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Book of Days

Yesterday, I wrote 1,052 words. Not bad. Not too damn shabby. Then, after dinner and the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends "movie,", I worked on getting the last bits done on Sirenia Digest 12, which will go out to subscribers (and why aren't you one?) this very afternoon or evening. There are a couple of bugs to be worked out first. Anyway, yeah, I tinkered with the digest until 11:16 p.m. (CaST) last night. If not for Red Bull, I'd be nothing. After work was finally done, I played a couple more hours of Final Fantasy XII. Fran with a cypress staff is even sexier than Fran with a bow, though I would not have thought such a thing possible.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my first Blogger entry. Five years worth of entries now, and I'm guessing that's easily half a million words. Back then, on November 24, 2001, Threshold had just been released, I was only beginning to imagine the book that would become Low Red Moon, and had barely begun my work with Subterranean Press. Wrong Things, In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, and From Weird and Distant Shores were all just around the corner. I was still writing for DC/Vertigo. Back then, I was extremely skeptical at the whole idea of a public journal, but Neil persuaded me to give it a shot. Originally, I'd only intended to document the writing of LRM, but when those eight months had come and gone, I discovered I didn't want to give it up. That November, I was living in downtown Birmingham and was working part-time at the McWane Science Center. I was still doing field work in the Late Cretaceous of Alabama. Spooky and I were not quite yet an item (though we actual met in March '99). A lot has changed. Anyway, to mark the date, I've included that first entry below (behind the cut). Here's to another five years.


Saturday, November 24, 2001

A very long time ago, when I was a child, I thought how it would be a Very Fine Thing to spend my life writing books (whenever I wasn't thinking how it would be a Very Fine Thing to spend my life digging up dinosaur bones). I imagined how the covers would look, how my name would look on the covers, what it would feel like to walk into the library or the drugstore or the Five and Dime (there were no bookstores in the town where I grew up) and see my book waiting to be read by someone. I would write lots and lots and lots of books, I imagined. Like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, I would be a veritable fountain of words to be bound neatly between very professionally designed dustjackets.

As much as I wanted to visit Loch Ness or find a Diplodocus skeleton, I wanted to make books. I found an old Writer's Market at a yard sale somewhere and used to pour over its pages as though there were some magical secret and if I just looked long enough, I'd know how it was done, this business of writing books. I typed out fairly awful fantasy and horror stories on an antique Royal typewriter that my mother had picked up somewhere. I experimented with carbon paper. PCs were still a decade or more away. Correction tape seemed pretty high tech at the time.

And since I was growing up where I was, when I was, writing novels was frowned upon as a career choice and virtually every relative, except my mother, discouraged me at one point or another. They told me that only people from New York wrote novels (people from New York were generally frowned upon). They told me I should be practical. They told me to stop spending so much time reading or I'd go blind (which has almost happened).

Anyway, what they never told me, because they couldn't have known, was that if I ever got my wish, I'd discover that writing books was not fun or exciting or romantic or any of the other things I imagined it to be. It's simply hard. Mindnumbingly hard. That people who write books spend most of their lives alone in small rooms staring at blank pages or, as it would turn out, computer screens, for hour upon hour upon hour, occasionally getting lucky and finding a sentence to fill some of that damned white space with. They couldn't have told me about the stress or carpal tunnel syndrome or writer's block. How you start to forget that there's a difference between day and night because you rarely go outside. How you ultimately reach a point where that one thing that drove you to ruin your life and your eyes and your nerves, the simple joy of reading, would itself become annoying because, after all, it's really work.

I sat down a few minutes ago to write something straightforward like, "Hi. I'm Caitlin Kiernan and this is the journal that I'm going to keep while I write my next novel, which might end up being called Low Red Moon," so that people wandering in would know whether to click the "Back" button on their web browsers. And then all this came tumbling out.

And I can't figure out how to place an acute accent on an "i" in this program and, if I did, that would just be another annoying thing, so never mind.

I think what I'm getting at is how wonderful it would be to have been Harper Lee. Write one book that everyone will love forever, see it made into a movie with Gregory Peck, and then never have to do again. Ever.

But that's not the way it works.

And the hardest part is the beginning (though the middle seems much harder, but only when that's where you happen to be), and starting full in the knowledge that this isn't the last time you have to start The Next New Book. If you're lucky, there is no fixed number and you will be doing this for a very, very long time. After Silk was released in '98, my agent called and asked how the next novel was coming along and I asked "You mean I have to do that again?" That's exactly how I feel about writing most of the time.

But here I am, anyway, and I got to be a paleontologist as well, so at least there's that. Here I am and, as usual, I'm months and months past the time when I should have begun a new book. I've put it off until there's no more time left to put it off and in another couple of weeks I'll sit down and write the first word that will hopefully lead, many months later, to the last word, and my agent and my editor and my landlord and all the credit card companies will stay happy. A novel that might be called Low Red Moon, and yes, that was a Belly song, which I happen to be very fond of, by the way.

Before I can start the novel, I have to finish a short story for a British horror anthology (a story I've been trying to finish since October) and write a script for Vertigo - then I can start the novel.

I'm not sure how this is going to turn out. The journal, I mean, not the book (though I have no idea how that's going to turn out, either). I've always kept the process of writing to myself, for the most part. Occasionally, I'll call some other wretched soul who, as a child, didn't listen to her or his disparaging relatives and he or she will listen to me bitch and moan and try to be patient or tell me to get back to work. But I've never much talked about the nuts and bolts with readers. I'm not going to be saying much about what's going on in the book, since that would pretty much defeat the purpose of anyone reading the thing. I'm sure there will be clues along the way. Maybe.

Meanwhile, please buy Threshold, the book that almost killed me (I'm not joking, but I'll save the explanation for another time). Every time you buy a copy, a mosquito gets its wings.

(12:40 a.m.)


---

During our walk yesterday, we saw two of the hawks. It was marvelously warm. I was even able to open my office window for most of the afternoon; it's supposed to be warmer still today.

Byron called from Athens, where he's visiting his family.

The first day after Xtian Thanksgiving is also the first day of Jethro Tull season, which somehow helps me survive winter.

It occurs to me that I presently have far too many books to promote all at once, as I've somehow ended up with three releases in January 2007: Daughter of Hounds (please preorder today, and thank you), the mmp of Threshold, and Tales from the Woeful Platypus. I shall endeavor not to have this happen again, three books in one month. Whichever book I happen to be promoting, I inevitably feel as though I'm neglecting the other two.

One last thing before I wrap up this entry and move along to the wishes and whims of Herr Platypus. I've decided I'm going to put together a short collection, maybe four or five stories, all reprints from Tales of Pain and Wonder and To Charles Fort, With Love, and offer it as a free downloadable PDF. There will be illustrations and lots of fun marginalia. And did I mention it will be free? Hey, it works for heroin pushers, I figure I might as well give it a shot. The first one's on me...

Oh, and comments especially welcome today. I don't know. I'm just in a responding-to-comments sort of mood.

Postscript: Lots of people have been asking about Sirenia Digest back issues. Yes, they may be purchased. Just $10 per. November '05 (No. 0) through October '06 (No. 11). Interested? E-mail Spooky at crk_books(at)yahoo(dot)com, and she'll fix you up, so to speak.

Comments

( 32 comments — Have your say! )
eldritch00
Nov. 24th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
I've decided I'm going to put together a short collection, maybe four or five stories...

Wow, fantastic news (especially since I don't have a copy of Tales of Pain and Wonder)!

Are you still planning to offer a free copy of The Dry Salvages? I already have that, but I'd love to share the link with others, since I refuse to share my actual book!
greygirlbeast
Nov. 24th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
Are you still planning to offer a free copy of The Dry Salvages?

Possibly.
edwarddain
Nov. 24th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing that!
I find going back and looking at my LJ to be very interesting. It keeps me aware of things that I suspect I would gloss over in memory, and I've found that my desire to be honest about various aspects of my life only increases since that seems to be why most people read me.

It's not the whole me of course, but it seems to satisfy them. It also gives me a place to interact with a whole ton of people who I would normally never meet (such as yourself) - which in turn spurs me on to deeper thought, broader introspection, and more critical thinking. There is no question that my dissertation will be a stronger and richer product because of my public journal.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 24th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for sharing that!
I find going back and looking at my LJ to be very interesting. It keeps me aware of things that I suspect I would gloss over in memory, and I've found that my desire to be honest about various aspects of my life only increases since that seems to be why most people read me.

I'm sort of an obsessive journalizer. Sometimes I think I'm about diaries the way that HPL was about letters. Aside from the online journal, I keep a pen-and-paper journal. The two together probably occupy two-three hours each day. And without them, I could not look back at every day and say, "Oh, so that's what happened."
(no subject) - sovay - Nov. 24th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 25th, 2006 12:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Thanks for sharing that! - edwarddain - Nov. 25th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC) - Expand
sovay
Nov. 24th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
I've decided I'm going to put together a short collection, maybe four or five stories, all reprints from Tales of Pain and Wonder and To Charles Fort, With Love, and offer it as a free downloadable PDF. There will be illustrations and lots of fun marginalia. And did I mention it will be free?

This sounds like a great idea. I will point everyone I know in its direction.
sovay
Nov. 24th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
With absolutely no relation to my previous comment—

I worked on getting the last bits done on Sirenia Digest 12, which will go out to subscribers (and why aren't you one?) this very afternoon or evening.

Each issue of Sirenia seems to produce a story that I think is your best yet, and currently that one's "The Lovesong of Lady Ratteanrufer." I also love the inclusion of the notes and sketches for "Metamorphosis A." Will this become a regular feature in the digest?
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 24th, 2006 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Nov. 24th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 25th, 2006 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Nov. 25th, 2006 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 25th, 2006 04:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Nov. 25th, 2006 04:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 24th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sovay - Nov. 24th, 2006 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
setsuled
Nov. 24th, 2006 11:23 pm (UTC)
Write one book that everyone will love forever, see it made into a movie with Gregory Peck

But who would he play? I can sort of see Ingrid Bergman, his co-star from Spellbound, playing a grown up Dancy.

For some reason, I just pictured Dancy singing "Almost Grown" by Chuck Berry.

Thanks for being one of the people to recommend Something Wicked This Way Comes to me, by the way. I'm halfway through and it keeps getting better. I love how Bradbury spends a lot of time describing family members and their roles relative to their ages, and then insidiously brings in this carnival to subvert it all in both obvious and unobvious ways.

I've also been reading Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, which, if I can lay a book recommendation to your own teetering pile, I think you'd really like.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 25th, 2006 12:07 am (UTC)
But who would he play?

Sadly, I don't think I've ever written a decent role for Gary Cooper.

Thanks for being one of the people to recommend Something Wicked This Way Comes to me, by the way.

You're welcome. It's a book that will never steer you wrong.
(no subject) - setsuled - Nov. 25th, 2006 12:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 25th, 2006 01:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - setsuled - Nov. 25th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Nov. 25th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC) - Expand
kiaduran
Nov. 24th, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC)
Just received Digest #12 - will be delving into it this evening after I'm in my jammies and ready to disappear into another world. I've been pondering my stack of Digest printouts. How do other readers manage them? Do they read them on the computer screen, print them out and staple, 3-hole punch them for a binder or what?

Honestly, this has been puzzling me for some time as leaving them piled up on my desk so they get all dusty and cat-haired seems disrespectful or rude or something.
greygirlbeast
Nov. 25th, 2006 12:11 am (UTC)
Do they read them on the computer screen, print them out and staple, 3-hole punch them for a binder or what?

Kinko's used to have something called velobinding, I think, which was really quite nice. I assume they still have it. It would be a good way of managing the print-outs. Heck, I don't even have print-outs of all the issues.
(no subject) - kiaduran - Nov. 25th, 2006 02:08 am (UTC) - Expand
activistgirl
Nov. 25th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
Did you ever explain how Threshold almost killed you? I too, was almost a fatality of that novel-almost drowned in my own peewater...
greygirlbeast
Nov. 25th, 2006 03:06 am (UTC)
Did you ever explain how Threshold almost killed you?

I think I told that story in the "writing of" essay for Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold (subpress, 2003). Do you have that?
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
Nov. 25th, 2006 07:08 am (UTC)
Re: Kind of... sappy... but it's late, and I'm kind of out of it...
Later, when I read somewhere (aprocryphal, never confirmed or denied [but I guess this might do it, huh?]) that Neil had asked you to take over, it clicked into place. A True thing, even if it turns out that wasn't what happend.


It is true. First, in May '96, he asked me to do a story arc, which turned out to be "Souvenirs" (17-19), and then I was asked to do a second arc, which was "Unkindness of One" (22-24). Shortly thereafter, I was asked by Neil to take over the book, summer of '97, I think. So, yes, that's pretty much how it happened.

"Your writing is absolutely amazing, and I want to think you, for the stories. Thank you, so much."

Well, better late than never. ;-)

That must have been Dragon*Con 2000.
chris_walsh
Nov. 25th, 2006 05:41 am (UTC)
Refresh our (read: my) memory about the Jethro Tull thing. There's a connection tickling at the back of my head between you and Tull, but it's...not...coming...to me...
greygirlbeast
Nov. 25th, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
Refresh our (read: my) memory about the Jethro Tull thing. There's a connection tickling at the back of my head between you and Tull, but it's...not...coming...to me...

Tomorrow...
(no subject) - chris_walsh - Nov. 25th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Have your say! )