Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hubba Hubba

Barry Eisler did an interview at Lustbites. I liked his take on sex in fiction.
Unlike Barry, I tend toward 'panning away to the fireplace' myself. But he makes a great point about how and when the sex serves the story.
If what's important is *that* they had sex, by all means fade out and skip the mechanics. But if the *way* they have sex explores character, furthers or resolves conflict and/or advances the story, then we owe it to the reader to stay with the action.

I've never thought about story sex that way, but it's right in line with my own approach to violence in my fiction. Something new to think about...

Sweet Mysteries of Life

The scene was cozy, domestic. The room was warm and bright and cheery, a world apart from the cold winter night on the other side of the windows.

The Tiny Dynamo sat with a book in her lap. I sat with the comupter in mine. Butler chased a bit of ribbon across the floor. Midge looked down on us all from her perch at the top of the bookshelves.

The Dynamo marked her place in the book with one finger and turned to me. Her legs were graceful and bare and lovely. I couldn't help staring.

"I said, it's funny, the difference between men and women."

"Hm? Oh, yeah."

"Yeah. Men get turned on watching women make out with each other..."

I let my face and body go still.

"... whereas women get turned on watching men beat the crap out of each other." The Dynamo's eyes danced with mischief and light.

"That's going in my blog," I said.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Apparently it was Memorial Day in the States. Hopeully I can be forgiven for missing it, since it's not a holiday in New Zealand, so nobody mentions these things.

Also, I have a lousy time with the usual seasonal holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween) on account of the seasons being upside down. There's frost on the ground this morning, and the maples and beeches out my back window are colored like bright torches.

We don't have Memorial Day in New Zealand, but we do have ANZAC Day. Very similar, both started in the days after The War to End All War. For ANZAC Day, people wear a red poppy to show their support.

Personally, I find the poppy a lovely, resonant, poetic image. Those young men cut down on the fields of Flanders, their lives barely begun. That single blood-colored blossom is a powerful symbol of the tragic human losses of war. Kiwis don't do anything with the yellow ribbons. They look at me funny when I tell them it's from a Tony Orlando song.

ANZAC Day is different from Meorial Day in one major way: the Kiwi experience of war. NZ has a long record of sending more volunteers (per capita) than its once-parent, Great Britain. They also have a long history of being as poorly used as Britain's other colonies. Think, "We need someone to draw the enemy's fire while we dither about elsewhere."

Gallipoli taught Kiwis a hard lesson in war. As so often in that war (and in wars to come), they were given a tough job without proper preperation or supply, left in an untenable situation and died in terrible numbers. That they accomplished as much as they did is a testament to their toughness and ingenuity. Read about it here.

Gallipoli left scars on the Kiwi psyche. They're still thinking about it today. 'Birth of national identity' is a very kind way of saying 'loss of innocence.' It was obvious to all concerned that the benevolent parent was only looking out for itself, and nobody cared about New Zealand but New Zealand.

Kiwis became wary of rhetoric, and they still are. But it never stopped them from commiting when they believe the cause is just. They still sent an amazing percentage of their men into WWII, though fewer into Vietnam. Since I've lived here, I've seen big pushes to stop civil wars in East Timor and Fiji. They sent troops to Afghanistan, but not to Iraq. They'll fight, but only with their hearts in it.

I was born in the US, and I love it as only someone estranged is able. I hope seventy or eighty years from now, Americans will remember a time when rich old men used flags and fear to waste too many young lives.

Of course, I'll probably go on some sort of watch list for this...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

So Quiet

I've been quiet of late, I know. There are a few relatively juicy blog essays banging around in my head, but no time to write them.

Y'see, I'm writing again. Working title is This Rusted Cage (TRC), and it's shaping up to be a fair bit of fun. At least, I can't wait to see what happens. But it's autumn in the book, and autumn here on the ground, so I'm really trying to boogie while the impressions are all nice and fresh.

I dashed off maybe three or four thousand words on that earlier idea (the guy in handcuffs), but it wasn't there yet. I like his story, but this one needs telling first. Oddly, this story is one I made a couple of false starts on before starting (and finishing) the previous novel.

That one's still marinating. Another month or two, I'll print and edit.

In the meantime, I've put up the bones of a site for my writing. There's even an excerpt here. Of course, I'll have to do this all over when the publishers insist on a name change and I end up writing as Winter Fallon or some such.

On the home front, Midge has gone from staying outside to sleeping in the same room with Butler. On top of the bookshelves where he can't reach her, of course, but it's progress. They've also eaten at the same time, which is rather social for the Duchess Midge.

When the laptop's not handy (supermarkets, lines, waiting rooms, etc.), I've been working longhand in a notebook. Later, I transcribe those scenes in. Butler has also been most helpful in this regard.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Up Front

CS Harris had a fine blog today about covers.

Marcus Sakey had one the other day at The Outfit.

Irene Gallo is an Art Director for Tor, Forge and Starscape books. She also blogs about covers.

I feel like I have a foot in both worlds on this issue. I've been an illustrator more than once in my career, and (God willing) I'll soon have cover issues of my own to contend with.

The good people in the Art Department care, and care deeply, about doing good work. Like editorial (or authorship) is a hard slog to get your foot in the door. The pay is low, the hours long, the rewards largely the thought of a job well done.

As writers, we all want care and thought, commitment and creativity to go into our baby. Especially the bits everyone's gonna see first.

The illustrators want to show off their creativity. They want to do their best work, maybe get an award for a clever design or a nifty typeface. Yeah, there are even awards for typefaces. Even a pat on the back from the boss helps.

So what happens?

Well, the art guys don't get to actually *read* the books, for a start. Too many books, too little time. They get a one-page treatment. Way I hear it, the treatment comes from editorial, who uses the pitch from the agent, who uses... your cover letter.

Don't know if there's any truth to that, but I do know the art folk get one page. They also get several books a week, and have to do several versions of each book. It's a constant grind.

It'd be nice if houses could afford enough staff to let each person spend more time coming up with 'best' solutions, but that's not the industry today. Heck, that hasn't been the industry since the Golden Age of Illustration, somewhere around 1910-20.

No easy answers, but I think the best we can do as authors is to get across what makes our work unique, a selling point nthat translates visually.

That, and light candles in church. I also have a voodoo woman named Phyllis who assures me she can make up a gris gris bag for just these occasions...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Foundling

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce an unplanned but much-loved new arrival...

Mister Butler Dynamo.

(He's smaller than my hand!)

Midge, the established doyen and Mistress of All She Surveys, is less than enthused.

One hopes she'll get over it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Miss Snark, We Hardly Knew Ye

If anyone hasn't heard, Miss Snark is retiring.

Two years, two million hits, and heaps of priceless advice.

For me, she was my first stop for almost seven hundred breakfasts.

She did what she came to do, and now she rides off into the sunset. The rest of us are left to say,

"Who was that masked woman?"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fair Use, Fair Enough

This wee movie had me laughing hard. It makes merry at Disney's expense to discuss copyright and fair use.

In other news, I haven't been posting much because I'm trying to catch up on all those missed blogs, and writing heaps of short sketches. Nothing's quite shouted, "Why yes, I am a full-blown story after all," but I do seem to go through this pipe-clearing activity before I get tucked in to a new one.

I'm catching up, though, so expect more soon!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Rested, recovered and once again hapily ensconced in Godzone.

Australia was lovely. I didn't get to see an opera in Sydney, or take a 4x4 across the outback, watch the sun rise on Ayer's Rock or dive the Great Barrier Reef. I'd love to do all of those things, but this time time and money were tight (especially since artists don't get holiday pay. If I'm not working, I'm not getting paid).

We did do a lot of this:

And a little of this:

I was dropped from and hurtled over an awful lot of iron in the last week. A lot of fun. Also went on my first water slide. And second, third, and eventually lost count. Sheltered soul that I am, I'd never been to a water park before.
The Tiny Dynamo, being part Selkie, is rather at home in the water. Being more of the Irish Setter model myself, I dog paddle and chase tennis balls, that sort of thing. I'll admit I went to the water parks mainly for the joy of of watching the Dynamo, slick and shiny and running around in her bikini. Turns out I like the slides, too!

And of course, we did get inland a bit for some of these:

Not once did I give in to that scratching at the windows of my soul. But there's this guy, see. He's got bloody knuckles on his left hand and he's taken out of the airport in cuffs, stuffed into the back of a cruiser and driven out into a tiny town in the rural South. The city cops hand the guy off on the cracked blacktop of a dark restaurant.

The sheriff unlocks the guy's cuffs. Explains it was all a misunderstanding. The guy isn't so sure. He's been gone a long time, and everyone's been happy with that arrangement. Now, he just wants to do whatever business brought him back to town and get back in the wind. But having him back, even for a few days, is making an awful lot of people are nervous.

There are secrets all over the place. And this guy, he's got plenty of his own.

And I kinda want to know what they are...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Simple Pleasures

I"m somewhere in the middle of a very happy wee vacation just at the moment. The ocean is involved, as is the sun, good food, a little wine and the occasional roller coaster.

This time next week, I'll be back commenting with the best of em...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


tee hee hee!

Once More into the Breach

(80,000 words)

I've spent this last week or two getting rid of the stuff that didn't belong. They're scratching weakly at their file right now, their pitiful screams too faint to trouble me.

I'm also writing fresh material for the stuff I skipped over. That first draft, I was sticking to the action, the high points of character development, etc. By the time I was finished, I could see some of the places where I needed to go deeper, or build slower, or just plain give the reader a rest for a minute.

The actual, -sit-down-and-read-it-with-a-blue-pencil first read won't happen for a while yet. I need time enough to come at the work fresh. These new scenes are going in now, before the characters themselves start to see foreign to me. Later, when they do seem like they were written by someone else, I'll have a third persepective about what they need.

Some writers (Tom Robbins and Donna Tartt are two of my favorites) agonize over every word, trying to craft a work a complete and perfect beauty on the first pass. I have to wade right in with both fists flying and see what I've done when the dust settles.

Hoping to have all the new writing done in the next few days or so. We're off to OZ on holiday, and I'd like to actually holiday instead of writing.

For this reason, I'm also VERY much hoping to put off starting the next book until the end of the month. The new story's pulling at me, trying to claw its way out of my skin, polluting my dreams with its foul breath and whispering in my ears in those quiet moments.

Like that dead girl in Stir of Echoes, the stories I gotta write get more and more insistent. All I can say is, "Not yet. Please, not yet."

But it itches so...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Little on the Trashy Side

The Kentucky Headhunters once sang, "I like my women just a little on the trashy side."

While the Dynamo is a class act, my tastes in other stuff, well....

I grew up with sci fi, fantasy, noir detective yarns and comics. Space warps and talking swords, hard-boiled dicks who shot first and asked questions later and men in their underwear throwing cars at each other were my meat. Still are.

Except I had the blessing and the curse of a fairly posh education. I studied classics. I learned a hell of a lot about how to think well. But there was always a big disconnect between my professors and me.

I'd show them Jack Kirby's art. They'd see the Hulk trying to feed Galactus his teeth and miss a vibrant muscularity of line that goes right back to Michaelangelo.

I'd mention Raymond Chandler, and they'd miss the lean, stripped-down prose and an existential angst every bit as bleak as that of Hemingway or Fitzgerald, except that unlike those two, Chandler's fiction never quite gave up hope.

These days, heaps of literary writers work within the genres. It's the best of both worlds, and most everyone knows it. James Lee Burke, Thomas Harris, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, ah, the list goes on and on. And it's forced everyone to step up their game.

A writer who 30 years ago might have been content with lazy writing and a regular check now has to pay attention to language and character development and all that good stuff. And those ivory tower elitists have even started to (shudder) have plots.

These days it's okay to be a little on the trashy side. As long as it's 'quality trash'. And we're all the better for it.