April 28th, 2005

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(one) Twenty Things

Okay, two good memes in a week. I think I can play with both of these.

Twenty comments directed at people I know. You get to decide which one(s) are yours, if any.

1. It is like having a baby. Not, as some people say, because of all the planning and nurturing and wanting and working, but because you push and push and scream and push and push and you're sure it's going to tear you in half, but you can't quit partway, and then wham slide boom it's over, and you look back on it panting and go "That was it? I thought there would be a parade." And then you go, "Well, that wasn't as bad as I expected," but that's because you start lying to yourself about how bad it was right away.

2. Virtue untested is no virtue at all. And you, my dear, are virtue incarnate. I'm sorry the testing sucked so damned much, but you didn't break, you took a temper. And it's okay to accept that.

3. The pose is transparent. I wonder if you have any idea how many of your prickly comments about others turn like snakes and bite your own hand.

4. There's a fine line between angry young man and angry old man. (or woman, for that matter.)

5. I'm glad you're on our side.

6. When I imagine a warrior, you are the warrior I imagine.

7. You made a choice and regret it, and I'm sorry. But you have to live with that choice and build on. Letting your fury over the choice direct the rest of your life is only compounding the mistake. Choose growth over despair.

8. You probably shouldn't drink so much.

9. You are more powerful than you think. But you have a tendency to shake it off whenever somebody points it out to you. The first step to moving the world is picking up the lever. The second step is accepting that you have the strength to put that sucker where you want it. You gotta wanna. But you also have to believe you can.

10. A little less conversation, a little more action, please.

11. Cut yourself a little slack. You've overcome a lot to get where you are. You may feel like you're running behind, but the fact of the matter is, some of those people started a lot further up the track than you did, and didn't have the obstacle course to clamber over before they made it to the starting line. Account accomplishments as well as goals: you've covered a lot of ground to get here.

12. Chin up, old girl. In five years, we'll look back on this struggle--and crash into a parked car. But it'll still seem funny, anyway.

13. You don't actually have to do everything today.

14. I have no idea how you fit everything you do do into the same 24 hours the rest of us get. Kicking yourself for not accomplishing more is like whipping a horse that's carrying half again the handicap the others are hauling, and still pulling away.

15. We choose our own happiness.

16. Life is hard. Get a helmet. Nobody's coming to save you, and the only way out is through.

17. I love your enthusiasm, intellect, and passion. Keep it up.

18. You make so many beautiful things!

19. You enrich my life.

20. Thank you for keeping me sane.

(see next rock)

  • Current Music
    Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer - Redemption Song
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(two) Thirty Questions

Comments are screened.

Ask me anything.

I'll answer the thirty that interest me the most. (or less, if I get less than thirty questions)
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    Mississippi John Hurt - Talking Casey
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Okay, I cracked, and ordered the perfume imps.

these ones:

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n. This is our song to Lucifer, Lucis Ferre, Heosphoros, the Morning Star, the Brilliant One and the Son of the Morning. He is equated with Samhazai, the Heaven-Seizer, and Azazel, one of the 200 Fallen Angels of Enoch. The essence of overweening pride and unearthly angelic beauty. A regal scent, glowing darkly, elegant and patrician, but unfathomably desolate. Cherubic white sandalwood and golden musk with a dark halo of amber, a breath of imperial florals, unbending woods, and the shadow cast by vetiver and violet.

An infusion of incalculable power and irresistible temptation. Truly an exercise in megalomania and self-gratification: frankincense and cinnamon, darkened by violet.

Thouroughly corrupted: amber, sandalwood, black patchouli and cinnamon.

An ancient blend, swollen with arcane power: galangal, high john essence, frankincense, cedar, and sandalwood.

The raw, untamable power of chaos. Rosewood, amber, red musk and a dribble of red sandalwood.

Grapefruit, red currant, dark musk, Roman chamomile, delphinium, and lavender.

Dark musk and black amber with frankincense, red sandalwood, neroli and bergamot.

A lazy, warm deep green scent with a thick aquatic undertone: Spanish moss, evergreen and cypress with watery blue-green notes and an eddy of hothouse flowers and swamp blooms.

A rich, bold blend of imperial rose, carnation, lush jasmine, lily of the valley, dark musk, amber, bergamot and gilded tangerine.

A gentlemen's blend, possessed of dignity, charm and refinement, but in truth masking a corrupted, hideous, soulless core. White musk, lime, lilac and citron.

Warrior, Trickster and Goddess of Magic and Poets, she is one of the Tuatha De Danaan and the Queen of the Faeries. A very complex scent, both shadowy and fierce: black orchid, sandalwood, night-blooming jasmine, osmanthus, Somalian rose, and Chinese musk.

Patron of the Aztec pantheon, he is the personification of light within darkness, warmth in the cold, and life in, and after, death. He is a creative and destructive God of Fire and Light, and is appeased only by sacrifice, trial, and the slaughter of his people's enemies. Copal, plumeria and sweet orange and the smoke of South American incense and crushed jungle blooms.

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will wait for another sale, I think. Thanks for the opinions, guys. I really like lilac, sandalwood, rosewood, copra, nag champa, frankincense, dragonsblood, ylang-ylang, amber, and so forth, so we'll see how it goes. Based just on descriptions, I'm expecting to like Fallen, Faustus, Sin, Magus, and Fenris Wolf best.
  • Current Music
    Red Hot Chilli Peppers - The Righteous & The Wicked
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You know there ain't no devil, just God when he's drunk.

Poll: If the Archangel Michael wore message/media/counterculture T-shirts, what would they say? (Best ideas so far: Trogdor the Burninator, "It's All Muscle," and Seraphim Shock--although we decided he would be too stuffy for Seraphim Shock--to give you an idea of where this is going. Cleverest ideas will be shamelessly stolen.)

Progress notes for 28 April 2005:

Whiskey & Water

New Words: 1,465
Total Words: 55,631
Pages: 250

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
55,631 / 160,000

Reason for stopping:
end of scene
Mammalian Assistance: Marlowe on my shoulder for a while, and then Paladin underfoot.
Stimulants: Peppermint and ginger-liquorice teas
Exercise: gothercising now!
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know: haloing, imbalanced
Tyop du jour: I bed your pardon Well, you'd better! (or) It had seen other lovers in its weary ortal years
Darling du jour: sitting tailor-fashion in mid-air now, nude as an angel
Books in progress, but not at all quickly: Ed Sanders, Tales of Beatnik Glory; Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver
Interesting research tidbit of the day: mirror neurons
Other writing-related work: n/a

Lucifer gets all the best lines, but Satan has all the best arguments.
  • Current Music
    Jeffrey Foucault - Secretariat / Jane Siberry - Half Angel Half Eagle
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Thirty Questions (first 13)

1. Excluding your writing, what would you count as your greatest accomplishment?

Integrating my personality. Not in a disassociative disorder kind of sense, but in that I'm very aware of how easy it would have been for my self-destructive tendencies to win. They were pretty mightily aided and abetted by some forces in my early life, and I could easily not have made it to 25--or not have had a life worth living once I did. The fact that I am more or less happy, sane, and accomplished is an endless miracle to me, and I never stop being grateful to the people who helped me get here.

2. What is your favorite car from the 1960s?

1962 Bentley S2 Continental.

But in racing green, please.

3. What project (writing or otherwise) are you most proud of so far? And why?

It would have to be The Stratford Man. It's a book that started as a lark and a dinner-table argument and turned into a life-changing experience.

4. Besides the obvious choice of Christopher Marlowe, what historical character would you most want to put into your fiction, and why?

It doesn't actually work that way. I don't pick out historical personages and go "Oh, I'll build a story around him." For me, the story grows out of the character, and the ideas just kind of hit me. "This Tragic Glass" was made up of leftover ideas that didn't fit in The Stratford Man, for example. So really, it's whatever catches my fancy at a given moment.

I wasn't much of a Shakespearean before I got interested in the ideas behind The Stratford Man, but in the course of the research, I learned a hell of a lot.

5. What writer, when you read her or his work, gets into your head and infects you, so that (for however short a time) what you write sounds like that writer?

Richard Brautigan

6. So why don't you write about, like, unicorns and stuff?

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'Course, that's unfair of me, because neither of those are sold yet.

7. Tell me about a moment when you were perfectly happy.

Wow. Now that's a tough one. I remember once I was driving the old red 5-speed S10 on I-91 in Connecticut, in the rain, and I saw a sugar maple that was turning seventeen shades of crystalline vermilion, and there was some sort of vine wound through it--maybe poison ivy?--that had gone brilliant, blood red. And I exactly where I wanted to be exactly when I wanted to be, and I was as happy as I have ever been. That was October of 2002.

8. What was it about childhood that you liked and loathed the most?

I honestly can't remember anything I liked about childhood. Almost everything in my life is better now than it was then. I have more autonomy, more power, more choices, more knowledge.

The thing I loathed most was the teasing. I was not a popular child.

9. Hmmm. You co-founded commonwords, so I'm deeply curious to know what your true opinion is of the 'originality' and quality of media tie-ins, which (to me) are really fan fiction novels written by pro writers.

I've read a number of condescending comments recently by authors who don't think too highly of media tie-ins; they seem to view being a tie-in writer as one step above being a street whore, and with about the same level of craft and creativity required.

Personally, I believe that craft is craft, and the originality comes from what the writer is able to do with the resources she's given -- writing in a set universe doesn't preclude worldbuilding, or creating new characters, or writing a kick-ass plot. And building a novel from the ground up doesn't make that novel inherently better than a tie-in. There are Buffy and Angel novels that make me cringe, and a few Star Trek books that have rocked my world. As with anything else, quality is not dependent on the genre, but on the writing. (And to some extent, with media tie-ins -- it matters how well the writer understands the show. To me, the only distinction between tie-in novels and the fan fiction one gets for free on the net, aside from the fact the writer is paid, is that the free stuff is often ten times better. *g*)

So: media tie-ins -- should they be valued on a par with original fiction -- or not?

I think there are media tie ins that are every bit as good as most original genre fiction, and a good sight better than much of it. Diane Duane's My Enemy My Ally comes to mind, and Joan Vinge's novelization of Ladyhawke improves on a very good movie.

Is most of it that good?


But then, most original fiction isn't, either.

10. Does God dice with the Universe?

I actually think he plays Bocci ball. Or, to quote Spider Robinson, God is an iron.

11. Rhymed, blank, or free?

Yes. But sonnets uber alles.

12. If you could meet any one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Peter S. Beagle. Who, fortuitously, I got to meet last summer in San Diego. But I'd like to meet him again, when I'm not so overcome with emotion that I can't speak coherently.

13. What is one thing that happened to you when you were young that gave you or confirmed for you the kind of sense of humor you have today?

My Swedish grandfather. Who wasn't one thing, in particular, but who was the one major influence on what I think is funny. (And nobody else usually does.)


There's still 17 questions to go! Ask! Ask!

  • Current Music
    Steeleye Span - Tam Lin
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Thirty Questions-- next bit (14-25)

14. What is the opposite of antidisestablishmentarianism?


15. What sonnet most rocks your world?

Even money between Dorothy Parker's "Fair Weather" and Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Love is not all, it is not meat nor drink." Runners up: Millay's "What lips my lips have kissed" and Frost's "The Oven-Bird."

16. If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

I'd have been better-educated, sooner.

17. How do you know when it's time to leave the text alone, and move on to the next thing?

When I can't think of another thing to change.

18. What's your favorite place to visit, and why?

The Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford. I love it with a great an unreasonable love. It's a hand-carved carousel from the 1930's, with stained glass and lions and you name it.

19. Sunshine or moonlight?


20. What Muppet has influenced your writing the most?


21. Considering that many technologies are increasing at an increasing rate, how do you think the widening gap between generations (as opposed to a stable gap if they were increasing linearly) will affect the world?

I kind of think the generation gap is more and more a thing of the past, really. How many grandmas do you suppose have ipods?

22. You get a lot more writing done in a day than I do. How do you fit writing, sleep, and work (plus dogs, gothercize, and reading) into a day? What is your usual daily schedule? (I'm curious because *I'm* trying to figure out how to fit it all into the day, and looking at your schedule may trigger some inspiration.)

Currently, I get up around 6:30 am, work until around 2:30 pm on writing, correspondence, goofing off on livejournal, etc--go to the day job, come home around 7:00 pm, and work out. Any time after that is my own.

23. How do you determine whether or not to pursue a writing idea? What tells you 'oh, this is something I want to see through to the end' versus 'nah, this doesn't have potential'?

I just roll them around in my head until they stick to enough other ideas that I go "Oh, cool." But really, I more usually start with a character in a situation with a problem, and then go looking for ideas to stick onto that.

24. The big question of life is always this: which came first, the chicken or the egg? This is easily answered by acknowledging that the egg (which had to be a mutant creation of two other animals from which the chicken evolved) had to come first...

My question to you is, what were the other two animals that the chicken evolved from and did they too cross the road and why or why not? And was the chicken following them or acting on his own?

Dinosaurs laid eggs too, you know.

25. Illya or Napoleon? And why?

That's like asking "cake or ice cream." For me, the whole joy of the show is the banter and the character interactions. (I mean, it's not like they had plots.) No banter, no joy.
  • Current Music
    Frou Frou - I Must Be Dreaming
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26, 27

Two more questions:

26. Was there an established author who, for lack of a better term, mentored you or otherwise helped you achieve your first sale?
No. In point of fact, when I made my first sale, short fiction, a story that has since been disavowed in a market that is now out of print, I knew exactly nobody in the business. I barely knew what Standard Manuscript Format was (in point of fact, I was doing it wrong.) When I made my first SFWA pro sale (poetry, to F&SF) I had met a bunch of people through the Online Writing Workshops, of a range from wannabes to neopros to first-novelists, and while their critique certainly helped my writing, it was more peer-review than mentoring.

After that, I fell in with the writer-gang on livejournal, and I've gotten a ton of helpful advice from many of them, but my most significant writerly relationship through lj has been with truepenny, and she and I are blundering cheerfully pretty much neck-and-neck through the publication process. "Hey, watch out for the---! ... never mind. I see you found it."

Since I've sold my first novel, I've made some accomplished writerly friends.

Oh, and there's my co-Las-Vegan Steve Brust, who is full of cheerful "Don't do this stupid thing wot I did" stories and general encouragement, but he never actually looked at my book before I sold it.

So no, it really isn't about who you know in the industry.

27. How did writing The Stratford Man change your life?

It was my journeyman piece. I'm not sure how else to accept it. In writing that book--which terrified me--I learned that not only can I tackle a huge, intimidating project... but I can do a good job on it, too. And that's given me a lot of confidence with regard to later work. It helped put paid to the worst of the impostor syndrome. I mean, I still have impostor syndrome--"This is not my beautiful writing career."--but I no longer have impostor syndrome over my ability to write books. I know I can write books.

It's just freaky every so often to realize that I'm more or less making a living at it.


Come on, guys. three more questions!
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    Blue Man Group - Boston
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28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 (polls are closed) (with bonus questions, since they were there.)

In other news, as I said to some people earlier, I think Bruce Springsteen has decided that Bob Dylan is slacking. Or maybe he's planning on running for president.


28. Hypothetically, I'm making you dessert. What am I making?

That's a tough one. I love almost all fruit pies and/or cobblers, with emphasis on peach if it's not fakey orange sweet (which you would never do to anybody) and apple, and strawberry rhubarb. But I also like gooey bittersweet chocolate things, and chocolate croissants (which are a subcategory of gooey bittersweet chocolate things, as you know), and just plain fruit and cheese is lovely.

With a very few exceptions, if it's well-made I'll eat what's set before me, and enjoy it. I am not fond of peanuts or brussels sprouts or peppers cooked to bitteress or brie or champagne, and that's about it.

What would you like more time to research/know about that you don't have time to mess with now? Beside everything - pick one that's intrigued you but you haven't had time to dig at.

I'd like to speak more languages, and get better at the ones I've learned and forgotten. It's actually something I plan to start working on in 2006.

30. What are you most proud of writing, and why? Or if that's been asked already -- the reverse maybe? What most disappointed you when you wrote it, and were you able to use it in some way anyway?

Ooo, this is a hard one. Most proud of writing? I don't think any rush beats finishing the first novel. I was high for a week. Even though, in the cold light of several years later, it's kind of a bad book. (But I will save it one day, because I loff the world.) And I think that answers the second half of the question, too,

31. Have you ever written something and then realised you couldn't use it *because* ? (And I'm meaning reasons other than technical/craft issues).

Because it was too personal or embarrassing, maybe? Not really. I mean, there are scenes that have been hard or unpleasant to write--sometimes even agonizing. In the OWW chat the other night, we talked about scenes that were hard to write, and I mentioned a couple that were very personal and ifficult for me--the torture and rape scene in Stratford Man, and the beating in The Sea thy Mistress. And the ending of Scardown, which was very hard.

Or do you mean because it didn't belong in the story? All the time. The obligatory scene where my characters sit down and explain the plot to me, in small words, because I'm stupid, for example. That always has to be cut. And there's a two-page scene that was cut from Worldwired for length issues that I loff, and will post over at the fiction blog when the book comes out.

Or something else?

32. I've gathered from previous posts that your approach to "sounding like an expert" on various topics is just to dig in and hope you don't make too nasty of a mistake. Have you ever censored one of your characters from talking/knowing about a topic for fear that it would be too difficult to research?

Well, that's not exactly an accurate assessment. I firmly believe in know what you write. Which is different than write what you know. If I have to tackle a topic I'm not well grounded in, I learn about it, and then if possible I get an expert to read what I've written and tell me what I did wrong. Which doesn't mean there aren't mistakes--for example, I bitched up some of the Quebecois in Hammered. C'est la vie. There will always be mistakes.

But, for example, I don't know anything about astrology, and I needed to, for Stratford Man. So I learned what I could about it in a couple of days, and then I collared somebody who has practiced for a while, and got her to sort stuff out for me.

So, um, no. To both parts of the question.

33. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

.33 acre-feet of wood per woodchuck/hour. As a rule of thumb.

34. Who put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp?

} Actually, Michelle Karllove of Columbus, Ohio is generally credited
} with being the first person to discover that, with proper preperation,
} one could put the Bomp in Bomp-She-Bomp. Of course, she had to work at
} this for a while, and she had her early failures. Her notes are filled
} with horror stories of the earlier attempts: Bomp-He-Bomp,
} Clump-She-Clump, and the explosive Bomb-She-Bomb.

Scroll down about 4/5ths for the rest.

35. Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls picked them, every one.

  • Current Music
    Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
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Since all the cool kids are doing it--Wiscon Program Schedule

The Feminist Ideal and the Warrior Woman
(Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Friday, 10:15-11:30 p.m. in Assembly

Is there a contradiction between the ideals of feminism and the common fictional image of a warrior woman? Do we need fighting females in SF, and if so, why, and of what sort?
M: Gregory G Rihn, Nancy Jane Moore, Elizabeth Bear

Women and the Draft (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Saturday, 4:00-5:15 p.m. in Conference Room 5

Women are currently barred from serving in the US Armed Forces in a Combat Zone as a Combatant. Women are also not required to register for the US Draft (this may change in the coming year). How well does Science Fiction portray women in combat? Is that a future that we want? Come to the panel and let us know.
Nonie B. Rider, M: Debbie Notkin, Nancy Jane Moore, David B Haseman, Elizabeth Bear

Where is Grandma's Story? (Reading SF/F)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. in Assembly

She brings home most of the food in traditional societies, but where in fiction does she get to act, not just advise?
M: Georgie L. Schnobrich, M. J. Hardman, Janice M. Eisen, Elizabeth Bear

And the sign-out, too.

Any suggestions on grandmothers in SFF welcome; I'm trying to work up a list.

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    Chris Smither - Train Home