Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Barking Mad

A very dear internet crony, who has been feeding my ego by reading my books ;-) came up with the phrase "barking mad" to describe one of my characters, who is indeed slightly batty. A crank. Just at the moment, that's a bit how I feel.

I live next door to a Catholic church. Regardless of what we are all supposed to think about Catholicism (namely, that God Loves Them Too and that we should Pray That We May One Day All Be One, etc.), the fact remains that after Vatican II, they became horribly Protestant in their entire tone and structure. Their substance remains Catholic (and therefore, by Orthodox understanding, flawed), but the form has radically changed.

This particular church is about typical of most Catholic parishes I've seen in action: lots of emphasis on Peace and Justice Issues, lots of Programs, and lots of congregational singing of mostly Protestant hymns. Now, some Protestant hymns are gems--I'm thinking in particular of the hymns written during the Reformation, and those by the great J. S. Bach--but post-Bach, there came to be a movement known as the Quietist Movement, or maybe it was the Pietist Movement. Anyway, those marvellous old Reformation hymns were all transformed into 4/4 meter and rhythm, referred to by one Orthodox musician as the Plod of God, and so help me, he was right.

This place next door has an electronic carillon, and they play a lot of Plod-of-God hymns. Most of the year, I have to put up with, "Immac-u-LATE Mary, THY praises we-he sing," which gets old when you hear it twice a day, every day. At Paschaltide, however, they change the record, so now I listen to a variety of Plod-of-God hymns. This evening's was "The Church's One Foundation is Jesus Christ, Her Lord," which at least doesn't repeat the same dratted thing over and over.

My particular pet peeve, though, is, "Jesus Christ is risen today." As in, "A-a-a-a-ahhh-lay-hay-loo-hoo-ya." You know the one:
"Are try-umph-ant ho-ly- day-hay, a-a-a-a-ahhh-lay-hay-loo-hoo-ya."

In sheer defense of my own sanity, I have had to compose my own lyrics:
"Cheerless on the path we've trod, a-a-a-a-ahhh-lay-hay-loo-hoo-ya,
Marching to the Plod of God, a-a-a-a-a-a-lay-hay-loo-hoo-ya!"

Please, PLEASE, somebody tell me you have heard a version of this hymn that actually SOUNDS triumphant and glorious?!?!? Otherwise, I shall shortly join my (very peripheral) character in the Barking Mad category. Thank you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Into the Dark

I noted, a few posts back, that I had returned to writing, and that this latest book in a series was dark. It just got darker, in ways I had not anticipated.

I began the series by wanting to write just one book, a simple romance about an American cop and a Russian cop. (I should note that I have a lot of cops in my family -- as the joke goes around here, there are more cops in our family than some of the local forces have cops.) And then I got curious about their life in Happy-Ever-After-Land, and wrote a second book that had some dark elements, but conquered them all. And there it ended, for fifteen years, while I focused on becoming Orthodox, not just by chrismation, but in mind and heart, as well.

Smack in the middle of Great Lent, the third book in the series presented itself almost fully written -- at least fully outlined, in terms of what happened to this young family after Trouble descended on it -- and I have been churning that out, consistently writing at least one-third of a chapter every day. When it started, I just wanted to bring "people" (namely, me!) up to date on how things resolved in their lives, and bring them to the next level of Life After Police Work. There would be a lot of stuff about interrogation -- not making it too ugly, since it seems that even the KGB has caught on to the idea that police work is a profession -- and setting the stage for the head of my little household to decide that Police Work Is for the Young, i.e., retirement therefrom and entry into the next level of his life. That's all.

And then, looking for quotes about treason -- I like to start my chapters with quotes -- I found a good one by Aldrich Ames, the American who fed the KGB an enormous amount of intelligence about its people who were spying for the US. And, to my shock, I realized that I was writing about real people without having been aware that that's what I was doing. There really was a KGB general who spied for the US. There really was a list of names to be conveyed from one "side" to the other -- admittedly, in my story the names were to be conveyed from the KGB to the FBI, and not, as in actual fact, the other way around, but still.

And I found that my youthful and idealistic KGB officer was physically revolted by his father's treason. In other words, this tale is going far beyond any place I had ever intended to take it, and has begun to explore the human toll of treason, the people it affects far beyond the actual players in the international chess game known as espionage.

Where is this coming from?! When I started, I knew who Aldrich Ames was, and that was all. I never read any aspect of his story; beyond a mild "Oh, for crying out loud," I wasn't even especially affected by his arrest. Now....

Well, as I wrote in the initial post about my latest literary effort, your characters take you over and make you tell their story. All you are, is a chronicler. The KGB officer Sergei Makarov doesn't exist, I don't think, though there is a hockey player by that name (and evidently a darned good hockey player, too). His vivacious American wife doesn't exist, either -- well, she does, because she's patterned after my sister Anne, but my sister Anne is married to a very solid son of New Hampshire, and besides, she's Polish. But somehow, people who don't exist have a story to tell, and they intend to see it told, and they are co-opting other lives in order to tell it. And that story is about...betrayal. Treason. And a love that overcomes the darkest corners of the human heart.

I just wish I understood why I'm the one telling it.

The Lit Nerd

Cribbed from Elizabeth's blog. Disappointing that this code apparently doesn't show how you scored on other types of Nerddom, because the actual test did: I scored about 80% as a Music Nerd, maybe 60% Drama Nerd, 50% Artistic Nerd, 30% Gamer/Computer Nerd (probably because I spend upwards of six hours a day online!), 20% Science/Math Nerd, 10% Social Nerd, and 0% Anime Nerd (what is anime, anyway????). Ah, well, back to "litting." ;-)

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and its eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.


Drama Nerd

Artistic Nerd

Gamer/Computer Nerd

Science/Math Nerd

Social Nerd

Anime Nerd

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace