shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


it's the lack of sleep.

No, really: it's the lack of sleep.

I'll see you Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, hopefully some winks, taxes being done (and coming out refund-nice), continued improvement on the George front. Mostly, sleep. Sleep and taxes. Death can wait.


truly, madly, A LOT

I wasn't going to say anything here about the latest Ayelet Waldman debate piece, on the lust in her heart for her hubby, Michael Chabon. But everybody else is playing, why not me? Actually, this is only a tangental comment.

There's a little country church that Christopher's family converges on once a year for what's called "Homecoming." (In my experience, this word is used all over the place at rural churches, even when no one is coming from anywhere because everyone's already home.) One year we went to fulfill our familial duty. The place is tiny, one small room with a pulpit and nice pews in the front and an overflow section of pews that would usually be closed off by a folding door in the back. We all sat in the back. Homecoming features singing, so there was that, and then a short sermon by the preacher, who is the focus of this anecdote. The preacher was a young man, or young for my imagined version of a preacher anyway, and he's also what I suppose would be considered a certain kind of Hott. Or he thought he was. Long, lean face, short clipped hair, a tidy kind of handsome that gave away his probable teenage self as the kind of guy who drove a fast car and spent weekends plying girls with cans of Bud Light he'd bought from some bootlegger. A shadow mullet. A mullet aura.

So, he reaches the end of his sermon and it's time for him to give his "testimony," which, for the uninitiated, would be his story of sin and redemption. The music to serve as a backdrop kicks in and his wife instantly hops up and escorts their youngish son from the room. This was obviously an exit she'd made plenty of times. She had it down to a scurrying, red-faced art.

Youngish preacher proceeds to tell his story. Just so you know, he used to get a laid a lot. I mean, A LOT. That was the subtext of the entire monologue, which featured something just short of bragging about his exploits with drugs, drink, and, do not forget, the ladies. Oh yes, the ladies loved the preach. He could STILL be getting it, if he hadn't found the savior.

We barely kept from laughing aloud, which, truthfully, has always been my second biggest problem with actually attending church. (The first being getting my ass out of bed.) (And you know, besides the obvious, of not being religious.)

For some reason, after reading Waldman's sextastic piece in the NYT I kept hearing Michael Chabon saying: "I may be married to the writer of the Mommy Track mysteries, but I get laid A LOT."


if you're in the mood for a congenial, intense discussion about science and religion

You could do worse than go read what Ben Rosenbaum and Ted Chiang have been saying to each other in the comments of this post at David Moles' Chrononautic Log.

I'm going to watch the sure to be either surprising or disappointing finale of Carnivale. And then sleep like a dreaming dead person.


a brief flirtation with sleep

Warning: George the Dog health nattering ahead.

After 24 hours off the steroids and a half a Rimadyl, George the Dog decided he didn't much like that. Or rather his body decided. Since 6 a.m., we've been hefting him up and down, in and out of the house all day, and generally worry-warting. Even his front legs are stiff. Yesterday, we took him back for his vet re-check and got the Rimadyl and he was great.

We finally managed to get through to our vet through the Sunday Loophole, when someone's there for half an hour at 5:30 to release dogs that boarded overnight. She had me drive out there and swap the Rimadyl for Prednisone, which we immediately dosed George up on. Steroids, it is. They're not just for baseball players anymore. Now we hope the turnaround is as immediate and complete as it was last time.

Poor George the Dog.

Anyway, we're trending Glasgow-ward, though wealthy benefactors are definitely still welcome. And we've been doing tax stuff. I don't think I have to remind anyone who endured last week's depressing posts that we've both been sick and, as a result, missed a ton of work work and writing work last week. So, consider this an apology in advance as I attempt to catch up and have Way Too Much going on this week.

I did manage some work on the manuscript Friday afternoon, and have resulting thoughts on the importance of being stubborn. I also cleaned up and pecked out a little of the new book today for write club this week.

This is boring even me. Glasgow? Now the prospect of Glasgow is exciting. Also, Arrested Development is even better with cough syrup.

And no matter what, March has stunk.* C'mon, April.

(*Is Mercury in retrograde? I don't believe in this stuff, but I won't be surprised if someone tells me it is.)

ETA: Could March Madness have Tingle Alley and Shaken & Stirred cheering on opposite sides? Stay tuned. (The announcers sound exhausted.)

ETA More: Good thing Christopher's a U of L fan.


looks like there's a very slim possibility we might go to Glasgow*

Hugo nominations have been announced.

They are:

Best Novel (424 nominating ballots)

* The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)
* Iron Council by China MiÈville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
* Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross (Ace)
* Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
* River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Simon & Schuster)

Best Novella (249 nominating ballots)

* "The Concrete Jungle" by Charles Stross (The Atrocity Archives, Golden Gryphon Press)
* "Elector" by Charles Stross (Asimov's 09/04)
* "Sergeant Chip" by Bradley Denton (Fantasy & Science Fiction 09/04)
* "Time Ablaze" by Michael A. Burstein (Analog 06/04)
* "Winterfair Gifts" by Lois McMaster Bujold (Irresistible Forces NAL)

Best Novelette (215 nominating ballots)

* "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes' by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum (All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories Wheatland)
* "The Clapping Hands of God" by Michael F. Flynn (Analog 07-08/04)
* "The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link (The Faery Reel Viking)
* "The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fantasy & Science Fiction 02/04)
* "The Voluntary State" by Christopher Rowe (Sci Fiction, 5/5/04)

Best Short Story (269 nominating ballots)

* "The Best Christmas Ever" by James Patrick Kelly (Sci Fiction, 5/26/04)
* "Decisions" by Michael A. Burstein (Analog 01-02/04)
* "A Princess of Earth" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's 12/04)
* "Shed Skin" by Robert J. Sawyer (Analog 01-02/04)
* "Travels with My Cats" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's 02/04)

Plus other categories you can see elsewhere (Yay Groppi, Picacio, Moles, and others!). I propose a cage match for the novelette category.

Congratulations and good luck, everybody.

*Wealthy benefactors, please step forward.

happy hips

Thanks to The George Fairy, whoever you may be, for the healthy joints dog treats. He likes them very much.


still breathing

It's really a shame that being sick doesn't respond to magic finger snapping. You know: I want to be well again, snap! Nothing happens.

Maybe my fingers aren't magic enough.

Feeling better today though and so I'm going to try and get the hell out of this house for a bit.* Major cabin fever has set in.

The Women Writer's Conference is taking place this weekend and I'm hoping to make it to a couple of events still. Erin reads tonight at Galerie Soleil and tomorrow night there's a free Tift Merritt show followed by Louise Glück reading with her apprentice Dana Levin at the library. (Free is good right now; dog meds are pricey.)

A few other things (& visit those to the right):

Washington, D.C. begins its celebration of Walt Whitman this weekend, and the Post has a piece

Carrie shares the fascinating thoughts of a member of her book group on structure and Marilynne Robinson's Gilead

Jenny D recommends Peter Temple's Shooting Star
, calling it perfect

Mr. McLaren shares some thoughts on Henry Mayhew's London Characters and Crooks and offers up the section "A Young Pickpocket" as further enticement

*Update: Or not. When taking a shower wears you out, best come to terms with your cabin fever. I'm setting up shop with the laptop and the manuscript on the couch to see if the zen of cutting can help this fog.


sick bed book vote

This is where you show you care. I've completely exhausted all the unread Tamora Pierce books in the house and am finishing up Pete Hautman's Sweetblood. I feel like dirty socks.

So, I have a stack of YAs to choose from for the next sick bed book. My fevered brain is unable to decide. Help me, please, in the comments.

The choices are:

What the Birds See by Sonya Hartnett
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti
Witch Child by Celia Rees
Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau


why children are bioterrorists

Actually, not why, just the fact that they are. (With a nod to the lovely Lipkandy ladies.)

The worst kind of email to get from your mother is the one where she tells you your nephew, who stayed over all weekend, just got diagnosed with a B strain of influenza. The B strain thing is pretty much irrelevant, but you know me. If there's a lab result, I have to work it in.

Which--when coupled with the evidence that Mr. Rowe took to his bed immediately after work last night and was feeling far, far worse than we ever did with the sentient cold last week, stayed home from the office today coughing and groaning and is still verrrry low--means the virus is among us. The pandemic has come.* I'm apparently fighting it off, but I know how these things work. It's a matter of time.

Still, a girl can have her hope-tini, right?

All by way of saying, don't be surprised if the site flatlines for a couple of days. This is all terribly interrupting my revisions, but it's given me lots of thinking time and I'm hoping to get back to them tomorrow night. If my brain feels still like a brain, that is.

However sick I may get, though, I will be forgoing the Tom Cruise movies. Others did not have the same luck. I got this email from Mr. Rowe this morning, which he kindly allows me to share:

I have just watched a program from bed called The Last Samurai and found that it lacked many of the qualities I like in programs. It did have armor and horses and costumes, though, and I like those things.

It also reminded me that I don't know much of nothing about Japanese history and it also had ninjas. I went and googled ninja and went ten pages deep before giving up that I won't find anything. Video Ninja, White Ninja, Black Ninja, The Littlest Ninja. I went to Wikipedia and they talk about ninjas and sound authoritative until you read it again and then it sounds kind of fannish. So I still don't know anything about REAL NINJAS.

Ninja knowledge, anyone? He could be dying.**

*Anyone else signing up for the pandemic panel at Wiscon? You know you want to.

**Not really.

ETA: Damn, that sucked. George's former ulcer is acting up due to the meds and neither of us got more than 20 minutes uninterrupted sleep until 9, when we slept till noon. Bleh. Now we go pick up his antibiotics and try and figure out whether we're just exhausted or fluish. Well, C's definitely fluish.

another miniscule post, about small presses

Gavin Grant, Big Deal Publisher of Small Beer Press, has posted a handy dandy guide to starting a small press, including breaking out things like how much it _costs_ to publish an average-sized trade paperback, over at Strange Horizons. Go check him out.

For starters:

You need to begin with money. Publishing a book (trade paperback, 256 pp., 100+ galleys, 2,000 copies, good art, professional prrofreader [sic], friendly royalty rate) costs in the region of $10,000. Publishing two issues of a literary magazine (perfect bound, 72 pp., 2,000 copies, etc.) will cost about the same (assuming you choose to pay the contributors—and you're a nice person, so you will).

So, first things first: get a real job and prepare to stay up until 4 a.m. a couple of times a year. In the meantime, you could always start a zine: 200 copies of a photocopied zine cost much less than any of the above. When I started LCRW my rule of thumb for the cost was inspired by the billboards in winter in Boston offering cheap flights to Florida and the Caribbean. Since my blood was thicker then and I didn't mind the cold (don't believe anything else you hear), I figured I could spend what I'd drop on a weekend in the sun on a zine, say $200-400, without it seriously impacting my bookselling self's bottom line.

I have to say up front that I've never even seen $10,000.

this is what it looks like

Now, go buy it. (In bookshops even.)

You'll thank me later. And I'll talk more about what an exceptional book this is later, too.

John Scalzi has much more to say about this, and a picture of the cover minus the ARC bar. Go see.


weekend hangovers

Our familial houseguests have left and the house is blissfully silent (they're good houseguests, but my one nephew is an incessant chatterbox -- a good reminder of why I never want to have kids, not that I ever actually need a reminder). Today we'll go to the library and the gym, write stuff, and maybe go down to the Opera House to see our friend the youth orchestra conductor's show. I finally got some coma-like sleep last night and feel much, much better as a result. George the Dog got up far less. For the past few days, he's just panted really hard when he wanted to drink water at night so we'd get up and bring him a bowl. But last night he was finally feeling good enough to get up on his own and walk into the kitchen and get a drink. Odd that something so normal can become such a happy event so quickly.

He's still needing help on the steps but he's getting around pretty good otherwise and this morning he apparently led Christopher on a wild chase down the street. (See note on coma above. I slept through that.)

I'm sorry to natter on so much about George, but I am so, so, so relieved. The vet really did not seem that hopeful that the steroids would work. I cried on at least two acquaintances Friday. (I cry at the drop of a hat when I'm tired and stressed.) But they're working, which should mean we'll be able to treat this.

Last night we settled in and watched the Freaks and Geeks episodes Christopher hadn't seen and drank too much wine. I fell asleep during the season finale and went straight to bed without reading for the first time in ages.

So, hangovers.

1. Harlan Ellison gets Mabused.

2. The mystery of Hogzilla will be solved tonight on the National Geographic Channel at 7.

3. Alan DeNiro uncovers a Dastardly Plot by the Forces of Slipsteam to stamp out Science Fiction. (And makes me laugh very hard.)

4. Bookdwarf also makes me laugh very hard with this post about Dan Brown. She sez, quoting Brown's quote from a USA Today article:

"In many ways, editing yourself is the most important part of being a novelist. ... For every page in a published novel, I wrote 10 that ended up in the trash."

- Dan Brown from
Brown stats: 29 million copies of Da Vinci Code in print worldwide; more than 1 million of The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition in USA

Too bad the entire book didn't make it there.

5. There's a fantastic amalgamation of knowledge and horror stories from the children's book slush pile over at Something's Begun. (Via Wendy at the Poundy Blog.) A highlight from the cover letter file (I wish I could post some of the cover letters we get for Say... here, but I'm not that bitchy yet):

What Life Is All About is not just a tale I have created, it is theme perennial best selling authors, like God, attempt to address. However, mine targets the inquiring eight-year old, does it in less than 500 words, and is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations.

Gives new meaning to the phrase "Write like God."


a good review

Liz Hand has written a really enjoyable and fine review in today's Washington Post. (And you guys know I never say this, I'm not much of a review reader -- well, I read first and last paragraphs or read them after I finish a book or see a movie sometimes -- and am hardly ever impressed with the writing of a review in and of itself. Yes, I realize this is likely my flaw and not that of reviews in general.) The opening of her review of Peter Rushforth's Pinkerton's Sister:

Elvis Costello once remarked, more or less, that you get 19 years to make your first album and 12 months to make your second. The same holds true for publishing, where successful first-time novelists are expected to crank out sophomore efforts within a year. (If Book No. 2 tanks, you generally can take the rest of your life writing No. 3.) Pinkerton's Sister, the second novel by the English writer Peter Rushforth, arrives a cool 25 years after his acclaimed debut, Kindergarten. That first book was a slender volume -- less than 200 pages -- a controlled, harrowing take on "Hansel and Gretel," filtered through an account of Holocaust survivors and late-20th-century terrorism.

At first glance, Pinkerton's Sister, which clocks in at 729 pages, 235,000 words and 2.4 pounds, seems to have little in common with its trim older sibling. But like Kindergarten -- whose protagonist is an illustrator of children's books, and which is filled with references to children's literature and fairy tales -- the new work is a book filled with other books.

The book sounds as if it could have used some serious editing, something Hand expresses with this elegant sentence:
This story, with its sinister echoes of the gothic tales that Alice loves, and a nightmarish, beautifully written denouement set during a blizzard, should have been freed from some of the wads of paper that surround it.

And yet, like after reading a good Stephen Hunter review of a movie he finds flawed but interesting*, I find myself wanting to give the book a try.

*Hunter being one of the few reviewers I do regularly read, since he never finds himself reduced to plot summaries only.

best. signing. event. ever.

For you LA types, get yourselves out to one of these:

The American Cinematheque presents the "Celebrating the Teen in Us All" on Tuesday, April 5th at the Egyptian Theatre and Sunday, April 10th at the Aero Theatre. Join us for a booksigning of the new teen novel, Boy Proof (Candlewick Press) with local young adult fiction novelist and Cinematheque staffer Cecil Castellucci, followed by a screening of the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER feature.

Boy Proof is the story of Egg, (aka Victoria) who hides behind the sci-fi disguise of the heroine of her favorite movie Terminal Earth. Egg is far too busy for friends -- she's taking photos for the school paper, meeting with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Club, and hanging out at the "creature shop" with her special effects make-up wizard dad. But then a boy named Max arrives at school, a boy who's smart and funny and creative and cool . . . and happens to like Egg. The story is set in Los Angeles, and among other locations Egg frequents, is the American Cinematheque, where she volunteers!

Screenings are at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the historic 1922 Egyptian (6712 Hollywood Boulevard between Highland and Las Palmas) in Hollywood and at the Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre located at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.

Related: my thoughts on Boy Proof

Unrelated: George seems to be doing better. Yes, he does!


waves, takes day off

I'm taking the day off. I'll probably have a couple more writing posts over the weekend, but I'm making no promises.

We took George to the vet yesterday afternoon. His problems getting around are likely due to either nerve damage or arthritis/inflammation. His reactions to a couple of simple reflex tests point toward the nerve side of things, which means his brain isn't feeling his back legs as it should. On one side, this is less pronounced. On the other leg, he's probably not feeling much at all. The vet started him on an aggressive course of steroids. Just like on House, she wants to see if she can make a big improvement with three days of prednisone. If it does help, then we can look at other treatment options. If it doesn't, then there will be x-rays to see if there's some disc pressure causing the problem. I'm not going beyond that at the moment. We will spend the next three days holding our breath, waiting for improvement.

George the Dog is in good spirits though, and eating and drinking and being merry. Thanks to those of you who sent nice notes yesterday inquiring about him. George likes to be fussed over. He also likes cookies.

I'm thinking he's about to get lots of both.

Unrelatedly, I didn't want to wait to hangover-time to point out that Minneapolis ne'er-do-well Adam Stemple has started a writing blog. (Via Mr. McLaren, to whom I raise a glass of Laphroaig.) You should, of course, be reading them both, and all the other fine souls to the right.

I should also note that blogger is acting very strangely lately, so if you see a post appear two or three times, I'll fix that as soon as the damn thing starts behaving again.

Good weekend to you.



C and I are both sick. We have houseguests. George is having trouble walking and getting up and down all of a sudden and will be going to the vet tomorrow (or maybe the vet will come here?).

Finishing Josie and Jack is the only bright spot in this sleepless house.

ETA at 7:33, while I wait for the vet to arrive and pick up the phone and tell us when we can bring George: Josie and Jack is one of those deliciously dark books you'll all want to stay up late and read. Just ask OGIC.

Happy St. Pat's.


the first cut is the best, on revision

I'm sure most of you already know the joy of cutting. Cutting is good. Cutting feels like god.

Yesterday, I chopped about 4,000 words, the plan for this revision being to go through all the line edits and cuts suggested by the wonderful editor friend, meanwhile noting places where more extensive cutting/replacement will occur and using some of my favorite notations (CDB-could do better and JSI-just say it! and, a new one from the Koch book, MEGO-my eyes glaze over). Alongside this, I have a document where I'm typing up notes and ideas and making structural observations. Right now, I'm just beginning to be able to see how the structure will change, tighten, get that unity a good structure should have that pulls the reader through. There's work to be done before I try and do that fully though, and I very much intend to go through the entire manuscript doing the preliminary cutting first. There's a myth, I think, that it's hard to kill your darlings, that it hurts. But this is only true in certain stages of writing, maybe. Mostly, I love it. I love how clean it feels, I love how instantly improved a page is when something subpar is removed, or how interesting a dynamic gets just by pulling it into stronger focus by getting rid of the dross around it.

Cutting is the best. It leaves all these holes and possibilities and, perhaps most important of all, makes the work something so different, you are forced to come to it with new eyes. When what you knew and had affection for is gone, you can replace it with something excitingly unfamiliar and loved.

Koch's The Writer's Workshop (which I insist you all buy) devotes two chapters to revision and, much as I learned the hard way, I was doing it wrong. Now, trust me when I say that this is not a book the prescribes one way of doing things or even seems to favor one genre over another, it's not. But I was going about this all wrong. I had actually suspected all along this might be the case. I know how to revise a script. How to pull it apart, how to move scenes around, to delete them and replace them, to structure it. It's a tight form and it demands lots of rewriting.

Books are different.

This is where I smack my head with my palm.

Books are way different.

Mainly, they're bigger. Which means harder to get a handle on. The structure is much more fluid and digressions can actually be made to work. I didn't know how to tackle this huge mass in terms of revision, how to approach this getting rid of the okay and replacing it with the better, so I made what Koch identifies as a common novice mistake. I polished a mess. From his rules of revision:

If you imagine that a second draft can be created simply by sitting down and starting on page one, stop: You are about to fall into a classic trap. You are not yet ready to polish anything. I've repeatedly seen novices slaving away at polishing rough first drafts before they really had taken charge of the shape and structure and character alignments of the story itself. They had not yet taken possession of the narrative voice, they did not yet really know who their characters were. Polishing happened to be the only technique of revision they knew, and so they were polishing, hoping that it would release the things they needed, the way rubbing Aladdin's lamp released the genie.

It won't. Do not polish a mess. Polishing can't give your story its shape. Polishing can't show you what action you need or reveal your characters' roles. Polishing can't even give you the sound of your dialogue or your voice. In a second draft, you are going to be hauling huge hunks of prose to completely new places, cutting whole chapters, banishing irrelevant characters, and adding new relevant ones. With or without the help of your scenario, you are going to be dealing with structure. It will be hard work, but the nice thing is that once it is done, it is likely to stay done. You will not be restructuring much in third or final drafts. That is when you'll be polishing.

Intellectually I knew all this, and yet I did it anyway.

(Momentary digression: I forgot to come completely clean the other day. I circulated a terrible and even more embarrassing zero draft to a group of trusted first readers who all gave me similar and good advice and incorporating that advice did improve the next draft, 1.0, very much. The biggest change that was made was the removal of a fantastic element that didn't quite fit.)

So, even though this is technically draft 1.1, I'm treating it as that all-important second draft he talks about above. And seriously, you should buy that book if for nothing else than for the discussion of story, plot and structure, and how they relate to each other. I don't think I've ever understood that before. I'm still understanding it. But that's a post for another day.

Anyway, my head feels as if it's a room full of cotton and I believe I'm getting a cold. I plan to push on anyway. And there's some good news. The editor--who has beyond demonstrated what it is to be classy and cool*--saw my entry and has graciously offered to set aside the draft I sent.

Honesty is a very good thing. To work!

*I say this not because she may be reading this entry, but because it is true.

no surprise here

Bacardi 151
Congratulations! You're 134 proof, with specific scores in beer (60) , wine (116), and liquor (104).

All right. No more messing around. Your knowledge of alcohol is so high that you have drinking and getting plastered down to a science. Sure, you could get wasted drinking beer, but who needs all those trips to the bathroom? You head straight for the bar and pick up that which is most efficient.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 70% on proof
You scored higher than 88% on beer index
You scored higher than 95% on wine index
You scored higher than 97% on liquor index
Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid

Via the charming Erin.


writer porn, or lessons

"The work is never done" is one of the most frightening sentences in the world. I'm not sure how true it is either, but I have to at least believe in a stage of abandonment that feels like doneness.

But, for those keeping score at home, this is going to be about how little I know.

As you may remember from all those long stretches of extreme boringness and nattering, I finished _a draft_ of my YA novel Girl's Gang a while back. I was pretty happy with it. I thought it was relatively done. And, relatively, I guess it is. There is a beginning, middle and end. There are parts of it I'm extremely happy with. But I've realized (not necessarily all on my own, more on that in a moment) that it was still closer to a first draft than a last one. But I was ready to be done with it. Ready to be done with the book should never, ever be mistaken for the book is done.

I sent it to a couple of people, an editor and an agent. The agent requested some rewrites that didn't necessarily resonate with me, but gave me the prodding I needed to send it where I should have when I thought it was "done" -- to the sharpest editor among my writer friends. (Writer friends, you may now compete to prove me wrong on this score. I will just sit back and reap the benefits of your fine editing.)

A digression here on my process: I learned most of what little I know about writing among a group of outstanding screenwriters in a private online workshop I was in for three years or so (and am currently MIA from). They were amazing and so a big part of my process became handing over stuff and getting instant new, keen eyes on it; they were hardly ever wrong and their feedback always improved the work. I also learned how to helpfully (hopefully) critique other people's work from them, no small thing. Cut to my first real attempt at writing prose in several years, this young adult novel, and the need for those same ruthless kinds of eyes. The problem being, of course, that in draft 1.0 to 1.1, which my in-person fiction writing group suffered through and improved, I wasn't even anywhere near the finish line. They helped immensely, especially considering they weren't necessarily all that familiar with YA as a genre (we can argue whether that's even a fair characterization later, but for now, it's a marketing category, it's a genre). They got me closer to being finished.
I want to be clear here: I wasn't tough enough on my own work because I stayed too close to it for some reason. _I_ never got that shock of recognition and understanding of what needed to happen and how it could be better. I never separated from it enough. So, mostly, other than the beginning and ending, not that many changes were made. Unfortunately.

The upshot is this: I know what needs to happen now. My writer-editor friend gave me marvelous suggestions and a spectacularly thorough line edit. The book will be better. It will be the book I wanted to write without knowing it. The revisions are going to take some work.

The lesson is this: make sure the book is actually done before you try and sell it. Send it to your toughest, best critic first.

So, I was faced with a dilemma. It may shock you to find out that even though I blah and blah on here all the time, I keep a lot of secrets from you people. I rarely if ever talk about my work (the writing), which is obviously a huge part of what I'm doing and thinking about. The dilemma was whether to have crap content or take a hiatus while doing this mountain of work the book needs. I think I have a lot to learn in this revision. I'm intrigued by the possibility of using this space to figure some of that stuff out. I know a fair amount of writers read this blog, many of them light years more accomplished than me. Which is my way of telling you I'm blushing even writing this, but once I post it, I'll have committed to being honest about the process while it's going on. So, apologies to those who do not want to hear me natter about this stuff for one month or two, or however long it takes, but my head will be in writespace and so will Shaken & Stirred. If nothing else, as a way of staying focused among all the life noise. (There'll be other stuff too, promise.)

Part of motivating myself to do a big project is writer porn!

Writer porn being, of course, the books you take out of the library on writing. Now, they can't be just any books. They have to be good. They have to promise some nodding, some ability on the part of the writer to motivate (good teachers do this best), and they have to be by people who can and do write themselves. The library gives you the ability to try them out before plunking down cash and adding them to that particular bookshelf in your home. I started one of the two I took out from library this morning and it has not disappointed. It's fantastic, and I expect I'll be quoting snippets of it here for days to come. It's The Modern Library Writer's Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch. (Koch ran the Columbia MFA program for years and has written several acclaimed novels.) Here's the section that most describes the task I've got in front of me:

Fast or slow, once your first draft is done, be ready for it to be bad. Some parts may give you a pleasant surprise over how good they are, and the whole may not turn out to be quite as horrible as you feared during your very worst moments. Even so, it’s going to be bad. Do not let that badness bother you. Use the badness. I once heard Philip Roth tell a crowded roomful of writing students that, when it came to sheer stinking lousiness, he would match his first drafts against those of any writer in the place. Your own first draft will probably be ragged, inarticulate, blundering, dull, and full of gaping holes and blank spots—a mortifying mess. Use every mistake. The inarticulate parts point to where you must make words say exactly what you mean. The ragged parts point to what you must polish. The gaping holes tell you what has to be filled. The dull parts tell you unfailingly what must be cut. The blank spots show exactly what you must go out and find. These are infallible guides, and though they talk tough, they are your friends.

And then this:

Except for the miraculous times when it doesn’t, EVERYTHING YOU WRITE WILL TAKE LONGER THAN YOU THINK IT SHOULD. What’s more, not one of your readers will ever give a damn if you wrote your story in a half an hour or half a year.

This is going to be interesting. I'm on the high wire.

And yes, I'm still pecking away on the new book, the next book, the one that will be easy. It'll be easy, right?

monday hangovers

Well, good morning. A real post later, but for now a few pointers to content elsewhere:

1. Electric Velocipede celebrates Women's History Month.

2. Ayelet Waldman's Salon column debuts and we find out why it actually is a good thing she's no longer blogging. The column deals mostly with an entry she posted about suicide and the fallout among her family and friends, and the confessional nature that led to its posting in the first place.

3. Ron posts about the NYT piece on "literary fiction" taking on 9/11, and points to this very fine article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on how crime and mystery fiction has dealt with the subject. I would also say that SF writers have done some amazing work that deals directly with 2001 and the pyschic fallout, and that the work started appearing very early on. This became crystal clear to me while reading last year's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror volume, something I recommend everyone do. (Although don't bother reading the product descrip at B and N there, because it's filled with errors.) Many, many of the stories included are directly shaped by those events and have important things to say about them and about life now.

4. Speaking of which, I highly recommend Meg Rosoff's post-apocalyptic (sorta) YA novel How I Live Now. From an interview with the author on the book's scenario of modern-day England essentially being taken hostage by invaders: I've read quite a bit about England during WWI, and WW2 is still present in daily life: I have a wonderful 85-year-old neighbor who lived through London during the blitz as a young woman married to a baker. Some of the details of life in England during the war are incredibly evocative, for instance all the signposts in rural areas were removed, so an enemy landing in the middle of the English countryside would have no idea where he was. Most fiction seems to emerge from a combination of what the writer already knows, and what he/she imagines. See also Amanda Craig's review in the The Times.


hooky by snowlight

I'm taking today off and possibly the entire weekend too. Back Monday refreshed and with rewrite whining, book recommendations and bizarre weekend shenanigans to recount. Have good ones and check out those non-slackery types arrayed in pleasing alphabetical order down the righthand side of your screen.


so true!

From an interview someone at the Iowa Mafia blog did with Ben Marcus:

"Novels are thousands of mistakes."

Also, after reading the account of BM's leading a workshop, I am so pulling for him to win Iowa Idol. Despite the fact that it really matters not at all to me.

Updated to add. This paragraph from Earth Goat's notes of Marcus talking about he teaches seems like a really good idea for workshops. Teaching writers how to figure out what to ignore and what to listen to, otherwise known as the most important part of receiving criticism.

The notion of a useful critique is really vexing and really elusive—he always wants to chase it, but never assumes he knows it. What has helped him get closer to the “actionable critique” is to have a conference with a student a week after the workshop. The student brings in the pile of critiques, and together, they sift through all the contradictory information. He says it’s quite interesting to see what the student is defensive about and what he/she is open to. In this meeting, he tries to narrow down the criticism to what is useful to the writer. A good workshop actually produces too many ideas: it produces every idea and its opposite. In the conference, they throw some critiques away, and select and keep only the useful ones. He wants to ensure that each student’s “artistic horizon” is as ambitious as it can possibly be.

hangovers for a sunny thursday

Far too many open tabs, so why not share?

1. Tod Goldberg is on a streak, with some absolutely excellent posts this week. Especially check out his post on "permanently bookmarked" books and the one detailing his encounter with a pre-published writer bearing a manuscript titled SECRET OBSESSIONS (in 24 point type, of course). I've heard this term "pre-published" a number of times and it just sounds innane to me. If you were trying to become a lawyer, you wouldn't call yourself "pre-legal" or if you were trying to become a taxidermist, you wouldn't call yourself "pre-stuffed" or if you wanted to play Arena Football for the Arizona Rattlers, you wouldn't call yourself "pre-professional 50 yard indoor war player." So why do aspiring writers call themselves "pre-published" as if it isn't something that is earned, but something pre-ordained?

2. Moorish Girl asks the writers of StorySouth's finalist stories for the Million Writers Award to talk about their stories. S & S fave Terry Bisson sez of Super 8: I'm a science fiction writer, and rarely deal with my own history. Super 8 came to me when I saw a video that an old friend had patched together from "home-movies" of our dome-building commune days. I imagined the film itself as a character, and took it from there. I happen to be a Southern writer myself, and even thought of calling the story Rank Strangers. Don't forget to vote for your favorite.

3. Jami Attenberg on the Schwartz Foer she could have been. (Via Maud.)

4. Maureen McHugh has a wonderful, brief post on what bravery means to her:

In China, historically, when young women have killed themselves, because they were pregnant, or chattel of their husbands and mothers-in-law or all the historic reasons why Chinese women chose to kill themselves (including having their feet bound into four inch golden lillies) they drowned themselves in the well.

I always assumed that was because there weren't many options for killing oneself besides knives, hanging and the well, and once you threw yourself in, the well was pretty irrevocable. But I read once that one of the results of someone drowning themselves in a well was that the body in the well, unless it could be quickly retreived, contaminated the well for some time. So the suicide became an act of revenge as well as escape.

There are lots of ways to poison the well when you have cancer. My idea of bravery is, as much as possible, not to poison the well.

5. Instant Fanzine reports that Joe Haldeman's Camouflage and Johanna Sinisalo's Troll, A Love Story are co-winners of this year's Tiptree Award.

6. Everyone's favorite Susan is on the road and listening to the radio. She's staying exclusively in h/motels with net access, so these reports should be regular.

Radio watch: the last half-hour or forty minutes of the drive, I caught part of a Biblical Prophecy program, where the host was talking to a woman about Yellowstone. This woman, she had a vision several months ago, God told her to go to Yellowstone and pray to prevent earthquakes and volcanoes. So she got a prayer group together and they went to Yellowstone. At Yellowstone, they discovered massive natural disturbances--a high and escalating number of micro-earthquakes, the whole park stinks of sulfur, Old Faithful isn't regular anymore, in some places the ground itself has heated to over 200 degrees and normally peaceful animals are attacking tourists. She and the host discussed this. The host has apparently been gathering information on this, and they believe that Yellowstone is actually a massive "supervolcano" that is getting ready to erupt. Furthermore, this eruption is part of the Lord's plan for the End of Days as foretold in the Book of Revelation; the woman confirms this, as along with all the geologic signs at the park she could also feel a large demonic presence.

Some quick googling reveals that they're right about the supervolcano stuff, and possibly even about the likelihood of eruption. What fascinates me about these radio programs is the juxtaposition: they move smoothly from what sounds like very technical and scientifically-informed discussions of geology into talking about demonic presences and Biblical revelation and prayer groups.

7. March is Small Press Month. Everyone go buy a Small Beer Press book to celebrate. (I stole this link from somewhere, but I don't remember where.)

8. Coffee and Ink posts a short but fascinating review of Huruki Murakami's Underground.

9. Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash jam session. It will make you happy. It will make you a better person. (Thanks, Reechard!)


bass third SF story revealed!

Cory Doctorow has revealed that his story "Anda's Game" from Salon has been taken by Michael Chabon for the Year's Best.

The public speculation ends.

Related: Previous post announcing the selection of Kelly Link's "Stone Animals" and Tim Pratt's "Hart & Boot."

Via Matt.

zombie story update

I've purposely kept quiet, mostly for my own personal reasons, on the story that's been floating around about the arrest of an 18-year-old high school student in Kentucky on terroristic threatening charges. Most of the commentary I've seen is based on the WLEX-18 story, but I wanted to wait for more information because other local accounts seemed more troubling.

I don't have time to think or say anything substantial about this at the moment, but I would like to point interested parties toward today's Herald-Leader story about the evidence presented in court yesterday.

A snippet:

And, as it turns out, Poole's writings include no brain-eating dead folks.

What they do contain, Winchester police Detective Steven Caudill testified yesterday, is evidence that he had tried to solicit seven fellow students to join him in a military organization called No Limited Soldiers.

The writings describe a bloody shootout in "Zone 2," the designation given to Clark County.

"All the soldiers of Zone 2 started shooting," Caudill read on the witness stand. "They're dropping every one of them. After five minutes, all the people are lying on the ground dead."

The papers contain two different dates of Poole's death.

Poole has corresponded with someone in Barbourville who claimed to have acquired cash and guns in break-ins, Caudill testified.

No other arrests are pending, he said, but authorities are looking for other potential suspects listed in Poole's papers who are identified only by pseudonyms.


gilmoregossipcircle alert

It's that time of the week. Following tonight's all new episode of Gilmore Girls* turn up here and weigh in. Or tomorrow. Or whenever. Sounds like a good if Rory-centric episode. The description:

Rory (Alexis Bledel) regrets her agreement with Logan (Matt Czuchry) that they can date other people after she sees him out on the town with another girl. Later, at a party where everyone dresses as a character from a Quentin Tarantino film, Rory shows up with Logan's friend Robert (guest star Nick Holmes), forcing Logan to admit his jealousy. Meanwhile, now that Lorelai and Luke are happily reunited, Emily can't understand why Lorelai still refuses to show up at Friday night dinner. Emily's second visit to the diner to speak to Luke leads to a bitter mother/daughter confrontation. Finally, Michel (Yanic Truesdale) appears on "The Price is Right" and wins a motor home.

Richard Herrmann, Melissa McCarthy and Sean Gunn also star. The episode was written by James Berg & Stan Zimmerman and directed by Michael Zinberg .

Michel on "The Price is Right"? I am so there.****

Related: Last week's jibber and the week before's jabber.

*not brought to you by the WB**
**well, the ep is but not this reminder***
***DFW madness for everyone!!!
****in spirit.

bust the shrink wrap

Now here's a movement I can get behind, thunk up by Sean Carman. From his manifesto:

Exactly what do we do? you ask. First, at all times during this movement, and whatever else happens, remain extremely polite. Second, pass this manifesto around to your friends. E-mail it. Print it out and post it on utility poles and in the bathroom stalls of rock clubs. Slip a copy in the Second Quarter Sales Forecast brochure of your boss's boss. Let them know that, in addition to taking the bus more often, returning that Netfix video on the coffee table and giving $25 to PIRG, they should, if they have a moment, consider possibly joining this worldwide literary movement.

Third, go to your local bookstore (or nearest large chain bookstore if you want to make a bolder statement), find McSweeney's No. 15, furtively remove its shrink wrap (if any), and quietly read "Asuncion" by Roy Kesey, a compelling and well-told story.

Finally, thank yourself for a job well done.

As with any movement, especially a literary movement, several clarifications are in order.

First, you can still purhcase McSweeney's 15 if you want. This is not an effort to advertise for a cottage literary concern but neither is it an attempt to subvert the McSweeney's niche market. If you want to buy McSweeney's 15 and participate in the movement, just pick up McSweeney's 15 on your next trip to the bookstore, the one after your guerilla reading. The point of this movement -- the idea that is its engine, so to speak (and what an engine it is, if I may say, a glistening engine of such force and purpose it would make Elliot Spitzer weep) -- the point, I say again, is that not everyone can afford the $25.00 one must plunk down (and I don't use the word "plunk" lightly) for the latest example of compiled literary excellence that is McSweeney's 15. And yet everyone must read the story 'Asuncion' by Roy Kesey. It is a wonderful, artful, and true story, true in the deepest and most meaningful sense of that word.

(Link via the Public Face of the Movement.)

one book on the way to being lost

Tales of wonderful books that have vanished or are in danger of going poof! circulate around the 'sphere all the time. And that shows no signs of stopping, and, of course, one of the great goods blogs can do is call attention to these books -- sometimes even before it's too late.

Mr. McLaren called my attention to the story of a book that sounds like something I would have immediately sought out, had I known it existed: Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein.

Robert Gray of Fresh Eyes: A Bookseller's Journal is in the middle of a fascinating chronicle of the how and whys of the impending disappearance of what is, by all accounts I've seen so far, a wonderful book:

Well, good books, and particularly good new books, go missing for a variety of reasons, many of which have been discussed again and again in this forum and elsewhere.

When books go missing, they do not run off and join the circus. They do not go on the road like Kerouac and seek out wild new adventures on cross-country treks. There is no Amber Alert for missing books.

It's damned hard to motivate readers to care about the books that are present and accounted for, well-displayed, and passionately handsold, but it's borderline impossible to get readers to care about the books that go missing.

Why should they care?

This is why.

Sometimes books need to be rescued.

Julian Rubinstein's Ballad of the Whiskey Robber has not gone missing yet. And it shouldn't, but it could, especially now, as it approaches the sixth month of its shelf life, a hazardous time for any newborn because that dreaded Returns virus is already looking for a way infect it.

There are several reasons why Rubinstein's book has not received the care and feeding it deserves, and most of them have nothing to do with the industry's often callous attitude toward its own product or with a publisher's ineptitude or even with an author's unwillingness to hit the bricks and make something happen.

Go read what Gray has to say. See if you don't want to buy this book, and tune in for the second installment of what went wrong. Let's try and save this one.

please to welcome

I just discovered The Happy Booker, writer Wendi Kaufman's new blog. It's witty and full of good recommendations. And I may steal this little idea from a recent entry:

Latest Recommendations from my Well-Read Friends:

Nicole, my extraordinary editor, recommends: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller . "You must read it immediately."

Robyn, my sister-in-arms, strongly, enthusiastically, vehemently and often recommends:Waiting for Snow in Havana:Confessions of a Cuban Boy, by Carlos Eire. So moved by the book, Robyn was prompted to write her first letter to an author (not including the note to Sherman Alexie, which was more like a thank you note for including her brilliant story in his anthology).

Since the two recommendations that came in were for memoirs, I will add a plug for Collected Stories, by Carol Shields. Released this month in hardcover, this book contains ALL of Carol Shields's short stories in one volume, including the previously unpublished story "Segue," her last work. Shields is an amazing short story writer and a powerhouse novelist: "Unless" is one of my favorites — though many in my circle would argue for "Stone Diaries," the Pulitzer-winner. She will be missed.

"We are always looking for the book it is necessary to read next. " —Saul Bellow

Also, it looks like her husband is a miraculous cook (but then mine is too, so ha!).

Check her out.


thumbnail books page thumbnail review

So, just to back up my claim that you're lucky to have a book review worth critiquing, here's a sketch of my local paper's sketchy books coverage on Sunday.

Two reviews. That's right, a scant two reviews.

The lead review is nonfiction (of course):

Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Phillip Short, reviewed by William Grimes for the New York Times. This review is paired with a giant piece of art two columns wide and more than half the page long. So, the art is the longest piece of work on the page.

The other review is at least of local interest, it's for a debut poetry collection by a professor at a small college nearby:

Anomie by Marcia L. Hurlow (CustomWords) reviewed by Jeff Worley a poet and editor of the University of Kentucky's research magazine. Descriptors used in review: imagistic, concise and accessible.

The only other things on the page are:

the New York Times top 10 fiction and non-fiction best sellers;

the Literary Calendar -- actually not lame because Kentucky has a vibrant literary scene (just not being covered) -- featuring the InKY Reading Series in Louisville with Kevin Ducey, Jonathan Green and Tom C Hunley on tap and physicist Brian Greene's appearance at Georgetown College; and the

Kentucky Women Writer's Conference Schedule -- also not lame, but canned content and not actual book coverage. (And hey, yes, I will be at the free Tift Merritt show followed by Louise Gluck and apprentice Dana Levin at the library.)

The Conference schedule seems to have bumped the weekly What's New at the Library squib.

Verdict: Better than usual. Which is sad.

read a book: Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

I picked up Cecil Castellucci's young adult novel Boy Proof because Holly Black said to on her livejournal. I'm funny that way. I made a mental note after Holly's entry and when I saw it at the bookstore, snagged it immediately. Also, the bio was a proud proclamation of geekiness and the dedication was to "To all nerdy girls everywhere." It sang out to me. I was having a bad week. This was the book I needed.

I actually meant to read another YA I'd bought first, but I opened and started reading and did not move and did not even really look up that much, not even for the Oscars, until I was finished reading it. It's rare to find a book with a first person narrator so strong, convincing and well written that she can tug you through a book like Egg did me, especially through lots of cringe-inducing moments. One of the hardest things the book pulls off is creating a psyche so convincing in the main character that it's both believable and riveting when she makes mistakes and does things that are obviously counter to what she wants. It's a hard trick to make a first person narrator's motives and inner life so clear, while keeping the same realizations at arm's length for the actual character for most of the book.

Egg isn't the character's real name, but the name of her favorite science fiction movie character, from the fictional Terminal Earth. She's painfully separate from the other kids at her school and not a little superior and condescending. I've always liked a certain kind of sharp condescension and so found this a likable trait, especially when the new kid Max shows up, a hot guy who turns out to be smart enough to challenge Egg's place at the top of the intellectual heap. (Did I mention she's bad at math? I can so relate.) Egg's Los Angeles is all its own, in a way related to the Los Angeles of the Weetzie Bat books but far less fanciful.

The book is ultimately a love story. Much of the book is about how Egg's desire for Max changes her. But the real love story is watching this character come into her own. Watching her cast off her imitation of "Egg" and become Victoria.

But the real reason I loved, loved, loved this book is that it captures so much of the timeless state of geekery in high school, from the point of view that recognizes the geeky kids are actually cool and as interesting as any other social group to focus on. Yeah, Max is one of the hip kids, but we don't like him for that -- we like him for being a geek (albeit a part-time one) and for liking Victoria even at her prickliest. And it's funny as hell (especially the made up science fiction movie and TV series parts).

I kept reading aloud from it to Christopher. Here's one of my favorite bits:

Martin is pear-shaped and doughy. His eyelashes are extremely long. He is sensitive and smart, but not as smart as I am. Rue is his girlfriend. She is thick-waisted but not really fat. She wears a scarf and a fedora hat all the time because she loves Doctor Who, but they don't go with her glasses and my mom would say that the browns wash out her pale skin. I think she should at least get rid of that old fedora or get over Doctor Who; I don't know which is more outdated.

Martin and Rue are so in love it makes me sick. They are in the kind of love you want to be in. They respect each other. They give each other space. They have individual personalities but they complement each other. I envy them.

I hate anybody in love.

Castellucci has a large and interesting web presence: her home page, Egg's Los Angeles page, her livejournal and Cecil's Crush Library.

I highly recommend checking Boy Proof out if any of the above sounds vaguely interesting or enjoyable to you or if you have a soft spot for teen movies with misfit girls -- or as a present for any teenage girls you may know that are going to grow up into amazing people but are not finding their skin exactly the right size at the moment.

Update: I also see on Castellucci's lj that she is in possession of an ARC of MT Anderson's Whales on Stilts. I covet.


discovery, before forgetting

Catching up on GalleyCat this morning, I came across this quote from the lovely Karen Joy Fowler from one of last week's editions of PW Daily for Booksellers (the quote was made at NACS-CAMEX):

"When I told my book club that I was writing about a book club, it seemed in response that they became more colorful and actually read the books and had interesting things to say--as if they were thinking this would look good on page. When we read Emma, none of them liked the book, and afterwards I became crosser and crosser and decided I could make up a better book club."

(GalleyCat also has quotes from Andrei Codrescu and David Baldacci at the link above.)

Which reminded me I've been meaning to point to this year's Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards winners; the fiction recipients were chosen by judges Karen, Mark Dunn (the divine and delicious Ella Minnow Pea) and Meg Wolitzer (who I still need to read).

And the fiction winners were (and I'm going to lift the 'from the judges' B and N includes for each one):

1st place: Heaven Lake by John Dalton -- "In this stunning debut novel, John Dalton examines the nature of love and faith as he takes his protagonist on a long, scenic journey into the heart of modern China. Graceful and evocative without being labored, Dalton's prose establishes his credentials as a first-rate storyteller, and as an equally gifted translator of the language of the fragile human soul." Mark Dunn

2nd place: The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser -- "The Hamilton Case is a stunning, lush, and labyrinthine novel. Covering the lifetime of one man, but also the decades of Ceylonese colonialization and independence, de Kretser is as deft in creating the interior landscape as she is the exterior. The result is a literary mystery of politics and family, poetry and murder. Comic, tragic, haunting, hallucinatory and elusive, but vivid and exact, this is a brilliant book by a brilliant writer." Karen Joy Fowler

3rd place: How the Light Gets In by M.J. Hyland -- "In How the Light Gets In, M.J. Hyland writes beautifully about adolescence, and in doing so she allows the reader to visit territory that seems strange and surprisingly, breathlessly new. Hyland's protagonist Lou is as misunderstood as Holden Caulfield was 54 years ago, but her particular brand of witty, hyper-observed and observant pathos is very much her own. This is an exquisite and powerful novel." Meg Wolitzer

Nonfiction winners were Alison Smith's Name all the Animals (which is in my TBR pile right now), Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found and Edward Conlon's Blue Blood.


poem for friday

Sorry for the sporadic silence, but real life has spent the week flopping like a fish, expecting me to resurrect it through the continuous act of being really busy, followed by the sleep of the profoundly tired. We said the gym tonight but I'm already reneging in my heart; tonight there will be only couch and white wine.

But, hey, it's Friday and the end is in sight. And here's a poem I really, really love:

"What Do Women Want?"

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

- by Kim Addonizio

Related: Addonizio's fabulous homepage (she's brill and gorgeous)


all the cool kids are doing it

The first five lines of movie dialogue that come to mind, the new m courtesy of OGIC:

1. "Oh, are they?" Rushmore (I just love that hell out of that line, in response to the line: "These are O.R. scrubs.")

2. "Every girl gets her midnight." Midnight (my favorite line ever.)

3. "I'm not a scientist." Sullivan's Travels

4. "Do not seek the treasure!" O, Brother Where Art Thou?

5. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Network.


you show me your book review, i'll show you...

Tito Perez offers the best take yet on the thumbnail review of your city's book review, which all started with Mark Sarvas and his weekly takes on the LA Times Book Review: he dissects his thumb.*

I briefly considered reviewing my local paper's Sunday Book Page, which consists of best-seller lists, what's new at the library adn random local press reviews or (mostly) canned national reprints of reviews -- just so you could appreciate what life is like for us poor souls who are only moved to holler and seethe by the book coverage in papers outside the major cities, who would love to have a book review to critique. It already IS a thumbnail, a thumbnail of inferior coverage from larger media outlets. But it would really be more effort than it's worth.

Suffice to say that the paper's new book club has only picked one fiction title out of its first four so far, and it looks TERRIBLE. (Eye of the beholder, but soft focus dissection of a family doesn't cut it, not to mention it has a blurb from Robert freaking Morgan.)

*Well, not literally dissects. That would be gross.



Well, not really, but y'all had such great things to say last week, let's try it again. I'll post some thoughts after the episode (or later tonight). You let me know what you thought about it.

Let's hope this train gets back on the tracks.

Updated: Whew.

And major applause for the crafty misdirection in the "scenes from next week" voiceover last week. You got us.

And I say again: whew.

"the resurgence of the small press zine"

Interesting thread under the title above going on over at Night Shade. One post from F & SF's editor Gordon Van Gelder:

As I've been reading through this thread, the comments of one veteran editor keep ringing in my head---he said to me, "Of course Analog is selling better than any other magazine: it's the least risky."

I bring up that comment, I guess, to defend against the charge of a conservative attitude in F&SF. I don't particularly like that word, "conservative," but I'll be the first to say that I've got to balance the artistic side of things with the commercial side. For every reader who appreciates the challenge that a story like John McDaid's "Keyboard Variations" offers, there are two or three readers who favor less challenging work like Ron Goulart's lighter fare.

Which is one reason why I'm happy to second Sean's sentiment when he says "I'm all for it!" to the writers blazing their own trails. I think the zine explosion of the last couple of years is very good for the field and I do my best to keep up with all the various magazines and anthologies, but I feel like someone needs to inject a note of commerciality into the discussion. Considering there are two threads running on the board now about declining circulation in the digests, it might be worth remembering that experimental fiction ("experimental" is another word like "conservative" that I don't particularly like, but I can't think of a better term right now; "riskier"? "less traditional"?) isn't necessarily commercial.

At the '97 World Fantasy Con, Graham Joyce and Jonathan Lethem did a panel that was on something like "Angst in Literature" or "Plumbing the Depths of Your Characters" or something like that. And there were about eight people in the audience, so Graham brought the panelists down from the dais and moved everyone into a circle, panelists and audience members alike. And it was a good discussion. In the next room, Terry Pratchett was talking about Humor in Fantasy or somesuch, and periodically one of Graham's excellent observations would be interrupted by the sound of scores of people laughing at one of Terry's comments next door. And Jonathan and I agreed, "Isn't this the way it always is? Here we've got the serious group having a great discussion for a handful of people, and there they've got hundreds of people laughing it up over the lighter fluff."

Some discussion has come up over the tastes of the tiny zines that are being discussed and Say...'s one of them. And as Christopher or me will probably jump in and say at some point over there, one of our motivations was to create another space for writers who were starting out and doing something a little weird with their work to publish alongside writers who were more established but still doing very interesting work, the individual pieces of which might not necessarily fit in a larger market AND we wanted to see more stories by women and non-white writers. I think we've been successful at both goals.

And one more snippet from a post to further convince you to go take a look, this one from Big Deal Editor Jim Minz:

To take the next logical step, and speak of small press in general (and to reiterate something I've been saying for nearly three years now—the next ICFA will be the third anniversary of my first public declaration): We are in the Golden Age of Small Press, people. Wallow in it and enjoy yourselves. This is in terms of zines, collections, anthologies and novels. There’s lots of interesting, weird stuff. There’s wonderful classic stuff. And it’s being brought to life and/or sustained thanks to the tireless efforts of folks all across this great land. I won’t even begin to list all the great small press publishers out there (the NS Board full list of topics has many of them), but kudos to you all, and heartfelt thanks.

Part of the reason is that the big houses have the same kind of concerns that GVG has iterated so well, i.e. it’s a fine balance between publishing enough popcorn fiction to help pay for the finer, quirkier vintages that won’t appeal to as many folks. It can be a very difficult balancing act. But you do have folks like China Mieville, Graham Joyce, Jonathan Carroll and Gene Wolfe to name a few, who are fairly successful by most measures. Certainly, they’ll never sell the number of copies as a Robert Jordan, but that doesn’t matter. It’s about trying to reach whatever readers might enjoy your fiction, regardless of the size of the audience.

I don’t think a major house could focus its line on fiction from the edge—there simply isn’t enough horsepower to make it work financially (I grimly point to RH folding Anchor and Vintage into one tp line as an example from mainstream publishing—a consolidation that bothers me no end). You have to pick your spots and publish only that which you truly believe can sell. On the other hand, that’s what’s creating the gap in which small press can flourish. This means not only a wider variety of potential publishers, but a wider variety of editorial vision—which means a writer has yet another shot to reach some kind of market. This is a good thing. Ten years ago, your options were more limited. (Of course, the downside to all this diversification means there’s much greater competition for the consumer’s dollar—I think mags suffer from the sheer volume of competition for the entertainment dollar more than anything else.)

Link stolen shamelessly from David Moles.

awards are wacky

(But mostly in a good way.)

storySouth's Million Writers Award has named its top 10 stories published online in 2004. They are:
It's especially nice to see Terry's haunting and completely believable story about the psychic fallout between a group of friends who haven't been close since the '60s on the list. If there's something Terry Bisson knows, it's the '60s. (Well, actually there's a lot of things Terry Bisson knows, but...)

(Via Ed.)

Edited to add: You can vote for your favorite here.

tiny tuesday hangovers

Weather report: There's snow on the ground outside, only a dusting, but enough for George to lay flat as a fan and swoof the snow back and forth -- making George Angels.

Diary: If only he didn't want to do this at one a.m. on a school night, we'd be happy and scream delightedly "George Angels!" And in all fairness it was not that unpleasant standing outside in the blowing snow and nonbitter cold watching him, just terrible trying and failing to get back to sleep afterward.

Am I supposed to tell you what I ate now?

Kidding. These little things have been hanging out in tabs patiently.

1. The Spiral Arm reads Samantha Hunt's The Seas and really, really likes it.

2. I love that Syntax of Things is about, well, everything. No more talk about pulling the plug, mister.

3. Tito unearths the goods on Neko Case's fascination* with serial killers, as manifested by the amazing song "Deep Red Bells." *I do not mean fascination here in that ooky way that teenagers have when they watch Silence of the Lambs too many times in a row; I mean haunted by, disturbed by, present in the thoughts of due to having been in close proximity to the hunting grounds of one or more of these guys.

4. Mr McLaren keeps trying to warn you about awakening the old gods at your archeological digs and strange, suddenly present following the tsunami statues. But do you listen?

5. The Duchess of Northumberland's controversial poison garden has been officially opened. Cannabis, opium poppies, magic mushrooms and coca - the source of cocaine - all feature at the centuries-old Alnwick Garden. (Via Boing Boing.)

6. Jenny D links to Jenny Diski in the Guardian on snow and highly recommends her book Nothing Natural.

7. William Booth and Hank Stuever do do that voodoo at the after-Oscar parties: We arrive at "Elton" before midnight in our usual manner, by gray Chevy Cavalier, which we park near Beverly Boulevard and hike the rest of the way up to the enormous, Oz-like Pacific Design Center on Melrose Avenue, but not because of some shame or unresolved feelings of the rental-car underclass. (Hey: We always feel and behave like million-dollar babies, baby, despite our trailer-park backgrounds and the creepy feeling that Grandma watches everything we do from Heaven.)