Id wuz so bery excitin’! Pitchurs are much bedder dan words:
Several years ago, my agent talked me into reading a book by one of his other clients. This was, he claimed, the next best-selling phenomenon and he wanted me to write just like this author. (For those of you who know the book of which I speak, let’s not name names, OK? It’s irrelevant to the point of this post.) Anyway…I read said book, and was, to say the least, appalled. If he wanted me to write like this, he didn’t understand me at all. In the name of titilation, it betrayed every philosophical and ethical stand I’d ever taken. He was, however, right. The thing sold like crazy, the author became in great demand for “how to” lectures, and it became a successful TV series.
And I saw the beginning of a very disturbing trend. I’ve recently become very fond of a TV series (also based on books, which I’ve not read and likely won’t) which has, in it’s later seasons, taken a very bad turn, and has me looking at other relationships, both fictional and non, which have rubbed me the wrong way. Again, I’ll not name names and please don’t ask me. I have no doubt you can fill in your own titles.
Why is it that a woman, in the name of true lu-huv, is forgiven behaviors which would brand a man a “cad” (or worse)? Things like, because a marriage has gotten a bit rocky because the partners have been split up for a while and grown in different directions, the woman can, without censure on the part of the readers/viewers, and with little thought to the man to whom she made an honorable (not to mention legal and spiritual) commitment, leave said husband in a fit of pique, then jump the bones and fall in lu-huv with the first hunk who comes along to excite her hormones, and then proceed to further adventures without every really trying to return to/contact said husband?
Or why can a woman, in the name of lu-huv, leave their lu-huv, for his “own good,” of course, having better sense than he what’s best for him, then use marriage to someone else to escape the problem of dealing with the issues supposedly keeping the true lu-huvers apart—all without EVER explaining to said hubby-to-be the truth about her lu-huv for another man, and after making the hubby-to-be fall in lu-huv with her, with protestations of love and commitment—only to reignite the previous passion at the first temptation, grow cold and separate from the husband—without explanation—and then blithely skip back into the arms of the first man? Of course, she does all sorts of hand wringing and waving her arms about and claiming it’s not hubby’s fault…but does that make it right?Is it right to make two men miserable, ruin their reputations, all so you can be free to follow your hormones, all the while using their affection for you to manipulate them into doing exactly what you want?
And then, there’s the woman who has been married for years, whose marriage has gone rocky…even toxic. A woman who has every legitimate reason to request an end to said marriage to pursue her own life. A woman who finds new love and appreciation outside the marriage, then “finding the strength to act in this new lu-huv,” up and leaves the marriage—in the name of a “separation”—to be with the man who lu-huvs her and treats her “like a queen,” leaving hubby to find out the hard way that he’s been deserted. Why is that “strength” and “bravery” rather than “desertion?”
Why is it that “true lu-huv” in a female somehow makes betraying marriage vows right, whereas a male is accused of thinking with his nether regions, and being a dastardly betrayer of those same vows?
Now mind you…for me sex and hormones isn’t what makes a marriage, so for me it’s not the sexual attraction, it’s the lies. It’s the deliberate betrayal of a commitment made, whether that commitment is legal, spiritual, or a marriage of convenience. For me, having sex or even sexual attraction, isn’t the wrong-doing, it’s lying about it and leading people on. It’s the complete lack of honorable behavior, all in the name of self-indulgence.
Bottom line, the fictional models for proper behavior are getting seriously skewed, because such women are held out to be heroines. To me it feels a heck of a lot like the female version of “boys will be boys”…and it gives me the creeps.
Back in the 80’s, when I envisioned the ComNet, I thought I was exaggerating when Wesley complained about it being clogged with Joe Dweeblethorp’s grocery lists. I fear I was not too far off. I wonder, sometimes, what our legacy to the next generation actually will be. FB archives filled with, yes, grocery lists and minutia nobody but us could possibly care about? What about the so-called “history” and “news” sites filled with undocumented garbage.
I’ve just finished scanning my mother’s high school memory book, a task that had to wait until I’d found an 11×17 scanner I could remotely afford. It’s a marvel of a small slice of Spalding, Nebraska history, documented with newspaper articles, actual photos, and printed music contest schedules.
More than that, I met my mother, the teenager, through those hand-picked documents. I lived, for a few moments, in a very different time, when a graduating class was a dozen people, all of whom got a blurb in the local paper. When flyers were run off on mimeograph machines and tickets for special events cost a handful of pennies. When teenaged boys posed for the camera with their arms around one another, never fearing the “dire consequences,” when teachers and administrators took a cut in salary so that the music program could continue. I found sealed envelopes, meant to be opened later in life, with little reminders of special moments. This wasn’t a diary filled with teenaged angst, not a fancy scapbook designed to show off the kids, but a message to her later self, a reminder of what had really mattered to her, back in those formative years.
I wish, I truly wish, I’d known about this before she passed away. I wish we’d sat down together with it and I could have heard her reminisce about that time in her life. I don’t know why we never did. I came later in her married life. My “baby book” is sketchy compared to my older brothers’. I don’t know what happened or why the past was allowed to slip away. Was it my fault because I never asked? Or had something she’d dreamed of slipped out of her hands, and being the positive person she was, she chose to look to the possibilities ahead instead of dwelling on might have beens?
I have my suspicions, some of which this wonderful handful of pages reinforce, but the fact is, the gentle, positive, fun-loving “Scotty” who made that scrapbook never let might-have-beens win. She was the queen of lemonade…served with a song.
I wish we’d talked, if only so she knew I cared, but on the other hand, I’m not certain I’d appreciate this book for what it is, had I been more familiar with it. And after living with her teenaged self for a handful of hours, I love her more than ever.
I’ll be adding a slideshow eventually of some of the pages…because I think she’d like that. For those of you whose folks are still alive, sound them out now, while you can.
…since I’ve actually read a book. Embarrassing to admit, but between time, mental focus and a whole lot of things not worth talking about, all I’ve been able to do is skim and set aside the handful I wanted to read when the read-for-pleasure neurons reawakened. After finding the end to HG, and while I wait for it to percolate a bit before the final rewrite, I’ve actually WANTED to read again.
It’s a good feeling…it’s also one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging. There are only so many hours in the day and I am, as I believe I’ve mentioned, the world’s slowest reader.
First, a couple of novels by long-time friend, Darragh Metzger, Ironwolfe and The Strawberry Roan. I’ve had them for some time, glanced through them enough to know I could endorse them honestly, and have had them sitting by my bed waiting ever since. I had as much fun as I’d hoped and look forward to reading more. Ironwolfe is the first in The Triads of Tir na n’Og, her take on the land beyond the mists, the land of fae and all its associated magics and wonderfully weird intersections of time and space. (I particularly like her sun movement. CREEPY). Reality is very much in the eye of the beholder, a fact that takes our intrepid hero on an intriguing search for his own truth. If you like the world, there’s lots more where it came from.
The Strawberry Roan I can’t really talk about without spoilers, but our heroine has a delightful voice that carries the story, especially in the first half. I’m not sure the length really is warranted since the story depends on a bit of a gimmicky premise that got a bit thin after a while, and I think I’d have liked a bit more grounding in where it is relative to Earth-now, but it was definitely fun.
Darragh is an amazing woman…check out her bio on her website…and knows her horsey, historical, and battle-stuff. She’s multi-talented, and as sweet as they come.
Bottom line, I had fun reading both and really want to read her later works. These two were her first published and show her growth as a writer. I like where that growth seems to be heading. I’m not widely read in the fantasy genre, but for me, they were clever and different. She’s up on Amazon, with a whole lot more offerings than I have! Go ye forth and check her out.
Then, I turned to Patty Briggs’ Mercy books. I’d read the first two a couple of years ago—we used them as travel-reading, so I got to actually READ them—-but when I began the next, I realized I needed to go back and reread…and I’m so glad I did. Now, I need to find my other Patty books tucked into a box downstairs, just to savor. Patty is one of the few writers whose work I never skim. Each and every word counts. They are marvelously textural, and yet the details never drag. My only concern now is how flat my pocket book is going to get tracking down all her other books. It’ll take a long time to catch up (have I mentioned how slowly I read?) but I’ll enjoy every moment. To truly appreciate the above comments, you need to realize these books are everything I don’t normally read…vampire/werewolf, contemporary, first person…and I love everything about them.
And not just because a dear friend wrote them. It’s not that I haven’t tried others of the type, even others by writers I consider friends. They’ve just not held my interest. First person is very hard to write well and requires an extraordinary character to carry it. Angst is not first-person friendly. It comes off whiny. Well, Mercy isn’t angsty. She’s gutsy, clever, and just dumb enough to get herself into some tough situations. Luckily, she’s also smart enough to get herself out. There’s a wonderful balance of power, and a fascinating take on what boils down to nature vs nurture. I’m really—REALLY—looking forward to the rest of the journey with her.
Next on the agenda was an unpublished short story by Andre Norton. Jay Watts, who runs the “only estate authorized fan site” contacted me a couple of years ago about some photocopies of my work they’d found in Andre’s files, asking was I the Jane Fancher who drew them and if so, could they put them up on the site. I said, of course, and he did. Then last fall, he contacted me about a tribute he was doing for the tenth anniversary of her departure to worlds unknown and asked if I’d be willing to do an illustration for an unpublished short story he’d been given authority to post. Again, I said of course…but then realized I hadn’t drawn in years! And then, I got enmeshed in the ending for HG…and while I was reading Patty’s second Mercy book…I got a message from him pointing out the imminent deadline and was I still interested.
ARGH! I reread the little story, pulled out the now-centuries-old drawing tablet, located a pencil and, with no small trepidation, began sketching. Somehow, after a bit of floundering, my hand began to carve the two main characters out of the blank page and I managed a nice little portrait, which was what I’d sent her way back when dinos ruled.
It’s a nice little story, still, I believe, in rough draft, which actually makes it even more fun. I hope he posts it as he sent it to me, which was a pdf of the actual pages, typed on, I’ll swear to it, the same typewriter she used to write her kind letters to me, sent by dino-express, and with little hand-made corrections. It gives the whole thing a delightfully intimate feel.
Anyway, if you’d like to relive a bit of your youth, or if you never had the pleasure of reading Andre Norton and wonder what all the fuss is about, check out his page. The tribute will go up March 17, 2015.
Next up: The Persian Boy, by Mary Renault
Wow! Two posts in two days! what’s the world coming to?
Some recent interactions with writers caused me to post the following on FB. It really turned into a blog post, so…here y’go!
Carolyn and I have worked with a lot of writers over the years and at the risk of pissing some people off, I’m going to share the first advice we offer to writers who come in from the Lit/English/Creative Writing degree side of the force.
Pry that grammar rule book out of your cold, soon-to-be-creatively-dead fingers and start writing what you hear in your head. Those are your characters, not the terms and rules someone came up with try to analyze language. Toss the rulebook into the back of a closet and pull it out only in the final, copyedit stages, and even then, just flag the points you think are ‘wrong.’ Use those cute little multicolored post-its and it will end up looking like a Persian carpet! After you’ve done all that, go in and read it like a reader (and yes I mean LIKE) and ONLY change the ones you think MUST be changed for people to think you’re not totally illiterate. Like getting it’s and its, I and me, might and may correct.(Even when you know the rules, your fingers will misbehave. Trust me on this one…sigh…)
Trust your brain’s backburners to get the majority of the important stuff right. And as Carolyn told me when she suggested I try writing, “Write what you hear in your head. You can learn to punctuate it into clarity.” And its corollary: “Write (ahem, I shall stick with her public version) garbage and edit brilliantly.”
The corollary of all the above is, if you find yourself defending your work in terms of literary-isms…take a step back and examine your motives. Are you defending the characters’ story or baffling yourself with technical BS.
Now…back to my final scenes since I finally HEAR something! Yipppeeee!
Sheesh. This is total rough draft. But I have WRITING to do! Deal.
I have a last line. This might not seem like a Big Deal, but for me, it is. Every other book, sometime during the middle, the last line of the book…where it was all headed…has come to me. It’s the ultimate “lightbulb moment” of my writing process. I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to get there, but something inside says “this is the end.” Not to say that I haven’t had the last line morph slightly on me or that I haven’t hit the ending sooner than I thought and so had to give up the last line in favor of another…but that scene, that line, whether or not it’s in the book, happens sometime around the end of the book. I can honestly say, I’ve never ever had to force a book to that ending. It’s not an outline to which I will adhere come hell or high water, it’s just the most magical part of writing to me and I’ve never tried to analyze it, just marveled at it.
I don’t know why that is. But it’s always happened. I think of it as the story percolating on the back burner of my subconscious finally coming to a boil and congealing into a coherent mass giving me an answer to which I now have to find the clues within the pot that lead me inexorably to that end.
The end of a book to me is not an end, it’s the promise of a future. A story isn’t about the end, it’s about the process of getting to the end so a future is possible. (How come all those words begin with “pro”? Hmmmm…. oh…possible doesn’t have an “r”. Whew.)
Needless to say, this had never happened with this book. I’ve known for a couple of months now the “plot” that gets me to then end, but I didn’t have that magical line that set the tone for the ending, that gave me the underlying causality rather than just the plot. It’s been driving me crazy. I’ve been writing, or trying to write, scared, more often than not, because this book is so important, being the culmination of what I consider my primary raison d’etre…the rest of my writing is gravy…and it just couldn’t be allowed to lumber to a last page.
It needed to sing with the promise of the future for my beloved kids.
Consequently, my sleep schedule has just been all off. I’ve been staying up late with the computer, trying to write…late night and first thing in the AM have always been my best writing times…and ending up doing a bit on FB and Den of Angels, just to feel I’ve accomplished something, then lying in bed in the morning trying to get the characters to talk so I can run to the computer with that great insight.
And all that’s happened has been that same sequence of events plodding toward the end. Since I began putting HG on top priority, I’ve managed to get one scene after another to work, and, ultimately to work well, but OMG, it’s been hard. If I didn’t know the characters so well, I’d be hosed. But I finally hit an absolute wall. I realize now, I HAD to have that last line. I read that whole book to Carolyn, right up to that wall, and she kindly said it was great and she wants the rest. She laughed and bit her nails at all the right moments, so I felt it was going pretty good, but…still no last line.
Well…yesterday, after a night of attempted suicide (JOKE) with a nice glass of triticale whiskey and too many shortbread cookies (never combine sugar and alcohol right before bed…immensely stupid) I woke up with the deserved sick headache. Not all the way over to a hangover, just a general malaise. I took some funky water (we have this neat stuff that’s concentrated electrolyes to put into water…sort of gator aide without the yucky taste or calories…and went back to bed to try to conquer the queezies. Carolyn came in after a bit with a great suggestion. “Let’s take a drive and talk about the ending.”
OMG…just what I’d been wanting. But I also know Carolyn was in a bad spot in her own book, so I didn’t want to press. However, I still had a tension headache…and yeah, it was tension, not the whiskey. I’ve been waking with one for the last couple of weeks…so I took some Excedrin migraine and dove into the covers again. (I’d tried the exercise horse to warm up and wake up…that was not a good idea….) Half an hour later, I felt I could face daylight and finally got up, got dressed, and we decided a trip to Pullman for a Cougar Burger was just the right prescription.
Now…Carolyn was supposed to get a computer in on Wednesday. Her current laptop has been a scarey one problem after another. It’s also several years old. She’d been talking new computer, and this current round of writing disrupting crazies clinched it. Dell had their after-Christmas sales going, and she got on the phone and ordered a lovely machine that will do everything she needs, including play Guild Wars without hurky-jerky movement, for a long time to come…and it still has Win7.
Well…Since these things have been known to come early, I asked if she’d check to see if it was on its way, not wanting to leave the house unattended if by some chance it was on a local truck for delivery. She went up to the Dell site…and the order wasn’t listed. After some frantic, she got on the phone, went through the stupid automated system…and the robot said the order had been canceled.
She finally got hold of a live person and they began giving her the runaround. They sent her to another dept, who then tried to send her BACK to the original one. By this time, she was shaking with upset. This whole computer situation would have been bad at any time, but with all the story angst in the house from both writers, it was kind of the last straw.
And it was keeping me from my Cougar Burger!
I asked if she wanted me to talk to them, and she gratefully relinquished the phone. I got on, and played one heck of a Bad Cop. I said, not letting them get a word in edgewise, that we’d been Dell customers since they started, we’d had two years of problems with the other computer that just kept getting the same “repairs” and that this was the last straw, that we had to get out of the house and to get me a supervisor who could fix this…now.
They transferred me. It wasn’t to a supervisor, but I finally got out of them that it was a “compatibility issue”. They couldn’t tell me when it had been canceled, or what kind of compatibility issue or why we hadn’t been notified, and that we’d have to go back to the original salesperson…I finally realized that was all about commission.
Uh….right. So again I wait…he’s going to “hot connect” me directly to her. No muzac. And when the connection came through, it was to Microsoft Exchange…what mailbox did I want. ARGH! fortunately, I did get phone numbers. Her direct one and her next-up’s. I called her, got her voice mail. I left a message, then called the other number and finally, FINALLY was able to determine that the order had been cancelled two days after it was ordered because…get this…the frame ordered was incompatible with the screen ordered.
Part numbers. GOOD EFFING GRIEF! Why didn’t that raise a red flag the moment she put the screen in the order? The order wasn’t actually cancelled on the 14th, rather that’s when the email supposedly telling us it was going to be cancelled supposedly went out on that day. An email we never got. That was the ONLY warning they sent us. They didn’t let the salesperson know there was a problem. There was no further attempt to contact us. The automated system just zapped the order.
Sales person Number Two promised to get with SP#1 and they’d work out the new order and call us back within the hour. Please note…none of this was the fault of the sales staff, it’s the automated process Dell has for dealing with a problem in an order that sucks pond water.
Funny thing, this nice jolt of adrenaline pretty much zapped the headache! Well, jumping ahead, got a call, got the order in, expedited, which evidently means cutting, maybe, two days off the normal time, whoopie, and got ourselves on the road.
After a latte and chai tea, we began talking. Carolyn had said she had some ideas, and basically those ended up pretty much what I had planned, so I felt I was on the right track. I began just outlining the scenes I had planned, and somehow, because I wasn’t running it in my head, but explaining to another person, the circular replaying of the same conceptual lines wasn’t possible and I was forced to move forward….and the scenes began to flesh out. She had some suggestions for a couple of additional scenes that didn’t feel quite right to me, but in sorting out why they didn’t feel right, I began to realize what my scenes had to do other than just advance the plot. I still had this kind of “wrap up” moment, that I didn’t know how to handle, that I didn’t even realize I was fighting. She made a suggestion…half a joke, I think, for something else and all of a sudden: Congelation! (Okay…I KNOW it isn’t a word)
And with that suggestion….I had my last line. Curiously, the scene in question was NOT the last scene, it simply set up that final line.
And THAT is the real magic of writing.
Two days ago, I was very close to slitting my wrists. Seriously. Not physically, I’m not remotely suicidal, but my writing wrists…yes. I was seriously contemplating hanging it up forever. It’s a long story.
As most of you who have followed me the last few years know, I’ve been struggling to get my writing going again ever since, after several years of sending books to a seemingly receptive DAW, I found out they’d decided they couldn’t publish them, even tho they’d never read them, because of how long it had been since my last book. That decision resulted in Carolyn, Lynn and myself taking the step to start Closed Circle. That ended up eating up my creativity for several years, between the website, covers, and book conversions.
During that time, I was trying to write the most difficult book of my career, the one that’s going to sort out and tie up that knot of threads twenty-five years in the making that is the ‘NetWalkers series. Problem is, anyone who writes, esp fiction, knows it’s a muscle that needs exercise. Once you’ve lost the tone, it’s really hard to get it back, esp when RL keeps throwing you curves…like CJ’s books to edit, taxes, an ever-expanding garden and a variety of household projects…not to mention a demanding little house-elf whose clothing and stories have been one of the most fun things I’ve taken on in a long time. It’s hard to include him in the distractions, however, as it was he who convinced me I might still be able to write. Anyway, it was hard to convince myself to put a book that would never have a chance of serious distribution, especially one that was so scarily difficult to even contemplate, at the top of my list.
The front end, the reunion between Wesley and JP, had practically written itself. Unusual in a series book, but these two had so much confusion and heat between them, it made filling in the background downright fun. The middle was progressing…at a snail’s pace, but moving. I knew there was something missing, and thanks to the distractions, I could never quite put my hand on it…solving that kind of problem often requires serious meditation…or lots of trial and error until the right connections emerge. But I was getting there. I was really close to solving it…. Then came this year, with the fence, the second pond, the wedding, the long trip south and Wiishu’s big GoH gig. And the book stopped cold…again.
Well…this fall, I decided enough was enough. HomeComing Games became THE priority, and even if it meant only three lines a day, if it took all day staring at the screen to get those three lines, I was going to stay at the computer until they were written. Then, suddenly, that magical moment when it all snapped together. I’d actually found that missing piece and necessary focus. I began what we call a rolling rewrite, got through to where the final glide into the ending would start, and took notes on where I thought it was going.
Then, I began reading what I had to Carolyn. She was giving great feedback that would require a subtle reworking of certain scenes. I made a copy of the file I was working on at that point and started a new one. I usually keep a couple of versions a month. The pace I’ve been working, that w/b enough.
You probably see where this is going. I began putting in those subtle changes, the ending scenes were beginning to come a bit faster, a bit more inspired. The end was in sight….
Then, two days ago, I turned on the computer…and got that “Windows did not shut down normally” screen. Ah, well. Happens sometimes when this laptop runs out of juice. I told it to start, brought up WP and the file…and instead of going to the bookmark, it opened at the top. Hmmm…OK. Did control-end to get to the end of the file…and it was in the middle of a sentence about halfway through the book.
OMG. I knew I’d saved down. However, I often leave the program up while I go check email, so maybe it had made an auto backup…even tho it doesn’t usually do that if there are no changes. So… I tried to check the location of the auto backup—and the program quit. I tried checking Explorer where the backups, according to another installation, s/b…and there was no folder.
Double OMG. I looked for the most recent manual backup…and it was that one I made before I began entering the CJC comments.
Nothing. Zip. Nada.
This laptop is the one I switched to when my newer laptop died the SDD death this last summer. IT was on Carbonite…this one…was not. Scratch that option. Besides which, by the time I figured the problem, that screwed up file might well have overwritten the good one anyway.
I…lost it. I’ve never in my life been that upset over anything. I’d worked so hard to get to that point, and I had NO ONE to blame but myself. I KNOW to back up…and I usually do to several places. I’d just gotten so distracted by actually writing again, I foolishly forgot. And now…it was gone. I knew the information was on the drive…nothing had been written to the drive since that last save…I have the data on a separate disk from the programs, so it was safe, as long as I didn’t save anything to that drive..
Now…many many years ago, when, before an emergency move of the machine, a friend mistakenly parked my HDD with a parking program pulled off another computer…don’t ask…I ended up using Norton Disk Doctor to reconstitute Harmonies, sector by sector…. After Norton ceased to carry that program, I’ve looked many times for anything that analyzed HDDs and restored files in that fashion, simply because it was such a lifesaver, and I’ve never found anything remotely like it. I can’t even find anything now that will scan the HDD for key phrases and restore the associated sectors!
Well, we called Lynn, who has a little business down in Florida that involves saving people from themselves, computer-wise, and she, bless her, sent us a couple of links, one of which was to http://www.easeus.com/ (which I see now, of course, is having a more than 50% off sale! ARGH Aw, well.)
This proved to be my savior. A deep scan turned up three possibilities, i.e. three different saves, that were virtually identical. Curiously, the one it claimed to be the most complete was the only one with a problem. The two “raw” ones restored to perfectly useable files. The named one was…tada…missing the end of file command. i.e. it came up perfectly in WP…formatting and all…but when I hit “cntl-end” the program crashed. This is what happened to the file that was up when Windows shut down wrong! I just copied and pasted it into a new file, and it’s working like a charm. Got another scene written today and while I won’t be done by Christmas, New Years is a serious possibility.
Moral of the story: never EVER write a book about a computer geek with a Loki complex….
I found from Pook’s first few months with us…
I think, maybe, I’ve got the sequencing worked out in the middle of HomeComing Games! I’m at the end of the section I had written out and am beginning to go into brave new territory! Let’s hope for an end by Christmas!!!!!!
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