greygirlbeast: (Default)
A rainy day here in Providence. It's nice.

Kyle and I have been hammering out specifics on the still photography/book trailer project for The Drowning Girl, and it's a stressful affair. Well, if you're me. I can make stress out of thin air. Anyway, the Kickstarter is going extraordinarily well (166%)...and...Michael Zulli has just come on board to do the actual painting, The Drowning Girl, which, in the novel, was painted in 1898 by an artist named Phillip George Saltonstall. Zulli has become our Saltonstall, which is beyond amazing.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,480 words on Chapter Five of Blood Oranges, and talking through with Kathryn what remains of the story, blocking it (a term I use instead of "plotting," as blocking is much looser), I begin to see that it's not a ten-chapter book, or a nine-chapter book. Probably, it's an eight-chapter book. Otherwise, this becomes gratuitous. And I'll not have that. Regardless, the word count will be somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 words.

Some news regarding Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart (Subterranean Press, 2012). The limited edition will include an extra volume (probably trade paperback), containing The Yellow Alphabet and 10,000 words of new fiction (likely in the form of two new stories). And I'll be working with Lee Moyer again on the cover.

---

A thought last night. Actually, a storm of thoughts whirling into a vortex. But, I'll play nice and call it a thought. Singular and calm. And it was just this: In today's subgenre-obsessed market, Harlan Ellison would be tagged a "horror writer." No, really. Go back and read the bulk of his fiction. Usually, he's writing "horrific sf" (as a disparaging Locus reviewer said of The Dry Salvages, "This is what happens when a horror writer tries to write SF"). Ellison's greatest achievements are almost all, at their roots, horrific. They're not about the sailing off into the stars, or the future, or the possibilities of technology, and finding a better world for mankind. Look at, for example, "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World" (1967), or "Shattered Like a Glass Goblin" (1968), or "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" (1973), or even "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" (1967). Though hailed as one of the most important SF writers of the 20th Century (I'd simply say one of the most important writers, period, and dispense with your fucking qualifying adjectives), if time were scrambled and he emerged into today's literary marketplace, a new writer, Harlan would be pegged a "horror writer." Probably, he would never receive all those Nebulas and Hugos. Being labeled "a horror writer" would define him in the eyes of NYC editors, and this would absolutely have a great influence on what he could and could not sell and see published. And this would be a crime of the first fucking order.

Stop thinking inside the genre paradigm, people. By doing so, you destroy art and opportunity. It's fiction, all of it. It's all literature. We need no other words to accurately define it. We need no reductionist baloney.

---

I don't feel right any longer saying, "Last night I watched television," when, in fact, I streamed video files across the internet from Netflix or Hulu. Anyway, last night Spooky and I gave AMC's Mad Men a try, beginning with the first two episodes. And were very impressed. Then we finished Season One of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and began Season Two. At some point I'll maybe be able to summarize my thoughts on all this L&O stuff. After hundreds more episodes. I also read "New unadorned hardrosaurine hadrosaurid (Dinosauria, Ornithopoda) from the Campanian of North America" (very cool beast, is Acristavus gagslarsoni) in JVP. And we read more of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and I read more of Denise Gess and William Lutz' Firestorm at Peshtigo: A Town, It's People, and the Deadliest Fire in American History. We're trying to get our bedtimes back to something sane. Maybe 2:30 ayem, instead of 5 ayem. Last night, I was asleep by four, I think. Baby steps.

Giving Genre the Massachusetts State Bird,
Aunt Beast
greygirlbeast: (talks to wolves)
Already St. Patrick's Day again. I hung the flag last night, and tonight I cook corned beef, cabbage, and cál ceannann, and we have Guinness and soda bread. So, we're set, and there will probably be enough food to last us three days. And here's my favorite St. Patrick's Day article: "Why Ireland Has No Snakes" (No Xtian magick is invoked.).

It's bright out there, and the weather is warmer.

Yesterday, Sonya and I finished editing The Dry Salvages, after she typed in all the edits on "Giants in the Earth." I think we were done by 3 p.m. or so, and since her train wasn't until 5:30, we went ahead and edited "The Worm in My Mind's Eye" (a chapbook that accompanied The Dry Salvages, and which will appear in Two Worlds and In Between as a footnote to the short novel). Then she and Kathryn typed in those edits. So, yeah, [livejournal.com profile] sovay came and saved me from editing hell...and yeah, it still sucked, but at least I've survived.

Today, I'll be sending The Drowning Girl: A Memoir to my editor at Penguin, and I hope I'll be sending the ms. for Two Worlds and In Between to Bill Schafer at subpress. And then, tomorrow, I begin a three day vacation. After today, I'll have worked twenty-eight days without a single day off, and I mean to have a rest. I'll be setting my email to the auto-response vacation settings, and mostly unplugging.

Last night, I think I was literally too tired to see straight. After dinner, I lay down in front of the fireplace and dozed off for half an hour. When I woke, it was still far too early for bed, so I had a cup of coffee, which I really didn't feel at all. I played about three hours of Rift, though I wasn't actually, technically, awake. I leveled my Kelari cleric, Nilleshna, to 11. Spooky camped out in front of the TV, watched a Nova episode, "Dogs Decoded," then played Bayonetta on the PS3. Then we went to bed and read Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay until almost 4 ayem. I'm pretty sure Mockingjay is the book I wanted Catching Fire to be. Katniss has come into her own, at last. The book actually had me cheering (blearily) last night. So, yeah, saggy middle, but the third book is great so far. And yep, I've heard that Jennifer Lawrence has been cast as Katniss. I have no idea who Jennifer Lawrence is...but that's okay.

And that was yesterday. And there are photos from the past two days:

15-16 March 2011 )
greygirlbeast: (starbuck4)
This is the morning after Utter Exhaustion. The sky is grey, and there's rain. It looks like spring out there, whether or not it actually is spring. We can work that part out later.

There are only nine days remaining in "Tale of the Ravens" Kickstarter project. We'd really like to see those last two $500 spots claimed. Look at the truly cool stuff you get! And, of course, the more we exceed our goal, the firmer footing Goat Girl Press will set out upon. We're already thinking about projects we'll do after "Tale of the Ravens." Spooky's studying all sorts of cool handmade bookbinding techniques. So, yes. Donate!

Yesterday, I started off by adding another 550+ words to the end of The Drowning Girl, the "Back Pages" section that's sort of like an afterword. Almost. The manuscript, which is now essentially finished, presently stands at 105,711 words. That's about 5,000 words longer than The Red Tree. Anyway, while I was working on the novel, Spooky and Sonya were already busy with line edits on Two Worlds and In Between.

By late afternoon, early evening, Sonya and Spooky had made it through the edits on "Postcards from the King of Tides," "Rats Live on No Evil Star," "Estate," and "Breakfast in the House of the Rising Sun," while I'd done only "To This Water (Johnstown, Pennsylvania 1889)" — I discovered long ago that having only one good eye makes me a very slow editor. But...that meant we were almost done. Sonya and I then read through "Giants in the Earth," which is, indeed, far better than the odious "By Turns," and I swapped the latter for the former.

That left only The Dry Salvages to edit. I was going to leave it for Spooky and I to tackle, but stalwart Sonya suggested she and I go ahead and start it, then finish it today (We hates the young people, Precious, so full of energies.) But first we went to East Side Market, lest we starve of having run out of food. At the p.o., there were two CARE packages from Steven Lubold, including new PJ Harvey and Arcade Fire, Peter's American Fantastic Tales (vols. 1 and 2; Vol. 2 includes my story, "The Long Hall on the Top Floor") and two volumes of bookbinding for Spooky.

Back home, after cold roast beef sandwiches and such, Sonya and I read the first 17,292 words on The Dry Salvages. We'll finish it early this afternoon, before she heads back to Boston at 5:30 this evening. And that means the collection will be about 98% ready to go to subpress. It's absolutely true to say that without having Sonya here the past four days (she arrived Saturday evening), I'd have been utterly screwed. She saved my butt. Anyway, after about eight hours of editing yesterday, Spooky played Rift, and Sonya and I watched John Carpenter's The Thing, because she'd never before seen it. There was laundry drama, too, because someone had left an immense load of wet laundry (I'm talking a metric assload) in the washing machine. Spooky and I got to bed about two ayem.

Tomorrow, I'll send The Drowning Girl to my editor at Penguin. And within a day or two, Two Worlds and In Between will be delivered to subpress. Also, Lee and I are talking about offering a very limited edition (50-100 copies) of frameable signed and numbered prints of the collection's cover (which you'll see very soon).

And on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I'm taking a much needed and well earned break, before I start work on Sirenia Digest #64 on the 21st. Oh, also, I'm adding "The Worm in My Mind's Eye" to Two Worlds and In Between, which has never appeared anywhere but as a short chapbook only available to those who ordered the limited of The Dry Salvages. Also also, yesterday I took lots of photos, and will do so again today, so tomorrow I'll post a sort of photo essay of the end of this editing marathon.

But now...I go forth with platypus in hand to finish up. After I extract Mr. Bastard (alias Hubero) from my lap.

Chat at 'cha later, kittens.

Blinded by the Light at the End of the Tunnel,
Aunt Beast

P.S.: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I AM NOT A HORROR WRITER!
greygirlbeast: (Mars from Earth)
Sonya and I are reading through The Dry Salvages (Subterranean Press, 2004). It's the last real hurdle in finishing up editing Two Worlds and In Between.

There's a lot of ancient history here.

The Dry Salvages (for those who do not know) is a very short sf novel about the ill-fated exploration of an extrasolar moon — Piros, which orbits a planet named Cecrops. It's dystopian, dark, tense, a bit Lovecraftian, heavily influenced by the cyberpunks and New Wave writers, with a big Stanislaw Lem influence, and pretty much devoid of optimism. I did an enormous amount of work on it, and went to great lengths to get all the science as right as I could get it. The physics, paleontology, robotics, astronomy, geology, biology, engineering, mathematics...everything. I enlisted the aid of people knowledgeable in areas where my own expertise was lacking.

The book meant a lot to me. I was weary of writing dark fantasy and wanted to make a switch to sf. So, I had a lot riding on critical and reader reaction to the book. I likely had somewhat unrealistic expectations. Subterranean Press did wonderful things to promote the novel. It got a grand cover from Ryan Oberymeyer:


The Dry Salvages, Copyright © 2004 by Ryan Obermeyer


The review that meant the most to me, the one I awaited with bated breath, was the Locus review. It finally arrived. And it wasn't exactly glowing. Moreover, it had been written by a reviewer for whom I had (and still have) a good deal of respect. Whether or not I should have been, I was...I still don't know the right word for the way I felt. Confused, mostly. I'd never gotten a bad Locus review. Even The Five of Cups had received a good review. But Locus is, first and foremost, a magazine devoted to sf, and this was sf, and now I was playing in the Big Leagues. And I think the way I felt was that I'd been told to stay in my place. Indeed, the review included a line which I shall paraphrase, as I don't have the actual text on hand (those files are in storage): "This is what happens when horror writers try to write science fiction." I'm sure that's not an exact quote, but I think it's the exact sentiment. To be fair, the reviewer did not think the book was entirely without merit, just not up to the standards of contemporary literary sf.

Though I am absolutely certain it was not the reviewer's intent, the review had an immediate and chilling effect on me. I believed he knew what he was talking about, and so obviously I'd blown it. I resolved to stick to dark fantasy (my agent hadn't wanted me writing sf, anyway, but that's another story).

The Dry Salvages sold well, and there was even a weird bit of business with a Very Big Hollywood Production Company of which nothing ever came. I still wrote sf short stories, many of which appeared in my 2009 sf collection, A is for Alien (which I don't think Locus even reviewed). But I haven't tried to write another piece of sf even half as ambitious as The Dry Salvages. (And no, I do not believe that was the reviewer's desired effect; not at all.)

And now, more than six years after that review, I'm reading The Dry Salvages for the first time since I sent the final manuscript to subpress (I didn't read it after it appeared in print). And I'm reading it with fresh eyes, almost as if it were written by another author. We're halfway through, and I'm delighted with it. Anyone who knows me, or who's read this journal for a while, knows I'm one of my own harshest critics, and that I usually grow unhappy with a story or novel after only a few years. But...I'm enjoying The Dry Salvages.

And this is the perfectly fucking obvious thing that I am concluding: Reviewers whom you respect, whom you very often — but not always — agree with, can be very wrongheaded. For years I believed what that review said about this book, but reading it now, I see that I was mistaken, as was the reviewer. Is it "hard" sf? Well, sort of, but not exactly. It's not space opera, but there's far more emphasis on wonder and awe and the perils of space travel to the human mind than there is on tech. It's also not the recently fashionable "mundane" sf, which eschewed space travel and alien contact. But the science is good, and the writing's some of my best from that period.

And the review was wrongheaded. This doesn't mean the reviewer doesn't often offer valuable insight about books. It just means that, in this instance, a book failed to measure up in their eyes (and, in part, I think that's because there was a strong and mistaken preconception that I was a "horror writer"). But, the only real fault here was my reaction. No review should ever make you waver the way I did in the wake of that review.

And now, reading The Dry Salvages again after all these years, I'm reclaiming it. I did a good job. And maybe someday I'll write another sf story like it, of that length and scope.

Regardless, very soon the story will be in print again, and as I read it tonight, I'm glad of that.

No hard feelings.

P.S.: With all due respect, I AM NOT A HORROR WRITER!
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: (Default)
Something like eight and a half hours of sleep last night, the antidote to my recent insomnia, and now I'm groggy and not awake. At least the weather's turned cooler again.

I'm glad to see "The New Weird in Music Videos" entry was a hit last night. I'd not expected it to be. I'll keep it up. Thanks to people who made suggestions. Most were already on my list, but one or two were things I'd forgotten over the years.

Yesterday was spent (again) hammering away at the table of contents for the "best of" volume. Finally, late yesterday, I emailed the whole thing away to Bill Schafer at subpress. Right now, we're looking at twenty-eight pieces (including The Dry Salvages). The final tally will likely be shorter, twenty-six pieces or so. Many stories are more than 10,000-words long; five have never before been collected. I'll post the ToC here as soon as I can. Now, I have to start contacting six artists who've illustrated my writing at various times and whose art I'd like to see in the bonus section of the lettered/numbered state of the book.

Any day now, I'll be getting started on the second half of "The Yellow Alphabet." And another story for Sirenia Digest #57. By the way, thanks to Karina Melendez, the new website for the digest should be fully functional within a few more days, and we're going to be slowly making it possible to purchase back issues from the site, beginning with #s 56-50.

The platypus, dodo, and the mothmen (such a retinue upon my desk) say it's time to wrap this up and get to work. I ignore them at unspeakable peril.

Ow.

Aug. 8th, 2010 02:09 pm
greygirlbeast: (Default)
One of the side effects of one of my new meds (Prazosin) is that it can cause hypotension. And fainting. I've been feeling the former for weeks. This morning, I felt the latter. Violently. I woke about eight a.m., only four hours after going to bed (and taking my night meds). I lay in bed two or three minutes. I sat up and checked the clock. And then I stood up, rather quickly...which I know not to do. Only I was still probably half asleep. And I went down like a sack of bricks. Boom, straight to the floor. As I fell, my right ankle folded under me, and I landed on it. Hard. The pain instantly brought me back to consciousness. And I was absolutely certain I'd broken my foot. This was the sort of pain that makes you want to puke. The noise had Spooky awake in a flash, awake and panicked. I managed to tell her I'd fallen and thought I'd broken my foot.

She got me to lie down, and she took my sock off. I lay there on the floor like a goddamn fool while she held ice on my ankle. We waited for the swelling and discoloration to begin. I thought mostly about how I couldn't afford a trip to the ER. But my foot didn't swell. It's not broken. Eventually, I got back into bed and even managed to get back to sleep. I awoke feeling like I'd been in a car wreck. I have so many sore places I can't count them, and I'm having to hobble about with my cane, and I feel like an idiot. I swear, I have to put a big-ass sign beside my bed that says GET UP SLOWLY, FOOL.

I've had breakfast and Advil, and hopefully that will help.

---

My thanks to everyone (even those I disagreed with) for the many marvelous comments yesterday. I tried to reply to everyone, though I might have missed a few of the later ones. I wouldn't mind seeing a flood of comments like that every day. Of course, the truth is, I rarely provide something interesting to comment on. The act of writing is not a terribly exciting subject (though its end result is). Here are a few bits from yesterday I especially liked (so back to the matter of first-person narration and the interauthor).

I wrote, 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 [livejournal.com profile] corucia replied:

And the interval of time between those two is also vitally important. If the events are being written as journal entries or the like at a very close remove from the primary action, then the interauthor might be unwilling to write down particularly upsetting events (perhaps only using a "something major happened today I don't think I can talk about" marker) but then bits of the event will creep into the narrative in later entries, possibly with a major unveiling and discussion later. On the other hand, if a significant amount of time has passed and the interauthor is writing down everything to make some sort of record, then she's going to be much more likely to do it in a linear fashion.

To which I can only say, yes, exactly. [livejournal.com profile] dragau wrote:

Another question that generally remains unanswered is why the interauthor is such a good writer in the first place.

This is a very, very important point that I've never seen addressed anywhere. In a first-person narration, the interauthor is usually the most important character. Not just a convenient storytelling device, but an actual fictional person. And, as the writer, I have to fully understand who that person is, their fears and desires, their strengths and weaknesses. To assume that all interauthors just happen to be good at expressing themselves in words— because I happen to be, and because I need the interauthor to tell a story —is to fall into a trap that, at least for me, can kill a piece.

Lately, I've been wondering, why are authors afraid to write interauthors who are much less skilled at writing than they themselves are, people who are much less articulate? That is, write a first-person narrative by someone who cannot write. Certainly, it would, in most cases, be far more authentic and realistic. Of course, there's the lazy fallback of having the interauthor be a writer (I might seem guilty of that in The Red Tree, and maybe I was, but it seems to me that Sarah had to be an author for me to tell the story I needed her to tell). But the message here is simple: The interauthor must speak as the interauthor would speak. If she or he is a cop or a stripper or a construction worker, odds are pretty good the narration will not read as if it were written by an author. And the challenge that a good writer must rise to, in these cases, is to write like X, whatever X signifies, instead of writing like a writer. This is lesson I'm still learning myself.

And there was this bit by [livejournal.com profile] bbluemarble that I have to quote, simply because it's succinct and very much needs saying:

After reading this post and the prior comments I've come to the conclusion that there are (in effect) two types of first person narratives: First Person Found Artifact and First Person Really Just a Bastardization of Third Person Limited.

I think this happened because every writing book ever written tells amateur writers that first person is easier to write and it's a shortcut to reader empathy. These are lies. Writing first person as found artifact is really hard to do well.


Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Most young writers make this very mistake. They use first person, think it's easy, or because some idiot writing instructor told them they should, without ever having puzzled through the inherent difficulties of the voice. For what it's worth, I've had such a longstanding suspicion of first person that I pretty much avoided it until 2003, when I wrote "Riding the White Bull" and The Dry Salvages in first person, eleven years after I began writing for publication, and even then I made mistakes. Oh, I almost forgot. In my first novel, The Five of Cups (written in 1992, unpublished until 2003), there are long stretches essentially in first person, and they're rather dreadful. I simply had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, I realized and switched to third person in all subsequent novels, until The Red Tree, sixteen years later.

I'm going to paste in the rest of [livejournal.com profile] bbluemarble's response, because it's easier than paraphrasing:

Maybe that's why it's [First Person Found Artifact] all but disappeared in favor of first person bastardization of third. I can't say that I remember the first book I read that didn't explain why it was in first person (remember when that used to be a rule? Explain that this narrative is an artifact and what sort of artifact it is or the audience will be unable to suspend disbelief!) but I do vividly remember the most unrealistic pseudo-explanation for the narrative being in first person that I ever read. It was something along the lines of "I'm thinking stuff. Right now. These are my thoughts that I'm sending out to the world in the hopes that someone will hear them and maybe write them down." Adhering to that convention actually pulled me right out of the story with thoughts along the lines of "What?! She's a vampire that's psychic enough to compel some random person to write her dying-moments memoir but she can't psychic her friends to help her escape? What a stupid superpower." In that case, it would have been better for the story to just dispense with the whole first person construct and do it in third person limited (but I get the feeling that editors/publishers/the powers that be to working writers thought the average teen reader may have trouble empathizing with a sometimes psychotic vampire that goes on occasional killing sprees and feels no remorse so...I know, write it in first person! Instant empathy!).

Really want to be a good writer who doesn't rely on crutches? Want to solve the problems posed by a given narrative, instead of rushing to what appears to be a quick fix? Then listen to all this shit. And think about it.

---

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions, and also at the very cool new stuff in Spooky's Dreaming Squid Dollworks & Sundries shop at Etsy (now including a hand-painted Ouija board!)

Okay. More than enough for now. I hurt, and I think I'm going to take a hot bath and lie down for a bit.
greygirlbeast: (Bjorkdroid)
Today is a day off. As will be tomorrow and Tuesday. I'm exhausted and need to try to rest and recharge, so I can come back at The Drowning Girl with a clear head.

Autumn seems to have come to Providence. Spooky assures me this is not the case. But the highs are in the 70sF, the lows in the 60s and 50s, and the sky has that vacant autumnal blue.

Yesterday was spent getting Sirenia Digest #56 ready and out the "door." I hope people are pleased with it. Part Two of "The Yellow Alphabet" is already coming together in my head.

Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. "The Black Alphabet" chapbook goes off this afternoon. Thank you.

There's a grand review of The Ammonite Violin & Others in the new issue of Locus (my thanks to Bev Vincent for sending it my way, and to Curt Jarrell for the heads-up). So, the book got glowing reviews from all the biggies (of those that will bother with it).

A couple of quick announcements. First, last night I agreed to appear as a guest at the 2010 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR (I think the dates are September 30th-October 3rd). This will be my first trip to Portand, and my first trip to the West Coast since October/November 1998. We're still ironing out the details, but it looks like a done deal. Second announcement, Bill Schafer at subpress has agreed that The Dry Salvages (2004) will be included in the "Best of CRK" volume. That's 30,600 words of a 200k-word book I don't have to worry about. And, on the subject of this volume, I received an email from John Glover, who writes:

It's my hope that when you are considering the ToC for the volume that you do not put too strong an emphasis on your most recent work. You have often blogged about your declining opinion of your early work, frustration with the "compounderations," etc., but I hope you will keep in mind that your early work was distinctive, unlike the rest of what most other writers were doing in the 1990s, and it attracted attention for that reason. That those early stories may seem painfully young (?) to you now is not the same thing as them being of low quality. "Persephone" is a effective, evocative, affecting story, and the same could be said of many of your early published stories.

I have often been frustrated, generally speaking, by lists or anthologies or summative essays that claim to cover the "best" of an author, genre, or whatever...and almost always seem to be focused on the now. My copy of
The Ammonite Violin arrived a couple days ago, and I am very much enjoying it, but from what I've read thus far, I don't feel that the stories contained in it could be said to speak for all of your work; it speaks of what you've been writing in recent years.

I think I can see the outlines of why you might say
Ammonite Violin, and your most recent work in various formats, is the best example of what you are trying to do as an author -- but by the same token, 14 years stand between "Persephone" and The Red Tree, and those years are replete with good stories. They might not, as you look back on them, be exactly what you were trying to do, and they may reflect your changes and growth as a writer, but I don't think any artist ever attains anything she will actually consider perfection when the work is viewed in retrospect. There's always a wart, or an adverb out of place, or one too many compounderations; those are the charms of the work as it was made.

So often artists talk about what they are interested in the moment, and seem to show little interest in where they were 5-10-however-many years before. The unstated sentiment behind that, I think, is that their old work is somewhere between inert and dead to them. Sometimes they actively revile it (witness: Anne Rice). I don't think there's anything wrong with that, in so far as it bears on what *is* happening in the moment--creating new work--but when taking the long view? Not so much.
Sirenia Digest has obviously been a great place for you to experiment and write some less traditionally marketable work, but I see it as only one part of your work -- it doesn't have as much of the South, the overtly deep time of Threshold, the Gothic of ToPaW, etc. -- all of which should be represented in any Best-of-Caitlín-R.-Kiernan volume. (In my opinion, of course, which may not be shared by you or by other readers.)

To which I say, no need to worry, John. Well, not about this, anyway (but I'll say more later).
greygirlbeast: (white)
I have often said that I write too much. Of course, what I really mean is that I have to write too much, in order to be paid enough for everything I write in order to keep the bills paid. But, in some sense, the why of it is irrelevant. Drop the explanation and stick to the fact: I write too much. And sometimes I am made acutely aware of how much too much I write.

Yesterday, for example, [livejournal.com profile] smallpinkfish asked about the provenance of the following passage, which comes from The Dry Salvages, which I wrote in 2003, and which was published in 2004:

"’And still’” she said, “’we do not see that we are not gods, The holy fathers and holy mothers and demons of our lost antiquities, Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, quae sub his figuris vere latitas. We do not comprehend our insignificance at the feet of eternity.’

“’ We have not the time to learn. We have not the courage to admit. We have not the strength to accept, and, accepting, move beyond this grinding infancy. Instead, we bring snow and ice to birthday parties in Hell and congratulate our ignorance.’”


To start with, I couldn't remember it having been part of The Dry Salvages (the question did not originally state the source or context of the quote). When I was asked about the passage, I just assumed that I'd not written it, that I was quoting someone else, and set about trying to track down the author. I searched books, and I searched the internet. And this morning I realized that I wrote it. Well, not the Latin bit. That was borrowed from the Prayer of St. Thomas (ca. 1260).

One should not cease to recognize the face of one's own creations. Or, at least it seems that way to me.

---

Sirenia Digest #47 went out to subscribers late last night, so if you're a subscriber, you should have it by now. I do hope that you enjoy "The Dissevered Heart."

This latest round of eBay auctions ends today, in just a bit. Please have a look.

And I have a few photographs, as promised, of this year's jack-o'-lantern, which is, by the way, the first I ever carved in New England (though, Spooky did the mouth, as I was impatient):

31 October-1 November 2009 )
greygirlbeast: (Bowie1)
Yes, well, being awake isn't everything. Indeed, I suspect it is quite highly overrated, and in the end is neither really here nor there. Waking in this world means little more than the loss of access to all those other worlds. Thinking on it now, waking is not unlike being given a half-full box of Junior Mints that have spent a week on a theatre floor in exchange for Willy Wonka's whole factory. At least, this is how I choose to think about it today.

First, more photos of the hand-corrected copy of the Gauntlet edition of the 1999 Silk hardback that is now being auctioned, behind the cut (and if you need more info., just email Spooky at crk_books(at)yahoo(dot).com):

Silk '99 )


Yesterday was spent catching up on the busyness of writing, but also on getting my head into the space it needs to be to finally write The Dinosaurs of Mars (also, a steampunk vignette for Sirenia Digest #19 was discussed). And that mostly meant me finally coming to terms with the reason I have written only three substantial science-fiction short stories since "Bradbury Weather" (Subterranean #2). That was the late summer 2004, by the way, the writing of "Bradbury Weather," and it came after several sf stories with which I was quite pleased — "Riding the White Bull," The Dry Salvages, "Faces in Revolving Souls," and "The Pearl Diver." But since "Bradbury Weather," I've written only "Zero Summer," which was done two years ago now, and "A Season of Broken Dolls" and "In View of Nothing" this past spring. And there is a reason why, which I have not previously discussed.

In general, the reviews of The Dry Salvages were very good. My readers seemed to love it. It sold out very quickly. The Kennedy/Marshall Co. contacted my agents about film rights and there talks (though, of course, nothing ever came of this). By all accounts, it was a success. But for one thing. A tepid review in Locus. And sure, most times I can dismiss negative reviews — not easily, but in the end I can usually dismiss them and keep moving forward. But this review was one of the sort written by someone I had a good deal of respect for. I knew that he knew what he was talking about, and the review stung. In the end, the reviewer in question concluded that, overall, the novella was "haunting and beautifully written" and that it "serves more to reinforce the promise" that I could one day be "an effective writer of SF" than to fulfill that promise. That was the good stuff. I'm not going into all the "bad" stuff.

Two and a half years later, with more perspective, I see some of the criticism as valid, but I've also come to feel much of it is simply wrong-headed. I also still have great respect for the reviewer in question. I hope this will go some ways towards dismissing the myth that I discount all negative criticism of my work out of hand. Anyway, the real problem here is that I allowed the review to do two things that reviews should never do, and I know that this was not the intent of the reviewer. Firstly, I allowed it to dissuade me from writing more sf, and secondly, I permitted it to temporarily convince me that there was only one sort of sf story worth telling and it was most certainly not the retro "ripping good space yarns" (to quote PZB speaking on The Dry Salvages) I was doing, but those more sober tales of mankind's relationship to technology (and, I suppose, vice versa). Having been told by someone whose opinion I hold in high regard that The Dry Salvages seemed "too conveniently off-the-shelf," I consciously chose to step away from the field for a time. Recently, I have come back, in a small way, with "A Season of Broken Dolls" and "In View of Nothing," but these are not the sorts of stories that I wanted to use sf to tell (though they are both stories of which I am very proud).

To get to the point, one reason that I have delayed so long in starting The Dinosaurs of Mars is that I know it's going to be another retro space opera, more Lovecraftian cosmicism tinged with Bradburyesaque wonder and Gibsonian cyberpunk than the sort of stories favoured by contemporary sf reviewers. No talk of "the singularity" et. al., but a tale of exploration and discovery and man's place in a universe that is likely beyond hisherits comprehension and is surely, in the main, hostile to human existence. These are the sorts of sf stories I want to write, mostly, which means they are the ones I should be writing. Too long have I allowed one review to stay my hand, especially when I'm quite certain the reviewer never meant to have that effect on me. It's time to go back to work.

Anything else? Sushi from Whole Foods for dinner last night, and I started the new Second Life dancing gig. But the SL matrix is suffering some sort of reality storm, effecting, primarily, search and teleportation functions and the distribution of Linden dollars. Which is to say last night was not very profitable. But I do like the new club, so I have hope that once the glitch is patched up (a glitch resulting from "scheduled maintenance," ironically) it'll all be good again.
greygirlbeast: (Sex)
Act 1: Though all these deadlines and the impending trip to Rhode Island have placed me in a situation wherein I need to be writing every single waking moment, and though I said that stuff about Gandalf and Pippin and the deep breath before the plunge, and though I am surely one of the most productive writers I've ever personally met (if I do say so myself, and I do)...still, I'm not an assembly line. I cannot write as an assembly line, no matter how much I may desire to or need to. On Tuesday, I finished "The Cryomancer's Daughter (Murder Ballad No. 3)" and had every intention of beginning a vignette for Tales from the Woeful Platypus on Wednesday. When writing on Wednesday fizzled, I resolved it would happen on Thursday. And here I am, and it's getting late on Thursday, and I have only a title — "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ghoul" — and a handful of ideas and about two hundred discarded words. Because I'm not a gaddamn assembly line, though it's not for any lack of trying. Because the words come only when the words come. Maybe by Saturday, I'll be writing again. Please cross your fingers, toes, and/or pedipalps on my behalf.

Act 2: A free (yes, FREE) e-version of my sf novella The Dry Salvages will soon be available from Subterranean Press. I do not yet know all the formats it will be available in. As many as possible, I suppose. One of the things I'll be doing during the trip is reading over the story again and creating a revised text for Bill Schafer. This is what we call an experiment. Hopefully, something good will come of it.

Act 3: Though I have been silent on the subject of late, I continue to practice and identify as Wiccan, but I also continue the search for some branch of neopaganism with which I am much more compatible. Most recently, this has led me to investigate Feri. And I must admit there are some aspects which I find attractive: the general absence of heterocentrism and gender polarity, no general adherence to the "threefold law," an emphasis on ecstasy rather than fertility, and so forth. And yet, it also has much that annoys me to distraction: incorporation of the myth of the "Attacotti" or whatever you choose to call Murray's Pictish "little people," Victor Anderson's preposterous claim to have been initiated into a preexisting witchcraft tradition at the age of nine in the Oregon woods, the inclusion of aspects of Xtian mysticism, claims to antiquity and a prehistoric origin, etc. Mostly, I feel as though I'm chasing my tail round and round. There are days, like today, where I cannot begin to understand what ever set me on this path, why I could not be content with my dogged rationalism, but then I go and have a day (or night) when I understand precisely what precipitated this search.

Act 4: Yes, of course I'm watching Project Runway 3. But so far, I have no clear favourites, and all I know for sure is that I loathe Malan Breton with a passion. I believe the word which best describes him is oleaginous, both in the sense of a thing being oily and in that other sense relating to smugness and all that is unctuous. Put another way, ewww. The man makes me want to bathe, and I fear he'll be around most of the season.

Act 5: I spent part of yesterday listening to Thom Yorke's solo album, The Eraser, which I quite like.

Act 6: Also yesterday, Spooky and I made a second trip to the "pet sematary" to get more photographs, and this time we discovered it seems to have some peculiarities relating to our perception of its overall size. When I wrote of it on the 11th, I said that is was "maybe three feet across at its widest point." The first thing that struck me upon seeing it the second time was that it was considerably larger than that, perhaps four feet wide. However, I paced it off and Spooky and I were both astounded to discover that it is actually about eight feet at the oval's widest (east-west) dimension. I paced it off again. Again, eight feet. Looking at it, it really appears no more than four feet wide. I'm assuming there's some perfectly ordinary explanation for this discretion between our perceptions and our measurements. We'll be going back with a tape measure to try to figure it out. Meanwhile, more photos (behind the cut):

five-and-a-half-minute hallways )


Act 7: Simian Publishing has posted the cover for Into the Dreamlands, which will reprint "So Runs the World Away." It looks like this:



Act 8: Please have a look at the current eBay auctions. We'd have listed more items, were we not presently so busy. Note that the copy of the subpress hardback of Low Red Moon is one of the few I have, which means it's one of the very few I will be auctioning. So, if you want to get this particular edition of the book from me, you really might want to bid. And, as always, thanks muchly.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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