I've been going through severe grapefruit withdraw lately; Florida's new crop won't be hitting the markets for another two months and what's there has been, well, overripe and icky-looking. The best time to buy citrus is after the first cold snap in the winter, but I don't want to wait, and bottled or canned grapefruit is an abomination to any native Floridian. So today, with a big cloud of guilt hovering over my head, I bought a bag of fresh California ruby grapefruit. They're smaller than Florida's, and probably have very thick rinds, and never taste as good, and if I keep thinking of bad things to say about them maybe I can stop feeling like such a traitor for buying it.
I finally separated all the clothes the kids have outgrown, put them in a bag and intended to take them to the Families in Distress shelter today. And didn't, because I couldn't let go of Kathy's first plaid skirt, or Mike's little Monster Truck t-shirt, or any of the other things they used to wear. I'm already such a packrat that I could fill a museum with Kathy and Mike baby memorabilia, but I just could not
take the bag down to the truck. I compromised and promised myself I'd make them into a couple of memory quilts. Which will be the twentieth
quilts I've made for the kids.
This winter would be an excellent time to let my hair grow out and be silver again, and after the last hairdresser snafu I was tempted to do it. Silver hair beats baby-poop yellow hair, any day. Not like I've deluded myself into thinking dyeing my hair makes me look younger, either -- I really look my age, no matter what's on top of my skull. But when Jessie called and asked me if I wanted her to do my roots next week, I said "yes" at once. I don't like having silver hair when every other mother at school is ten or twenty years my junior, and haven't ten gray hairs among them. It's silly, it's pure vanity, but I can't deal with it yet.
All this makes me eye the kitchen and the Pine-Sol, but I think I'll just play a few games of chess with the kids tonight. No better way to aleviate the self-inflicted guilt trips than to count my blessings, and then lose my queen to one of them in twenty moves.
Never Trash A Proposal:
About a year ago I pitched three books set in New Orleans to an editor who thought they were too edgy and suspenseful for romance, and bounced them. I was disappointed but I filed the proposals away in the "Maybe Next Time" drawer and put together another three books with a different tone, which the editor liked and bought.
Two weeks ago, I was on the phone with the new editor, who really liked my writing but was prepared to bounce the proposal I had sent her -- the books weren't quite edgy and exciting enough. We talked about reconstructing the books, which I really hate doing because it always reads like a patch job. Then a little lightbulb went off over my head, and I pulled out the old New Orleans books proposal. Thinking what the heck, I casually pitched the new concept to her over the phone. She liked it so much that she asked me to send her a synopsis and chapters (which I also had saved in the filing cabinet.) End result: I'm going to sell the New Orleans books.
Both editors involved in this story work for the same imprint -- they're just different people who like different types of stories. This is why it's so important not to take rejection personally or throw away a proposal. What one editor will reject, another might buy.
In about a month Star Lines will be a year old. Back when I began the weblog, I said I'd try it for a year, and see how I liked it. Now I have to decide whether I want to keep doing it daily, cut back to weekly or monthly posts, or set up the weblog as a read-only archive and move on.
Maintaining any kind of daily journal is a challenge, but keeping it online and public also takes a fair amount of spine, particularly if you write for a living. My opinions haven't always made me very popular, but I've been honest, stood by my friends, and not caved in to politics, pressure, or threats, veiled or otherwise. Via the weblog, I've met some wonderfully creative and interesting people who have enriched and inspired me. As experiments go, I'd say this one has been largely successful.
The year ahead already promises to be one of the toughest I've had since leaving the ex. I have major career changes looming in the near future, and a day job figures prominently in there with them. The kids, my health, and family matters also require a big chunk of my time. I enjoy Star Lines, but I also have to be realistic about what I can and can't do. Whatever I decide, I'd like to thank Holly Lisle for giving me the idea to try weblogging, and everyone who has stopped by for making this a truly unique experience for me.
Crunch Time, Sans Teeth:
I've been offered a new contract, with the particulars to be hammered out in the next few days. I am not grabbing my hammer this time; I'll just be sending in the agent and saying either "yes" or "no" when things are finalized. "Yes" means staying where I am, "no" means a serious move and some gambling. "Maybe" is not an acceptable answer.
For the first time since I climbed onto this rollercoaster four years ago, I'm not obsessing about it. I'm always flattered to be offered more work, especially with the market the way it is now. Since I'm not a gambler, I'll probably accept the contract versus making a risky move, unless the publisher makes it financially impossible for me to meet the contract requirements. What's changed with my attitude has more to do with me than anything they want from me, so my focus is on the books, not the deal. It's a nice change.
Cat quilt, my favorite greens backed with dragonfly print.
Cats & Quilts:
They just go together.
To explain a bit more about the previous post, which still mystifies even me, there have always been these coy games going on with certain authors and their pseudonyms, probably dating back to caveman days. Some famous examples: George Sand, the famous French novelist (1804-1876) was the pseudonym of a woman named Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin; horror magnate Stephen King wrote a couple of books under the name Richard Bachman (and even got some other guy to pose for the jacket photo); SF short story James Tiptree Jr., whom SF icon Robert Silverberg insisted was a man, was actually a woman named Alice Sheldon; and more recently, brand-new historical romance novelist Josie Litton, who got a huge push from her publisher, is in reality veteran romance writer Maura Seager.
Reasons are various and sundry: Sand had to hide her gender behind a pseudonym, King apparently wanted to escape the critics, Tiptree was mentally disturbed and went on to kill herself and her husband, and Seager needed a career jumpstart. Many, many writers will not admit publicly that they write under other names, or are prevented by their publisher from doing so. These days the reason a writer changes to a new pseudonym is simple: chains ordering to the net slowly dwindle and eventually kill their sales numbers, and they have to start over under a new name. Or, as in my case, a publisher wants to bring out a larger first print run for an author who is already established, and hopefully avoid dwindling chain death altogether with a breakout bestseller.
My reasons for not promoting the Jessica Hall books are financial: I spent the entire promo budget for the new trilogy to be brought out under my old pseudonym, Gena Hale, the publisher made this decision after
I spent the money, and there's none left for me to redo all that stuff. I've never hidden the fact that I'm writing under a new name, but because I'm not
promoting the books makes people think I'm trying to trick them or whatever. Now, if I was getting a Josie Litton-sized launch on these books, hiding who I am might actually start some buzz and sell a few more books, but I'm nowhere near that kind of push with my publisher and I wouldn't do it anyway. It's silly.
My guess is, the fact that an author doesn't promote books in the accepted fashion make some people think it's an instant conspiracy. Sadly because so many authors feel compelled to jump on the self-promo train with the rest of the gang, they're suspicious of anyone who doesn't.
The Delights of Seclusion:
Tonight I unsubscribed to the second-to-last author group list-serv I belong to, after a fairly ridiculous e-mail came in from one of the list's movers and shakers. She accused me of covering up the fact I'm now writing under the pseudonym "Jessica Hall" and not promoting the new trilogy in order to sell more books. And if you can figure that one out, I'll give you a cookie.
Just to make it official, once and for all:
I am Jessica Hall.
This leaves me read-only on the Signet NAL loop but otherwise, disconnected from my list-serv loving colleagues. I dare say I shall bear the deprivation.
Student of Nature:
Thanks to all the tropical activity to the south and west, storm fringes are sweeping through south Florida, in the form of high-speed cloud streams with occasional bursts of rain. This is different than the calm before a big storm hits; that's an eerie pocket of silence and stillness in which you can almost hear the animals and insects having little nervous breakdowns all around you. I've been through so many storms now I tend to watch the color of the sky, too -- right before we get slammed the light turns weird and the blue seems to get a distinct yellowish tinge to it.
Satellite imaging and storm research has eliminated most of the big danger involved in weather systems through their early warning advisories, and we take our storms very serious here in the Florida anyway. I've been prepared for hurricane season since June 1st when it started, and recycle my canned goods and bottled water every week. I needed batteries for the flashlight, though, so I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some and get a little more bread and an extra jar of peanut butter, just in case.
Another Florida old timer stood in line by me with stick matches, crystal lite drink mix (we use drink mixes to flavor bottled water) and four cans of tuna. He eyed me and asked, "Got your bleach?" (we use bleach to decontaminate water after a storm) I nodded and mentioned how my Mom and Dad lived on egg salad and tuna sandwiches after Andrew. The lady behind me, a snow bird, asked why anyone would voluntarily eat sandwiches for that long. I explained how power could be down for weeks after a storm, making it impossible to cook, and old timer added, "And that damn peanut butter sticks to my plates."
Science Versus Story:
I'm putting the finishing touches on the web site story for October, and running into problems with the science part -- mainly, it's getting in the way of the story. Usually I can lighten it up enough to make me happy and not put the readers to sleep, but this time medical science and planetary science are colliding, and the protagonist is at the mercy of both. I thought I'd trimmed out enough, and adapted these clunky-chunky factoid sections to make them more integral, but the first read-through was still like plowing through thirty pages on the wonders of hematological testing.
Like this excerpt: As I watched from the containment tank, they circulated the liquid methane through the liquid nitrogen unit, then added it to the biopsy sample into the anvil cell. "We will apply between ten and fifty billion pascals to produce a range of 100,000-500,000 times atmospheric pressure," Dr. Katzenberg told her interns. "Heating the methane after compression with our infrared laser to three thousand degrees Kelvin should produce the black diamonds."
Now, I know what that means, but I've never seen it done, so it's pretty impossible for me to describe outside dialogue. Hence the doctor "teaching" her interns to deliver the information to the reader. I don't like writing it that way, though, there's no life to it. It's just delivery of facts, and one of the most important aspects of SF to me is to make all this really dull science stuff interesting for any reader, not just the ones who went to MIT. So, back to the story drawing board.
Just When You Thought it was Safe to Go to the Bathroom....
Anyone planning to visit Guam with small children should read this article.
For those of you keeping watching on the storms popping up in the Caribbean, here's the latest advisory
from the National Hurricane Center on Tropical Storm Lili.
The galleys for "The Deepest Edge" are on their way to New York; I've now got the copy-edit for "The Steel Caress" to finish and yet another proposal to shoot off before Friday, but the blues are mostly gone. I hit the quilt shop and snagged some bargain yardage as a reward. I've been sewing so much my fingertips are like mini pincushions but as always, it's the best therapy. When I'm done the current quilt, I'll be ready to start the Asian quilt I've been planning for more than a year. The center motif will be a black dragon and a white tiger circling each other, with six other panels depicting various types of dragons engaged in dragony activity. It will be made from 100% silk, recovered from old Chinese robes, jackets and other garments I've collected over the years. I love working with silk so much I'm like a little kid, hopping from one foot to the other, impatient to get started. But just like with novels, it has to be one quilt at a time.
Last year I took a class in book-binding and Japanese paper dyeing for fun, part of my quest to get back to my roots as a writer ala William Blake. Today I received an invitation to enter a book-making competition via the regional library (due to my enrollment in the class, no doubt) with one of my books, so long as it is not
commercially published. Over the years I've made a few chapbooks and journals, and I am tempted -- this would be purely for fun -- but art competitions of any kind make me very wary. So I'm going to check it out, see exactly what type of entries they're looking for before
I enter anything and get egg on my face again.
A Cure for Depression:
I'm tired of being depressed, it reminds me too much of being married. So I did homework hour with the kids, then sent them off to visit their Dad. Lily talked me through making an herbal headache cure over the phone which I held my nose and drank. It was vile, which usually means it will work. I went on to clean both bathrooms and the kitchen and quilt a sixteen-inch section on the quilt in progress, then I took a long hot knot-destroying shower. The migraine is cowering at the edges of my brain; I'm pleasantly tired and totally relaxed; and the answering machine is on from now until I feel like turning it off. Which may be Christmas, but what the heck. Now I can write without any further interruptions.
On the day when I have the worst headache I've had all year -- and it being a Monday, no less, a day I am naturally inclined to hate, loathe, and despise anyway -- more fertilizer hits the proverbial fan. This I didn't see coming, and got smacked right in the face with, which was of course delightful. I'm reminded of an editor who said "Be honest with me" and then completely blew all her breakers when I was. People don't want me to be honest with them. They want me to agree with them because of course they're right, everyone else says they're right because that's how you play nice. Why can't I play nice? Maybe because when I hear play nice
my brain picks up on the subliminal kiss butt
lurking behind it. Irony kicks in when I think that if I had just kept my mouth shut and avoided everyone involved in this particular equation, I wouldn't be wiping said fertilizer off my face right now.
I don't know why I can't play nice, but I've noticed that the older I get, the quieter I get. I guess that at my age, and after all the things I've done and seen, this petty nonsense of paying lip service simply won't register. I'd rather shut up and avoid people than soothe feelings hurt because I was impolitic. And I tend to be extremely impolitic by nature, so I can't even blame them for exploding. They play nice, I run with scissors. It's the nature of the beast.
So I have offered my sincere apologies the offended party -- not her fault my honesty is less than palatable -- and now I am more determined than ever to say nothing besides "Sorry, not my problem." Better yet, I might let the answering machine handle things from here to eternity.
Shoot Me, Please:
Monday + migraine = miserable squared
Forward Motion Temporary Site:
FM is being moved to a new server, so the entire community will be down for at least a couple of days. In the meantime, you can check in with the writing clan at The Chat and Crashboard Index.
No word on how long it will take, but check the Community Test Link
and the The Homepage Link
periodically for updates.
I started new meds this week, and while they seems to be controlling the inflammation in my rickety joints, the initial side effects have been headaches, abdominal pain and a return of my old acid reflux problem. Unless my symptoms get worse, I'll be on this little joy ride for another week. It's a no-brainer, though, the new combo is ripping up my stomach lining and dilating my vessels too much. I'm about through to the end of the list of approved/available arthritis treatment drugs so I'll be looking at going solo onto herbal and nutritional alternatives pretty soon. Of all the lousy diseases I have to get, it would be one that will cripple my damn hands and maybe make me go blind. Just what every writer dreams of for life after fifty.
And every time I start feeling sorry for myself I go read about Christopher Reeve being overjoyed because he can move his finger. Shuts me right up.
Enter the Dragon:
Researching oriental dragon folklore for the new book has me raiding some friends' libraries, and I'm finding the Chinese stories to be the most fascinating of all. The Chinese people actually consider themselves to be Long de Chuanreng
-- descendants of the dragon -- and seriously believe in them. The amount of belief ranges from skepticism to unwavering faith, but most Chinese figure the actual dragons died out a long time ago and have now become purely spiritual beings. They have a range of dragon types, too, from the great big original four god dragons to little local dragons that may only be known by name to a certain village. In some parts of China, people believe dragon eggs took 3,000 years to hatch, but the dragons grew to full size a few minutes after they were hatched.
I have a hard time getting into the idea of dragons (no offense, Ms. McCaffrey) because they're mythological beasts created to serve a sociological need for answers. Ancient people had to have someone to blame -- and appease -- when they were hit by a famine or a flood. I'm also conscious that in two thousand years some other writer may be studying stories involving Christianity and say, "Oh, they believed in a messiah nailed to two planks of wood for their sins, how quaint" so I'm not one to talk. The thing is, I have to deal with a dragon in this novel, and I'd like it to be as true to the legends as possible without sounding like I'm telling the Santa Claus story to my kids.
I think I've made peace with myself on the subject now, thinking it over and remembering the story of the coelacanth,
a fish scientists believed became extinct 80 million years ago. At least, they did until people started catching them in the twentieth century. Maybe the ancient Chinese people shared the land with some creature they considered a dragon that has since become extinct. And maybe next year someone will find one living in a cave in the mountains in a remote corner of Asia. We always think we know so much about our world, and then Nature reaches out and gives us a good slap to remind us that we don't. Who am I to say there are no dragons, and there never were?