Politics & Prose

Wednesday night, on the brink of DC’s surprise snow event, I drove up Connecticut Ave with a friend on an errand.  It was one of those errands with multiple components: a package of items that needed to be dropped off at Politics and Prose to include proper marking so the package ended up where it was supposed to, a check, and the items in question.

To make sense of this, you have to understand what Politics and Prose is within the context of DC.  P&P is one of the premier independent bookstores in a city full of people who are either super smart or are convinced they are super smart.  When you want to tell a first date that you are a smarty-pants who knows the right place to buy a book that supports local businesses, you suggest P&P.  If you really want to impress a date with your intellectual acumen, you take them to P&P for a lecture.  Within the Beltway, P&P means something.

My mom was born in a house with no indoor plumbing.  She died with a decent retirement fund, a doctoral degree, and a paid-for Subaru.  I’m not sure there was anything she was more proud of than the distance between her and the now-razed home in a now-reclaimed mining town she was born in.  Not just the distance, but the diminished expectations of a miner’s kid from Seebe Alberta compared to everything she achieved.  My mom loved going to P&P.  There was just so much to enjoy.  There was even knowing that P&P existed, there was being able to keep up with the book readings and discussions held there, and there was being confident enough in her knowledge of the city to navigate to P&P on her own.

My companion parked the car across the street, we dodged idling cars to get into P&P, I handed over the package per instructions, and we ducked back out of the store before we could buy every book on the shelf.  Once outside, it hit me.

I just dropped off copies of my book to sit on the shelves and be sold at P&P.  My mom could have come to P&P and browsed the shelves until she found me.

Holy shit.

Did that just happen?

Yes, I think it did.

Politics & Prose

Pictures

We hired a photographer, right?  Apparently when the event’s about your book, you end up in a boatload of photos.  Which is exactly what happened.

So the handsome guy is Diego, a long-time friend who came along for the ride.  In the lower right corner, I’m draped around a former student from the way-back-when time machine.  I taught her photography back in … 2002?  I’m including the photo in the top right because I actually laugh like that, but I don’t always wear red lipstick.

I wouldn’t otherwise include a solo picture of me, but my best friend sent those flowers because she couldn’t make it herself.  I made the photographer take the picture, I figured I’d better do something with it.  The handsome guy up there in the bottom right corner is Marshall, the inspiration for the Marshall in the books.  His hands really are the size of sledgehammers.  (I should note that Marshall’s name and a few physical details are the *only* bits of the book that correspond to real life.  All other similarities are purely coincidental.)  In the top right corner, I’m talking to a librarian in Maryland

Pictures

Writing Tools: Freemind

I envy linear people.  It must be so easy to store and catalog information, making retrieval easier.  I am not linear.  I am a cluster.  As I think about plots and people, it is more like a pinball machine than an orderly progression of ifs, thens, and therefores.  Which is fine, but how do you hold on to every cluster of thought for use later when there is nothing linear happening up there?

Freemind.  Mind-mapping software.  It’s free.  Avail yourself immediately, my non-linear friends.

The entire TCR world is mapped out in there.  Willow’s birthday, parents, which of the loose factions she is affiliated with, the history of the New Republic of America…  Ven, Ianthe, their associations and histories.  Plus ongoing themes, ideas I want to explore.  Reference points, continuity hooks, random thoughts.  And no end to the hierarchies, subcategories, or configurations…

I use it for everything.  To help think about personal situations in a somewhat systematic way.  To monitor goals.  Whatever.  It is an infinitely flexible way to think on (virtual) paper.  I would be drowning in snippets and notes without it.  It is the secret to my sanity…  Well, that and a great deal of talking to myself.

Writing Tools: Freemind

Politics and Writing

In my mind, writers are observers first.  You can tell what an author finds fascinating by what they write about.  Claire North wrote The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August.  If I were guessing, I’d say that Ms. North is fascinated by choice, the butterfly effect, and the way our experience of time is so linear as to be stifling.

Me, I’m interested in social interaction; the push and pull of individualism vs. social necessities; the way we think, not just what we think; and what happens when fear takes over a group of people.  There are other things I’m fascinated by, depending on when you ask…  But I write dystopia.  These are the things that I like to observe.

And right now, there is a lot to observe in the American political system.  Maybe the world’s political system too.  Our social structures feel turgid and tense, like something is on the verge of bursting…  it isn’t Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist.  Those are dichotomies and what works is usually indifferent to simple binary categories.

So I’ve been talking a lot of social/economic/political stuff.  I’ll probably keep talking about it.  The questions around how we encounter and experience the world, what role choice plays in our experience, and how we might push forward into a future that allows more opportunity, not for cold hard cash, but for connection and joy…  this is what I write novels about.  This is what I blog about.  This is what I think about on the train going home from work.  Not trying to step on any toes or hurt anyone’s political feelings.  Just trying to come to these questions with curiosity and intellectual integrity.

Politics and Writing

Invite

The Camellia Reckoning is about 98% done, in that it is all over save the copy edit and the typesetting.  The cover is done, now it is primarily about planning the book signing.

Which brings me to an invite: if any of you are DC locals and would like to come to the book signing on November 19, email me at a.reid.williams (a) gmail.com and I will get you an official invitation.

Invite