“Writing fiction is...about passion and endurance, a combination of desire and grunt work often at odds with each other.”
Maureen Howard

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

i have a sad, so i am counting my happies
Tue 2015-01-13 23:49:11 (single post)

As expected, I did not skate at BCB's first practice in the "Barn Shelter" tonight. As expected, this made me sad. So I am thinking of cheerful things, so as to keep the sad away.

Some immediate cheerful things are right here on the desk with me. They are a bottle of beer and a bowl of pasta. Tasty things to eat and drink are inherently cheerful. They add cheerfulness to the sum of cheerfulness at the cheerful end of the cheerful/not-cheerful see-saw. What I'm saying here is, even if you're not all that happy, treating your tummy and tastebuds to something yummy is an easy, no-effort way to increase your happy points score, if only by a little.

Some cheerful things happened today. John and I went to see Into the Woods at the Cinnebar in Louisville. Being somewhat familiar with the musical, I was worried there might be an excess of Disneyfication in the film adaptation. It turns out there was not. With regards to Act II, Disney did not flinch. Oh, the body count is slightly lower, but mostly that's because the character count is too. Where in one really notable case they spared a main character's life, it was very much not to make a happier ending. It arguably made another character's ending that much more tragic. (Yes, I'm circumlocuting. I'm spoiler-adverse. Go see the movie.)

More importantly: the adaptation is really good. It's faithful to the feel of a Broadway musical, not just in preserving the score but also in preserving the sense of limitations in what you can show onstage. Which is not to say that they didn't take advantage of the possibilities of film, but rather that the choices they made were artful and wise.

Some cheerful things had to do with writing! For the first time since October, I put up a post on Boulder Writing Examiner. Yes, my Examiner gigs are supposed to be at a much lower priority than my fiction. It's not meant to be a huge deal. But after two months without a single post on BWE (and barely anything on Puzzle Pirates Examiner other than the obligatory weekend blockade round-ups), it feels triumphant. Like waving a flag and shouting, "Not dead yet!"

I also finally put up all the accompanying material for last week's Friday Fictionette. The Wattpad version of the teaser is up, as are the excerpt and cover notes posts on Patreon. Woot! Just in time to swing into action on this week's edition.

And some cheerful things are coming soon in the future. As you know, I have been reading and thinking about the wisdom of Havi Brooks quite a lot lately. And one of my thoughts was, "It's a brand new year. It's been a while since I purchased a Fluent Self product and made myself feel happy and creative and productive thereby. Maybe it's time." Right on cue, Havi announced a New Year's "Plum Duff Days" half-off sale! So I ordered myself a copy of the DIY Rally/Retreat kit, which will arrive any day now.

By stunning coincidence, the DIY Rally/Retreat kit includes a 2015 calendar. I was just thinking I'd like a new wall calendar...

Anyways, it appears that Plum Duff Days continue through January 19th. For information on that, read a recent post by Havi (this'll do nicely) and look for the Plum Duff link and password.

Yet more cheerful future things: "Broken Bombers Trivia" tomorrow night (a group of BCB skaters, the core of whom are on injury league of absence, show up for Geeks Who Drink and rock the house), me getting back on skates very carefully on Thursday night, the knee brace that a league member loaned me for my sprain recovery, the fact that I'm almost done my writing for the day and can play on Puzzle Pirates for a bit before bedtime, a whole new day full of possibilities will begin when I wake up tomorrow...

My! The world is full of cheerful things. I am a very lucky person!

woe! an incomplete dragon
Wed 2015-01-07 23:19:31 (single post)
  • 5,300 wds. long

Sometimes, with this blog, you get woo. Sometimes you get excerpts from my dream journal, complete with possible interpretations. Sometimes you get lucid dreams, astral projection, magic, witchcraft, spirituality, religion.

And sometimes you get conversations with imaginary people.

Re-reading Havi's post on avoidance yesterday led to rereading also the post by Emma Newman that inspired it and then Havi's post about sitting down and having a friendly chat with your fears. There are other ways to deal with fear than facing them down, as it turns out, and I'm getting a lot out of them now.

Emma's post was about finding sufficient courage to be her own hero. Which put me in mind of the classic Knight in Shining Armor facing down a Dragon. So I started thinking of my story, the one whose revision I've been avoiding, as a dragon. Big. Big, scary dragon. Rugged scale and sharp claws and teeth the size of mammoth tusks. DRAGON, blocking the road.

It's the story itself that's the dragon, and the road it's blocking is THE ROAD TO WRITERLY SUCCESS. It's that important to me. If I don't pass it (revise and resubmit the story), I lose as an author.

Wait, you might say. That's all-or-nothing thinking, there. A career is bigger than one story. What if you just, well, go around the dragon? You could work on a different story, progress toward WRITERLY SUCCESS along a different road.

But the problem with that is, what if the next time I have a story on the brink of possible publication, needing only a rewrite to make an editor fall in love with it... I give up on that too? THERE ARE OTHER DRAGONS OUT THERE. It would be one thing if this were just not the story to work on right now... but right now the possibility we're courting is most definitely "I never finish anything because I get scared and run away."

It's down to habits, right? And skills. And patterns. Finishing and submitting stories is a skill I want to get better at, a habit I want to foment, and a pattern I want to establish.

Anyway. My story is a DRAGON blocking my road and I am a HEROIC KNIGHT challenging it!

But I don't want to slay my story!

But the dragon... wants me to slay it? "Finish me off," it's saying, "Finish me off!"

That's creepy.

But, no, I misheard. What the dragon is actually saying is, "Finish me up! Finish me up!"

So I look closer at the dragon. And its nose is missing. And its internal furnace lacks necessary components. And its wings are crooked! And it's so very, very afraid that it will never be a finished dragon who can soar and breathe fire.

The dragon needs a hero, y'all. That's what I found out last night when I took my ten minutes or so to sit with my avoidance. The unfinished dragon needs a hero who can make it complete. I'm going to be its hero, y'all. That's what I'm gonna do.

This morning there were more discoveries, because I had that chat with my fear I was meaning to have. It went something like this:

ME: So, hey there, fear. You're here, aren't you? I can be OK with that. What are you afraid of?

FEAR: (Huddling in a corner, the picture of misery) I'm afraid that you'll take one look at your story and find out it's a terrible story. And you'll be ashamed of yourself for writing it.

MY UNSPOKEN REACTION: Well... that's silly, isn't it? I mean, an editor looked at that story and said, "There is much to love here." Then that editor took personal, precious time to do a rough edit on it, just to show me how she imagines it could be made it better.

ME: OK, I respect that fear. It's scary stuff. Let me ask you this: What if you're right? What if looking at my story did make me ashamed of myself? What then?

FEAR: (Huddled tighter in abject terror) It... it doesn't bear thinking about.

MY UNSPOKEN REACTION: Well, dammit, that's not helpful. Think about it anyway! No, that's mean and aggressive and hostile, and the poor thing's clearly terrified....

ME: What do you need to feel safe enough to think about it it?

FEAR: (No answer, just more misery)

ME: Here's what I think will happen if I become ashamed of myself as a writer: I might stop writing. Which is indeed awful! But... how is that different from what's happening now? By paralyzing me with fear, you're creating the awful outcome that you're trying to avoid. That isn't very helpful, is it?

FEAR: (Silent. Miserable. Maybe a little shamefaced.)

ME: Honey, I appreciate that you're trying to keep me safe. I really do! But I need to be able to write, so, fair warning, I'm going to work on my story today. But here's what I will do: First, before I even think about rewriting it, I will read it through as is, beginning to end, looking for all the reasons I have to feel proud of that story. Your timely warning that SHAME might be lurking right around the corner has enabled me to dodge that hell out of that jerk and keep writing. Seriously, thank you!

FEAR: (Still silent, still huddled, but maybe there's a hint of a smile going on in there. It's nice to feel listened to. It's nice to feel like you've been of help.)

All of the above was actually kind of surprising. I didn't know the dragon was going to have no nose. I didn't know what FEAR was going to say. But I guess it's not too different from day-to-day writer-brain. I mean, when I'm freewriting or writing rough draft, half the time I don't know what I'll be writing three sentences from now. It shouldn't be so surprising that when I create a character called FEAR and I invent a conversation with her, she says things I didn't know she was going to say.

Anyway, I still need to do what I promised FEAR that I'd do. It's late, I've been out to Brighton (which is an hour away), I skated for two hours at the very edge of my endurance then two hours more just for fun--but I think I can manage to read myself a story before bedtime.

From the number of smartphones waving around taking video, I expect you'll be able to find tonight's show on youtube any minute now.
who's behind the door
Thu 2014-12-25 23:22:48 (single post)

Can't stop too busy rockin'--

Randy Jackson is playing Hurricane's in Metairie. Yes, that Randy Jackson. Frontman for Zebra, New Orleans's own contribution to the mid-70s-to-present-day progressive rock scene. As in, solo project China Rain. Apparently he plays Hurricane's when he's in town. Lots of Led Zeppelin and Beatles covers in addition to stuff from his own ongoing career, a few other random covers thrown in--pretty much the definition of rockin' out.

I have never actually seen the place this packed. I'm used to coming in on a Sunday evening when nothing's coming on and I'm literally the only non-staff person sitting at the bar. It's smoky and loud and there are a couple people who need to cool off, please (and consider that other people's bodies belong to other people, dammit--I was this close to warning my brother he might have to bail me out of jail because a particular egotistical hair fetishist might benefit from a broken nose and/or kneecap), but over all it's a great crowd. Lots of old school Zebra fans who are guaranteed to go nuts when Randy starts in on "Tell Me What You Want" or "Bears" did, indeed, go nuts in a fun and musical way.

Every once in a while Randy reminds us that there are "T-shirts by the toilet" for our T-shirt buying pleasure. That just happens to be where the swag table is, on the way to the restrooms, but I kind of want him to describe them as "freshly flushed" or something. That would be funny.

We're in between sets right now. Fans are shaking hands with Randy and posing for pictures with him. And I'm typing this up because I don't think I'm going to get another chance to before 1:00 AM, which is when I try to get these things done. Actually, I try to get these things done by midnight, but what the hell, it's Christmas and I'm in the Central Time Zone. I'm due a little slack.

That, by the way, might have something to do with the lack of writing content all week. I haven't been an entire slacker, mind, and there will be a Friday Fictionette tomorrow, but do give me a break. I'm on vacation.

Gotta go! Show's about to (re-)start.

Look at that face! Look at those hooves! Look at the cuteness!
day of reindeer and binge reading
Thu 2014-12-04 23:17:05 (single post)

Hoo boy, today. Today was not a productive day. The first half of today got eaten up by a headache that wouldn't go away no matter how long I stayed in bed, and the rest of the day got eaten up by a gorgeous, gorgeous book. (Some days you hold strong against temptation. Other days, you just give in and enjoy it.) Somewhere in the middle there was a reindeer, and also the best pastries in Avon.

The reindeer was Cupid, and she was the star of the Avon Public Library's annual reindeer-and-elf visitation. I gotta say, the poem doesn't lie. Reindeer are tiny. When I read The Woman Who Loved Reindeer by Meredith Ann Pierce, I imagined them huge as elk, but in fact they're about the same size as whitetails, and in some cases smaller. And cute? I am here to tell you. When the editors of The Toast met the miniature horses, I thought nothing could possibly be cuter. I was wrong, dear readers. I was wrong.

It has been a day to bring Meredith Ann Pierce's novels to mind twice over. The reindeer was the first; the second came with the binge reading. As you shall see.

The librarian told me to help myself to hot chocolate. But there was far too much chaos in the activity room. It was crowed with kids waiting their turn to pet the reindeer, and make crafty things at the tables, and get their plate of hot chocolate and donuts. I gave up and walked across town to sooth my hot-chocolate-and-pastry cravings at the Columbine Cafe & Bakery. Then I soothed my tea cravings, which had become unbearable since using up the last bag of Taylors of Harrogate Pure Assam, by buying more tea. City Market does not stock T&H, but they did have Two Leaves and a Bud Assam and Tazo Darjeeling. Though the Two Leaves version isn't quite as malty as the T&H, it is nevertheless a specimen of The Good Stuff, and it will do.

Now, today's visit to the library was very exciting. The library had all three of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy on the shelf, and I was in terrible, terrible need of finally reading the third book. I've been meaning to buy a copy, but just haven't made it out to the bookstore yet--and the library copies were right here. Opportunity! But I knew the experience would be even more magical if my memories of what had come to pass in books 1 and 2 were fresh, so I checked them out one at a time and reread them. Today I traded in Days of Blood and Starlight for Dreams of Gods and Monsters, and I began reading it as I walked out the the door, kept reading it as I walked across town, and--pausing only for such necessities as ordering and paying for pastries and hot chocolate, or navigating a grocery store, or getting a phone call from John telling me all about the epic scrimmage I missed tonight what with not being in town for it and all--continued reading it until it was done.

At which point there seemed to be something in my eye, and I kind of had to sit with that for a bit.

There was a point where I very much feared this trilogy would go the way of Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel trilogy (thus, the second time a Pierce novel came to mind today). And, there being a fine line between spoilers and encouragement, I hope to remain firmly on the encouragement side when I say this: Dear readers, Laini Taylor has no desire to rip our hearts out and stomp on them. She loves us too much. Can you truly doubt it? She gave us the character of Zuzana "Neek-neek" Novakova and a companion novella called Night of Cake and Puppets. Of course she loves us.

Thus I go to my daily rest, still headachy, bummed at not having written, but feeling loved despite all that.

Tomorrow: Your mostly-weekly Fictionette and other stories, probable adventures beyond walking distance, and, if I get out of bed on time, and if the baker at Columbine did not grievously mislead me, donuts.

the nerdiest nerd that ever nerded
Fri 2014-05-30 23:16:36 (single post)

Is me. This is why: I'm at the Lindsey Stirling concert. She come back on stage after the exceedingly cute montage of baby Lindsey video. She begins the next song. It turns out to be her Legend of Zelda medley. And I totally tear up. Not even kidding. My throat closes, my eyes prickle, and by the end of the song tears are running freely down my face and I'm burying my face in my husband's shoulder to make them stop. I'm not just a nerd, but a soppy nerd.

Also? Stirling was a whole one year old when the original NES game (in its fancy gold cartridge! and its genius new "save game" feature!) was released in the United States. How is it fair that someone who was only just getting born by the time I was ten years old gets to pull my nostalgia strings that hard? (Yes, I am being irrational. Please feel free to envision me shaking my fist at the damn kids who won't get off my lawn. I do not have a lawn, but I will rent one just so I can enact this drama.)

Anyway.

I was initially surprised to hear she'd be playing the 1st Bank Center. It's kinda big. I still think of her as primarily YouTube famous. I admit this puts me squarely behind the times; nevertheless, last time I saw her perform--last year--it was at the Ogden. Tiny place on Colfax. Something like that. So I thought, "Oh, good for her. She must be getting more popular."

O, hi there, understatement. I hear the 1st Bank Center actually had to rearrange the set-up when they saw how rapidly tickets were selling. They originally had the stage closer to the center of the oval, and had to push it back to open up more floor and seating, or so I'm told. And it still sold out. So I hear.

Unless I am forgetting something, this was my first time going to that venue for something other than roller derby. It's where I saw the WFTDA National Championship that got me hooked on the sport in 2011. In 2013, the Denver Roller Dolls hosted the Colorado Cup there (and my league's A-team stormed through undefeated to take home the trophy). But I'm not sure I've been there for an actual concert before.

Which means that Lindsey Stirling and I sort of have something in common. This was her first time playing there. Not only that, but--this is what she told us, several times during the show--her first time playing an arena-style venue ever. For the most part, it wasn't apparent. The lights and effects felt, I dunno, sufficiently bombastic to fill an arena. Although I did wonder about the strobes at the top of the stage; they were almost painful for where we were sitting, straight back and just right of dead center. It occurred to me they might have been angled for a much smaller venue, one where they'd be aimed safely over the heads of everyone in the house. Other than that, and possibly the lack of live-capture video screens, I would not have guessed. And who needs live-capture video? Most of the time she was silhouetted against the multiple screens she did have, which were showing bright abstract patterns and spacescapes and ice caves. I had no trouble watching her killer dance moves, despite the stage taking up about the same amount of space in my subjective view field as would my laptop screen.

So now I feel like I not only saw a wonderful concert, but I also got to be a small part of history. I was there for a landmark in the ongoing adventures of a musician I admire. Neat!

Now everyone go out and buy yourselves a copy of Shatter Me, OK? Also, this is unbelievably cool and you should watch it. Lindsey Stirling and an a capella ensemble doing pop music coverage. With backup cello. I know, right? You're welcome!

This Is How You Do Visual Storytelling
Wed 2011-06-15 22:57:10 (single post)

The movie Super 8 opens with a long interior shot of a steel mill, and the camera swings in to focus on the big green sign hanging above the workers and the machines. Every assembly line and production factory has one. There's the name and logo of the company in the upper left, and in the upper right a slogan conveying the company's ostensible concern for workplace safety. In the lower right, there are five big spaces with hooks at the top. The three right-most hooks are occupied with digits denoting how many days it's been since the last employee accident: 784.

The camera's slow movement comes to a stop with the sign filling the entire screen just as a man finishes ascending a ladder. Without any expression, he takes the cards reading 7 and 8 and 4 off of their hooks.

He hangs up a card that says 1.

Then he descends the ladder.

Just one scene. Not a word spoken. Just a single, simple action that goes straight to the audience's heart, because with it we know, without any fuss or emotive acting, that someone died yesterday. We also know that we're going to be in very good hands for the next two hours.

Hugos are not like Stokers or Oscars. They need regular exercise.
That's me concentrating hard on not dropping the precious.
WorldCon 2009, Monday: In Which I Lay Hands Upon A Hugo
Mon 2009-08-10 21:54:42 (single post)

The aforementioned irrepressible Frank Wu took his Hugo for a walk today. He was one of the scheduled Stars for the final installation of Strolling With The Stars, and he arrived in the mist and rain with rocket ship in tow. And he says to fellow Strolling Star, Stephen Segal (Best Semiprozine, Weird Tales), "Why didn't you bring yours?"

We paused for the daily group photo, and Frank let everyone who wanted a closer look get a closer look. It's worth a closer look--it's an object of great beauty. The rocket ship is just taking off from an asteroid, and if you look close you can see the launch flames are in fact a collection of iridescent maple leaves. I got a very close look. I got to hold it. And what they say about this year's Hugo is true: It's frickin' heavy! It's a frickin' rock!

(Many thanks to Peter Flynn, who came all the way from Ireland, for taking pictures with his cell phone and emailing them to me. If you want to see more pictures, all the group shots will be posted sometime soon on the Anticipation '09 Facebook or LJ or somewhere. 'Twas Stu Segal who took them.)

Now, to sleep, to wake early tomorrow and toss my stuff into its respective containers and boogie down to the train station for a 9:30 AM departure. I missed the dead dog party tonight due to spending lots of lovely time with fellow Viable Paradise X alumni Barbara and Evelyn, but I will be attending the "carrying away the dead dog's corpse" party (as I continue to find it amusing to call it) in the cafe car on Amtrak's "Adirondack" on which several of us Making Light regulars will be riding together.

Also, she's knitting socks. How cool is that?
This is Leah Bobet. She edits Ideomancer.
Paul Cornell is wearing the coolest shirt ever.
WorldCon 2009, Friday: Squee And More Squee
Fri 2009-08-07 23:17:06 (single post)

I'm in Montreal today, and will be until Tuesday morning. Montreal is where WorldCon is this year. It is full of lovely architecture, found art, great food, and cab drivers that speak only French. This weekend it is also full of science fiction, fantasy, and horror fans enjoying the heck out of each other's company.

Today I took some pictures. That's kinda news. I carry a camera with me but I'm sort of missing the shutterbug instinct, so the machine stays useless in the bookbag most of the time. It stayed there during this morning's "Stroll With The Stars" (a morning walk about town in company with several Industry Names, sort of a moving kaffeeklatsch without the sign-up sheet). That was silly. But I took it out for a couple of things today.

First, there's Leah Bobet doing her half-hour of autograph duty. Leah writes fiction, critiques manuscripts at this year's writing workshops, and edits the online speculative fiction magazine Ideomancer. Which is where I submitted "Sidewalks" at the end of June. Leah's response to this was not a rejection letter, but a rewrite request back on July 20th. This is a first for me, for a fiction submission. And it blows my mind. I always thought short fiction, especially short-short fiction, pretty much got accepted or rejected as is; how could a 500-word story be worth the time an editor takes going back and forth with the writer over revisions? Short fiction magazines are on tight budgets as it is! And yet here we are.

Rewriting "Sidewalks," as I've said here before, scares the crap out of me. Such a short story is like a tightrope walk; it balances on such a fragile line between the twin pitfalls of overwriting and underwriting. And I've already taken some falls on the overwriting side, making me really nervous when I'm asked to make something clearer or more explicit. When the response to my first rewrite came back asking for a second, I swear my mental reaction was "O Gods, what now? Don't make me do this! I'll break it for sure!" But then I printed out Leah's email, poured myself a shot of Glenmorangie and a bathtub of piping hot water, and contemplated the task in as relaxed a manner as my high-strung little self could manage.

I'm extremely glad for this process, and not just because it's not a rejection letter. Without the rewrite request, I might have been content with the story as it was. Sometimes it takes another reader to point out that the story isn't all it could be, and what it could be is worth striving for. Now, even if everything falls through and this process doesn't end in publication, I will still have a vastly improved story. That's pure gold.

I sent off the second rewrite shortly before WorldCon. I'd refrained from blogging about it while the process was still ongoing, up to now, but it's become too hard to resist. I mean, I've got pictures of Leah and me proudly displaying our knitting at WorldCon! (Leah is knitting her first pair of socks. They have a lovely ribbing that's a sort of barberpole lace. It's a pattern from Ravelry whose name I forget.) So not only am I all a-squee over having a fiction editor take this kind of interest in my story, but on top of that I got to geek out about knitting with said editor! How cool is that?

The third picture is Paul Cornell. Paul won a Hugo last year for a two-part Doctor Who episode that he wrote. It was based on a tie-in novel from several Doctors ago which he also wrote. And some readers may have noticed that a chapter in that novel bears a title ripped straight from a Kate Bush lyric. This sort of thing rarely turns out to be coincidence. Paul is a huge Kate Bush fan, and today I got to hear him give a presentation on her music as great fantasy writing. Do you know how seriously cool it is to hear someone whose work you admire totally geek out--in an educated, serious, literature-analysis way--about someone else whose work you admire? It's way cool. In fact, Paul has the coolest theory I have ever heard about the plot of The Ninth Wave (essentially Side 2 of Hounds of Love). (It involves alien abduction.)

This is what makes WorldCon the beautiful wonderful miraculous magical event that it is. Finding out who your heroes consider their heroes. Hearing them enthuse hard in full fan mode about their heroes. Also, finding out that you have more in common with those in the industry than just the industry itself. And I haven't even gotten into the other panels I attended today, or the great conversations at the Making Light party, or or or or or...

It's 3:30 AM. I should wrap this up and go to sleep. Good night!

"Incidents just morphed into a kind of tale...."
Fri 2009-04-03 22:39:34 (single post)

Hello, not dead. Not still stuck in Reading Dep week either. In fact, am doing lots of reading. Erm. Not as much writing. But! I have a self-imposed deadline of April 8 for... something. Something involving the secret nightlife of used bookstores.

About this, more later. Instead, tonight, this:

There's a wonderfully (unintentionally) funny (if dim) bad review of Coraline at [LINK]. It's the kind of review that makes you suspect the reviewer is reviewing the inside of his own head, and not the film at all.
That's Neil Gaiman, blogging last week while I was, coincidentally, in England (apparently, so was he, but England's a big place, and I didn't exactly bump into him on the streets of Holsworthy). I'm always fascinated by the sort of review that reveals more about the reviewer than the reviewee, so I clicked.

It's a gem of the genre. The reviewer really digs deep to find things to dislike. They've read the book as well as watched the movie, so they can show you how the book!OtherMother's mouthing of Fundamentalist Christian watch-words reveals Gaiman's contempt for Christian domesticity (I am not making this up). They've peered closely at P. Craig Russell's illustrations in order to draw sinister inferences about Henry Selick's decision to leave certain imagery out of the movie (I swear, I'm not making this up). And, best of all, they've unearthed snippets of interviews with Neil Gaiman in order to prove what a terrible, horrible, no-good child-corrupter he really is, really, a horrible criminal mind who thinks that the Disney Channel's idyllic scenes of happiness equate to pornography (seriously, I'm not kidding, click the link). I am honestly unsure that I've ever seen someone go to such lengths to miss a point before.

But. Here's the thing that most sharply, sharp as Despair's fish hook (because sometimes ignorance in others truly occasions despair!), caught my eye:

From a story standpoint, the book is a hodge-podge of incidents and images. Gaiman is famous and has the ability to trade on the brand of his name. He can put almost anything on the market, and it will sell. For example, this quotation of how the book came to be published is revealing:
And I had a small, Wednesday Addams sort of daughter who liked stories with strange mothers and cellars and dank places and creepy stuff, and so I started to write her one. And then I realized I hadn’t written anything for 5 years, and I’d better get a contract, otherwise it would never be finished. So I sent it to a publisher, and my editor called me up and said, ‘So what happens next?’ and I said, ‘If you send me a contract, we will both find out.’
In other words, he didn't have a story outline. Incidents just morphed into a kind of tale over a period of five years without any underlying moral or an awareness of absolute good or evil.
The reviewer then goes on to mention Tolkien and Lewis as authors of "real myths" which you can recognize as real myths in that they do include absolute good and evil. Apparently the reviewer has a real fear of moral ambiguity, and yet wouldn't recognize one if it bit 'em in the superego. But that's not the point, for me. For me, the point is...
Incidents just morphed into a kind of tale over a period of five years without any underlying moral or an awareness of absolute good or evil.
Really? And this is bad?

Have you noticed what happens when an author starts with a moral premise and then writes the story as a conscious vehicle for that moral? What happens is, you get the Left Behind books, which are not so much a story as they are the implausible outline of a story based on a checklist so rigid that no character may act like a real person for fear of wandering off message. You get The Fresco, Sheri S. Tepper's towering debacle of strawmen embodying all her political pet peeves, which get knocked down by This Week's Mary Sue and her supporting cast of divine interventionists. You get a plot that's not just a narrative convention but an onomatopoeticism; it sounds like something massive, treading, plot, plot, plot, over your abused imagination.

Recently I had the extreme pleasure of viewing, not once but twice, Denver-based Double Edge Films's gorgeous production Ink. (Instead of repeating myself, I direct you to the gushing praise I committed, sploosh, all over the Metroblogging Denver web site. (As of this writing you have until April 9 to see it at the Starz FilmCenter in Denver. Also, the soundtrack is about to make me start bawling again.) Ink is a heartwarming--no, heart-uplifting tale of love, loss, and redemption. It's about the thin line between despair and hope, and how it's never too late to cross it. It's about the power of a story to send our spirits soaring or to mire us in the abyss. But did writer and produce Jamin Winans set out to write a moral fable? He did not. He started with a simple image, one that terrified him as a child: the evil queen from Disney's Snow White in her guise as an apple-selling crone. He imagined just such a frightening hook-nosed figure stealing a child out of her bed. And then he followed the chain of questions and answers that arose from that image: Who is that antagonist, and why the kidnapping? Who is the child? Where are her parents?

"Incidents just morphed into a kind of tale...." And had they not--had Winans started with a moral outline of the sort this dimwitted ChristianAnswers.net reviewer seems to require--Ink would not be as moving as it is. Nor would it mean as much to its viewers, who have been buying out every seat in the house or nearly so night after night since it opened three weeks ago for what was initially planned to be a two-week run.

Take issue with Gaiman needing a contract before he finished writing Coraline if you must (though that would miss the point, too, which is that when you're a busy professional writer with deadlines to meet and only 24 hours in a day you tend to finish the projects you've been actually contracted to finish first), but don't complain about the lack of an outline, for crying out loud. And be grateful for every story that doesn't originate in a rigid moral checklist; that way lies, well, the bulk of the dreck published by the Christian Booksellers' Association, apparently.

I suspect I might find a correlation there if I investigated ChristianAnswers.net's catalog of books for sale, but life is short and there are so many more fulfilling things to do with my attention. About which, cf. "self-imposed deadline of April 8", above.

The sad thing is, there actually was an underlying moral basis to the creation of Coraline, even if it didn't present the author with an "outline" or involve "absolute good and evil". And the reviewer knows it, and chooses to deny it. How do I know the reviewer knows it? Because I very much doubt that the reviewer read Neil Gaiman's comments about the Disney Channel's acceptable plots or about the five years of "we'll find out" without reading the rest of the interview, right on the same page with the bits the reviewer quoted, where Gaiman says, right on the very next line after "we will both find out"....

I wanted to tell my daughters big, important things, like ‘being brave does not mean that you are not scared.’
I don't know about ChristianAnswers.net reviewers, but that's the kind of moral basis that I can stand on and feel well supported.
In Which The Author Is Inspired
Wed 2009-01-21 11:42:29 (single post)
  • 5,737 wds. long

To my fellow United States citizens and residents, and to my fellow citizens of the global community: Happy Inauguration Day! The U.S. has a new President as of yesterday, and his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I can't stop grinning.

I will put my exuberance here, for the record. Should I have occasion to regret it, as supporters of the previous President eventually did, I'll own up to it. But right now I can't imagine being disappointed because I don't expect miracles--I expect a continuation of the hard work and competence I saw during his campaign.

What the heck does this have to with a writing blog? Just this: I pledge to work as hard, in my own life, in my own career aspirations, in my craft and art, as I see our new President working for his own ideals. I admit that sounds cheesy. But watching him during his candidacy, watching his constant activity since the election (really, since when have we seriously paid attention to the Office of the President-Elect?), and watching him get to work on Day 1 (I am actually tuning in to CNN to find out what's up to--I've never done that before, and I actually avoided coverage of the previous President because he made me angry and nauseated), is nothing short of an inspiration. And it makes me feel like a bum. And I don't want to feel like a bum.

We find our role models where we can. I pledge to work as hard as I can see my role models have and do--because that's what "role model" means. We model our behavior--hopefully--after the inspirational examples set before us. So. Add another name to my list of role models.

It's kind of like a New Year's Resolution, except made on Inauguration Day rather than New Year's Day. I think that's fairly appropriate.

In other news, "Lambing Season" is in the slush again; I wish it well. And on the freelance non-fiction side, I'm working on some articles for upload to Constant Content. I was mildly excited to learn that one of my existing CC articles was recently purchased, and to find that this customer, unlike some previous ones, honored the Usage License requirement of including my by-line. (Read it here.) Apparently CC has also lowered their payment threshold from $50 to $5, which effectively removes the disconnect between selling an article and getting paid. All of which makes seeding that particular cloud look more worthwhile. So I will.

email