Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Already, it's the last day of April. Time compresses around me, threatening to collapse. Time, or perhaps only my aging perception of time, accelerates. The rate of acceleration is accelerating. A temporal white dwarf. The last year of my life will only last a day, if I should live so long.
Yesterday, I did 1,056 words on the story. It's listing awfully close to the 10,000 mark. I think it shall go to at least 11,000 before all is said and done. It hasn't found its title yet. I was still working at 11:30 last night.
Good heavens. I've been living in this place five months now and I still haven't hung all the frelling pictures.
While the short story is almost done, the novel, Murder of Angels, languishes. Hopefully I'll get back to it next week. I also have to pull together the last bit of material on The Five of Cups for Subterranean Press, and proofread Low Red Moon for both Roc and SubPress. I have another short story due to another anthology on June 1. At least I have no more cons or readings or signings or such until Dragon*Con at the end of the summer. It will be a summer of intense novelizing.
The highs have been running in the low '80s, but the cryosphere has been keeping my office in the '60s. Hot outside, and my feet are freezing inside. At least the air conditioner won't run up the electric bill this summer.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
The southeast is not reknowned as a hot-bed of seimic activity, but there was apparently a notable earthquake about 5 a.m. this morning. 4.9, which isn't too shabby for this part of the globe. You can read the details at the U.S. Geological Survey's website. I haven't heard whether or not it was felt by anyone here in Atlanta. We couldn't have been shaken up very much, though, because the two Edward Scissorhand action figures in my office are still standing and they tumble over if a passing gnat farts their way. Regardless, Spooky and I slept soundly through the event.
The story still has no title. It needs one soon, as I expect to finish it by Thursday evening. I did a more respectable 1,174 words on it yesterday. That's a total of 8,141 words so far. I seem to have drifted into a place where I can only write long stories. There was a time when I counted my short stories as long if they ran over 5,000 words. Anyway, I was still writing at 10:34 last night and I think most of my brain is still in bed. Still dreaming. Too bad the rest of me isn't. But I am liking this story. It's a [i]very[/i] different direction for me. And I think it may be looking less like an experiment and more like the shape of things to come. At least so far as my short fiction is concerned.
New photos up on the website, thanks to Thryn. My latest turn as a Nebari. Have a peek. Thanks to Andre for another fabulous job.
Also, a sample chapter of Low Red Moon is now online. I'm eager to see this novel published, as I'm so much happier with it than either Silk or Threshold.
I think that's it for today. Time to make the doughnuts . . .
Monday, April 28, 2003
Yesterday was stubborn, difficult, slow - take your pick. The words came in a stingy trickle and left me feeling, in the end, as if it was all crap. All day spent chasing the story, chasing my own tail, tale, tell, and all I had to show for my exhaustion was 848 words. I read it back to Jennifer and Kathryn and they liked it. I'm still not sure. Today will be better, most likely.
Still, no title.
I suspect that yesterday I was still a little weirded-out by Birmingham. At the bookfair, sitting in the authors' hospitality room, talking to the man who plays organ at The Alabama Theatre, I realized no one was wearing a cape or a sword or walking around with a fire lizard perched on his or her shoulder. That alone made the experience unusual for me.
Yesterday I wrote to Apoptygma Berzerk. I'm not sure what I'll write to today.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Back from Birmingham. That's two appearances in two weeks and, fortunately, I have no more until Dragon*Con at the end of August.
The Alabama Bound bookfair was well-attended and I got to read after all. A very short reading, but a reading all the same. Threshold, pages 25-27. Dancy on the bus to Birmingham. I've been doing readings since 1995 and I never get nervous anymore, but I did yesterday. I think it was speaking in one of the libraries of my childhood. One of those places that used to stand for everything I needed to accomplish in life. And there I was, having accomplished far more than I ever truly expected. And it was strange, reading in the very room where Dancy Flammarion sits reading old National Geographics at the beginning of Threshold (p. 23). Barnes and Noble supplied books for the event and very quickly sold out of all the copies of Threshold that they'd brought. The only disappointment was that Robert McCammon, whom I never met and who was also supposed to attend, got sick and had to bow out. But I know how that goes.
I also visited my mother, who I'd not seen in over a year. It was Spooky's first time to meet her. We sat up until after midnight on Friday looking at old photographs. My grandparents. My great grandparents. Cats from my past (an upcoming "Photo of the Week" page). Me in 1969. Me in 1974. Me in 1980. And so forth. A very surreal evening. I got back to Atlanta about eight last night. We were hardly gone 24 hours. Short trips disorient me.
And today it's back to the short story. I did work on it on Friday morning and early afternoon, despite having to get ready to leave. I wrote 870 wds., which I think has brought me to what must be the mid-point on the piece. It still has no title.
And I would be remiss in my obligations to Sophie if I didn't now direct you towards the Cat Crutches Auction. I only have a couple more copies of the ARC for The Five of Cups, so take note.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Tomorrow I'll be doing the Alabama Bound bookfair in Birmingham. There's not much to it. I think I introduce myself and sign books. No reading. I do question the sense of a bookfair with no readings. But I'm sure someone had a reason for it. Someone always does. Anyway, if you're interested, you can get more details from the Alabama Bound website. I think I'll be up about 1 p.m., and signing afterwards. I have to leave for Alabama tonight, so this morning is somewhat rushed.
Last night I read through what I've written on the new story to Thryn and Jennifer. It sounds good. I confess, though, it's in first person. As an experiment, it seems to be a success. Perhaps conversion looms ever nearer and soon I'll see the error of my ways and abandon third person entirely. But I doubt it. The story still needs a title.
The copyeditor who marked all over the LRM ms. wants me to capitalize "realtor," claiming it's a trademark. Last time, with Threshold, the big fights were over "laundromat" and "dumpster," which are also trademarked. The fear is that trademark owners will sue the publisher if the words aren't capitalized, as their casual usage (and I suppose lowercase is casual) brings them ever closer to becoming arguably an everyday part of the language, at which point it becomes difficult to legally defend the sanctity of trademark. It's a load of dren. Realtor??? How completely idiotic would it look if you were reading along and there's the word "realtor" capitalized? I'll probably skip the argument, which I'd lose anyway, and go with "real-estate agent" or "realty agent." Unless those have been trademarked, as well. One never frelling knows. Foster capitalism, then art. Let's keep our priorities straight.
Anyway, enough crankiness from me for one morning. I need to go write.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
I did 1,151 words on the new (and still untitled) short story today, despite this frelling bug that has my nose stuffy and me imagining I have fevers when I don't. But the writing, the act of writing, felt flat, unlike the last three days. I know it's just the cold, but it's still frustrating. I listened to Metallica while I wrote today, which was a first.
Writing these entries at the end of the day, rather than at the beginning, I'm not nearly as talkative, so I think I'll switch back tomorrow morning.
The CEM (copy-edited manuscript) of Low Red Moon arrived yesterday, but I didn't open it until this afternoon. A few hundred comments from the copyeditor, most of which I'll mark "stet," after bitching at length about each and every one. You'll hear lots more about this when I begin the next read-through, no doubt. Also, you can now pre-order Low Red Moon from Amazon.com.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Today went very well, reassuring me that Monday and Tuesday weren't a fluke and that the words will keep flowing for a while. I did a very respectable 1,478 words on the new story today. It still doesn't have a title, but it might by this time tomorrow. Kathryn and Jennifer like the piece, and I think I do, too. I listened to Emiliana Torrini all day while I wrote and my nose dripped and the cryosphere, reactivated by a cool snap, made my toes and fingers ache.
I'm afraid I'm too wasted to write a decent entry.
Thryn put up five of her favorites from the second photo shoot for the dustjacket of The Five of Cups. You can see them on the dubiously titled "Pictures of the Week" page. I'm fairly pleased with them. There was something else I wanted to say, but I can't for the life of me remember what it might have been.
I'm going to go lay on my face now.
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
I've written well for two days in a row now. 1,249 words yesterday and another 1,179 today. About two o'clock this afternoon I discovered I had a low fever, but I kept writing. It's science-fiction, a story for a magazine that's asked me for something. Two solid days and I'll take that as evidence that I'm past whatever had me locked-up for so long. Enough said.
The first rule of Writer's Block is we don't talk about Writer's Block. The second rule of Writer's Block . . .
I hope everyone hasn't given up on this journal. I do apologize for the silence. There are only so many times you can say, "Today I didn't write."
Is there any news? Fantasm went well, despite my waking up with a sore throat Saturday morning. Something I caught from Thryn. It's nice having someone to trade diseases with. I did two panels and an interview on Friday, and a reading Saturday night. The con was held at the Sheraton Colony Square and I only realized after we checked in that it was the same hotel where World Horror '95 was held. I had my very first reading at WHC '95. It was the first time me and Poppy and Christa got together, the con where I met Neil and Harlan and a bunch of other people who would go on to become friends and cohorts and suchlike. I read "Bela's Plot" to a crowded room. Anyway, all my programming for Fantasm was in the same room, Brookwood, as my WHC '95 reading, and it was a little weird. A vaguely nice sort of weird, but weird all the same. The eight years between now and then kept collapsing around me, everything that's happened since, etc., etc.
On Saturday, I did the Nebari costume again. Thryn got some good photos and I'll post them on the website later. The tiresome hipster in me knows I should be ashamed of such geeky undertakings, but I think I've ceased to give a shit.
The copy-edited manuscript of Low Red Moon is on its way back to me from New York, and we'll be proofing it and the Subterranean Press galleys at the same time. All my proofreading notes and corrections on The Five of Cups are typed up, ready to go back to Bill Schafer. I signed the contracts on the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon yesterday and put them back in the mail. We're finishing up formatting a preview chapter of LRM, which should go up on the website tonight or tomorrow. This is the sort of work that's kept me moving the last couple of weeks.
Anyway, I'm back. Ta-dah. Celebrate by visiting the Cat Crutches Auction and buying something with words on it. You'll thank me.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Sadly, this is not a post to say that I've found a way around or over or through the wall. I am working, but it's all not-exactly-writing work, editing, proofreading, web stuff, etc. I'm hoping things will turn around on Monday.
Meanwhile, just a quick note to say that I'll be at Fantasm in Atlanta this Friday and Saturday. I have panels during the day on Friday, beginning at 2 p.m., and a reading at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Also, I got copies of Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold this afternoon and it's a nice little book. I've waited a very long time to see this one in print. There are new photos up on the "Photos of the 'Week'" page on my website (accessible via the news page), from the second "blood bath" shoot last Saturday. I'm much happier with this second batch. Finally, sometime between tonight and Monday afternoon, we'll be posting Chapter Three of Low Red Moon to the site, so keep an eye out for it (it'll be accessible via the fiction page). Otherwise, that's about it. Stay tuned . . .
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Yesterday, the wall returned with a vengence. And the day spiraled into the worst sort of not-writing day.
The only thing I did that was halfway constructive was sign some of the bookplates for Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold. I have to finish that today and put them back in the mail to Bill Schafer. By the way, he says the books will ship next week. Sorry this one has been so dreadfully long coming. I know a lot of you preordered and have been waiting a long time for it. I really do apologize. Two years now since it was announced by Gauntlet? A year and three-quarters? Something like that. Two different publishers. It's been a chore. If you haven't ordered and have any interest in the book, you should do it now. The supply is very, very limited at this point. I think it's all but sold out. And remember, to get the Our Thoughts Make Spirals in Their World CD, you have to order the book directly from Subterranean Press or be lucky enough to have a specialty bookshop nearby that will be offering them together.
Last night I watched Rio Bravo and tried to remember if I'd named Chance Matthews for John Wayne's character. I have no idea. Given her penchant for old westerns, I may have.
I need to write Ryan Obermeyer about the cover and endsheets for the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon. He sent me a lot of great ideas. And I think we're redoing the TFoC author's photos tonight (or maybe tomorrow night; I'm still unclear), since I wasn't really happy with the first set. Another red bath. Joy. I need to call my LA agent. That's today.
I've decided to put the blogger on hiatus until I find a way around this wall and I'm sure it's the right way, and not some dead end, cul-de-sac, switchback kind of affair. So this will be the last entry for a while. A few days. A week. A month. We'll see. If there's any important news or peculiar events, I'll post them. But I can't see the point of this daily report on how much nothing was accomplished. It will be back, before too long, because there's no way I can wiggle out of this writing thing. I'm not allowed to stop.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
I think I needed about two hours more sleep. We had to be up early for a morning UPS delivery from Subterranean Press which has still not materialized. I haven't had caffeine yet. My stomach feels vaguely unhappy. And so forth.
But the photoshoot, well, there was a small ordeal. The make-up didn't take an hour, it took at least two. It was after 11 p.m. before I even got into the tub of warm red stuff. I lay there for maybe half an hour, with little white chrysanthemums floating about me, my hearing muffled by the water, the lights blinding me, the heat from the lights baking me, the air reeking somewhat of fairy puke, the artificial blood in my mouth tasting a like a wad of Doublemint gum that's spent a week on a theater floor, Kathryn looming above me with the camera. Everything was a blur through the contacts. All in all, I was too uncomfortable to think much about being naked. Finally, when I'd had enough, I said so, and hoisted myself out of the tub to discover that my skin had been stained the colour of a well-boiled lobster. I had about fifteen minutes of panic, while Kathryn was moving the lighting and ladder and stuff out of the way, while the contacts we being removed, when I was certain that my skin would be that colour for days or weeks. Fortunately, it came off in the shower with just a little scrubbing. Red is not my color. Hopefully, the photos will turn out well and I will not have endured it all for naught.
The word "naught" is used far too infrequently these days.
I received a cover slick for Low Red Moon from my editor at Penguin yesterday. It looks great. This is my first book where my name will appear above the title. I'm told that's a good sign. And I wrote. Another 686 words in about two and a half hours. I'm still not sure if this story will become a Story. It might. Kathryn and Jennifer both like it. But writing in first person is very, very strange. I'm going to especial care to avoid all those things that render first person so problematic to begin with. But I've yet to find the heart of the piece. Maybe today. I'm just grateful to be writing again.
About midnight last night, after everything was cleaned up from the shoot, I collapsed on the living room floor, too tired to think, but too awake to sleep. I watched Rhapsody in Blue, the highly-fictionalized biopic of George Gershwin. It was over around 2:30 and then I dragged myself off to bed, after leaving a note on the door for the UPS person, who still hasn't seen fit to show his or her face.
Monday, April 07, 2003
I did write yesterday. I'll get to that in a moment.
If you're a Farscape fan and/or if you've been keeping up with the whole Sci-Fi Channel fiasco you should read this article from TV Guide via SaveFarscape. As usual, Matt Roush's comments were appreciated.
This evening I'm doing a shoot for the author's photo for The Five of Cups. It's the first time that I've ever posed nude, so I'm (understandably, I think) somewhat nervous. The shoot involves me floating in a tub full of something that will look as much as possible like blood, in body make-up and black contacts, surrounded by white flowers (either chrysanthemums or carnations, I'm not sure which). The make-up should only take about an hour (which isn't bad, compared to the Nebari make-up). Kathryn's doing the actual photography (she did all my photos for Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold); she has to spend part of the day getting the lighting right. It's actually a nice break in the recent monotony, though I may begin to feel differently after the first fifteen or twenty minutes of lying there naked in cold red stuff, or if I come out of this with my skin dyed crimson for an indefinite period of time. I've been Caitlín the Black and Caitlín the White, but never have I been Caitlín the Red before.
Did I mention that I wrote yesterday? I did. For about two hours. 491 words in two hours and it ended in a rage, me screaming at Microsoft Word because it wouldn't format something or another the way I wanted it to and me thinking I'd just wasted two hours on utter rubbish. Kathryn and I read back through the piece this morning, though, and she likes it and I think it may have a little potential after all. So I'm going back to it this afternoon. It's something that wants to be a short story.
But what's really interesting, or ironic, or funny, or what-the-frell-ever, is that it's largely a first-person narrative. After my rant against first person yesterday, which was, of course, largely a load of horse crap (this is almost always true of writers' professed views on writing), I took the whole mess as a challenge from myself to myself. It'll need another day or two to be sure whether or not this is going anywhere worth going, but at least I'm writing. Give the girl a cookie. Hell, give me a shot of Jack.
Anyway, it's getting late and much to do, much to do, so off I go. The Cat Crutches Auction is proceeding nicely. Drop by and spend some money . . .
Sunday, April 06, 2003
No writing yesterday. No writing yesterday. No writing yesterday. That makes a fairly nice mantra, doesn't it? It's unclear, however. I might be reporting that yesterday was marvelous, as I didn't have to write. Or - which is actually the case - I could be bemoaning the fact that I can't find the top of this wall that has appeared before me. Regardless, it's true. I wrote not a word that mattered. I sat and stared at the iBook for hours. I kept myself properly sequestered in my office. But I might as well have been sitting in traffic on Peachtree Street, or floating dead in the Chattahoochee, for all the writing it got me.
It was a relief to cook dinner for Jennifer and Spooky, to feel somewhat useful and constructive. I kept eyeing a bottle of Scotch in the pantry. I watched A Bridge Too Far on TCM late last night and pretended it was something I'd written.
No writing yesterday, no writing yesterday, no writing yesterday . . .
This morning, while Spooky cooked breakfast, I began to prattle on about tense and person (I had just realized that I felt slightly better than I felt all day yesterday and feeling better usually makes me talkative). Almost all the novels and short fiction I've written have been written in third person, present tense. Silk was written in past tense, a decision I still regret. I complained to Neil Gaiman about it at some point and he told me to write the next novel in present tense, and I did. And the next. I choose present for its immediacy, for its inherently visual nature, for the way it rolls off my tongue when I read the words aloud. For me, it places a story now, no matter when the story might actually be occurring, just as cinema does. Threshold is not a story that has already happened when you begin to read it. It's not history until your act of reading it makes it history. You're the first person to ever watch Dancy's meeting with Chance in the library. The first person to see Chance and Deacon's descent into the water works tunnel.
As for third person, well, I've long argued that, in most cases, it's the most powerful literary voice, and the most logical. Especially for young writers. My rule of thumb, only use first person if you have a damned good reason for doing so, if it's important to the story that the reader know the narrator on a first-person basis, and if you are going to include somewhere within the narrative an explanation for why and how the speaker is speaking to us. I've never once written a story in first person (though I have used bits of epistolary material, letters and such, in larger narratives) and I've had people complain, a lot, about my use of third person, present. This morning, while Spooky was cooking, I pondered aloud what this general preference for first person might mean in a psychological and developmental sense. The infantile pull of "I." I am seeing. I am telling this story. I am writing. I want you to see me. Certainly, I've been told again and again by more inexperienced writers, "It seems more natural." Which makes sense, as Ego is still ruling their art. You have to forget whether or not it's easier to write in first, whether it might seem natural to you. Writing is not natural. It's an artifice. You are not talking to your audience, you are creating an illusion, sucking them in, pulling the wool over their eyes. It usually galls me. First person, I mean. I can't stop asking myself, "Who is this person speaking to and why?" If the story relies on any sort of suspense involving the safety of the narrator it tells me, right away, that either a) I need not worry, the narrator has literally lived to tell the tale, or b) the author has no idea what he or she is doing. It galls me. Oh, there are lots and lots and lots of exceptions. Some of my favorite stories are in first person. But this is usually writing by longtime, experienced authors who know the strengths and weaknesses of any given voice. Shelly Shapiro, an editorial director at Del Rey, writes:
Many inexperienced writers choose to write in the first person under the mistaken impression that it will make characterization easier. In fact, the opposite is true. People rarely consider what they themselves are like; when a character does this in a book, it immediately rings false ("I looked in the mirror and ran the comb once more through my long, curly red hair. My green eyes looked unusually bright."). The author has no chance to step in. When the third person is used, however, the author can allow the reader to stick closely to a character's viewpoint, even to be inside that character's head, while still preserving a more critical awareness. Far from distancing the reader from the character, this outside awareness can (and should) actually add depth and realism.
Why the hell am I going on about this? Because people send me e-mail asking writerly advice? No. I'm just trying to think about fucking writing. I couldn't care less whether you use first person, or even second person (the vengeful gods of prose will get even with you, though, if you dare write a story in second person). As long as I never have to read it, and most likely I won't, it's not my problem. I am annoyed at the people who complain that I write in third person, present tense, especially the ones who act like no one else has ever done it before. Public illiteracy pisses me off. But these people are usually only writing on Amazon, or on their websites, or somewhere equally beside the point. So, life goes on.
God, this constipation, this wall between me and what I have to write, is making me even more unpleasant than usual. I'd apologize, but it wouldn't be sincere.
I'm thinking I may try to do a short story, just to knock myself back into the flow. I have a title that's in need of a story. Empires by VNV Nation on the headphones and this album always makes me want to write. But the will is not enough, when the words aren't coming. Necessary, but wholly insufficient. Maybe I can ride this angry, mournful music into one of those third person, present tense narratives that drive my detractors to distraction. Or. Maybe I'll throw caution to the winds and write first person. Ah, I do live dangerously!
Damn, I need to get back to the crew of Enterprise, don't I? I mean, T'Pol still locked in her cabin, Sato still lying open as a Gray's Anatomy diagram on Phlox's examination table. Maybe tomorrow.
Saturday, April 05, 2003
Please, please, please do not write me e-mails telling me I ought to lighten up. Please. You can send me roadkill, piss on my grandmother's grave, eat crackers in my bed, drink from the milk carton, leave the toilet seat up, prefer crappy PCs over Macs, vote Republican, support driftnetting, use the good sewing scissors to make paper dolls, break all my crayons, let dirty dishes pile up in the kitchen (or bathroom) sink, listen to Eminem, call me an asshole and a maniac, preach creationism and flatearthism, pay good money to see bad movies, refuse to recycle, shoot songbirds with b-b rifes, wear pastels and flip-flops, clearcut the Alaskan wilderness, and write letters to Norton demanding that they include lyrics by Korn in the next edition of The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volume Two. But, and I'm only telling you this for your own good, really I am, do not fucking write me e-mails telling me to lighten up!
We sold three copies of TFoC ARC on eBay last night in as many hours. I have so few that, after that, I'm having to list them as three day auctions, sans the "buy it now" option. I'm also trying to get some other stuff up, including the very last of the "Salammbô" t-shirts. Proceed to the Cat Crutches Auction if you're interested.
I wrote nothing yesterday. Well, nothing but blogger entries and e-mails and proofreading marks on a galley of TFoC and posts to my phorum and such. No fiction. No more of Murder of Angels. This has got to stop soon. The work is piling up and it's going to topple over and either crush or smother me. How long's it been? I'm not even sure anymore. The days always bleed together, but I prefer that they bleed together because I'm writing too much and it leaves me too tired to notice or care whether it's Monday or Wednesday or whatever. Maybe I need to try the absinthe again. It worked nicely with that last short story, "La Peau Verte." I've been meaning to order a bottle of Versinthe and a bottle of Absinthe La Blanche, but haven't gotten around to it. I've been drinking Mari Mayans so long I crave some variety. Wait. I was writing about not writing, wasn't I? Ah, fuck. Whatever. It's all the same in the end. Well, not exactly the same, but I have a headache and details will only make it worse. Absinthe might make it better.
Yesterday, about 5 p.m., Spooky and I revisted the swings (no assward landings this time), then spent about an hour examining the various wildflowers growing on the school grounds. I'm always surprised at the diversity one finds almost anywhere, if you bother to look. My botany skills are dusty and we have yet to identify most of what we found. There's Viola blanda (Sweet White Violet) and Viola papilionacea (Common Blue Violet). Lots of Taraxacum erythrospermum (Red-seeded Dandelion) and Erigeron philadeplphicus (Daisy Fleabane), and a nice bunch of non-native Wisteria, but I'm not sure if it's W. sinensis (Chinese wisteria) or W. floribunda (Japanese wisteria). We have at least a dozen species we haven't figured out, most of them very tiny herbaceous things. It was a nice way to spend an hour. Spooky found a dead vole beneath a shrub, either Microtus pennsylvanicus (Meadow Vole) or M. pinetorum (Woodland Vole). He was a bit ripe and I didn't look close enough to figure out which. I did poke him with a stick. I'm hoping the ants finish him off and leave behind a nice skull.
It's officially afternoon. I must find some other way to annoy others.
Friday, April 04, 2003
When all else fails, make another blogger entry.
I spent about an hour and a half proofing The Five of Cups. Jennifer and I did that before it was typeset, of course, and Jennifer just finished doing it again, but, as I was reminded flipping through the ARC last night, there are always, always, forevermore, world without end, ahmet, ahmet, more fucking typos. Then I ate a tuna sandwich and worried about dolphins and sea turtles. Then I read through the second draft of Jack Morgan's introduction to the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon. Now I'm typing this.
And I thought I would answer an e-mail, because I haven't done that in a while, and it feels vaguely like work, and will occupy a few moments:
I was thinking of posting this on the forum, but I decided to just email you instead. I have a few questions about writing (as you may have guessed from the subject). Right now I'm in college and I've decided that I probably want to be a writer. I've been focusing on short fiction lately, and I've found that some stories just flow but others are... stubborn and the writing gets to be hard work. What do you do when the writing gets this difficult, or is it always difficult? I have a story right now that I really want to tell but between classes and work and the actual hard work of writing it I just haven't had the time. I guess what I want to know is whether or not it is that way for you, as a writer? Thanks,
Your e-mail could not have arrived at a more opportune time, Samm. What do I do when a story, or novel, or script, stall out on me? Just look over the last few day's entries in this journal. Some of it's there (not the really ugly parts, of course, because I know those should be kept back for the tell-all biography that someone named Agatha Thwock will write in 2032, shortly after that nasty accident I'm going to have trying to cross a busy street in Tokyo). On the better not-writing days, like today, I fritter and putter and so forth. On the bad not-writing days, like yesterday, I fall of swings and yell at people and lie in bed for hours on end and cry and, well, you get the picture. Sometimes, I have the - the what? - the determination, the will, to keep at it, day after day, when there's not so much as a drop of inspiration (Hah!) and the act of writing could not be more difficult. Other days, my weak days, I slack off and whine endlessly about how hard it all is. But, it's that first reaction, the sticking with it no matter how much you couldn't give a shit, or how many distractions there are, or because there's a blister on your typing finger, that is absolutely necessary if you are ever to be a writer (successful or otherwise).
Or, to but it another way, yes Samm, it is always difficult.
Except, sometimes, it's really difficult.
When it's easy, it's only because you're not doing it right.
I just had to stop and take a moment to remember the day of the week. Friday right? Jesus, how the hell can it be Friday?
I fell asleep in front of the television last night. It's one of the ways I deal with things, when this inability to write seizes me. I watch old movies. Last night I started off with The Boston Strangler, then The Lodger (1944), then moved on to Sink the Bismarck! (1960). Spooky woke me about 4:30 a.m. There was some awful Doris Day movie on. Spooky had been sleeping on the sofa and the Doris Day movie had given her a nightmare wherein Rygel was interrogating Fox Mulder about cosmetics. She asked if I was going to sleep the rest of the night in the living room. I said no and we wandered off to bed.
Yesterday was a Very Bad Day. I'm not sure it had much in the way of bright spots. We did swing on the old swings. There's an old playground here (it was a school, after all), and the swings are still in good condition. When the toes of my shoes were about fifteen feet off the ground, maximum forward arc, I jumped. I used to do this all the time when I was a kid. I guess I weighed a lot less, or was more nimble, or both, because whereas I used to land on my feet, I landed instead on my ass. Fortunately, there were lots and lots of dead leaves. Spooky rushed over to see if I was broken or dying or anything. I wasn't, though a giggling fit had seized me and I couldn't talk. That second or two of falling was nice. Is that a bright spot? It'll have to do.
I wrote nothing yesterday. But you've probably figured that out already. The ARCs of The Five of Cups arrived late in the afternoon, about 6 p.m. These review copies look pretty much like British trade paperbacks (or do you guys just call them paperbacks?). I sat on the kitchen floor staring at one of them. Almost twelve years since I began the novel in earnest (though some of it dates back to 1990, and some bits even back to high school), and here it was, finally, typeset, bound, entirely weirding me out. Oh, and I immediately began to discover typos that we'd missed. Anyway, I have a bunch and the extra-copies-of-books-Cait-wrote storage room is full, so I'll will offer a few on eBay, via the Cat Crutches Auction. The book itself is slated for a July 7th release.
I think a small hedgehog has lodged itself in my throat.
If I can't work today . . . oh, what's the use of threats. I always call my own bluffs. And they are usually just that, bluffs. I'm thinking if I'm still stuck in this morass in a day or two, Spooky and I are going to pack up and head east. Maybe the Carolina coast. Spend a couple of days driving around, not trying to write, and maybe that'll jog something loose. Then again, maybe I just need to jump out of that swing a few more times.
So . . . after T'Pol locks herself in her quarters with the bomb, and Captian Archer has killed Trip because he wouldn't agree to keep quiet to Starfleet, Dr. Phlox goes berzerk (it has something to do with Porthos eating one of his little alien pets) and elaborately vivisects Ensign Sato. She doesn't feel a thing, but is entirely conscious through the whole affair. That's when the Klingons show up, drunk and looking for trouble. I'm telling you, forget Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, I could write this show to hell and back.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
I'm beginning to think that someone fiddled with gravity in the night. Wait. Not external gravity, but the internal kind. My soul (if that's what that thing in there actually is) feels pulled, down, weighted twice as heavy as it was just before I fell asleep. It seems to be dragging behind me a few feet, attached by tenuous, stringy, invisible membranes. I have a conflicting inner heaviness and emptiness. I can't imagine even trying to write today.
I sat in the office for several hours yesterday and stared at the computer, read my e-mail, played pool at the Altoids website, checked how my books are selling on Amazon, ego-surfed on Google, started trying to teach myself Dreamweaver, used Google to search for all uses of the phrase "hole in the sky" on the web, checked my e-mail about a dozen more times, read my phorum, read Poppy's phorum, played with Dreamweaver some more. I'm not sure how much time passed. Hours. Just trying to make myself stay put in this chair in hopes the words would finally start coming again. They didn't. Finally, Spooky came in and we talked a bit about Murder of Angels. I rambled on about the plot, trying to make it a plot, a plot which, trapped inside my skull, grows ever more complex and opaque. It's still only a jumble of images, events, whispers, airline tickets.
Oh, you ought to read this. It's good for a laugh. And maybe a few tears. It's a testament to how idiotic television can become. No, how idiotic television is. This is business as usual. The good stuff is only little eddies in the vast sea of crap. I tried watching Enterprise again last night. I kept thinking things like if only that Vulcan chick would go on a murderous rampage, the result of some breach in her slavish devotion to logic, some violent philosophical retrogression, and before she can be restrained she kills half the crew. Captian Archer, who's secretly in love with her, tries to cover it all up by making a false report to Starfleet. Some of the surviving crew knows what's really going on. Some don't. Archer's report blames some innocent and rather backward species or another with which the ship's just made first contact. The Vulcan has locked herself in her cabin with a small thermonuclear device. And, I'd think, there, that's the barest beginnings of an interesting storyline. Then I'd stare a little more at the dullest sci-fi show yet spawned by the Star Trek "franchise" (god, I hate that word, hate, loathe, despise). At some point I did start thinking (not for the first time) about the homonymic relationship between Scott Bakula's name and the plural of the Latin name for the bone that most male mammals possess in their penises (bacula).
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
The dogwood flower is still lying on my desk. It's dried out, mummified, shrunken down to half its original size. An even poorer cross than before.
I think I will, from this day forth, refrain from any mention of the war in this journal. You can read about it elsewhere. It's not my war, and I'm sick of it. Hell, sometimes I'm pretty sure this isn't even my planet.
There's no khaki on my planet, nary a stitch, and pastels were banned a century ago.
Last night, at midnight (ET/PT), the Sci-Fi Channel began rerunning Farscape from episode one. If you are, like me, an insomniac, here's a chance for you to catch the entire series, start to, um, "finish." The episodes will air four per week, Mondays through Thursdays (which means Season One alone should last eleven weeks).
Yesterday I wrote afterwords for "Spindleshanks (New Orleans, 1956)" and "Standing Water," but I don't think I did a very good job with either one. Rewrites will be required. I made a couple of pages of notes (typed, single-spaced) on Murder of Angels. I've discovered an important element both of plot and structure, which has profound implications for the novel. Spyder Baxter's diary, and her psychologist, Dr. Meredith Lynxweiler, mentioned only once in Silk. Dr. Lynxweiler's aborted study of the diary and of the peculiar events in the old house at the dead end of Cullom Street will be central to the story. Well, at least marginal to the story. I see many long hours in the Emory library ahead of me.
Jean Cocteau wrote, "Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note just what it is about your work the critics don't like--then cultivate it. That's the part of your work that's individual and worth keeping." He was probably correct, but the weight of negative criticism sometimes defies subsequent cultivation. Not that I've had a bad time with the critics over the years; quite the opposite really - I just kinda liked the quote. Jesus, where am I going with this. Never mind.
I found a large dead spider on the window sill. A dead spider or only a discarded spider skin. I wish I could shed this tight restricting skin right now, tear it open and slip out of myself, leave the husk shriveled like neoprene or latex on the floor, find something of myself that is purer, lighter, more complete.
These mutterings are even more random than yesterday's.
Check out the Cat Crutches Auction (née Cat Dentures Auction) and spend some money, please and thank you. Else, I may have to bungee Sophie to a skateboard and tie a string around her neck.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Today's entry will be a thing of random mutterings. I'm not up to much more right now, and I figure you all could use a break from the density of the last two or three entries. I know I could.
Yesterday, I sent the proposal package for Murder of Angels off to New York, and spent a lot of time thinking about the novel, if not actually writing Chapter Four. I also mailed a hardcopy of "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea" to Steve Jones in Wembley, England. I did write a couple of afterwords for To Charles Fort, With Love. As with From Weird and Distant Shores, there will be a short afterword following each story. I did the ones for "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea" and "La Mer des Reves" (to read the story online, scroll down towards the bottom of Gothic Net's front page; it's still there). I'm going to make a more determined effort on Chapter Four today. The hardest part is always getting that ball rolling. I'll do more of the afterwords. I need to proof the preface of The Five of Cups again (for the lastest news on TFoC, visit Subterranean Press).
The Crüxshadows' cover of "Ballrooms on Mars" is coming through the headphones, waking me up.
Spyder Baxter's diary is in my head.
Hey, I warned you. Radom mutterings.
The other night, I was lying in bed, trying to get sleepy, about two or three a.m., and I started telling Spooky ghost stories (that is, I started telling ghost stories to Spooky, though, if I do say so myself, some of them were pretty spooky ghost stories). True ghost stories. Weird little encounters from my childhood, and from the lives of my mother and grandmother, UFOs I've seen, a drop of blood from the clear blue sky in Connecticut, things like that. As I began to get groggy, I mentioned a story that Christa Faust had told me in Niagara Falls, way back in May 1997. The day she saw black sticks in the sky over Manhattan. The next morning, I looked in on Gothic.Net and discovered that Darren McKeeman had just posted a written version of her encounter. A touch of meaningful coincidence, enough to give me a little chill. Check it out. Click here.
Oh, and don't forget the cat dentures auction. Actually, I think we have her dentures covered at this point. On to the much needed hip replacement surgery. Maybe it should become the "cat crutches auction."
I gotta go brush my fuzzy teeth.