Suffering for the Art Department:
Spent a fascinating if chilly day in the world of professional modeling. For those of you not acquainted with the shooting schedules of popular fashion, layouts for summer garments and swimsuits are shot at in the dead of winter (just as heavy winter garb and coats are shot in mid-July.) I arrived on the shoot at 7am and was introduced to three pro models as they were being prepped. I said my hellos then stepped out of the way and observed.
I admit, I didn't think too much of modeling as "real" work. How hard can it be to stand there and look beautiful? Well, it's pretty damn hard when you're wearing a thong bikini in 40 degree windy weather. But first hair must be teased, curled, crimped and sprayed with industrial-type laquer; the most exotic cosmetics I've ever seen are applied in multiple artistic coats; a certain compound is applied to cover up skin blemishes and minute flaws that otherwise might have been caught by the unforgiving eye of the camera. It was exhausting just watching all the preparation.
And models don't stand there -- they constantly move, turning and contorting their bodies, changing their expressions and angles of their limbs. They do this according to the shouted, not always diplomatic directions of the photographer, for up to two hours straight. They have to ignore catcalls and whistles from spectators. They cannot perspire -- makes the cosmetics run -- so in between film loads an assistant darts in to touch up their faces, primp their hair, and straighten, fluff, or rearrange whatever they're modeling. They must also change quickly -- everything depends on "the light" -- and go through dozens of garments and outfits, some of which are flattering and attractive, some of which are a little strange, a few downright bizarre. There is little time for modesty, though because we were outdoors and had about thirty spectators, the models changed inside a cramped RV. As it was a small shoot, there were no cops on hand to keep back the crowd, but another assistant trotted around acting like a polite pit bull, making sure everyone stayed out of the way.
I spent most of the time taking notes as an observer, then my friend and I invited the models to have lunch with us. Two accepted, the third declined as she had another shoot to do across town. What followed was fun -- they had almost as many questions about authors as I did about models -- and again, surprised me. Both models were in their early twenties, seasoned pros, and don't expect to be able to continue fashion modeling after 25. "The competition starts full-time at thirteen years old now," one of them told me, "and get younger every year." Both are planning for the future beyond modeling, and although neither has any desire to attend college, have some good ideas on how to invest their money. Both girls ate very little, and one told me she rarely eats breakfast or lunch, and sticks to a strict vegetarian regime. I learned later from my friend that the other girl, who was extremely thin, has been struggling with an eating disorder since puberty.
We talked about the business, what obstacles they encounter getting work, the triumphs and pitfalls, and something of the local scandals. They spoke about trends and the future of the fashion industry, displaying some canny insights. Models also can tell you exactly what's in, what's out, and what's coming into fashion. Both thought I should abandon my entire wardrobe, based on what I was wearing, and start wearing more vivid colors and "some makeup, Sheila, it won't kill you." I told them my Cover Girl LipStuck story and everyone laughed. They agreed with my theory that patterns date clothes, but clothes are entirely disposable to models. They both get incredible bargains on the latest boutique fashions to "show" them at the local hot spots.
It was an enjoyable time, but I came away feeling even more ambivalent about the fashion industry and models in particular. Both women were interesting, funny, and quite intelligent about their careers. Vanity was not an issue; both knew they were spectacularly good looking yet seemed to accept it was a terrific, if temporary gift. It was the physical/mental cost of modeling and the scandals (great and small) that disturbed me. Like gymnists, models are generally pushed into the business by avid parents, usually their mothers. The money is excellent, but the demands are harsh -- both models were at least twenty pounds underweight, and admitted having some physical problems like sporadic menses, acne flair-ups from cosmetics, and intermittant joint pain from daily, brutal workouts to maintain muscle tone. Maintaining solid relationships was difficult, one told me, as men tended to patronize her or be too jealous. The other model dated frequently but avoided committment as "too much work." Both wished their parents had pushed them to do more with their education when they were young. Both were adamant about not allowing any children they may have go into modeling.
After lunch, I said goodbye to the models and headed for the photography studio with my friend, to get into the production end of the shoot. I took a tour of the dark room then stayed to watch the latest batches in development. The slightly disgruntled photo tech had to keep moving me out of the way, at which point I excused myself (which was more to get away from the chemicals than anything) and went to talk to some of the other photographers working at the studio. They gave me the flip side view of the modeling industry, some annecdotes on difficult people they'd worked with, their perspective on beauty, and demands of an industry that is as fickle as a sixteen year old boy with a certain itch. My friend surprised me with an unexpected series of shots taken of me as I was making notes on the sidelines of the shoot earlier that morning. We both agreed I am not photogenic, but I liked one that had me bent over my clipboard, hair escaping my ponytail, glasses on the end of my nose, peering at the page as my pen sped across the lines. Not something you'd want on the cover of Cosmo, but most definitely the real me. :)
Quote for the Day:
"When a merchant speaks of sheep he means the hide." --Swiss Proverb
Medical Fact for the Day: Melanoma
is a cancer that originates in the pigment-producing cells of the skin. Warning signs include: enlarging pigmented (particularly black or deep blue) spot or mole; changes in color of an existing mole, especially in the spread of red, blue, and white pigmentation to the surrounding skin; inflammation of the skin surrounding an existing mole. Surgery can remove the melanoma, and if it hasn't metastasized, the cure rate is close to 100%. Unlike other forms of skin cancer, melanoma does metastasize (spread) and is likely to attack other parts of the body via the lymph and blood vessels, and in some cases can cause death within a few months.
Inspiration comes in many forms. What follows are the words that have most inspired me:
How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do.
You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.
--Rainer Maria Rilke, August 12, 1904, in a letter to a young poet
I had to turn on the heat last night as the temperature has dropped. Yes, it's really forty below -- below my minimum comfortable temperature requirement of 80F. Too damn cold for me and poor Kathy with our low blood pressure and thin skin. Mike is enjoying it, I think, the little polar bear. With my luck he'll grow up and move to someplace in Northern Canada where he can commune with the arctic wolves or whatever lives in the snow up there, marry an Eskimo and give me grandchildren who like to go ice fishing.
Famous Quote for the Day:
"Small rooms discipline the mind; large ones distract it." Leonardo Da Vinci, 1452-1519
You can always write better in the tub, but condensation makes the paper limp.
Medical Fact for the Day:Hypothermia
is an abnormally low body temperature, which occurs when body heat is lost faster than a patient's ability to replace it. This is commonly due to immersion in cold water or prolonged exposure to temperatures below 30 degrees F. Hypothermia usually develops so slowly that the patient is unaware of what's happening. Symptoms include disorientation, impaired movement and reaction, blurred thinking, hallucinations, and intense drowsiness. In the early stages, immediately changing into warm, dry clothing, drinking a hot beverage, or snuggling with another person to share body heat eliminates the hypothermia. If the patient is unconscious, they should be wrapped in a blanket to prevent further heat loss and transported immediately to a medical treatment facility. Because the risk of death with an unconscious hypothermic patient is so high, they must
be treated by medical professionals to ensure they survive the episode. Patients who have severe hypothermia aren't considered clinically dead; many revive even after an hour of displaying no life signs.
Another good day, put to rest chapter two for Raven; dug out my original plotting template for StarDoc book one for one of the writers at Holly's (and reading it again made me remember the actual writing time, which was the most fun I've ever had with a novel); wrestled with the mid-length series plotting template, which is simply too complicated to have any practical use. James, you were right, I've got to break the whole thing down in phases versus volumes, it doesn't make sense otherwise. A project for tomorrow. 7,881 words total for the day, but I wasn't in the mood to fool with the synopses, so that's got to be done in the AM too. I want to e-mail them off on Monday to my editor, and I need the weekend to read and fuss over them. Then tomorrow night, more series plotting at the Friday night session while we get into extended series (I think, mental note to check the last transcript.) Things are humming along.
To respond to a couple of recent e-mails, I'm in my second year of eligibility; I've sold more books, and hit the BSL more times than any other eligible author. Vote if you feel you must. They'll likely award it to someone who sold some artistically meritous short story to some obscure rag, or someone with a rocket science degree who is more "qualified" to write science fiction. (snort) That's how these things go. I realize I'm the only author who didn't post a cutesy little bio on the nominees page. Read the others and you'll see why I passed.
That's what it's worth to have a good, experienced, aggressive agent backed by a solid agency. Mine is all three and then some. I only wish I could be a fly on the wall when she negotiates this contract -- there are elements that would give me a great deal of personal satisfaction to witness -- but I'll hear all the details afterward. Career-wise, things are getting very
I'm finished for the night. 9,432 words. Not quite the 10K I wanted to hit, but not bad. Raven's first chapter done, synopsis on MTH done, contract want-list done, minor crick in my back from sitting badly (oh how quickly we forget proper posture when we take off to be sloths for a month.) Tomorrow, I tackled the MTK synopsis and chapter two. Raven's book must be completed in 28 days, so I'm off to a good start.
Baklava and tea while I sort out what I'm going to do about my secondary character Mick Perry. He's the obvious choice to oppose Kalen in the book, but I think one of Raven's friends is going to need him as a reality check more. I haven't yet decided if Gemma is going to be cosmetic-surgery addicted or bulemic. Probably the nip and tuck stuff; everyone does eating disorders. Kalen has his pretty little personnel administrator Captain sometimes-girlfriend to use as a shield against Raven, while Raven enchants anything in trousers. I think Mick and Raven are going to end up pals, which should provide some non-romantic conflict, and then I can save Gem via Mick.
The bad guys are different in this book -- young, street-wise, still bound to Chinese familial tradition but hungry for power and rigid about maintaining face. Much more vicious and unpredictable than their elders. The outrageous murder in chapter one epitomizes their reckless, badass attitudes, and they're going to come under fire for it, but only briefly and superficially. Chains can be slapped on, but they can be snapped as well, and I think the tong leaders would rather capitalize on their ferocity than excommunicate them for it. Who wants to let loose mad dogs?
I finished my final contract want-list today and forwarded it on to my agent. I expect to get about half of the concessions I want and quite frankly, all the money. The secret of negotiating (once you're established) is this: if you want $150,000 for a multiple-book contract, you ask for $175,000. Always
ask for more than you want, that way you can negotiate down comfortably and the publisher feels like they've won. It helps to have another major publisher or two waiting in the wings, panting to get their claws on you, too.
It feels good to get back to work, although with the kids still home on vacation I'm pretty much hit-and-miss during the day, and working eight hours each night. I'll be able to go back to the twelve-to-sixteen hour routine next week. The vacation definitely recharged my batteries. I produced 4,669 yesterday without much effort and I plan to do twice that tonight. Off to work.
Famous Quote for the Day:
"Like the greatest virtue and the worst dogs, the fiercest hatred is silent." Jean Paul Richter, 1763–1825
And unlike virtue or Dobermans, it corrodes the soul.
Medical Fact for the Day: Pancytopenia
is a term used to describe a decrease in the number of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets. The condition is found in patients with aplastic anaemia, bone-marrow tumors, enlarged spleens, and other blood disease related disorders.
Eager, untried lab assistants sometimes jump on the pancytopenia band wagon and mistakenly flag patients who have recently lost a significant volume of blood due to injury or childbirth, and in some rare cases, after the patient has merely donated some blood. A patient should always
inform their doctor if they have suffered such a blood loss within the past six weeks, and if they have received any type of plasma or whole blood transfusion as treatment.
Again I'm late forwarding the January lot off to Willa to post on the web site, but I can't seem to pry Night Trauma off the worktable. Everytime I try, Malone pops his head up and mutters, "You're not done yet, twit, what about that problem with my line on page 7?" And so I crawl over it again and fine-tune. Would help
if Malone would stabilize, but he keeps wanting more dialogue. And Erin's no help, she plays straight woman and keeps contributing responsive one-liners like "If you call me Scully, I am out
I keep thinking about the problem novels I must tackle this year, like SD6, or Sean's book, or telling Blade 2 from Danea's POV. Like stories, novels either feel right whent they're done, or they don't. There's not a lot of logic to it. I wrote Dream Mountain in six weeks and barely retouched a word. I rewrote Iceman six times, twice abandoning the entire cast and once dumping the entire manuscript (this in constant effort to make it marketable. Iceman in its original form was far too radical for Onyx.) Raven's book promises to be another straight-through-no-rewrites. It's not because I know the story better in the ones that go faster. I think there are just some characters and storylines that practically write themselves, and others that get belligerent. Certainly Jory in Blade has been the toughest protagonist to nail down; I thought I'd never get that damn book finished. At least half the novels I have planned for '02 are going to be trouble. What fun.
A whole week disappeared from the archive. Let's see if this puts it back.
Quote for the Day:
"--then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone, and think till love and fame to nothingness do sink." John Keats, 1795-1821, last lines from "When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be"
No better way to start off the New Year than with my old pal John. And because I'm a little tired of daily gloating, here's a new feature, the
Medical Fact for the Day:
Adults have about 6 liters of blood in their bodies, which equals 7% -- 8% of their total body weight. 45% of their blood is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The remaining 55% is the fluid portion, AKA plasma. 90% of plasma is water, 10% is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, hormones, enzymes, lipids, and salts.
Interesting to think I'm lugging around nine pounds of blood inside me.
Last weblog entry for 2001:
The temptation to say "Thank God it's over"
is pretty strong. But one final thought before the year ends, and we take on 2002:
Evil's out there.
Good people die.
Here and now is your one shot at life.
Don't waste it.
Final Famous Quote for the Day, 2001:
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." -- Walter Bagehot, 1826-1877
That's . . . the story of my life.
Final Gloat for the Day, 2001:
"You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you!" -- Isadora Duncan, 1878-1927
No more cages for me.
New Year's Eve Resolutions
I usually don't make resolutions, unless they're radical, like "stop watching television" (eleven years and still going strong) or "quit eating red meat" (with a few falls off the wagon, we're red-meat-free here for three years.) Since 2001 I've been pretty happy with my life, too. Thus for 2002, I'd like to set the bar at a more reasonable level, be a bit more selfish here and there, and enhance my life rather than change it.
1. Find a natural treatment for my insomnia.
I've been through the gamut of herbs, but there have to be alternatives. Also, find some way to convince my brain that Sleep Is Our Friend.
At least once a month, anything in watercolor. Maybe I'll graduate from terrible to tolerable.
3. Go away with the kids.
To the West Coast, where we can collect seashells and deceased starfish and listen to the bay at night through open windows.
4. Write something risky.
Like I don't already, huh? But something other than genre fiction. Maybe the first draft of the writing book.
5. Bake more bread.
Once a week -- for fun, for the nutritional benefits, and because I like the way the house smells when it's baking.
6. Clean out the cabinets and closets.
I hate surrendering my stashes but it's time, and no one needs this much fabric and Tupperware.
7. Practice Zen Revenge.
Do something nice for someone I like and for someone I don't like at the same time. Once a month because it really does work.
8. Trim the lotus.
AKA meditate more, worry less.
9. Forgive instead of forget or ignore.
Another problem area, not too optimistic about this one, but I will try.
10. Laugh out loud.
Once a day. And mean it.
For all you scientists who scoff at the number of intelligent non-human species in my SF books (that goes for you, too, Eric) here is the Drake equation, which Frank Drake thought up as an estimator of how many extra terrestrials there are out there:
N = N* X fp X ne X f1 X fI X fc X L
equals the number of civilizations in our galaxy who have the brains and tools to communicate with us. N
equals the number of stars in our galaxy, between 100 and 200 billion. N*
= the neighborhood
stars with planets. We know fp
= about one percent, or about one billion solar systems.
equals the fp
that are "Earth-like" planets (like "M Class" on Star Trek.) ne
= the viable galactic subdivision
equals life on the ne
= the natives.
equals the intelligent portion of f1
= the uppity natives.
equals the fI
who will develop technology. fc
= the loud, uppity natives.
And finally, L
equals the lifetime of the fc
before they obliterate themselves.
And for the showcase and a chance to go on to the bonus round, the answer is . . . . Well, Drake and Sagan figured the answer to the equation was about one million.
That's one million
worlds with one million
different kinds of ETs out there, right in our own galactic backyard. And I've created about fifty different species for StarDoc. Given the hard science, one could say I am being -- at the very least -- extremely restrained, folks.
Bonus round question: What short story did I write with a protagonist based on our own galactic bean counter, Frank Drake? Answer: Dark Side. Before he went on his steller census taking, Drake was a SETI engineer and listened to the stars.
So, Eric? Bite me.
The kids are happily attacking a new puzzle and want Mom to leave them alone, so I'm back bouncing around the internet. I don't know what I'm looking for -- I skim through the weblogs of people I don't know; I check out desperate author promo sites and wince; I write polite no-thanks e-mails to demanding interviewers and reviewers. It's exactly like when the house is too quiet and I have to check every room to make sure there are no sparking electrical cords, cats caught in closets or spreading pools of water from nowhere. My last chance to play before I plunge into the New Year production schedule, I suppose. I just described myself as a militant optimist to a complete stranger who has no idea who he's talking to. Felt pretty good, actually.
The Mayfly Project 2001
The author of the Mayfly Project 2001 writes: "There's nothing like summing up the last year of your life to make you re-examine your priorities. Where would you begin? I'm into brevity." and has 533 entries from around the globe. The catch is, you have to do it in twenty words or less. Here's mine:
Cared for two kids and three cats; wrote seven books; taught fifteen classes; found countless friends; laughed, cried, stayed sane.
You can sum up your year at: http://www.notsosoft.com/mayfly/index.php
Happy Birthday Katherine Rose!
My daughter is seven years old today. Whoopee!