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Geeks and Sociopaths

 I recently watched the first season of Dexter on DVD. For those not familiar with the show, the main character is a blood spatter forensic expert with the Miami police, who is also a serial killer.  His father, a cop who was aware of his sinister proclivities, taught Dexter to only kill those who deserved it: i.e. murderers who had escaped justice.  The show is very well-written and acted and darkly funny.  One of the interesting things about Dexter is that, because he is a sociopath, he lacks both a conscience and the full range of human emotions and is always having to guess at what the proper responses are in social situations.

Oddly enough, I found myself relating to Dexter as I watched the show.  Not the need to inject people with animal tranquilizers and then carve them up with a chain saw, of course.  Really not my thing.  But the moments where Dexter is trying to guess at how to act in social situations.  I can relate.  I was a this geeky girl with glasses growing up and all the kids at school seemed to be speaking some strange language of "cool" that I never understood.  I'm all grown up now, but I still have my inner geek and she feels awkward and out of place sometimes.  Watching Dexter stumble through his interactions with people really hits home.

So now I'm relating to a sociopathic serial killer.  Should I be worried? Or should I just get Showtime before the second season starts? 


Madeleine L'Engle has died

I saw eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright,
And round beneath it time in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved in which the world
And all her train were hurled.
                    -Henry Vaughn (quoted in A Ring of Endless Light)

I was twelve when I first read that book, A Ring of Endless Light.  It made a deep impression upon me, in part because the protagonist, Vicky Austin is dealing with the death or potential death of people in her life.  My grandfather had just died when I read that book and I was struggling with the loss.  That book articulated a lot of the thoughts that had been swirling through my mind and introduced me to 17th century metaphysical poetry, which I still love to this day. It introduced me to the idea that one can face the reality of death and still enjoy and appreciate life.

Of course, A Wrinkle in Time is my all-time favorite of her works.  When I wasn't getting along with my parents, I used to imagine running off to roam the galaxy with  Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsis, not to mention Aunt Beast.  L'Engle evokes the battle between good and evil, between the darkness and the light in way that is accessible to younger readers and yet maintains an amazing spiritual depth.  I love her liberal take on Christianity.  I have never figured out why that book is banned so often.

Now, Ms. L'Engle has herself passed into that eternal light and I cannot help but pray that the Mrs. W's are there with her.

Farewell, Madeleine and happy travels.

In Praise of Harry Potter

I am an avid devotee of the Harry Potter books.  I have all the books, both in hardcover and paperback, I have the two related charity booklets R. K. Rowling published, one on "Fantastical Beasts" in the Potterverse and one on Quidditch.  I have the first four movies on DVD.

My deepest desire, (and the one I would probably see reflected in the Mirror of Erised) is to go to Hogwarts.  Oh yes, I know that, being in my 30's now and married to a Muggle, I am no longer in any position to attend.   If only my letter hadn't gotten lost when I was eleven!  I am convinced that the owl choked on the L.A. smoke and expired before he could reach my house.  Nothing to be done about it now, I suppose.

For adoring fans of the Potterverse, like myself, this month is tantamount to Mardi Gras.  First, the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released.  I saw it (the day it came out, of course) and loved it.  It is now my favorite Harry Potter film. I went back to see it again last Friday and will probably see it again a few times before it leaves the theaters.

Tonight, at midnight, I will be at my local bookstore with my husband to get my reserved copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I have done this for the last few Potter book releases and have always had a blast.  They put on a whole party every year. The fact that I am vastly outnumbered at these functions by children does not bother me.  During the party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I found myself engaged in an argument with two twelve year olds over name of the spell used to club the Troll over the head in the first book.  I won the argument, naturally, much to their chagrin, proving that they were the most pedestrian of Potter fans.  What hardcore Potter fan could forget Wingardium Leviosa?

I will be incommunicado all weekend, obsessively reading the last *sob* Harry Potter adventure.  May all other Potter fans be as excited as I am tonight!

Melissa Marr and Tags

 I drove down to San Diego with my husband for Melissa Marr's signing at Mysterious Galaxy.  I had a great time.  Melissa waxed on about writing, publishing, tattoos and piercings.  Then, after I came home, I discovered that Melissa had tagged me in a game with the following rules:

The rules:
* Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
* People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
* At the end of your blog, you need to choose (8) people to get tagged and list their names.
* Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, here goes:

1.  I am always obsessively timely.  I have been known to arrive a half hour early at appointments. I'm the first one to arrive at parties and wait around awkwardly for the other guests.

2.  I carry a book with me wherever I go.  I have a couple of books always in my car - one's a Harry Dresden novel and one's a Harry Potter book.  I also, usually carry a small paperback in my purse so that if I arrive early somewhere, due to #1, I will never be caught without something to read.

3.  I love cemeteries, the older, the better.  To me, they're just the most peaceful places on earth. When I'm in a cemetery, I am reminded that though death is inevitable, I need not fear it.

4.  Though i was raised Catholic, my father was Jewish and barely escaped the Nazi regime in Austria.  My grandmother wasn't so lucky- she died at a death camp near Minsk.

5.  I'm a terrible pack rat and have piles of clutter all over my apartment.  I also have at least 500 books scattered throughout said apartment.  Ever so often, my poor husband will get one of "those looks" on his face, and I will feel compelled to commence a flurry of cleaning, carving out open spaces that are inevitably overwhelmed with clutter again in a few weeks.

6. I have intensely vivid daydreams.  Quite often, I drift off into one wherever I am and become completely oblivious to my surroundings.  Many people find this disconcerting.

7.  My all-time favorite television shows are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel.    I also love Firefly and Serenity. I am a firm believer in the imaginative world of Joss Whedon.

8. As if I needed any more clutter, I also collect snow globes.  My favorite is one from the Cirque de Soleil show in Vegas called "O".  It has a figure on a white horse emerging from the water. Very surreal.

My taggees are as follows:


Let the tagging commence!

Ode to Ana

My best friend Ana died yesterday.  It was very sudden, probably an embolism.  I'm told there was no pain, but I wasn't there.  She was only 46 years old.  She leaves behind a 16-year-old son who has no other blood relatives.  

I spent yesterday evening calling people who knew her and giving them the news.  Everyone is in shock and most of them are breaking down and crying.  All I feel is empty and angry.

She was the best friend I have ever had in my life. We finished each other's sentences and had revealed all our deep, dark secrets to one another.  She was the one person in the world, other than my husband who always understood me and never judged me.  I cannot even begin to explain what our friendship has meant to me.

Ana was the finest kind.  She had suffered greatly in her life, but rose above the sadness and bitterness and gave compassion and kindness to everyone she knew.  We were both only children, so we adopted each other as sisters.  We even called each other "SIs."   I miss her so much all ready.  

Her son, Jeffrey, is going to need all the love he can get and I've already told him that he has mine.  He's feeling lost and overwhelmed.  So am I.

So, here's to the magnificent Ana Baca.  May she be at God's side even as we speak.


Death by Soda and The Magic Castle

Is it possible to keel over from drinking too much diet soda?  I'm putting that question to the test.  I have discovered these sumptuous flavored Diet Pepsi's. They're called "Jazz" and they come in three flavors: Strawberries & Cream,  Caramel Cream & Black Cherry-French Vanilla.  I have been drinking massive amounts of them (at least five cans so far today) and my enabling husband is feeding my habit by buying them by the carton.  I have three quickly diminishing twelve-packs in the fridge right now.  I keep thinking I'm going to dissolve into a puddle of bubbly flavored goo like the Wicked Witch of the West - oh wait - that was water, which is actually healthy.  Somebody, save me!

Last night my husband and I went to The Magic Castle.  For the uninitiated, The Magic Castle is an old Victorian mansion in Hollywood that's owned by the Academy of Magical Arts, a professional association for magicians.  To get in, you have to be either a member of the Academy or be invited by one.  It was through an invitation that we were able to go last night .  First, we entered the front lobby and confirmed our invitation.  Then I was told to turn towards an old bookshelf full of books and say "Open Sesame."  The book case opened to reveal the entrance to the castle.  It's an amazing place with, among other things, a "haunted" piano, apparently played by a ghost named Irma, a haunted  British-style phone booth, oil paintings in which the subjects of the paintings move their eyes to follow you as you pass, and an elegant Victorian style restaurant.  

There are also magic shows going on constantly.  We saw three shows while we were there and they were all great.  One was a show by a math professor  named who can multiple large figures in his head and come up with all sorts of fascinating patterns based on your date of birth.  Then we saw a classic carnival side-show, in which the participants did weird, occasionally disgusting and always painful things to each other's bodies. At the end of that one, they invited members of the audience to staple bills to their unclothed torsos.  They got to keep the money, of course.  Finally, we saw the "big" show which included performances from a comedian-magician who emceed, a guy who swallowed flames and a magnificent magician who did the best sleight of hand tricks I've ever seen.   All in all, it was a wonderful evening.  


Urban Faeries

I have just finished Melissa Marr's eagerly anticipated new novel Wicked Lovely and am entranced.  The prose style is almost impossibly elegant for a young adult novel.  I wish we had YA books like this when I was a teenager.  Actually, I don't think of it as a YA novel - though it's being marketed that way.  For me, it's just wonderful fantasy literature, pure and simple.  I don't want to give away any spoilers - so I'll just be vague and say that the depiction of the faeries and their victims are depicted with mixture of beauty and tragedy  with a side helping of terror.  It reminds me of those classic faerie tales that are especially haunting, where every action has unexpected consequences and good intentions are no guarantee that things will turn out well.  Charles de Lint has good taste (read the July issue of F&SF magazine)!

Actually, there are a lot of interesting literary takes on faerie lore out there, notably, Holly Black's work.  Her books Tithe, Valiant and Ironside, like Wicked Lovely, take a somewhat sinister view of the faerie world, which fits in nicely with their depictions of angst-ridden adolescense.  I know my adolescence was pretty angsty - so I can relate to these characters very well. The best fantasy, I think, uses the supernatural as a metaphor for the real life issues. I think both Marr's and Black's writing does this well.

Then there is the adult urban fantasy take on faeries: Marc Del Franco's Unshapely Things (also has a Druid detective and a dwarf mafia - hee, hee), Rob Thurman's Nightlife (up there with Valiant  re: scariest scenes invloving trolls in NYC) and Moonshine,  Elaine Cunningham's Shadows in the Darkness and Shadows in the Starlight and, to name an old classic, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks.  All these novels have new and intriguing takes on faerie lore (okay, Cunningham writes about elves - but still)  that have influenced me greatly in my own writing.

The heroine of my novel, which will probably turn out to be YA because of her age is half faeire.  Her mother is a faerie and her father is a Sorcerer and she lives in present day Los Angeles.  Of course, that presents all sort of possibilities. (Dark chuckle).  I hope that by the time I'm finished with it, everyone isn't tired of faeires and urban fantasy!!!!  Slight hyperventilation.  Okay ... calming down.

Lovable Protagonists

I'm immersed in writing my YA fantasy novel and I'm totally loving my protagonist.  She's much like I was at that age - shy, unpopular, morbidly witty, lousy home life. Except she can do magic.  Hee hee. I'm writing a chapter in which she accidentally stops time.  I used to dream I had powers like that.

There are actually many wonderful novels in which the protagonist is not likable at all.  The narrator of Vladimir's Nabokov's Lolita, for example, is a pedophile. Yet, it's one of my favorite novels, containing moments of breathtaking lyrical beauty and devastating irony.  There are some protagonists that other people like, but who leave me cold.  Many people love Anita Blake from Laurell K. Hamilton's novels.  I really enjoyed the earlier Anita Blake novels, but I've never warmed up to Anita herself.  I love kick-ass heroines from Buffy to Rachel Morgan to Thorn St. Croix, but what I love about those characters is how they go through hell and fight back, yet still have a touching vulnerability.  I don't get that from Anita Blake, although I acknowledge that Laurell K. Hamilton is an excellent writer.

There is no law that says that protagonists or narrators have to sympathetic, and sometimes unsympathetic narrators tell a fascinating story.  But I find myself glad that my heroine is, indeed, to me at least, likable and sympathetic.  She starts off the novel as an unhappy, neglected teenager, goes through hell and back  and manages to pick herself up again and even prevail.  That's the kind of story I've always loved to read and, indeed, mirrors my own life rather closely.  So it's no surprise that I'm writing that story.

In my own personal fantasy's I am the storyteller of the neglected, picked on, and abused children of the world.  But, then, I have delusions of grandeur.

Oh, well, back to the writing!


Cats & Birds, Predator & Prey

This morning, I was awakened by the most God awful screeching.  I hoped it was outside, but no such luck.  The inhuman screeching was coming from inside my bedroom.

Now, in my dreams, I am Buffy, I am Thorn St. Croix, I am Rachel Morgan, perhaps even Anita Blake with a much less confusing sex life.  In REAL LIFE, however, I gently shake my husband.  "Honey, there's something in the bedroom."  My husband, has heard the God awful screeching, but has been trying to ignore it.  Good luck.  You may as well try to ignore a car alarm going off in your bedroom.  My Noble Husband gets up, turns the light on, and I see my adorable cat, Sparky, "playing" with a terrified little bird.   That a noise so deafening can come from a bird so tiny must be one of God's little jokes.  Maybe it's compensation for his size.

Hubby halfheartedly stares at cat.  "Take it outside." he says.  No reaction.  He makes a move to pick up the bird, when Sparky grabs it in his mouth and makes a run for it.  Hubby shrugs at me. What is he supposed to do.? Deciding that I am a can-do fantasy heroine, after all, I chase Sparky and finally corner him in the living room.  I grab the bird and take it outside and place it in a tree.  Sparky may still  get to it, but I don't think so.  He's not much of a tree-climber, for which I am deeply grateful. Sparky roams around after that, looking under chairs to discover where the birdie is.  Sorry, Sparky.

I'm not really a believer in reincarnation (too many years of Catholic school), but I think that a particularly creative punishment for really bad sinners would be to come back as a bird who is caught and killed by a cat.  Just imagine - the freedom of flight suddenly and cruelly torn away from you by a fluffy orange fur-ball.  Here's hoping George W. Bush comes back as a sparrow.

The Pull of Fantasy

I love fantasy novels - especially dark or urban fantasy.  I guess I just get way too much reality in my real life.  I mean, I'm a pension analyst, for God's sake.  My day at work consists of putting together pension plan documents, reviewing calculations and figures and making sure we stay on the right side of federal government.  Not that I don't like my job - actually I do. After I get out of work, though, don't give me anything to read that is too close to my daily routine.  

I've loved fantasy since I was a kid.  I started out on the usual - C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Madelaine L'Engle, Piers Anthony's Xanth books, Lewis Carroll, George Macdonald (anyone who hasn't read The Princess and the Goblins and The Princess and Curdie is really missing out).  Later, I graduated to Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. LeGuin, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Charles deLint, Kurt Vonnegut.  

Not surprisingly, I write fantasy as well.  I am currently working on a fantasy novel that is definitely in the YA realm due to the heroine's age.  However, the plot is going to get pretty dark. Oh well, YA fiction has been getting pretty edgy, so I won't worry about that yet.

Oh, well, back to the grindstone!