I'm working on one of the top secret projects at the moment, a writer-for-hire job, as it happens. The proposal I wrote was in a genre so far removed from everything I've done that it required an immense amount of self-control and work disicipline. I'm not fond on being on a leash, so I expected to hate it. Instead, I've found another voice inside me, one that evidently has a lot to say about family and faith and love (minus the romance, aliens, swords, and spectacular explosions.) And the voice is pretty damn persuasive.
I admit, I'm a little disconcerted by this. I like being a tough, no-nonsense, in-your-face writer. In a way, it's safer.
Early indications are that I'll get the job, which will allow me to write full-time for at least another year. The trade-off is, my name won't be on the books (this is the usual case with writer-for-hire work) and as they will be marketed by mail order only, I won't be able to promote them. I may not even be allowed to publicly state that I've written them (given the genre involved, my being a SF and romance author could, in theory, actually harm sales). I know this sucks from a reader point of view, but it will keep me from going back to a day job, and it will let me find out more about myself as a writer.
Not A Shy Little Violet:
Lily made me do this. Lily is a cherry blossom. Ack, my head hurts just typing that.
what's your inner flower?
[c] s u g a r d e w
Star Lines Sampler:
As I've been trying to decide if I want to keep on with the weblog, I thought I'd raid the archives and reminisce alittle.
There was my very first weblog post:
Today I have to smuggle a Chinese woman into France, suture a nasty knife wound to the biceps, and kill a man in a crowded restaurant but hide his body so it won't be discovered for several hours. Cutting his throat is out -- too much blood -- so I'll have to have him strangled. And you though the life of a writer was dull.
And the day my old computer bought the farm:
Technology despises me, but never so much as this week. My Internet computer has crashed ten thousand times, and I'm not turning it on again because quite frankly I expect the damn thing to explode...
I've had to write around plenty of uncooperative characters:
Again I'm late forwarding the January lot off to Willa to post on the web site, but I can't seem to pry Night Trauma off the worktable. Everytime I try, Malone pops his head up and mutters, "You're not done yet, twit, what about that problem with my line on page 7?"
But I've been blessed with beaucoup inspiration, too:
02/04/02 -- Inabikari strikes:
A new novel idea hit me this afternoon, hard and fast, like a car jacker smashing in a driver's side window with a tire iron. I simply read the word inabikari (Japanese for "lightning") from my research notes and ka-boom,the concept for the new book exploded inside my head.
Nature contributed now and then to the weblog:
03/26/02 -- Love Canal:
Spring has arrived with a vengeance, and sitting on the balcony in the morning is like being in the front row of an animal porn theater. The local ducks (of which we have about 200 residing in and around my complex) seem to be dispensing with courtship altogether and mating whenever and wherever they like -- on the grass by the canal, but also the parking lot, the stairwell, in front of the mail boxes and yesterday, on the hood of my neighbor's beautifully polished Corolla...
While now and then I had to deal with other kinds of creatures:
05/10/02 -- Idiots Squared:
(Bad language ahead, children, leave the room) I think it's high time Amazon.com and other online booksellers forced reviewers to list their names and e-mail addresses with the reviews posted. No more of this "a reader from Anywhere, USA" shit, please. If you're going to slam someone's work, have the damn decency to do it in the open, instead of skulking around and giggling behind an anonymous tag line.
I made 99.9% of my deadlines:
Sean and Meko's book is dee oh en ee DONE! I definitely have earned substantial chocolate for this one. Somebody, call Hershey's. Call Godiva. Get those trucks rolling.
And while certain factions gave me nothing but headaches:
07/12/02 -- Totally Non-Medical Fact for the Day:
The severity of a morning migraine depends on three things -- 1) how early the children get up demanding waffles and pancakes, 2) the number of cats who wind around my ankles crying for snacks while I'm burning the waffles and pancakes and 3) the decibels of kid/cat fights when I don't move fast enough to please either/both. Addendum to the Totally Non-Medical Fact for the Day:
Make that four things -- with 4) the number of e-mails that come in regarding my lousy attitude about my name being batted around in Britain's premiere SF rag. Yeah, well, I don't read Locus either. Sue me.
I returned the favor:
08/17/02 -- RIP, Contour:
(rated R for language, you children should be sleeping) It appears the missing $159 million dollar comet-chasing, core-sampling robotic probe is now hurtling out into space in two nice big pieces, according to the latest report from Reuters.
"I'll be real honest," mission director Robert Farquhar said from the Applied Physics lab at Johns Hopkins. "I'm not very optimistic."
Well, well. A NASA space program director being real honest. Quick, somebody check Hell, see if it's frozen over.
Mainly I discovered that no matter how bad things get, I won't give up:
09/16/02 -- Landmark Moment:
My editor happily accepted the revisions for the Kissing Blades, so as of this moment, I am officially done with that contract. Some writers find this depressing but I love it; it reaffirms everything for me -- I can write, I can get paid for it, and I can finish the job.
Reading the archives also reminded me of how much fun this weblog has been for me, and I can't bring myself to shut it down. So while I may not always be able to post daily in the future, Star Lines will keep going for another year.
Of all the writers I know, Holly Lisle
is the most inspirational and generous. Anyone who has been to her Forward Motion writer's community can see how much personal time and effort she pours into the site, and how freely she shares her experiences, advice, and industry knowledge with others. She doesn't only teach people how to write, she teaches them how to be writers.
You would not be reading this weblog right now, if not for Holly, and I'm just one of the hundreds of writers she's encouraged and motivated over the years.
I do have a bad temper, especially when someone messes with my friends, but you can understand why Holly is special to me. Aside from all of the above, she's also one of the few, truly good people in the world. When someone takes a swipe at Holly, I am not going to stand by and watch. Today, when I discovered Holly was being harassed, I went nuts. Yet because the situation is very serious, I put a leash on myself -- with great difficulty -- and waited to see what Holly wanted to do.
Holly didn't lose her temper, but simply handled it
like the pro she is. So instead of losing it and creating havoc and chaos as usual, I find myself learning from my friend. And that is just too cool for words.
Make That Mañana:
Phone call from the agent; the editor looking for the next proposal called asking for it. Important rule: never keep an interested editor waiting. So that moves the next deadline up a day, and I don't get the night off. I'm sure I'll survive. :)
Revised proposal off to the editor, just under the wire, but worth the pain. Very intense storyline, New Orleans/bayou/Mardi Gras setting; will be a blast to write the books. Humming along, but the next deadline is Friday, so no rest or cookies for the wicked just yet.
Name that Cover Art:
First you have to look at the sneak preview here.
New Cover Art:
Starting over in life is always a gamble; doing it for the third time makes me something of an unofficial expert. Not that being middle-aged and reinventing yourself yet again
is an achievement that I’d suggest anyone strive for, unless you’re desperately unhappy or thinking about firearms as marital problem-solvers. Then you can begin your new life based on the always-sensible resolution of staying out of prison.
My biggest problem with starting over this time has been motivation – what do I have to look forward to? Marriage? Not something I’m very good at, obviously, and rather tired of. More children? Been there, done that, in triplicate. The ovaries are closed for business. Lifelong dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book? Accomplished, eight times.
In addition to those worthy goals, I’ve also written twenty-seven years of journals, sewn or restored over two hundred quilts, composed hordes of lousy poems and created hundreds of dreadful paintings. I know I won’t live long enough to write all the books inside me, but it’s never been about how many I would write anyway. Even if they never make it into print, the books exist in my head, so in a way, they’re done too. There are little things left that I’d like to do, like visiting the Grand Canyon and returning to the homeland in Ireland, but really, what’s left I can swing in a couple of weeks.
That's it, then. No more worthy goals left. I've run out of them.
Understand, I’m not a quitter or a whiner -- I do try to invent new challenges for myself, like this weblog, or the weekly Think Tank sessions I moderate, or writing a new story every month for the site – but as carrots go, they’re on the small side.
Maybe this is the whole mid-life crisis thing that wrecks people my age, when they hit this “done” part. I’m not scared, I’m puzzled; I thought it would take a lot longer, I guess. Now I’m on auto-pilot, cruising through this new life with plenty of stops ahead but no real destinations. For someone who writes items on her shopping list in order of the aisles at the grocery store, not a comfortable place.
I stayed up most of the night thinking about what I want to look forward to. Not what the kids or the ex or the family wants, just me. It’s actually easier to list:
The Top Ten Things I Don’t Want as I Get Older:
1. A twenty year old boyfriend or a red sports car – I’d end up nagging the boyfriend about eating more vegetables and being nice to his mother, who probably went to school with me. And insurance for sports cars is astronomical.
2. A full body surgical makeover – I don’t want the illusion of youth. Quite frankly, youth sucked and I’d like to forget about it now.
3. Awards – I’d never make it through the first speech without telling the story about…never mind.
4. Being revered for my work – Imagine me, being made into a sacred cow. It is to snicker. Moooooo.
5. Grandchildren – Not unless I can teach them how to do all the stuff their parents did to me.
6. Dispensing Age-related Wisdom – I can’t see me getting all superior about life just because I might have the dumb luck to survive past seventy. Telling other people how to live their lives is about as rude as you can get anyway.
7. Collecting Social Security – I’m pretty sure when it’s my turn, the guy at the SS office will say, “Sorry, we just ran out…”
8. Anything that requires me to wear pantyhose. Anything.
9. Grocery shopping – already I can’t reach half the shelves. I bet it’s going to be a real blast when I’m older, slower and really crippled.
10. Computers – I’m ten years behind now. I figure by the time I’m fifty, I’ll no longer be able to turn the damn things on without visual aids and a technician on the phone talking me through it.
So what do I want? Honestly?
I want to live somewhere else, somewhere beautiful and quiet and a little isolated. I’d like to live there with someone I love (okay, in sin, God will get over it) but alone is okay too. I want to leave something behind, something meaningful that will help other people like me (not sure what that is yet, but it won’t be a “Everybody Be Nice to Each Other” book, that’s for sure.)
Most of all, I want to make peace with myself. I don’t know if I can or if I ever will, but that strikes me as a pretty decent goal. And that’s about it.
What do you look forward to?
Cause of Death:
Looking for unusual murder weapons takes time. I've pretty much used everything in my stories and novels; I've killed off characters with guns, knives, medical equipment, blood transfusions, explosives, natural disasters, ray guns, assorted diseases, swords, cudgels, sound waves, poison, asphixiation, sentient plague, dismemberment, fire, drugs, decapitation, broken glass, cannibalism, liquid methane and even a body-switching box from outer space. It occurred to me that I haven't used sharks yet, but the novel I'm working on doesn't take place anywhere near infested waters, so no luck there.
I gave up temporarily and did a little research into commercial fishing in the region, and stumbled across something called a "culling pole" or "culling board" used by oystermen to check oyster beds. Some make a a notch in this pole three inches from one end (you can't harvest oysters under three inches in length, so the questionable ones have to be measured.) It's strong and sturdy enough to bash someone's skull in nicely, and the notch is a bonus -- an excellent place to desposit some blood and hair as evidence. There are also at least three people in the novel to whom the culling pole could belong to.
And, yes, I know -- I'm a ghoul.
Tunnel's End, Next Stop Light:
Besides the fact that it's Monday, which automatically sets my mood at halfpast disgusted, the muse finally kicked in around 3 am last night and I reworked half a novel outline. Today I have to rework the other half, but I'm on a roll now -- and it's a relief to be writing. I've been thinking about the book all weekend, and my deadline for the revised proposal is Wednesday. Not like I have a lot of time to get to the end of this tunnel, but at least I've located it.
The brooding mulling nothing-getting-done stage of "Can I do this?" and "I can't do that" is not a good place to stay in for a writer, or a practice to indulge in for too long. There's the danger of talking yourself into a corner until you're paralyzed with indecision. I'm not fond of corners, not when I have an editor waiting, and I've found making decisions is a lot easier than fearing them.
The Way-Back Machine:
I'm finally re-reading StarDoc, which I have not read since 1999 and only then for production purposes. I've been spot-checking it for references as I write "Illumination" but decided I'd better sit down and have a go from start to finish.
Usually reading something I wrote in the past is a little painful, like trying on a dress I wore before I had kids -- it just doesn't fit the way it used to. Other authors have spooked me on re-reading my stuff; if you listen to the way they talk about it you want to bury everything you write in a time capsule. I also lost someone I loved while StarDoc was in production, so there are sad associations that make me avoid it, too. Still, have to make sure the novella jives with the old novel, thus the re-read. I'm about halfway through the book now (making notes keeps the pace slow) but I'm surprised, it's not as grindingly awful as I thought it would be.
When I introduced Reever to the storyline, there was a lot I knew about him that I had no intention of revealing right away. And boy, I see now I really didn't tell you guys much. I've forgotten how little I did
reveal and now I can clearly see why lots of people want to watch him die a slow, horrible death. But writing in Reever's POV for the first time with Illumination has let me reveal something of his character which no one knows yet, and while it's been a real workout, I think it will remove homicidal thoughts from at least some of the reader's minds. I'm not trying to make Reever more palatable, though, and there are still plenty of days when I'd like to kill him myself, so don't expect a lot of excuses for his bad behavior.