Friday, September 19, 2014

So that was summer?

We had a sudden snap in the heatwave, and all at once last night was cool and breezy. What a relief!

But at the same time there was a sense of No! Is summer over? Not yet!

It needs to be over for the sake of the wasteland that was my garden. But I need that quiet solitude of water and sky. Where it's just me and the hummingbirds.

My summer was spent writing. I wrote two novels. Fair Play (out in November) and Boy with the Painful Tattoo (out in October). In between the writing there was time spent with kidlings who are now taller than me. I read some good books, I had some nice meals. watched a few interesting documentaries, I argued with the SO. But really...that was about it. This was a working summer.

I heard coyotes last night -- loud and nearby. When I woke this morning, it smelled like autumn. Summer is fading. The clock is ticking.

So time for another FIVE THINGS I LOVE. I suppose this is the autumn edition. We've already had summer.

1  - Action-Adventure movies.

Edge of Tomorrow. Well, they changed the name (Live, Die, Repeat?) and it's still wrong. But the movie is right. Possibly the best action-adventure movie I saw this summer. I loved it. Yes, lurved it.

It's now on video/stream, so go treat yourself to an entertaining Friday night.

2 - Mournful sounds.

The wind through the trees. Coyotes at night. Train calls in the moonlit distance. I had ALL of them last night, so I maybe be sleep-deprived right now. There were no sobbing ghosts, so that's something.

3 - The light in Autumn

The light changes in Autumn. Everything is more intense, more luminous. It's a sunshine and shadow thing, really gives a strange power to every afternoon. The days linger. You feel reminiscent and weirdly anticipatory. It's a strange time, these few weeks while everything changes. It is a time of possibility, and yet I feel more connected to the past. I am always both melancholy and excited in the fall. In short, I am harder to live with than usual.

4 - Black and White photos

This often pops up on my Goodreads lists of Daily Things I Love. I saw a documentary lately about a woman -- an amateur photographer by the name of Vivian Maier. Anything I tell you will be too much. You must discover this story for yourself. I think it speaks to the nature of creativity and art.

5 - The Mysteries of Frances Crane

Well, vintage mystery in general. But I am really enjoying the Crane's extensive backlist. I like to hunt down original editions with the gorgeous (or sometimes just crazy) cover artwork. Right now I'm reading The Golden Box, which I've started several times before but just was never quite in the right frame of mind. Now I am loving it, and looking forward to reading every night before I fall into bed.

So now it's your turn. Five things you love about autumn. Maybe you'll pick the very same things you picked last year at this time. That's always interesting. Some things are universal.  The seasons are changing. But how much do we change? ;-)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

As I was saying...

I was plummeting toward the finish line of THE BOY WITH THE PAINFUL TATTOO last week, and found myself unable to stop the train long enough to come up with a blog. That's actually what it feels like once you reach those final chapters. Like you would have to jump in front of a speeding train, Superman style -- to try and slow -- let alone stop -- that hurtle towards completion (or annihilation -- I can never tell at this point).

Anyway, the manuscript has gone to its final round of edits. There is still a bit of tidying up to do -- I woke up this morning and remembered I'd left out a conversation between Kit and J.X. -- and I skimped one of the sex scenes because the important thing that happens there is their dialog, but still! It's not JUST the dialog!

So now I have a couple of days to frantically try and catch up the last month and a half ton of email I've basically just had to ignore.  So much to catch up on. Oh! But I want to share this bit of good news for those who don't follow Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter. Kevin R. Free has signed on again to do the 3rd H&M book. The audio for BWTPT should be out about mid-November. If everything stays on track.

And also BWTPT will be regularly priced at $6.99. It's 72Kish in length. A full novel. But if you preorder you get it at $4.99. decide.

Meanwhile, I was looking for some good writing quotes this morning, and I came across this one by Chandler, who I love. I love him because he drank too much and he was irascible and he was brilliant. He shaped his genre. I like that in  a writer.

I don't entirely agree with this though:

Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder… The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.

I mean, yes. True. We see it all the time in zee brave new world of publishing. Writers who have been published all of fifteen minutes blogging earnestly about the use of adjectives or whatever. Lord God in heaven grant us mercy.  I don't know that it's that they're out of ideas, exactly, so much as they don't know what else to talk about. And they are shy about talking to readers, so they focus on their fellow writers. Also given the diary-like nature of blogging, a lot of this is just figuring out for themselves the kind of writer they want to be when they grow up.

I like talking about craft and technique, but I also recognize in myself the fanatic. And I also know that style is a wonderful thing, but story is ultimately what matters to readers. You can be successful without style. But you cannot be successful without story.

And that's this week's thought.

Friday, September 5, 2014

When Worlds Collide

I didn't -- really still don't -- have a post ready this morning. I am now deep, deep into the final draft of The Boy With the Painful Tattoo (don't forget to order it at that special pre-order price!) and it is just so difficult to interact with the outside world now.

Partly that's the constraint of time. Partly it's simply the difficulty of slipping between worlds.

But if I had time, I would be posting about the strangeness of creative animals and social media. It's not a natural or easy blend. Creative people tend to be over-sensitive and introverted -- their isolation is not always forced upon them, in fact it is probably rarely forced upon them. The older I get, the more I suspect that isolation may be one of the necessary ingredients for creativity.

Which is why I think so often reviews and authors go badly. I've heard non-creative people say things like, "If authors are going to put their work into the world, they have to be able to 'take it.'"

"It" being the constant barrage of white noise commentary from outside.

And, like I said, that's a non-creative person talking.

I've been thinking more and more about this uncomfortable melding of social interaction and the creative temperament. I watched a couple of documentaries the other evening about Vivian Maier. Even if you don't watch the documentaries, check out her work. Basically she shot something like one hundred thousand incredible photographs -- and never shared a single one with anyone.

AND around the same time that I was mulling over the question of how much of art is simply for ourselves, a reader friend pointed me to yet another author behaving badly on Facebook.

This author was saying something we ALL privately think: why do readers contact us personally to ask questions they could easily answer themselves by checking our website? Why take my valuable and limited writing time up to ask which book comes next in a series? Or when the next book is coming out? Or have you ever thought of writing another Adrien English book? Or...well, you get it.

And of course the answer is, the reader wishes to contact YOU, the author. It's not really about anything other than that. Anyone savvy enough to find your email address has already found your website and is aware she or he could find the information they need for themselves.

But this writer snapped. A combination of things probably happened. She began to believe her own promo efforts, she didn't know what or how to share so she was babbling incessant and tiresome nonsense, and the constant strain of being a public person began to show. She said The Unthinkable.


And the result was predictable. Readers were outraged. Loudly. In multiple comments.

And rightly so. I mean, how the hell hard is it to hire someone to answer your email and FB posts if you can't keep up? Pull yourself together, sweetcheeks. Shut up and hire a personal assistant to pretend to be you.

And yet, I do feel an unlikely sympathy for this socially challenged soul. Demanding smooth social interaction from a creative -- often highly strung -- personality is probably asking for trouble. Even mostly calm and well-trained social animals like myself snap now and then. Harried and chased into the brush by screaming madmen with pointy spears, I'm not alone in thinking What the heck do you WANT from me?

I'm not sure even readers know the answer to this question. That's how messed up social media has made normal social interaction.

But I think I will leave it there and allow you all to comment -- or not -- on this dilemma of the creative social animal. For myself, the more I know about the artist, the more difficult it is to enjoy the work. And yet the current trend is for the artist to share as much of themselves as possible in as many channels as they can manage.

What does this mean for art? What does this mean for the artist?