Living Beyond the Walls

I’ll tell you, I had every intention of getting into writing last night.  Computer was ready, I was ready, there was nothing on television, I was ready for music and typing out words.

But life never lets you do what you want to do, right?

As I’m leaving work I check my phone and find I missed a call.  I check it, and it’s from the place where I was getting my new glasses from, and they tell me they’re it.  So I get home, get ready–just to even go out a have to get ready a little–and head out.  Fortunately traffic isn’t bad, but I still have to make a run to somewhere on the north side of the city.  And I notice that traffic going into the city is bad because of a wreck.  Not something good, particularly when things are backed up for miles.

I get my glasses–yeah, they look great . . .

Oh, and new earrings, too.  Wonderful.

Oh, and new earrings, too. Wonderful.

. . . and after picking them up I decides I need to pick up a few things at Target, and then get something to eat.  I wasn’t planing on staying out long, but I didn’t want to try and fight my way back through the traffic, so I took my time with my dinner.

By the time I rolled back to the apartment to snap the above picture, it was about eight PM.

Then I had to roll out and do something on Facebook, because I’m hosting a book club this month, and I had to set up which three books people can choose from.  Since I’d made my selections months ago it was just a matter of doing the ol’ cut and paste and getting things in place before setting up a poll, but it still took time to get that and the notifications together.  And as soon as I finished getting that set up–

The questions came.

Because they always do when there’s a new book.  Because people want to know things, they have interests in what you’re presenting.  I should have known, but sometimes I can be . . . clueless.  It’s not an easy feeling.

Oh, and I didn’t mention the PMs from people wanting to get together in a couple of weeks.  Did I mention that?  No.  I have now.

This is life, and it’s something I haven’t experienced in a bit.  It’s where unexpected things jump out at you and you do what is necessary to handle them.  My plan had been to come home, start dinner, get the book club stuff set up, eat, then write.  Silly me:  what did I know?

It’s a nice change up to be able to do something unexpected–and I had been waiting for my glasses for a few days, so there was a bit of excitement there.  I just didn’t expect it all to happen like . . . this.

Writing tonight, I promise.  I’ve got Isis trying to explain a school break-in where there shouldn’t be one, and gargoyles hiding in the wall.  I’ll get back into my fantasy . . .

And hope that life doesn’t throw a curve at me tonight.

The Measure of My Tales

Facebook is a place that is often overtaken by–as a friend of mine once said–insane, time wasting crap.  Come play this game; look over this list of movies and tell us how many you’ve seen; watch this video of dogs and cats living together and you’ll see something you never expected; find out which murdered character you are from Game of Thrones.  Not to mention the ads I get suggesting that I’ll find happiness with insane racist conservatives who are also cannibals.  Okay, maybe that last is an exaggeration.  Maybe.

There is one thing going around at the moment–no, not that, but if you do have it, medicine will clear it right up–asking people to mention the ten books that have stuck with them.  As in, what did you read and it’s still there rolling about in your head like a ricochet from the novel Firestarter?  I haven’t mentioned anything about this on my wall, because I have to think about what I’ve read.  There are so many tomes I’ve gone through over the decades that picking just ten books out of thin air isn’t easy.  As I told a friend last night, “I think I’ll blog about this,” and wouldn’t you know, here it comes.

One thing, however:  this isn’t going to be just a list of ten books.  There will be ten items, but don’t expect ten books.  Why?  Because I follow my own rules, and it’s my blog, so–slipping on my sunglasses–deal with it.

Here we go:

1.  Earthlight and A Fall of Moondust, both by Arthur C. Clarke.  As I’ve mentioned before, these were the first adult novels I read.  I picked them both up in a two novel omnibus from the local library, and got right into reading.  I was seven, and I was fascinated by what was inside.  The Moon was a real place, there were people there, there were interesting things happening, and you even had ships sinking and people requiring rescue.  This is what got me hooked on reading in general and science fiction in particular, and if you notice an over-abundance of science fiction on this list, blame Arthur.

2.  The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine, by Andrew Cockburn.  The 1980′s were scary times, sometimes even more scary than the 1960′s.  Not only did you have a ton of saber-rattling on both sides of the Iron Curtain, but I was constantly being reminded by people I worked with that the Commies were coming to destroy our way of life, and if we had to go nuclear on their asses, so be it.  Then this book came along and, in a few hundred pages, laid out the case that while the Soviet military was large and impressive, it was pretty much a paper tiger on the verge of falling apart–much like the Soviet Union did a few years after the publication of this book.  It taught me that one should do their research before heading off to state things as absolute–something Facebook Nation would do well to learn.

3.  Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank.  Yeah, lets talk about blowing shit up in a big way, shall we?  This was one of the first nuclear apocalypse novels, and I read though this story maybe a dozen times.  This was the novel that got me thinking about writing big stories, creating world changing events.  I even started planing my own nuclear apocalypse novel not long after one of the readings of his novel, planing out first and second strikes on the U.S. using an old Rand McNally road atlas.  I never wrote that novel, but I was pushed there, and this is the books that made me want to wipe out the world.

4.  The Scream and The Bridge, by John Skipp and Craig Spencer.  Horror doesn’t get any better than this.  Skipp and Spencer grabbed my attention, pushed me through the emotional wringer, and let me know in no uncertain terms, yes, there isn’t such a thing as too much.  While I probably read The Scream a dozen times, I’ve read The Bridge once.  Just once.  Not because it’s a bad novel–oh, no.  I’ve read it once because it’s so damn disturbing that I can’t bear to read it again.  And yet, I can’t forget the story.

5.  Danse Macabre and Different Seasons, by Stephen King.  What have we here?  Non-fiction and fiction together?  Yep, we do.  Danse Macabre is a written history of horror up to that point–1982–and Stephen lays it out for you:  where it came from, how it got to where we are now, and what it did for him.  Different Seasons contains, in my opinion, three of the best stories Stephen has ever written, proven by the fact that they ended up becoming the best film adaptation of all of his stories.  The last story in the collection is also good, but when compared to the other three, it becomes the literary equivalent of, “I’ll just wait over here in the corner.”

6.  At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft.  I should say “Anything by Lovecraft,” but I need one story, and this really was the one that cemented me as a life-long fan of the crazy old racist.  When I read the description of what was found at the forward camp, I felt the cold, I heard the wind, I saw the way light was warped and tortured by those terrifying mountains of madness.  Even though there has been talk over the years about a movie, it’ll never match the mental images I have of this story.  This was also the story that pushed me into role playing, because the moment I heard there was a Call of Cthulhu game, I was like, gotta have this now.

7.  Watchmen, by Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins.  This story set the bar for graphic novels, and it’s yet to be topped.  Superheros who were real, an alternate world where we know who killed Kennedy and Nixon remained president for a long time because he won the war in Vietnam, and a naked blue guy who treated time and space like it weren’t no big deal–this is the sort of story that needed a twelve-part HBO mini-series to get right.  Even today, after many readings, I still get chills when I read, “I did it thirty-five minutes ago,” and I’ll get misty eyed when I turn to Episode Twelve and the opening panels before the title, A Stronger, Loving World.  Why?  Because I wish I’d written and drawn that.

8.  The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat, by Harlan Ellison.  Come on, as much as I rave about the guy, you knew he was gonna end up on this list.  The two volume collection of the television reviews he did for the Los Angeles Free Press, written between 1969 and 1971, these were the stories that hooked me on Harlan, and taught me that writing should be personal, you should throw your body, mind, and soul into everything you do.  And if you gotta swear in your writing, then piss on it:  swear.  Do it in an entertaining fashion, however, or you’ll come off like a twelve year old with Tourette Syndrome.

9.  Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clark.  Yeah, he’s back, with one of the greatest novels ever written.  Yeah, that sounds like hyperbole, but read it and you’ll see I speak the truth.  Seriously, when someone tells me they’re into science fiction, I ask them how they feel about Childhood’s End.  Most of the time I’ll get, “Huh?” which is disappointing, but it at least gives me the chance to tell that person they have to read it.  If, however, they tell me that didn’t like it–or worse, didn’t get it–eh, I have nothing else to say to said person.  You have no imagination.  You’re talking about the Devil, more or less, coming to Earth to oversee the evolution of humanity into something universe-spanning, which happens in a scene that been ripped off by both V and Independence Day.  This is another of those stories that leaves me in awe and weeping at the same time, because it’s too damn incredible.

10.  The Gaea Trilogy:  Titan, Wizard, Demon, by John Varley.  Every time I start to world building a story, I want it to be as good as the world created in The Gaea Trilogy.  Yes, Cassini has proven there aren’t any living Stanford Toruses in orbit around Saturn, but who cares?  These are an incredible trip into another world, where you have living beings inside another living being who’s pretty much a god that can do anything she likes.  To this day Cirocco Jones and Gaby Plauget remain two of my favorite characters of all time, because they are real, and it’s led me to make my female characters live and breathe the way these two do.

 

There you have it:  ten books, more or less–mostly more–that have remained with me to this day.  Are there another ten?

I’d be lying if I said no.

River Misting

One of the nice things about where I currently live is that I can see the river from balcony.  I’m eleven stories up, though the way they count the floors in this building, I’m actually twelve, but lets not quibble.  It’s one more, it’s eleven, and I’m good with that.

I stepped outside for a moment, just to take in the cool morning air while my computer finished booting.  Things are lit up, and there’s a bit of traffic on the street below.  But, off maybe two blocks, the river is dark, as is the opposite bank.  And rising off the river, up and down the length, is a light, cool mist, topping out at nearly the same height as my apartment.  It’s something I haven’t seen in . . . well, pretty much forever, since I’ve never lived by a river, and never lived in a high rise apartment.

But it’s something that I loved seeing.

Where I’m at now with life gives me a little different perspective on writing as well.  The Summer of ’13 was the pits:  looking for work, getting depressed about my last novel, struggling to get through a novella before cranking out a story that ended up turning into a novel–it wasn’t the best time of my life.  It all felt a bit disjointed and meandering.  And before heading out to The Burg I was seriously considering giving up writing, because I felt as if I were going nowhere fast, and getting there even quicker.

This is what depression does to you:  it screws up your perception of the world, and what’s going on around you.  It makes you want to kill your dreams, even when you know you shouldn’t.  I’ve gotten through it before–my time in The Undisclosed Location was nothing but depression, and I managed some great writing.  But this last summer was something else entirely:  it was like The Bad Old Days, and you don’t want to go through those.

One of the things that set my teeth to gnashing is reading all the comments from people who like to say that all writers are crazy.  “Oh, I was looking up how to murder someone with a pen, I be so nutty!”  Uh, huh.  I think I was doing that when I was nine, after someone in school pissed me off and I considering ramming a pencil through their neck.  No, there are crazy writers, but they’re nutty not cause the think things that no one else thinks, it’s ’cause they got demons chewing at their butt The and they want them the hell out of their lives.

Crazy is thinking you suck when you don’t, and putting yourself down because you can.  It’s being like me, an emotionally repressed person suffering with bi-polar disorder and gender identity issues most of her life, and has come extremely close on a few occasions to grabbing a bottle of sleeping tables, a liter of Gray Goose, and taking a midnight ride to the middle of nowhere to lay herself down to sleep one last time.

Now, though . . . I see the mist rising on the river and I’m ready to keep going.  The crazy can kiss my ass, I want to go on.  I did a short story, I’m working on my next novel, and I’m thinking about what I want to publish next.

I’m moving forward, and it’s a good feeling.

Or as Liz Parker once said in her journal:

 

“We try to live responsible, logical lives. But we can’t tell our hearts how to feel. Sometimes our hearts lead us to places we never thought we wanted to go. And sometimes our hearts can be the sweetest, gentlest things we have.

“Sometimes our hearts can make us feel miserable, angry, excited and confused. All at once. But at least my heart is open. And I’m writing again.

“I’m feeling.

“I’m breathing.”

Helping Through the Millennia

I have a sister, but we’re one of those sibling groups that’s not been the closest, which is putting it about as loose as one can get.  We’ve went years without speaking, and when we have, it’s been a lot of pleasantries and not much else.  We don’t share the same interests and we have different personalities.  If I really want to be blunt about it, she’s pushy and loud, set on getting her way no matter what.  She, with the rest of my family, live many states away, so having to be in physical contact with her is something that happens once in a decade, if that often.

It isn’t necessary to have any kind of meaningful conversations with her during this lifetime.  I can’t imagine what it’d be like if we had to coexist throughout a few thousand years.  It’d probably be painful–

It surely wouldn’t be like what Erin and Talia have.

My muses are into their tea, and getting deeper into their concerns for each other.  It’s obvious that they care for each other–as much as immortal goddess-like being can–and it seems as if Talia is not only aware of all the issues Erin has had in the past with her charges, she’s concerned she’s getting set up for another big hurt.

Ah, Sisterly Love.  You gotta wonder if they ever argued over whom was wearing whose favorite toga.

Chapter Nine is coming to a close, and then it’s into the double-digit chapters as I inch that much closer to the end.  I’ve pushed the word count over thirty thousand, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s another chapter in this story, because I’m thinking Keith needs a bit of a spin out at work.  I think it’s needed because I feel a break coming on, the need to Keith to push off the last part of his old life as he heads on into the new.  Not that I would have done anything like that had I left my last position because I was working on a novel:  oh, no, not at all . . .

I’m not going for an extra chapter because I need to up my work count; I’m a wordy enough bitch without that.  But it’s part of the plot, it’s part of what makes the character grow.  And it also sets up the last couple of chapters, which are already there, are already going to be written–

All a new chapter does is add context for what follows.  Makes sense, neh?

Hard to believe that after a month I’m already at the half-way point.  The writing hasn’t been a steady as I would have liked, but I’m near that end, and I should get this story in around sixty to sixty-five thousand words.  Though I know one of the chapters will run a bit long, so who can say if I might not run longer.  By the time I get to the last few chapters, I’ll know for certain.

Maybe having tea with sister muses is helping my outlook on the story.

I should do this more often . . .

Ninety Days Hath September

It’s time, more or less.  If my calculations are correct, ninety-six days have passed since I submitted my novel, Her Demonic Majesty, to The Great Harper Voyager Cattlecall.  Every day I have scanned my inbox looking for an email from Harper Voyager, sending me congratulations that out of all the submissions fired off in the first twelve days of October, mine was worthy of publication.

Alas, no such thing happen.  It is safe to say that my novel has not been among the lucky to make the cut—

That doesn’t make it, or me, a failure.

Allow me to explain.

Writing seems to be a lot of “doing”.  If you want to make a story, you have to do the writing.  If you want to finish the story, you have to keep doing the writing, day after day.  If you want to get it published, you have to do the editing, and do the submission package.  If you want to self publish, you gotta do the cover, and you gotta do the special editing that ebooks need, and you gotta do the upload and get it out on all the different ebook sellers.

It’s a lot of doing.

This is something that people who have already played this game, the writing game, know.  They’ve been here, they’d happily danced in the moonlight, and they’ve shuffled their feet through fallen leaves of disappointment.  They understand this game, they know the insides and outs . . .

If there is one thing they know, it’s that you are not a failure if you are trying to make your goals become real.  If you are hard honing your skills, developing your craft, then you are not the failure people will make you out as—and trust me, they will.

I’ve one rejection; I’ve may have another (what is this?  Read on . . .).  Both are for the same novel.  Does this make me a failure?

Are you kidding?

See, I’ve done my work.  I’ve went from A to Z, and filled in all the points between.  I’m put my package together, and I’ve sent it off with my fingers crossed.  I’ve done of the “dos”, and someone looked at it and gave it thumbs down—

But they looked at it.

The harsh truth is, there are a lot of people sitting on various Facebook groups going on about finding people to sprint with so they can get their five hundred or seven hundred, or even a thousand words in for the night, and then they’re off doing whatever the hell else it is they’re doing.  And a year later they’ll sitting around bitching about how no one realizes what a great writer they are, and if they could find someone to sprint with, they could finish this novel they’ve been working on for the last year . . .

That’s failure.  That’s someone waiting for opportunity to not only knock, but to escort them to the limo and drive them to the salon for a mani-pedi and hair styling before taking them shopping for the dress they’re going to wear to their book signing.

It’s all fantasy fulfillment, thinking that if the right person sees their novel, they’re going to be The Next Big Thing.

About a week ago I posted a quote by Dwayne Johnson.  Say what you will about him, but the guy pretty made himself after coming very close to hitting bottom.  There was another quote I saw attributed to him, one that I will say many people I know should take to heart.  It’s simple in its pronouncement:

 

Hey, stop saying, “I Wish”, and start saying, “I Will”.

 

Wishing works in many an interest story:  I know, I’ve written a few.  But in real life there are no jinn who are going to make your life easy.  There are no magic coins to give you what you want.  You wanna publish, you need to stop wishing and start willing.

There is a quick update here, however.  Apparently Harper Voyager had so many things sent in that they discovered it was going to be impossible for them to get notifications to everyone by 15 January.  In fact, they’re saying they’ll actually send out rejections, instead of not saying anything, which is what they’d said a while back.

This means there is still hope.  This means it’s still possible Her Demonic Majesty may be picked up.  It’s a real possibility.

The only thing I know for sure . . . I ain’t a failure.

I leave that for the wishers.