Thursday, January 31, 2002
Today was a good day. Not only was the weather kind (winter begins to wear me down very, very quickly), but I got through the first 1,000+ wds. on Chapter Two of Low Red Moon. It's going well.
Also, good news regarding the sales of From Weird and Distant Shores. According to the publisher, 77% the numbered edition has now sold out (about 462 of 600 copies). Soooo, if you want the hardback of this collection, you'd best hurry. You snooze, you loose. Once these are gone, that's it. There won't be another hardback printing and it will probably be at least a year before there's a trade paperback edition.
I suppose that's it for tonight. Like I said, good writing days equal listless journal days. Think I'll go play Resident Evil and listen to the new Concrete Blonde CD now. Sleep?! What's that?
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
And here it is, one a.m. again and I did not get to Blogger earlier when my head was clearer. Which means, though I'd wanted to pick up tonight where I left off last night, I probably shouldn't.
Contrivance. A dichotomy of "horror" fiction (and no, not that moldy old left bank/right bank stuff I used to espouse). Terror vs. fairy tales, except "vs." is exactly the wrong word, as these things do not exist in opposition, necessarily, but rather in conjunction. Matthew Lewis, on the one hand, and Ann Radcliffe, on the other. Don't worry, I'll get there eventually and this paragraph will then make slightly more "sense" than the ending of Threshold.
The functions of dark fantasy, which very much concern me, otherwise I would write about something else.
UPS brought me ~50 more copies of From Weird and Distant Shores today. Subterranean Press' generosity with comp. copies is seriously jeopardizing my closet space. Again, the book is finally available and you should do yourself a favor and snag a copy. You can order online, directly from Subterranean, or from Amazon, and probably from lots of other people as well. They should be showing up in bookstores any day now. Richard Kirk's gorgeous illustrations alone are worth the $40.
I gave a friend a copy of Jung's Synchronicity today.
I also ran out of Cafe du Monde and had to resort to Maxwell House 18whatever. So I only had one cup of coffee tonight.
Oh, and another friend (not the one I gave the Jung) saw a copy of The Sandman: Book of Dreams in a local grocery store, which we both thought was pretty strange.
And now I go to bed and start thinking about inevitable sleep.
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
The Sandman: Book of Dreams is finally available in paperback. But the new edition hasn't bothered to update any of the author's biographies, which are about five years old at this point. For those of us who were just getting started when the hardback was released, that makes for pretty weird reading. For example, it says my first novel, The Five of Cups, was published by Transylvania Press. Maybe in an alternate reality somewhere. Anyway, five years hasn't diluted the power of the best of these stories, pieces like John M. Ford's "Chain Home, Low." Of course, the book also includes my first "big sale" (and probably the story that landed me the Dreaming gig), "Escape Artist," which is also included in my second collection of short fiction, From Weird and Distant Shores, which is now shipping from the publisher (hint, hint).
A friend of mine spent Saturday in Manhattan and, after a trip to the Met and Central Park, she made her way downtown to Ground Zero. Someone was selling postcards of the WTC towers in flames, collapsing. I hear something like this and I wonder, how much longer can I stave off the cynicism I've been fighting all these years?
I've been looking back at my post from the 27th and I'm very disappointed in it. I should start writing these entries sometime in the afternoon, when I'm not so tired, when the caffeine and work and stress haven't worn me so thin and I can still find the right words and follow my arguments all the way to their conclusions.
". . . eloquence escapes me . . ." What's that from?
The Police. "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da."
These thoughts on the necessary contrivances of fiction have led me back round to that greatest literary contrivance of all, the plot. You see, the plot and I have been having a tug of war for about nine years now. I deny its validity. Why should fiction follow such an artifice as a plot, when the world doesn't, and the best fiction should mirror the world, or at least our truest perceptions of and wishes for the world. Maybe that's it. We wish plot upon our messy, directionless lives. Rising action. Falling action. Tidy beginnings, middles, and ends. Prologues and epilogues. The reductive logic of life as a sensible string of linear progression.
Threshold wanted very badly to eschew plot almost entirely, in favor of something more genuine. But I don't think my publisher was ready for the Mulholland Drive of dark fantasy (or was Mulholland Drive the Mulholland Drive of dark fantasy?). But I did resist the temptation of explanation, mostly. I know that they're the cornerstone of a good "horror" novel, but when you begin to pay attention to alleged real-life encounters with the unknown it quickly becomes clear that, more often than not, there are rarely explanations, one way or another. Encounters are brief, puzzling, and inexplicable. A light in the sky. A ghostly figure at the side of the road. A whisper in a dark room when you've not said a word and you're certain you're alone.
I quite enjoyed the film adaptation of The Mothman Prophecies, which I saw this past weekend, and the film has reawakened a lot of thoughts about Threshold and my writing in general that I'd let slip away into the background. In some ways, it did what I was trying to do with Threshold and didn't quite succeed. Better luck next time.
Oh, a special thank you to Jennifer, who's been coming along behind me and sweeping up after my messy spelling. It's a dirty job.
Sunday, January 27, 2002
This evening I made a trip to Barnes & Noble to pick up a couple of books (Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Volume II and In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life). I've become much less fond of visiting bookstores than I once was, and there's one thing that I'm never supposed to do, ever, under any circumstances. That's stop at the magazine racks and look for reviews of my own work. Even when it's good, it's bad (you'll just have to trust me on this, because I'm not up to an explanation right now). But tonight, I slipped. I picked up the latest issue of Fangoria, flipped to the scant two pages at the very back that the magazine sets aside for books, and saw that someone named Don Kaye had written a review of Steve Jones' The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror: Volume 12, which happens to include my short story, "In the Waterworks (Birmingham, Alabama 1888)."
In his very brief review, Don Kaye noted that one of the collection's "downsides" was my story, because of my writing style, which he found to be "too contrived" for his tastes. Upon first seeing this comment I felt that little twinge of disappointment that always comes when I see a bad review (well, okay, so it's more like a stabbing pain than a twinge, but you get the point). However, in the very next sentence, Kaye added that he felt precisely the same way about Kathe Koja's "Eventide," which is also in the collection. Now, I've said online, a couple of times, how much I admire "Eventide," that I think it's one of Koja's best work's yet, and it's probably general knowledge that I am constantly in awe her writing. So, immediately, the sting began to subside.
However, it did leave me to puzzle over Kaye's opinion of "contrived" as an objectionable aspect of literature. To be honest, this is certainly not the first time a reviewer has called my writing "contrived," but I've yet to figure out exactly what they're trying to say. After all, all literature is a contrivance. Something that is contrived. As a writer, I contrive to create an illusion, a story, whatever.
A quick peek at the OED and I see that "contrive" is defined as "plan or design with ingenuity or skill." Hell, that sounds pretty good, right? However, I'm pretty sure that's not what Don Kaye is trying to say about "In the Water Works . . ." Here's another definition, of "contrived," from the OED: ". . . obviously planned, artificial, not spontaneous." I think that's the one he would prefer.
But again, from my point of view, all three of these things are at the heart of good writing. Any good story must be planned. All art is artificial by definition. And spontonaiety rarely results in anything but crap.
To be fair, though, I think I know what Kaye is saying. To him, the two stories, mine and Kathe's, did not feel accidental. Like many readers who have suffered through high school and perhaps some form of higher education, he has contracted the unfortunate belief that prose fiction should proceed from a common voice, should be instantly accessible, should be simple in style and theme, and, while these things are generally true of all fiction, they are most especially true of anything perceived as "genre." Avoid flourishes, detail, "excessive" description, and, above all, keep the language simple and standard. To do otherwise alienates readers and shows a tendancy on the part of the author to take himself or herself too seriously. Contrivance, Don Kaye might say, is a mark of arrogance. And art should never, ever appear arrogant.
This is, of course, twaddle.
You can quote me.
If I do nothing else in whatever time is left me as an author, I hope I can disabuse at least one mind of such absurd "postmodern" aphorisms.
Art is artificial. That is, art is artifice. It is constructed. It does not come when you call, but has to be wrestled into any shape it assumes.
God, it's too late for this shit.
Never mind. Go to bed. Talking literary theory before bedtime is as bad a eating pickled jalepeno peppers before bed. It can't possibly be good for my digestion or my sleep.
Friday, January 25, 2002
I finished Bast: Eternity Game today. That is, I've finished the first draft of all three parts of the mini-series. Nothing is ever really finished until it's printed and even then there are exceptions.
So, now I'm free to get back to the novel.
That's really it for tonight, I'm afraid. When the entire day is spent not avoiding writing, it makes for a somewhat uneventful report.
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Today the nice UPS man brought me copies of From Weird and Distant Shores, hot off the presses. It is a fine and handsome book, I think, and I am very happy with it. The publisher shipped them out today, so everyone who pre-ordered should have their copies very soon. I promise. If you didn't pre-order, what the hell's wrong with you! Proceed at once to your wallets, whip out the plastic, and see that the WBC doesn't starve. Anyway, Rick Kirk's art and Bob Eggleton's cover are fabulous and I am grateful to them both for lending their talents to this project. It's gratifying to see a volume that was two years in the publishing (originally FWADS was at the now-defunct Sideshow Press before being rescued by Bill Schafer) finally make its way onto my bookshelf.
Also, I spoke with my agent today regarding Low Red Moon and she was very happy with what's been written so far, and very encouraging. Which was a huge relief. I'll finish Bast: Eternity Game in a marathon session tomorrow and get back to the novel this weekend. I should have the second and third chapters finished by the end of February.
Also out is The Children of Cthulhu (Del Rey), which includes my short story, "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea," as well as fiction by China Miéville, Brian Hodge, Alan Dean Foster, Poppy Z. Brite, James S. Dorr, Steve Rasnic Tem, and many others. Plus a cover by Dave McKean. Woo-hoo.
It's good to have actual news to report here. It's saves me from my own noisome complaining.
Volcanoes in Africa and on Io are erupting. How far is it from the Earth to Io? About 400 million miles, I think, but astronomy was never one of my strong points.
I'd planned, tonight, to launch into a great, clattering tirade about the "reviews" on Amazon.com, but I think I'll save that subject for another time. Tomorrow will be a long day and I need to crawl away to bed now (a dream of The French Quarter would be nice).
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
I should be in bed. I'm not getting enough sleep, even by my own frugal insomniac standards. Four or five hours a night just isn't cutting it.
Another three pages on Bast: Eternity Game today. It's a peculiar story. I'm not sure what people will make of it in the end. The whole thing was inspired by a line from Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories (1973) — "When belief in a god dies, the god dies."
My eyes feel as though someone slipped a pinch of cayenne into my eye drops. A not-so-gentle reminder that it's time to get glasses.
Someone e-mailed today to ask, of all things, what my favorite television shows are. It makes me wonder if I should stop writing and become a podiatrist or a lawyer or something equally despicable and useful. My favorite television shows. Anyway, sure, I'm game. In no particular order: BattleBots, Junkyard Wars, Farscape, The American Experience, Nova, Samurai Jack, Home Movies, and Iron Chef. How's that for well-rounded? But mostly I watch old movies on AMC and TCM (AMC is falling out of favor, as they've begun to insert commercials labled "intermissions" or something lame like that). So there. See you tomorrow night, or morning . . .
Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Just two pages on Bast: Eternity Game today. It should be finished on Thursday. Also, Jennifer and I proofread the final galleys for the Meisha Merlin edition of Tales of Pain and Wonder.
Oh, and I did another interview today. It was one of my "grumpy" interviews. They seem to fall into two categories, my interviews, "grumpy" and "cautiously enthusiastic." Today was definitely a "grumpy." And it's been in the back of my mind all day, that I was so belligerent in the interview and that I spend so much time in here bitching about how much I dislike writing, when, maybe, it isn't actually the writing that I dislike.
Maybe it's why I write, why I am a writer, that is the root of my discontent.
And thinking that, I sat down at my desk to write something in this damned Blogger thing that would be true. And I told myself, hey, you can always erase it in the morning, when you wake up and realize you shouldn't have written that stuff down for all the world to see, when you come to your senses, you can just erase it. Easy as that. But I'm not even going to get that far.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little bat."
Remember, honesty is the enemy of fiction and should be avoided at all costs.
Trust me. I'm a professional.
Monday, January 21, 2002
I am now a third of the way through the final third of Bast: Eternity Game. There's a nice symmetry to that thought.
I think that I've been avoiding this journal, not simply neglecting it. Writers quickly learn to distinguish these two actions. And this is starting to feel like avoidance. Perhaps it's something I never should have begun.
Sitting in my cold little room, day after day after day, thinking my dreadful thoughts into words, and then trying to make it all seem interesting. It isn't interesting. It just isn't. Hence that silly business with the filing cabinet. Or, perhaps, I simply have not yet learned how to make it interesting. Or perhaps I lack that talent. Or, more likely, I lack that inclination. I may have a duty to write my spooky little stories, maybe, if one chooses to believe in duty (which I do, though I understand this century has sent it entirely out of vogue), but that doesn't mean I have to devise amusing ways of recounting days that basically amount to typing, drinking copius quantities of milkysweet Cafe Du Monde coffee, typing, staring blankly at my walls for twenty minutes or more at a stretch, and typing.
And maybe I just need to lie more often.
If you haven't yet seen Le Pacte Des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf), I strongly urge you to do so. It's a peculiar, but beautiful and genuinely creepy film, and its source material, the legend of the Beast of Gevaudan, is close to my heart. Indeed, I wrote a short story that touched upon the matter just this past summer, called "The Road of Pins." Anyway, good movie.
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
After the lengthy absurdities of the last post, I think I'll keep it simple tonight (this morning, whatever). I wrote the first four pages of the final third of Bast: Eternity Game today. I'm still waiting to hear what my agent thinks of the sample of Low Red Moon I sent her. There's a great deal of waiting in writing. It's one of the things that I've had the greatest difficulty getting used to, the waiting.
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
I bet you thought I was only joking . . .
The filing cabinet in my office is black. Atop it sits my fax machine and the office telephone. And, because it quickly got rather boring staring at a matte black filing cabinet all day, every day, I have decorated it with various magnets and postcards. They are as follows:
Drawer One (front):
1. Mucha's original "Salmagundi" painting on a magnet.
2. Two (count'em two) souvenir magnets from the 1998 World Horror convetion in Phoenix, AZ, which I somehow ended up with even though I didn't attend WHC '98.
3. Held up by one of the WHC '98 magnets, a postcard I bought at the James Joyce Museum in Martello Tower, Sandycove, Eire. It's a portrait of Joyce, painted by Jaques Emile Blanche.
4. A postcard I got with a Farscape fanzine (yes, I am a geek) of the endlessly delightful Chiana. It's held up by the other WHC magnet and a second magnet that's a famous (well, if you're into dinosaurs) painting by Charles R. Knight of the theropod dinosaur Allosaurus devouring an Apatosaurus ("Brontosaurus") carcass.
5. An Echo paperdoll (she of The Dreaming) drawn by a girl from abcrk, which originally appeared in an issue of my newsletter. Jennifer and Thyrn cut this one out, laminated it, and a magnet of it. Echo's wearing nothing but a bra, panties, and fishnets, which explains
6. two lines of magnets below her, pieced together from a Beavis and Butthead magnet set (I think that was a gift to Jennifer from Poppy, or maybe not). They read:
"Hot chick in her underwear" (line 1) and "Heh heh Heh heh heh heh" (line 2).
Drawer 2 (front):
1. A postcard of Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974) standing in front of the Spirit of St. Louis. I've always loved Lindbergh, partly because my first geology professor in college, Dr. Denny Bierce, looked exactly like him.
2. Mr. Lingbergh is held in place by a magnet nearing a reproduction of a painting by Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). While splendid, Rossetti isn't my favorite of the Pre-Raphaelites and I don't recall the name of this paiting and don't feel like looking it up. Maybe later.
3. A magnet with a plaster cast of a fossil of the Silurian trilobite Calymene attached. The original fossil came from Oklahoma.
4. A magnet with a plaster cast of a fossil of the Cretaceous ammonite Cheloniceras. The original fossil came from Boyaca, Columbia.
5. A Johnny, The Homicidal Maniac postcard. It's the cover to one of the issues, the one with him standing before a wall festooned with knives, but I don't recall the issue number.
6. A magnet of the movie poster for The Company of Wolves, one of my five hundred all times favorite films.
Drawer 3 (front):
1. A magnet showing part of Rudoplh Zallinger's Pulitzer Prize-winning mural, The Age of Reptiles from the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale Univ., New Haven, CT. This portion of the mural is a scene from the Jurassic Period.
2. Held up by Zallinger's mural, a postcard of Ernest Hemingway, trout fishing in Sun Valley, ID, in 1939. The photograph was taken by Lloyd R. Arnold. Hemingway is holding two large trout and looks very happy. The fish seem quite beyond caring, one way or another.
3. A Rocky Horror Picture Show magnet.
4. Held up by the latter is a postcard showing a very beautiful Oscar Wilde, as photographed by Napoleon Sarony in 1882. Wilde rocks my world, as one might say, in the parlance of our times.
I often wonder how Hemingway would feel being stuck on a filing cabinet next to Wilde. I expect Wilde would have something witty and perhaps somewhat off-color to say, and Hemingway would grumble, frown, and shake one of his trout at poor Oscar.
What? You want more you say. Oh, Caitlín, please continue. This is just so goddamn exciting you just wet your pants, you say?
Well, I would, and later I probably will, on another night when I've nothing better to do than catalog the decor of a filing cabinet. You'll just have to wait. Calm down. You'll live. Take a pill.
Meanwhile, tomorrow I will begin the final third of Bast: Eternity Game for Vertigo. Also, I had a significant breakthrough regarding Low Red Moon today, in that I realized, quite suddenly and without warning, that what I thought would be the epilogue should be more like the middle of the novel. Which means that this will be a somewhat more fastpaced book (though not a shorter one) than eith Silk or Threshold. And, as if that wasn't enough tittilation for four days, I also learned that Wal-Mart, spoiler of small town economies everywhere, is actually carrying both Threshold and Wrong Things.
Monday, January 14, 2002
Oh god what am I going to say tonight!?
(insert hopelessly befuddled thought-sound thingys here)
Having finished Chapter One of Low Red Moon, and unable to get it to my agent until tomorrow, I haven't written anything new on the novel this weekend. Vaguely legitimate excuses are marvelous things. Instead, I did two interviews (one for the web-zine Artist Interviews and the other for a Scottish fanzine), worked on various paleontology projects, and did the cover for the Subterranean Press chapbook, "On the Road to Jefferson" (being a bizarre story from my inebriated days in Death's Little Sister). The chapbook will only be available with the lettered state of In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers. Which is kind of depressing when you think about, so I shan't. Oh, and Dame Darcy has agreed to do the art and cover for In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, which is very cool. If you haven't heard of Dame Darcy, well, shame on you, you illiterate phillistine! She has a fine website, but I can't recall the damned URL. There's a link from the links page on my site, though. Go now and learn.
Otherwise, I'd have to resort to describing in detail the magnets and postcards on my filing cabinet, and discussing their psychological significance, and I'm saving that for tomorrow night.
Friday, January 11, 2002
And then there are the days when I don't have to invent things to do to avoid writing. Shit just happens. Today, the cat mysteriously vanished. We thought she'd fled the apartment when Jennifer went downstairs to investigate a crater the water works people were digging in the street. No water in the apartment, because underground pipes froze, apparently, and as they thawed, water burbled its way up to the surface and spewed through the blacktop. So, big hole and the water stops working. And the cat vanishes. And we spend the next hour and a half searching for her fat, furry, dumb ass, all through the apartment, the building, the parking garage, and on three different three streets. There I am, walking up and down the stairs and the hallway, shaking a box of Purina Senior, calling the cat ("Heeeere kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty . . .), and meowling at the top of my lungs. Remember the scene where Brett is looking for Jones on the Nostromo, right before the alien nabs him. It was sort of like that.
And then the building's fire alarm goes off and a fire truck filled with firemen shows up and we're simultaneously escorting them through the building (they had no keys) looking for the switch that had been pulled and looking for the stupid cat. Perhaps, thought I, the cat had pulled the fire alarm. Maybe she was signling the mother ship and the great feline invasion was finally at hand.
We searched the roof. The firemen looked for a fire that wasn't there. A light fixture in the third-floor hall beside my door suddenly crashed to the floor and shattered.
When your day's going this well, you don't have to worry about the writing. No one's gonna blame you for not getting anything done in this sort of chaos.
Anyway, finally the cat was found under my bed, hiding in a box of Salammbô t-shirts that she'd crawled into, but couldn't crawl back out of again. The firemen shut off the alarm and went away in disgust. The water works people filled in the crater and went away, and the water in the apartment flowed once more.
Now I go to bed. May tomorrow be boring as hell.
Thursday, January 10, 2002
I finally finished Chapter One of Low Red Moon today, and tonight Jennifer (my assistant) and I proofed it, and then I e-mailed it, along with the prologue, to a couple of close friends to get their reactions. Tomorrow, I'll send it all to my agent.
And here's something cool, a song inspired by Threshold. Just click the link below to go to IUMA:
"Our Thoughts Make Spirals In Their World"
Tonight, I also finished writing a little non-fiction essay thingy (last night I called it a "short story sort of thing," but it isn't, really) about something that happened to me while I was with Death's Little Sister, which Subterranean Press will publish as a chapbook, a freebie to folks who order the lettered state of In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers. It's a very strange piece of writing, this chapbook. It has me rather creeped out.
Wednesday, January 09, 2002
I wrote half a sentence of Low Red Moon today. Yippee. I recall a story that one of my college professors told us about a woman at a party asking James Joyce how much he'd written that day on Ulysses and he replied, "One word. One perfect word." I wish my half sentence was perfect. It isn't. I also wrote most of a short story sort of thing about Death's Little Sister, my old band, for a Subterranean Press project, though, and went to two libraries. So the day wasn't a total waste.
There's a very nice review of Threshold in the new issue of The Sentimentalist, which declares it a debut novel. I thought it was very nice of them to hit the reset button like that for me. It almost made me feel a few years younger. Anyway, if you haven't seen The Sentimentalist, I strongly recommend it (and not just because they liked my first novel, Threshold). Since the demise of the late, great Carpe Noctem, it's the best thing of its sort being published in the U.S. For instance, this issue has an article by Projekt's Sam Rosenthal about Klaus Kinski, a piece on the fallacies surrounding absinthe, an article on Art Deco jewelry, interviews with Rasputina, Unto Ashes, Holy Cow, Damon Alburn of Gorrilaz (and Blur), and about a gazillion reviews. All things dark and decadent. Check out the magazine's website at:
Now, having done my good deed for the night, I must retire into the eldritch shadows of my bathroom to find some delicious cherry-flavored Tums or Rolaids or Mylanta or somesuch chalky horror, because I've been drinking coffee all night and my stomach sucks.
Tomorrow I'll try to finish Chapter One. But I ain't making no promises.
Tuesday, January 08, 2002
Monday, January 07, 2002
Saturday and today the writing has not gone well. Nothing at all yesterday, and only a couple of pages today (slightly better than 500 words). Nevertheless, if I can manage a good day tomorrow, I should be able to finish Chapter One of Low Red Moon. At that point, while I pause to finish Bast: Eternity Game for DC/Vertigo and work on a couple of projects for Subterranean Press, my agent will read the finished prologue and first chapter and offer any opinions and instructions she might have. And then, hopefully, if she doesn't think it's total hogwash, I'll move along to Chapter Two in a couple of weeks. Blah, blah, blah.
When the writing goes well, at least my days end in the knowledge that I'm not exactly a layabout. When they go as today and yesterday have gone, there's only anger and frustration and depression. And guilt, too, perhaps, that I have not yet learned to be a more productive writer, or that I allow external distractions, illness, or personal matters to slow me down, or that I'm allowing my self-discipline (without which no writer is more than a bum in artist's drag) to slip. That's how I feel tonight. That's how I feel a good bit of the time while I'm working on a novel, as I rarely have more than three or four good days in a row, proceeded, sometimes, by as much as a week of "down-time," days when I can't bring myself to go near the keyboard for fear of all that white space waiting to be filled.
I persist in the belief, the way that some people believe in God and unicorns, that there are writers who find this process easy. That writing to them is little more than conversation. The words flow effortlessly from their minds through their hands and onto the "page" (being a heretic, I don't allow myself the luxury of believing that many of these writers actually use typewriters and paper). Some of them are savants and true poetry comes to them with ease. They do not struggle with every goddamn word as though each adjective, each adverb must be absoltely right. They do not chase perfection at every keystroke. It may come to them, and it may not, but what does come, comes with little sweat.
It is even possible that many of these fabled creatures enjoy this work. They awaken in the morning and do not feel dread at thoughts of the day ahead, a day that will be spent alone, squeezing something from nothing, but, rather, look forward to the day in which they may accomplish what mere mortals so foolishly believe to be some sort of magic. "Ah, I've always wanted to write a novel," someone says and every time I smile and "Is that so," I might say, or "Well, well," or some such sympathetic drivel, while inside I imagine them granted their wish and gradually learning the daily hell that goes along with it.
I am blithering, not to put too fine a point on it. I will stop now.
And you can all cease looking for Dame Darcy. She's been found (after a fashion).
Shut up, Caitlín, and go to bed. Or whatever it is you do at night. Leave the poor people alone. Yeah, sure, but I'll leave them with a quote, and they may make of it what they will:
"Most writers — poets in especial — prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy — and ecstatic intuition — and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought — at the true purposes seized only at the last moment — at the innumerable glimpses of ideas that arrived not at the maturity of full view — at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable . . ."
Edgar Allan Poe (1846)
Thursday, January 03, 2002
A semi-remarkable 1,200 words or so today on Chapter One, which means I'm probably two-thirds of the way through it. And this despite snowy weather and my office so cold my feet were freezing all day.
Then much of the evening was spent proofreading the galleys for In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers.
If anyone reading this bumps into Dame Darcy, who is currently on safari somewhere in the wilds of Manhattan, please tell her to call me. If she doesn't have the number, she should call Leslie Sternberg, who does. It's important.
Volumes have been written on how badly the South deals with even a half-inch of snow, which is good, because that means I don't have to go on about it here tonight. Instead, I'm going to go do something fun, like play Tomb Raider or read a Dr. Seuss book. I absolutely adore Dr. Seuss, especially the Lovecrafiness of McElligot's Pool and On Beyond Zebra. The Gentleman from Providence gave us non-Euclidean geometry, but Dr. Seuss gave us non-Darwinian biology. One of my all time favorite readings was at a goth club, where I was scheduled to read between The Crüxshadows and Bella Morte. Well, the sound system in the place sucked ass, and the sound guys sucked something worse. Things were so bad that Bella Morte were finally forced to end their set halfway through. So instead of reading whatever story I'd brought, I complained loudly and at length about the shitty sound and then read Dr. Seuss' "What Was I Scared Of?" The bands (and most everyone else present) were delighted. Dr. Seuss rules.
I think my cat has given me a hairball. I really do.
About a page today, a street corner conversation with a bum who only needs a buck fifty, not a hundred dollar bill. But there was some good dialogue. Bit by bit, inch by inch, verb by adjective by noun, Chapter One unfolds. I'm beginning the think the language of this book will be simpler. Is that really what I mean, though, "simpler"? More towards Hemingway, less towards Faulkner. A quieter book, stylistically. But that's just a maybe. It's too early to tell for sure.
Not that Hemingway was any less the stylist than Faulkner.
And it may be a much darker book than either Silk or Threshold, or perhaps only dark in a way that happens to disturb me more than the darkness of those two novels. More violent, of that much I'm fairly certain.
Much of the last three days has been consumed by a switch in publishers for Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold, which was originally going to be released by Gauntlet Publishing as a single volume, and will now be released by Subterranean Press as two volumes. The first, In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers is a previously unpublished novella, a sort of prequel to Threshold, with Dancy Flammarion falling in with a very bad crowd in Savannah, Georgia, shortly before her arrival in Birmingham. It's also a prequel to my short story "So Runs the World Away," which can be found in Steve Jones' anthology The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women (2001). Anyway, the second volume, which consists of notes for the novel, deleted chapters, false starts, photos of locales, etc. will be released as a second volume. The first is slated for an April release, in time for the World Horror Convention in Chicago. So there's been a whole lot of the business of getting these books together, and there's much more of it to come.
And Low Red Moon has me wishing for October and hating January even more than usual.
Wednesday, January 02, 2002
Considering the hangover that I woke up with this morning, today was a better day than it had any right to be. But I didn't write. I'm starting to see how this journal will soon become a sort of confession of neglect that others will point to and, "See," they'll say. "See what you were doing when you should have been slaving away on that novel?" I fear accusations of laziness almost as much as I fear dentists and nuclear war. And here I am laying traps for myself.
A wonderful package in the post today from a friend in Rhode Island, who sent me music, which is always welcomed. I can't write without music and free CDs are a blessing (if they don't suck, that is). Especially if a free CD features the splendid Hope Sandoval, as one of the ones I received today does (Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, Bavarian Fruit Bread). Yum.
And I went shopping. Because, after all, this was New Year's Day and there are so many wonderful sales I'm even willing to brave the malls. Sweaters, a very long muffler, a new coat, socks — all stuff I don't have to feel guilty about buying. I wanted a couple of nifty action figures, Hagrid and the Uruk Hai leader, but I was oh so very, very good and only bought clothes. And don't ever let anyone tell you that "nifty" isn't a perfectly fine word.
I feel so remiss in not talking more about Low Red Moon in here (what's to talk about when new words aren't being written?) that I'll drop a couple of hints. It's the third book in what I will someday call my Birmingham trilogy and there will be a few familiar faces. And circus elephants. And a volcanic eruption. Two of those statements are false. How's that? Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, whatever. I know. But I can just hear an editor a few months from now — "No one's going to want to read this! It's already all over the goddamn internet!" So, there you go. Monkey-doodle-doo.
Tomorrow I promise that I will write, real book-type words, whole sentences, entire paragraphs even. Don't count on pages, though, but I'll try.
And then I can not tell you what I wrote. It will be great fun.
Have you bought your copy of Threshold yet? What? Only one copy?! Shame on you! Buy at least four. Have fun with the extras. Tear out the pages and decoupage them to your bathroom wall. Make bloody paper dolls. Use them for origami. The possibilities are almost endless. And then there's Wrong Things and From Weird and Distant Shores. Sacrifice those Amazon.com gift certificates you got for Christmas. I have a lamp habit and an elderly cat to support, after all. Sheesh.
Second verse, same as the first . . .
Tuesday, January 01, 2002
It's as if this crapulous year had to go out with a last, spectacularly crapulous day, like an exclamation point. 2001! You won't soon forget me,, no sir'ee. Which is to say it was one of those days, the sort where you don't slow down for twelve hours, but it's all silly, annoying twaddle, from start to finish, and not a true word gets written anywhere. Writing would be a far more pleasant enterprise if publishing weren't required to complete the damned, vicious circle.
Fortunately, I have a 7-year-old bottle of apple brandy (left over from Dragon*Con) and another of Mari Mayans absinthe and, moving from one to the other and back again, I should manage to make it to the end of this ridiculous year.
Oh, and The Marx Brothers. They make everything better.
I'd make some sort of futile resolution, at this point, but I've already made more promises than I can keep, and miles to go before I sleep and so on and so forth. Promises are for people too young to know any better, I say.
So are hangovers, which I'm sure I'll be telling myself again in the morning. In fact, getting older rather tends to ruin drinking, simply because time seems to move so much faster. What's the point of getting drunk when the hangover's here before you've hardly begun to notice the buzz? Fortunately, I ignored my own age'd wisdom this evening.
And what, you may be asking, has any of this to do with writing? I knew some inquirious loudmouth would be asking that question. Well, I've no intention of answering it in this state (or any other). Ask Carson McCullers or Dorothy Parker, instead. Ask James Dickey. And stop picking at that thing or it will never heal.
Lord, what a year.
Go to bed, all of you.