Wednesday, March 31, 2004
I believe that I have managed to forge a truce between The Dutiful Me and The Other Me. It won't hold forever, of course, but it should allow me to become functional again, at least for a while. I just hope We don't catch on to the ruse. Even Donald Rumsfeld would blush at the boldface lies I told Us to get the Mes to stop bickering and go back to work. (Shhhhhh. Not so loud. I'll hear Me.) I will try to keep the bitterness contained in the little black box I keep beneath my bed, the one lined with virginal blood, raritanium, and pages torn from Publisher's Weekly. An alarm will sound, should there be another unsightly leak.
Yesterday was marginally more productive than the day before. I got "Andromeda Among the Stones" in the mail to London. But I did not begin the Lovecraft essay. I think I need to write fiction now, rather than write about fiction, and this business with the essay has become a nuisance. It's much more important that I get to work on "The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles."
The most productive part of yesterday was an e-mail conversation, that carried on over into this morning, with my agent about The Next Novel. Spooky and I talked through a hefty chunk of the story yesterday. The pieces are falling into place. Plop. Plop. Plop. It doesn't frighten me, the prospect of sitting down to write another novel, nearly so much as I thought it would. The pain has become chronic and I am, I hope, beginning to accept that there will not be a cure in my lifetime. There will always be another novel. Anyway, over the next week I have to write out a synopsis/proposal.
Last night, we had a fabulously hot Thai dinner with friends. It was a good evening, the sort that makes me realize how much my reclusive ways have cost me.
After the vitriol of the past two or three days, this post seems terribly insubstantial. That's probably a good thing. But there may be addenda.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
The Dutiful Me spent much of last night worrying at yesterday's display of bitterness in this journal. How entirely, perfectly, distastefully gauche of me, that I scolded, again and again and again. I considered deleting the entry, but The Other Me intervened, reminding me that the original goal of this blog, beyond promoting my work and hopefully increasing sales, was to show readers what it's like to live and work as an author. At least, what it's like for me to live and work as an author. At least, the fraction of the story that I can tell without alienating readers, publishers, agents, and editors. So, in theory, honesty is important. There are lies here, but they are generally lies of omission, all the things that professional etiquette forbids me to include. Bitterness is a grey area, so long as names are not named. It might not be pretty, and may not endear me to you or you or someone else, but it's very much at the core of what I do. Any depiction of my life as an author without bitterness would be (plucking a convenient simile from the air) like explaining sashimi to someone who's never encountered it, but neglecting to mention that it generally involves raw fish.
Which is to say, The Other Me wins. Yesterday's entry stays, for better or, more likely, for worse.
I promised that today I would tell the story of the UFO sighting Spooky and I had in Piedmont Park on Sunday afternoon. Note that I use the acronym "UFO" literally, to mean "unidentified flying object," not as a synonym for "extraterrestrial spacecraft" (see "On The Road to Jefferson" for my thoughts thereof). So, what I am saying is that Spooky and I saw an airborne object that we have been unable to classify, not that we saw a flying saucer.
We were lying on the side of a hill near a very large live oak, on the side of the park that abuts Tenth St. NE., and Lake Clara Meer (home of Cujo the giant goldfish) lay downhill to our immediate north. There were a great number of other people nearby. We'd been lying there for some time, enjoying the sun, paying no particular attention to anything. Earlier, I'd pointed the silvery half-moon out to Spooky; it was still in the eastern sky, but rising fast. About 4:30 p.m., Spooky pointed at the sky and said something to the effect of "That airplane is very high. And there's another one even higher." Not particularly interested in passing airplanes, I glanced at the sky directly overhead and noted a long contrail (NE to SW). The plane appeared to be a large jet at cruising altitude (so I'm guessing 30K-35K feet). I didn't see any evidence of a second plane and said as much.
"It's right there," Spooky said, "on the other side of the contrail."
I stared and stared and finally, as the wind (from the SE) broke apart the contrail, I spotted the second "airplane." Without my glasses, it appeared to be a reddish-brown dot. And the first thing that I noticed was that it didn't appear to be moving. I told Spooky that I didn't think it was an airplane, and we watched it for a while. I borrowed her glasses (we have almost the same prescription) for a better look, beginning to regret that the binoculars were not in the car. With her glasses, I could see the object better. Lying there, I described it to her as "something like a grain of rice." It appeared to be oblong, but I'm not absolutely sure of this. It's color changed constantly from brown to red-brown to white, and I suggested this was largely a result of sunlight reflecting off an object that was not exactly static. For the first five or ten minutes, the object didn't move, but remained exactly where she'd first spotted it. Holding my hand up about a foot from my face and using my thumb and index finger as a gauge, the object seemed to be four inches west of the moon.
"Could it be a planet?" Spooky asked. "Could it be Venus?" I said that seemed unlikely and suggested that it might be a satellite in orbit (though, in fact, I have no idea how a satellite, seen by daylight, would appear to the naked eye).
Then the object began to move, drifting a short distance west, where it was still again. By this time, I was genuinely intrigued and continued to peer at the thing. We passed Spooky's glasses back and forth (I'd left mine at home, expecting to need only my sunglasses). At this point, I felt it was safe to rule out both Venus and satellites as potential candidates. After a few more minutes, the object began to drift to the northeast, and then it turned and drifted to the southeast, back towards the moon, having traced a rough sort of triangular path. Occasionally, planes passed during the sighting, both military and commercial jets, as well as a bright yellow biplane. The only other "objects" in the sky was a small patch of wispy cumulus clouds. At the start of the sighting, the clouds were well to the south of the UFO, but the wind eventually carried them between us and it, and then away to the NW. After maybe twenty minutes, the object suddenly began moving very fast, in a southeasterly direction. At this point, I began having trouble keeping up with it, though Spooky only lost sight of it for a few seconds. As it streaked "towards" the moon, I lost it for good, and she spent maybe five minutes or so trying to point out where it was.
A man and a woman on a blanket behind us had noticed us watching the sky and had also sighted the object. The man wondered aloud if it might be a satellite.
Perhaps half an hour after she'd first spotted the thing, Spooky said that it seemed to be growing smaller, which we both interpreted as it gaining altitude. Shortly thereafter, she lost sight of it and the object did not reappear, though, frankly, I was a little unnerved and suggested that we stop staring at the sky.
If asked to describe the object, I would stick to my original opinion that it resembled a grain of rice. There was no evidence that it left any sort of contrail. It did not appear to have lights. It's color alternated from brown to reddish-brown to white; it did not seem to me to be metallic. Though we heard passing planes, there was never any evidence that the object produced an audible sound. If we're even remotely correct about it's altitude, that it was located higher than the cruising jetliners, it must have been very large, considerably larger than, say, a Boeing 747. It didn't behave like a plane or a helicopter or a glider. At times, it was clearly moving, sometimes at great speed, against the wind, which seems to rule out a non-powered object such as a balloon. More than that, I can't say. As with the handful of other UFO sighting I've had during my life, I have no satisfactory explanation for what the object might have been, but I do welcome suggestions. I am not an expert in avionics or meteorology, and I'm well aware that what we think we see is not always what we actually see. Spooky had never before seen anything which she would classify as a UFO.
I tried to work on the Lovecraft essay yesterday, but my addled brain refused to cooperate. I wrote not a word on it. Spooky and I read through "Andromeda Among the Stones," which is being reprinted in Stephen Jones' Mammoth Book of Terror (coming later this year, I think). I found an enormous number of typographical and grammatical errors which had somehow made it into the story's original printing. I corrected them, and, in the evening, Jennifer looked at some dubious commas for me. So, now it's ready to go away to Steve in London (I wish that I were going with it). Sadly, that was the most productive part of yesterday. As for today, it's still too early to tell.
Monday, March 29, 2004
Sir Peter Ustinov is dead at 82.
Yesterday, the battle between The Dutiful Me and The Other Me didn't go so well (at least not from the perspective of The Dutiful Me). At precisely 2 p.m. EST, The Dutiful Me cried "Uncle!" like a big wuss and The Other Me headed over to Piedmont Park with Spooky, for an afternoon of nothing so important as lying on the grass and staring at the sky. I think I'll save the story of our UFO sighting until tomorrow.
As my career as a writer has crept along from year to year (I won't say "progressed," because I don't want to mislead anyone), it has become increasingly difficult to stay focused on the act itself. Writing seems to become less and less important, at least so far as the people who buy and sell what I write are concerned. And there's a pronounced "trickle-down" effect. Their attitudes are contagious. I find myself sitting here with no fucking idea why I'm doing this. Sometimes, weeks of reflection are required to find the center again. And the center grows smaller and smaller and smaller. At this point, I figure it's shrunken to about the size of your average jelly bean. Perhaps I'm being unfair. It's not that my writing is unimportant to the aforementioned buyers and sellers, but, rather, that what I think I ought to be writing has become unimportant to them. Because, the truth is, I ought to be writing what Conventional Wisdom thinks will sell. And it's not as if I haven't tried. I just keep getting in my own way. The Dutiful Me has been trying to sell out for years, but The Other Me keeps queering the deals.
The Dutiful Me is very concerned about things like rent, health and life insurance, the obscene cost of living, car insurance, the bills that multiply like unneutered human beings, medical expenses, and on and on until I puke. The Other Me only occassionally bothers to even notice that such matters are the smallest, least significant, part of this plane of existence. The Other Me thinks this is art, this thing I do. The Other Me couldn't care less about expanding my audience, or being more accessible (oh this word, this single goddamn word), or whether or not my books are fronted at the local Borders. The Other Me doesn't even want to be here, not really, stuck in this cold room, playing make-believe with myself and trying to squeeze a living from the game. The Other Me knows what I gave up to be here. It delights in reminding The Dutiful Me that I was once a scientist and that I loved my work regardless of whether or not I was being paid. The Dutiful Me has taken to stuffing cotton in her ears and humming loudly. The Other Me couldn't give a damn what the reviewers at Publisher's Weekly think about me this week, and The Dutiful Me cringes at such a blasphemy.
And we go round and round and round and round.
Either me would kill the other, if I thought I could go it alone.
I received a very nice e-mail yesterday, from Lars Ahn Pedersen in Roskilde, Denmark. Lars is of the opinion that Low Red Moon is my best novel to date, and I quote:
Therefore I am a bit puzzled by the mixed reaction Low Red Moon, has received from the critics and the horror community, according to your website. I haven't read any of the reviews - living in Denmark it's hard enough to locate your novels, let alone the reviews of them - but I find Low Red Moon to be right up there with Poppy Z. Brite's Exquisite Corpse, Kathe Koja's Skin, Dan Simmons' Song Of Kali and Stephen King's early works when it comes to Great Scary Novels By Still-Breathing Authors.
My favourite scene was the Sadie Jasper vs. Narcissa Snow-showdown, where you had me absolutely convinced that this was the end of poor Sadie. This put me in a weird position: on one hand I almost didn't dare turn the page because I didn't want to read what happened to Sadie, on the other I read the sentences too fast because I wanted to know. Actually, if Low Red Moon should ever be made into a movie (and it should), this will be the scene I will look most forward to see - together with the diner scene which is all the more effective because you only give us the prelude to the massacre (I suppose this is the scene you had all in your head but decided not to write).
Loved the ending as well and although it didn't make me cry, it did make me feel sad. As for "the sad part" not going down too well with the so-called horror fans, I can only say I have always found it a plus when a horror novel has left me with some kind of feeling. Most, if not all, of the above mentioned Great Scary Novels have all an element of sadness in them and I can't for my life see why that should exclude them from the horror genre.
I don't usually quote fan mail in the blog. The Dutiful Me feels it's somehow gauche. The Dutiful Me worries a great deal about appearing gauche. The Other Me finds such fretful concern for what other people think pathetic, at best, without pausing to consider the inherent hypocrisy (she wallows in praise, yet continues in the belief that she is immune to public opinion). At any rate, thank you Lars.
I'll try to work on the Lovecraft essay today, if only because my deadline is Wednesday.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Last night, Spooky and I braved the cigarette smoke and rancid club smell and went to see the Dresden Dolls at The Echo Lounge. It was, hands down, the best show I've seen since I saw P. J. Harvey in '98. It was so good, in fact, that we were sorely tempted to drive up to Chapel Hill, NC for their Tuesday night show (for the moment, saner heads prevail). They were really, really, really that good. If you are anywhere near one of their upcoming shows, I implore you to do whatever is necessary to attend. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione are the freshest, most exciting thing I've seen in ages and the whole frelling world needs to go to their shows and encourage them to please keep on doing this marvelous thing that they're doing. There is too little art in the world worth our attention.
I think the temps are going to reach 81F today. That's a blessing, even with rain and cooler temps coming tomorrow.
I'm supposed to tackle the screenplay again today, but all I want to do is wash my hair (to rid myself of the stink of other people's cigarettes) and spend the day somewhere like Piedmont Park. It will be a test of wills. The Dutiful Me vs. The Other Me. There's rarely ever any telling which will win.
"The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles" is taking shape behind my eyes. Hopefully, I'll get it started this week, though I have to get the Lovecraft essay for Studies in Modern Horror out of the way first.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
I did another five pages of screenplay yesterday. It's moving along very well, but I'm about to have to set it aside to attend to other projects, projects with looming deadlines.
You know, I just don't think I have much more to say today...
Friday, March 26, 2004
I found out yesterday that one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta, Huey's, has hired new chef and, instead of their old New Orleanscentric menu, is now serving "New Southern cuisine," whatever the frell that's supposed to be (Poppy would know, of course, but I'm not one-third the gourmand she is). They've jacked up the prices and all that remains of the original menu are the beignets (the best this side of Cafe Du Monde). Now there's nowhere in Atlanta to get a decent bowl of gumbo. And Huey's gumbo wasn't merely decent — it was superb. Sometimes, the best food is the least fussed over, the least precious, or precocious, and I wish more people were dedicated to leaving well enough alone. I suppose I can't fault the owner of Huey's for having ambition, but I also can't help being annoyed at losing such good, simple food to his bid to become part of the gaggle of trendy Peachtree Street "eateries."
Yes, I just wrote a eulogy to gumbo. I will try to refrain from such slips in the future.
Yesterday, I did six pages on the screenplay, and hope to do another seven or eight today. I very much appreciate this opportunity to step away from the demands of prose and concentrate solely on creating cinematic images (that's a big part of my prose, but here it's stripped down to the barest bones) and engaging dialogue. And this whole thing has started to remind me of the months I spent writing The Five of Cups, the way that I wouldn't allow myself to imagine the book actually being published for fear of locking up and not being able to complete it. I truly can't believe that Alabaster will one day be a film, and, for now, it's just this thing I'm writing and I have to let that be enough, lest I freak out and walk away from the whole project.
There are a bunch of e-mails that I haven't had time to answer, so a few quick thank-you's are in order: Sandrah Merritt, for getting me into the Coos Bay Public Library, giving me a "place of honor" on her bookshelf, and sending me a photo of said bookshelf; Chris Allen, for loving "Postcards from the King of Tides" and taking the time to let me know; Amber Morris, for telling me that Low Red Moon made her cry (what more could I ever ask for?); and Loup-Garou, for fixing my atrocious French.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
I think that yesterday was the first day that I haven't posted an entry to this blog since Spooky and I were in Jacksonville in January. I just couldn't find the words.
Night before last, we watched Alejandro González Iñárritu's 21 Grams, which is damn near perfect in every single way. Benicio Del Toro remains one of the most captivating actors alive. My only regret was that there wasn't more Clea Duval, which, of course, is really neither here not there. The nonlinear narrative was much appreciated, and was perhaps the best nontraditional narrative I've experienced since Mulholland Drive, unless I'm forgetting something (and I usually am). It's a shame that very few readers (and even fewer editors and publishers) are up to the sort of storytelling we get in 21 Grams, and more's the frelling pity. Anyway, a superb film.
When people ask me why I live in the South, my answers generally revolve around issues of weather and temperature. It's certainly not because we have such extraordinarily bright politicians, who, when they aren't occupied with dumbing down the science curriculum in public schools, banning same-sex marriage, or making it easier for big business to rape the enviroment, have time to tell women what they can and cannot do with their genitalia. No dren. Here in Georgia, we may soon be lucky enough to have our very own labia police. Makes me proud, it does. Damn, I'm getting a lump in my throat, just thinking about how all those Georgia lawmakers have found it in their hearts to take time off from waving the Confederate flag and seeing that Georgia Power remains the biggest polluter on the North American continent, to think about our clits.
Now, ask me again: Why do I live in the South?
Isn't it obvious?
Today will hopefully be spent on the Dancy screenplay, Alabaster, though I really need to get to work on "The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles" (which is requiring more germination-time than my short stories usually do). Given my obsession with continuity, it's been bugging me that I was writing this screenplay which falls outside the continuity of Threshold and all the Dancy stories. Then, last night, I realized that it doesn't. Just as Low Red Moon is the story of Chance and Deacon and Sadie's lives in a world where the events of Threshold never occurred, so Alabaster tells us something about what happened to Dancy Flammarion in that same revised world. So, now all is neat and tidy and it won't keep me awake nights.
I saw a comment somewhere on barbelith.com that my blog is "harsh." It was clearly meant as a compliment, but, still, I feel so dirty.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Yesterday would have been better served by staying in bed. Or getting out of here, parking my ass on a barstool somewhere, and drinking all day. It was precisely that productive.
To show for yesterday, I have the title to my next short story, "The Daughter of the Four of Pentacles," and a page of indecipherable, handwritten notes regarding same (me and longhand, that doesn't happen very often anymore). This story will finish off my commitment to Thrillers II.
I just received an invitation to a science-fiction anthology. I wrote so little short fiction last year, because I had no time for anything but Murder of Angels, and this year seems to be trying to make up the difference. I'm just sorry that soon I'll have to set it all aside and get to work on another novel.
I got word from my LA agent this morning regarding Alabaster, the Dancy screenplay. He's very happy with what we have so far, which is a huge relief, and now I have to find time to get another fifteen or twenty pages of it written before the end of the month.
I'd truly hoped to make it down to Ft. Lauderdale this coming weekend for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA). This will mark the third consecutive year that the conference has invited me to read and I've planned to go, then pulled out at the last minute. So I will understand completely if I'm never asked again. It was my hope that I could be a little more visible this year. I think there are people who are now pretty sure that I've died and someone else is writing all this crap. This year, Spooky and I went so far as to reserve a hotel room and register for ICFA, but, in the end, it came down to the amount of work that's undone and the fact that I can stay here and make money or go there and spend money. Attending conventions and conferences is expensive and time consuming, and rarely ever cost effective. More's the pity. I know writers who are no more successful, even less successful, than I am, who seem to attend every important con, every year. I honestly don't know how they do it.
I feel as if I'm asleep and writing this. I could close my eyes and every word would vanish from the screen. The IV caffeine drip must be empty...
Monday, March 22, 2004
It's chilly this morning, and cloudy. I think it's about 40F outside, but the meteorologists are promising the temps will be back up in the 70s by Wednesday. I think I can hang on that long.
Yesterday was the sort of day off that I wish I'd spent working. Mostly, the problem was the dip in temperatures, which led to a dip in my mood. Of course, Spooky, who was born in Missouri and has spent most of her life in Rhode Island, thinks I'm a big pussy as regards cold weather. I'm sure she's right. Anyway, we did nothing much. It was too nippy for the park, so the kite thing didn't happen (the wind was really a little too strong, anyway). And everywhere I looked there were people and seeing them just made me want to be home again (I had not thought death had undone so many./Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,/And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.), except I didn't want to be home, because I'd just spent ten days without leaving the apartment. And so it goes. The good news is no hate mail yet in retaliation for my very positive comments on the remake of Dawn of the Dead.
Today, I have to begin a new short story. Or at least I need to begin a new short story. As Anne Sexton reminds us, "Need is not quite belief." It's not quite motivation, either. But the deadlines do loom huge in the middle distance. And I have promises to keep. Fa la la la la. It's probably also coming up on time to start thinking about that dread beast, The Next Novel.
On that note, my thanks to Marci K. for sending me a link to "The Confessions of a Semi-Successful Author," an article at Salon.com (I don't read Salon.com, so I wouldn't have seen it otherwise). If you're someone who's clinging to even the tiniest shred of delusion that there's anything joyous or romantic about the lives of most published authors today, I prescribe this very insightful ditty. With luck, it will disabuse you of any such foolish notions and set you back on the straight and narrow, before you end up like me, another misplaced soul on the bramblesome, devouring road to and from the charnal houses of Publishing. Be warned, though, that, unless you're a subscriber, if you want to read the whole article, you must first view an inane commercial to receive your one-day pass to the website (a process that goes some way towards illustrating the problems discussed in the article).
Regardless, it's time to begin another story.
And start thinking about The Next Novel.
At least it's better than thinking about The Next Presidential Election, or The Next Jump In Gasoline Prices, or The Next Phase In The War On Terrorism, or The Next Forward Tick Of The Doomsday Clock. At least, I think it is...
Sunday, March 21, 2004
A cold front came through about midnight. Lightning and thunder, wind, hail and rain. This morning is bright and sunny, but cooler. It's only 56F out there, and the high will only be 62F. I do wish this little cool snap would have waited until Monday. Yesterday was perfect, and I'd planned to spend today in the park. We probably will anyway. There's been talk of a kite, and it's nice and windy.
I am often at odds with people who do not expect me to be at odds with them. Or something like that. The point is, I saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead yesterday and I think its superior in every way to Romero's original. Spooky and I were absolutely stunned. The film comes out swinging and never lets up. Even the opening credits, which put Johnny Cash's "When the Man Comes Around," to astoundingly effective use, are a study in the art of tension. There's nothing about this film I didn't love, and only on a few occassions have I been so unnerved in a theatre. Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames are perfect. The zombies are even more disturbing than those in 28 Days Later. At the core of this film's genius is one of the most brutally artful uses of sound I've ever encountered in a horror film. Part of understanding the force of the film is realizing that it relies more on violence than gore to keep you on edge. I've never been particularly impressed with gore. Remember what Stephen King said about terror, horror, and the gross-out? The gross-out is easy, and if you can't achieve the first two, that's what you go for. And I'm not saying that the remake of Dawn of the Dead isn't gory. It's certainly one of the bloodiest films I've ever seen. But it wisely keeps just enough of a leash on the grue that it never becomes unintentionally funny (there is a humor in this film, and some of it involves gore, but it's kept to a minimum, which is a good thing). And by now, I'm sure a lot of you are shaking your heads (which gets back to the first sentence in this long paragraph). Oh, Caitlín, some will lament. How can you possibly prefer this slick knock-off to Romero's original vision? Or something like that. Truth is, while I very much liked George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, I never cared for either of the sequels. I've just never found slow and shuffling zombies that scary, and I didn't think the original film's commentary on consumerism was especially biting (no pun intented). One thing that wowed me about Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later was that it took the zombie and finally made something terrifying of it. Anyway, in short, this is an amazing vision of apocalypse, one of the scariest films I've ever seen, and I'm very glad that I ignored my instincts and saw it in the theatre. If you're a Romero purist, you'll probably be disappointed and I won't tell you to ignore me, because you're already putting a black mark by my name. If you think you'll hate it, wait for the DVD. But I think the film would lose a lot of its claustrophoc punch on a small screen.
And speaking of the Dresden Dolls, check out the new video for "Girl Anachronism."
Tomorrow, it's back to the words...
Saturday, March 20, 2004
So, yes, this is my first day off since March 10th. It will also be the first day since March 10th that I've actually left the apartment. I know. That's scary. It just happens sometimes. I forget to leave, and suddenly ten or eleven days have passed. Anyway, we're going to take in a couple of matinees, eat some Thai food, stuff like that. Anything but frelling work. And tomorrow is also an off day (it might be D&D for me and sewing for Spooky), so if you've e-mailed me in the last twelve hours, don't expect a response until Monday morning.
Amid all the other craziness, I tried to get the Murder of Angels excerpt up yesterday. I finally decided on using most of Chapter Five. But then, after a couple hours formatting it, I decided it might not be the best choice after all. The truth is, this isn't a terribly excerptable book. This may take more time than I'd expected.
Meanwhile, check out the amazing Amanda Palmer's blog and be sure to catch the Dolls if they should play anywhere near you.
Friday, March 19, 2004
We woke up at the ungodsly early hour of 7:30 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. That's what we get for falling asleep at the equally ungodsly early hour of midnight (while watching The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, at that). We finally dragged ourselves out of bed about eight, because it was obvious that we weren't going back to sleep, not with all the sunlight and chirping birds and construction noise. So, I've been awake for almost three and a half hours now and have accomplished absolutely nothing.
Yesterday. Blah, blah, blah. Words, words, words. You know the tune.
Last night, we finished Beyond Good and Evil. The end came very abruptly, and if I have any particular gripe with this game, it would be that's it's at least ten or twelve hours too short. Just as you really become thoroughly immersed in the world of Hillys and its inhabitants, bip!, it's over. But it's a small gripe and BGE is definitely my third favorite game of 2003 (Primal is first, and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando is second). BEG is the sort of game that I can only hope we'll be seeing a lot more of in the very near future, a game that uses the medium to tell a story and that tells it well. It's a strange place to find engaging fiction, on the PS2, but there it is. Spooky and I actually almost cried when the lighthouse was destroyed by the Domz and the children were kidnapped, and then we almost cried again when Pey'j died. And I'm sitting there thinking, this is just a frelling video game and I'm getting weepy! But it's proof that gaming is evolving and that there are creators in that industry willing the stretch the form. In turn, the popularity of games like BGE and Primal are evidence that gamers like the stretch. Props to Ubisoft for this absolutely marvelous experience. The ending leaves hope for a sequel (sit through the credits or you'll miss it). With luck, given the success of BGE, it will be a little longer. Anyway, now it's back to Lara Croft for a bit.
Today, I'm going to try to get a sneak preview of Murder of Angels up on the website. I'll post a link here. By the way, if you are a legitimate reviewer for a website or zine and would like to receive an advance reading copy of MoA, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Same goes for The Dry Salvages. What do I mean by legit? I don't mean you'll be writing the review for your blog or livejournal or homepage or Amazon.com.
And I think that's all the blogging I'm good for on this long, long morning. It's going to be a matching long, long day, but tonight's "kid night" and tomorrow's a day off, so it shouldn't be too terrible.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
This morning, I have a decent enough hangover. Not the sort that keeps you in bed, but more the sort that makes you wish it were the sort that keeps you in bed. And still, I type.
Lately, I suck at resolutions.
For example, the resolution I made, towards the first of the year, to get in shape. Hasn't happened. And the resolution I made to finish Mason & Dixon. I haven't read a single page. My resolution to eat less refined sugar? I had a Coke for breakfast this morning.
About half an hour after my post yesterday, in which I described the bedlam being inflicted upon the old schoolhouse where I currently live, some idiot on the roof cranked up the machine that spews the aforementioned cloud of toxic, liquid plastic insulation and this time managed to entirely coat the back porch, all the foliage, windows, exterior walls, and a cat. Spooky immediately called our superintendent, who was here almost immediately. Now the idiot who sprayed the plastic, and other assorted idiots who work with him, are futiley attempting to sand the plastic away with a wire bristle brush. The cat's okay, I think. We were assured that the stuff is only toxic before it dries. Suuuurrrrre. This whole thing would be funny if I didn't have to live here another eight and a half months. This is a registered historical building, and I know that a lot of that plastic's going to be there for at least the next fifty years.
I won't say much else about yesterday. There was little about it worth mentioning. I talked to Neil briefly, in my quest to track down Brian Eno, because I'm trying to get permission to quote "Spider and I" in Murder of Angels. I think that was the best part of the day. Of course, I wrote.
Changing the subject. I've been absolutely evangelical about Apple since about 1986, when I first used a Mac (an SE II). The first computer I ever bought was a Mac Color Classic, which ran with nary a hitch for the better part of a decade (and it's still running today). I got a Mac iBook in 2001. I have been, overall, a very satisfied customer and whenever faced with one of those Windows-riddled PC things, I tend to recoil in horror and dismay. But, finally, I have a gripe. And as much time as I've spent praising Apple, it would be dishonest of me not to voice the gripe. Several months back, I made the switch from IE5 to Safari. At first, I was nothing but pleased. It's amazing how much faster Safari functions than IE. However, it caches like a frelling pack rat, making it difficult, for example, to use my phorum without constantly reloading the page to be sure I have the most current version. Worse still, it crashes. A lot. Ironically, Safari seems especially prone to crashing when I'm checking my e-mail at mac.com. And pop-ups are a sure way to crash it. I have decided that this must surely be a bug in my machine, because Apple could not possibly have released such a buggy browser. I shall persist in that delusion.
Thanks to Aimee Poynter, for her kind words about Silk, Threshold, and Low Red Moon. And also thanks to Dave Ryan, who was playing googlewhack and got this blog as a result with "Ankylosaurus quanta," and was thoughtful enough to tell me. Twice.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Since the condominiumization of this place began, the loft that the realtor assured me would be quiet and peaceful, perfect for a writer, has been in a state of perpetual hullabaloo. Today, they're tearing up something out front. The sound of hammers is sending shockwaves through the building. I have iTunes up as loud as it will go, and still the noise gets through the headphones. In the last two months, we've endured painters, architects, roofers, people with shovels and picks and crowbars, people with blueprints and chain saws. They've hacked down innocent bushes (for no apparent reason) and removed windows for repairs (said repaired windows were then immediately painted shut - ha, ha, ha, you stupid frelling bozos). Last week, the roof was sprayed with some sort of polystyrene-looking sealant that drifted down in great, toxic clouds and laminated the back porch and everything else within a ten-foot radius of the building. All I can say is anyone who's willing (and dumb enough) to pony up a quarter of a million dollars for this place, which is the asking price, can have it. I just dread the move to come. That'll be December. It'll be here in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, I endure conditions that I think would give even Stephen King writer's block.
It may be the noise, disruption, and desecration that have the ghosts a lot more active than usual. For at least two or three weeks (remember the "night terrors entry") we've been having a lot more weirdness than usual. Day before yesterday, I woke up about 8:30 a.m. and lay staring at the wall for a bit, listening to the music we sleep to. I finally rolled over to wake Spooky, ten or fifteen minutes after I'd awakened, and a small child-like figure was standing at her side of the bed. It immediately ducked down out of sight and there was no further evidence of it. I woke Spooky, but didn't tell her about it until we were out in the kitchen. Even Jennifer, the house skeptic, has had a sighting, one of the people we see reflected in the windows from time to time.
But the haunting is the least of my problems.
Keeping myself motivated, forcing the words from me, that's the greatest of my problems.
No, that's not true. Finding a way to make people love the words, that's the greatest of my problems. I've been leading horses to water for twelve years now, but I still can't figure out exactly how you make the damn things drink.
Yesterday, I spent a good portion of the day locked in mortal combat with Final Draft, but finally managed to get the upper hand and wrest free from its binary jaws the fifteen pages of screenplay that my film agent in LA was waiting for. Now I'm waiting to hear what he thinks before I continue with Alabaster. The waiting is the worst. The waiting is the worst. If you are one of those fools who wants to be a writer, go at once to a tattoo parlour and have tattooed upon thine fool brow, "I will wait, and wait, and wait." It is the one constant of writing.
The new Publisher's Weekly has an article on the state of horror in publishing today, "Tomes of Terror and Trepidation" (there's a title to make you wet your nickers, proof positive that alliteration can be a weapon in the wrong hands). I get a brief mention. The author writes:
NAL/Roc, now merged editorially with Berkeley/Ace, broke award-winning novelist Caitlin Kiernan out of small press and comics with Silk (1998) and published her third novel, Low Red Moon, last fall.
Never mind that my first comics weren't released until after I finally sold Silk, or that I never really sold much of anything to small press until after I'd become an established novelist and comic-book scripter. It's the publicity that counts, such as it is. Thanks to Rick for sending me this quote , which I wouldn't have seen otherwise. (Hell no, I don't read Publisher's Weekly. I spend every day writing, and the last thing I want to read about is publishing. Or writing, for that matter.)
Last night, my brain half-liquefied from the day's ordeals, I played Beyond Good and Evil until I could no longer avoid going to bed. Jade has flown to the moon Selene, rescued Pey'j from the Domz, transmitted the truth about the Alpha Sections to the people of Hillys, and is now engaged in her climactic battle with the head alien. I'm impressed with just about everything about this game, including its overt subversiveness. I'll finish it tonight.
Oh, Spooky was successful in procuring a copy of Frustration Plantation, and my favorite songs so far are "Possum in the Grotto" and "If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love."
This post means to go on forever. So I must stop it. But, before I go, congratulations to Poppy on the release of her new novel, Liquor, and all the buzz it's generating. And, lastly, a reminder that the Species of One shop is open and chockfull of stuff you don't yet know you can't live without.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
The world is getting green again, and I'm relieved to see it happening so fast. The dogwoods have bloomed. The clover's back. It's a lot easier to sit here in this office, locked within the unpleasant stories inside my head, if I know there's green out there. If I know that I can get up and go to the window and see something that isn't bleak and dead. The outside should, in this case, not agree with the inside. There should be a distinct misalignment. It's rainy today, but it's a spring rain, and the sun's been showing through every now and then, so that's okay, too.
All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that it all happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer. -- Ernest Hemingway
It goes without saying that I could not have expressed that better myself. Everything you need to know about becoming a writer is contained within that quote. That's all the "how to" anyone will ever need. Well, if you ask me, that is. And I figure that you wouldn't be here, reading this, if you weren't asking me.
I think I've drifted too far afield from the authors who, way back in high school, first gave me a hard shove towards writing. Hemingway. Steinbeck. Faulkner. Those were three of the most important, but it's been years since I've re-read anything by any of them. Perhaps I will begin with A Farewell to Arms, or maybe The Pearl.
Spooky's gone in search of a copy of the new Rasputina CD.
Yesterday, I did another seven pages on the screenplay, Alabaster. So, today I tweak the formatting a little (it'll be a while before I really have the hang of Final Draft), read for typos, and then send the first fourteen pages off to my agent. And try to keep enough time available to keep the screenplay moving ahead. It's taken me forever to get this thing going. I also have to do whatever last-minute things need doing to The Dry Salvages and get that off to Subterranean Press. And there's the Lovecraft essay. And the last story for Thrillers II. And the story I've promised to write for the subculture anthology. And I can't forget to breathe. I was doing that a lot yesterday, forgetting to breathe.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Yesterday is sort of a blur. I made notes for another short story, which will finish up my obligation to the Thrillers II anthology. I researched the history of snow globes. I made notes for an essay on Lovecraft (to be precise, on Lovecraft's perception of deep time as chaotic). And I wrote seven pages on the screenplay, which should make at least one of my agents very happy. I like what the screenplay is becoming. I have no idea if anyone will ever want to produce it, but I am pleased with the places it's going. I've taken "Alabaster" and most of Waycross and some little bits of In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers and am making something new with it all. I spent a lot of the afternoon teaching Final Draft to curse. You'd think a professional screenwriting programme would come already knowing words like "fuck" and "piss" and "shit."
I worked until about 10:20 last night, then played Beyond Good and Evil until about one. Jade and HH are in the slaughterhouse, dodging guards and aliens and trying to rescue Pey'j.
Today promises to be at least as full as yesterday. I'm hoping to get a day off on Wednesday. It would be nice to spend St. Patrick's Day pleasantly drunk in a bar somewhere. Oh, and the new Rasputina disc, Frustration Plantation, will be out on Tuesday, as well, which has Spooky extremely excited.
By the way, my cat lies.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
We pretty much finished up with The Dry Salvages yesterday afternoon. It really is an expansive story. It's present, the year that the ms. is being written by its narrator, is 2303, and that's about half the narrative, Paris after the beginning of a new ice age. But the events that she's writing about, and that are the other matter of the story, occurred in 2250, when she was young, and there are references going back as far as 2123. Accounting for all that unhappened history (not unhappened, so much as invisible from this vantage point), without actually accounting for all that history, was certainly one of the most daunting tasks I've undertaken as a fiction author. This isn't the first time that I've done futuristic sf (see also "Persephone," "Between the Flatirons and the Deep Green Sea," "Hoar Isis," and "Riding the White Bull"), but is the first time I've attempted this sort of story on this scale. It is, I suppose, what a lot of critics and authors would call dystopian (as are all my other sf stories), but, personally, I suspect that "utopian" and "dystopian" are much abused phrases, overused by people who think that the world will always be pretty much the same as it is now, not particularly better or worse. And it seems to me these people have not paid much attention to history or science. The past is always a Golden Age, or a Dark Age, and the future always leads to one or the other. Or haven't you noticed?
If I'm raving, forgive me. I slept five hours last night, with one nightmare after the other. It's been like that for weeks, I think. Half the time, I feel as if Sobe Adrenaline, multivitamins, and a few other less respectable substances are all that's keeping me moving. Spooky and I fell asleep on the sofa last night, right after I put It Came from Beneath the Sea in the VCR. Sometimes, old Harryhausen films are the best lullabies I know (other times, it's Dr. Seuss).
I don't feel presentable, or decent, or something enough for blogging. So that's all for now.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
We made it through another 58 pp. of The Dry Salvages yesterday, despite my headache (which finally faded away around sunset). I figured I had to do at least 58, since I'd done 58 on Thursday. We'll finish with it today. I can't believe I actually thought this ms. was ready. It is fairly awash in typos.
We also did some updates on my homepage and on Nebari.net. As for the latter, we added Leh'agvoi's "Sailor Nar'eth" to the pinups, and it's been the source of much discussion on the phorum.
Spooky came home yesterday from her morning walk with a copy of The Living Body (Best and Taylor, 4th ed., 1958), a physiology text book she'd found in a cardboard box at the side of the road. It's marvelously out-of-date, and seems obsessed with unusual pathologies, such as "internal hydrocephalus," Cushing's disease, and polyneuritis. It's brimming with grisy line drawings.
Last night, we watched a South Korean sf film, Natural City (2003). On the one hand, it's a perfectly shameless reworking of Blade Runner as seen through the lens of The Matrix. On the other hand, it's an incredibly gorgeous, accomplished film in its own right and I strongly urge you to see it. The visuals are truly breathtaking, the direction and acting are good, and the soundtrack is only mildly irritating. Afterwards, we watched George Pal's When World's Collide, which remains one of my all-time fave sf films. I fell asleep to The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. It was that sort of Friday night.
Jennifer has taped a sign to her bedroom door which reads, "Writing's No Damn Fun." Glad to see that someone else has figured that out. She emerges only rarely, to scowl and mutter something about The Waste Land or Anne Radcliffe, and then she vanishes again.
Okay. I go write now. But remember — it's no damn fun.
Friday, March 12, 2004
The headache gnawed at me all day yesterday, and it's still with me. It made yesterday sort of a blur, through which I tried to work. Mostly, though, it felt as if I spent the whole time chasing myself in circles. I tried to begin an essay on Lovecraft that I'm writing for Studies in Modern Horror, but made no real progress. Same with the screenplay. I'd promised my LA agent a few pages this week, because I thought I'd have a little time between stories. Ha. Spooky and I read the first 58 pp. of The Dry Salvages. That was the most productive part of the day. I'm glad that I decided to do this last-minute read, as we've already found several continuity errors. The frelling thing's over thirty thousand words long and I think I've tried to treat it as a short story. I finished it in December and went of vacation in January, and I must have known it wasn't polished. But if I did, apparently I forgot. Oh, and my New York agent tells me I'd look good in a forest ranger's uniform.
Today we'll try to make it through the rest of The Dry Salvages.
There will be other things, as well. There always are.
The bigots and zealots are crowing over the momentary halting of same-sex weddings in San Francisco. It's a comfort to know that history will consign these assholes to oblivion, but I do wish that history would hurry up about it.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
I'm trying to stave off a headache that's been nibbling at me since last night, so I do not guarantee that anything which follows is particularly coherent.
The new issue of Locus includes a review of Argosy No. 1, from which I quote:
Caitlin R. Kiernan delivers an unsettling judgement on the romance of the alien in "Riding the White Bull," which responds to much hopeful speculation that the ocean within Europa may contain life by suggesting that such organisms will not make pleasant acquaintance. This is one of the best fusions of SF and horror in some time, stark in its evocation of a spiritual state in which humankind is no longer alone, but more alone than ever. (Nick Gevers)
I'm very pleased that "Riding the White Bull" has been so well received, and it makes me a little less nervous about The Dry Salvages, which I'm beginning to think of as the big sister of "Riding the White Bull." I believe that one of the things I'm going to do today is read through the latter again. In other short-story related news, the release date of the asbinthe anthology, Verte Brume, which includes my story, "Peau Verte," has been delayed by several months. It's been more than a year now since I wrote that story and such delays become frustrating, simply because I'm afraid I may no longer like the story by the time it's finally published. I tend to love whatever I've just finished more than everything I've written previously (there have been a few notable exceptions), but after a year or so, it gets difficult to go back to a piece without finding so much fault that I can't appreciate it. This is, I think, the second delay on Verte Brume.
Yesterday's day off went very, very well. Spooky and I had painfully hot Thai and Singha beer for lunch, then swung by Atlanta Costume on our way to a matinee of Hidalgo (even though I'd forgotten my glasses). A very fine movie, and I refer the curious to Roger Ebert's review. I've heard accusations that Hidalgo is anti-Arab propaganda, which is patently absurd. Frankly, it's the Americans and Brits who are cast as the true villains in this film. How anyone could watch Hidalgo, with its depiction of the massacre at Wounded Knee, the sleazy, hypocritical Bill Cody (J.K. Simmons), the venomous Lady Anne (Louise Lombard), and British troops willing to murder for a few coins, and come away with the impression that it's pro-EuroAmerican propaganda is entirely beyond me. But then many things are. I found it possessed of the same joyful innocence and naivete as, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's a fun, exciting, and moving film, and it's a shame that Hollywood can't produce more like it. Viggo Mortensen is delightful, as is Omar Sharif. Go see this movie, or at least catch it on DVD.
Oh, and my cold cast porcelain D'Argo statue arrived yesterday. To bad Toy Vault will not be going forward with its plans for a whole series of Farscape statues.
As for today, there's work to do. Which is what I should be doing. But I'll take a second to thank Ben Hostmark, who brought the Locus review to my attention; Erik Schriever, who assures me I have readers in The Netherlands; Stephen A. Jarjoura, for letting me know how much he enjoyed Low Red Moon; Chris Allen, for telling me that he liked Low Red Moon better than Threshold, so that now I know at least one person agrees with me; and Ray Cornwall, and he knows what for.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
The ARC for Candlewick Press' Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales arrived yeterday. The book will be released in September and it's one of the most exciting anthologies that I've been involved with in a long time. Besides my story, "The Dead and the Moonstruck," there are stories by Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, M. T. Anderson, Joan Aiken, and many others. I was amused by a line near the end of the introduction, though, which states, "...you don't have to listen to bands like Bauhaus or wear black to seek uneasy refuge in these pages."
To everyone who has written to ask when or if there will be a hardback edition of Threshold, including everyone whom I've told not to count on it, it now appears there will probably be a hardback after all. It'll most likely be another year or so before it happens, but you can hurry that day along by helping to sell out Subterranean Press' Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold. I'm told that there are only about sixty copies remaining.
Inspired by Neil's announcement that he's taking his first real, no-work vacation since 1988, I'm taking most of the day off. This past week has been unreasonably stressful and I just need to step away from the keyboard for an afternoon and think about other things. Oh, and thanks to Chris (as in Walsh) for "grimalkin." Now Sophie has a title.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Already I'm missing the 70F+ days. Ah, well. At least there's a little green and a lot of flowers. And the warmth should be back soon. Hemingway, remember?
Speaking of Silk, this is my favorite stupid Amazon.com "review" of the last couple of months:
I really don't understand what all the fuss is about. While there were definitely some well written passages in the book, but [sic] I found the oddball literary style and freakish sentence structure to be tedious and distracting. I struggled just to reach the end of the book.
"Oddball" and "freakish." Do people just not care when they're making themselves look like idiots, or are they such complete idiots that they don't know that they're doing it? Reason #331 I often wish I were something other than a writer: illiterate readers. And yes, I will go so far as to suggest that any reader who found the style in which Silk was written to be "freakish" and "oddball," or who had to "struggle" to finish it, is, in fact, illiterate. Maybe "ignorant" would perhaps be a more appropriate word. Anyway, these are not the sorts of people for whom I'm writing books, so it's really neither here nor there.
Last night, Spooky and I watched Cold Creek Manor, which was, in every sense, exceptionally so-so and more than a little forgettable. Sharon Stone sleep walks through her performance. Randy Quaid tries, but there's not much here to work with. Your standard city-folks-get-menaced-by-scary-country-trash neoGothic thriller. Stephen Dorff spends the whole film trying to be Brad Pitt. Juliette Lewis seems to serve no purpose at all. The screenplay meanders and never manages to go anywhere in particular. It's formulaic and therefore extremely predictable. There are a few disturbing shots, a hint of suspense here and there, but this is one of those films that I'm really glad I didn't pay theatre prices to see.
Jennifer's dissertating continues, with much ado about T.S. Eliot and the Gothic and beatification.
I suppose I should get to work...
Monday, March 08, 2004
There are painters outside my office window, scraping and painting the windowframe. They're making a terrible racket and clinging to the side of the building like giant insects in white overalls. About ten minutes ago, I balled up my bean-bag Gorey bat and hurled it at the windowpane. And I haven't even had any absinthe today.
This week I have a little breathing room and think that I'm going to try to do a few pages of the screenplay that I've been putting off starting since I stepped away from the whole thing with the Threshold screenplay. It's a little bit of In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, a little bit of Waycross, a little bit of "Alabaster." It's Dancy and monsters and summer in the deep South. It's not nearly half so daunting as making a two-hour movie of the complexities of Threshold. I'd like to get some pages off to my agent in LA, to waylay (rhymes with "LA") any suspicions that I'm just sitting around here with my thumb up my eema.
The bugs at the window have grown quiet. That can't be a good sign.
It's a little cooler outside than it was yesterday, and the last few days before that. The cold front arrived with on a ferocious wind last night, like the trees had all gone mad and meant to pull themselves free of the earth. I love that sound. But everything's starting to bloom. The tulip trees, for example, and so I know that winter's most likely done it's worst. Every spring for an age I've had the same thought: "I lived through another winter." It always comes as a bit of a surprise. Hemingway said that a writer should always include the weather, and that's good enough for me.
Last night, Spooky and I gorged on fun television stuff, just because. Invader Zim, Home Movies, and two episodes of Farscape ("Crackers Don't Matter" and "Out of Their Minds"), and then we played Beyond Good and Evil until three o'clock. Jennifer's home this week, deep in the next agonizing round of dissertating.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
I forgot to mention the most annoying thing about Freddy vs. Jason (or was it Jason vs. Freddy?). Every five minutes or so, sometimes less, someone, usually a slutty, half-witted teenage girl, was forced to utter, "Oh my god!" No, that's not right. "Omigod!" That's closer to right. It would have made a great drinking game. Take a drink every time one of the bimbos says "omigod!" No one but the most hardened drunks would make it past the first half hour. Omigod! Jesus, that's fucking annoying.
The story is finished. We did the read-through yesterday. I tweaked and polished. I added a few hundred words of text. And a new title, "Houses Under the Sea," which I sort of borrowed from T. S. Eliot's "East Coker." You know, The houses are all gone under the sea./ The dancers are all gone under the hill. I think those two lines have a wonderfully Lovecraftian undertone. Anyway, there it is. Another story. I've lost count. This one's the last Very Long Short Story that I'm going to write for a while. The final word count is 11,159 words, which is about twice as long as any short story has a right to be. Yes, I'm overstating my case. But I miss the days when my short stories averaged 5-6K words. Time now to be less expansive. Time to be claustrophobic. Time to be tightly focused. Time to get away from Story and back to Character. By the way, "Houses Under the Sea" was written for Thrillers II, a book being published by Cemetery Dance Publications. I'm supposed to do 20K words worth of text for the book. I still have 9K to go. I may do another shorter story and a poem. I'm not sure when the book is scheduled to be released, or who the other author/s will be.
Maybe I'll clean my office today.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
The "first draft" of the story is done (I don't actually write drafts, but the term is convenient here). But, having finished the first draft, I realized that this not the story which I will title "Rappaccini's Dragon." In the end, the parallels between it and Hawthorne's story were not so pronounced as I'd expected. So, I'll need to find a new title today. Something else will be "Rappaccini's Dragon," some other day. If I had my druthers, it would have no title at all. In most cases, giving titles to first-person narratives only compounds the problems of disbelief. Not only am I to believe that Character X sat down and wrote this story for me to read, I'm to believe that she gave it a title. And if she didn't, then who did? The author? No, Character X is the "author"; to believe otherwise defeats the illusion. Anyway, this afternoon, Spooky and I will read through the whole story. I know there's one spot where I need to add a paragraph or two, and there will be the usual line edits. I wrote an amazing (if I do say so myself) 1,499 words (how did I miss 1,500 by one frelling word!) in about five hours.
Afterwards, I was so tired I could hardly walk straight. This is no exaggeration.
It was a wonderful, warm spring evening here last night. Everything's blooming. We went out and rented Big Dumb Movies, because after all the smart films of the past week, and having just finished the story, I needed some dumbassery to soothe my brain. We rented Freddy vs. Jason and Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jii Shômetsu Sakusen. The less said and the Jason and Freddy thing, the better. There was a remarkable amount of obviously silicone breastage, though. "Barbie boobs," as Spooky calls them. Mostly, I couldn't help but think how much funnier and cooler Freddy vs. Beetlejuice would have been. Think about it. The Godzilla movie was more fun, and not half so dull. There's just something enormously charming and comforting about Godzilla movies. Afterwards, we PlayStationed (new verb) until 3 a.m. Finally, I finished Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando and kicked that protopet's big blue eema. Then I started Beyond Good and Evil, which might be a little too Disneyesque and a little too kid-friendly for some gamers, but I think I like it a lot.
And a word of thanks to Tim Tittle, for this link. Spooky and I laughed ourselves woozy. I'm ready for the concubines.
Friday, March 05, 2004
I was so bad yesterday, there are hardly words for it. When I should have been sitting in this cold office, writing the end of "Rappaccini's Dragon," I was lying on a hillside in Piedmont Park, in the warm sun and the smell of blooming vegetation, having an argument with Spooky about whether the cumulus or cirrus clouds were moving the fastest. And to top it all off, I fell asleep without brushing my teeth. Days like that will be the end of me.
I think this will be an absinthe day.
And I will find THE END of this story, I hope.
There are three more waiting to be written.
There are at least a few wonders in the news these days, little bits of awe to keep me moving. Very solid evidence of water on Mars and new theropod and sauropod dinosaurs from Antarctica. The oldest known fossil insect. These, at least, are good things.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that I'm going to have to vote for John Kerry. I just gotta keep telling myself, it might hurt like hell, but the cure isn't worse than the disease.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
We seem to be getting a first taste of spring, with highs today in the upper seventies. Sadly, a few days from now, the forecast highs are twenty degrees cooler. So I think I'm getting out of here today. I think I'll spend the day out of doors. This has been an atrocious winter and I'm sick to death of sitting in this room typing in the cold.
Yesterday, I wrote all day for 900 words (exactly 900, mind you). I am so near the ending of "Rappaccini's Dragon" that taking any time off today seems the height of irresponsibility. But if I try to write and then go out, I'll wind up like yesterday, left with only the energy to walk around the grounds once or twice.
There's been a lot of telephony lately. It seems that way to me. I'm not used to it. I feel like I'm coming out of a two- or three-year hibernation. Night before last, Neil called just to talk, and we just talked for about an hour. There's been what seems like a steady stream of calls to and from editors and publishers. It's all a bit odd to me, but I know that it's the sort of odd that's good for me.
But then, what sort of odd wouldn't be good for me?
Last night, we rented The Missing, was was quite good, better than I'd expected, a strange sort of reworking of The Searchers with a little bit of the supernatural thrown in. Cate Blanchett was very good, and the cinematography was nice. The night before, we watched Matchstick Men, which was also quite good. We're trying to catch up on a bunch of movies we missed because of my hermitude (and because movie theatres are usually full of noisy, obnoxious assholes).
Anyway, I should go. A quick thank you to all the people who've taken the time to send me e-mails of late, but to whom I've not have the time to write back. My apologies on that account. So, thanks to Mairi Beacon, Bob "The Dierkses" (Nar'eth in the Farscape mini? Nahhhhh), Daniel Spears, Roel Ramos, Matthew and Samuel, Sydney Miller, Shawn J. Bagley, Robert Bertram, and Loreayne.
Did I mention all the new stuff at Nebari.Net?
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The writing came more easily yesterday. I did 1,222 words (lately, my words counts have seemed somehow peculiarly significant) on "Rappaccini's Dragon." It stands at 8,687 words, total, and is like to go to ten or eleven thousand before I find THE END.
I think I'll share an odd little "ghost" story sort of a thing, which I wouldn't bother to include here if it didn't, ultimately, stand as such a textbook example of "night terrors," of the sort that leads some people to believe they've experienced something far more profound (alien abduction, angelic visitation, out-of-body experience, etc.).
Monday night (actually Tuesday morning), Spooky and I were reading on the bed, with my cat, Sophie, curled up between us as she is wont to do. I decided to check my e-mail one last time for the night, so I left the bedroom and walked down the hall to my office. I didn't bother to turn a light on. I had the glow of Pandora and Hinderance (the Color Classic and iBook, respectively) to keep me company. So, I was logging into mac.com and I hear something at the door. I glanced left (I have to turn my head because that's my blind eye) and saw Sophie slink into the room, her claws clicking on the concrete floor. I said something to her, something like, "Hi, Sophie," and she slipped behind my chair and headed off towards the far end of the office where I store supplies and comics and the like. Five or ten minutes later, finished with my e-mail, I logged off and headed back to bed. Coming down the hall, I called out to Kathryn (Spooky), "Did Sophie leave?"
"No, she's right here," Spooky called back.
In a moment, I could see that for myself. Sophie hadn't moved. Besides, Spooky pointed out after I told her the details of the encounter in my office, Sophie's claws are kept clipped short and don't click on the floor. At this point, we make some jokes about ghost cats. We've both seen odd little things in this apartment, never anything that seemed malevolent, and so I let it go.
That's the prologue.
I had a hard time getting to sleep and slept fitfully. At some point I finally dozed off, only to be awakened by bright lights shining in through the slats of the blinds on the bedroom windows. These were very, very bright lights. We're talking blinding, searchlight-bright lights, for what seemed like at least half an hour. In and of itself, the brightness didn't seem strange to me, only annoying. I tossed and turned and cursed for a bit, then gave up and wandered off to the kitchen. I don't recall the walk to the kitchen, but suddenly I was there, having a glass of water and staring at the digital clock on the microwave. It was a few minutes after six a.m. While I stood there, drinking my water and staring at the time, I became aware of someone/s whispering very close to me. As with the light through the bedroom blinds, I wasn't disturbed by this, only annoyed. I apparently went to the bathroom at this point (I have only the fact that the bathroom light was left on to attest to this, as I don't actually remember doing it). But I do remember heading back to bed.
At this point, my very undreamlike memories become very dreamlike. That is, up until this point, nothing had felt like a dream. I felt completely awake.
The hallway connecting the front of the apartment to mine and Spooky's bedroom is a simple L-shaped corridor, less than 50 feet in length. Jennifer's room is located at the crux of the "L," and before that, you pass my office and Spooky's sewing room, which face each other on either side. But somehow, in the space of that 50 feet, I became disoriented and "lost." I was unable to determine which direction I was headed. It was extremely dark, and finally, it got so bad that I was no longer sure I was even in the hallway. Perhaps, I thought, I'd wandered, somehow, into my office or the sewing room (though I'd opened no doors). And the whispering from the kitchen had returned, only it had grown louder. And, suddenly, there was an almost suiffocating sense of dread. It became hard to breathe and my muscles responded sluggishly. The more I looked for a way out of the hallway, the more lost I became and the more difficult it got to move. At some point, I realized that the "ghost cat" was in the hallway with me. I could hear its claws clicking on the hardwood, and, every now and then, I'd catch a glimpse of it. Becoming increasingly frightened, I tried repeatedly to call out to Kathryn and Jennifer, but I couldn't seem to make my mouth work properly. This seemed to continue for at least half an hour. At a normal pace, it takes me less than twenty seconds to walk the length of the hall.
At approximately 6:30 a.m., Spooky woke and found me sitting on the edge of my side of the bed. She asked if something was wrong. I didn't reply and she went to the bathroom, as she urgently needed to pee. When she came back, I was still sitting there, my eyes shut. Again she asked if I was okay, and my eyelids fluttered. She tried to persuade me to lie down, telling me I was asleep and I insisted that I was, in fact, awake. I repeatedly told her that I was lost. At one point, as she was trying to get me to lie down, I raised my arms across my face and cowered, repeating "Don't hit me!" This went on for some ten or fifteen minutes, me talking in my sleep, etc.. Finally, after many assurances that I wasn't lost and no one was going to hit me, I woke up. My chest felt as though someone were pressing in on it and for several seconds I had difficulty breathing. It was almost 7 a.m.
I have no recollection of sitting on the edge of the bed, nor of any of the things Spooky tells me that I said.
Jennifer reports only that she heard me walking about in the hall about this time (she gets up for work about seven). The bathroom light was on, and the glass I recall drinking from was by the sink, half full of water. So, I'm fairly confident that I really was in the kitchen around six a.m.
In almost all respects, my experience, for all the fear that I felt, for all it's seemingly supernatural overtones, and despite the conviction that I was awake, conforms to the phenomenon of "night terrors" and or simple sleepwalking.
Except for the "ghost cat." On that count, we have no explanation. As with most of my previous paranormal experiences, the cat is a small thing, of little or no consequence.
There's new manga up at Nebari.Net. Check it out.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Yesterday, frustrated with the snail's pace at which "Rappaccini's Dragon" has been determined to proceed towards THE END, I began the afternoon with a glass of absinthe. And wrote 1,111 words in about three hours. Thank you, Green Fairy.
Also, I read Jung's "On Spooks: Heresy or Truth?" and "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena." So far, this story has taken me through Jung and Campbell and Fort and a host of oceanography texts, all those familiar territories. It's reached the climax and I'm curious to see what it offers me instead of resolution.
We rented Lost in Translation last night. A sweet, sad, and absolutely perfect film.
Monday, March 01, 2004
Whatever geek or geeks were responsible for writing Microsoft bCentral's FastCounter programme, apparently forgot to account for leap year. February 29 really seems to have frelled with its mind. Anyway...
What a fine Oscar ceremony! It's been some time since I've been so pleased with the results, and longer still since my "wish list" wasn't entirely off the mark. Of my seventeen wishes, thirteen were granted. Maybe that's a good omen for the year to come. As for the four wishes that went the other way, even then I couldn't argue with the results (though I am disappointed that Bill Murray didn't win). Of course, I am appropriately pleased to see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King take home all eleven Oscars for which it was nominated. Beyond the fact that LotR was entirely deserving, the Academy has finally acknowledged fantasy. Perhaps this will make it a little easier for science-fiction and fantasy films to garner Oscar recognition.
Today, it's back to "Rappaccini's Dragon." A thousand words, at least. This is what is required of me today.