A Profound Look Back at the Week: November 23-29

The smells of winter are becoming more distinct and Big C.’s sneezing is becoming rarer. All in all, not a bad week. Or was it?Baking Season

Actually, it was not a bad week. Workwise slow, which is only normal this time of year, but otherwise quite good because as soon as I saw the first real frost on Wednesday, I declared baking season open.

I know every season could be baking season but there is something particularly inspiring about winter and I suspect it’s the temperature. When it’s cold outside one good way to make it warm inside is by baking something, the additional benefit being you get to eat it.

I was so enthusiastic about baking season I overdid the opening cake. And it still tasted great because that’s one of the magical things about this season. Of course, I will have to eat most of it myself because it’s just my luck I should choose to spend my life with someone rather indifferent to the sweet part of the taste spectrum and his daughter who’d kick for an ice cream but frown at homemade cakes.

I’m not complaining, though. Yesterday I had a piece of that cake in the morning, with my tea, just for the novelty of it. Half an hour later I was bursting with energy, so I decided to make it a habit. Funny how our bodies change. Twenty years ago I would’ve rather gone without tea or coffee than eaten breakfast, which would have made me sleepy and hungry for the rest of the day. Now, it’s a welcome energy boost. There’s something profound about this, I’m sure.

The Secret of Bestsellers

I’ve suspected it ever since I read my first James Patterson. Now I’ve confirmed it after I read a book by a hitherto unknown to me romance writer and, yes, a bestselling one. The secret of bestsellers is that there is no formula (except James Patterson’s formula, but it only works for him).

This may have been anticlimactic but there’s more and it’s a bit disheartening. Agents and publishers are making a sharp point of advising writers to only submit their best writing because, well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? That good writing matters? Of course it does. Only it appears good writing is non-essential.

This book I read recently was badly written and by badly written I mean intransitive verbs used transitively and vice versa, I mean bad syntax, and I also mean sentences ending with ,. I will not even mention the flat characters, and non-existent suspence despite the author’s effort. Nitpicky, you might say. Jealous. You may be right (about the nitpickiness, not about the jealous bit. I try to write literately) but not about the verbs. I’m sorry but you don’t scan, period. You scan something, period.

But none of this matters because people like the book. If ratings on Goodreads are any indication, a few thousand people liked the book. And since it’s readers who are the ultimate judges, according to some schools of thought on writing, then the book must be good. I’m not going to argue the case against low reader approval thresholds but I am going to lament the fact that badly written books demotivate other writers to give their works their best.

I feel like cutting corners now because who cares? As long as the action grabs people’s attention who cares about grammar or that pain in the ass that is punctuation, let alone stuff like pace or character depth. I like hearing from agents that the book I’m submitting is “well written” but I’d much rather hear “Send me the whole manuscript and let’s talk representation”. Wouldn’t we all? For now I won’t cut corners. It’s hard to do it on purpose. I’ll keep believing there are readers out there who care about both content and quality of writing, and, humbly hope they like my stories. I know there are, actually. I hope I run into them.

Why People Drink Explained for 9-year-olds

That’s the question Little C. asked us last night while we were enjoying our evening beer. We do it every evening before dinner, the way people used to do it a hundred years ago only not with beer but with cocktails. We rarely exceed moderation because we pay dearly for it the next morning. Old age and all that.

So, why do people like to drink, she asked. Because they need to relax, we said and proceeded to paint a grim picture of the average daily life of a city dweller. A day of work, meaning stress and unpleasant emotions, which needs to be shed once you leave the office and the fastest way to shed that load is by having a drink.

I think the moral of the story we told was that humans are pathetically fragile and need external support to keep their mental balance but she’s too young to realise this. She’s already declared she will never drink beer (as if anyone’s been offering) and she will never smoke cigarettes. That’s fine by me. It’s also endearing and cringe-inducing because we were all nine and we were never going to drink and smoke. How things change as we grow up. That’s two profound things in a single week, imagine that.

The Box, or A Fitting End to 2020

The two C.’s went shopping yesterday because of course she needs a new sled for the winter even if there’s not a drop of snow and there may not be for another two months. They came back with a puzzle box. Now, for those in the know the very words puzzle and box next to one another would sound an alarm. As someone who’s watched all Hellraisers at least once, and the first five twice, the sight of the wretched thing didn’t just sound an alarm, it sent my alarm system into a frenzy.

“Oh, hell no, you have to take it back to the shop,” were my first words when Little C. pushed the thing in my face grinning happily. Big C., I might add, was also grinning. He’s only caught the occasional glance of a Hellraiser or two, he’s not into horror films. Except bloody Chucky. Me, I was literally, physically disturbed. And this is how great the power of a good story could be.

I first watched Hellraiser (the original film, based on the book) in my late teens. I was fascinated, horrified, and in love with Pinhead. I only read The Hellbound Heart last year but it confirmed what I already knew: you can’t make a good film out of a mediocre story. Okay, maybe you can but this is not the case with Hellraiser. Until the fifth film. After that it was pushing it and it showed.

So, I’ve been a fan of this hellish universe of Clive Barker’s for decades and here comes Little C. with a puzzle box that’s too familiar for comfort. After my initial shock — and in light of the fact she spent two hours toiling over it — I came to the conclusion that a nine-year-old opening the portal to Hell would actually be a fitting end to this year. It has been interesting — somewhat excessively so — it has been emotional and it has also been a lot of other things to many people. The one thing it hasn’t been is boring. Yep, the Coming of the Engineer would definitely be a fitting end.

A Profound Meme for Next Week

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