Friday, December 30, 2005

Meet Xenia Ruiz: Rising Christian Latina Author

I dropped by Xenia Ruiz's blog for the first time today, and now I suggest y'all scoot on over and pay her a visit. Xenia's got a wonderful blog voice--feminine, strong, opinionated, smart, sassy, with a touch of humor, and very, very Latina.

While she and I'd bump heads on some political issues, no doubt--I am not a Bush-basher (voted for him twice), don't believe he's a racist, do think many white politicos care about non-whites (I'm married to a white fella and he cares very much about non-whites, especially me, my family, and our two African sponsored children)--we'd have lots of common ground.

Yep. We would.

I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in the South Bronx, have a great fondness for P.R. food and music, and think P.R. is one of the loveliest islands on God's earth. (Not prettier than Cuba, ahem, but ya know, I'm biased.) Shoot, I learned En Mi Viejo San Juan in grade school for a school pageant before I'd learned the words to the Cuban national anthem! Haven't been to Borinquen in decades, mind you, but my SIL is Boricua (mmmm...home made alcapurrias and pasteles) and I'd love to go back and walk the streets sipping agua de coco straight out of a fat, green coconut or a big glass of chilled mavi (one of the absolute best natural drinks ever created, better than root beer or birch beer or sarsaparilla or mate); dance on the beach to some vintage Gran Combo; and sip a cafe or gobble up a tembleque in some lovely spot in Viejo San Juan.

(If you're lost, see glossary below.)

I found the excerpt of her debut novel intriguing, and the cover rocks! I just shopping-carted the book over at amazon.com. The title is CHOOSE ME, and it's published by Walk Worthy Press, the folks who also publish Angela Benson.

Her blog goes by the name of AfroLatina Debut Author and is described by Xenia as a "journal documenting a Year-In-The-Life of a new author AFTER the book deal: including waiting, promotion, publicity, book release, book tour, and sales of my debut novel, CHOOSE ME (June 20, 2005)."

Don't know about you, but that's a journey that sounds totally fascinating to me. I want to follow along and see how it goes for her. Maybe you do, too.





"En Mi Viejo San Juan"= "In My Old San Juan"
agua de coco = coconut water
cafe= coffee, usually the espresso type Latins favor served in a demitasse (or a thimbleful in a tiny paper or plastic cup)
Borinquen=alternate term referring to the island of Puerto Rico
alcapurrias and pasteles= two different types of edibles, both filled with meat (one ground beef, the other usually pork), the first one ball-like and fried, the other rectangular and flat and wrapped in a plantain leaf then some wax paper and string (like a present!), then boiled to hot yumminess that's perfect with ketchup or hot sauce (or both)
Boricua=a person of Puerto Rican ethnicity
mavi=a drink made from the bark of the mavi tree
tembleque=a coconut-flavored dessert that's akin to custard
Gran Combo= a superb salsa band whose name literally means "The Great Group"

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Mir-of-a-Kind Interview with Marilynn "M-NOG" Griffith

MIR: Welcome to Mirathon, Marilyn (alias M-NOG). I am honored to be part of the MADE OF HONOR blog tour. Let's get the strangest question out of the way, so you can relax before the next mildly less weird question is posed.

Ever hear of the Rock Bottom Remainders--an amateur rock group made up a rotating line-up of famous authors such as Amy Tan, Dave Barry, and Stephen King? They perform regularly at the Miami Book Fair. If you had a Christian author gospel group called MAIDS OF MADE, which characters from your novel would be in the group, what would be the title of their signature song, and what would they wear to performances?

MG: Wow, what a question! Let's see. The MAIDS OF MADE would consist of Dana Rose, my main character, her back-stabbing sister Dahlia, and her friends Rochelle, Tracey and Austin. Their signature song would be Shackles by Mary Mary and they'd be wearing all the old bridesmaid dresses from the back of Dana's closet.

MIR: Tell all the lovely people--all twelve of them--who visit my blog with semi-regularity, why they should run to the store and buy MADE OF HONOR come January?

MG: Run, do not walk, to your nearest bookseller to buy MADE OF HONOR, because it's a funny, honest story about learning to love friends, family and even yourself when things go less than perfect. Not to mention that the book is full of great smells--candles, soaps, lotions and all the good stuff. Just the type of thing for a relaxing evening. It's fun, but it's serious too.

MIR: You're a writer of Christian fiction, and this novel is Christian Chick Lit. What is the spiritual truth your book carries thematically? (Hey, I asked a real, serious, normal, writerly question. How'd that happen?)

MG: MADE OF HONOR is about seeing what you're really made of and knowing that God loves you anyway. This book is about a woman discovering that everyone, including herself, isn't quite what she thought, and realizing that God still loves them all. Dana knows how to love, but she has to learn how to let her self be loved...both by God and the other people in her life.

MIR: Someone comes to you at a booksigning and says, "What blurb could I put on a t-shirt that would capture the feel and tone and plot of your novel?" How would you respond to this kindly lunatic before you ran to hide in the loo?

MG: MADE OF HONOR--Girlfriends, God and all the Giggles in between!
Of course there's some Godiva and tissues between the giggles, but that's the gist of it.

MIR: If I were a published author, my typical reader would fit this demographic: Over thirty, intelligent, a lover of Christ, who thinks all those Biblical plagues were ubercool, and we really should have more of them wiping out bad guys these days. My future-reader can't get enough of the books of Revelation and Hebrews and is a lover of British wit and absurd humor. She has really bad eyesight from reading too much in dim rooms, nurtures broody thoughts on rainy days and, occasionally, on sunny days as well, and will belt out a Sarah MacLachlan ballad if mildly provoked during melancholic phases. (Wait, I think that's me, not my reader.) And finally, she dreams of being a superheroine with cool leather outfits, saving the day with perfect hair while not gaining excess weight, ever.

Please describe your typical reader as you imagine her?

MG: Wow, I like this person! And I think she'll love my books too. My reader knows how to worship God and how to have fun too. She's the woman at the Bible study who can spill punch in her lap and turn it into a parable. She loves a good sale and cute shoes and wishes she had a better metabolism. She's big hearted, passionate, intelligent and could use a good nap.

MIR: How many hours will I need to set aside to read MADE OF HONOR and will I have to wear an ugly lemon-yellow dress while I do it?

MG: You can skip the dress, but if you do it, send me a picture for my blog! The book is 288 pages, so it's not too long. I can't really estimate time, since everyone reads differently (some savor, some devour), but so far, I've had one person stay up all night to finish it, so I guess it can be done.

MIR: If I had to describe my novel in three words, it would be: melancholic, romantic, and mystical. Describe MADE OF HONOR in three words that are much cooler than mine.

MG: You're pretty cool, Mir so that's hard to do. If I had to describe MADE OF HONOR in three words I'd have to go with: dramatic, intimate, funny.

MIR: You know how you sometimes hear on Christian radio the comparison phrase that goes like this, "If you like the secular band, Metallica, then you'll love this new album by the Christian group, Wrathling." (I made that name up, btw.)

Okay, so, what book would get compared to yours as an "if you like X by Jane YandZ,then you'll love MADE OF HONOR by Marilynn Griffith?"

MG: Oh man, a book compared to mine? I can only hope no one would be done this disservice. LOL Let's do this, I'll tell you some books that are serious fun to me, okay? Lisa Samson's TIGER LILLIE, Lisa Tucker's THE SONG READER, Jeanne Ray's EAT CAKE, Siri Mitchell's KISSING ADRIEN, Neta Jackson's YADA YADA PRAYER GROUP, and Tiffany Warren's WHAT A SISTA SHOULD DO.

MIR: And, since I brought it up, who would you compare to MADE OF HONOR, musically speaking?

MG: If you like Superchick, Margaret Becker, Mary Mary, Crystal Lewis, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, Nicole Mullen or Fred Hammond, you might enjoy MADE OF HONOR. (You might enjoy it regardless of who you listen to. :)

MIR: What is the one, all-encompassing, totally-vindicated secret of good writing that you made sure to employ in writing MADE OF HONOR?

MG: Secret? I don't know any. When you discover one let me know! LOL
I just fell in love with the characters and tried to fall deeper in love with Jesus. Somewhere along the way, we got a book.

MIR: Who are your three favorite writers, and will you be sending them free, autographed copies of MADE OF HONOR?

MG: Well, many of those folks are dead and probably wouldn't have been interested, but there are many writers who I respect who endorsed the book like Sharon Ewell Foster, Lisa Samson and Kristin Billerbeck.

MIR: That's an impressive list of endorsers. I've bought/read books by all of them! I'm jealous. Okay, next question. Are you afraid that answering my quirky questions will pretty much scare off your potential readers?

MG: Nah. If they hang around here, they don't scare easy. :) And if they've read my blog or actually met me, well... it doesn't get any scarier than that. LOL

MIR: Well, that's all I've got for you, M-NOG. Thanks oodles for visiting me here at Mirathon.

MG: Thanks for having me!

Note from Mir: Please see post immediately below for an excerpt from this soon-to-be-released novel. There's also a handy link below (in same post) in case you wish to purchase via amazon.com.

MADE OF HONOR: An Appetizing Portion For You to Snack On

I promised an excerpt, and here it is:

CHAPTER ONE


I'm turning into a Chia pet.

With legs.

Little children are starting to toss dandelions when they see me. The brides of Leverhill, Illinois have taught the kiddies well. One little darling from church, a cutie with zigzag parts and snaggle teeth, wants to grow up and take my job--big flower girl.

The little girl nailed it, especially about the big part, but we're not going there. Not today, with my formerly fat best friend looking like Twiggy goes bridal, while I gasp for breath in a dress fit for a train wreck. My only consolation is not having to worry about Tracey aiming a floral missile (known to some as a bouquet) at my head later on.

She wouldn't do me like that, would she?

Nah.

At least that's what I tell myself, but then I thought this wedding wouldn't happen either. Still, this bride is one of my closest friends and my roommate for the past three years. Tracey Cox, well, Tracey Blackman now, has picked enough baby's breath out of my teeth to know better.

Just in case though, a pint of Chunky Monkey and a pedicure appointment await me after this reception. Who knows? Tracey just might snap and throw long. Marriage does things to people. One day they're normal and the next they're inviting total strangers to wear ugly dresses in their weddings and then after the ceremony, said brides proceed to cut off all communication with members of the wedding party except for goofy Christmas photos of the newlyweds cradling an ugly dog, signed "from all of us." And don't let them actually get pregnant. Have you ever seen an entire album of birth photos? Not cute.

Do I sound bitter?

I'm not. I have friends. Sistahs even. And trying to keep up with them, keep my job and stay right with God occupies most of my time. Like now. I need to find Rochelle, my other best friend (yes, I have two) and founder of the Sassy Sistahood email list. If I don't catch up to her soon, she might make a fool of herself.

Or me.


Mir here: If you enjoyed that, you can find a longer excerpt at the author's blog, RHYTHMS OF GRACE.

Or better yet, buy the book.

Monday, December 26, 2005

What The Mir Looks Like, Just Add Five Years and Shake Gently

I hate to take pictures. I didn't even allow a photographer to record my wedding. All I have of that blessed, beautiful, wonderful event are snapshots my brother Fred and BIL Skipper took. My camera-phobia is a pain in the tuchis, but there ya go. We can't be perfect.

But, so you know who your friendly neighborhood Mir-blogger is, here is a pic I happen to have on my computer, only because it was taken by a dear online pal that I met on AOL in 1996. Five years ago, she and her handsome Texan hubby came to Miami with a digital camera in hand. We had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in Coral Gables. The following picture (I had ointment on my eyes for some dermatitis, eek) resulted:

Mir circa 2000  Posted by Picasa

God made me smart, not cute. And I have no idea what being thin feels like. Maybe someday I'll catch a temporary, non-lethal, not-too-horrible wasting disease and find out.

Stop laughing.

THE SASSY SISTAHOOD IS A-COMING!

Hey, do you go for Women's Fiction ? More specifically, do you like Chick Lit? And can you get into a story with a spiritual dimension? More specifically, a Christian dimension?

(If you have to ask what Women's Fiction or Chick Lit is, then, well, you probably don't already read it and need to go google yourself up some answers, one of which will be BEACHES and another will be BRIDGET JONES' DIARY. If you don't know what a Christian novel is like, well, you need to google "Christian Fiction" or just drop me a comment and I'll be happy to recommend something.)

Did you just say to yourself something like this: "Why yes, I do like fiction, and especially humorous fiction, like Chick Lit, and boy, do I love Jesus!"

Great. You'll want to stay tuned to this site for the next couple of days. I'll be posting a Mir-of-a-kind interview with Marilynn Griffith--M-Nog to me, but that's another story, and no, you can't call her that. I got dibs.

Marilynn's the author of MADE OF HONOR, a spanking new work of Christian Chick Lit published by Steeple Hill Cafe, one of the lines of the popular inspirational imprint of the Harlequin empire.



So, here's the plan:

1. Post an excerpt
2. Post the interview
3. Post my review
4. If all goes well, you go buy the book, as do a bunch of other people, who thereby make Marilynn so rich that I can hit her up for a pricey Mac.

(Yes, I'm kidding. But don't think I'm not fantasizing about big, beautiful, powerful, shiny, unsmudged computers dancing into my life. Who needs sugarplums when there are Macs to be had?)

It's exciting for M-Nog. Imagine how thrilled you'd be with your very own first novel-baby. So come by and wish her well and cheer her on. And, well, cheer me up, too, with happy comments about what a dazzling interviewer I am. Lie if you must.

Just don't tell the SASSY SISTAHOOD on me.

They'll make me wear pepto-bismol pink.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Meaning of Christmas...in God's Own Words (and a few of mine)

I could say a whole lot about this oh-so-thrilling holiday, the one that makes kids go wild the world over. But first, I'll let The Lord Himself speak on the matter, since He knows better than I what's what:

Luke 2:1-14
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them,

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”


And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”


And why did all this happen, Mir asks, rhetorically?


Galatians 4:4-6
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

~Yes, as the lovely modern Christmas song says to Mary, "Did you know...when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?" That's a stunning thought. That boggles my mind. But God does that--boggle, astound, overwhelm, awe.

So, remember, as you feast and sing and watch seasonal reruns and give thanks with those you love, that what we're celebrating is a true miracle, a work of wonder, and the most humble act in all of history--God becoming man, Creator becoming the created, the possessor of all becoming the possessor of nothing, the Almighty One becoming powerless.

For us.

Frankly, I'm not worth a drop of his sweat or a single second of him wearing coarse diapers. But I'm glad He thinks we are worth it. AMEN!

"Love came down...such a long time ago..."

MERRY CHRISTMAS and GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Merry Christmas to The Mir: First Place in THE SWORD REVIEW fiction contest

Well...I opened my e-mailbox and found some delightful news in there. I won THE SWORD REVIEW's first fiction contest. Oh, yeah. Makes a gal feel good to hear this:

"Voices From the Void" ...tells a story of intergalactic travel that is more about journeys to find self-understanding than reaching a destination. Why do we do what we do? The judges agreed across the board that this entry was tops!

You better believe that's got me grinning!

My story will appear in the January issue of this fun-to-read e-zine. I encourage you to visit THE SWORD REVIEW and browse. If you love SFF with a spiritual content, you should check out their columns or hang out in the forum with other Christian SFF enthusiasts. If you write Christian SFF, why not submit your poetry or fiction for consideration?

Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gift-Giving Suggestion, Part Dos

Okay, I hope y'all read my rant on Christmas, commercialism, greed, and innappropriate consumption, and how Christ should get the gifts (ie. helping the "least of these" in his name). If you haven't read my rant, head to November archives and do so. Waiting...

Right. That's done.

Now, a couple of simplish, home-made, tasty, inexpensive gifts you can make yourself and give to some--or all!--on your list. Neither will break your budget, and both will say, "I made these for you cause I care. Merry Christmas!"

My pals Terri and Lisa now explain, in their own words, how to prepare these delicious giveaways:

Terri’s Microwave Peanut Brittle

One cup sugar
One cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda

Grease and set aside a cookie sheet or pizza pan.

In a microwave bowl, preferably with a handle, combine sugar, peanuts, Karo and salt.

Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.
Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.
Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.
Cook 2 minutes on high, then stir.

Add margarine and vanilla, stir well.
Cook 1 minute on high.
Add baking soda, stir well.

Immediately pour out onto greased pan and shake to distribute and thin the brittle. Allow to cool completely before breaking into manageable pieces.

Store in an airtight container.

A few notes about this recipe:

Success depends on adjusting according to your microwave wattage. If your microwave is 1000 watts or less, you might try combining the last two 2 minute cookings into one so that the heat can build up sufficiently. Here are some estimates for varying microwave wattages:

The wattage thing is roughly as such:
for 900 watt ovens--cook twice for four minutes each on high, stirring thoroughly between cookings
for 1000 watt ovens--as written above
for 1100 watt ovens--You may have to actually decrease the cooking time to 4 periods of 1 minute 30 to 45 seconds each.

It’s a dance of sorts to get the brittle hot enough without burning it. My microwave is 1100 watts, so I have to cook for two minutes and stir in between or it burns. Other people cook for longer periods at lower settings, such as 90%. You may have to try a time or two to get it just right.

The other thing to remember is that this mixture is extremely hot and difficult to manipulate when you pour it out. A cooking bowl with a handle is just perfect. I use a large Pyrex batter bowl with a handle for better control. And work quickly. It sets up almost immediately.

Brittle is best made on clear, sunny days. Days of extremely high humidity are not the best for making brittle as it may be chewy.

Don’t be intimidated by the above. This is really a good recipe and I’ve only messed it up a time or two in 10 years.

Enjoy!


Lisa's Dipped Pretzels

Lisa says, "They look like you killed yourself, but they're pretty easy. We've done a variety of different pretzel shapes, but the big stick ones presented in a cup or small vase - or tied in a bundles with raffia -- have the most wow."

1. Buy good quality chocolate
(I prefer dark -- but milk or white works fine - chips are easiest or chop up the block first)

2. Dump it into a deepish bowl.

3. Microwave at high one minute at a time, stirring until just melted.

4. Dip each pretzel one-half to three quarters in - using a spoon to help cover as needed.

5. Then sprinkle on non-pareils
(I do this in a cake pan to catch the leftovers.)

It helps it use either wax paper or, best, the release non-stick foil to set them on. Let set at room temperature. Depending on a variety of factors, this can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours.

Then tie them up nicely and drop them into something pretty according to your own artistic preferences.

Merry Gift-Making and Gift-Giving!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

MARKED: The Briefest Gospel Gets The Comic Book Treatment...and it PETRAS!

Okay, so you got my little joke. Petra. Rock. "It rocks!"

I can be lame as anybody else.

Fortunately for me ('cause I paid for it) and for you ('cause you should run to buy it and glowingly review it) Steve Ross's fresh take on the shortest gospel is not a disappointment. I only just read it and I want to read it again. (No, really. That's not just hype. I do.)

I heard about it on Chris Well's nifty blog--a site not-too-coincidentally linked on my sidebar, to your left there, as "Chris Well's Nifty Blog," because it's his and his name is Chris Well and it's nifty and it's a blog. (Say those last sixteen words in squeaky falsetto a la the Python sketch about the dinosaur theory that featured Cleese in pinched-faced drag.)

With my newly revived interest in well-done comic books--er, graphic novels--I had to rush to amazon.com and get MARKED, which sounded like something I should sample. (Yes, I know. I'm a book junkie. I've learned to accept it and move on with my life with tomes in hand.)

It arrived yesterday. I read it today.

It's terrific.

MARKED is clever. It's got attitude. It's got gentle moments of compassion. It's got strong visuals that mix a bag of emotions together and toss them at you. It's got humor. It captures the essence of what the evangelist wrote: a very active Son of God, a very troubled world, imperfect followers, even more imperfect antagonists, wisdom, courage, mercy, grace, death, and victory over death.

I recommend it.

I dare you not to laugh at mad-eyed John the Baptizer and the running headlines that cover the main events of that prophet's activities--even as you'll be horrified (rightly so) by the front page spread of his demise and its timeliness given some of our recent front page news. I dare you not to be thrilled at some really fine creative moments, such as the Gadarene's encounter with the Christ or the incident of transfiguration on the mount. I dare you not to feel ferklempt over the incident of Christ's meeting with the leper. I dare you not to holler, "Cool!" every few pages. And do tell me if you've seen the resurrection handled anywhere quite like this, ever. I haven't. I had to actually stop and ...STOP. No, really, I had one of those blank moments of, "What?" And I had to think. I like when creative folk make me stop and think. I like when creative folk stir things up. Steve Ross achieves this with MARKED.

The Mir's thumb is way up.

(As opposed to the thumb of the Jesus on the cover of MARKED, whose thumb is actually pointing to his right, my left, and a bit down. Well, it's a good cover. Go see.)

Note: You can also play, "Find the famous person" with this. Can you find a great black leader? Can you find the is-he-dead-or-isn't-he rocker? Anyone else?

I have no idea how to do that book-cover-icon-link thingie to amazon (or anyplace else), so just click on whatever links to MARKED I have around this post if you wanna read other reviews or just, ya know, buy it. :)

And since I've already mentioned Chris Well's Nifty Blog (thrice), I wanted to mention he's got an interview with R.K. Mortensen, author of LANDON SNOW & THE AUCTOR'S RIDDLE posted there. If you like Christian fantasy fiction of the YA variety, you may want to drop by, read the interview, and see if the book is up your literary alley. Or your kid's. Or your niece's or nephew's.

And if there's anyone of any age in your family who can read pretty well and needs to see the gospel presented innovatively, or if there's anyone in your circle who loves comics, or anyone who fits both those "if there's", give him or her or them MARKED.

It's the holiday season. Books make kicking gifts.

But you knew that, because you read my FIFTEEN COMMENTS ON BOOKS below, right?

Books petra!

MIR UPDATE: TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH--I have figured out how to do that icon/amazon thingie. Voila:

Friday, December 09, 2005

THE RAVISHING REPETITION, THE EXQUISITE ECHO, & THE PULCHRITUDINOUS PARALLEL

WARNING: If you hate poetry, this post is of no use to you, except maybe to awaken your deadened and decaying soul, you barbaric zombie of the anti-aesthetic wastelands, you!

WELCOME: If you love poetry, sit by me, you illuminated being, and I'll let you peek into my shining heart.

I decided this past week to dive into one of my favorite poetry anthologies--A BOOK OF LUMINOUS THINGS, edited by Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz. Within its gentle pages lives a poem I like very much indeed and revisit with regularity. I like it for reasons I cannot clearly explain with Roman numerals and lettered subheadings or with bullets, asterisks, and footnotes. But I'll try: It makes me feel good. It puts me into a sort of semi-dreamy mood. It is lovely to read aloud. It has a profundity hidden in its simplicity. How'd I do?

Having no clear concept of what's fair use, I'll only quote a small bit, which will be insufficient and leave you bereft, really:

In the middle of the road there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
there was a stone
in the middle of the road there was a stone.


If you laughed, I am giving you the evil eye.

(NOTE: For those who revile the use of "there was," this is a magnificent usage of this construction. See my previous post on this usage issue for more.)

It's called, fittingly enough, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, and it was written by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. The complete poem may be found here.

Now, please take a moment to read it aloud.

Isn't there something that is greater than the parts there? Oh, and wait until you read the last stanza. You either get it or you don't. And if you do, you are a kindred spirit of mine.

Another poet (poetess?) I am drawn to--although I have misplaced my volume of her selected poetry--is Edith Sodergran. In her poem, WHAT IS TOMORROW?--which you can find in the terrific anthology LOVE POEMS BY WOMEN, edited by Wendy Mulford--she uses repetition oh-so-beautifully. Here is a snippet:

I shall leave you with a certainty like no other:
I shall come back as a fragment of your own pain.
I shall come to you from another sky with a new resolve.
I shall come to you from another star with the same look.
I shall come to you with my old longing in new features.


Those lines make me shudder. They make me want to write better than it's possible for me to write. They make me want to bow, to genuflect, to cross myself, as if I were in the presence of a holy thing. Does it do anything to you? Read it again. Imagine yourself with that force of conviction, that anger, that passion. Now, are you tingling?

I am.

The Bible has beautiful elements of repetition--think of the Lord's supper, the first chapter of John, the Psalms. (The more technical term is parallelism.) Have you read Psalm 29 lately? Let's take a look:

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones.
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name.
(verses 1-2a)

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
(verse 4-5)

Look for the use of repetition in the narrative books as well--such as in the creation story--and enjoy it, feel the power and loveliness of it, rather than thinking, "Well, why are they saying this again in the same way?"

Some writers use repetition in their stories--purposely. I think it's a silly bugaboo when some critiquer says, "Well, you used the word 'good' too often in this section." (Hemingway did, too, I might add.) I think the important questions are these:

~1. Is the repetition accidental, a result of lazy writing or hasty proofing or a limited vocabulary?

or

~2. Is the repetition a purposeful use of sound and meaning to enhance the voice of a narrator or give the story a certain air?

I'm a fan of skillful use of repetition. But you noticed that already.

And so, there's that stone, in the middle of the road, yes, in the middle of the road, that stone.

Friday, December 02, 2005

FIFTEEN COMMENTS ON BOOKS as requested by Mrs. Camy "Story Sensei" Tang

Comment on books #1: G.K. Chesterton said, "fiction is a necessity." This statement sums up a good portion of who I am. I exist, in part, to read. Another part exists to consume enchiladas and chocolate mousse and lasagna. Yet another part exists to gaze worshipfully upon my husband and bestow smooches upon his rosy cheeks. The best part exists to love God. But, oh, a good third of me--more some years, depends--exists to read stories. I have a sneaking suspicion heaven will be full of amazing storytellers telling amazing stories.

Comment on books #2: Books feel good. I like holding books. I shudder with pleasure over beautiful fonts, quality non-glossy paper, and well-designed covers. I will sometimes buy a book simply for the beauty of the binding and the artwork, and may never even read it, content with the pure physical pleasure of the object called "book." My husband is very good about not making jolly fun of me for this.

Comment on books #3: I like to sleep with books under, over, and around me.

Comment on books #3: "In the beginning was the word." The word is also omega. All that exists, other than God, began with words and ends with the Word, and is sustained by words from the Word. That tells me that books, the holders of words, are more important than many of us realize, and the importance defies technology and time. And maybe, when I take pleasure in a story, God is right there, reading along with me, taking pleasure, too, because, after all, he's the Master Storyteller and World-builder.

Comment on books #4: I really, really like that books are so flexible, so fluid, that they perfectly adapt themselves to my pace. They are as fast as I am fast, and as slow as I am slow, and sometimes, we both take a nap. Amazing, isn't it?

Comment on books#5: My favorite romance novel is THE SHADOW AND THE STAR by Laura Kinsale. My favorite Christian romance novel is REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers.

Comment on books #6: My favorite science fiction book is DUNE by Frank Herbert (with MORE THAN HUMAN by Ted Sturgeon close behind and DANGEROUS VISIONS edited by Harlan Ellison trailing Teddy S.) My favorite Christian science-fiction story is FIREBIRD by Kathy Tyers.

Comment on books #7: My favorite fantasy book is too difficult to choose, because fantasy delights me and is my favorite genre. Try a Tanith Lee novel of Flat Earth, or a Jane Yolen, or a Robin McKinley, or a Patricia McKillip, or vist Middle Earth, or pick up one of Datlow and Windling's anthologies of grown-up fairy tales, or read the SANDMAN stories by Neil Gaiman, or get to know McCaffrey's dragons, or Ursula K. LeGuin's wizards, or Aslan. The pickings are too beguiling to narrow it down to one.

Comment on books #8: My favorite religious novel is FATHER ELIJAH by Michael D. O'Brien.

Comment on books #9: I think I would like to be buried in a crypt piled high with books, and me somewhere deep within the lovely clutter, a copy of the book of Psalms lying over my eyes.

Comment on books #10: The best book in the whole universe is The Bible, which is really a collection of pretty impressive books, which cover the span of time from zero to endgame and even touch the hem of eternity, which is an amazing bit of scope, and which was written by God himself. It's kind of hard to ignore a book written by God, but people do, which says more about how dumb people are, than about how good a writer God is, dontcha think?

Comment on books #11:
There once was a reader named Mir
Who found being bookless her fear,
So she filled up her purse,
Her car trunk and, worse,
All her bathrooms with tomes old and dear.

Comment on books #12: A room without books is a space that is in danger of falling into the void.

Comment on books #13: There is a name for people like me who love books and reading: bibliophile. It is composed of the Greek words for book (biblion) and love (philos). I like this word, but not as much as I like books, cause I love books, which is why I'm a bibliophile. So, is a person who hates books a bibliophobe?

Comment on books #13: I've heard that the word book comes from the Old English word bok, which stands for beech, and that beech bark was used as paper. I haven't verified this. Feel free to research the matter.

Comment on books #14: Have you ever had a fantasy of being a great scholar who time-travels to ancient Alexandria to peruse the literary treasures of the Great Library, all those priceless books consigned to flames by the conquering Caliph?

Oh, you haven't? Never mind.

Comments on books #15: Once upon a time, there was a perky, sweet, and very cute writer-damsel named Camy, who knew an equally darling writer-damsel named Dineen, who, in tag team fashion, conspired to provoke an obscure, but occasionally fetching and interesting blogger-princess, one not famed for humility, mind you, by name of Mir, to post fifteen comments on her blog on the subject of books.

Princess Mir, who lived in a cluttered and dusty kingdom ruled by herself and Prince Charles (the hunky one with engineering prowess in Miami, not the smug twit in London), pondered this demand for, oh, eleven seconds tops, and decided, "Why not?"

With tools in hand, Princess Mir was able to build up a great heap of comments without undue stress or perspiration, and even was reputed to have slain two dragons in between comments #2 and #3, causing the whole of the kingdom to rejoice, and enacting the fourth clause of the thousandth-and-one decree, that states unequivocably and irrevocably that there shall be a bonus comment #3 created as part of any dragon-slaying celebration. (No, really, the decree sayeth so.)

While writing comment #12, Princess Mir talked the great and toothsome prince with the sleepy eyes into putting himself to bed. The sheer beauty of the prince so delighted Princess Mir, that she added an extra comment #13 to mark the joyful Moment of Beholding.

Ultimately, in the dark, wee hours of night, when fifteen comments are prone to expanding into seventeen, came a sudden moment of great wisdom. Princess Mir realized that there was truly only one comment that was needed to be said on the subject of books, one remark that loomed above all comments as truth unvarnished. So, Princess Mir, glowing with illumination, decided to conclude her list with the comment that should have sufficed from the start, and for all time to come:


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Books rule! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~