Test of Faith:
I went over to church today, to get some spiritual advice on my present dilemma. I'm not one to drop in on the good father with just any old problem, so he invited me to stay for tea. Note: having tea with a priest is a little like having tea with the President of the United States. It's hard to converse naturally when all you can think is, "God, don't let me burp, dribble, or smash the china." I didn't mess up, but the cookies were tough -- crumbs everywhere.
We talked about my work, and how difficult it is to be a person of faith -- particularly a faith under fire. Since so many people have decided that "priest" automatically equals "child molestor," he could sympathize with my situation. He reminded me of the many times my faith has been tested, and how I weathered those. His theory is, this is just another pop quiz.
The fact is, I've chosen to work in a field where there is so much hatred against my faith that I might as well be selling peanuts at the Colosseum during the Christians Vs. Lions matinee. I haven't tried to hide my faith, but I haven't broadcasted it, either. The hatred and bigotry is nothing new. If I was black-skinned, white supremicists would hate me. If I was a lesbian, homophobes would hate me. There will always be hatred, and always plenty of people to sneer and throw it at me for whatever I am. I can hide from it, or I can go sell my peanuts somewhere else.
Or I can tell the people buying my peanuts exactly who they're getting it from. So here's what I posted then deleted the other day, and am now reposting:
The new contract means that I'll be writing two books a year in Christian inspirational fiction.
If you're surprised, that makes two of us. I haven't written much inspirational fiction -- a couple of stories -- and I don't read it at all (sound familiar? Same deal with SF. Who knew.) I didn't research the genre before I pitched the books, mainly to avoid subconscious influences and because I wanted to see what I could do with it. I've never been shy about my faith, though, and I know the bible well enough to be comfortable working with scripture. Basically I went into this thinking, "Have fun. Don't preach. Get the message across." and that's what I tried to do.
I know revealing this will disappoint some people who might have been hoping for something more exciting. This is more exciting for me personally. I've always hoped to inspire people with my imagination, and I think I've done okay in that department. Now I'll have a chance to do the same thing with my faith, for people who share my faith. Can there be a better job than that?
This is who I am. I'm not ashamed of it and I'm not going to hide. Still want some peanuts?
Pay the IRS Can't Touch:
I nag other writers to reward themselves for meeting goals, finishing novels and otherwise working hard. As writing is a lonely job, and we very rarely get praised for all the work we do, it really helps to give yourself a pat on the back. I used to call these "aspiring writer paychecks" but it works for the published too (and as it takes so long for us to get paid for our work, can be just as necessary to keep us motivated.) Now, giving yourself twenty or thirty bucks is always nice, but I try to make my paychecks a special treat versus cold cash -- I get some new fabric, rent a movie, have a meal out with a friend, or spend an hour soaking in the bath. It's not the size or cost of the reward that matters -- it's saying to yourself, "You did good, you earned this."
My reward for being a good writer and meeting my goals this week was renting "Brotherhood of the Wolf" to watch. It's top contender for the best movie I've seen this year. However, before you rush out to get a copy, some stern warnings:
this movie contains graphic violence, gore, nudity, sex, and some scenes/situations that may upset animal lovers. I don't recommend the movie for young teens or children at all.
Now that I've scared you, how do I describe the movie? Think "Dangerous Liasions" meets "Last of the Mohicans" with a little "Cujo" and "The Thirteenth Warrior" thrown in, and you're about halfway there. It was beautifully photographed from start to finish, very authentic era settings, costumes, etc., a talented cast of people I've never heard of, excellent script and a plot that blew my mind. The fight scenes will stun you. Blockbuster only has a dubbed English version so I want the original French version now. Incredible film, great choice as a reward for me.
So what are you doing to reward yourself for the work you've accomplished?
We're still moving at warp speed here, and I okayed the contract pay-outs and so forth this morning. My new editor will be calling this afternoon to discuss series concepts and scheduling. My first novel for them will go into production after the holidays, probably mid-January. In between all this, I got another job this morning -- writing the script for the kids' school Christmas Program. I like the payment for this one -- I get all the hugs and candy canes I want.
I originally posted more details, but memories of unpleasant events from the past gave me second thoughts. There are bigoted people out there who take great pleasure in being hateful, and I want to protect this work. If you've already read the details I just deleted, you can understand why it's important to me. I'm sorry, I'm probably being too cautious but right now I want this to remain delightful news, and not become the catalyst for yet another hate e-mail campaign.
Speed of Light:
You can imagine what today has been like for me. Everything after 2 pm kinda blurred. The kids and I went to have celebratory sundaes after school and I forgot to get myself ice cream. I made myself a cup of tea when we got home and I put it down somewhere on the way to the phone -- and still haven't found it. I called Mom, but we were too choked up to talk long. Then I baked two chickens for dinner, because they both seemed a little small. Well, they grew in the oven or something, so I guess we'll be having leftover chicken and chicken salad and chicken potpie for few days. Oh, and half the rice got scorched because I didn't put in enough water. Maybe I should test all the smoke alarms before I go to bed.
Seriously now -- my thanks to everyone for the lovely congrats and comments, and for all the encouragement you've given me over the last couple of months. It got me through some pretty tough times. I hope I can do the same for some of you. I'm sure going to try.
The top secret project, new genre, I'll be the launch author, writing two books a year. We're negotiating terms but the sale will be at least eight to twelve books. The fee will keep me home writing full-time for, oh, the next five or six years. More later, I have to go run around and scream a lot now.
There's an amusing debate going on about the integrity of the webloggers, specifically those who make some money as speakers at conferences and such. It's a bit muddled, but it's something like "webloggers are selling out to Evil Corporate Influence" along with a bunch of tech references, the latter of which practically put me to sleep. Yeah, yeah, okay, everybody hates Microsoft, but without it, tech-challenged dummies like me would have to go back to soup cans and really long strings to stay in touch with the rest of the world.
The ethics part of the arguments is pretty interesting, though, so I followed some links, and apparently it started with this Ratcliffe guy,
who upset Doc (nice guy)
who is a friend of AKMA (thoughtful guy)
and got all the other weblog purists (nice girl)
up in arms about the whole deal. Of all the posts, I thought this one (funny girl)
I can tell you, once you turn pro as a writer, you get offered all kinds of stuff. Lots of comp for conference and convention appearances, endorsement fees for software, e-zines, and online subscriber sites, a variety of offers in exchange for collabs, anthos, and cover blurbs, promises of promotion from certain pro writer organizations to support whatever nonsense they're pushing, etc. The behind-the-scenes genre awards bullshit alone would take two paragraphs to describe. Readers are just as avid, and can offer some really strange stuff in exchange for personal appearances at some function, one-on-one meetings, etc. (use common sense and always refuse these.) I've also received five serious offers of marriage and a dozen not-so-permanent proposals. With accompanying photos that ranged from earnest to, well, eager.
I never intended to make any money from Star Lines, and I doubt Microsoft is going to send the corporate Lear jet to pick me up for a weekend in Tahoe on the company any time soon. But I do talk about my books here, and I'm well aware that when one of you goes out and pays $6.99 for one of my novels, I benefit from it. (and I get .42 per book, just so you know the exact figure.) The weblog absolutely helps publicize my work and adds to my profits. Will I cave in and take gratuities in the future? I kind of doubt it, but then, Hugh Jackman hasn't shown up with a million dollars and two tickets to Maui. Better check back with me if he ever does, I could change my mind in a hurry.
Don't be disappointed if you find out one of your favorite webloggers has decided that accepting a little here and there is more important than upholding your ethical standards or artistic ideals. It happens in every segment of society and it's not the end of the world. Simply do that thing we were supposed to do when we graduated from high school. You know, grow up.
The Bathroom will have to wait:
I just sold a book to Onyx, "Into the Fire", contemporary romantic suspense, with an option to buy two additional novels after delivery next spring. That's one definite and two strong maybes. This will be my fifteenth book in print. I'm off to celebrate.
The editor looking at the top secret project just called my agent to ask for my resume and bibliography, which makes me a little more cautiously optimistic. My bio stuff is out of date and on the old computer, so I typed up new ones and e-mailed them off. Even when I skip half my credits and only put down the major stuff (mainly, to save space and keep the resume to one page) I look pretty good on paper. Feels a little strange, though, to see all the stuff I've done over the last three years -- and speculate on what the editor will think. She'll probably never guess that after I proofed my official bibliography, I clipped coupons for the grocery store, sorted socks, and unclogged the garbage disposal.
Such is the life of a glamorous lady writer. Who also has to clean the middle bathroom this afternoon, too.
The Beautiful Colors of Autumn:
Okay, so they're identical to the beautiful colors of spring, summer, and winter here. What can I say, we like green. :)
Got some return on my prayers tonight. I won't preach to you, and there are really no words for the experience, except that it's beautiful and it humbles me. There is someone out there, and he/she/it is listening.
That was just a joke. All the computer programmers I know may now sigh with relief.
These are the moments I am sorely tempted to offer my hand in marriage to a computer programmer. Only he'd probably strangle me before our first anniversary.
I Give Up:
I've messed with the template again, but it seems I will sooner bring peace to the Middle East than I can get the damn photo up at the top there to line up with the rest of the border. Have I mentioned how much I loathe HTML? Still, it's a little less out of alignment than it was. Now, to figure out how I accidentally shrank some of the lettering....
File transfer protocol is a pain.
Researching books can be a little unnerving at times, and I never felt more uncomfortable than when I spoke to a man in local law enforcement yesterday about some aspects of gang criminal activity. My source is something of a local expert on the streets and has been involved with a number of different agencies during his career, so it was a very valuable exchange. While our entire conversation was "theoretical," he drew on actual incidents to give me an idea of what is really involved. At one point he and I ran through a scene I was planning, and he gave me examples of the style of dialogue to use for the bad guys. He corrected me on a number of character points as well, particularly the philosophy of the leaders of these groups. I rewrote the scene according to our discussion, and the end result was so chilling I was up until 4 a.m., mulling it over.
I know why I'm so uncomfortable with the scene -- I want to redeem the central character, Belenger, who is a manipulative, reprehensible, mostly evil guy. Genuinely evil too, not just faking it so he can free slaves behind the scenes or save the woman he loves or whatever. I know he's an awful man, but knowing what I do about his origins, I can't help feeling sorry for him. I always want to nuture the bad boys; I think it's the mother in me. Putting him in an authentic environment, and having him behave like an authentic criminal, however, means ultimately sacrificing any redemption. But Belenger is so necessary to the balance of the plot that I can't kill him off, so he must continue to exist and operate and be this damn thorn in my side for five hundred pages. Maybe that will lend more authenticity to him than anything -- the fact that I could cheerfully kick his butt for giving me so much grief.
Deadline, I Knew It Well:
Forgot to post this, but I terminated the last deadline. Poor thing never had a chance. Now I have one more proposal rewrite to do, then I can relax. Maybe. I think I said this a week ago so I'm not betting on it.
Leery of the Rings?
I'm coming up on three years of being single after a long marriage. There are stages to this peculiar state, just like there are stages of grief (only the former object of your affections is still walking around and isn't six feet under, however much you wish him/her there.) So far I've been through these three stages:
1. Date of separation to one year after: The first year after your divorce is the worst. Aside from all the emotional, physical, and lifestyle adjustments, everyone treats you like you're dying. If they're married friends, they treat you like you have a contagious skin disease. Friends speak in low, consoling murmurs and advise you to join a newly-singles group, or in forcefully cheerful loud voices and tell you to go out and get drunk or have a torrid love affair and show him/her what he's missing. Your mother tells you she never trusted your ex, but didn't tell you because she knew you wouldn't listen.
2. One year to two years after: By now you and your ex have divided up your friends. If you haven't dated yet, the ones who are still talking to you start to get worried. Counseling comes up again, but this time what's recommended is of the "feel good about yourself" and "take charge of your miserable life" variety. Someone will almost always try to give you a dog. Single friends invite you to parties where there are other divorced people -- oddly a lot like group dating was in high school. Married friends go out of their way to include you in their married couple stuff, as a reminder of what you're missing. Your mother starts shaking down her friends for suitable escorts of the opposite sex, "Just so you won't have to go by yourself, dear" when what she really wants is a new son or daughter-in-law, and pronto.
3. Two years to three years after: Most of your single friends are married, and your married friends are divorced. If you still haven't dated, at least one of them -- usually the most dim-witted one -- will tell you that they would completely understand if you've turned gay or lesbian. People invite you to be an escort for someone who just separated from their ex, so you can remind them of what they're missing. Your mother, who has been trying to fix you up on a blind date for a year now, is desperate. She'll trick you into going on one if she has to, even if it means faking a broken hip again.
I figure year four should be really interesting, as I still have no intentions of dating yet. My friends have already checked my house to see if I'm hiding a secret lover, my cats will absolutely eat the next dog someone tries to give me, and my mother is running out of hips to break.
My ex and I have split up the kids for the day (this is known as parental-kid intensive quality time, one-on-one) Mike and I went shopping for a new lamp (found a nice 3-way blue one at Target, $8.98, such a bargain) and had lunch together. I okayed pizza for dinner as long as he eats a salad with it, and we've agreed that doesn't quite make me the meanest mother in Florida. However, he assures me that I may assume her duties if she's ever bounced out of first place for serving chocolate pudding for breakfast or some other nutritional scandal.
I love all my children, but I really like hanging out with my son. Mike is so happy and low-key that I think he lowers my blood pressure just by proximity. I have absolutely no idea who he got that from; there's not a mellow gene on either side of the family. When Kath isn't around to antagonize him (which she does, because she's seven and worships the ground he walks on) Mike relaxes and is more talkative and into doing weird, don't-tell-my-friends things like making strawberry muffins or reading Popular Science out loud while I do the dishes. I always think my ideas are kind of boring, though, and I asked him if he wanted to do anything special this afternoon, like run to the park for a couple hours or get some popcorn and rent a movie.
He gave me a stern look and said, "Mom, your truck needs washing. No fooling around until we get that done."
Maybe the kid got some of my DNA after all. :)
Sleepless, But Dream Fishing:
I don't recommend insomnia, but there are times when I enjoy it -- the stillness of the house, the little night sounds that color it, the hours I can work without phone calls or doorbell chimes or any notice that I'm surrounded by the rest of the world. Tonight I finished the quota, then I finished tomorrow's quota, and then I played with some ideas.
something I recommend -- writer-dreaming, dream-fishing, tossing out ideas like hooks, baited with bits and pieces of imagery and dialogue and characters, seeing how they play out, watching for the big idea to come along. I've heard other people say that's the hardest part of the process but I never get tired of it and it doesn't scare me. It truly is like fishing -- sometimes you go the whole day tossing back the little ones and then once in a while, you reel in something big (and sometimes, it doesn't want to be caught and snaps the line.)
Writer-dreams are slippery and elusive and quick. They're beautiful, too. Some nights I just like looking at them, seeing the flash and the colors and knowing there are too many to count, much less catch. You have to be patient with dream-fishing, because it's not a science or a sport or a skill. I think it's instinct. And I'm getting way too poetic even for me, so -- off to bed for another whack at the Sandman.