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Lara Eckener

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Playing The Tears on repeat.

The holidays has been extra hard this year for a lot of reasons, but the chief among them are grief and depression and just feeling like I’ve failed everyone I’ve ever met by not being a better version of myself. Every time I think about sitting down to write about it, even a private version of it, I feel preemptively embarrassed by all of those things and then the fact that I have all of these other feelings about them. So I painted them instead. Is this less embarrassing? Probably not. Oh well.

These are the rough progression of what it’s felt like to go from a world where a certain love existed, to a world without it. I’ve felt engulfed by sadness as of late and I’m not quite sure how to shake it. Maybe I never will.

These are presented with apologies to all the real artists that I love and could never hope to emulate.

We’ll turn ourselves into paper and kindling, devotion and truth.

It’s been a busy second half to the year over here in my neck of the woods. I’ve been working away on several things that will come into print as we come into the new year. I’ve also been trying real hard not to talk about them too much lest I jinx something and all the editors decide to take it back. That’s not going to happen today though, because today I’m super pleased to report that the first of those projects has been released in print!

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Paper & Kindling: A 3-4-1 Collection is available from Amazon in print and kindle editions! This anthology includes short stories from authors Kaitlyn SudolNicole DeGennaro, and Christine Ricketts, as well as poems by myself and art by Katie Grosskopf, Alex Griggs, and Cleopatria Peterson. (Cleopatria’s art is the best, but I’m biased, because she illustrated my poems.)

I’ve long been attracted to the idea of artist’s telephone and this anthology was created along those lines, except instead of working in a long vine-like chain what we have is four seeds with tendrils and flowers growing from each. Christine, Nicole, Kaitlyn, and I each wrote a beginning story or poem and then we all switched and wrote things based on each other’s stories. The illustrations were created in the same way. Through inspiring each other we all got to dip our toes in different worlds and stretch our voices and the result is chock full of horror, science fiction, romance, and fantasy. But most importantly, it’s full of possibility and new beginnings. As it says in the description copy: the end of one story is just the start of another.

One of my sincerest life wishes is to write beautiful things to share with the world, and I thank every one of my fellow contributors here for helping to make that possible. So if any of this sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, please pick up a copy and let us know what you think!

It was too cold for fireflies.

I am back at it again, reading YA novels and desperately needing to share my love for them with the world. This time I read The Raven King, the fourth and final book in The Raven Cycle series. My feelings about the book overall are complicated, but my feelings about the third chapter are simple and pure. It’s one of the most beautiful chapters of anything that I’ve ever read. in this chapter we get to see our son Ronan Lynch at the home he loves, surrounded by beautiful things that he’s made. I identify so heavily with Ronan and his fears that I teared up a little and I’m not ashamed about it. So, a shirt.

I made and used stencils for this one because I didn’t trust myself with the clean edges.

dreamaboutlight2

It was too cold for fireflies, but a multitude of them glistened in and out of being above the fields nonetheless.

Those were his. Fanciful, purposeless, but lovely.

Ronan Lynch loved to dream about light.

Monster Story

Back in February I went home to visit friends and family. I spent part of my time wandering through familiar parts of my old city with people I love and unsurprisingly ended up in a B&N flipping through books and prattling on about whatever. One of the books we picked up had a monster in the front cover. He was quite dapper and quite feathered, which are two of my favorite traits in a monster. My friend said, “write me a story about him.” So because I do what I’m told, I did.

This is that. Actually, I think this is the start of that. I want him to go after the girls, to stay with them and slowly turn back into a person, or maybe watch one of them turn into a monster. But there are other, more pressing things to write, so we’ll stick with this small victory for now.

Continue reading “Monster Story”

Tree People – The Inception

This is a reposting of a thing I initially wrote and posted to Tumblr several years ago. It’s a little bit prose and a little bit poem and was the very beginning of what has become a bit of an obsession with tree people. It was inspired by the lovely work of Lotte Hobbes.

Continue reading “Tree People – The Inception”

I know what you are, Kavinsky said.

(Crossposted from here.)

I spent the ages of 18 to 25 or so in cars and parking lots with boys. And other girls too–I lived with one of the girls for about a year, I still frequently wish I’d kept in touch with her–but my car club experiences were dominated mostly by boys with thin chests built of bravado and mouths that bubbled insults and boasts like spring swollen rivers.

Over the two days it took me to read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves I’ve had almost as many nostalgic, indulgent thoughts about those boys and their cars as I’ve had about the characters I’ve come to love. I was a very different person then, still becoming. (I guess my breath, by definition, means I’m still still becoming). I was a lot like Ronan, though admittedly my violence was restricted to words and walls and the stupid, stubborn pipe of my cold air intake.

I was a lot like Ronan, and I have known a lot of Kavinskys.

I often talk about wanting to teach myself to run because it’s the closest I’ll ever get to flying, but my memory knows that’s not entirely true. The closest I’ve ever been–may ever be–to flying the way ravens do has been sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s Honda S2000, top down, wind pummeling my hair as we did a buck twenty through the sticky hot central Florida night. Nights like that are printed indelibly on what I’ve become. Drag races and street races and autocrosses, smoke pouring from tires and slipping NOS hoses, alcohol and weed and adrenaline. Those are things that have made me feel like I was soaring even as my feet remained on the ground. (Or on the poor, abused clutch pedal on my ex’s truck. I never have been overly competent with a stick.)

But like most people, I also spent that period of time trying to figure out just who I was and who I wanted to be. I opened my big mouth when I shouldn’t have. I stayed quiet when I shouldn’t have. I was too quick to shrillness and too slow to learn how to calm a racing heart. I tried to blend in and mimic behavior, practice and homage, because that’s how you learn to do something, right? Even becoming.

There was a phrase people used to throw around on the boards and at meets. Only fags wear white shoes. It was a phrase that made me uncomfortable and that discomfort, the way I couldn’t put my finger on it, was a second secret of my own. What their words meant was that a pair of hideously ugly white rims were never going to improve your car. What their words did was reinforce a tight, sinuous brand of homophobic misogyny that was cutting off circulation to my heart and my brain. Derision and deflection so often have the same voice.

Ronan’s gradual becoming in The Dream Thieves is a thing of wonder to me in a book spilling wonders. It’s a story I desperately wish I could have had at twenty, because no matter how certain you are you’ll finally reach a destination, some journeys are just better with a well-creased map. There’s a certain amount of grief in growing, to be sure, that no map will help you avoid, but there’s also a limit to how much grief you take before you start reverting again.

Maggie Stiefvater has managed to capture the balance of that grief remarkably well. She created a character whose main desire was to be true to himself, who fought with others and his own dreams for the privilege of becoming, and whose reverb shook my fingers on the page just as Kavinsky’s bass shook everyone within hearing distance of the Mitsubishi.

In Ronan Lynch I see speed and asphalt and anger and truth and the creeping, adolescent feeling that you could crawl out of your skin and leave it behind if you tried. There’s a subtle grace in his character that I’d still like to see more of, even though it’s been some time since I had to answer the questions he’s so recently thought to ask. Thank you, Maggie, for creating a character who I could see my young self in so perfectly who was allowed the time and space to discover his sexuality, but not allowed to disappear into his sexuality as if he were a cipher.

Becoming is a constant process, but the creases in Ronan Lynch will now continue to remind me where I’ve been. That too, makes me feel like I’m soaring.

.030 – Marry me, Lois Lane?

Five weeks ago we reviewed Superman: Man of Steel for the Wrong Opinions About Movies podcast. The movie itself is muddled and violent. I came away from it confused. I don’t want to go too in-depth into why, because we talked about it at length on the podcast, but it boils down to the fact that I don’t know very much about Superman. In not knowing very much about Superman I have a very specific image of Superman in my mind that’s been cobbled together from 30 years of seeing him show up in Batman cartoons and hearing the way other people and the media refer to and revere him. Let’s say my understanding of Superman lives somewhere about my shoulder like a parrot, and the Man of Steel version lives two states over, possibly Mississippi. After I talked this out with my podcast cohorts I decided I had some learning to do.

Earlier this year I took a Gender Through Comic Books SuperMOOC, which on top of being fun and educational, forced me to read some of the comics that I had long known I should read but was avoiding for various silly reasons. One of those books was Superman: Birthright, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. Birthright is an excellent comic with a well-told story and I would encourage you to pick it up. It does a good job of staying mindful of Superman’s Kryptonian origins while giving Clark Kent some dimension of his own. It lets him occupy his own space in the DC universe without growing too large for it, which has always seemed to be part of the problem with the character from my place on the sidelines.

In my prejudices Superman is the boy scout. He’s too powerful as a being to be interesting in a fight and too mindful of his power and his place among the people on the earth to really break out and fill his own space in it. Reading Birthright began the process of breaking down those barriers by introducing me to the larger world around him and letting me see how he interacted with people of different creeds and races and locations. I got the sense that he’s a good guy to have in your corner. He’s understanding and patient and fiercely protective, which are all traits I can admire. But, I still wasn’t convinced that I could actually care enough to read more about him.

Up until Matthew had us watch Superman II to pair with Man of Steel, I had never seen Superman in a live action incarnation. Never a movie or an episode of Smallville or Lois & Clark. I was prepared for it to be somewhat hokey, given the age of the practical effects and the source material. Superman II took my breath away. It’s not the best movie ever, and I still haven’t seen the first Christopher Reeve Superman which might make II make more sense really, but Superman II perfectly captures the awe and reverence that I get the general sense of from Superman fans. It captures everything I understood about Superman from the collective conscience and it really is inspiring in practice. I can cotton on to why so many people would want to stand behind the arbiter of truth, justice, and the American way. (Well, truth and justice anyway. I hear he stepped a bit away from America and became a world citizen before the New 52 took hold of the DC universe.)

So, Superman. He’s not so bad I guess, and I have an oddly large amount of respect for the reverence we have for the look of Superman. Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh, Henry Cavill, and Tom Welling all bear striking resemblances to one another. Clear blue eyes, square jaws, black hair that can be sculpted sleekly into a front curl or modified pomp. They worked to build physiques for themselves that would make audiences believe they could pluck and aircraft out of the sky. I can’t think of another superhero that has worked his way across the collective conscience in such an acutely specific way. When you’re talking about Batman, for instance, the look of Bruce Wayne as a man isn’t as important as the look of the suit or the feel of the world. Because Kal-El’s face IS the face that Superman shows to the world, it’s imperative that casting agents get it right. This brings me back, in a roundabout way, to Tom Welling, who is not really that great as an actor, but who looks the part in a way I think most people in their early 20s can’t.

After watching Man of Steel and being confused by my own Superman feelings and how they’d just been trampled all over, I decided to give myself a Superman education. I’m going to try to un-puzzle him for myself, which will involve watching all of the things and reading a whole slew of comics. Because it’s something of a tradition for me now to watch terrible TV for teenagers over the summer, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and tackle Smallville as the first step to that end.

Smallville ran from 2001 to 2011 and, at the beginning, was meant to show us Clark Kent’s life without the cape. What would it be like for Clark to grow up as a powered being among mere mortals in a town where the very dirt and drinking water was teeming with kryptonite? This is an interesting premise which, unfortunately in this case, has an exceedingly poor execution. I’m not a stranger to WB/CW shows geared towards teenagers and how frustrating they can be. I was ripe Dawson’s Creek age when it aired. I am familiar with the formula of the frustration/betrayal of the week and the circular relationships and the holier than thou dialogue that’s supposed to make the teenagers seem wise beyond their years. On top of this, because Smallville has to acknowledge the impact of kryptonite on Clark himself and the rest of the world, it started as a monster of the week series. And it drags.

It took me five weeks to make it through the ten seasons. The acting doesn’t really get better. The number of times I yelled at Clark for telling someone not to do something and then TURNING AROUND AND DOING IT probably hit a hundred. It’s rife with my least favorite of superhero tropes, which is that of the “I have to protect you, so I’m leaving you.” (In speech with my friends I refer to it as Peter Parkering, which sounds dirty, but is really just a call back to how he did the very thing to Mary Jane.) YOUR PARTNERS ARE ADULTS. LET THEM MAKE THAT DECISION. Well, they’re mostly adults, with the exception of Lana Lang who was a boring teenager and then an aggravating young woman and then pretty badass for about fifteen minutes before they wrote her off the show entirely.

Their main objective from the start was no capes, so in practice the series gave us the boring parts of Clark’s life: his frustrations with Luthors, his need to be on the football team AND save a revolving door of students we’re supposed to believe are his friends even though they definitely weren’t going to that school in the five episodes before, his failed college career, and his eventual and accidental slide into journalism, which I’m pretty sure only stuck because every one of his bosses was uber obsessed with the ubermensch and wanted him in a place where they could study him easily. This is what we get ten seasons of with Smallville. People have been asking me, since I announced triumphantly over Twitter that I was on the last episode, if it was worth it. And no, no it was not. Do not watch all ten seasons of Smallville. Especially do not watch them at the break neck speed of two seasons a week. At some point the name Clark starts to lose meaning, like when you say refrigerator a hundred times in a row. A season or so after that the same thing happens with Tom Welling’s face. I think I stopped recognizing it entirely. Why would you do that to yourself? Justin Hartley would really like to know. It will not teach you about Superman.

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But it wasn’t all bad. Their Green Arrow (pictured above), while wildly different from the Ollie I got used to in CW’s new Arrow series–which is pretty good! watch that!–is incredibly charming and affable. Even when he’s been possessed by Darkseid I can’t bring myself to be mad at him. I would watch the show of him dating Lois Lane for ten seasons. Lois is another good thing about that show. Actually, pretty much every time that show introduced a recurring female character she was awesome. If you’re going to get something right, I can stand for that to be it.

Kara Zor-El threw Clark for a loop. Neither Oliver Queen nor Clark Kent was a match for Lois Lane. Even the introduction of Tess Mercer, as the Luthor proxy when Michael Rosenbaum stepped away from the show, could more or less handle her own. In the later seasons when Ollie had pulled together a group of heroes and entrusted Watch Tower to Chloe Sullivan, who had been a pretty rad female character from the beginning, there were glimpses of the show that I wanted to be watching. That show could have been amazing for ten seasons, but by that point they were only begrudgingly making that show, because Clark and Welling were getting older and eventually you would run out of Time When He Could Not Be Superman.

So, Smallville was a terrible plan for the beginning of my Superman education. It showed me a version of the character that was self-righteous to a fault, overprotective, paranoid, and dull. But maybe it’s for the best that I got this out of the way early. Maybe now as I do my further reading and watching I won’t be slowed down by this parody of the character that so many people love. I’ll be free to explore what it is that makes Superman so much a part of the fabric of our comic culture.

As of right now my plan for furthering my education involves the movies Superman and the Mole Men (1951) and Superman (1978), the television show Lois & Clark (1993 – 1997), and the comics Trinity, Kingdom Come, Superman: Red Son, and All-Star Superman.

Are there other things I should read or watch? What parts of the Superman character speak most to you? What should I be looking for and keeping in mind as I do my research? Have you watched ten seasons of Smallville? What did you think of them? Let me know! Link me to proper analysis, or heck, link me to your Ollie/Lois fanfiction. I won’t tell anyone it’s yours.

“Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight.”

 That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn’t think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave Ian alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at him.

The Perks of Being a Wallfower, Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out my sophomore year of high school. If I’d read it then I probably would have loved it just as much as everyone else seems to. I felt like a watcher then, especially that year. But as is my custom I didn’t get around to it, and then everyone else loved it so I avoided it. I do that sometimes, because I’m afraid that if I don’t love something as much as the other people I love and respect, that their love and respect for me will diminish. Better to be able to plead ignorance and nod along to the lecture you get about the thing. At least it’s still pulling you together that way.

I was perfectly content to live out my years in that ignorance, even though I had easy access to the book. There was a copy on my To Read shelf that had been given to me by a friend at some point along the way. It looked like it was going to be destined to sit there between Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy forever. And then the movie came out.

The movie–surprisingly well-written and well-directed by the author, two things almost unheard of in the Making Movies Out of Books business–is a thing of pain and beauty.  The three leads do a wonderful job of portraying the tumult of teenage life and offering lines that might seem a bit silly in any other context with a large amount of unabashed sincerity that reminds me very much of what it was like to be a teenager. Everything felt so big then. The whole of my life was in front of me, yet every feeling I had and every slight I suffered felt like the last time. I held on to everything, worried that without any of it the rest of my life would unravel empty. In the movie, it’s Patrick (the amazing Ezra Miller, whom I’ve developed quite the crush on) who plays these things out the best, trying to maintain his air of ease and amusement while dealing with an unhealthy relationship that is eating away at him.

The movie broke open my heart and then sewed it up again. I laughed. I cried. I sobbed like a child. The book, which I finished on a plane on my way to Boston this past weekend, is something else entirely.

It’s unusual that a movie affects me more than a book, but I did not leave the book with the same sense of catharsis and hope that clung to me after the movie. In this case I’m tempted to say that the movie got there first, but I don’t think that’s it. I tried to leave the movie out of my reading of the book entirely, knowing that they’re two very different things. The format of the book left me stilted for a large part of it. It’s composed of first person, epistolary, observations from a young man just trying to figure out himself and the world around him. He seems to be a pretty reliable narrator when it comes to everyone but himself, because he’s not trying to persuade us to think things about these people, simply documenting the ways he interacts with them and the how that makes him feel. And maybe that’s it. Because he feels so removed from even the things he’s directly involved in it sometimes reads like a case study of modern youth. I didn’t quite feel the love he said he had for them for most of it.

That’s also one of it’s strengths, though, and the reason I wish I’d read it in ‘99. Because Charlie is viewing everyone through a window you get to see a lot of things that you probably wouldn’t see at all were the book written in another format. The people around him are in messy relationships that leave them vulnerable in different ways and are, for the large part, unable or unwilling to let go of them, even though they might hurt less in the long run.

I wish I’d known in high school that sometimes girls would have boyfriends that hit them and that sometimes girls would make hard decisions about their mistakes and their bodies. I wish I’d known, in a more than academic sense, that sometimes boys fell in love with other boys and that sometimes girls want to ‘explore’ lesbian relationships and that it’s okay. Normal even. I wish that I’d known that it wasn’t a weakness to cling to the small amount of love you think you have, because that’s what everyone does, even well into their adult years. And I wish I’d learned earlier that sometimes you have to laugh, because there’s nothing else you can do. The thing that the book does in an amazing, resonant way, that the movie doesn’t quite do for me, is normalize a whole host of different relationships that would have saved me time and agony had I just known that I wasn’t alone.

And that’s the whole point of it, really. None of us are alone, even when we think we are or want to be. Someone has lived this life before us. Someone has left behind instructions. We just don’t always know how to find them, and even if we do, we’re sometimes too proud and stubborn to believe that we’re not different and special and that the things that happened before aren’t going to help us.

Not only do we accept the love we think we deserve, but we accept the lives we think we’re owed, and we’re not always fair to ourselves. That’s a lesson I really could have used at sixteen, if only I hadn’t been too busy being afraid of the things I wanted to take them.

 

My friend Matthew Bowers and I discuss the film version in more depth over at Wrong Opinions About Movies, so give that a listen if you’re interested in all the ways that film broke me and put me back together, because that would be another 5,000 words if I tried to nail them down here.

.025 – Where’ve ya been, Lars?

Oh hey there, internet. I did not mean to run quite so far away. I just started going and then found myself somewhere near the end of it all and decided to turn around and start over again. It’s basically the story of my life.  How have you been?

 

The places I’ve been.

I’ve been quite busy while I was away.  I went to Dragon*Con, which my friend Alli and I discussed a bit on the Jaws/Raiders of the Lost Ark episode of Wrong Opinions About Movies. When people ask me about whether or not I think they should attend Dragon*Con I always give them an enthusiastic and slightly pushy ‘yes’. For me it’s the best weekend of the year, and even though I start out every con weekend with the same plan of attack, it always ends up being a unique experience. This con was no exception, as I did maybe half as many panels as usual, spending my time instead dabbling in costuming and hanging out with people I don’t get to see on a day to day basis. It gave the weekend an entirely different feel, but was still completely wonderful.

And while I was at Con–more specifically, while I was sitting in a Tactical First Aid panel learning how to deliver your babies during the mother effing apocalypse(!)–I got the email notification that a poem I wrote had finally been published online. I’m so excited!

I linked it around before, but in case you missed it you can read “HOPE for the AFFLICTED!” here at Exercise Bowler along with some other rad steampunk themed poetry.

I feel very grateful to Exercise Bowler, not only for posting poetry that I like on quarterly basis, but also for sharing something I wrote with the world. It’s my first published piece and I’m very excited to be able to produce things people won’t absolutely hate in the future. Let’s all raise a glass to that possibility.  

And in the theme of possibility, I’ve started a Tumblr Blog that I really want to share with you. I turned 30 while I was away, and while I’m not anymore stressed about 30 than I was about 29–because seriously, nothing can be worse than 25–I would still like to spend this year focused on learning about myself and my place in the world around me. So Wasting My Thirties is there just for that. Come learn with me. Come teach me. Come point and laugh and just be along for the ride.

 

The places I’ll go.

In the vein of the things I’ve been doing while I was away, I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use this space. I want to use it talk about writing and share information about when my friends and I are published or start exciting projects, but I also want it to be fun and informal and a place for us to just chat. So here are some things you might see here in the future.

Wrong Opinions About ALL The Movies! Sometimes I watch a movie for the podcast and find myself unable to really discuss what it is about it that has affected me, partially because I’m incredibly dense when it comes to sorting out my own feelings and partially because conversations sometimes just don’t work that way. I also watch movies that aren’t going to be discussed on the podcast, but that I still feel a need to touch on somewhere. I’m going to start doing that here as I feel the urge to. The first movie will probably be Circumstance, because that film was so much more than the American trailer led me to believe it would be.

Research, the breakfast of champions! The other thing I want to start sharing more often is the off the wall research I do for the projects I’m working on. I write a lot of science fiction, mostly steampunk and cyberpunk, which leads me down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and peer reviewed magazines on a quite regular basis.  I think it would be fun to start sharing some of the more interesting things here. It would also give me an excuse to do that post on underwear my friend Chrysta requested.

Any old thing you want me to be! And to that end, because I want this to ultimately be a place you like checking in on, is there anything you’d like to see me post? Is there anything you just want to have a conversation about with another person? I’m here for all your conversatin’, distractionary needs! You just let me know what I can do for you and I’ll probably do it! (Because I’m easy that way. Just love me!)

 

So that is a plan. We’ll see how well I stick to it. If nothing else I have a draft of a short story due to someone by the end of October, so I really should get on finishing and fixing it, or possibly weakly calling for help. Whichever. You’ll know when I do.

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