Penetrating the Heart of Darkness

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is The Book You Didn’t Want to Read and Ended Up Loving. 

This was kind of difficult for me to answer, because most of the books that spring to mind when I cast back and try to recall which I didn’t want to read are the ones I ended up hating. If I ended up loving them, I kind of forget that initial pain. Like childbirth.

But I finally settled on HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad, which I had to read for AP English senior year of high school. The edition above is the one I read – and still have. I know a lot of you hate it, but come on over to find out why it was pivotal for me. 

 

Signing at RWA and Thoughts on the Aurora Deaths

Sorry – it’s not a pretty picture. And I suspect I don’t really have “fans” out there who will be looking for me in the wild chaos that is the RWA Literacy Signing. BUT, if you are out there and and want to plan ahead – you can find me at table 105, right by the cashiers. See? I put a little red smiley on it.

I leave on an early, early flight tomorrow morning and will be at #RWA12 all week. I’ll try to post pics, but you regular readers know how well I do at that. Best bet is to look for posts on Twitter.com (@jeffekennedy) or Facebook – Author.Jeffe.Kennedy lets you see stuff without being my friend. To see posts on Jeffe.Kennedy, I’m pretty sure you have to be a friend. But who understands how Facebook works anymore?

On to less frivolous topics…

I debated all weekend whether to say anything about the theater shootings in Aurora last Friday morning. I’m not sure I have anything substantive to add and it annoys me when people turn a tragedy like that into being about them. I don’t want to be all “look at me.”

But I feel like I want to say something.

I grew up in Aurora. My mom bought a house there in 1972, just before my sixth birthday, and she owns it still. When we moved in, the address was Denver, but the City of Denver ceded a section to the City of Aurora, as part of the redistribution of taxes in the rapidly growing metro area. These days you can’t really discern that you’ve driven from Denver to Aurora. Like many big cities, the metropolitan area of Denver incorporates many smaller cities and towns.

Which is why I always just say I’m from Denver. My mom was born and raised in Denver proper, and that feels no different to me than my own growing up. But my high school boyfriend and first love, Kev, who comments on here from time to time, often gives me grief for saying “Denver” instead of “Aurora.” For him I suspect it’s a loyalty thing. For me, it’s a “no one has ever heard of Aurora” thing.

Until now.

Once we saw the news Friday morning, the internet network fired up. I figured Kev wouldn’t have been at that showing, because he’s not big on midnight showings, since he works early in the morning. And what were the odds, really? Finally, I texted him and, to my relief, he was fine. Then he said that he, his wife and son had gone to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises – but at a different theater.

So close.

We all sent Facebook messages among my old gang of geeky friends who love things like Batman premiers and, amazingly enough, it seemed no one we were connected to had been there. Of course, our little burb has grown considerably over the years.

Yesterday, I looked at the list of the dead that the police finally released and found myself weeping over it. I didn’t recognize a single name. And I was grateful for that. It’s a strange place to be – thankful that the people you love aren’t the ones who died.

When I see those videos of the lionesses carving out a hapless gazelle from the herd while the others dash away, I wonder if they have a sense of gratitude, those luckier gazelles, that they can go back to grazing in the sun, because their number wasn’t up that day.

I don’t know what the take-home message is. All the conversations now are about controlling this – banning guns, carrying guns, anti-terrorist training, more security, more psychiatry. But, really, these things are the attacks of the monsters in the dark. It seems there will always be monsters lurking, taking a cut from the crowd. A choice as simple as preferring one theater over another can determine fate. There’s no controlling that.

Maybe all we can really do is enjoy the sunshine and the sweet green grass.

Blog Comments and Worms

David took this picture. It might be my new favorite. Even my mom – the blonde behind the camera next to me – will like it because her glasses aren’t showing. She’s been having to wear glasses instead of contact lenses for the last couple of months, so her eyes will return to their natural state before her cataract surgery. Which is today.

Send good thoughts, please!

We had a lovely weekend in the mountains, up at Snowmass in Colorado. Friends have asked what we did and I don’t have much to tell them. We sat on the deck. I got to read a lot. We drank wine and hung out. There were presents – and then tech support for the presents. Mostly I just enjoyed being with my family.

My stepsister, Hope, and her hubs and boys called and sang me Happy Birthday. Then she explained that the fabulous iced-tea maker she sent me from Teavana is in homage to my blog post about there still being more summer. It’s funny that she mentioned that post in particular, because it was one of the ones that no one commented on. Now, I’ve said many times that I will never be one of those bloggers who begs for comments. I read a lot of blogs and I don’t always comment. Usually I just don’t have anything in particular to say. But – every once in a while – it’s because the blog post annoys me in some way. So, of course, when no one comments on one of mine, a little niggly voice starts suggesting that everyone hates me.

Which leads to the eating of worms. Never pretty.

When I learn, then, that someone did read and even better, took that thought away from her, I feel the opposite way. Like making iced tea and guzzling it so that sparkling drops fly everywhere.

Writing is funny that way. Even blogging, which is more interactive than most writing media. It often feels like talking to an empty room. When someone answers, it can be astonishing. My long time friend, Kev, sent me a birthday email, just to catch up his end of the conversation – because he can’t always think of snarky replies to my blog posts. A little while back, this gal, Rachel, said something very nice to me about my writing and we chatted a bit on Twitter. In an attempt to convince me that she’s not a stalker (much), she mentioned that the fact that she’d planted cactus in her Kansas garden and was wearing a Cat Woman costume meant nothing.

Yeah, she cracked me up.

But more – it made me realize that people do listen. Even when we think they don’t. When they’re off being too busy to think up clever comments.

It’s a good thing to know.

Now I’m going to make some iced tea.

Got It for a Song

I did lower body weights at the gym this morning.

Usually when I weight-lift, I don’t listen to music. The treadmill absolutely requires my aerobic track to keep me distracted. For weight-lifting, though, I’m counting and not fighting the certain despair that I’ll never catch my breath again.

Today though, Air Force Guy had the TV up really loud with awful news about Libya. Since I have a strict policy about not depressing myself with news about events I can’t affect, I jumped up from the adductor machine and grabbed the headphones.

Since I was mid-count, rather than searching out my weights playlist (why do I have one if I never use it? Hmm) I just clicked play. This one song that my long-time friend, Kev, sent me came on.

Because I could, I played that one song over and over. I love to do this. I can listen to the same song probably 50 times in a row. Something, I’ve discovered, the people around me don’t enjoy so much.

Go figure.

Its an emotional song that strikes me on many levels. As some songs do, this one makes me want to write a story about it. I’ve never actually written a story from a song, but I think I might this time. As I kept clicking the back button to hear it just one more time (there’s a way to put it on repeat, right? one day I should learn to maximize my iPod use), the story played out in my head, snippets of conversation. I could see the opening line, the penultimate scene.

It could be a great book.

Yesterday, I worked on two projects. If you follow this blog, you’ll know I’ve been musing over whether I can move two writing projects forward at the same time. I’m a monogamous gal by nature, mainly because I’m simply not inclined to cheat. The thing I’m in love with is fine by me. It occurs to me now that this is the same aspect of my character that likes to listen to the same song over and over and over. Apple pie for the rest of my life? Sure! Still, with writing, I’d like to get more going.

So, yesterday, I clocked off the Internet for my usual two hours. (Yes, I’m weak and cannot stop myself from clicking if it’s there to be clicked.) I wrote my 1K on the new novel, The Middle Princess. For the remaining 45 minutes, I worked on Sapphire revisions, from the editorial notes that came in this weekend.

And it worked!

Normally I’m not allowed to deviate from a current project, but since that experiment worked, I might try writing up a little of this morning’s story – just enough to keep it alive and kicking.

La Kev


Okay, I know that I promised the whole exercise clothes to writing clothes to work clothes expose today, but it occurred to me that I need pics of each stage. So I’ll do it tomorrow.

That seems suitably frivolous for a Friday anyway.

Instead, today I think I’ll do a little ode. An essay of mine once appeared in a literary magazine dedicated to odes, which I always thought was kind of a cool idea. While the first definition of ode is “a poem written to be sung,” the modern use has it as a “lyric, rhymed or unrhymed, addressed to some person or thing and characterized by lofty feeling and elaborate form.”

Since this is about my friend, Kev, maybe that’s not what I mean at all.

Hee hee hee.

Today is Kev’s birthday and it’s made me reflective. We’ve know each other now since I was 15 and dropped as a bewildered sophomore into trigonometry class with a bunch of juniors. Kev helped me with problem sets and charmed me with his charisma and humor. I fell in love with his soaring tenor in our high school stage productions as much as his sweet brown eyes.

Oh yeah, I pined after him.

He flirted with me. Okay, he flirted with pretty much ALL the girls. But the other ones he dated. I crushed on him until spring of my junior year, when I finally broke down and left a love letter on the windshield of his car – a Baha VW Bug he’d dubbed the Baha Humbug – inviting him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.

What can I say? I’m a traditionalist.

Maybe I had a way with words even then, because he bit and we started a love affair that lasted two years. It was consuming and wonderful and perfect and everything first love should be. Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I broke up with him. I still remember the pain of that, how I’d asked him to love me, then asked him to stop.

The thing is, we still love each other. That’s the best part.

I don’t regret my choice, because we’ve both found really wonderful life partners and our lives have moved in very different directions. And yet, after all this time, we’re still friends. We talk on Yahoo IM and know each other’s old jokes. We trade music and he keeps me up to date on the musical theater scene. There’s a deep-running affection between us. Sometimes I think his is more for the girl I was, but he also keeps a library shelf of everything I’ve ever published. He was among the first to encourage me to write, which was a gift beyond compare.

So, Happy Birthday Kevin! It will be interesting to see what the next 30 years brings.

P.S. If I forget who you are, will you remind me?

The Morning After

Stormy day yesterday. Now our rain catchments are all full and the birds singing crazy symphonies.

Last night Marcella IM’d me quite late to report that she’d gone from 87K to 91.6K that day and her new book is almost done, except for a few connecting scenes.

Her first book, Enemy Within, is coming out in November and she’s supposed to deliver the sequel, Enemy Games, to her agent today. So, I dutifully told her how terribly hot she is and what a triumphant blaze of glory this is to get her book done and how she can send it off to her agent and relax and party all weekend.

Marcella replied that she was far more likely to collapse in a cold, stinking pile of exhaustion.

Which is always the way of it, isn’t it?

I remember when my first lover, my high school boyfriend, Kev, and I first contrived to spend a night together.

(This is the time to stop reading if you have a low TMI threshold. And Mom – I’m not sure you know this story, but it’s been about 25 years so I figure the statute of limitations is up on this.)

My folks were out of town, so Kev came over to spend the night. I had many things I wanted to try at that tender age of exploration, most of them romantic. So we spread blankets in front of the fireplace in the living room (which required shifting furniture). I’d read somewhere that safflower oil made the best massage oil. Kev had never had alcohol, so we drank a bottle of champagne. (Why, yes, I am an evil corrupting influence.)

We had a lovely, giddy, very hot and sexy time with each other.

We romantically fell asleep in each other’s arms. And awoke somewhere around two in the morning, cold, sticky and miserable with pounding headaches.

It was a good welcome-to-adulthood lesson. For every blaze of glory, there’s an ashy pile of debris to clean up afterwards. It became a running joke with me and Kev, especially if anyone mentioned romantic fireplace settings or massage oil. Our cautionary tale.

It’s the way of the world, that for every sexy evening, there’s a morning after. For every great artistic push, there’s a time of whimpering recovery.

At least now we know to plan for it.

Home Is Where They Have to Take You In — If They Notice You’re There

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

Reaching a goal, realizing a dream is like marking the edge of a circle. When you reach that moment where you check off the goal, it takes you back to the moment when you first conceived of it.

Yesterday I read and signed at Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. And it took me back. Back to visiting the Tattered Cover when it was one room at the bottom of the stairs in Cherry Creek. I went as a young girl with my mother. She loved it because she could describe a book without knowing the exact author or title and they could figure out which one she meant. I gazed around at the forest green carpets, wooden shelves and all the radiant books. Framed and signed photographs on the walls showed the authors who had visited. I wanted to be one of them.

As a college student visiting home, I bought a copy of Tao Te Ching there, a copy I still have. When they moved into the Neusteters building, the bookstore replaced the racks of dresses where I’d picked out my prom dress and my mom and aunt had shopped for most of their lives. Now Tattered Cover filled three stories, plus a bargain basement and a fourth floor restaurant. No trip to Denver was completed without a visit and I frequently left with armloads of books. Now the green carpets circled up the stairs and the author photos trailed alongside.

When my first book came out, what I wanted most was an event at Tattered Cover. But no one would ever answer me or my events coordinator. I even sent a list of 200 people who were likely to come to my hometown gig. But no. Wordsworth Books in Boston hosted me; Elliot Bay Books in Seattle offered me a gig. The bookstore of my youth did not. I knew them, but they did not know me.

Now the Cherry Creek location, too, is gone, and our reading yesterday was at one of the newer locations, in Lo Do (lower downtown). They have a great event space and the green carpets and wood railings on the stairs look the same. Our event for Going Green was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Land Library, who runs a monthly reading event at the store. Jeff Lee, the director of the library, was a gracious and charming host. Laura Pritchett, the editor, was lively and a terrific master of ceremonies. My co-contributors were fascinating and good company.
It was a fun afternoon.
But, aside from asking the harried woman at the counter — who first informed me her register was closed — where I should go for the reading, I never talked to anyone from the store. I’d brought a few copies of my book, so I could ask if they carried it, wanted stock signed, needed my copies. I never got the chance. Okay, I didn’t try any harder than that.
I suppose the circle is closed now. I gave that little girl I was something of what she wanted. Never mind that the bookstore never knew it.