Friday, February 29, 2008


Hey! Salvation Army lassie, where are you? We need donuts here! We're working all night!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


There is now, in the distant background, an escaped canary on a gravestone next to a broken sundial.


This is by Tom Gauld, who does illustrations for The Guardian.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


“My childhood wasn’t so bad. I was hungry, but isn’t that what America is all about? Hungry young men who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps? And then ate them?”


From an early age, he never cried. It wasn't worth it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


For sixteen frames -- a second -- the frame is empty except for the transient landscape. In the background oak tree leaves reflect like tiny mirrors when the breeze runs through them.

Friday, February 15, 2008


“To serve you is my pleasure,” Hugo said.

“You serve us in more ways than one,” Anna replied. “You help us observe Lord Chesterfield’s rule that a dinner party, excluding one’s self, should not fall below the number of Graces, nor exceed the number of Muses.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I am particularly fond of a story about a Russian witch named Tatiana (based on an academic's analysis of how a North Russian peasant folktale was told). I am trying to see if liking the story is enough excuse to tell it in the book. Likely answer: nope.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


"Your reward is to kill."
"Oh, everyone says that," he said, "but they don't really mean it."

Saturday, February 9, 2008


"Until nightfall, he still walked and held it aloft, calling out 'paper hat, paper hat' and no one bought it and finally, exhausted and hungry, he had taken a bite from it and that night he slept in the park."

I'm at that place where I can see where it hangs together and otherwise; there's one specific problem and if I can fix it, I fix about 75% of the problems.

Oh, and if I can't fix it, I don't fix about 75% of the problems.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


"He doubted that the sailors, dashed upon the rocks, thought it had been worthwhile. He imagined a small community of them, bruised, shaking their heads, feeling like saps, looking from face to confused face, and asking "You, too?"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I keep thinking the part which is currently the most problematic will become, through editing and rewriting, the best part. And then I think: Oh Yeah, that would necessitate me writing it. Damn.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


...I suppose I can confirm that the new one isn't Carter Beats the Devil II: Assignment Miami.

Let's say that when I finish a draft of a story, a friend reads it and points out that it's fine, and the last few paragraphs, which are indispensable, tie up the piece nicely but also only work if I, the author, am also arguing that blueberries are a vegetable.

(Just stick with me.)

The best fix, probably, is to rework it so that I am no longer making this argument. But damnit, sometimes I'm stubborn. "Of course I'm saying that," said with exasperation. "It's thematic."

And then I run to the front end to buttress support for the blueberry-as-vegetable idea. Or to make a comment on the nature of taxonomy, so that the mistake I've made will look like really smart -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- writing. Or to say the character believes blueberries are a vegetable, and that's important because -- well, that will involve more rewriting.

I'm trying really hard not to do that as much anymore.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Wilton Barnhardt says you risk irony or you risk sentimentality. Part of this hinges on a really dangerous thing: declaring what you actually find sympathetic. This came obliquely the other day, as I was thinking of rock lyrics used in fiction. When I see a real song quoted in a story, I always think of a warrior covering himself in the skin of a lion as if that will give him the lion's abilities. Music is totally unfair compared to writing novels, in that an audience is only one good chord away from excitement or tears. (Of course music has to earn that reaction, too, but when done well, it happens a LOT faster than with fiction.)

Then there's identification. A writer throws, say, Steely Dan into the story. His character is driving down the freeway, listening to Steely Dan. That's a detail that can only invite distance and mockery on some level. Even if the author loves Steely Dan, and is introducing it in the hopeless idea that it's a universal bonding measure, as if Steely Dan is a pair of frolicking puppies at the world's birthday party, and no one is immune to their charms, even then time and distance will make the reader feel like he or she has to judge the character. "He's driving? And listening to Steely Dan? That BASTARD!"

It is a humbling process, lining up character traits you find sympathetic, and realizing that other people don't feel that way. "He loves to steal from old people! C'mon, don't you just love that? He takes their medication and gives it to deserving school children! He clog dances -- and he's modest about it! Even though he's a champion -- love him!"