Archive for novels

Clarice Lispector…writer of beauty…

Posted in Celestial Objects, Writers with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2014 by Mj Rains


Clarice Lispector, 1922-1977, was a Brazilian writer, described as the most important Jewish writer since Franz Kafka. She wrote novels and short stories and was also a part-time beauty columnist with a penchant for Chanel suits. Originally born in what is now the Ukraine, her family fled the Russian civil war and emigrated to Brazil. She studied law and eventually married a Brazilian diplomat.

Her novels include Near to the Wild Heart and The Passion According to G.H.

Writer’s Depression – And Why I Can’t Finish a Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2011 by Mj Rains

I believe that I’m in some sort of systemic, overly-analytic, cataclysmic, slightly narcissistic writer’s depression…I don’t know why I cannot finish a novel-length story. It’s not like I haven’t done it before. I have two poorly written, in deep need of revision, 50,000 word or so novels sitting in my computer and in print, but for the past year or so I just can’t get a novel going…or keep it going. The ideas are there, the characters, well, they pop up and seem intriguing enough, but my well goes dry about half way through. True for revision work on those two first drafts too.

For a while I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I’m getting an idea now. My inner writer’s guide, Angelina (the opposite of my inner writing critic, Demonella) is telling me that I’m in a writer’s funk of sorts, a simple unambitious rut in which I have to hit reverse, then hit the gas and go forward again and bounce myself of it. Like what you’d do with a stuck car. And this can only be done one way – by writing, by practicing writing, writing down everything – story related or not – and doing it every day. It can only be cured this way, doing the deed, no matter it we feel like doing it or not.

So, let me be clear (as I’m writing this and watching a lame local Santa Parade on TV) that Angelina and Demonella are well known to all us writers, even if they are nameless, and they are very much present every time we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Every single time.  Like now, as I write this blog, Demonella is telling me “No one is interesting in why you can’t finish a novel, this little article’s a waste of a nice Saturday morning, and people are just going to think you’re nuts and hit “like” because they feel sorry for you. Or not “like” you at all.” At the same time, Angelina (she’s so beautiful) is telling me that there are a bunch of you out there in this blog-world we love, friends who visit often, and new ones who will stop in, who will find this interesting, who understand completely, and who will be glad to read about someone else going through the same thing…and besides doesn’t it feel really cool to unleash your writing mind dilemma, aka. writer’s depression on your blog? Oh, and you’re not crazy, people won’t think that, they’ll find me and Demonella humorous and clever and they will laugh and think you’re a brilliant witty writer. (Angelina’s the best huh?)

That said (thanks for staying with me if you’re still reading this!) : Why can’t I finish a novel?  Or, why, if I have one or two finished, can’t I re-write one for publication?

I don’t believe it’s doubt, or lack of ambition. I want to write, feel like I need to write. I’ve analyzed why I quit half-way through, why my enthusiasm at the start, the writing frenzy, 2,000 words or more a day, me telling myself “You got a best seller here, baby!”…why it all just fizzles out…sometimes in the course of a few days, sometimes so abruptly as waking up in the morning. Writer’s depression in action.

Part of it I’m finding may be the writing process itself. I tend to write a detailed synopsis, outline, tie-in details, over define theme (as all my numerous writing books and magazines which I love to read and read and read tell me to do, which may also be a writer’s depression side-effect, doing more reading about how to write than actually writing), to the point that I know my story so well that it no longer surprises me, it no longer intrigues me, and the writing shows it. So, I leave it. Shelf it. Again.

I think that novel writing may be too long a process for me. The novel of any suitable length is a daunting experience to write. It is a test of a writer’s dedication to his story and I tremendously admire the ones that do it, and do it well. Some do it and suck, but, at least they do it. But that brings me to another problem of sorts, to November Novel Writing Month, which I support, but yet I wonder. It’s premise is to just get you to write, to make it a habit, to set a goal of so many words a day, to write anything, doesn’t matter, as long as you write and end up with 50,000 words of…Of crap?….But, I don’t want to write crap, which is why I dropped my NaMoWriMo excursion this year after a week.  It wasn’t working. Writer’s depression in action again?

So, what is this writer to do?

My juvenile need for quicker satisfaction (perhaps it’s not writer’s depression but writer’s ADD!) has led me to believe that I may not be cut out now, at this moment, to be a writer of novels. It has led me to the relevant and prodigious literary achievements of the beloved short story form. I love and have written over 40 short stories, short short ones, medium shorts, and 10,000 word longer short stories. Here’s a story form I think I can get into more, write one in less than a week, pat myself on the back, have tea with Angelina and give Demonella a swift kick in the ass, and get to my goal without that half-way ship abandonment.  There’s a sense of relief I feel, knowing I almost see the end of the story, that I’ll be there soon with literary grace and with time to spare. If this is writer’s ADD, oh well, it just may be what I have.

Okay, Demonella is telling screaming at me : You need a novel to get published, stupid! Short stories won’t do it.  I guess I can’t argue much with that. I’ve read plenty of times you need a novel under your belt before you can publish a book of short stories, but for now, for me, to conquer this writer’s depression and my writer’s ADD, it seems the right answer. Who know, maybe work in this writer’s process will lead me back to the novel enthusiasm again.

Fellow writers out there: What do you do to beat your own writer’s depression? Anyone sympathize with my dilemma? How do you handle your own Demonella and his or her trash talk?

Thanks for reading.

Click images above for artists’ links.

poor, dear, dear Madam Mina – tell us exactly what happened…

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by Mj Rains

“And now, Madam Mina – poor, dear, dear Madam Mina – tell us exactly what happened. God knows that I do not want that you be pained; but it is need that we know all. For now more than ever has all work to be done quick and sharp, and in deadly earnest. The day is close to us that must end all, if it may so be; and now is the chance that we may live and learn.”

The poor dear lady shivered, and I could see the tension of her nerves as she clasped her husband closer to her and bent her dead lower and lower still on his breast. The she raised her head proudly, and held out one hand to Van Helsing, who took it in his, and after stooping and kissing it reverently, held it fast. The other hand was locked in that of her husband, who held his other arm thrown round her protectingly. After a pause in which she was evidently ordering her thoughts, she began: –

“I took the sleeping draught which you had so kindly given me, but for a long time it did not act. I seemed to become more wakeful, and myriads of horrible fancied began to crowd in upon my mind – all of them connnected with death, and vampires; with blood, and pain, and trouble.” Her husband involuntarily groaned as she turned to him and said lovingly: “Do not fret, dear. You must be brave and strong, and help me through the horrible task. If you only knew what an effort it is to me to tell this fearful thing at all, you would understand how much I need your help. Well, I saw I must try to help the medicine to its work with my will, if it was to do me any good, so I resolutely set myself to sleep.  Sure enough sleep must soon have come to me, for I remember no more. Jonathan coming in had not waked me, for he lay by my side when next I remember.  There was in the room the same thin white mist that I had before noticed. But I forget now if you know of this; you will find it in my diary which I shall show you later.  I felt the same vague terror which had come to me before, and the same sense of some presence.  I turned to wake Jonathan, but found that he slept so soundly that it seemed as if it was he who had taken the sleeping draught and not I. I tried, but I could not wake him.  This caused me a great fear, and I looked around terrified.  Then indeed my heart sank within me:  beside the bed, as if he had stepped out of the mist – or rather as if the mist had turned into his figure, for it had entirely disappeared – stood a tall, thin man, all in black.  I knew him at once from the descriptions of the others.  The waxen face; the high aquiline nose, on which the light fell in a thin white line; the parted red lips, with the sharp white teeth showing between; and the red eyes that I had seemed to see in the sunset on the windows of St. Mary’s Church in Whitby.  I knew, too, the red scar on his forehead where Jonathan had struck him. For an instant my heart stood still, and I would have screamed out, only that I was paralysed.  In the pause he spoke in a sort of keen, cutting whisper, pointing as he spoke to Jonathan: –

” ‘Silence!  If you make a sound I shall take him and dash his brains out before your very eyes.’  I was appalled and was too bewildered to do or say anything.  With a mocking smile, he placed one hand upon my shoulder and , holding me tight, bared my throat with the other, saying as he did so: ‘First, a little refreshment to reward my exertions. You may as well be quiet; it is not the first time, or the second, that your veins have appeased my thirst!’  I was bewildered, and, strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him.  I suppose it is a part of the horrible curse that this happens when his touch is on his victim.  And oh, my God, my God, pity me! He placed his reeking lips upon my throat!”  Her husband groaned again. She clasped his hand harder, and looked at him pityingly, as if he were the injured one, and went on: –

“I felt my strength fading away, and I was in a half swoon. How long this horrible thing lasted I know not; but it seemed that a long time must have passed before he took his foul, awful, sneering mouth away. I saw it drip with the fresh blood!”

~from Dracula by Bram Stoker

With all the vampire books out now a days I thought I’d share a piece of the literary original vampire tale, one of the best of all time! Thanks for reading…and do let me know what vampire literature you happen to love…

Image is of Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman for the movie Bran Stoker’s Dracula.


Summer Reading…

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2011 by Mj Rains

Finished reading 13 Reasons Why last week. It was an awesome teen read, but left me a bit confused. I guess I didn’t quite “feel” the anxiety of this suicidal girl, but could certainly understand the circumstances of her situation…how she felt lost, with no one to turn to…but then, she could have made a lot of other choices, for instance a scene in a hot tub (need I say more), a place she clearly did not want to be, yet goes there willingly and …I won’t give away the story, but bad choices lead to bad feelings and emotional scars. All in all, the story was well written. Loved the unique format of Hannah’s voice on tapes, and the thoughts of the main character mingled together. It was different and hard to put down. Good work by Jay Asher.

A movie is already in the works I’ve heard, with Selena Gomez starring. I can’t see her as the Hannah character, so if this is the case, I think I’ll skip the movie version. Some books are best left alone…

We the Living…

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by Mj Rains

The quest for something interesting and different to read came about this weekend in the prodigious form of Ayn Rand’s revolutionary book We The Living. Rand is better known for her book, The Fountainhead, but I found this one at the library and thought I’d give it a try.  Every review I’ve read defines the book as a great depressing bore, with hardly a reviewer finishing it…but so far in my endeavor to read I’ve found it fascinating. Her literary style and use of imagery is wondrous, with dialogue that may be dated (written in 1936!) yet relevant.  Plus, I really think this woman was of great intelligence as a writer and philosopher and many of her views can be applied to our state of living today.

We the Living portrays the impact of the Russian Revolution on three human beings who tried to shape their own destinies: Kira, who wanted to be a builder, and the two men who loved her – Leo, an aristocrat, and Andrei, a Communist.  Kira demanded the right to live her own life. But she was living in a totalitarian state.” – from the book cover.

Ayn Rand calls this book as close to an autobiography that she’ll ever write. She experienced the Russian Revolution herself as a young woman, and though the main character Kira, is loosely based on Ayn herself, in her ideas and thoughts, her convictions, and her values, the family situation and other parts of the story are fictional. The accounts of the hard times that the Communist regime pinned on the Russian people are explained with depth and sympathy. Ayn’s dilemma in her own life was that she didn’t wish to conform, she wished to be a writer. (The character Kira wished to build things, like bridges, a metaphor itself it seems.)

Here’s an excerpt from the Foreward to We the Living written by Ayn Rand after rereading her first novel for its second publication twenty-three years later….

“Too many writers declare that they never succeed in expressing fully what they wished to express and that their work is only some sort of approximation. It is a viewpoint for which I have never had any sympathy and which I consider excusable only when it is voiced by beginners, since no one is born with any kind of “talent’ and, therefore, every skill has to be acquired.  Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made.  It was mainly in regard to We The Living, my first novel (and, progressively less, in regard to my work preceding The Fountainhead), that I had felt that my means were inadequate to my purpose and that I had not said what I wanted to say as well as I wished.  Now, I am startled to discover how well I did say it.”

I love that she says: Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made.

Got to love a writer with her cat! Image at left is Ayn Rand with Thunderbird.

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