Archive for May 2008

The Shorn Launch

May 31, 2008

Look what I found on the Wordsmiths Books site!

The advance write-up for the launch of Shorn

I am over the moon with excitement. Russ said it best:

Free Drinks!

A few thousand words on book signings

May 31, 2008
from Ubermensch Russ Marshalek, who will be the True Host (I will only be the one who gets to look like she’s done something important) of Larissa‘s book launch in July.

The man says a mouthful:

A Good Blog is Hard To Find: On the nutso book world, Vol I

For ancient religion geeks

May 25, 2008

Wynette and I were discussing recently how difficult it is to write works that touch on ancient Celtic culture, particularly Celtic religion. There Be Dragons there: that area of study is a battleground among academics, and those of us who have other flavors of attachment to that tradition tend to have a difficult time separating what truths we can glean of that tradition from the fantasy-movies that popular culture has overlaid them with. I have found a better flavor of understanding, not to mention some emotional peace on the topic, from digging into academic source materials. In the course of preparing for this series I went so far as to spend months (really, months!) reading academic works on Irish archaeology and actually dragged Mark all the way across The Pond to walk those sites myself.

Turned out to be a religious experience, ironically enough. But I digress, as usual.

Presently, I am reading a book loaned to me by Ron: The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light: Mythology, Sexuality & the Origins of Culture by William Irwin Thompson (ISBN 0-312-80512-8) which essentially picks up where Frazier left off with The Golden Bough – with stunning results. I am going to buy this book; it is one I will find necessary to re-read fairly often.

In the section I am reading now, Thompson engages in a lengthy footnote on the topic of the original One World Religion (of the Great Mother, of course) and where Sumer, with its ultimately masculine tradition that became the backbone of the Etruscan, Roman, and Greek religions diverged from the continuing Mother Goddess trad of Western Europe, and recommends these books, which I am also going to hunt down, as context on that divergence:

Time Stands Still: New Light on Megalithic Science by Keith Chritchlow (London, Gordon Fraser, 1979)


The Silbury Treasure by Michael Dames (London, Thames & Hudson, 1976)

The Avebury Cycle by the same guy & publisher, 1977

It was this week, as I was reading Thompson’s book, eating my lunch, absorbing his discussion of the Great Mother as both womb and tomb and how that perception is reflected in Neolithic tomb-sites e.g. Newgrange (though he doesn’t mention Newgrange but rather Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales, and shows that picture)—when, because I’ve been following Thompson’s argument and have passed through the narrow tunnel into the inner sanctum of Newgrange myself, I suddenly saw what would have been obvious to anyone who breathed that religion: the entrances to those barrow-tombs are models of the vagina of the Great Mother, which in that way of thinking is a two-way street. But this is only one of many insights I’ve had into the profoundly male-female, always-about-fertility-and-yet-always-about-something-more, nature of that religion. So if ancient Celtic culture and religion are on your radar, do yourself a favor: pick up those books.

Book launch 2.0

May 24, 2008

Please observe the no-coffee-while-watching rule…

Please. It’s for your safety.

A laugh break

May 16, 2008

Alec Baldwin just keeps getting funnier. Go watch.

Eleventh-hour plot restructuring

May 16, 2008

Making fiction-sausage doesn’t get much uglier than this. When Deaclan blew me off my story map a few days ago, I realized in short order that I had to rework the plot for this last section of the novel. My story bus gets hijacked frequently enough that I’ve actually got a methodology now. In the interests of full disclosure…

I’ve got two computers in my study. (Yes, I’m a geek. And I’m married to somebody in the computing industry, which means I have a great deal of tech support and the occasional hand-me-down from a defunct company, which is where I got Study Computer #2, my laptop.) I have an external monitor (another defunct-company hand-me-down) hooked up to my laptop, so there are two good monitors and a laptop screen at my disposal–which is a good thing, because it turns out I need to look at a lot of data at once when I’m developing fiction, particularly when I’m performing reconstructive surgery on a plot. So on one of my monitors I bring up Power Writer, the program in which I do all my fiction writing. (If you’re not familiar with Power Writer, and you write novels, this is a thing you want to know about: go here.) And on my other monitor, the one connected to the laptop, I bring up MS Word and start brainstorming in a new file. (Fortunately I’ve also got my favorite new productivity aid, Synergy, running, and can talk to both computers with one keyboard and mouse.)

In my brainstorming file, I ask myself questions like What does Edward want now? What is he afraid of? What is he going to do about it? and then attempt to answer those questions. The answers frequently surprise me, and always lead me to discover things that belong in my developing plot. But then, of course, I must also ask myself questions like What is Deaclan going to do about this thing Edward plans? — which leads me to even more plot points. All of these new plot points must be logged in my story file along with whatever notes I’ve got on them. I must go through this same exercise with each of my important characters, not just my PoVs.

In the process, for better or worse, I also discover pieces of motivation that have to be set up earlier in the story: things I was not consciously aware of until I began this exercise, even though they’ve been driving certain behaviors all along. Now I dive into earlier sections of the novel, layering in a few paragraphs of the rumination Deaclan favors (he says far more to the reader than to just about anybody else, as it turns out) or performing minor adjustments to existing dialogue.

Then, finally, I am left with a list of New Problems to solve: things I have determined characters will want or need to do, for which I don’t yet know the mechanics of how to accomplish them. They include issues such as the things one of two people who are functionally joined at the hip must do in order to effectively deceive the other, within the story rule-set, and — always the most challenging — how to accomplish certain bits of magic that Deaclan will decide are necessary.

It will be a couple days before I am writing sentences again, but it is already becoming obvious to me that I was wrong in my previous post: this novel is not going to come in shorter than anticipated. Silly me. I am going to have a hell of a time keeping it from getting *longer*. But it will definitely be a more exciting final act than I had previously planned.

And this, finally, is another reason why I write sequentially and accept the shenanigans of my unruly characters. I could never have imagined this story all at one go; it evolves as I write, and is much better for it. The novel that will finally go to press will include only a vanishingly small amount of what I originally expected to write, and the muse–who mostly doesn’t say much until I am putting words on the page–is better at this stuff than I. 🙂

Yeah, my plot’s broken again

May 14, 2008

As usual, my conscious mind is the last to know. When I got nervous about Deaclan’s reaction in the last scene, I *should* have been: I now realize it changes big chunks of his plot. What I’d planned for him between now & the climax has been entirely obviated; whatever changes I make to his plot must, perforce, ripple into Lesle’s as well. I must, at this late date, engage in yet another round of plot restructuring.

Two pieces of good news:

The plot as re-planned by the muse (thought not yet fully revealed to my conscious mind) will be better than the one I’d sketched. He is better at plot than I.

The book will probably come in a bit shorter.

Now I just have to figure out what everyone will be doing instead of what I’d planned. Has anybody seen my map?

Why I write sequentially

May 14, 2008

Today I feel as if I’ve got a tiger by the tail. Yesterday I executed the plot point I had planned for that point in the story–but, as so often happens, I was surprised by a character’s emotional reaction, left with a profound feeling of uncertainty about what he’s going to do next and how it will influence the unfolding story.

Don’t read too much into my assertion that I had planned this plot point: I had only realized what Deaclan was going to do at this point in the story a few days earlier, when I began thinking about the plot point to which he’s reacting and remembered that–because of the rules of magic and magical bonds already in play–Deaclan would be immediately aware of things anyone else could only have guessed at. And that those things weren’t going to make him happy. Suddenly this event which I had originally planned as part of another plot was affecting Deaclan and his tactics, and — more importantly, to my mind — moving him into an emotional space I wasn’t ready for. One unanticipated emotional response from a character can–and frequently does–change the way the plot unfolds.

The closer I come to the end of this novel, the more nervous things like this make me. In early chapters, when characters surprise me, I feel entirely comfortable just letting them do their things and finding out what they’re getting at as things unfold. But now I am (I hope) within fifty pages of the climax, and the novel has to end in a particular place–and, more troubling yet, because the next novel will continue the action of this one, my plot structures must work across the divide between these books. I must not allow characters to reveal things that I need to use in the next volume–and I can’t fall into the trap of allowing them to stagnate because I’m trying to hold off. And when my characters surprise me, they always move my reveals forward from where I’d planned them. I am, after all, notoriously slow at most everything. I can only assume that when the muse pushes faster, he’s the one who’s right. But suddenly each of my subplots is straining towards stuff that has to be in the next book, while my main plot is time-bound. The climax must occur on a particular day, because it is a holiday; and as my characters speed up the pace of the subplots, and I try to keep my reveals under control, that day begins to seem a very long way off.

Why all this worry? Because there are only so many pages that can be fit between a single set of covers before the book becomes too expensive to produce. If there were no such limits, I would probably write novels that were 800 or a thousand pages long. Readers will only pay so much for a book, and distributors and bookstores will demand their cut of the purchase price. If the money remaining after all those requirements are met is less than the cost of producing the book, I am essentially paying readers to read my stories. And of course I want to share my stories with everyone, but I can’t afford to do that. As long as my stories go to market in book form, I have to keep the chunks of my story below a certain threshhold–and each of those chunks must stand satisfyingly alone.

This is a set of tricks which seems more easily managed by people who develop outlines and then stick to them. Unfortunately I develop outlines, draw maps of my story territories if you will, plan my trips–and then the characters hijack the bus. Every so often, when we stop for meals, I negotiate with them about moving in the direction of the climax point for which I’m shooting, and we modify our maps and set out again. But the characters have a tendency to forget to look at the map, or to drive too fast–and my nice measured story arcs look as if they were drawn by someone riding on a bus being driven much too fast on a poorly maintained road.

Which, of course, they are.

We will get there. But I’ll be uneasy until I bring my subplots to their first-book climax points.

Staying the Course

May 12, 2008

It’s been a challenging day in the study: I won’t say difficult, because that would imply things didn’t go well, and ultimately they did. But getting there wasn’t as easy as it might have been.

It’s been a few days since I wrote: I had that big birthday weekend, and a heavy week leading up to it, and the rhythm I like to maintain in the study just wasn’t there. That tends to spell trouble for me in the getting-started-on-the-page department, and even though I knew what I was going to write today, that’s exactly what happened. For a couple hours things just didn’t flow; I felt as if what I was writing was stilted and boring (and as you know, Bob, if *you* are bored with what you’re writing, your audience has already turned on the TV); the phone kept ringing, with calls I had to take. During my less confident days as a writer, I would probably have concluded I was (ack!) blocked, let myself off the hook, and hoped tomorrow was better and the block was just a passing thing rather than the descent of True Creative Paralysis.

But I knew that the paragraph I was writing was there to set up data I needed in play, and that all I had to do was keep it short and move on; and I knew that, if I would just stick with it, I would become unstuck, and the words would start flowing. Because, if you are patient with yourself and you’re honoring your characters, they will. So I stayed the course: accepted that I would be getting to my afternoon deliverables later than I’d hoped, but required myself to hang in there.

Now, I didn’t chain myself to the desk: I wandered off and made myself some lunch, and shuffled laundry into the washer, the dryer, the piles of folded clothes; I sat down in the kitchen and read a book while I ate , and took my time with it. But then I went back to the study, and just slogged through another couple of paragraphs–and then Lesle walked through the door of the room where the action I’d planned was going to happen, and she and Edward started talking about things that needed to be discussed, and I forgot about feeling stiff. The muse just did his thing, and when next I looked up, the chapter was complete.

Those of you who follow the play-by-play around here may remember that just last week I was speaking out against the prevalent belief that one must produce at a consistent rate; this may seem as if I’m contradicting myself. I don’t think so: what I’m saying is not that we must produce n pages per week or per day (although goals are useful)–but that we must be both patient and brave during those moments when we walk into our writing places with ideas we want to pursue, and it doesn’t go easily. What’s easy in those moments is to declare ourselves blocked, broken or inadequate as artists. What we need to do is be patient with ourselves.


May 10, 2008

Yes, lots of exclamation points this week. Must be all that birthday excitement.

I realized I had forgotten to mention that my websites are now fully LIVE:

Mercury Retrograde Press

Be Mused Author Services

And, while you’re out surfing the web, go check out Larissa‘s new site. That one just makes me feel like a proud grandmother (except of course, that I’m not that old…). LOL.