Now that my head is out of Love and Rockets, here's an update on other news around here. First, Yule Be Mine is still the #1 romance best-seller on Fictionwise, a 3 week run! Between the best-seller status and the rave reviews, this should be a sobering thought to writers everywhere: I nearly left the ms. in a drawer for good instead of sending it out one last time. Never give up, you have no idea what door might open if you persist.
Second, I learned this year that if you forget the words to Hark the Herald Angels sing, you can substitute these lyrics:
Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil be done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum...
I won't post the whole song here, but you can keep going through all the verses.
And third, when a <a href="http://ptleader.com/main.asp?SectionID=36&SubSectionID=55&ArticleID=11124" target="blank">sea lion</a> gets loose on Highway 101, chaos ensues. Thanks to our local heroes, this sea dweller has hopefully learned an important lesson about the dangers of hitchhiking and will stick to the water in future.
The revised Love and Rockets goes back today. This is one of those times when it's hard to say when. I could keep working on it for another month, but even if I had another month, sooner or later it's just time to stop. The goal is not to rework any single ms. to death in the hopeless quest for perfection, because if you do that you never have a body of work. It's time to acknowledge that I've done a good job and that my job now is to send it on to the next stage of the process, not draw this stage out forever. It's much improved and I'm glad. There's still one scene that I'm not confident works as well as I want it to, but this is where it's important to remember that perfection is not an achievable goal. The best I can do with the time I have is achievable, and I've done that.
Post-project let-down, probably. I felt like Yule hadn't really worked as well as I'd wanted it to, either, but the editor and subsequent readers and reviewers alike have a different opinion.
The person on the inside of the creative process sees the idea that is never quite fully realized, no matter how hard or long or well you work to turn that idea into reality. That's just how it is, because an idea has no physical form and anything in physical form is imperfect. Nothing ever lives up to the initial vision. It's always humbling to see how far you fall short. It's not a bad thing to have an ideal to aim for, or to aim higher than you can reach. That's how you keep stretching and improving. I'd rather stretch myself and fall a little short than aim too low.
Christmas Day and still dark out, but a great morning. Alex is old enough this year to open her presents (with a little help) and she's having so much fun playing with everything. Next year the new baby will be with us and old enough to sit up and participate a little. Big Sister will be taking charge, I'm sure. Getting us all up at 4:00 a.m., probably, but then, she does that even on normal days. Early riser, that one. We have no idea who she gets that from.
I was awake in the wee hours of the morning myself, because at 3:00 a.m. I woke up and realized what had been bothering me about the Rockets revisions that I hadn't been able to put my finger on. Out of the blue, there it is, clear in my head and I can't believe I didn't see it sooner. So later on today I'll be putting that change in. It's a small but very important addition. (No, I didn't get up and do it at 3:00 a.m. I just noted it and went back to sleep.)
Well, it's the afternoon of the eve, anyway. Turkey's in the oven, carols are playing, loaves of cranberry bread are baked. We're about as ready as we're going to get for Christmas.
There's been the usual nonsense in the news about deleting the word Christmas lest it offend somebody, which I frankly can't understand. No Christmas parties, it's being called "winter break" instead of Christmas break in schools, etc.
When I was a kid, Christmas was a national holiday. Everybody celebrated it (except the Jehovah's Witnesses, and we felt really sorry for them) and it had nothing to do with religion. Church-goers and non church-goers alike put up their trees, hung lights, dangled stockings from the fireplace mantle, took their kids to see Santa. In fact, there were complaints from the religious types that it wasn't a religious holiday at all and had been so commercialized it no longer had any spiritual meaning. Nobody was offended by traditional carols or the words, "Merry Christmas!" It was all fun.
I feel like my daughter has been robbed of her childhood by politically correct killjoys who want to sanitize our language and our holidays until it's all bland, tasteless gruel that won't offend anybody but nobody will like it much, either. She's going to miss out on school Christmas parties, Christmas pageants, and who knows if public nativity displays will be allowed, either?
We can resolve this by sending her to a private school where Christmas is still allowed, but it doesn't change the culture that she's going to inherit. So I'll do my part to lead the Bring Back Christmas (and national sanity) revolution by saying those forbidden words at every opportunity. Merry Christmas to all! And if you celebrate Kwanza or Hannukah, by all means use those words.
No time to blog yesterday, and today isn't looking good either. I'm in the final push to get through the ms. at least one more time to make sure I didn't miss anything before the deadline. But I recently ran across John Updike's Dance of the Solids and it reminded me of a poem I had tucked away, which I repost here for your reading pleasure. If you hate math, you might want to skip Poetry of Symbols by Charlene Teglia, copyright 1997.
Lorentz transformations and tensor notation
Are creations too lovely and fine
When I've yet to dare create a Euler's square
Or write sonnets of tangent and sine;
Fractals that iterate endlessly fascinate
And Reimann's made arc out of line,
Lobatchevsky's the poetic geometry
That lets astronomy shine;
The Gausses, the Cantors, the poets, the mentors
Have made beauty of symbol and sign;
What poor poem can I make in their glorious wake?
The triangle eludes me, the circle's not mine.
This is actually at least tangentially related to Love and Rockets, because I studied a whole lot of rocket science for this book. Including the mathematical formula to calculate <a href="http://www.neiu.edu/~dhrutsch/Nasa/escapemodule.htm" target="blank">escape velocity</a> from a planet's gravity well. Fascinating stuff. But that just gives background to the story. The story itself is all about the funny things human beings do when they fall in love. And let's not forget sex. Sex definately requires a sense of humor.
Yule has garnered another fantastic review, with a perfect 5 from <a href="http://romancereviewspot.tripod.com/id46.html" target="blank">Romance Review Spot</a>. In case you're wondering if I'm only advertising the good ones, there haven't been any bad ones. The reviews are pretty much unanimous, as are the reader responses. Why does this make me incredibly happy? Well, it's always nice to get a pat on the back. But when you've been immersed in a project you lose perspective and you always wonder if you really pulled it off. At least, I do. And it's really nice to see that yes, I did.
Which makes me feel better about my current immersed without perspective state. And brings me to the "how long can I say I'm almost done" bit. Yes, I really am pretty much done with the edits on Love and Rockets. I just take my time going over the final thing, putting on final touches. There's always something I see after it's been "done" for a few days that I didn't see before. I'm going through from beginning to end. I'll do that more than once to make sure I didn't miss anything and it all flows. And then I'll send it on its way.
We voted to do very little for the holidays this year, for a couple of reasons. I'm too tired to do more than the bare essentials. Toddlers and simple holidays kind of go together. (She's showing an alarming interest in climbing, which did not bode well for a tree.) I've got these revisions to finish up by Christmas Eve. What with one thing and another, we agreed that this year there were a lot of things that just weren't all that important.
So I put wreaths on the doors and Christmas music in the CD player, and that's been very nice. I'm going to make another batch of <a href="http://scheherazadetales.com/forum/index.php?topic=36.0" target="blank">cranberry bread</a> when I get around to it (maybe not before the weekend), and we'll cook another turkey for Christmas day. The simplicity of our preparations and the classic carols are good reminders that really, this is what the season is all about.
Today is the 20th, so the solstice is just around the corner. Tried to find an astronomy site with the correct time for the winter solstice this year but came up dry. I did find <a href="http://www.cincypost.com/2004/12/20/sites122004.html" target="blank">this</a>, however, and it's full of links to interesting solstice information of all kinds.
I like the winter solstice best because it marks the return of the sun. The longest night of the year comes, and then the light begins to grow day by day. It's a happy time, the promise of spring and summer in the middle of the cold, dark night. It's good to remember when things seem dark that the light always comes back.
Good Yule, everybody. Now it's time for me to go finish a book.
I finished the bulk of Rockets this morning. Now all I have left is the fun part, beefing up the sex scenes. I think I originally sent this to Harlequin Temptation, which is sexy but still limited in what you could say or do and the number of sex scenes per book. It was incredibly liberating to write Dangerous Games with nothing held back. Now I get to go back over the scenes in Rockets without pulling my punches and I'm looking forward to it.
Revisions are tiring, so I'm glad I saved the fun stuff for last. Writing new pages is energizing. I realized yesterday I really need to take a break when I'm done with Rockets and write something new. Maybe a few scenes of a work in progress, maybe something completely different, but my brain needs to stand up and stretch before I go back and revise that last ms. Which means I probably won't get it out the door before the end of the year. If I do it without being all mentally refreshed and rested, it's going to suffer.
Rockets is solid, though, and I'm happy about that. I am very pleased with it, and will be even more so when I'm done with the final stage.
I came up with a new story idea yesterday. And my creative brain flat refused to cooperate with any more revision on Rockets until I agreed to write it down. The creative brain does not care that I'm on a deadline and I'm not supposed to be fooling around with new stories. I let it have its way in the end, because we both know that if creative brain isn't happy, logical brain will be out of business before long. If you want to have a good, long bout of writer's block, go ahead and let logical brain dictate to your creative brain.
As soon as I started a story file for the new project and jotted down the core of the idea, creative brain produced another big chunk of revision, all smiles.
What's the new idea? The working title is Alienville, subject to change without notice. And it may or may not grow up to be a full-fledged story. Not all ideas do. But this one really seems strong, given that I was completely shut down for 24 hours until I agreed to commit the idea to paper. Creative brain seems to think this one is really important.
But my daily dose of revision is now done, and in record time, and I'm going to go have an eggnog latte as a reward.
Some of the nicest compliments I've had on Yule have come from fellow writers. There is nothing like a jury of your peers handing in a good verdict. So today I thought I would talk about how I study other writers to learn, and who I study.
Whenever I come across a writer who does something really extraordinarily well, I will devour books by him or her, looking to see how they do it. Pacing, humor, characterization, structure, theme, dialog, description. Every once in a while you find a writer who seems to do it all and make it look easy, and those are the best ones to study although not if you end up feeling suicidal because you're comparing your first draft to their final copy. It's always good to keep in mind that once a book is published, you are seeing the work of an entire team of professionals. Do not compare a first draft to this. It could be the first draft of War and Peace and you'd still be despondant for months.
So who do I study? Lois McMaster Bujold. She does it all and makes it look easy. Linda Howard. She can do erotic, funny, suspense and action all in the same book; the two very best examples are Mr. Perfect and Open Season. Laurell K. Hamilton does action sequences like nobody else, and the detail in her books makes them so visceral and real that you completely buy a person who raises the dead for a living as no more unusual than a postal worker. Come to think of it, Anita Blake probably has a lot in common with postal workers. But I digress. Stephen King. He could write the phone book and make it fascinating and also give you nightmares about telephones while he was at it. (You should see what he did with a harmless thing like a laundromat in the unforgettable short "The Mangler" if you don't believe me.) Jennifer Crusie for structure. Her stories are flawless examples of structure, and she does everything else right, too. But the structure shines through with a particular genius. Terry Pratchett. I don't have any words for Terry Pratchett except "read his books".
In the past I've devoured Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, P.G. Wodehouse, E.A. Poe, Lovecraft, every piece of classic literature you can name including the Epic of Gilgamesh, Louis L'Amour (his Sacketts are so real, you expect to see them come riding out of the hills with guns at the ready), and comics galore. Comics have amazing stories.
I couldn't possibly name every writer I've learned from, but from Poe I learned atmosphere, from Heinlein I learned how to have a theme without beating readers over the head with it, from Linda Howard I learned that condoms can actually be used in a love scene without being a public service announcement (the scene in Open Season is the ONLY condom-using sex scene I've ever seen where it was actually part of the story and couldn't have been left out without losing something vital), from Crusie I'm still trying to learn structure; I'm getting better. From Asimov I learned that science fiction and mystery can coexist happily. The list goes on and on.
I owe a debt I can't even measure to every writer who taught me pieces of the craft, whether they knew I was learning from them or not. I think I've learned more from reading, picking the book apart to see what made it work and writing, writing, writing than I have from any book on the craft or any class I've taken.