greygirlbeast: (river3)
Kittens, this is what happens when you break up with a vacation. It exhibits a flare for vindictiveness by seeing to it that, on the eve of New Year's Eve, I catch a mild intestinal bug, just enough to make me utterly miserable for a good twenty-four hours, and see that Spooky catches it just as I start recovering, so another twenty-four hours will be disrupted and more misery will be spread. So, warning: do not interrupt vacations.

But comment. I'll have the iPad with me in bed.

I spent most of yesterday lying on the chaise in the middle parlour, sleeping and moaning, except when I was...no, I'll be discrete, yes? Yes. I did read Laird Barron's "Old Virginia" and Steve Duffy's "The Oram County Whoosit," the latter of which was not only quite good, but rather interesting. In that it covered some of the ground I covered in "In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888)" and "The Colliers' Venus (1893)." Also, it put me in mind, a bit, of Carpenter's The Thing (1982). But I don't mean to say that it felt derivative (though it is a "Mythos tale"). You can find "The Oram County Whoosit" in New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird, and I recommend it. This was the first story by Duffy I'd read.

Last night, as the crud struck Spooky, we watched Julie Delpy's The Countess (2009). And it really is Delpy's film as she wrote, directed, scored, and played the title role in the film. It's neglect of historicity aside, it's a fine film. Erzebet Bathory's story becomes both a fairy tale and a tragedy about a strong, intelligent (if psychotically, murderously neurotic) woman caught in an age when strong, intelligent women were generally deemed, at best, a nuisance. I especially approve of this latter theme, as it certainly did play a role in the downfall of the real Countess Bathory, between the enormous debt owed her by Hungary's King Matthias and the hatred she engendered from the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever else may or may not be true of her, having researched her life, there can be little doubt she ran afoul of a conspiracy and was an easy target. Anyway, I'd have liked a wilder, more explicit film, but The Countess is impressive, nonetheless (ignore the IMDb rating of 6.2; that's fucking poppycock). See it.

But what really saved the day yesterday was that the mail brought a gift from Neil, a personalized copy of the numbered edition of The Little Golden Book of Ghastly Stuff, from Borderlands Press. Spooky read a bit of it to me and the platypus. I was especially pleased with "Entitlement Issues" (you can read it online, just follow the link), which calls out all those fools who think authors owe them anything at all and who place stock in that "reader/writer contract" crap.

Ah, I'm running out of what little steam I had in me. So, I shall leave you with two things: Firstly, a promise that Sirenia Digest #73 will be out sometime in the next week or so, and, secondly, I leave you with this rare photo of me and the platypus together (we were fading fast):



On the Mend,
Aunt Beast
greygirlbeast: (Default)
I can imagine nothing more wicked than the oft repeated insistence (from readers, publishers, editors, etc.) that an author must always love her or his work, if the work is to have value, during its creation or afterwards.
greygirlbeast: (Narcissa)
I've only been out of bed for less than an hour, and, already, I've had to calculate the temperature of the sun's core in Kelvins, Celsius, and Fahrenheit. It's going to be that sort of day.

Yesterday was a blur of getting packed and ready to leave later this afternoon for Readercon 22. But we did get a heavy rain, and the temperature in the house plunged into the low 80sF. When I crawled out of bed this ayem, it was only 71˚F!!! I saw a goddamn penguin dancing with the platypus (cheeky bastard). Oh, the dodo? She played cello while the mothmen sang a three-part harmony.

Gotta wake up. Gotta get all that shit done I have not yet gotten done. Time's a wastin', kittens.

And for anyone giving [livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust (or anyone else) grief over the subject of the Author's Authority and Knowledge of Her or His Intent in Any Given Work of Fiction, go fuck yourself. Whoops, that just sort of slipped out. But...if I wrote the book, you do not disregard my comments on its meaning and/or implications as irrelevant. This is why we can't have nice things. The interwebs have far too many wannabe undergrad/grad lit-crit radfem queer-theory politicos out to nail "race-gender-class-fail" even if it means becoming exactly what they think they hate, and I, for one, couldn't care less what they believe. They are Nil. Remember how the Wicked Witch of the West met her end in Victor Fleming's 1939 adaptation of The Wizard of Oz? Well, toss a bucket of indifference on these fools, same thing happens. Or, you could say it's like slugs and salt. I'm sorry, guys, but if you dismiss William Faulkner's work just because he's a dead white guy, you're a wrongheaded asshole. You've been sipping at the purple Kool-Aid*. Oh, yeah. Sorry. Indifference!

I should probably finish this up and get back to packing. But if you're going to be at Readercon this weekend, my reading is at the ungodly hour of 11 ayem tomorrow. I'll be reading

7/7/7/7
7/7
7
seven
7
7/7
7/7/7/7


from The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. And if you want a book/s signed, just find me, as I asked not to be scheduled for a formal signing. No limit to the books I'll sign.

Also, I will be blogging from the con, as we'll have internet in the room on Friday and Saturday, so problem solved. And I should be home fairly early on Sunday.

Give 'em hell, kittens.

Decamping,
Aunt Beast

* Jim Jones
greygirlbeast: (white3)
Still very white Outside. There was a little new snow last night.

No day off yesterday. Instead, I wrote 1,025 words on The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. Today, I mean to make a great push and try to reach the end of Chapter 4, though it's at least 2,000 words ahead. I panicked a little yesterday, mostly because I realized Part One of the novel will be six chapters long, after all. Which means I don't have seven chapters remaining, but eight. So, there you go.

Lots of email answered yesterday. Lately, it seems I'm saying no more often than yes. When people ask me to write a short story or a foreword or whatever. There's just so little time. It all comes down to time, and how much of it I do not have.

Yesterday, I discovered how foolish it was not to have cleaned the snow off the van right after the storm. I measured about eight inches on top of the car. Anyway, while Spooky dug out around the wheels, I scraped at the windshield. Well, mostly I dug and pried small boulders of ice loose. There were patches of ice below the snow, stuck fast to the windshield, that were the exact color of old Coca-Cola bottles. Pretty, but a bitch to get off. She went to the market. I stayed home and wrote. This is the usual way of things.

---

Something that amused me a great deal, Charles Stross has compiled a collection of Amazon reader "reviews" of classics. The "reviews" are predictably wretched. But sort of funny, in a gut-wrenching way, when it's not one of my books the idiots in question are on about. For instance, from a review of The Lord of the Rings:

I can't stand this book! These fantasy things are really getting to me! I don't see how someone could read such un-true and so unbelievebly weird stuff!

Or, from a review of Catch 22: I personally don't read that many books, but this is one of the worst books I ever read. First, they're are too many characters. This book has too many characters that I can't remember even one of them in my head. They include many minor characters that nobody cares so you get confused about it. Second, it has too many mini-stories. It has lots of short stories that doesn't relate to any of the other stories and they are usually pretty boring. Third this is none sense. It doesn't have a major theme or anything and it's just talking about air force men being board of the war and just being crazy.

This is the future, and each and every moron has been given a public forum.

---

Last night we had hot dogs and a halfhearted attempt at Kindernacht. We streamed four episodes of MonsterQuest, which is actually a lot worse than I'd expected. Which is probably like being disappointed by a MacDonalds' cheeseburger or a Taco Bell "chalupa."

Later, Spooky read me Kelly's Link's "Most Of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water," which was very, very good.

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Thank you. Now, the words must flow.

Yours in Bafflement,
Aunt Beast
greygirlbeast: (white)
The snow is going to be with us a while, slowly morphing into a glassy rind of ice. Today has already seen its high of 30˚F and has begun sinking into the twenties, and the high tomorrow is forecast at a mere 26˚F. So, yeah. White out there for a while yet.

I'd planned to take the day off and leave the house for an expedition to photograph cemeteries in the snow. But, FedEx is supposed to deliver the new iPod today, even with our street looking more like the Beardmore Glacier, so here I stay. Maybe we'll take cemetery photos tomorrow.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,129 words on Chapter 4 of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, which got me to manuscript page 174. I'd have written more, but I reached a point where Imp is typing a list of bad dreams she had between July 10th and July 17th (2010), and after describing the first two, I was afraid they were beginning to sound like me on autopilot. So, I stopped, to let it all percolate. Also, I'd already planned to divide the book into two halves— "The Drowning Girl" and "The Wolf Who Cried Girl" —but now I think I see that each section has to be six chapters long. Which means that when I finish 4, I'll be a third of the way to THE END.

If you haven't yet ordered a copy of Two Worlds and In Between, the platypus says this is a good day to do just that.

Thanks for all the comments the last two days. Keep them coming, if you can. They are mossy stones that help me cross the stream of days. There is something seriously wrong with that metaphor, but I don't have time right now to puzzle out what it might be.

When I was done writing yesterday, we bundled up and went out into the white world. The streetlights were coming on, the oyster day going to a slate twilight. We crossed the great stillness of Dexter Training Grounds. The wind whipped up clouds of snow from the ground, and a little fresh snow was still falling from the sky. At the southern end of the park, a small crowd was busy building persons of snow. In the shadow of the statue of Ebenezer Knight Dexter, a couple had constructed a modest sort of igloo-like shelter, and the ground outside was littered with goggles, a snowboard, hats, etc. We watched a very happy white dog running to and fro. The clouds had thinned, and overhead we could just make out the waxing quarter moon. There were lampposts straight out of Narnia. The air temp was in the low twenties, with the windchill at about 15˚F. I lay on my back in the snow, gazing up at the moon through the icy boughs of a fir tree. The cold hardly bothered me at all. It was dark by the time we headed back home.

In response to the thoughts I posted two days ago, regarding my constant struggle not to second guess my readers, a number of you have said you read my books precisely because I don't pander, and that helped, hearing that. Last night, this thought came to me and I wrote it down: Whores pander. Whores are paid to give you what you want. If I want someone to pander to me, I'll go to a whore, not an artist. Of course, obviously, not pandering limits my audience (though pandering absolutely doesn't guarantee more readers). It's not that I'm trying to make things hard on readers. It's not like I'm trying to do the opposite of whatever they might want (though, I have met writers with that particularly perverse streak of contrariness), it's just that I am my own ideal audience, and I write my books for me. And if other people like what I write, that's grand and wonderful and I can pay my rent, but I simply can't write for anyone but me. I've tried.

Last night, we watched Joel Schumacher's Falling Down (1993), which I'd not seen since the year it was released. It's aged very well, and is certainly one of Michael Douglas' finest moments. We also (FINALLY!) finished the Vashj'ir region in Cataclysm. No, it didn't really get any better. To make matters worse, it ends with a dungeon that you can't do unless you have five players, which means two players don't actually get to see the end of that part of the story (such as it is). This is an old gripe with WoW, their insistence of forced socialization and refusal to take into account those of us who don't have the opportunity and/or inclination to play in groups. Spooky and I never get to see endgame regions. Regardless, it's over and done with, and now we move on. No more Horde vs. the Sea Monkeys.

There are photos from yesterday evening, behind the cut. Mine are first, then Spooky's. Hers are much better, because the Lamictal makes my hands shake too much to take photos in low light without a tripod:

12 January, Part Two )
greygirlbeast: (new newest chi)
1) I slept eight hours, and I'm still not exactly what passes for awake.

2) We've laid in supplies. The snow is coming. It should arrive around midnight tonight. Heavy, heavy snow. If I were still in Birmingham or Atlanta, this sort of snow would spell the beginning of a week or two of havoc. Here, we may be unable to leave the house for one day, maybe. By "leave the house," I only mean get the car out of the driveway.

3) Yesterday, I wrote 1,142 words on Chapter 4 of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I'm starting to suspect I'll finish the chapter on Thursday. I'm on manuscript page 162. But, even as I begin this seemingly marvelous progress, the insecurity mounts. The fear that I'm not even half smart enough to write this book, and that there's no audience who wants to read a novel of this sort. I have begun heavily second guessing the reader.

Fuck the so-called wisdom of writing workshops, of instructors, and fuck all that shit about reader/writer contracts. This sort of anxiety is poisonous to good fiction. One does not write for an audience, unless one only wishes to pander. One writes. The worth of a novel is not determined by the opinions of those who read it, collected and averaged to yield an objective rating that may be expressed in stars given and stars withehld. It's all a lonely mess. The book's "worth" lies in the mind of the author, and in the mind of each reader. Each is alone with the book, and everyone who reads it is subject to their own unique experience. Nothing is generally true. That said, I sit and try to just let Imp speak and tell her story, but I begin to hear the complaints to come. The shitty Amazon and blog "reviews" it may receive in 2012. These things shouldn't occur to me, and certainly they shouldn't give me a moment's pause, but they do. "It takes forever before anything actually happens." "It's slow." "It rambles." And so on and on and on and so forth.

4) Yesterday, after the writing, we had to go to our storage unit in Pawtucket. Outside, the world was bitter cold, scabby, too sharp around the edges. Anyway, we needed to drop off those files I mentioned having boxed up back on the 7th. That was the easy part. I also needed to find the missing files for The Dry Salvages, which I'm revising a bit before it's reprinted in Two Worlds and In Between. The files weren't in my cabinet, or anywhere in my office, or in the house. So, it stood to reason, we'd find them in the storage unit, where most of my old manuscripts and notes are kept. Nope. They may be there, but we didn't find them. Which is going to make revising The Dry Salvages much more difficult. I'll say more on this later.

It was depressing, seeing all my paleo' stuff, my Lane cabinet and all the rest. Things that have been in storage since August 2001, when I only thought I was briefly putting my paleo' work on hold.

5) Few things are so capable of filling me with despair as the paperback rack at the market. Who actually reads this crap? I mean, clearly lots and lots and lots of people do, because every one of those books has some bestselling pedigree slapped across its foil embossed cover. These are the forgettable books that everyone reads. Maybe not me, or you, or you, but everyone else. They all seem to amount to little but a combination of fourth-grade reading-level prose and woozy melodrama with bland, idealized characters. They are not meant to be good books. They are meant to be easy reads. Good reads (a phrase I loathe, a dismissive, backhanded slap of a compliment). They are meant to be consumed and then disposed of, like all the best products of this society. I know the money would be heavenly, but I don't think I could sleep at night. Okay, touché. I already have trouble sleeping.

6) I'm starting to think I'm sitting in a great empty room, talking to myself, listening to my hollow voice echoing off the silver walls.

7) Last night we watched Michael Winterbottom's excellent The Killer Inside Me (2010; based on Jim Thompson's 1952 novel). A few lapses in logic aside, I liked it quite a lot (and the lapses are only problematic if we assume the characters are especially bright people, and mostly they don't appear to be). Western noir set in the 1950s. It felt a lot like what you might get if the Coen Bros. and David Lynch made a film together. As usual, Winterbottom doesn't pull his punches, and so the brutality and loss rings true. Casey Affleck delivers a chilling performance as a small-town sociopath who also happens to be a deputy sheriff. Highly recommended.

8) I ordered my new iPod Classic yesterday. My thanks to Steven Lubold, who made it possible for me to get a new iPod. I've been trying to decide what I'll name it. My first iPod (the one from 2005 that recently died) was Moya. This one may be Inara. I always name my computers. Anyway, right now I see it's in Shanghai, because, you know, that makes sense. My iPod and the ramen I had for breakfast have traveled more than I ever will.

9) Last night, Shaharrazad reached Level 83.

And that's more than enough for now.
greygirlbeast: (white)
I look into the mirror, usually by accident, and see the face of someone who hasn't slept well in many years.

Very, very cold Outside (20F, feels like 8F), but warm enough in the House.

Still and all and yet, I wrote 2,014 words on The Drowning Girl yesterday. I passed manuscript page 100. And to the title page I added a subtitle, so that it's now The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I did this for a reason (which is usually, but not always, why I do things). The reason goes back to the problem of the interauthor, which I discussed at length in the entries of August 7th, August 8th, and August 9th. A quote from the August 7th entry, wherein I introduce the (pretty obvious) concept of the interauthor:

Conventions in first-person narratives. Such as, how so few readers pause to consider the existence and motivations of the "interauthor." When you're reading a first-person narration, you're reading a story that's being told by a fictional author, and that fictional author— or interauthor —is, essentially, the central character. Their motivations are extremely important to the story. The simple fact that they are telling the story, in some fictional universe, raises questions that I believe have to be addressed by first-person narratives. Why is the interauthor writing all this down? How long is it taking her or him? Do they intend it to be read by others? Is it a confessional? Reflection? A warning? Also (and this is a BIG one), what happens to the interauthor while the story is being written, especially if it's a novel-length work of fiction?

A first-person narrative occurs in a minimum of two time frames: the present (when the story is being written down) and the past (when the story occurred).

And it baffles me that so few readers or writers pause to consider these facts, and that so few authors address these problems in the text. A first-person narrative is, by definition, an
artifact, and should be treated as such. Rarely do I use the word "should" when discussing fiction writing.

If the subject interests you, I recommend going back and reading the three posts I linked to above, and especially the many comments to them. But getting back to yesterday, and how The Drowning Girl: A Memoir is shaping up, the book it's becoming....

What is most important here is that the reader absolutely must accept that this story is most emphatically not being written for anyone except the interauthor, in this case India Morgan Phelps (a.k.a. Imp). If the reader is unable to accept this conceit, or unaware of it, the book cannot hope to succeed on the level that I mean it to succeed (let's call me the extra-author, existing as I do beyond the narrative). Literally, you'll not be reading the book I am writing, if you fail to grasp this point. Imp is not sane, and Imp has no concern for the needs of readers she isn't writing for. Her thoughts are sometimes a jumble, as her thoughts would be. None of it's being filtered to make it any easier for others to read. Not you, or you, or you. Not my editor and not my agent and not reviewers.

To quote Mark Z. Danielewski's opening warning from House of Leaves, "This is not for you." It truly isn't. But happenstance (by the agent of me, the extra-author) will allow you the opportunity to read the manuscript, even though it was not written for you, or for anyone else but Imp. And yeah, by now I know enough to know how this is going to piss off a lot of readers. But that's not my problem, even if it actually is my problem. If the reader wants to read this particular story, hesheit must meet me more than halfway. This is not for you.

Another thing that I've realized is that Imp is an even less reliable narrator than Sarah Crowe. In The Red Tree there was at least a voice of authority— Sarah's editor, Sharon D. Halperin —even if we might doubt whether or not the editor is being entirely truthful. In The Drowning Girl: A Memoir there is nowhere a voice of authority. There is only Imp's voice. Hence, the factualness of the manuscript cannot be determined (though it's truthfulness is another matter).

By the way, I have made at least one concession to expectation and convention, in that I don't think we will ever know how the manuscript Imp is writing has reached you, the reader. Recall that in some of my works that employ first-person narratives, such as The Dry Salvages and The Red Tree, I made a point of working that bit out. Anyway, it can't help but worry me, how the book will be received by my audience. But I also have to write it the way it should be written, which means the authenticity of the artifact, the product of the interauthor, is more important than the likes and dislikes of the novel's potential readership.

And if you're the sort who's bought into all that "reader-response" hogwash, well...what can I say? If you think the act of reading shapes the true meaning of a book and that the author's intentions are irrelevant, all I can say is this is not for you. In fact, none of my fiction is, if you're that sort of reader. Or if you're simply the sort who expects to be pandered to, the lazy sort who only wants bedtime and fireside tales.

And now, time to make the doughnuts.
greygirlbeast: (talks to wolves)
Warm here in Providence, but not the unbearable heat of last week. I'm not yet certain whether or not I shall need the services of Dr. Muñoz today. Spooky's going to South County to see her sister and mother and her nephew Miles. I'm staying here, at this accursed desk.

And here's one of the sorts of things that make me want to go back to bed. This idiotic "review" of The Red Tree from Amazon:

[1 star] "Ignore the good reviews!," July 18, 2010 (By R. Esposito [Northern Virginia]):

This is one of those books that you keep reading in the hopes that it will get better but just ends up being a complete waste of time. It's not scary on any level. It's just extremely boring. The characters are not very likable, their actions make no sense, the writing is tedious and the dialog is stilted. The "did she go crazy" or "did the tree get her" plot left me only wishing she had come to her demise much sooner. And no that's not a spoiler since she's dead from the start of the book. I not only want my money back, I want the time wasted reading this book back.

Sure, it's obvious the reader is an ignoramus ("the characters...actions make no sense"). And sure, I'm not a "horror writer" and The Red Tree isn't a "horror" novel, and I didn't try to write a "scary" book. Or "likable" characters, for that matter. Is "the writing tedious and the dialog...stilted"? I'm not sure I can tell anymore. So, there you go.

I did have a very small (and likely useless) epiphany on Sunday, one I'm sure I've had before. A writer may study what potential readers like, and she or he may then pander, and struggle to be accessible, and have the common touch, and take workshops, and listen to the advice of those who say they know how to make it work. And still, the odds of success in the literary marketplace are very, very poor. Or, a writer may choose to write what she or he pleases, with no regard for that potential marketplace or accessibility or anything of the sort. And their odds of success in the literary marketplace are very, very poor. From a financial perspective, almost all writers fail. From a financial perspective, almost all books fail. That's a given. There are exact numbers, I just don't have them on hand. Two things may be deduced. One is that the odds of success are not improved (but neither are they hindered) by pandering. And another is that you might as well write what you feel moved to write, because you'll probably fail anyway.

---

The last few days are not quite a blur. I expect I'd be in a better mood if they were. There was no writing yesterday, because there was an afternoon doctor's appointment, and that throws everything into chaos. On Sunday, still ill from insomnia, I did manage to make less of a mess of what I'd written on Thursday and Friday, what I'd dithered over and picked at on Saturday. That is, the beginning of the Next New Novel. We read it over and over again. And I still don't like it. It's just more coherent now. I have no idea what's going to happen with it today.

And I have to look at the transcript of an interview I did while at Readercon.

---

Yesterday, before the doctor, in order to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn't back out of going, I had to do something that was not writing. So, there was no work yesterday. We went to a very early matinée of Christopher Nolan's Inception. This is, simply put, a brilliant film. I honestly have nothing but praise for it. I could heap adjectives and hyperbole, but I won't. It's just brilliant, and needs to be seen, probably multiple times. Yes, it owes a great debt to numerous predecessors, most notably Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998), but it succeeds in being something new, invested with its own power and vision. A great score from Hans Zimmer. This is one of those films I cannot recommend highly enough. And it must be seen on a big screen. And thank holy fuck it wasn't in 3-D.

Then, last night, we watched the Hughes Brothers' The Book of Eli (2009), which was a quite a bit better than I'd expected (all the Xtian nonsense aside). Of course, I went in with no expectations. The cast helped enormously, with people like Gary Oldman, Tom Waits, and a Malcom McDowell cameo picking up any slack there might have been. I'm not sorry I missed it in the theatres, but it's fun, and even a slight bit better than "just fun."

---

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Thanks.

Now I try to make some sense from this day.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Not enough sleep last night. I stayed up too late, and the neighbors are too noisy too early for us morning sleepers. Outside it's a mere 67F, but sunny. Sunny is good, as I squint at the screen.

Yesterday, I wrote a lot, and I hope that I wrote well. I did 1,343 words on "The Maltese Unicorn" (in five hours and forty-five minutes), and if only I could write that many words every day. I'd settle for every other day. But, there was a meeting with the producers and some studio execs and their accountants, and at least I'm not having to step down as director. Yeah, we're over budget on this shoot, but they've got confidence I'll stay on schedule. Of course, the big SFX scenes are still to come.

If you've not already looked at the current eBay auctions, please do. Proceeds go to help offset the costs of attending Readercon, one of only two cons I'll be doing this year. Also, you should have a look at Spooky's Dreaming Squid shop at Etsy. She's just finished a couple of new paintings, Owl in Red and The Ravens Three. The latter is one of my favorite paintings she's done.

Someone wanted to know, yesterday, on the subject of the cost of attending Readercon, why I'd not been "invited as a panelist, reader or speaker." This was an innocent enough question, the assumption being that Readercon pays the expenses of professionals who attend and are part of the programming. This is not, however, the case. Readercon is a small and intimate con. A large percentage of the guests are professionals (writers, editors, publishers, etc.). This is not a big media con like Dragon*Con or Comic-con. The organizers of Readercon could not ever hope to cover the expenses of those of us who take part in the programming (as I've done the past two years). But it's also one of the few cons I can bear to attend, so for the past two years I've managed. However, the past two years, I've also asked readers for help with the costs, even though most of them will not be able to attend. These costs are not inconsiderable, which might seem especially odd given that the con is just up the road from Providence, in Burlington, Massachusetts (about an hour's drive).

If you break down the expense, it's something like this: The hotel room for three nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) comes to $333 (plus tax). I get Spooky's con membership at a discount (mine's free), so that's only $20. Then you have to factor in what we'll spend on meals, which will be more than we'd spend at home, because we're limited to restaurants either within or very near the hotel. Plus, because I pretty much never buy new clothes, not until circumstances conspire to force me to, I'll have to get a couple of outfits before the con. And there's gas and incidental expenses, so that, when all is said and done, Thursday through Sunday at Readercon 21 will likely cost me in excess of $500 (and in August I have to pay taxes). Truthfully, I have no idea whatsoever how some writers do so many cons in a year, including truly expensive ones like WorldCon and the World Fantasy Convention, which involve long-distance travel (unless you're lucky enough to live in that year's host city).

A big thank you to Steven Lubold for his latest readerly care package, which reached me yesterday. It included, among many other things, Jennifer A. Clack's Gaining Ground: The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods (2002) and John Long and Peter Shouten's Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds (2008). I'd never be able to afford these books on my own, and they are much appreciated. Another thank you to Britt Marble, who sent me and Spooky matching octopus charm bracelets, as early anniversary gifts. These sorts of packages truly help brighten up a day.

Last night, I read the third (and, sadly, final) issue of Felicia Day's The Guild comic, and late we watched David Lynch's Wild at Heart (1990). I'd not seen it since...I don't know. The mid nineties, maybe, which is strange, as I was once ridiculously obsessed with the film. Probably not the best choice for a "bedtime story," but there you go.

Here's a link to a very nice piece on my writing by Paul Mathers.

---

And yes, this is Day 50 of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil "spill." I've been tweeting a good bit about the disaster, but still haven't found the resolve needed to sit down and write out something long and coherent. I look at the facts and the figures, and I see the dying wildlife and ecosystems, and I hear the idiotic things being said by BP, and my brain skips a beat. For now, it is simply more than I am capable of addressing in a blog entry. It rarely leaves my mind, day after day after day.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Another sunny day in Providence, but the temperature's only 73F. It'll be cooler than yesterday. The window's open, and I can smell a hint of the sea.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,140 words on "The Maltese Unicorn." I'm very nervous about this one, because, in numerous ways, it's something I haven't done before. Spooky says it's coming along nicely, and she's usually right. I think my main concern right now is length. I realized yesterday that I'd plotted something that could very easily be a novella, and that I'm going to have to work to stay within my word limit. Which is sort of like editing a film, deciding what winds up on the "cutting-room floor" and what goes into that final cut that people get to see. Yesterday, I kept having to snip out pieces of dialogue, not because they were bad. They were, in fact, rather good (if I do say so myself, and I did). Dialogue may end up being one of the best things about this story.

This would be a very, very good day to preorder your copy of The Ammonite Violin & Others. So far, it's gotten nothing but rave reviews, which is a huge relief.

I'd very much like to go to the sea today— to the sound of the waves, the gulls, the wind, the peace —but it's Memorial day, and the beaches will be crawling with noisy, drunken tourists celebrating nothing in particular except a day off and legal alcohol. So...maybe later in the week.

---

A quick, but important, note to readers, and I do wish it were not necessary to write this. I understand that by keeping this journal, and being on Facebook and Twitter, I am "putting myself out there." In this age, many artists are more accessible than at any other time in history, yes. However, that doesn't mean there are not still boundaries, or that the boundaries don't vary between one artist and another, or that you've been given full access to their lives. In this case, my life. I love getting email from readers, and comments to the journal, and responses on Facebook and Twitter, and I often reply. However, some people do not seem to grasp the necessity of boundaries, or the rights to privacy that I still claim. I'm speaking to a very small minority here. As in, if you've sent me a dozen emails in the past month, please don't write me a thirteenth sounding all hangdog because I've only answered one or two. Do not expect me to hold your hand as you read my books and stories. Do not think that my having "friended" you on Facebook or LJ means we're, you know, actual real-life friends. Do not expect me to follow you on Twitter. I should think these things would be common sense, but a few rather vocal people don't seem to get it. So, please, think before asking more of me than I freely give. And sure, it might only take me a second or two to reply to any given question or request, but those seconds add up. And, more importantly, I simply may not feel like replying, and there's nothing wrong with my feeling that way.

---

Last night I was too tired from all the writing to read. Well, except for a paper in the latest Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, "A new baenid turtle from the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota and preliminary taxonomic review of the Cretaceous Baenidae." The new taxon is named Gamerabaena, and the authors note, under etymology, "'Gamera refers to the fictional, firebreathing turtle from the 1965 movie Gamera, in allusion to his fire-breathing capabilities and the Hell Creek Formation..."

Spooky's birthday present, a PS3— made possible by donations from incredibly, marvelously generous readers —arrived early. We ordered it early, to be sure it arrived on time, and it arrived much sooner than expected. So, we've been downloading demos, and I've been playing Heavenly Sword (2007). I gotta say, Heavenly Sword is, hands down, the most beautiful videogame I've ever seen. I think it actually manages to beat Shadow of the Colossus (2005). And it doesn't hurt in the least that you get Andy Serkis and Anna Torv. Later in the evening, we went on something of a WoW binge, which I've not done in a while. We got Gnomnclature and Klausgnomi to Level 19. Soon now, they'll not have to run everywhere they go.

Anyway...time to make the words.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
And suddenly, here it is, my 2,500th LiveJournal entry. I was relatively late coming to LJ. I began an account here April 15th, 2004, intending it only as a mirror for my Blogger account. And that's what it was for a while. But, for one reason or another, I eventually switched over to LJ exclusively. I'm not even going to try to "guesstimate" how many words I've written on LJ over the past six years. An awful lot. And if you go back and add in the Blogger entries, which began on November 24th, 2001...well, it's a lot of words, and spans the better part of my career as a writer. On November 24th, 2011, I'll have been blogging for an entire decade, which seems almost impossible.

---

I'm utterly overwhelmed at the response to yesterday's "Spooky Birthday Present Fund" proposal. I'd thought that we might get fifteen donations by late June. As of this morning, we have twenty five. About an hour ago, I took down the PayPal button, and we started turning people away. This means that I'll be producing twenty-five copies of the new poem, instead of fifteen copies. My great thanks to everyone who's taking part in this (including the people we turned away). You guys are unbelievable. While most donors were in the US, we also have people in Canada, England, and Australia. Now, of course, I have to write a very good poem. So, yeah, wow and thank you. We have all your snail-mail addresses, and the signed and numbered copies of the poem will be mailed out late in June.

---

Today, I'm going to begin writing "Tempest Witch," my Frazetta tribute, which will be appearing in Sirenia Digest #54 later this month. As soon as this piece is done, and as soon as I've read A House is Not a Home, I'll be beginning work on "The Maltese Unicorn."

I'd like to remind you that, although the limited edition is sold out, there are still copies of the trade hardcover of The Ammonite Violin & Others available from Subterranean Press.

There was a mild seizure yesterday evening, which took me by surprise, as I've not had one in...well, at least a month.

Night before last, we finally saw Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans. It's a brilliant film, despite having two sets of colons in the title.
greygirlbeast: (white)
1. At least seven and half hours sleep last night, which is a definite improvement, even if it was necessary to take a larger dose of Ambien (which I'm trying not to take) to achieve those results. I feel more rested than I have in days, which is not to say I feel precisely rested. Just better.

2. Yesterday, I managed to get through backed-up email. And I signed the signature sheets for the limited edition of The Ammonite Violin & Others. I had a hot bath. About 4:30 p.m., despite the foul weather (slate skies spitting snow and sleet and rain), we headed down to Narragansett for opening day at Iggy's, our favorite clam shack. Fish and chips, clam cakes, Manhattan-style clam chowder, and doughboys. Oh, and root beer. Afterwards, we drove on down to Point Judith and Harbor of Refuge. The wind was gusting to something like 40mph, I think, and the windchill was vicious. I only got out of the car for a few minutes. The wind and rain lashed a peridot sea, and the only sign of life we spotted was a lone eider duck bobbing in the surf well away from shore. I took a few photos, that I'll post tomorrow.

3. I am pleased to announce that "Hydrarguros" has sold to Subterranean Press, and will appear either in Subterranean magazine or a forthcoming anthology.

4. I've had a longstanding policy regarding the reading of unpublished, unsolicited fiction. That is, manuscripts sent to me by readers. It's a simple rule. I don't do it. I never have, which makes it a fairly longstanding policy, indeed. Lately, though, I've been getting a veritable flood of unsolicited manuscripts from people I do not know. These will not be read, and, for the most part, I won't respond. I also will not be held accountable if something in them should show up in a story or novel of mine in the future. But the potential for accusations of plagiarism is only one of the reasons I've made a rule of not reading unpublished mss. Anyway, I'm going to alter the longstanding rule, somewhat. From now on, I will read unsolicited mss.. However, all authors must first sign a waiver absolving me of any future allegations of copyright infringement that may appear to arise from my having seen unpublished works. I will charge (a very reasonable) $50/page, for which authors will receive copyedits and a generalized critique. My name and quotations from the critique may not be used to "blurb" or otherwise attempt to sell the manuscript. Payment must be made in advance of my reading the work, and is non-refundable— no exceptions. I will respond to authors within 90 days of receipt of their manuscripts. By these rules, and only under these rules, will I disregard my longstanding policy regarding the reading of unpublished, unsolicited fiction. Yes, I'm very serious. If you are actually interested in this service, you should contact me by email, greygirlbeast(at)gmail(dot)com, prior to submission. If you think all of this somehow does not apply to you, I would wager you are wrong.

5. Last night, Spooky and I saw Lars von Trier's Antichrist (2009). I found it brilliant, in all possible ways a film may be brilliant. Both Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg gave superb performances. I'll say a lot more about this film after I've had a while to think on it. Actually, I'm still in that place where I'm only allowing myself to have emotional reactions to it, and trying to save any intellectual reactions for later. But, yes, brilliant, beautiful, and certainly the most terrifying film I've seen in a long time.

6. Yesterday I promised to post some of my photos from the RISD Museum of Art, so here they are:

2 March 2010 )
greygirlbeast: (Starbuck 3)
1. I went to bed about four ayem. Sometime after five I got up again, wide fucking awake. I went to bed the second time a few minutes past six and managed to sleep until noon. I hurt with sleeplessness.

2. Yesterday, I wrote 1,061 words on "Apsinthion" (which I'm still considering titling "αψίνθιον," if only because I know it would tick off jackholes like B.R. Myers). This is going to be a very solid issue of Sirenia Digest, including "The Eighth Veil" (illustrated by Vince), a fragment entitled "Persephone Redux," and this latest piece, "Apsinthion" (i.e., "αψίνθιον").

3. The signature sheets for The Ammonite Violin & Others arrived. UPS left them on the doorstep...in the pouring rain. Fortunately, the pages were double boxed and shrink wrapped, so nothing got wet except that outer box. But, you know...they might have fucking knocked. Or rang the buzzer.

4. I say if the Canadian women's hockey team wants to celebrate winning the gold by lingering on the ice to smoke cigars and drink booze, it's their own goddamn business, and they've earned the right, and people need to reserve their outrage for that which is genuinely outrageous...like lazy UPS delivery men who clearly cannot be bothered.

5. A few interesting comments, and my comments to those comments, regarding Laura Miller's idiotic advice to writers (courtesy Salon.com) regarding style. [livejournal.com profile] myownpetard summed up Miller's complaints as "I notice it, but I don't get it, so no one should do it." Which I think is pretty much on the mark. [livejournal.com profile] catconley wrote, "Just... wow. That's like saying, 'Yes, I know I've never flown a fighter jet, and I never intend to do so, but jeez, pilot, I think you're headed into that loop-the-loop a little too slow, don't you? Isn't the whole purpose of your job to entertain loads of people at air shows and stuff?'" To which I replied, "Looking at that bit you excerpted, I'm tempted to think this all comes down to the belief that writing is about product, or at best, entertainment. That the idea of Art is just too passé for the early 21st Century, and too many people are marginally literate, but completely ignorant of the true benefits of literacy. It just makes me hurt...." In the end, of course, I blame the internet, because these sorts have always been with us, and always will be, but the internet has given them an easy-to-use worldwide soapbox, so now they make a lot more noise than they ever were capable of making before. Oh, and blame is shared with psychology and lousy parenting, because in the end this is all about some bizarre sense of entitlement. Fuck the bozos, I say. Life's too short, and this job sucks enough without whining readers who've misunderstood the age-old horse/cart relationship.

6. Today will be spent dealing with line edits for "Apsinthion" (i.e., "αψίνθιον") and "The Eighth Veil." Which is always tedious— dealing with line edits, I mean —but will be much worse because I haven't slept nearly enough. I see Red Bull and Camel Wides in my immediate future. Maybe more coffee, too. Oh, and Spooky has to be at the dentist in a couple of hours to have her mouth drilled upon, so I'll be all alone with the cats and the tedium.

7. I did one shortish scene in Insilico last night, in which Fifth and Victoria (Xiang 1.5) discussed her future, vendettas, and the place of droids in a droid-hating world. And I played some WoW with Spooky and Hyasynth (a friend from Chicago). We slaughtered humans in Hillsbrad and giggled and made off-color jokes about troll sex.

8. And here's the next set of photos, these from our second day at Beavertail, which was Monday:

22 February 2010, Part 1 )
greygirlbeast: (Bjorkdroid)
1. Kathryn and I were stunned and deeply saddened at the news of Alexander McQueen's death, at age 40. Far too fucking young. McQueen was an especially important influence for Kathryn, who told me, yesterday, that it was his work that first showed her that fashion could be art. But this is all we get from any artist, as much as they have to give, however little or however much.

2. Today is Darwin Day, of course. Viva la Evolución! I offer this quote from Carl Sagan:

The secrets of evolution are death and time — the deaths of enormous numbers of lifeforms that were imperfectly adapted to the envirnoment; and time for a long succession of small mutations that were by accident adaptive, time for the slow accumulation of patterns of favorable mutations. Part of the resistance to Darwin and Wallace derives from our difficulty in imagining the passage of the millennia, much less the aeons. What does seventy million years mean to beings who live only one-millionth as long? We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it forever.

3. Our "blizzard" of two nights ago was a bit of a bust. South County got quite a bit of snow, but most of it missed Providence. There's a little still on the ground, but not much.

4. Yesterday, I received what may be the best fan letter I ever have received. My thanks to Jennifer Roland and Sean Foley of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Anthropology. It begins, "We are drunk. You are awesome...We are currently snowed into our department office, and have discovered that we both love your writing...Belly's Low Red Moon is playing RIGHT NOW, and we have found a typewriter to write you a letter. Of all the ways there are to be snowed in, this is one of the most agreeable." And it goes on, wonderfully, and came with two topographic maps, one New London, Conn-N.Y. quadrangle, and another of the Jackson's Gap quadrangle (Alabama; did a lot of fieldwork in this area, way back when). Both maps have monsters drawn on the back of them. A "Brogmotherium" (looks rather like an arboreal crocodylomorph) on the latter map, and a "Chrixptherium" or "Cephal-bear" drawn on the former. Anyway, my thanks to Sean and Jen, who made a Very Bad Day not so very bad.

5. I've learned that a wonderful review of The Red Tree has appeared in the January '10 issue of the New York Review of Science Fiction, penned by Pete Rawlik. I shall quote a short bit, to give you the gist:

It should be obvious to regular readers of my reviews that I am not a fan of Sarah Crowe’s fiction. I found her novel The Ark of Poseidon pretentious and derivative of the worst parts of Faulkner and Chappell. I believe I called A Long Way to Morning “a tragic southern gothic disguised as an urban, angst-driven, slow-motion train wreck that should be relegated to the dustbins of memory”. Her short story collection Silent Riots was a juvenile exercise in gender-bending erotica that despite its immaturity, likely garnished the kind of toxic attention that she so obviously was in pursuit of. In my mind Sarah Crowe had been set on the shelf with Hastane, Torrance, Ashbless and others who have afflicted the public with their overly dramatic and self-indulgent prose.

So it came as some surprise when editor Sharon Halperin asked me to review
The Red Tree, Crowe’s posthumously published account of her last days at Wight Farm. In a strange twist of literary, legal and financial entanglements, reminiscent of the legal battles between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane, this book is actually published and copyrighted under the name of famed horror writer Caitlin Kiernan. Apparently, Crowe owed Kiernan a significant debt, and in settling Crowe’s estate, the family ceded rights to publish The Red Tree to Kiernan, on the condition that Crowe’s name would not appear on the cover or in any advertising. The fact that only Kiernan’s name and not Crowe’s appears on the cover may serve to confuse some readers as to authorship, but it does not detract from the quality of the work at hand.

Brilliant!

6. Spooky and I have been digging Caprica (even if it does derive from the Syphilis Channel). I think it's off to a great start, and I especially appreciate the cinematography (rarely, does TV cinematography catch my eye, and rarer still am I pleased with it). It helps that we get Eric Stoltz, whom I've always enjoyed, and Paula Malcolmson, who I loved as Trixie in Deadwood. We will spend today doing the proofing to "Sanderlings" and "Untitled 35," which we meant to do on Wednesday. And yeah, this paragraph is a mess as paragraphs go, I agree.

7. The Insilico rp continues to go marvelously. The story rapidly unfolds all about me. Well, that little corner of the grander story, the little corner I inhabit. Presently, there are three Xiangs, though it did not go quite as I thought it would. The Gemini Corporation has Xiang 2.0b (after extensive reprogramming) working the streets as an Internal Affairs investigator. Xiang 2.0a, the first to be awakened after the EMP, now inhabits an elaborate, exponentially expanding universe of her own creation, contained within the briefcase of Gemini cognate Molly Longshadow, who has convinced the X2.0a AI that it is a goddess. And where I thought X2.0c would be, there is, instead, X1.5, which Omika Pearl restored from Xiang's home terminal, using a back-up made several night's prior to the destruction of the original Xiang. X1.5 has been allowed to reenter the machine collective, unbeknownst to her owner, Omika (yeah, X1.5 is a liarbot). There's one screencap from last night, behind the cut (below). Oh, a few days ago, I replied to [livejournal.com profile] papersteven that I would not be posting a journal for any of these characters. However, I've decided last night's Molly/X2.0a transcript will be posted. It's just too surreal not to put up. Also, I'll be posting a complete biography of the Xiangs to the Insilico Ning, and I'll put links here tomorrow.

Silikhan and Xiang 1.5 inside the Construct )
greygirlbeast: (Mars from Earth)
The sun's come back to Providence today, and I, for one, am pleased with that. Hopefully, it'll pull up a chair and stay a while.

We're not yet going to Code Orange, which is not to say that I wrote yesterday, because I didn't. But I did talk to the editor of the book for which the Mars YA story is being written. One of the (numerous) things that's been hanging me up is a fear that my subject matter might be too "mature" for the intended audience. So, I laid it all out for my editor: my Mars, bereft of men a century after a biowar that destroyed the male population and left the planet quarantined. The female colonists have adapted. We have a society where lesbianism is the normative state, and where heterosexuality dooms one to a life of loneliness and stigma. Women breed via frozen-sperm deliveries from Earth, and also by a complicated parthenogenic process. And this story is about a young girl who is heterosexual. It's just the way she is, despite all the careful social conditioning to insure there will be no straight women, despite genetic engineering, whatever. She's into men, even though she's only ever seen photos and read of them. And, so, what's it like for her? Much to my relief, my editor approved the story concept, so long as I steer clear of any explicit sexual content (which I'd assured him I would).

So...yesterday, I began tearing "XX" apart and rebuilding it another way. It won't be precisely the story I set out to write, because I discovered the narrative structure simply wasn't working. And I've retitled the new incarnation "Romeo and Juliet Go to Mars." Today, I have to make Substantial Progress towards THE END. If I can do that today and for a week thereafter, we can probably avert a Code Orange.

---

My thanks to everyone who commented yesterday. They were good comments. And I spent much of yesterday mulling over my decision to withdraw from Facebook and Twitter, and I know it was the right decision for me. And very late last night, I was able to put my finger on exactly why neither was working for me (this most applies to Facebook). Thanks to technology that didn't exist only a decade or so ago, you get to watch how it is that I do this thing that I do. You get to watch, and discover what it is like for me. Day after day. You even get to watch for free. And questions are nice, and comments are okay. But I am not blogging to trigger some "meaningful dialogue" with my readers, and I sure as hell don't want (or have time for) arguments. I've been blogging since November 2001, and it's never been about that. And you don't get to try and cheer me up when I'm down, and you don't get to wax ironic or glib if I come across like a mopey old sock. You do not get to try and change the thing you've been allowed to watch. I am glad to have you here, but you're not a part of the process. Those who read this blog are readers, or, if you prefer, observers. And the best observers do not interfere. Think of it as a Prime Directive. This seemed especially difficult for people at Facebook, where I was barraged with constant attempts to "make me feel better," or, worse, people criticizing me for feeling down, for having a hard time with the words, for the fact that I'm not the sort of writer who loves to write, and so forth. Most of those comments were deleted.

I'd post, "No words today. No words at all." And someone would shoot back, "IDK I count seven LOL." Or something even less helpful (though more articulate), like "...if writing's such a painful burden, walk away and find something else to do." Um, yeah. Anyway, this is the sort of shit makes me want to torture soccer moms and cheerleaders with rusty 19th-Century surgical instruments (oh, okay; I always want to do that, regardless). So, yeah...watch, but don't try to redirect the flow to match the way you think things ought to be going, and don't try to make a happy camper of me. I have invited you here to watch, not to change me. Very, very simple equation.

---

Last night, we watched Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996), and I discovered it's a much, much better film than I gave it credit for being when I saw it in the theater. I think, the first time I saw it, I simply didn't know how to watch it. Falling in love with Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! seems to have changed that. Anyway, it was sort of research for my Mars story. I may also mark yesterday as the day that I started smoking again. This happens every now and then, and it rarely lasts for very long. I have the apparently freakish ability to quit with no difficulty whatsoever. But the stress of the last few months made it pretty inevitable. Very late, we watched an episode of No Reservations, in which Anthony Bourdain made me want to eat all of New York City.

And here's something I thought I'd try. Deskscapes. Photos I took this morning of my workspace. This is pretty much what it looks like at the beginning of every day (a little dustier than usual):

11 October 2009 )
greygirlbeast: (white)
Only slightly late, Sirenia Digest #46 just went out to subscribers. My great thanks to Vince, Spooky, and Gordon. I do hope that everyone enjoys "Charcloth, Firesteel, and Flint" and "Shipwrecks Above." If you are a subscriber, #46 should be in your in-box. If you're not a subscriber, that's easy to fix.

Not much to say about yesterday, as it was mostly spent getting #46 together. Lots of work, just not very exciting. I wrote the prolegomena, proofed and corrected both stories, laid the issue out, etc. Oh, that reminds me. We're trying a slightly different format this month, to allow vertically oriented images to appear on the cover page. Hope you like it.

---

Near as I can tell, there are actually people who think that artists (writers, musicians, painters, etc.) somehow manage to subsist without relying on money. Yes, money. Mammon, that "dirty" word no one seems to want to think about in connection with art. Or, they only want to think about it on some indirect, subconscious level. Recently, Amanda Palmer has drawn a lot of flack for her very aggressive, somewhat guerilla approach to making ends meet. Here's an excerpt from a recent blog entry, which she titled, "Why I Am Not Afraid To Take Your Money":

Listen. Artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art. Artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye. Artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks. Please welcome them. Please help them. Please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money. Dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money. How you do it is a different matter. Maybe I should be more tasteful. Maybe I should not stop my concerts and auction off art. I do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot. BUT…I’d rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who I assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. We are creating the protocol, people, right here and now. I don’t care if we fuck up. I care THAT we’re doing it.


Amen.

Now, to bring the whole matter a little closer to home, that is closer to the issue of literature and publishing (as Amanda is a musician and performance artist), here's a second excerpt from "The Reality of a Times Bestseller" by Lynn Viehl (I may not care for what she writes, but that does not invalidate her points):

Here is the first royalty statement for Twilight Fall, on which I’ve only blanked out Penguin Group’s address. Everything else is exactly as I’ve listed it. To give you a condensed version of what all those figures mean, for the sale period of July through November 30, 2008. my publisher reports sales of 64,925 books, for which my royalties were $40,484.00. I didn’t get credit for all those sales, as 21,140 book credits were held back as a reserve against possible future returns, for which they subtracted $13,512.69 (these are not lost sales; I’m simply not given credit for them until the publisher decides to release them, which takes anywhere from one to three years.)

My net earnings on this statement was $27,721.31, which was deducted from my advance. My actual earnings from this statement was $0.

My advance for
Twilight Fall was $50,000.00, a third of which I did not get paid until the book physically hit the shelf — this is now a common practice by publishers, to withhold a portion of the advance until date of publication. Of that $50K, my agent received $7,500.00 as her 15% (which she earns, believe me) the government received roughly $15,000.00, and $1594.27 went to cover my expenses (office supplies, blog giveaways, shipping, promotion, etc.) After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t.

This is pretty close to my own experience with my books from Penguin (though my advances are significantly less hefty, and I fall into that not-making-a-profit category). And the reason I'm posting this, getting into all this unsightly money talk, is because it is becoming evident to me, largely watching some of the negative reaction to Amanda's efforts, that an awful lot of those who partake of an artist's work have very little, if any, idea regarding the realities of our financial situations. They are bleak. Even when lots and lots and lots of people read or listen or whatever, they're usually still bleak, those situations. And I'm not even getting into problems like health and life insurance, self-employment tax, and so forth.

A point that Viehl does not address, but which I shall, pertains to royalties. In all my thirteen years of writing books for Penguin, I have received exactly one royalty check. One. And it wasn't for very much. I hear from many readers who want to know how they should purchase books in order to maximize my cut from each copy. And I have to tell them, again and again, it doesn't matter, because, in truth, I get 0% of each copy sold. Sure, in theory those sales go to work off the "debt" of my advances, and if those "debts" ever are worked off, I might see tiny, little, baby checks. But it won't ever be worked off, and I know that. This means, my advances are, essentially, all I ever get from my novel sales to Penguin. So, it doesn't matter how you buy the book, hard copy or electronic, online or brick-and-mortar shop, it's all the same. Also, keep in mind, when Penguin gives me that advance, it includes electronic rights, audio, and British rights. I do not own those, for any of the novels.

And it can get even worse. When I did the Beowulf novelization for Harper in 2007, it was, essentially, "work for hire" (as was all my work for DC/Vertigo, by the way). That is, I got the advance, with no hope of ever seeing any sort of royalties. And the rights will never revert back to me if the book goes out of print (as they may someday with Penguin). But the worst part of the Beowulf deal was the fact that I was forced to include all foreign-language translation rights in the package they got for their advance money. Now, by forced I do not mean someone drove from NYC to Atlanta and held a fucking gun to my head. I mean that, after I'd written the book, my agent was told this, and we were given a "take it or leave it" option. Give up translation rights or all those months of work were wasted and I'd get zip. Beowulf was, of course, translated into about a dozen languages, selling well overseas, but I saw not one penny from any of those deals. Harper was nice enough to send me complimentary copies of the foreign editions.

Personally, I spent many, many years resisting a rebellion against "business as usual." I'd grown up with the Old Way, pre-internet, and was willing to give it a shot. But. By late 2004, the Old Way had left me all but bankrupt, and I found it necessary to join those who are trying to reinvent the wheel. I started Sirenia Digest, and thanks to the amazingly loyal readership that the digest has found, I keep my head just above water, most of the time.

I'm not exactly sure how to wrap this up. Inevitably, I have left many questions unanswered, and opened the door to very many questions that have not even occurred to me. Or that have only just occurred to me, such as, "Is it different working with Subterranean Press?" Quick answer, yes, and I do much better with subpress, but I think that's also part of reinventing the wheel. Anyway, that's another subject, for another time.

Mostly, I am appalled at the people ragging on Amanda for trying to make a living via inventive, new marketing strategies. The worst of these detractors are just trolls, attracted by the brouhaha. Some are simply ignorant of the facts. Some are laboring under outdated, romantic notions that no longer work (if they ever did). And I felt I should say something.
greygirlbeast: (sol)
Right now, it's a chilly 85F in the House, and rising. We call this gallows humour.

Yesterday, despite the heat and the sweat and something approaching a fevered delirium, as the mercury climbed towards 89F (with a heat index hovering around 100F), I wrote 1.037 words on "Werewolf Smile," which is being written as a single paragraph. I asked Spooky, last night, as we were going to bed, if she thought people would murder me if I wrote the next novel as a single paragraph not broken into chapters. She said, without a moment's hesitation, yes, they would. Regardless, in some ways, the vignette, "Werewolf Smile," is the beginning of a "dry run" for the next novel, the one with the working title Blood Oranges.

Much of the past three days, when I wasn't too hot and sweaty to think, has been spent pondering some of the inconceivably stupid myths about Elizabeth Short that have been handed down across the decades. Was the thing not strange and terrible enough to start with, without all that conspiracy theory and tabloid silliness? And no, Blood Oranges is not a novel about the Black Dahlia murder, though there is some common ground.

Yesterday, while I wrote, Spooky took her ailing laptop into the guys at Geek Squad. They immediately deduced that the motherboard had gone belly up. Remember, she just had the hd replaced about three weeks ago. So, now she has to wait 2-3 weeks for the motherboard to be replaced. Which slows things down around here a bit. For one, it'll mean that the book trailer/short film thingy likely won't be ready until next month, as she was doing much of that work on her laptop. She's working on my old (2001) iBook, but it's pretty limited. There'll be no WoW for either of us until her machine comes home (but think of the bonus we'll have accrued).

I'm seeing some nice reviews of The Red Tree. I don't think I've seen but one or two that have made me wince or cringe, which is sort of a new experience. I will say, please read the prologue before you begin Chapter One. This is very important. Don't skip it. It's there at the start for a reason. I will also say that I think it's very strange when people complain about unreliable narrators, since, by definition, all first-person narrations are unreliable, to one degree or another. I am especially confused by those who claim to be fond of reader-response theory, but have disdain for unreliable narrators, since unreliable narrators force the reader to play a more active role in interpreting and shaping the narrative.

If you've not already, please have a look at the current eBay auctions.

Last night, we read from Gibson's Spook Country, until we could no longer stand the stagnant heat of the House. We went to Thayer Street, to the Avon, and saw the 10:45 p.m. screening of Duncan Jones' Moon. A brilliant, disturbing, and beautiful film, expertly paced and written. It's rare to get two very good, very smart sf films in a single year. I think it last happened in 2006, when we got Children of Men and The Fountain. This year, we get District 9 and Moon. In a lot of ways, Moon harks back to the better sf films of the 70s, and I especially appreciated that. Oh, and a score by Clint Mansell, which is always a good thing. If you can see it, do. It's hard not to get the feeling that, somehow, this film was an inevitability, if we begin with "Space Oddity."

Leaving the theatre (and beforehand, for that matter), Spooky groused about how Thayer Street has changed since the '80s, how the funky little shops and restaurants have all been replaced by chain stores and cookie-cutter people. What William Gibson would probably call avatar people. Mostly Brown students, I'm guessing, and none of them are too tall or too short, too thin or too fat. They stand out in no way at all, as though suffering from some fear of being distinguishable one from the other. They are neither pretty nor ugly. There is the male model, attired in the male-model uniform, available in several interchangeable ethnic variants. Same with the girls. Terrifyingly bland, really. Mall culture. I think I've decided that it's not that we see people who look like Second Life avatars, but that Second Life avatars actually look like these cookie-cutter people.

And now, the platypus says it's time to get back to the story. And I will obey, as it's too hot to weather those venomous spurs.
greygirlbeast: (sol)
Summer has finally come to Providence, and with a vengeance. Right now, the temperature inside and Outside are identical, 82F. Well, that's the temperature out in the middle parlour, where Dr. Muñoz is blasting, vainly trying to combat the heat. It's likely warmer here in my office. The lights are off, to make it at least seem cooler. After I finish this, and get dressed, we're fleeing the House for genuine air conditioning.

Nothing was written yesterday. Nothing was written again.

But I was confronted with the curious proposition that the cover of The Red Tree may be off-putting to some men. It's off-putting to me, but for purely artistic reasons, and because it's not appropriate in tone to the novel. But I'm getting off track. The following comments were made on Facebook (I'm withholding the commentators name), and I quote:

The cover for The Red Tree is well done, but it practically commands, “You, male child, don’t buy me.” I’ll bet nearly all of your male readers will buy it online and consider it a “guilty pleasure.”

I was on the plane the other day, reading a book of the same genre. (You could tell from the cover: pretty young woman in black, looking down and away, full moon and glowing gothic hoodoo behind her.) And I could feel how I was making the man to my left (with the competently written spy/cop novel) uncomfortable. The power of marketing...
(ellipses divide two comments)...It's well done for what it is, I should say. I've seen much worse. But, yeah, it's a "paranormal romance" cover. Men aren't supposed to read those. If you buy one at Barnes and Noble, you need to have an it's-for-my-girlfriend/wife/niece excuse ready in case you get a male cashier (or a female who gives you a curious look).

Now, first off, this all seems awfully sexist to me. Or maybe not necessarily sexist, but certainly smacking of male insecurities. But secondly and most importantly, I spent a good deal of the day worrying whether or not it might be true. Has Roc, by marketing this novel with the generic "paranormal romance" cover (it is not, of course, a PR novel), alienated potential male readers? It seems absurd, but then much of human behaviour seems absurd to me. Most, in fact. So, here's the question: Do you think this cover is geared towards a female readership and is off-putting to male readers? Sort of a two-part question, I suppose.

I'm going to discuss this matter with my lit agent when she returns from her summer vacation.

Spooky has begun a new round of eBay auctions.

Also, there's a new bit of "evidence" up on the website, the addition of Plate XX.

Officially too hot to continue. Maybe I'll go sit beneath a cold shower. Maybe I will spend the day dreaming of icy moons, their oceans safe below the rime.
greygirlbeast: (Ellen Ripley 1)
There are certain sorts of book reviews I like better than others. For example, I loathe the "book report" style of review. And one of the sorts I most enjoy reading is the book review wherein the reviewer spends more time talking about the effect the book has had on her or him than about the book itself. Which is exactly the sort that Catherynne M. Valente ([livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna) has written about The Red Tree. You can read her review here. It made me very, very happy. I particularly liked this line —— "I thought it would be like House of Leaves, but it was nothing, really, nothing like that book..." I think it's a fair mistake a lot of readers will make going into the novel, in part because of the way I've chosen to present it.

Started the day off talking with my film agent at UTA, describing to him the sort of film I think should be made from The Red Tree, which is a very peculiar way to begin a day. More on this as it develops.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,092 words on a new sf story, "A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea," that I've been trying to get started since early June. Yesterday, I finally found the way in. It may throw off my plans to get both Sirenia Digest #s 45 and 46 written this month. But what the hell. This is a story I want to write, and one that's been in my head for more than two months, that has refused me entry until yesterday. Oh, a question. In it, I present a new subspecies of Homo sapeins genetically engineered for life in the sea, H. sapiens natator. And I'm calling them "amphibs." But I don't really like that term, because they're not actually amphibious, but completely marine. Any suggestions for an alternate term?

Also, I had a new sort of soda yesterday. It's called Zevia, and it's sweetened not with cane sugar, but with an herb called stevia (Stevia rebaudiana). The lemon-lime flavor is quite good, with only a faint aftertaste. The root beer wasn't very good, but I have hope for both the orange and ginger ale. Anyway, Zevia is sugar free, caffeine free, has zero calories, and no net carbohydrates.

Anyway, I'm running a little late, and there's email to answer, so I should probably wind this up.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Home from ReaderCon. Cats have not murdered us. More later.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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