Sunday, May 28

The Vows

Kathleen Bonner Feete
Dmitriy Zlotnikov

May 27, 2006


Some of you knew about this, some of you didn't. In the two years Dan and I have been together marriage has been more a question of if than when, but the the recent troubles getting him across the US border changed that. The one thing that was never in question was that we wanted to be together forever. If a piece of paper was what it took to keep the US government from trying to stop that, then a piece of paper we would have.

That said, the ceremony itself couldn't have turned out better if we'd planned it for years. Through a combination of relaxed attitudes on the part of the bride and groom, immense helpfulness on the part of everyone from the B&B staff right down to the florists, the determined efforts of both families to make us happy, and a heaping dose of luck, we had a wedding which was not only perfectly suited to our personalities (small, private, well-victualed) but also hella good fun for all involved. Pictures will follow as soon as we glean them from all involved cameras.

And now I am married, which hasn't entirely sunk in yet.

However: Still Not Grown Up.
06:19 PM - kat -

Friday, May 26

Because all the cool kids are doing it:

Writers Beware's Twenty Worst Agents List

With a special nod to, who has so far threatened Writers Beware with a libel suit, threatened Tor Books with a libel suit because editor Teresa Nielsen-Hayden posted the link on her blog, and threatened the ISP of Absolute Write with a spammer charge when the list (and her email address) were posted on its boards. So far, only the ISP was dumb enough to believe her, and as of right now Absolute Write is still homeless.

Congratulations, Barbara Bauer. You've just pissed off enough writers, editors, and honest agents to insure that the list has been pasted across the internet, not to mention sparking a determined attempt to seed Google searches for your name with references to the list. You know, if you put half this effort into actually selling work instead of scamming your clients, you might not be on the list in the first place.
07:59 AM - kat -

Thursday, May 18

Blipping through the blogosphere, as is my wont when avoiding work, I ran across Meg Cabot's advice on authors doing booksignings. Most of it is quite good, particularly the bit about bathing and brushing one's hair first, which was one of those, "oh, hell, people need to be told that?" moments for me.

But one of Meg's points really gave me pause:

I am talking about authors who pretend their books aren't written by them, but by their characters. As in, "I didn't want to kill off So-and-So, but Name of Main Character insisted on it! There was nothing I could do!"

I realize that some readers love hearing this kind of thing--that you, the author, are just a puppet whose strings are pulled by your characters.... The truth is, authors, characters cannot act and think independently of you because they are FIGMENTS OF YOUR IMAGINATION. When your character says or does something, it is because YOU MADE THEM DO IT. Your characters DO NOT ACTUALLY EXIST except on paper and in your head.

And it gave me pause because I'm not sure whether I agree or not.

I know quite a lot of writers, published and otherwise, who talk about their characters as if they're real, and writers generally do this for one of three reasons:

1) They're hamming it up a bit for the benefit of the audience. Hey, we're writers, we're performers, we make things up for fun and profit. What were you expecting?

2) They're using "my character does things/talks to me" as a shorthand for a lot of stuff which happens in the subconscious that they can't explain to themselves, much less other people. They know perfectly well that their characters aren't real, but speaking as if they are gets over some of the hurdles of using actual pesky words for communicating.

3) They are not actually clear on the whole "real vs. fantasy" world concept and believe their characters are real. May be accompanied by other signs of kookiness, such as a variety of New Age beliefs, a fanatical gleam in the eye, or heavy breathing.

The first variation is pretty harmless; the second, actively useful, particularly when talking to other writers who understand it's shorthand, and also useful for dealing with a certain type of control-freak writer who, left to herself, will write a lot of tightly plotted, carefully outlined, grammatically correct dreck. What we mean when we say "Listen to your characters, let them tell you what to do" to these writers is really "Look, you're sabotaging your own work here. Loosen up. Don't be afraid to deviate from the outline. If you find yourself wanting to write about the roses, write about the roses, even if it's not a Plot Point or a Character Development Point or anything else to which you could reasonably apply capitals. Stop letting people tell you what you should write, and write."

The third variation, aside from the broader stability issues, is generally bad because writers of this type are not good writers. They tend to write Mary Sues and get a wee bit overwrought with their adjectives and do stalker things to people in the publishing industry which are embarrassing to the rest of us unpubbed, not to mention cornering us at cons in the mistaken belief that, as writers, we are Sisters Under the Skin and that it is therefore OK to recite the entirety of their ten-book saga to us over the course of several hours, leaving us with no choice but to drown them in the punch bowl, which is a bit of a downer for everyone else at the party.

And then there are those writers who think they're doing #2, but worry that they're part of group 3 because, deep down in their souls, they believe their characters are real.

This group -- call them 2a -- aren't easy to spot, and in fact for all I know I am the only member. The problem is that I have spent so much time in book-worlds and my personal worlds that I occasionally have difficulty telling them from the real world. OK, no, I don't expect to see dragons swooping down on me at Food City or believe that people I know have psychic powers: that's just silly and does NOT maintain internal consistancy. But I frequently become so interested in the internal conversations being held by my figments that I miss real-world conversations. On numerous occasions, I have stopped myself from introducing some interesting item of news or gossip into a conversation only by remembering, in the nick of time, that while interesting it was also relevant only to the world in my head. Once I nearly walked out of WalMart with a set of maps before I remembered that it wasn't ME who'd been wishing for an atlas, it was my lost-in-the-desert main character.

The men in white coats may not have my number, but they're definitely leafing through the local phone book.

I cling to my distinctions. I only tell people about my stories if they express an interest, and even then I watch for glazed eyes and try to leave the exit clear. I don't treat people who dislike my writing as pariahs (okay, maybe for the first five minutes or so. But not after that. And I *delete* those first emails, honest.) I comfort myself by remembering that I've never yet been accused of writing a Mary Sue, and that, while I think of my characters as real, I've never thought of them as my friends. My characters talk, but they're talking to themselves or to other characters, never to me. I'm a voyeur, or a translator, or maybe that quiet person who hangs out on the edges of conversations but never joins in, so the conversees are aware of her as a presence but not as a person: but I'm not their God, and I'm not their friend. I'm not part of their story at all.

But the plain fact remains that while I know, absolutely, positively, that these characters are nothing but figments of my imagination and manifestations of my subconscious, I don't believe that. I believe they're real. As far as my subconscious is concerned, logic, knowledge, and the real world can all go take a running jump.

And I'm pretty okay with that. I just don't talk about it much, because, unlike the folks in group 3, I'm aware that it's pretty crazy and I'd rather not inflict my craziness on innocent bystanders. It's messy, it rubs people's basic herd instincts wrong, and sooner or later you end up head-down in the punch bowl.

And oh, yes, about those voices in my head....

Writing Progress:

Today's Progress: 772 words.
Comments: Joey had to introspect, which she hates, and I must say she did not handle it gracefully. Cripes, woman, it was only 400 words, you'd think I was the dentist er something.

Snips: The old dragon, her father had called his mother-in-law; her father, the only one in the family brave enough to stand up to her. Don't think the name, never think the name. Superstition, the logical part of her mind told her; typical theistic nonsense to think that a name could summon someone. Except that with the telepathic streak that ran strong in Joey's family it hadn't been nonsense, and at two in the morning, she wasn't betting on a few hundred light-years distance to protect her. So she curled tighter, kept her mind small, and prayed that the dragon would pass her by.
10:20 PM - kat -

Saturday, May 13

I need a tee-shirt that says "I *heart* Inform 7", and the scary thing is, for most of you it will require a long explanation to understand how pathetically geeky that is.

This is because most of you are going "What the heck is Inform?"

Well, Inform is a programming language for writing text adventure games.

A small percentage of you are nodding sagely. An even smaller number may have heard of, say, the annual competition or be familiar with a few of the modern games. A rather larger number are saying something like, "Oh, you mean like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? I remember playing that back in the 80s... you mean people are still writing those?"

And by far the greatest number of you are saying "Text what?"

I adore text adventure games. They're like those dorky Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books in middle school, only with loads more stuff and you don't have to flip pages. I've been playing them since I was eight and trying to build one myself since I was fifteen, which is the geeky bit, and failing because I am a) easily distracted and b) really bad at programming, which is the pathetic bit.

I am, however, even more pathetic at drawing, so for several years now I've been using Inform the programming language as a way of making maps that don't lead to me having an Embarrassing Episode with the pencils. And really, it's very helpful, because I am absolute crap at visualizing, and what writing a series of adventure-game-style rooms did was force me to visualize stuff like layout, and transport, and what the average member of a far-future society would keep on her desk, and thus there were less of the dreaded white rooms and everyone was happy, except me, because I kept forgetting the semicolons and breaking my compiler.

And then, lo, there was Inform 7.

Inform 7 is "a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language. What this means in practice is that instead of writing something like this:

H_Station siebel "Quarters of Siebel Nix"
with description "These are the personal quarters of Siebel Nix, the station's senior telepath. They are roughly the same size as a Director's quarters, as per regulations, though to you they seem slightly smaller. Perhaps it's an optical illusion.",
e_to sbed,
w_to qdea;

I can write:

Quarters of Siebel Nix is a room in Harmony Station. "These are the personal quarters of Siebel Nix, the station's senior telepath. They are roughly the same size as a Director's quarters, as per regulations, though to you they seem slightly smaller. Perhaps it's an optical illusion." East of here is Siebel's Bedroom. West of here is Quarters Hallway A.

It does not come with a chorus of angels, but it really, really ought to.

And yes. I am pathetic. And geeky. But largely pathetic. I admit to this only in hopes that someone, somewhere out there, is as pathetic as I am and will join me in squee-ing over the enabling of programming-deficient poor visualizers with bad drawing skills to geek out and pretend it's writing.

Oh, right. Writing:

Writing Progress:

Today's Progress: 693 words.
Comments: I have been suffering not so much from writer's block as writer's apathy. Which is to say, there's a lot preventing me from writing: the fact that I work eight hours a day at a highly physical job, the housework, the Dan-feeding, the seeing-off of the brother to his new life in Atlanta, the consoling of the mother (see previous item), the various angsts of readjusting to a live-in relationship after a hiatus (aka, "what do you mean, alone time?"), the Monthly Curse, the annoying and so far unstoppable invasion of ants into my kitchen. But I have written under similar, and far worse, circumstances. But when this is combined with a bit of the book where I need to write some mildly difficult scenes -- nothing hairy, just setup and oh-god-I-don't-know-these-characters-yet, but stuff I can't skip over because without it I won't know how to write the *good* scenes -- and is further combined with a couple of days when I skipped writing for what were no doubt good reasons, and thus had to come back to aforementioned difficult scenes cold -- well, basically, yeah. I get on the wagon, I fall off. Repeat as necessary until the bloody thing actually goes somewhere.

Or I, you know, go insane. Whatever.

Snips: Got to introduce a minor antagonist, who is slippery and thus made for 700 words' worth of pounding my head on the computer. But I got some good ones in the end. Like:

Zanni was using his pleasant voice. Joey, in her few months of dealing with Safety, had grown to hate Zanni's pleasant voice; he kept his knives in it.


For a bare moment Zanni's poise slipped, anger turning his face to angle and bone as he realized how she'd played him: but it was only a moment. In the next he was leaning back as well, returning her smile with a gamester's grace.

The actual scene is, of course, utter wank. But it moved the damn wagon a bit. Right now, that's all I ask for.
09:33 PM - kat -

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