Sunday, November 30, 2003
We didn't finish with Murder of Angels yesterday. It's the most tedious work, picking back over a manuscript, trying to remain objective, trying to care about the idiotically arbitrary, inconsistant, illogical rules of the English language. By 6 p.m., my nerves were shot and Jennifer took over while Spooky and I went to cook dinner. After dinner, Jennifer went on alone and made it to the end, but there were a lot of things she couldn't make decisions about, so she couldn't actually finish. So. Today I have to finish with the last of the grammatical corrections, make last minutes changes (a particular character can't be driving an Oldsmobile, because Narcissa drives an Olds in Low Red Moon, and so forth), check continuity problems (not only within this manuscript, but between this manuscript and Silk), write an author's note/acknowledgements, triple-check a whole bunch of stuff, and then make a single rtf from ten distinct MS Word files. And I have to e-mail the whole thing off to John Morgan before midnight.
Tomorrow, it will actually be a relief to only have to write.
A couple of things today. First, my thanks to Poppy, who wrote the following about Low Red Moon in my discussion forum yesterday (and I hope she will forgive me for quoting it here):
If you don't like Deacon because he is a fuckup who has made some very poor choices - even though he is trying with every fiber of his being not to be that person any more - then wouldn't you tend to like Chance for being the rational voice who calls him on his bullshit? If Chance gets on your nerves for being so inflexibly rational that she believes her husband is either delusional or a liar, then wouldn't you like Deacon for being the antithesis of her rationality? Personally, I liked them both, but then I've always found perfect, idealized characters annoying and unconvincing.
The most conventionally "sympathetic" characters in the novel are probably Sadie Jasper and Alice Sprinkle, both of whom get drawn into a terrible situation because they are generous souls who try to help people they care about. But, hey, Alice is a dyke, and Sadie dresses funny and lives in a bad part of town, so I guess Joe Q. Amazon can't "identify" with them.
For me, the characters were so well drawn that I even caught myself empathizing with Narcissa. She is a vicious, self-aggrandizing monster, but you can see why she is, and the bit toward the end where she wants to "slip away, back to that numb spot by the sea" (I don't have the book at hand and am probably misquoting a little) just about broke my heart
A million thanks for those words. I needed them very badly yesterday evening, as I struggled with minute decisions and the knowledge that so many people would never give a shit about the characters in Murder of Angels. Or, rather, as I struggled with the knowledge that so many people would simply never "get it." At one point, I actually stopped and wrote the following on a sticky note:
In a perfect world, writers would not be subjected to readers.
Which is not to say that I do not treasure those of my readers who care, and who understand, and who are willing to work at reading a book that I've worked at writing. I treasure them immensely. But it's easy to begin to hate the fact that your art is constrained by the predjudices and ignorance of a greater mass of humanity upon whom you are, in fact, dependant for your livelihood. I have to write for all those people, too, not just for intelligent, patient, tolerant readers, or I have to accept static sales figures and agents and editors who will gradually lose interest in what I am doing. The last two books, Low Red Moon and Murder of Angels, I've been walking a razorwire tightrope between these two things - writing solely to satisfy myself and my faithful readers, and trying to fathom the unsecond-guessable minds of the great unwashed in hopes of expanding my readership. Do I continue to struggle to write literate, meaningful dark fiction, because that's what I do, and because all writers should strive at all times to do their best and only their best, and because there's so little of quality dark fiction in the world? Or do I accept that very few people want literate, meaningful dark fiction, and cave in to the whims of the no-brows who have made this Age of Irony what it is, in the faint hope that I'll sell more books if I only write stories that are easier to read. Stories with pretty, simple, flawless, easily loveable people who face the Big Bad Thing, making the world once again safe for soccer moms and leafblowers, all wrapped up with the gaudy pink bow of the cherished Happy Ending?
And that, in a way, leads me to the second, very much related thing, which I will only touch on briefly as I went on at such length about the first thing.
At dinner the other night, a well-meaning friend made a comment, the upshot of which is that, as a moderately successful writer, one who supports herself solely by her wrtiting, I have a very easy life. I think Poppy sort of touched on this in a recent livejournal entry, actually. Here's the thing. It really is a pretty goddamned good life, once I get past the constant, gnawing doubt, the coldsweats that come any time I allow myself to consider how precarious my situation is, the unstable bank accounts, the absence of health care or any realistic hope of retirement, the mess that eleven years of constant typing has made of my wrists, the depression that keeps me on pills that only make me ill in other ways, the almost constant isolation that comes with working alone, the unhealthy habits I develop to try to make it all a little easier, the publishers who don't pay me for months after they're supposed to, the whims of editors, the dull-witted, illiterate, wanna-be copyeditors who mutilate my work, the anonymous (and not so anonymous) internet cranks who aren't simply happy attacking my work but who find it necessary to also engage in ad hominem slander, the deadlines, the anxiety that comes from the unending necessity of disgorging ideas that are fresh and original and exciting and something I can actually write, and so on and on and on and on.
If you can get past all that, yes, it's easy as falling off a log.
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Addendum: Okay. It's 5:52 p.m. and we've only just finished making corrections to Part One. All of Part Two, which is longer than Part One, still sprawls before us. Oh, and there's the epilogue. And all the things we're skipping that I plan to go back and catch after the line edits. And it's frelling Saturday night, and I could be playing Primal, or watching a movie, or going to a club, or something, and this is what I'm doing instead. Making life-altering decisions about commas. Trying to eliminate repetitions in the text ("How many times have I used 'haggard' so far?") that no one but me would ever notice. Trying to figure out if "pupilless" should be spelled with one "l" or two (I went with two). Please send help.
I feel a little like ass this morning. Dinner last night was superb, but I may have had too much wine and then Spooky and I were up until 4 a.m. playing Primal, and I didn't sleep well.
Yesterday, I wrote 628 words on the "Untitled Novella," a lot more than I'd expected to do, with all the cooking and housecleaning going on. So, it now stands as 3,900 words. And I expect to get nothing new written on it today, as Jennifer has finished her proofing of the Murder of Angels ms., which means that today Spooky and I have to quickly incorporate all her corrections so that I can e-mail it to my editor tomorrow, beating my deadline by one day. "Cutting it close" is a virtue. It'll be good to have the ms. done (first round) and out of my hands, though, as always, I fear the editor's assessment.
Here in Atlanta, it's very cold and bright, and wish it were still summer. Days like this make me miss the lofts in Liberty House back in Birmingham, which were pretty much immune to weather.
It occurs to me that I really have nothing more to say today. And when people have nothing to say, they should cease their talking (or writing).
Friday, November 28, 2003
There were things I'd been planning to write about this morning. Like the fact that this frelling holiday has loused up my writing week and I sucked again yesterday. Just a little revision, nothing new. Anyway, I'm not going to write about writing just now (go read Poppy's livejournal for that; she has a great entry on "being a writer" vs. writing). Because last night, after I'd given up trying to write, I got dressed and Spooky and Jennifer and I went out for Indian food and a movie.
The Indian food was great. Lamb vinda-aloo, chicken madras, aloo-motor-paneer, and crispy samosas. And my grumpiness at not having been able get anything written began to lift, amid the swirl of smells and spices and the satisfaction of being full of good food. But then we went to a 9:45 showing of Gothika, and the next two hours or so were nothing short of a pointless sort of torture. And no, I'm not talking about the movie. Near as I can tell, the movie was okay, not a great movie, just a an okay, spooky movie, the sort of thing I was in the mood for on a rainy, blustery Thanksgiving night. I find myself largely in agreement with Ebert on this one, so read his review if you want to know what I thought of Gothika (I also recommend his exquisite bit on the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). We went despite mostly bad reviews, because Spooky and I had been impressed by Crimson Rivers, also directed by Mathieu Kassovitz.
The torture was entirely the product of the audience. What passed for an audience. Those of you who read what I had to say about the audience I was subjected to during an advance screening of Alien: The Director's Cut already know my feeling on noisy audiences and inappropriate response to what's on the screen. I've come to accept that when I venture past the quasi-sanctuary of the perimeter of I-285, to the suburban googleplexes, the audiences are to be expected to act more like they've gathered for a monster truck rally than a movie. But last night was the worst I've endured since a screening of Blue Velvet, a year or so ago, where the audience cackled through the whole film, start to finish, creating a scene so surreal it was difficult to tell what was onscreen and what was off, as though Lynch had broken down that fourth wall and extended his nightmare into the theatre.
Anyway, last night the screening room quickly filled up. At least three toddlers were brought into the R-rated film. And just before the film began, I leaned over to Spooky and said, "This is going to be a laughing audience." She agreed. But I don't think either of us were prepared for the sheer force of the idiocy that followed. We're not talking nervous laughter here, a few titters and giggles from people embarrassed at having allowed themselves to be frightened by fiction. We're talking a very, very loud, full-on guffawing, hee-hawing, side-splitting hyena-fest. We're talking hooting and hollering. We're talking about most of the audience, which must have been several hundred people, behaving like drunken high schoolers, even though most of them appeared to be sober twenty- and thirty-somethings. As we were shown scenes of sadism and degradation in a high-security prison for the mentally ill, as Halle Berry did a fairly decent job of conveying her character's horror and disorientation, the crowd roared with laughter. About halfway through the film, when I could no longer stay focused on the action on the screen, I leaned over to Spooky and told her I might not be able to endure much more of this, then spent the next fifteen minutes or so concentrating more on the audience than the film. You know those historical epics about Roman gladiators, the lions and the Christians, etc.? The faces of the leering, cackling crowd that has come to the Circus Maximus to witness the carnage? That's what I saw in the faces of this group. At one point, one of the three children, seated just to Spooky's left, pleaded to be taken home, but to no avail. She had my sympathies.
I sat through the credits, livid and speechless, watching the crowd as it trickled out. I swear, to whatever being agnostics are left to swear to, that there was a time, a time I remember, when movie audiences sat and watched the movie. A time when their responses were, by and large, appropriate to the events being enacted in the film. A time that only ended at some point in the last decade. It's not as though I've only recently started seeing horror films in the theatre. And I am left to wonder what the fuck has happened to people. Has some sort of emotional disconnect severed "us" from undertstanding how "we" should respond to the pain and suffering of fictional characters? That good fiction might not be factual, but that its is true? The spectacle last night was sickening, almost physically nauseating, and never again will I pay what we're expected to pay at the cinema for such an object lesson in the depths to which humans can sink. I will stick to the art theatres and maybe catch a few big things, like The Return of the King and The Last Samurai, at mall theatres, well within the perimeter, with more mature audiences (I've never experienced this sort of shit at Phipps, for example).
The thing I kept thinking, again and again, was that so many people had worked so hard on this film, and there were ways that it was meant to be taken. And even if the film did not entirely succeed, it still deserved far better treatment than the idiots at that screening were giving it. But - and I know this, having watched those faces last night - it's not that they were laughing because the film was bad, because it had screwed up and made that all-too-easy slip from horror into the comedy of self-parody. It was because these people didn't begin to grasp how else to respond to the situations on the screen.
After last night, after that screening of Alien, after what have now become more unpleasant audiences than I can even recall, "I'll wait for the DVD" is beginning to sound better and better.
At least no cell phones rang...
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Addendum: You can find out more about Primal at the game's official website. Also, my thanks to Poppy for the kind things she had to say about Low Red Moon in the November 26th entry of her livejournal.
Thanks to the rewrite required by my having forgotten about relativity, I only did 452 words on the "Untitled Novella" yesterday. I suck. I will strive to suck a little less today. I think I like where this story's going. It could end up being something very drad. I think I've finally accepted that the only way I'll ever fulfill my dream of being an exopalaeontologist in by writing science fiction, so, in that respect, this story is probably a bit of wish fulfillment.
Speaking of sf, Nebari.Net had more hits yesterday than it's had in, well, almost forever. It's nice to know that people are visiting the site, though, truthfully, it's also nice to know that Nebari.Net is about me doing something just because I enjoy doing it. I don't have to worry about whether or not anyone else gives a fek. If only I could have that attitude about my short stories and novels and comics and such, it would be a delight. Anyway, Llar'en has just sent me stats on all the remaining planets in the Nay'savevyen System, all eleven of them, and I'll try to get those up on the Nebari Prime page late tonight or tomorrow. At the moment, the group is working on putting together a Nebari alphabet.
I'm still watching Enterprise. It's almost painful to see a show that seems to be trying so hard still failing to achieve much more than mediocrity. Last night's episode was a welcome change, if only for the grittiness, never mind how many times Star Trek has recycled "Time Travel Plot A" and all the handwaving involved. The scene at the Burgerland drive-thru was actually good. But it would have been nice if the show's creators had been a little more careful about the city they chose to stand in for Detroit. It worked well enough in the night shots, but there at the end, as the camera pulled back, I saw a palm tree and mountains in the background, both of which I'm pretty sure are lacking in Detroit, but quite common in Los Angeles.
And the PS2 binge that Spooky and I have been on finally led us, last night, to Primal, which may be the coolest game I've played since the original Tomb Raider. What's especially surprising is that it's so well scripted and decently voiced. Compare the script for Primal with the god-awful scripts for, say, Silent Hill or Resident Evil, and Primal comes off looking like Oscar-caliber material. And it's just a hell of a lot of fun, with great creature design, a terribly cute little gargoyle thingy named Scree, and a kick-ass half-demon female protagonist. Highly recommended.
And yes, it is Turkey Day, isn't it? Happy Dead Turkey Day to everyone. An entire holiday centered around a roasted avian theropod dinosaur can't be all bad. But I'll be writing today, especially after yesterday's frell-up. I'm having people to dinner tomorrow evening. I cook a mean theropod, if I do say so myself.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Addendum: If anyone's ever rated me as anything more than a lazy dabbler in physics, then they definitely "over rated" me. I was getting ready to begin work on the "Untitled Novella" and realized I'd made an enormously stupid mistake regarding some fundamentals of spacetime and relativity. I mean, mondo stupid. I grabbed Thorne's Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy off the physics/cosmology shelf and started flipping pages. Yep. I'm a dumbass. So, at least a significant portion of what I've written the last two days has to be rewritten. Grrrrrr.
And no, I won't tell you what the mistake is. It's too dumb to even admit.
Yesterday, I did 1,382 words on the "Untitled Novella." I'm pleased with how it's coming along. I'm going to try to make this entry shorter today, since that last entry was such a marathon and there's a lot to be done.
I've long accepted that I am afflicted with a certain stubborn naivete. It's often most evident when I'm confronted with what appears, to me, to be meaness for meanesses sake. And, while I'll grant that the net has done very many wonderful things, it's surely the greatest boon to meaness since the invention of human language. What is she prattling on about now? you ask. Some days ago, I came across the following line on alt.tv.farscape. I won't identify the poster, but concentrate rather on the substance (or lack thereof) of the messge in question, which is as follows:
She [the she in question being me] is highly over rated [sic] as a talented anything.
So, I read this and, at once, the aforementioned naivete kicks in. Why would someone say this, in a public forum? What would inspire them to do so? It seems to have no real purpose beyond a casual sort of petty hurtfulness. I genuinely find such things baffling. Then I set the naivete aside and allowed myself to consider the comment. It's about a third of the total message, in which the author admits to having purchased one of my novels (Threshold) and having been unable, for unstated reasons, to complete it. From this, and, I suppose from a few messages I posted last year to alt.tv.farscape, this person has drawn the conclusion that I'm "highly over rated [sic] as a talented anything." Now, the thread which contained the post in question also touched on my work as a paleontologist and my time in Death's Little Sister, so the poster is dismissing me as an author, scientist, and musician. Which is curious, given that he or she's only admitted to reading part of one book. Am I really expected to believe that this individual has read my publications in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and that he or she has the scientific acumen to judge them? Am I to believe that this person is one of the small handful of people who ever attended a DLS show during the band's brief existence? If I am expected to believe these things, I don't. Especially the part about having read, and understood, my paleo' work.
I do actually have a point here, beyond my naivete and the issue of meanness and any personal annoyance at having encountered such a thing. Point being, simply, that when given such an incredible communicative tool as the web, the most some people seem to be able to do with it is mouth off about things about which they are, in all likelihood, distinctly unqualified to comment on. It's not so much a flaw in the web, as a flaw in the species. And this is yet another example of why I've stopped posting to Usenet. However, none of this is meant as a general indictment of alt.tv.farscape, even though I predict my comments here will not go unnoticed by the poster in question, or an acquaintance of the poster in question, and he or she will probably have more to say about my lack of talent. At least he or she is predictable.
And speaking of Farscape, I spent another four hours last night on Nebari.Net. Leh'agvoi's manga pages are up now, chapters one and two, along with a "Nar'eth Photogallery" preview of what will eventually become the costuming section. Access both via the front page. Finally, more than a year after registering the domain, the site's beginning to get a little content, thanks, in large part, to folks like Llar'en and Leh'agvoi and Spooky (who took all those Nar'eth photos). These days, Nebari.Net is doing an awful lot to keep me grounded. In the midst of so much pressure regarding what I have to write, it's good to have something to work on that's, as they say, just for fun.
Not much else to say about yesterday, which is good, because this has already gone on longer than I'd intended. Spooky and I did discover a great new PS2 game last night, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Very Tomb Raiderish, but very much it's own thing, as well. Maybe it's just that I like swords and I've always wanted to do that Fred Astaire dancing-on-walls thing.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
I dren you not, the first thing Spooky said to me this morning was, "What do you want." And she said it in a voice not unlike Oscar the Grouch. Well, one part Oscar and one part Ron Perlman.
I think maybe the Samurai thing is going to her head. She played Tenchu for two and a half straight hours last night. I had to finally pry the controller from her sweaty little hands as she mumbled, "Kill. Kill! Kill!" I think maybe she's beginning to believe she's the medieval ancestor of Go Go Yubari.
Anyway...yesterday, no sooner had I rhapsodized on the fortunate cloudiness, than the sun came out and spoiled everything. I suppose that teach'll me for praising bad weather. I hid in my office all day, writing. Yes. That's what I said. Writing. Can you believe it? I did 1,362 words on the story, which is still titled "Untitled Novella." With luck, I can finish this one in three weeks. Bill Schafer read my blog entry yesterday and called to tell me there was no rush, I could take all the time I want. And I'm grateful for that, but it has to be done sometime, and it won't get any easier, and I have so much else to do. So, there you go. I have to find an artist for it, though I'd prefer to wait until I'm at least halfway through, so I have a better idea of its overall tone. Oh, and it's another first-person narrative (though I have built in an explanation of the narrative, so we know why and how the narrator is telling the story).
After dinner, I worked on Nebari.Net until midnight. I'm getting the manga page up. It will feature the ongoing adventures of Nar'eth, as drawn and scripted by Leh'agvoi. It's almost ready. I'll get the bugs out tonight, link it to the front page, and post the link here tomorrow. Spooky and I watched the last half of Caberet on TCM (a movie I never get tired of), and, afterwards, I reflected on the horrifically tragic nature of the story and the characters, on the power of that final ominous frame of film, the reflection of the Nazi brownshirts. Genius.
Sunday was the second anniversary of this blog and it didn't even occur to me until yesterday.
I know I shouldn't do this, that it's a snarky thing to do, but I'm about to do it anyway. A few days back, I stumbled across a review of Low Red Moon at Greenmanreview.com, which the website praised as an especially well-written piece, an example of how a review should be written. So I read it. And it is fairly well-written, and extremely positive (which is why what I'm about to do is so snarky). Still, I have to take issue on two points.
First, the reviewer writes, "Reading Low Red Moon, I did actually feel like I was in a sticky-hot southern city in the midst of summertime..." Now, this would be all well and good were the author reviewing Threshold, which is, in fact, set in August. Low Red Moon, however, is set in October, and climaxes on Halloween. This is not a subtlety of the story. It's right out there in the open. Indeed, in the second sentence of the first paragraph of Chapter One, I wrote "Deacon doesn't answer the cop, stares instead out the coffee shop at the autumn-bleached sky above Third Avenue." (p. 7, italics added). On page 14, as Deacon exits the coffee shop, we see the marquee of the Alabama Theatre across the street, which reads, "The Phantom of the Opera - Lon Chaney - October 27." The book is repleat with jack-o'lanterns and references to the month and the season and to Halloween. Indeed, it is an important plot point. All of which leaves me rather mystified as to how the author could have read the entire book, cover to cover, and then written of it, "I did actually feel like I was in a sticky-hot southern city in the midst of summertime..."
Secondly, the author of the review writes, "About the only fault I would name with the book is that things at the end aren't really explained all that well; I know what happened, but I was a bit foggy as to why." This is disquieting for two reasons. On the one hand, on a strictly narrative level, I think it's perfectly clear why the events of the story occur. We know the motivations of all the characters; I can go right to the relevant passages. We know why the ghuls are doing what they're doing, why Deacon's in hot water, why Chance's child is Narcissa's prize, and so forth. Then, on the other hand, the constant reader knows where I stand on the issue of ultimate explanation and fiction dealing with the paranormal. Here I shall defer to the Gentleman from Providence, who wrote, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is fear of the unknown." (from "Supernatural Horror in Literature" 1925-27). The all important word here is "unknown." Lovecraft understood that the moment the unknown becomes known, it loses much of its power over us. Thus, I believe that when writing a weird tale (such as Low Red Moon), that it is the duty of the writer to leave the unknown just that, unknown. I may not be the most objective of judges, but it seems to me that the novel's storyline is perfectly clear. However, that the novel ends with unanswered questions, relating to the ways of the ghouls, the reality and temporal location of the child in Chance's visions, the nature of the yellow house on Benefit Street and Mother Hydra, etc. & etc., is entirely intentional. To be precise, that unknownness, that lack of shedding light on the why, is the point of the thing.
Other than these two problems, it is an excellent review and I do thank the author for it and hope he or she will forgive me for taking issue with these two points.
I wanted to include an e-mail, but I have gone on, haven't I? Frell. I'm going to inclide it, anyway. Don't read it if you don't wish to:
It's funny that you dislike exactly what I like about the cold days. The sky turns a pale shade of gray so that it almost looks like a regular sky, except there's no sun and the shadows turn all uniform and washed out.
I grew up in the bleak northlands of Michigan, where winter runs from October through April and there is no fall or spring, but I went to college in New Jersey. I roomed with a guy from Atlanta. One night in Feb we were walking to the local all night deli for whatever, he in nine coats, me in a thin leather jacket, and I looked up and and sniffed and said "It smells like it's going to snow." He looked at me with a weird look and said, "What do you mean? Snow doesn't smell." And this girl walking behind us from Vermont said to me, "You're right, it does smell like snow." It snowed a few hours later unexpectedly, just a dusting. I can't describe the smell, but the northlanders know what it is. It's very faint and very distinctive.
Random notes of local flavor: Growing up, I had a door in the exterior wall of my second floor bedroom that didn't go anywhere. Many houses had doors like that. It's in case the first floor of the house gets snowed in, you can still escape. We average 24 feet of snow a year.
I guess I'm supposed to say "thank you." Rather, I feel I should suggest that all that cold is having a negative affect on your judgement and advise you move, as soon as possible, to Key West, where it never, ever snows 24 feet (shudder). Now, shut up, Caitlin, and write.
Monday, November 24, 2003
I spent most of yesterday desperately seeking an idea. No, not just any idea. I spent the day seeking The Idea. The one that's just right for this novella. The one that I'm ready to write Now.
I think I might have found it. A science fiction story. More and more, I'm leaning that direction. I thought I might do something different this time and actually discuss the story as I write it. That is, discuss the plot and the characters and so forth. But that would seem to defeat the purpose, so I doubt I shall.
Here in Atlanta, it's rainy and cold. Which, for now, is at least better than it being sunny and cold. I hate late autumn and winter skies. They give me the creeps. The light's wrong. The shadows are wrong. The shades of blue are wrong. The quality of the sunlight itself is wrong. Wrong in the Lovecraftian sense. Not right. Oppressive. Threatful. Better the sky keep itself decently hidden behind clouds and rain and mist. Of course, that means the cryosphere is even more active. I wish I could travel back to last year and kick myself in the head for thinking an office with a cement floor would be a good idea.
I think maybe it's time to go back to the absinthe.
Yesterday, Spooky dropped by Wax'N'Facts in L5P and picked up the self-titled Woven Hand cd (a Sixteen Horsepower side project). She was looking for Current 93's Bright Yellow Sun, but didn't find it. She did pick up a copy of the Bruderschaft disc for me (thank you, Spooky). I did a tiny bit of work on Nebari.Net yesterday, after all that heavy-duty "imagineering" (It's twisted, but I love that word.). Jennifer updated the "news" page on my website and continued proofreading Murder of Angels. After dinner (one of my almost-too-spicy-to-eat stir fries), I spent far too much time watching the all-day Looney Toons marathon on Boomerang. Then more PlayStation. And, again, I thought hard about Tolstoy. Sinning with a good heart.
So, today I need to write a thousand words. If I do that every day for the next four weeks, I can finish this novella by Christmas. I also need to get through a couple more scenes on the Threshold screenplay, because I have a meeting right after Thanksgiving and I haven't even touched the thing since August, I think. I'm trying to get excited about it again. After the Hollywood flap that surrounded that poor book back in February 2002, it's hard to place "Threshold" and "movie" in the same thought. That ridiculous month when Dreamworks and Scott Free were interested, when Ben Stiller (?) and Julia Roberts' "people" were asking for copies. Someday, I'll write an essay about the insanity of that month and how it led to me writing this screenplay that I keep putting off (because, kiddos, Procrastination may be a symptom of fear).
Sunday, November 23, 2003
I was in utero when John F. Kennedy died. I will never cease to find it odd that we count the moment that a life begins from the moment the child leaves the mother's body. The Chinese have a better system, I think. When John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, forty years ago today, I was about three months old. There's no way of reckoning the stress passed along to me from my pregnant mother, but it must have been significant. I was conceived in one world and born into another. I'm not sure if the assasination, per se, was The Moment when America lost its innocence, but it was certainly devastating and must count as one of the milestones in an age of terrible, violent, rapid transition. Today, it's impossible not to play the "what if" alternate-history game. It's something I do anyway, without Significant Dates as inspiration. Could Kennedy have gotten us out of Vietnam before the war did so much damage here in America? What would America be like today if the Watergate scandal had never occured? Under Kennedy, would there have been another Cuban missile crisis, one that led to WWIII? Would President Kennedy's extramarital affairs have become public? And so and on and on. In other universes, these questions were answered, I'm sure.
Here, now, I can only mourn an age when we still allowed ourselves to believe that "great men" might exist.
I need to get back to work. I'm done with Murder of Angels for now (Jennifer's proofing it before it goes to John Morgan at Berkeley) and the "Mercury" chapbook cover is done and it's past time to begin the novella for Subterranean Press. I am without an idea, or beset by too many ideas, most requiring months of research, months that I can't spare, if I am to do them the right way. Regardless, I'm getting that particular anxiety I get when it's been too long since last I actually wrote. I finished "Mercury" on October 30th, almost a month ago now. So, it's time to write again.
But write what? That's the question. That's always the frelling question.
Derek cf. Pegritz (of Nyarlathotep) and I are discussing possibly doing a "soundtrack" for Low Red Moon. No details yet, really. Subterranean Press is interested. This time I think I might actually sing on the disc, so that would be interesting. I know Derek and crew would do an amazing job. It's really just a matter of time (as in whether or not all parties involved have the time).
Last night, we had superb burritos from Raging Burrito in Ansley, then Spooky and I spent much of the rest of the evening kicking each others asses on PS2, playing Tenchu: Wrath on Heaven. After a while, she went to download songs and I switched to Star Wars: Starfighter. It did occur to me that I could have spent that time reading the collected works of Tolstoy, but there you go.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
I have an almost overwhelming urge to go to the airport and buy a ticket (well, two tickets) on the first flight far, far away. But it's hard to get away from yourself.
There's nothing to say about yesterday that's worth saying. Or reading. Instead, I'll mention how Spooky and I tried to sit through Peter Benchley's Creature on Sci-Fi night before last. It was actually scripted by Farscape creator Rockne S. O'Bannon. Which just goes to show that sometimes we all screw up. This ridiculous turkey was stretched out over a four-hour mini-series! Easily, it all could have been crammed into 45 minutes. Stan Wintson's monster was cool, of course, but it couldn't come close to redeeming the bad script, wooden acting, indifferent direction, and complete lack of anything resembling cinematography (not to mention the fact that the source material was that awful Benchley novel). Finally, we gave up, three-quarters of the way through, and watched a couple of eps of Farscape (3:10, "Relativity" and 3:11, "Incubator"). Then, last night, as though inspired by the cheese of Creature, Spooky and I wound up at Blockbuster, in search of bad sci-fi. We picked up Alien Hunter (with James Spader) and Deep Shock (with David Keith). Alien Hunter disappointed us by not sucking, even though it ripped off everything from The Thing (both versions) to Stargate (and who would want to rip off Stargate?). Fortunately, Deep Shock lived down to our expectations (I actually dozed off twice) and was bad just about every way a film about intelligent electric eels trying to melt the ice caps by opening deep sea vents could possibly suck. The eels in question have to be one of the worst examples of creature design in the history of direct-to-video, coming off as smiling CGI renderings of "Puff, the Magic Dragon." This movie is more fun than hurting yourself with a grapefruit spoon. I stand by my word.
Happy birthday to Kat, Shannon, and Jean-Paul, Floridians one and all.
Friday, November 21, 2003
I'd like to go back to Wednesday, please. That was the day I felt okay. The day after the blustery day and rainy night.
Yesterday, I finished with the "Mercury" cover and e-mailed the tif to Subterranean Press' design person, then Spooky aned I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the cluttered dustbunny ranch that the bedroom had become. Two of us and only one vanity. It's something of a disaster, what Christa Faust would call an explosion in a girl factory. We need at least three bedrooms, with spacious closets, the two of us. Oh, and UPS brought a package from my new editor, a bunch of books he's edited. Free books are always cool. Much better than cleaning messy bedrooms.
I'm sorry. There's nothing in my head worth saying this morning. Or there's too much in my head and I'm not up to dividing signal from noise.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
I think this image, which appeared this morning on Karlsweb, just about says it all:
Yesterday, we proofread the remaining 88 pp. of Murder of Angels. On page 441, my new editor called and we talked about the book and other things, such as my old Mac Color Classic, Pandora. He's allowing me to turn in the ms. via e-mail, as an rtf, which seems weird, but will save me time and money and all the frustration that usually comes from producing the final hard copy of a manuscript. We're even talking about editing online. Sometimes, the future pours over me like a bucket full of rocks.
Now that I've read through Murder of Angels as a novel, start to finish, I find myself far more in love with this difficult child of mine than I ever thought I would be. Back in July and August and September, we were locked in such a death grip, this book and me. We sat and growled at one another. And now I see what it is, what it has become, and why it was so difficult, and why writing it was making me sick, and everything almost makes sense. I am grateful I made it to THE END again, because there are terrible and amazing things inside this book. We embrace all our children, no matter their monstrosities or how much blood they draw from our souls. Wasn't that the real lesson of Frankenstein? Of course it was.
Meanwhile, I owe Bill Schafer a cover ("Mercury") and a novella. Those things are next on my list, in that order. I figure I'm only three weeks behind. I've been lots more behind than that.
The cryosphere is chewing at my bare feet this morning.
Having a hard time finding the perfect Thanksgiving present? How about a copy of Low Red Moon? It doesn't come with a collectible Gollum polystone statue, but it won't pee on your carpet, either.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
After a very blustery day, and a very rainy night (shades of Pooh), the day is bright and sunny and somewhat cooler. Few things comfort me more than falling asleep to the sound of rain on the windows. So. I'm in better spirits today than I have been in some time.
Yesterday, we proofread chapters Eight and Nine, 111 pp., in about five hours. I'm doing some degree of rewrite on almost every sentence, it seems, which is making to going slow. But it was a good work day. No interruptions, except for a phone call from LA reminding me that the Threshold screenplay really is important. I promised to get back to it after Thanksgiving. By then, Murder of Angels should be out of my hands (for a time) and back in New York. I think that I'm only now falling in love with this strange and tragic story. It's hard, knowing what's coming for all the people trapped inside the novel. But this one was so difficult for me to get out and onto paper, it's also a blessing, to find myself pleased with it, moved by it, feeling protective of it. Today we do chapters Ten and Eleven and the epilogue and then the first round of proofreading will be done. Last night I tweaked Nebari.Net just a little, adding some graphics to Llar'en's figures on the Nebari Prime page. He promises to get around to stats for all the other planets in the Nay'savevyen System, in time. I think my next project for the page is an atlas of Nebari Prime, illustrating the major land masses, oceans, and climactic zones.
My new musical obsession is Bruderschaft, a collaborative effort by members of VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berzerk, Icon of Coil, Covenant, and DJ Rexx Arcana. It's only a single song, "Forever," but it's a single song of such amazing strength and beauty. The lyrics were written by DJ Rexx Arcana after the death of his father from cancer and all proceeds from the CD go to cancer charities. The disc can be ordered online from Middle Pillar. It's hitting me in so many places at once, that blending of sorrow and regret and triumph and dignity that I think is so important and so rarely encountered. I urge you to find a copy.
I was never what you wanted, I could never never please.
I swallowed all our sorrow in the midst of my disease.
I don't believe in the existence of mercy's guiding hand...
Not with all that I have witnessed, I cannot understand.
Forever burdened with the knowledge that I could have been so much more
When the truth is hard to suffer, I knew all this before
There is no comfort in faith, the heavens still will fail.
A thousand towers rise before me and I cannot climb them all.
There is no kind of joy in this, there is no time that it can heal.
When emptiness enshadows bliss, there is nothing left to feel.
I have not abandoned hope, though I know there's nothing more.
Tired and alone, you forget what you hoped for.
I will walk this ground forever
and stand guard against your name.
I will give all I can offer.
I will shoulder all the blame.
I am sentry to you now,
all your hopes and all your dreams.
I will hold you to the light,
that's what forever means.
I was never what you wanted, I could never never please.
I swallowed all our sorrow in the midst of my disease.
All my fortunes, all my gains, all the battles I have won...
Now collapsing like the rain, I stand alone, your only son.
Take some solace in these words, take notice of this place.
Hollow whispers that they are, like the wind upon my face.
Sing softly in my ear and look at me with wonder.
I will try to ease your fear as the darkness pulls you under.
And now an e-mail:
Hello Caitlin -
I thought it was imperative that you view this: A Very Scary Solstice. I've been sending the link to everyone, because it is the greatest holiday related project imaginable, and I thought you would appreciate it.
I also have a question for you - how did you find any bloody time to write in college? I just started (a month or two ago) a new story I'm really excited about, and its very much living out in my head, but its very difficult for me to find time to write. Right now I'm a junior and everything is kind of collapsing in over my head, so I'm ALWAYS busy with work. A professor suggested that I wake up early in the morning and I write then. I tried that, but... well... lets just say that I didn't quite hit the mark with anything I wrote. It was frelling awful because my mind was still so groggy. Any suggestions?
I have only one suggestion, Samm, and I'm loathe to make it, but here goes: writing classes. They suck. The students are often morons and sometimes the instructors are even worse. But the deadlines force you to write and give you an excuse to justify spending the time on your fiction. I did it. I hated the classes, but they made me write and that's what matters. Ignore the prattle and the critiques and most of the theory and all that dren and take from it only what you need, which is the time and motivation to write. And it also might help you clear up some electives. Hope that helps. And thanks for the ghoul...er, I mean Yule...link.
In Farscape news, SaveFarscape.com has finally announced the mini-series. Here's the link. I have only two words, for now: We win.
Now I work.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
I woke this morning and stretched...and pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve in my neck. The last hour and a half have been suprisingly, excruciatingly painful. The kind of pain that makes you want to puke. I've medicated and hopefully this will quickly get better. I'm obviously getting old. I can't even wake up without injuring myself.
There are storms bearing down on us from the west and it's blustery weather outside. This is a good thing. I want to spend the day walking in a park, surrounded by swirling leaves and swaying trees, watching the sky turn darker and darker. Instead, I'll spend it proofreading. We were only able to get through Chapter Seven yesterday. It was just too frelling long and there was too much work to be done on it. We started work on the chapter about 2 p.m. and finished just before 6. And there were distractions.
I have a new editor, John Morgan at Berkeley (Penguin-Putnam). He replaces my longtime editor, Laura Anne Gilman. I'd been with Laura Anne since Silk, so this is a little weird, having a new editor, but we had a phone conversation yesterday and I think it will be a good pairing. He likes dinosaurs and Lovecraft. What more could I ask for? Laura Anne will be missed.
Check out Zoe Keating's "Mouse on Tour", the adventures of Taxidermy Mouse (Taxi to his friends), as he travels the country with Rasputina. What is it with goth bands and dead mice? For a while, Bella Morte had a dead mouse they'd found somewhere. His name was Mr. Pants and they kept him in a shoe box when they were touring with The Cruxshadows. Sadly, Mr. Pants disintegrated and was lost when someone opened his box in front of an air conditioning vent in the tour van. Cruxshadows dancer Beth tells me that a good bit of Mr. Pants was then inadvertently inhaled, thus they feel he's still with them, in a sense. Anyway, this really has nothing whatsoever to do with the thoughtfully-preserved Taxi.
I was just reading Poppy's livejournal, her account of the asshole in Texas who shot a whooping crane. If there were justice, not only would he be fined and then jailed for the rest of his life, but he would be forced to eat the bird. And I don't mean eat it cooked. I mean eat it raw - feathers, bones, beak, skin, muscle, everything - at gun point. If he survived that, then he could then do the jail time. Poppy apologizes for sounding misanthropic. I won't. I am exceedingly and proudly misanthropic. There are six billion-plus humans on this planet, and only 40 wild whooping cranes left in North America. Well, make that 39 wild whooping cranes. Humans are highly expendable. Anyway, before I get too angry, here's an e-mail from yesterday:
Dear Miss Kiernan,
When can we expect a children's book from you? Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Ted Naifeh, Kathe Koja, and Madonna have done them - so why not you? Will we see one before the decade is out? And a personal question, which Vast album do you prefer? His first or his second? Good luck with the next book.
I've been talking about doing a children's book for the last couple of years, but I have to find just the right artist before it can happen. More recently, my agent in NYC has been encouraging me to consider a "young adult" novel, and I'm giving it serious thought. So, I think it's only a matter of time, at this point. As for Vast, I think my favourite is definitely his first CD. I did a lot of writing to that disc.
Last night, exhausted from a day of proofreading and phone calls and such, I fixed a huge pot of beef stew and spent some time working on Nebari.Net, getting up some of the cosmological data that Llar'en's spent the last couple of weeks working out. You'll find it near the bottom of the Nebari Prime page. Then Spooky and I watched a Farscape episode ("Loosing Time," 3:9). then we went to bed early.
And speaking of Farscape, here's the latest, from TVGuide.com: SO NEAR, SO FARSCAPE: Frellin' awesome!! As reported in next week's TV Guide magazine, the Jim Henson Company is producing a four-hour Farscape miniseries that will tie up the loose ends left dangling when the cult hit was prematurely axed last year by Sci Fi Channel. "It's an epic conclusion to the series," confides a source. The project — which will reunite leads Ben Browder and Claudia Black — will start shooting in December in Australia. Since the telefilm is unlikely to air on Sci Fi, word is it may be sold into syndication. So there!
So there, indeed.
And now I really have to sign off, because we really must get through chapters Eight and Nine today.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Maybe there's nothing to write about today.
I suspect most days are like that, but, as writers, we are forced to write, anyway.
Or. There are too many things to write about today, and the clamour is shutting me down.
Drought and flood, and sometimes I can't tell the difference. Too much or not enough, but excess either way. All I have to do is finish this entry, something that will allow me to trick myself into feeling as if I've written today, talk to my NYC agent, maybe talk to my LA agent, and then make it through the hundred or so pages of chapters Seven and Eight, and what the frell's so difficult about that, anyway? A walk in the park. Easy peasy. Yeah, I know.
So, let's do an e-mail and move along:
I am a long term fan of yours from London. I have just finished Low Red Moon and thought it was absolutely WONDERFUL. I know that you have written a follow up book Murder of Angels and intend to write another, which I believe (correct me if im wrong) will complete your cycle of interconnected dark fantasy.
Do you have any idea yet how this last book in the cycle will connect with the others in terms of character/location. Do you know whether it will involve the set of characters from Silk i.e Daria etc or those from Threshold or will it possibly be a culmination of the two. I am deeply interested in the process of your writing and any information would be most appreciated.
As things stand, it's unclear whether or not the next novel I write will be the final book in the five-book cycle that I began with Silk. That was my original plan, and I'm sure I've stated it somewhere. But I may need to write an unrelated novel before I finish the cycle. These things happen. As for it's relation to the other books, the fifth will follow from (more than simply continue) the events in Threshold and Low Red Moon (and the Dancy stories, too) rather than from the events in Silk and Murder of Angels. That's how it looks at the moment, at least. Everything is always subject to change. Nothing ever happens only once or only one way. On the other hand, nothing's ever really finished, either, and even when I've written that planned fifth book, there's no guarantee that I won't continue the story beyond the "final" book. Thanks for the e-mail, Michael, and I'm very pleased you liked Low Red Moon so much.
Nice save, Kiernan.
I also wanted to say that, this afternoon, I am extremely optimistic about the future of Farscape. Even CNN is reporting the unfolding events that will, I pray, lead to some sort of closure and, perhaps, continuation beyond that. Because, like I just said, nothing's ever really finished.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
The latest on Farscape's return, courtesy Karlsweb, who passed along the following from the big Farscape con in Burbank this weekend:
"Rockne O'Bannon, the creator of Farscape, said this afternoon that he was sorry there was no news he could give us. However, he said, he really should be 'at home right now writing hour three.' He also said that tomorrow he and about 25 other people will be having a conference call. And that Brian Henson and David Kemper are in Australia at the moment working on something."
Stories cannot be left unfinished. And they won't be. The other evening, as the first rumours of the return began to surface, I questioned (for the thousandth time) my devotion to this series, the amount of attention and energy I've devoted to the campaign to at least see the conclusion of the story left unfinished by the last ep of Season Four. And Spooky said, "It's not silly. Farscape is good television and that's worth fighting for, if only because there's so little of it." And, gratefully, I couldn't argue with that logic. But I think there are larger issues here than television. Because stories should be finished, those stories that are worthy of our attention, those stories that deserved to be started in the first place. This is, of course, the vast minority of what's in the bookstores or the theatres or on television. Speaking as a storyteller, when we are given something precious - and Farscape is something very precious - we respect it and listen and, if necessary, fight for its survival. Else we get exactly what we deserve. More inane Friends sitcomery and "docudramas" and "reality" television and so on. Good fiction is almost extinct on television. The idiot box has never been an hospitable environment for good fiction, as it must (almost) always cater to the lowest of the low, the shortest of attention spans, the most fickle and indifferent of audiences. So, we fight for what is precious or we do not complain.
Tomorrow, I will go back to proofreading Murder of Angels. I'd do it today, but this afternoon and evening is D&D and I've promised to be there. But tomorrow, Spooky and I will do chapters Seven and Eight, before I forget Chapter Six. I wish I could say that, after reading the first six chapters and after my agent having read the book, that my earlier fears were alleviated, but I think they've only been given greater hold on me. It's a good book, but its a strange, strange book, and a grim book, and whether or not this particular tunnel has a light at the end is an unresolved issue. Each reader will have to decide that for him or herself. I am afraid I am growing to love this child and I doubt it will be accepted with open arms. It was built as receptacle for darknesses I needed to be free of, even though I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. Of course, that's one of the things good art does - act as a purgative or rite of personal exorcism to the artist. But you don't say things like that to the people who are concerned with the busyness of writing. They may know that it's true, but that doesn't mean they want to hear it. The Market is a beast beyond our control and comprehension. It does as it pleases and we are merely chattel.
I know, for instance, that Low Red Moon is far and away the best novel I have ever written. But that matters little, because The Market will do as it pleases. I must try to be content with the knowledge (which is not true knowledge, but merely suspicion) that I have done the best job I could have done. The market takes a dim view of Grim and Strange. And an even dimmer view of Hard, and Murder of Angels is surely a hard book. People will break their teeth on this book, when I only meant them to break their hearts.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
I almost forgot this thing today. That could have been unfortunate, as I'm pretty sure that using this blogger to chastize myself for not working is the only thing keeps me from being a total bum.
Okay, not the only thing.
But I didn't work today, nor did I work yesterday. Not real work. Not writing or proofreading or such. I did a lot of housework yesterday and cooked two meals. But no writing. Spooky and I watched Eliza Dushku in Wrong Turn (perfectly awful, but notable as an example of the way that trolls have become cannibalistic hillbillies in the American fairy tale) and then another Python DVD, and then I put in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms to sleep to. There are times I want to do nothing but watch (as opposed to read). Watching is ever so much more voyeuristic than reading. Anyway, on that note, this afternoon we caught a matinee of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. A superb movie, despite the fact that we more or less missed the first ten minutes bescause of three drunken redneck (two guys and a chick) who'd snuck in beer and proceeded to fight loudly and drunkenly among themselves. They smelled. Spooky and I were sitting directly behind them. Numerous shhhhhings only seemed to make things worse and, finally, Spooky talked to the management, who removed them from the premises. Back to the movie. Really gorgeous. I loved the use of the Galapagos Islands and early 19th-century proto-evolutionary thought.
After the movie, we stopped for dinner at The Righteous Room, then head home for LunarCycles, which is live right now and you should tune in. And that's about that, blah, blah, blah.
I was pleased with the removal of Judge Roy Moore from office this week. Alabama might get better yet, someday, eventually, even if only by baby steps, and even if it goes kicking and screaming all the way.
Friday, November 14, 2003
I think I might be getting sick. Rogue had something horrible and I hope I haven't picked it up. It's a tradition we have, Rogue and I. He always gets sick just in time to see me and pass it along. Today, they're on the road to Tampa. And least I can feel bad from the comfort of my cryosphere-afflicted office.
The phorum is back online, at LunarCycles. Go and post. Be happy that it wasn't August 8th all over again. Again, my thanks to Sissy and Kat for getting us back online late last night.
The Farscape news looks genuinely promising this time. We're all awaiting "official" word.
Last night, Jennifer went to bed (smart girl), but Spooky and I sat up until after midnight watching Guillermo del Toro's Cronos (beautiful) and then three episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus on DVD.
I'm not sure what's to be done with today. I may or may not go right back to proofing MoA. I'm two weeks behind on just about everything (sorry Bill), but I've been pushing and pushing and I think I may have to go a little easy on myself for a day or two. Even writers have limits.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
The last forty-eight hours or so are a complete blur. Yesterday was the sort of day which just seems to explode, everything happening at once, the busyness of writing (though we did manage to proof Chapter Six of Murder of Angels). Then, I had The Crüxshadows show at The Masquerade last night, and we brought the band and crew home with us so they could get a little sleep before continuing on to Birmingham this evening. There are too many friends I only get to spend time with once or twice a year.
I got to bed about 5 a.m., I think. The band slept until about 2 p.m. today.
The phorum is down, as many of you have noticed. Thanks for all the e-mails of inquiry, and I apologize for not having time to address the problem until this evening (and for being too pooped to respond to everyone personally). After the Great Crash of August 8th, and the ensuing stress it caused me, I think I'm forcing myself to take a more laid back approach to web problems. Regardless, the situation is being remedied and the phorum at scaredhedgehog.net will be back ASAP. None of the messages have been lost. In the meantime, Sissy and Kat are setting up a temporary phorum site at LunarCycles. If it's not already functioning, it will be soon. Also, thanks to Larne (Llar'en), who kindly offered us a temporary haven.
My head hurts and I've hardly slept for two days. I'm trying, desperately, to make sense. Trying to be sure the words get strung in the right order.
There's big Farscape news coming. See the articles at TVGuide.com, Cinescape.com, and Darkhorizons.com for the relevant articles. I'm too tired to say much more. Things are happening, finally.
If you're in Birmingham tonight (you have my sympathies), brave the chill, check out The Crüxshadows and pick up a copy of their new album, Ethernaut. Tomorrow night, they'll be playing Tampa. After that, they have only one more US show, in Savannah, before they return to Europe. Oh, I also saw The Last Dance for the first time last night. They played Dragon*Con this year, but I was Nebari that day and by the time they went on, I was too exhausted, and blind from the contacts, to see or hear much of anything. The best goth punk I've heard since Belle Morte.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Yesterday, we made it through chapters Four and Five of Murder of Angels. It was dark before we were done. Which brings us to Part Two. And I realized, as we were reading, how very personal this book is, moreso than any novel I've ever written, even Silk. As I was writing it, I don't think I was quite conscious how personal the things that I was saying were. I've said before, in interviews, that all fiction carries some degree of autobiography, intentional or not. And it's there in all my work. But this one, I look at it now and I can see that I'm Daria and I'm Niki. Last time around, I was only Spyder. Anyway, you can have no idea what I'm talking about, because you haven't read the book, and won't for some time to come.
My insomnia has been working double-shifts and most of me isn't awake.
Today, I think we will do only Chapter Six.
I haven't been anywhere beyond the apartment since Friday evening.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Tomorrow night, The Cruxshadows play The Masquerade here in Atlanta. It's a show you shouldn't miss. Or, if you're not an Atlantian, catch them somewhere else. They never stop touring. Ever. I have to give Rogue a call this evening.
Yesterday was a tsunami of noise and chaos and phone calls. The business of writing, the busyness of writing. I had a long talk with my NYC agent about Murder of Angels, which she'd just finished. She says it's beautifully written and the "grimmest" thing I've ever done. I told her I owe her a happy book. She agreed. As soon as I finish the proofreading, the revised ms. will go to her and she'll pass it along to my editor at Roc. But what I didn't do yesterday was proofread. I was just too distracted to face that mountian of pages and Procrastination won out again. So, chapters Four and Five are today, instead. I did get the revisions done on "Mercury," at least. I really like this short story. I've only done four this year ("La Peau Verte" for Verte Brume, "Riding the White Bull" for the first issue of the new incarnation of Argosy magazine, "The Dead and the Moonstruck" for Gothic!, and "Mercury"). It's a shame I have so little time for short stories, as they have definitely become my preferred form. I hope I have time in 2004 to do another four.
I also read Poppy's "The Feast of St. Rosalie" yesterday, which is very good, though the image of a meatball cone was almost more than my stomach could handle.
The days slip by faster than I can even note their passing.
Spooky just came in with a bunch of photos from Dragon*Con '02. She's distracting me. She does that. It's one of her jobs. Anyway, photos. Me and Jhonen and Rogue and Voltaire and Nar'eth. Seems like only yesterday, a hundred years ago.
Have you gotten a copy of Low Red Moon yet? Well, why the frell not?
Monday, November 10, 2003
I think that I am certifiably chronophobic. I didn't just make that word up. Chronophobia, I mean. A morbid fear of time. I didn't make it up, though sometimes, like last night and this morning, I do feel as though I might have invented the malady it names. Unlimited, unbounded, incomprehensible time. Unstoppable, and, for us, tragically one way. How can someone not fear time? How can someone not lay awake at night with no other thing in their mind but its passage and consequences, the sheer, elegant terror of it? I can't recall when I first began to fear time. I was still a child.
Yesterday, we finished with Chapter Two and read Chapter Three of Murder of Angels. So, we have done 138 pages, and have 428 to go. We need to make it through chapters Four and Five today, which would finish up Part One of the book. Also, I have to get the final draft of "Mercury" (and its cover) off to Subterranean Press.
After supper, Spooky and I watched The Player on IFC, because she'd never seen it. After that, we read Maureen F. McHugh's "Presence." By then, Spooky was feeling bad again and dozed off. I stared disinterestedly at the television for a little while, then forced myself to go to bed about 12:30. Spooky feels better today. So does Jennifer.
Because I seem to have little to say this morning, a couple of e-mails:
I just wanted to tell you that I (and I believe many, many other readers of your work that I have known) do not agree with Mr. Daniel Jolley's impressions of your characters. I, personally, love them. They are more real than life, and know of love and heartache and pain and beauty (and other things) more than most of us living in this world ever will be able to. Your characters in Tales of Pain and Wonder, and the world they inhabited (a character itself, for me) was more meaningful and compelling than my own. They kept me alive, I'd say. I fell in love with your work first through the characters and then through the craft of your words. It began with Magwitch and Salmagundi and Jimmy de Sade and Lark and Crispin and has yet to end. And something that impressed me was that there hasn't been a character in any of your works that I have so far read that I didn't adore (though many of them I'd never want to meet in real life). That said, I haven't read Low Red Moon yet, but am waiting for it to come through the mail to do so. Bah Humbug to Daniel Jolley's dislike of your characters.
And now a very long one:
I’m reading Low Red Moon and I’m thinking, This is some of the best goddamn prose I’ve ever read...and the hollow of my torso – despite all the organs and meat and inner-physiognomy that constitutes my physicality, I still think there is space for the soul, somewhere in this microhollow – feels like it might be housing a wind, a wind that swells up from deep inside of me upon exposure to these words, has the potential to lift and carry me forever, forever, forever; another part, a more analytical and temporal sector, is categorizing this rupture and burst of impressions I similarly experience only when I am reading work that has brought me to tears, body-convulsing tears that are an emotional reaction to melancholy, happiness, hope, joy, sorrow...and pain and wonder. Ironically, to use a cliché, these works are few and far between: Harlan Ellison’s “Grail”; Ray Bradbury’s “The Lake”; two stories by Anthony Doerr – “The Caretaker” and “Mkondo”; Richard Adam’s novel, Watership Down; Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn; Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark. Not just true, pure prose, but stories told in such a way that the words conjure personal experiences from the deepest, darkest, labyrinthine recesses of the brain and pulls them on a thread to the forefront of your consciousness. A process so intimate you feel like you’re friends with the characters, or you are the character(s), and you feel like you’ve lived the events before. Or that you have been waiting for them your entire life.
There is that adage, if that is the correct term, that, as writers, as storytellers, as artists, we write the stories or create the art that we would want to read, would want to see, would want to feel, would want to live. The stories and art that no one has ever produced before: that is why you are creating them, so that they exist, and in their existence, you can, hopefully, be satisfied. You’ve created something new, something that you think is special because it’s something you’ve distilled from all your beliefs about stories, characters, and art, presented and birthed in such a way that has all your dirty, little fingerprints all over it – this story or work of art that came from you and bares your imprint and is just the thing you wanted to experience. If I were a professional writer, Low Red Moon is the type of novel I wish I had written. Part of me is jealous, perhaps I’m mistaking jealousy for awe; wait...no, I am jealous. I think...I think this is one of those works that isn’t only the type of work I could produce but is also one of those works that just feels technically and aesthetically perfect. You can flip to any page and be drawn into the story, the characters, the beauty of the prose with all its poetic assonance and dissonance and rhythms and metaphoric language, you can be possessed by the mind of the writer, Ms. Kiernan, as she spins her yarn, images fluttering from her fingers, images that coax and guide you and tip you off towards the right archetypes of the human experience that are important and beautiful about, not only dark fiction, but the collective world of fiction...the book is so fuckin’ good I find that it justifies the importance of the role of the writer/poet in this world.
Jesus, bold words, bold words. But I believe they are true.
You see, I’ve been going through a crisis of faith lately, a crisis of vocation and avocation, a crisis of who I am. I surround myself with stories in the form of books and movies and music and poetry to an extent where I can’t be quantified as normal. I try to work on my own writing to the point where my friends and family question my solitude, my lifestyle; lately, I’m discovering how socially inept I am with relationships and the fuckin’ caveat is that I feel I’ve read so many goddamn books I know a good deal about human nature yet I can’t even socially navigate my way to a healthy relationship with a member of the opposite sex. In Michael Chabon’s novel, Wonder Boys, Grady Tripp, downtrodden and miserable and questioning his art and its effects on other people, says, “Books. They don’t mean anything to anybody. Not anymore.” To some people, and I am not denying that the people who can appreciate writing and writers and novels are rare, books are still important. These things are important. They matter. But sometimes, during those periods of doubt, it’s hard not to think that Grady Tripp might be onto something. I was morosely connecting to Tripp's words today, but when I started reading Low Red Moon I found myself gripping the book, slipping into the world created therein, oblivious to the commotion going on around me. Captivated and excited and enthralled, a thought was slowly wading out of the pools of my unconscious reservoir into my conscious: All the pain, all the sacrifice that an individual goes through to create art is worth it; if it comes out like this, like this novel I’m fondling in my hands, then goddamnit, it’s worth it. If I could write anything that is half as good as this then I will gladly accept my sacrifices.
Books are important. People who think otherwise are damn fools.
This book matters to me, and I hope these words can do justice to the appreciation I feel for you and your work: What you do, your work, and what you write in your online journal, is important to me. And I know it's important to other people. So I hope what I've written expresses this appreciation.
Thank you for writing this novel. I look forward to re-reading right after I re-read Threshold.
I hope it disappoints no one to learn that these sorts of letters, this sort of encouragement, in very important to me.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Last night, about 7:25 or so, the clouds smothering Atlanta unexpedtedly parted and we watched the eclipse from Jenny's bedroom windows. We had it in view from about 50% to totatlity, and then the clouds returned. We passed my old field binoculars back and forth. It was the best view I've ever had of a total lunar eclipse and it was beautiful. Watching the earth's vast shadow sweeping across the peaks and plains, the craters and mountains, all those shades of stone-dust grey obscured as the earth rolled inexorably across the face of the sun. Watching the shadow swallow the Mare Imbrium, Sinus Medii, Mare Serenitatis, Mare Tranquilitatis, and finally those smaller eastern seas — Mare Crisium, Mare Nectaris, and Mare Fecunditatis. A brilliant gold-white rim before the shadow was finally done and the lunar globe glowed a red-orange-gold. And then the clouds returned, and we were denied a vision of the reemergence. But I didn't feel cheated. I'd seen the coming of the shadow. That it would leave again was a given.
This morning, Sophie, who never kills anymore, had left a cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) on the back porch. So maybe that Low Red Moon got to her, as well.
Yesterday, all I wanted to do is cook. I made a delicious Thai soup for lunch — coconut milk and chicken stock, asparagus, kale, sesame, baby portabellas, red chilis, lemongrass, lime, green onions, and ginger, served sizzling hot over jasmine rice. Then I made a huge pot of chili for supper — green bell peppers, white onion, chili powder, a chicken sausage with lime, tequila, jalapenos, and black beans, tomatoes, both pinto and kidney beans, cumin, paprika, four dashes of Tobasco green sauce, a quarter cup Jose Cuervo Clasico, and lots of garlic. I have grown to love cooking.
Spooky and I proofed the remainder of Chapter One and the beginning of Chapter Two of Murder of Angels, and I felt myself begin to pull free of the mire of Procrastination. Today, we have to finish Two and do Three, which is a lot of words. I'm liking the novel more now that there's a little distance between us.
After the eclipse, Spooky and I had absinthe and listened to LunarCycles until about midnight. She was feeling very ill (I still feel fine). Later, she fell asleep on the couch and, insomniac that I am, I watched movies until almost 4 a.m. It seemed to be New Jersey mob night on IFC. First Adrien Brody in Eric Bross' Ten Benny, then James Mangold's star-studded Cop Land — Stallone, DiNiro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rapaport — all in one film. I'd seen neither film, and neither was terribly good. But they were both engaging and it gave me something to do until I could find sleep.
The thank yous are backed up again. Let's see — thanks to Matt Spencer, Moira, David M. Lemoine, Hayley Sears, and Terrell Garrett, for their thoughtful and welcome words on Low Red Moon and for "getting it." Thanks to Setsuled (Leh'agvoi) for his work on Nebari.Net. A general thanks to Saba Razvi for an e-mail that I sorely needed. I know I'm forgetting people. I'm sorry.
A self-serving suggestion. So many of you are saying such wonderful, insightful, dead-on things about Low Red Moon. Why don't you also post your comments on Amazon? It'd be a small assist.
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Jennifer is sick with something. Spooky is sicker with what might be something else. For the moment, I'm well.
I've realized that I'm stuck in Procrastination (The Nine Seven Deadlies, remember). Yes, I did get "Mercury" written, and I did the cover for it, but I'm making very little progress reading through Murder of Angels (and have only three weeks left) and less still with the novella. It's dark and cold and I know it's time to strike a spark, but I'm just sitting in a corner staring at two bits of flint. Like I don't know what they're for. Or I can't remember why it's worth the effort. I know that it is, somewhere, I still know. I know that I know. But I can't quite remember. I don't expect that to make sense. Far too many people are obsessed with making sense. I look at the news and I don't see much coming of this endless, slavish devotion to sense. Sometimes, I think there might be less chaos in anarchy. I don't believe that, and, I don't want to believe that. Anarchy hits me the same way war and negligence and sea otters suffocating in oil slicks hit me. But Order seems as much the author of destruction. And so I'm left looking for something in the middle. And maybe that's my problem. I'm still allowing the binary opposition to define the way I see, the tyrannous dialectic of Order and Chaos. I can't find a third choice. It's like looking for a colour that my eyes have not evolved to see.
Who is the third who walks always beside you
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another walking beside you...
Determinism biological and my need to escape it and how far have I drifted from the subject of the first sentence of the second paragraph of this entry? Or have I drifted at all? Procrastination. Inability to choose a side. Refusal to accept the fact or sides. Etcetera. Refusal changes nothing, or it changes everything. Cat in a box. Waves and particles and spinning Wu Li dancers. White ravens and black swans. Yes. I have no idea, so don't ask.
Yesterday there was only talk of work, which isn't work, no matter how much I might tell myself that it is. Last night, Spooky and I watched the director's cuts of Army of Darkness and Lifeforce.
Today, we have to read, even though she is sick and I'm mired. We have to read anyway. And I have to lock onto an idea. Where do you get your ideas? I have no goddamn idea.
Friday, November 07, 2003
These addenda thingies could get to be a habit, if I'm not careful. As some Farscape alternate-reality Frank Booth might say, "Frell that dren!" Okay, that's an image I'm sorry I conjured.
Yesterday, Spooky sent off thirteen packages bearing books and little monsters. Glasgow, Bournesmouth (England), Minneapolis, Chino Hills (CA), San Antonio, Austin, Indianapolis, Bel Air (MO), Lancashire (England), and a couple of other places. I may not get to go anywhere, but at least my books do. And my little monster doodles.
This morning, I seem to be out of sorts just about every way that a body can be out of sorts.
And my office chair of seven years gave up the ghost a couple of hours ago. I hate it when things I depend on break and I have to discard them and buy new ones. Things like that should last a lifetime. Like my Docs. I bought them in March '93, and I've worn them constantly, on two continents, four countries, and walked countless miles in them. And they're still in great shape and shall probably last me another ten years, at least. Everything should be like my Docs. But that would put a crimp in our consumer society, I know. I just don't care.
Yesterday, we worked on Chapter One of Murder of Angels. It's a frelling long chapter. We'll finish it and, hopefully Two, today. I'm getting behind again. I have to start the novella. I spent a good bit of yesterday trying to find an idea. Sometimes, that's the hardest part of writing for me. Finding the right idea. Right now, I have only dead air. Bill Schafer has requested that this story not tie in to any of my other stories, which does make it all a good deal more difficult. But I'll take it as a challenge. Maybe I rely on my "milleau" a little too heavily. Maybe I use it as a crutch. Writers should have nothing but disdain for crutches. We don't, of course. We're crutch fiends, the lot of us. The moat between what is and what should be.
I just read over my second post from yesterday. I wasn't nearly hard enough on myself. I barely scratched the surface.
Have you bought your copy of Low Red Moon yet? Well, my the frell not? Do it now, kiddos. Do it now.
Last night, we saw The Matrix: Revolutions. I know that most of the critics and fanboys are savaging it. They've been sharpening their knives for months. But I was enthralled, captivated, engrossed, awed — all those things that movies are supposed to do. Yes, there were problems, but they didn't ruin the film for me. I think, in this instance, I should do what I did with the first LotR film and break it down into what I liked and what I didn't like. Bad news first (AND HERE BE SPOILERS - IF YOU HAVEN"T SEEN THE FILM, YOU MIGHT NOT WISH TO READ THIS):
That Which I Did Not Like: The pacing of the film starts out a little rough, suffering somewhat from being the beginning of the end of the middle of a story. People don't get this, of course. That we have one film divided into three parts. But it's true. Anyway, the Bane character remained cumbersome, due to his having been poorly introduced in The Matrix: Reloaded. But I do think that Ian Bliss ultimately did a great and chilling job playing Smith in human form. I was annoyed at all the war-movie cliches cluttering up the battle for Zion, mostly surrounding the characters of Kid (Clayton Watson) and Lock (Harry Lennix). I can't even begin to understand why anyone thought some of that dialogue would work. Tank (Marcus Chong) was sorely missed (again; and yes, I'm aware of the controversy). But, best I can recall, that's about all that really bothered me.
That Which I Did Like: Truthfully, I just loved this film. That's not to say it couldn't have been better. Everything can always be better. Almost always. Was it as good as The Matrix? That's the wrong question to ask, as it was, truthfully, the conclusion of the story begun in The Matrix. We can more honestly ask if the end of the story lived up to its beginning. My answer would be yes. What happened was (as I've said on my phorum), pretty much what I expected, with Neo and Smith and the machines and Zion and the humans. Carrie-Anne Moss seemed to sleepwalk through the second film, but she was in fine form for the end and I thought Trinity's death scene was played perfectly. The battle for Zion is one of the most superbly orchestrated action scenes in film history. The moment that the hovercraft broke through the cloud cover left me breathless. It was great seeing Bruce Spence in his too-brief appearance as The Trainman. I liked that this film relied less on extended martial arts scenes, and thought that boosted the strength of Neo's showdown with Smith. I can go on and on like this, but there's really no point. Most people who are having trouble with the film seem to be having trouble with its plot, with unresolved questions, and with the philosophical basis of the three films. By now, you should all know how I feel about resolution. There was plenty enough here for me. As for plot, if you don't know what happened, you weren't paying attention and should see the film (or films) again. And as for philosophy, which really seems to be a major point of contention as regards The Matrix trilogy, all I can say is that the Wachowski's did their homework. It's not a mishmash and if that's what you see, it's probably because you weren't prepared for a Campbellian fusion of so many religious traditions, from the Old Testament to Zen Buddhism, coupled with a complex synthesis of modern philosophy. This stuff isn't easy. It's hard. If the Wachowski's have erred, it's in expecting too much of their audience, which, it seems, mostly just wanted an action film, not an action film with depth. In my opinion, they've delivered the latter, as no one before them ever has. The first two Star Wars films tried, and came close, but the series ultimately faltered (horribly). But even if you're not interested in existentialism, the philosophy of AI, or Hindu mythology, The Matrix: Revolutions is still a beautiful, beautiful film.
And now I have to go back to the word mines.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
An addendum to today's entry, and to yesterday's:
It occurred to me yesterday, as we were driving about in the rain, Dresden Dolls (or some such) playing on the radio, that, truthfully, I'm a pretty loathsome person and, if readers have trouble with my characters, what the hell would they ever make of me?
Wait a sec. Slow down. I'm gettin' ahead of myself. Or behind myself. Whatever.
Here's the thing. As Middle America (it's still out there; I glimpse it from afar sometimes) reckons personality, I'm a trainwreck of neuroses, deviance, questionable morality, and antisocial behavior. I'm funny looking (on this planet, at least). I'm queer. I'm coming up on forty and act about twenty-seven. I'm only vaguely responsible, when the mood strikes me. I'm reclusive, hate telephones, and, when I'm not dressed like a biker or a hired killer in a Hong Kong action flick, I look like 1897 ran headlong into 2097 and kept going. Sometimes I talk too loudly, because I'm not used to being around people and talking. I never visit my family (though, after years of near estrangemnet, we're on good terms again). I couldn't remember a birthday if my life depended on it. I have had more addictions than I care to recount. I'm selfish. Most of the time, my belief system would be considered just east of crackpot, a few miles west of peculiar. I'm a pack rat. I talk to myself. I'm a hypochondriac, but refuse to see doctors regularly. I won't throw away fingernail clippings or my own hair. I have poor judgement in most matters, especially as relates to money, choice of friends (I am getting better about this), and dietary habits.
There is a point. I'm coming to it.
Now, an author, an honest author, the sort of author I taught myself to be, can do one thing and one thing only. She can write what she knows. And, even though I am a fantasist, my primary job is to write about people. All I know about people comes from myself and my own experiences. That's my data set. Well, that and television and books and movies. The people I've known in my lifetime have not been paragons of normalcy or middle-class virtue or whatever the hell else it is that gleets like Mr. Daniel Jolley and all the gleets before him need if they are to find a character sympathetic. Tough titties. This is what I know. This is me. This is what I write. This is all I can write, because this is what I know, this is me, and so on, and on, and on, and on. I often wish it were otherwise, but it isn't and I doubt it ever shall be. And I will not be a dishonest writer. I have at least a shred of decency.
Gods, I hope my agents don't read this...
Either Spooky and I are coming down with a cold, or it's only allergies.
Yesterday, we proofed the prologue of Murder of Angels, which is much longer than any of my previous prologues. Then we made a trip up to Borders at Lenox, in the rain, to see Low Red Moon on bookstore shelves. There was a stack on the "new trade paperbacks" table out front, and more copies upstairs under "horror." Eight copies altogether, so, if you're in Atlanta, there at copies at the Lenox/Buckhead location of Borders. Also, they had copies of Silk and Threshold. But here's what's really cool. I was browsing through the science section and flipping through a copy of Richard Ellis' new Sea Dragons: Predators of the Prehistoric Oceans. It's a survey of the evolution of marine tetrapods aimed at a lay audience, covering everything from plesiosaurs to ichthyosaurs to mosasaurs. Anyway, to my surprise it discusses my 2002 paper on Alabama mosasaur biostratigraphy and my discovery and description of Selmasaurus russelli. All together, the book references four of my scientific papers, I think. And that made me feel better than just about anything has lately. The marks we make.
We left Borders and went to Lenox Mall for the candy store and Jelly Belly jelly beans. I got watermelon, green apple, lemon-lime, and very cherry. Spooky, far more adventurous than I, got weird stuff like buttered popcorn, caramel corn, A&W cream soda, grape jelly, pink grapefruit, and Dr. Pepper. Stuff like that. The pink grapefruit actually weren't gross and she gave me a few. I sat outside the Apple store and drooled, from a safe distance, at iPods and G5s. Then we made for a bar, where there was good beer and vinegar-salt fries, and a rather long and alarming encounter with a bum that would probably make a good little story, if I were up to telling it. But I'm not. Then we drove home, and discovered the power was out all over this part of Atlanta, and I nearly killed myself climbing an iron picket fence (I was a little drunk). The gate won't open without electricity. I hurt the knee again (not too badly this time) and collected a few more bruises. Spooky just hopped right on over, damn her.
Last night's Enterprise, "Twilight," was a vast improvement over last week's snoozefest, though the ending was a little too tidy. But that's Star Trek for you. Angel was hilarious and excellent; I think Jeffrey Bell's writing and direction is superb and "The Cautionary Tale Of Numero Cinco" was one of the best eps I've seen. Afterwards, Spooky and I studied MojoWorld until one or two a.m. I made a hellish world baking beneath a swollen red star, its huge moon torn by gravity and bleeding lava. Then I went to bed, after watching a few minutes of Sunset Boulevard on Bravo (the all-gay channel), and read a little of Low Red Moon and The Five of Cups, just for dren and giggles. And that, kiddos, was yesterday.
Well, mostly. Some judicious editing is always a good thing.
I am finally at liberty to announce that my story, "Tears Seven Times Salt," was chosen for The Century's Best Horror, edited by John Pelan, to be published by Cemetery Dance Publications. John gave me the news, that I'd been chosen for 1996, months and months ago, but swore me to secrecy. Yesterday, he sent an e-mail telling me I could release the news. 100 stories. 100 authors. 100 years. Two volumes. I am very, very flattered to have been chosen, and very glad that "Tears Seven Times Salt," a personal favorite of mine, was the story that got me in. I'll post details on this project as they are made available.
Low Red Moon continues to sell briskly at Amazon. Here are some figures from yesterday: 11 a.m., 2,141; 12 p.m. 2,268; 1:01, 2,161; 3:02, 1,893 (!); 7:12, 2,198; 10:01, 2,799; 11:01, 2,703. Then, from today, at 12:12 a.m., 2,883; 1:20 a.m., 2,046; 8:17, 2,201; 10:50, 2,850; 11:00, 2,850; 12:12 p.m., 2,890. Now, if only I knew how these figures translated into actual numbers of books sold.
Today, I'm going to try to get through chapters One and Two of Murder of Angels. I expect I'll only get through the first chapter, as they are very long chapters. But one should always intend more than one can actually accomplish.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
"Why are there dinosaur teeth on the kitchen table?" That's the first thing Spooky said to me today.
Yesterday I did the cover for the "Mercury" chapbook, and Bill Schafer likes it. That's more than I thought I'd get done. I watched a show on the unreality of "reality" television; more on that some other day. Spooky and I spent most of the evening, into the morning, with MojoWorld. I made a snowy, red-rocked world with an icy sea, beneath a red sun and a huge and scabrous moon. Spooky made a majestic world of violet half-light, deep canyons, and glaciers. I forced myself to stop at 2 a.m. We went to bed and she read me McElligot's Pool. Is that a perfect day or what?
I spent a lot of time watching how Low Red Moon was doing on Amazon. It's doing better than Threshold did its first week, and Threshold did quite well. About 10 a.m EST. yesterday morning, its Amazon sales rank was 9,198. At 7:07 p.m., it had climbed to 3,746. I decided to track it for a few hours. 8:14, 2,746; 9:27, 2,915; 10:03, 2,191; 11:12, 2,301; 12:04 a.m. (today), 2,349; 1:02, 2,399. The last time I checked before bed, at 2:01, Low Red Moon was ranked at 2,428. This morning, Jennifer noted that it was ranked 3,086 at 8:11 (I was still in bed). I started keeping up with it again at 10:21, and it was at 3,108, before climbing to 2,141 at 11:00. I shall probably continue to watch it all day. Does that seem silly? It isn't. Does it make for a more tedious blog entry than daily word counts? It probaby does. But these are figures that I'm pleased with.
I wish I could say the same of Daniel Jolley's "review" of the novel, which he posted to Amazon sometime yesterday. I'd already seen it, on a website with the informally august title, Rambles: A Cultural Arts Magazine. Yeah, well, anyway. I will say up front that Mr. Jolley's "review" is, for the most part, positive, and he gave the book four out of five stars, which seems fair. However, to begin with, I take issue with being called a "rising star of horror." But we won't go there. I don't really care what you call me, as long as you buy my books. The "review" reads more like an 8th grader's book report than a review (there is a difference between book reports and reviews, but many people seem unaware of this), and the author is far too fond of purple speech. Let me say again, I see that this is a positive "review." I acknowledge that. What got me, and is still getting me, is Mr. Jolley's statement that "my enjoyment of the story was limited somewhat by the fact that I simply did not like a single character in these pages."
Clearly, this is a shibboleth that seems determined to dog me forever and then some. I'll grant you, the undead of The Five of Cups are a hard lot to care about (though I did). But I've gotten this particular comment so many times: with Silk, with Threshold, in comics with The Dreaming and The Girl Who Would Be Death, with the stories in Candles for Elizabeth and Tales of Pain and Wonder, and now, to my actual surprise, with Low Red Moon. It would seem, if there is any truth in this oft-repeated criticism of my work, that I don't know what a sympathetic character is. Never mind that I have loved most of them. Many others seem to find them distinctly unlovely. Mr. Jolley, for example, sees Chance as "nagging" and has a "rather low opinion" of Deacon (presumably, as best I can tell from the "review," because he's an out-of-work, recovering alcoholic who tries to keep unpleasant secrets from his pregnant wife). And what really got me, was Mr. Jolley's comment that "if there is love in this relationship [Chance and Deacon], it is not easy to find." Speaking as the author, I can only shake my head and mutter "bullshit." But it's possible I exist so far out on the periphery of humankind that I cannot fathom true love. Apparently, Chance and Deacon's sacrifices, unto death, are not ample evidence. Apparently, Mr. Jolley is here to show me how wrong I am in believing that love is often, perhaps most often, uneasy and painful and hard, espcially when strong-willed people with difficult personalities and deep-rooted problems are involved. And I know I should take Mr. Jolley's word for all this. After all, he is an Amazon "Top 100 'Reviewer'" (currently ranked 78, but he seems ambitious to me, so I'm sure he's destined for bigger and better things).
Forget what I've learned from life, or from writers like Joyce and Faulkner and Steinbeck and Fitzgerald, Woolf and Shakespeare and, hell, "even" Stephen King. Mr. Jolley knows far better than I do, and far better than they.
Meanwhile, thanks to Terrell Garrett, Larne (Llar'en) Pekowsky, Chris Simmons, Matt Spencer, and all the other people who have been writing me privately to express their appreciation for the novel or posting their thoughts on the phorum and in their own blogs.
So, why are there dinosaur teeth on the kitchen table?
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Today is The Day. Low Red Moon should be available in bookstores everywhere, and if you can't find it there, there's always Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Maybe later I'll head up to Borders and see what it looks like sitting there on the shelf with Threshold and Silk. I'm not sure if I feel what I ought to feel or not, this being The Day. I have been through this several times before. Repetition dulls everything. I think that should be graven on my tombstone.
Yesterday, I drew 35 little monsters (and yes, Cleve, that includes yours). See yesterday's entry for the blow-by-blow. Then there was the dinner guest and some good conversation. Then Spooky and I spent the evening working with MojoWorld. Her patience exceeds mine by light years. About 1 a.m., we'd had all of the tutorial we could handle for one night and watched an ep of Farscape ("Thanks for Sharing," 3:7). Then I dragged my sorry eema off to bed.
I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do today. The cover for "Mercury." Work on lowredmoon.com (though, since we missed launching it on the day the book was released, I'm not sure I see the point). I may chuck it all and write something. That's why I'm here, after all. Spooky's getting 35 eBay packages together. It takes more time and energy than you might think. Perhaps I'll begin the novella. Perhaps I'll write something else just for me. Of course, that way lies starvation and life in a cardboard box.
I am absolutely in awe of the vocal version of VNV Nation's "Forsaken." I think it may become the nucleus of a story, the way that Belly's "Low Red Moon" and Poe's "Haunted" and the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" became the nucleus for Low Red Moon. It may become the nucleus for the novella. The song is available for free mp3 download on the VNV Nation website. You'll find the download under "art+media," towards the bottom, under "other tracks."
Poppy has gone away to Grand Isle to search for 5,000 white pelicans.
Rogue called me last night from the basement of a club in Baltimore; the band was waiting to go on stage. We talked about the death of Edgar Allan Poe, and Low Red Moon, and his new CD, Ethernaut, and posthumously written poetry.
Today is The Day. I mentioned that, right? The reason this journal exists at all? Buy the book, buy the book, buy the book. Please. They do no one any good in warehouses.
Monday, November 03, 2003
All monsters present and accounted for. And it only took me six hours! Sheeeeaw! After dinner tonight, I need to write html, but I have an episode of Nova on string theory that Jada was kind enough to tape and send to me and I'd really like to watch it. So, I might do that. We'll see.
12 monsters down, 23 to go. I may finish by time to start dinner tonight. I have a dinner guest coming and I'm fixing a chicken stew. So Spooky's gone to the Decatur Farmer's Market to get all that which I need for a chicken stew. Anyway, back to the monsters . . .
On the other side of a long weekend that went very, very fast. I'm not used to having "weekends," in the sense that they're something other than Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday. That is, I'm not used to spending a whole weekend doing weekendy things. I'm a little disoriented this morning. It both helps and doesn't help that it's going to be 82-degrees here in Atlanta today. It helps, because I dislike fall and loathe cold weather and this little bit of Indian summer is at least a short reprieve. But it adds to the disorientation, because it's starting to look like autumn out there.
My thanks to Cleve, who sent me a purple origami Iguanodon. It is now sitting on a shelf in my office, between The Black Doll and an empty absinthe bottle. It looks happy there. It promises to tell me stories about the fires and smoke-filled skies.
Tomorrow is the official release date for Low Red Moon. The book that I began writing on December 17th, 2001 will be released. The book I spent eight months writing a first draft of, and that I've been tweaking ever since. And it's always a little daunting and frustrating and oddly disappointing that after all that time and work, people will go out and buy it and many of them will read it in a day or less. Of course, that's the way it works. A great labour for a small amusement. Or, perhaps I should say, a brief amusement. I wish that, somehow, I could write books that would take at least as long to read as they take to conceive and write and rewrite and proofread and un-copyedit. Add to that my worries about how the book will sell, and the fact that a story which ended for me late in August 2002 will begin for you tomorrow, fourteen months in between, and it's all just a little strange. Some people, some people besides the reviewers have already found copies, because some bookstores have put them out early. Spooky saw one at Borders on Ponce de Leon yesterday. And tomorrow will be attended by no fanfare. It's just a date on the calendar when the book will suddenly be easy to find. Amazon (grrrr) will start shipping it out. No parties. No book tour. No signings. J. K. Rowling got all of those. There are none left.
I have never been so absolutely certain as I am now that I've written a good book. A book worthy of being read. And my fear is that this one will not get even as much attention as Threshold, though it deserves far more. The word "deserving" has no place in art in general, and even less in writing, specifically.
Tomorrow, please buy it, if you can, or order a copy online. Especially if you're one of those people who reads this blogger and not my fiction. You owe me. Yes, you do. I'm giving you this for free. Now, quit being a lazy, voyeuristic cheapskate and go buy the damned book that is the only reason this blog exists. But whatever you do, do not write me to ask me where you can find a copy or to tell me you can't find it anywhere. Because, in the first place, if you're reading this you know where to find it and, in the second place, if you can't find it, I don't want to know. Distribution is something I have no say in and no power over. Complain to a bookstore. They can do something about it; I can't.
Sorry. I don't mean to sound like such a bear (though I am a bear). I wonder if I shouldn't shut this journal down tomorrow. It would be a logical end. Conception to birth. This is what it's like to make a novel and all that.
But I won't shut it down.
It has become another nasty habit.
Today, I have to draw all those little monster doodles. Thanks to everyone who bid or bought. And I have to work on lowredmoon.com. Tomorrow, I need to do the cover for "Mercury." This week I have to begin the novella for Subterranean Press. There's more stuff on my plate than there is plate.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Now Halloween is sadly over, until next year. Today the spider lights and the webs come down and the jack-o'lanterns go to the dumpster. (sigh) Ah, well. Spooky and I have decided to make Xmas as much like Halloween as possible this year, in hopes of making it more endurable. Yesterday, there was work. Dealing with the aforementioned copyedited manuscript, with help from Jennifer (commas, commas, frelling commas!), and some work on caitlinrkiernan.com, and e-mailing an rtf of "Mercury" to Bill Schafer, and so on.
Last night, after arduous application of prosthetics and liquid latex and bindi, we went to the Rasputina show at the Echo Lounge. Thanks to the band for putting us on the guest list (that's about what it takes these days to get me to a show). It was great to finally meet Ryan Obermeyer (who is currently the Rasputina merch slave), and, of course, Melora and Zoe and Jonathan rocked immensely. The cover of "Barracuda" was beyond amazing. The first of the two opening bands, Daikaiju, unexpectedly blew me away. Fantastic. Surf in Kabuki masks. Big Japanese monster music. If these guys come anywhere near you, see them. Absolute guitar orgasms, which was the perfect appetizer for absolute cellogasms. Rasputina finished up about 2 a.m. and we swung by The Chamber's Halloween bash for a bit, as there was suspension. By the time we got home, I barely had enough wakefulness left to get all the make-up off and crawl into bed. Oh, and it was good to meet Bryce, who was very sweet and is from Augusta and was not the least bit "stalkerish."
The eBay little-monster-doodle thing is over. Wow, you guys wanted little monster doodles. I think I have about thirty-five to do. What this means is that there will be a little delay on shipping these books. I should have your doodles done by Tuesday and Spooky can get the books in the mail. But I also have to get lowredmoon.com up and running, as Low Red Moon will be out on Tuesday and I am way behind. So, please, thank you and be just a little patient, 'kay?
And today is gaming day, so I'll be half-dragon/half-drow for a few hours, before the chaos begins again tomorrow.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
November 1st. Lots of other names for that. I think of it simply as the day after Halloween. Except, today, I'm thinking of it as Halloween, Part II. Despite about three hours of make-up to get my ears right and Spooky's horns right, I didn't get nearly enough Halloween last night. So, Part II is scheduled for tonight. Details tomorrow.
Meanwhile, until the sun goes down, I have to be Caitlin again (sometimes I hate that frelling bitch) and Caitlin has to fix a manuscript that arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon, one that a copyeditor already decided to "fix" for me. This time I will not name the publisher or the story. Last time I did that, all hezmana broke loose. I shall only say, as I've said before (and will say a thousand times more), that copyeditors who want to be writers should write their own books, and I'm pretty sure there's an especially unpleasant, agonizing cubbyhole in the afterlife reserved just for them. This one was really ambitious. She/he marked out sentences and wrote new ones in.
You think I make this stuff up?
And I need to e-mail "Mercury" to Subterranean Press.
There are about thirteen and a half hours remaining on my eBay/little monster doodles offer. Any winning bids placed by midnight PST will get a monster doodle (no two are the same!). Of course, "buy it now" works even better. Click here to do the deed.
I think I actually got to sleep sometime around 3 a.m. Frankenstein Must Die was ending on the television or M had just started. All is rather fuzzy. Anyway, this morning, recuperation consisted of two bowls of Campbell's soup, more candy, 88.5's Music for the Prepubescent, two episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, and two eps of Farscape ("...Different Destinations" [3:5] and "Eat Me" [3:6]). I think I need to drink about thirty gallons of water. But first, work . . .