Star Lines
Saturday, September 06, 2003
  Wake-up Call:  A friend of mine (you know who you are) reminded me of something, and it's had me in brood mode since I read that e-mail.  She asked me if I was writing what I wanted to write, and advised me to make time to do that.

Truthfully, I haven't written a single novel that I wanted to write since Blade Dancer.  Before everyone goes into utter shock, let me explain that statement: my last four romance novels were editor-assigned (and in one case, editor-directed), and while I had not planned to continue that particular story line, I was quite happy to have the work.  I took the job as a writer-for-hire with my Christian publisher knowing full well that I would be writing novels based on someone else's series concepts and premises, and I really love the challenge there.  My SF publisher wanted a certain type of standalone in exchange for releasing me in hardcover, so I gave them what they wanted.  I enjoy writing the books; I'm satisfied with what I've produced and from all accounts, so are my readers and editors.

Are the books what I would have chosen to write?  No.  Have they kept me employed, my kids clothed and fed, the bills paid?  Yes.  Have they improved my standing as a professional writer?  Yes.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.

In this business, you have to make compromises and be flexible.  I've tried to do that, willingly, and will keep doing so to stay in the game.  I am not a victim here, more an eyes-wide-open happy participant.  I want to underline that with a sharpie three times -- these were business decisions, not crimes against my artistic sensibilities.  I can't afford to be an artist.  Someday, when I'm a millionaire, I'll think about being an artist.


If ideas could be made tangible, there would be huge towering stacks of them around my desk.  Gamers, StarDoc VII and VIII, Private Demons, Rose of Galilea, Sands of the Arena, Castling, Hidden Quilts.  On top of them are stories that want to be novels: If Angels Burn, the Mercy & Cat saga, Sev and Keasa.  I have at least one full filing cabinet now of things I want to write.  They're all on hold, and they're piling up, waiting for me to make time for them.

My friend's e-mail made me realize that there is a layer of dust on them, two years thick.  That's how long I've neglected them.  And, as cold-blooded as I am about writing, there is a part of me that I've been starving in order to make a living, and may end up in critical condition as a result.  So, time to make changes.

Most of the Ideas in Waiting will never see print; some of them I'm prohibited from selling due to contract particulars.  The money doesn't matter.  I just need to make a little time on my schedule and write them.  I'll turn what I can release into e-books, and use them as promotional freebies.

Getting out of this "I have to write only what sells" mindframe has been a real earth-rocker, but I'm glad.  I needed a little shaking up. 
  No News is No News:  I posted this on Friday, but now I see Blogger ate that one and two others.  The gist of it was that I promised you career news but contract talks are still in progress and it appears it will be another week (or more) before I can say what's up and where it's heading. 
  Avalanches, Wells and Velveteen:  I drifted off a few hours ago while I was reading Osamu Dazai; not his fault, I'm just tired.  Immediately had one of my snow disasters (avalanche, bad one, trying to swim through it.)  Same one that gets Laney in Dream Mountain; see, I use my poor unsuspecting readers as unpaid therapists.  Now I'm up and I ain't going back to sleep, no sir.  I hate snow nightmares.  A line I read earlier from the novel, "Women sleep so soundly they seem to be dead" made me laugh.  Not this one, pal.

I read the latest update in the investigation of bomb victim/bank robber Brian Wells but it didn't convince me of his guilt or innocence.  I want him to be guilty; if Wells was a victim, then the monster who killed him might try again, maybe with a kid.

I finished the patchwork quilt tonight (pics tomorrow when the light's better.)  It's a bit more Little House on the Prairie than my usual silk in graphic illusionary patterns, but working with calico and classic patchwork was a nice breather.  Next up, the satin Ohio Star, which combines elements of pioneer design and Victorian decadence in ice cream colored satin.  I was trying to think of a way to add in quilting ideas/advice here, but I may start a quilt weblog.  There aren't that many and it deserves a place of its own, I think. 
Friday, September 05, 2003
  More New Stuff:  [drum roll, please]  The latest movement in SF has evidently just rolled into shore, and one cannot resist the temptation to call it the New New Wave.  We had the New Weird, and then the New Space Opera, and now the New Interstitial.

You're thrilled, right?  Yeah, me too.  Call me riveted.

I wrote some other stuff but I went ahead and deleted it.  Whipping a dead horse won't make it stand up and do anything. 
  2004:  This will be getting longer, but my current (tentative) release schedule for next year at present:

Jan -- A Matter of Consultation (Flint's Ring of Fire antho) SLV*
Feb -- Home for the Holidays RK
Mar -- Into the Fire JH
Jul -- No Room at the Inn RK
Sep -- Bio Rescue SLV

The title lineup reads a little like a blurb for a disaster flick, doesn't it?  I should have at least two or three more Christian novels to add to that, and possibly two others in two other genres.  2004 really could be a ten book year for me, release-wise.

*I still haven't seen galleys on this one so I'm thinking Flint either killed my story or he does the proofs himself.  I'll have to see what's up with Baen next week. 
Thursday, September 04, 2003
  To Keep Me From Homicide:  I really hate this tag theft business.  It's so stupid, for one thing, and I feel like I'm being targeted for being, what, a good citizen and keeping my tags renewed?  Jesus.

Anyway.  I was cruising around and noticed an article on celebrity "guilty pleasures" over at EW. com.  Which got me to thinking about some of my guiltier pleasures in life.  So to keep me from staking out the parking lot, here are

My Top Ten Guilty Pleasures

1. Reading in the bath tub -- I do, a lot, and my books have the water marks to prove it.  I know I should treat my library with more respect but water + book = relaxation.

2. Planter's Dry Roasted Sunflower Seeds -- way too salty and processed, but I like the taste, and I never liked cracking all those tiny shells.

3. Estee Lauder White Linen Perfume -- it made me break out in a rash if I got it on my skin, but I started spritzing my clothes.  Smart, huh?

4. NSync -- I love them.  Deal with it.

5. Dennis Miller -- George Carlin comes in a close second.  Dennis is crude and rude and always makes me laugh.

6. Painting my toenails -- I have ugly feet, and uglier toenails.  Really; people have asked me to keep my shoes on so I don't scare small children.  I rarely paint my fingernails but not a week goes by that I don't slap a new coat of something red or pink on the tootsies.  It's my one girl thing.

7. Changing my haircolor -- Okay, two girl things.

8. Thimbles -- I own around five hundred now.  I inherited the collection from my great-grandmother, so it's her fault, she started it.

9. Silk Apparel -- shirts, trousers, chemises, tap pants, you name it, if it's made of silk and solid color, I probably own two or three.

10. Incense -- I believe through my purchases that I'm supporting an entire village in India now.  Pathchouli and cinnamon are my favorites.  
  Tag Thieves:  I am one of those pain in the butt people who always renew their registration/license/insurance two months before they're due.  I hate being late with anything, because I know the one time that I am I'll end up getting arrested or something.

So it was with great surprise that I found an orange "Due to be Towed" sticker plastered on my windshield over the weekend.  I went to see my landlady, who informed me that they had done a parking lot sweep and saw that my license tag had expired.  Bewildered, I showed her my registration, which I renewed in July.  We went out to look at my car, and sure enough, someone had peeled the 07/04 expiration sticker off my license tag (the 07/03 was underneath.)

The fun didn't end there.  I had to deal with the ugly orange sticker on my windshield.  They must have put it on with superglue or something, because it took five applications of WD40 to get it off.  I still have sticker fragments under my fingernails.

Then it took me five damn days to get a new expiration sticker, because (as the clerk at the tag office told me) people just don't lose their stickers.  When I pointed out that someone had stolen mine, the clerk only gave me this "Riiiiiiight, lady" look that sent my BP into the red range.

Finally this morning, I picked up the new sticker and slapped it on.  I was tempted to drill a screw through the middle of it, to keep the thieves from taking it, but I thought, "No one would be mean enough to steal it twice."  When it was time to pick up the kids from school, I went downstairs and saw a group of Latino kids I'm friendly with hanging out around my car.  One of them informed me that someone had been going around the lot stripping stickers again, and I checked my plate and sure enough, the new sticker was gone.

I called the tag agency, and they told me I'd have to file a report with the cops and bring them a case number, and they're going to charge me six bucks anyway.  I am required by law to display the expiration sticker on my license plate, so I can't put it inside the car somewhere, but I can pay another twenty bucks and get a screw-on transparent plate to put over it.  All this, for a one-inch sticker. 
  Much Tah-Do:  Boy, people really aren't happy about Sawyer winning the Hugo, are they?  Everywhere I look it's "Hominids is the worst book I ever read" or "Sawyer Sucks" -- which leaves me perplexed.   I mean, they hold this con in Canada, they let the people who pay to get in vote, and then they don't like that the Canadian guy won?  When they hold this shindig in Scotland, how much do you want to bet Charlie Stross wins?  Waiter, reality check please.

The last time I went after an award (we won't count my military ribbons, they were for marksmanship) I was in high school.  I scored two of the big six senior class awards; the Creative Writing and the Art awards.  Right after the ceremony one of the more neurotic & brilliant girls in my class cornered me in the bathroom and blew up in my face.  She had really wanted the Creative Writing award, and was furious that she hadn't won it.  It didn't matter that I was the only published student writer in the school.  I didn't deserve it because she was a better writer and she was going to Yale and she had better grades than me.

I can't tell you if I deserved the award.  The teacher who made the decision used to refer to me as the Anti-Christ so I don't think it was because she liked me.

Me winning made that girl feel like a loser, and until that moment I suspect she had never lost at anything -- but at the time I was too young to see that.  All I saw was the jealousy and the hate.  I walked away feeling like I'd just been sucker-punched, and I despised that girl for a long, long time for ruining what should have been a bright moment for me.  Thinking about awards after that made me sick, and the only time I ever felt good about competing after that was on the firing range, where things were never personal (or people with guns are less emotional, go figure.)  It's kind of hard to claim favoritism when your standing depends on the number of holes and where they hit the target.

That would be a cool way to run the Hugos, wouldn't it?  Get all the nominees out on a pistol range, and let them shoot it out to the top.  Then skill really would count. 
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
  Books As Victims:  It's been a while since I posted a sneak peek, so here's a bit on the physicality of books from my last Guideposts novel (and yeah, Jane = me as a kid):

Excerpt from Portraits of the Past by Rebecca Kelly
(Book Six in the Grace Chapel Inn Series)

(To set up the scene, while on a quest to solve a historic mystery, the Howard sisters discover that they own a rare set of 19th century first edition childrens' books, and they're trying to decide what to do with them.)

At Jane’s request, Kenneth agreed to meet with her and her sisters at Grace Chapel Inn that evening to discuss the ownership of the books, their future and the possible connection to Basil Kirchwey’s quest for evidence.

Jane had the most fun telling Louise and Alice that the M.E. Roberts books had belonged to their father, and therefore belonged to them.  Before the pastor arrived, she described the scene with Florence Simpson at Town Hall.

“For about thirty seconds after he showed her that list, you could have heard a pin drop,” Jane said.  “Of course I was a little busy watching Florence’s ego deflate.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever touched a book worth almost a thousand dollars.”  Alice dubiously regarded the neat stack in the center of the dining room table.  “I don’t know that I want to.”

Louise was the practical one.  “First, we photograph the books and have them added to our home owner’s insurance.  Second, we decide on a safe place to keep them.  Third, we get the rest of Father’s books from the church.”

“Good idea,” Jane agreed.  “That way, we won’t have any more wrestling matches over ownership with Florence.”  She sat back in her chair and studied the books.  “I remember reading the same books when I was a kid, but I think Father bought them new for me, didn’t he?”

“He got you six for Christmas and six for your birthday one year,” Alice recalled.  “If you’re wondering why he didn’t giving you these, I think you should remember some of things you used to do to books when you were a child.”

“What are you talking about?” Jane scowled at her.  “I read books.  Lots of books.”

“You read books?”  Alice made a strangled sound. “Please, child.  You wrote in the margins.  You drew your own illustrations.  You painted and glued new covers on them.  You crossed out and rewrote the endings you didn’t like.  The ones you said were boring books became rafts and pup tents for your dolls.”

“Remember the time when she glued all the pages of that one book together and then tried to cut out the middle so she could hide jewels in it?”  Louise asked Alice.

“Geez, okay.”  Jane ducked her head.  “So I was a little rough with them.”

“A little?”  Her oldest sister chuckled.  “You wreaked havoc on every book you ever received before the age of twelve.  We could not let you borrow books from friends or leave you alone in Father’s study for a minute.  We will not even talk about the ladies at the library.  Those poor women had to patrol the children’s section every time you visited.”

“Do they still have her picture tacked on the wall by the check-out counter?”  Alice asked Louise.

“I believe there’s a permanent plaque now.” 
  YACCs Update:  Comments are still down and are likely to stay that way until next week.  I know because of this a lot of people are jumping to another comment service provider for their weblogs, but I've always liked YACCs so I'm sticking with them.

The chapter from Blade Dancer passed around at WorldCon has generated some interest in yours truly from a couple of new directions.  It's a bit muddled now but as soon as my agent and I have who-wants-what figured out I'll decide where I'm staying and to where I'm moving.  Ironically this time last year I had just about thrown in the towel, so if you're thinking about doing the same, look at the difference hard work and 365 days have made in my life. :)  
  Industry Stuff:  PW has an interesting article on the many ways New Age books have taken off and are ringing up lots of lovely sales for booksellers.  I believe it's the first time I've ever heard the genre referred to as a "cash cow."

Martha Grimes has a new mystery novel out that evidently butchers the publishing industry.  I indulged in a momentary fantasy about writing a chick book (ala Bushnell) based on people I've met via the publishing industry, but one has to resist such delicious urges if one wishes to remained employed.

The last big discussion topic among the SF shark pool was "The New Weird," the latest is "The New Space Opera."  Evidently everything in SF is new again.  And so the efforts to make SF recognized by everyone on the planet as legit lit continue.  I can't comment without pissing off just about everyone so I'll graceful waltz away from this one.  If you'd like to plow through the opinions from the high-profile in the field, you can find Hartwell & Cramer's essay here and Strahan's discussion board here.  Take some Alka-Seltzer before you read. 
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
  Tres Oddities:  I was so busy relaxing yesterday that I actually forgot it was Monday.  That like never happens.  Can we do it again next week?  I liked it, I liked it.

Madonna keeps on shocking, according to reports that she kissed Britney Spears and that Christina girl with the last name I can never spell right during a dance number at the MTV music awards.  Since I'm pretty sure that by now Madonna has kissed persons of every gender, color, persuasion, religion and creed, I can't say I'm shocked.  She's going to have to change species or something to rattle my cage.

Another killer asteroid is headed for Earth, due to smash into us in 2014.  Or not.  It seems that despite the florid headline, the chances are really 1 in 909,000.  I think my odds of getting struck by lightning are better, right?  Tell you what, guys, when you spot an asteroid that has a one in one chance of hitting us, yell. 
Monday, September 01, 2003
  Change:  The winners for the August book giveaways over at my author site will be posted shortly; the regular monthly update and the new StarDoc novella "Deimos" will be delayed a bit longer.  Paying work has to come first, so I'm doing that before the final buff and polish on the novella.  I'm also waiting a few more days until I have the final word on new contracts, future releases and some other changes in the making.

Watch this space for news, too.  I should have lots of it by Friday. 
Sunday, August 31, 2003
  Labors of Love:  I'm putting the finishing touches on the quilt in progress (see sidebar) and tonight I'm starting the new satin Ohio Star hand-stitched top.  I usually make a bunch of quilts as holiday gifts, but I think I'm going to forget about doing that this year.  I really want to hand quilt this one.  With my arthritis the way it is this may be the last year I can hand quilt anything this size.

I've been out painting on the balcony all afternoon.  If it's possible, my watercolors are getting uglier, but the sun is shining and there's a beautiful breeze and I'm mainlining serenity.  Mentally I'm prepared for the week ahead now, I think.  Which is good, because it's going to be a rough one, career decision-wise.

I have to go paint swallows now.  Okay, so mine look more like kamekazi turkeys, and the peaceful lake I've painted for them resembles a pool of radioactive sludge.  It's fun, and it's art, and it's outside, and the wind chimes are tinkling and Chopin is making his magic, and all of it feeds my soul (which has excellent hearing but is, apparently, deathly near-sighted.)  
Adventures at the KeyBoard

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