May 29, 2002
Back in the saddle
I mapped out the rest of "Computer Dating" today. It's not something I've tried before, but I did a couple of paragraphs listing out the rest of the scenes and what happens in each of them. If I can keep up the pace, I should finish it by the end of the week. Heh. I guess it is almost the end of the week, huh?
I haven't written since Friday. Some bad stuff happened at work Friday afternoon, and as a result, I lost my job on Tuesday. I'm looking at this as a chance to regroup a little, reprioritize, but as a result, I haven't written this week. I'm planning to change that, maybe this afternoon, maybe tomorrow. Since I've got the time off, I may as well put it to good use, right?
May 24, 2002
Still in research mode. I even broke down and, in true Julie-fashion, made a research page of all the things I'm looking into right now. It's a little bare at the moment, but I keep adding things. Some interesting ideas for global disasters. It's tricky to find a scenario that results in the destruction of civilization without completely wiping out mankind too. Then there's the question of how long it takes the survivors to rebuild. I need a timeframe that's long enough for some portions of humanity to be completely ignorant of our past, but for other portions to be at technological levels that surpass ours -- and I need the two groups to be in relatively close proximity to each other. This is the first real worldbuilding I've done -- it's a little scary.
Speaking of scary, last night at Write Club, Julie and I discovered that Borders Cafe blocked off the only accessible power outlets, the ones we'd been using to power our laptops while we wrote. We were grousing about needing to find another place (because neither of our laptops are powerful enough to run on battery power for more than an hour and a half or so). Julie said, "Someone needs to open a cafe for writers."
We looked at each other for a moment, and then in perfect, unplanned unison said, "No."
After we stopped laughing, Julie said, "We'd never have time to do our writing, if we did." I agreed, and we shelved the idea of a writer's cafe.
May 23, 2002
Been doing a lot of research today on arcologies -- it's been a slow work day. I'm having a rather mind-expanding experience here, putting together my own futuristic civilization for the cyberpunkish story mentioned below (sorry, no title yet, it's not much more than a glimmer in my eye at this point). I made some notes over lunch. I may just have the beginnings of a novel here. I know that arcologies have sort of become a standard in cyberpunk, possibly to the point of triteness. Still... the cyberpunk arcology doesn't have much in common with the theory. Did you know there is a working prototype arcology right here in the U.S.? The theory itself is fascinating. Paolo Soleri is as much philosopher as architect.
I haven't decided if my world is our world in the future or not, but the question that keeps coming to my mind is this: given the events of September 11th, how likely is it that our descendants will want to build huge, enormously tall buildings with internal ecosystems within which to live? Holy cow, that gives me an idea!
*sigh* I am having a dry dry week as far as writing goes. I'm spending my mornings feeling drained and really tired. This hasn't been a problem before, but this week I started trying to avoid going to Starbucks every day in an effort to economize a little (as well as to try and cut out all the sugar I was eating in the morning). It's enough to make me wonder if there really IS something magical in the air there. Of course, it could also be because I've been staying up too late playing EverQuest all week.
Discipline, I need discipline...
I found a snippet of a cyberpunk-ish story that I wrote last summer. It's not much more than a couple hundred words, but I've got some neat ideas brewing there. I also did spend part of yesterday morning looking over "Heaven's Orphans". There's story there, I just can't figure out how to dig it out. It's highly frustrating.
Write Club tonight. I really need it.
May 21, 2002
Magical realism, mythology, and me
I've been reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and I started thinking about a discussion I had with Brand not so long ago. Two 'mainstream' authors whose writing infects me with insane jealousy are Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison. Magical realism fascinates me, being able to see the unusual in everyday living. I'd love to write magical realism. Brand's contention was that I couldn't, simply because of who I am. Garcia and Morrison, he said, reflect the cultures from which they come. When, to use his example, Garcia wrote about a very old man with enormous wings, he approached it not from the viewpoint of "wouldn't it be neat if this happened?", but from the viewpoint of "this happened". The cultural mythos of South America has room for fallen angels. I got a similar feel from Morrison, an almost matter of fact tone. In her case, the 'magical' elements of the story are not the point of the story, they're simply a sideline. They're an accepted part of the world she's writing about. The main point of Song of Solomon is not that Milkman's ancestors could fly, but that Milkman learns who he is by learning who his family was.
That, I just realized, is where the line between fantasy and magical realism lies. If Song of Solomon were a fantasy novel, the point would be that Milkman's ancestor flew back to Africa. His subsequent self-discovery would be almost tangential. Whoa. I never got that before.
Anyway, Brand's argument was that my culture (white middle class America) doesn't have that same room for mysticism. I think he's right. Mainstream America does not have a mythology. We're too young. Mythology starts out as an oral tradition, often with pre-literate cultures. Look at the Greeks, the Celts, the Norse. The United States was born a literate nation. Oral traditions were already dying out in Europe when the first Europeans started landing here. As Gaiman posits, the immigrants brought their old gods and mythologies over here with them, then promptly forgot them. We have no reason to develop a mythology, because our history is all there, nice and neatly written down. No one is going to turn George Washington's life story in the Matter of America. Instead of mythology we have history and religion and folklore, not quite the same thing.
So, I think I lack a clear enough perspective to do magical realism, without it seeming strained and contrived. Why would I want to? Why focus so much on the small difference between that and fantasy? Just because Morrison isn't pigeonholed in what Ursula K. LeGuin calls the genre ghetto (she pigeonholed as an African American writer, which is a whole 'nother conversation right there), she gets enormous praise and respect for a novel that, in many respects, has as much in common with Emma Bull or Charles deLint as with Saul Bellow. I want to someday be respected, I want to write really 'literary' stuff. It's extremely difficult to get that respect as a genre writer, and I guess that's part of the reason I resist the label. (Of course, on the other hand, I've noticed it's also tough to find 'literary' genre stuff in the usual genre markets, although this seems to be changing.)
I guess I should quit worrying about labels and concentrate on writing what I write and doing it well. The rest is out of my hands.
Well, "Midsummer" is off to Fantastic Stories of the Imagination -- thanks everyone for the suggestions. I seem to be having a bit of a dry spell over the past few days. I didn't write much on Sunday, not at all yesterday. Today was one of those days where I managed to get some words down, but they all felt lifeless and flat. Of course, that might be because I feel pretty lifeless and flat today. I'm in "I hate this stupid story" mode on "Computer Dating" -- you know, the point where the whole story seems pointless, the plot seems contrived and trite, and the characters idiotic? It'll pass, I'm sure. I just need to keep working. In the meantime though, I need a nap. Too bad I'm at work.
The good news though: I managed to get the floppy disk out of my laptop finally. Go me.
May 20, 2002
Well, I had a great weekend, productive and fun. I got a decent bit of writing done on Saturday, and I should be sending out "Midsummer" to its first market tomorrow. I'm undecided whether to send it to F&SF or Black Gate first. On the one hand, F&SF just rejected a selkie story from me, but on the other hand, Black Gate says its response time is about 3-4 months. :P Suggestions, ideas?
May 17, 2002
Heh. Overheard on Comedy Central: "Yeah, I'm working on a book. I'm really excited about it. Some writers write in first person, some write in third person, my book is in fifth person. Every sentence begins with, 'I know this guy who heard from this other guy...'"
I've started really considering the implications lately of writing for profit and being a 'business'. My goal is to eventually quit the day job and write full-time, which means I need to start paying attention to the business aspects. Fortunately, it seems like working with accounting and accounting software as much as I do at the day job, I'm not quite as clueless as I thought I was. Now, however, I really do need to get my organizational skills together for things like recordkeeping, and actually plan things, instead of just doing what feels right all the time (not to knock my intuition, but a little planning can't hurt).
I'd like to start taking the office-in-home credit, for starters. And to do that, I really do need to get a desk I can actually write at. Although I have this great little separate office space (which in most homes would be a dining room), my desk is too small and too low and too cramped for me to comfortably sit and write at. So first on the wish list, a new desk -- which I really can't afford right now. I'm seriously considering asking for one for my birthday, instead of the overnight trip Mom and I were going to take.
If nothing else, having a good desk will save me the cost of going to Starbucks to write every morning, right? :)
It seemed appropriate...
On a whim, I sent "All the Lonely People" off to Weird Tales this morning. It hasn't been as edited to death as I'd like normally -- the only real feedback I've gotten aside from "very strange" were a few comments from Julie -- but I figured what the heck. Their submission guidelines said very specifically that they like fiction below 1000 words, so why not? Besides, it makes me feel better to have something out circulating.
Another 600+ words on "Computer Dating" this morning, in which our heroine is menaced by a scary stalker-type. That was a great deal of fun to write. I've noticed that when I get to a 'good part' I write so much faster than when things are sort of directionless. I love those moments. That's when the story starts to take on its own life. Still looking into various aspects of artificial intelligence. I spent a good part of yesterday reading about Alan Turing, which was interesting in and of itself.
May 16, 2002
Get me, I'm writin' science fiction!
I think the notes I made yesterday are actually helping out with "Computer Dating". I blew through a couple of scenes today, and I'm finally getting into the heart of the story. It's just over 2000 words long so far. At this rate, I'm thinking it'll be about 4,000-5,000 words long, making it shorter than the other stories I've done lately -- well, except for "All the Lonely People". Heh. I've had one person read it so far. The response was "strange, very strange". I don't think he liked it very much. :) All I need to do now is find a market for a very short, very strange little story.
I was startled to realize this morning that "Computer Dating" is, in fact, sci-fi rather than the fantasy I normally write. That's kinda cool. I never really thought of myself as a science fiction writer before. Of course, this also means that I'm going to be doing some research over the next couple days, just to make sure that I've got all the technical stuff straight. (This would be why I don't write science fiction -- too much research!)
May 15, 2002
I did something I haven't really done with a short story before. I got momentarily stuck on "Computer Dating" this morning, so I pulled out my notebook and started plotting out the rest of the story on paper. It's not quite an outline, but it's a synopsis of what I think happens from here on out. It was kinda neat. I'll be interested to see if that actually helps me get unstuck -- by the time I'd finished, it was time for me to go.
I've been daydreaming a lot about quitting my day job. I keep envisioning the announcement email that gets sent around work when someone quits, you know, the one that wishes the person well. In my daydreams, it mentions that I've sold my first novel and will be writing fulltime, and all my coworkers are amazed that quiet little Lisa had something that unique and special going on all the while she was in her cube doing her job. (Well, except for those few coworkers that know I actually write.) It's a pleasant little daydream. It gives me a push to make sure it comes true someday.
May 14, 2002
John Denver was wrong...
Sunshine on my shoulders does not make me happy, it makes me sleepy. That was my problem this morning. I tried valiantly to work on "Computer Dating" -- and did pretty well, all things considered -- but I spent a good part of the hour dozing with my eyes open like a cat. The sun was just... so.... warm...
I have a feeling I may have written utter gibberish in that last fifteen minutes or so.
May 13, 2002
Glory be, I got back
Glory be, I got back to work today. And boy did I ever. I finished up "All the Lonely People" -- which turned out to be a very odd little 700 word thing. I think it's pretty funny, but that could just be me. I started another story, tentatively titled, "Computer Dating". I don't want to give too much away, of course, because it actually has a little bit of a twist to it. I'll be interesting to see how long I can stretch the story before giving it away. :) I also did a little cleanup editing on "Rhythm of the Tides", from the notes the editors at Strange Horizons gave me. I think I'm about ready to send it to them as a final draft. We'll see.
I have so much editing to do right now. It's weird to have this many stories almost ready to send out. Well, almost. Some are closer than others. Oh yeah. I'm putting "Heaven's Orphans" on the back burner for now. I don't think the idea's quite done cooking yet. I can't get it to come out right.
May 09, 2002
Oh my gosh and oh
Oh my gosh and oh my golly, this is just a red letter writing day!! In addition to getting some good work done at Write Club tonight, I came home to find out that Strange Horizons has accepted "Rhythm of the Tides"! My first, honest to god, professional, non-RPG publication!! They're expecting to run it in September, but that isn't carved in stone yet. Oh my lord. I'm giddy.
I can't help it, I
I can't help it, I have to share. This is part of the email I got from Dawn about The Host:
"OK, I just finished chapter 10 last night and I did not want to put it down. It was going on midnight, my eyes were all bleary, I was yawning, my head and shoulders hurt from trying to hold the manuscript and a flashlight at the same time, and I fought tooth and nail to keep reading instead of going to sleep."She absolutely made my day. :)
Back to work! I spent
Back to work! I spent my hour this morning doing some revising of "Girl Behind the Counter" (thanks Mike, for the reading and comments!), then I started shuffling my notecards around for "Midsummer". Tonight I'll start actually picking an order and redoing the manuscript. It was fascinating though, to think about how the story's mood and theme changed depending on what order I presented the scenes in. I was surprised to discover there was more than one coherent order!
In other news, I've started getting writerly spam ("We want YOUR manuscript!"). Now I feel like a REAL writer. ;)
May 08, 2002
Early reviews of The Host
Early reviews of The Host say it's a "compelling story". Of course, she's only on page 40, so hopefully it will stay compelling. My arms are mostly better, but I still haven't done any writing. I'm going to get back into it though, I swear.
May 06, 2002
No writing. Arms still hurt.
No writing. Arms still hurt. Grar. If I'm not getting better here in the next couple days, I think I may have to break down and see a doctor. I'm trying to figure out why now? I've been writing constantly for a month, so why the flare up all of a sudden? Expect things to be quiet here while I save on typing.
Oh, The Host is off to some first readers. So there's that done, at least.
May 03, 2002
I've definitely got tendonitis, or
I've definitely got tendonitis, or something like it. My wrists and fingers and shoulders just ache like mad, especially my forearms and where my right thumb meets my hand. I'm planning on spending most of the weekend away from the computer. We'll see if that helps.
I started putting "Midsummer" on notecards today, one scene summarized per card. I'm planning to maybe shuffle them around, see if a structural change would perk things up, and also to see what can get cut and what needs expanding. I've got a couple of scenes already that seem unnecessary. Then I'm taking Brand's suggestion. Using the cards and the last draft, I'm going to type the whole thing over from scratch and revise as I go. Then it should be ready to start sending off.
May 02, 2002
Diskette still stuck in my
Diskette still stuck in my computer, but other than that things are just fine. I did a little bit of freehand writing this morning, mostly to brainstorm the new story, "All the Lonely People". This is the story idea I'm stealing from William, my main character in "The Girl Behind the Counter", who also happens to be a writer. ;)
In "Girl", William describes "All the Lonely People" as "pleasantly surreal". He's not a fantasy writer, really, so I don't know if this one will be fantasy or not. So far, about a 140 words into it, it's definitely a little surreal.
May 01, 2002
Another story finished! Dear god,
Another story finished! Dear god, I'm giddy with all this production. "The Girl Behind the Counter" wrapped up this morning at about 5500 words, I believe. Unfortunately, my diskette got stuck in my laptop, so I can't tell for sure right now. Please god, no computer problems, not NOW...