Just a note to acknowledge that this blog has not been updated for three (!) years. I’m seeing about reviving it in a modest way, but no promises. I’m not (big surprise) very good at blogging. But the sequel to Moonshine, Wicked City, is coming out in April and I thought I might have a few posts in me on the subject of writing and marketing and figuring out what to do when your books don’t end up selling very well. An experience I’m pretty sure many writers can relate to! So, we’ll see. And if you’re even reading this, color me shocked.
worse than you think
Anyone who has heard me wax eloquent about politics (and not run away at the first opportunity) knows I’m hardly a huge fan of the democrats, and this especially includes Barack Obama. I’ve listened to and read his actual policies and he strikes me as a center-right politician of above average oratorical skills. I don’t agree with him on much. I obviously think he is vastly preferable to George Bush, but I wish that I didn’t have to compare my political candidates to murderous tyrants who should be impeached.
Last night I forgot about all of that. I tried really really hard to be the grinch that stole christmas. I did. I tried to remember Obama’s stance on Iran, and his weird middle line on gay marriage and the hundred other issues that I care about. But it didn’t matter. I got on the phone with my sister and I cried. My father was born in 1942. He participated in sit-ins in rural, segregated Virginia. He was the defendant in the seminal civil rights case, Johnson vs. Virginia, which went to the supreme court and desegregated the court systems a few years after Brown vs. Board of Education. He told me stories, growing up, of how he had to sit in the balcony of his town’s theater, because the gallery was reserved for whites. He didn’t mind, because the balcony had the better seats anyway. My dad saw a black man get elected president yesterday. My mom walked home from school during the DC riots after MLK was assassinated. She saw a black man get elected president yesterday.
I’ve had none of those experiences, but I saw Jesse Jackson in the audience during Obama’s speech and I thought: my god, none of us really thought this would happen. None of us. So, I’m happy. Inasmuch as Obama represents a moment utterly beyond himself, beyond his actual positions on actual issues, beyond any sort of mundane partisan victory: I’m proud that America managed to get here.
Open Office “normal” view
So, in the spirit of “if I have this problem, other people must also,” I write here a complaint and a proposal.
I really like the idea of Open Office and free, open source software. In general, I think it’s a great product. However, I still use my old version of Microsoft Word to write in. Why? Because Open Office doesn’t have the single most important feature I need as a writer: draft, or “normal” view (that’s the way you can view documents in Word that strips out all the margins and headers and shows a dotted line for page breaks). The only options in OO Writer are page layout view and this truly wonky web view. Both of which are entirely useless for composing long documents without unnecessary headaches. I’ve looked this up, and people have been complaining to them about this since 2002. The developers keep making vague noises that they might do something about it and then put it off into some indefinite “later” version of Open Office. It ain’t in version 3.0 either. It seems a little insane to me that the by far most sophisticated free word processor out there can’t get it together enough to implement a page view mode that’s been available since the early 90s in every other software package. And it’s stopping me from using it. I bought an ASUS so I could have something small bring to coffee shops and write, but unfortunately it’s linux-based and so I’m stuck with OO Writer. The more I use it. the more frustrated I get with the stupid layout view. Augh!
So…anyone else feel like this? Am I alone? Would you too use Open Office Writer if it could get itself together and give us a decent page view? Because if you take a few minutes and sign up on the open office wiki, you can then vote for the issue and write a comment. Maybe if enough writers do this, they’ll start to look at it seriously.
It’s issue # 4914. If you’re with me, go forth and agitate!
On the other hand, I’ve complained about this to a few of my friends and they seem to have no problems at all adjusting to the page layout view. Different strokes, I guess.
I have discovered that the Speculative Literature Foundation has taken leave of their senses and decided to give me $800 to travel around Mexico. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic.
The press release is here. I’m going there to research a novel I’ve been planning and researching for at least four years. The working title is Revolution and Desire in the Mushroom Kingdom (I know, I’ll have to change it). Once I finish the second book of my trilogy, I think I’m going to work on this until something comes up. Like, the fifty other novels/short stories/work for hire projects I seem to have taken on.
dispatches from another october
Headlines from the New York Times Index, October 1929
(A Whimsical Selection)*
C A Dice predicts high level will be constant for several yrs, O 13 II, 7:2
C E Mitchell says he sees no signs of predicted slump, O 16, 41:4
Cleveland Trust Co bulletin repts 14% decline from 1st of Sept through 1st wk in Oct; says a few high stocks have concealed bear market, O 16, 47:1
Fisher predicts rise will be permanent; says realized and prospective earnings justify current heights; disagrees with R W Babson’s prediction of 50-60% point drop, O 1, 8:4
Powerful bear pool reptd operating in Wall St, O 19, 32:2
Fall 2 to 10 points for active stocks and as much as 145 for inactive stocks; 2-day drop attributed to readjustment of prices to level more commensurate with earnings, unanswered margin calls, foreign liquidation, hammering by bears and terror among shareholders, O 22, 1:5
I T Fisher says even at current high levels stocks are not up to true value; dismisses decline as "shaking out lunatic fringe that attempts to speculate on margin," O 22, 24:1
C E Mitchell says decline has carried several below real value, O 23, 16:1
I T Fisher says fears that they will go to 1923 level are not justified by present economic conditions, O 24, 2:1
Decline continues through most disastrous day in Wall St’s history; 4-14 point rally at close of trading, O 30, 1:8
Mayor Walker urges moving picture exhibitors not to show gloomy pictures of break, O 30, 3:2 [Jimmy Walker is a character in my novel, so this was particularly funny]
M W Harrison predicts recovery and says business justifies increasing values; H G Aron calls crash unnecessary, O 30, 4:2
Sen Tydings says Repubs must take blame for crash, O 30, 4:2
Stocks lrs sent out by brokers to clients indicate bottom level of liquidation is reached, in their opinion, O 30, 4:4
D Rockefeller says current business status does not warrant severe declines; says he and son are buying heavily, O 31, 1:6
Irving Fisher really stuck his foot in his mouth didn’t he? I’m not even quoting half of his bottom calls. Note to self: regard famous economists who say calming things about the economy during unprecedented financial turmoil with healthy skepticism.
Even more fun to be had in November:
Soviet writers use crash to point moral that capitalism is hollow and fictitious; attribute crash to over-production, N 10, III, 6:1
J L Livermore says leading stocks are selling too low, N 13, 2:2
Decline continues; Stock Exch calls for lists of stocks borrowed and lent and for whom in effort to discourage bear selling; 21 issues closed day with gains, N 14: 1:5
We of this modern age recently banned short-sales, too (the ban expired a few days ago).
La plus ca change.
* This exercise in possibly unfounded historical analogy brought to you by the letter P (for procrastination), and the Columbia University Library, where I happened to sit before the so tantalizing New York Times indexes.
It’s official: I have become addicted to HBO’s True Blood. I was doing that full body roll-around-on-the-couch thing today while watching the fifth episode, and I remember from Veronica Mars what that means…
This is a bit strange since I seem to be entirely alone among everyone of my acquaintance in my enjoyment of this show. They all seem to hate it. Maybe I just have bad taste? Or maybe after I drank the bright red kool-aid big time and wrote and sold a vampire novel of my own I’ve become more forgiving of the genre? I don’t know, but I really do enjoy this trashy, back-door thoughtful show. I can’t wait till next Sunday.
And can I just say that I really love the way they’ve made Bill Compton so weird and awkward looking? Every once in a while there’s a certain angle and you think: oh wow, he really is handsome, but a lot of the time he looks…inhuman. Undead. Like you would imagine an animated civil war corpse should look. This being opposed to David Boreanaz.
p.p.s. also, the most awesome opening credit sequence ever. It is better than the show. Which still means the show is good.
is happy/sad a bit like wabi/sabi?
I was listening to my ipod today, while deep in the throes of completing my 2k on The Dread Novel, and came across this song (My Sister by Tindersticks):
The video is a little odd (I think it’s just some fan interpretation), but dig the lyrics:
Here I am, this is me
I am yours and everything about me, everything you see …..
If only you look hard enough
I never could.
Our life was a pillow-fight. We’d stand there on the quilt, our hands clenched ready. Her with her milky teeth, so late for her age, and a Stanley knife in her hand. She sliced the tyres on my bike and I couldn’t forgive her.
She went blind at the age of five. We’d stand at the bedroom window and she’d get me to tell her what I saw. I’d describe the houses opposite, the little patch of grass next to the path, the gate with its rotten hinges forever wedged open that Dad was always going to fix. She’d stand there quiet for a moment. I thought she was trying to develop the images in her own head. Then she’d say:
I can see little twinkly stars, like Christmas tree lights in faraway windows.
Rings of brightly coloured rocks floating around orange and mustard planets.
I can see huge tiger striped fishes chasing tiny blue and yellow dashes, all tails and fins and bubbles.
I’d look at the grey house opposite, and close the curtains.
She burned down the house when she was ten. I was away camping with the scouts. The fireman said she’d been smoking in bed – the old story, I thought. The cat and our mum died in the flames, so Dad took us to stay with our aunt in the country. He went back to London to find us a new house. We never saw him again.
On her thirteenth birthday she fell down the well in our aunt’s garden and broke her head. She’d been drinking heavily. On her recovery her sight returned, a fluke of nature everyone said. That’s when she said she’d never blink again. I would tell her when she stared at me, with her eyes wide and watery, that they reminded me of the well she fell into. She liked this, it made her laugh.
She moved in with a gym teacher when she was fifteen, all muscles he was. He lost his job when it all came out, and couldn’t get another one. Not in that kind of small town. Everybody knew everyone else’s business. My sister would hold her head high, though. She said she was in love. They were together for five years until one day he lost his temper. He hit over the back of the neck with his bullworker. She lost the use of the right side of her body. He got three years and was out in fifteen months. We saw him a while later, he was coaching a non-league football team in a Cornwall seaside town. I don’t think he recognized her. My sister had put on a lot of weight from being in a chair all the time. She’d get me to stick pins and stub out cigarettes in her right hand. She’d laugh like mad because it didn’t hurt. Her left hand was pretty good though. We’d have arm wrestling matches, I’d have to use both arms and she’d still beat me.
We buried her when she was 32. Me and my aunt, the vicar, and the man who dug the hole. She said she didn’t want to be cremated and wanted a cheap coffin so the worms could get to her quickly. She said she liked the idea of it, though I thought it was because of what happened to the cat, and our mum.
I especially love the way the music becomes almost jaunty while he says: "He hit her over the back of the head with his bullworker." This song is an almost wrist-slash worthy example of a thing I love in more milder versions in a lot of songs (and books, for that matter). It’s this incredibly taut juxtaposition of happy/sad warring within the same song. So you have these insanely depressing lyrics of a woman’s life which was just one tragedy after another layered over this moody instrumental, with hints of something really not right beneath it (saxophones wandering off into dissonant jazz scales), but this swinging sixties beat. Other songs that are less intense that feel like this to me? Brandy by Looking Glass. Chain Gang by the Pretenders. The happy/sad thing is what made Buffy great.
Anyway. Weird thoughts at the end of the day. I went to Hungary earlier this month, and there’s nothing cooler than realizing that dancing is the language that crosses all borders. You would not believe how much I danced. My knees can’t either.
in which I engage in self-promotion
A short story of mine (hard SF, would you believe?) that I had thought would be going up in September, is actually up this week at Strange Horizons. Read it! If any of you met me at readercon, I used an excerpt from this story for my “meet the prose” quote. The thing about Dante’s first ring and demons who have hox genes. My friend Kris really loves the part about the lip-creature. Now you have to be curious, right?
In other news, RWA was a very interesting and different experience from the average SF con. I really enjoyed it– especially the fancy dresses and free books. I went to the St. Martin’s Press party and it was swanky! Also, RWA is so much better organized and more useful than SFWA it’s sort of sad and pathetic. I think I’m going to join this week.
Want to point out the upcoming KGB Fantastic Fiction Raffle, in case any of you haven’t heard of it. There are some really awesome prizes up there: you can win a story critique from Nancy Kress, Rick Bowes, Gardner Dozois, Shawna McCarthy and a few others. You can get Jeffrey Ford or Lucius Shepard to “Tuckerize” your name in a short story (this means they’ll name a character after you). Tom Canty has donated an original drawing (eek!). AND there’s lots of reading material, including subscriptions to some awesome magazines like Paradox and Sybil’s Garage. The raffle tickets are only $1 each, though obviously buying more will improve your chances.
Best of all, you get to support the ongoing KGB Fantastic Fiction reading, which happens the third Wednesday of every month. I’m going to be reading there in December, so of course this is a very worthy cause!
EDIT: Starts on July 14th, but you can browse the items before then.