Thursday, July 29, 2010

Linger: Soundtrack

I almost always have music on when I write. I realize for some people, this is an abomination unto the Lord, but for me, hearing the story in my head is the way into the story. This means that for longer projects, I make playlists. 

So, for those of you who like this sort of thing, here is the playlist for But I Linger On, Dear. There were other things I listened to as well, but this is the closest thing to an official track listing. (Oh, and if you want context: the elevator pitch for this novel is "Buffy meets Camelot with corporeal nightmares. And fencing.")

"Take to the Sky (Russia)" Tori Amos. When I wrote the short story at Clarion that became this novel, this is the song that started it. "Here I stand, with a sword in my hand." Pretty much Aislinn's theme song.

"Spem in Alium" composed by Thomas Tallis. I alternated between the King's College Choir version, and Peter Gregson's cello take on the piece. This is the song I always listen to if I have to write something particularly horrible or emotionally difficult, because it is the most beautiful piece of music ever. 

"Dream a Little Dream" So many different versions. The song from which I stole my title.

"The Point of it All" Amanda Palmer. "but you've got the needle, I guess that's the point of it all"

"Running Up That Hill" Kate Bush. "If I only could, I'd make a deal with God, and get him to swap our places"

"Dress Up in You" Belle and Sebastian. [Spoilers]

"Icarus" Jason Webley. "My flesh and spirit keep colliding when her fingers are inside me"

"Cruel" Tori Amos. This became the theme song for Aislinn's antagonist.

"My Body is a Cage" Peter Gabriel. Because holy cats, the strings in this arrangement are amazing.

"The Scientist" Aimee Mann. "Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard"

"Ophelia" Natalie Merchant. "Ophelia was a tempest, cyclone, a goddamn hurricane"

"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" U2. [Spoilers]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The woman with the sword is always "ma'am"

I live in hope that someday I'll be able to rehab my shoulder and fence again. This seems unlikely, as I both write and fence right-handed, and the choice right now is one or the other. But I'll have good health insurance this fall, and I am ambidextrous enough that fencing left-handed isn't out of the question. (I did it once, in a tournament, when I blew out my right knee mid-bout. It's possible.)

And every so often, I'll pick up my sword, and do footwork or bladework drills, just because I miss it. Like this morning. I finished the rewrite of Linger last night, and since that manuscript has oh, just a wee smidge of fencing in, working on it always makes me homesick for my sport. My brain is still on crazy-time, so it got me up before the humidity, and I went out to the front porch and fenced.

Let me first say, that if you have recently moved to an area, waving a sword around in front of your house is a really good way to meet all the neighbors.

When I finished, I realized I had a bit of an audience - some of the guys from the marina across the street were watching at the fence. I saluted, and turned to go in the house. Then heard: "Ma'am, that was fucking awesome."

It's a good way to start the day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Never go up against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line

Ah revisions. Er, rewriting. (You see what I did there?)

It is down to you, and it is down to me. I am now 50 pages away from the end of the manuscript of Linger. There are things I want to do this week (including going in to NYC for Joe Hill's signing at the 82nd St. Barnes and Noble on Thursday, where there will be advance copies of the latest volume of Locke & Key, Crown of Shadows. You are reading Locke & Key, right? Because I don't know if I can know you anymore if you aren't reading this evilly brilliant, gorgeous comic.) And I want to do those things in a state of semi-coherence, and oh, boy, just in case you couldn't tell from the exceedingly eloquent nature of this post so far, we are at the part of the rewriting of things where coherence is in really short supply.

My point, before I again plumb the depths of my word hoard, and layer some plot onto this thing, and make sure I have committed every possible act of cruelty against these characters, is, I'll see you on the other side.

Oh, and the Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't believe they actually exist.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Holy Displacement Activities, Batman!

I washed the dishes. There is a load of laundry in the wash machine. I unpacked my DVDs. There are blueberry mascarpone muffins in the oven. I watched some episodes of Baman Piderman. 

Today. I did all those things today.

Oh, yes. It's time to revise That Chapter. 

The one that has been a thorn in my side (and a pain in various other places) since draft zero of Linger. It's an important chapter. A pivotal one, really. The place where things fall apart, and the center cannot hold, except that it must so that the book does not fall apart. One of the characters reacts to an event in a way I have very little sympathy for (and yes, I realize that is part of the problem, and I know why she reacts as she does. Doesn't mean I don't want to slap her.)

I know the only way around the problem is through, I just don't want to go through. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a cat to vacuum.

Or we could watch some more Batman. Holy Fourth Amendment!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Soviet Russia, accordions find you

Yesterday, I went into NYC so I could catch up with my friend Cat Valente, and hear her read as part of the Fantastic Fiction series at KGB Bar. The event was great - fun, packed to the gills venue, and a friendly crowd that was really into the readings. The other author at KGB was M.K. Hobson, who read a chapter from her upcoming debut novel, The Native Star (September 2010, Spectra.) Her reading was delightful, and from the excerpt, it sounds the The Native Star will be a really fun read.

Cat read from her forthcoming novel, Deathless. I was excited about this one before (Russia! fairy tales!) but I am even more so now. Best. Baba Yaga. Ever. I wish my Russian teacher from high school were still alive so I could give him a copy of this book. 

The KGB Fantastic Fiction series is monthly. I highly recommend going if you are in the NYC area. 

Then we left Cat's awesome magical accordion in the bar. It was successfully retrieved, (although sadly, I did not get to be the person who announced, "I carried the accordion.") Soup dumplings (wonderful food - why have I not had these before) as well as many other delicious things were consumed. A delightful evening all around.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You're turning into something you are not

Here's the thing: Amanda Palmer made me cry, and so I really think you ought to buy her new album.

I know, I know, that's really the sort of statement I need to explain.

At the beginning of June, I was fortunate enough to get to see Sxip Shirey,  Evelyn Evelyn, Jason Webley, and Amanda Palmer at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. (You know this if you follow me on Twitter, because the show was great, and I tweeted about it excessively.)

During Amanda's set, she spoke about finally being free from her former record label, and the new project she was releasing, "Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele." 

And then she played "High and Dry."

It was so beautiful, I stood there and wept while she sang. Like, tears streaming down my face, smearing my mascara, wept. So you should be the album for that reason. And if you can afford more than the $0.84 she is selling the EP for, you should maybe do that as well, because supporting people who create beauty is a good thing to do.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I thought that you'd want what I want

As of last night, I am officially in the last third, page count-wise, at least, of my revision of Linger. (Would you like some more qualifications of that statement? Page count is based on the printed out version of the manuscript, without the changes having been typed into the computer yet. I have no idea where I am, word-count wise, because I'm not letting myself type until this revision is done.)

I feel good about the amount of progress I've made. But what I feel best about is the sensation that I am finally telling this story in the right way.

Let me explain. There have been a number of times during the writing of Linger that I've paused, and asked a bunch of people for feedback. Not the least of those was Clarion, where I workshopped the short story that became this novel. Beta readers, as I've said before, are fabulous. I am so grateful to everyone, who, at whatever state the manuscript was in, took time to read it, and read it carefully, and talk to me about what they found there. My beta readers see things in my stories that I can't, and notice the things that aren't there. But one of the things I have had to learn, that has been an ongoing part of the learning to be a writer process, is when to incorporate their feedback into my story, and when to choose not to.

Because usually, if five people all point out a scene as not working for them, the scene is probably broken. But I cannot fix it five different ways. So I've learned that instead of just picking up the pen, and accepting the offered solution, I need to step back, and think about what function the scene was supposed to be serving in the story in the first place, how it is broken, and why the reader is offering the feedback she is. This allows me to fix the broken scene in a way that doesn't scar the rest of the story.

I've also learned that not every reader is my ideal reader. This one was harder, because I want people to be affected by what I write, and so my tendency was to try to fix everything that was pointed out to me as a flaw, to rub all the rough edges  and sharp bits off of the story so it wouldn't bother people.

Except the rough edges and sharp bits are what made the story recognizably mine, and by removing them, I was turning the story into an automaton: technically functional, but soulless. So I realized that what I needed to do was write my story. Maybe a strange realization for someone with an 80K finished manuscript sitting on her desk, but the thing is, getting published is hard. Even after you're published, there are people who won't like what you write. (Just go look at the Amazon reviews for people like William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, and see how many people hate the traits that are often cited as the best parts of their work.) So I thought about the things that were important to me - not just in the what kind of story was I telling, but in the how I was telling it - and I let those be there. I stopped worrying that people won't like it if my pov character is sarcastic and snarky as a coping device, or that I use too many polysyllabic words, or that I never met an allusion I didn't like. 

Linger may not be everyone's kind of story. But it will be mine. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The anxiety of influence

If you asked me to name some of the books that changed my life, I would begin with A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I'd add Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, and specifically The Grey King. Those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that. 

I'd add the Bordertown series (edited originally by the extraordinary Terri Windling, and currently in the gifted hands of Ellen Kushner and Holly Black.) Bordertown was the fantastic place I always wanted to live in. More than Narnia (which, let me assure you, I actually tried to get to), more than Middle Earth, I wanted to live in Bordertown. (Although it is not canon, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks has a very Bordertown feel. And is why I went to law school in Minneapolis. I am not making that up.)

I'd also include Robin McKinley's Deerskin, which saved my life.

The book I would not mention immediately, even though I love it, even though I have read it many, many times, even though I am trying to think up a class that would allow me to teach it, is Stephen King's It. 

But It should be. Oh, It should be.

It's the storm drains that made me realize how deep that story had gotten into my blood. Ever since I read It, I've had what I view as a healthy suspicion of storm drains. In my old neighborhood, where I was growing up in Washington, I would give them a wide berth, making sure I stayed far enough out of range of whatever thing might be lurking there. But then, in Minneapolis, there just really weren't any in the places where I walked my dog, or along the parkway that I ran. 

Now I'm on the East Coast. Not quite in New England, and certainly not in Derry (and dear members of the facebook group that wishes Derry existed: Are you completely mad? Have you read those books?!) But the storm drains are creepier. There are more of them. They look like places where the worst sorts of things could be hiding, ready to offer you a balloon, because really, we all float here.

And I realized how deep, how visceral my fear of them is on my run this morning, as I was dragging my out of shape self up a (conveniently labeled by road sign in case of doubt) hill, sticky with humidity even that early in the morning, calves trembling, thighs on fire. Without even thinking about it, I was zigging and zagging across the shoulder of the road, so I could keep a safe margin between my feet and the drains.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red Hood's Revenge: A Review

If you asked me to imagine a series of books someone would write just for me, retold fairy tales featuring kick ass women would be pretty much the top of the list. So it should come as no surprise to any of you that I love Jim C. Hines' series of Princess books. The Stepsister Scheme was the first book I reviewed here. (If you want to read my review of The Mermaid's Madness, look here. Or just skip both, and buy all the books.) The latest in the series, Red Hood's Revenge, continues the tradition of a fabulous series that just keeps getting better.

Talia (Sleeping Beauty) has been my favorite of the princesses since the series began, so I was delighted that Red Hood's Revenge focused on her. Of course, the titular Lady of the Red Hood, Roudette, is fascinating as well, and this brings me to my main quibble with this book: I wanted more. (Honestly, as I read, I kept feeling like Snow, who would get distracted from the events at hand with wanting to know more detail. Not because the important elements weren't there - they are - but because I was so interested in them.) One of Jim's strengths as a writer is his ability to create real, complex, characters. It's obvious that he knows so much more about them than appears on the page. The way Roudette's backstory is revealed is completely in character, and I didn't care. I wanted to know more about her, her history, her previous encounter with Talia, everything she had been doing since donning the red cape. (Spinoff?)

In that instance, it's just a quibble. However, I do feel that Talia's relationship with Faziya really could have benefitted from further exposition. The way it is currently set up, it feels more like a fairy tale-type fiat plot, happily ever after, than an earned relationship. But that is one small, off note in what is a very complex and well-written book. Red Hood's Revenge is full of real people, with real emotions, in a real society, with real culture. That's an achievement that should be applauded.

Finally, I'll say that I wish these books had been available when I was in high school. Smart books about strong, intelligent women, who are all strong in different ways, and aren't perfect but are real... I would have read these until they fell apart. I've never seen the series on a YA shelf, and I wish I did, because I think that audience would really love them. But they are fabulous for grown ups, too. 


FCC disclosure: I received this book from the publisher. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tell me all the things you would change

It's a strange thing, settling into this new house. It occurred to me this was the first time I've actually chosen where I'd live, the first time I'd had the option to do anything other than take the only place left that fit my criteria. I've had the luxury of picking out new furniture.  And though those are both very material sorts of things to celebrate, I'm not celebrating them for strictly material reasons.

I feel like a lot of my old life was fitting into the space that someone else chose for me. That moment in Cinderella, where the stepsisters cut off bits of their feet to stuff them in the glass slippers? That was what I'd been doing, just less bloody and more painful.

So I feel lucky right now. So lucky, that I have the chance to really look at my life, and think about the parts of it I want to keep and the parts of it I can say goodbye to. My skin fits.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A sort of homecoming

I am in my new house, where I will be for the next two years. I like it very muchly.

Moving in was, as these things tend to be, a bit of an adventure. The prior tenants, who I am quite certain will be getting back none of their security deposit, left the house so filthy as to qualify as a biohazard. Rather than calling in the CDC, I called my Mom, who drove down from New Hampshire to help me out.

The moving truck broke down in NYC. Like the rest of the Northeast this past week, the truck got heat exhaustion. So everything arrived a day late.

But arrive it did. And the house is clean. And I have begun unpacking. My bed has sheets on. I have found my coffee maker. The internet is connected. My swanky new desk has been delivered, with swanky ergonomic chair to follow.

I ordered furniture. I think I am officially a grown up.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

This is radio nowhere

Posting here, and on twitter, is liable to be light and sometimes nonexistent this week. (This is the point where you make your sad face, and say, "Oh, I'll miss you, Kat.") On Wednesday, my lovely and gracious colleague, for whom I have been house- and cat-sitting, returns from traveling all over the world, and I will move to my new place.

This means, the next few days will be balanced between responsibilities here, and trying to get the rooms painted I want to paint before my stuff arrives, as well as moving the things of mine that are here from here to there. Internet person comes on Wednesday to plug me back in to this series of tubes. The remainder of my worldly possessions will arrive from New Hampshire Thursday. Except for the new furniture, which will begin arriving Thursday, and hopefully all be delivered by the end of the following week.

So if you don't hear from me for a bit, it's not because I don't love you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn

As part of his fundraising for the Clarion Write-a-Thon (to which you can still donate, should the Muse so move you, and the monetary gods be kind), my Clarionmate, Ferrett, has been blogging in-depth on his writing process while he's in the process of writing each story. One of his more recent entries is on what he calls a "hot mess" story. The defining characteristic of such a story for him, is that he has no idea where the story will wind up when he starts it.

He goes on to say what I'm sure are a bunch on important other things about writing (and no, that's not snark. Ferrett is committed to being a better writer, the best he can be, and he's generous in sharing his advice with others.) But I cannot even remember them, because my brain went: OMGWTF! SOMETIMES YOU KNOW HOW THE STORY WINDS UP WHEN YOU START IT?!?


The thing about process is, everyone has one. And everyone's is different. I don't think I've ever known the end of a story before I began writing it, and I don't think I'd be able to write it if I did. Because I write to know what happens next. (This is the reason I don't outline my novels while writing them, which is also why I wind up having to go back and rewrite them. My process, it has its flaws.)

I just finished a short story where I didn't know how it would end until I scrawled the last sentence, and my brain said "ends." When I began the story, all I had in my head was the image of an island made of bones, and three women standing on the shore. It's perhaps the weirdest thing I've ever written, and I'm really proud of it. But I can see where, for a more organized writer than I am, starting with nothing more than an image would be a sign to wait until the thing had developed, not a sign to sit down and start scribbling.

I've said this before, lots of times, but I think it bears repeating: the right way to write is the way that gets words on the page. Look at other writers for ideas, or for advice, particularly if you are stuck, because maybe something new will jar you back into being able to write. But there is no sacred ritual. If there were, I'd be busy performing it, instead of getting ready to go back to my manuscript, and pull out an erroneous subplot.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I could really use a wish right now

I don't talk about it a lot.

Not because I'm ashamed - I got over that - but because if you don't know someone well, hearing her say, "I got raped" tends to be the sort of thing that drowns out everything else you know about her. And I don't want to be The Girl Who Lived. 

I don't talk about it a lot here, in this public forum, because I don't want people to think that I'm trying to speak for all survivors. Every survivor has a different experience, a different way out. All of them are valid.

The reason I am talking about this now is because the one question everyone I have spoken about this with asks, is, "Is he in jail?" 


I never pressed charges. And this post by Jim Hines, talking about the experiences of women who have been raped, and tried to go to the police with it, comes so close to my experience that I broke down after I read it.

Because when I was in the emergency room after, getting treated for the broken ribs and shattered cheekbone that had been part of the violence of the assault, the officer taking my incident report commented on how short my skirt was. He pointed out that my parents didn't know I had gone out to meet the guy, and that we'd had a relationship before.

Not sexual. I had been a virgin. I was fifteen. 

None of that mattered.

Had I really said no? he asked. 

It was a bad case to prosecute, he said. I needed to think about how much of what happened was my responsibility, before I went around causing trouble for someone, he told me.

So no. I never reported the crime. He never went to jail. I didn't tell anyone for years, because even though I knew I had been raped, and didn't need a court to tell me that, I thought it was my fault. That was what made surviving hard - being told, by the person who was supposed to be on my side, that I had deserved what had been done to me.

So today, I will be The Girl Who Lived. Because there are too fucking many of us, and I needed to tell the rest of you that you're not alone.