In addition to The Scarlet Queen, I've done the Forward Motion Dares -- and tucked in a last little Dare at the top of the week: to do four new short stories for Apprentice Short Story Dare by Friday. Yippeee! Last night did and posted the fourth of them. Three are "column" stories done in advance for Dstar's epublishing venture -- my job in Dallas is babysitting my godson and his sister for 20 hours a week and doing an erotica story a week to carry a sig line advertising his new site. Three down and one to go on the "column" stories, and I got the frame story for a series worked out.
It wasn't enough to have a grabby setting. I had that with the first story and will now continue building on that setting with every tale. What I needed was a series plot that had momentum, that I could drop a sentence or two and push it forward with tidbits in the descriptions and make all the action meaningful. Action is now very meaningful. Theme has emerged, a big hairy glorious theme that will comment subtly throughout on relationships, ethics, layer on layer of thought. I have a huge streak of theme against jealousy and envy in most of my writing. It comes out of being disabled. If I hadn't beat that out of myself, I'd be jealous of just about everyone else in the world and I can't live with that bile inside myself -- so now it's one of my major themes, because I know from experience: it's possible to live without being jealous of other people and measure my success only against myself and my own weird goals.
That isn't just the obvious 'gooshy orgy story' where oh gee, the swingers at the orgy think sexual jealousy is wrong. That's things like jealousy of other people's looks or physique, or envy of their wealth, or the kinds of jealousy people encounter in ordinary life -- and blow off as being perfectly normal, excusable reactions. I just have a culture that doesn't have as much of that because it doesn't accept it as normal. Not 'doesn't have it' but doesn't have it in the same ways, and has other mechanisms for dealing with frustration.
When I call a frustration a frustration, it's okay to accept the bad feelings as natural bad feelings. Not take them out on other people, because it wasn't those other people's fault. Just take it as what it is -- gee that's rough. Comes into Norse philosophy a lot. I live by that way of looking at life and it works fine for me -- but recognizing that I am using it in that fiction gives me a great internal satisfaction of knowing I'm doing a good job at my first paid writing job. I hope to sell other columns on other topics, whether it's regular stories or regular nonfiction. Just to get up enough steady column type work that I can count on the minimal basics while I'm riding the novelist rollercoaster. It will do a lot for that 'fisherman' state of mind about any and all marketing efforts.
I'm optimistic today. For about 24 hours, the fact that I'm moving out of state has sunk in past the point of "OMG I need to go and it's an emergency" into "the emergency is taken care of, plans are in place, everything is likely to go smoother this time than most times."
Something else crept into it.
Leaving New York was an evacuation. I could not survive with my skills and current resources in New York. No shame to that, I've known a lot of other people who couldn't survive in New York either. It's not for everyone -- and it's so specialized that people who can survive it love it. They wouldn't want to live anywhere else. This is not me. There hasn't yet been a place on Earth that I've lived that grabbed me so hard that what's over the horizon didn't shine with the joy of "I never lived there."
I'm just not a hobbit. Bilbo Baggins is not my archetype. It's not "there and back again" for me, it's "there and keep going and what's over that next hill?" I've never been to Stonehenge. I've never been to Machu Picchu. I've never been to Southeast Asia or a French castle. I've never put goggles on in the Great Barrier Reef. When I go... it won't be as a tourist. For me to go somewhere, I have to live there and soak up all the weird things that aren't entertainment, enjoying the local entertainments as only part of what's there. Bit by bit, over a longer period of time when just the way the street looks in the morning isn't like anywhere else on Earth. All places are like that. They have beauty and terror, they have unexpected beauties and peculiar risks, they have odd little mysteries and endearing moments, and the only place in the world that wildflower could have that butterfly on it was in the middle of Chicago next to the dumpster.
There isn't enough time or enough of me to love this world as it deserves to be loved.
There wouldn't be if I lived a thousand years, because so much of it is fleeting. The vampire game baby bat scene mingling with tarot readers in Jackson Square isn't what it was when I left. There are still baby bats but it shifted to a rougher crowd of gutterpunks, and the tarot readers have gotten so competitive they go out in gangs and do shifts at the same table not to lose their spots.
When I lived in San Francisco it was at the height of the gay migration, 1978-1980, before AIDS but long after Haight-Ashbury and slightly after the big occult-pagan spiritual movement moved in and out, a bit concurrent with that, both before and after because there was another New Age wave in SF -- but that has changed. It's not what it was and not what it will be, though it's still diverse and interesting enough that I'd enjoy blowing through again someday just to see what new counterculture washed up there. Provided that the rent controls worked to keep at least some housing open to large groups of people with odd special interests who love San Francisco for its diversity and social freedom. Right around when I left New Orleans, it was starting to lose "subculture magnet" status. People were muttering about leaving town in several that I nominally belong to or move comfortably within. I heard pre-Millennial "get out of the cities" Luddite stuff from some of the backpacking floating youth and counterculture, which did not come about as bad as they feared but still might be a good idea for me and large urban areas.
Dallas is a new place. I've only ever visited. Only seen it from the inside of a convention hotel, but it had a pretty good media-SF con and I enjoyed it. Texas is a strange exotic place I've never lived, vast as its own country. It was, briefly, and it never forgot that. It's grown something besides oil and cattle -- tech. With that comes geek subculture and world-diverse geekishness and some counterculture wizards who aren't in the bottom bracket of the floating creative underground. I've heard rumors of interesting places to go and fun things to do that I will be able to do once I get my health back.
And in terms of getting my health back, did I mention that red meat tends to do a lot to build my strength back up? I'm moving into cattle country! People think nothing of buying a cow for the year and putting it up in the freezer. I will be able to eat enough of it to get back on my feet, then go back to a more balanced diet once I hit the right balance for my level of energy and activity -- measured by how much energy I actually use rather than what I seem to use.
I look outside at the now-familiar street outside this room... and the familiar city I've revisited here that will roll on its way after I go... and I know in three or four days it will never be the same. I am saying goodbye in a loving way to someplace I will always remember. I will not stay in this apartment again. I will not have this street outside my window and I won't hear those songs played loud on the car stereos driving by. I will not have these neighbors and the child who sings and plays band instruments with the usual New Orleans early jazz training will go on to his or her own future, it may include music. The kid was good. I couldn't tell if the kid was boy or girl, the voice was too young -- but the kid has enough skill and potential that I might hear the kid's adult voice on the radio someday.
I don't know where I'm going after Dallas. I think Dallas might last for a while, because I've never been there and there's too much there to take in with only a few months. But today's feeling is enough for me to roll over all my old dreams and seriously consider 'large RV' someday as a way to live... with an old Victorian house somewhere cool, painted black, as a base to come and go from. That house has to be somewhere I'd always want to come back to.
Then again, maybe no place is home because I never owned the place I lived.
Painting the house black is the only affectation in that lifelong hobby project, once I can afford a Victorian house. It would take annual upkeep, I've seen it done and it's gorgeous-weird when new and ghastly gray about a year later, especially if it was a matte black. That might be worth it though, just because it was a lifelong dream, just because I am moving toward a life that's not just necessity and desperation and sacrificing everything to the Dream... but gaining the Dream with enough elbow room for some personal luxuries including grand heraldic statement: Here Be Weird House. Yes, next door that's a horror writer. Yes, Hollywood could shoot a horror movie with its exterior -- be careful about what neighborhood and whether it's got building, lawn and painting codes. Because I wanted it to look like that, even the landscaping will reflect spooky yet artistic stuff... and have an underlying easy-care aspect without a lawn as such, but with a good substitute for a lawn. Low-growing ground ivy is as soft as grass to walk on, roots like a weed, covers thoroughly and bears tiny purple orchidlike flowers copiously. So if there's a picnic area or a flat expanse for fooling around outside, it can have ground ivy. What I save on paying landscapers to mow it will help pay for that annual repainting.
I am not there, yet.
But RVs and mobile homes and converted schoolbus RVs are a lot cheaper than the cheapest rural house. Some personal dreams are closer than others. I'm optimistic tonight. I have confidence in my new genre and it flows in well with my usual genres. Whatever happens in my marketing, it will only get better from here. That new genre could lead to nonfiction articles and stories for Playboy and Penthouse when I master it well enough -- and subscribe and read enough issues to know what they like in topics and style. That could lead to homeowner type income on the short-stuff branch of my writing career. More fishing lines to toss. I'm not ready for that yet -- but the stories I did for my first work-for-hire are as good as any other stories I've ever written, and I feel proud of them.
Life's going to get better and better. I feel it in my bones. When I decided to leave it felt like an evacuation again... but now it feels like a move forward and on and up into the first stage of something better than I've ever known. I love my life. I sure love being a writer. The prize was worth all the trouble it took to get this mad goal: I am an sff writer.