Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thursday's Children Blog Hop: Welcome To The Jungle

the drug addicts off jj signal

"The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo." 
-Desmond Morris

I would never live in the city.

The crowds. The thousand different smells -not all of them pleasant. The endless concrete. The buildings pressing in on every side would render the staunchest person claustrophobic. No, give me fresh air and greenery anytime.

How odd, then, that cities are what most inspire my writing.

All the aforementioned things fascinate me. I love picking faces out of the crowds, imagining what their lives are like. Trying to guess where that smell is coming from. Seeing the traces of green forcing their way through all that concrete, and the way the glass windows on the buildings mirror the color of the sky.

I'm always fascinated by the effect city-living has on people. There are some who are uniquely suited to it. Cool and collected, they glide over the crowds and industrial filth with scarcely a glance down.  

There are others who are less well-adapted. They rush through their day, always with a slightly harried look in their eye. They are slightly less impeccable, slightly less calm. But they make do nonetheless.

Others still are, at least on the surface, left behind altogether. These are the street people. The people nobody sees, except when they're trying to ignore an outstretched begging cup.  

But underneath the dingy clothes, calloused fingers and matted hair, these are the people who have their ears to the ground. Those calloused fingers take the pulse of the city. Catch one in just the right moment, and they can tell you stories you'd never have dreamed of.

Try though I might, I can't seem to stay away from the city. There's an edge, a veneer of civility that barely covers true human nature, that I find addictive. I want that edge in my writing. I want those people in my writing.

So I may not want to live in a city, but I visit whenever I can.  
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Sense Of Place: Feature #2

"Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance..." -Eudora Welty

Setting has always been important to me; first as a reader, now as a writer.  I love finding a place that inspires its own story.  Here's one of those places, and those stories...

He needed a smoke.

He stepped outside. The sudden sun turned his vision momentarily white. He put his back to the wall, blinked while he pulled the cigarette pack from his pocket.

He wished it was a flask. It was just that kind of day.

The alley was nice, as far as alleys went. Not too dark, not too much garbage. Shocks of green muscled through the cracks in the red brick buildings. Over the ancient, moldering roofs, tall glass structures almost the same blue as the sky raced towards the stratosphere.

He started to pace, not bothering to avoid the water collected in the dents and ruts in the pavement. Nicotine settled into his lungs, his brain, heavy and comforting. It was barely enough to distract him from how badly he didn't want to be here.

A pickup truck pulled into the opposite end of the alley. Two men hopped out. They moved easily, either unaware of his presence or unconcerned by it. One of them pulled a set of keys out of his pocket. He jogged down a set of steps and disappeared under one of the buildings.

When he returned, the keys were gone. The second man was waiting at the back of the truck. They reached in and hauled out what looked like a bundle of old laundry. Heavy laundry.

He was about to step forward and offer to help when the bundle jostled, and something slipped out from under one edge. Something slim. Something white. He pressed further back into the shadows.

It was a hand.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Getting Wet, Recipe #1: Whiskey, Neat

Tough people deserve tough drinks.

Whiskey, Neat
Because the best way to drink good whiskey is un-mucked-up by anything else.

Procure a glass (not to be confused with a "cup").

Pick your poison:
bourbon= oaky and smoky
rye= smooth and slow
scotch= salty, peaty, nutty, even mildly sweet (depending on where in Scotland it was made)

Or whatever else you prefer.

Pour whiskey.  Eyeball it or use the finger method (pour to 1 finger for a quick taste, 2 fingers to relax, 3 fingers or more if it's been a really bad day)


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thursday's Children Blog Hop: Mob Rule

"Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness.  The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines." -Paul Brunton

Many of you probably know by now I recently visited Seattle.  What you may not know is my visit there coincided with a riot.

Last year, the May Day Protests gained Seattle national attention.  Originally billed as a peaceful march supporting immigration reform and workers' rights, the situation deteriorated into one rife with violence and opportunistic vandalism.

This year, I was in Seattle on May Day.

My husband, son, and I were walking around downtown Seattle that morning.  Someone mentioned to us there was a protest planned for that afternoon, and we should clear out.  My husband and son took the Light Rail back to our hotel.

I pulled up the camera on my phone, staked out a spot on a high balcony overlooking everything, and waited.  The things we do for research.

From a writer's perspective, a riot is a fascinating thing to witness.  While I was not present for the actual riot itself (and there was one, though not as devastating as last year's), being there for the build-up and the aftermath provided some interesting insights.

1) Emotion is electric.  People often speak of being able to "feel" the tension in the air before something bad happens.  This is legit.  Everyone was fairly crackling with nervous energy, from the storeowners, to the police, to the people on the street.

There was also a faintly violent undertone that was both intriguing and telling.

2) Mobs feed on passion.  As was the case last year, this year's protests were supposed to be just that: protests.  Despite this, it's easy to understand how a protest can devolve into a riot.

After all, they both feed on the same key ingredient.

Protests depend on passion to be effective.  Riots depend on passion too.  And if you gather together a large group of people who feel strongly about something, it's shockingly easy for that passion to turn septic.

3) You can often tell who is who at a protest-turned-riot.  There are a lot of indicators who is there to protest peacefully, and who is there to wreak havoc.  Clustering into groups, deliberate boisterousness - or, conversely, cold isolationism- and overall attention-seeking behaviors are some.

How people look/present themselves is another.  This is an uncomfortable topic.  It smacks of profiling and prejudice.  But while it should never be the only consideration, it can provide some insight.

In the grand scheme of things, May Day 2013 was fairly benign.  Over almost as soon as it began.  I can't claim to know everything about mob rule because of it.  I had rejoined my family before the real craziness started.

Hell, I wasn't even teargassed.

But what I witnessed was pretty powerful stuff.  If you're a writer, you spend your life seeking to broaden your understanding of the human experience, if only so you can accurately translate it later.

Thanks to May Day, I understand one part just a little bit better.  

Photos I Took

(above) the square at Westlake Center before the first protest march

(above) the first march; already, you can see some people who look like they might be there for something else...

(above) aftermath of the second protest/riot; police blockade at the top of Capitol district

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Sense Of Place: Feature #1

"Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance..." -Eudora Welty

Setting has always been important to me; first as a reader, now as a writer.  I love finding a place that inspires its own story.  Here is one of those places, and those stories...

Some places are made for trysts.

It's dark. The air is heavy with the smell of garlic and barbecue, damp with the fog rolling in off the ocean. The parched grass is packed with chrome-plated motorcycles. Blues music and raucous laughter filter through the open doors of the surrounding bars.

A woman stands, her back against the wall. The heat of the day has soaked into the brick. Now it seeps into her bones, warms her from the inside-out. She lights a cigarette. Her silver-ringed fingers cup the flame protectively, even though there's no breeze.

She isn't surprised when the man steps out of the shadows. She wasn't waiting for him -or was she? This time of night, people do what they can to forget. He strides towards her with singular purpose, stops so close she can smell the fine leather of his battered jacket.

Neither speaks. The woman takes a final drag of nicotine-rich smoke, and grinds out the cigarette on the brick behind her.    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thursday's Children Blog Hop: View From The Wild Blue Yonder

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. -Saint Augustine

I missed you guys!

In case you were wondering where I'd gotten to, I just got back from a two-week family road trip.  My husband works super hard so I can write and take care of our son, and I haven't had a sabbatical since I started work on All That Glitters.  Almost two years ago.

Needless to say, it was high time we all took a break.

We drove from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area up to Seattle, Washington.  Stayed a week, visiting friends.  Drove back down to visit a friend in Eureka, California, then continued on down to San Diego.  We puttered around there for a week and reconnected with some more old friends.

In case you couldn't guess, we have friends pretty much everywhere.

In honor of our safe return, I thought I'd share some photos I took during our travels.  We had a grand time, and I even got some research in for future books.  Enjoy the photologue!

(above) View of the streets of Seattle from underground.  We took the official tour.  So cool!  The "skylights" are laid into the sidewalks.  I have visions of setting a future novel here.

(above) View of nighttime Seattle from a friend's rooftop. 

(above) Catching a late-night blues show in Eureka, California.  The harp player is a friend of ours.  I used to go to blues jams every week back when I lived in Redding; it felt good to reconnect with the scene!

(above) The Pacific Beach Pier, San Diego, California.  My husband and I used to walk here back when we were still dating.  It was fun reenacting that- even toting along a tired toddler who wouldn't stop screaming...

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