To Bleat or Not to Bleat:
An invitation came in from an unexpected source, offering some print space in which I could elaborate on what motivated me to write Blade Dancer. I have a feeling there's a nasty review by some lit-head which they'd plaster right next to whatever I have to say, so I decided against it. Thanks, but no thanks.
Then I got to the bottom of the e-mail, and this guy's little parting shot about feeling free to add a bit on my romance writing. Toned to sound like my romance work is a horrifying skin condition I could mention in passing to invoke reader sympathy but that I should otherwise cover up decently with gloves and a really big hat.
(hitting the delete key, setting up another e-mail block.) *Sigh.*
As the release dates for my August books creep closer, I am faced with the final window of opportunity to do something to promote them. And I find I don't care. No, that's not exactly true -- I do care about the real people who buy my books because they like my work, and I'll have a web site book giveaway for them; readers always seem to enjoy that. I haven't done any physical promo like bookmarks and chapbooks because of time constraints. It's also starting to seem as pointless and meaningless as booksignings and readings. My books are selling just as well or better than they did before. The JH books, for which I've done nothing but a couple of web site excerpts, are even selling better than the Gena Hales.
I know, I know -- the authorial herd generally tramples over each other to push their print, but the thought of diving in the middle of all that dirty wool makes me itch. I'd rather hang out with the lone wolves.
I don't brag about my books much, but I am really proud of Blade and TKB. Both were a cast-iron bitch to write, both bruised me in myriad places, and both turned out lights years beyond my wildest expectations. Emotionally it cost me the most to write Endurance, which should forever be dripping with psychic bloodstains, but Blade simply demanded every nerve I owned, and some I didn't but that I pretended I did. TKB made me swallow my anger and pride more times than I can count. That I survived those two books still amazes me. I'm very grateful I was given the opportunity to publish them, because they rank #1 and #2 on my list of the best novels I've ever written.
And that's all the bleating I think I'm going to produce about the August books. Bah-ah-ah-ah.
Making People Visible:
-- that sounds so dumb, forget being PC -- my mailman actually has my phone number. He calls me whenever he gets a package for me, and I meet him downstairs.
Why such personal service from the largely indifferent U.S. Postal Service? My mailman has a heart condition, and climbing stairs is easier for me than him, so I gave him my phone number. If I'm not home, he holds the package for me.
I know all this because I made the effort to find out.
My mailman also calls to check on me when I'm sick and my mail starts piling up. I have given him books for his wife and we've talked about our kids. I hug him on a regular basis, too, something that makes everyone else in the neighborhood stare.
Very few people around here know our mailman's name, or that he had bypass surgery a couple of months ago, or how much he adores his daughter. They don't see him as a person, or they don't see him at all.
It doesn't take much to get to know people. A few minutes, some genuine interest, a little conversation and you'll usually make a friend. The most important element is seeing them, really seeing
them instead of pretending they're invisible.
"Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot." -- D.H. Lawrence
"If you don't like my book, write your own. If you don't think you can write a novel, that ought to tell you something. If you think you can, do. No excuses. If you still don't like my novels, find a book you do like. Life is too short to be miserable. If you like my novels, I commend your good taste." -- Rita Mae Brown
"A man is a critic when he cannot be an artist, in the same way that a man becomes an informer when he cannot be a soldier." -- Gustave Flaubert
"Can't expect everyone to adore me, but I can kick anyone I want off my weblog." -- S.L. Viehl
Not a good day for writing, too many incoming phone calls, too many offers to consider, too many books up in the air, two more books (not mine) that repeatedly smacked me over the head, and two restless kids = Mom throwing in the towel. I hate missing my quota twice in a week but sometimes you just gotta breathe.
I grabbed the offspring and we went to drown our myriad miseries at the ice cream parlor (a hot fudge-brownie sundae is my personal equivalent of tying one on at a bar.) This usually works, but someone remembered my cell phone number. I only bought this blasted thing for emergencies, and it's turning into a digital version of my mother.
Anyway. The kids happily went off to a car show with their Dad, leaving me to write in peace. Only it's the wrong time of day to write and I felt resentful. I tried to further quell my misery in a pot of black cherry berry tea (I am into fruit teas this week) and some mini rice cakes, but the ice cream killed my appetite.
I feel, I don't know -- irritable. Not PMS, more like post-sickness-grouchiness. It's like being a small beached whale trying to inch back into the surf, only there are ambergris harvesters poking at me. Want to know what ambergris is? No, you don't, trust me. My little tidal pools of calm are usually enough but today I needed a tidal wave to sweep all this nonsense -- or me -- out to sea. No such luck.
So now, with my day gone all topsy-turvy, I'll write. I have a scene I've been wanting to do between my protag and a self-centered ninny of a character, and I'm going to let the little skink run her mouth for a bit and channel all my frustrations through her. Then I'm going to let my protag knock her on her butt.
The Lightbulb Illuminates:
Medical ignorance, misogynist authors of both genders, Darwin's ideas and certain commentary on Strom Thurmond's death fused together last night around 2am and finally, finally
Edison's invention clicked on over my head. I think I now have the ingredients for a working theory, and if all goes well it could solve a problem that has been mystifying me since I started this gig. I'm going to slink off to the Bat Cave to brood some more on it.
If you're interested in reading some terrific articles on the development of human intelligence, check out the archives of Brain and Mind magazine
I took the kids to see Pixar's "Finding Nemo" this afternoon -- first movie I've seen all year in the theater -- and the youngsters loved it. It was cute, but I probably won't be able to eat fish for the rest of the year now without thinking of Nemo's big eyes and wobbly little fin and feeling like a monster. It's nice to see/hear Ellen Degeneris working again. The 12-step sharks were inspired.
I came home to learn that the Supreme Court finally did something right and banned those stupid sodomy laws. I am not happy with the attitude of the justices who voted against it, though; Scalia in particular came across like an ignorant jerk. Respecting the privacy rights of consenting adults is not an agenda, it's simple common decency. If anyone has an agenda, it's the homophobic idiots who have used these laws to exercise their own bigotry and hatreds. It's nice to see them eat dirt on this one.
If you like using tarot cards for inspiration and plotting, you might check out Archetype Storytelling Cards
from Lon Koenig games. These come with an instruction sheet explaining different ways to use them, are absolutely gorgeous to look at, and endlessly inspiring when the muse needs a shuffle.
Play with that Weird Name Generator all day -- check out this one:
Sultanna Beauty Wielding the Sapphire Mace and That Sleeps in the Caves of Chaos
A sapphire mace and caves of chaos. Those are just too cool for words. :)
For fun & inspiration, via Seventh Sanctum.
Angel/Demon Name Generator
-- Didn't think they were interchangeable, but you can generate up to 50 at a time, i.e. Amurtonai, Arnren, Erapuhon, Imesab, Namipak
Evil-Sounding Name Generator
-- generate up to 50 monikers for your evil ones per click, i.e. Ethavae, Etulu, Githaetu, Glri, Lkavazgu, Mardu, Riatulde, Vamath
(hey, I like that one) Wetungld, Wetungwet
(oh, the visual. Ick.)
People Generator Mark 1
-- this one gives you a general character description, i.e.: This is a female Southern Native American with pageboy-cut black hair, tan skin, and intelligent dark brown eyes. She is of average height and has a wide-hipped build. Her features are a mix of serious and childlike.
Vampire Name Generator
-- solves the problem of what to name those pesky bloosuckers; produce up to 25 names with your choice of gender, i.e. for female Angelica Fortune, Angeline Salizar, Christine Sturm, Dawn Crane, Dawn Cromwell, Elenor Cornelius, Eve Constantine, Lily Von Stein, Misty Black, Tessa Von Stein
Weird Name Generator
-- my favorite, hands down, with title-ish names that actually spark some story ideas all on their own, i.e. Duke That Locks the Manse of Death, Emperor who Wed the Chief, Gown of Carnage
(instant story idea from that one)
Illuminated Grandfather in the Mirages, Princess Brilliance of Importance and Atrocity, Raiment of Flame, The Ancient Czar with an Eye of Orahalcium Who Sleeps in the Tunnel
(and you thought they were just homeless bums in the subway) The Blessed Duke, The Celestial Archivist, The Decrepid Mentor, The Duke That Forgets the Elder, The Ensorceled Czarina of War and Fortune, The Rogue Bound by the Pit, The Twisted Marquis of Talent, The Unknown Czar
I'm trying out a new WP program, Yeah Write
this week to see if it has any advantages over Microsoft Word. The program is not huge or complicated, which is nice, and so far I like the screens and the setup. As soon as I learn the program I'll get into things that give me headaches like file compatibility and conversion. You can download and test drive the free version here.
Inspired by the title of my next SF book, Fort Lauderdale street artist Neptic designed a very cool tag
for me. He also offered to do a tat of the same on my shoulder, but wisely withdrew the offer after I described what my mother would do to him when she was finished strangling me.
5 Million Copies:
That's the early estimate of how well Harry Potter sold on Saturday, according to this PW article.
That one day performance breaks all existing publishing sales records. Cha-ching, J.K. :)
Under A in Kelly's Colloquial Dictionary:
A bone-level discordant opining issued from the orifice or keyboard of an intellectual; the mating call of a particular jackass [see large sterile mammals, literary
]; the only sound more annoying than an ex-husband asking for money, i.e. "Why did Kelly go and move to Tibet again?" "To escape the local assonance, I think."
It is universally acknowledged that I am not hip; in fact Steve from Blue's Clues would rank way above me on the hip-scale. This includes literati slang casually volleyed around the web which I don't even try to fathom; knowing galleys aren't Roman slave ships is hip enough for me.
Yet in a discussion thread last week, someone threw the term "po-mo" at me and it really bugged me. "Po-mo" had something to do with stories, but what? I replied that I didn't know what the term meant, hoping to get a definition, but none was offered. Maybe I embarrassed the user by admitting I didn't know the term -- I think I make a lot of people uncomfortable that way. If being a published author is supposed to endow you with all-knowing, all-seeing powers, I definitely got skipped.
Anyway. It still bugged me, so I did a Google search, and found it defined under the 6-13 entry on Gabe Chouinard's weblog,
along with some other, fairly hostile definitions to SF/F genre terminology. "Po-mo" according to Mr. Chouinard means: 'poor moment' stories, i.e. "I wrote that story because I had to pay the electric bill."
Insinuating, I guess, that anyone of a certain temperment who writes something specifically to get money for it is doing so only out of living-situation desperation.
I just don't get the contempt, and I suspect I never will, but I'm glad to know what it means. Not sure about some of the other definitions, though -- like all the writers over at Baen being right-wing war mongers? That was kind of a surprise; I thought they were just pretty successful.
I've tried posting this entry twice and my ISP has kicked me off both times; Rush threw up his breakfast all over my research notes (not for the first time, which is why I use waterproof ink and strong paper, so I can launder my notes when necessary); and finally the washing machine had a screeching nervous breakdown over some beach towels and tried to walk out of the laundry room. Hasn't aggravated me as it usually would, I think getting over this bug = I'm too happy to care.
I wish I'd cheated on this test, because I can't think of a stone I like less, but it's probably dead-on, minus the beautiful part:
You're a Diamond. You seem like a cold and an
unreachable person outside, yet you are
beautiful inside and outside. You may be
stubborn at times. You act with grace and
elegance and you are a precious asset to all
What Jewel Are You? brought to you by Quizilla
Thanks to Holly,
who got the stone I wanted...
A friend and I have been swapping video tapes via the mail; usually shows from PBS and The Discovery Channel but sometimes things we've filmed ourselves, usually with a one-word theme. Her last tape was labelled "Laughs" -- George Carlin's last HBO special, a pre-Tool Time Tim Allen doing his "men are pigs" routine, Nicholas Cage on a talk show doing an imitation of himself and my friend modeling her new maternity outfit, including a t-shirt that reads "Washington Intern."
My friend ended the tape by doing her own killer imitation of Hilary Clinton signing a book for Kenneth Starr: "Dear Ken, you were right, but I made three million off it, bite my Congressional ass, Love and Kisses, Hil."
I'm not going to try to top that, so I started picking through my video tapes and making a montage of things I think are covered by my one-word theme:
-- Michael Jordan making a basket
-- Jet Li meditating
-- Lance Armstrong riding in the Tour de France
-- Janet Jackson dancing
-- Eminem in the final rap battle scene from "8 Mile"
-- Billy Joel playing the piano on stage
-- Maggie Smith laughing
and the theme word? Beauty. :)
Tackling the Weak Spots:
I would rather write nine hundred fight scenes than describe a walk through one backyard garden. Fight scenes move, gardens sit there. Fight scenes usually mean someone is going to get hurt; gardens mean someone is going to have to weed. Fight scenes make my heart beat faster, make me sweat and wince and scrooge down in my seat and clap my hands over my eyes; gardens make me want to take a nap with the cats in a hammock.
Some writers like Holly
have such marvelous powers of description that they can use a few pages and show readers whole new universes in something like a backyard garden. It's as if they don't only see a bunch of flowers nicely arranged, they see shadows and corners and things that are just out of sight that none of us do, things that are waiting for darkness to fall so they can come out and work their magic. Holly takes ordinary things, like sundials and reflecting pools and little stone toads and make them into time machines and truth diviners and soul-sucking evil demons from an alternate dimension. I would never
take a nap in one of Holly's gardens.
Aware that one of my biggest weaknesses as a writer is composing descriptive passages, I picked up one of these Writer's Digest how-to books a few weeks ago. Monica Wood's "Description" [ISBN#0-89879-908-2, published by Writer's Digest Books] sold itself to me with the opening pages, and I'm now reading it very slowly and working out what she says on paper. One thing I hate to write are "weather report" openings, but last night I applied what she was saying to one of my beginnings:
Excerpt from "Portraits of the Past" by Rebecca Kelly
(Uncorrected first draft)
Seen from a distance, the town of Acorn Hill, Pennsylvania resembled the pleasant creation of a country artist. The composition of blue skies, green hills and pastel-colored houses appeared at first glance to be a collection of bright, simple brushstrokes, conveying a cheerfully uncomplicated portrait of life.
Yet there was more to the little town than its quaint, picturesque appearance portrayed. With further study came the subtler details and unexpected depths: the contented pride of a close community, displayed in the stately architectural design of Town Hall; the sense of longevity and quiet devotion that glowed, like the lovely colors in the stained glass windows of Grace Chapel church, and the honest, homestyle hospitality reflected in the neatly hand-lettered daily specials sign in the front window of the Coffee Shop.
All of these qualities seemed to blend together in the graceful old Victorian bed and breakfast on the outskirts of town. Grace Chapel Inn may not have dominated the center of the landscape, but one immediately gained the impression that its gentle presence watched over it.
It still needs some work; I want to do less telling and more showing which is a real pain in the posterior for me in ominescent narrative. But I think I'm on the right track and with more practice I can work around my "Let's blow up something and raise the body count" mentality.
It is taxing, though. I think I'll take a break and go spend a few hours in the fighting cat arena on Chakara. Fight scenes are so much more relaxing....