Temporizing, Doodling, Pacing, Wasting Time

It’s Hallowe’en.  It was supposed to be cloudy today, but the morning light is beautiful.

I have an office in the basement of my house, with three windows at ground level, situated in such a way that a great deal of daylight floods in.  Three walls are covered by books.  My work area contains three computers—this one on which I’m writing a Distal Muse entry, my main writing computer (which is attached to the internet in no way), and my old 386, which had been my writing computer for years.  The only reason I replaced it was because my old HP printer died and all the new ones use USB ports instead of the massive pin-register cables.  It made less sense to spend the money on an adaptor which might or might not have worked.  Besides, it was time.  I needed some more sophisticated word processing options than good old WordPerfect 5.0 offered–though for straight composition, I still think it was unbeatable.  I use WP 10 now and it has more bells and whistles, but also a couple of things I don’t like.  It is not really any better for writing than 5.0, but 5.0–or even 7.0–would not run the new printer.

I am not a software geek.  All I know is when something doesn’t work.

But things work well enough and I can be productive, if occasionally annoyed.  I recently had to change internet software.  I am now a fan of Firefox.

Also in my office I have a futon which serves mainly as a couch, a drafting table (now cluttered) and an old but very decent stereo, on which just now Mendelssohn  is playing (Von Karajan, complete symphonies).  It is a cozy space.  If I had a coffeemaker down here I would never have to go back upstairs while working, which I intend to make so once I have sold some new novels and divested myself of the Day Job.

This is an ongoing struggle.

I’ve been working toward being a full-time fiction writer for about 25 years now.  It would seem that I either should have achieved it or given up.  I admit the problems are daunting.  Not knowing what to write next that would facilitate success is a biggie.  Which is why, when students ask, I tell them they might as well write what they want, what they love, because it has the same chance of success (or better, since the writing will probably be more sincere) as whoring by writing to demand.  Perhaps that’s harsh.  But I’ve done four franchise novels and they gave me no more freedom than my own work.

I am currently working on a historical murder mystery.  I finally (I think) have a good handle on it and am proceeding on the (I hope) final draft.

But I am also wasting time doing this.

Which means I am not sure what sentence comes next and I’m trying to distract my interior critic.  To do this, I usually write in the morning, before I am fully awake.  This works fine for first draft.  Not so good for rewrites, when that critical faculty is indispensible.  Last night, I came home from work with a clear notion of what to do next, came down here, and did it.  This morning I look at what I did and, behold, it is not so bad.  So I’m fiddling.  Technical term, that.  Noodling with a sentence here, a word there, a paragraph or two.  Cutting and hacking occasionally.  And pacing a lot.

And doing something other than what I should be doing.

Frederik Pohl wrote in his autobiography, The Way The Future Was, that some young student wanted to watch him work.  He said the poor fellow was bored to tears because for the most part all he saw was Pohl staring at his typewriter.  Long stretches of Nothing Happening.

(Sorry….just slipped over to the other computer to write a new sentence–see? it works.  Sometimes.)

The hardest thing for me, with a novel, is to know where to start.  Often I end up junking the first chapter, sometimes the first two chapters.  On the last novel I finished, this wasn’t entirely necessary, but I had to write two brand new chapters to precede the original chapter one.  Asimov, in one of his essays on fiction writing, said that if the story is going nowhere fast, likely as not you started it in the wrong place.  I have found this to be true more often than not.  Sometimes, though, you have picked the wrong main character.  Far less often, the setting is wrong.  Most depressing is when you simply have a bad idea for a story.

This novel–called The Spanish Bride–is not a bad idea.  In fact, I have an entire draft done and two of my readers like the general idea.  What I’m trying to do now is find the right form.

And in so doing, I find myself distracted, and doing other things.  Like this.

Just to let you know.

Strange Tongues and New Sales

The other day I received an email from Delos Books, an Italian publisher, informing me that they have accepted a short story of mine. This is a resale and is, in fact, the first such I’ve made to a foreign market on my own. The story in question is Flesh Trades which appeared originally in Tales of the Unanticipated, the fall/winter 95/96 issue. Ten years later I’ve managed to resell it.

I should have been pursuing foreign sales all along, but it’s one of those details that, until you get comfortable with it, you just tend to neglect. Besides, it can be confusing. Foreign magazines are often worse than American magazines, like mushrooms after a spring rain, popping up everywhere and fading almost as quickly. Going through the market reports, gazing at the submission requirements, can be daunting. Until the advent of email submissions, you had to deal with odd postal rates and so forth, and you could never be really sure it would be handled the way you want.

But a couple years ago I bit the bullet and sent out a score of second-rights submissions. A couple of years. This is the first one to strike any kind of gold. I’m pleased. It will be in issue # 55 of Robot Magazine.

I do have other foreign offerings. Mirage is available in Hungary and I’ve been told there is a Russian edition of Compass Reach. But I have done rather poorly in foreign markets. This is a lapse entirely on my part, a breakdown in discipline. I can make excuses, but to what end? They aren’t buying because I’m not submitting. This will change now. This has inspired me.

I have 55 short stories published. If I sold each one two or three times to a foreign markets I could make a fair amount of change. Not huge, but nothing to sneeze at. And, more importantly, I’d grow my audience. That’s the grail quest. More readers.

So–to work.

Miss Moneypenny, R.I.P.

Lois Maxwell has died. The parentheses of our eras appear unexpectedly and sometimes painfully. Of the original James Bond cast, who’s left? Connery, I believe. Bernard Lee is gone, as is Desmond Llewelyn, even most of the villains. I believe all the Bond Girls (of which Lois was often exempted) are still alive. Certain things, certain losses, just bother me more than others.

Lois was never seen in a Bond film in a bikini, an evening gown, or anything other than her office attire, and the scene at the end of On Her Majestie’s Secret Service is almost heartbreaking when Moneypenny has to wish Bond and his new bride happiness. At least they did not continue this unfair trope when Samantha Bond took over the part— Moneypenny had a private life, presumably with sex, and gave innuendo for innuendo in her repartee with 007.

She was 80, which is a good long life, but it reminds me how old I am. I saw Dr. No as a first-run release with my parents. I was not old enough to understand any of the sexual tension going on, but I did come of age with James Bond. That could have been disastrous for me if not for the equally important presence of Emma Peel in The Avengers who I credit with providing me a solid feminist notion, if not philosophy.

The new Bond, Daniel Craig, is very different. In fact, he is very much closer to Ian Fleming’s conception than even Sean Connery. Casino Royale had no Moneypenny. It will be interesting to see what they do in future films, now that they had apparently decided to hue closer to the original character.

But I shall miss Miss Moneypenny. She waited valiantly, provided moral support, and was often unfairly left out of most of the fun.