My dreams, of late, feature voices that deliver snippets of verse or wisdom.
In one recent dream, I heard, “All the theres are here.”
In another, I heard, “I’m here. I remember. Tell me other things that matter.”
All Free, A Few More Days
All my books are free in digital formats during the Smashwords summer sale, which continues until the end of July. Click the link to get to my profile page on Smashwords; from there you can see all my books. Quite a few of them by now! I don’t write a lot every day but I keep writing and it adds up over time.
The sale started July 1. I knew there was something I forgot to tell you…
Patience and Photo Cubes
The last couple months, I’ve been working on an oddball project that is proving quite time-consuming. I’m maybe half done, and already I could have written another novella in the hours I’ve spent on this. Sue’s folly?
It turns out that there are different kinds of patience, just as there are different kinds of intelligence. For example, I am quite happy to clock countless hours using Adobe Illustrator to mangle innocent bits of text. However, when I confront what will probably cost mere minutes to solve a print/sizing glitch, I stall out.
And it’s all for the love of photo cubes. Sue’s folly.
You’ve probably seen a photo cube. It sits on a desk with a picture on each face. Typically it lives in a cubicle. It’s a cheap plastic thing and yet. It’s awesome in a special way.
For a while now I’ve been preoccupied, pondering the possibilities of photo cubes. I used one to make a 3D collage of beach tar photos. Not an easy cube to like, apparently. Not many of us did:
Yet my fascination with the cubes persists. Once upon a recent beach walk, I realized that I could put a poem on a cube, 1 verse on each of the 6 sides. I further realized that Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky would be great for this. (True, it has 7 verses. But the 7th matches the 1st.)
I next realized that I could combine my loves of typography and Adobe Illustrator: I could mess with text to decorate the cubed poem. I would not presume to attempt illustration, as John Tenniel’s originals are among the greatest illustrations ever. Here is his Jabberwock (tinted by Fritz Kredel) from the 1946 Random House edition of Through the Looking Glass:
Armed with my realizations, I got to work. First I took the cube template from my beach tar cube and made that a background layer:
When I print something designed within this template, I can cut-then-fold the paper to create a cube… Hmm. Does such basic paper folding qualify as origami?
Early on, I had to decide rotations – how each verse would flow into the next on the cube:
That turned out to be the only engineering aspect that I enjoyed.
I’ve had tons of fun with the decorating – with interpreting Carroll’s special words and pondering the details of this fantastic unique poem. I’m astonished at how many hours I’ve happily spent, taking unsuspecting text (mostly in the Didot font) and doing strange distorted things to it. I typically try and scrap 10 effects, for every 1 that I keep. Here is a snapshot of the current draft of the 1st verse:
On every cube side I’ve still got many tweaks to make. Relocating, resizing. For example, I need to rearrange this text, because the bloody bbs need to end at burbled (No wonder I love this project. Where else would I utter that phrase?):
I really like how I portrayed the death of the monster. Oh. Spoiler alert. The Jabberwock gets chopped by a blade. Here’s a snapshot of the death scene:
I don’t usually discuss my work in progress, but in this case I’m going public in hopes of nudging myself to the finish line. Part of me wants to give up and set this cube aside – it feels, I dunno, frivolous. Not what I should be doing. Whatever the hell that is…
(I’m a writer, so I should be writing, right? Okay, I am writing. I’m working on the final book in my speculative detective series, FRAMES. I’d also like to be writing something that deeply resonates in Our Situation. But when it comes to our pandemic. Woah. Dude. is as far as I’m getting.)
I’m frustrated by some of the things that aren’t going well in my Jabbercube project. For example, the printed, cut, and folded draft cube has some faces that are a titch too wide. The paper cube buckles when I slide it into the plastic cube. This didn’t happen with the tar project. I thought I’d done everything the same. Sigh. I hate that kind of fussy refinement stuff.
Also, early in the project I knew I was making effects that were too subtle to show up on a 3.5 inch cube. I opted to keep going, to find designs that worked best, and think about format later. But now it’s time. I need to smallify some of the existing decorations so they will play well on the cube. But I don’t want to scrap any of the existing decorations. Which means I’ll need to expand those and move them into a larger format like a poster or booklet.
So! How about that! The one enormous project has split into two branches!
For both branches, I still need to come up with the right, overall design element. Something that sets off each cube face, something that says “Hi, I am a cube face” (or “Yo, I am a page”). I’ve tried/discarded several elements already. No clue how long until I hit upon one that I like. Now, this is a kind of experimenting that I do enjoy. But. I’m starting to hear a clock tick when I sit down to work on this. I don’t have a deadline but I’ve got so many other projects I want to start!
Admittedly, part of my impatience to be done comes from a fantasy that I had, when the world went into lockdown and many of my favorite musicians began performing music at #livefromhome. This hashtag gave an open invitation for anybody to share what they’ve done while stuck at home. I love that idea! Nobody wants to hear me sing or play an instrument. However, I listen to #livefromhome music while I work on this cube. So I imagined that I would share the cube. But the rate things are going, the lockdown will come and go and I’ll still be cubing.
(I assume I don’t need to add: of course I want the lockdown to end!)
OK, maybe it’s time to go move some bloody bbs.
(I wrote this in response to Discover Prompt Day 21: Instrument.)
1000 Reading Hoarders?
Discovered this cool milestone today at Smashwords, an ebook distributor in the midst of their gi-normous summer giveaway. My ebooks have 1,000 “purchases” via Smashwords.
Now, most of these purchases have been free in giveaways. And people tend to hoard ebooks, unopened, after such sales. But at least a few have read my books. They post reviews; during future sales, they acquire later volumes in series; they bookmark me as an author they want to find again.
Nowadays I don’t care much about getting customers for my books but I most definitely want readers. Through the month of July, you can download any/all of my books from my page at Smashwords, in any/all ebook formats.
10 lords a-leaping, 1,000 readers hoarding…
The Lyrics That Mattered Most
I keep meeting folks who are writing their memoirs. Guess it’s something about getting Up There, years-wise. Writing a memoir never interested me — until I thought to write my life story using only the song lyrics that most profoundly affected me. The result is Self, Sampled.
This was lots of fun to do, and taught me stuff about myself in the process. I recommend the exercise! I’ll understand if you don’t make it far through this memoir, though. The impact of a lyric is such a personal matter.
A few take-aways:
+ damn am I white;
+ lyrics really really matter to me…
+ … and yet, some of my favorite musicians never wrote or sang lyrics that snagged me like these;
+ I bet I would have turned out different if I hadn’t listened to so much Leonard Cohen during my formative years.
Maybe I’ll make a Spotify playlist of my memoir.
Dear Miss Diciuccio
Dear Miss Diciuccio,
I hope you don’t mind that I’m still using your maiden name. I don’t know who I’m talking to, otherwise.
You were my high school English teacher and I’ve long long long meant to tell you that you changed my life, forever and for the better.
One of our ongoing assignments was to keep a journal. We turned them in, you read them, and for me it was all awkward. The writing, the sharing. However, it soon became clear that you meant it when you said we could write anything. That freedom was a novelty. I could write Whatever, without judgment or consequences.
I was surprised when I saw your margin note in my journal. This is good. I’d been writing Whatever – venting about something. I re-read the paragraph. I didn’t think it was good, but that note taught me so much: Writing could get me praise. Writing could connect me with someone else.
People had always told me I was a writer, but this was the moment when I felt it. It’s taken me decades to feel it again. In between, I’ve done a lot of writing, published my writing, and taken long writing hiatuses. I’ve grappled with big issues, including my needs for praise and connection. Through it all, I kept seeing your margin note.
I’ve also wanted to thank your friend and compadre, Estelle Tucker, who left us way too soon. She transmitted so much confidence and respect. In her class we debated current events and discussed Dylan records. She was always cool and she helped me see that art must change to stay alive. She had us read Hamlet then attend a big city performance of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. (Which was new, back then. She would have taken us to Improvised Shakespeare Company if they’d been around.) My hands-down favorite high school moment was the day I was in a deep funk and she ignored the rules to let me skip her English class and hang out in the library. Maybe it’s time to re-read her favorite novel, Madame Bovary. I was too young to appreciate it, back in the day.
Ours was a nondescript suburban school named for an administrative functionary yet Marion A. Peterson High School had many exceptional teachers. A couple more shout-outs to:
Mr. Kim. You divided our journalism class into four groups and had us report on the Vietnam War based strictly on the writing in a single news magazine. Our four reports sounded like four different wars. This was a profound lesson in slant and bias that forever changed how I hear the news, any news.
Mr. Parsons. I was a hippie and you were, well, I thought you were a fascist but maybe you were mildly right wing. When you teased me about politics you showed me that people of opposing views could get along. And that chemistry quiz that I failed. I never forgot your lesson about staying open to what we don’t know. The quiz required us to balance a chemical equation. But – it didn’t balance. I somehow forced it to fit what I had learned. Fail. Only one guy in the class got the right answer, which involved saying “the result includes a new and unknown particle with the following properties…”
Thank you all for shaping my thinking and choices. I’ve tried teaching and I found it difficult, tedious, exhausting. I don’t know how you did it, frankly, but I’m grateful you did.
Vote Your Cartoon Style
I’m experimenting with cartooning. Of the three versions below, which image and caption do you prefer?
Vast Quantities of Free Ebooks
Thousands of free and reduced-price ebooks now on Smashwords in the end-of year sale.
The free loot includes all of my novels.
Oops. Pardon my mug.
If obliviousness were a respected skill, by now someone would have awarded me an honorary doctorate in it.
Walking along the hallway of the home where I’ve lived for a decade. Stop in surprise. “Hey, how long has that wall sconce been there?”
I’ve spent most of my life living almost exclusively inside my head, so I am proud of my recent accomplishments. Nowadays, each day I experience the outside world, for many minutes at a time. (The minutes are not consecutive. But still.)
Several decades ago, a friend gave me a mug for Christmas. It was covered in cat drawings. (Drawings of cats, not by cats.) I was surprised, because that friend was not known for kitschy or cutesy. I glanced at one frolicking cat on the mug, forced a smile, thanked my friend, set it aside.
The mug sat in a cupboard for ages, until I came to appreciate the camp value of having a cat mug. I began to drink my public coffee in that mug. I carried the mug with me around offices, into meetings, probably even as a volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. It turned out to be a hell of a sturdy mug. All those years, all those trips out in the world, hardly a chip to be seen.
Only very recently, washing the mug, I realized.
Those cats aren’t frolicking. They’re having an orgy.
I can’t tell you how many people noticed. My obliviousness extended to other people’s reactions to my dirty cat mug.