Thursday, December 23, 2010

You spend your nights in the city, sleep away the afternoons

I'm jumping the gun on this a bit, but... my year in writing correspondence:

Number of stories published: 1 (vs 1 in '09)
Number of stories subbed: 4 (vs 5 in '09)
Rejections: 7 (vs 8 in '09)
Sales to pro markets: 1 (vs 2 in '09)
Fastest response: 2 days (rejection from Clarkesworld)
Slowest response: (still pending, subbed in July)
Most rejected story: 3 and counting
Most accepted story: bought on third shot (one of last year's sales was bought on the first shot)

Since I do still have 2 stories on sub right now, and the number of data points in my stats is very small, this year's percentages could still change fairly dramatically in terms of stories sold vs unsold.

The important thing for myself to note, though, is that I am still horribly fucking unproductive.

I am like those smokers who tell everyone on earth that they're quitting, in the hopes that they'll embarrass themselves into actually doing it. You! Bear witness! I am going to be less unproductive in 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Just another pair of boat shoes walking away from the harbour

I have lost my speaking voice, and this may be some of the reason I've written so many words this week.

I am endeavouring to bring it back with a finger of Bowmore, since spoons of honey have not worked, and I am out of lemons. (Yum! Scotch for medicinal purposes!)

I continue to be utterly seduced by Bane-Day, leaving poor Compass to swing, for the moment. The task at hand is never the most attractive, for some reason; it's the sidelines, the long shots, that draw me.

And I engage in every kind of magical thinking. If I listen to this song. If I perform these exercises. If I am a good enough girl. If I am a bad enough woman. If I guess at all of the strictures of the hidden universe, she, and he, and you, will buy my work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This kind of thunder breaks walls and windowpanes

I think--only hindsight will prove me right or wrong--I think I am in the middle of one of my good times.

It's a bit hard to see from ground level, but I seem to be hammering out an awful lot of words lately, and feeling rather good about them. And by "rather good" I mean "ten feet tall and covered in gold dust", to quote Elizabeth Bear, who knows much better than I what it is to be a talented writer at the peak of her powers with an extra booster-shot of brain chemistry.

Recent progress:

Sold "Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot"

Completed "In the Scent Garden of the Rochester Conservatory" (which may be renamed with a quote from "Faustine")

Rewrote "A Sovereign Cure for Pneumonia"
Rewrote and subbed "Weathermakers"

Still on sub from a while ago: "Haunts of the School for Duellists"

Tinkered with Hour of the Hag opening chapters (this book needs another 10,000 words and it will be ready to query)

Reached chapter 5 of Compass of Chicago (this book needs about 20 more chapters, but since I've only been working on it since October-ish, I am on track to finish it in one year as planned)

Replotted Bane-Day and rewrote the first chapter (this book has way too many words already, and needs to be winnowed, threshed, and whatever other chaff-removing words you might know)

To be maximally productive, I think I ought to screw down the focus and hold off on Bane-Day until Hour of the Hag is actually in the post to agents. But it's so damned interesting. It is also an excellent sandbox for the thing I'm trying to do on the fly with Compass of Chicago: the alchemical combination of structure and character. Bane-Day was all character-driven, and the characters were blind, drunk and way too numerous, which left me with no idea what would happen at any given time. I felt my way through the dark rooms with them. Compass is character-driven also, but it was born with a plot, which needs to be revealed at appropriate times. I believe that in stripping Bane-Day to its skeleton, I'm going to understand how to build Compass from the ground up, with fewer false starts.

That, or I'm bullshitting myself so that I can justify spending time with that world again.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A new thing

It has no name yet, but it is itself, and it is good. And I have been up all night making it and now I am tired.

First line: "If you ever read this, you'll tell me what grew over the arbor was ivy, not wisteria."

Pretty things: a scent garden, a sundial, a guest book, a pocket square.

Horrible things: a gold cross, a froth of sputum, chicken fried rice.

Ongoing themes in my current work: queer girls in high school, and the forgetting of enormous things.

Every other living thing in my house has gone to bed. My neighbours, on the other side of the plaster and lath, have turned down their music, but they are still laughing, and this is the sound that will lull me to sleep.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pillow book of awesome

One spends the morning dancing in the kitchen, singing along with Aimee Mann and Wolf Parade. One fries an egg, and lays it on toast with kimchee.

One's colleagues laugh at one's jokes.

One tastes a beer so perfectly brewed that it causes hop vines to bloom in one's mouth.

One attends a rock show.

One sells a story.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

new Ideomancer, and some musings

First: Ideomancer's December issue is up, and it includes, as always, wonderful stories, poems, and reviews (including my review of Sarah Court, a book which I think you should read, unless you are my mother, in which case it is much too dark for you.)

Second: I am actually writing right now, but my husband and cat are watching Pingu, which is distracting. (Watching the cat watch the show is even more distracting than the show itself. He would eat Pingu if he could.)

Third: awesome word counts this month. Revised "A Sovereign Cure for Pneumonia," and am almost finished "Gardens for the Blind" (which is about to have a new title, since I discovered Janet Frame wrote a story by that name). Also about to finish Chapter 4 of Compass of Chicago. It helps that the weather's gone dark, colder than I like for running, and I'm not travelling again until after Christmas, and I have all these pent-up words.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just haven't earned it yet, baby

I have three stories on sub right now, which is the most I've ever had out at one time. In fact, these three stories represent the sum total of my short fiction inventory. My efforts to become more prolific have been... about as successful as my efforts to get a driver's license.

I gave up trying to get a driver's license. I won't give up trying to be prolific; it's too much fun, and also, if I screw it up, no pedestrians' lives will be at risk.

I suppose I hope that while I'm low on the quantity axis, I'm proportionately high on the quality one. I have a low sample size with which to judge, but for what it's worth, my stats are pretty good (all sales pro so far; few rejections per story; when rejected, always personal and inviting me to submit again). This is, of course, whistling in the dark... I haven't made a sale in a year, and I'm frittering away my momentum, especially if none of my three hopefuls make the cut.

They are lovely little things, in my opinion. And I must make more of them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ideomancer is looking for editors

This is what I've been doing with my spare time for a while now. It's fun, challenging, and very educational for writers, and of course, a great team of people.


Ideomancer is looking for two new junior editors for fiction only. Slush wrangler wannabes should be VERY familiar with our magazine and know the styles of fiction we publish. Our guidelines state: Ideomancer publishes speculative fiction and poetry that explores the edges of ideas; stories that subvert, refute and push the limits. We want unique pieces from authors willing to explore non-traditional narratives and take chances with tone, structure and execution, balance ideas and character, emotion and ruthlessness. We also have an eye for more traditional tales told with excellence.

We are especially interested in non-traditional formats, hyperfiction, and work that explores the boundaries not just of its situation but of the internet-as-page.

In addition to reading slush weekly (usually fewer than eight stories per week), you may be asked to work with a writer to help polish his/her work. Editors also help out with publicity and funding initiatives.

The position will require a 30-day commitment during an open reading period, at the end of which either of us (you or me) can opt out if we don't feel we're a good fit.

Please contact us via publisher at by Sunday, November 21, 2010 if you are interested in giving us a try. Tell us why you are interested in slushing for us in particular, and remember that our current editors' work is not eligible for publication in Ideomancer, nor is this a paying position. We all do this gig out of love.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red horseman passing

Recently Completed:

Draft 2 of Hour of the Hag (still too short and missing something)
Minor rewrite of "Bleaker Collegiate"
Final draft of "Weathermakers" (yeah!)

Now in progress:
Oracle of the Dashboard (definitely needs a new title now that Stephen appended the word "Light" to it... Meatloaf is not the association I'm going for, here)
"Alias Someone Older" (a sequel, of sorts, to "Natural Disasters")
"Railway Guns of the Northern Rockies"

Three other half-stories await my attention when I'm next in the mood; I can see, though, that I am not likely to be in the right mood for a while.

I'm honestly in a mood, period. I'll be lucky if I make it through the next month without breaking any glassware. Why? Dunno. But if I'm coming over, bring out the plastic cups.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Enduro: night lap

Progress: one new scene, four chapters of revision

Pretty things: elderflower presse; Hermes scarves; I think it has a title!

Horrible things: a froth of saliva; violence against doctors; terrible lies

Soundtrack: Elias, Two Hours Traffic, Luke Doucet

Sustenance: dark coffee laced with rum, the rest of the salted chocolate

Fetishes: tonight I made use of my writing hat, my special rock, my grizzly bear coffee mug, AND my favourite t-shirt with the antlers on it.

Next step: another new scene. I don't actually think I am done yet, despite the hour. It's a rare night that I can stay up working right into the small hours, and I don't intend to waste this one.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


My husband is riding a 3-day, 235k mountain bike race this weekend. To prepare for it, he's ridden several 6-hour days and one 24-hour relay race in addition to his regular riding and workout program. He and the other racers have a team to transport their belongings, cook their breakfasts and dinners, and give them massages at the end of the day. His nutrition consists of a staggering array of bars, protein mixes and electrolyte tabs.

I'm trying to finish Draft 2 of the Not-a-werewolf book, which is now back to being untitled. To prepare for it... well, I suppose I wrote Draft 1, and my million words of suck, and a bunch of other stuff that didn't suck as much. My support team this weekend consists of two cats, the guy who brought my organic food box, and the internets. My nutrition consists of leftover lasagna, arugula salad, coffee, and salted chocolate (ie, much better than the final round of Draft 1, during which I mainly forgot to eat and ended up with a really awful gutshot kind of feeling.)

I am ready for this. I am. I am ready to have it out of my brain, because it feels like the time I accidentally ate a glass shard and it got stuck in my mouth, and it took me hours to work it back out, and I kept pricking my tongue on it. Only nastier.

Sometimes I truly wonder why I think the world needs this book. And then I think no one but me will ever really get the payload of black awfulness that it carries. And that is for the best.

Monday, September 6, 2010

In which I remember: today is Labour Day

On Queen Street, the marchers sing "Solidarity Forever" as they pass through the rain.

I drink coffee and warm my bare feet upon the stomach of my cat.

Autumn's upon us, and I must waste no more time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Release Chirpy Helium now my favourite anagram of my own name, which is rather difficult to rearrange satisfactorily. (A close tie is "cheerily hales impure".)

I am releasing chirpy helium by making an incredibly fey dance mix and playing it at top volume: everything from Felix Da Housecat to Lady Gaga to You Say Party! We Say Die!. The bubbliness of this dance mix is designed to offset a grey cold day, fighter jets screaming over to the airshow, frightened cats under the bed, and the intolerable bleakness of my damned book.

It's Draft 2 Central at my house today, and as much as I love my creation, it's a scary and sad creation, to which I have not been kind. (Maybe it needs a bride.) As often happens to me, what began as an attempt at light fiction has (d)evolved into a book about family damage, loss, violence and suicide. (Mom: you won't want to read this one, ever.)

Simultaneous to all this horror, of course, is a voluptuous knuckle-cracking excitement: I made this, and I'm making it better, and eventually, I shall make you read it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tell me, brother, don't you understand--we're all working for the Pharaoh

I have two free hours.


And really, the words are there; but they're scabbed over a bit, or dried out, or atrophied. My eyes blur and run. I've been looking at screens fifteen hours a day this week. My shoulder aches. This cannot be allowed to matter.

Drive the body, my sergeant used to say. And I say: Drive the soul.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another State of the Nation post

It's my birthday today. Last night, in between drinking boatloads of Death in the Afternoon*, I told my friends about a plan I made ten years ago. I planned to save enough money to pay myself a year's salary for a writing sabbatical. I figured that at my rate of savings I'd have enough by the time I was 35.

Here I am, 35, and that money is actually in the bank. It's not a year's salary at my current pay grade, but it would be enough to feed me and cover the vet bills.

And I've discovered that in fact I'm not going to take the sabbatical.

Why not? The pieces are in place. I've started selling stuff, I have a finished novel manuscript to shop, and I'm partway through another, with a publisher already expressing interest in that one. This would be a perfect time to break.

Why not?

Because my job wouldn't be there when I got back; and I've discovered I love it, and I'm conservative about giving away things I love. I think that's the only reason, though.

I'm a lucky, lucky person. This is the kind of choice many writers don't ever get to make. And I'm celebrating my luck today by... you guessed it.... writing. And listening to Kate Bush.

*Hemingway's concoction: absinthe and champagne. Yeah, it was a party.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In lieu of talking about Readercon yet...

...I was thinking about this story today: "Swan Song" by Joanne Merriam. I read it quite a while ago, and the fact that I'm still thinking about it is a testament to its power. So: go read it. (Except for you, Mom, because it's sad.)

I'm going to post tons about Readercon, really, I just haven't got my head around it yet. It was one of those things where each day felt like a week. At one point I laughed so hard that my face twitched uncontrollably for a half-hour afterward; at another point Andrea Hairston made me cry. I met so many people I'd only encountered in print or online before; I reconnected with some of my awesome Viable Paradise classmates and instructors; and I came away with a reading list many pages long.

Definitely going back.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Public Appearance

I'm going to Readercon. And I'm reading!

Along with 6 of my fellow Viable Paradise attendees, I will be reading at 11 a.m. on Sunday the 11th. I've chosen an excerpt from my recently-completed novel The Russian Witch (formerly Cossack's Witch, formerly the Not-a-Werewolf Book).

While this will not be my first reading, it will be my first in many years, and my first since I started selling my work again. I am petrified, of course; especially since I am not at all used to reading to an audience of sober people. I used to read a fair bit in university, and I got laughs and cheers, but those people were all hammered.

If you're going to be in Boston next weekend, please come--sober or not; see me blush, sputter and quaver my way through a bit of my work; and know that as I do, I'll be picturing you naked.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oh, Canada

It's extremely surreal to sit here at my computer, three kilometres from downtown, and look at pictures of police cars burning. At Queen and Spadina.

Between this and the earthquake, it's been a week of disturbance.

And, as always, the literal upheaval is mirrored by another sort, in my mind, where a tectonic shift opens rifts in the landscape and shows me a new face of my earth. And I think about Operation Mincemeat and Schwerer Gustav and tiny china horses, and from this thought comes something springing, bright and spiny, through the broken soil.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Epic Rejection

The rejection from Apex was concise and polite, and ended with an encouraging invitation to submit more work. In short, the kind of rejection I usually receive. So what made it epic?

Maybe the fact that while I read it, there was an earthquake.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Friend in need

Alyssa Smith, one of my fellow slush readers at Ideomancer, has just lost her home to a fire.

Rose Fox has the story and a donation account set up here. If you're reading this, especially if you know Alyssa, please consider donating and/or boosting the signal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ideomancer June Issue

Ideomancer's June issue is up today. It includes, as always, reviews, poetry, and brilliant stories.

"Saint Stephen Street" by Ilan Lerman is a quietly devastating look at a world slipping away. Lon Prater's "The Atrocities of King George" adds vampires to a historical moment and comes up with an answer wholly different from the amusing mashups we've recently seen. Megan Arkenberg's "The Copperroof War" untangles the threads of a court intrigue starting from its violent end.

Read, enjoy, and spread the word.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

State of the Clairification Nation

I've been rather delinquent since finishing the Not-a-Werewolf Book, which still doesn't have a real title. I've had that horrible impotent feeling: I want to write, and I don't want substitutes, but when I sit down to make words, they just don't feel exciting.

This does not stop me from making words. I don't do writer's block. I do, however, crave like a drug the ultimate exultation of making words that are really good.

Hence my excitement today: finally getting somewhere excellent with "Railway Guns of the Northern Rockies", which has been kicking around my brain for a few months. I am going to love this story.

Other stories in progress:

"Forty-Nine Days in the Intermediate States, with Extracts from the Great Liberation by Hearing": needs attention, but it makes me sad to work on it. I think I'll get back to it next month.

"Rush Lane": Almost done, and shaping up nicely now that I know what the hell it's actually about.

"Seven Postcards from the Garden of Earthly Delights": About to be razed to the ground and rebuilt from scratch with the same floor plan yet a totally different architectural style.

"Sovereign Cure for Pneumonia": Advances on this story have been made, but mainly in my mind, which does not count. I need to polish it properly, and soon.

Oracle of the Dashboard: on Chapter Three, which, now that I think of it, is not bad for a novel I only started writing in March.

And that, my friends, is a bit too long for a works-in-progress list. By contrast, my completed inventory consists of only two saleable stories. Which, yeah, I need to sell.

I met a MRI tech recently who says volunteers are always needed for imaging studies. I would truly love to see what my brain looks like when it's fully at work. I'm convinced there's something different going on, when the work is really sublime--something that would be objectively visible if you could just look with the right eyes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In which I get sentimental over Heathrow

I began this morning reading an excerpt in Harper's from Alain de Botton's new book, A Week at the Airport, written about his stint as Heathrow's poet laureate. I remember the concept making news at the time, and thinking how delighted I would be if I landed in a country and discovered that even its airport had its own poet.

The book, if this section is anything to go by, will delight me just as much, and move me, too.

I travel frequently and I find it such a strange intersection of pampering and deprivation. I can provide myself with a stack of magazines and an iPod playlist, my powder compact and Kiehl's lip balm and a glass of wine, but I am powerless to reach my husband and my cats.

I once sat in the departure lounge at LAX talking to my father on my cell phone and hearing the news that he'd had a hospital bed moved into the living room. I knew he wanted to die at home; I hadn't known, until then, that it would be before the end of the month.

Since I am a very privileged person, I could at least get myself a packet of kleenex and a Starbucks coffee, and I could chat with my boss, who told me that on my return I could take time out of the office to help care for my dad.

This privilege helped immensely, but could not change the fact that right then, I was still on the other side of the continent and my flight had been delayed. I felt simultaneously powerless and blessed beyond deserving.

So today I read this, from de Botton, about being greeted at arrivals, and it undid me a bit:

"Even if our loved ones have assured us that they will be busy at work, even if they told us they hated us for going traveling in the first place, even if they left us last June or died twelve and a half years ago, it is impossible not to experience a shiver of a sense that they may have come along anyway, just to surprise us and make us feel special (as someone must have done for us when we were small, if only occasionally, or we would never have had the strength to make it this far)."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where they've got all hell for a basement

I've been away. Out west, near where I used to work when I was younger.

There's a much longer post I will write about that, later. For now, I'm here to remind myself, and tell you, about the sound of mountains.

I spent a day skiing at Sunshine, near Banff. It's an aptly named resort, high and bright. The season's ending, the snow is butter-heavy and incredibly fast, and each day the sun steams off a bit more of the base.

I followed my husband into one of the back bowls. The run hadn't been closed yet, but it was posted as an avalanche zone, so we were the only people on it. Away from the hum of the lift motors, alone on the steep, I stopped and stood, and watched my husband carve away.

I panted in the thin air. My lungs the only movement in the whole broken vista. No hiss of wind or bird-wing or runners on snow.

So I held my breath, and heard perfect silence.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In which I am no longer purely decorative

Yes, functionality has begun to return, and with it, all my most obnoxious tendencies, I'm sure. For all I know, the difference is invisible on my exterior, but it makes all the difference from within: it is now worth getting up in the morning again, as I begin to believe I'll feel something of interest in my day.

On the weekend I wrote something that didn't suck. It's not done yet, and it doesn't have a title, but it has a person in a place with a problem. And the place is the World Electronic Music Festival of 2002 or thereabouts. It begins with this:

"Severyn sent Rose down among the weather-makers."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In which I am expensive and pretentious

...according to my boss, who saw me eating sushi for lunch again. I asked him what on earth one was supposed to eat for lunch--ham and cheese? (Most likely with my eyebrow raised.) And thus, another delightful epithet to add to my little collection (which, in case it is not obvious, consists of insults that actually bolster my self-opinion).

How did I ever last in the wild?

I have nothing at all to report from the front. I am vacationing someplace far behind the lines right now. No writing is required until my (figurative) stitches come out, and so I am lounging around my clean house, julienning vegetables and watching Queer as Folk. (When I am not working at my actual job, of course, which does not give extra vac days to recover from the brain-fever of novel-completion.)

For Olinka: the Final Chapter Playlist. I thought about annotating these a bit, since some of them are there for abstruse creative reasons; then I decided instead just to let you wonder.

"Go Into the Water" - Dethklok
"The Gem" - Priestess
"Pharaoh" - Richard Thompson
"Real Thing" - Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam
"Kryptonite" - Three Doors Down
"Sing a Little Hymn" - Two Hours Traffic
"Tonight, Tonight" - Smashing Pumpkins
"Coax Me" - Sloan
"Like I've Never Been Gone" - Robert Plant
"Houston" - REM
"Pretty Little Ditty" - Red Hot Chili Peppers
"The Mess We're In" - PJ Harvey & Thom Yorke
"Boadicea" - Enya
"Don't Tread On Me" - Metallica
"Bombs Away" - Luke Doucet and the White Falcon
"Chelsea Hotel #2" - Leonard Cohen
"Who By Fire" - Leonard Cohen
"The Wedding List" - Kate Bush
"Natural Disaster" - Joel Plaskett

... and yes, every other living creature in the house DID want to kill me before it was over.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In which I am abject

I have not eaten and I cannot be bothered to eat. My eyes ache, and I cannot be bothered to take out my lenses. I almost didn't bother to shower, but the pleasure I take in scented soaps is a pleasure that rarely fails me.

I cannot even say I haven't been working. I have been. It just hasn't been enough, and it hasn't opened the trapdoor in the upper reaches of my brain.

I'm addicted to a drug of my own making. And once in a very great while, I cannot supply it for myself, and so I walk around craving, and nothing else suffices.

All of which is to say: the post-novel burnout hasn't gone away yet. One of these days I'm going to wake up with an original thought in my head, and I'm going to put more than a few words in a row again, and it's going to be absolutely wonderful... and until then, I'm going to ghost around the house and eat stale crackers for lunch and listen to Wilco all day.

Kids: just say no to writing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Story Day: "Who in Mortal Chains" at Strange Horizons

"Who in Mortal Chains" is live today at Strange Horizons.

This story marks the first appearance of Gus Hillyard. She is violent, undisciplined and very old, and she's a hell of a lot of fun to write. I hope she's as much fun to read... although "fun" is probably not the right word for something this bleak.

Gus also appears in the novel I've just finished writing... the novel that is still kicking my brain's ass, and making me do idiot things like try to pay for my lunch with American money. I hope this aftereffect diminishes quickly, because I have writing days booked later this week, and I would like to finish the next Gus story, so that those of you who enjoy it may have another treat (and those of you who don't may begin avoiding me at cocktail parties).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ideomancer March issue!

Ideomancer has a new issue, and a new design, which I think is even cooler than before. Stories, poetry and reviews; writers we found first; and a new feature called "Atlas of the Imagination".

Also, if you want to wear your heart on your sleeve (or on your boobs, like me?), we have t-shirts and things! (Admittedly, this may not be the best ever product shot. What can I say--my modeling career consisted of a single church fashion show, when I was thirteen. Hey... you may not be able to see my face, but I'm smiling with great enthusiasm!)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Met, the Plaza, Assouline and Andrew Kaufman

In New York last week, I went to the Met, where one cannot photograph the art, but can photograph the blossoms and the ceiling.

It was mainly a business trip, but when one has been doing the same job as long as I have, business and pleasure become irretrievably mingled. I visited my friend Helen at the Assouline bookstore in the Plaza Hotel, which is one of those places where culture and myth and aspiration and art all collide in alchemical perfection. We had a glass of wine and talked about A.S. Byatt and watched the carriages on the southern edge of Central Park. I wanted to buy an ostrich egg, or a bronze bust.

When I came home, I went to hear Andrew Kaufman interviewed about his second novel, The Waterproof Bible. We're friends; I've had the pleasure of hearing about this novel before; but it's quite different now that the novel is an object, a thing that exists on its own independent of Andrew's creative mind or the kind of conversation that happens between writers.

One thing that struck me is that Andrew now knows the theme of this novel, in a way that I don't think he did when he began it. I might be projecting; I know I certainly had no idea what the theme of Cossack's Kin would be when I began it. I don't think that way, and I don't think many of my writer friends think that way. Anyway--that's a post for another day. The important thing is that Andrew was funny and awesome, and his book is funny and awesome, and you should go read it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

After the Deathmarch

This is the third time I've finished a novel.

The first one, you'll never see... I was fourteen when I finished it, and it was full of horrors. I had recently watched Romancing the Stone and I remember loving the opening scene in which the writer finishes a book and pours herself a celebratory drink. Since my parents weren't drinkers and I was a kid, all I could find to drink was a decade-old bottle of cheap cherry brandy from the cooking cupboard. It was vile, and perfect.

The second novel is the Dickensian Fantasy for which this blog is named. It's not finished any more--it's back in the shop for a major adjustment--but the night I completed it was a momentous one. I finished late on a Saturday evening, and two very kind friends took me out for a burger, and after they went to bed I spent at least two hours wandering the city alone and wide-eyed.

The third, the just-completed Cossack's Kin, was a bit of a grind at the end--I found myself getting mired in the difficult emotional territory my characters inhabited, and by the time I wrote the last words, I was thoroughly glad to see the ass-end of it. My husband and I ordered Thai food at midnight and fell asleep watching Mobile Suit Gundam.

The common threads of these experiences: I usually seem to finish in the late evening, because I can't stand to leave the end for the next day when I know I'm close. I find I get so wound up that I don't eat, which is counterproductive, as I lose focus and get unhappy when my blood sugar is low; but just try getting me to behave like a sensible adult when I'm in the middle of a key scene.

The fun thing, though, which I'm remembering today: I always have the next project waiting in the wings, and I start to work on it right away. It's symbolic--the finished novel is no longer the favoured child. It's going to make its way in the world now, while I turn my attention to its younger sibling.

In this case, it's Oracle of the Dashboard, and I spent yesterday buying its working music (Wilco, Aimee Mann, Neko Case) and replenishing all the calories I didn't take in earlier in the week. Today I've got fresh coffee and Bosc pears and three kinds of cheese, and I plan to make a beginning.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Novel Deathmarch, Day V: which is the last day

Number of words: ~5000.

Distance to finish line: Nothing. That's right. Toodle-oo, bitches! All done!

Favourite sentence: "Maksim watched the bright light dawning over the aerodrome, and sat very still until the flight was called."

Why it's my favourite: because it's the LAST one, damn it.

Total length of book: ~60,000 words. Short-ish, especially compared to the last one. It will probably get a bit longer with revisions.

Number of hours at the keyboard today: 13

Ibuprofens: 2

Coffees: 2

Sustenance: bread.

Workouts: climbing last night, and I was so shattered that my hands couldn't hold my water bottle. Even an hour later they couldn't hold my beer. Fortunately they were recovered by today, enough to be able to type.

Pretty things: being done.

Maybe later I'll wank about this some more, post my final chapter playlist and expose all the stupid workings of my recalcitrant brain, but for now, I'm so damned tired. And hungry. And... thirsty :)

Novel Deathmarch, Day IV

Number of words Thursday: 5000

Favourite sentence: "She wasn't my girlfriend," Gus said, hanging on to the doorframe.

Pretty things: Stella's hair, jasmine, church windows

Horrible things: a hot plate mounded with melted plastic and scorched food

Distance from finish line: ~10,000 words?

Cups of coffee: 3

End-of-day rewards: dinner at Czehoski, but I was too keyed up to eat much

Last night's dream: a day which began with a full-colour premonition that I was going to lose my eye to shrapnel from a bomb blast. The day included multiple bomb scares, each one causing me to wonder if my premonition was about to come true. It ended with a walk past a swimming pool which contained an enormous unexploded shell, which was clearly about to explode and obviously, finally, take out my eye. Fortunately, this finally gave me enough of a jolt to wake me up.

Grateful feelings: your husband listens while you discuss, at great length, the scenes you've written that day; your writer friend texts you a reminder to turn off your internet connection and get cracking.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Novel Marathon, Day III

Number of words last Friday: 2500

Favourite sentence: "They'd even started to fight like sisters."

Pretty things: alstromeria, a bowl of pomegranates

Horrible things: pepper spray

Distance from finish line: not quite sure, but at least it's not 20,000 words any more

Cups of coffee: 2

Workouts: 1/2 hour of curls, pushups, and not-quite-chinups

End-of-day rewards: Beast, at the Horseshoe, and it was indeed rewarding.

Sinking feelings: once again you've walked into your own drama, and all the lovely distractions in the world won't help you get to the end of it. Nothing for it but to put on that song that always makes you shudder, and think about the year of the dragonfly.

Grateful feelings: your husband comes home from work and washes the dishes so that you can keep working. That's love. Thanks, babe.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Novel Marathon, Day II

Number of words yesterday: 5500

Favourite sentence: "In the hour of the hag, she woke."

Pretty things: a froth of blossoming vines; a former lover in South Africa; aubergines

Horrible things: thumb + exacto blade; a mummified baby found in a mass grave in Greenland

Contribution by Famous & Important Canadian Writer encountered in coffee shop: "green plastic Easter grass"

Contribution I made to Famous Writer's short story, in exchange: correct spellings of "transcendent" and "its"

Distance from finish line: still 20,000 words (it's a moving target)

Cups of coffee: 3

Workouts: 0 (boo--lazy)

End-of-day rewards: Zombieland, Rueda, new Clutch album, cocoa-chili pasta with sweet potatoes, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, leeks and toasted pepitas (because my genius burns through carbs like nobody's business)

Today's Agenda:
  • Chin-ups, push-ups and curls (1/2 hour)
  • Water plants (10 min)
  • 6000 words (12 hours)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In which I am out of inventory

State of the Clairification Nation:

--Not-a-Werewolf, now with new working title The Cossack's Kin: ~20,000 words to completion

--Dickensian Fantasy: in pieces on the floor (almost literally, but the sticky-notes were getting a lot of cat hair stuck to them, so I picked them up and put them in a stack instead)

--Stories sold in 2009: 2

--Stories on submission: 1

--Stories undergoing revision: 1

--Stories nowhere near complete: 4

--Stories put on hold pending alchemical transformation into brilliant Nascent Novel: 2

...which means I have nothing at all ready to send out to people. *!* faster, faster, faster!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Novel Marathon, aka Using Up My Leftover Vac Days

Day 1 word count: ~3000 (all pure genius, of course... at least at the moment... they will probably be magically transformed into straw overnight)

Number of hours at the keyboard: 11

Number of hours not at the keyboard: 2 (but the dishes are clean, damn it, even the ones the cats eat from)

Cups of coffee: 3

Showers, baths or other hygienic activities: 0

Number of songs on playlist with "battle" or "war" in the title: 24

Number of times I had to look up the hierarchy of ranks in the Red Army (because I can never remember rank hierarchies even though I was in the army myself): 4

Number of ibuprofens: 1 (probably related to number of chin-ups on Tuesday: 0, actually, but not for lack of trying)

Number of minor characters for whom I substituted the word "name" instead of naming them on the spot, due to forgetting list of Russian names when I left for the coffee shop: 5

Number of times protagonist lost consciousness: 0, although he did go to sleep during someone else's POV scene (this metric is here to keep me on track, folks--I used to love to sneak out of scenes by knocking out the POV character)

Number of times I checked my day-career email: 0 (for once!)

Number of cups of delicious David's Amaretto Rooibos: 2. And now, to make another. G'night!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Novel Deathmarch

Coming soon to Casa Clairification. Thursday, in fact.

Today does not count as part of the Deathmarch because it was really more of a Household Stuff day. Also a Day of Roasted Vegetables. What am I doing roasting vegetables when I have a Novel Deathmarch in the works? Good question. I'm going now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In which it seems I am writing another novel

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. (a) I always end up writing a new novel shortly before the current one is done, and (b) I think I have a Law of Conservation of Creativity, by which I mean that once I've made up something I like, I tend to want to spend more time with it.

Regarding point (a), I see this as a psychological prophylactic against attachment to my work. So long as the new new novel is the Shiny Thing, the recently-completed novel can be kicked about and hacked apart and rejected without any personal suffering. Or maybe it's the other way around--maybe I just get tired of a novel by the time I finish it, and my creative mind's impatient to start on the next thing.

The problem with the Not-a-Werewolf book is that I began it during the period of mental depletion that followed the end of the Dickensian Fantasy. I dicked around with that book for a full year before I really got down to business on it. I don't know whether to count this toward its clock, or not.

If I begin the clock with the current draft, it's been just over a year for the Not-a-Werewolf book.

Since the characters and world-building are already relatively stable for the Nascent Book, I hope I can get the clock down a bit further--though I am not going to truly begin it until I finish Not-a-Werewolf (for which I have scheduled a February Deathmarch).

Nascent Book shall now be known as Talking Fish Book, I think.

And also, dear self, it is way, way past time you gave the Not-a-Werewolf book a proper title.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The awesomeness of other people

I read this story before the holidays and I keep thinking about it: "Beautiful White Bodies", by Alice Sola Kim. Links: part 1, part 2.

It's political, it's personal, and it doesn't oversimplify. I enjoyed it a lot.