Thursday, January 20, 2005

"Had to cry today..."
Steve Winwood, Had to Cry Today on Blind Faith

Not feeling very well right now. I was already wrestling with some emotional issues. Then, I got the news from my doctor: Next week I start on insulin twice a day (70% NPH, 30% Regular). That really sucks. It REALLY sucks. It means I have lost more ground to diabetes. That's ground I can never get back. Diabetes is not only incurable, it is progressive and irreversible. As a matter of fact, the medical profession at this time is not even sure exactly what Type II diabetes is, much less what to do about it. Ack.

Being diagnosed was a nightmare come to life for me. I have seen what this disease has done to my mother over the years. First, she lost her vision over a period of years. Laser surgery didn't help. Nothing helped. Then, she had a sextuple (!!) bypass, brought about by one of the really nice side effects of insulin: atherosclerosis. Shortly after that, she had to have an aortic aneurysm repaired. More plaque. While on the operating table, she had her first stroke. Left arm and foot weakened.

She made it to retirement about that time, which was good timing, because about six months later, she had a really bad stroke that completely paralyzed her left side and left her barely able to eat or talk. That was four years ago. These days she can't hold herself upright for more than a few minutes at a time. She can't talk anymore. She lives on Ensure and an occasional cookie as a treat. The worst part? She's an RN. She knew what was coming. And she's trapped in there now. I hope the heart attack gets me first. I don't want to end up like that.

Anyway, that's weighing heavy on my mind right now, and fiction will have to wait a day or two. I'll be spending time writing in my secret journal for now. A lot of things that don't need to be said in public. And spending a lot of time on the treadmill cussing and sweating. Great way to work out anger.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

This just in

Came across a link to this article on my life. learn it. live it. love it. a few minutes ago. Apparently, Harvard students need an administration official in charge of instructing them on how to have fun. Sad.

Still kicking

Thanks for the "virtual dancing smilie", Debra! I'll send you one when you finish that first draft of "The Ghost Jewel". Now you have an incentive! ;)

Finished a major revision of "A Time To Every Purpose". Net gain of 950 words. I think I left some stuff out, so I'll come back to it after it sits for a while.

Got a crit back on "The Easy Way Out" that confirmed a couple of my suspicions about the story and the main character. The crit also offered a suggestion about a possible turn of events in the story that would move it well into the horror genre. This has caught my attention and is being given serious consideration. We'll see what everybody else says.

On the evolution of stories

Something I've run into several times recently is the problems thjat I run into when a story evolves away from the original inspiration. Most of my stories are based on a specific line or picture that pops up in my mind. When that happens, I say "Hmmm. There's a story here." and start figuring out what it is. Often, the story I wind up writing has little to do with the original inspiration. That's OK. I can always recycle the line or scene or character later.

What bothers me, though, is when a story evolves only slightly, but far enough that the original inspiration becomes marginal to the "real" story. It's very hard for me to let go of a much-loved idea or sentence. Sometimes I will hold on to it in spite of the damage that it does to the story that's trying to get out. That's a problem.

The notion of "murdering your darlings" is widepsread in books and articles about the craft. A writer has to be able to let go of anything that stands in the way of the story. I have to keep trying to develop the objectivity to see these things and to take out what doesn't fit. Even when it hurts. That's what the "Ideas" file is for, though. I need to use it more.

When imagery attacks

"He lay across the room." In the Deep South this is a very natural way of saying what other people say as "He lay on the other side of the room". I got gigged on this in "The Easy Way Out". Once I actually read the words literally, I laughed my ass off. Either he's a great big sucker, or it's a real small room. That got me to thinking about some other strange turns of phrase in the English language, including some of our most loved/hated cliches, and some of the worst imagery in the history of hack writing. I think that's "fixing" to turn into an article for Vision. Working title: "Chasing a Greased Pig: the Search for Just the Right Words".

Enough foolishness. Got 2 crits to work on, and "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet" demands to be whipped into shape.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Not as bad as I thought.

Just about through with the rewrite of "A Time To Every Purpose". Down to the last scene. I'm going to try to get it done tonight. I was able to salvage large parts of the original with some minor changes, so it went pretty quickly and was not a painful as I feared.

Getting critiques on it really helped me see the big flaws in it. Conflict and action, my two bugaboos. I have way too much a habit of writing essays instead of stories. That old Academic hag riding my back still. It pays to be paranoid about your education and what your teachers told you was the "right" way to do things. It ain't necessarily so.

Got two more crits to get done in the next couple of days plus reading over the revised "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet" in preparation for another rewrite or major editing pass. I'll definitely send this one out to the crit group for some Honest-to-God evaluation. Too many online critters pull their punches for fear of hurting somebody's feelings. I do the same thing. With a small, private group, we can be brutally honest. It saves everybody a whole lot of time and eliminates misunderstanding. Hurt feelings get better; bad stories suck forever.

Pulled out my copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Rennie Browne and Dave King, ISBN 0-06-272046-5) and started a careful re-reading. Also reviewing On Writing the Short Story (Hallie Burnett, ISBN 0-06-463520-1). Emerson, Lake, and Palmer on the stereo (Trilogy). A real blast from the past.

Today's thought: Sometimes life's a cruel joke. Today I'm the punch line.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

One step at a time

Finished the rewrite/transcription on "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet". 5600 words total. Second and maybe final rewrite is on my plate for the coming week. I feel really good about this one.

I had planned to submit "Carrion Comfort" to Carriage House Review. Unfortunately, they seem to have gone tits-up. Web site is a year out of date, mail to the Submissions address bounces with a "Quota exceeded" message, mail to the editor has not been answered. Another body to add to the fire. Went to my next market and sent it to Lullaby Hearse. They show their response time as around 2 weeks. We'll see.

Glimmer Train bounced "Real Monsters". I turned it around and sent it out to The Harrow.

Now working on another crit, which I hope to send out tonight. Next up is a thorough rewrite on "A Time To Every Purpose".

Super Bowl Countdown

The Falcons won last night. On to the Conference Championship game with either Philadelphia or Minnesota. I'm expecting Philadelphia to roll this afternoon. Either way, next week will be a good game. Then on to the Big Game. Go Birds!