Welcome back, my friends, to the blog that never ends...

It's actually a Saturday afternoon. Yesterday was a Friday morning that felt like a Saturday morning because the deadline passing felt like a Friday - work's done, deadlines met, whoohoo, time to Relax!

Okay, so sometimes I look a little strange talking to myself and I lose track of what day it is. Big old professor, my dad, would get just as disoriented at times - because he was concentrating on something that took a lot of focus.

Rewrite on Strigler's Succubus is up to chapter 14. I am in the middle of polishing his House Janol Initiation - when our young mage-hero finds the magic he trusted that wasn't the Dark Side is just that alien and that lovely. This is where a fellow less ditzy than Luke meets an Obi-Wan that's less pompous and it's a slight paean to the idea of grand old ceremonial magick initiations - to The Magic Flute and Egyptian funerary rites, to Shaolin temples and Maori myth-dances, to all the beauty of ceremony itself. It is the one it is. The focus is on the initiate. The focus of the adept, who is at the moment actually a telepathic group-mind doing an intricate coordinated dance that is sometimes a group-mind and sometimes achieving a momentary fusion of identity that's rather mystical, is on welcoming a new initiate to their ancient order. Setting is at the fore. Setting and staging and drama is sacred drama in this chapter and it's all the wisers and elders in a very esoteric group focusing on making that young man remember his initiation and the life lessons in it. They are also helping him achieve another more dangerous one concurrent with it, he brought in his own spellwork as every one of them did at his or her own. They are archetypal good guys, these ancient adepts. They also have a lot of the qualities of laughing buddhas and mystics who celebrate joy and look for the real, tangible beauty in life. They're terrifying at first - and it's a roller coaster ride, it's the deliberate scariness of initiation. It's like taking the kids down in the kiva to break the kachinas. They are the people who know how everything works to the extent they do, most are comfortable with the idea that the known is finite and the infinite is unknowable, they're wise in some very modern ways.

Wise enough to let the initiate set his goals. Wise enough to give him the advice and expertise he needs - and hand him most of all that depth of tradition and history, that level of identity this guy just never had. It means something to human readers to be welcomed into a group with a lot of fuss. To move from being one of Them to one of Us, to share the in-jokes, to know all the little quirks and traditions that make the particular SF club in your own city always meet at that familiar restaurant and everyone cracks up if lemon pie gets mentioned, because years before a lemon pie wound up involved in some night that exploded in laughter and cracked off strings of puns Spider Robinson would envy.

This chapter's working on all levels, but it really needed this rewrite. Because the beauty and the meaning of that alien ceremony, something that rests on a ton of backstory and has its internal to the book meanings and shoves the plot forward ferociously, has to have that timeless quality that Shaolin temples and Anglican cathedrals and Maori myth-songs share when the content is none and all of those things. It's unearthly. Like those it is itself. Like those it could be nothing else and means exactly as it does, but it has to stir those feelings and what stirs feelings is poetry.

I tore up and mangled the paragraph description of the guiding adept. I had everything down all right. I had the adept visualized in my mind, the telepath who's channeling all the rest of the group who are kibitzing on the high ceremony. Going back to it on the reread - it was all there but the prose wasn't up to the task. It needed line editing. Most of all it needed line editing. I slashed whole unnecessary phrases and not one descriptive noun. I added a few details, I'd left myself room to and the Adept was hanging as clearly in my mind as if I saw the movie last night. I'm much happier with the rewrite. A lot of what I was trying to say with the ceremonial details is clearer. A lot of the clues as to who the unseen members of the group-mind are have been highlighted, something that remains background but it's vital to continuity. Series readers, once all the books in these worlds are available, will be able to read this out of order and speculate a little and pick up series arc backstory from the details of the formal House Janol Initiation.

If I do my job right as author, a reader should be able to pick up any of the books out of order and enjoy them, or at least the linked groups like trilogies or seven voyages of Stormrider or whatever, and just wander wherever they want to in the vast expanding series multiverse. There should always be enough in that volume to make that volume make sense, so that it's not like a middle volume of a trilogy that you really needed to have read the first and it isn't satisfying if you don't own the third. Looking at what's sitting unsold on my hard drive, I succeeded in that with some of them. I didn't with others. All of them are rough, because my new definition of Rough Draft is simply "It isn't in print yet."

I'm still facing the equivalent of, if I were Roddenberry, trying to sell Voyager when I don't know if the first season of the first series of Star Trek sold yet!

And you know, that isn't a bad thing? I'm glad I've done it. I'm glad I've written all of them and that I can do it. Because the one thing about this approach is that I will not ever wind up writing Return of the Revenge of the Son of Malarkey McGuffin.

Okay, maybe that's too good of a title for me not to write Return of the Revenge of the Son of Malarkey McGuffin because I do write comedy too. But if I do that it'll be intentional and it'll be the comedy microphone I pick up when I do that. I won't be chewing on a main premise of an epic series till it's like the flavorless dusty hard gum stuck under the edge of the bed, okay? I meditate on the stand alone qualities of series books - and if I can do this right, if I can structure it that way, the immense warehouse backlog of good solidly written rough novels IS marketable and I can try the Trotline Approach to making a dang living off of it. For all I know, Blood Junkie is the one that might hit the market.

Hm. What's this rumination leading to? A rewriting habit. An inventory and a look at the warehouse here in my hard drive. A recognition that if I can do this with Strigler's Succubus, maybe in the next few months I should get on a regular monthly schedule of picking out those other books on a basis of 'closest to standing on its own as a stand-alone' and do them up with this treatment. A thorough rewrite. A nice proposal package and synopsis. A well written query with a good hook line. Then just trust that whatever I manage to kick open the door with, I can follow it up with more.

It matters to me logistically that I can do this in only a few intensive days of real work.

It matters that if I did get a nibble, I could respond that quickly and not lose the opportunity. I am beating sense into my own head right now. I need to do that, because while I'm writing I get more of the 'days flow past timelessly and I'm just enjoying what I'm doing' attitude of a Lochannan. Not terribly practical in a day to day sense. But if I can make the transition to the pro lifestyle and use some common sense laying in my personal infrastructure, then I can get to a point where I don't have to pay that much attention to that any more and go back to 'well, I live and I write and the cons and boards are my social life and I'll marry someday in my moiety and eat at Denny's with the fen and life's good.'

I know where and how I want to live, and it will take a certain amount of success to get to a point where my disability is just a minor inconvenience, no more impediment than blindness is to a musician. A colorful point about someone who'd have been what he is whether or not he had the disability. I do not like the way I have to spend so much time and effort within a social circumstance where my disabilities are what defines who I am to the people I deal with. There are many, many times when I envy the normally abled detective novelist security guard who rode up and down the freight elevator in San Francisco working on his fourth book, when his life seemed like the height of serenity and comfort. He was well on his way to being able to leave the security uniform behind and just write detective novels full time. He had a job to keep from worrying about economic security and he chose the dullest job he could do, but one that had a theme and atmosphere that reminded him of the context of his stories. Deserted banks and office buildings at night are atmospheric for detective fiction.

I am not my disabilities. I do not like being dehumanized and handled and treated by people as a cripple. Yeah, I have limits. Yeah, I do have to get around them and I'm rather clever in how I do it sometimes. Yeah, I have a few special needs in day to day life and some things ordinary people take for granted are that difficult and sometimes not worth doing. Especially if they're for entertainment - by definition anything done for fun ought to actually be enjoyable while you're doing it or it's not worth the trouble. Who I am isn't the cripple. Who I am is the writer - and I'm just lucky none of those disabilities prevent me from doing the one thing that does matter to me that much.

In a strange little satori during this rewrite, I'm actually beginning to feel something I've spent months trying to pound into myself. I wanted to enjoy rewriting. I wanted to find this part of the process just as exciting and satisfying as the rest of it. That is how I will have a happy life. I don't want to be stuck regularly with an ugly miserable chore that I have to get out of the way to get back to the fun part. What I want is to appreciate every part of the process for what it is and come into a natural harmony that I get a whole lot done without ever noticing what time it is. Shiela Viehl commented last night in the Friday Think Tank at Forward Motion that it's working because I'm managing to keep focus.

She is so right and I am so happy it worked. I'm daring to think about the rewrites on thirty-plus finished roughs positively, because if I can enjoy doing this one, that's a matter of - like framing all the artworks already painted or painting the house that I built myself, it's constructive and it's another neat intricate skill-pride part of my life to do it well, better than I did yesterday and not as well as I will next year. One of the perpetual kicks is just competence. Confidence built on real skills, being able to trust myself not to screw up something that has become easy through practice.

I think what slaughtered my self esteem for years and years was looking at things I wanted to do and didn't know how yet. I wanted it that badly and didn't know how to make it turn out that way. The esoteric mysteries of the ancient pro writers are one by one becoming less mysterious - how to make a witty character appealingly sarcastic with a good line on the tip of his tongue. My character started mouthing off more in the rewrite! I already knew what was going on and he had a chance to think up a good line and he did. Right on beat. Little triumphs like that are making this a joy to get done... and yeah, for me the Guild Arcane is and always will be SFWA. I don't care if it has feet of clay and internal politics and some annoying people in it. There's no group of human beings on this planet that doesn't have some annoying people in it and sometimes they're funny. When I earn my way into that particular trade organization, it means something to me. If it went so sour that I never wanted to attend another meeting, I'd still hang on to the card and remember friends and mentors now dead who did welcome me into it a long time ago, and it would matter. Heck, if I get to a point where I don't have to focus my life this hard on breaking in, there's something I can do about 'club politics gone wrong.' Like mix into them and take my turn getting things done. The tempests in a teapot get silly. There are people upset that J. K. Rowling, who did a great little children's series, won a Hugo Award for the quality of her work.

Rowling's a Cinderella like David Gerrold was. A single mother wrote some good books and wrote herself off the dole by selling good books and she won the jackpot in the Literary Lottery - and I read the first of her series. It's exactly what I expected it to be from the size of the splash. Hello, here's another Wizard of Oz, another series that has got a level of outrageous British comedy punctuating a classic story and the kid's a sympathetic hero and his friends are fascinating and his troubles are larger than life. It has its themes and they're heroic, it has its wit and that's wonderful, it's memorable. It's well done. Likely to stick as a Classic. I don't see any horrifying problem with a children's Classic being seen as either literature or award winning speculative fiction because children are people! Everyone used to be one! Everyone was once part of that automatic underclass of people whose lives are not their own surrounded by adults who all have their own agendas, most of whom abuse that authority in minor ways without thinking or major ones that no adult would put up with for more than a day on the job. Abuse of authority is a human topic, it's one of those vast enduring themes. Personal petty cruelty is one of the subtler problems of human life and if it's a question of our times, that's only because these are times in which a lot of what went unquestioned through most of history actually gets questioned.

I don't think of SF writers as better than romance writers or mystery writers or Western writers or Western horse trainers or American football stars. Okay? There's my view of it. Generically, the way the world's economy is shifting, it's already moved to a service economy and something beyond that is glimmering in the promise of robot labor. The promise that everyone who's broke noticed about robot labor from the start of industry: real physical prosperity for the human race and the elimination of slavery, serfdom and other forms of gruelling human subjugation. Robots do not feel the whip. Robots, other than the fantastic sentients of Asimov's stories or mine or anyone else's, who are people if we build them and children of the human race, the ones that aren't sentient are less vulnerable than animals. They are just things, the robot that built your car is just a neat machine like the car that's doing some of the work it would otherwise take human beings to do and that redefines work. That redefines the meaning of work.

The things robots can't do include writing novels, painting murals and designing them, creative activity, Maori myth-songs, the wealth of things that a curious intelligent predatory race finds to do with its playtime including depth spirituality and high ritual. The human beings in hunting gathering cultures spent about 90% of their time in cultural activities and the intricate complexities of tribal life, about 10% in literally assuring physical survival needs. The talk about a Service Economy is one thing - but beyond that, there's a lot that isn't waiting on people in restaurants. Yet the way the world works, so much of the entertainment industry narrows to Superstar or Nothing.

I read an article interviewing Patrick Neilsen Hayden, the editor who's considering my book among the 'dozen or so interesting things by new authors' that he reads in background to consider for Tor... in which he gave me a reality check about bad market conditions. In his view, things are not as bad as they were back in the seventies when I was a messed up college kid who couldn't write - a level that once supported 35 or 40 full time professionals now supports several hundred, but the number of Superstars is about consistent. I have to ask myself - would I honestly be happy without Superstardom if I've gotten my life together to the point that I can comfortably live on what I earn?

That put things in perspective for me, and so did the thought of Jack Haldeman's life and lifestyle. His house, his wife's crafts, his convention appearances and general happiness in life. Take care of the necessities first. Sure, it will be fun to have vast wealth and power if I ever win The Big Game like Rowling, and it is a game of skill. If I write that well, I've got a shot at that anytime over any book. But I will not measure my skill by my economic success either - I will not measure my self by my economic success. I won't shoot low, because the big Lotto Win fantasy of bestseller status, even if it's fleeting, is something I could strategically use to dig in and ensure that I'd make it through any low tide periods in my career. I won't assume any flash in the pan successes are enduring unless they come down that way. I'll take luck for luck but load the odds in my favor - but the Haldeman lifestyle is mine if I just do a good job at this job and do it consistently well every time.

I could wind up in a trailer home or a mansion. I know if I wound up with the mansion someday, I might not sell the trailer home, might just keep that and rent it out cheap or swap it off to some new writer that needs the elbow room and time to get started. Aside from which, when I get the trailer home it's not going to be remotely standard. That's where a thousand offstage hobbies come in and it winds up fantastic especially on the interior - all this nomadic textile stuff and refined through many moves furnishings, my physical culture, will extend to the freedom to paint, wallpaper, panel and decorate the walls. Remove the doors and replace with neat crafted doors, some my work, some things that I swapped for or bought from other artisans.

That trailer home will be a tiny little palace, like the home of an artist I knew back in New Orleans - because that much physical luxury is available to anyone who takes the time to put that into their dwelling place.

It doesn't have to be like anyone else's - yet a lot of my friends would recognize it in the moment they stepped through the door. How much do the physical artifacts of daily living reflect culture? How much of 'modern' styles are bleak, oversimplified, stark and occasionally downright hostile? The shame of living in prosperity when others live in real starvation pervades many modern designs. It's a self conscious attempt at false humility, when I look at culturally rich people their physical artifacts reflect that culture. My house will look a bit as if the elves and vampires and fairies had a hand in its design, that will make a lot of people who love the books walk in and feel right at home by way of unspoken heraldry. I'm proud of my work. I might take a wall and make up the heraldic banners of all my heroes on the sewing machine some silly week, get into Fannish Physical Culture and savor the fact that I'm the author, I'm definitely someone who belongs in the fan club. If they ever make a movie, I'll take home a few toys from the set and put those up on the trophy wall too. Because any kind of symbolic hunting that leaves no one hurt and a bunch of people happier than they were if I didn't go do it, that's a dang good way for me to make a living!

That's enough of a rambly break. I'm going back to Piarra to finish the House Janol Initiation. Y'all have a good one...

Robert and Ari >^..^<


Wow... it's a Saturday morning and I had a full night's sleep and the pressure's off.

The pressure's off and the excitement's back.

I'm still thrilled about Strigler's Succubus. I did successfully trick myself into getting almost halfway through with the rewrite, so far that it would be pointless to set it aside as it's within spitting distance of Done. As in really done. Done enough to write up synopsis and queries and send it out.

Buy the big ticket, not just the scratch games.

And then last night in Holly's Q&A, a sleeper of a recognition raised the stakes and changed the whole series. I have one more revelation to slip in around the last chapter. A bomb to drop. One that has sat there ticking through the whole book, that bomb is both part of a wild and woolly ending *and* a nice tie to the next volume. Strigler's succubus is the MC's mom. She had him back when she was a demon. She quietly told me that and suggested she ought to tell him that in her revelations - though she might be tactful enough to drop that bomb privately. Throughout the book he's had a lot of inner conflicts fighting a tendency to evil magic, he triumphs over himself and chooses good instead, there are other clues and at some points he's terrified of magic that isn't evil and that he has as much right as anyone to use. But if he's half demonspawn, with the mysterious 'we know who your dad is by DNA analysis but whoever your mom is, she should never have bugged out like that and treated you so rotten...' from his newfound blood relations...

Then in books to come he's got Other Kin! Haha! Yeppers! Less Sympathetic Kinfolks all right! Hey, why not Cousins From Hell? Raises the stakes. Anyone can have obnoxious relatives. Obnoxious relatives who have a literally evil nature and a cardinal vice? This could be FUN... hehehe...

And of course what the demons are, where they come from, what the Hells are and why they're there is all there in the backstory. These demons are characters. I kept running into references to demons in lots of non Judeo-Christian sources and while the traditional 'pact with a demon' turns up mostly in that, it can sometimes occur elsewhere. Demons cannot break their word. Demons can be enslaved if you get the right magic words and ceremonial magic things down perfectly, whatever they think of their orders they can't disobey. Strigler's succubus is also a highly sympathetic runaway slave girl who changed her inner nature to get out of those chains. Which means at least one of his branch of the family got past 'avenge all the wrongs done to us' into 'build a life for myself.' Which means not all of his evil relations on the dark side are bad people, but one side of his halfbreed ancestry is a slave race.

The revelation scene will overlap somewhat, it may get shortened and quoted again in a sequel when I pick up his demonic relatives. But he will have some and some unusual kinships on that side. Makes it an epic conflict. Just the thing to keep running in background to pop up when needed most to discombobble the gang over and over. Just what *is* the relationship between the child of an escaped slave who was born in slavery and snuck out by his mom to the owner of the former slave? What would that slaveowner think of that child, even if that child was only half?

At first sight in the first book this looks like it's "The personal troubles of some Ordinary People against the backdrop of sweeping epic conflicts." Till I recognized that he's got ties on all sides in those epic conflicts, that the little multinational microcosm of the Misfit Mages is not just a good reflection of the epic conflicts but probably under way too much attention from their secret services. This could get big.

Series plotting is one of those nice fun rambly things to do on a lazy Saturday morning - before I jump into Chapter Nine and start punching it up!

I'm having fun...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I am sleeping like a sensible cat, but I'm very cute when I'm asleep. Soon I will wake and turn into Destructo Kitty, scourge of breakables!)


Last chore done, last envelope prepped. The three print submissions are ready to rock. Onward!

Robert and Ari >^..^< (He didn't like it when I bounced on the book. He didn't like it when I bounced on the printer. He didn't like it when I bounced on the radio. What does this guy want?)
Bloggin' - Bloggin' - Bloggin' right along...

It's done! I made the Last Dare! Barely, with an hour to spare, I finished rewriting chapter 8 of Strigler's Succubus and in an amazing feat of time management, wound up awake and reasonably cogent before taking off to do First Day Covers. One last tiny chore - write up a cover letter for the story that's going to The New Yorker and get those envelopes addressed. I can pick up the postage for it at the post office when I drop them off, but the envelopes need fixing up and the three print submissions gotta go in the bag with the art stuff.

This is a great feeling. I went right to the wire on these Dares, but I got them done. Last stage - over the weekend I want to finish rewriting Strigler's Succubus because I'm actually that close to the middle - 8 out of 20 chapters is not that bad - and then write up a good exciting synopsis. A synopsis that reads like a review of a book you want to buy. And start composing some query letters on it.

I've waited too long to hear back on Chazho.

It's time to treat this one, the most recent book finished, that professionally and start pimping it out while I'm still that excited about it. I've got a couple of good sequel ideas and I can put together something like a proposal with a sketchy synopsis for the sequels, just to show how the series plots connect. That and on my agent queries, I want to do up a nice little sheet that has a full listing of everything I've got done. Something to send the ones that are interested in representing the entire body of my work. Something to show them the range.

I need to catalogue the hard drive anyway. I've been strange in my habits. I've got tons of novels finished in rough draft form. Some of those roughs only need a lick and a polish. Others, thankfully farther down on the series, need serious reworking. I have dealt with deadline pressure by stocking up - the habits of someone who used to sell paintings on the street or crafts on a dealer's table. If I have enough really good work done, the customers will feel as if they've got a choice and be impressed with the quality. That held true for jewelry or doodads or paintings and it became part of my habits.

Most of all, I got way ahead of myself - so if any of the several series that subsume into the overall matrix of the world-scheme sell, I'm not riding deadline for anything but the rewrites.

I can reasonably assume that editors who have been editors for ten or twenty or more years know the job a lot better than I do and that if they want rewrites, their suggestions will make sense. Ditto for agents. If they even have the time to critique, I will get worthwhile critiques. Judging from what I've seen in print, well, no matter what sells I will have to attack the proofreading and copy editing as ferociously as if I was self publishing. That's not a problem.

But it feels good to get to the point where I've got a little more confidence about being able to do that - that I won't wind up with my Dream in my hands turning to dust because I fried out and collapsed under pressure. I needed to know that I could do that. One by one I'm putting together the habits that are going to make all this come together as a solid reality. Dreams become goals become realities.

If I have to fool myself by creeping forward an inch at a time instead of grinding to a halt, or overdoing it just to know I can do it at all, that worked.


Robert and Ari >^..^<


5:15pm - made it to Apprentice Level. Just finished chapter four. Luckily I had a couple of easy chapters. I might finish this in time - in time being before Andrew shows up to pick me up, or worst case, banging through the last of it when I get home tomorrow night and before midnight...

It's exhausting, but it feels good to get this far with it.

Robert and Ari >^..^<
Two chapters into the rewrite. 6 to go to make it to the Dare. It's exhausting. I did one last night before I crashed, and got up at about ten to do the next. It took about four hours, the changes were major and some of them involved giving a formerly cliche formerly silent character her good dialogue. Which this tempestuous female rejected again and again until her lines were perfect. She has her own style. She wanted to express herself. I adore her, but she is exhausting!

Hopefully the next chapter won't be as bad. I think it's not, I pretty much remember what it is. I think it's a matter of where I need to cut in the things from the end that need to be laid in - there are all these spots where if I snip something, I do have to smooth in the changed scene.

But it's relatively early. I ought to at least make Apprentice Level with two more chapters...

Robert and Ari >^..^<


And he's 8 for 8, folks! There goes Sloan...

Sent off Dawn of the Time Clones to Strange Horizons, amazed and delighted that I can actually try out for pro money with a little text file in body of mail, so simple, so neat to have another lottery ticket around.- and if I had any sense I'd dig in the hard drive and scrape out all fifty more of them and pick on them till they're good. But, I really want to try for getting all my Dares done.

I just have to pretend I can work as fast and professionally as Sheila Viehl, because if I believe that, maybe I can. Now gee. If I had contract and things happened in real life that ate up all the time I had till the book was in exactly the state it is this minute... and I had to FedEx the dang thing on Thursday... could I do it? The Dare is just to finish rewriting eight chapters of it. There are only 20 chapters of it. So mythical deadline is really FedEx On Friday and divide my time so that I get close to half done on Thursday morning when Andrew comes.

Further, let us imagine that Lazette Gifford, a friend with a good eye for everything from copyediting problems to structural difficulties, prose, action, character, everything, an editor I know... happened to get hired by said imaginary major publisher that gave me the imaginary contract. Why? Because I know Zette's standards. Zette would not let me off the hook on anything. Therefore my rewrite has to pass Zette's imaginary scrutiny, even if I don't pester Zette personally for a novel swap when it's done. Zette, if you're reading this, I'm not going to ship you the novel - though I may post it on the boards. If you do get hired by a major publishing house this weekend to edit their fantasy novels, please, let me know!

I've got this much time and that much work and no time in it for worrying. Just doing.

And maybe setting a deadline "by the end of the weekend" as if I had to FedEx on Monday would be a good thing, because that also gives me time to do up a synopsis and a set of queries. Shudder. Set that fear aside. Let's get the book ready first - let's not quibble or worry. Remember, submissions are fun. That's cheap gambling with some big pots and very few players compared to State Lotteries in a game where skill counts. Novels actually carry the big pots. Short story submissions are more like scratch game tickets, fun, but not likely for me to make a living on them unless I not only played every day but got the reprint circuit going just as fast and furious and started getting some of them into Playboy and its ilk.

Novels are what might get me the extravagant lifestyle of a manager at a McDonald's or a car mechanic or a truck driver or any other traditional job I might have had if I wasn't disabled. Novels could put me in a trailer home I own in some state that has a nice low cost of living and interesting neighbors, a vehicle to get to cons in, a laptop to call my own so that the ups and downs of an uncertain lifestyle have a floor above the basement level. If I wind up dirt broke and on the streets again, a laptop means I did not lose my job in it. Books in print and books sold would also help when I'm facing bureaucrats who don't take that job seriously. The one I did self publish has. They can see it. They can hold it in their hands. What it did for me psychologically affects other people too. There are a lot of readers out there who do not see any difference between a nice trade paperback from a major publisher and a nice trade paperback from a print on demand publisher, because physically the book's the same. It stands on its own merits and they can order their own copy off Amazon if they like it when they skim.

Which is something I'll remember the first time I sell one to a regular publisher - to make sure the rights revert when it's out of print so that I can keep my backlist available in print on demand. I think that's probably the real niche it's right for - something Donald Maass pointed out in "Writing the Breakout Novel." And it's a kindness to collectors, it's for all the times that I found an author I liked and read little blurbs in the back of old books about books I wanted to read and couldn't get anywhere. It's a cool thing. Yeah, it means that some beginners are going to put bad books on the market. Wow, when they do, readers will find them and say "Yuck" or look back on it and really laugh a few years later if they found it after reading something better the beginner did after they grew up. But order it as a collection completer - and the handful of people who know the author really do want that badly written Biography of Grandma that matters to all the descendants of her eight children.

I'm driven to write well. That comes from within. I have a very hard time though, understanding why writing a bad story or book is treated like selling drugs or molesting children. It's not even on a par with a bad electrician. Nobody's going to die or lose their heat or lights if a publisher makes a bad choice and a bad book makes it to the market, least of all the people who liked it anyway despite its flaws. Houses do not burn down if someone's grammar checker went on the fritz. Children don't die if there's bad proofreading and the thing is raddled with typos.

I reread the first of the Thieves' World anthologies a few months ago and rolled on the floor laughing. From page one, it was raddled with typos and horrible errors. The stories were fun. The contents were light, reasonably entertaining sword and sorcery from authors who read Poul Anderson's "Thud and Blunder" essay about filth, gore and realism in the Middle Ages and ancient times and decided to apply it. That was the great groundbreaking concept of Thieves' World aside from Shared Worlds - Lovecraft had done Shared Worlds well a generation before with the Cthulhu Mythos, but TW was all about grime. Through successive volumes, the authors who played Gross-Out with each other on ancient-medieval mayhem in a somewhat magical world had a lot of fun! They mudded up the paladins and knocked the stuffing out of some of the daintier imitations of Conan or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and it was great... and the production values weren't that high. But the books were fun then and now.

When I'm feeling optimistic, I think of Print On Demand as the New Pulps - the soft market where new writers can find their footing and learn the craft. Fan fiction is that for some people. Original fanzines never really took off back in the old days of zine fandom, because readers wanted the media tie-in if they were shelling out $20 or $25 for a xeroxed spiral bound volume with bad art on the cover and new or amateur work inside. But e-zines at that beginner level do seem to survive - and the non paying markets and low paying small press markets are where a beginner can find out that someone, somewhere, actually agrees that was a neat idea, read it and liked it.

I think it's that hard for new writers to do a novel or finish a story in part because of that overwhelming pressure. There are people who will laugh at you for trying. They wouldn't laugh if you brought home power tools and some lumber and knocked together a coffee table and stained it nearly as much as if you knocked together a recognizable story with a beginning, middle and end - and they wouldn't expect that coffee table to look like the kind of scrolled ornate baroque cabinetry that you'd find in a museum either.

I learned a lot. My new stuff is better than my old stuff, the difference is most dramatic in my short stories. But I can't help thinking I would have done a lot more a lot sooner and learned faster if I'd dared to try the soft markets and had some support instead of discouragement. I'm more grateful to Forward Motion workshop than I can say, because it's much easier now to just take everything for what it is. Bad stories are fixable, good ones go out, better ones will come along next month or next year. I write better than I used to and not as well as I will.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (He still won't let me play with the printer! Meooowww!)
And another one down - five out of eight! I'm on a roll! Riddler's Gate just went to Ideomancer, a market that I've enjoyed reading. The story seemed to fit it. I might have gotten more money elsewhere, but it would be nice to have one in something I read. I just plain like Ideomancer.

And it was e-submission, something that helped me get over the antsy two day wait till I can put the print subs in the mail. I've got one just hanging now. This is a really good thing!

Robert and Ari >^..^<
Short little bloggy bit - I just finished the final polish and proofread and ran it out. I searched Ralan's looking in general for a good market. Blam. Right up at the top of the list. ANALOG - gee, I have pestered Stanley Schmidt in years past. I don't even have any of my old Analog rejection slips any more! Dang! It's about time I replaced them! Start at the top!

So, thrilled at the memories, I did up a nice little cover letter and put the hook line into it as the second paragraph and it's all packed up. I have had very gentle rejections in the past from Mr. Schmidt. I know he genuinely encourages new writers. In fact, it's a crying shame that I didn't have something on Mr. Schmidt's desk all along from the point last spring when I started doing short stories. If I hadn't been just throwing them at the websites, I might have gotten in already! You can't win if you don't play!

I feel good about it. Submitting to Analog is going back to an old friend, a magazine I've loved since I was a little kid. That's one that gets a special resolution. When it comes back, they get another and another until I sell one to them. I don't care which one it is, I want the Analog Acceptance someday. That magazine is a specific sub-goal, old friend that it is.

It may be weird, but the submission process is becoming the carrot for me to get my rewrites done well? I look forward to this! I've got the lottery ticket feeling now. That also brings me up to Apprentice New Story Rewrite, so I have accomplished something so far toward this Dare! Four done, four to go. There's hope!

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I'm going to wreck Robert's house if he keeps using my printer!)
Okay... it got about twice as long. The Great Gamemaster is up to 2,941 and that's a respectable length. It's a lot jazzier, more conflict, more action, more dialogue and oddly a bit more investigation. The real conflict emerged stronger in the rewrite: Tony wakes up knowing he's been dead, but the story is his looking for Rachel and finding her... and finding out why he's got life and her.

What if you found out your mind was donated to science - and it had commercial applications?

There's a better, snappier hook line for it. Doesn't really give away the story, they don't always - but it's a better hook. That goes in the cover letter.

Kind of a weird little Pinocchio in reverse, but it was fun to write and I had the idea kicking around for a long time, along with the title. Today was a good day to write it. And it's still early - it's 7:30 am now. Plenty of time to spell check this puppy, run it out again and get that into an envelope onto the stack of 'send it out Thursday' and see if I can pull another one...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Taking off his winter coat all over everything!)
Writing. It's a glorious addiction. 4:40am and I kicked off the day not by rewriting, but writing a new story. The Great Gamemaster, 1,574 words. Game designer Tony Singer wakes up after having been cryogenically frozen... to find that his mind has been downloaded as the artificial intelligence of a Bloodquest game module...

Bit long of a hook line but maybe I can shorten it. And maybe letting stories wait before rewriting isn't the best way for me to approach it. Maybe while I'm still that interested in that story, I can just go back into it, pick on it, check it over in a dozen ways and clean it up - now that I know what it's about. Not a very long one, but it's a fun little SF fantasy. And if I can get it sent off somewhere, so much the better. I do these that quickly and that easily. Going back over so many of them is intimidating, it's like letting the stuff laying around the apartment stack up till it's impossible to get it clean.

So maybe a good habit would be to do the rewrite immediately same day or within a day or so, send it out without thinking and try to get into that rhythm of rewriting one for every one that I write. I'm still looking for a long term habit here, not a big fuss, horrible, immerse in the uglier part of the job work habit. Like any other set of habits I've ever changed, I've got to find what works and then stick to it. The key important part is to keep trying and keep sending them out and get every one of them the best I can make it.

So now the technical question comes up: how can I be objective about this story while I'm still in the happy little glow of having finished it? The answer's right there in my hard drive - use the Critique Checklist from Forward Motion workshop and read through it again using that and asking each of those questions separately. Then fix whatever isn't up to par in it. Then pick a market, probably cruise Ralan's for that.

Attitude adjustment: It's not a bad thing that I've got sixty or so short stories sitting around on the hard drive ready to be reworked. That's a good thing because it'll let me pick which one to work on by what I would most enjoy working on. That gives me elbow room just the way having three dozen crafts projects going at once lets me pick how to spend my playtime for most enjoyment. Instead of saying when I will, I'll promise myself to at least look at all of them and decide what to do with them and work on them when I'm in the mood for it and will do them justice. I will eventually get to them all. I will let the pile of new ones slide into the pile of old ones and as long as the cushion stays consistent, I'll do fine - if I write more and pull some to send and keep it constant, there will be flow through and they will all always eventually get done.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Oooh he put out more Science Diet! Yum!)
Monday passed in an insomniac haze of weird headache and I got nothing done on it. Other than a visit with my case manager in the afternoon, after which I dazedly stayed at the keyboard till five. Slam. Finally got some sleep. Woke up at two thirty in the morning.

So much for Mondays and for Mondays as a day to get a lot of work done. It just wasn't. I am not sure it matters. What matters a little more is that I get something done before I leave for Andrew's on Thursday morning, those short story submissions could go out on time if I manage to kick down my fears and get more of them done.

Even one more would give me a Partial Objective on "Rewrite Short Story Dare" because I could kick that down from Master to Apprentice and know I did get something significant done. So that's up for tonight. Today. Whatever this is. I am completely off schedule for anything and everything I usually do, with appointments jogging back and forth between 'stay up late for some 9am thing' and 'get up early for some 2pm or 3pm appointment' it's been jet lag.

So if that's what it is, that shouldn't matter too much if I have a productive Tuesday. I'm certainly getting an early start on Tuesday. I will feel a lot better once I've got more of them ready to go out the door on Thursday!

Robert and Ari >^..^<


Bouncing back and forth between two weblogs, my LiveJournal has the willies I got earlier tonight facing the Rewrite Dares. Major stage fright - at the thought of doing the rewrite. That's the stage it hits me. That's my 'gotta break past the fear point.'

Packaging it and sending it out isn't that scary! When it has been rewritten and I know I've done the best I can with it at the time, doing that is just a cool little 'aren't I so professional' pat myself on the back kind of moment. I am training myself to view the submission process one step more fun than that - that's buying a lottery ticket. The time between sending it and hearing back is pretty much like waiting for the little balls to hit the popper, and if I can learn to enjoy the gamble my job happiness will be much improved!

I'm starting to feel the relief that Behind The Wall is done. Three down, five to go. I will feel a lot better about myself when those stories are out taking their chances and I can sweep them off my desk into "2002 Submissions" folder and they're just - paperwork after that.

I am still fighting the fear, but the fear's been kicked down one small notch. I need to pump myself up and go do that again, pick another story out of the 60 or so that I've got done that are wasting their time sitting in the hard drive, look at it constructive-critically and fix what's wrong with it. With that one, I came to the recognition the end shouldn't have been the end. It gained about three more paragraphs that changed the meaning of the story completely - and kicked it from horror into mainstream.

Someone in a writing book or writing article, I think it was Marc from BookMarc - an online writing course the successful mystery writer posted at http://www.thirdage.com in the writers' board, which is how I tripped on ThirdAge and wound up the baby in it when I'm only in my forties, mentioned that writer's block is not a simple problem. It's maybe twenty or thirty or forty completely different problems that cause the same symptoms - cold sweats, stark terror, grief and some interruption of the writing > publishing process.

I've kicked down a lot of walls to get to this point. I'm kicking this one down. By the time I have sent out all 60 of those stories, I might actually be getting somewhere at kicking this one down for good - break my old habit by putting in a new one. I need to measure progress against this particular fear in small finite goals and I do need to pay attention to it every time I win one of them. I won one tonight. I'm not done for the night. Time to go cruising the hard drive again.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (My printer! Mine! Meooowww!)


Now this is plain silly. I feel like a runner who's gone all those kilometers and run out of road. The book's done and it's been a productive day too. Nonfiction, I got a nice little article out for and put up two kitten pictures with it, got a nice one of his washing his paw for the thumbnail and a proud 'posing on manuscript' for interior even if that was the manuscript for Rites of Chavateykar instead of Strigler's Succubus. I bound SS into a dark red ring binder, but Rites was loose when I got the photo.

And then later on I finished up a Dare with my fourth Vision submission, a nice short article on writing effective dream sequences. So that's four nonfiction articles submitted somewhere that's not my own site, that was the other easy challenge.

So the book took longer than I thought it would, being it was that size. And now I'm left with hmm... four or five days left in February to rewrite six short stories and get at least eight chapters into rewriting a novel? Okay. I must really like tight deadlines, because it feels doable and I'm not giving up till the last minute. Not if I'm very careful which six to pick out of the stories I've got done, choosing for 'least work needed' and dashing them off to appropriate markets. I do not have to finish the novel rewrite by midnight, March 1. Just get eight chapters into it. Procrastination Can Wait. And I have all of today, Sunday, to try to attack the short story stack and see how far I get with that.

The faster I do the story rewrites, the more likely I'll do the novel rewrite too. Once that far into it, far too easy to just plow right through and finish that novel rewrite. It will also need the cast list, 'hook line per chapter or scene' synopsis and a page of continuity notes.

Despite some recent fantasy fiction discussions on how publishers don't like having magic items in books because they're usually cliche derivatives of Lord of the Rings, and do not like superpowers like storm calling and so forth, I think those things can work if they're done well. For one thing, I tend to treat magic items like the techno gadgets in science fiction. They might be sentient - if so they are always a race of characters and will interact according to their culture like any nonhumanoid race or like the artificial intelligences in my science fiction. Therefore vary a lot, as characters do, including those that reject their culture - it's a theme in a lot of my fiction that race isn't culture and sentient people acculturate to what they choose to, sometimes attracted by ideas or customs. The negative comment about causing storms as a superpower that came up in a discussion really gave me an idea, in combination with something from a weather article in Vision - (not that issue but a previous one) that pointed out how difficult it would be to control the completely random complex chain of events that leads to a change in the weather - and how rapidly weather magic would screw up everything else. I've often considered weather magic something a lot subtler and more difficult than say, casting fireballs. The article just confirmed why, since I had read a lot about chaos mathematics, weather systems and their unpredictability. When I write it, weather magic is perceptive - it's recognizing the moment the butterfly's wings beat in Sumatra that will cause a hurricane somewhere else and being there to tease or step on the butterfly, which makes for dicey long term subtle duels arcane that can take as long to play out as a once a year chess match by mail. And gives combats between advanced mages the feeling of watching two aikido masters circling around for a good few hours occasionally doing graceful practice moves to see who's going to give the advantage by making the first move.

Then someone responded to that by pointing out that many comic books are very well written in a technical sense and mythology often has thunderchucking deities like Zeus. I think about what the critic really meant to say about 'specialized yet meaningless superpowers' and I think about the meaning of embodied archetypal weather god like Zeus and recognize there's a level it has to make sense at - the level at which something like that will shape character. The way if a character is a sun lord or a storm bringer all of the mythical qualities of that magical element have to be expressed in everything about that character, down to the point the character's not aware they're doing it but the effects are there - in their ordinary activities, in their reaction to things, in who they are. Without oversimplifying them to a cartoon.

And that leads to a thought on Hook Lines, something I've practiced in some of these blogs. Hook Lines, describing a scene or a chapter or the book in one key sentence, that's the equivalent of standing back to look at the mountain. Is the composition good? But if the book's good, it's going to be fractal and the shape of the mountain will echo in all the little rocks and peaks and valleys on it, with variations, with richness and trees and moss growing on some of it. It would be hard to do that with a short story. It would take having the paragraphs echo the shape of the story and its arc, it would be a weird kind of poetry to do it and I don't know that I'm capable of it - or willing to polish and distort to the degree it worked. I also don't know if the result would be readable or stilted, distorted and dull as some types of very formal poetry are. Just an odd structural thought at four in the morning.

And that kind of thing is fun.

I'm blogging since I've run out of new fiction to write and have rewrites to do - a productive form of procrastination. Maybe someday I will become skilled enough that I can achieve Heinlein's suggestion: rewrite only on an editor's request. But it may take a long time to reach that point and it will take a lot of good habits to get there. Attempting that would mean that I managed to internalize and learn to overcome every one of the casual errors I make in rough draft. Such as writing very long sentences without enough commas in them, for example. But I did overcome 'forget to paragraph' and I might get better at catchy first lines on the first try. It's one of those long term goals.


Robert and Ari >^..^<