The Not-So-Good Christian:
Someone said something to me today that absolutely floored me. I ran into a person I vaguely know (who shall remain nameless) at the grocery store and got into a conversation about my books. Said person subscribes to my Christian series, and decided to go out and buy Blade Dancer. And was instantly appalled by the difference.
Here's the kicker: "If you were a good Christian," this person said to me, "you wouldn't write these SF books."
Plenty of SF writers have told me that if I ever want to be a respected
SF writer, I wouldn't write romance. And then a lot of romance writers told me that if I wanted success in their
genre, I'd ditch the goofy SF books. I'm used to this kind of narrow-minded thing, so no problem with the last part. People want to label you, and it annoys them if they have to use more than one sticker.
What really bugged me was the first part: If you were a good Christian...
I made some polite noncommittal response, because I couldn't think of what to say, but when I got home I thought, "Whoever said that I was a good Christian?"
I struggle with my faith. I mess up, I get angry, I sin, I use bad language and I probably disappoint God on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I yell at Him as much as I pray. One reason I can write Christian fiction is because faith is, yeah, a part of my everyday life. Sometimes it's a daily battle.
Faith is not spiritual Prozac. Look at how easy it is to believe in nothing. Trying to be a person of faith is freaking hard work.
But you can't tell that to people who see faith as a slide rule, to be applied to everyone else.
I've only met a few people who I think qualify as good Christians, and most of them have devoted their entire lives to following the teachings of Christ. These are the Mother Teresas and the Billy Grahams. I can't do that. Mainly because I don't think Kathy and Mike would appreciate it if I woke up tomorrow and said, "Sorry, kids, you're on your own, I have to go overseas and be a missionary and take care of lepers now. Have a nice life." Also, I'm selfish and I want to live my life for me and my kids -- another reason I'm not a good Christian.
The one good thing about my faith is, I don't have to come up with snappy answers to defend it. It's not something anyone else can judge, however much they want to. That's God's department, and when the time comes, He can decide whether or not I did a good job.
I just wish I could get in line with God at the grocery store once in awhile.
Part one of "God's Guitar"
by Justin Stanchfield is up at Abyss & Apex. No euphemisms for this one; like Justin, it's the real deal. In fact, I'd buy any book he writes, so will someone please publish the man in novel length already?
Off to kill this deadline, but before I vanish I leave you with
The Top Ten SF/F Euphemisms, and What They Really Mean
1. "The Eagerly-Awaited Sequel"
-- The author finally sobered up.
-- No plot.
3. "A Stunning Work of Literary Vision"
-- I have absolutely no idea what this book is about, and neither will you.
4. "Masterful Dark Fantasy"
-- Everyone decent in this book is tortured and dies horribly, especially little kids.
5. "Brilliant and Inventive"
-- No plot.
-- The author can't sell anything to a major publisher,
7. "Hard SF at It's Best"
-- Info dumps like you would not believe.
8. "Deep and Insightful"
-- No plot.
9. "His/Her Masterpiece"
-- The author is getting old and cranky.
10. "A Rich, Kaleidoscopic Story"
-- No plot.
Blast from the Past:
This is something I posted this time last year over at FM:
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:
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.
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.
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 -- tells you that it would completely understandable 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.
And an addendum, the big leap:
Year four: If you’re me, you go on your first post-divorce date with a nice normal man whom you’re pretty sure isn’t a serial killer. You take your pepper spray, your good knife and your cell phone with 911 programmed in memory, just in case. He’s been dating regularly so he’s relaxed; you’re punctuating your sentences with “Um” and “Really?”. If you have kids, you have to restrain yourself from cutting up his steak for him and escorting him to the men’s room. You don’t tell any of your interesting autopsy stories at the dinner table so he asks you out again. Before he kisses you goodnight (during which you bump his nose with yours) you mention the neat way you killed a character in your last book. Just in case.
Started off lousy and just shot at lightspeed downhill from there. Too many reminders of death, which I hate, and depression, which is smothering too many friends. Losing Robert Palmer, which hasn't quite sunk in yet. Stupid, stupid
people who bicker over their idiot opinions when they should shut the hell up and do
something constructive for a change. Way too much darkness in one day.
I was too restless to quilt, so I went and made bread (by hand, not machine.) Sesame and whole wheat with some honey and sunflower seeds thrown in, the kind of heavy-grainy dough that makes your arms ache five minutes into kneading. Then I made vegetable stew to go with it. So much that I'll be eating it every day for the next week, but it made me settle down. Sometimes cooking feels like flipping off the universe: Nice try, but I'm still here.
Robert Palmer, whose voice and music I've loved since I was a kid, died today
in Paris. He was 54.
He was a lovely, talented gentleman and there was no one like him. No one. I remember reading an interview in which Robert was asked why he wore such beautiful suits to perform (versus the often outrageous costumes other rock artists put on.) He said simply that he had been taught as a child to always look his best in public.
I can't express how upset I am. Everyone has their rock idol; Robert Palmer was mine. I've collected all of his albums and have worn out at least three copies of each. His music saw me through some of the best and worst times of my life. I even kept a poster of him on my bedroom wall for ten years, long after I was a teenager. I never expected we'd lose him so young.
Damn, I'm starting to cry again. God, please look after him.
According to PW, the Book Industry Study Group has unanimously approved
the move from 10 to 13 digit ISBN codes by making Bookland's front cover bar code the only code to appear on all books. Target date for the switchover: January 1, 2007.
To translate that into English, they're going to get rid of the bar codes printed on the back of mass market paperbacks, and use only the Bookland bar code (printed on the front of the inside cover.) I know from my stint as a bookseller that having more than one bar code on a book was a pain for some retailers; also, it made the book cover look bad. , Bookland's 978- prefix will also be used, expanding the ISBN itself, and there's a mention of going to a 979.
Now if someone would just make all in-store debit machines universal, I'd be a happy girl.
Why is Blogger acting so weird?
Crank It Up:
T minus five days on one deadline, eleven on the other, and so naturally today I would
get another, extremely promising nibble from a major publisher:
We really like what you sent, is there any more? Could you send us a sample of other work you've done in the genre, or perhaps another three chapters? In a week?
I've never been published in this particular genre, and I'm utterly deadline-locked until October 8th, so I had the agent to tell them, "Hang on, we'll get back to you." First time I've ever stalled an editor. I didn't like doing it, but I had the free time to do this dance five months ago, when I submitted it. Since then other publishers have bought my time and talent.
My editor sent me the guidelines for the devotionals audition, the annual book of which goes out to about a million people. If I get this gig, it could do some very nice things for my Christian writing in the future. A million copies . . . oh, no pressure there.
Despite the heat, I'm feeling pretty steady. I love a challenge, and I've got the confidence to steer me through. I just have a niggly feeling in the back of my skull (and I am not tempting fate here, truly I'm not) that there are still things lurking out there, ready to dive bomb me when I least expect it. So I think I'll put in a few more hours each night, just to buy myself some insurance time.
Do Something Nice:
When you're a writer and you get a rejection, sometimes you need friends around to boost your spirits. If you've got a minute, would you go over to Sarah's
and tell her a joke or just give her a virtual hug? She needs some.
Some e-mail came in protesting the deletion of the nasty message left on my guestbook. Somebody call the ACLU and have me sued, will you?
Auditioning: I've been invited to try out for "Daily Guideposts" which is an annual collection of daily devotionals. Since faith goes hand-in-hand with humor for me, I think I'll have some fun things to contribute.
Apparently there was a sizeable defective print run with Blade Dancer, so if you have a book with pages missing/repeated please contact me at StarDocMail@aol.com
. I'm making it my personal crusade to have all the defective books replaced for free, and if the publisher won't do it, I will.
Got galleys to proof for "Ring of Fire" and I'm pages 195-220. Looks pretty good so far. You'll be able to buy this next month at Baen's webscriptions page if you don't want to wait for the hardcover ($5 I think, I'll hunt down the links later, have to feed the restless natives now.)
I'm plotting the next SF book, which features an unusual protagonist. He's my first male SF novel protagonist, and he's well-adjusted and otherwise pretty happy. Not for long, of course, but it's odd for me to get into the head of a character who doesn't start off damaged, haunted, bitter, scarred, hunted, etc.
I've maintained a web site since 2001, but for the first time I have to have a reader entry deleted as someone left anonymous hate mail on the guestbook. I equate this with breaking into someone's house to spit in their face while they're sleeping. It really amazes me what lengths these twits will go to in order to sling bile at an author, but I managed to be polite. This time.
I've been trying not to find this
website. Really. But when Jessie told me they've got Mariner's Compass
software, that did me in.
One way to motivate yourself as a writer is to dangle carrots (promise yourself rewards) for finishing work on time. So, I am not going to buy anything now (wail) but I will give myself a single purchase from the website if I turn in No Room at the Inn and Burned Twice before December 1st.
Battle of Wills:
I rarely have to discipline my kids. It's not that I'm a permissive parent or they're utter angels; we just know each other's limits and maintain a mutual respect for them. Usually.
For some reason today Katherine came home and decided she didn't want to do her homework. The house rule is no TV or play time until homework is finished, and I issued my standard reminder/warning. She ignored me and sulked.
Things got worse when her brother finished his
homework and wanted to watch TV, which moved me to homework rule/clause #1: If child A refuses to do homework while child B finishes homework, child A gets sent to his/her room while child B is allowed to watch television.
Time out is the worst punishment you can get at my house, and both my kids hate it immensely. It's one thing to play in their rooms when they want, but to be sent there while the other sibling is free to watch television? That's pure torture.
Kath decided that homework, the rules, yours truly and the entire world sucked, and threw a noisy tantrum. I don't deal with tantrums, so I escorted into her room. She tried sneaking out, but Mike blew the whistle on her. A second, louder tantrum ensued, followed by some fairly nasty verbal abuse of yours truly, who is the Meanest Mother In The Universe. Meanest Mother escorted her back to her room and issued standard warning sub-clause A: Verbally abusive children do not get a night time snack and are sent to bed an hour early.
We repeated this ritual about four more times over the following two hours, until my afternoon work was totally blown and I was ready to slam my head into the nearest wall. Meanwhile, Kath was just as miserable, screaming, threatening to vomit and basically throwing the whole arsenal at me. The hardest part is not discussing, not bargaining, not dealing with anything but simply marching her back to her room without a word.
I took parenting classes after Kathy was born, and I'm glad I went for the refresher course, or I might not have learned how to deal with these battles of will. I never like them (and I've never had this many with my sons, either) but when you have a kid who is as fearless, strong-minded and aggressive as my daughter, you occasionally have power struggles. The key is to remain calm, consistent, and enforce the rules.
Which I did, and finally she gave up. She's sitting at the table in her room doing her homework, and she just brought me an origami bunny (her way of apologizing.) I have a headache the size of Nebraska and I'll be up until two a.m. making up my quota, but I did okay. It's only that days like these make me wonder what the battles will be like when she's sixteen.
I've been Parodied:
Jaquandor does a brilliant job
Monday again, isn't it? Hint: Lie to me.
On the ta-do list for this week: Get the kids to clean up their rooms before my head explodes (okay, I'm a neatness freak, could be worse); finish Home for the Holidays, synopsis for Afterburn, finalize Burned Twice with my editor. Talk to my agent about wrapping up the stuff still pending. Update the website for September (criminally late with that, I know) and figure out what the story for next month will be. Get my hair cut, not (as often tempted) my head shaved.
If You're a SF/F Writer:
Pro or aspiring, SFWA member or not, go read what Holly wrote
about the new membership policy.
Sins of the Quilter:
I played hooky last night and made new Christmas stockings for the kids. I'm writing a Christmas book with eight people stranded in a blizzard who make their own gifts for each other out of ordinary things, so we'll call it research.
The stockings I made from cutter quilt pieces. A cutter quilt is one deemed too damaged to be salvageable, so crafters cut them up and use the pieces to make pillows, dolls, teddy bears etc. Although I don't approve of the practice -- crafters cut up far too many vintage quilts which could be saved -- I bought a box of cutter quilt pieces for Kathy to play with and make into doll quilts. I found a couple of import quilt pieces in the box, but I threw those away.
There's an unspoken code among quilters that we don't buy imported quilts, not even to use as rags. Don't ever give an imported quilt to a quilter, either, there's no greater insult. I won't have them in the house, and I've actually taken them away from other people (replacing the import quilt with one I've made.)
Imported quilts are sold in department stores and catalogs, and you'll see the word "imported" on the label or in the description. What the merchants don't tell you is that these quilts are mass produced in Asian sweat shops, where women sew for sixteen to eighteen hours for maybe ten cents an hour.
That's not all. These factory quilters use long needles and traditional trapunto techniques in order to quilt each piece as quickly as possible. The stitching is always crude as a result, barely 3 to 4 stitches per inch, and the fabrics taken from huge stacks of machine-cut bolts, so there is little variation in patchwork. Cheap labor and fast production makes the manufacturer's price low, so US merchants snatch them up and consumers buy them unaware of what went into making them.
I know the same thing happens in the garment industry, but quilts are different from clothing. Quilts represent tradition and family and continuity to the women and men who make them. A quilt is so much more than something to keep you warm, it's a little bookmark to history. You can't buy that from a factory in China.