Monday, June 30, 2003
Sleepy. Sleepy. Sleepy. It's my own damn fault. I was the one who sat up until the wee hours playing Tomb Raider.
Yesterday, I wrote an impressive 1,534 words on Chapter Five. Then Spooky and I proofed chapters Three and Four of Low Red Moon. After that, I think I had liquified brain dripping from my ears and nose. I tried to wind down by reading a literary analysis of the works of Arthur Machen, which, in retrospect, was probably not the best choice.
And Katharine Hepburn is dead. So close after Gregory Peck. I hate to sound like "one of those people," but all the great ones are going. Katharine Hepburn may be my all-time favorite actress. Offhand, I can't think of a bad Katharine Hepburn film. Sure, Rooster Cognurn is a little campy and On Golden Pond didn't age so well, but they're still very enjoyable films., if only for Hepburn's beautiful, irrepressible light (well, that and, respectively, John Wayne and Henry Fonda). I'm tempted to list favorites, but I don't think any of her film's aren't favorites. I will miss her; I miss her already, just knowing she's no longer in the world.
It's 12:13. Time to brush my teeth. Then work.
Sunday, June 29, 2003
What I am not this morning is awake, so if I ramble more than usual, you'll know the reason why.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,209 words on Chapter Five, after spending an hour reworking much of what I'd written on Friday. Then Spooky and I were up past midnight reading the page proofs for Low Red Moon. The ms. is still filled with typos, some mine, which is amazing considering how many people have read it as this point, and how many times some of us have read it. On p. 2, for example, a line that ought to read, "Your great-grandfather was a fine man," read instead, "Your great-grandfather was fine man." How many times and how many people had missed that omitted "a"? Then there are errors resulting from confusion over the copyeditor's comments and my original text, such as on p. 7, where we have "Halloween decorations Scotch-taped stuck to the window with Scotch tape." I wrote it one way, the copyeditor tried to rewrite it (Heaven protect us from copyeditors with aspirations to writerhood), and the production editors seem to have become confused. Ah, and just for shits and giggles, on p. 46, "ping-pong" is capitalized (Ping-Pong), as it's a frelling trademark. Neil Gaiman wrote something great in his blogger once about the paper tiger of trademark law and how authors and editors should ignore the lawyers and corporations who would have us do idiotic things to our books in the name of Economic Propriety, like capitalize Realtor. I wish I knew where that entry was. I'd link to it. Anyway, we made it through the prologue and chapters One and Two, and then I was too pooped to proof any further.
I'm missing all the Pride fesitivities here in Atlanta, because of the ill-timed arrival of these page proofs. Something always comes along to keep me away from Pride. It's fate. I haven't been to a GLTB Pride function since June 1993. Fortunately, 500,000 queers are expected to attend the events here in Atlanta this weekend, so I figure they can probably get along without me. And if you didn't know I was queer, well, now you do.
Ah, there's Spooky returning with breakfast. My stomach will be happy soon.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,274 words of Chapter Five of Murder of Angels. I've done 3,751 words since I hit the reset button on this chapter, back on Wednesday. I think today will be a dream sequence, and I usually enjoy those.
This evening, Spooky and I begin reading the proofs for Low Red Moon.
Last night, we saw 28 Days Later..., which, I thought, was quite wonderful. I have virtually no complaints about this film, only praise. I've never been very fond of zombie films (and, actually, I think one could argue this isn't a zombie film, sensu stricto, as the "infected" are still very much alive). I love Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, though I didn't care for the two sequels, or the 1990 remake. I am fond of I Walked with a Zombie (1943), but that's about it for me and zombies. So I was very pleased that I liked 28 Days Later... as much as I'd hoped I would. Though a lot of comparisons are being made to Romero, and certainly Boyle and Garland have drawn much from Romero's Dead trilogy, I think this film owes a much greater debt to the superb Day of the Triffids (1962; based on John Wyndham's novel of the same name). From the set up (a man who misses an apocalyptic event due to hospitalization) to the conclusion (which I won't elaborate on, because I detest spoilers), there are many obvious points of comparison.
Boyle's decision to shoot 28 Days Later... on DV is largely responsible for the bleak, grimy reality of the film and is to be applauded. Likewise, the film's pallet - washed-out greens and grays and blues, dull smudges of white and orange - is not only visually stunning, but helps create an unrelentingly oppressive sense of dread. The use of two vividly red dresses during the climactic moments is both simple and cinematically masterful. Boyle wisely restricts our views of his "infected" to glimpses and frantic, flailing moments, so that we never see them too clearly and they never lose their punch (which gets back to what I was saying earlier in the week about They). What we do see is enough, more than enough, to get the point across. The soundtrack (John Murphy, with contributions by Brian Eno and others) is exquisite and does all the right things at all the right spots. There are moments of awe and wonder and beauty and stark terror - four horses running wild, Manchester burning in the distance, abandoned London, a horde of rats fleeing the plague stricken. I cannot recommend this film strongly enough.
I was doubly annoyed with Roger Ebert's review of the film, first because he peppered it with unnecessary spoilers, and secondly, because he questions the legitimacy of the ending. And, I warn you all, HERE BE SPOILERS!!!!!! so if you haven't seen the film, avert your eyes. He writes, "My imagination is just diabolical enough that when that jet fighter appears toward the end, I wish it had appeared, circled back - and opened fire." I'm no stranger to grim endings, and you'll recall, again, my recent praise for the grimness of the end of They, but the assumption that this film would have shown more "nerve," would have been somehow bolder, by leaving us in the dark about the fate of the three protagonists, or the rest of the world, misses the point. I would suggest Joseph Campbell. There is a cycle here, and the hero may not always complete that cycle. He or she may not slay the dragon or ask the grail king the right question or find the strength inside to continue on when in all is lost, but he or she might, and only when they do is the cycle completed. 28 Days Later... is a film that follows the heroes' journey full-circuit, beginning with an horrific "call to adventure" and ending with their emergence from "the kingdom of dread." It is no less bold or artistic or valid for finishing the trip. The object of the exploration of horror and terror is not - and I cannot stress this enough - inevitable and total doom, the negation of all hope. I can understand how frequent pat Hollywood wrap-ups for grand cataclysms (think, in recent worse cases, Armageddon or Deep Impact or Independence Day) lead to a certain cynicism, and to an equation of endings without hope with better art, but such reactionary criticism is to be avoided. As in Day of the Triffids, Boyle allows us to survive, scarred and diminished, but hopefully, though not necessarily, somewhat the wiser. And that is an entirely valid, and not unlikely, conclusion for this story. As i pointed out to friends immediately after seeing 28 Days Later..., given the symptoms of the disease and the speed at which it strikes its victims, it would have a very, very hard time jumping from Britian to Europe or America (even Ireland might have been spared).
And that's enough chit-chat for one day. Off to the word mines . . .
Friday, June 27, 2003
Postscript: Just a reminder that the Low Red Moon proofs (the first Subterranean Press pass) are now up on eBay. Click here to see.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,178 words on Chapter Five; today, I will begin with page 200, which means I'm probably about 1/4 - 1/5 of the way through the novel.
About 6 pm, UPS showed up with the first-pass page proofs of Low Red Moon from Roc. It figures they would arrive now, and need to be back in the production editor's hands by July 9th. Oh, what does "first-pass" mean, you ask? Typically, I'm provided the copyedited ms. first. That's just the typescript I turn in to my editor, with the copyeditor's notes. That came back in April, you may recall. Then I get the first-pass proofs, which are typeset, all laid out just like the book will be. At this stage, I have one last chance to make minor changes. If I make changes that amount to more than 10% of the total, I'm billed for them. "Resetting is costly," the cover letter reminds me, "and if your changes exceed 10% of the original cost of composition, you will be billed for any such excess." Fair enough. By this time, I should have my act together. But I am amused that they talk about it as though we're working with actual movable type ("Adding or deleting even a comma means that a whole line of type has to be reset."), when, of course, it's all done on computers these days. Anyway, Spooky and I have to read through this pass and get it back in the mail ASAP, and I have to not allow reading this book to distract me from writing that book. Later, in another couple months or so, the second-pass proofs will arrive, which basically just allow me to make one last check for typos. Then - voila - it becomes a book (that School House Rock song about the bill trying to become a law just popped into my head).
So, now I have to keep Murder of Angels moving along, have another fifty or so pages done on the screenplay for Threshold by the next meeting (which I think is July 15th), write my story for Candlewick Press' Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales by July 30th, and handle the LRM page proofs. Oh, and the proofs for the Subterranean Press edition will arrive in a couple of weeks, not long after were done with the Roc pages. July has gone insane. June was merely frantic.
Yesterday, at twilight, Spooky and I walked around the old school grounds, watching fireflies and getting mosquito bites. We found a small black marble mostly buried in the ground and dug it out with a stick. It was pitted, but perfect ebony. It made me think of the alien spacecraft from Stephen King's The Tommyknockers, only a tiny bit of it showing above ground. And I wondered how long since some child dropped it there. How many decades. Forty years? Fifty? The school was built in 1907, so there's no telling. The child is certainly an adult now, perhaps elderly, perhaps long dead.
Anyway. Time to make the words.
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,225 words on Chapter Five. I tossed out everything I'd written on the chapter previously and started over, and it seems to have been the right thing to do.
So far, the characters don't seem to have noticed.
I tear down time and build a new history in its place. Nail up new moments, new events, and the elder, unhappened history, the alternate, unrealized architecture, goes on the rubbish heap. My black little world, at the mercy of my black little mind. My whims, my fears, my insecurities, my perversions, my selfish hopes. All writers become gods. Many gods are not sane. How many times has my life been rewritten so far?
If yesterday wasn't what you remember, how could you prove it? If you were not you, and I was not me, and so on and so forth. This is becoming the dominant anxiety of the 21st Century. It may also become the dominant theme of early 21st-century dark fantasy and science fiction. Already, in film alone, we have Blade Runner, Dark City, The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, The Others, The Sixth Sense, Jacob's Ladder, Vanilla Sky, Solaris, Run, Lola, Run, and I could go on like this for quite some time. I could also point to Threshold and its relationship to Low Red Moon. An unreliable cosmos has become a standard of our imagination. And I am a very unreliable cosmoengineer.
Cosmoengineer. That sounds sexier than "writer," but not quite so arrogant as "god."
Dream a little dream . . .
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Yesterday was Spooky's birthday and we spent it doing nonstressful, non-writery, birthday sorts of stuff. I read her Anne Sexton and we baked a cake. We went out for sushi. It was a calm, good day.
After dinner, we stopped by Blockbuster for a DVD. We were both in the mood for a silly horror film, nothing actually scary, nothing with ambition, nothing with any actual substance. Not a exactly stinker, but something that wasn't actually very good, either. From what I'd heard, Robert Harmon 's They was just what we had in mind. I'd read little but ill words about this movie since its theatrical release back in November. Which will teach me to skip films based on the opinions of others. To our surprise, They is a wonderfully creepy film, despite the fact that much of the first thirty or so minutes is terribly formulaic and seem to have sprung from the exact same shooting script as the less artful Darkness Falls. If you haven't seen They, ignore the clamour of critics and horror-movie geeks. Nothing much frightens those people, anyway. I found They genuinely spooky, in large part because the filmmakers wisely chose to keep the gore to a minimum, and rely on suspense and atmosphere for effect. The film's malformed, scampering creatures, the creepist monster design I've seen since Pitch Black, are kept mostly in shadow or always moving much too quickly for us to get a good look at them. And thus, "they" never lose their punch. The viewer is never given an opportunity to form a clear image of them in his or her head and so cannot say, "Okay, that's not so bad. I've seen worse than that. It's just more CGI." They is not a brilliant film, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it beats most contemporary horror films hands down. The script could have been smarter, and I suspect it probably started out that way. Laura Regan was a little wooden, though she possesses a certain willowy vulnerability which made her physically perfect for her role. But the movie's strongest point is its ending, which I won't give away. But it's not Hollywood, and it's not what you'll expect. It isn't terror, and it isn't relief through a predictable action scene, and it isn't all about setting up a sequel. It's what Joseph Conrad had in mind when he used the word "horror." It's exquisitely bleak. The DVD includes an alternate ending which is even bleaker and, in fact, can be watched immediately as sort of an extended ending, the theatrical ending acting as a false bottom leading directly to the more disturbing "alternate." I don't usually go on here about movies, but I feel They hasn't gotten a fair shake and I strongly urge you to have a look at it.
I think I have found the route back into Murder of Angels. Sometimes I become so utterly lost in a book, so turned around (and mired in the aforementioned second-guessing), and I have to climb out of it, way up high where I can look down on all of the thing at a single glance and find perspective again. Sometimes that means abandoning what I thought was the plot for something entirely different.
We started up the Cat Crutches Auction again. The unbound galley (hand-corrected) of Low Red Moon, which I promised to have Spooky and Jennifer list ages ago, is finally up, along with the usual stuff. I'm going to try to get some sets of The Dreaming up soon (but "soon" in Caitish can be a somewhat long time). Your patronage is, as always, appreciated.
Monday, June 23, 2003
I've been trying to break to incite forward momentum. Reading Charles Fort's New Lands again. Playing hours and hours and hours of Tomb Raider. Yesterday, I saw Finding Nemo (a delight).
And Spooky and I read through the prologue and first two chapters of MOA yesterday. We'll read the remainder today. Then it will all be in my head again. And then no more Procrastination. Nor Distraction. Nor any of the other Seven Deadly Sins (of which there are actually nine). Then I write this goddamn book. For better or worse. I think I've wasted months second-guessing myself. There are other difficulties, but the second-guessing thing, it happens. The futile preoccupation with what I have done already, those other books, which I do not know how I wrote, or why, or have any idea why they worked for most readers, or why they didn't work for some other readers. I will write this book, with what remains of the summer, and send it away to The World, and it will sink or swim and I will have very little (as in "no") say in the matter. I never do. I just lose sight of that fact sometime. I write. I cannot write for anyone. Most times, I can't even write for me. I just write. These are my stories. I cannot learn from past "mistakes," because there is no objective standard by which to judge whether or not a mistake was made.
It is my job to write a book, not to concern myself with what people will think of that book. What they will think is neither relevant to the act of writing nor to the merit of the book. Public opinion cannot be a guide, ever. All it can tell me is that lots of people like X, which can mean anything and may mean nothing at all. John Grisham and Dean R. Koontz and Michael Crichton and Robert Jordan and James Patterson are not better writers than Thomas Ligotti or Kathe Koja or Ramsey Campbell or China Mieville, and the New York Times bestseller list and public opinion and market stats can all go fuck themselves. The world wants oatmeal. It is not my job to give the world oatmeal. It is my job not to be a hack. It is my job to try to make the world chew, lest its lazy jaw muscles atrophy and its collective mandible withers and all its teeth fall out. It is my job, as a writer, to give the world toffee and peanut brittle and tough steak and celery. I write peanut butter sandwiches, not oatmeal. And every time some dolt whines, "I'm confused" or "I don't understand" or "This doesn't make any sense," I should smile and know that I'm doing my job. Not because it is my job to be opaque, but because it is not my job to be transparent.
And I know when I am making sense, and whenever I allow the dolts to spin me round, blindfolded, until I've accepted the disorientation they spread like lice, I am to kick myself in the ass until I can find true north again.
This is not a pep talk. This is simply the truth that I forget, because publishing (more often than not, writing's moron pimp) seeks forever to confuse quality and quantity, accessibility and art. And now I am only remembering.
Postscript - This is not to say that I don't want an audience, that I don't need and crave an audience, that I see the point in doing this without an audience. It is merely to say that I must always find the audience on my terms, not theirs.
Saturday, June 21, 2003
I sat here until 5 p.m. yesterday, and the words never came. Today I'm going to print out the entire novel and read it all aloud from the first page, and see if I can't discover what's gone wrong.
A writer who is not writing is nothing. Unless - A writer who is not writing is momentarily free.
Of course, nothingness may equal freedom, and so both statements may be true.
I feel dissolute. Almost completely so. Thin. If I stood at the right angle, if I should accidentally determine that angle, I'm sure light would pass straight through me.
I don't hear the printer. Please send help.
Friday, June 20, 2003
I do not often get Significant Headaches. But yesterdays was a bullbitch. I wasn't good for much of anything all day. I attended to about a hundred bits of minutiae - e-mails, proofreading, etc. - but got no actual writing done. Of course, that's not so different than the way things have been going on the days when I don't have a headache. It let up about sunset, and today I just feel kind of groggy. Maybe I will make real words today. Maybe Chapter Five will move forward. Maybe, one day, I will glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel that is this frelling book.
Last night, we ended up behind a pick-up truck with WANKER as its vanity plate.
Random thoughts. My head is filled with them.
I will sit in this chair, in front of this iBook, until at least 5 pm. I may write. I may not. But I will spend the day sitting here in this chair in front of this iBook. Beads of blood may appear on my forehead. My back may ache. But I will sit here.
Stop trying to write, and frelling write.
I know it's that simple. I know it's that intricate.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Just so you know, my cat is a pain in the ass.
That said, I was up most of last night with a headache and now, this afternoon, I'm at least half-asleep and strung-out on Excedrin. Ugh. And it's already 12:53 pm. The headache is towering black clouds pressing at the edges of my consciousness, waiting for the Excedrin to wear off. There's red lightning in there.
Last night, Spooky got pleasantly wasted on absinthe and I, like a fool, did not join her. Instead, I watched the perfectly ridiculous The Fly II. That movie should stand to all as a shining example of the Utterly Pointless Sequel. It serves double-duty as a shining example of the Totally Artless SF/Horror Film.
Was there anything else worth reporting about yesterday? Ryan Obermeyer sent me a gorgeous image that will serve as the endpapers for the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon, young Narcissa Snow standing in the breakers, her arms raised to the stormy sky and Mother Hydra. That was definitely the day's high point, that image. The three reviews of The Five of Cups went up on my website. Click here to read them.
I had grand tirades in mind for this entry — the inequities endured by writers; people who send me e-mails that begin "uh"; the crap that's being shown on the Sci-Fi Channel these days. But the headache has made nonsense of it all. So, never mind.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I have a new Crest SpinBrush Pro toothbrush, which truly does get my teeth amazingly clean, but which also sounds and feels like someone's inserted a didgeridoo into the farthest recesses of my skull.
Jim and/or Jennifer and/or Tasha (bark) and/or Cleo (bark bark), if you're reading this, I apologize for inflicting the Janovian primal scream thing on your answering machine yesterday.
Though I will admit that I felt better afterwards.
Much of yesterday was consumed by the sun-baked quest for a copy of the June issue of Locus magazine. It was found, at last, and I was amazed at Ed Bryant's long and very complimentary review of The Five of Cups, and only a little less amazed at Tim Pratt's not-so-long and almost-as-complimentary review of the same. I honestly thought this book would make the critics groan and roll their eyes. I am pleased and endlessly surprised that I was wrong. I don't know why I was suprised. I am often wrong. Oh, the issue also includes the worst photograph of me ever printed. I look sort of like I'm auditioning for a 1974 porn film.
Yesterday's screenplay meeting was postponed until this afternoon.
And Murder of Angels is, once again, at a standstill. It's determined to be an even bigger pain in the ass to get written than was Threshold (and that's saying something). Silk took a long time, but wasn't difficult. Low Red Moon was fairly easy. This book is impregnable. By that, I mean it won't let me in, and when it does, it kicks me right back out again. And it has to be written, whether it or I like that fact or not, and it has to be written in the next six and a half months. It's just a fucking novel, for Christ's sake. I've done this thing four times previously. Peter Straub says it never gets any easier. Evidently, he's correct. I've actually spent some time contemplating how suicide, or at least a decently botched suicide attempt, would rescue me from writing this goddamned, stinking novel. We are in a state of war at the moment, this novel and I, and that can't be good for either of us. Well, it can't be good for me. The novel can go to hell, alone and without an electric fan.
It's just a novel. Just a bunch of words strung together into pretty, terrible, fantastic lies. I do this in my fucking sleep!
The psychologist who works with schizophrenics may be a schizophrenic herself. I'm hoping that's the trick that lets me back into the book again. It's a greedy god, this one, and it demands backflips and leaps through flaming hoops and contortionism and sexual favours and exotic beasts and gold and death-defying highwire stunts and my nails chewed ragged.
I have no allies, save the bottle of absinthe on my desk and my addled wits.
Clearly, I am doomed.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
This is one of those mornings where I feel even more lost than usual. Lost. Hansel and Gretel lost. Whose woods are these, I think I know, but I don't, not really. They rise up around me so high that there seems no hope of ever getting my bearings again. I cannot see the sun, nor moon, nor the stars. I want to turn and head back the way I came, but, with every step, I only blunder deeper into the forest.
I wrote zero words on Chapter Five yesterday.
I sat at the computer for four hours and wrote zero fucking words on Chapter Five.
I have the meeting about the screenplay at 3 p.m. and my head is full of dust.
On May 31st, from somewhere in New York City, Moby wrote in his tour journal: "i miss alf. i know, he ate cats and all, but i still miss him." I thought I was the only one who missed Alf. I started watching Alf because Isaac Asimov said good things about it. It was the American sitcom made truly witty. It was the anti-Mork and Mindy. It would have been wonderful to see Alf aboard Moya, trading insults with Rygel, putting moves on Chiana, eating things he shouldn't.
Somewhere in Atlanta, I'm missing Alf, too, and hoping I find my way out of these woods and write at least one good sentence today.
Monday, June 16, 2003
I woke up this morning, an hour and a half later than I'd intended, and lay staring at a bright patch of sunlight on the bedroom ceiling, trying to recall which day of the week it was. I knew it was either Sunday or Monday, but it took me a few minutes to be sure which.
I wrote 1,045 words on Chapter Five of Murder of Angels yesterday. Four hours spent in a tiny white hospital room, inside the heads of a schizophrenic and a disenchanted psychologist. It left me in a distinctly unpleasant place and I cancelled plans to have dinner with friends. I spent the night getting my head back and today I have to go to that unpleasant place all over again. Recollect those emotions in the tranquility (or boredom) of the moment until, by sheer force of contemplation, the emotion exists in my mind. The bottle of absinthe on my desk might help. And it might not. I can never really say until afterwards.
At least I've started Chapter Five.
I'd rather be a million places today than sitting at this keyboard.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Yesterday was a good work day. Maybe it was the invocation of Wordsworth. I did 8 pp. on the screenplay and am now ready for the meeting on Tuesday. Today, it's back to Chapter Five, which I need to get done in the coming week, to avoid falling still farther behind.
Last night, Spooky and I saw the remake of The Italian Job. It's not as good as the 1969 original, but I'll see anything with Ed Norton. And as Spooky put it, it was good mind butter. Last night, my mind was in need of a good buttering.
This afternoon (afternoon now by twenty-three minutes), on the other hand, it's in need of a good, hard jolt of something.
I feel as though I'm thinking through a mist.
Chapter Five, and the rest of Murder of Angels, is waiting somewhere just the other side of the mist. There's no waiting for it to clear. These mists cling and smother. Sooner or later (I think it's later by now), you have to go wandering into them. Which I think is about as far as that metaphor extends.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
It's Saturday morning, almost Saturday afternoon, and I'm still very much not awake.
I'll be working on the Threshold screenplay today, using Final Draft. I still haven't quite gotten the hang of the software, so that should be an adventure. Today I need to get through two scenes, because I have a meeting re: the screenplay on Tuesday.
I'm trying desperately to rediscover my inner workaholic. I fear that my work habits are suffering from a diminishment in my general degree of misery. I won't point fingers. You know who you are, you who are responsible for making me less miserable. This is your fault. I actually smiled yesterday. No telling what I'll be doing next. Hell, then again, maybe I'm just getting old. I have to simulate now what was once foremost in my mind. More often than not, I have to manufacture a state of anxiety or horror or despair or sorrow, in order to write. I'm thinking of Wordsworth, and what he said in the preface to the Lyrical Ballads. I quote: "I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplantion, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind." For Wordsworth, this is not a Bad Thing. Earlier in the preface he writes: "For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other, we discover what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature, and in such connexion with each other, that the understanding of the Reader must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections strengthened and purified. That's what I do now, in this diminished state of misery, as the actual misery grows somewhat less distinct. I work to discover those kindred emotions, banishing the essential (though, I would argue, distracting) tranquility, so that I can write. I am much in agreement with Wordsworth, I suppose, though he neglects to inform the reader that, ironically, this is a miserable enterprise, producing its own species of powerful, immediate and unhappy emotion. Round and round and round. We swallow our own tails.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
There's a review of The Five of Cups in the June 9th issue of Publisher's Weekly (p. 41). It's the first review of TFoC and, I think, it's fair and much better than I'd ever expected. "Although unrelentingly nihilistic, this flawed gem flashes with brilliance. Scene after scene of compelling narrative fueled by anger and angst testify to the author's talent . . ." I can no longer pretend to have anything like an objective opinion of a book I wrote, for the most part, a good twelve years ago. A book which I finally abandoned and let sit in a box on a shelf for half a decade. It's good to see it finally, however belatedly, put out into the world, where others can decide what they think of it.
I've shelved "Night in an Eye of God," and will be giving John Pelan "La Mer des Reves," instead. It's the story he wanted to start with, but I wanted to try to give him something newerer. "La Mer des Reves" was originally written for a William Hope Hodgson tribute anthology he'd planned, but which didn't happen. I realized, yesterday, that I'd only started the new story as a means of putting off Chapter Five, and that I was being bad, giving into various Deadly Sins disguised as work. The book is god. All else goes behind it. I'll get back to the story later, because it will be a good story. Just not now.
I've contributed a song, a murder ballad, to a forthcoming musical project by Chris Ewen (Future Bible Heroes). The CD, which will be called The Hidden Variable will also include songs written by Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler, Martha Soukup, China Miéville, and others TBA. Vocalists also TBA. I'll post more info. about the The Hidden Variable as it becomes available.
Thanks to everyone who admitted to not having read Silk and volunteered for MOA duty. I now have the two readers I need, but if others are needed, I'll have a pool from which to draw victims.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Today I have to make a trip to Birmingham that I've been putting off for two weeks. Sadly, it can be put off no longer. So I lose a day of work, or at least the possibility of work. The good news is I'll be home tonight.
Yesterday I wrote 1,004 words on the story for Darkside 3.
Afterwards, Spooky and I gorged ourselves on jelly beans (she goes for Jelly Belly, while I prefer Starburst) and trashy MTv television (The Osbournes and Jackass; we drew the line at Punk'd). By the time we crawled off to bed, I was pretty sure we'd each lost about ten IQ points as a result of our indulgences. Fortunately, I believe they regenerated in the night.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Yesterday, Murder of Angels got the green light from Penguin. There's a meeting about cover design tomorrow, and decisions are being made as to whether it will be a Spring or Autumn 2004 (MMIV) release. Which, I think, soundly trumps any doubts I was having about writing this book now. It is what I will do and at some future date I will be glad of it. As difficult as the going has been, it still feels very much like a story I need to tell. Like unfinished business of a sort. So, Chapter Five (5; V) looms ahead of me. It's really daunting to think that the cover will be done long before the book is close to finished.
I think I've located two (2; II) people who've not read Silk who are willing to read what's been written of MOA, and, hopefully, they can help me determine how well it's standing alone.
Also, I shelved the sf story I'd begun on Saturday, and started a new one, and it will be for John Pelan's Darkside 3, and I have only ten (10; X) days left in which to get it done. I spent much of yesterday researching the yellow giant Upsilon Andromedae and its three (3; III) known planets, Ups And b, c, and d. I plan to do the first thousand (1,000; M) words today. The story will be called "Night in an Eye of God."
Last night, Spooky and I went out for a midnight sale at Criminal Records at Little Five (5; V) Points, because we're such damned geeks we couldn't wait until today to pick up the new Radiohead cd.
Monday, June 09, 2003
It was an unremarkable weekend, for the most part.
On Saturday, I began what might turn into a short story. It's too soon to tell. It wants to be hardish sf, but also wants to reach into a more fantastic realm, unbounded by technology and science. It's this William-Gibson-meets-Lord-Dunsany mood I find myself in more and more often. If I put any stock in the zodiac (which I don't), I'd point to my having been born Gemini. I put only slightly more stock in psychology, so I shan't point to elaborate models of divided personality, either. It all seems more biological to me. Strands of DNA fused and split, recombined, and that's always where the most interesting things develop - the mutations, the sports, the freaks - in that seething literary-genetic cauldron behind my eyes, between my ears. Anyway, it was a little beginning on Saturday, and I'm not sure if it will go on to be more than that.
I need to be working on Murder of Angels, but the book has me at sixes and sevens. I'm not even sure this is a book worthy of the writing. That's how bad it's gotten. And I have a contractual obligation to deliver a new novel (oddly redundant, that) to Penguin by December. I'd intended to be somewhere around Chapter Seven or Eight by now. Instead, I've only just finished Chapter Four and am dithering over what to do with Chapter Five.
The obligation to tell long stories is more terrible than you might imagine. Even Scheherazade might stumble.
And she was a far better word whore than I. Than me? Than I am? See what I mean?
On Sunday, Spooky and I saw the restored Lawrence of Arabia at The Fox. Sometimes, I sit down to list what are, in my opinion, the ten greatest films ever. I never seem to get farther than Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia. Anyway, it was astounding. I'd seen this print once before, at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, but the screen and projection at The Fox is better. The movie didn't let out until 12:30 this morning. I came home and watched a few minutes of Lon Chaney in Tell It to the Marines, then went to bed and read part of Lovecraft's "The Haunter in the Dark." After the fact, I've realized how much influence this story had on Threshold, what with the Shining Trapezohedron, malign heptagons, and all.
Anyway, it's 1:45 and I need to go face the words. They're waiting for me.
Saturday, June 07, 2003
It's never, ever a good sign when you're 40,000+ words into a novel and begin having serious second thoughts about whether this should even be your next novel. Which is a fair estimation of where I stand at the moment.
I think I'm going to step back, continue the research for Chapter Five and beyond, find a couple of readers who haven't read Silk who can hopefully give me some clue as to how well this book stands on its own, and do a story for Darkside 3. Yes. I think that I just now made that decision. A short story would do me good after the trauma of Chapter Four. A little Lovecraftiness to soothe my nerves, perhaps. Maybe something with a bit of sf to it.
What can I say about yesterday that wouldn't bore you to tears? I tried to work. It rained. I went to the Apple Store. Spooky went to the candy shop and bought two bags of Jelly Bellies: those Caitlín won't eat and those Caitlín will eat. The "won't eat" category includes such misbegotten flavours as buttered popcorn, A&W cream soda, caramel corn, vanilla bean, cotton candy, cappucchino, and root beer. Bleh. I'll stick with watermelon and sour apple, thank you very much. Me and Spooky and Jennifer had a sushi feast and I got drunk on Singha. It rained some more. Spooky and I thought about a movie, but couldn't decide between Finding Nemo and Spellbound, and I was drunk besides, so we just gave up and came home.
I'm counting Deadly Sins. I need more than one hand.
There's a new interview up at LivingDeadGirls.com, for those who are interested. I said all the stuff in red.
Friday, June 06, 2003
Yesterday was utterly lost to chaos and bullshit. Chapter Five of Murder of Angels has not been started, though I did write 746 wds. worth of notes for the chapter day before yesterday. I'm not accustomed to writing notes or outlines or suchlike, and whenever I resort to such extreme measures, it's a sure sign that the going is rough. Chapter Five introduces an important new character, the woman who was Spyder Baxter's psychiatrist, who has been willed the old house on Cullom Street, and who eventually writes a book on the disturbing events that have transpired in the house. So, in Chapter Five, the narrative suddenly shifts from third person, present tense, to a fictional non-fiction excerpt from the book she writes, which is first person, past tense. I'm re-rereading Jung, specifically his Psychology and the Occult, and John Weir Perry's Roots of Renewel in Myth and Madness, and a host of psychological, parapsychological, and anthropological papers on possible connections between schizophrenia and hauntings/psi activity.
Meanwhile, Ryan Obermeyer has finished his beautiful cover for the Subterranean Press edition of Low Red Moon and has begun work on the art for the endsheets. This is going to be a beautiful book, truly. I've probably said that already, but Ryan's cover gets me worked up every time I look at it. I just received a copy of Le Terre del Sogno: Corvie Altre Crudeltà, an Italian collection of The Dreaming #22-26, which includes all of "Unkindness of One," Peter Hogan's "My Year as a Man," and, much to my delight, my previously uncollected "Restitution." It appears that Magic Press is going to continue releasing these trade editions, so at least Italy (and those fluent in Italian) will have another chance to read The Dreaming. And I learned yesterday that I'd missed the June 1st deadline for John Pelan's Darkside 3. Apparently, in the kerfuffle, I just forgot it, which I have to say I have never, ever done before. Forgotten an anthology deadline, that is. John's very kindly holding a space for me until June 20th, so I have to get hustling on that.
Today is National Doughnut Day and I understand that Krispy Kreme is giving away free doughnuts.
Last night, Spooky and I saw The Two Towers at the Fox Theatre here in Atlanta. The Fox is one of the most beautiful surviving "movie palaces," and easily puts Hollywood's reknowned Chinese Theatre to shame. It was a joy to see TTT on a gigantic flat screen (previously, I'd seen it only on those little cineplex screens that try to pass for big by curving the screen surface and producing, in the process, all sorts of atrocious problems with focus and depth). It was almost like seeing an entirely different film. Anyway, I urge you to make time for a film at the Fox this summer, if you can. You will have many more chances. Now I go work.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
An entirely uneventful day off, unless you count the elaborately unsuccessful attempt to dye my skin blue. Otherwise, not much happened.
Today, Spooky and I have to read through the whole of Chapter Four of Murder of Angels, and, hopefully, I'll begin Chapter Five.
And I'm beginning work on a Threshold screenplay. Probably not today, but soon, as I have to have the first part ready for a meeting in a couple of weeks. I can't say a great deal about it, at this point. In fact, I can't say much at all about it , except that I am doing it and it's very exciting and weird and frustrating and scary and I've wanted to do this for a long time. For me, it seems to bring Threshold full circle, as everything I write starts out like a movie in my mind, a movie that has to be made into a book. The novelization of a mental movie. Now I'm taking it back the other direction.
There have been a couple of inquiries about the galley copy of Low Red Moon that I said I was going to put up for auction on eBay. It would be up already, but we haven't had time. Soon, though. This week, hopefully.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,163 words, finishing Chapter Four of Murder of Angels. Tomorrow I will begin Chapter Five.
This is a day off.
Monday, June 02, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,043 words of Chapter Four of Murder of Angels.
With luck, I can finish Chapter Four today. That might be kind of encouraging, except a) I don't know how Chapter Four ends and b) I have no idea what happens in Chapter Five.
I don't think I slept enough. I sat up watching Charade (1963) on AMC last night, despite the "fullscreen" format (read, pan and scan) and constant frelling commercials. I dearly miss the AMC that showed old movies without commercials and promoted film restoration and conservation and the move to widescreen. I even miss their goofy, amateurish original programming. The new incarnation of the channel not only shows fewer good films and stuffs everything full of commercials, it seems dumbed down and aimed at the sort of dolts who prefer colourized movies to the original black and white. That said, at least Turner Classic Movies is, ironically, still out there. And I do have some hope for Fox's new movie channel, though it's not up to the TCM standard yet (or the old AMC standard). Old movies are my insomnia balm.
Did I mention how sleepy I am?
Sunday, June 01, 2003
To me, June 1st is always the first day of summer, even though I know, of course, that summer actually begins on the 21st. I also mark its end on the last day of August. Summer is three tidy months long and never mind if we often have summer weather here well into October.
Yesterday I wrote 1,467 words on Chapter Four of Murder of Angels. I found the end of the section I mentioned yesterday. Now it's back to the present of the novel.
I have a headache (sinuses) and it's Sunday and I have to write anyway.
I should save the words for the novel. I have a feeling that today might be a chore. I'll be longwinded in tomorrow's entry.