My god daughter took her first steps today, and I was there to see the big moment. I have to go cry like a silly female now.
I try not to get into war stuff here, but when someone mentioned that there's a conspiracy theory
circulating blaming the Jews for the 9/11 attack on America, I thought they making a tasteless joke. I mean, I know the brainless idiots in the dark ages blamed the Jews for everything from the Black Death to bad hair days, but we're living in the twenty-first century now. No one could actually be
that stupid, could they?
In my SF novels, the Earth of the future is a pretty grim place, populated by paranoid xenophobic racists who are universally despised. I've been told repeatedly that I'm wrong, and despite the fact that history supports my theory, in my heart I want
to be wrong. I don't see our species ever becoming ambassadors of peace to the rest of the galaxy, but I want to think that in time we could become better as a people. Then I hear something like this, and all my hope shrivels up and dies.
Book to Check Out:
I meant to post this earlier in the week; found a somewhat odd nonfic book on historic phenomenon of witchcraft (the real deal, not the fantasy stuff), "Witchcraft in the Middle Ages" by Jeffrey Burton Russell, ISBN#0-8014-9289-0 published by Cornell University Press. You do have to wade through a bunch of useless references that could have been made footnotes -- and weren't -- and a certain amount of sneering here and there (he stomps all over Margaret Alice Murray and her theories, for example, with barely-concealed glee.) However, when you do find the actual history parts, they indicate that the guy did his homework. Worth getting from the library.
Booted off the lingering copy-edit and murdered a second, self-imposed deadline by shoving off another story submission along with it. Tired, vaguely elated, ready for a couple of hours of brain inactivity before the TT tonight (sorry I was tardy in posting the calendar notice for the clan at FM, but yes, there will be a TT tonight, usual time & conference room.) I sat down and counted, and I've written, revised, copy-edited or proposed fourteen different novels in the last six weeks (in four separate genres, no less.) No wonder I feel like overcooked linguini.
I'm not moving any short stories. Everything I've submitted this year has gotten bounced. While I'm sure that has more to do with my writing than political nonsense, it has been suggested to me that if I wasn't such a loud-mouth anti-everything-they-hold-near-and-dear stupid icky romance
writer, I might have better luck. Okay, he didn't say stupid and icky, but everything else is verbatim, and the stupid and icky were implied.
I suppose if one wants admittance to a sacred temple, one had better assume the correct posture (of worship? or some other, less pious position? the author wonders.) But I remained convinced that it's my writing that's being judged as unacceptable. My goal remains to have fun, get my stories out there, and entertain the readers, so I can just keep publishing stories on my web site. Not a real big deal, as long as I stay focused on the goal and not indulge my ego.
Queen Victoria's Secret:
There's a book about to hit the market telling the story of English surgeon Dr. James Barry (1795-1865), one of my favorite doctors of all time. Eighteen year old James Barry attended the Royal College of Surgeons, then became an army regimental surgeon. Although quite short (only about five feet in height) Dr. Barry traveled with the army medical service to war zones from South Africa, Malta and the Indies to Crimea and Canada, attained the rank of major-general, and eventually returned to England to become the Queen's Senior Inspector General of Hospitals. After his long and distinguished career as a soldier, surgeon, and statesman, James Barry died at age seventy-five.
His greatest achievement, however, wasn't revealed until his death: James Barry wasn't a man -- she was a woman.
To pull off this kind of deception, during an era when women were forbidden to take up medical practice, army service, or even travel without a companion or chaperon, was difficult. To do it for a life time, much of that spent on the battlefield, must have been a nightmare. Yet somehow Dr. Barry kept her true gender concealed from her colleagues, the army, and the English government for all those years. She must have confided in at least one man, however, because there were signs that at some point in her life she gave birth to a child.
We will never know exactly what compelled James Barry to join the military and practice medicine under the most extreme conditions of her time -- she took most of her secrets with her to the grave. Still, she serves as a wonderful reminder that gender means nothing, and you are what you make of yourself.
Ask, And Ye Shall Not Be Slapped Down:
I held onto the copy-edit I just finished for a day and agonized over calling the editor. This is usually due to White Fingers Syndrome, in which yours truly's clutching hands must sometimes be surgically separated from a manuscript. My paranoia this time was over the queries, some of which were worded like commentary. I've never gotten a copy-edit like this and I wasn't sure I'd handled it correctly -- so I really needed to talk to the editor.
Problem is, I never call editors. I mean, unless the house is burning down and there's a manuscript I owe them inside, I stay away from the phone. I do 99.9% of my communication via e-mail and even then, I'm only responding to e-mails they sent me first. Since most of my questions tend to get me slapped down, I've trained myself to keep my mouth shut and just do whatever they want.
Although I was pretty sure I was in the wrong, I finally called the new editor, and left a message briefly explaining the problem. When she called back I braced myself; I really expected to get some grief. To my utter shock, she took me seriously, went over the problem, asked me to hold for a minute, called the production editor, and then discussed how to handle it with me. I hadn't done anything wrong, and my problem was resolved in like twenty minutes. And not so much as a cheek tap, no less.
It's wonderfully confusing. Just when I think I have this business figured out, someone comes along and teaches me something new. What's nice is finding out that not all of lessons will be painful.
Ten Years Ago:
Mike and me at the park, and God, where did I get those shorts? By the way, never tell a hairdresser to cut off all your hair. They will.
I am tempted to speculate on the size of Joseph Epstein's head, which is probably enormous in comparison to his narrow little mind, but as more and more of these type articles hit the newspapers and the internet, I should really address the larger issue, aka who is qualified to decide if you're a writer, or not. First, let's eliminate some of the usual suspects:
The Top Ten People Who Are Not Qualified to Decide if You're a Writer
1. Joseph Epstein. Fourteen published books does not magically endow the right to pass judgement on other writers, even if he does teach at a college and manages to get his byline in the New York Times.
2. Teachers -- great people to help you get an education, not so great when it comes to writing advice. Most of them are underpaid and completely unappreciated, so figure there's a high degree of personal bitterness involved if one of them tries to destroy your dreams, too.
3. Parents -- Yours probably aren't John Grisham and Sandra Brown, so it's safe to assume they haven't a clue. If they are, it's professional jealousy, and you could start your career by writing an expose on Mom and Dad.
4. Significant Others -- Unless you're shacking up with Sebastian Junger -- and if you are, I want all the details -- it's the same deal as with your parents.
5. Editors -- Some are great, and can give you much valuable advice on the craft. Some should be under restraining orders to stay away from anyone who writes. Always take what they say with a shaker of salt.
6. Professional Reviewers -- Mostly failed writers who get their jollies tearing to pieces the ones who haven't given up. Kind of sad, so you should ignore them, pity them, make a donation to your favorite mental health charity in their name, etc. Just don't pay any attention to them.
7. Amateur Reviewers -- #6, only they haven't figured out how to get paid for it yet.
8. Paula Guran.
9. Most active members of any writer's organization which refuses to grant memberships to aspiring writers. They've pretty much forgotten they weren't born holding a published book in their chubby little fist, so just avoid, avoid, avoid.
10. Me. Not that I'd try, but use me as a professional comparison to Epstein and Guran. I've written fifty books, published eight, have four more hitting the shelves next year, and I'm still not qualified to decide if you're a writer.
The list is mainly for your amusement, and the opinions expressed here are my own, not to be carved in stone, handed out as gospel, etc. I also realize not everyone will agree with my disqualifications, and you are certainly entitled to let any or all of the above people destroy your dreams and hopes. But when you really think about it, there's only one person who is qualified to decide whether you're a writer or not.
That would be you.
Paula's Dream Date:
Warning, you have to register with the New York Times in order to read the article Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again
by Joseph Epstein, an anti-tribe elitist who opens his little tantrum with these lines:
"According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them — and that they should write it. As the author of 14 books, with a 15th to be published next spring, I'd like to use this space to do what I can to discourage them."
And he does just that. Sitting on the pile of his 14 pubbed books, Epstein politely goes on to sneer at those who dream of doing the same. Being such a bestselling guy and all (who is
this man?) he definitely thinks that to assume your story is worth publishing is a common, grubby little American thing to do, and assures the reader -- no doubt through his psychic power -- that whatever we want to write is utterly worthless. Don't even commit it to paper, but keep it inside you, is Epstein's advice.
And if you listen to this idiot, I will come to your house and yell very loudly at you.
Epstein teaches college -- I'm now crossing that
university off the kids' future list -- and is also the author of something called "Snobbery" (gee, big surprise.) I'll have more to say about this later, must pack lunches now.
Finished the copy edit on book two of the new trilogy, packed it up and temporarily sealed the box with surgical tape until I can buy more US post-office approved package tape tomorrow. Who says first aid kits don't have a thousand and one uses? Rush decided I needed a bit more housework to do, though, and while I was in the shower, he threw up all over my desk, keyboard, and chair. From the coverage, I'd say he started puking in mid-leap to the bookcase. At least I'm not sitting here picking it out of my keys with a q-tip (I keep the keyboard covered when not in use with a plastic dust thingie; highly recommend for anyone who has children or pets with twitchy gastric systems.)
I'm too wired to be tired, so I'm going to do my therapy then try to draft a revised proposal outline to see if I can make it work on paper. What the editor wants isn't a problem, it's just shifting gears and characters, but I haven't worked on this in a year so I have to re-learn all the characters, then change them accordingly. I now lack a beginning, too, but I think I can salvage something from the tone if not the text of the original version. No rest for the devious.
The "S" Word:
No, I didn't sleep last night (thank you for the concerned e-mails); I didn't realize you guys were timing me. Lily's weed tea was helping with the insomnia, but with the return of the acid reflux problem I'm sticking to water only. Also, my knee is giving me some grief because that's what the knee does best. Things will get back to normal soon; right now I've got fires to put out, friends to watch over, a leg to pamper and work piling up on the desk. Hang in, we'll all get through this and laugh about it when we're older, richer, and spending the spring in Paris. :)
Finished the edit on "Untouchable", the website story for October, and am almost happy with it. A petrologist would probably take a rock hammer to my head for what I did with the science involved, but I had fun, and I think the readers will, too. One final read-through to do this morning, then I'm back to revisions and proposal rewrites.
If you attended that last WorldCon, you might want to check your credit card statements. Word has it that the Fairmont Hotel is charging everyone an extra $125.00 for messing up their carpets and they're not asking, they're just tacking it onto your bill. This happened to a friend of mine, but I know some other folks who attended so I thought I'd pass the word along. I'm also trying to imagine exactly what sort of people and activities would inflict that kind of property damage. Perhaps rolls of visqueen should be handed out at registration from now on?
Legal terminology is sometimes tricky. In divorce settlements, for example, a woman is referred to as "the wife" in the paperwork. I haven't been a wife for so long now it looks alien, even to see that term applied to me in the midst of all the legalese. Also, when you tell your ex to take his money and shove it, then leave him with just the clothes on your back, that's referred to as "waiving all interest in the husband's assets, property, and pension." My attorney approved the paperwork I signed today, but reminded me for the last time I could be much, much richer now, if I had simply claimed a wife's rights under the law. I reminded the lawyer of my position regarding my former husband, and the two words I used weren't "forget him."
I scare my attorney, a little. Sometimes pride can be a ferocious, beautiful thing.
I don't regret the marriage; I got two beautiful children out of it. I'll always carry scars from that relationship, but I've never learned to love lightly or easily, so they match all the others. It's done, it's finally over with, and if my grandmother were still alive, she'd say, "You stuck to your guns." Yeah, grandma, I did, but I didn't use them.
On this date in history:
In 1452 -- first book ever published (The Bible, by Johann Guttenberg)
In 1846 -- the first tooth extraction under anesthetics was performed in Charlestown, Mass. (but what did they use?)
In 1924 -- Truman Capote was born (short guy, big mouth)
In 1955 -- Actor James Dean killed in automobile accident (wail)
In 1977 -- The drug Ativan, a benzodiazepine used as an antianxiety agent and as a sedative (aka Lorazepam, manufactured by Wyeth) was approved for use by the FDA (the first you'd-better-be-happy pill)
In 1980 -- Iran rejects a truce call from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (shame, considering what an ambassador of peace that he is)
In 1988 -- IBM announces shipment of 3 millionth PS/2 personal computer (one of which went to yours truly)
and finally, Today -- an Orlando judge is expected to decide whether a rehab center's staff should be forced to cooperate with police investigating Noelle Bush for drug charges. Noelle is the daughter of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the niece of President George Bush (and maybe someone should test the whole family now before we go to war with Iraq?)
I've got my first shot at writing copy for the new JH novels (first time I've ever been asked, so it's like Christmas, only early.) Putting together the right combination means juggling a lot of words, phrases, and premises, but it's just another form of pitching. I always start with a single sentence (this is off the top of my head, first draft:)
Crime boss's daughter forces retired intelligence agent to help her save kidnapped teenager with priceless stolen swords.
The next step is to expand the one-sentence pitch, and make it two or three sentences:
After her young assistant Tara disappears, LA police charge jeweler Kameko Sayura with the girl's murder. Kameko must jump bail and force retired CID agent Sean Delaney to help her find a priceless sword collection. The desperate men holding Tara have given Kameko only five days to find the swords, which her dead crime boss father stole from them -- or they will execute the girl.
Each sentence of the two or three sentence pitch can be expanded into a short paragraph:
When her sixteen-year old shop assistant disappears, LA jeweler Kameko Sayura receives a horrifying phone call -- she has five days to find The White Tiger, a priceless sword collection, or the desperate men holding young Tara will kill her. Kameko knows her father, an organized crime boss, stole The White Tiger from a powerful Chinese tong -- but her father is dead, the swords have disappeared, and she doesn't know where they are. Worse, the police think Kameko murdered her assistant, and she can't risk Tara's life by defending herself.
The White Tiger swords have always brought death, disaster and heartbreak to retired army CID agent Sean Delaney, so when Kameko Sayura tracks him down, he flatly refuses to help her. Despite the brief, strong attraction they shared in the past, Sean can't understand why Kameko would come to him anyway -- the last time they were together, he had kidnapped her at gunpoint. He quickly discovers how desperate Kameko is when she returns the favor and abducts him.
Dodging the police, the army, rival Chinese tongs, and her own criminal brothers soon force Kameko and Sean to trust each other and work together, but the passion they share only complicates things. With Tara's life hanging in the balance, they have no time for love -- but if they don't trust in each other, a young girl will die, and a terrifying power will fall into the wrong hands -- the same hands that will use it to destroy thousands of other innocent lives.
It's choppy and needs some polishing, but you get the general idea. :)
I've had to leave the Signet NAL author group and will no longer be a part of their web site. This is due to a recent decision by the group which directly violates certain terms of my agent agreement with Writer's House, thus my hasty exit. When you sign with an agent, be sure to read every single word of the contract, because things like this do happen, and "I didn't know" won't get you out of hot water.