Had my pre-chemo doctor’s appointment yesterday morning and while at the pre-appointment bloodwork lab, discovered that I was scheduled for a procedure that afternoon which wasn’t on either my or Matthew’s calendar. The lab check-in people didn’t have the access to determine what the procedure was so we had to wait until we saw my doctor to find out it was for my first lumbar puncture chemo infusion.
The doctor was ready to postpone it, as he could tell I wasn’t mentally prepared for it–I’d been expecting to go back to work after my morning appointment with him–but Matthew and I talked it over and figured it made more sense for me to just get it over and done with.
The reason I need to have lumbar puncture chemotherapy is because blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia can spread to the brain and cerebrospinal areas, with some–including ones that present in the nasopharyngeal area like mine–having a higher likelihood. However, most chemo drugs can’t penetrate the blood-brain barrier, and because of that, the cerebrospinal area is considered a “sanctuary” location for cancer cells. So even though my original lumbar puncture biopsy was clean, it’s possible the sample missed cancer cells if there aren’t very many. As such, it’s standard procedure to administer chemo drugs via lumbar puncture to cases like mine in addition to the regular cycles of chemo cocktail I’m on. I’m slated to have a total of four of these lumbar puncture chemo sessions.
One down, three to go.
The procedure itself was kinda ouchie at first, felt like the big nerve in my lower back and down my leg was being twanged and pinched repeatedly…which, I guess it was. But the nurse/doctor (I’m not actually sure if it was a nurse practitioner or a doctor doing the procedure) was extremely responsive, communicative, and kind, and she saw I was in pain–both from the change in my breathing and my yelp–and switched to the smaller (black v. yellow*) needle. That switch made all the difference. It went from unpleasantly uncomfortable to hardly more than a minor prick. She also made a note in my folder to use the black needle on my lumbar punctures from now on.
Also learned an interesting factoid. When administering chemo via lumbar puncture, they take out exactly as much spinal fluid as chemo drug that they plan to inject in order to maintain the fluid balance. The spinal fluid they took out they’re sending to check for cancer cells. Waste not and all, I guess.
Little sore still this morning, but at least no spinal headache. Went back to work today as this drug (methotrexate) isn’t expected to have the same level of side effects as the rest of my chemo cocktail, and I’ll be out of the office after tomorrow’s round three infusion blitz through the new year.
*Isn’t it so apropos that the needle color indicators are bee colors?
I just discovered Ron Perlman is on Twitter (he’s perlmutations, since the resounding response from my Twitter feed was WHAT WHERE?!) and this has somehow immediately blown out of control into an 2014 International Re-Watch Beauty and the Beast-fest, so, y’know, if you’ve been meaning to do that, we’ll be doing that next year. An episode a week, probably, starting early (but probably not instantly) in the new year, with live tweeting. :)
Along with re-reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels and clearning out my TBR pile. That should pretty well take care of any time for media consumption that I’ve got. :)
So the GGK thing: my plan is to start in January with the Fionavar Tapestry and work my way through the dozen books one a month in publication order, with a discussion post at…let’s see.
Maybe the around first day of the following month, so anybody who wants to read along has the whole month to get it read? So THE SUMMER TREE’s discussion would come in early February, and the last discussion for RIVER OF STARS, would actually be in Jan 2015. Or should I just post whenever I finish reading a book? :)
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
Open Waters, my first short story collection is now available from the publisher’s website. If you’d rather have an e-book, then the Kindle version is coming very soon. (And if you’re subscribed to this blog you’ll see my post here as soon as it’s available.)
Just in time for Christmas!
At once beautiful and dangerous, a sun-dappled ever-shifting landscape, restless, emotionless , impenetrable, capricious and heartless.
Across which the voyager will sail to wars without end and to the hiding places of the desperate survivors of alien invasion, will follow in the footsteps of lonely, far-from-home explorers and colonists, journey back to Creation itself then burrow into the darker recesses of the human psyche.
Sixteen tales of terrible beauty from the imagination of David Gullen
Yukon Cornelius and Bumble surveyed the carnage. Icicles of blood littered the field. Blackened pine trees still smoldered, turned to brittle black skeletons by elfin flamethrowers.
The calves had all survived, but two adult reindeer and an elf lay dead. Bumble let out a howl of dismay. Cornelius patted the abominable snowman’s fur-matted, thick-muscled arm. Bumble had grown fond of Santa’s herd over the years, and they had adopted him like a big, not-too-bright brother.
“It’s ugly all right,” said Cornelius. “Doesn’t look like the snowman had any strategy beyond smashing whatever he could find.”
Mrs. Claus’ stern voice buzzed from the speakers in Cornelius’ yellow earmuffs. “Can you track him?”
A microphone braided into his moustache carried his answer back to the Pole. “Of course I can track him. I’m Yukon Cornelius! You just make sure Jack Frost holds his breath a little longer so he doesn’t bury the trail. The last thing we want is a blizzard covering Frosty’s tracks.”
Frosty hadn’t gotten away unscathed this time. According to the reports, the flames had thinned his armor and set fire to his broom. The snowman had been forced to flee, belly-sledding away at speeds neither elf nor reindeer could match.
As Cornelius walked, he checked to make sure his silver and gold-inlaid revolver was fully loaded. He had grown up in the northern wilderness, and had faced everything from angry yeti to rabid reindeer. These days, his beard and moustache were more gray than red, and he wasn’t quite as quick to pick a fight, but he was still twice the hunter and tracker of any man within five hundred miles.
Bumble sniffed the air. His lips peeled back in what would have been a fearsome snarl, if Hermie the elf hadn’t pulled his teeth all those years ago. The flat, too-white dentures just weren’t the same.
Cornelius dropped to one knee and jabbed a finger into the ice-crusted snow. It tasted of pine, blood, and soot. Relatively fresh. They couldn’t be more than an hour behind. “Don’t you worry. We’ll find this snowman and be home in time for dinner!”
“Just find him,” Mrs. C said sternly. “Do not engage.”
“Understood.” He pulled his pick axe and shifted his belt, making sure the revolver was in easy reach. The point of that axe could punch through stone. It would crack Frosty’s frozen armor like a nutcracker through a chestnut. He might not be planning on a fight, but he’d be a fool not to prepare for one.
A second set of tracks intercepted Frosty’s trail. Cornelius jabbed his axe into a human-sized footprint, then licked the tip. The tracks were fresh, and from the residue, they weren’t local. Elf-made boots had their own sugar-sweet aftertaste. These tracks tasted like old rubber.
He touched his moustache. “Frosty’s not the only one wandering our woods.”
A less alert man would have missed the sharpening of Mrs. Claus’ words. “His master?”
“Won’t know that until I find them. Yukon Cornelius doesn’t make assumptions.”
The tracks did follow the same path as Frosty. In several places, the human prints indented the smooth slide of Frosty’s path, meaning the human had followed behind the snowman.
Bumble grabbed the top of Cornelius’ head, and turned him gently to the right. Unfortunately, the beast’s oversized fingers also prevented Cornelius from seeing what Bumble was trying to show him.
“I can’t see through your hairy mittens, you big oaf!” He pried the hand free and looked around.
The pine trees here were thin and undecorated, unlike the woods closer to the Pole. A short distance ahead was an icy crater, lightly dusted with snow. It looked like an enormous ice cream scoop had gouged the ground. In the fading sunlight, Cornelius could make out something sparkling in the center.
He readied gun and axe and moved closer, checking the trees to either side for movement. “Looks like a bomb went off here.”
The tracks continued on, passing the crater a ways to the side. It didn’t look like they had stopped. On a hunch, Cornelius approached the edge of the crater and jabbed his axe into the snow. He circled slowly, squinting and tasting. He had gone halfway around when his tongue confirmed what the snow had hidden – the human had been here. Three, maybe four days back.
“It’s some kind of ornament,” he said. “Crystal, maybe. Busted all to pieces now.”
“Don’t touch it. I’m sending Rudolph and a pair of elf researchers your way. Can you tell what the ornament used to look like?”
Something in Mrs. Claus’ tone made Cornelius’ moustache itch. Bumble’s hackles raised, and his eyes spun to and fro, searching the shadows.
“I’d say a star. Or maybe a snowflake.”
“Get back to the North Pole now.”
He spun, gun raised. “There’s nobody here, Mrs. C. Just me and Bumble. And we still don’t know where Frosty—”
The snow exploded as if the snowman’s name had summoned him up from an icy hell. He was larger than Cornelius remembered. Without missing a beat, Cornelius put two bullets through the center of Frosty’s head. “Found him!”
Frosty roared and leaped, broomstick raised like Death’s scythe, but Bumble tackled him from the side. They fell into the snow, rolling like cats. Bumble was all claws and fury and angry growls, a regular Bumble rumble.
Cornelius charged in. “Get out of the way, you overgrown hairball!”
Snow swirled to his left. So focused on trying to line up a shot that wouldn’t hurt his friend, Cornelius ignored the movement a second too long. By the time he spotted the figure stepping out of the snow as if through a curtain, it was too late.
“Clever girl,” he whispered.
“Cornelius, what is it?” shouted Mrs. Claus.
He spun, throwing his axe and raising his pistol, but his limbs had already begun to slow. Cold seeped into his bones.
He saw Bumble jump to his feet and start toward him. Frosty clubbed Bumble’s knee with his broomstick. With an angry howl, Bumble seized Frosty by the head and hurled him through the air at one of the pine trees. The pine tree broke with a crack like bone, and Frosty went down.
Bumble charged to Cornelius’ aid. Blood matted his fur, and one of his ridiculously huge eyes spun in circles, a sure sign of concussion in bumbles.
“I’m not afraid of you, beast.” The woman’s words grated like death itself. Ice flew toward Bumble’s face, sharp as shards of broken glass.
Bumble howled again, but he kept coming. However painful his physical injuries, his grief and determination were stronger. Bumbles were loyal to the end, though it was unusual for a Bumble to show such loyalty to humans and reindeer and elves. As long as Cornelius was alive, Bumble would fight to the last breath to save him.
What had an old prospector ever done to deserve that kind of friendship?
As his strength ebbed and his hands stiffened, Cornelius forced his wrist to bend, until he was peering down the barrel of his own pistol. “Get out of here, you dumb Bumble!”
With Bumble’s anguished cries echoing through the woods, Yukon Cornelius forced his frozen finger down on the trigger.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Upon the occasion of his 11th birthday, we gave our older nephew THE SWORD OF SHANNARA, A PRINCESS OF MARS and the Complete Novels of Sherlock Holmes.
He opened the Shannara book and looked at it with great dubiousness, proclaiming, “I’ve never heard of Terry Brooks.”
“This time last year, you hadn’t heard of David Eddings, whom you now love,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” he said thoughtfully. “How did I find out about David Eddings?”
“Aunt Catie gave you the books,” my sister Deirdre said dryly, and he c said, “Oooooh….heh heh heh.”
As of last night he was halfway through the first book and asking my Dad to read it so they could discuss it. :)
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
Alas, the sequel is NOT coming soon. I had drawn about two pages of a sequel, but apparently petered out. The storyline, from what I could tell, seemed to be side-kick applications. If people are interested, I'd be willing to scan and post them. I clearly had way too much fun drawing and writing this at the time. I'm not sure if Karma Man has that much milage, though. He's certainly QUITE dated. And very, very localized.
I will say it was funny to look back at this. It's very noticeable that most of the "dramatic" poses the Karma Man strikes end at the knees. It's because I suck at feet. (I still do.) I also continue to have the problem of empty backgrounds. It was fairly clever of me, honestly, to just paste pictures over photographs/magazine cut-outs. If I ever do another comic book, I'm going to have to remember that trick.
Thank you to all that tuned in.
So I duly laid in suppplies of string when we moved here - and meh, not so much, really. He played in a desultory fashion for a while, and hasn't been seen at bedtime for months now. As I say, I thought he'd grown bored.
Not so! It was the quality of my string that disappointed!
Last week we fetched home a Christmas tree, that was all bound up with string. A length of which has made its way into the house, and - oh, joy! String!
He is so enamoured, he will play by himself, without mortal hand at the other end to tug it. So that's all right.
In more Barry-related news, my closet is snoring.
*(It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the paws beneath.)
The husband and I recently watched the first season of the excellent BBC show The Hour. There’s an exchange in one of the early episodes that’s stuck with me, so I thought it worth sharing.
The set-up: A reporter and a presenter for a fledgling news program are meeting with a foreign diplomat on the other side of a major political conflict, hoping to convince him to be interviewed on the show. The presenter, as is his style, tries to reassure and charm the diplomat. The reporter, as is his style, cuts right to the chase with the sort of pointed remarks they all know the British public is wondering. The presenter tries to quiet him, but the diplomat ultimately agrees to come on the show because of the reporter’s honesty.
Afterward, the presenter says to the reporter, “How do you know exactly the right question to ask?”
The reporter replies, “Because I’m not afraid of the answers.”
And isn’t that the essence of getting at the truth (not facts, but truth, which every good work of fiction has) in all art forms? To write a powerful story, one that grabs people and doesn’t let them go, you need the courage to ask the right questions and hear out the answers.
Something I hope to remember as long as I’m in this business.
Are there any quotes relating to the creative process that have stuck with you lately?
Originally published at another world, not quite ours - Megan Crewe's blog. You can comment here or there.
“It’s that old silk hat they found.” The glass orbs hooked to Mrs. Claus’ belt clinked softly as she paced the perimeter of the map room. Each colored orb held a different mixture of magic and modern explosives. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to jam them into Frosty’s snowballs and blow him to flurries. She knew each elf at the Pole by name. They were family, every one. But there would be time to mourn Kane and the others once this crisis was over. “We knew the hat was magic. We never asked where that magic came from.”
“He’s made of Christmas snow.” Hermie the elf looked at the snow-dusted map of the North Pole, a living sculpture of frosted crystal. Frosty had struck three times over the course of the day, testing the outer defenses. “Doesn’t that mean he can never be destroyed? Santa said so himself.”
“Christmas snow is magical, yes,” said Mrs. Claus. She knew that deep down, despite everything he had been through, Hermie the elf still thought of himself as a misfit. But he was tougher than most people gave him credit for. Any dentist who could pull the teeth from an Abominable Snowman was a dentist to be reckoned with. He wore a dagger made of an Abominable Snowman fang through his sash. “But something—someone—used the power of that hat to shape the snow into what we always believed to be a jolly, happy soul.”
The map room was traditionally used for planning out Santa’s Christmas route each year. It could foretell the weather five days in advance, and used a form of supernatural radar based on tiny particles of ice in the atmosphere to track even the most sophisticated stealth aircraft. No one wanted to risk another Roswell incident.
“What about Jack Frost?” Emma was a relatively young elf who had transferred from Cookie Dept. into R&D a mere ten years earlier. She and Hermie had been smitten with each other for months, but they were taking things slowly, which was the elfin way.
“Jack is strong enough, but what does he gain by attacking the Pole?” Mrs. Claus shook her head. “Despite that awful Tim Allen movie, Jack and Santa have always been allies. Santa was best man at his wedding.”
“Krampus?” suggested Hermie.
The demonic anti-Santa who kidnapped naughty children certainly had reason to attack the North Pole, but he lacked subtlety. The Awgwas, perhaps? But they had been dormant for decades. Mrs. Claus pulled the radio from her pocket and called Galleta in the Vault. “What’s the last known location of Professor Hinkle?”
The would-be magician had once tried to steal Frosty’s hat, and had temporarily succeeded in melting the snowman, until Santa arrived to restore Frosty. Santa had shown mercy to the nasally professor, but mortals had been known to mistake mercy for weakness. If Hinkle’s defeat had festered all these years—
“He’s working a Disney cruise,” said Galleta. “I show him on the nice list, though he’s borderline. Looks like he cheated on his boyfriend earlier this year.”
“What about his rabbit?” asked Hermie. “Hocus Pocus was a friend of Frosty. He might know—”
“Hocus Pocus died two years ago,” Mrs. Claus said gently. Elves understood the ephemeral nature of childhood, but tended to forget how short the lives of mortals were. “He was fourteen years old, which is elderly for a rabbit.” She stared at the map, trying to uncover any hint of a pattern, any clue to suggest where Frosty would strike next.
Galleta’s voice cracked over the radio, half an octave higher than usual. “Vixen has eyes on the snowman! He’s in the woods to the east!”
Hermie zoomed the map in on that location. “That’s close to the flight school.”
The reindeer calves would be in the midst of their training. “All available forces to the flight school.”
“What if that’s what he wants?” asked Hermie. “Frosty could be trying to draw us away from the Pole.”
He was right, dammit. “Belay that. Send teams three and four. Tell the reindeer to hold back. I want them circling the whole perimeter.” To Galleta, she said, “Track down everyone Frosty’s been close to, and put them under guard. Especially Karen.” The girl had been Frosty’s closest friend when he first came to life. When people erupted into this kind violence, they often targeted those closest to them.
More than anything, Mrs. Claus wanted to arm herself with shield and flamethrower, and to ride Blitzen into battle to protect her home. But with Santa in post-Christmas hibernation, it was up to her to remain here to coordinate the defense.
Had Frosty and his master timed this assault deliberately, knowing Santa would be vulnerable in the weeks following Christmas? That the North Pole would be protected not by Saint Nicholas himself, but his wife?
If so, they were about to find out how serious a mistake they had made.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Carolyn Ives Gilman is one of the genre’s most sociopolitically insightful writers. Her fantasy novel Isles of the Forsaken (2011), the first volume of a two-book series, brings more evidence of this to the table. It’s a secondary world fantasy set in a chain of mysterious islands called the Forsakens, where tenuous imperial rule by the dominant upper-class Innings is about to get more hands-on. This rankles the native islanders, which include the collaborationist middle-class Tornas, the peasant Adainas, and the Lashnura, or “Grey People,” who possess strange magical powers. Years of tenuous, distant rule have kept things peaceful, but as the Innings move in to exploit the region, the place is primed for revolution. Three key participants in the Forsakens’ transformation serve as Gilman’s protagonists: an Adaina Navy man named Harg Ismol, who spent years earning his stripes in the Innings’ Native Navy; a well-intentioned Inning justice named Nathaway Talley, who comes to the islands to tout Inning law; and Spaeth, a Lashnura woman the local Adainas wish to enslave for her magical abilities, but who has other plans for her life.
It’s a complex scenario, and Gilman gives it considerable depth and richness, drawing convincing lines in the sand between her various factions and cultures. Within the broader political dilemma, her characters have complex motives and tactics for navigating events, and serve as convincing and sympathetic viewpoint characters. The novel delivers magic, intrigue, and high seas adventure, while under the surface is insightful subtext about gender, race, and especially class, a thought-provoking mirror. Occasionally modern-day language breaks the spell, I think, and it struck me that really this just the first half of a much longer novel. But those were the only drawbacks, for me, in what is otherwise a highly satisfying read that left me eager for more.
How to describe Portlandia? This is a weird, weird show. For some it will be weird in a bad way, but for me — after a modest start as harmless background noise — it developed into a real joy to watch.
This sketch comedy stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, who play a variety of characters, all of whom live — and sort of embody? — the city of Portland, Oregon. Portlandia’s Portland is extremely chill, a laid back haven for granola progressives, countercultural mavericks, and quirky denizens of all stripes. Armisen and Brownstein send up the city’s sensibilities with a loving mixture of derision, insight, and sympathy. It’s a singular idea for a show, and it makes for a very particular, and often peculiar, brand of comedy.
At first it feels like a standard descendant of the Saturday Night Live school of sketch comedy, if more improvisational and cleverly edited. And like much of SNL, the sketches, particularly in the early-going, are hit-or-miss. But as the show progresses it gets more and more comfortable in its skin, delivering a unique brand of stream-of-conscious weirdness that elevates the humor from standard SNL punchlines to Pythonesque conceptual continuity. By season three, which features effective “through-lines” involving the Mayor (the ever-game Kyle MacLachlan, channeling chipper Agent Cooper attitude) and a new roommate (an interestingly deployed Chloë Sevigny), I started to find it pretty delightful. And those are just a couple of the stunt-cast guest stars that add to the fun. It will probably be to low key, odd, and/or stylized for everyone, but I’m getting a major kick out of it.
- Recent Viewings from the Stress Era
- Film: Bridesmaids
- Casual Viewing: Bones, Chloe, and Mr. Briggs
- Good Evening, Mr. Phelps
This is the End (2013) is one of those movies I was half-expecting to hate, but I also hoped it would change my mind. It did, for about twenty minutes, but by the end it had exhausted my good will completely.
It’s an insider movie starring a number of celebrities as themselves, but the core viewpoint characters are Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen. Baruchel is in town for a visit from Canada, and stays with his old buddy Rogen — who drags him reluctantly to a Hollywood party at James Franco’s house. Then, well, the Apocalypse breaks out, turning the Hollywood Hills, and presumably the rest of the world, into a fiery wasteland. The survivors at the party struggle to figure out their fate: are they doomed to Hell, or do they still have a chance to ascend?
It opens promisingly enough. Baruchel and Rogen have a comfortable rapport, and their troubled friendship gives the story an effective buddy-movie feel. The early scenes of the party are amusing in a meta way, especially Franco sending up his persona as a creative Renaissance man, and the depiction of Michael Cera as an out-of-control sociopath. The early stages of the Apocalypse are funny and compellingly rendered.
But ultimately the film devolves into a bickery, high-concept bottle show full of unlikeable people. It’s obviously a film by actors, for actors, and about actors. (Not actresses, mind you, although Emma Watson turns up in a thankless role for easily the worst of the movie’s many unfortunate lowbrow sequences.) It’s clear the cast had fun making it, and I suspect that’s kind of the point of the project. But by and large their hysterical interactions make them harder and harder to watch, and none of them are nearly as funny as they think they are — nor is the movie. It had me for about half an hour, but unfortunately I kept watching.
- Burning Love (Season 2)
- Film: Paul
- Film: How to Train Your Dragon
- Film: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
- TV: Arrested Development
My novel Messiah Node is now available for the first time as an e-book via Wizard Tower Press:
My parents had Adventures in Airlines flying to America in October, and have been trying to resolve it since returning home. This is a repost of my Mom’s latest update on the situation:
I’ve been trying for a couple months to get a response from Aer Lingus regarding our trip to America in mid-October. Today I received a “donotreply” from them in which they cheerfully acknowledged that their agent screwed up, but essentially said, “Too bad.” My reaction is to write to the only source available to me, which is Facebook. So I sent the Aer Lingus page this missive:
Dear Facebook Aer Lingus:
I received a “donotreply” response from Aer Lingus moments ago, based on my reference number 242733. It seems Aer Lingus claims no responsibility for its agent’s error on our flight reservations in October. The issue was and is that when we arrived in good time for a flight from Dublin to Heathrow we were offered an earlier flight to Heathrow by an Aer Lingus agent. Innocent us, we accepted it.
However, the agent failed to remove our names from the manifest for the later flight on which we were originally booked. That resulted in our connecting flights – all of them, going and coming – being cancelled as we appeared as “no shows” on the originally scheduled flight. We were held in Heathrow while United Airlines tracked down the root of the issue. They put us on the flight from London to Dulles, but only after they determined that Aer Lingus erred. United’s agent, and her supervisor, said that it had happened several times and only with Aer Lingus flights.
When we arrived at Dulles, we were told our flight to Burlington VT was gone, and the United agent rescheduled us on a flight from Dulles to Newark and a flight to Burlington the next morning. As a room at the hotel that’s physically at Newark airport went for $324 per night, we, a couple of pensioners, spent the night in Newark terminal.
We had precisely the same kinds of issues trying to return home to Ireland. We weren’t on the manifest. We couldn’t print boarding passes. Once again United went to considerable lengths to arrange new passage so we could get home to Dublin.
Disregarding inconvenience, we are out the cost of a hotel room which we’d booked and paid for in Burlington but instead spent the night in Newark airport. The room in Burlington lay empty waiting for us. We are also out the cost of one day’s car rental in Burlington, and had to pay for a number of meals while we were languishing between flights.
Unless this problem is resolved, and I do not view “too bad, buster” as a resolution, we will be certain to tell everyone we know of Aer Lingus’ efforts to keep its customers happy. Or not.
Honestly, this is *not* something the airlines should be unable to resolve and reimburse, particularly since they’ve admitted they’re at fault.
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
Over the past twelve years middle grade and young adult writer Nora Raleigh Baskin has published nearly a dozen books. Today she joins the long haul series to talk about something most writers never stop hoping for, no matter how long their careers: just One More Book.
Advice to myself
I wanted to be published so badly. I could taste it. Or rather, I couldn’t. I couldn’t taste it. I couldn’t even see it. I could imagine it, but I couldn’t see it.
I wanted it more than almost anything in my life at the time and I knew it wasn’t a sure thing, by any stretch. I was the downer in my SCBWI critique group. I was the one that made sure no one forgot that we could all be doing this forever and never make it.
“There’s no guarantee,” I would say, just in case anyone had forgotten. “It’s not like you stand in line until your turn comes up.”
They practically kicked me out.
And I was the one at the NJ SCBWI who spoke up when one of our guest speakers, a NY editor, told his eager audience that we shouldn’t be writing to be published. We should do it just because we love it.
“I doubt you would say that to a room full of men,” I countered. “Would you tell a class of medical students they should just be doing it for the love of being a doctor?”
Nothing to do with my outspokenness (I don’t think) or my negativity but I wouldn’t be published for nine years. Five years of writing adult short fiction and sending it off to The Atlantic and The Paris Review (whatever was I thinking?) and then five more writing for children. I made all sorts of secret promises to the forces that be. One of those bargains with the universe was that if I could only publish one novel I would never ask for anything else. Ever again.
Just this one.
Please, let me just publish once.
Then in 2000, I sold my first novel to Little, Brown and for a while I kept my word to myself. I felt completely validated. This was enough. More than enough. Just sitting at my son’s basketball game, high up in the bleachers, completely anonymous, my manuscript bought but a year from publication, I was content within myself. Now I was truly a writer.
Then, the inevitable. I just wanted to be able to write a second book. One more. Just to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke. That I wasn’t a fraud and fake. Just a second book. Two published books. Two books, that’s all I ask.
I struggled with that second book, for all the reasons of self-doubt and insecurity I just outlined. And then I met Patricia Reilly Giff who assured me that me the second book is always the hardest. She understood completely and validated my fears. I published my second book in 2003.
It’s 2013. I have ten published novels. Subway Love will be my 11th in May, 2014 and every time, I am terrified. I’m terrified I can never do it again. I will run out of ideas. I’ll be too old. My brain will rot. I won’t sell enough and no one will offer me a contract again. I’ll get such bad reviews no one will want to publish me again. It really was a fluke after all. I am fraud and fake and it’s just a matter of time before everyone figures it out.
Still, I keep writing.
And keep making my deals with the writing gods:
Just keep me in it for the long haul and I won’t ask for anything else.
Just let me keep writing because I love to write.
I find peace when I write. I find meaning in my life. I feel validated and alive. So–
Let me sell, at least well enough, to stay in good favor with my publishers which is something I have no control over. Let me remember what I do have control over: To always be appreciative. Always listen the advice of my agents. Listen the suggestions of my editors because after the shock and ego-busting of seeing all those comments and marks it’s just a process. It’s all in the process.
Always be grateful. Don’t be a pain in the ass. Remember to accept the business of my business and know that the marketing people and the publicity people are doing the best they can. They have many, many titles and the work they do is often not seen or obvious. Thank everyone. This is a privilege not a right. Handle bad reviews graciously. Handle good reviews graciously.
Then I put everything and everyone else out of my head and try, once again, to write the best book I possibly can.
Nora Raleigh Baskin started writing in the 5th grade and never stopped either telling stories or believing in the power of words. In 2010 her novel Anything But Typical won the Schneider Family Book Award along with numerous other honors. Her most recent books, the young adult Surfacing and the middle grade Runt were both published this year, and her next, Subway Love, will be out in 2014.
Previous Writing for the Long Haul Posts
- Sean Williams on unpredictability and luck
- Deborah J. Ross on writing through crisis
- Sharon Shinn on managing time
- Marge Pellegrino on feeding the restless yearning to write
- Sarah Zettel on embracing ignorance and writing your passions
- Uma Krishnaswami on honoring unreasonable exuberance
- Jennifer J. Stewart on finding community and support
- Sherwood Smith on keeping inspiration alive
- Mette Ivie Harrison on defining success
- Jeffrey J. Mariotte on why we write
- Judith Tarr on reinventing ourselves
- Kathi Appelt on the power of story
- Cynthia Leitich Smith on balancing business and creativity
Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.
Because this is ridiculous, I must stop here for today. Tomorrow, the further adventures of.... KARMA MAN....
We had a busy weekend in Klaskyville, with no time for writing and little time for reading…
On Saturday, we went to Studio Theatre for the Apple Family Plays — HOPEY CHANGEY THING and SWEET AND SAD. I knew nothing about the plays when we went in, but I knew that some of my favorite actors were performing. It turns out, these are the first two of four plays, each depicting a single dinner around the dining room table of the Apple family (a brother, his three sisters, their uncle, and the boyfriend of one of the sisters.) The first one is set on the night of the 2010 elections, and the second one is set on 9/11/2011.
Nothing happens in these plays, in a major, earth-shattering plot sense. Instead, we see people who love each other (but don’t always like each other) dealing with the day to day details of their lives. There are lots of digressions and half-forgotten diversions — just like at a real family dinner. There are wonderful observations and annoying people and redeemed people and …
It was a wonderful afternoon and evening of theater (we saw both in one day, with a break for dinner in between.) Our day was made better by running into a friend, S, who joined us for dinner. (It was made worse by the *buckets* of rain that fell all day, but we were armed with umbrellas…)
On Sunday afternoon, I headed up to Reisterstown for the annual Dray Cookiepalooza. (I brought Scotcheroos — peanut-buttery Rice Krispie bars with chocolate/butterscotch on top, which were amazing, if I do say so myself — and Nutella Pretzel No-Bakes, which were disappointing (not enough Nutella flavor, not enough pretzels!) It’s a bit silly to drive for longer than the party lasts, but I got to see a lot of friends, and I came home with a fun variety of cookies. I’m glad I went.
In the evening, I attended the year’s last “What Makes It Great” class/concert at the Smithsonian. This one was a deconstruction of Shubert’s Wanderer Fantasy — a piece that I didn’t know before. It turns out, I’m not a huge fan — it’s *too* lush and *too* ornamented for my taste. But the sheer physicality of the performance was incredible, and (as always with these classes) I learned a lot.
We stopped for burgers and fries on the way home, and when I walked in, I discovered that Mark had “made Christmas” while I was at the cookie party — putting up our little tabletop tree, hanging ornaments on some of our fixtures, etc. I *loved* discovering it that way!
Now, if the kitties will leave the tree alone…
Off to write today!
Mirrored from Mindy Klasky, Author.
Author’s note: I’m writing this as I go. Which is nerve-wracking, because it’s totally not my normal process.
I’m hoping to have the whole thing finished and posted by Christmas, but I can’t make any promises…
The first to know anything was wrong was a sentry elf named Kane. How differently the war might have turned out had she sounded the alarm a little sooner. But she recognized the lumbering shape of the living snowman as a friend to Santa and the North Pole, and thought nothing of his presence that winter morning.
By the time she saw the rage burning in his coal eyes and the armor of enchanted ice that covered his snowy body, it was too late.
But Kane was a veteran of the war with the Snow Queen, and had served at the Pole for close to two centuries. She darted forward, avoiding the first swing of the snowman’s broom. He was powerful, but slow and clumsy by elf standards. She rolled past, and by the time he recovered, she had drawn her own weapon, a blade of ice with a candy cane handle. But what use was a frozen blade against a living snowman?
She parried once, twice — by the Star, he was strong — and then the broom dropped low. Kane took advantage of the opening, driving her sword into the crack where the bottom and middle spheres of the snowman’s body joined.
Booming laughter chilled her elfin blood as the snowman bent forward, trapping the blade in place. The broom swept her feet from beneath her.
Kane looked up at the snowman who used to dance and play with the children of the world. “Why?”
He didn’t answer. The last thing Kane heard was the thumpity, thump, thump of Frosty’s broomstick.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.