The Dream Scene:
(rated R for language, kids, go clean your rooms.) I think I got it right, but no time to fuss with it until tomorrow. You guys be the judge.
Excerpt from Playing Jax
by S.L. Viehl
(uncorrected first draft)
I climbed down the narrow outside stairs to the basement level, where a half-dead neon sign spelled out “FRESNO’S” with only the “SNO’S” part lit up. I’d been to Fresno, but aside from a pretty decent public Japanese garden, the city itself hadn’t done much for me.
Dumb name for a bar.
I tugged on the door handle, and to my surprise, it opened.
Stepping inside was like wrapping myself in a heavy, dark, cold blanket. A couple of namebrand signs gave off feeble, multi-colored light, enough for me to see all the chairs were inverted on top of the tables and the long, staple-shaped bar was empty. Familiar bar smells of old cigarettes and spilled beer stung my nose, but I also caught a whiff of something burnt. Not electrical, but more like a cooking odor – the kind from a scorched pot or a ruined casserole.
“Hello?” The darkness moved in as I let go of the door and it slowly closed behind me. I let my eyes adjust to the light and suppressed a shiver. Why A/C was affecting me so much lately, I couldn’t say. Normally I acclimate to temperature better than most people, but the cold in here seemed to seep in under my skin, into my muscles and bones.
Man, I’d hate to see his electric bill for the month.
I walked to the bar, rubbing my chilled hands against the sides of my jeans to warm them up. The bar was the only beauty in this beast of a place; someone a long time ago had crafted it from a gorgeous, high-polish dark wood with an elegantly swirly grain. An old fashioned brass foot bar ran around the length of the bar’s base, and it gleamed, too. I reached out to touch the beveled edge and feel the smoothness of the wood.
“The bar is closed.”
“The door was open.” The voice came from some shadows to the right, and I squinted in that direction. “Are you the owner, Matthias?”
“I am.” As he said that, a small florescent bulb overhead fluttered on.
I had my mouth open to say the next thing, but as he stepped into the light my brain packed its bags and left town.
Matthias the owner was a tall, solidly-built man who wore a black t-shirt and matching jeans. The outfit emphasized his coloring, which was extreme – he had to be the whitest caucasian man I’d ever seen. Maybe Scandanavian, with pale fair skin, light eyes, and invisible eyebrows. All that kind of faded in comparison to his hair, which was so long he wore it in a single braid that fell over his shoulder and kept going, right down to his belt buckle.
His hair was pure white.
As I stood there staring, he did a little inspection of his own. “You’re a woman.” He made my gender sound like a personal insult. “A woman caretaker.”
“Yes, we’re allowed to work outside the home and vote and everything now,” I said. It was almost as good as smacking him upside the head. “Mind telling me how all that glass got broken and scattered around out front?”
He moved around me, silent and intent, a mortician sizing up pre-need coffin dimensions. “There was a disturbance after I closed last night.”
“A disturbance that smashes lights and bleeds all over the place?” I refused to check what he was doing behind me. “The kind that you have to disperse with say, a baseball bat?”
Steps moved away, while the cold air became a miser’s fist and tightened around me. “Did you fuck Gideon?”
I’ve been asked plenty of offensive questions, but that took the number one spot for all time. “Are you naturally this rude, or did Mommy take you for lessons?”
“Soon as you tell me what happened here last night.” Something clicked, and I swung around to see him bolting the door. “Oh, gee, didn’t I mention – I don’t have time to stay for the milk and cookies.”
“You can’t stay.” He placed himself between me and the door, and although his stance was complete casual, I sensed waves of something all business coming off him. He started advancing on me. “You’ll have to go.”
“Unlock the door, and I will.” I reached into my back pocket for the only weapon I had on me, the broken bulb end. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingertips until I sliced one open on the edge of the glass. Shit.
“Don’t do this, mister. I didn’t come here looking for a fight.”
“Then you should have stayed away.” Up close, his face was scarier – all sharp lines and hollow shadows. I’d seen more attractive serial killers on Court TV. I raised a hand to jab at him with the broken glass. He snapped his wrist out, knocking it away before catching my follow-through punch.
Our hands met at the exact same moment – another shock, my fingers slick with blood, his hot and hard and wrong somehow – and when I tried to pull away, his fingers threaded through mine to hold me there.
something babbled inside my head as his spooky eyes came level with mine. Yamayamayama –
I’d met men to whom I’d felt an instant, irresistible attraction. This wasn’t that – it felt too strong, too impersonal. Being jolted by four-eighty was almost as pleasant, only there was no room to pull away and if I stayed like this I might end up in a melted, smoldering puddle of goo on the floor –
He yanked me so close that if I'd blinked, our eyelashes might have gotten tangled. His were white – like his hair, like the rest of him under those badass black clothes. I expected him to nail me one right on the chin, but instead he drew back a little and looked all over my face, as if seeing me clearly for the first time.
“What are you to me?” he murmured, his voice dropping into a softer, deeper register.
And just like that, everything went from zero to acutely sexual. Instant awareness flooded into me, how big he was, the strength in his hands, the scent of his sweat and his warm breath. Most men didn’t pass the nose test, but Matthias smelled different. He smelled like heat and linen and sex.
“I don’t know,” I heard myself say, just as quiet and low. “Let’s play and find out.”
He muttered something that sounded like the babbling in my head. Then he bent down, his mouth open, as if he wanted to kiss me. But he wasn’t aiming for my mouth. He forced my hand up, turning it until his breath touched my skin.
And then the bastard stuck my bleeding finger in his mouth and bit me.
Is he a vampire?
“Son of a bitch!” I yanked, but he held on for a moment longer before turning his head and spitting out something that hit the floor with a faint tinkle.
“You had glass in it.” He pressed hard on my finger, making blood trickle down my arm. “Let it bleed, Jackson,” he added when I tried to jerk my hand away again. “There may be other fragments.”
I didn’t care. Lust vanished as I went completely still. No one knew my full name.
“Sno.” Another man, smaller and darker, emerged from behind the bar. His voice had a distinct Hispanic flavor to it. “You’re needed in the back.”
Matthias didn’t look at him. "In a minute.”
“Terry said–” the man halted as he finally noticed me. “Delivery’s here.”
“In a minute.”
"Right.” The man disappeared the shadows.
So his nickname is Sno – it’s a coincidence.
Even as I told myself that, I recalled the all-white room from the factory, and heard the dream bitch whispering in my head: Hell is whiter than snow. Whiter than snow. Whiter than snow.
Forget the dreams.
“How did you–”
“Know your name?” He dropped my hand and went to the bar. “Gideon spoke of you, once.”
“What did he say about me?” I watched him pour vodka into a shot glass before he brought it to me. “No, thanks. I don’t drink.”
He drank half of it. “It’s not for your mouth.” Then he told hold of my wrist poured the rest over my sliced finger.
“Ow, damn it!” The burning made me shake my hand and back away. “Christ, warn
me next time, will you?”
“That’s all the warning you get.” Matthias went back to the bar and poured himself another shot. “If you want to be fucked, stay. If you don’t, leave.”
Why did I get the feeling he wasn’t talking about personally ending my celibacy? But I wasn’t leaving, not until I got one straight answer out of him. “What did Gideon say about me?”
He drank the shot and poured another. “He told me that he loved you.” He turned his head and I saw something like pain in his eyes. “Get out of my bar.”
Copyright 2002 by S.L. Viehl
All rights reserved.
I closed the store tonight, which wasn't as difficult as I'd thought, then came home to find all three cats sitting at the door like a trio of orphans. Immediate, instant guilt trip. Everyone piled around me on the sofa and we had a group petting and snacks (rice cakes for me, tuna nibblies for them.) They're so used to having me home that this job is not going over well. Rush is still sitting in my lap as I type this. I think when I have long shifts I'll ask Jessie to stop by and visit the boys, just to reassure them for the first couple weeks. It's going to be an adjustment on everyone, but at least the kids have their Dad. My poor felines only have me.
A Writer and a Reviewer Walk Into A Bar:
The reviewer sits down and beckons to the waitress before saying to the writer, "You know, Hemingway and Faulkner used to hang out in bars. Your books suck and I know I could do a much better job writing them, but coming here will help you develop into a wonderful writer."
The writer nods. "You could be right. Drinking has made you such a wonderful reviewer."
Puzzled, the reviewer says, "I don't drink."
"I know," says the writer. "but I do."
In addition to starting the new job, this is back-to-school shopping week; prelim sketches on the cover art for Blade Dancer arrived; the copy-edit on Blade is due; NAL is wrapping up final production on The Deepest Edge and we're still title-hunting for book two; I have open house at the school tonight, the quarterly knee exam tomorrow a.m. and a full shift at work in the p.m. Meanwhile, my hair color has lightened out and I swear to God, it's yellow brown, not golden brown. On top of mail and e-mail to be answered, bills to pay, housework to do and the growing pile in the laundry room that has acquired sentience, it's been sitting there for so long, I must eradicate the hated yellow from my scalp or risk going bonkers every time I see my reflection. Naturally a bad thunderstorm is approaching fast and a horde of tiny ants have invaded the kitchen from who knows where. I'm beginning to think my neighbors are raising them.
And you know what? I keep laughing, and I'm happier than I've been in months. I love chaos.
ER Hits the Streets:
I've just been notified that B&N.com is now shipping out orders for Eternity Row.
If you can't wait, they usually deliver in two to three days. Far as I know, the official release date remains 09/03/02 for all the other online booksellers and stores nationwide.
Lines from a dream:
Sometimes I get dialogue from dreams, and last night I had a doozy. I've been thinking about Chapter Three and how to handle introducing Jax to Matthias, the maybe-hero maybe-villain of the new project. I want something intense -- not romantic, but edgy. That must have imprinted itself on my brain, because I dreamed of a very intense scenario (and no, I'm not giving you the details. You'll have to wait for an excerpt.)
In the dream, a very serious Matthias says to Jax: "What are you to me?" meaning, what's going to happen between us, how much affect are you going to have on my life? Jax replies, "I don't know. Let's play and find out." Those lines are definitely going in the novel. The whole dream was so clear in my head I didn't have to write it down immediately in the dream journal when I woke up. Although since Russell Crowe was playing Matthias in my dream, I didn't want
to wake up.
Working People Breakfast:
I have to eat breakfast now (ick, gag, ack) and I have a product endorsement for those of you who balk at the thought of a bowl of cereal or scrambled eggs. Quaker
has these low fat Fruit & Oatmeal cereal bars that have no cholesterol but a decent amount of vitamins in them. There's a nice variety of flavors, and as I can personally attest, the strawberry are wonderful.
So Shall We Dance?:
One of my recurring dreams starts off with me in a ballroom watching lots of pretty people waltzing to some gorgeous chamber music; I guess I've read too many Regencies and it's some form of Nightmare At Almack's. I'm asked by some gorgeous guy to dance, and while everyone else whizzes across the floor I stumble, step on his feet, drag my leg, fall, etc. Occasionally I bleed all over the place, too, but no matter what happens or how embarrassed I get, I keep trying to dance. As nightmares go, it's pretty realistic -- I'm no dancer -- but not as gory as the ones I have about the end of the world, plane crashes or unchecked epidemics. It's funny, too -- I know
I'm going to mess up, and still I say "yes" everytime the guy asks me to dance. The real me would never do that. The real me would be outta there in a heartbeat, so I could go hunt down Oscar Wilde or Charlotte Bronte and have a nice long chat.
Dreams are symbolic, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out this one. I woke up around 4 am and wrote it up in the dream journal, then sat and drank my tea and thought about it. I understand what my brain is trying to tell me, and why I'm so at odds with my combative side. I've been thinking lately about retreating into my cave for the duration, because it's safe and my life would be far less complicated. But safe is means no dancing, no music, no watching the pretty people circle the floor. And as clumsy as I am, I love to dance.
Got through most of the e-mail, but hit a brick wall with one and I'm not sure how to deal with it. Published authors are regarded as role models, the objects set on many pedestals, the ones who have "made it" and "can do no wrong." I'm uncomfortable with this for a lot of reasons, but the main being that I don't think I'm better than anyone else and hey, I screw up all
the time. I don't mind discussing writing on equal level with any writer, but giving advice is always a minefield for me. See, I'm still learning how to do this, every time I sit down to write. I'll never be an authority. As a writer, you (hopefully) never stop learning.
I always joke about having people adore me, but the truth is, I'll never voluntarily climb a pedestal. After reading this e-mail, though, I wish other authors felt the same way.
Whatever you do with your talents, when you find yourself in the position of being a role model to someone, don't act or think you're superior. You're not. Don't manipulate someone who admires you to serve your own purposes, whatever they are. And instead of trashing someone's efforts, try to encourage them to continue pursuing their goal however you can. It takes effort, and doesn't get you as much adoration, but you'll be fulfilling the true purpose of being a role model -- inspiring someone else to follow your path.
The resident tadpoles from our canal have now morphed into little teeny tiny frogs and hundreds of them are hopping all over the sidewalks, parkinglot, and stairwell. It's also been raining nonstop, so this turns getting from the car to the house with seven bags of groceries into a very slippery obstacle course. I can't bear to step on the little things, they're so damn cute, and if Kathy is with me she screeches warnings and chases the ones I don't see out of harm's way. She told me tonight that one of them might be a prince under a magic spell, like the fairytale. I immediately envisioned an exhausted princess sitting on the bank of the canal, muttering "I give up."
I worked the floor today, handsold a few books but mostly did stocking and reshelving. It was interesting to see how the booksellers approach displaying books and deciding who gets face-outs. I got a better feel for the inventory and titles, and I'm quickly learning my way around the store. I probably stocked between four and five hundred books through all the sections, shuffled and restocked four bestseller front racks and made up a huge Lord of the Rings display. The physical work didn't bother me at all, with the exception of climbing a tall ladder, which I did very slowly and carefully -- I'm not too great with heights -- but I was okay. I just have to remember not
to look down.
It was a good day, even better than the first. I think I've earned a hot shower and a cookie.
Taking Care of Business:
Another reality of the day job -- in retail, when someone doesn't show up for work, everyone else has to fill in. So instead of having the entire day to write, I'm off to sell books.
I haven't been much of a publishing business cheerleader lately, but don't let this stuff depress you. The industry itself has very little to do with the work. These peripheral people only get involved when a writer is finished with a book. The creative process remains the exclusive territory of the writer. Also, If you arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about the business, then you may be able to avoid most of the problems I've experienced. That's why I'm putting this stuff on the weblog -- please, learn from my disasters.
Now I must pack lunches and do something with my hair. Hopefully I won't burn myself again on the curling iron.
Who Foots the Bill:
Someone (you know who you are) asked me to justify my bitching about the publishing industry with some hard facts. Be happy to.
I turned in a manuscript under deadline five months ago, and it was accepted by the editor. Keep in mind that five months is approximately 150 days -- almost half a year. The manuscript went into production, the title was thrown out, the cover art debated, and finally the manuscript was retitled and copy-edited about a month ago. The amount of time the publisher took to do their part is not unusual, I assure you -- five months is actually pretty fast. My sole responsibility under contract is to deal with the manuscript -- writing it, editing it, making revisions, checking the copy-edit and the galleys, and returning it on time. I did, every single time, on time.
Last week, the publisher went into a panic, because during that five months, no one had gotten permission to use an important cover quote from one of my earlier books on this one. My agent got involved, the quoting author got involved, and everyone sent each other a bunch of e-mails. Finally the quoting author asked to see a copy of the manuscript so she could give me a new quote. I was told (not asked, told
) to send a copy of the manuscript to the author. Overnight. Everyone dusted off their hands, satisfied that the problem had been taken care of, because of course
I would have a copy of the manuscript and of course
I would send it overnight. This is what I mean by reaction versus planning.
Let me be very specific here about who is at fault: had I known about the problem with cover quote, I could have taken care of it months ago, for $5.75 and maybe two e-mails. However, I am not consulted about cover quotes and this one -- a reprint -- was the publisher's responsibility anyway.
Unbeknownst to the powers that be, I didn't have a copy of the manuscript. I'd photocopied the final copy-edited manuscript (I don't correct the computer files until I get the galleys) and that had scribbling all over it. I stayed up until 2 am correcting the disc file, printing out a clean copy, then paying $72.00 the next day to overnight all seven pounds of it. Naturally I'd like the quote, so I didn't complain -- and really, what would be the point? I complain, then I'm not being a team player. And while I'm rarely if ever told what the game plan is, I still consider myself part of the team. To me, when someone drops the ball, you're supposed
to pick it up.
I keep track of this stuff, because I budget everything. This year, similar publisher ball drops have cost me close to $4,000.00. That includes what I've paid for all the panic-overnight shipments, a now-useless domain name and printed promo rendered incorrect and therefore totally useless (both by publisher changes which were not communicated to me) and penalty charges for what I took out of CDs, money market and other secured accounts to cover the bills when I didn't get paid on time. I'm working on getting better lines of communication, as it's difficult to anticipate snafus when I get little or no feedback. Also, the hard cold reality is that I can't afford to spend this kind of money anymore; so until things improve, no more promo, no more new web sites, and maybe no more overnight shipping.
One thing I forgot to add: because the publisher waited so long to get the quote, it may not make it onto the final printed book jacket. It's a gamble to see if the new quote comes in before the jackets are printed -- and no one seems to know when that will be. So all of this could be for nothing.
Note on Comments:
Heads up, folks, according to the tracker some publishing pros are now stopping in to have a read. Personally, I'm delighted. Now if we can get NASA Administrator O'Keefe in here, my week will be complete. However, if this makes you nervous and you want me to delete a comment you've made, just shoot me an e-mail and I'll remove it, no questions asked.
What I've Been Cooking Up in the Secret Lab:
I posted the first draft version of this prologue a while back, but there were a lot of things about it that bothered me. I'm still wrestling with the story, but after a couple of excellent critiques I think I'm finally on the right track.
Excerpt from Playing Jax by S.L. Viehl
(rated R for language and violence)
I don’t like to sleep, because I don’t have dreams. I have nightmares. Every night, no exceptions.
Worse, I get stuck in them.
Unexpected light sliced into the dark void bordering the dream, flashes so red and bright I couldn’t mistake the warning. Still, I filtered through the dark and into the light, gliding weightless as a ghost bird, hoping it wouldn’t be too bad this time.
I didn’t want to go. It was always pretty bad. But I had to go.
Something tugged me down. I could see a mansion rising below from red-tinged mists, spreading shingled roofs and ivy-clutched walls to catch me. I touched down next to a chimney, wondering if a grungy Mary Poppins would appear and force me to sing.
I don’t sing. Not even at gunpoint.
The chimney shot up, bricks flexing and elongating. A rubber chimney?
I blinked as it drooped over as if top-heavy, and the open end stretched into a wide, black mouth. Before I could blink again, it plunged down and swallowed me whole.
Brick scuffed against my jacket as I fell, Alice down the White Rabbit’s hole. Charred brick, no light, no bottom I could see. I just fell. I fell for what seemed like hours. I fell in the dark until I didn’t give a rat’s ass how hard I landed, if I could just frigging land.
My fall didn’t end until the chimney sucked backward, slowing me down, then spit me out in a cloud of soot. I stumbled out of a wide hearth, tripped over the remains of a dead fire and nearly went to my knees, then righted myself by grabbing the back of a chair. Soot engulfed me, filling my eyes, nose, and mouth. I swatted at myself and coughed and blinked until my vision cleared, then knuckled away burning tears and checked myself. No injuries, but judging by the condition of my hands, the black shit was probably all over me.
Where I was, exactly, was anybody’s guess.
I was standing in a dark room, surrounded by ugly old furniture, Turkish rugs and flickering candles. There were bookcases lining two walls, but no books, just funny-looking porcelain vases – hundreds of them.
I wandered over to peer at one, saw a name I couldn’t read and two years listed below it. Urns.
The top was hinged, and when I flipped it open I saw grey ash inside. Complete with remains.
Nobody has that many dead relatives.
I backed away from the shelf.
Anonymous voices whispered just outside the room, but when I approached the door they faded away. I turned the knob and opened the door a few inches. In the real world, I knew voices meant people.
In this world . . .
Light footsteps came running toward me, and I ducked back inside, closing the door to a mere crack. A very small, thin woman in a long gown-type dress floated by, her long light hair billowing out from under a funny hairnet made of lace. Her limbs moved like she was underwater. Then time snapped back to normal as she stopped, and backtracked, and peered in at me.
I didn’t know her – I never knew anyone in my nightmares. Didn’t matter. I knew what she was from the pretty hair, the way she panted, the white showing all around her eyes.
Tonight’s blue plate special: Alice in Awful Land.
“Help me,” the girl said in a gorgeous Irish accent. She glanced back over her shoulder before she met my watery gaze. “She’s deranged.”
Of course she was deranged. There was no such thing as a sane
“Yeah, okay.” As I stepped out, I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist to free my arms. My tank top and battered jeans confused Al, from the way she stared. Guess she was used to seeing girls in gowns. “Is she armed?”
Unable to stand still, she nodded as she jittered around me, looking for a way out.
I concentrated. My knife appeared in my right hand, and the crowbar from the trunk of my car materialized into my left. After reading this dumbass book about taking control of your dreams, I’d tried “summoning” everything from a bazooka to a blow torch. No luck, I ended up with the knife and the tire iron, every single time.
Like my subconscious was saying to me, You don’t get better until you kill it or fix it.
There should have been theme music, some spooky riff like what the guy did for “The Exorcist.” Instead, there was absolute silence, which made the heavier footsteps coming at us echo beautifully. Time did another bender, and the steps slowed down.
I felt like I was encased in warm Jell-O as I stepped out to confront what was coming. Al dropped into a slow motion faint right next to me, and hit the hardwood floor with an extended thud just as the second dream bitch appeared.
Tonight’s monster: The Red Queen Gets Really Pissed.
Like me she was tall and black-haired. The heavy gold and ruby tiara on her head sagged to one side a little, and hectic color flushed her cheeks a pretty pink. She didn’t seem surprised to see me.
She couldn’t be a long-lost sister, not with those big blue eyes, goddess features and pale, perfect skin. My eyes were mud brown, polite people called me “striking” and I’d been born with a permanent mongrel’s tan.
Not that I wanted this lunatic lady on my Christmas card list. A long, dark wet patch covered the front of her red gown. There was stuff on the patch, too – what I was pretty sure was pulverized bits of someone’s head. The hatchet in her hands was just as tasty.
The time slack vanished as she halted, and studied me. I shifted my grip on the knife. Off with their heads, my ass.
“Good evening, Jax,” she said to me in Elizabeth Taylor’s voice. I never know them; they always know me. “Come to play?”
I lifted the tire iron. “Come and find out.”
Not-Liz’s bloody skirts flared as she circled around me, trying to draw me away from the girl. I stayed put and waited – like I said, I have nothing but nightmares. I am nightmare experienced.
“You’re rather late,” she said, and took a test swing with the axe. Drops of blood and bits of brain tissue flew out, splattering the unconscious Al. “I’ve already killed my husband and the children. Would you like to see?”
The last word echoed up and down the corridor. See? See? See?
Even though I knew it was a nightmare and I’d be waking up soon, something knotted inside me. I mean, she had slaughtered her family.
“You’re enough to make me puke, thanks.”
“Am I?” She glanced down at her bloody dress and flicked off a bone fragment. It skipped across the floor and hit my right boot, leaving a tiny wet red spot on the toe. “Oh, dear, I suppose I am.” Then she met my eyes with her freaky crazy monster ones. “Give me the girl, and you can go.”
They always offer me a deal. And dumb bitch me, I always say –
“Go fuck the hatchet.” Or a variation on that theme.
“Pleasure later.” Not-Liz licked her lips with her long, pale tongue. If she kept that up, I really might puke. “Business first.”
This monster wasn’t very creative, as monsters go. She came straight at me, hatchet swinging, mouth open, screaming like a banshee. A full frontal with absolutely no finesse. I planted my weight and bent my knees a little, and waited for time to warp again. At the two-foot mark, it did, and I pivoted to one side, willing myself to be faster, to punch through the smothering lag.
That's my usual gig. Matador to the monster.
I don’t know what I did, but it freed me and allowed me to move at normal speed. From there it was nothing to avoid the languid motion of her axe, and drive my tire iron sideways into her waiting belly.
A spray of saliva from her gaping mouth misted the air as she doubled over. I helped her, grabbing her hair and forcing her down throat-first onto my knife.
Ah, gee. I wasn’t even going to break a sweat.
The hatchet slipped from Not-Liz’s hands, thanks to the generous lubrication provided by the arterial spray. She went down on her knees, then looked up at me, all shocked and shit. Then rage, agony, defeat.
I wasn’t going to get all broken up about it. The fucking bitch killed her kids.
“Hope you like hell,” I said as I jerked out the blade.
“Hell . . .” She clutched at her neck, gurgling on the last words. “Is . . . whiter . . . than . . . snow . . .”
Did that mean it had frozen over? I frowned. Gee, I’d have to do all kinds of things if it had. Like wear skirts and listen to disco.
Someone grabbed me from behind and spun me around.
“Thanks.” Alice grinned at me as she lifted the bloody hatchet. “I hate bloody double-crossers, don’t you?”
Copyright 2002 by S.L. Viehl
All rights reserved.
Again?(squinting at calendar) God. And I still have nineteen more to get through this year.
Taking Back Control, Week Two:
Oh, I like this job -- nice coworkers, pleasant atmosphere, interesting customers. I learned the register and the computer in about ten minutes, they were so easy. And I got to do a little stocking and handselling, too. Fell in love with a charming elderly gentleman (John Sandford fan) and if his wife hadn't been with him, we might have run off to Acapulco together. I'm going to have fun doing this.
There are rules of engagement in corporate business; one being that if you want to continue to work in an industry, you never speak ill of an employer in public. This I've been told by an experienced colleague, who also (nervously) suggested that I delete all negative references to publishing from my weblog and stop talking about what really happens in the industry. I should only send in my agent and have her deal with the powers that be, while I remain mute and keep my publishing pom poms visible at all times. And here I thought I'd been so diplomatic, too.
Doesn't matter. Like the little box with the gagged man down there on the links bar says, I will not be silenced.
The publishing industry is a huge machine in dire need of repair in many places. From my observations over the last three years, it's run by a lot of people who mainly react rather than plan. It's powered by money, politics, and ego. The politics alone are so complicated that you need a dozen scorecards just to keep track of the players. But the industry, its chairmen, executive editors, publicists, production teams, artists, and every other soul down to the lowliest copy-editor and warehouse book stacker, are all dependent on one thing: writers.
Every single one of these people makes a living off writers. Writers exactly like me.
As a writer, I make anywhere from .42 to .47 per book -- industry standard, about 6-8% of the retail price for paperbacks -- a fairly small percentage considering my name is on the book and I am the sole composer. I trade off 92-94% of the profits in exchange for professional editing, production and distribution. I'm given deadlines and however impossible they are, I've always met them. I'm told I have an excellent rep among editors as a dependable soul, but then I've been told plenty of things that I recently discovered weren't true. Yet despite my excellent performance in meeting every single one of my contracted responsibilities, I have never once
been paid on time. In several cases, I wasn't paid for eight months. I have been repeatedly told "This is the way it is." or handed a lot of other equally intelligent excuses.
Can you imagine what it would do to production schedules alone if writers turned in manuscripts whenever they felt like it? How about if publishing paid editors on the same time schedule as they pay writers?
And one more thing, before I end this little rant and go off to work at my other job. Not only will I not shut up, but trying to control what I say is about as wise as poking an attack Doberman with a pointy stick. Now, does that
little message come in loud and clear?