Archive for July 2008

Mercury Retrograde and Wordsmiths had a party…

July 22, 2008
And tons of people came! We had a blast, thanks in large part to the exuberant hospitality and warm professionalism of the crew at Wordsmiths. Larissa read from Shorn; Ari Warner exhibited a few of his wonderful works; Todd shared a delightful tasting menu.

It was also a historic event: the first time all the Mercury Retrograde authors were ever in one place. Here we are:

In back, from right: Zach Steele, whose novel Anointed will be coming out in March; Brett Shanley, whose novel is nearing completion and who will be editing Anointed; Geoff McVey, who is at work on a novel I can’t wait to share with everyone. In center, from right: Ari Warner, the artist who drew the map for Shorn; Larissa Niec, author of Shorn; and yours truly. In front is Russ Marshalek, Zach Steele’s creative partner, who is responsible for the “new media” aspects of the Anointed project.

So far I cannot find a single picture in which it is possible to see Brett’s entire face. This is the best of a bad lot in that regard.

But you can go see for yourself, on our flickr set from the launch weekend. And you can also see (some eerily similar) photos taken by the crew at Wordsmiths, also on flickr.

It was a huge thrill to see so many friends at the launch! Tim Frederick of Baby Got Books stopped by and was a delight as usual. What a pleasure to get re-acquainted, and how sweet of him to make a fuss over us on the blog! Ron Savarese of Home Planet and his delightful wife Mary stopped by to share the love; and Sonja Benjamin, to whom goes a very high percentage of the credit for this whole crazy thing being possible, was a radiant presence. And did I mention that Dr. Jenn Angerami drove all the way down from Woodstock?

Speaking of the people who make it possible, Mark and Rachael and the whole unsung crew at Wordsmiths were instrumental. A million thanks would only be a start.

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Shorn launch weekend!

July 18, 2008

Already they are arriving. Soon my house will be full. Tonight: the open house. If you’re local, stop by. Tomorrow: brunch for our out-of-towners, hanging around watching Todd cook (drool!), and THE LAUNCH at Wordsmiths.

Larissa will give a reading; Ari will exhibit some of his works that are *not* in the book and sign repros of the one that is (oh, yeah, Larissa will be signing books, too); Todd will feed us wonderful foods; and we will all drink champagne.

Oh, yeah, and did I mention that there will be an exciting Announcement?

Cause there will.

See you there.

Sweet, Beautiful Words on Wordsmiths.com

July 14, 2008

Wordsmiths is just the coolest. They are the hippest bookstore in the ATL, and hugely supportive of local and independent artists of all flavors. Not just writers, mind you: on any given month you can catch local and not-so-local independent musicians, poets, spoken-word artists, and events that defy reduction to soundbytes, all hosted with genuine warmth, enthusiasm, and respect. And it is rapidly becoming an unmissable book tour destination. I knew when I asked them to host a first-ever launch from an unknown small press, I’d at least get a respectful hearing. Instead they have been wildly supportive, not only welcoming our little group but making it possible for us to stage a launch as interstitial as Mercury Retrograde and as big as a little press’s dreams.

And now, this. Russ has put up this lovely entry in the Wordsmiths blog about the launch, Larissa’s book, and Mercury Retrograde. Read all the beautiful things Russ said. Then come to Wordsmiths on Saturday night and shower him–and all the Wordsmiths crew–with confetti.

One of the nicest beatings ever

July 14, 2008

So, yeah, Wynette read my draft of the first two acts of Affairs. Her take:

“This would be a really good book from anybody but you. You can do better.”

Uh, thanks? Uh, uhm…really. How am I supposed to feel?

Let’s be clear: she’s right. The things she bitched about were things that have been troubling me as I’ve been writing: some serious flaws in Deaclan’s motivation which–were I to address them–would derail my trip towards that plot point this novel had to hit; the way plot had to keep giving way to the weight of backstory and worldbuilding this novel was trying to carry. There’s other stuff I would like to improve, too, but those are the things that can’t be addressed within the current framework. The bottom-line problem is that I am a character-driven writer and I’ve been trying to write to a plot point. Which is to say that I’ve been writing a plot-driven novel. Of course I can do better than that.

So, where do we go from here? The headline: this book won’t go to press this year. Oh, it *could*: I’m the publisher, after all. And it wouldn’t be an embarrassment in the scheme of things…but it wouldn’t be my best art. And that would be sorta pointless. Instead I will dig back in and attack this story (which, as those of you who’ve been playing along know, will have numerous volumes by the time it’s done, mostly because the idea is Too Freakin Big) from the other possible angle of entry. Which will obviate (no, who am I kidding? alleviate) the worldbuilding problem I’ve been fighting. I’d actually had a hard time deciding which of these two points of entry to use, and now I have sufficient data to be certain which is the way to go. It’s going to be easier, and probably better, this way.

Why, then, the perpiscacious reader asks, if trying it the other way will be easier and better, didn’t you just damn well do it that way in the first place?

That would be because I had made the mistake of attempting to think like a publisher.

Oh, sure, I’ve got to think like a publisher. But when thinking like a publisher gets in the way of thinking like an artist, I will succeed as neither. I’d chosen Affairs as the starting point for the series because it’s got a better hook. It will probably be easier to sell. All things being equal, that’s better, obviously. The problem is that all things aren’t equal. The other approach, beginning with The Shadow of the Sun, is more art and less hook. Hamlet meets the Tain Bo Cuilagne meets Paradise Lost. How the hell do you soundbyte that? Who besides Irish mythology geeks has even *heard* of the Tain Bo?

Don’t glaze over. It will be a good ride, nay a great one. It just doesn’t have that nice *hook*.

Back to the study for me, right after the launch.

Performance Anxiety

July 11, 2008

Last night the vast majority of Affairs, which I have designated Acts I & II (because, structurally speaking, that’s what they are, even though there is no explicit designation in the novel) went to my alpha readers. Now it is time to write Act III, which will be relatively short. I know what *must* happen in this act, e.g. the climax & conclusion: I feel confident of how I will write them. But there is a small set of plot points which, were time and word count no issue, I would also include–and I am dithering over whether to include them or push them into the next volume.

I use the word “dithering” advisedly. I am in my full-on neurotic-writer place this morning. I’ve had to get out my magical Writing Earrings and Writing Mug which I bought up in the mountains during last year’s writing retreat. (How did they get to be magical? By association. I bought them in my Writing Place, during a week–a WEEK–when I slammed out 75 rather kick-ass pages. Have I mentioned I can’t wait to get back up there next month?)

I don’t have time to dither. The Shorn launch is next weekend, and one of the Mercury Retrograde authors plans to bring me a ms. while he’s here for the event. It will make today’s neurosis look like a quiet afternoon at the beach if I have not finished this novel, which I planned to finish in May, by then. And I’ll be damned if I will be STILL WORKING on this novel at this year’s retreat. What’s a neurotic to do?

Well, I know what comes before that decision point. I will go write that this morning, and trust the muse to know what he’s doing, as usual. I’m fairly certain he already knows exactly what to do, and the reason I’m dithering is that I’m applying the wrong side of my brain to the problem.

Must go write.

I just broke Myspace

July 10, 2008

Gah. All I wanted to do was look at some stuff Kortnee did on the Mercury Retrograde Myspace page. I accidentally clicked the “Myspace Latino” button down at the bottom of the page– I SWEAR, it was an ACCIDENT– and now I can’t get the damn thing to stop speaking spanish to me.

How do I get back to the English-speaking Myspace? Help.

Nerves…of steel

July 6, 2008

The closer I get to the end of Affairs, the more ways it finds to make me nervous. Today I am writing a scene that must be there for structural reasons–but it is turning out to have a surprising emotional charge, complete with elements I must keep under control lest I pull in thematic stuff that belongs in the next volume, because it is the first time Lesle and Deaclan have been alone in the same room since he pulled the rug out from beneath me *again*. I am once again walking the tightrope of being true to what these characters would really think, do, and say about everything that has happened of late–and controlling the flow of the novel.

This is complicated by the sheer mechanical issue of page count, which in turn is complicated by Mark.

Mark has been upper management for the vast majority of his career, which means he’s got finely-honed methodologies for attempting to control things beyond his power. Since he helped me arrive at appropriate pricing for Shorn in the UK and European markets, one of those things has been Affairs. Suddenly he’s gone from simply being proud of my artistic achievements to seeing the business side of it– and he asks me questions like “When will you be done?”

(That all depends how much help I get on my mundane tasks, doesn’t it?)

And “How long is it now?”

This is because he has learned to calculate the cost of producing a book. So rather than finally going to sleep last night, he’s doing page-count math in his head and telling me that if I go all the way up to the 240K-word-count limit Wynette assures me I must observe if I am to keep the book under $20 on the cover, I will never make any money on this.

Now, which of my two advisers has published books before? Sigh.

I am trying not to take this personally. I know this is just a sign that he’s fully on board and engaged in the emotional process with me, and it is simply a fact of his personality that things beyond his control make him crazy. But now, as I sit in the study writing this two-scenes-from-the-Act-3-break moment, I keep finding my eye on the little window in the menu bar that tells how many words I’ve used up, my attention distracted by the page count in this chapter.

Yeah, you’ve gotta have nerves of steel to be a writer-publisher.