November 18th, 2005

bear by san

(no subject)

The holiday season is officially underway in the United States. The ever-marvellous Susan Stamberg has begin her radio coverage of Thanksgiving recipes. (And yes, I have tried making the infamous cranberry relish, and yes, it does look like lumpy Pepto Bismol, and I didn't like it very much, but my dad is nuts about the stuff.)

She's foisting it off on Martha Stewart today.

Common Census. This is a very cool idea.

It's USA-conjoined-48-only currently, but what it is, is a project to consensus-map the USA. So <i>is</i> Upstate New York really a part of New England culturally, despite not having the historical associations with the six New England states? Or is it a little bit of the Mid-Atlantic states stranded up by Canada?

The people will decide.

More quotations collected, as I work tonight:

Accurs'd be he that first invented war!
They knew not, ah, they knew not, simple men,
How those were hit by pelting canon-shot
Stand staggering like a quivering aspen-leaf

--Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Act II scene iv

--and on a lighter note--

What is beauty, saith my sufferings then?
If all the pens that ever poets held,
Had fed the feeling of their masters thoughts,
And every sweetness that inspir'd their hearts,
Their minds, and muses on admired themes:
If all the heavenly Quintessence they still
From their immortal flowers of Poesy,
Wherein as in a mirror we perceive
The highest reaches of a human wit:
If these had made one Poem's period
And all combin'd in Beauties worthiness,
Yet should there hover in their restless heads,
One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least,
Which into words no virtue can digest:

-- Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great part I, Act V, Scene i

  • Current Music
    Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Because the Night (Live) / Tempest - The House Carpenter
bear by san

(no subject)

It's mechanics time. I've decided, for various reasons, that the first book will have a very brief author's note at the front Collapse )

The second book will have something to this effect at the front:

Author's Note:

This is the last two fifths of a novel. The first three fifths are in another volume, entitled The Stratford Man. Turn back! Turn back! Find the other book! Read it first!

Otherwise, I expect this will not make a lick of sense.

And something a little more complete at the end.

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In other news, I'm pleased to say that the well-known phenomenon of inspiration being found dissolved in common tap water, especially when the water is on the warmish side, holds true, as I have this morning in the shower come up with the solution for a sex scene I've been displeased with for the past two years.

And no, arcaedia, it's not the one you didn't like. *g* I just keep adding more bad puns to that one.

Now, tea and bread and butter, and on to fix that scene before I forget what I was going to do.

bear by san

(no subject)

Collapse )

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vexed thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

--William Shakespeare, Sonnet 135

If thy soul check thee that I come so near, 
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will, will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckoned none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy store's account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is 'Will.'

--William Shakespeare, Sonnet 136.

And they say literature isn't good for anything. It's the penis jokes, Bob. The penis jokes!
bear by san

triple xxxocolatl

It's actually chilly enough in Vegas that I was craving this, so I made some. It's good.

Mix cocoa powder and sugar 50/50 and add enough water to make a syrupy substance. Beat with fork until lumps vanish.

Meanwhile, in a pan, bring to a simmer a mixture of half water and half milk that also contains crushed coffee beans, vanilla, red pepper, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla.

When hot, add A to B. Strain, and drink.

Orange peel, cinnamon sticks, whipped cream, and brandy or whiskey optional. Moaning encouraged.

Careful, it's hot.

I'm still reading Peter Ackroyd's "authoritative" Shakespeare: The Biography. (please note direct article.)

He's doing a nice job of rounding up the various legends and getting them all in one place, at least, and apocrypha are clearly marked. And some of the actual details of setting and history are priceless. (What was the flooring material used in the Henley Street house? Ackroyd knows.) His writing style is clear and engaging, and I am loving the span of his grasp on period history.

But here we go again with the reliance on textual analysis to 'prove' or 'disprove' various lines of speculation. What's especially priceless is that in one paragraph, he'll comfortably dismiss a spate of competent naval terminology with an airy wave of his hand to Shakespeare's teeming imagination, and a bit further on, start claiming that the man's comfort with legal terminology indicates he was a law clerk or scrivener.

Yes, and I'm a linguist from Perth.

Grr. Will somebody please explain to these alleged scholars that writers do, in fact, write about things they haven't done and places they haven't been? And that we do on occasion pop by with a basket of scones and ask the nice neighbor for details of his military service, because it might come in handy to know someday?

Also, at least kick a few leaves over the bias, would you?

bear by san

Mainlining spork.

More on Ackroyd.

Well, he won me back, for a bit, with the chapters on the Renaissance theatre and the archaeology of The Rose. And he's kinder to Anne Hathaway than most of Shakespeare's biographers, which suits my personal bias nicely.

But the chapter on the university wits is enough to give me ulcers. Especially as he mouths the usual ill-researched platitudes about what drunken rogues they were, fails to mention that Watson and Marlowe were acquitted in that swordfight on grounds of self-defense, and goes on about how Nashe and Marlowe couldn't stand each other.


And then the bit where he discusses how there's no reason to assume that Shakespeare has any association with Kyd or Marlowe, before blithely rattling on about the Spanish Tragedy and Tamburlaine and their affect on Shakespeare's early work, and how close-knit the Elizabethan theatrical community was. Consistency much?

Also, he's got this thing where every play performed by one of the troupes that Will was ever associated with that relates in subject matter somehow to Will's later work must have been an early work of Shakespeare's.

Yeah. *facepalm* 

What is it that possesses otherwise sober Shakespeareans, in droves, when confronted with Marlowe, to maunder on for pages about how that nasty boy Marlowe was a bad bad person and we shall not get Kit germs on my lovely Will? I've witnessed this in person as well as in literature, and it's never pretty.

Let's be honest here, kids. 400 years later, and Will's still his own best apologist.

This book is going to give me ulcers, because parts of it are so damned good. And then there's the sporking. And also, the sporking.

You know, I have my own theories about the last year or so of Marlowe's life, most of which involve my own knowledge of the pressures of success and failure and expectation upon any artist attempting to live by his or trade. I tend to think that by the end of his life Marlowe was probably drinking a bit more than he should have, and taking chances he shouldn't have, and frankly, it's quite possible that he did in fact start that fight his own self, as people do when they're exhibiting signs of depression, emotional upheaval, and risk-taking behavior.

It's also thoroughly possible that he was the victim of a political conspiracy. Especially when you look at the effort that had gone into trumping up charges against him that, quite frankly, he looked awfully good to walk away from--yet again. This is a man who'd walked away from hanging offenses before, and the Privy Council had seen no need to either detain him or put him to the question--and they had more than enough evidence for torture, if they so chose.

He was still valuable to somebody, in other words.

It's wide open for speculation, and I don't think there's enough evidence to say.

But man, if you're going to write a book about Elizabethan theatre, please at least figure out that Nashe and Marlowe were college pals and that they wrote stuff together, kthx?

ETA: The chapter of The Taming of "A" Shrew and Edmund Ironsides and associated works, however, is fantastic, and alone probably worth the price of the book. I come to the conclusion that Ackroyd is just fine--even brilliant--when he's writing about Shakespeare and the legendry surrounding him, and on shakier ground when he ventures off into the prospects of the University Wits and feels the need to wrap our boy Will up in Saran Wrap to keep him clean.

Appropos of nothing, every time I look at this mood icon, I find myself thinking Jebus, McCallum has enormous hands.
bear by san

Rings, brass and otherwise.

arcaedia has a great post up on Romancing the Blog on rejection and perseverance from the agent's point of view.


jaylake said something the other day about this livejournal (meaning mine) having some characteristics akin to Babe Ruth pointing at the fences. And you know, I'm not real sure about that in general, because it occurs to me that I have a whole complex of artistic and business goals that I don't discuss here much. I talk about specific projects, and my concerns and joys and frustrations with them, but on a larger scale, not so much.

Anyway, between that and a conversation with arcaedia, I got thinking about what I want to be when I grow up.

And I came to the sobering conclusion that my problem is I want it all.

Which I guess needs a little unpacking.

There's this thing I once heard John Barnes call "the club scene." By which he meant the experimental literary cutting edge of the genre, the work that's brilliant, inaccessible, or both. And I have to admit, I love this stuff.

I've also accepted, after some thrashing, that it's not what I write. I am not, in general, an innovator. I'm not going to be a Delany or a Joyce or and Austen or a Marlowe for matter; for one thing, I fail the Girl Genius test by about ten or fifteen years.

And you know, I'm cool with that.

On the other hand, I am--if I pause for a moment to examine my skill set as a writer without undue modesty--not without my own strengths. I'm a pretty fair storyteller, and I am really good at creating compelling characters. I'm a better than average prose stylist, and one of my major strengths is also one of my major weaknesses: breadth.

I have a hell of a time repeating myself. Voice, narrative style, subgenre... it's all over the map.

And that, for me, is what 1crowdedhour calls "the box it came in." I don't get to pick those things: stories show up with a voice and a set of narrative demands that I can't control. I also can't control character arcs: my people show up with their damage, and one way or another they have to deal with it, which imposes another set of restrictions on the story.

If I try to set those things aside, the story simply will not go. There's no forcing it. I get panic attacks when I try, and real, honest to God writer's block, the kind where there are no words to be had.

Okay, so we don't do that. Honor your process, check.

(The list of weaknesses, of course, is also available. I tend to be too clever for my own good. I tend to get wound up in extremely complicated plots which I don't take time to adequately explain to the reader, and I'm overly in love with intrigue at the expense of action. I tend to rely very heavily on the reader to make connections and pick a pattern out of the points I provide, rather than drawing it for her. I'm still learning how to write transitions, 12 and two halves novels in.)

Here's the thing. While I'm not the kind of writer who can compete at the cutting edge of the club scene, I am the kind who is driven by deep literary motives. It's unfashionable in the business end of the genre to admit this, is seems. I talk to a lot of writers who at least put up a pretty good pretense of treating writing as a business and nothing more.

But that's not why I write.

I write--I am driven to write--because I have something to say, and there's nothing else I have ever wanted to do with my life, and because there is no thrill in the world for me that equals the thrill of connecting with a reader. I write to be read. And I also write because fiction is the only way for me to discuss the questions that my brain dredges from its depths, and because I have these stories and I have to get them out before I die.

So let's take the second and scarier one of those two basic motivations first. It's not blase and it's not fashionably negligent and it's not business-oriented. It makes people wince a little in embarrassment when one talks that way in public. Because it's Pretentious to talk about Art.

That's a club scene motivation, and it's not supposed to have a place in the working world, really. It's embarrassing. It's passion, and our inner Puritans wince a little around that sort of thing. It scares the cattle.

And it also exposes a vulnerability. Because caring that much about anything means that it's a way to hurt the person who cares.

How much safer to pretend negligence. How much safer to pretend negligence to myself.

But you know something? I'm already out here, neck on the table, and I think we all know each other too well to pretend that what you're getting from me is anything but my best effort. I'm trying as hard as I can over here, every day, every pixel, and if it's not good enough, that's not due to lack of effort.

It's because I'm not good enough. And I face that every day. My life as a writer is pretty much constant failure, because nothing I write can ever be good enough. There will always be something wrong with it that I wasn't good enough to fix.

But that's what it's about, too. Shoot your wad. Put it out there. On the line. Anything less is dishonest, as an artist.

And there I go using that A word again.

That's half the dilemma. On the one hand, I think it's probably pretentious as hell to announce the world that I'm going out there to create Art. Because who the hell am I to take a long, hard look at the best the genre has to offer and say "I want to write that well?"

Well, nobody. And I'm not saying I do write that well. I'm not saying that what I create is Art.

But it's what I want.

There's another complication, of course. Which is the need to make a living doing it. And the fact that my other driving motivation is to be read. To connect with a reader. To give him a moment of emotion or insight that he values enough to pay for. I gotta tell you, I value the hell out of the reader. Without him, my books do not exist.

And I don't mean, don't get published. They don't exist. The stories in my head, or written down, are Schroedinger's Cat. They don't exist until you, the reader, open the book and call them up like Aladdin rubbing his lamp.

...and that's a commercial motivation, isn't it? Reach the reader. Connect with the reader, as many readers as possible. Submotivation, reach as many readers as possible, so that I can make a living writing stories, and connect with more readers.

And that, my friends, demands accessibility. So on one side, there's one complex of problems--the need to tell the stories I have, to be true to them, to bring them into rounded life. The need to keep them complex and questing and... meritorious, if that's not too presumptuous a word. I want, as it were, the best of both worlds.

I want to write literature (a pretty high hurdle for a genre hack). And I want to reach readers, too. I want to entertain them. I want people to like reading my books.

And more, I want different kinds of readers to like reading my books. I want to reach people who read for the explosions, and the characters, and I also want to reach the ones that read for the theme and nuance and the craft.

Fortunately, I do not believe that those are mutually exclusive goals. There are problems, of course: there are readers who read for the narrative who will be annoyed by the traces of Other Things going on beneath the surface and who won't pick up the next book. And there are readers who want the crunchy bits (as skzbrust calls them) who won't glance past a flashy surface to find them.

Now, I'm helped in this by my deep-seated conviction that accessibility is a literary value (as is complexity, mind you, and the two intersect in tremendously complicated and sometimes mutually exclusive ways, but baby, if it was easy it wouldn't be fun, right?).

And frankly, doing both at once is not easy, and I may not ever be a good enough writer to pull it off, and so far, I seem to be consistently erring on one side of the line or the other. One-Eyed Jack is not a deep book. Whiskey & Water is not an accessible book.

Fuck it. I did my best. There it is, it's on the line, and I am not a good enough writer to do it better than I did. I wish I had something facile to say, but this is the Olympics, after all, and if I blow my dismount I don't get that ten. And maybe I faceplant on the floormats on international television, too.

But it'll be my honest failure when it happens, and I'll take the lumps like a woman.

So there ya go, Jay. That's "Ebear live without a net."