Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good is not fast is not better

This post reminds me, sadly or not-so-sadly, of the time my dad decided to try his hand at writing something. This, from a man who'd never written anything before in his life. Who rarely read anything, near as I can tell, either. Or rather, he read a lot, but not for a feeling of style and organization. And did I mention he's absolutely nuts?

Now, a lot of people say that about their parents: they're nuts. But sanity and insanity are relative, and what scales you use for one are inapplicable for the other. It makes an interesting frame-of-reference debate, the sort where, like Newton and his bucket of water, you ask which one is spinning. Only there is no absolute space.

Anyway, he churned out a 91,000-page manuscript in about a month, which is awesome. That some of the facts didn't compute, the language was atrocious, the points obtuse, and the general gist of the book didn't seem to make any sense...less awesome.

You can't make this stuff up: when I asked him why he didn't want me to seriously edit the damn thing and make it understandable, he said, "Because nobody can understand it."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Writing beyond the block

I'm working on a very complicated novel involving twin brothers, the end of the US, telepathy, and a gun named "Coraline". So far there has been a helicopter, a wedding, and lots of repressed anger.

Like the NaNoWriMo I wrote last year, I started this only after I worked out how it ends (not prettily). But unlike NaNoWriMo, it's been slow and painstaking and the characters end up in situations that I hadn't planned and things happen and the parts that I thought I would linger on barely get mentioned, while blood and gore (well, gore) cover the pages. I've also been getting hung up on every other page with scenes that won't work, and obssessing about them until they do.

It is quite possibly my most favorite--and my most pain-in-the-ass story. Kind of like the Tweeb.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Never Trust an Interior Designer

Morgan was the kind of twit who paid £2000 for an old Spitfire and £3000 to get it fixed up, chromed, and re-lacquered, so that when he showed up at a client's home the first thing they would see was a car that reminded their genetic memory of the good old days, even if they were too young for the days, or even if they were old enough to know better. The car had to represent more than just a car to his clients: it had to represent style, aspiration, and above all, that nebulous thing called "good taste" which his services promised to render to their house. British cars, he was fond of saying, might be worth diddly on the road, but nobody could fault their looks.

He himself had a spritely look about him: he was lean and reminded people vaguely of Prince Charles. He looked a sight better than that horse-faced member of the royal house, but he walked with the same measured dignity that the prince used on his public perambulations, and always wore a clean suit, carefully matched so as to be unmemorable as possible. You didn't pay to remember him, after all. You paid so that people could remember your house.

It was almost beautiful, how they opened up to him--all in the interest of "finding their style", of course. There were no fronts to put up when they so openly invited him in to plumb their closets, divine their lives. This dent in the wallpaper meant an abusive relationship, that dog meant a merely unhappy one. Putting a new couch in front of the window signified that she was cheating on him; painting a room red meant he was screwing on the side. Men wanted textures, women wanted lines. But above all, they wanted to be better than themselves.

Which they couldn't be, of course, not unless they wanted to rewrite their memories and their lives. But he didn't tell them that--he gave them what they wanted--beautiful things--and didn't return their phone calls when everything came crashing down.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Make Stones Weep

Stones don't cry when they shatter on the ground. The peculiar property of stone-ness means that these inert objects accept the transfer of kinetic energy with a silence that can only be described as stony. The pebbles that come of boulders retain the former properties of the stone--just in smaller pieces, smaller and smaller. At some point, it is said, a stone is no longer a stone. At which point, by definition, it must weep.

And, in doing so, it must gain tears--pain--feeling--soul. So be careful with stones. And be careful with souls. To make stones weep is no hard thing, but to heal a soul requires more than just mortar and brick.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I should probably be panicking

But I'm not. I have another watercolor to start and one more to finish. Next week we're starting the prep work for a party and I have a job interview.

Oddly, I seem to have calmed down about all this. Because, you see, contrary to popular belief about artists, it's all about the plan.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

At least I have a title?

The title is: God Guides Me.

Now, if only I can write the story that accompanies it...

On the plus side, I've been reading more fiction lately. This means that I'll be writing less science-y and more prose-like.

On the minus side, Criminal Minds is on tonight, and I am totally addicted to that show, even more so than I was with House. I also like NCIS, and I think what makes these two shows in particular so much fun is how great everybody gets along. Even when they do have tiffs, they stick together in the end. People dynamics are always fascinating.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I've been wanting to extend one of my short stories into either a story collection or a novel. I've already written a novella-ish-length novel around one minor character, which was fun, but it wasn't the extension that I wanted to do.

In retrospect, the extension seemed obvious--an expansion on a previously-explored plot point which didn't make it into the final cut of the story. I really just don't understand why it took me so long to figure that out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Finally getting back into things

Yeah, it's been a while here. Some things blew up, some things slowed down.

Working on two books: one is a novel, the other is a book about Dutch food.

Hope they work out.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nice Quote

I don't like to post quotes, because nothing seems so cliché as to confess to being unable to think of something yourself.

But every now and then, I come upon a good one. Too good not to repost, because it is 100% true:

If you're going to be a writer, the first essential
is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start
writing something and the ideas will come. You have
to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow."

~ Louis L'Amour

Something about the very act of writing--physically writing with a pen and paper, not typing--lets ideas creep their way in. You start getting more and more ideas--and that's when you want to turn to the computer to get them all down before they start going away.

Friday, February 4, 2011

This is why it's called work

This week I started 4 drafts for Outside Looking In, all pretty good ideas--leaving my job, my allergies to our FatBoy--and eventually ended up publishing exactly 1.

This weekend I will send out two shorts to some small lit mags, and start writing up my next short, based on CPR.

Monday, January 31, 2011

New beginnings

I'm leaving my paying day job for a future of long shots and high uncertainty, to write full-time.

This will be the second time that I've tried to do this. The first time, I didn't have a plan--or a clue. Now, I have both. I'll probably still end up working some part-time something-or-other, but I can call myself a writer.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bad reputation

Writing has the reputation of being a non-job: you set your own hours, choose your own assignments, write what you feel like, and put it out there. It's something that everybody thinks they can do, and thus it's hard to find anybody who can actually do it well.

But it's not that simple. You really have to pick and choose things that you really like and really care about. And you can't know what you like or care about until you've lived a little, which is, I think, why most young writers are terrible.

And it's hard. It's not just the self-discipline to finish things on schedule. It's the self-discipline to finish things on schedule and not have them be anything less than your best every time. Like all creative endeavors, you are constantly being judged, unfairly or not, on what you publish, and the moment you slip, it's over. It's worse, in many ways, than being a celebrity: at least they get glitzy dresses and lots of money for their troubles.

"Love what you do" is one of those clichés about work that everybody tosses around, but you can get by in most jobs without actually loving anything about what you do--you have to like it enough to do a good job, but you don't need to think about it 24/7 and unless you let it, it's not going to cut into dinner with your kids or cuddle-time with your cats. But you really have to love writing in order to make anything like a living out of it, because there's no other way to survive the constant rejections, or even the constructive criticism that your real friends* will give you.

*Seriously, take your worst POS you've ever written and show it to your friends. The good ones will tell you, "Dude, I love you, but this sucks." Those are the ones you need to keep.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mom isn't always right

You'd expect that my parents would be thrilled to know that I've gotten a contract. Two of them, now, actually. But no, they're not. Here's my theory: if I'd been my sister, and had landed a contract, they would have been thrilled. She's the writer, I'm supposed to be the doctor.

It says something about their world view, doesn't it, that they can't seem to get around that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cracks in the Dirt

Jim was worried.

Maybe he shouldn't have planted the seeds, though "threw out the door after your ex-girlfriend" wasn't exactly "planting". He didn't even know where they came from--China, perhaps, or was it Thailand? Wherever they came from was wherever his ex had been, little spores of her worldliness come home to haunt him.

It'd been a muggy three days since she'd come by in her glitzy BMW to drop off his things he'd put into storage when they moved in together. Three days, and his front door was hanging crooked, and there was a forest taller than a man in the middle of the dirt driveway.

By day five, the roots had sent runners shooting up from the mailbox, but it wasn't until he sat down in front of the TV that evening when he noticed the crack in the paint--and a small green shoot peeking out from the floorboards.

Around him, the house groaned, and he imagined another root, shooting through another clump of dirt. Texas summer, he thought idly, as a he cracked open the warm beer. He didn't even taste the plaster chips in the cup.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pitter patter

Cats are on my mind these days. They flit in and out of my mind the way they pit-pat in and out of the room--silent and ghostly presences auguring nothing and everything. I can't begin to comprehend these creatures, what brings them to my mind, why they are there, how they steal little bits of my thoughts--not the maelstrom of ideas, but always the core that holds them together--what I lose, and/or gain from my associations with them. Cats are on my mind these days, and I am thankful that they do not speak. Better not to know what I have lost to them.