Saturday, July 31, 2004
Addendum: So, we're now down to the final 23 hours or so of the Murder of Angels hand-corrected galley auction, and we've added a couple of new shots of the manuscript to the aution page (scroll down to the bottom). Remember, this is a one-of-a-kind document. I can't ever offer another one of these later on. Also, remember that I'm throwing in a free signed ARC of the subpress edition of Low Red Moon. And to sweeten the pot just a little more, I'll also include a free signed ARC of my forthcoming novella, The Dry Salvages (these items are pictured with the ms. in the eBay photos). No way this isn't a bargain, right? You bet'cha. Besides, uinlike the published version, it has all the commas right where they should be.
Also, the free monster doodles with "buy-it-now" puchases offer expires in less than seven hours. Don't forget, when my writing is hazy memories known only to a few myopic shut-ins, my monster doodles shall be hanging in galleries around the world. That's how these things go. Trust me. I'm smart. Even if I do sound like I'm trying to sell you a used car. Click here to see all our current auctions.
The waxing went well, by the by. About an hour on the table, and I dozed off at one point.
I think I'm about to clear everything off my desk and dust it. Monday, I need to begin the new story for Subterranean Press (yes, this is Caitlín slowing down - Hah! she laughed exhaustedly), and I'd like to do so on a clean desk. Yep. Dust the desk.
How the frell is that for exciting?
It's Saturday, which means I have to go have all the little downy hairs on my face, throat, the back of my neck, and shoulders waxed off in preparation for being airbrushed in early September. It has to be done far enough ahead of time that they will have begun growing back in by the time I have the make-up done. Otherwise, you get these strange looking lines between the very smooth skin and the downy skin. Am I making any sense at all? Whatever. I'm sleepy, and this is all I could think of to write about. The first couple of times I did Nar'eth, I didn't bother with that hair, which is normally almost entirely invisible. But the airbrush coats every hair, no matter how small, repeatedly. The result is that a clear hair that you'd normally need a magnifying glass to see can end up looking like something sprouting from a tarantula's rump (if tarantula's were grey, and, come to think of it, maybe some of them are). So. Today is waxing day. I'll look like a boiled lobster for several hours afterwards, but this is the price of perfectionism.
Yesterday, in response to my last entry, Poppy wrote: While I don't feel that I'm churning them out, I also know better than to take for granted that I'll be able to maintain this pace (though of course I'll be pleased as punch if I can).
See. Here's where I went wrong. Silk took me about 27 months to write. Threshold took me 22 months. But then I managed to write Low Red Moon in only about 8 months (it was a weird, fevery experience, writing that book). So, thought I, I did it once, surely I can do it again. When, in September '02, Roc subsequently offerred me a two-book contract, I went for it (Low Red Moon was the first of the two books), and wrote most of Murder of Angels between February and November '03 (though I'd actually done about 100 pp. on it way back in 2000, then shelved them and wrote Low Red Moon, instead). But. Writing Murder of Angels, I discovered how tired I was, that I was faced with a deadline that wasn't appropriate to the novel I was writing, and that I never should have agreed to. Just because I'd done it once, I thought maybe I'd become the sort of author who can write a book a year. It would have been nice, because even writers like money, but it wasn't so. Indeed, forcing myself to try to do such a thing, coupled with all my other writing responsibilities, has wreaked havoc on my mind and body.
Poppy also wrote: Of course, as soon as I dare to ask for two or even three years between books -- assuming I get paid enough to make that feasible -- people will start saying things like, "Is she still writing?" and "Whatever happened to her?"
And this is very true. Or rather, this is what publisher's fear, and, by extension, what writers must also fear. As a whole, the reading public is fickle and seems to have a selectively short memory/attention span. I've been told that this contract change will mean that Daughter of Hounds won't be released until January '07, which means that more than two years will pass between the release of Murder of Angels and the release of Daughter of Hounds. That's a long time in "the industry" (though, in truth, even more time elapsed between Silk and Threshold). And it terrifies me. Sure, there will be specialty/small press releases in the interim, and I'll have short stories in books and magazines, but that's not the same thing. That dren's "off the radar."
Worrying about this sort of thing defeats the purpose of forcing myself to slow down. I just wanted to say "What she said," regarding Poppy's comments. Oh, and whoever the romance-writer tralk is who made the "sensitive Poppy, who can only write one book a year" comment should have her sensative anal regions visited by angry rhinoceras beetles.
We saw The Villiage last night (and if you haven't and want to, stop reading RIGHT THIS FRELLING SECOND). It was absolutely brilliant. We were, however, forced to suffer a Bad Audience in order to see it opening night. I haven't had to endure a Bad Audience in a very long time, as Spooky and I tend to try to stick to matinees and small, artsy theatres. The force of will required to stop myself from standing up and screaming at them, "This isn't funny, you emotionally stunted fuckwits!" almost killed me, I think. When Ivy confronts Noah after Lucius is attacked, the entire right side of the theatre burst into laughter. They did it again when Noah lay dying in the mud. But I somehow managed to enjoy the film despite the idiots. And it's a film I really have nothing but praise for (though I understand people are perceived as more intelligent when they give negative reviews, or at least temper their positive reviews with a few arbitrary complaints). The Villiage has a shot at being the best movie of the summer. See it at once.
And now I have to brush my teeth and dress myself.
Friday, July 30, 2004
I'm not nearly awake enough to write this, or much of anything else, but the phorum's quiet this morning, and there weren't many comments to reply to in the LJ, and no new e-mail, so here I am, regardless. I went to bed early, about 12:45 am, but lay awake until at least 2:30, then awoke from a nightmare about eight and was unable to get back to sleep. I gave up and crawled out of bed about nine thirty. Ugh.
It has been a strangely significant week.
And I suppose I'll talk about the greater part of that significance, as, from the beginning, this was meant to be an honest journal of my work as a writer.
Since 1998, I've published six novels (six novels in six years), two short-story collections (and enough material for a third), four or five chapbooks, whatever In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers qualifies as (a short story in hardback form?), a couple of novellas, a small mountain of comics, and numerous odds and ends. In the last year alone, I wrote the lion's share of Murder of Angels, then went straight to The Dry Salvages, then did six short stories, from "Mercury" to "The Pearl Diver," pretty much one after the next. And I am exhausted. And I've been told that it's time for me to slow down, because I've worn myself to the last bit of flesh before you hit bone. It is not in my nature to slow down, but I've come to a place where I have little choice.
I called my agent on Wednesday and asked her to renegotiate the delivery date in the contract for Daughter of Hounds. Originally, I was to have delivered the first half of the book in December, and the completed ms. in March, a mere seven months from now. I asked her to get me a lot more time, which she did, and now the book isn't due until January '06. That gives me the time I need to write it at a pace that won't do me more damage than I've already done myself. I am not the sort of author who can deliver a book a year ("churn out" is the phrase that comes to mind), and after doing it twice, I can no longer pretend that I am.
I'll also be cutting back substantially on the number of short stories and novellas I'll be doing over the next year and a half.
And then we'll see how it goes.
I have reached a place where tired is no longer an adequate word.
Spooky and I spent a couple of hours yesterday catching up on all the unfiled things that needed filing, and discovered there was an office hidden beneath all the crap. I also discovered an uncashed $17 royalty check for the Gauntlet edition of Silk dated January 8th. I'm not sure if it's still good. I guess I'll find out. It's nice the have the clutter out of the way.
And I sat and stared at Murder of Angels, but you already know about that. It really is a nice looking book, and I can only hope that helps move it off the shelves come September 7th. And I've recently been told that books with the words "angel" and "murder" in them sell well, so maybe that'll work in my favour, as well.
Last night, Spooky and I watched two episodes of Farscape, "Coup by Clam" (which was much funnier than I remembered) and "Unrealized Reality" (one of my favorite eps).
Tonight, we're going to see The Village, of course.
I haven't even heard the new P. J. Harvey album yet.
Oh, I should plug the "Mercury" chapbook. It's featured on the news page at Subterranean Press. This is the first Deacon Silvey short story I've done since "The Long Hall of the Top Floor," way back in '98 or '99 (my memory is unspecific this morning). You can order the chapbook now. Or, if you've preordered the subpress edition of Low Red Moon direct from subpress, you'll get it free with that order. Also, check out our eBay auctions. You only have about 36 hours left on the free monster doodle offer (when you use "buy it now").
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Addendum: The UPS guy came about 5:45 this afternoon, bringing me four copies of Murder of Angels. I spent the next hour or so just sitting staring at one of them, flipping through the pages, grateful that it's mostly as I meant it to be (including my weird layout), grateful for the cover and that my editor did such a good job with the whole package. But mostly I just feel weird. And a little numb. This is usually how I feel when a novel is released. Not happy. Not much of anything. There it is. Here I am. I did it again. Five times now.
Spooky snapped a couple of pictures, a few minutes after I opened the package (Blog readers go to LJ to see them). Anyway, I need to have some dinner, and then I'll probably just sit and hold this thing a while longer.
Here I sit, waiting for UPS to deliver copies of Murder of Angels. I just called my mother and told her I won't be coming to visit until next week. In a few hours, I'll have in my hands copies of the book I began way back in 2000, and spent all last summer and autumn finishing. The hardest, strangest book I've ever written (and then some). The story I began with Silk in October 1993 comes to an end in those pages (though, as I said yesterday, other doors were unavoidably opened in the process). I'm sitting here waiting. Excited. Scared. Disappointed. Eager. Reluctant. Anxious. I'm going to push this book like I've never pushed a book before, the way I should have pushed Low Red Moon, only I was too busy writing Murder of Angels.
My office is a mess. Filing that should have been done six months ago is heaped about. Maybe I'll file while I wait for the UPS dude and my child-bearing package from New York.
I promise, however you think it all ends, it won't be what you expect. In that way, I hope this novel is true to what I've learned of life.
My right eye is throbbing. It's always my frelling right eye that threatens to burst from my head and go squirming away across the desk. My left eye would be a nice change of pace.
Today, I need to firm up plans to attend the 2005 World Horror Convention in New York City. This will be my first WHC since Chicago in 2002. Peter Straub has kindly offerred to let me stay at his place, so I don't have to worry about booking a room, at least. What else today? Oh, yeah. We're moving ahead on the next short story collection, To Charles Fort, With Love. Originally, it was to be released after a second sf novella from subpress, but I've asked that the two be swapped, as I'll need more time with the novella, and I really want to get the next collection out there. I've pared it down to about 96,000 words, 14 stories, and there will be a preface and one new story (the final word count should be about 105,000). It'll have a Ryan Obermeyer cover and interior illos. by Richard Kirk (this will be my fourth book with the amazing Rick Kirk; I like that sort of symmetry and continuity). Later, when I'm absolutely sure of the table of contents, I'll post it here. I'm leaving out my sf stories (for a later all-sf collection), one or two I just don't quite love, and a couple whose rights have not yet reverted to me following their initial sell. This book will be shorter than Tales of Pain and Wonder, but longer than From Weird and Distant Shores. Bill Schafer is trying to keep the price down to about $20, which is a very good thing. We're looking at a Summer 2005 release date.
By now, a number of you will have received ARCs of The Dry Salvages. I've been getting some great feedback from readers, especially from the ever-eldritch Derek cf. Pegritz, some of which I'll be incorporating into the final, printed version of the novella. Sending out the ARCs to readers was Bill's idea, and I think it was a very fine one. I expect we'll do more of this in the future.
Ah. What else. Uh. Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Lou Anders, the editor of FutureShocks. He loves "The Pearl Diver," so apparently my worries were for naught. So, there's some news. That should catch us up for a little while, at least.
Todays news pollution (courtesy Yahoo): Krispy Kreme is facing an SEC investigation. I swear to whatever foul beings keep the orbs spinning in the heavens, if this Atkins-diet carbophobia bulldren kills Krispy Kreme, blood will flow.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
These late-in-the-day updates I've been doing are robbing me of material for the usual morning entries. Yesterday, it seemed somehow urgent that I communicate the imminent arrival of copies of Murder of Angels (and that is ...Angels, kiddos, not ...Crows, 'kay?). It's nothing that wouldn't have waited until today, but I've never been a terribly patient nixar.
I'd honestly thought that when MoA was done, I'd be finished with the series of stories I began with Silk and Threshold. I was, of course, wrong. Every door I close seems to force another one or two open. It all moves forward in Daughter of Hounds (if stories really do "move forward"; I grow increasingly suspicious of this thing called "progress"). But. MoA ties off many threads. I'm rambling, aren't I? These things go round and round in my head. I have so many worries for this book. I have so much anxiety, that readers won't feel what Daria and Niki are going through, that some will be put off by the lesbian/bisexual orientation of the central characters (That's called "homophobia," but who's keeping score, right?), that it's too dark or not dark enough, that the fantasy elements in this story will lose me readers (never mind that everything I've ever written is fantasy), and so on and on and on.
There's a little write-up on The Dry Salvages at Trashotron (7/27/04, "Will This Pen Last Long Enough: The Dry Salvages by Caitlín R. Kiernan").
I begin to worry that The Dry Salvages will get more press than MoA. It'd be ironic, and it's a peculiar thing to "worry" about, but I do, nonetheless.
Oh, we didn't go to my mother's today. You've all probably figured that part out. There was just too much to do yesterday. So we're going tomorrow, instead. Presumably. You never can tell.
Last night, we watched episode 4:09 of Farscape, "A Prefect Murder." I think it's one of the overall best episodes in the series (so far). Afterwards, it rained and rained and rained, as A. A. Milne said, and I played Kya for a while. As I approach the end of this game, it's getting much more difficult. I need to "kill" (well, exorcise) wolfen, and I've killed so many wolfen, they're getting hard to find. They're all hiding out behind annoying booby traps and guard dogs and such. I'll probably finish Prince of Persia. when I'm done with this game, but the big one coming up is Ghosthunter, from the makers of the astounding Primal.
But I natter.
I think we may try to get a few more things up on eBay today. Unless we don't. I want to add a couple more images to the MoA galley auction, for example. First, though, I have to reach my agent, who I believe is vacationing at her summer home in Maine.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Addendum: I talked with my editor at Penguin a few hours ago and learned that I should have a couple of copies of Murder of Angels, "hot off the presses," by Thursday. I don't think I'm ready for this. It's like having to attend the high-school graduation of a kid to whom you almost died giving birth. Well, I couldn't actually know that it's like that, having never given birth to a biological child, much less attended said child's graduation, but maybe the simile works anyway. I'll have copies of the book at Dragon*Con. And the release date is September 7th, I think. Wow.
Spooky's talked about doing dolls based on various of my characters for a couple of years now, but I think she's really going to make a couple soon. She's considering doing a Dancy doll first, and then a Narcissa Snow doll. If this happens, we'll probably have one to show at Dragon*Con and take orders. Or something like that.
"The Pearl Diver" has finally left my hands and gone to the editor of FutureShocks. I spent a sizable chunk of the day on it. The final word count was 6,732 words.
And here's a link to the website for M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, because I was asked to provide it. I can only hope the film creeps me out half as much as the trailer and website has.
This morning, I know what happens when one mixes two brands of sake with two different pharmeceuticals. It's not so bad as I expected, but I am a little...mushy.
Jennifer's celebratory dinner went off quite pleasantly. She got a little drunk, which is unusual for her, and the last I saw of her last night (last, last...grrrrr), she was managing a weird sort of dance/stumble down the hall towards her bedroom, singing "It's over. It's over. It's over." Here are a couple of photos from last night (Blog people need to click here to see them at the LJ version of the blog).
There is no picture of Byron, because he's a shy boy.
I've got so much to do today my head is spinning. Five important e-mails. The final read-through on "The Pearl Diver" (no, I didn't do it yesterday). Monster doodles that have to be drawn for completed eBay auctions. And we're supposed to go to my mother's in Birmingham tomorrow, so I need to get ready for that, too.
The new contacts arrived yesterday. Spooky and I managed to score two pairs off one eye-exam, so I feel we got the upper hand on the Eyeball Nazis after all. And there's good news, especially for those who will be attending my September 5th reading at Dragon*Con. I can actually see through these lenses! It has something to do with them having a wider clear aperture at the center of all that black.
We got an e-mail from Spooky's dad yesterday. He's an anthropologist at the University of Rhode Island, specializing in fisheries, and he's just arrived in Vietnam (he's spent a great deal of time doing research in southeast Asia and Malaysia). Apparently, he had a very harrowing motorbike ride through the streets of Hanoi yesterday.
Thanks to Poppy for the kind words about The Dry Salvages in her blog yesterday. I was very pleased with her assessment of the novella as a "pure-D ripping good space yarn."
Lastly, please check out the current eBay auctions. We're going to try to get more stuff up this week, including hardbacks of Waycross and Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold. Every "buy it now" purchase earns one monster doodle!
Monday, July 26, 2004
I despise waking up with headaches. That's what happened this morning. I awoke from a spectacular nightmare, with a spectacular headache.
But the good news is that Jennifer has successfully defended her dissertation! She called from Athens with the news at about 11:25 this morning. Tonight, we shall gather up a few friends and have a celebratory dinner. Her graduation ceremony is August 7th.
Today, we read "The Pearl Diver," because we didn't get to it yesterday, and I e-mail it to the FutureShocks editor. The way my head feels right now, if I can get just that much done, I'll be doing good.
The new ebay auctions are off to a good start. I forgot to remind people yesterday that everyone who uses "buy it now" before midnight of July 31st gets a monster doodle.
This is a post of brief paragraphs.
Last night, Spooky and I finally saw Mystic River. I was very, very impressed. It's the sort of thing Stephen King would write were Stephen King a better writer. I didn't mean that as snarky as it sounded. But it did have a strong King vibe to it: three boys experience traumatic event, grow up, try to get on with their lives, but the Past comes back to haunt them, and they are faced with the inescapable consequences of their misfortune in youth. Anyway, yes, it was a fine film, much darker than we'd expected; our viewing was no doubt enhanced by a wonderful huge thunderstorm. Sean Penn's performace was indeed stellar, but I still wish the Best Actor Oscar had gone to Bill Murray for Lost in Translation.
I think I'm about to go on an sf reading binge. On the prospectus are Neal Stephenson, Ian McDonald, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Richard Morgan, and, ah frell, I don't know who else. Lots.
And I think I'm ready for people to stop writing to tell me I'm a googlewhack, especially the people who insist upon reducing the English language to a mysterious set of phonetic misspellings. Yes, I know. I'm a googlewhack. And, I assure you, I cherish that fact more than the four awards my writing has earned me, my fat old cat, and the things that Spooky can do with a riding crop. But I frelling know, already.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Addendum: We'll be getting lots of stuff up on eBay in the next few days. Most notably, my hand-corrected galley of Murder of Angels. I don't usually sell these, but I figure this way at least one person will read the book with all those disputed commas where they should be. If there's something in particular you want, but don't see listed, let us know or just keep checking back.
Click here for eBay goodness.
I'd meant to tell you all the bedtime story that Spooky told me last night, involving Sophie's deal with a very large wolf spider, whereby she supplies it with juicy, living insect victims in exchange for her life, but Spooky says the story's "dumb" and won't let me. Sorry. She tells me a lot of stories about Sophie. Maybe I'll make a children's book of them someday.
As I write this, Jennifer is getting ready to leave for Athens. Her Ph. D. defence is tomorrow morning, and it'll all be over by about 11:30 am. It's all very, very cool.
She'll have left before I finish writing this.
Yesterday, my fourth reader on "The Pearl Diver" opined that it's very good, and that I have no cause to be as doubtful about it as I am. And yet, I'm still doubtful about it. Maybe I should take this as a Good Thing. If I ever grow complacent about my writing there will be no hope of my ever becoming a better writer, and I'm the first one to admit that I still have a lot of room for improvement. Today, Spooky and I will read through it again, and then I'll make a few corrections/ changes, and then I'll e-mail it to the editor for whom it was written. Time to make it go forth and earn my keep, doubts or no doubts.
Yesterday, Spooky and I went to a matinee showing of the original, uncut Godzilla (and sat in the aboslute worst theatre seats in metro Atlanta, at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema on Monroe). Truly, this is an entirely different film than the American cut, the version I've seen repeatedly since I was a little kid. It's actually a pretty good film. In some ways, it surpasses The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (there's even a scene with a clock tower that echoes the famous lighthouse scene in The Beast...), with which it shares a lot of common ground. But, this version, instead of being a film about a rather inexplicable sea monster that stomps Tokyo, is a strident polemic on the responsibility of science and the dangers of nuclear weapons and other hi-tech implements of war. Indeed, in the end, Gojira is only a catalyst for the film's true concerns. The film has an entirely different pace and tone, and its focus is far more human, than the Hollywood cut. I was surprised at what an effective and somber film the original is, with some truly chilling moments (usually moments in which the guy in the rubber monster suit is not onscreen). I was especially pleased with how long Honda let the story play out before we actually see the monster, and those opening scenes are some of the films most effective. If you're a fan of the Toho films, or a fan of monster movies in general, this is a must see.
I was also struck for the first time by the obvious parallels (which I should have seen long ago) between the "Toho Mythos" and the Cthulhu Mythos. Great prehistoric giant rises from the sea to wreak havoc upon humanity. Other powerful ancient creatures, some from "beyond the stars," soon do likewise. They can be fought and repelled, but usually only for a little while. This is more evident having seen the uncut version of Godzilla, in which it is firmly established that the villagers on a remote island have known about this creature since antiquity. In the past, they sacrificed young girls to it to keep it at bay. One can even go so far as to compare the later cartoonish Toho films, where we have "good" monsters and "evil" monsters, to August Derleth's bastardization of Lovecraft's originally amoral cosmic horrors.
After the movie, a terrific thunderstorm blew up, and while it rained we had dinner at La Fonda on Ponce. Last night, I watched The Road Warrior, which I think was the second DVD I ever bought. I'd forgotten how much I love that film. But it's very strange now, seeing Virginia Hey being someone besides Zhaan. And after The Road Warrior, I played a couple of hours of Kya, managing to stop the zepplin that was making off with all the villiagers.
And that was yesterday.
And this is today.
You see where this is headed...
Saturday, July 24, 2004
This is irony (for anyone who might have been confused by that frelling Alanis Morrisette song): Last year, America invaded Iraq, subsequently causing the deaths of thousands, supposedly in the interest of preserving and extending democracy. In the last US Presidential election, more than one hundred million Americans eligible to vote chose not to do so.
Yesterday, I attended to details. Details pile up when you're not paying attention. I realized this morning, for example, that I'd not updated the "news" page on my website since March. It's not that there hasn't been loads of news, it's just a detail I keep forgetting, or only remembering when I'm too busy to do anything about it. I've added three upcoming appearances. That's something, at least. I think I've finally reached the point where I need a webmaster/webmistress, someone with more html/java/etc. kung-fu and better software than I have (I'm still slogging away with Netscape 7). Applicants would be welcome.
Oh, and Spooky ordered a cool pair of boots for her Nebari costume.
Jim loves "The Pearl Diver." Spooky and Jennifer love "The Pearl Diver." I've sent it to a fourth reader. I think if he likes it, I'll chalk this one up to my lack of objectivity and send it to the editor. And move on. I have to write a 15,000-word story for Subterranean Press next month, and I have to begin Daughter of Hounds.
Kid Night last night. We started with hot dogs, moved along to comics (Meatcake #13 [Dame Darcy makes a sexy mermaid], Lenore #11, Gloomcookie #19 [props to Serena for the Farscape mention], and Courtney Crumrin and the Twilight Kingdom #s 3 and 4), then watched Ryuhei Kitamura's thoroughly messed-up, but entertaining Versus, and finished up with more Kya. Then Spooky had insomnia and was up until 5 am talking to barred owls.
Friday, July 23, 2004
The really big thing around here right now, though I've said little about it, is that this coming Monday, July 26th, Jennifer will be defending her doctoral dissertation at the University of Georgia (Athens). It's titled "Darkness Reminds Us of Light": T. S. Eliot's Gothic Quest and is the culmination of about eight years of work. Obviously, we are tremendously proud of her. She will soon be Dr. Jennifer M. Caudle. Her graduation ceremony is August 7th. If you'd like to congratulate her, send e-mails to email@example.com (she doesn't read the comments to my LJ).
I haven't yet submitted "The Pearl Diver" to the editor who's waiting for it. It's being read by a friend, one of the people I trust to read for me prior to my being sure of a piece (an act of trust at least as intimate as sex), and then there are a couple of other people whom I shall ask to read the story. And then, perhaps after some editing, then I'll forward it to the editor of FutureShocks.
Yesterday, at Borders, I came a cross a somewhat inexplicable photograph of myself in the latest issue of Science Fiction Chronicle. I was mentioned on the page, but not prominantly, yet here was this photo of me at WHC '02 smack in the center of the page. Long time ago, when all this dren was bright and new to me, I used to buy any magazine that printed a photo, the merest drop of my name, and so forth. Now, though, it hardly phases me, and I've ceased buying magazines I'll never read. I have a whole file of them already. And if I'm this jaded about such things, I can only imagine how Neil must feel.
As predicted, my editor is happy with the Kirkus review of Murder of Angels, which he considers an exceedingly quotable review "from the usually vicious Kirkus." I wasn't aware that Kirkus had such a reputation. Now I am. And I'm trying not to be annoyed that the Kirkus review was trusted to someone with so ill-conceived and/or stunted a literary aesthetic that he or she divides a novel's "writing" ( I assume style and/or voice is what is meant) from its story and then announces that the latter might suffer because the former is "almost distracting." I'm trying to play nice.
The last couple of nights, I've been lost in Kya: Dark Lineage, kicking Wolfen ass. I absolutely love this game.
Who in their right mind would pay $302 for tickets to a Madonna (aka "Esther") concert? Tix for her upcoming Atalnta show range from $47-$302. Frell that. I wouldn't even pay $100 to see Peter Gabriel, and he rocks my world. You'd be much better off attending the also-upcoming Madonnarama drag thing at Jungle.
News pollution of the day, courtesy Yahoo: "A former brokerage assistant who helped Martha Stewart make her fateful stock trade and later emerged as a key government witness was fined $2,000 but spared both prison and probation Friday for accepting a payoff during the government's investigation." And I should care because...?
Finally, mine and Spooky's costumes for Dragon*Con are starting to come together. Our contact lenses have been ordered (I'll say more about the besting of the Eyeball Nazis later on), and yesterday we went to Atlanta Costume to order her wig (which will, of course, require a lot of customizing when it gets here). There's a fair amount of sewing left to do, and Spooky's ordering some very cool boots. My just-below-the-surface Nebari self is impatiently awaiting the annual removal of all this frelling pink make-up.
Yes, well. I suppose I ought to do some work.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
I awoke this morning from a dream of an extraordinarily malevolent house. This was not merely a sick house, or a wrong house, or a haunted house. I've experienced enough of those while waking. This was a consciously evil house. And I was trapped inside it, fighting to escape for days and days.
The dream might have been triggered (if dreams are things which are triggered) by the latest "ghostly" event in our apartment. Saturday night, Spooky and I were sitting at my desk, doing something online, when she felt a sudden pain in her left ankle. Upon inspection, we discovered two very prominent nail impressions in her skin, just anterior of her Achilles tendon, slightly above the talus (ankle bone). There was no mistaking the marks for anything else. They were smallish, crescent nail impressions, most likely middle and ring finger from their relative positions. It was unnerving. We've grown fairly accustomed to the "ghosts" in this place, the glimpses of children, the not-cats, and so forth, but this is the first time anything here has seemed malicious, or shown evidence that it could affect material objects.
The dream might also be related to all the time I've been spending thinking about Daughter of Hounds and the yellow house at 135 Benefit Street in Providence.
It's been a while since I've answered an e-mail in the blog, so how's about a change of pace? Kris (who incuded no surname) writes:
If you'd be so kind as to bear with me, I'm rather curious about your standpoint on this.
On the July 21st entry of your live journal, you say you are writing for yourself. Is it possible to write for yourself and make a career out of fiction writing at the same time?
Does what you want to write frequently conflict with what will sell?
I'm not being snide (I can't stand people who are so quick to throw out the term "sell out", particularly when they have no talent for the craft they are criticizing); I'm just trying to get a sense of how things work once you become an established novelist. It's always been my dream to become a professional writer, but the more I am immersed in this alien world of pushy editors, pretentious, omniscient critics, and well...assholes, I realize it won't be what I've built it up to be. I have to wonder when it becomes about the love of writing vs. what people want you to write, and when you can afford to tell someone to fuck off and when you can't because what you are doing is your primary source of income.
Kris, it has been my experience that it's a very rare day when you can tell someone to fuck off, no matter how much they might have it coming. This was an especial source of frustration during my time at Vertigo. I rarely have serious disagreements with people editing the publications in which my short stories appear, or even with the publisher's of my novels. But when those moments come, I yell at someone else, someone who doesn't have it coming and who can't do damage to my career. It isn't healthy, or fair, but transference of hostility to innocent loved ones is the writer's friend.
What I write always seems to conflict with what will sell, as my agent in New York is often quick to remind me. This is something I struggle with constantly. So far, I write what I feel I should write, sometimes to her chagrin. And please understand that I'm not trying to cast my agent as a villian. It's her job to sell what I write and to make us both money from my work; that's what I pay her to do.
So, is it possible to write for yourself and make a career out of fiction writing at the same time? Even now, I'm not sure I can answer that with anything like a simple answer. Obvioulsy there are a few people doing it. I haven't done so badly, these last nine years or so, and only rarely have I written for anyone but myself. But I think there's a very high price to be paid for the luxury. Constant stress. Low sales. Idiot critics. Then again, these are things almost all writers must endure, regardless who they see themselves writing for. In the end, I'm fairly certain that it's all about luck. I've been lucky, so far.
That's not a very good answer. But there you go.
Last night, I uploaded the new manga pages to Nebari.net. Click here to read Chapter Eight. And I also read through chapters One and Two of The Girl Who Sold the World. There's something I wrote purely for myself. It's better than I remember. I did the second chapter months ago, and I feel bad about the way it's been left to languish. I may try to write Chapter Three tonight.
Yesterday, I read "The earliest known member of the rorqual—gray whale clade (Mammalia, Cetacea)" in JVP, the description of a new genus and species, Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, from Virginia. Neat. I also read from Graveyards of North Kingston, Rhode Island by Althea H. McAleer, Beatrix Hoffer, and Deby Jecoy Nunes (research for Daughter of Hounds, but cool reading in its own right).
Oh, and a correction from Bill Schafer at subpress regarding the comma-free edition of The Dry Salvages: "...the No-Comma edition will not be a hc and will be about 20 copies. It'll be printed like one of our rougher ARCs, with color-paper covers. Right now, I'm thinking I may leave one (1) comma in the book somewhere and call it a typo." So, whoops. I really love that one comma will be left in.
I know there's more, but surely that's enough for now.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Here's the Kirkus review of Murder of Angels (which contains a few spoilers), sent to me by the very gracious Robert Levy (who gets a Special Gift):
Two young women see something they shouldn't have and are already regretting it. Then the insanity begins. Kiernan (Threshold, 2001) can write like a banshee, with high-flying, incendiary prose that few authors, even fewer if we're talking strictly about fantasy and horror scribes, could hope to emulate-and that's both the best and worst thing about this new outing: the writing is almost distracting. At the start, we've got a pair of lovers living in a nice house off Alamo Square in San Francisco: Daria Parker is a rock star just starting on the downward slope of her popularity, while her lover, Niki Ky, is a schizophrenic mess. Confined mostly to her room, Niki is looked after by Daria's assistant, Marvin, who sincerely wants to believe Niki when she tells him about all the horrifyingly real and monstrous visions she has. The emotional bomb that went off in Daria and Niki's past is a vaguely alluded-to an event at a house back in Birmingham, before Daria's band hit it big. Now, Niki is drugged-up and hallucinating about monsters, demons, and her dead lover Spyder, while Daria has to go back on tour to pay the mortgage and all. The problem is that Niki's hallucinations are in fact not quite fantasy, and it isn't long before she's pulled headlong into another dimension where a millennia-long war is raging between dark forces who think she just might be a prophesized messiah or oracle. Kiernan paints her pages in feverish, chiaroscuro shades; few readers will escape a palpable chill when Niki's reality begins to collapse and the darkness about her heaves with ominous portent. But the story's stuttery, jumpy quality-perhaps attributable to Kiernan's past as a comic book writer-has a tendency to sap these scenes of their initially explosive impact. Still, a bridge to the beyond, built out of exquisite dread.
I could have lived without the snotty remark about my sordid past in comics, and I'm not sure what's meant by "the story's stuttery, jumpy quality." Also, Marvin is not Daria's assistant, but Niki's nurse, and though she doesn't often leave the house alone, Niki is not "confined mostly to her room." And "heaves with ominous portent"? Riiiiight. While I'm complaining, people who refer to authors as "scribes" make me wince. It's even worse than referring to books as "tomes." But still, this counts as a very good, if not terribly well-written, review, I think. My editor and agent will be happy. I'm actually pleased the review does not mention Silk.
I just found out that Faith and the Muse will be playing Dragon*Con this year. How frelling drad is that?
Yesterday could have been worse. But it sure as hell could have been better. Especially that part where I spilled a quart and a half of pink lemonade Kool-Aid all over the kitchen and myself at 1:30 in the morning. That part could have been a lot better. Now, the microwave's sitting on the floor, and everything is sticky. I'm waiting for an army of sugar ants to come marching in and carry us all away.
Want to know the most frustrating thing in the whole frelling world? Well, one of the top ten, anyway. The most frustrating thing in the whole frelling world is knowing that there's a review of Murder of Angels in the new Kirkus, but all I currently have access to is a line and a half of it. That bit reads:
"Kiernan (Threshold, 2001) can write like a banshee, with high-flying, incendiary prose that few authors, even fewer if we're talking strictly about fantasy and horror scribes, could hope to emulate—and that's both the best and worst thing about this..."
Jesus. Someday, this sort of thing's going to kill me. I kid you not. The first part sounds very good: "Kiernan (Threshold, 2001) can write like a banshee, with high-flying, incendiary prose that few authors, even fewer if we're talking strictly about fantasy and horror scribes, could hope to emulate..." That's a blurb waiting to happen. But then we proceed to: "—and that's both the best and worst thing about this..." So, clearly this is going to be a mixed review. Half the night, I tried to imagine what the reviewer might mean by "best and worst." My prose is great, but what makes it good also makes it inaccessible to the more casual reader? Or, my prose is brilliant but oftentimes overshadows the characters? And how does that line end? Simply, "—and that's both the best and worst thing about this novel?" Maybe its "—and that's both the best and worst thing about this triumphant sequel to Silk"? Or "—and that's both the best and worst thing about this disappointing new novel from a writer who once showed so much promise"? See, I can go on like this for hours. Mostly, I just need to read the damn review. But I can't yet read the new Kirkus via any of the university accounts I have access to, nor is it on the shelves at Emory yet (and I've never seen a bookstore that carried Kirkus). It's on page 665 of the July 15, 2004 issue. That much I know. If anyone out there has access to the full review and would be so extraordinarily kind as to e-mail it to me, I will send you a Special Gift.
The thing about Kirkus, no one really cares if the reviews are good or bad. No one actually reads such a publication, at least not the book-buying public. But just getting a Kirkus review, good or bad, drives your library sales up, which is a good thing. For some reason that no one's been able to explain, Low Red Moon didn't get a Kirkus review.
I'm so sick of popularity contests. I've said that.
I write these books for me. I tell these stories for myself. To myself. And maybe to Spooky, and Jennifer, and a handful of close friends and family and a few fans of whom I've grown fond. But I don't write them for reviewers or for any perceived audience or demographic. I don't want to have to worry about what someone I've never met, and shall likely never meet, thinks of my abilities as an author.
I do this for me (see the preface to The Five of Cups).
That said, I desperately need Murder of Angels to sell like gangbusters. So, these damned reviews are important, even if no one actually reads Kirkus. They're still important.
And though I may not care what all those fekiks think of my work, bad reviews hurt like hell.
On such paradoxes is the entire universe hung.
We watched the final two eps of Season Two of Six Feet Under last night. I keep hearing bad things about the direction the series has taken, but I was very impressed with Sesaon Two. Sure, it was different from Season One. The emphasis shifted from dead bodies to the living characters, but it seems like a natural shift, and I've grown to care so much for these characters (except Brenda, the ho) that I don't mind at all. Is it a "soap opera"? Yes. But the same could be said for any serial fiction involving relationships between human beings (or dolphins, or chimps, or aliens, for that matter). I give Season Two two thumbs up. Now, though, we are without access to Season Three. Anyone out there have it on VHS? Feel like courting favour?
Last night, I also watched a documentary on the VLT (Very Large Telescope), and we played a little bit of Kya: Dark Lineage (the train leading to the amber mine).
Leh'agvoi (as he is known on Nebari Prime) just sent me new manga pages, which I'll try to get up on Nebari.net sometime before midnight. There's more sex, then a Sudden Interruption.
I hear Spooky cleaning the sticky kitchen. I should go help her...
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Addendum: Okay, frell it all. No writing today. It's just not going to happen, and I'm not going to sacrifice the final few daylit hours of July 20th, 2004 sitting at this godamn desk. I'm going to get dressed, and Spooky and I are going to the Decatur Farmer's Market. I need to get stuff for stir-fry tonight, and we want to explore fresh fish and exotic produce. I need udon noodles and cilantro and chopsticks.
This morning's "news pollution" (that is, the quantity of unwanted news one cannot avoid ingesting through normal, non-news specific use of the web) is a story about Linda Ronstadt being thrown out of a Vegas casino where she was performing, for having dedicated "Desperado" to Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11. This is your cherished freedom of speech in action, kiddos.
Speaking of which, on the Eyeball Nazi front, Spooky successfully procured a pair black contacts from a British supplier, but they were not nearly as high quality as the lenses I've been getting from LensQuest here in Atlanta since 2002, so she's returning them, and we're both going the @#!@ eye-exam route. With Dragon*Con only five weeks off, there's simply no time left to explore alternate routes. The FDA and all those "concerned parents" and the greedy, alarmist optometrist fucks can suck my eema.
Yesterday, Bill Schafer called to tell me that he's doing a special "no comma" printing of the first edition of The Dry Salvages. It will be limited to twelve hardback copies (those who get the T. S. Eliot in-joke will earn a smile from me). All commas will be removed from the text. Clearly, he's trying to compete with the high grammatical standards set by Penguin's production managers on Murder of Angels. Anyway, I desperately needed something to cheer me up yesterday, and that did.
Today, I'll be polishing The Dry Salvages a little more, tweaking "The Pearl Diver," and e-mailing the latter to a few readers. I also need to choose an author's photo for the Dry Salvages dustjacket.
Yesterday, Poppy wrote in her LJ, "A poster on Caitlin's forum asked her a question about A Murder of Crows (the actual title of her forthcoming novel is A Murder of Angels), and while I'm sure it was an innocent slip of the keyboard, it set me to thinking of all the strangely titled novels I've apparently written in an alternate universe: Lost Souls, Dead Souls, Drying Blood, The Exquisite Corpse, The Value of D, The Value of Z, and of course my new one, Alcohol...." Truth be told, the actual title of the forthcoming novel is Murder of Angels, no "A," but Poppy knows I love her, anyway. And, for the record, I have come to terms with the fact that I've apparently published a novel titled Trilobyte, which I assume must be a Paleozoic cyberpunk story about Cambrian hackers.
It's good, every now and again, to write an entry that has no direction whatsoever. Just go with the flow, nixar.
I read two papers in the June 2004 JVP yesterday, both about aquatic Peruvian ground sloths: "The youngest species of the aquatic sloth Thalassocnus and a reassessment of the relationships of the nothrothere sloths (Mammalia; Xenarthra)" and "The evolution of feeding adaptations of the aquatic sloth Thalassocnus." I don't usually get very excited about mammals ("furballs," as my long-ago mentor Robert T. Bakker used to call them with marked disdain), but secondary marine adaptation in tetrapods (such as mosasaurs) is my thing, and sloths are kind of cool for mammals, and you just gotta admit that the sight of enormous, shaggy ground sloths drifting about in the surf and seaweed of the rocky, desert-bound coast of Miocene-aged Peru is an image far too exquisitely alien not to relish.
We watched two more eps of Six Feet Under last night, and returned to Kya: Dark Legacy, which we never finished playing, and when we finally went to bed, Spooky read to me from Frog and Toad Together, which really could have been titled Frog and Toad Are Gay. It's got a definite Bert and Ernie vibe. And Toad has some serious OCD issues going on...
Monday, July 19, 2004
We made it all the way through The Dry Salvages today, marking missing commas and such. I found one possible problem involving light speed and relativity, but it's easily fixed. All in all, the ARC version is in good shape. And, as I've said, I am very proud of this story.
But I'm wrestling with many of the inherent difficulties of science fiction. The worst, I think, is that though I may strive to write about a character in the 24th century, in truth all I'm ever doing is writing 21st-century characters in a postulated 24th-century setting. Language is especially frustrating, trying to imagine how a character might speak, while, at the same time, leaving the language accessible to a contemporary audience. Science fiction is not an exact science, but then neither are most of the most interesting sciences.
I'd be appalled at Arnold Schwarzenegger's "girlie men" speech, but I'm still too busy being appalled that the SoB was elected Governor of California in the first frelling place. You get what you pay for. Or, in this case, what you vote for (assuming there's a difference). I might, however, have the ability to be appalled ? or at least amused ? at the idiots who are appalled that Schwarzenegger isn't sorry for what he said.
I'm trying hard to ignore the news these days. The Schwarzenegger thing was a headline at AOL, which I use for its ftp programme, so I saw it and was "compelled" to read the article.
I suppose this will be short. There's really nothing to say. Yesterday I gamed from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. (with some Thai take-out thrown in). Then I came home, and Spooky and I watched another episode of the second season of Six Feet Under. Then I brushed my teeth and went to bed.
Today, we proofread The Dry Salvages, and I'm going to try to have time to go over "The Pearl Diver" again. And I need to send it off to two or three people, to get opinions that I will most likely summarily ignore. But. As for The Dry Salvages, I think I'm very proud of this book. I was this proud of Low Red Moon, though no one much seemed to care. Once I'm done with Daughter of Hounds, I think that The Dry Salvages might be the direction that I'd like to see my work go.
And that's it for today. Don't forget the eBay auctions. Drive safely. Mind the gap.
Oh, I almost forgot. My thanks to Quendi (Meh'dra) for the following shot of Chiana from Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. I have no idea what's up with Chi's eyes.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
I did a very wonderful thing yesterday. I managed to stay offline all damn day. I checked my e-mail once, last night, and peeked in on LJ and the phorum, maybe five minutes online the whole day. I think, on an average day, I easily spend three or four hours online (my journal entries frequently take between one and two hours to write and edit). So, yay for me.
Our Kid Night movies on Friday evening were Spider-Man (the first one, because Spooky hadn't seen it and wanted to before we see the sequel; I'd forgotten how good it was) and Ryuhei Kitamura's Alive. But first, I watched the Science Channel's very cool documentary on the PX-15 Ben Franklin. Then, yesterday, I made good on my promise to myself and Spooky to take the day off. We spent most of the afternoon at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. There was a display of photos, Peachtree Creek: A Natural and Unnatural History, by Dave Kaufman, including shots of the old Decatur Waterworks. We caught the 3:45 showing of Dolphins on the IMAX. Finally, we finished things up with The Genomic Revolution special exhibit. I do not usually approve of exhibits which concentrate primarily on interactive tricks and multi-media gimmickery, which usually fails as anything more than mere "edutainment," but this was an exception. As with such abstract concepts as math and theoretical physics, genetics gives people without a strong science background little to grasp. This exhibit, designed by the American Museum of Natural History, uses a wide range of media to teach basic genetics and tackle the scientific and ethical questions of bioengineering. My favorite bit was an exhibit of mutation, wherein visitors altered the phenotype of a Drosophila melanogaster fruitfly by twisting the "rungs" on a gigantic strand of DNA. While we were in the museum, there was a tremendous rainstorm, and we stood in the central atrium, with the Argentinosaurus and Giganotosaurus and watched the rain pelting the glass dome overhead. After the museum, we had dinner at Surin Thai Bowl on Highland. We shared the rainbow roll maki (inside: avacado, crab, and cucumber; outside: salmon, tuna, and red snapper; garnished with tobiko and sesame seeds), then did the same with the delicious four-pepper spicy pork with bitter melon (grilled pork loin with tons of chopped garlic, Thai chilis, and cilantro with lime juice and fish sauce on a bed of cabbage, garnished with wedges of bitter melon). Then, because we were to high from all the pepper to behave ourselves, we stopped by Krispy Kreme on the way home. Last night, we watched three more episodes of Season Two of Six Feet Under. About midnight, the rain came back, a steady downpour that lasted at least an hour. It sounded and smelled marvelous. Sophie sat in the window and watched. I think I went to sleep about three and didn't wake until 10:30. That's three days in a row I've managed to sleep later than 10 am. So, yes, a good day, blessedly free of anything even remotely resembling writing.
Thanks to Kirin for sending me word of a recent sky-fall (partially frozen fish, in this instance) in southern Mississippi. One day, I shall see one of them for myself. Spooky was present during one as a small child, at Gill's Rock on Lake Michigan (in Wisconsin).
Today is D&D. I must smite and hack...
Friday, July 16, 2004
I did 610 words in about four hours and "finished" with "The Pearl Diver." Actually, I wrote well over a thousand words, but I only kept 610 of them. I wrote an entire ending for the story, discarded it, and then wrote another ending (the 610-word one). This is the roughest time I've had with a short story in ages. Spooky and I sat down and read through the whole thing. Next week, I'm going to send it out to two or three friends to read, before I send it to the editor of the anthology for which it was written. I don't usually do that, but this is an exception.
Never mind that I've written and sold sixty-something short stories, six novels, and the gods only know what else, this one made me feel like a complete beginner. Worse. It made me feel like a nitwit. Like I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing.
You never learn to write.
There's never a point where you could do this with your eyes closed, so to speak.
I'm so frelling tired I hurt. I'm going to go lie on the floor and moan until someone makes me eat.
I somehow managed to sleep until 10:50 this morning.
Two copies of the ARC for The Dry Salvages arrived via UPS yesterday afternoon. It a very handsome ARC, thanks almost entirely to the talent and hard work of the amazing Ryan Obermeyer. This will be an attracive book. I have to proofread the ms. this week (next week, whatever). I wish I (or someone else) had bothered to read the cover copy just a little bit closer before the ARCs were printed. If you're to believe the copy, the story is somehow set "three centuries in the future" and "at the dawn of the 22nd Century." Now I have to worry about some frelling hostile asshat of a reviewer making something of a typo (hint: it should read "24th Century"). Something like, "Caitlin R. Kiernan would make a more impressive science-fiction writer if she could count."
Anyway, I should have no trouble finishing "The Pearl Diver" this afternoon, right on schedule. I think it's the most peculiar thing I've written since I did "Apokatastasis" in 2001 (which has, thus far, appeared only in the now defunct "webzine" The Spook, and for which, I might hasten to add, I was never paid). It's not the story I meant to write. It's not the story I wanted to write. I set out to do a very organic, almost erotic sf story involving metamorphosis and the loss of self, and, instead, I got something that comes off more as a condemnation of the frelling Patriot Act. I have little in the way of an explanation for this drift. I'm hoping that once this story is done, I can write the story I'd intended to write. We shall see.
I also spent some time last night looking at photographs from the trip to New England, contemplating Daughter of Hounds.
I'm taking the weekend off, because that's what lots of other sentient creatures do, and I will have written for seven days straight.
Also, yesterday I read "On the cranial anatomy of polycotylid plesiosaurs, including new material of Polycotylus latipinnis, Cope, from Alabama" in the new JVP. As I've said, I have some shared history with the new Alabama material, having helped to excavate it in the summer of '81, when I was still in high school. It's very good to see the specimen described at long last. Last night we watched episodes 3-5 of Season Two of Six Feet Under. Tonight is Kid Night!
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Addendum: Guilt trumps exhaustion every frelling time. Which is to say that I stayed home and I did write today. 1,040 words on "The Pearl Diver." The Green Fairy helped (hey, I said I only drink occassionally; today was one of the occassions). I suppose I should have saved this for tomorrow morning, but there you go.
Spooky just finished slathering my body with some sort of Burt's Bees herbal mosquito repellent (get your little minds out of the gutters right this minute), and now we go forth to prowl the twilight streets in search of DVDs what we must rent.
I'd hoped that I'd return from New England energized. I'd hoped that two weeks away from here would recharge some part of me critical to the act of writing. I'd thought it might be just a little easier afterwards. Nope.
I only managed only 789 words on "The Pearl Diver," though I was at the keyboard for more than five hours. That averages out to just about 157.8 words an hour. The total word count stands at 4,996, which really isn't bad for five days work. That's almost a thousand words a day. If I could make myself sit here today and tomorrow, I'd be done by tommorow evening, I'm fairly certain. But I don't know if I can. Momentum is sorely lacking. Will power is low. I could get dressed and go somewhere. It is an option.
Guilt is my strongest emotion.
Last night, because someone else had rented disc two of Season Two of Six Feet Under, we watched The Restaurant on Bravo (no, I have no excuse) and then the "John Quixote" episode of Farscape. Then I caught The Maltese Falcon, and then we watched Midnight Lace. I'm watching way too much television, I suppose. It's probably "bad" for me. But since I don't smoke, drink only occassionally, have pretty much stopped doing things with drugs that I shouldn't, have once again renounced most refined sugar, brush my teeth twice a day, floss, and have started exercising again, I forgive myself one vice, even if it's a lame vice.
Midnight Lace got me to wondering what ever happened to Doris Day. So Spooky checked the IMDb for me. Turns out, her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968 (I was four; she was forty-four). That was her last film. I don't know why she stopped. I hope it was for reasons I'd admire, like she had enough money, had proved her worth to her self, and went away to have a Good Life free of the spotlight. Now she's eighty. Wow.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Where the frell am I? Oh, yeah. Here I am. I'm still here.
So...yesterday, I wrote 1,201 words on "The Pearl Diver." This story is determined to confound me. It seems to give not a shit what I need it to be. I think my subconscious is asserting itself again, pushing its own agendas. Today I have to try and shove the story more towards what I mean, without breaking it or myself.
I'd rather go to a museum, or the botanical gardens, or lie on the living-room floor and count dust bunnies.
Last night, I cooked a very yummy Thai barbeque chicken with red bell pepper and porta bella mushrooms. Spooky broiled asparagus. I think our cooking has a lot to do with my needing to work harder than before to stay in shape. Back in the old days, say pre-December '02, when, more often than not, I ate fast food and deli stuff, I had a lot less trouble with this getting soft around the middle business.
Anyway, we finally found a DVD rental place that had the first disc of Season Two of Six Feet Under in, so we spent the evening catching up. I wish someone would explain why they took so frelling long to release Season Two to DVD. Afterwards, I watched a documentary on asteroids and comets narrated by William Shatner, and then we went to bed and read Pet Sematary. Tiddley-pom.
This is the sort of entry that will likley net no comments on LJ, as it is so very perfectly representational of the dullness of the life of a professional liar...er, I mean fiction writer.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
I did 896 words on "The Pearl Diver" yesterday. That's 2,973 words since I began it on Saturday. I'm not sure whether or not I shall manage to do with this story what I mean to do with this story. Ah, well. Those who subscribe to doctrines of the "fallacy" of authorial intent would say it makes no never mind. I'm generally of the opinion that those people can all go to hell, but sometimes you take comfort where you find it. It seems as though there is a veil between me and what I'm trying to communicate. I keep reaching out and almost touching it. But I only sense the rough shape beneath the cloth, and then the veil seems to push me away. This morning, Spooky's going to read aloud what I've done so far. My "new" style may be less ornate, but it still matters to me what it sounds like. A writer who can't be bothered with the sound of his or her prose needs to find another line of work.
I hope to have "The Pearl Diver" done by Friday (though I may ask a couple of people to read it before it goes to the editor), at which point I have to actually begin Daughter of Hounds. And there's so much of that novel still unclear to me.
I think Spooky's a little restless. During the trip, we were constantly on the move, never slowing down. Since we've returned, the old routine has reexerted itself full force. I'm much more the homebody than is she. I'm perfectly happy to be here, most of the time. There's so little out in that Other world that concerns me. Here I have my books and iBook, the internet, PlayStation, XBox, DVDs, my music, and so forth. These are the things I need. I've almost become some weird sort of pseudo-agoraphobic shut-in. And I don't really mind, not after decades of trying to get along Out There. But it clearly wears on Spooky. Anyway, last night she dragged me away from an interview on G4 with Steve Wozniak to go out looking for DVDs we couldn't find. Back home, we played Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters, watched more of Farscape Season Four ("Natural Election"; 4:6), played even more of G:DAM, then went to bed and read Pet Sematary until about 2 a.m.
I haven't heard the new Cure CD yet, but I've heard good things about it. I'm one of those weirdos who thinks Disintegration is their best album, and I've been disappointed with everything they've released since. Spooky did pick up some stuff at Wuxtry on Saturday: Gavin Friday's Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves, Mary Fahl's The Other Side of Time, and Anna Domino's Colouring In The Edge & Outline. I haven't sat down and listened to any of it yet, though.
Spooky ordered her black contacts from England yesterday. We're hoping they'll be here early next week, at the latest. If they look good, I'll order another pair for myself. I so don't want to cave in and pay some asshole optometrist for the privilage of wearing non-prescription SFX lenses. We're getting back to work on our costumes. Spooky's looking at boots and working on a very snazzy vest. She will be a somewhat more subdued Nebari than Nar'eth, I think. I have to finish a holster.
Time to make the doughnuts...
Monday, July 12, 2004
The first trailer for Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars can now be downloaded from SaveFarscape as a Quicktime file. Click here.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,064 words of "The Pearl Diver." It seems to be going well. But my language is changed so much in these newer stories. I never dreamt I would write like this. I think the changes are for the better, but there will be those who lament the demise of my more baroque style. Personally, I think my voice is the same, more or less, and I believe someone could read "The Pearl Diver" or "Houses Under the Sea" or The Dry Salvages and recognize it as my work. It's interesting to watch these changes, changes which are more unconscious than anything else, but it's also a little alarming.
And yesterday was one of those days when my writing had me reading all manner of far-flung and seemingly unrelated reference material: human population growth, the manufacture of oil paints, the chemical composition of pearls, ichthyology, and plastics. It all fits together, if you've got the right tube of glue.
I'm still not caught up on e-mail.
There wasn't much else to yesterday. Five hours of writing does that to me. The remainder of the day becomes so much fat to be trimmed away and tossed to the dogs. After dinner, we did nothing in particular until about 9:30, when we watched an episode of Farscape ("Promises"; 4:5), then went to bed and started reading Pet Sematary. King's writing improved significantly in the years between 'Salem's Lot and Pet Sematary. I used to consider the latter one of his most powerful and artful works; I hope it'll still strike me the same way. Also, I read "Redescription and phylogenetic position of the Adriatic (Upper Cretaceous; Cenomanian) dolichosaur Pontosaurus lesinensis (Kornhuber, 1873)" in the new JVP. Dolichosaurs, like aigialosaurs, interest me primarily because, evolutionarily, they lie somewhere between snakes and mosasaurs. Blah, blah, blah. I know.
Spooky may have devised a way around the Optometric Governmental Eyeball Nazis, by ordering her black contacts from a British supplier. I'm more stubborn and am determined to have the same LensQuest contacts I've been using and to which I have become accustomed, so I shall most likely be subjected to the whole silly, superfluous eye exam route. At least insurance will pay for most of this. Its absurd. I can order prescription drugs off the internet, but I can't get SFX contacts. More on this later.
And I can no longer deny that age and lifestyle (by "lifestyle" I mean, mostly, sitting here on my ass writing all day, every day) have wreaked havoc with my body, and now it's time to indulge those twin evils, eating less and exercise. I've been putting this off for months, since at least the New Year. This afternoon I'm going to start doing something about it. Turning -0 does not mean I have to get soft, or softer, or whatever. It merely means that I have to make a greater effort than before. Problem is, after writing all damned day the last thing I want to do is exercise. Maybe the very last thing, so I have to overcome that revulsion. If only it were not so dull, exercise. Ugh.
I keep meaning to post more photos from the trip, but I haven't had time to reformat and upload them. And thanks to the people who've already gotten involved with the eBay auctions. More items will be going up over the next few days, so keep yours eyes peeled (I love that phrase).
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Yesterday, I wrote 959 words on "The Pearl Diver." I haven't looked at them yet this morning. Spooky liked them yesterday, but I'm always anxious the day after. And the beginning of this story is odd, not exactly what I'd expected for it. A study in monotony, which will all make sense farther along. Anyway, it's a good start, I hope, and today should be as productive.
My comments yesterday about Threshold, The Butterfly Effect, and Donnie Darko spawned some thoughtful replies, espcially from setsuled. Feel free to add your two or three cents, so long as you do so with a civil tongue.
Last night, Spooky and I fixed spaghetti and played Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters on the XBox. It was the first time we'd gamed since we finished The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay, back before we left for Rhode Island. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters is a nice game, and it's cool to get to play Toho favourites like Godzilla, Anguirus, and Megalon, but it does suffer in comparison to War of the Monsters. The graphics aren't quite as good in G:DAM as in WotM, and the controls are a little sluggish. There's not as much freedom within the virtual world. One of the great things about WotM is how you can go anywhere and break anything and almost everything can be used as a weapon. But it's still fun. Afterwards, about 1 a.m., we went to bed and finished reading 'Salem's Lot.
I think we were asleep by two, but it was fitful sleep, filled with difficult dreams.
I'd not read 'Salem's Lot in at least fifteen years, maybe longer. It's not a bad novel, but not nearly as good as I remember. It's painfully obvious that, at this point in his career, Stephen King wanted to be Shirley Jackson and just didn't know how to pull it off. The Marsten House makes a far better villiian than the vampire Barlow, and the novel loses focus when the vampire abandons the Marsten House for other digs. At best, the characters aren't particularly engaging, and, at worst, they leave me indifferent to their fates. And there are entirely too many of them, a difficulty I have with many of King's books. The most valuable thing about reading this book again has been an epiphany about King's work, or at least about his early work. Previously, I've said that King usually tends to be very conservative in his approach to the problems of Evil and the Other, that he presents the status quo, introduces an outside force that threatens it, and allows his characters to vanquish that force, once again making the world safe for the status quo. But that's not quite right. Rather, he presents the status quo (the people of Jerusalem's Lot, in this case), introduces the disruptive Outside force (Barlow), then pits a traditional approach to Evil (in this case, the Catholic Church) against the force, discovering that it is an effective counteragent. But. Good may defeat Evil, but it seems to do so with a marked indifference to human life and well-being. The fate of Father Callahan may serve as a case in point. It's all very Utilitarian. Men are only instruments of this very Old Testament God, to be cast aside for other instruments if they falter for even a moment. And, in the end, the Evil might be banished (it might not), but the status quo has been forever disrupted. I see now that this is true of 'Salem's Lot, a much more trangressive novel than I'd previously considered it, and it's also true of Carrie, The Stand, and, to a lesser degree, The Shining. It's interesting.
Thanks to robyn_ma, I've had the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter stuck in my head since day before yesterday.
Here's something genuinely trivial, yet oddly intimate: this morning I had my usual breakfast, a can of Campbell's Old-Fashioned Vegetable soup in beef stock and a glass of juice (cherry limeade). Spooky had one French-toast Pop-Tart and a container of coffee-flavored yogurt, plus coffee (with milk and sugar). Jennifer had a bowl of Grape Nuts in soy milk. I think our breakfasts say more about us than we might like to admit.
I've begun a new round of eBay auctions. Anything you purchase using "Buy It Now" between today and midnight July 30th will get you a monster doodle (one per purchased item), doodled and signed by me. I'm going to try to include some more unusual items in these auctions. Right now, there's a mint-condition copy of Aberrations #27 up (it includes my first-published short story). I'm also going to part with a hand-corrected, unbound galley copy of Murder of Angels, in which I've restored all those missing commas, and maybe a vial of sand from "Innsmouth"/Narcissa's beach. And there are other peculiar items I'm considering. We'll see how it goes. All proceeds go to offset the cost of the trip to Rhode Island/research for Daughter of Hounds, and to mine and Spooky's costume fund.
Now I write.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
So, yesterday I tried to get back to work. There is more to be written than I care to consider, yet consider it I must. It's what I do. The traveling-to-New-England, doing-research-in-old-libraries-and-cemeteries, seeing-things-what-I-ain't-never-seen-before portion of the Writer's Life is done for now. Time to return to the slog, the grind, the word to word to word chain, this office, this keypad, the unrealized worlds infinite locked inside my head. Time to write.
Yesterday, I made notes for an sf short story which I am currently calling "The Pearl Diver." It's being written for Lou Anders' anthology, Futureshocks. I'm very pleased that, post-"Riding the White Bull," I'm being asked to do sf. I'll begin the story today. I think it will require ten days. Then I move on to the beginning of The Daughter of Hounds.
Yesterday, I read another paper from the new Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, "A primitive marine gavialoid from the Paleocene of Morocco." Sometimes I think reading JVP is the most masochistic of all my masochistic endeavours. I also reread a couple of chapters of S. T. Joshi's biography of Lovecraft, including Chapter Twenty-Three, "Caring About the Civilisation (1929-1937)." I have been asked repeatedly, over the years, if I will ever write non-fantastic fiction, or, as a few tactless, narrow-minded individuals have put it, "serious fiction." These two quotes from Lovecraft's letters, adressing this very question, are better than any answer I've ever offerred:
Time, space, and natural law hold for me suggestions of intolerable bondage, and I can form no picture of emotional satisfaction which does not involve their defeat--especially the defeat of time, so that one may merge oneself with the whole historic stream and be wholly emancipated from the transient and the ephemeral. (HPL, 1930)
There is no field other than the weird in which I have any aptitude or inclination for fictional composition. Life has never interested me so much as the escape from life. (HPL, 1931)
I spent much of yesterday steeling myself to endure a whole hour of Stargate: SG-1, just so I could catch the promised preview of Farscape: Peacekeeper War hidden somewhere in the muck. But then, at nine o'clock, I discovered it was to be a two-hour-long episode of Stargate: SG-1, and I faltered. I just couldn't sit through that much crap, not even for a glimpse of new Farscape. So Spooky and I watched the director's cut of The Butterfly Effect instead, which was quite good and much darker than I'd expected. As I told Spooky last night, I'd moan about its similarity to Threshold, but then I'd also have to moan about the same similarity with Donnie Darko, and as Donnie Darko is plainly superior to both Threshold and The Butterfly Effect, what's the point? This Zeitgeist dren sucks. After the movie, we flipped back and forth between They Live (possibly the worst of John Carpenter's low points) on AMC and you-know-what on the SFC, trying to catch the commercial breaks on the latter and, hopefully, the Farscape preview. In the process, I saw way too many lousy special effects, too much wooden acting, heard far too much bad dialogue, and was subjected to that big guy with the funny oval thing glued to his forehead. I'd given up on actually seeing the preview, but at 12:30 Spooky switched channels again at just the right moment, and there it was. All ten or fifteen seconds of it. Three shots of Chiana, and I think she was still blind in every one of them. Wow. I may burst before October 17th (when the first half of the mini airs; the second half will air October 18th). And yes, of course I know I'm a dork.
And speaking of Farscapery and being a dork, this coming week I must finally do battle with the Eyeball Nazis to secure new contacts for Nar'eth. I think Spooky, being a greater rebel than I, is going to order hers from Britian, instead.
Friday, July 09, 2004
Last night we went to bed remarkably early, just after mdnight. I put Reptilicus in Spooky's iBook, but was asleep in only ten or fifteen minutes. It was a long sleep for me, a full eight hours. And, of course, it was filled with dreams. They blur together, as days blur together. But this one I remember almost in its entirety.
I dreamt that I was back in Providence, only it was winter and bitterly cold. I was dressed in a long wool coat lined in thick grey fur, though I was barefoot. The trees were black against a sky the colour of thunderstorms. I was walking alone down some street that wasn't Benefit Street, trying to find a cross street that would take me west to Benefit, but having no luck. All the cross streets were one way west to east, and I had some inexplicable fear of walking the wrong way on a one-way street. I was distinctly aware that I was not alone, though I couldn't see who was walking with me. I would stop and look back the way I've come, but the street would be empty. I finally paused by a tiny apple tree growing beside a great Georgian house (this tree is "real," located on Benefit Street). Despite the winter, the apple tree was green and had a few small green apples. "They'll give you a bellyache," Spooky warned (though she wasn't there), so I didn't pick one, but started walking again, instead. A shadow like a gigantic bird swept quickly across the street, and I looked up. But there were only clouds above me. When I looked down at the sidewalk again, all the old bricks buckled and broken by time and the roots of trees, there was writing there. Someone had written algebraic equations in white chalk. I stepped over and between them, careful not to smudge the chalk with my feet. When I looked up again, when I'd passed the southernmost equation, there was a man standing at the corner. I can remember little about him, though I do recall that he was wearing a fedora. And I was suddenly very, very frightened, but knew that I couldn't run back across the numbers, that the equations didn't flow that way, or I wasn't that good a mathematician, and then the man vanished, and I was alone again. I walked on, until I reached a frozen river winding its way through the city. There was a girl skating on the dark ice. There was music from the open window of a nearby house, music that sounded like a music box. And I woke up.
There will be a preview of the forthcoming Farscape: Peacekeeper War tonight on the SFC, during Stargate: SG-1. I'm wondering if I can endure however much of the latter is required, just to reach the former.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Addendum: There seem to be all these little bits and pieces of the trip that have slipped through the cracks. Like what we did on Tuesday, which I'll get to in a moment. It's no wonder, though, the slipping through cracks. We drove over 1,500 miles in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, between June 24th and July 6th. 1,500 miles of shorelines and cemeteries, old houses and harbours. 1,500 miles of research for Daughter of Hounds. Of course, if you add in the train to and from Kingston, that's a total of something like 3,500 miles total. Frell. But there's no way I ever could have written this book without that time on the road. Even now, it seems like an overwhelming task before me.
Today is Sissy's birthday (that's scarletboi to you LJ folks). I want to get that in before I forget. I am in a Forgetful Mood this evening. I think the left hemisphere of my brain is still on the train. Anyway, Happy frelling Birthday. As for gifts, well, I won't tell Kat if you won't tell Spooky.
But, I was saying, Tuesday. Our last full day in Rhode Island. Spooky and I were both pretty damn close to utterly exhausted. Her, especially, since she'd done all of that 1,500 miles worth of driving (I don't drive). But we made it up to Providence late in the day, regardless. I got some more work done at the Athenaeum, mostly researching cases of vampirism in Rhode Island, and Spooky visited the Museum of Art at RISD. Afterwards, about 6 p.m., we went to the house at 65 Prospect Street, the last house in which HPL lived. Originally, the house was located on College Street, near the John Hay Library, but was moved to its present location in 1959 (so that Brown could inflict a hideous, concrete chunk of Modernist architecture on the city). In this house, built in 1823, Lovecraft's life ended in terrible poverty. It seemed appropriate to make it my last destination on the trip.
Afterwards, we drove to the depot and picked up our tickets, to save a little time on Wednesday morning.
As for the train, I'm pretty sure it's the best way to travel overland, if one has the time. You actually see places, instead of the homogenous landscape visible from interstates. It beats the hell out of cramped, stinking planes. I won't even dignify travel-by-bus with a comparison. The only dubious portion of the trip home was dinner in the dining car. On the way up, we'd taken meals in our sleeper car, but decided to be more social on the return journey. Dumb idea. Too late, we discovered that the dining car bounced and bobbed and swayed like a roller coaster, probably because it weighs considerably less than the sleeper car (lacking all those dividing walls and bunks and such). As our food was served, we met with a terrific thunderstorm somewhere near Baltimore. I had what passed for a Delmonico steak and Spooky had the Cornish hen. Actually, despite the aforementioned camel, train food seems a definite small step up from plane food. We ate quickly and returned to our car before motion-sickness could set in.
I slept fitfully, and I think Spooky slept even worse. I think we were too tired to sleep.
The new issue of The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology was waiting for me at home. It includes a a paper entitled "On the cranial anatomy of the polycotylid plesiosaurs, including new material of Polycotylus latipinnis." The new material in question is, in part, a specimen I helped to excavate way back in the summer of 1981, when I was still in high school. The specimen was originally discovered by the Field Museum (Chicago) in 1949, but not completely excavated. It's not at all unusual that paleontological material, even important finds, might sit around for 55 years before someone comes up with the resources and time to describe it. Also, the author of this paper references my 2002 study of mosasaur biostratigraphy in Alabama, which is cool, even though he didn't quite get the title right. I'm droning on. Sorry.
Tomorrow, I got back to work. Or I at least try to go back to work. Truthfully, I may need a few more days to rest. But the amount of work I have to do in July and August is daunting: an sf short story by the end of this month, another sf story next month, a piece for the Fiddler's Green souvenir book by the 23rd of this month (though I've asked for an extension), the first part of Daughter of Hounds, plus assorted proofreading (Including the galleys of The Dry Salvages). My head spins...
As promised, here are a few photos from Ipswich and "Innsmouth" (7/5/04):
Heavy rain on I-95 in Massachusetts; it rained on and off all day.
Some of the tombs in the Old Burying Ground, which will appear in Daughter of Hounds.
Looking northeast from Crane Beach, a view of Plum Island. We are at Innsmouth!
In the dunes at Crane Beach, looking south towards the place where Narcissa Snow's childhood house would have stood. This spot is just as I'd imagined it.
Me on the beach, just east of the "site" of the Snow house, just northeast of where I believe Lovecraft intended Innsmouth to lie.
I'm not really pleased with this assortment, so I'll try to post more from this day tomorrow. Also, these photos fail to do justice to the mood of the locations; it was much darker that day than it seems.
P.S. -- Beginning with this entry, the journal will be composed at LiveJournal and cross-posted to Blogger, instead of the other way round; it's just easier.
Back in Atlanta.
And my body believes that it's still moving, I think.
We departed Providence at 10:27 yesterday morning, and the trip played itself out in reverse. Mystic, New Haven, New York City, Trenton, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and then back in the South, kudzu instead of wild grapes, Charlottesville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charoltte, Gainesville, and then, about 9:45 a.m., home. Byron was waiting for us at the station, and it was good to see a familiar face.
This trip was very, very marvelous, but it's wonderful to be home, with my walls about me. I'll make a longer post later today or this evening. I need to unpack and decompress and catch up on some e-mail. Then I'll finish the "travelogue" and try to get a few photos up.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
I never used to have zombie dreams. Zombies were never in heavy rotation in Caitlin's Top 10 Worst Nightmares. But times change. I blame this particular change on Zack Snyder's extraordinary remake of Dawn of the Dead. Zombies are turning up in my nightmares with alarming frequency these days. Sunday morning was a good example. I spent the first half of the day in a fog, my head too busy recounting zombie apocalypse to deal with "reality." (Those quotation marks are not gratuitous. In my opinion, the jury is still out on the relationship between waking and sleeping consciousness, and on which has the greater claim to "reality.")
Tomorrow, dream zombies or no, Spooky and I head back to Atlanta.
As for the remainder of Sunday (and my apologies for the missed entry), there really wasn't much worth recounting. Late in the day, we drove into Providence, had dinner on Thayer Street, then spent a couple of hours strolling about College Hill. Much of Daughter of Hounds will be set in that neighbourhood, and I've been trying to put in all the time there that I can. There was one peculiar thing, near the southern edge of the RISD campus: dangling from a very high limb of a rather tall tree was an object evidently meant to represent a bloody, severed human head. A red ribbon exited its mouth, wrapped a couple of times about the supporting limb, and ended in a black VHS tape. We stood there a bit, marveling that someone could have made it up the tree to place the severed head (there were no lower limbs, and high limbs would have made tossing it from a nearby rooftop impossible). It got me to thinking about zombies again, and I wondered aloud whether this was someone's absurd attempt at art or a warning or maybe a very creative (and grisly) "dear john" letter.
Yesterday, which I believe was Monday, we were up early and, despite the rain, headed for Massachusetts. One of my main objectives on this trip was to reach Ipswich and follow the Argilla Road northeast to the place where I believe Lovecraft meant the doomed seaport of Innmouth to lie, at the mouth of the Castle Neck River (Manuxet to Lovecraft). The constant reader will recall that this was also the location I chose for the house where Narcissa Snow was raised by her grandfather (Low Red Moon), that long spit of sand known as Crane Beach. This obession began back in October 2001, when I was working on an Innsmouth-related short story, "From Cabinet 34, Drawer 6," and began trying to locate Innsmouth using Lovecraft's narrative and various reference sources. Go back to my entry of November 16, 2001 (LJ readers follow this link to the blog) for details and an account of my thoughts on the subject. My conclusions -- that Innmouth was fashioned from bits of Newburyport and Gloucester, then placed at the mouth of the Castle Neck -- agree with those of certain other writers, such as Jack Morgan (The Biology of Horror, 2002) and, as I learned a few days ago, researching at the Athenaeum, the author of The H. P. Lovecraft Companion (1977). And though I was fairly certain of my reckoning, I've always wanted a degree of visiual confirmation.
We took I-95 around Boston and into New Hampshire, driving out to Hampton Beach before turning south on 1A through Salisbury, Newburyport, and Rowley to Ipswich. We paused in Ipswich, to walk through the Old Burying Ground, which includes the oldest surviving headstone in America (1634). It was still raining, light rain and heavy mist, but we walked up steep, uneven, titled stone steps to the top of the cemetery. From that vantage point, we could look back down on the cemetery and High Street, and west to the wooded, fog-shroudedd hills beyond. After a wrong turn that led us through a salf marsh to the down dump, we asked directions at a gas station. We crossed the Ipswich River and followed Argilla Road to the spot where it ends at the sea.
To the south of us, the marshes and islands at the mouth of the Castle Neck River (i.e., Manuxet) spread out flat and green, seeming almost impenetrable. In the near distance, Choate Island rose from the marshes, studded with old trees and shadows. We left the car and, walking east, crossed the dunes on foot, then followed Crane Beach south and east for a mile or so.
The sky was still spitting rain, there was a strong, chilly wind (from the northwest, I think), and a heavy mist covered everything. The beach was littered with several species of seaweed (Southern Kelp, Sea Lettuce, Irish Moss, and at least a half dozen other forms), washed up in clumps across the sand. There were mermaid's purses and the dismembered arms and legs of crabs, the shells of razor clams and many other mollusks. There were gulls, of course, as well as Piping Plovers and terns. We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and waded in the freezing surf. We passed two fisherman, standing maybe thirty yards out in the shallows, casting lines. I found broken bits of sand-dollar tests, which made it impossible not to think of Narcissa as a child, picking the beach with Aldous. I found the place in the dunes where the Snow house would have been. Off to the north and east, across Ipswich Bay, the southern tip of Plum Island was a distant blue ghost.
It was all perfect, and the best end for this long trip that I could have asked for.
The day left us exhausted and wet, but determined to return to Ipswich and Crane Beach for further explorations. I have been to Innsmouth.
There would be photos with this post, but my ftp programme has been rendered inaccessible. But I'll upload them after we're back in Atlanta, and I no longer have to rely on flakey dial-up connections.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Two days left until we get back on the train (not counting what's left of today). It's been a very, very long trip, and I miss home and Jennifer and Sophie and my own bed.
There's a tiny jumping spider on this desk, skittering about the iBook as I type.
To my surprise I actually like Autocrat coffee milk. I had my first glass last night, and was fully prepared to discover it wasn't what Nebari like best. I found the flavour to be more nutty than coffee, which is good, as I don't especially like coffee. I may take a bottle of the syrup home to Atlanta.
Yesterday was mostly down-time. I realized we'd been going full tilt since we got off the train on the 24th, and really since we left the apartment on the 23rd (and actually since we started packing on the 22nd, says Spooky). We were both pretty much out of steam. I napped, ate, and read from Spike Walker's Working on the Edge (a book on king-crab fishing in Alaska) and also read August Derleth's 1971 story, "Innsmouth Clay" (I don't usually bother with Derleth, and this story wasn't one of his better "collaborations," but I was in the mood for something Lovecrafty and it was at hand).
Last night, we drove down to Scarborough and Point Judith, watching the yellow-orange moon, one night past full, rise over the sea. The evening was filled with the thunder of fireworks, and I imagined the sound wasn't that different from the report of revolutionary war cannons.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Today is mine and Spooky's second anniversary. We are two today.
Yesterday, we headed back to Woonsocket. This time, to avoid the frelling tourists, we took back roads instead of going through Providence: State 2 to State 102, through West Greenwich (Spooky tells me there are actually people up here who pronounce that "Green Witch"), Summit, Clayville, past the Scituate Reservoir, through Chopmist, Chepachet, Slaterville. There was some thunder and lightning and very heavy rain, and we guiltlessly hoped it was soaking the beaches. We entered Woonsocket from the west late in the afternoon.
Sprouting from the banks of the Blackstone River, from the mills that fill the narrow valley, Woonsocket has impressed me as a town afflicted with the meanness that too often comes with fallen industry. Imagine a strange fusion of small-town suspicion and inner-city threat. There's a museum of "work and culture" (or something like that) downtown, and some half-hearted attempts at gentrification, but these attempts to foster myths of a heritage of proud workers only seem to underscore the squalor and poverty that one encounters at almost every turn. The big houses along South Main Street, before the descent to the river, have a similar effect. I can imagine nothing good in this place. It seems to radiate slow, smoldering hatred, this town. You can see it in the eyes of the people, especially the younger people. I would not live in Woonsocket for a million dollars. Really. Almost every place I go I see ghosts, but it's not often they seem to possess such a terrible despite.
We stopped first at the dam, a waterfall long used to generate energy for the mills, and I took pictures until Spooky began to complain that the fumes rising from the polluted green-yellow-grey water were actually starting to burn her eyes and throat. The river slips through spillways and thunders down onto the ancient Precambrian rocks below, flowing away beneath a stone bridge built in 1903.
After the Blackstone River, we got shots of the mills, the town in general, and St. Ann's twin bell towers, then headed south again. I actually felt relief at leaving Woonsocket, moreso than I'd felt when we left it Tuesday evening. Part of this was undoubtedly my mood and my need to be home again, but I think we saw more of the town, too, and in a clearer light than before.
Three days to go. I still haven't tried an Awful Awful, a doughboy, or Autocrat coffee milk. I still haven't seen the last house in which Lovecraft lived (originally located at 66 College Street, relocated to 67 Prospect Street). There's still a lot to do, really.
Here are three photos from yesterday:
The dam (or is that "damn"?) at Blackstone Falls, looking west.
Mills along the Blackstone River.
St. Ann's Church.
Friday, July 02, 2004
This trip is really beginning to wear me down. I need to be home, among familiar things. My dreams, which are almost never pleasant, are becoming even worse than usual, and I know to take that as a sign.
There's not much interesting to write about yesterday. The productive part was spent in the Athenaeum, researching New England ghost towns, the house at 135 Benefit Street, Rhode Island hauntings, and such like. I haven't made this many handwritten notes for a novel since Silk, I think. So, yes, I mostly prowled the library and made notes. I've found a number of books I shall have to try to acquire by interlibrary loan once I get back to Atlanta. Just getting into Providence was probably yesterday's greatest adventure. We got stuck in the mob of July 4th vacationers, most of them from Connecticut and Massachusetts, it would seem. An endless stream of cattle...I mean sheep...no, cows...er, tourists. Yes, that's the word. All of them going to the same place at the same time for more or less the same reason. I can't imagine there can be any sort of actual pleasure in such herding, I don't care what the destination happens to be. The beaches I've enjoyed in Rhode Island would be unbearable in that press of human presence. Spooky cursed them, and I made monster doodles in my notebook and tried to pretend I was somewhere else entirely. Last week, when we were out at Fort Weatherill on Conanicut Island, we actually left a beach because three other people showed up. I can hardly imagine how unbearable popular spots like Narragansett Beach will be over the next three days. And I can't even begin to imagine why anyone would want to be in the middle of such a mess.
But at -0, I've come to accept there are very many things that I shall never understand about humans.
On the way back last night, the roads blessedly cleared of their earlier congestion, Spooky lamented the changes that have come to Providence and parts south in the last decade -- the huge, ugly mall plopped down in the middle of the city, the loss of so many of the funky little shops and restaurants along Thayer Street to corporate entities like Starbucks, The Gap, and Johhny Rocket's ("There used to be four record stores," she said; now there's only one, so far as we can tell), the plague of strip malls afflicting Washington County. Of course, this is happening everywhere, all across the nation. Business districts that once catered to the eclectic tastes of college students are now catering to the bland, cookie-cutter tastes of college students, kids who've been raised in mall culture and would rather buy their clothes at The Gap than a thrift store. And everyone wants a McDonald's on her doorstep, right? I've seen so much of RI and MA this week, and it's disheartening how so much of it really looks exactly like Atlanta. I suppose there are those who find this homogenization of the country comforting. No matter where you go, you have the security blanket of all those familiar stores and fast-food places. And then there are the just-add-water suburban housing developments, encroaching on the woodlands and wetlands, but I won't even get started on that. Where's the percentage, hmmm?
I saw a giant blue bug squatting atop New England Pest Control yesterday. Seems to me a giant pink human would have been more appropriate.
And how about this crazy business with Bush asking for church rosters in order to bolster his campaign? He's even starting to piss off some of the Southern Baptists.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
We will be leaving Providence on the morning of July 7th. Time has totally collapsed about me. On the one hand, because I really find travel difficult, because I hate being out of my home, it's a relief that there are only six days remaining. On the other hand, I've only accomplished a fraction of what I came here to do. I've already cancelled my plans for New York City and Boston, because the book demands more research time here in Rhode Island. And the book if god, remember? Lunches with my agent and editor have been called off (apologies to John and Merrilee), and we weren't able to attend Man Ray on Wednesday night, as we'd hoped (sorry, Chris, really). There's just not enough time in all the world, and there never shall be.
Yesterday's major discovery was that U.S. 6 across Cape Cod is the Massachusetts equivalent of the New Jersey Turnpike. Ugh. That's the route we took to reach Yarmouth, and the sun was a white demon in a blue sky utterly unblemished by clouds. We both had headaches by the time we exited that gods-forsaken stretch of highway for the shaded refuge of 6A. And why had we bothered with the Cape in the first place? It was a pilgrimage to 8 Strawberry Lane, the Edward Gorey House, that lured us so far east and required that we broil our brains beneath that sun. It was very delightful to actually visit Elephant House, though a little sad. Seeing Edward Gorey's kitchen, his cats' food dishes, an old pair of sneakers, things like that, made the whole affair bittersweet. Well, honestly more sweet than bitter. The current exhibition was original art from Donald Has a Difficulty and Donald and the..., Gorey's collaborations with Peter Neumeyer and, as it happens, two of Spooky's favorite children's books. I was pleasantly surprised by the huge Southern Magnoilia tree looming over one side of the house. There is something sacred about a house wherein so many fine things have been created.
Afterwards, we headed east again, with no particular destination in mind. But we found a beautiful, shaded cemetery --Lothrop Hill Cemetery -- with graves dating back to the early 1700's, somewhere between West Barnstable and Sandwich. It too shall appear in Daughter of Hounds. Despite the deer flies and mosquitoes, it was a nice place the hide from the sun for an hour or so. I looked for names and found several very fine ones. We discovered the grave of James Clifford Turpin, who worked with the Wright Bros., as well as the grave of a Governor of Plymouth Colony. When we left the cemetery, about 4:30 p.m., we headed south, driving through the not-particularly-interesting towns of Hyannis, Cotuit, and Falmouth. We reached Woods Hole, which looked a little more promising, but the crowds of tourists immediately dissuaded us. We headed north again. Just past Woods Hole, we encountered a fox, who trotted out into the road in front of us. Spooky stopped, and it circled, curious, around the side of the car before disappearing back into the woods behind us. I think we endured the drive from Yarmouth to Woods Hole just to see that fox. I can think of no other reason.
The weather up here has turned clear and warmer, highs in the eighties, lows in the sixties, and I kind of miss the misty, cool days that greeted me when I first arrived. Oh, and there will be no fireworks show from Narragansett Dunes Club (or, rather, I suppose it will be moved elsewhere) this July 4th, following the discovery of a Piping Plover nest. Indeed. Birds before booms, I always say.
Here are a few pictures from the last couple of days...
Upstairs at the Athenaeum. I love these writing desks!
The house at 10 Barnes Street, where HPL lived and wrote from 1926 to 1933.
Spooky outisde Elephant House. This lousy photo is an excellent example of why she usually handles the camera.
A great, old tree in Lothrop Hill Cemetery.
See you all tomorrow. Or later tonight.