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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

hazards of the industry, tools of the trade

"...and you would not believe how hard it was to get the body down the stairs, especially since it was still all floppy, and Barry forgot to tie up the ends of the carpet... oh, hello officer."

stillsostrange has a ghoulishly good story up at Strange Horizons this week

Some reviews out of the blogosphere:

alfvaen cordially loathed Hammered much, but was more enamored of Touched By Venom and really liked Scott Bakker's books.

Scott, by the way, is ONE MILE TALL. Just saying.

Anna at slithytoves liked the Jenny books okay, but thinks I have some annoying auctorial tics. Fair enough. It happens. *g* Repeated phrases, I suspect, are every writer's bugaboo. (See, told you there was worse stuff in those books than what I got Thogged for.)

I can't really argue with any of her other critiques, either. Although I will note that Elspeth, for the record, couldn't do Jeremy's job because she's a psychologist, not a linguist or symbologist of any stripe. In life as it is not in Star Trek, alas. And nothing romantic happened between Leslie and Jaime, not that they told me about anyway, though sometimes the characters don't tell me when they get up to stuff and I only catch on when I find them blushing and scuffing the floors later. [Maybe it was my own terrible crush on Leslie shining through? He's the one of that lot I'd want to take home in my pocket.]

Charlie's got a deadly crush on Jaime, though, and Jeremy has a long-term unrequited passion for Leslie, but Jaime and Leslie are both Pretending They Don't Know About That. Like you do.

Also, it’s always interesting to see an outside perspective on characters one knows from the inside: Anna sees Ellie as a mommy figure, and I see her as a shameless manipulator. It's For Your Own Good. Really.

callunav liked Hammered, despite some issues with it. Apparently, the end of Scardown worked okay for her, though.

Good to know they're out there keeping me humble.

From the perspective of Five Years Later, there's so much wrong with those books. But I do still love Jenny.

On the other hand, I wonder if that's why later books are so much harder to write than earlier ones: because you have the experience to know, as you are writing them, how desperately flawed they are, so you don't get the infatuation phase where it's all shiny and brilliant and this is the perfect book, finally. You just get the long slog of the relationship where you're in counseling and trying to work something out that doesn't involve alternate weekends and joint custody and an ugly lawsuit.

The bad news is, the acceptance that every book is broken can be a vicious cycle. You ever wonder why so many writers start to suck after the third or fourth novel?

Some of it is pressure to produce on a schedule. (One reason I've taken the day job is so that I don't starve to death while waiting for books to ripen. The SF novels, I am learning, take longer than nine months to cook. The series fantasy, since it has all the worldbuilding done, is faster-growing. That, and health insurance. And no, I don't feel like a failure asa writer because I'm not writing full-time (actually, I am writing full-time; about 45 hours a week. I'm just also doing another job full-time.) I feel like I am taking steps to ensure my continued success as a writer through the metric of Not Sucking.)

But some of it is the realization that you will never get the book perfect, so why the hell are you trying? and that is a problem. Because if we get slapdash, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Pursuant to this, Justine Larbalestier quotes Sean Williams quoting Charles Brown: "Writing is the only job that gets harder the longer you do it."

She also says:

I worried that my experience of writing each book would show on the pages, and so asked my writer friends if they’d noticed a correlation between their experience of writing a book and its reception out in the world. The unanimous response was a resounding “Nope, none.”

This is Truth. We can't judge our own work. We can only try to perform it as best we can. The stories I love most are inevitably the ones I can't sell on a bet, and the ones I feel meh about are often the ones that get reprinted in best-of anthologies.

My opinion is not the one that matters. Every book is a flawed book. Life goes on.



Actually, having *been* hungry in my life, it's about the best motivator there is. *g*

But thank you for the concern. It's appreciated.
Am currently reading "Hammered" and must set the record straight that it is a kajillion times better than "Touched by Venom". I'm unsure at this point if it's my cup of tea--which is my issue, certainly not the book's--but it certainly does not induce the complete full body Mufasa shuddering, reading with both eyes squinched shut, or fits of incoherent screaming/weeping that TBV caused. (Which I know doesn't sound like the compliment it should be, but still... Good book.)

That said, the dramatic readings of the oral sex with dragons was pretty funny. But we were drunk. Honest.
thank you for the vote of confidence. *g* It's the proof that in literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.
Wow, Ellie sure had me fooled.

Or maybe it's just that everybody around her is so stubborn or oblivious or devious that I don't see what else she could do.

Oh, fine, now I have to reread. Geeze.

Well, I don't think she's *wrong.*

She's my author insertion character, after all. *g*
I've been finding it very interesting to be working my way through the Jenny books (haven't been getting nearly enough reading in this year--I'm now about a third of the way through Worldwired) while reading about your writing processes on what are obviously very different novels. ^_^ And I'm really looking forward to reading those, too.
Well, thank you.

There's some notes on the construction of Hammered back here at the old blog:


Starting about June of 2002. But I wasn't as smart then as I am now.

OTOH, if you want to read my neopro thrashing, that's the place to do it.

And *this* journal goes back to January of 2003, which is eleven months before I sold my first novel. *g* Just saying.

Some of that stuff is kind of painful to read now.

It's okay, it's okay. I don't need any ferocious defense right now.

Wonderful relationship metaphor.
Heh. I'll be able to write in a lot more detail once I've read Worldwired. Though I'll probably feel a bit shy about criticism; usually when I review books, the author isn't likely to see what I've written, nor is she someone I'm hoping to meet sometime this summer.

(I can tell you right now that I am Dissatisfied with the role of China in the narrative. I waited through all of Hammered for something to happen with that, nearly bit the book at the end when it hadn't, started Scardown and thought, "Oh, okay, she was just making me wait more than an entire book for it, and then grew less and less certain that it was meeting my own personal definition of useful, anyhow. So, we'll see what the third one makes me think.)

(I also keep thinking with mild wonder, "Gosh. Aren't we lucky that Richard is a nice person? What were the odds on that, do you think? Gosh. Aren't we lucky.")


I'm still reading, though, you notice.
*g* Richard is not a nice person, precisely. He's got a certain agenda, and a certain moral compass.

There wasn't as much room in the narrative for China as I wanted there to be, alas, or it would have been a five-book series... but see what you think by the end of the third one.

And do remember that none of the narrators are precisely reliable.

this may need a spoiler warning

Also, it’s always interesting to see an outside perspective on characters one knows from the inside: Anna sees Ellie as a mommy figure, and I see her as a shameless manipulator. It's For Your Own Good. Really.

You sound like you think these characterizations are mutually exclusive? Seems to me that she's both, in a complicated tension that makes her much more real than if she was just one or the other. She's always teetering on an edge with her affection and concern on one side and her desire to get her way on the other. This is true even in book one when the situation with Gabe is starting to thicken. She's using his daughters to get in his pants -- but at the same time she cares for them and needs them.

I think she's wonderful.

And, um, I'm afraid I'm rather fond of the Colonel. I know he's not a good guy or a nice guy, but.

Re: this may need a spoiler warning

Well, I sure as hell don't see her as a mommy figure. She's not interested in nurturing kids.

But sometimes, you chew the meat life hands you.

And no, she's not using the kids to get to Gabe. She's stuck with them if she wants Gabe. It's a whole different scenario.

Unfortunately, they turn into people on her. As people will, when you're stuck with them for long enough.