Kathy and I built a model truck this morning and painted it, then we dabbled in watercolors before hauling her brother off to a model car show. We also checked out some different clay mediums at the craft shop before deciding we need to make an expedition to Pearl's next week. I am very tempted to get a potter's wheel (I have to go use a friend's at present) but where would I put it? In the bathroom? And I know if I get a wheel, I'll end up getting a kiln and in six months be up to my eyebrows in colorfully glazed, slightly lopsided pottery. Well, I could wrap them with all the quilts....
P.S. on the Rocks: Holly
gave me a great idea, and priorities are shifting again. A lot rides on what happens in the next two weeks, career-wise, and a chat with my accountant on Monday. And I don't give up without a fight, especially when I get handed more ammunition. :)
Watch for Falling Rocks:
The kids are home with me now; both are tired and vacationed-out but seem to have had a great time. They brought back fifty pounds of river rocks and some elm and maple leaves for me. Mostly interesting hunks of sediment rock but a couple dazzling specimens of mica and quartz. We're pressing the leaves for future school projects. I am fussing over the kids and hugging them every five minutes but hey, I'm entitled.
The rocks, beautiful as they are, remind me of all the bombshells that have dropped on my head this week. First and foremost I am a business woman, and while I would love to -- as James puts it -- swan around with my hand pressed to my head weeping "Woe is me" that won't do a damn thing for my career. Also, I also have very little patience with professional back pedaling and head games. Honesty in business may be a charming, old fashioned concept but it's the only way I operate.
I'm disillusioned (again) but it's a good thing. I know what I have to do now to take charge of the situation and deal with it. I am not giving up on writing as a profession, far from it, but I am going to pursue other opportunities. In the meantime, if and when the publishers decide to stop dancing and get down to business, I'll be happy to accomodate them. On my terms.
My kids get back from Georgia today so I'm outta here. Later!
Since anger is my muse's favorite snack emotion, I started work on the first StarDoc novella tonight. Working title: "Illumination." It will be in part a parallel story to StarDoc book one, in first person, from Reever's POV. I'll also be including some up-til-now unknown details of his pre-Cherijo past. If all goes well, it should be ready to post on the web site in October, and yes, I'm having way too much wicked fun already.
Okay, you owe me twenty bucks.
To Be Dooby Doo:
At some point you have to laugh, and I hit that territory about 3pm today. Asking more questions, I got more answers -- and discovered another snafu. Some release dates were changed six months ago, but because of staff shake ups, no one bothered to tell the author (me.) Thus the new Onyx trilogy will not
be released consecutively one month apart next spring, but instead will be hitting the shelves in February, May, and August of 2003. I'm assured this is the new way of beating the chains ordering to the net. Uh-huh. If I had a waiter handling my novels, right about now I'd be saying, "Check please."
Happily, my new Onyx editor starts next week, the agent is on top of things, and I have a two pound bag of M&Ms. Go on, throw something else at me, I can handle it. :)
To Be or Not To Be Two:
The official word: The StarDoc "series" is over, but StarDoc standalone novels are a future possibility. So the answer is -- no answer.
I apologize to my readers for the mixed signals. I'm as confused as you are, but let's not hide in a dark room and cry about it. I have StarDoc novellas in the works, book six out making the rounds as a serial, and new plans for the future.
Another Proposal Slain:
Finished the third SF proposal which will go off to the agent in the morning. A standalone and a trilogy, which makes something like fifteen books I've put together and outlined in a month. The standalone is the powerhouse, but the trilogy is the potential money maker. How well they go over depends on several peripherals, and the reception on the other end. The powerhouse may fry off the editor's eyebrows, it's pretty extreme for the genre, but no new territory is ever taken without some risk. Plus it's fun to rock the boat and rattle a few cages. I think I've earned a cookie.
To Be or Not To Be:
In direct opposition to what I've been told, Roc is calling Eternity Row the "final" novel in the StarDoc series in their most recent reader newsletter. Um, no, sorry, it's not. ER may be the final StarDoc series novel that Roc
publishes, which I'll confirm through my agent tomorrow, but I have no plans to end the series. Other publishers are already interested and if that doesn't work out, there are other options. I agreed to put the series on hiatus so I could make the move to hardcover standalones. It may be just an error in communications, or it may be that I've been misled. This is where having a good agent comes in handy.
Let's Not Be Literary:
With all due respect to the giants of the genre, female and male, I think that will be the last of the serious SF reading for me for awhile. Writing the parody cleared my head; it's always good to laugh at whatever scares or depresses you. I do want to underline that the writing in this antho was consistently brilliant, it's just the subject matter that made me dash for the ibuprofen. I've been assured by my slightly miffed colleague that I will never be a literary author (huge sigh of relief), so no worries there. Constant exposure to this type of writing would have a serious negative effect on me as a writer anyway, but your mileage may vary.
Despite my lousy attitude, I do have great respect for serious literary writers. They have given us some of the most magnificent books ever written, and have had tremendous influence over today's most respected writers. That's nothing to giggle over. Having said that, I also think that there is more to life than bemoaning it. There's nothing wrong with adventure, or humor, or hope. It may not come with a stamp of critical approval, but it communicates a writer's message just as effectively.
Let's Be Literary!
I'm sorry, I had to deal with this assignment in my own way. What follows is a parody.
The Widow of Earth
By S.L. Viehl
Blue smoke drifted in through the broken window and melded with thinner, whiter smoke from her neglected cigarette. She watched it burn into a curl of undisturbed ash on the edge of the mantle piece, a twin to the one she’d also forgotten to smoke beside it. The envirounit hummed incessantly, a mindless drone that masked the crunching sounds from outside her shelter. She stared at the portrait of the dead man she clutched in her thin, dirty hands.
“You were the twilight of my soul.” She whispered to keep the words from penetrating the battle-scarred walls. “Never again. Never again.”
It must heard her, for despite her care the door to her chamber slid to one side. The thing that had destroyed her world and held her prisoner in the ruins squeezed through the narrow aperture, a garishly-colored spectre of scales and teeth and too-large eyes.
“Still sullen over the death of your mate?” Cha Rlee’s wide lips smacked together and apart as it uttered each word. Mimicking the language of its prey helped it pass the time while it waited for the mother ship to arrive, so it practiced English on her every hour. Also, it liked talking to her. “I told you I would get you another one.” It looked out where its companions were snacking on the last of the bodies. “If there are any left.”
“You don’t understand.” She carefully set down Joshua’s portrait on the remains of the dresser they had once shared. “I don’t want another man. I want my husband.”
The alien rubbed a spiny tentacle around the wide, toothy maw at the center of its jointed abdomen. “I could regurgitate what I haven’t digested, I suppose, but I doubt you’ll want that.”
“No. Joshua is gone forever.”
She was starting to remind Cha Rlee of its mother, the travel agent of all its guilt trips. “In a few hours, anyway.”
“Monster.” She said it without heat, but didn’t know why. To cover her bemusement, she took down the cigarette and drew in the last lungful of smoke before dropping it to the trash-strewn floor and grinding it out with her heel.
“You should quit smoking, you know.” It studied the flattened butt for a moment. “Truly a disgusting habit. You might set the place on fire one day.”
Something large, a building perhaps, collapsed in the distance. It could not equal the sound of her shattered soul.
“I know that I must do many things against my will.” She didn’t feel brave, but she could act it. She let her eyes drift to the cluster of stunted visulets at the base of Cha Rlee’s broadest segment. “When do you plan to devour me? Next week? Next month? Tell me the truth.”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you, did I?” It covered its abdomouth with a feeler and smothered a tiny belch. “I’m keeping you as a pet. I’m going to take you home, put you in a little domicile on my property, and call you Trixie.”
She lifted her chin. “My name is Victoriana Elizabeth Jungorsiak.” She said it proudly, the way she had after she and Joshua had exchanged their vows under the redwoods. It was her name, they would never take it from her. Never. No matter what horror she was subjected to.
“That is precisely why I’m calling you Trixie.” Cha Rlee made its wet way over to her and slid a tentacle around the base of her throat. “Why are you so sad? He died the moment he encountered my digestive juices. It was very quick.” And tasty, but it wouldn’t tell her that. It had some tact.
She drew in a quick breath that rasped against her raw throat. “But not painless.”
“No, but then being eaten rarely is.”
They shared the silence until something else large and made of concrete collapsed, closer this time.
She dared to lift a hand and touched the slimy part of it that held her. “Monster,” she repeated, almost with a queer sort of affection. “We would have given you anything you wished. You and your kind. Anything, anything.”
“Ah, yes, that's true,” Cha Rlee said, and sighed. “Look, Trixie – “
“Victoriana Elizabeth Jungorsiak,” she reminded it.
“Whatever. The reason I and my kind came down to this planet was because your mate signaled us. It’s like your seeing an ad on television for a Big Mac. We simply couldn’t help ourselves. Granted, we should have checked to see if you were intelligent, but we’ve been out on the intergalactic trade routes for months and well, we were really hungry. And yes, I know the invasion was messy, and we did wipe out the native population – except you, because of that last minute viral serum your husband injected you with seconds before I ate him – but we’re full now, and we’d like to make amends, such as they are.” It stroked her hair, smearing it with residual slime before releasing her. “You’ll have a very nice little human-house on my estate back on TicTi, I promise, and I’ll put up an energy fence so you won’t have to be tethered. And, as you will be the sole surviving human, I’m sure we’ll study you and discover all sorts of noble things about your kind and be very sorry we did this right around the time you die of a mysterious bacterial infection or a broken heart or something like that.”
“I don’t want to leave my home.” She picked up the portrait again. “I must dwell in my memories from now on. You must go without me.”
Cha Rlee made an exasperated sound by flapping its abdomouth.
“You know I have to stay behind,” she told it, caressing the frame around Joshua’s smiling face with tender fingers. “By abandoning me to live out a solitary life on the ruins of my world, I will then have the time to reflect on the short but meaningful value of my life with Joshua before you came and ate him. I can curse him for daring to send that intergalactic signal that brought down the invasion, but love him for his infinite curiosity about the universe. After I lose a great deal of weight and stop washing my hair, I’ll find a way to build an enduring shrine to him and to the endurance of love and the human spirit. Something tasteful, maybe out of the rubble you’ve left behind. Once I have finished that, I will doubtless collapse and die at the base of it, in an appropriately wretched pose, which other aliens will see when they come to tour the wreck you’ve made of Earth. Everyone will feel very sorry about this tragedy. One of the tourists will definitely weep. Then a scientist will mention the possibility of reviving me through cloning a DNA sample before he’s vetoed by a particularly spiritual companion who takes me and buries me in the shrine.“
“Dear me. That sounds depressing.” It heaved its version of a sigh. “Not much of a choice either way, eh, Trix old girl?”
She nodded. She knew. She was the Widow of Earth.
“Very well. Shout for me in a desperate but determined voice if you change your mind.” Cha Rlee gave her a final caress with its tentacle, then oozed out of the room.
She didn’t watch it go. Looking at the photo of Joshua required her full attention again. If she lit another cigarette, and looked at the picture hard enough, she would be safe. She wouldn’t hear the ghosts of those devoured screaming silently outside her broken window.
A third building collapsed, very close this time. Perhaps it would fall on her house.
Taking My Medicine:
I was challenged by a colleague to read an anthology of SF stories written by women, edited by Pam Sargent, entitled "Women of Wonder." This was in part to make me stop being such a baby about reading SF books and learn a little bit about my colleagues. So I sat down and read the intro, which was unpleasantly political, but not enough to chase me off. Then I read the entire anthology from cover to cover. I was assured I would find something I liked among the many offerings.
Although the intro didn't do much for me, Ms. Sargent knows her SF history and can obviously edit well. The many famous female authors showcased are all very bright, proficient writers. I admire anyone who can write with such technical finesse, who wouldn't? I also thought the stories were uniformly depressing and in some cases, miserable as hell, and reading them gave me a damn headache. I came away from the experience feeling acute nausea and hopelessness. Oh, yeah, that's exactly
how I want to feel after reading a book. However, if you love the nihilistic introspective bleak variety of SF, you'd probably enjoy this anthology immensely.
However, I did like one thing about the anthology: this observation in the otherwise stern-lecture intro:
"Maybe it's just the newcomers wanting to make a name for themselves find it to their advantage to sweep away the past, to call earlier accomplishments insignificant, or to demonstrate that all progress leads to them."
You can see this theory in action every time Phillip Pullman stomps the Narnia books, and it does hold true for many other rookie authors. But there's a flaw in this theory, in that it assumes the newcomers are well acquainted with the work of their predecessors. Not true in my case, unfortunately. So why does reading literati SF make me sick to my stomach? Beats me. I can safely say I don't consider myself superior to these writers at all, on the contrary. If this is what I'm supposed to be writing, if this is the pinnacle of achievement in this genre, then I'm up the creek sans paddle already.
Back to Business:
Jessie has solved my Forward Motion access problems by installing a new browser (and smacking me a few times for various technical crimes) so it looks like I'll be able to resume Think Tank moderation starting this Friday night. I'm still a little paranoid about the MSN thing crashing but it's been working well for 24 hours. Between now and Friday I will make a practice of knocking on anything made of wood to insure it stays that way.
Jump on the Freedom Bandwagon!:
Lots of folks are debating the issue of copyright and licensing just about everything, mostly music but books too. I think this dates back to the whole Napster? deal I missed (amazing what passes you by when you have to pack up your life and leave your husband.) Janis Ian, the singer who made me cry with that woefully depressing song about being 17, wrote a pretty good rant about the subject here.
Colleagues on each side of my genre fences have circled the wagons in roughly two camps, which I've nicknamed Baenites and Smallites, in honor of the ringleaders.
I can't join either camp, though.
Making copyrighted material available for free is a decision to be made by the owner of the copyright. I give away stories on my web site, and send as many free copies of my novels as I can manage to readers who are struggling financially. My choice, my decision. I'd like to see more authors give back to the fans, but I'm not going to demand my colleagues do it. No one should be forced to be generous, it's not supposed to work like that. I'm sure there are larger issues involved but isn't that what it comes down to? Choosing to be generous, or not? Let's keep it a matter of personal choice, please.
Fifteen years ago I was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent some fairly radical treatment to get rid of it. I didn't tell my family until after it was over, and by then I'd dropped to 90 lbs. and cut off all my hair to hide the fallout.
The only reason I'm alive is because I was religious about getting my annual OB/GYN checkup, and the doctors were able to catch it in time. If you're a woman reading this and it's been more than a year since you've had a pap smear, make an appointment today.
Running Away from Home:
Jess has put Drefan back together and will be back in the morning to do the switch over and (hopefully) final start-up. She was too upset over her day job to concentrate tonight and we indulged in a bitch session/professional pity party instead. We decided that if things don't get better in a year, we're going to run away from home and start an artists' colony in Fiji.
The only problem is neither of us can paint worth a damn, but Jess figures we can live on coconuts and sell my horrible pottery as incredibly ancient artifacts to gullible tourists until we can recruit other, better artists. Considering how many cracks my pots have in them, we might just pull it off. Mike and Kath love the beach, so no problem there. Jessie's husband is a surfer dude from way back, so he's in. But to live on coconut...without chocolate surrounding it? (shudder)
Reaching for My Zen:
After exploding over the moronicon programming, I went to run some errands and threw a couple of pots (as in making them, not actually volleying them at someone.) Surveying the dismal results, I must conclude (again) that I was never meant to go to take up potting, but I got my hands all icky and dirty and it was fun anyway. Pounding some clay is good for the soul.
Here's what inspired me to mangle three pounds of clay, scanned from the Morikami Museum flyer about the current pottery exhibition:
Someone, Hand Me a Pistol:
Yesterday Carol and I were talking about genre politics, and I expressed my frustration on several points. I've never been much of a group-joiner, but I did try back when I first started this gig. To be fair to the groups, I'm not exactly the soul of diplomacy, and my unorthodox success makes me highly suspect. Add to that my impatience with following rules and toeing lines and you can see why I'm better off out of the groups.
I do sometimes go back to check on the groups, however. Some fans and friends have repeatedly asked me to attend cons, and my discussion with Carol made me wonder if I was wrong about them. This morning I checked out one web site with a long list of program and panel descriptions. It was okay, until I hit this part:
Fantasy: A Final Solution?
What the heck is SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President Norman Spinrad talking about in the Spring 2002 SFWA Bulletin, where he editorializes that if science fiction writers don't take steps to distinguish them from fantasy, science fiction will disappear? Is there any practical way to implement it short of kicking all “fantasy” writers out of SFWA?
Is there any practical
way to implement it? Are they serious?
Someone actually listened to this bozo's nonsense and now wants to figure out how to get rid of the only writers who are keeping this genre alive? God forbid any of the aspiring writer rabble sully the ranks of SFWA with their unpublished taint, now they must cleanse themselves of the contamination wrought by all those inferior fantasy writers. Naturally SF authors can't succeed if they're
hanging around the club house. Why, fantasy writers have probably been snatching up all the good publishing slots on purpose, just to erradicate SF once and for all.
This is why I don't do well with group joining and going to cons, folks. Morons like this make me crazy.