Adventures at the check-out:
I'm standing in line at the Whole Foods store, waiting to check out with my little hand basket of organic stuff. I have visions of a wicked stir-fry to go with my veggie wonton soup and I want to get home so I can cook, but someone ahead of us is making out a check in Sanscrit or something. Man in front of me turns around, smiles, and starts telling me all about his new healthy diet. He uses visual aids by showing me things from his basket, in case I'm too dumb to know what tofu is. His straggly goatee bobs as he talks and I have to blink to keep from becoming hypnotized. I think, "Either he looks exactly like the picture of Jesus on my mother's bedroom wall or I'm just hallucinating from hunger from not eating all day." When he addresses the older lady behind me, she doesn't respond but I hear her backing up.
Enter Tofu Guy's significant other. She is tall, extremely thin, wears a vintage black dress and a lot of goth baubles. She pushes past me, grabs Tofu Guy's arm and tells him in a flat monotone that he forgot the [censored] rice and this [censored][censored] is taking too [censored] long. Swearing in a whole foods store is a little like spitting on an altar, btw, so everybody in line starts radiating hostility. I look around but there are no other registers open. The person making the check out has now started translating it into Greek, just in case someone doesn't understand Sanscrit. Morticia continues harping, though she's sensed the hostility and dropped her voice a little. Tofu Guy now looks like I imagine I did when he started talking to me. I consider abandoning my stir fry and settling for just soup when the Rosetta Stone check is finally interpreted by an emergency linguistics strike force sent down from the Smithsoanian and the line starts moving again.
Tofu Guy checks through his healthy diet foodstuffs, then attempts to pay with a credit card. Approval is denied. He fishes out another, which is also denied, but Morticia makes the cashier put it through twice because of course it's the store's [censored] machine. Tofu guy counts out the cash he has, but he's five bucks short. Morticia isn't carrying any [censored] money because her [censored] son always steals it out of her [censored] wallet and why can't the [censored] cashier just make out a [censored] [censored] manual charge slip, the [censored] company will have to accept it then.
I take a five dollar bill from my wallet and hand it to Tofu Guy. Here, let me help, I say, because it's that or shove it in his significant other's trashy mouth to shut her up. He doesn't want to accept it, then gracefully caves in, takes it and thanks me. Morticia looks at me like I'm a creature from another planet. Which, to her, I probably am. Out they go, and I check out in blessed silence. Best $5 I ever spent.
Template changes in progress -- also, putting up the December short story e-book (Adobe Acrobat Format) on the side bar, for anyone missed it.
So When Is It Okay?
I guess I'm still suffering from the post-novel brain crispies; I've been chided for neglecting to mention in my previous post that it's perfectly fine to get into discussions about writing online. Sure, discussions are good, and we all can learn from them. I join in them myself, all the time -- after
I finish the day's quota. While I'm working on the quota, nothing but things you'd call 911 about can drag me away.
As for the other activities that many self-proclaimed novelists do --besides writing novels -- I still think they're a waste of energy, money, and valuable writing time. Most how-to books should be subtitled "I can't make it as a fiction writer; please buy this book so I can pay my rent." And the conventions, pro writer orgs, online shark tanks, war protests, and awards begging? In one word --egofestering. Fine for those with a high tolerance level for ooze, but not my cup of chai.
Let's go back to Og the Trog, the first storyteller for a minute. For those of you who are Buffy fans, Og is like the First Slayer -- he wasn't pretty, he wasn't polished, he wasn't paid, but he got the job done. Og knew life was extremely brutal, often ugly, and always short. His tribe was the only thing he had besides a club and whatever he could kill that day for food and fur. He loved his tribe because they offered warmth and food and sex and companionship. When he got sick or hurt, they took care of him. He told his stories by the fire and entertained the tribe because that was a fine way to say "I love you" and "thank you".
Og really isn't that different from us, except that over the millenia we've let a lot of things get between us and our tribe. Things like money and cars and houses and PlayStation. We love the things that civilization has given us, so much that they have cut us off from the rest of the tribe. There really is no more tribe, only little pockets of something like it here and there. And then we go in search of validation because we're lonely and afraid; because we're still a tribal people at heart. We look for a place by the fire where there is no tribe and no fire burns.
How do we solve this? You make your own tribe, however you can -- family, friends, other writers, readers -- whoever you can gather together. You recognize that life is brutal and ugly and still pretty short. You show your love for your tribe by generosity and sincerity, which inspires them to do the same, and suddenly you've gathered around a roaring fire. If you're a storyteller, you tell your story and make it just about entertaining them. Then you let someone else have a turn, and you listen. And that's all there is to it, really. It can be that simple. It should be that simple.
I love to talk about novels, and the craft of writing novels. I hang out with other novelists online, and that's all we talk about. You know you're in the company of novelists when someone suggests doing something else with our lives and we all go completely blank on what or say, "God, why?"
I've gone so far as to suggest
that you don't have to be anything special to be a writer -- which garnered me beaucoup flack and praise at the time. Same goes for being a novelist, however, there is one requirement to being a novelist like me that is absolutely essential that I forgot to mention at the time. There is no compromising on this, no shortcut around it, and no way short of serious financial shellout to get someone else to do it for you.
If you want to be a novelist, you have to actually write novels.
I know, it's a terrible shock, especially for people who think being a novelist means deciding which how-to book to follow and debating who does or doesn't do it right and telling people that's what you do because you have a really great idea for a novel and going to conventions to ogle the really successful novelists and debating the great and largely useless merits of various novel writer organizations, agendas, awards, etc. The inescapable fact remains -- novelists write novels.
If you don't believe me, look up the word novelist
in the dictionary, and it doesn't say "a person who thinks about writing novels."
Today I was reading a discussion about how-tos and publishers and stuff about writing that was so extended it took like five minutes for the thread to load. Everybody had an opinion, and some of the points were good, some were great, and some were really annoying. I think it was the annoying parts that gave me the idea to copy the discussion to my Word program and do a count on it. In the space of five days, these people collectively wrote 65,431 words while talking about writing novels. No wonder it took so long to load -- it's a novel-length discussion thread. Some of the people participating are devoted, serious novelists, and it's cool to discuss things with people you know are working writers. But a lot of others probably didn't write a single sentence of fiction in those five days, and that's what was annoying me the most.
By comparison, during the exact same period of time, I wrote 49,755 words while working on two novels. The words were not about writing novels, they were
the novels. I'll be getting two very nice checks for both novels in a few weeks, enough to keep me and the kids living comfortably for the remainder of the year. And I'm not trying to be gloaty and snide because I'm making money at it, it just struck me how much more competition I'd have if all the people who like to talk about being novelists actually devoted that energy to doing the job.
The last of the current & rabid deadlines is scampering in this direction, but not for long, I've turned on the high beams and cleared everything else out of the road. This toothy little rottweiler doesn't have a snowcone's chance in Aruba, not with the way I'm feeling. The need for speed and the pleasure of the roadkill pales next to the self-made promise of a week off once the damn thing is squashed. I need seven days of uninterrupted parenting, painting and sleep.
Into this mix comes a story last night -- there's always a story, the blasted things follow me around like an endless supply of Serta sheep -- and this one has bigger teeth and a bad attitude. Like most of them, it got in my face, but this one talked. It said -- in a quasi-Clint Eastwood voice -- "Go ahead, plot me, you know you want to."
Then it hovered, just inside my peripheral writer's vision, all black leather and gunmetal and pretty white teeth. This is where the Church Lady from SNL would say, "Oh my, is it SATAN?"
I must resist; I want my week off. Really I do. :)
Some questions for you all about author online book contests -- the kind authors have on their web sites to give away free signed copies, like I did back in December -- is there something besides the signed book you'd like to win? I'm trying to think of a unique spin to put on mine. I know some romance authors give away jewelry or something that ties in with the book, but what would really tempt you?
Btw, I won't be using my book contests to create mailing lists or to SPAM people, I just like giving away books. Plus if someone who has never read my work wins and ends up liking the free book, chances are they will buy my books in the future, so it's another way to build the reader base.
Table Seven, Jumbo Bloody Mary:
Smacked into the post-novel pavement last night, collapsed with the boys (the felines are really worried now, and have taken to hovering), slept when I could and, when I couldn't, pondered the universal truths that can only be found in my bedroom ceiling. I concluded that all writers are slightly nuts, time is what you make of it, and my cats are cover hogs. C'est la vie d'un auteur.
Today I have a lot to do -- write 5K in new material, put together a new proposal, and catch up on e-mail. Tonight I start teaching again (and I will get the discussion guidelines posted shortly, my apologies to the FM clan.). Dishes and laundry will figure in the middle there somewhere, and now I have to pack lunches and hustle the kids off to improve their minds. You all have a good day, too. :)
Idiot Quote of the Day:
Wait for it . . .
"There's fast-food language, and there's caviar language; one of the things adults need to do for children is to introduce them to the pleasures of the subtle and the complex. A good way to do that, of course, is to let them see us enjoying it, and then forbid them to touch it, on the grounds that their minds aren't ready to cope with it, it's too strong, it'll drive them mad with strange and uncontrollable desires. If that doesn't make them want to try it, nothing will."
-- Author Philip Pullman
A few comments: 1) Caviar tastes like cold fish jelly and it sucks -- not the best analogy; 2) Obviously what he knows about children could comfortably fit into a thimble and 3) Get the feeling his parents were like, really strict with him, or what?
My advice is, go back to your shed, Mr. Pullman. Throw some darts at a photo of C.S. Lewis, you'll feel better.
Got a heads up on the latest idiocy
from Amazon.com. According to them, Blade Dancer is not yet published, but will be released on December 31, 1969. Right. That would mean the book comes out, um, when Mr. Peabody and I take it through the Way Back Machine?
Does make me look good, though. Now I can say "My first hardcover was published when I was eight years old" and "I'll be happy to sign my books, as soon as I learn cursive." The way Amazon keeps screwing up the simplest things reminds me of . . .hey, did NASA buy them or something?
And The Book is Outta Here.
Somebody, help me dig a shallow grave for this deadline. Hee hee.
Windows are dark, so I'm breaking for dinner. I am so
kicking butt on this novel. The ex picked up the kids earlier, they're going to check out a karate place. I don't know, why join a dojo when they watch their Mom? Hiiiii-ya!
Planet? Solar System?
Caught two hours of sleep last night before I told Morpheus to shove it and went back to the keyboard Got the kids out of bed, dressed, fed and off to school in twenty minutes flat. I'm in machine-mode now, ignition system jumped out, safeties disabled, etc. A bit more physically sluggish than I would have been in the old days, when I abused caffeine to the point of giving myself esophagial lacerations from the resulting acid reflux, but not half as surly or aggressive. When I jump off this high wire, I won't hit the pavement quite as hard, either.
Final read-through copy of the book is printed and piled on my desk. Animals have been fed, communications shut down, allies warned. Sometimes I get a little scary, even to myself, but you know what? I like it. Onward.
Longer marathon today, just hitting the seventeenth hour and I feel like I've got another two or three left in me. Met the editing goal plus, and finished 57K after dinner, which was . . . hell if I know. Can't say how much I rewrote, either, but it's been running between 10-20% on this particular novel, so maybe 30, 40 pages. New material produced tonight currently stands at 5.5K but I think I'll hit 7K before I crash. Do not
try this at home, boys and girls.
Cutting myself off from the family (and the world) for forty-eight hours always creates sensory whiplash when I come back in contact with it. The kids arrived tonight and I swear, they got taller, cuter and a whole lot louder
then when I saw them off to visit their Dad. Kathy has checked on me a couple of times tonight and offered to bring me things and rub my neck. I think Mike watches the clock and sends her at three hour intervals. A writer's kids are natural plotters. :)
Tomorrow's rather distant and blurry goal: Whatever it takes, finish the book, print the final copy, pack it up for shipment. Write 5K in new material if still conscious.
What Time Is It?
Crawling out of the abyss for food -- it's two in the morning, Holy Toledo, when did that
happen? On the headset now, my hands are fried (as are my eyes, neck, back, knee etc.) It was a good day, though, lemme see, according to the BatComputer, I wrote 14.5K in new material and edited about 137 pages today, which is about 34.5K. Not goal, but not bad for a fifteen hour marathon (the new stuff kinda came out of nowhere but since that deadline is also bearing down on me, it's cool. I still have three days left.)
Tomorrow's outrageous goal: Stop messing with the new material and edit and rewrite my way through 50K. If I make goal, then I can play.