Today was long. Julie and I started the morning working on the floor. Some how the camera angle seemed to keep dropping with each shot so that it felt like they were going to have to dig a hole in the floor in order to hide us.
Think about it this way. What the camera see is a great big pyramid with the tip being the camera frame. The farther you go from the camera, the wider spread the field of vision is. Seen from the side, there’s an imaginary triangle from the camera to the floor. A puppeteer hides in the triangle, out of view of the camera. But the further from the camera you go, the lower you have to be. So David, in the front of the shot, didn’t have this problem plus he was at a desk.
I got some writing done, but kept getting distracted by work. The nerve.
The Bride Replete First
Only a few of the robes bellied outward and not a single bare crop showed.
“The captain has given us permission to disembark.”
I started the day by dropping off copies of Shimmer in the Book room with Small Beer Press. Gavin Grant very kindly agreed to stock them for us. So far we’ve sold five copies of the magazine here. Which is great.
I also tracked down the box of Twenty Epics anthologies. They had gone missing and no one seemed to know where they were. David Moles, one of the editors, said that they had been delivered on the sixth and that “Warren” and signed for them. When I asked at the front desk, they actually knew what I was talking about, and happily took me to find the books. I suspect that Warren actually referred to the network of rooms below the hotel rather than a person. You know the movies, where the action hero runs through a warren of rooms and tunnels, passing through the kitchen of the hotel? Evidently, you have to pass through the kitchen to get anywhere.
After dropping off the books at, again, Small Beer Press, I went to breakfast with the gang from Codex. I’m happy to report that Doug Cohen, Elaine Isaak, Danielle T. Friedman, Will McIntosh and Joy Marchand are all delightful people. Much witty banter was had by all.
I headed off to a panel on Small Press run by Matthew Kressel and the other folks of Sybil’s Garage. It was a very interesting talk and gave me plenty of ideas for new ways to market Shimmer.
More panels, and more hanging out. I’ve purchased lots of small press magazines and a couple of books to take back to Iceland with me. Ah, and then I napped as well.
Paul Berger had arranged for a reading from the Twenty Epics anthology, since six of the contributors were here. It was fun and, much to my surprise, I was very nervous. I don’t get nervous in front of audiences much anymore, so sort of enjoy the sense of butterflies. I think it was because this was the first time I’ve read my own words in public. I’ve performed in plays with my words, but there’s lots and lots of rehearsal and cast mates to support the experience. I’ve read my words in recording studios, and I used to compete in interpretive reading, but this was different. Even my knees were shaking. I don’t think anyone noticed, but part of my brain was cataloguing the symptoms of nerves the whole time I was reading.
Then I hung out at the bar with Joy, Doug and Will. Joy and I declared that we were exhausted and headed up for bed where we proceeded to stay up till four a.m. talking through problems with pieces we are working on.
To start with, Joy and I drove past Walden pond to get here. It’s someplace that I knew was real, but never really thought of as real, know what I mean? People were swimming and playing; for most of them, I’m sure it was just the local pond, not some literary shrine. I was most taken with the trees. Walden pond sits in a bowl, surrounded by trees. The trees are probably not that remarkable, except that I’ve been living with limited access to them for months now. And no really big trees. But here, I couldn’t see the sky.
We drove on to Readercon. At first, it was a little bewildering to wander around knowing that there were people here who I knew online. I just didn’t know what they looked like.
So Joy and I decided to dive into the panels. We started with A Nomenclature of the Fantastic, then moved on to a reading of China Mieville’s new unpublished novel. He has a beautiful reading voice.
Afterwards, we ran into Doug Cohen, John Joseph Adams, which were the only two I’d met before. Then I met Paul Berger, who is in Twenty Epics with me. Joy introduced me to Will McIntosh, who I knew from Codex but had never met. We did not get to see Jenny Rae Rappaport, who was supposed to be our roommate, because she is at home with a nasty stomach flu. Everyone send her get well wishes.
I also met David Louis Edelman, whose first novel just came out; Lancer Kind, a fellow West Coaster and many other people whose business cards I didn’t take. I’m terrible at names.
I just finished another story. This one is short, 1100 words. God. It feels so good to write. I had this conversation with Ken Scholes the other day, and realized that despite my connection with Codex and Shimmer, I miss having someone to shoot the breeze with about a story. We talked about “Ginger” and the story unlocked for me. Then I hit Codex and Hatrack and figured out where I was going with that. After I finished it, I was so jazzed that I just cranked out another story.
Have I mentioned that it feels good?
So. Things I have learned about myself and writing. Some of these are recent, some are not.
If I don’t read, I don’t write.
At some point in my creative process, I need people. I’m a performer, and it doesn’t go away just because I’m writing.
I need stimulation; talking to people, movies, cooking, hiking…anything to refuel, or I don’t write.
I can’t write when I’m angry. My brain gets eaten with “I should have saids…”
There’s probably more, but those were the ones that struck me. Oh, and when I edit, I have to read it outloud or I miss really stupid stuff like “She picked up a a coal scuttle.” Geez. Anyway, here’s the new story’s opening.
Samuel sat on the balcony, enjoying the fading light of day. When the respirator pushed air into his lungs, he savored the salt brine from the sea. He tried to pretend that he had some control over breath, that he chose to inhale, but it was a fantasy as idle as wishing that he could adjust his own chair.
For a moment, his nurse’s hand interrupted his field of vision. She paused with her hand on his open eyelid, and then pushed down so he could blink. Before Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis had locked him in his own body, Samuel had told her that he wanted a warning before blinking.
It would be nice to thank her, but he had lost the last of his voluntary abilities months ago.
“Dad!” Jacob’s voice behind him startled Samuel but he lacked the release of flinching.
Nothing much today. I got to take care of some errands, like running the car to the rental agency so they can replace the brake pad. I spent the rest of the day writing. I finished one story and worked on editing it.
After some excellent feedback at Hatrack, this is the current opening. If anyone has any thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them. I’m particuarly interested in your impressions of what will follow. What promises do you expect me to fulfill?
Ginger Stuyvesant and the Case of the Haunted Nursery
The quarter-mile driveway from the main road to Fairbairn Hall flashed by in a tunnel of green. Ginger Stuyvesant knew her hair would be in a state when she arrived, but Lillian’s telegram had sounded urgent.
When she pulled the Morris-Cowley around the circular drive, a liveried manservant came down the stairs as if he still expected to take the reins of a horse. These Brits had such queer, old-fashioned ways. She pulled off her cloche, hoping it had controlled the worst of the damage to her Marcel wave.
“Ginger, darling! Thank heavens you’ve come.” In a flurry of lace and satin, Lillian Rhodes hurried down the stairs. Even in the daylight, circles of fear rippled through her aura.
Ginger embraced her university friend. “Of course! Haunted nursery? Your first born child? How could I not come?”
Now, if you have time to read all 6500 words of it and comment–the commenting is key–let me know.
I got a big batch of mail from the U.S. today. I got my copies of Apex Digest, which was a lot of fun. The folks in the green room are reading it and making various horrified faces. It’s fun.
At the opposite end of the writing spectrum, I also got my official acceptance letter from Cicada.
Some excerpts which particuarly made me smile.
Thank you for sending ‘This Little Pig’ for our consideration. It’s a refreshing departure from the usual dark, futuristic fiction we see and we are delighted to accept your story for CICADA. A Danish pig farm may not smell great, but in terms of setting, it’s a breath of fresh air!
She went into some technical stuff and then closed with:
I’ll look forward to hearing from you! And when you reply, would you answer a burning question: have you personally worked on a Danish pig farm? We are so curious.”
Nope. My grandfather was a hog farmer, but the rest was all research.
Anyway, the combination of the two pieces of mail had me grinning like an idiot. I guess it’s the actor in me that needs some form of external validation to believe that I’m really any good at a thing. Although I’ve sold stories before, I somehow forget that until the next acceptance letter comes or I get to see the story in print. Know what I mean?
Cheesy, I suspect, but there it is.
Now, I’m off to read the rest of the stories in Apex.
Rob’s folks left this morning, but we said our goodbyes last night. They had a five am flight this morning. Ugh. How cruel. Yesterday we went to the studio for lunch, and then Pat, Glenn and I went to Laugar Spa.
To start with, they use iris identification for accessing the different areas, so you get scanned and then have to stare into these different “eyes” to get into the facility. It’s like something out of a science fiction story. In fact, I was wishing I had been there before writing Cerbo en Vitro ujo for Apex Digest. I was tempted to play with them to see how little time they needed to make sure “identification is completed.” But I thought that would probably bring security down on me.
Anyway, after I finished being delighted at the eye scanners, we went to spa room. There are nine different saunas or steam baths to bask in. A jacuzzi tub. A sea water bath. A relaxation room, with leather lazy boys and a fire place, at the perfect temperature for napping.
There’s also an outdoor and indoor pool. And the water slide. Glenn did some laps and then needed to go down the waterslide. He also jumped into the sea water bath, which I couldn’t bring myself to do. I mean, sea water is cold! But he could also take much hotter saunas than I could.
Pat and I stayed mostly in the steam baths or hot pots.
Afterwards, they headed back to their hotel to get ready for their trip to London where they will meet up with an old friend of theirs.
Today Rob and Wayne headed out to do the Golden Circle while I remained at home to do more prosaic things like laundry and writing. When they came back, we joined the gang and went to the ReykjavÃk Arts Festival’s presentation of the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. They are totally amazing in ways that are difficult to describe. I could talk about tight harmonies, and micro-tonal shadings but really the music was simply transportive. If you get a chance, definitely go see them.
In the winter of 2005, after the horrifying natural disaster of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Steven Savile and Alethea Kontis joined forces to raise money to help the distressed survivors and have created Elemental. They solicited SF and fantasy stories, all new and never published elsewhere, from many of the top writers in the genres today, and received immediate responses in the form of the excellent stories here in this book.
Besides being an excellent cause, and good writing, it was also edited by friends of mine. I can recommend purchasing this book for multiple reasons.
Rob, Audrey and I are starting out on our trip around Iceland today. I may have internet access in some of the places we go, but more than likely you’ll be without me for the week. I am taking the computer, because I hope to get some solid writing done, so if I can, I’ll post an update from the road.
Audrey and I had a nice walk around the block this morning and then a good game of tug in the kitchen. I think she’s ready for adventure.
We had today off because they were shooting actors…you know, I could really do a top-ten list every week. Anyway, I took the time to get some writing done and to send out some actual mail submissions.
Until today, I’ve managed to avoid submitting stories except to markets that allow e-submissions. Yikes! It’s expensive to mail things from Iceland. I had the foresight, at least, to pick up international US stamps before I left home, so I don’t need to get the IRC for the responses from the editors. But still! Each submission costs about $8 in postage. That’s crazy.
Now, this might seem trivial to some folks but I spent today writing and hanging out at home. Home being our apartment in Iceland. Rob was much more industrious than I, to the naked eye; he washed the windows and scrubbed down the bathroom. I did some laundry and made soup for dinner, but otherwise gave every appearance of sitting on the sofa and playing on the computer.
In reality, I worked on two stories and got caught up on my submissions. I’m very pleased to report that I have twelve stories making the rounds right now.
As I was driving back from Raleigh yesterday I was listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation which was dealing with Biometrics. Naturally, I was very curious about this because of my story Cerbo en Vitro ujo. In this story, Grete Anders’s boyfriend goes to a boarding school and never returns. Using his biometric information, Grete tries to track him down, but the retinal scans lead her to a woman who has his eyes.
After listening to the program I started surfing around and ran across this case where Malaysia car thieves stole a man’s finger in order to steal his biometrically secured car. Here I thought I was writing science-fiction.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]