Monday, January 07, 2002 (12:57 a.m.)

Saturday and today the writing has not gone well. Nothing at all yesterday, and only a couple of pages today (slightly better than 500 words). Nevertheless, if I can manage a good day tomorrow, I should be able to finish Chapter One of Low Red Moon. At that point, while I pause to finish Bast: Eternity Game for DC/Vertigo and work on a couple of projects for Subterranean Press, my agent will read the finished prologue and first chapter and offer any opinions and instructions she might have. And then, hopefully, if she doesn't think it's total hogwash, I'll move along to Chapter Two in a couple of weeks. Blah, blah, blah.

When the writing goes well, at least my days end in the knowledge that I'm not exactly a layabout. When they go as today and yesterday have gone, there's only anger and frustration and depression. And guilt, too, perhaps, that I have not yet learned to be a more productive writer, or that I allow external distractions, illness, or personal matters to slow me down, or that I'm allowing my self-discipline (without which no writer is more than a bum in artist's drag) to slip. That's how I feel tonight. That's how I feel a good bit of the time while I'm working on a novel, as I rarely have more than three or four good days in a row, proceeded, sometimes, by as much as a week of "down-time," days when I can't bring myself to go near the keyboard for fear of all that white space waiting to be filled.

I persist in the belief, the way that some people believe in God and unicorns, that there are writers who find this process easy. That writing to them is little more than conversation. The words flow effortlessly from their minds through their hands and onto the "page" (being a heretic, I don't allow myself the luxury of believing that many of these writers actually use typewriters and paper). Some of them are savants and true poetry comes to them with ease. They do not struggle with every goddamn word as though each adjective, each adverb, must be absolutely right. They do not chase perfection at every keystroke. It may come to them, and it may not, but what does come, comes with little sweat.

It is even possible that many of these fabled creatures enjoy this work. They awaken in the morning and do not feel dread at thoughts of the day ahead, a day that will be spent alone, squeezing something from nothing, but, rather, look forward to the day in which they may accomplish what mere mortals so foolishly believe to be some sort of magic. "Ah, I've always wanted to write a novel," someone says and every time I smile and "Is that so," I might say, or "Well, well," or some such sympathetic drivel, while inside I imagine them granted their wish and gradually learning the daily hell that goes along with it.

I am blithering, not to put too fine a point on it. I will stop now.

And you can all cease looking for Dame Darcy. She's been found (after a fashion).

Shut up, Caitlín, and go to bed. Or whatever it is you do at night. Leave the poor people alone. Yeah, sure, but I'll leave them with a quote, and they may make of it what they will:

"Most writers — poets in especial — prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy — and ecstatic intuition — and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought — at the true purposes seized only at the last moment — at the innumerable glimpses of ideas that arrived not at the maturity of full view — at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable . . ."

Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

Thursday, January 03, 2002 (11:46 p.m.)

A semi-remarkable 1,200 words or so today on Chapter One, which means I'm probably two-thirds of the way through it. And this despite snowy weather and my office so cold my feet were freezing all day.

Then much of the evening was spent proofreading the galleys for In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers.

If anyone reading this bumps into Dame Darcy, who is currently on safari somewhere in the wilds of Manhattan, please tell her to call me. If she doesn't have the number, she should call Leslie Sternberg, who does. It's important.

Volumes have been written on how badly the South deals with even a half-inch of snow, which is good, because that means I don't have to go on about it here tonight. Instead, I'm going to go do something fun, like play Tomb Raider or read a Dr. Seuss book. I absolutely adore Dr. Seuss, especially the Lovecrafiness of McElligot's Pool and On Beyond Zebra. The Gentleman from Providence gave us non-Euclidean geometry, but Dr. Seuss gave us non-Darwinian biology. One of my all time favorite readings was at a goth club, where I was scheduled to read between The Crüxshadows and Bella Morte. Well, the sound system in the place sucked ass, and the sound guys sucked something worse. Things were so bad that Bella Morte were finally forced to end their set halfway through. So instead of reading whatever story I'd brought, I complained loudly and at length about the shitty sound and then read Dr. Seuss' "What Was I Scared Of?" The bands (and most everyone else present) were delighted. Dr. Seuss rules.

I think my cat has given me a hairball. I really do.

Thursday, January 03, 2002 (12:39 a.m.)

About a page today, a street-corner conversation with a bum who only needs a buck fifty, not a hundred dollar bill. But there was some good dialogue. Bit by bit, inch by inch, verb by adjective by noun, Chapter One unfolds. I'm beginning the think the language of this book will be simpler. Is that really what I mean, though, "simpler"? More towards Hemingway, less towards Faulkner. A quieter book, stylistically. But that's just a maybe. It's too early to tell for sure.

Not that Hemingway was any less the stylist than Faulkner.

And it may be a much darker book than either Silk or Threshold, or perhaps only dark in a way that happens to disturb me more than the darkness of those two novels. More violent, of that much I'm fairly certain.

Much of the last three days has been consumed by a switch in publishers for Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold, which was originally going to be released by Gauntlet Publishing as a single volume, and will now be released by Subterranean Press as two volumes. The first, In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers is a previously unpublished novella, a sort of prequel to Threshold, with Dancy Flammarion falling in with a very bad crowd in Savannah, Georgia, shortly before her arrival in Birmingham. It's also a prequel to my short story "So Runs the World Away," which can be found in Steve Jones' anthology The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women (2001). Anyway, the second volume, which consists of notes for the novel, deleted chapters, false starts, photos of locales, etc. will be released as a second volume. The first is slated for an April release, in time for the World Horror Convention in Chicago. So there's been a whole lot of the business of getting these books together, and there's much more of it to come.

And Low Red Moon has me wishing for October and hating January even more than usual.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002 (12:30 a.m.)

Considering the hangover that I woke up with this morning, today was a better day than it had any right to be. But I didn't write. I'm starting to see how this journal will soon become a sort of confession of neglect that others will point to and, "See," they'll say. "See what you were doing when you should have been slaving away on that novel?" I fear accusations of laziness almost as much as I fear dentists and nuclear war. And here I am laying traps for myself.

A wonderful package in the post today from a friend in Rhode Island, who sent me music, which is always welcomed. I can't write without music and free CDs are a blessing (if they don't suck, that is). Especially if a free CD features the splendid Hope Sandoval, as one of the ones I received today does (Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, Bavarian Fruit Bread). Yum.

And I went shopping. Because, after all, this was New Year's Day and there are so many wonderful sales I'm even willing to brave the malls. Sweaters, a very long muffler, a new coat, socks——all stuff I don't have to feel guilty about buying. I wanted a couple of nifty action figures, Hagrid and the Uruk Hai leader, but I was oh so very, very good and only bought clothes. And don't ever let anyone tell you that "nifty" isn't a perfectly fine word.

I feel so remiss in not talking more about Low Red Moon in here (what's to talk about when new words aren't being written?) that I'll drop a couple of hints. It's the third book in what I will someday call my Birmingham trilogy and there will be a few familiar faces. And circus elephants. And a volcanic eruption. Two of those statements are false. How's that? Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, whatever. I know. But I can just hear an editor a few months from now � "No one's going to want to read this! It's already all over the goddamn internet!" So, there you go. Monkey-doodle-doo.

Tomorrow I promise that I will write, real book-type words, whole sentences, entire paragraphs even. Don't count on pages, though, but I'll try.

And then I can not tell you what I wrote. It will be great fun.

Have you bought your copy of Threshold yet? What? Only one copy?! Shame on you! Buy at least four. Have fun with the extras. Tear out the pages and decoupage them to your bathroom wall. Make bloody paper dolls. Use them for origami. The possibilities are almost endless. And then there's Wrong Things and From Weird and Distant Shores. Sacrifice those Amazon.com gift certificates you got for Christmas. I have a lamp habit and an elderly cat to support, after all. Sheesh.

Second verse, same as the first . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2002 (12:37 a.m.)

It's as if this crapulous year had to go out with a last, spectacularly crapulous day, like an exclamation point. 2001! You won't soon forget me, no sir'ee. Which is to say it was one of those days, the sort where you don't slow down for twelve hours, but it's all silly, annoying twaddle, from start to finish, and not a true word gets written anywhere. Writing would be a far more pleasant enterprise if publishing weren't required to complete the damned, vicious circle.

Fortunately, I have a 7-year-old bottle of apple brandy (left over from Dragon*Con) and another of Mari Mayans absinthe and, moving from one to the other and back again, I should manage to make it to the end of this ridiculous year.

Oh, and The Marx Brothers. They make everything better.

I'd make some sort of futile resolution, at this point, but I've already made more promises than I can keep, and miles to go before I sleep and so on and so forth. Promises are for people too young to know any better, I say.

So are hangovers, which I'm sure I'll be telling myself again in the morning. In fact, getting older rather tends to ruin drinking, simply because time seems to move so much faster. What's the point of getting drunk when the hangover's here before you've hardly begun to notice the buzz? Fortunately, I ignored my own age'd wisdom this evening.

And what, you may be asking, has any of this to do with writing? I knew some inquirious loudmouth would be asking that question. Well, I've no intention of answering it in this state (or any other). Ask Carson McCullers or Dorothy Parker, instead. Ask James Dickey. And stop picking at that thing or it will never heal.

Lord, what a year.

Go to bed, all of you.
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Saturday, December 29, 2001 (1:23 AM)

Today I wrote not a word on Low Red Moon. Other writerly business got in the way. That happens a lot, actually. In the old days, back when I was writing Silk in anonymity, editors didn't call or e-mail with urgent requests, nothing needed a third revision yesterday, I didn't have to worry about getting photographs and cover art off to magazines, or about finishing interviews. I just wrote.

Of course, I was also always broke. Which makes this better, even on the horribly frustrating days when I can't get to the novel for all the white noise.

Far better to fret over which author's photo to use this time than to be out shoplifting cans of tuna fish (I don't even like tuna fish).

I begin to fear, though, that this journal is starting to spiral into the Black Pit of Triviality. I'll do my best to see that it doesn't. Perhaps tomorrow night I will be struck by profound thoughts and amusing witticisms. WHAP! They'll come, just like a hickory branch to the forehead, and I'll redeem myself for the lapse of late December and the thin entries that are coming in its wake.

And cute little frogs will sing Frank Sinatra while dollar bills fly out of my butt.

Stay tuned, kiddies.

Friday, December 28, 2001 (1:16 a.m.)

Over a thousand words on Chapter One today, which makes this a pretty good writing day.

And having had a pretty good writing day, I find myself not much in the mood to write here about having written all day long, or about much of anything else, for that matter.

But, because my generosity knows no bounds, here's an interesting tidbit from the footnotes of Sir Richard Francis Burton's 1885 translation of A Thousand Nights and a Night:

"The Ghulah (Fem. of Ghul) is the Heb. Lilith or Lilis: the classical Lamia; the Hindu Yogni and Dakini; the Chaldean Utug and Gigim (desert-demons) as opposed to the Mas (Hill-demon) and Telal (who steal into towns); the Ogress of our tales and the Bala yaga (Granny-witch) of Russian folk-lore. Etymologically "Ghul" is a calamity, a panic, fear; and the monster is evidently the embodied horror of the grave and the graveyard." i. p55

So don't dare say you went away empty-handed.

Thursday, December 27, 2001 (2:28 a.m.)

In geology, we speak of unconformities and disconformities in the stratigraphic record. The former, an unconformity, is an erosional surface that separates younger strata from older rocks. The latter, a disconformity, is something similar, but different, and I don't feel like explaining the particulars just now, as it's so late it's getting early. But, my point is this - sometimes there are lapses.

And though I very much appreciate the concern, the recent lapse in journal entries (the last being from 18 December) does not mean that I've already developed a case of the dread "wb" this early in the novel, and it doesn't mean that I've given up on the journal, and no, it also doesn't mean that I'm dead. But December is a lousy month for regularity. And I've spent at least nine hours watching Peter Jackson's beautiful adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, plus the DVD of Moulin Rouge was finally released.

So stop sending the e-mails of confusion and concern.

We must prioritize, people.

As for Christmas, while I've nothing against it where other people are concerned, the less said the better.

Mostly, I continue to be amazed at the way the world shuts down for the holidays. This whole "paid vacation" thing. Someone pays someone else not to work. Wow. I stand in awe. This is not something writers, at least not novelists, comic book scripters, and short story authors, are familiar with. No one has ever paid me specifically to sit on my butt and not work. But I'd dearly love the opportunity. Writers do not get holidays. Not in my experience. We get many days when we are too frustrated or lazy or furious to write anything, but those days are filled with guilt and dread and self-loathing. Every second I spend not typing is a second I don't get paid. Wouldn't it be lovely, though, if one of my publishers gave me an annual Christmas "bonus" sort of thing and for a whole week I got 8¢ an hour not to write? I think I would weep with joy. But no. Writers write. We don't get "paid vacations," and so, I'm not quite sure I believe in them. Doubt is often a balm for envy.

Meanwhile, Chapter One, which is titled "The Big Dry," is coming along nicely.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001 (2:00 a.m.)

This morning, I started off with the aforementioned Ritual of Procrastination (see my entry for 11 December) and by noon I was beginning to worry that this might not be the day that I get the novel going after all. But sometime around one o'clock I forced myself sit down, shut the door to my office, put on the headphones, and start typing.

It rained all afternoon, and I listened to The Doors, mostly "The End," "Riders on the Storm," and "Touch Me" - I often wind up with a song on repeat, not realizing that I've been letting just that one song play over and over and over again for an hour. That would drive a sane person mad, right? But, anyhow, rain and four hours' worth of The Doors and in the end I had the prologue of Low Red Moon, which, at least for now, is called "Providence." The prologues of Silk and Threshold were also both written in single sittings, so hopefully it's a sign that I'm off to a good start.

But it was a surprisingly unsavory beginning, even for my stuff, taking me a little off guard, and I was left feeling disoriented and jumpy and in need of a long hot shower. That doesn't happen very often, fortunately. That I write something which actually upsets me while I'm writing it (or afterwards, for that matter). It's happened with a few of the short stories - "San Andreas," "Two Worlds, and In Between," "Rats Live on No Evil Star" - and with the climax of Silk, the scene where we finally see what happened to Spyder Baxter when she was a child, locked up in the basement with her crazy father. I started writing that scene on Christmas Eve 1995, alone in Athens, Georgia, and finally had to make myself stop working about 9 p.m. and go out to a movie, just to be around other people for a little while. I went to two movies, actually, one right after the other, trying to stay away from the empty house and the things I'd just written there.

I've often argued that authors have a moral obligation, not only to their readers and to themselves, but to their characters (who are, in fact, only facets of themselves). So it seems to me that there's something terrible about taking yourself, and a character whom you've created, into such dark places and situations. It's one reason that I maintain that certain sorts of stories should never be viewed merely as entertainment. If nothing else, it's a damned peculiar way to make a living, digging up these thoughts and putting them on display for everyone to see. And I'm starting to ramble....

But I've felt distinctly ramblesome most of the evening. Which is also a good sign, a sign that, for the moment, some part of me is lost in the story. I watched some of the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business and that helped a little, and it has stopped raining, and I don't think I'm going to listen to The Doors for a little while.