The Pleasures and Beauties of Madness:
I'm working on a short story told from the POV of an autistic adult, a bit of a change from my latest work. I wrote a novel featuring a mentally ill heroine back in the eighties, after I spent six months working on a fairly sizeable hospital psych ward. The job was strictly meds and beds, but I was able to observe the frustration of practitioners vested in the school of return-to-normalacy rehabilitation. With respect to wonder guys like John Nash, mental disorders like autism and schizophrenia are generally not
curable, and once a patient's illness is full-blown, they're usually lost to us forever. But why? We can crash billion dollar probes on Mars, why can't we reach these patients?
Lawrence Sanders explored some unrelated issues with the mind of a female serial killer in "The Third Deadly Sin" and tossed out this idea (paraphrased here) "People who are insane are frequently aware that they are ill, but they enjoy the pleasures and beauties of madness too much to give them up." After I read Sanders's book (which was gruesome but excellent, btw), I finally understood something that had never made sense before. There were patients on that psych ward that we could have reached -- should have reached -- with meds and therapy, and didn't. Perhaps it wasn't the failure of medicine, but the willful decision of the patient, to remain disconnected from the norm. They simply reject us and our world.
On the flip side, early intervention did a great deal for my autistic nephew, who reconnected with the norm, and is now just like any other kid his age. I've always thought of him as one of the lucky ones -- but maybe luck had nothing to do with it.
Perchance to Sleep:
Taking the night off meant getting some sleep, but I haven't bagged the Sandman yet. The gears are still whirling madly. Daylight Savings Time only adds to the problem. So I have cleaned, baked, swept, played with the kittens until they were sick of me, finished sewing the dragon robe, hemmed my overalls and did a little embroidery work on the latest crazy quilt. Got any socks you want darned?
Bye, bye Russ:
Galleys from Hell are done and off to NYC. Never so happy to see a pile of paper exit the premises before. And now I am really
taking the rest of the night off (well, okay, I'm going to moderate the Think Tank over at Holly's but that's fun, not work.) I'm tired, but it's a good-tired. My galleys will make their deadline (Monday), Blade revisions weren't due until next month so I'm thirty days earlier on them (on purpose), and all I have now is a synopsis due to Onyx in two weeks (piece of cake) and the finished manuscript for said synopsis due in six weeks (more fun with Meko and Sean.) And the left field proposal, and the second mystery novel, and the new fantasy, and the Baen revisions . . . feeling my second wind coming on now . . .
I never really think about the work I have to do. I organize it, I schedule it, and then I work off the calendar and concentrate on that day's quota, or that week's deadline. I've written three books since January first, and revised two others (not counting editor revisions), so keeping a tight focus on the work at hand really helps me produce. There's no room for doubt, though. I read about how some writers become utterly paralyzed by blocks and the prospect of that ever happening to me makes for much nausea. I couldn't do this job if I doubted myself, not at this speed.
And yet sometimes this field seems deliberately set up to instill doubt in the most important player of the whole publishing game -- the writer -- by bombarding us with reviews and negotiations and power plays and the rest of the nonsense that has absolutely nothing
to do with the actual production of books. Worse, the end result breaks people's hearts and makes them into cynics. A writer who tries to find self-esteem in this job is just setting his/herself up for a long, hard fall.
Now I'm off to see what my daughter is doing with a 6' X 4' piece of foam board in her room. Hopefully she's not skiing the cats down it.
My personal representative is now ready to take the galleys back to my publisher.
Quote for the Day:
"If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you." -- Henry Rollins
That's what it is, to be a writer, Every moment of every hour of every day.
Medical Fact for the Day: Pneumonic tularemia
is caused by direct inhalation of F tularensis organisms or secondary transmission via hematogenous spread. Onset symptoms usually begin abruptly, with fever, chills, myalgias, and dry cough. Chest X-ray findings may include miliary or localized infiltrates, hilar adenopathy, pleural effusions, and cavitary lesions (although the latter are relatively uncommon). The patient's condition may progress rapidly to severe bronchopneumonia with respiratory failure. Aggressive antibiotic treatment should begin immediately and identification of the source of infection made, as tularemia is one of the diseases that has been deliberately spread around a civilian population by terrorists.
So much for my night off. I did go to a great class on writer scams at Holly's, given by our Publicity goddess, Anne, and relaxed enough to dive back in and wrestle with the galleys for another three hours afterward. I'm totally disgusted now, and giving up -- I have Friday snack to take in for Kathy's class tomorrow, and a copy of Blade to run off for my agent in the morning, but I'll just take the galleys with me. There is something pounding on the inside of my left temple and it wants out. Ibuprofen, an ice pack, then bed.
Besides being that place where Cuba Gooding Jr. gets stuck in every war movie, or the place the Romans stuck you if you really ticked off the emperor, galleys
are a term applied to proofs of a manuscript that an author receives from a publisher. They look just like the book will, except you get two pages on one 8-1/2" by 11" page. The galleys are the last chance an author has to fix problems, so it's important to crawl through them at a snail's pace. The galleys are also the last place the publisher's employees have a chance to totally screw up your novel. Sometimes I get great galleys that only need five to ten pages corrected. Sometimes the production crew has a bad day and I get galleys that have mistakes on 50% of the pages, all of which are not mine.
Then there are the galleys from Hell.
I don't know who works on these, but English is apparently their second language. Or third. And the mistakes they make are not so many as they are laughable -- or horrifying. Take Shockball, for example. My StarDoc, Cherijo, has more adventures with her on-again off-again husband, Duncan Reever. The production person who generated the Shockball galleys suddenly decided on page 63 to misspell Reever's name. Every single time I used it, for the rest of the book. And guess how he/she misspelled it? "Reefer" So for the next 350 pages, I had to correct every single mention of Reever's name. I haven't seen that much Reefer since the last time I went to a concert in California.
Today I tried to finish the galleys for Eternity Row, and gave up at three pm after slamming into the other galley-from-hell mistakes -- repeated or displaced phrases, and bizarre spelling and punctuation errors. These suckers are hard to find -- like it's not enough to mess up my book, they've got to be tricky
about it. Example: I use the term "cortgear" once in a sentence -- they put it in twice (it's easy to skip a double word error, especially when they put the word in opposite ends of the sentence.) I use the word "imaging", they put it in as "imagining." I use an apostrophe, they use a left quotation mark. I use a capital letter, they use a small case. And these are sprinkled throughout the prose, so editing is like crawling through a minefield and testing the ground with a toothpick.
Now I'm taking the night off to sulk. Or I say I am. I'll probably drag the galleys back out as soon as the kids are asleep. Somebody want to bang a drum and whip my back?
Blade Dancer Revisions are Outta Here!
Oh Bloody Hell II
Someone sent me a snail mail fan letter that I opened without checking (as in shaking, holding up to the light, running through the x-ray machine, etc.) and millions of tiny bits of foil confetti spilled out onto the livingroom rug. Very cute, yes, thank you, you got me. Problem: my cats love sparkly things, and will eat this stuff if I let it sit, and that will kill them. Also, my vaccuum cleaner's rolly carpet beating thingie is broken and I really don't want to suck all this stuff up into the hose, seeing as it will cling and otherwise gum up the mechanism. So I get to spend thirty minutes on my hands and knees picking up little confetti hearts and flowers and (?) dogs out of the carpet.
I love my readers, I love getting your mail. But please. No more confetti.
You know you're a writer when . . .
you have pictures like this in your wallet, next to the ones of your kids.
Having stopped to get a pass from the office, here's the Quote for the Day:
Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just leave me the hell alone. -- Anonymous
I wonder how many times a day God hears this one now.
Semi-Medical Fact for the Day:
If two cranky children under the age of ten are arguing over possession of a jar of peanut butter, an open package of Ritz crackers, and two glasses of tropical punch Kool-Aid, it's best to take cover immediately.
Almost Done List
Blade Dancer revisions
Eternity Row galleys
Proposal for Left Field Offer
Story for website in May
Purple Dragon Silk Robe
Barbie's Mother's Day outfit
V-Stitch Crochet Throw
Terrible Watercolor #8
In Lieu of Clever Posts -- Another Restoration, post WWII, 100% silk
Wouldn't you know it, while I'm waiting for word to come in on the new proposal, another bit of info on an offer comes in from out of left field and totally rattles me. I'm drinking coffee, that's how rattled. It's not at the let's-talk-contract stage yet, but is inching past my agent calls it a "serious flirtation." Completely unexpected, totally cool, and that's all I'm going to say so I don't jinx it. Don't know what I'd say anyway, considering all the oxygen has vacated my lungs since I heard about it.
And the timing is just perfect.
Quote for the Day:
"Here, Mom. Have a french fry." -- Michael Viehl, in the car after a near-miss with yet another
idiot on a cell phone
Mike's simple offer reminded me of some universally acknowledged facts, specifically that 1) french fries taste better in the car, 2) fast food restaurants use way too much salt, and 3) my top secret clearance is inactive and no longer entitles me to utilize heavy ordinance in the presence of or on the civilian population, no matter how richly they deserve a sidewinder up the tailpipe.
Semi-Medical Fact for the Day:
You cannot sustain a homicidal mood and eat french fries with a happy, well-adjusted nine year old at the same time.
To be serious about e-mail, as I see it piling up, I'd better let you guys know -- until I get these revisions and galleys done, I'm going to put e-mail on the back burner. I need to get this stuff out by Wednesday at the latest, and that means sixteen-eighteen hour days until it goes. Sorry, love to correspond, but work comes first.
I Made Writing:
Finished the new proposals and just sent them off to the agent for her look-see before I forward them on to my editor. Four books, new series but each works as a standalone. Had a lot of fun playing with the universe and characters, there's plenty to keep me busy. Now I'm going to go soak my head and contemplate my toenails for an hour, then finish Blade revisions. Any tall buildings you want jumped, e-mail me tomorrow. :)
Addendum to the Addendum:
A request, for my friends: If I mention I might write a memoir, talk me out of it. Or if I announce I'm releasing a book with one of these subtitles: "A Writer's Journey" "My Struggle" or "The Path Not Taken" -- please, someone, slap the hell out of me a few times.
Addendum to the Just In Case...Post:
I should have tacked on this: And don't send me e-mail offering to teach me how to write SF properly. Let me muddle through on my own, it's the only way I'll ever learn, right?
Just In Case . . .
You're a Caucausian American male born between 1945 and 1955, who has been reading SF since you discovered it kept you from thinking about girls, stealing the National Geographics from the dentist's office, and what God struck down Onan for, and as you cruised through the sixties and seventies you somehow dodged Vietnam, voted for Johnson and
Nixon, thought Agnew got a "raw deal", graduated from a Midwestern state university, and you decided a woman could do no better than to devote her life to emulating Donna Reed (or you married the only girl you ever had sex with), and you took disco and Anne McCaffrey as personal affronts, and you began going to SF conventions for the same reasons you wanted those National Geographics, and you have framed, personal autographs from guys like Aldiss, Spinrad, and Gunn in your office, and you have thirty notebooks filled with your longhand fanfic based on stuff like "Starship Troopers" or "Lord of the Rings" which no one has ever seen, and you are on ulcer medication, and you're at least thirty pounds overweight, and you have now decided you're ready to join the ranks of SF writers because no one, and I mean no one, is as devoted a fan as you are (or has as many copies of F&SF stacked on the basement shelves), let me give you some advice: stop living in the past, learn to laugh, and write spy thrillers -- you'll be much happier.
Quote for the Day:
"The quarterback's spending so much time behind the center that he may jeopardize his right to lead a Boy Scout troop." -- Dennis Miller, from his stint doing Monday Night Football
I love Dennis; I can't stand football; and it's all on a Monday. Uh-huh.
Medical Fact for the Day: Scarlet Fever,
is a disease caused by infection with group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal bacteria that occurs in patients with strep throat. Scarlet fever typically begins with a fever and sore throat, and may be accompanied by chills, vomiting, abdominal pain and malaise. Other patients will have a swollen, red tongue (strawberry tongue) and Pastia’s lines (bright red color in the creases of the underarm and groin.) The streptococcal bacteria produces a toxin that causes a rash that appears within one to two days after the onset of illness. Patients should be given a throat culture via rapid antigen detection (throat swab), and once it shows positive for for group A strep, antibiotics to kill the infection. Remaining symptoms can be treated with analgesics, rest, and plenty of fluids.
Something is bugging me. Dvorak's last spout of vehemence included one instruction that just didn't sit right with me: "Women bloggers should use the word sister a lot."
Now remember, I'm old, but I generally don't call other women "sister." Girlfriend, girl, lady, yeah, but not sister. Limping back to the seventies -- when how cool I sounded actually mattered to me -- "sister" was what an African American (usually female) called another African American female they admired or otherwise connected with, i.e. "That sister has it together." It was sort of a precursor to "girlfriend" but white girls never used it. Not because we didn't like it, it was just their word, not ours (we were really, really
respectful of that kind of thing, because the African Americans would have interpreted our use of their slang as us making fun of them.) And waaaay before that, guys in 40's films used it to refer to any woman they didn't know personally -- as in, "Hey, nice hat, sister!"
I know how dated I am -- I still actively use "cool" "neat" and "wow" in my vocabulary -- but I still remember those lines of respect, and it's hard to cross them. If you weren't a child in public school during the mass desegregation in America, it won't make sense, but back then we had to establish boundaries in order to co-exist. These boundaries weren't the ones the government and the teachers kept throwing at us, but stuff we worked out ourselves. Any forty-something African American can tell you, it was a terrifying time for all of us, mainly because grownups on both sides were going berserk and we kids were caught in the middle. Example: our teachers would not let any of us girls -- black or white -- go to the bathroom alone, because they were afraid we'd get beaten, knifed, and/or gang raped by boys of the opposite race. They did that for two years.
That kind of berserk. Can you blame us for tip-toeing around each other?
So John, much as I appreciate the advice, I think I'll pass on the sister bit. Out of respect for the past you're probably too damn young to know anything about.
The once-more-tardy Quote for the Day:
"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." -- Harry James
Where were guys like Harry when I was twenty and stupid?
Medical Fact for the Day: Melatonin
is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland. As melatonin production rises (usually at sunset in humans), body temperature starts to fall, alertness falters, and sleep seems more inviting. Melatonin levels drop quickly after dawn, and are often so low during the day that scientists have difficulty detecting them. Synthetic or animal melatonin is sold in healthfood stores, but is one of only two hormones not regulated by the FDA and sold over-the-counter without a prescription. (DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is the other.) Warning: before taking any
hormonal supplement or sleep-aid, regulated or not, check with your doctor to make sure it will not interfere with any other medications you may be taking, or physical conditions you may have.
Daylight Savings Time:
It's here, go turn the clocks an hour ahead, I'll wait. Did you remember the stove clock and the VCR? How about the wristwatches? I have a watch . . . somewhere around here . . .
I hate clocks and utterly loathe watches. I've successfully broken four watches, two rather expensive ones, and have lost at least a dozen more. I have one cheapie Timex I wear when I'm playing author that I keep locked up or I'd smash that one, too. I know it's completely at odds with my otherwise ruthlessly organized psyche, but being reminded of the time for an insomniac is like being slapped or sneered at. Last night, around 4 am, I was writing an e-mail, and realized with DST it was actually 5 am. That's past the point of trying to sleep at all. I'm telling you, if it wasn't for the kids being in school, I'd take a sledgehammer to all the clocks.
I tell time the way drivers go somewhere using landmarks instead of directions. I can guess what time it is just by looking at the slant of the daylight coming through the window, by how severe my hunger pangs are, and by what the cats are doing. Occasionally by how swollen my hands are from typing (after four hours on the keyboard, they start ballooning at the joints.) The cats are the best natural clocks in the world. Like me, they're insomniacs, and sleep from 6 am to 2 pm. They get cranky around 4 pm, just like the kids, and are most active around midnight. There are other indicators, too. The UPS guy always shows up at 10am and 3pm, the postman from noon to 2pm (later if there's a sub.) The water pipes in the wall between me and my neighbor always rattle around 7pm, when his wife does the dishes. If I haven't slept in 24 hours, my eyes start to burn at 3am
Now I have to figure out how to change the clock in the truck. I hate that most of all -- I can never remember what buttons to push.