Sunday, June 30, 2002
1,209 wds. yesterday. Woo-hoo. I'll write more here tonight, promise. Or in the morning. Right now, though, I think I'm going to go put on The Cure's Disintegration and enjoy a thunderstorm and all the peculiar qualities of light and sound attendant such meteorological phenomena.
Saturday, June 29, 2002
As I know you are all waiting with baited breath for yesterday's word count, I shall go straight to it. 1,005 wds. I seem to be taking this 1K wds. a day thing very literally. Whatever it takes to get me from point A to point B as soon as possible, with only a modicum of mess, and at least some pretense at art, and this seems to be doing the trick.
It is actually remarkable I got anything written yesterday. A major interruption and general free-floating crappiness. Hardly conducive to pulling stunning prose from my nether regions. Maybe today will be better.
Let's go see . . .
Friday, June 28, 2002
Friday morning and it only seems like Thursday morning, so I'm catching up. Things went relatively well yesterday. I wrote 1,003 wds. on Chapter Ten. I have this vague (and probably misguided) ambition of having another Friday like last Friday, something close to 2,000 wds., to make up for wds. (=time) lost this Monday and Tuesday, but I have my doubts.
Gothic.net, which hosts my website, is down. Again. It was offline over four hours yesterday. When Gothic.net's ISP goes down, my website and discussion boards go down, as does my ability to post Blogger entries to my website (and check my gothic.net e-mail). So, although I'm writing this at about a quarter past eleven a.m., I have no frelling idea when it will actually be posted.
I had a thought this morning, during coffee, because I fell asleep to Alien last night (well, this morning). I made it as far as Dallas, Lambert, and Kane's hike from the Nostromo to the derelict spacecraft before I nodded off, which means I really saw all the best stuff. I woke briefly at the sudden noise of Kane being attacked by the facehugger. Which led to this morning's thought. Characters in long form fiction, be it written or filmed, are more prone to doing stupid things than are people in short form fiction, be it written or filmed. Up to the point that Kane insists on being lowered down the mysterious hole near the fossilized alien pilot, everything's fine. No one (except maybe Kane) really wants to be out there in the first place, but they have to check out all systematized transmissions blah blah blah or lose their paychecks. So, the characters are behaving perfectly reasonably by investigating the ship. They hardly have a choice. They go and see spooky, marvelous things. And that really should be the end of the story. At that point, they should leave, having done their duty to The Company. But no. Since it's a movie, and movies need to be in the two-hour range, Kane has to go rappelling down that damned hole into the egg chamber and all hell breaks loose (and thus we get three sequels). It's one of the few things any of the characters in the film do that's actually stupid (I've spent many nights defending Ripley's going back for Jones, so don't get me started). And, when you get right down to it, it only happens so that we can have a two-hour movie. Alien (which I adore, don't get me wrong), would have been a far more sublime piece of film-making had it stopped before the descent and the alien of the title been that bizarre thing in the chair. And if you can understand why I'm saying all this, you can understand why I prefer writing short fiction to writing novels, and why my novels are, by genre standards, relatively short.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Yesterday went much better, writing-wise, and I did 1,027 wds. on Chapter Ten of Low Red Moon. Which means I'm still about a thousand wds. behind schedule for the week, but at least I'm not two thousand behind. To celebrate, I left the apartment for the first time since Saturday.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Wednesday, but somehow it feels like Monday. Yesterday was another bad day for writing and I only managed another 571 wds. on Chapter Ten. So, this chapter is officially off to a Very Slow Start. Being almost 1,000 wds. behind for the week makes me nervous (the goal of finishing this book by mid-August is, of course, all my own doing, but that changes nothing). As to why this particular chapter is giving me so much trouble, I'm not entirely certain. I have some thoughts, though. Low Red Moon will have either a double climax or a first and false climax; either way, the first one comes in Chapter Ten. So there's the intimidation of approaching events. Also, and perhaps more significantly, there's a lot of action in this chapter, which I hate writing. If I take these two elements, I really need look no farther for an adequate explanation for the slow start, though other factors may well be at work.
Have I mentioned how inadequate I find the medium of prose to the art of storytelling? Of course I have. Probably a dozen times so far. Just look back to that rather obtuse rant from 6/24. Anyway, last night I was watching Pitch Black for about the tenth time and I realized one of the things that it's almost absolutely impossible to do in prose. And it's a common feature of human dialogue, so the inability to reproduce it in fiction is a serious shortcoming. More than one character speaking at the same time. One voice layered over another. Or five voices competing for attention. Oh, I know I can tell the reader that Character A and Character B are speaking simultaneously. I can tell you Character C has just interrupted Character B. But one of my first rules of fiction-writing is show, don't tell. It's one of the few things I actually came away from those silly college fiction-writing courses believing.
More and more, as I write each day, I see myself as an artist moving away from my infatuation with William Faulkner and James Joyce, and drawn, instead, towards the simplicity and directness of Hemingway. Not because Faulkner and Joyce were inferior writers (they were probably, in fact, Hemingway's betters), but because writing the very specific sorts of stories that I'm writing isn't about lingustic acrobatics or word games, it's about relating a series of events, cause and effect, consequence, etc. And, for me, it's a given that prose is hopelessly handicapped in this task, so I don't need to further handicap myself by insisting that every goddamn sentence be a gem. I'm beginning to think it only annoys people. Anyway, now I have to stop writing about writing and just go write.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Yesterday was not a good writing day. And yet, still, I managed about 500 wds. on Chapter Ten, though they took me a good three hours. But at least Chapter Ten is begun. The first step is always the hardest.
Monday, June 24, 2002
I've been sitting in my office for an hour now, staring at a blank "page" on the iBook, trying to find the words that begin Chapter Ten. Sometimes the words just won't come. There's only the rattling, thundering noise inside my head, and the images, and it all refuses to resolve into the contrivance of written language. Mere words. At its worst, writing is reductionism, and I have grown to loathe reductionism over the years. The compression of the fabulous and unfathomable into the mundane and comprehensible, for convenience's sake, or the sake of our peace of mind. As one of the characters in Low Red Moon would say, "Six of one, half dozen of another." Of course, then it winds back the other way, and the text may suggest to the reader the barest intimations of the fabulous and unfathomable. But I have a quarrel with this cycle that I can neither win nor turn my back on. It's in my mind, what I want to show you and I can not ever truly get it out and onto paper. I can only reduce and compromise and settle for the third or fourth or fifth best thing to the truth of the source material. This medium is so insufficient to mine or anyone else's imagination.
But right now, I'm just looking for a fucking handful of words. A key. The way in. A line of dialogue or a snatch of description. An arbitrary starting point for the communication of something which is seamless and has no genuine beginning or ending. An acceptable translation of my memories of unhappened events. And it is heavy and at this moment I'd rather be doing almost anything else.
Sunday, June 23, 2002
Yesterday was a day off, for having been such a good girl and finishing Chapter Nine so quickly. I went to Atlanta, to escape Birmingham, and didn't get back until about 4:30 a.m. Which means that I feel a bit like ass right now. My stomach feels like prairie dogs have taken up residence in my duodenum.
Today I have to proof Chapter Nine, as well as go through notes on several other chapters that two of my first readers have left for me. It'll be one of those sorts of days. Tomorrow I will begin Chapter Ten, In Which Many Momentous Bad Things Occur.
Saturday, June 22, 2002
A long time ago, I was complaining to Neil Gaiman about some personal problem or another which, at the time, seemed like the end of the world. Now I can't even recall what the hell it was all about. Anyway, he told me not to dwell on it too long because in the end, when we're dead, all anyone will actually remember about us is the work, the words. All the rest of the shit doesn't matter. Just the words. And, at the moment, I am keenly aware of the truth of his advice, and the weight it places on anyone who chooses to spend her life as a writer. There is no division between the work and who I am. I am the work, the characters in the story, the poetry or lack thereof, the truth and the lies. My worth to society and to myself, ultimately, rests in these tales, in my talent (which is only what I was born with), my skill (which can only be increased by so much), and my perseverance.
At any rate, Chapter Nine is finished. Though it was slow going at first, the marathon came off and I managed an impressive (to me, anyway) 1,849 wds., between about 12 and 6:30 p.m. And the end of this chapter is a sort of turning point in the novel, so I feel as though I, like the characters trapped in the ms., have passed across some threshold into darker territories. The story is moving quickly towards climax and conclusion. And I'm frightened that's it's all happened so fast.
Friday, June 21, 2002
Today it began. And it's not that I'm surprised, except that, by all rights, it should have begun four months ago. The point where I begin to doubt that the novel has any integrity whatsoever, that my writing is the least bit worthwhile, and so on and so forth. It never ends. No matter how many novels or short stories I sell, no matter how many comics scripts, no matter how many glowing reviews I get or awards I win, this maddening cycle of self-doubt remains, unchanged. If anything, it becomes more tangible. I wasted at least an hour today just wanting to start the whole damn thing over from the beginning.
And then I wrote 1,142 wds. on Chapter Nine. If I can pull a marathon day tomorrow, I can be finished with Chapter Nine and take a couple of days off.
What else. My LA agent, Julien, called and we had a long and encouraging conversation. Here in Birmingham, it's very hot, but at least there are no forest fires.
Thursday, June 20, 2002
I took the day off yesterday and went to Atlanta, where I prowled thrift stores and saw The Fellowship of the Ring for the fifth time (but this time at the incomparable Fox Theatre downtown). This print included the trailer for The Two Towers, which I'd not seen and which looks magnificent.
Anyway, now it's back to Chapter Nine . . .
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Not a bad writing day. A hard one, but not a bad one. the sort of day where I find myself questioning every facet of the novel, thinking perhaps I went terribly wrong all the way back in Chapter Two or Three. But there are worse writing days than that. I still managed respectable 1,016 wds. on Chapter Nine, which I should be able to finish by Friday or Sunday.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
I fell asleep last night watching Blade Runner, and when I woke at 2:30 a.m., didn't much feel like making an entry. I'm now on my third copy of Blade Runner. The first was a VHS tape I got sometime in 1990, a pan-and-scan of the theatrical release (sans unicorn scene, etc.) that wore out just about the time the Director's Cut became available (I think I got a copy about 1994 or so) on VHS. Last week I finally picked up the DVD. Hopefully, it'll last a while.
Yesterday I did 1,035 wds. on Chapter Nine.
The research I'm having to do for this book is, at times, rather nauseating. I thought the whole "degloving" bit was bad when I was working with a severe hand injury, but then I moved on to burns. I spent much of yesterday's work-time thinking about burns. First, second, and third degree. Here are couple of good lines from one of the medical/pathology books: "The victim's 'internal sea' is no longer protected by the skin envelope . . ." and Her skin's leaking like a fifty-year-old roof . . .". Look no further for an explanation for that lavender Hello Kitty shirt with purple glitter that I bought a couple of weeks ago.
Monday, June 17, 2002
Yes, I have been neglecting the journal. But I have at least been writing. Chapter Nine proceeds apace. 941 wds. on Saturday. 1,027 wds. on Sunday. Saturday was almost as hard as Friday (see the entry for 6/15), but Sunday was much better — it only took me about two hours to do my work for the day. But it is becoming a Frustrating Book, and is most certainly a Different Sort of Book than either Threshold or Silk, and I have to hope that's a good thing. The violence continues to bother me, but it's an intrinsic, necessary element. I just have to keep searching for that end, which I talked about when I started this journal so many months ago. It's almost in sight. With luck, Chapter Nine will be finished on this coming Friday.
Saturday, June 15, 2002
Today was the worst sort of writing day. The sort of day where every thought seems trapped in a fugue, where every word is a fight I have to win. I began at 11 a.m. and worked until about 5 p.m. and managed 1,042 wds. But it felt like twice that much work.
There was nice rain this morning and the rest of the day was cool. There won't be many more days like that in Birmingham until autumn.
Friday, June 14, 2002
Chapter Nine got off to a very good start today — 1,005 wds. I think the fact that it was a rainy day helped significantly. And it cooled things down a bit. I've discovered that just as my office is the coldest room in the winter, it is also the hottest room in the summer, resisting both fans and air conditioning alike. My feet no longer freeze, I only sweat.
Thursday, June 13, 2002
As reward for finishing Chapter Eight in only nine days, I took yesterday off and went to Atlanta. Nothing much, drinks at a cafe with friends, but it's always a relief to escape Birmingham for even just a few hours.
I woke up too early, answered an e-mail from my editor at Penguin, who wanted to know if I'll be at WorldCon/ConJose (I won't, as I'll be at DragonCon), and forwarded an inquiry regarding Threshold from a film producer to my agents in NYC and LA. Now I have to clear my foggy head and deal with getting Chapter Nine underway.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
I'm listening to Joy Division and the sounds the air conditioner makes. There's not much to say for today. It was spent proofreading Chapter Eight. I sent it out to the first readers. Hot and no rain.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Last night I dozed off while watching John Carpenter's The Thing (a favorite film, but I've watched it so many times it's taken on the properties of a narcotic) and entirely forgot to do the journal. Which is a shame, as I actually had something to say. So, I shall say it now instead. Unexpectedly, I finished Chapter Eight yesterday, one day ahead of schedule. It just happened. I wrote 1,102 wds. and somehow came to the end a bit before I'd expected. This is never a bad thing.
Today, I'll spend some time polishing and tweaking, and by tonight I should have it in shape. I'll most likely begin Chapter Nine (!) day after tomorrow.
Anyway, jumping back to my entry for June 10th, and the unsaid stuff about troublesome children and wobbly shopping carts. I have, in the past, gone to some cosiderable lengths to rein in the goriness of my novels (and most of my short stories). I'm not inherently opposed to gore, but I do think that, as Ann Radcliffe might have advised, it's something an author should always use sparingly, if at all. It's a sort of literary cayenne pepper, quickly dulling the "tastebuds" (sensibilities) of the reader. It's extraordinarly rare that an author or filmmaker can truly indulge in gore and not wind up losing me. There are exceptions, especially in film. The Thing, which I mentioned above, for example, in when large amounts of slime, blood, organs, and mutilated body parts are presented, but somehow the film itself is intriguing enough that Carpenter never loses me. Contrast that with, say, Seven, an absolutely brilliant film that I've only been able to watch twice. The first time was difficult. During the second viewing, I became quite nauseous and have never tried to watch it again. It's a film that would have benefitted tremendously from suggestion, rather than presenting the murders in loving, graphic detail. Many people, especially horror buffs (those who might be more comfortable with the Matthew Lewis school of Gothic horror, provided they've heard of Lewis) would, of course, disagree.
After one of my first readers read the prologue of Low Red Moon, which is quite gory, she said to me, "Are you trying to do the Seven thing?" I quickly responded that no, I wasn't, but that unlike Silk and Threshold, where gore is minimal, there'd be a bit more of it this time out. Turns out I was correct, and perhaps to a degree I find regrettable. The end product will hopefully prove me wrong, but I had some difficulties with a scene in Chapter Eight. It came out gorier than I'd expected, and I kept thinking (as I so often do), this would have worked so much better had it only been film instead of prose. I could have done so much more with fleeting glimpses and suggestion, rather than having to spell out in relative detail what unpleasantries have been encountered.
As the novel moves towards its conclusion, and I know things will only be getting grimmer, I'm going to make an extra effort to merely suggest. The old days, when I cared for the passing fad of "splatterpunk," are long gone, and I care even less for its bastard child, "extreme horror." The basic concept of this novel necessitates a degree of bloodiness, but I'm determined I will walk the tightrope well and (mixing metaphors willy-nilly) not leave my readers with their mouths full of cayenne pepper. It is the mystery, the outer darkness pressing in upon our world, the fear and awe and light in the souls of the characters, their individual and collective capacity for redemption, that is the heart of Low Red Moon, not a few stomach-churning moments. Now, I have to find myself equal to the task of making that so.
Monday, June 10, 2002
Chapter Eight should be done on Tuesday. I did 1,020 wds. today, in only about three hours.
It was a better day than yesterday, though I was disappointed that it didn't rain.
I had it in my head this afternoon to write something lengthy about how books don't always become what we want them to be, troublesome children, shopping carts with bad wheels, that sort of thing, but now it's late and I'm tired. Better luck next time.
Sunday, June 09, 2002
If I may say so, yesterday degenerated into a totally shitty day and, at its eventual and welcomed conclusion, I felt in no way motivated to say anything about it. I should have gone to see Peter Murphy in Atlanta, even though I've been told the show wasn't all that great. Today will be better, if only because it isn't likely to be worse. Reagardless, I did write 820 wds. on Chapter Eight. Not as much as I'd have like to have written, but I can say it's a good 820 wds. I should do as well today.
Here are a couple of questions that came in yesterday. They have nothing much to do with writing, in general, or Low Red Moon, in particular, but that probably a point in their favor. Jackie asks:
Paleontology is an old, old interest of mine, recently reawakened, in part, by Threshold (and I'm blaming you for the consequences). I've been rereading the books I remember from my childhood - The Fossil Book by the Fentons (I was so amazed to find it still in print, I bought a copy) and Beerbower's Search for the Past. Do you have any suggestions for a more up to date "intro. to paleo." text?
And the other question: I am going to attempt to get ahold of and (try to) read your "Stratigraphic distribution and habitat segregation..." paper. I'm sure that there are going to be many "my brain hurts" moments, and that I'm going to need some help. I keep a dictionary near where I read. What should someone relatively clueless, but willing to make an effort, have nearby while trying the paper? A historical geology textbook? An open link to "Oceans of Kansas"? An *exceptional* dictionary?
As for an introduction to paleontology, there are a lot of good books out there. I rarely read (or notice) the very general ones these days, but here are a couple I have noticed lately:
Atlas of the Prehistoric World by Douglas Palmer
Time Machines: Scientific Explorations in Deep Time by Peter Ward
Fossils: The Key to the Past by Richard A Fortey
Life History of a Fossil: An Introduction to Taphonomy and Paleoecology by Pat Shipman
As for reading the biostratigraphy paper, I'm flattered, but be warned that it's pretty esoteric stuff. Yes, the Oceans of Kansas website is a good guide through much of the details of the Mosasauroidea and the Late Creatceous in North America. You might also check a local library for a dictionary of geological and paleontological terms. Good luck.
Saturday, June 08, 2002
I was so right. No writing today, thanks to the modern miracles of dentistry and various subsequent distractions. I shall have to try to make up for it tomorrow. I hope to finish Chapter Eight on Tuesday.
Of course, the only thing that really mattered to me today was that Season Four of Farscape began.
Friday, June 07, 2002
The dread hospital room scene is done. I wrote 1,113 wds. on Chapter Eight today. Next, the book moves towards a Revelation of Great Importance. But that may have to wait until Saturday, as tomorrow has a dentist appointment plopped down squarely in its center, no doubt throwing the whole day off kilter.
I wish this could be the longer entry I promised last night. Maybe I need questions from the floor.
Thursday, June 06, 2002
Chapter Eight is moving along well. I did 1,015 wds. today, which got me out of the homicide detective's office in which I'd been mired, and into the dreaded hospital room.
And I apologize for the entries all being so very short of late. I'll try to do something about that. I've just not had much word-energy left over for the journal, the novel is taking so much of my attention, even when I'm not actively writing it.
There's a nice little write up on In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers in the new issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, written by Charles de Lint. Kind words are always appreciated. And if you haven't already ordered a copy of the fine little book, illustrated by the incomparable Dame Darcy, what the hell's wrong with you? You want to see my 13-year-old cat starve to death? You want this to be the very last Dancy Flammarion story anyone ever gets to read? You want me to end this paragraph and fuck off to bed?! Well, so do I.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
As it turned out, today was not a total waste, as the last couple of days have been. I did 516 wds. on Chapter Eight (roughly two ms. pages) in about four hours. I'm mired in a conversation in a homicide detective's office. Tomorrow, I get to be mired in a hospital scene. I'm not fond of either locale. But at least the chapter's back on track. With luck, I'll have this chapter finished by Monday or Tuesday.
This evening, a little before dark, some wonderfully blustery thunderstorms rolled into Birmingham. Good storms can go a long way towards snapping me out of a slump.
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
So, here it is Tuesday and I still haven't written anything new on Chapter Eight since Friday. As these dry days accumulate, they begin to intimidate. Writers don't get paid not to write. Well, there was that thing the Samuel Adams beer people paid me $700 not to write, but that's a long story.
It's even harder to write about not writing, than to write about writing.
Monday, June 03, 2002
I haven't made an entry the last couple of days because there hasn't really been anything to make an entry about. The trip to Atlanta. A day yesterday that I didn't write. Chapter Eight remains where I left it on Friday. Hopefully, I'll get back on the horse today and have something to report tonight. I think this can be more accurately described as slogging, rather than blogging.
Saturday, June 01, 2002
Despite an extremely distracting Farscape marathon and a late afternoon errand, I managed to write 504 wds. on Chapter Eight today. Tomorrow I'm taking a day off for a trip to Atlanta to visit friends there, and plot my eventual return from exile. So, there may not be an entry here tomorrow night. By the way, if you happen to be in Atlanta, drop by Oxford Comics on Peidmont and meet the fantabulous Charles Vess.