A post above the skies

From yesterday:

I’m somewhere high above the earth, writing a blog post, on my way to Santa Ana/Orange County airport to visit my little sister. You may have heard me mention in other posts, but she is currently undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After spending four days with her, I’m going to be visiting my great aunt in San Francisco, who’s also been diagnosed with cancer. It’s a bittersweet “vacation”–I found it very difficult to leave my two and a half year old this morning. But as usual, he seemed more besotted with my mom than worried about his Mommy going on a trip across the country. Someday he will be able to grasp the magnitude of such a trip, but for now he is blissfully unaware of time and distance.

Between the first two hours of this current flight, and the first leg from RDU to Minneapolis, I’ve devoured Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks–a good, strong read, and a magnificent first novel. I believe it was published over 20 years ago, but it has surprising relevance. But maybe that’s me. Music has a kind of resonance with me, and I didn’t even realize until I got halfway through the book that Eddi McCandry and her band were living in a world free of cell-phones and the Internet. We’ve come a long way in a such a short time, but it takes a certain kind of writer to create a world that seems unfettered by those changes.

Now, it’s netbook time, and I’m glad of it. I’ve tried, in recent years, to schlep my MacBook on airplanes, but I inevitably end up behind someone who wants their seat back the entire way, and that makes viewing just about impossible, never mind actual writing. But here, Tyrol is comfortable, and typing is easy. So there’s not much excuse to be doing anything else. Of course, Northwest Airlines is yet too primitive to provide WiFi internet, but I will happily cut my losses. Sometimes it’s good to write without the constant temptations of Twitter and my RSS feed.

Since finishing Queen of None I’ve done little in the way of writing, save for a few sentences in a WIP. Instead, I did what you never are supposed to do: go back and edit what you just wrote. Stephen King explicitly warns against this, and yet, I refute the man. I love On Writing, but sometimes his advice is a little too alchemical for me, a little too whimsical. Writing is business, even if it’s just for yourself. And I am desperate to know how the whole story reads. Most of the editing I did last night involves removing useless words “as well” and “seemingly” and “you see”–having never written an entire novel in first person, the beginning is full of these self-affirming words. It’s strange to revisit the pages of a character I’ve brought on a long journey; I feel like I know her so much better than when I started, that it gives me a much clearer window into what she should and should not say. I’ve also axed a few paragraphs here and there that, to me anyway, felt more like myself just talking through the character development rather than actually making any plot progress. And I’ve got to say, all in all, I’m not as disappointed with the narrative as I thought I might be. Unlike previous works, I think a good, clever edit where I actually tinker with an actual draft will work this time, rather than a ground-up rewrite.

My parents always have the most intriguing reactions to the whole book writing thing. They have always fueled my dreams, ever since the youngest of ages, but writing was one I kept mostly to myself. For years I wanted to make it as a singers/songwriter, and spent most of high school following that particular dream. As they’re both musicians, this was a worthy cause. It never took much convincing for me to get my dad to use college money to get me a better guitar. But with the writing, they’re clearly proud, but definitely distanced. Mom has informed my family that I just completed “A book like the movie with the hobbits” which is her general understanding of the entire fantasy genre, and my dad keep suggesting that I make the single book a trilogy. He also suggests that I share it with members of my family who like books forgetting that not everyone–and most of my family in fact, the scant few who do read–like fantasy. “You like that stuff?” a well-meaning relative once asked. I didn’t mention that I happen to also write “that stuff” but it’s okay.

Well, that should do it for a while, anyway. I will post this when I find a network again, which will likely be at my sister’s shiny place of employment; she works for a video game developer in a rather remarkable building. I will enjoy touching down. We are approaching the Rockies, but it is overcast and a bit more turbulent than I like. Not to mention flying makes me ill at ease anyway.

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  1. but it takes a certain kind of writer to create a world that seems unfettered by those changes

    I hope I’ve been able to pull that off in Midnight. I had one reader write me back a couple of weeks ago with, “Just curious why cassettes as opposed to CDs….I have seen you use cassettes instead and I am wondering if there is a reason? In the age of ipods and mp3s, mentioning cassettes seems like another time period!” I guess I hadn’t made it clear enough that the story is set in 1985! o.O

    Then again, I had more than one person ask me about book two (which is set in 2004), “Why aren’t your characters using cell phones?” They find it hard to believe that cell phone reception in Harlan County, Kentucky, was (and still is) poor at best. :eye roll: Hello, very uber-rural, very poverty-striken, very mountainous area. Still, people don’t get it.

    Sometimes it’s good to write without the constant temptations of Twitter and my RSS feed

    Thank the gods Geoffery has a “wi-fi off” button right beside the “power off” button! And it works just as well as flipping a light switch. 😉

    But with the writing, they’re clearly proud, but definitely distanced

    My mom has never read one thing that I’ve ever written. My mother-in-law, however, when I sat her down on a bench at the book store and handed her a copy of the anthology with my short story in it, jumped up and down and did a little dance! 🙂

  2. @Mari Yes, writing in the present day or the recent past is always tricky. I was just editing something recently that was sort of today (ish? thinking more like 2006 or so, but…) and I wondered if I wasn’t being techy enough. I only go so far as to mention the Internet and cell phones. I just feel like going too starts to sound forced, like, “She went and checked her Tweets.” Too soon? Garsh, I dunno.

    As to family and writing, I think some people have very supportive families. I even have one friend who says everyone in her family is a writer, and it’s almost expected that you write a book. Not so in mine. Even the literary types don’t read the kind of stuff I write, and that’s okay. In some ways it’s more freeing, more mine. We in the SF/F realm have never been known for our super broad appeal. Maybe that’s why the SF/F community is more welcoming in some ways than lots of others. I dunno!

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