My good pal Carol Stephenson
has won the Dorothy Parker award for her contemporary romance, "Nora's Pride", and we celebrated in style today with lunch down at Mango's
on Las Olas Blvd. I admit, I finally broke my 2003 vegetarian vow, but the temptation of the house special snow crab bisque was too much for me. Congratulations again, Carol. :)
See You, Dolly:
Dolly, the world's first animal clone, has been killed
by her creators after contracting a number of health problems including progressive lung disease. The sheep, who was born in 1996 and named after country singer Dolly Parton, was able to reproduce naturally but has shown signs of premature ageing since birth. Scientists are waiting for the autopsy to determine if the health problems the animal suffered were related to the cloning process.
I'm disappointed, as I think the research sparked by Dolly and the creation of other cloned animals is important. If a viable and affordable animal cloning process is found, it could help many third world countries and whisk many endangered species back from the edge of extinction. Hopefully the scientists will work out whatever they did wrong.
Happiness is . . .
Finishing the damn book, is what. "Into the Fire" is, as of 11:38 am, done.
No time to play just yet, I'm jumping full-throttle into finishing the revisions on "Going to the Chapel" and then I get my week off. Never has there been such a carrot dangling before my eyes as those seven days. :)
Happy Valentines Day
If you get a chance, bring some sunshine into someone's life today.
Pass the crumpets, Luke:
Evidently the Force is very strong in the UK, as some 390,000 people have claimed to be Jedi
on that country's 2001 census form. I wonder how many we'll lose to the dark side . . .
Money Can't Buy Happiness:
Read an outstanding article -- "How to Lead a Rich Life" by Polly LaBarre -- in the March 2003 issue of Fast Company
(I'm a subscriber so I get the new issues before they hit the newstands.) In the article Ms. LaBarre discusses the economics of success and the impact it has on our lives, and provides some stunning information on why so many people can be financially successful but utterly miserable. I really liked the views she presented on how to avoid the traps of success and live a richer (as in happier) life, too. I rarely plug magazines but I think it's worth the full cover price just to read this one article.
Watching the First Back:
Although usually represented in the media by big, serious, earpiece-wearing guys hovering behind someone at the Oval Office, the United States Secret Service
is a pretty amazing organization. They've got some hefty responsibilities, too, from protecting the President and other U.S. officials to investigating financial crimes. I was kind of impressed to find they had a website and offered so much information about their mission.
My friend Lily came over tonight to help chase away my neck and shoulder pains via Chinese massage or Tui-Na
, which I wrote about in TDE (I really do suffer for my research, folks). Besides loosening up all of my strung-out muscles and soothing my distraught nerve cells, it actually cleared my sinuses, which have been blocked since the weather started going bonkers around here. Lily is also experimenting on me with a new concoction of herbs that her grandmother thinks will help reduce the inflammation in my wrist and finger joints. This mix tastes a little like Vicks Vapor Rub smells, but that could also be the reason I no longer have to mouth-breathe.
Tui-Na is not for everyone, as it is much more intense than our Western-type massage therapies, and can be a little uncomfortable until you get used to it. Also the usual discalimer -- always check with your physician before trying an alternative therapy like this. I highly recommend it for people who like me suffer with chronic neck and back muscle pain.
Imagine the Retainer:
A man accused of judicial tampering will be allowed
to employ Jesus Christ as his attorney, but only if Our Savior is licensed to practice law in the state of Missouri, says Ozark County Circuit Judge John Moody. The defendent, who faces 14 years in prison for two counts of what basically looks like venting his spleen at another judge, plans to appeal the decision.
Characters Who Teach You:
I'm still learning the value of silence in the face of nonsense, especially when it is issued from certain sectors, but lately there has been a couple of situations that made my beast sit up, take notice and jerk on its chains -- like the whole Locus/Columbia deal. My beast is exactly like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil that way, its response is inevitably tornado first, questions after the resultant body parts are swept into the dustpan. I hate that knee-jerk type response, and yet it is so
tempting to throw open the cage and say, "Go ahead, Taz, whatever you can hunt down and kill."
On the way to pick up the kids, I thought of a character I've been meaning to get back to after I emerge from deadline hades -- Louisa Lopez from Nature's Decree and A Personal Injustice. I set her up as a continuation character, and she's been itching at the back of my mind since before Christmas. Without warning (which is how it usually happens these days) the plotline for her story just exploded in my head. I nearly wrecked the car, the scenes came so fast. Really excited, I grabbed the tape recorder and started verbally outlining, thinking, "Okay, Lou, exercise my Taz." Only she didn't want to hunt down and kill anyone, as it turns out, the revenge scenario didn't feel right. Lou wanted to die, same as she did before in Nature's Decree, and I had to give her a reason to live.
By the time I got to school I had cooked up an excellent one, although it had a strange effect on me -- I wasn't angry anymore at the nonsense. The nonsense can't just compete with the rush of a good story idea. Is it because of some kind of weird brain endorphins released by creative thinking? Or is it just getting my priorities straight?
I hope I never stop learning from doing this stuff.
Random House Waffles:
If you're looking for a job running a multi-billion dollar publishing outfit, try applying to Random House, because they're having a tough time
deciding how to replace Ann Godoff, fired a few weeks ago for failing to turn a profit (or because she was a fine literary editor with impeccable ethics, depending on who you listen to.)
Locus online has put up the final ballot
for the 2002 Nebula Awards, which have evidently outraged almost as many people as the recent Westfahlout,
but when haven't the Nebs ticked off someone? I think this year's candidates are just precious
, considering . . . no, Sheila, don't go there. Bad girl.
Every year a certain published author friend and I put money on who will win and donate the proceeds of our illicit wagering to charity. Since I have accurately predicted 90% of the Neb winners for the last three years (it's really a no-brainer if you know SFWA politics) she wants to up the stakes. Thus this year's bet will be $50.00 and loser has to write a novel in a genre of the winner's choice. I have already been informed that if my psychic powers fail me I will be writing a traditional Western (ala Louis Lamour). Which is fine, because if she loses, she's going to be writing an Inspirational Romance (ala Robin Lee Hatcher).
Someone (you know who you are) asked if I could elaborate on my work schedule with more details. I thought it might be neat if I wrote out one work day here. I also think Mondays bite so this will keep my normally gloomy spirits up and (hopefully) my butt in gear.
1. 5:17 - 5:57 am:
Woke up, dragged myself out to the kitchen, made my first pot of tea (Irish), started a load of laundry, read a few threads on the Main Board at FM, checked out this ethnographic site
Holly recommended as a good source of inspiration and writer material (definitely), thought Justin's dream
as well as Misty's
were very cool and would make excellent stories
(hint, hint, you guys). It's nearing six, though, so time to get to work. Today's grid schedule (and this is deadline week, so it's a little brutal, just FYI):
6:00am - 7:00am Web site story/2K
8:45am - 2:15pm Editing "Into the Fire"/20K
6:00pm - 7:00pm Printing/computer backups
9:30pm - whenever Editing "Into the Fire" and rewrites/10K minimum
Update tax ledger
2. 6:00-7:05 am
-- wrote 1,786 words on the web site story for March. Scene came slower than I'd like (Monday blahs) but looks good. Saved to disk, put clothes in dryer, woke up the kids. Off to make breakfast, pack lunches, and make my children get an education.
3. 7:05-8:30 am
-- fed the progeny, had my breakfast (grapefruit, plain rice cake, tea) and packed lunches. Read the first part of P.J. O'Rourke's article on former President Clinton in The Atlantic (The Bill Show); P.J. honey you need to get over your ire with the trailer park trash of the world, not all of us turn out like Bill. Mike wandered into the kitchen to inform me that today is polo day, not PE day, and I'd laid out the wrong uniforms for him and his sister. All part of the joys of Monday. Switched uniforms, brushed out my daughter's rat's nest while she grumbled a few rude things. The girl hates Monday almost as much as I do. Grabbed school gear and hustled the kids downstairs, drove to school listening to Ekova's Steel Bird. On the way home, some moron in an SUV screeched to a full stop in front of me and much oncoming traffic because he couldn't get into the turn lane. Hit the horn, watched my rear view, indulged the usual get-a-rocket-launcher fantasy. Home now, just took dry clothes out of dryer, have to strip the beds and start a load of sheets in the washer, then onto editing.
-- Taking my first break now. Edited about 5.5K so far, wrote 1515 new words to add a scene to the chapter; why did I skip getting into Caine's POV on the morning after the shooting? Should have flagged that, where was my brain? Phone rang at 10:02 am, ignored it, no message, another ar 10:50 am, ignored it, no message. Telemarketers probably; whoever calls me in the am knows to talk to the answering machine or I won't pick up the phone. My stomach, which has been in Celtic knots all weekend, has been behaving itself so far. Hilaire (side character in the story) needs a quirk. So many damn eye and door references to weed out and replace. Rethinking the Sable/Caine confrontation scene, may jack up the tension a bit more. I need a new pot of tea.
-- Forgot to make the tea, putting on the kettle now. Edited another 12K, added 786 new words on the rework of the parade scene, decided on the final Krewe Louis colors (much debate on that) and went with black and gold instead of the more traditional white and gold. No Elvis impersonators in my novel, please. Phone call from agent at 11:20-11:28am, new editor is delighted with my first book, got the title for my next one, agent wanted to know if I can squeeze in one more book this year for them. Said Hell yes and scheduled the new contract talk for the 22nd. More telemarketers called at 12:08 and 1:23, ignored them, damn damn phone. Taking final break before I do my backups and print out the final versions of chapters one through seven for hard copy read-through. If White Nights sells I will be booked solid until April 2004, so I need to decide now about whether I'm taking December off or not.
6. 1:24 pm
-- Package arrived from my friend Suzannah, looks like a bunch of 1920's feedsack for repair work and a very strange yard of silk, about 60" wide, really heavy and a gorgeous midnight blue. We swap stuff so this is payback for some old English tapestry wool and tassels I sent her a couple of weeks ago.
-- Edited another 1K while running the printer, added 515 new words to flesh out part of the lake scene. Took sheets out of washer, into dryer, started new load. Lunch, eh, not hungry yet. Off to get the kids from school.
-- Got Mike, Kathy wanted to stay in aftercare to play with her friends, came home, helped Mike study his bible verse and spelling list. His report on Japan is due this week so we hit the books. Finished sheets, made the beds, scheduled to house-sit and take care of the dog for the ex while he's out of town (aren't I a nice ex-wife?), went through mail, oy the junk I get, chopped up some fresh broccoli and de-veined some snow peas as prep for dinner. Folded the rest of the laundry, stacked dishwasher, put away Suz's neat swap fabric, watered plants, sat on balcony and communed with my son and nature for a bit while I wrote in my personal journal. We are totally Zen. Time to start dinner.
-- Cooked my rice & veggies for dinner and prepped some fresh corn to soak overnight for hominy (gross breakfast thing we southerners eat, I make my own). Tonight is Dad's night so the ex picked up Kath from school and came by to get Mike. Treated a boo-boo on my daughter's elbow before they left. Ate dinner and read most of a chapter of The Medieval Archer and a bit on lobster migrations and angler fish mating habits from three marine bio books; during mating the female angler actually absorbs the body of the much smaller male; who says deep sea fish don't have fun? Since I finished printing earlier today whizzed through the backups and played kill-the-fake-mouse with the cats. Rush is still mad at me for swabbing his latest wound yesterday so he sulked and ignored me and his brothers. Showered, gave myself a mini-facial, lit some candles and meditated with the pines on the balcony. Since I didn't make quota this morning and the kids are off at their Dad's, I'm going to get back to work now.
-- Taking a break to stretch out my back and knee, getting some immobility pains from sitting still so long. Edited about 3K, wrote 2039 new words to fill in two flags, got really into the zone until the neck and back started to zing. I need to finish editing another 8.5K before I hit the sack. This is where the going gets tough, the final sprint to the finish line.
-- Edited 6K, wrote another 423 words to intensify the confrontation scene between Sable and Caine. Also found the key to Cort 's POV of Terri with the Noir et Blanche invitation. Started new week page in the tax ledger. Ran the dishwasher. Too tired to deal with e-mail. Didn't make quota but came pretty close, so I'll have to be happy with that. It's Monday, so it could have been a lot worse. :) Time to take my vitamins and drop.
And that's one day in my work week -- I do about a third less when I'm not under deadline pressure -- but it's like this seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. No television, no goofing off, no room (or time) for doubt or second-guessing myself. Tomorrow I'll get up and do it all over again, and I'll keep doing it until the book is finished, and then I'll move on to the next one and start all over again. It's a very unglamorous life, to be sure, but I think it's worth it.
Oh, and I did make quota, if you count the new material that I wrote on Into the Fire and the 1425 words I wrote here, telling you about it. Night everyone.
I just typed the last line of the new and improved version of "Into the Fire," so that book is done as far as the writing. Have to jump right into the final read through and edit, and then I have revisions on the first Christian book to finish by the 21st. For those of you who were interested in the Author in the Window project, I'm going to start that as soon as I murder all these deadlines, so check back here on the 22nd for the specific details of what's happening and how to join in.
This book was not easy -- I threw out the first 175 pages as unworkable and unsalvageable and started over from scratch, then had to put it completely aside to meet another book deadline, do revisions, galleys, etc. during the holidays. It felt like a lot of jump starts and not a lot of substance until about a week ago. The characters have not been the nicest crew to manage, either -- three extremely strong females in one book were tough enough to contrast and balance, and then Caine my anti-hero/future hero got rambunctious with my heroine when he is supposed to wait until book three. God save me from snarly dark tortured males with attitude problems.
I think I learned more about writing difficult characters with this book than any other. It was a bit like what I went through with The (cough) Kissing Blades in that I was given an assignment book versus the one I pitched. What made this one easier was talking through the plot changes with the editor, then letting go of the original work and writing fresh. You know when you patch and rewrite and patch and it starts to read like a quilt instead of a book, it's time to let go.
Words & Music:
Read this interesting article
this morning about the sad state of the music industry, which seems to be echoing what's happening here on the publishing front -- people just aren't spending money like they used to. There's a bunch of finger-pointing at different reasons on both sides, but when people don't spend money, product doesn't move. You've got to offer people something really dazzling and
cheap these days to sell whatever you produce.
It's interesting to see some of the theories about publishers going on in this article
about the Godoff/Centrullo whammy at Random House. I met Ms. Centrullo in person about a year after she made the move to Ballantine and I thought she was a very charismatic and dynamic woman, so I'm not surprised she's made a success of her situation. It's just unfortunate that she's been branded the villain of the piece in so many views. Being good at what you do does not always make you a lot of friends.