Nothing more than feelings

Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods, Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, Neverwhere…the guy is kind of a big deal) said that his writing destroyed his ability to enjoy reading because now he just looks for structure and tricks.  Sorry to paraphrase like that.  But think of it for a minute.  It must be like being the only sober person at a rave!  Mr. Gaiman is surrounded by people who read books, read comics, watch movies, and then make podcasts and YouTube videos incessantly about what they saw.

I admit I’m a little worried that I’m not enjoying books as much as I used to.  My attention span is not what it was.  (Thanks social media!)  Memes and junk vocabulary have crept into my thoughts.

I’ve always had trouble with February.  Call it Seasonally Affected Disorder if you must.  I try to pack the month with good things but I still get this staring-into-the-abyss feeling this month.  It’s a lot of staring out the window looking for the color green.  So it’s ironic (I guess) that I got married in February, and that I published (finally!) my first book in February.  My first nephew was born in February.

I should be happy.  I’m not.  Dark thoughts plague me.  Not the dramatic, gothic, Marilyn Manson’s autobiography sort of dark thoughts either.  They’re sort of casual self-loathing thoughts.  “Why do I even exist?” sort of thoughts.

Observation and Discretion is supposed to be the next book in Flawed Empires but to tell the truth it hasn’t come together.  It’s supposed to be the sky pirate book.  I was going to have the characters take a world tour so that my readers could get a view of what flaws the other empires have.  On second thought, so much travel makes no sense and I should keep the thing in the Caribbean and St. Augustine, Florida.  I’m taking a mallet to the plot and smashing it.  When April comes around I think I’ll regret this.

Author Angst

Is it Tea Time Yet?

I write about food a lot in the Kingmaker Twins.  The characters are constantly eating.  Princess Anne even wishes for a pot of tea when she’s a prisoner of the Twins.  Oscar and Finn have breakfast twice together, in a sort of Groundhog Day situation.  There are appetizers at two big parties in the book.

And why?  Personally I’m 30 pounds overweight at the time of this writing and…other than Stephen Brust, very few of the other authors I read write about delicious food versus nasty prison food to contrast their character’s state of being.  (S.M. Stirling writes about food, but all of the food is good in what I’ve read so far.  The Shadowspawn series has so much gourmet food that sometimes I don’t know what it is, and would have to Google it.)

But I flatter myself that I’m good at writing about food.  I was in this LARP, and well, I’m bad at LARPing, but I could write about food because my character was a baker when she wasn’t out slaying plant people with a spongey polearm.  I got compliments on my writing from people who really did not like me.**  And it was about food!

Alcohol fares less well.  I feel like I was misled about how alcoholic beverages would taste back when I was too young to try anything.  Characters in fantasy books guzzle wine all of the time.  In pirate books they drink rum as though it were orange juice.  Authors mention something about a “burn deep down in the belly” but never say that a drink tastes bad.  In real life sometimes wine tastes like funky cheese, or it’s sour.  People want to appear sophisticated so they don’t say that wine is bad.  Hard liquor always whispers about addiction, death, hangover, and self-loathing.  Even when it’s good, it’ll still kill you.  With the exception of Tim Powers novels, characters in fantasy rarely get drunk.  Certainly not hungover.

Maybe I shouldn’t mention alcohol at all, since it might trigger people who are alcoholics to go out and drink again?  But I’ve got drug use, sexual situations, murder, violence…and people drink on TV.  Nah, forget it.  My books are at least PG13 if not R rated.  If I write a young adult novel then I won’t have people drink…I guess.  Unless it’s a Pinocchio going to Pleasure Island sort of situation.


**Did I say they didn’t like me?  What I meant was that they thought I was a danger to myself and others.  Partly because I’m in the SCA, where people hit each other with hard rattan instead of with insulation foam, partly because my efforts to take part in the game involved arguing my case, and partly because of a phenomena known locally as “the bitches.”  And maybe I don’t “get” LARPing.  It was Numina by Crimson Hero Games.  It might still be going on by the time somebody reads this.


A Utopian Dystopia?

When an author sends in a novel to an agent or a publisher, I have read that it may take a year or more to get that novel published.  The world is already shrugging its shoulders at ‘privacy’ and ‘surveillance’ issues, which are the main ones I wanted to evoke in Kingmaker Twins.  If only I could have published when Edward Snowden was a big deal and people were shocked that the government was collecting metadata!  Now everyone laughs about being listened to by every electronic device in the house.

Well, such is the news cycle.  Things will come around again.  Just wait until it occurs to people that they have by default been put on the blockchain.  (Right now land and seafood are the main contenders for being put on blockchain networks.  Even my super smart friends don’t know what blockchain does.  I have to admit that the only reason I do is because I read about cryptocurrency.  Bad habit, I know.)  Not just a rating system like I have in Daviddia, but a complete record of every dishonest deal and foolish mistake ever made.

We could blockchain girlfriends, and know that this one does that thing really well but always tries to vandalize her ex’s stuff, that one quits jobs if her boyfriend has one.  Always.  Eh, but right now blockchain is just a whisper, too technical for the mainstream press to cover.

As I write this, the #MeToo movement is petering out.  Senator Al Franken will step down any day now and Aziz Ansari has apologized for…well, for not being such a hot date after all.

In real life we can change to a new group of friends and thereby change our reputation.  In gothic novels, a person who has a certain reputation is known to everyone she would ever care to associate with, so she’s stuck with that reputation wherever she goes.  Humanity teeters between thinking that people can change or that people always stay true to their essential nature.  Flawed Empires is about people who gain reputations and then trick society into changing their reputations for them.  In Kingmaker, Princess Anne is a certain way, and she tricks society into treating her the way that society wants her to be.  Finn is a certain way, and uses how disreputable he is to help Princess Anne.  To be honest, I’m a little bit disappointed that I was so subtle about it, and it will be more dramatic in other books.

I mean, nobody reads spy novels anymore so it’s no good trying to write them, right?

Do you think Daviddia is a dystopia or a utopia?  People spy on you all of the time, and your reputation is known to everyone.  Heck, what you prefer for breakfast is known to everyone, or at least what people say it is, is known.  But there are automatons and cloudships.  There are carriages instead of cars, and convenient rail transportation, and silk dresses, and there aren’t (er, so far) nasty rumors about Chinese eating cats or gays being child molesters because everybody actively monitors everybody else and you would know if these things were true!

Besides, the truth is stranger than fiction.  Fiction has to make sense. (Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain said that.)

Oh, and instead of climate change the Daviddians are worried that every island is dissolving into the sea.  That’s Charlesian thought, and it’s been in my head but I haven’t really brought it up in the novel.  It’s in Adventure on a Royal Airship, so far, but that thing needs a lot of work done to it.

Author Angst, Uncategorized

Well, I’ve blogged before…

Every author needs a web page these days, huh?

I’m not calling myself an author in public.  My first self-published novel’s first proof is supposed to arrive in the mail any day now.  That’s The Kingmaker Twins: Reputation is Everything.  There was a post office near me that burned down.  Maybe it was in there.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten it.  I’m not such a luddite that I can’t check the tracking number, but I’m nervous.

This is all Mrs. Hurst’s fault.  She was my second grade teacher.  I wasn’t good at anything (ANYTHING!!) else other than creative writing.  I still feel as though that’s the only thing I’m good at.  This is not right either, is it?  Authors are supposed to be egotistical.  I was having some very pleasant delusions of grandeur before I actually published the book.  Well, before I stopped the process of editing and started the process of publishing.  They were quite dampened by the difficulty I had finding people to read the book, to edit it.

One of my best friends said that she had no criticism.  She just let the story carry her along.  Five others had it but never read it, and then I changed the ending.  One other who had a long commute, read it and said two things didn’t make sense and it needed an epilogue. Done.  So, now I understand why authors have that gushing Acknowledgements page where they thank twenty people plus their spouse and kids.  I don’t have that.  I don’t have a title page either.  What was I thinking?  The thing’s not done!

I was thinking that I had read it out loud five times and it had come together and the story was good.  Delusions of grandeur.  Even the Cake Wrecks Lady gets to go on book tours.  (I love her work, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure she works very hard on her humorous posts.  I wish I could do humor.  While there are funny bits in my writing, they’re not intentional.) “Even.”  Honestly, she’s done more work than I have.  I’m just neurotic and a flake.  Look at all of these ‘ands’ and sentences starting with ‘I.’  Clearly I’m too stressed to write a good blog article, but I need to get started on my WordPress page.

A novel without marketing is like a castle without foundations, isn’t it?

If I win the lottery I shall pay somebody to do all of the marketing for me.  Getting published was just a bucket list thing.

Do self-published writers even get to go on book tours?  I’ve seen them at the Fairy Festival in Maryland.  That’s not a tour so much as a dozen booths.  And why am I the only self-published author who writes in the past tense? Everyone else writes like Suzanne Collins in the present imperfect.  Half of them use asterisks in place of quotation marks.  You may ask, “Is there anything wrong with that?”  And yes!  Yes there bloody well is!  Did none of these people have English teachers?

Yeah, but none of them forgot to put a title page in.  Ugh, I’m an idiot!