I will try not to breathe

29 12 2013

So I got back from visiting a friend with C. (we decided against a drink at our bar) and went to bed earlier than I usually do on a Saturday night and it took awhile to fall asleep and I woke up at some point in the middle of the night and I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t sleep and I don’t know if it was the visit or the pancakes or coffee or waffle fries but I couldn’t sleep and somewhere in the midst of the not sleeping I came up with an idea for another novel.

I have the title and everything.

Now, I’ve already been working on another novel (and need to finish off the edits of the second novel and oh yeah send out pitch letters) which has been long in incubation and which I really want to see how it works out but now this not-sleep idea came WHOOSH and I think I could knock out a first draft right quick then let it rest while I work on that other novel (and finish the edits of the second and send out pitch letters) and I don’t know, see if I could write two at the same time (they’re very different ideas) and hm there’s that cyborgology conference I want to write a paper for and, well, goddamn.

January’s going to be a busy month.





A year has passed since I wrote my note

3 01 2013

You know that second novel? The one that needed just one, final, editorial swipe before I sent it out to. . . whom/wherever, never to be heard from again?

It’s been over a year since I began that one, final, editorial swipe.

Yeah.

I hauled it out of cold storage a coupla’ nights ago, and had to click around to make sure that I was working on the latest file because, y’know, it couldn’t have been since October 2011 that I last opened Home Away Home. Yeesh.

And it’s stupid, because while I’ve caught a few typos and made a few minor revisions here and there, there are only 2-4 spots where major revisions are required, and each of those 2-4 spots is maybe 1000, 1500 words long.

Now, those spots are crucial dialogues—the plausibility of the plot can be said to hang on believability that first dialogue, and the reader’s sense of the characters requires that the other dialogues sound like they’re coming from the characters and not from, well, me—but MAN, holding up a 152,000-word manuscript because I can’t shake loose 5000 good words?

Damn.

So that’s what I’ve been doing—not, y’know, panning for those 5000 words, but checking over the other 147,000 words to make sure that those, at least, are settled. Then I’ll hunker down with those last bits and sift and swirl and go round and round until I find the pieces that fit, until everything fits.

I’ll be damned if that takes me another year.





The Unexpected Neighbor

27 07 2011

So I finally did it.

I finally dragged my first novel into Smashwords, where it is being uploaded as we speak.

Not the exact cover, but darned close!

Converting it into their style was a pain in the ass, especially since I had to work in the hated Word rather than my preferred WordPerfect, but their free style guide was easy to follow.

It’s still waiting to be approved and vetted and ISBN’d and all that, but, hell, at least it’s a start.

Now, I just have to convert the second novel, and get off my ass on the third one. Oh, and try to find work. And a life.

Whatever.

*Update* Oh, hey, there it is, temporarily on the home page of Smashwords! I guess the wait is for inclusion in the premium catalog (Amazon, B&N, etc.), but if you wanna, you can read it right now!

*UpdateUpdate* Here’s the link to The Unexpected Neighbor‘s Smashwords page; I’ll put up links once it gets into other catalogs.

*UpdateUpdateUpdate* But wait a moment. Something’s weird with the formatting—doesn’t like the single quote mark. Waiting to hear how to fix it.





Why don’t you kill me?

19 06 2011

I am so tired of being a loser.

C. and I were at the end of our leisurely Red Hook/Gowanus ride and finishing our equally leisurely conversation in—yes—a leisurely manner. We had been discussing her novel* and her job and taking classes and the trail detoured into my life.

Which is when I burst out the above statement, along with complaints about being an underachieving dilettante and not extending myself or diving into anything which would  pull something out of me or committing myself, really, to anything.

And it’s so goddamned irritating, I ranted, that I make the same diagnosis over and over and over and still, here I am, grumpy and underachieving and uncommitted.

No, I’m not going to continue the rant, here; besides, you’ve heard it all before: I was stuck for twenty years between suicide and living and now I’m stuck in the not-knowing of living blah blah.

C. suggested that I just get out there and try different things, volunteer, anything to get myself moving and maybe, just maybe, involved. Sound advice, certainly, and nothing I haven’t told myself in previous go-arounds.

But it did occur to me, after we finally split, that I’ve got a real issue with trying to hoard time, so much so it interferes with the just-get-out-there approach: I don’t want to commit because what if I can’t follow through? I don’t want to be inconstant, so better not to be anything at all. What if I run out of time?

Nonsense, I know, at least in prosaic terms. I live in time and can no more grab hold of it than a fish can water. I can control my movements in time, but time itself? Nuh-uh.

Whether I can do anything with this elementary law of physics remains to be seen.

And there’s a flip side: Even as I am a physics-al being, I also know what it likes to live absent time. I’m not talking here of being ‘in the moment’ (although that’s nice when it happens, rare tho’ it is), but when I’m so involved in an activity that I have no consciousness of time.

Which brings me back to the beginning, and writing. C. mentioned that I seemed to be in a fictional frame of mind (oh, the meanings in that observation. . !), and I mentioned a story I had been turning over. I have characters, I said, but not much beyond that; I need to let this sit a bit, see what happens.

But then I noted that in between novel 1 and 2, I started another story, one which I might never get back to, and maybe this story is like that one: the one which prepares me for the next one.

And right then, I thought, Well, I’m not a loser dilettante when I’m writing; I just write.

Thus, that leisurely bike ride and leisurely conversation popped something loose: Start writing again, and the writing will come. Sketching out that story for C. helped me to see that that’s maybe all it will ever be, and that’s okay. Commit to the writing itself, just, just remember that I can commit to the work itself.

Something else will come; something else always comes.

~~~

*Hey, C. it occurred to me that you could work the slingshot into a joke: Your narrator could pick up a slingshot or having someone hand one to her and she could demur, muttering “Too Clan-of-the-Cave Bear.”

Anyway.





KSPR post: Unexpected Neighbor

13 05 2011

Posted a few excerpts from the first chapter of my first novel, Unexpected Neighbor, at Knotted Spring Press Review.

When I finally manage to format it all for SmashWords, I’ll let y’all know.

And, hey, if you know anyone who might be interested in publicizing their work, send ‘em my way. Yeah, it’s all still very beta, but why not leap and look at the same time?





I’m gonna get it right this time

26 11 2010

I’m reconsidering.

Okay, so I’m always reconsidering pretty much everything, but this is a specific reconsideration: Whether to post novel-1 on Smashwords.

Part of it, I admit, is cold feet—what if nobody reads it? what if somebody reads it?—but part of it is wondering if this is the best way to send Unexpected People (soon-to-be-retitled) into the world.

You see, the editing worked: It’s better, now. A lot better.

It’s still not great, won’t set anyone’s hair on fire, but the stiltedness is (mostly) gone, the over-knowingness and, frankly, the Q&A aspect of so many of the conversations has for the most part been eliminated.

Here’s a bit from the first section:

From her crouch on the bed, Kit could both hear the squealing below and watch the neighbor lady getting into her car. She had a large bag and a bundle of papers; was she going to work on a Saturday? Bummer.
She was pretty, though, from what she could tell from the distance. Really tan, or maybe black; tough to tell from just the glimpse at her face; were those dreadlocks? Cool.
As the car crept backward down the driveway, Kit shifted her focus to the room. How many hours left? She didn’t have to be back on the ward until tomorrow night, so, what, 30 something hours left? Ten of those sleeping? A couple in the shower, dressing, her room. Twenty hours with her family. She sighed, then slid off the bed.
‘Well, I probably should shower, then,’ she mumbled to herself. A shower always made her feel stronger—not because that’s what normal people did, but because it helped her to gather herself to herself. Pieces of her flaked and chipped off every moment she was awake; taking off her old clothes then putting on new ones after she was clean was a kind of repair. It didn’t last, but those first moments out of the shower made her feel as whole as she could be.
She’d forgotten how humid the bathroom would get; the fans on the ward were much stronger. Still, Kit lingered, eyes closed, in the steamy room, waiting to propel herself into the day. You can do this. You can do this.

Janis heard the noise from the shower, and tried not to track how long it took before Kit showed up. Instead, she ransacked the cabinets for flour, sugar; did they have enough peanut butter? Check. Chocolate chips? Check.
She turned to Lindsay. ‘Chocolate chip bars or cookies?’
‘Cookies!’ Lindsay said immediately. She looked at Patrick, explaining, ‘You get more that way.’
He laughed. ‘It’s the same amount of dough, Linds, either way.’
She was unmoved. ‘But you get more cookies than bars.’
‘All right, all right,’ he relented. ‘You got me there.’

Kit lingered in her room, rummaging for her favorite socks. She didn’t have these on the ward—her parents did the packing—and wanted to make sure they were still around. The deep green didn’t quite match her purple hoodie, but she was satisfied with her outfit anyway. Low riders, moccasins, sweatshirt. It wasn’t like she’d be seeing anyone today, anyway.

The kitchen was so warm Janis cracked open a window.
‘Hey, did you meet the new neighbor?’
Janis looked puzzled. ‘New neighbor?’
Patrick flipped another cookie onto the board, then raised his eyebrows to Lindsay. ‘Pretty good, huh kid?’ She rolled her eyes back at him. ‘Yeah, the one with the Saab?’
Lindsay looked up from the cookie bowl. ‘That bug car? She’s nice.’
Janis’s frown deepened. ‘What, Saab, bug car?
‘Veronica,’ Patrick stated. ‘And she’s not nice, she’s fiiiiiiiine’ He waggled his brows at Lindsay, then flipped another cookie. This one hit the floor.
‘You dummy.’
He scooped the broken cookie into his mouth. ‘No worries,’ he gargled through hot cookie. ‘Five second rule.’ He swallowed. ‘Mmm.’
‘Gross.’

You get the idea: Kit is home from the hospital for the weekend, her mom Janis is trying to something normal and homey, and her older brother Patrick and younger sister Lindsay are enjoying the Kit-free kitchen.

The manuscript as a whole is dialogue-heavy, with only minimal place-setting. Over the course of the novel you get bits of description: the neighbor Veronica’s house is a one-story ranch, while the family’s house is two-story; Veronica has a cement back stoop and a small detached garage she never uses, while the other house has a nice wood deck, a usable garage with a basketball hoop, and a large yard with a wood swing and various berry bushes. I don’t give the town they live a name, but, in my own mind, at least, it’s in the Midwest—maybe Illinois or Indiana—and large enough to support at least a small college and with a diversified economy.

You also don’t get too much by way of physical description of the characters. Veronica is bi-racial, with long dreadlocks, in her late thirties; Janis is blonde, works out, in her mid-forties; her estranged husband Rick has a mustache, and later grows a beard; Patrick (19) is tall, Kit (16) has dark hair, and Lindsay (10-11) has long hair. That’s it.

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with my reconsideration. I know the publishing business is in the pits and the whole agent-editor-book contract model is wobbling—against that, the self-pub route seems almost reasonable.

But there’s another option, as well, which is to go the small press route. I have to look into this further, to find out if manuscripts may be sent directly or if they still require agency representation, but I think this story would fit a small press well. That I have a second manuscript already in the can would, presumably, work in my favor.

So, much more research, a little more editing, and then: a decision.





I was so much younger then

16 11 2010

I need an image.

No, not for me—I have my lovely red cube—for my first novel.

I really slacked off on the editing, but it’s done, now. For the most part. One last walk-through. . . .

Anyway, I should be able to post it to Smashwords say, oh, around Thanksgiving, and I’d really like it to have a ‘cover’, and, given that the novel is neither abstract nor experimental, an abstract or experimental image wouldn’t work.

So a photo, or a drawing, something which has some relationship to the setting of the novel itself. I sketched something out, but, well, there’s a reason I work in words. Then I tried searching for images of what I’d want, thinking I could just pony up a licensing fee, but, eh.

Then I thought, Huh, I wonder if I’ve got something which could work in my photo bin. So, after hoisting Tricks and then Jasper out from the pile of photos, I dove into my past.

There are my nieces and nephew as babies. My sister with a perm. My brother with hair. And, jesus, that short-sleeved green shirt I still love? Apparently, I bought that in high school, as there’s a shot of me wearing it in the high school theatre makeup room. There’s K. and M. and me in our costumes from Mame, and, ho, there I am, in a bikini at the quarry.

No, I won’t be posting that one.

I just bought some film for my old Olympus, but, really, most of my shots these days are digital. Will it be the same, in ten or twenty or thirty years to flip through my computer (or online or whatever) archive and see shots of the kitties or my apartment or snow on the fire escape?

Maybe. It is the image, primarily, which pulls me back, and that’s what I’ll see. But I can also tell the different cameras I used in the film shots, the kind of film, the matte and glossy finish. And while I regularly delete bad images from my digital chip, I kept a lot of the old bad film shots—hey, I paid for those!

I’m not slagging the digital, and who knows, in twenty years digital may be old school.

But I’ll never be as young as I was on film.





666?

8 09 2010

Two-thirds, that is—I’m about 2/3 of the way through the chop-edit of my first novel.

I’ll go back over it, again, once I’ve finished with the axe, but by then sandpaper should do.

As I’m thwacking my way through this, it’s so, so clear how much a first novel this is. I knew that, before, even when it was still my darling, but my cold eyes now see all of the cracks covered by my previous affection.

Still, I plan to go through with my plans to Smashwords this. Flaws and all, it is still an engaging enough read. And I’ll never write another novel like this one.

Perhaps that’s why I’m willing to put this cracked-pot out there: because I won’t ever write something like this again.

My second novel, as I’ve mentioned, is better, more complex, and my third novel—well, two of my three third novels (not counting the first third-novel, now languishing in a persistent vegetative state)—take(s) me even further away from my experiences and more into ‘what-if’ territory.  I don’t want any of these novels to become mechanical (cf. Ian McEwan, Richard Powers), but I do want to see if I conjure a novel out of the air rather than memory.

I rush to remind that the first novel is not autobiographical—and in the reminder hope you don’t notice the rush. To say that the characters are not me or her or her or him is true enough, but, in fact, I’m not wholly comfortable with how much is recognizable. This is one novel that, for those who know me, one could say Oh, yeah, I see that. And not just see what I see, but see parts of me that I don’t see.

Terrifying.

But if I am to write for others, I have to allow that those others will see what I don’t see. I can control everything up to the point I let it go, at which point I must simply let it go.

So that’s why I want to put (the still provisionally-named—please, if you have any suggestions, let me know) Unexpected People out there. Few people are likely ever to read it, certainly, but the risk—the risk!—that it might actually be read, well, let me start dealing with that now, with the novel that got me started.

That all sounds backasswards, I know: I’m afraid not that I won’t have readers, but that I will. But there it is.

And so if I am ever to make a move with my other novels or any other writing, I have to stop hiding, stop protecting whatever the hell it is I think I’m protecting, and let it go.

And so, after the chopping and sanding, and the running of my hand over it one last time, I’ll let it go.





Slice it up

12 07 2010

Yes, this is a kill-your-darling situation.

I re-read (for the nth time) Unexpected People, and, well, nothing like a serious consideration that I’d put this out there for me to detach myself from the piece.

If it’s going to live, it can’t be my darling anymore.

I think the basic set-up is okay, but jeez louise the dialog is too much. So slice and dice and chop and sand and I think it could be okay.

It’s funny that only now can I see a way to edit this. When I made initial inquiries to agents back in 2007, I knew it was flawed but thought that an editor could help me figure out how to fix it; I hung back, I think, because of this, not engaging my customary editorial ruthlessness. But now, now that this will all be on me, I’ve snapped out of it, and I’ve begun sharpening my knives.

It won’t be a masterpiece, regardless, but it could be better.

And so it will be.

Once again, stay tuned.





Take a chance, take a chance

11 07 2010

Publish or perish?

What ought to be the fate of a first, flawed (fatally?) novel?

My second novel is pretty good, with no obvious structural flaws—although there are, of course, still flaws—and perhaps worth the effort to find an agent and, with luck, a publisher.

But the first, mm, the first is most definitely a first novel. Too much of this, not enough of that: the motivation for one if not two of the main characters remains murky, and however human the characters are (I am pretty good with character), they are a bit, tsssss, how do I put this, too wise?

Still, even with the over-knowingness, the characters are appealing, and I’d like to give them a chance. Hence the dilemma.

E-publishing removes almost all of the obstacles to publication, which is both a good and a bad thing. If an author thinks a novel is engaging enough, she can bypass all of the gatekeepers to print publication and go direct to the cybersphere. But gatekeepers are not always bad, and can keep an author from putting out something for which she feels affection, but which is also perhaps not ready for prime time.

Kill your darlings, said Faulkner, and I agree, wholeheartedly. I’ve struck beautiful sentences, etched out lyrical paragraphs, and consigned lovely metaphors to the trash bin, all because they didn’t advance the tale or the argument.  The play’s the thing, said another well-known author (albeit in a different context), and it is because I ardently believe that the overall purpose matters more than any part that I am willing to kill my darlings.

But what if the entire play—or novel, in this case—is your darling?

I never, er, well, not since I was a kid, did I expect to write a novel, and then  whooosh, this one (tentatively named Unexpected People) poured out of me. I wrote it in three months, after getting home from the late shift at work, and it came out clean. There was editing and trimming, of course, but I wrote and I wrote and then as I neared the end I wondered how it would end and then it did.

I wrote, and then I was done. What an amazing feeling!

The second novel was more complicated, which in turn required more discipline, more editing, more time; it is, on the whole, a more involved novel. But it also wouldn’t have happened without that first one, with what I learned in the writing of the first one, with what I learned I could do.

So do I chalk up Unexpected People as a kind of exercise, the practice before the performance?

That seems wrong, not least because it wasn’t an exercise, but a thing in itself: the stories, the characters, matter in themselves.

There is another way to deal with this, of course: try to fix those flaws. When I’d considered this previously, I thought, Oh, no, any surgery would kill the patient. But now I’m not so sure: I just sent a copy to C. (she’s helping me with a possible cover for a Smashwords version) and, just for kicks, decided to re-read it. The problems are evident—so much so I’m worried about what C. will say—but I still like the people in the story, still want to find out (even though I already know) what happens.

(Yes, I’m more hesitant to have a friend read this than strangers. That’s how it is.)

So I’ll finish reading it, then consider ways to shrink the flaws, perhaps by cutting back on the knowingness (i.e., the talkiness) of the characters, and hear what C. has to say.

I both do and do not want to publish this on Smashwords. There’s the whole matter of trying to get readers for it and marketing and shit would I have to Tweet and. . . tchaaaaarrgh maybe open a fucking. . . Facebook! account and all of the other issues of self-publishing.

But those are all technicalities, and secondary to the main question: Do I kill this darling, or let it find its way?

Stay tuned.








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