Cimmerian is a word straight out of Greek mythology meaning mythical people who inhabited a land of darkness. Considering Robert E. Howard wrote about Conan of Cimmeria that has its own truth to it. I love the Conan stories.
If you’ve never read Howard’s Conan stories do so. They’re dark (figures), pulpy, and filled with ideas and thoughts of the first half of the 20th century. Howard defines pulp story for me. His life was a bit of a mess if you read about him but he knew how to tell a story and his character spawned a few hundred (thousand?) spin-offs and many credit him with beginning the sword and sorcery sub-genre. Me I just liked the old Frazetta posters of Conan. Look for the out of print versions of his stories that are collected, unabridged reprints of his originals from Weird Tales. If you want to write in a genre, read the genre. Hell, for that matter if you want to write, read everything, inside and outside of your genre and put some tools in your writer tool box.
Codswullop: British word for nonsense or untruth as in that was a bunch of codswallup. It’s not Greek but its what caught my eye today for “c” also. I have to put that in a book sometime. It might not be Cimmerian but it will make you say Crom.
All right. All right. I’m stretching today. Stretching.
I have circled this story again and again in my life.
I see it.
I try to write about it.
I see it again.
John Carter comes out this Friday and I’m going to go see a morning or early matinee showing. I’m going to play hooky from my day job. I don’t know how I’m going to do this because I’m booked all day with meetings, but I will.
When I was 13 my best friend was hit by a train and lost his life. It was an accident but no one knows what happenned. No one – not even me. It is a mystery shrouded in a thunderstorm, black skies, and torrential rain.From that day on I picked up Edgar Rice Borroughs’ books from a local stationary store – Wientraubs – and started reading them. Before that moment I was a reader but not with the same intensity, the same desire to disappear that I had after my friend was killed. When I ran out of the titles that Wientraubs carried I went to Walden Books and BDalton. This was long before superstores had taken over the landscape. I read and read.
Reading didn’t bring my friend back, but over time it made the pain less. The first ERB I’d found was The Gods of Mars the second book in the John Carter series. At the time I didn’t know it was a series. All I saw was the incredible Frank Frazetta cover and knew I had to read it. It had been published originally in 1918 but this edition – from the 70’s – had Frazetta’s muscular artwork in line drawings all through the narrative.
The scene that captured my imagination – and captures it still – is the opening. John Carter raises his arms to the skies, looks up at the Red Planet and wishes for it to carry him across the cosmos.
And it does.
I’ve waited 37 years for a movie to come out telling this story and this Friday it appears in movie theaters near you and me.
I’ve got issues about John Carter. I circle around them, though not as much as I used to.
Issues make the writer.
They form the landscape of each of our own individual planets.
They fan the desire to help others transport to worlds they’ve never even dreamed of – even if the world is just like the one they exist in now.
Maybe I’ll see you there – in the darkness of the movie theatre.
If I do.
I travelled to Phili on Monday.
I took the day off from my job to teach a 1hr distance learning writing workshop to 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at three Pennsylvania High Schools. There were about 40 kids in attendance at the three sites. I taught from the UPENN distance learning center, called MAGPI and it was a very cool thing to do. Each school shows up on a huge TV screen as a small 1 foot by 2 foot rectangle. I teach from the MAGPI studio – a small ten by ten space with three cameras, my laptop and Powerpoint, some notes, and a copy of my book to read from. The MAGPI folks don’t pay me for teaching and I cover my own traveling expenses,but I get to teach classes on writing to young writers and that makes it worth every penny.
Today I talked about first lines of novels and how they start the relationship between reader and writer. I’m into this relationship idea. Readers read and interpret and writers direct the interpretation through the words they write. I know this sounds very basic – like I should have gotten this before -but I didn’t. I just had it in my head that writers wrote and readers read – separate from each other. We’re not. We depend on each other, need each other. We’re symbiotes in a way.
The kids were great and I enjoyed speaking with them. They came up with first sentences for their own to-be-written novels that were terrific. I hope to see one in book form one day. It’s the second time I’ve done a workshop with the MAGPI folks and they’ve invited me back for a third workshop in the spring.
On my way home I stopped at a nearby public library and met Dan, their YA specialist. I gave him a copy of my book for the library. He had a big smile on his face when I gave it to him.
I love libraries.
It’s Friday. I love Fridays.
Today is an especially good Friday (no pun intended) because I’m meeting Andrew Smith this evening and hanging out with him.
I don’t really hang out much not being a real hang out kind of guy – but I thought I should say the words because they would make me sound cool. I got special dispensation from my family to have a hang-out night. I mean… it’s Andrew Smith.
So I’m going in to the city early and not working (really, I’m taking the day off). I’m going to have an hour or two of precious writing time before I meet Andrew. And I’m looking forward to it. This is after going to my son’s holiday show at school in which he will be singing with his class all kinds of christmas and holiday ditties. Now there’s a word, ditties, that doesn’t get used much these days. Maybe this post will help it make a come-back… probably not. And I’m really looking forward to hearing him sing. He’s been practicing a lot. Anyway it’s going to be a great Friday from beginning to end.
Oh yeah. I’m bringing my books to get signed too. Seriously. This chance won’t come around too often.
Also I’m reading on Saturday in Manhattan in Gramercy.
Fellow WestSider Karen DelleCava (author of the YA debut novel A Closer Look) was invited to read at the NYC LearningSpring School Book Fair this Saturday and was kind enough to get me and another WestSider Selene Byrack-Castrovilla (author of Saved by the Music, The Girl Next Store, and Melt) invited too. All three of us will be reading from our novels and signing books this Saturday, December 10th, 247 East 20th Street NY, NY from 1-3pm. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by.