Crystal Ball: Eternity Row
is already up for pre-order over at B&N.com -- not that I'm hinting, mind you -- it was just a nice surprise to see it pop up so early. I haven't read it in a couple of months, and last night I had to check a detail that's related to the next Mercy & Cat story. (Mild spoiler ahead) On the very last page of the novel, Cherijo says, "I'd really like that vacation now, please." which was simply a lead-in for book six, but now seems very prophetic. As does the cover blurb someone at Roc picked out -- "Nothing is forever."
I'm hoping that the series hiatus will work in my favor, and I think the BioRescue books will do as well if not better. The first four StarDocs are all still bringing in good numbers, according to my publisher, and no one has said "We're killing the series." "Warrior Bond" was such a huge success on the web site that I have three more StarDoc novellas planned, to tide the fans over. And, although I don't have a contract for them, I'm going to write book seven this fall, and book eight next year. It's not wishful thinking. If my publisher decides to kill the series or I can't sell them, I'll publish them myself. I'll never be done with StarDoc, so in a way, it is forever.
Writer Trick #6: James
and I discussed a common problem for all writers, namely how to move a character through a descriptive passage without it sounding like a travelogue -- another variation of what I call "weather report" writing. Here's an example of what bedevils us all:
It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. After winding along it for more than a mile, they reached their own house. A small green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket gate admitted them into it. As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles.
Recognize the passage? Jane Austen could get away with this back in the eighteenth century because it was basically how everyone wrote. And it is beautifully written, don't get me wrong -- I love Sense and Sensibility almost as much as Pride and Prejudice. But if this were my scene to write, I'd handle it a lot different, i.e.
"It looks pleasant enough," Eleanor said as she peered through the small carriage window. "The countryside is well wooded, and rich in pasture."
Marianne raised a brow. "A delight indeed, if we were woodcutters, or dairy maids. Mama, how much further can it be?"
"Another mile, dearest." Mrs. Dashwood pressed a small square of linen to her red-rimmed eyes.
As their mother predicted, after another mile the carriage stopped before a small green court. A neat wicket gate led up to a compact, tile-roofed house. "Barton Cottage, mum," Thomas called down from the driver's seat.
"Oh, it is so little!" Margaret pushed open the carriage door and jumped down before Mrs. Dashwood or her sisters could stop her. "But, Mama! The window shutters are not painted green, and the walls are not covered with honeysuckles." She stamped her small foot. "Eleanor promised they would be!"
One warning flag is to count the number of times you use the word "was". In Jane's version, there are six, plus two "were"s. In mine, there's not a single "was" and only one "were" -- in dialogue.
The trick is to let your characters react to their surroundings, rather than do a walk-through. The reactions don't have to be of the "Indiana Jones runs through and shoots up Cairo market" variety. It can be simple dialogue exchange -- but have something happen, or have the scene directly affect your characters. This way, you don't tell your readers about your world, your characters show it them.
I go downstairs to meet the UPS guy (who now calls me on his cell phone when a big box is incoming.) It's a beautiful, bright sunny day so I won't slip and fall, right? No rain puddles, no mud tracked on the stairs. I'm safe, I don't even have to put on shoes. I don't notice that someone has again
smashed the glass covering of the fire extinguisher box on the second floor landing. Despite the fact that the beautiful bright sun is glittering on all the sharp little shards. No, I'm busy fleshing out Chapter Seven's plot twist in my head, and combined with my residual nerve damage, I could basically step on a family of porcupines and not feel it.
The UPS guy does not faint at the sight of blood, but he does alert me to the fact that I am leaving a trail of it. Rats. I sit down on the sidewalk and examine both feet. The good one is covered with bits of glass but is not cut at all. The bad one has five decent-sized shards embedded in all the non-calloused areas and is bleeding freely. So now I get to pick the glass off the good foot, leaving UPS guy to carry up my package while I hop up three flights of stairs and avoid the glass which I now see is everywhere,
and get to my case in the bathroom without bleeding on the beige carpet. I can hear the UPS guy at the bar tonight with his buddies: Man, you're not going to believe what Ms. V did to herself today . . .
Covered in Glory:
We had school awards last night, and the clan cleaned up -- Mike won the Honor roll, Math award and Friendship award (a character award, as he's very good to his friends), while Kathy took the Creative Writing and Most Adventurous Explorer (aka Fears Nothing) awards. Mike beat out some very tough competition for math honors, and his teacher told the assembly that my son will definitely be an engineer someday. Long as he doesn't work for some chump outfit like NASA, fine with me. I think Katherine's teacher was simply relieved to send her on to second grade. The second grade teacher, who is a wonderful person and did great things for Mike, is already bracing herself.
After the ceremony we went for ice cream and discussed plans for the summer. They both want to learn to ice skate, and yes, we have an ice skating rink down here, God Help Me. Then while they smeared themselves with hot fudge and sprinkles, I just sat and admired my handiwork. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of their achievements, but awards don't matter. It's the people they are -- and will be -- who awe me. Michael is such a beautiful soul, incredibly sensitive and yet has this rock-steady sense and balance that makes him everyone's anchor, not just mine. And while everyone thinks she's following in my footsteps, Katherine won't become Sheila Version 2.0. She'll go places I never went.
Can We Put This Man in Charge of the Internet?
And after being hit three times last week by various and sundry viruses myself, I can certainly appreciate how he feels.
Zen Revenge Squared:
I did good today. I helped two friends, paid back the infantile dweeb with kindness, was nice to my ex under duress, and even got to fight AIDs, sort of. Work-wise, I wrote 24K of new material, and edited seventy-three pages between two other books. Now all I want to do is collapse and enjoy my enlightened state by sliding into a coma. Since I didn't sleep last night and my hands are so numb I can't feel the keyboard as I'm typing this, that shouldn't be a problem. And this turning of the other cheek plain wears me out. Good night, all.
Tea and Cake Break:
No evil brew tonight, I'm running on orange peel and rose hips and nibbling on some cinnamon cake. Nuked veggies and rice earlier. I know you find my diet absolutely riverting, hence the report. I'm also wearing a black silk dragon kimono because I haven't done laundry in three days and I can't find any clean tshirts (fallout from downsizing my wardrobe to basically nothing.) We get very elegant around here when we don't do our chores, and since about 50% of my wardrobe is Asian, it's this or a qipao with pretty flying cranes all over it.
I wonder what the UPS guy will think when I answer the door tomorrow looking like Erma Bombeck meets Jackie Chan. Wait, I have to take the kids to school in the morning, and I don't think the Baptists are prepared to see me in Dragon Lady mode. Maybe I'll throw some clothes in the washer while I back up the day's files . . .
Oh, dear, StarDoc has gone and incurred the Wrath of the Kansas City Sci-Fi Hall of Fame Purists again. (yawn) I wish I could publish this e-mail, but I doubt the dweeb reviewer involved would appreciate everyone knowing the diminutive size of his brain. Or his Johnson. Thanks, Lily, I needed a good laugh.
Yeah, I'm actually ingesting the evil brew. Herbal is so much better but it's not going to keep my sorry self propped up and working for the duration. And while caffeine is cryptonite for all insomniacs, I can flirt for brief periods without inviting the three-pot-a-day monkey to climb on my back again. With age comes wisdom, and esophagial damage from acid reflux.
I'm definitely earning my paycheck this week, eighteen hours most days on the keyboard, plowing through a thousand pages, juggling and revising three manuscripts simultaneously and finishing the work on the third. Just before this I made the not-so-bright-in-retrospect decision to gut the center of book three and go for a lighter touch (pre-empting my editor's request to do the same via revisions, or at least the internal crystal ball said so.)
The third book has been the most work. Sean and Meko aren't pushovers, naturally. Kinsella, as do most of my secondary male characters, got out of control, so I have to keep tailoring him back. Conor Perry is just as much trouble as he was in book two, but a 16 year old future heroine of another book is responsible for an equal amount of hair pulled out of my scalp. All of this, and knowing these books have to be my best because this is my shot, and I'll only get one. If the writing isn't above and beyond I might as well pack it up; I'm certainly not going to write flingers for Leisure or Kensington. Then I'll be the only romance author in history to bomb in her own genre while breaking out with hardcover SF. That sounds like the Almighty's idea of a joke, doesn't it?
Win Some Free Books:
A bunch of authors (including yours truly) have contests over at The Signet Ring
this month. To enter to win a free copy of Sun Valley and other new releases, click on contests and follow the instructions. You have to answer a simple question (all the answers can be found at our individual web sites) but mine is a no-brainer.
I've gotten a lot of e-mail from readers regarding the StarDoc series hiatus and the new publishing schedule for my SF books, all asking about how to contact my publisher. The Roc newsletter at the Penguin Putnam website
is now accepting reader comments and questions, and I quote from this month's edition:
Got a question or comment you'd like to see appear here? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Much career/family ado at Casa Viehl this week, so I'll be taking a break from the regularly scheduled weblog stuff to concentrate on being author/mom. Will stop by to whine and complain when I can.
I went to Borders tonight to see my new book officially hit the shelves -- always a thrill -- and check on Evanovich's #8, which will be out in about two weeks (sometimes it comes in early, and I can wheedle it out of a clerk. No luck tonight.) I browsed the latest releases but saw nothing that grabbed my attention. Then a waft of expensive cologne enveloped me from behind and this very tall man in a beautiful white dress shirt and slacks loomed over me. As yours truly was not so well dressed, nor so ardently perfumed -- and my eyes were starting to swell shut from the fumes -- I skittered to one side.
"Anything good?" the man asked me in a huge, booming New York-flavored voice. Think Ethel Merman with an injection of testosterone, that's the decibel level. And why do well-paid male executives from New York insist on dousing themselves with a quart of Lagerfeld before they leave the house? Isn't this harming the ozone layer or something?
Anyway. I blanked. Maybe it was temporary brain damage from the cologne, I don't know. He gestured toward the table of paperbacks and repeated his question, even louder. People started to turn to see what was going on. I started to say the latest Sue Grafton, but a gremlin got hold of me and I picked up a copy of my book. "This one's supposed to be pretty good," I told him, handing it over. Snickering inside because most men don't read romance.
"Oh yeah?" He examined the cover, which is still too damn yellow for my liking but at least they got rid of that icky orange lettering. "Gena Hale. Never heard of her." He started to read the back cover copy. I was tempted to sneak away before I started giggling, but I pretended to browse and waited for him to mutter something nasty about romance and toss it down. Finally I couldn't stand it and leaned over to add, "That's a romance novel, by the way."
He looked at me again, nodded and tucked the book under his arm, and said "Thanks." And moved along to the other side of the table.
I told myself he was just being nice or polite, and wandered on myself. I found a new book of herb lore to add to the medical collection, and a DBZ magazine Mike has been drooling over, then I went to the checkout. Mr. Cologne was right in front of me, with an armful of books. And yes, I checked while he was being rung up one register down from me , and my book was still in there with the rest of his. Teach me to stereotype male readers. I only wish I could be a fly on the wall when he hits the bio photo of me in the back.
Do you want to be a star?
The perenially perky Sarah Hatter
is holding a design open call for her weblog bio page, with a prize in the form of purchases from the winner's wishlist at Amazingmorons.com, I mean, Amazon.com (nothing personal Sarah.) Wish I'd thought of this idea before Steven
got me into figuring out my own template HTML and stuff. Anyway, if you have some talent in web design and concept, and would like to give it a shot, stop by Sarah's and check out the rules. Looks like you've got about a week before she picks a winner.
Monday again. And we just had one last week. Can't someone rename the day for what it is? Oh, can't use that kind of language around the children, right.
Quote for the Day:
"A writer should have another lifetime to see if he's appreciated." -- Jorge Luis Borges
What, we're not egotistical enough as it is?
Medical Site for the Day: N-Courage
-- The home page reads: "A Narcissism Resource and Information Site" and that's exactly what it is. If you're interested in learning more about narcissism and its effects upon those who have been abused and/or damaged by people with related personality disorders, this is the place to go.
Blog for the Day: Go to Your Room
(R for language) -- I'm sorry, I'm a mother, I've been pregnant with a toddler in the house so it is inevitable that I would find a lot in common with this proud but practical mother. Presently Mom's in her 25th week, Gabe's just gotten through a growth spurt, and you would not believe the gorgeous house porn she posts (no, I'm not going to explain it, go look.)
How to Kill a Novella:
I finished the week out trying to wrap up "Skin Deep," the first part of which I posted on my web site in May, and I couldn't do it. So I did a wordcount. Somehow I went straight past the 25K mark and I still had another 20K easy I could write. Wanted
to write. Which means the damn thing slipped under my outline, crept out behind my back and turned into a runaway novel on me. This happens more often than you think -- someday I'll post the original draft for Mercy and Cat's first story, which remains unfinished to date because it ran away from me, too, and you can see what a mess that turned into. Oy.
This doesn't happen very often to me, because I usually plan better. But Skin Deep was for fun, and I really didn't put together a solid outline, and see what happened? This is why I harp organization -- it saves you all kinds of grief -- and I need to practice what I preach with everything I write, not just the for-pay stuff. Sheila, you bad girl.
Now, you've got three choices when a runaway story hits you: 1) you can go with it (aka the wild ride) or 2) you can file it and hope it stops bugging you (yeah, good luck) or 3) you can gut it (nurse, scalpel.) I don't recommend you do #3, it's pretty bad. Think root canal minus the novacaine and the happy gas. Alas, as I painted myself into a corner with Skin Deep by posting the first 5K of the story on the web site and promising everyone the rest (stupid me) I got out my rusty plot knife and did the dirty work. Willa (bless my long-suffering web designer's soul) should post the results within the next few days.
I do know why this one ran away with me -- other than my poor planning. Lucian Kobori, the wretched man, would not leave me alone. He popped up with this line 'Blood only wakens to blood" and I went bonkers with it. Then he started developing all the wrong kind of depth for a short story. Plus Nancy wanted to shine, she's a terrific character and deserved more space too. And the hypertrichosis angle was just too much fun. But it was definitely 95% Kobori's fault. I had to grind teeth to hack their story enough to bring it down to 10K (well, a bit over, but don't do a wordcount, okay?) and afterwards I made a mental promise to come back and do it right someday. I'd better live long or I'm going to burn in hell for all these promises I've made.
Hope for AIDS patients:
Swedish pharmaceutical company Medivir reports
promising early test results for a new HIV drug under development for patients who have developed resistance to other types of HIV drug treatments.
From the article: "Medivir said the viral levels dropped between 92 percent and 99 percent in all 15 patients, who also were taking three to five other HIV drugs with little or no effect."
Detailed results will be presented at international medical conferences in Spain next month, and I hope the early success continues. And can we just give these guys a really big hug?
Quote for the Day:
"He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god." -- Aristotle
But the beast needs victims, and the god needs worshippers. So maybe the whole isolation thing is staged.
Medical Fact for the Day: Vitamin K deficiency
in humans decreases the body's ability to form blood clots and stop bleeding. Severe deficiencies can result in unchecked bleeding, much like hemophilia. Since vitamin K is primarily found in green leafy vegetables, and is even manufactured by bacteria in the human stomach, this deficiency usually strikes malnourished patients or people experimenting with radical diets. Some antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and blood thinners can induce vitamin K deficiency as well.
Symptoms are almost always easy or prolonged bleeding, and this condition is diagnosed by blood tests. The deficiency can be treated immediately by vitamin supplement injection, and introducing green leafy vegetables into the patient's diet. Foods rich in vitamin K include spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, cheddar cheese, and soybeans. Patients suffering the condition as a result of medication should be put on supplements for the duration of the drug treatment.
Blog for the Day: Half Mad Spinster
(R for language) -- Someone sent me to read The Spinster Manifesto
which lead me to the author's weblog and a trip down a rather painful memory lane of my own (I spent ten years as a single adult/parent). Now that I'm on my own again for the second time in my life, I find myself dropping by to see how HMS is handling things -- great writer, but grab the Kleenex, she goes right for the heart.