One baby left at home leaves three "guest" rooms in my house. We are not ready to downsize. The market's just not there yet, and--honestly--we just love our house so much. It will be too big, the grounds too much to handle in time. For now, it's a great house for the kids to "come home" to--which they are all doing for Christmas.
Painting will be finished either today or tomorrow. The rooms will be set up by the weekend. Come Christmas, everyone will have a room to stay in. My office will be freshly painted a gorgeous sunset orange. Last weekend, Frank and I got out the big ladder and dusted every wall, fan, picture and fixture. The house sparkles! But damn, it was a lot of work.
Once it's all done, I'll post pics. I'm so excited. It's almost like having a NEW house. :) (And LJ is doing that strange thing that I can't type in this post box without a "write mail" thingy up. What a strange glitch. I'm really starting to believe it's ME and now LJ.)
My Friend Amy's Blog has posted a review of Deadline, written before the release of Blackout. There are no good pull quotes, although it's a very thoughtful review; there are Feed spoilers and comparisons throughout.
Want Some has posted a review of Feed, and says, " Tl;dr: Not your average zombie fare, highly recommended, part 1 in the Newsflesh Trilogy." I kinda admire the brevity.
Errant Dreams has posted a review of One Salt Sea, and says, "All in all, I found One Salt Sea to be another solid addition to the October Daye series. Its slower emotional pacing (because of the similar kidnapping plot) gave me a chance to sit back and watch changes being played out without the entire combination being too overwhelming." And this is why sometimes, types of case repeat.
Happy Booker has posted a review of Feed, and says, " My masochistic heart can do nothing but rate this book a full 5 stars. I have to commend Mira Grant on how she managed to create such a compelling story and include zombies (which I don't even like btw) and introduce me to these amazing characters that I have no choice but to fall completely in love with and then, without warning, take it all away. I can almost picture the sadistic smile on this author's face as she gleefully ripped my heart out, stomped on it, then poked it a few times with Shaun's zombie stick, leaving me a broken, sobbing mess. Nice, Mira Grant, very nice." Yay!
Finally for today, Morgan and Whitney have dished on Discount Armageddon. Lots of fun, some great points; I recommend taking a look.
Next, the weather.
- Current Mood: rushed
- Current Music:Frozen, "Let It Go."
“There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.”
—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.
Last week, Roland and Eddie had left John Collum on Turtleback Lane and were, literally, making a flying leap at the magical door between worlds, trying to get back to the New York where Susannah and Jake were last seen.
[Read this week’s post]
Sometimes, life throws a little more at you than you know how to deal with. You find yourself in a pile-up of final paper grades and revision deadlines and writing deadlines and Christmas shopping and–oh yeah–deadlines!
The other day, I totally hit a wall. So I decided to give myself a day off from responsibilities. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I was so overwhelmed that I needed to take a day to regroup. Now I’m back with a battle plan and ready to work through the pile-up.
It might also help that instead of picturing a pile-up of cars, I’m trying to imagine this:
Cutest pile-up ever, right? And also one that seems a little more manageable.
|Originally published at www.annastan.com|
Best-selling science fiction author Sean Williams published his first novel in the mid-90s and has been writing steadily ever since. Today he joins the long haul series to talk about the unpredictability of every new book–and about the role of luck in long-term writing careers.
This year is one of great significance to me. Half a lifetime ago–that is, exactly half my life–I dropped out of university to pursue a career as a writer, not knowing whether I’d fail utterly or succeed beyond my wildest dreams. I dreamed of the latter, hoped for something in the middle, and planned for the former. If I hadn’t sold a book within ten years, I promised myself, I would give up and go back to my studies. (Economics–ugh. That was a massive incentive.)
As I write this, 23 years and 38 published novels later, I’m sitting in London waiting for my new book (Twinmaker) to come out. It’s had great press, marvelous covers and endorsements, publisher support beyond all expectations, but still I’m nervous. This book could easily tank–it’s happened before. It could go ballistic–that’s happened too. I dream of the latter, hope for something in the middle, and plan for the former. Whatever happens, I probably won’t starve.
Mind you, I’ve come close–in the Western, First World sense of having to get a day job to pay the bills. It might sound absurd that anyone would consider this a tragedy, but I spent ten years working shitty part-time jobs in order to build up a career in publishing so I could do nothing but write novels full-time. And when I did go full-time, everything went just as it was supposed to, at first: six-figure income, numerous awards, a Locus recommendation, titles on the New York Times bestseller list, invites to festivals . . . Then came the crash. Suddenly I was writing just as hard as I ever had but earning much, much less, barely enough to service my credit card and tax debts, let alone live the high life. How did that happen? I’m still not sure. The Australian dollar got stronger and US advances didn’t go up to compensate: that was definitely part of it. When most of your income is pinned to the antics of a foreign currency, you’re vulnerable to market forces far beyond your control. But that wasn’t the whole story. I felt that there had to be a reason why things were suddenly so crappy. Something I could fix, and fast–before I developed scurvy or rickets or went insane in some appropriately Gothic way. Or declared the exercise a failure and went back to university.
Eventually, through hard experience (and listening to other writers), I realized that the secret of my sudden lack of success probably wasn’t a bad agent, or a bad publisher, or even bad writing. It was bad luck. Sometimes books tap into the zeitgeist, or they don’t. Sometimes books stand out among a sea of other covers, or they don’t. Sometimes Oprah loves them, or she doesn’t (disclosure: Oprah has never even noticed my books). These aren’t things you can plan for. These are effects you can’t cause. It’s just plain luck, good and bad.
If you look at a graph of my income from 1990 to 2000, it shows an almost perfect hyperbolic curve upwards, then after 2001 a straight line down. I’m still reeling from the shock of that sudden turn. There’s no formula to explain it and no way to prevent it from happening again. There was just an ongoing slog in the hope of creeping back up to where I had once been, praying for the opposite kind of luck to come my way. Eventually it did, after a long, hard slog, and I was able to eat properly again. And now I know to ignore the graph and avoid any kind of complacency.
What’s that old saying? “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” There’s some truth to that–but no one ever tells you that the luck goes both ways. Publish 38 novels in 17 years and some of them are bound to do well, but some of them are bound to do badly as well. There’s no way to avoid it, even if you’re a massive bestseller (which I am not). You might be lucky enough to sell six million copies in one year, then only three million the next. That’s a huge drop. You feel it just as much as if you divide the numbers by a thousand, because luck is a relative thing. Up is up. Down is down.
In my case it wasn’t the worst possible luck. I was still selling books; I was still being published. The internal devil’s advocate said: So what if I had to work like a slave to earn little more than minimum wage? I remained in a position that most writers dreamed of at the beginning of their careers. What right did I have to complain?
Everyone whose career takes a dive is allowed to complain, I think–although never to readers, since it’s right and proper that they should care little about your suffering so long as the books keep coming. Complaining to other writers might lead you to coping strategies or support networks that will guide you through the tough years, but it won’t change actually anything. It didn’t change anything for me, as I slaved away for years, earning less than I had as a student despite writing three books a year. The only antidote to bad luck is good luck, and the only way to get that is keep rolling the dice.
It’s a natural law that careers go up and down. When I started out, up was the only way my career could go. Now, it could go either way, which is the curse of being even remotely successful. As I type this in London, just days away from rolling the dice for the 39th time, I know it’s entirely out of my hands. All I can do is sit back and watch, and hope, and know that if it doesn’t work this time, maybe it will next time, or the time after, or . . .
#1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books–thirty-nine at last count–including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker, the first in a new YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level, was released this November, shortly after he wrote this post. You can find some related short stories over at Lightspeed.
Previous Writing for the Long Haul Posts
- Deborah J. Ross on writing through crisis
- Sharon Shinn on managing time
- Marge Pellegrino on feeding the restless yearning to write
- Sarah Zettel on embracing ignorance and writing your passions
- Uma Krishnaswami on honoring unreasonable exuberance
- Jennifer J. Stewart on finding community and support
- Sherwood Smith on keeping inspiration alive
- Mette Ivie Harrison on defining success
- Jeffrey J. Mariotte on why we write
- Judith Tarr on reinventing ourselves
- Kathi Appelt on the power of story
- Cynthia Leitich Smith on balancing business and creativity
Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.
The first full trailer for Sherlock's series three is here, and not only are we jumping out of our skins just to hear John and Sherlock's voices again, but it looks as though our favorite detective might be in for a bit of a rude awakening when he return to the land of the living...
[It's been two years...]
I was in first grade when we moved back to the Valley. This was the 1980s. Everyone spoke Spanish but the schools fought a losing battle of "English-only!" In elementary school, children were shamed, scolded, and spanked for speaking Spanish. I was very invested in being a Good Student, so I quickly got with the program. I resisted my grandparents' efforts to teach me Spanish at home, because Spanish was for illiterate hooligans who'd never amount to anything.
This is what racism does: vilifies all things native, turns the child against her family, uses lateral violence to eradicate the culture. Schools are still trying to smash down native languages. Just last week I read about a principal in Hempstead, TX, who tried to make her middle school English-only. Fortunately, enough students and their families were outraged that the Mexican American Legal and Educational Fund got involved. Last year in Wisconsin, a Menominee girl was suspended from her school's basketball team because she had been speaking Menominee in class.
If you're writing a Latin@ character, think about where and when they grew up, and how authority responded to their native language. Was Spanish encouraged, nurtured, privileged, or was it scorned and silenced, or was it fused with other languages, and if so, to what benefit and disadvantages of the character? Is your character a native speaker or a heritage speaker? Are they fluent or working with incomplete acquisition?
Immersed as I was in the language, I learned Spanish rather against my will. I am a heritage speaker with woefully incomplete acquisition. My elders spoke Spanish to me, and I'd reply in English. We mostly understood each other, but were sheepish enough about our respective accents not to push the convos into one language or the other. (To this day, my mother-in-law speaks to me in Spanish and I reply in English.) Oddly enough, I could read in Spanish, unlike many of my Spanish-speaking friends.
When I moved to Iowa, I seized the opportunity to take Spanish classes where no one could judge my atrocious accent. And I realized something:
There are many Spanishes, just as there are many Englishes. And each variant is legitimate and fruitful.
If you wish to write a convincing Latin@ character, you need to know what form of Spanish they speak. Textbook Spanish will only get you so far. For example, in Spanish there are five forms of "you" (intimate singular, formal singular, intimate plural, formal plural, etc). Not all Hispanics use all forms. For example, Mexicans do not use the vos/vosotros forms but the tú/usted/ustedes forms.
Then there are dialects. I grew up hearing the word rentar, meaning to rent/lease something, used all the time. In "proper" Spanish, the term is alquilar. My college teachers had no experience with Texican Spanglish, but fortunately they didn't try to "fix" what I'd inherited, only offered the textbook versions as a better way to communicate with my classmates.
Things get further complicated in translation. Pan dulce can be literally translated as "sweet bread", but "sweet breads" are something VERY different in English.
As in English, there are different registers for different degrees of formality. One speaks differently with one's childhood friends than with one's parents, and differently yet with one's boss or a state representative. This is code-switching.
Perhaps the most obvious aspect of code-switching is knowing how and when to use slang. My college instructors were sometimes horrified by my slang, which they found lowbrow and "rough." Native speakers are often inured to the literal meaning of words and underestimate their shock value. For example, English seems violent to me, with admonitions to "hit this key" or "kill the program" or "axe this section." Likewise, my casual "chinga this" and "chinga that" might startle folks who have to look up the term. If I were speaking to my child's teacher in Spanish, I'd definitely scale back the slang and avoid cursing.
Just as one finds different slang in different regions of the States, different Hispanic groups have distinct forms of slang. On tumblr, a reader reblogged a link to my first installment of this series and added, "If I read a book and you tell me the character is Puerto Rican, I’m gonna get excited cause fuck yea, Boriken baby! But if said character is clearly using Mexican words/slang, I’m done with you. Think of it as writing a British character but instead if using British slang, you use American cause you can’t bothered to learn the difference."
I do think there are times when an author can choose to mix things up—for example, when depicting mixed-heritage characters or communities. But such conflations must be conscious decisions, even in a speculative fiction context. When I was worldbuilding for my novels set in the fictional bordertown of Exile, I decided that my foul-mouthed but sympathetic Spanish-speaking characters would not rely on sexist or homophobic insults. This meant I had to depart from the standard cussing I heard in my childhood. After researching different regions' uses of profanity, I chose some creative turns of phrase more common to Spain than Mexico. I'm prepared for readers to question that choice.
Something harder for me to explain is how one's accent may change to suit register. There's a…sing-songy quality that I slip into when speaking with my Spanish-speaking family. Even if I'm speaking in English, the cadence of my speech will change to mimic the rhythms of our Spanish. This rhythm tends to be overdone on tv. Shows that don't normally feature Spanish-speakers caricaturize the accents—how many times have you heard that guttural "ese" to indicate Latinidad? I've heard the sing-iness badly done on The Walking Dead and X-Files and (sometimes) Sons of Anarchy. I've heard it well done on Grimm. I don't have any tips for reproducing the musicality of Latin@ accents to the page. I suspect if you're fluent, it comes naturally, and if you're not, you shouldn't try it.
If you don't speak Spanish and your characters do, you absolutely need a fluent Spanish speaker to beta read your story. What's more, you need a reader familiar with your character's particular dialect. If you don't have a real person who can do this for you, you are not equipped to write the story.
Yes, there are tools like Google translate. I use that one a lot. But I use it as a reverse look-up. As a heritage speaker, I already know more or less what I want and I'm merely checking the spelling or verifying conjugation. I recognize my characters' dialect, so I know which options to use. I also rely on my husband, who speaks better Spanish than I do, and we will ask our native speaker relatives when we're in doubt. Moreover, I mostly write contemporary characters who talk like I do or like people I heard when I was growing up.
If I were writing something historical, I'd rely more on book research (primary resources) to approximate the language of the time period. Geographical and class differences aside, Porfirio Diaz spoke different Spanish than Frida Kahlo, who spoke different Spanish than Enrique Peña Nieto, the current Mexican president. I'd want a native speaker to review my manuscript because, even if they weren't an expert in the time period I was writing about, they'd be better attuned to anachronisms than I am. If I were writing something futuristic, I'd want to discuss my ideas about language progression and fusion possibilities with native speakers.
As for rendering the words on the page, I tend not to use italics when my characters talk or think in Spanish. The general rule has been that we italicize foreign words. A word is no longer considered foreign if you can find it in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.
But more important, Spanish is not a foreign language to me or my characters, so italics bring undue attention to everyday words. I end up emphasizing the words when they should be part of the flow. If it's an unusual word to me, or could be confused with an English word spelled the same way, then I'll make an exception and use italics. There's a good two-part exploration of this question at the Ploughshares blog.
Likewise, I don't translate the Spanish words I choose to use, especially not in dialog. We only use that sort of repetition when we're consciously trying to accommodate for language differences, as when we're teaching a child a new language. I am trying to depict, authentically, my characters. I'm not teaching Spanish. When I was growing up, I read plenty of books with French, Latin, and Greek sprinkled throughout the text, with the unwritten understanding that an educated person would know multiple languages or be able to figure it out.
Readers don't need to be spoonfed. If a non-Spanish-speaking reader can't cope with a little ambiguity, they can look up the unfamiliar phrase. It's easier than ever. Besides, it won't hurt them to have a fleeting awareness of what it's like to be on the outside, listening in.
- Current Location:Dunkin Donuts Gingerbread Cookie
- Current Mood: hopeful
Julia Rios of the Outer Alliance and Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press recently ran a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible to raise support for Kaleidoscope, a proposed YA anthology of contemporary SF and fantasy with protagonists of diverse backgrounds. They were looking for main characters who would help create a broader picture of what a ‘typical teenager’ is, whether through their race, sexuality, culture, or living with a disability. As examples of what they were looking for, the editors of Kaleidoscope had already commissioned works by Sofia Samatar, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, and Jim C Hines.
During the fundraising process, they also ran a month-long carnival of diversity on their blog, featuring a variety of essays from writers, presenters, publishers and readers about what diversity in pop culture means to them, why it is important, and how hard it can be sometimes to battle your own internal barriers to put such experiences on the page.
[Calling for greater diversity in YA: thoughts, discussion, and recommendations...]
Many authors feel that this is the most annoying of the frequently asked questions of authors. They feel like it is like asking a surgeon where he gets his steady hands or asking a dentist how he knows which tooth to dril on. They evade it, ignore it, or flippantly answer that they get ideas from aliens. I’ve felt the same way on many occasions, but I was thinking yesterday that it might be helpful to expand a little on the truth.
I get my ideas from:
1. Books or other story forms that make me angry about a wrong turn I see has been taken, or angry at a bunch of assumptions about the story itself and who is interesting in it. This burns inside of me and pushes me to try to do it better myself.
2. Books or other story forms that I love so much that I want to pay tribute or duplicate in some sense what I see, but would like to make into my very own.
3. News events that make me ask, What If, this were to happen to me, or to my family. How would I feel?
4. Sometimes I just read a news story or an article in a magazine and think—this is cool! I want to revel in that coolness and share the experience with other people.
5. Something in my real life is so deeply a part of my psyche that I need to shape it and make it understandable with words.
That’s pretty much it for me. I’m sure that other authors have other reasons that they write. But you’ll notice that all of my reasons are emotional at base, which is why my stories are the way that they are. Cool ideas tend to matter less to me than characters who experience something that causes an emotional reaction that feels real.
My main point here is that if you experience emotions on a regular basis, you are experiencing story ideas. You can turn any emotion that you feel into a story. You just need a beginning, a middle, and an end. Writers aren’t these people who actually feel more than anyone else. They just know the tricks to flesh out those feelings into a story. Anyone can do it if they practice it.