No Perspective

dream landscape 2 Spent the last half of last week feeling progressively more physically run-down, culminating in actually succumbing to the Princess’s post-AP-exam cold. She got better just in time for me to get walloped. Saturday afternoon was the worst of it, and I couldn’t take my long run yesterday, which means I’m twitchy as fuck right now as well as feeling dried out and weird from waking up several times to unload a cargo of nose-mucus.

Isn’t that a glorious mental image? You’re welcome.

To add to that, the Little Prince is subject to hormonal storms the likes of which I haven’t seen since the Princess was his age. I’m left shaking my head and trying to keep a straight face. EVERYTHING is an important, LIFE OR DEATH battle for him. No perspective means everything is a mountainously big deal. And, of course, I alternate between being BEST MUM EVER and WORST HARRIDAN IN HISTORY. It’s enough to give one whiplash, but really, it’s much worst inside his skin with the chemicals raging. Poor kid. My outright laughing at some of his drama probably makes it worse, but I can’t help myself.

Miss B and I are both longing to run, but it’s best if I give it another day. She’ll have to settle for herding me about and playing fetch. That is, if I can get her to bring the flung toy back to me, instead of just prancing around the yard shaking it once she’s caught it. Once it stops moving, she loses interest, just like a cat.

They’re saying thunderstorms this afternoon, which will no doubt be massively entertaining. And the contractor is to finish caulking everything in the upstairs loo, so I can call the plumbers back to put the trim on, then the children can take showers upstairs again. I should look into prep for painting. I’m tired of the nasty goldenrod color of the walls in there, and as a first painting project, a small bathroom isn’t that bad. I’ll just need drop cloths. Lots and lots of drop cloths.

But that’s a consideration for another day. Right now I need breakfast, and I’ll steal an hour of writing on a trunk novel before I get down to real work for the day. A salutary throat-clearing, as it were.

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REVIEW: Jupiter, Betrayed

NASA's Hubble Shows Jupiter's Great Red Spot is Smaller than Ever So I watched Jupiter Ascending yesterday, and I have thoughts. Potential spoilers follow, you’ve been warned.

I know, I know. “You should have seen it in the theatre! The big screen!” Unfortunately the big screen means other people, and I just didn’t have the energy to deal with that when it came out. I much prefer movies in the comfort of my home, where I can stop them to get a cuppa or corral the cat. Or, you know, take a break every half hour and check on the noises contractors are making.

All in all, I enjoyed the hell out of it. I like the Wachowskis, and they’re extremely interesting visually. Mila Kunis did the best she could, Channing Tatum is always fun to watch, and Sean Bean didn’t die in the first twenty minutes! Plus, aliens! Danger! Seduction! Soylent Green makes you functionally immortal!

The problems I had with it are going to be more interesting to my faithful readers, I suspect. So, while I liked it overall and am glad I bought it (I can see it becoming a comfort-watch movie) I am frustrated by a few things.

I get that they were doing a Wizard of Oz homage, and part of that is fun (Kunis’s blue checked shirt, I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE!) but in the end, the story they scratched the surface of is far too complex for the ending of “I’ll go back to scrubbing toilets and I like it!”

What I wanted the ending to be runs a little bit like this: Jupiter turns Balem down, finally finding her strength and taking charge of this massive inheritance she’s received. She saves the earth, but it’s far too dangerous–for her and her family–for her to go back to scrubbing toilets, so her families’ memories are wiped, with her mother poignantly believing she lost her daughter as well as her husband, and Jupiter watches them from afar as she grieves and learns her new role. That would have felt emotionally true and revolutionary to me.

I also wanted at least one of the three Abrasaxes to say to Jupiter: you may feel differently about harvests when you’re old and staring death in the face. That would have made the movie ever so much deeper and richer–Jupiter may have triumphed, but any huge inheritance raises questions like that. I was gnashing my teeth at such wonderful, meaty narrative gone to waste, believe me. The closest we get is Kalique’s interrupted, “All you have to do is close your eyes–” Which isn’t nearly enough, and could have been preparatory to a stabbing.

Kalique is by far the most interesting of the three semi-villains. “My brothers must not suspect my involvement.” And at the end, she’s sitting pretty, both her brothers/competitors in business destroyed and Jupiter unwilling to take the helm of her vast inherited concern. It would have felt far more true if Kalique or her playboy brother killed their mother–or all three of them, a la Murder on the Orient Express. With the Wachowskis so intent on Oz instead of the story they were excavating, Kalique was forced into the role of Glinda when she could have been so much more.

Titus was another interesting character–seduction and forced marriage, whew! Unfortunately, his clumsiness at the beginning (“You couldn’t be persuaded to part with it, could you?”) doesn’t foreshadow his very neat manipulation of Jupiter later. It left me wondering how he’d survived his siblings at all. And wow, that Oedipal subtext.

Also, did we really have to focus so much on Eddie Redmayne’s mouth? For God’s sake, can we stop having villains with poufy lips and mild speech impediments? It’s not scary or funny, and I’m sick of it. Redmayne turned in a very good, subtly unhinged performance, but he didn’t have a lot to work with. (His flying monkeys were totes incredible, though. Points for that.) Points for Mila Kunis really trying, even though no socialite is going to ask her housekeeper for dress advice and the backbreaking work of housecleaning would kind of preclude the high-powered makeup they slathered on poor Mila, who doesn’t need it. Don’t gild that lily, Hollywood.

I liked Caine Wise, I liked his motivations. I liked Sean Bean’s Stinger, although that was a little heavy-handed. Tatum and Bean are so much goddamn fun to watch; I almost want them to go off and have adventures like I wanted Tyrion and Bronn to have books and books and a full series of their own.

One thing, though. You have them spliced with bees and wolves. Then you give them wings. Stinger I can see as a flying creature, but Caine? Come on. IT’S ENOUGH THAT HE SURFS, OKAY? You pack so many different animals in there, you’re going to have a puddle of genetic goo at the end. Did we really need wings, too? (Although that shield tattooed onto Caine’s arm? BRILL.) Did we really have to make Toto a complete Gary Stu of a flying monkey as well?

The interplanetary bureaucracy scenes were fantastic–I expect no less, from anything Terry Gilliam is involved in. I wanted more of the Aegis, and if the Abrasaxes are just one powerful family, where are the others? We don’t even hear about them, except for Caine tearing the throat out of one. (Which, you know, I can hardly blame him.)

There could have been a very subtle and stunning comment on Stalin’s Russia, then the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, and the problems of capitalism. It could have been done so well, and the Wachowskis were the directors to do it, to dazzle viewers and make them think. Unfortunately, they seemed to get so caught up in shoehorning this wonderful idea into Oz fanfic that a number of chances to create something truly incredible were tossed overboard. I feel like the story they could have told was, well, betrayed and chopped into pieces.

Still, I loved watching it, and will watch it again, especially to see the threads I could pick up and turn into stories of my own. Tatum and Kunis work really well together, and I can watch flying skateboards all day, as we all well remember. I’ll continue to buy Wachowski movies–I wonder if they had to tack that milksop ending on to get funding? I wouldn’t think so, but after seeing them shy away from the implications of their wonderful worlds before, well. I do enjoy their ability to let characters say things that are either mistaken or just-plain-lies, and leave the audience figuring out motivations. It’s refreshing after a bunch of “WHO NEEDS SUBTLETY? WE’LL HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD!” movies. I wish they were allowed–or would take–more free rein with that.

TL;DR: I enjoyed Jupiter immensely. I just wished for more substance.

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Soon My Own

Blue I am perhaps a very selfish being, because I cannot wait until this saga of home repair is done with and my house is my own again. Now that I’ve had a taste of life with solitude when I require it, it’s difficult to go back. I remember writing in the living room of the old place, cross-legged in my papasan, while two toddlers and the cats all wanted my attention at the same time. The intense work of that stage of child-rearing paid off in prime when I needed to write through heartbreak and stress, but it wasn’t comfortable. I’ve found I much prefer my current environment.

I don’t often talk about the flipside of “ass in chair, hands on keyboard.” Allowing oneself time to think, to dream, to fill the well so you have that something to draw upon, a raw material to spin into stories, is also critical. I am a champion of stealing moments to turn inward. Now that I can do so without having to steal, the pleasure is just as unalloyed. It still feels secretly shameful to realize I’ve been putting things together inside my head, staring out a window, brain tuned to that low hum of expectancy.

An interesting thing–I came across this article about “maladaptive daydreaming”. It’s well worth a read. For me, there was an a-ha! moment buried deeply in the last third.

A few clicks later, I came across Somer’s research in The Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy. The paper examined six subjects who daydreamed excessively. Unlike me, they were victims of abuse and were unable to function well socially or in the workplace. But I had struggled with coordination difficulties and a painful constellation of autoimmune conditions, all of which went undiagnosed for years, so my poor health—like other people’s abusive circumstances—may have made fantasy more compelling than real life. I was especially intrigued that most of Somer’s subjects moved in idiosyncratic ways when they daydreamed, just as I had. “When I daydream,” one subject reported, “I often hold an object in my hand, say, an eraser or a marble. I toss [it] in the air. This repetitive monotone movement helps me concentrate on the fantasy.” (The Atlantic)

Like the author, I have little difficulty functioning well in the workplace. (Socially, well, that may be another story.) I remember escaping into other, vivid, sensory places during particularly brutal bits of my childhood. The type of daydreaming the author describes sounds exceedingly familiar to me. It was my refuge, and probably why I choose to tell stories today. Translating my worlds–I contain legions, I want to say in a creepy undertone–into fiction is like breathing. I’ve done it for so long I don’t know if I could stop, even if I wanted to. I could go into them and never come back, and there are times when I’ve wanted to. I don’t know why I didn’t, especially during a few not-so-nice events.

No, I don’t want to stop. My inner worlds are private, they are mine, and the ones I share slices of are still mine. Learning the skills to put them on paper seemed natural. Often, I forget I’m writing, my hands intimate with the keyboard as I record the sensory impressions, describing what I see, taste, sense. There’s a fine balance in feeding your head enough that it will allow the act.

Creation’s a funny thing. I am extremely glad it didn’t become what the author calls maladaptive.

I felt a great deal of relief as I read the Atlantic article. I used to think I was an alien, since I could call up all these visions and walk among them. When I was older, I thought I was insane, but in a socially acceptable way that could be harnessed. Now, I’m relieved to find out I simply stumbled upon a cognitive event, so to speak, and practiced until it was burned into my neurons.

Beware what you practice, for so you shall become.

Now, I have a fresh cuppa and the contractors are out collecting other supplies. I have a little space to breathe, and so I will write something to please myself.

Over and out.

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Bundle of Cheer

Duck is judging us all.

Duck is judging us all.

Odd is groaning, the Prince can’t find his shoes (six pairs, and he can’t locate the ones he wants) and Miss B has her nose firmly glued to my calf. The Princess made snickerdoodles last night, so a sugar jolt right after toast made both kids extremely active for a few minutes. I can’t seem to get enough caffeine in, Bandit keeps talking and talking, and all in all, I want to go back to bed.

Sadly, I am committed to being vertical and actually working, so it’s going to be some tea and Olympic-level self-restraint. At least I got the proof for The Demon’s Librarian re-release done, and have only to turn it in. We’re almost out of milk (Christ, I swear the kids bathe in the stuff) and the apples are gone…

Oh. Wait. It’s Monday.

That explains everything.

I’m getting a lot of mail asking me to “Please write more Bannon & Clare!” Guys, I’m not able to write more of them because they didn’t sell well enough. I’m dreadfully sorry, but there it is. I had four more books in that series planned, but it just wasn’t to be.

I do have some tentative good news on the Steelflower front. I can’t say anything just yet. It remains a severe financial hit for me to continue with Kaia’s adventures, and I have children to feed. Not to mention the dogs, who will hold off on eating me for a while, and the cats, who most definitely will not. *sigh* Maybe it will all work out, I don’t know. Right now I’m so damn tired of people demanding things I can’t do without harming myself, I’ve grown a bit sharpish.

All right. Today I go over revisions for Roadside Magic. Soon I’ve to get the third Gallow & Ragged not just boiling in my head but on the page. The problem with getting most things done early is that people begin expecting it, and exhausting myself by scrambling begins to become the norm.

I’m just a bundle of cheer and happiness today, aren’t I. I’m going to go cue up the Pet Shop Boys, fetch my brass knuckles, and have a talk with Monday. We’ll see if it makes the week behave…

Green Moment

Fetch the watering can.

Fetch the watering can.

Welcome to my office, otherwise known as “can we cram more reference books and plants needing to be nursed into this room?” The printer is behind the philodendron. What you can’t see is my desk, stacked with books, and the Cavy Condominium, where Bandit chortles and squeaks all day, keeping me company.

The philodendron’s from the (now closed) bookstore, and is recovering from trimming and repotting. The airplane plant was from a rack of plants on clearance–sadly, I could not take them all, but I’m nursing this one to better health. One does what one can.

Old Friend Fear

Skulls 8 - photo by Augusto De Luca I’m going through the graveyard of old stories, bits and pieces, snippets that didn’t make it into final books. It’s good to do that every once in a while, just to keep all the compost turned over and actively fermenting. I’ve been tormented by the thought that all ideas are stale, even though there’s no shortage of them. That nobody will ever buy another book from me again, that I’ve had my turn.

Really, it’s just that old friend, fear. I don’t believe in writer’s block, as regular readers well know. What I do believe is that the fear takes many forms, it’s insidious, and it hits right where one’s vulnerable. Nobody knows your insecurities like you do, after all.

The trick is not to bury the fear, or to think you have to be fearless. Fearlessness is most often sheer idiocy. It’s okay to be afraid.

Just write anyway. Use the fear as a spur to one’s stubbornness, one’s determination to keep going.

Despite fear, despite everything, just keep writing. My job isn’t to make the ideas better–that’s the Muse’s job, and she’ll do it as long as I keep my end of the bargain, which is to keep my discipline, put my ass in the chair, and write daily. I’ve committed myself to the words as a vocation, and there’s no taking that sort of thing back. There’s a certain relaxation in having no choice.

But yes, dear new and aspiring writers, even people with multiple books out self-torment with fear. It doesn’t get much easier, it just gets more familiar.

Now, I’d better get some revisions done, and work on that zombie apocalypse story…

Back to Work, Avec Cake

Macro Monday The Princess got a mad bee in her bonnet about making a cake yesterday evening. It was quite the event, the fridge used to cool various things and the frosting gun coming out of hiding. (You cannot possibly chortle harder over “frosting gun” than I did, by the way.) Dinner was a perennial favorite of the children–egg noodles in butter sauce with sliced fresh tomatoes over the top.

It’s such a favorite, in fact, that they were too full to even think of cake after dinner. (So was I.) Which means this morning, the direct (and not so direct) longing and wishing and hinting for cake has been…rather intense. No sweets before breakfast or after evening toothbrushing is the rule, which meant they had to have toast…and then cake.

"Get the gun and bring in the cocoa."

“Get the gun and bring in the cocoa.”

Such is the hard, hard life of a writer’s child.

Today is for Blood Call revisions. I wanted to push to get them done this past weekend, but between AP study sessions for the Princess and various other activities for the Little Prince (not so little anymore) I was kept running from dawn to dusk.So n ow, it’s back to my “assassin gets a call from old girlfriend, then, HIJINKS!” novel.

So, I’m off to get through the rest of revisions. I’ll tell you later about how Blood Call came to be written. It involves my writing partner and a waiter…

photo by: emrank

Data Gathering: Douchemobiles

run away I fell into revising Agent Trinity yesterday with a vengeance. It’s a relief when the engines click over and I slide wholly back into a story, all my resources focused on the task in front of me. Of course, this usually means little things like feeding children and animals but forgetting to feed myself, but who cares? It’s story time! At least I got a shower in.

Small mercies, right?

The clouds are back today, and the relief is near indescribable. Sunshine just drives everyone mad around here. They start piloting their cars as if they’re in a video game, and do other strange things. It’s as if some fungal thing settled in their brain-creases is being slowly destroyed by the heat and glare, and the concomitant destruction of gray matter makes them into jerky marionettes.

Now there’s a story idea.

However, the sudden return of sanity has not extended to some specific groups. Case in point? There’s a sign at the middle school: “RIGHT TURN ONLY DURING PICKUP/DROPOFF AND SPECIAL EVENTS!” Seems pretty simple, right? Turn right onto the four-lane street, there are more than enough ways to get back to the main arteries after one does so. When the directions are followed, morning dropoff goes very smoothly.

Unfortunately, there are also special snowflakes who are either illiterate (and driving!), blind (and driving!), or very certain the rules don’t apply to them. My somewhat informal data-gathering on this point has returned something interesting: a good 80-85% of the time, the cars who wait to turn left, snarling up everything behind them and just generally acting like douchemobiles, fall into three distinct kinds. In descending order, they are:

* Various makes of Lexus
* Cadillac Escalades
* Various makes of Acuras

Strange, isn’t it? Those three groups comprise the overwhelming majority of douchenozzles I encounter while dropping the Little Prince off. Of the remainder, the biggest group is VERY LARGE TRUCKS, piloted by middle-aged men. I shall leave the obligatory “compensating for something” jokes to your imagination.

I am tempted now to tally the other bad behavior I see in the school parking lot, just to see if the pattern holds true. According to my (admittedly unscientific) recollections, though, it seems minivans with harried mothers are the rudest inside the lot itself, while the douchebaggery at the stop sign falls into other discrete groups.

Of course, I turn to data-gathering because it distracts me from perhaps uttering a curse or two upon the head of any specific jackass in the parking lot on any specific morning. I don’t want to waste my mojo on what are, in the grand scheme of things, Very Small Potatoes.

Still, it’s irritating, especially when one has to explain to a teenage boy why politeness is the best policy after all. And when it is keeping one from work that needs doing, it rather frays one’s nerves.

I believe I need tea. Onward and upward, I guess.

She Wolf and Plumbing

swac That’s right, a new chapter of She Wolf and Cub is up! Our heroine is back to one of the things she does best–dishing out murder. Also, wandering naked on the streets. Bonus!

The plumbing saga continues apace. Looks like the leak’s been there–and invisible–for a very long time. Which means I get to see if my homeowner’s insurance is any good. And if my premiums will go up! New life skills will be earned, new dragons will be sung to sleep.

Damn. I’d better level up out of all this XP.

Things Not To Send An Author

snobgooseI need a new tag for the “I get mail…” stories. Here, have this little gem:

Date: April 6, 2015 at 6:18:59 PM PDT
Subject: Rose and Thunder can be a Bestseller.
From: *redacted*

Hi Lilith,

I must say that’s an outstanding book you got out there. It has readers appeal, but you need to push it a bit.

You can check out *redacted*, they will direct up to 50 of their avid readers to purchase your book on Amazon and these reviewers will then post good reviews on your Amazon book page.

I once posted reviews for them in exchange for gift cards before i started my M.Ed program. Imagine having 50 readers post great reviews on your book page, that’ll definitely land you on the bestsellers list. I believe the many positive reviews from *redacted* will greatly help your book.

Thanks for putting out such an enjoyable book, but please promote it.



Let’s just count the things wrong with this. First, you sent it on release day, so what are the chances that you’ve actually read the book? Close to zero, I fancy. Second, it’s a huge insult to think I’d purchase reviews, positive, negative, or otherwise. Third, for someone who claims to be in a Master’s of Education program, you should have at least enough common sense to know how insulting the mere suggestion is, and how ethically repugnant it would be for me to even consider. Fourth, your closing needs a little work–“Thanks…but please promote it,” is incredibly insulting as well. Deigning to tell me about a pay-for-reviews scheme and implying that I’m less than intelligent for not “promoting” my book to your exacting specifications is even worse. (It’s like a skeezy PUA attempting to neg me, for God’s sake. GROW UP.) Personally, I much prefer to do my promotion in less ignoble ways, thank you very much.

So, readers, here’s a way to be amazingly rude to an author, and if you’re a new author, taking this sort of email up on its offer is sketchy at best, a waste of money and a nasty skeleton to have in your career closet at worst.

There. A teachable moment, courtesy of someone who should have known better. I think it’s time for some tea now.