Gordian Not

Writing is always work, but sometimes it’s fun too. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Carousels are fun. Conventions are/can be fun. Writing is something beyond that. I feel relieved after a good writing day. Pleased. Justified, as if I’ve earned my oxygen for the day. I even feel that after a not so good writing day, because at least I tried.

Then there are days like I’ve had lately. What I’ve taking to call the “Gordian Not” days. Slight pun, since it’s not quite a Gordian Knot. Knots are easy by comparison. If you can’t untie one, you can always cut it, and a pair of scissors will work if no swords are handy. This is different. This is a Gordian Not. As in, you are NOT proceeding with this story until you solve this problem.

It’s no secret that some scenes are easier to write than others. There’s no shame in saving a difficult scene for another day when you’re feeling stronger. If you know what comes next, just write the next part and come back to the passage that, for whatever reason—drama or unpleasantness or whatnot—you just aren’t up for now. Gordian Nots are different. Gordian Not passages are worse than difficult. They are crucial. You literally do not know what comes next until you know how this one stubborn scene is resolved. Everything depends on it.

And you, scrivener, do not yet have its measure, and there’s no guarantee that you ever will.

Gordian Nots can kill stories in their cradles, and novels in the nursery, and have. I still have stories I can’t sort out…yet. I think most writers do.

For example, I have been hung up on the current project, a (mere?) novella. I have written novels in less time than this novella has taken, all because of a Gordian Not. Which, thank the patron saint and all the ancestors, I finally unraveled last night. I think I’ll be able to finish the story now. Finally.

As long as I don’t run into another Gordian Not.

Reading and Writing. We’ll Skip the Arithmetic

This Wednesday evening I’ll be part of a group reading at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. I’m rather fond of readings in general. Back when I was attending a lot more conventions, I generally preferred the author readings to panel discussions, even when I was on the panel and someone else was doing the reading. Maybe especially then.

There’s nothing quite like hearing the author read their own work, especially if it’s a story you’ve already read yourself. Now you can hear where the stresses go, and what the author chooses to emphasize or minimize. Literally hearing the work in the author’s own voice, aside from their narrative voice, which can be quite different.

I think I was completely turned on to readings at my very first World Fantasy Convention. I had the pleasure of hearing Parke (Pete) Godwin read then, and it was an eye-opener. I know I’ve mentioned Pete several times before, but something I wanted to point out here is that he was an actor for many years before he became a writer, and it showed in his performance. And I do mean performance. As an actor he knew how to work the lines and hold the audience’s attention. I realized then and there that the act of doing an author reading was or at least should be, at least in part, a performance, not just the person who wrote something reading it aloud. If you’ve ever attended a convention or library reading with an author who doesn’t know how to read (in the performance sense), you know what I mean. You miss out on most of the value of the work.

Now, I’m not an actor. Never was, never will be, and I don’t have nearly the chops that Pete did. But I always  take his example to heart when I do a reading, and I try to bring at least a little of that performance art to it. I do my best. I don’t always hit the target, but at least I know where the target is.

That’s half the battle.

Adulting Sucks

The main problem with being a grown-up, at least in terms of age, is now and then you have to be an adult. Not all the time, granted, but more often than is either comfortable or convenient. So I spent most of yesterday afternoon on chat hold because my phone had stopped working. You can tell how much I value my phone AS a phone because it took me almost two days before I realized it wasn’t working.

Because I had to make some phone calls in my role as alleged adult. Anyway, after several hours wasted it turned out to be a misaligned sim card. So I’ll have to adult again later today. Not looking forward to it.

As soon as I sign off here, I have a story to write (and other things to write, but this one has a deadline). I don’t look at that as doing grown-up things. Making myself sit down and get to work? Sometimes. But the writing itself?

Never.

To All the Cats I’ve Known Before

You’d think I’d be used to typing with a cat on my lap by now, but it does provide some complications. Like their tendency to flex their claws into my knee if I’m not petting them often enough. Which means, less typing. Could mean more thinking, if one takes the time to pet the cat long enough to generate a purr, sort of their version of the ‘Ohmmmm.” Good for meditative states, probably not so much for chasing down a theme.

If someone asks if I’m a dog or cat person, I’d have to say “yes.” I grew up with both, and have owned and loved several dogs over the years. But when First Reader and I married, our living situation was such that dogs were problematic. So we started with cats, and have more or less kept with them, save for the occasional beta fish. There was Early, the calico, so called because that’s when she wanted to play, and wake us up. She liked to sleep in my manuscript boxes. In the attic is a box of such boxes, and I have no doubt, if I opened a few and looked closely, I’d find a few Early hairs.

There was Cobweb, the Persian, who liked to eat the furniture. Fizzgig and Summer (pictured above), American Short and (Calico) Longhair, respectively. Fizzgig was probably as close to “normal” as any of them. Summer was a little nuts, even by cat standards. She was a rescue, as almost all of our cats were, save Cobweb. Summer hated men. I’m sure she had her reasons, but most of the time she was First Reader’s cat, and could barely stand to be in the same room as me. It was only in her later years, when I suspect she was getting a little dotty, that she warmed up to me at all. One day she even climbed into my lap. I had to call First Reader over to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. “Are you seeing this??” By this time she was an only cat. This suited her fine, and we resolved not to change it until she passed on. She was our longest lived cat.

There was also Valentine and Cameo, both gone way too soon. Sweet cats, both.

Now it’s Sheffield and Sterling, two gray and white brothers who forget they are brothers half the time and get salty with each other. Or just play too rough, I guess it depends on how you look at it. I hope they’re with us a good while longer, despite the fact that they take turns crawling into my lap when I’m trying to write.

Mice parts on the rug? I could do without that. No matter. It’s just part of the gig.

 

Good News From the Far East

Now that the contracts are signed (and stamped, where appropriate), I can announce that I’ve sold reprint rights to “Night, In Dark Perfection” to China’s Science Fiction World Magazine.  The story first appeared in Clarkesworld #39, December 2009.

This will make the second story I’ve had translated into simplified Chinese. Looking forward to the issue, even if I won’t be able to read it.