. And she does this with several strikes against her:

1) She is illiterate.
2) Mrs. Tung is still alive inside her.
3) She’s having an affair with Mrs. Tung’s widowed son.
4) She’s pregnant in the most inconceivable of ways.

It’s hard to tell if this book is science fiction, science fantasy, or third world soap opera. At one point, I got echoes of the Matrix when Mae started using Air to manipulate space around her. But I loved how Mae learn to use Air and the Internet to save her village, even though she knows that it will no longer be the village she’s known all her life.

It’s interesting to read Ryman’s take on how the Third World can be changed by technology. It’s reflected through the frightened schoolteacher, for instance, whose children would rather see ‘Bay Toh Ven’ on the TV rather than learn their numbers. And it’s reflected through the occasional manifestation of Mrs. Tung who emerges as benign wisdom or screaming harbinger of doom, unable to move forward into the future because she is stuck in the past. And that, ultimately, is what the book about. The future and the past colliding with each other.

The only bone I have to pick is the ending. Mae suddenly switches focus from the coming of Air to an upcoming flood she recognizes from Mrs. Tung’s memories that will happen again. I suppose it’s a physical metaphor for Air sweeping through the village (and the book has a field day with metaphors), but still, it takes away much of the focus from Air itself. And it takes the focus away from Mae’s pregnancy, which I found really bizarre and cool–do you know of an actual pregnancy that happens in someone’s stomach (and don’t you dare ask how that happened–read the book). When the birth actually does takes place, that, plus the second coming of Air, seems like an afterthought.

Which is a shame. This was a truly wonderful book to immerse oneself in.  This gets 3 talking dogs out of 5, and get the poor thing a steak. It really, really wants one.

Finally! A story out the door! Now I can get on with my life! (or at least ‘Willow’…)

Welcome back. Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Eat too much turkey? Ended up snoring in front of a televised…er…digitized football game?

Me? I just got back from visiting family. Seems there’s a little side effect in moving to Madison called “travel”. As in, we get to “travel” to visit family now. We “travel” two hours here, spend a night, then “travel” an hour there…

Actually, it’s really not that much different from when we lived in Chicago. We just get to listen to the mp3 player just a little bit longer, that’s all.

But I’m not here to talk about my Thanksgiving, which was pretty nice thank you. No, I’m here to say that I’M FINALLY FREAKING DONE WITH “SHE’S ALL LIGHT” AND IT’S OUT THE DOOOOOOOR!!!! WHOOOOOOOO!!!

I don’t usually make special posts for short stories, especially ones that I just sent out. But She’s All Light is a special case; this is a story that I spent an entire year on. Yeah, that’s right. A year. A whole year of my life tied up in this one story.

Most of the stories I’ve written would take about a month, maybe six months max, before I ship them out. But not this one. Oh no. I started working on this right around the time my hubby and I agonized over moving to Madison. It sustained me as we worried how we would sell our house, how we would pay our bills, right up to how I wondered how Daniel would fare no longer having a stay-at-home mom. All those nights spent alone when my hubby commuted to Madison, to me worrying my brains out, hoping he hadn’t crashed or fallen asleep at the wheel, all those days staring at all the rooms that needed to be painted, at the ripped out floors. Throughout house sale negotiations. Yuck.

It’s a miracle that I was able to get She’s All Light done. But “get ‘R done” I did. And right before we left for Thanksgiving travel to. That was a nice added bonus.

And if you’re dying to know what exactly the story is about–well, er, I can’t rightly tell you. At least not before giving it a chance to get published first. Of course, now that it’s finished and all, I’m feeling the writer’s remorse boiling up already. Darn! I should have put that line in that I took out! I probably forgot to spellcheck it one final time. Aw man, I just put all that work into it and it’s crap crap crap. I never should’ve mailed it off. Should’ve just dumped it in a drawer and let it rot. It’s crap, all my writing is crap, I’m such a crappy writer…

You ever notice that the Writer’s Remorse don’t know how to write well? After a while, it just starts repeating itself…

Well, now that She’s All Light is gone, that’s pretty much left a vacuum. Suddenly my afternoons are free again. Wow. What to do with all this free time. Hmmmm….

Oh, I know! Maybe, just maybe, I should work on…oh, I don’t know….Weeping of the Willows?!

Excuse the sarcasm in that last sentence. That’s the buried author in me poking. Seems she’s been muffled for far too long, though I haven’t been neglecting her that much. Actually, I’m halfway through my readthrough of the first draft of Willow, so I’m eager to bump up the schedule and try to get through the reading more quickly now that I don’t have endless revisions sitting in front of me. At the same time, however, I’m thinking my mind is in deep need of play. It’s been focusing too much on revisions for far too long. My mind needs to go out and play on the jungle gym a bit, do some swinging, run and play tag with some others. My mind needs some Happy Funtime Freewrites.

So, seeing that this is December and I probably won’t have much time to devote to serious work, I’m going to let my mind relax a bit. I still plan to put the bulk of my focus on finishing my readthrough of Willow, but I’ll also devote some time to let my creativity spill onto the keys and see what sticks. And, if you guys are lucky, maybe I’ll even offer some goodies at the Cafe.

It’s the least I can do for my customers who’ve stuck around for so long.