Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Experiment Continues

A month ago I decided to NOT WRITE while on vacation in England and France in order to get away from obcessing on the multiple short story drafts and the two 98% completed draft novels on my desk.  I wanted to take a breather from thinking so I could bring renewed energy and commitment to the work.  Best to step away from the art for a bit, said I.

Only everywhere I've been my surroundings scream with story ideas.  Local history abounds with plot lines, ancient structures belie future ancient structures of our contemporary age, and the polysyllabic sounds and a dozen languages (mostly Italian, since this is France in August!)  gives rise to new ideas for a Sam Boone or two.

I find myself dreaming in story lines and awake find myself involuntarily contemplating how this or that incident/scene/location could become SF-ish.  I picture aliens interpreting the tourist sites, albeit with rather different conceptual interpretations and interests than the often confused tourists.  Every time I yearn to jot notes, only to stop by reminding myself of the promise I made NOT to be a writer on this trip but simply to enjoy the moments. This exercise has taught me is that despite my attempts to suppress it, the creative impulse cannot be denied; there are simply too many story ideas in the world to be ignored.  I suppose that eventually memories of this hiatus will leak into my work, color my language, or even spark a new direction.

And oh, do I want to get back to my writer's lair.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Starving in Paradise

My French has improved noticeably since I arrived and I am able to order meals without difficulty, although the number of times my order is screwed up makes me wonder whether the waiters are as fluent, despite being French themselves.

Dining in France while lactose intolerant is an exquisite torture.  The French live on milk in all forms.  I thought a sandwich for lunch would be nice given the wonderful French breads.  The cafe menues have lots of choices: ham with butter, ham with butter and cheese, cheese with butter, and even cheese with cheese and butter.  I was amazed only that they did not offer one butter with butter. When asked to have no butter at all they look at me in amazement, as if I'd asked for no bread.

Dinners are worse, given there is so much (as Terry Pratchett would say) avec with everything.  Were it not for the Touraine's wonderful goat cheeses, which I can eat without exploding, I would starve. Thankfully rillettesgalettes, crepes, and salades plus sausages and territors all with fromage du chèvre are easily found, as is pizza -a traditional international dish.

Coffee comes in tiny cups, dark and so thick you could stand a spoon in it, or maybe that's from too much sugar being added to make it somewhat less bitter.  One cup of this coffee is too little and two cups are "O my God, why is everyone moving so slowly?" while your heart races. Still, that's a small price to pay when eating the wonderful pastries and omlettes, or even having preserves or goat cheese on breads unlike any other.

I will regret departing.


There is not enough time

Friday, August 22, 2014


After half a century of absence we have returned to France, this time with a better appreciation of the culture and a fatter pocketbook, which is fortunate since prices have skyrocketed in the years we've been away. The first thing that's struck me was that the prices of everything is too high, a complete reversal of when we lived here.

Le meme change les plus change.  Commercialization has blossomed but the bread and wine remain the same.  Although there are supermarkets, small establishments still dominate the towns where a roadside meal of bread, cheese, and wine on a balmy day is a rare pleasure. Walking the smaller villages among structures that have experienced the wicked passage of time, wars, and a changing population is a pleasure for Americans to whom historic buildings are measured in decades instead of centuries and which are largely untouched by war's cruel hands.  It is interesting to see pre Christian Roman structures alongside modern residences and among 12-17th century chateaux.

Even though I am giving my writing brain a rest I am collecting many thoughts that may be employed in future stories, mostly about the mistakes we two seem to be making in directions, instructions, and intents, but also which bits of history and views might serve.

And tomorrow is all about the wine.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Collaboration II

Last year Cat Rambo and I set out to write a short story without a clear idea of where we were heading.  Each of us contributed things we thought might be interesting to a reader, letting our imaginations run free and the story develop itself.

About three quarter of the way through what had become a novelette, we started to inflict plot on the narrative and purpose on the protagonist, moving pieces about to inject backstory and foreshadowing, as necessary.  This moved the story somewhat longer and into novella territory, where it ended up at about eighteen thousand words after being cut severely from around thirty thou.

There were some conflicts about the disposition of the cat, which ended up like Schrodinger's, neither alive nor dead, much like the end state of the protagonist.  There was no shouting, pouting, nor wrestling for control between us, which was not easy considering we are both control freaks.  So, it is a measure of success that we remained friends thereafter.

This summer we decided that we should try again for a SHORT story that used both of our skill sets to complete. Thus far it seems to be going well with both of us of one mind on where it is going and what we are trying to accomplish.  It should also remain short as both of us are on extended travel about the world.

Stay tuned.


Friday, August 15, 2014


Ah London.  So nice to return after so many years since we lived here.  Well, not actually here, but on the outskirts in a little place named Uxbridge - the coach stop on the way to Windsor from London back in the days when horses and coaches reigned and which is now a few tube stops away from the ExCel. Uxbridge is also where the Magna Carta was signed at the Crown and Tready, just across the street from our flat. But I digress.

WorldCon is the reason for us being here to represent the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which actually should be the Science Fiction and Fantasy English Writers of the World since the organization is open to anyone who writes in that language regardless of country. And we do have members around the world, albeit that some are simply expats.l  People write speculative fiction in other languages as well, but the organization has not yet opened that branch of literature.

This is the first WorldCon in London since 1965, coincidentally the year SFWA was founded and, as far as I know, the first to have official representation from the organization.  To honor this we are throwing a nice soiree for members and holding informational meetings for those interested in hearing about the organization's recent activities.

With over ten literary tracks among those for games, costumes, modeling, etc thr schedule is thick enought to quell an Orc.  It is hard to make a choice of how to use your time with so many sessions and so many writers I've not seen or read before.  The conflicting sessions havemade scheduling decisions extremely difficult, and hall conversations too short and too many.  For someone like me with ADD this was triply terrifying, nevertheless too interesting to be ignored.

Did I mention the dealers room?  OMG, such a feast for the eyes and mind, not to mention all the glitz and glamor of costumes, decorations, and dress.  It's like being in a mad halloween and
rummage sale being held at maximum volume.

And there are THREE more days to go!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Perils of Plotland (Con't)

It's been a while since I bemoaned the progress (or lack of it) on my great experiment to write an entire novel by the seat of my pants - "Pantsing," as Jamie Todd Rubin terms it.  Today, I think I may be near the end of my long journey through the wilds of Plotland.

To recap very briefly, I started this project with NaNoMoWri last year, did my fifty thousand words on a continuous stream, letting the subconscious roam wide and free with only a minimal plot line (fifty words - one for each thousand) to guide me.   In the last week I've gotten the epistle up to ninety-seven thousand words and finally, FINALLY, see how this ambling plot may tie together to a satisfactory conclusion.  That I have at least an idea of how this wraps up is is fortunate as I am preparing for a month's vacation that will give me scant opportunity to wrestle further with this beast.

 Surprisingly, at least to me, is that the entire story now makes sense and that raises some questions:  Did my imagination compose the entire story without informing me of its intent OR have I been   letting each scene dictate the subsequent one with no thought of overall scheme?  I can't seem to recall any moment of intent while recklessly pounding out the first half nor, to be honest, has there been much evidence of such during the creation of the current effort.  The only control I recall exerting was keeping the characters moving along and having something interesting take place on occasion.  Oh yeah, and world-building along the way.

My Workbench
In the past two days I began sketching out all the major surgery sites within this sprawling mess by annotating the diagram I've been maintaining, seeing where I have to insert new material, and where there might be potential to rearrange the sequence of events.  This is, of course, all preparatory to doing the actual hard work of writing the added and needed material, after which I will have to edit the entire novel once or twice before searching for some beta readers (any volunteers?), which will no doubt result in further edits and work.  I can't wait to see what lies ahead in these last three (estimated) chapters.

 While on vacation perhaps I shall scribble a short story or two, that is, if I am unable to suppress an urge to write.  But one thing for certain, I am going out of my way to slave no more on the aspects of this journey through Plotland until I return.  My brain needs a rest.

 I think I am beginning to understand why these novels take YEARS to complete.



Friday, August 1, 2014

Dramatic Waste

As you may have discovered while reading this chair on blog posts, I am perpetually concerned about my failures as a writer, about the lack of attention we short fiction writers receive, and how we move like mist through the literary landscape, affecting nothing and leaving no trace of our passage. C'est la vie and I shall lie in the fictional graveyard beneath an unmarked stone of mediocrity*.

Or so I believed until I read this beautiful article by Stephen Marche that revealed that I am not alone, nor have I been the only one to feel and be treated this way. The trail of sorrow extends deeply into the past and has afflicted countless well-known writers as well as an a googolplex of scribblers like me.

This got me to thinking about the situation.  I write a lot but sell roughly 20% in a good year.  That means that 80% of my output will never be seen by the public. The membership of SFWA is about 1800 souls, only about a quarter regularly publish stories or novels.  The rest might make an occasional sale after becoming members or have been slaving for years on the Great American SF/Fantasy Novel. Prolific writers such as Laura Anne Gilman and Michael Swanwick crank out a continuous stream of shorter works while people like Gail Martin and Brian Sanderson build massive tomes of longer length. But they are at the high end of the genre's spectrum. At the other end are those who sell only a small percentage of all they complete,

What is the cost of all this wasted creativity?  Are we writing for nothing but to amuse other struggling members of our writing groups or produce drafts that line the liter boxes of our cats (all serious writers have cats, it seems.)  What is the point of wasting all our brainpower on pounding out useless words when there are other, more serious problems that would gain from greater attention? I can only conclude that we writers are masochists, enjoying our suffering while publicly proclaiming our dedication.  Despite all the angst, all the soul searching, the all-too-obvious futility of writing, we continue to scribble, scribble, scribble on the sands where the incoming tide washes them away. The only conclusion I can reach is that many of us cannot resist the call of the machine, the caress of a pen in hand, or permit a blank sheet to remain unsullied.

A writer has to write.


*I recently declared in a ReaderCon forum that my unsold stories were forming the basis for my post-humous success (which, incidentally resulted in several people inquiring about my health.)