Last Thanksgiving I was very grateful to have two weeks in a row off from chemo. I had enough of an appetite to enjoy the meal and the leftovers though in vastly smaller quantities than my norm. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, I couldn't eat at all and was days away from being hospitalized with a grave prognosis. So you can imagine how slap happy I was to have a nearly normal Thanksgiving for us. We didn't have tons of company which is my true norm, and I wasn't up to going to visit anyone (it's nothing serious – just coping with a flare-up of chemo related side effects. It seems one has to cope with the aftermath of the cure more than one does the disease. At any rate, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. And thank you all for continuing to read these crazy blogs and support my work. I'm enjoying some wonderful creative successes with my writing. That is, in large part, because of the gentle encouragement and occasional butt kicking I get from you guys.
The Tyranny of the Word Count
I've been writing short stories for some anthologies recently. I was invited to do so, and that was very nice. However, in writing for the specs of the publication, I have encountered having to deal with strict word counts. I am a not a wordy writer. The most difficult problem I have in writing erotica is my difficulty in describing the lovers in something beyond shorthand. The incredible word count for Ensnared was because of all the plot going on not endless descriptions of the drawing rooms therein. When I was at the archive, we scanned books – mostly memoirs self-published by some titled widow – that spent reams of words on descriptions of the china used at tea or how the drapes hung. One of my beleaguered co-workers tiredly quipped as she scanned her tenth title of such dreck in a week, 'I wonder if this one will have luncheons that happen in the solarium AND the formal dining room. That would be scandalous!' And while I enjoyed learning a lot about chemises and pemmican reading romances set in the Wild West, I just can't write that way.
So, I'm going into this assignment with constraints that I typically do not write under and the worry about how to truncate prose that I feel is written with exactly the number of words needed. Added to that dilemma is the genre of sci-fi. I must create a world unknown to the readers, establish the conflict and the characters and have time for a satisfying, highly erotic story arc in 10,000 words or less. Alrighty then! Strangely, it's the screenwriting experience that came in handy for those stories. I had to think of a big image that would sum up in one glance how to show the difference between this fictional world and ours. Once I could conjure an image like that very clearly, it was relatively easy to describe it in a short paragraph. The way the characters interacted with this image told a lot about who they were as people and how they are different from people in our world.
The bulk of the work was done in my head as I thought of that singularly telling image for the opening of the story. One of the problems in conjuring that image was I have been working with Jon for way too long. I had to solve all of the nit picky problems he would have with the cohesiveness of my universe. Jon tends to think in terms of how things would realistically evolve from the Earth we know into some futuristic Earth. While I see the sense in that, I have long maintained that advances in technology can and do happen in sudden leaps and bounds. If I am not giving a specific time in the future as my setting, it cannot be determined that such advances in my story could happen. Or to quote MysteryScience Theater 3000, if you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax. Incidentally, Jon was impressed with both story openings. Beyond that, I that to sketch the story out in skeletal details and then add only enough detail to tell a very nuanced story. Easy, it was not, but I was very pleased that I could do it. It is said you only know how much you've improved at a craft when you try something you've never tried. It's like being able to pull off puff pastry after working with pie crusts for some time. It's putting butter and flour together but at a whole other level. One story has been accepted. I think that comes out in February. I'll post a link when it is available.
Not Ready for Prime Time
I had a plan that involved filming some of my Thanksgiving cooking and warmly sharing the experience with friends and family here. Yeah...right... First off, I am far from camera ready when I'm cooking on any given day. When I have as much to do as when I'm making the Thanksgiving feast, how my hair looks and what I'm wearing is way down on the totem pole. And then, there was the positioning of the food and my hands so the viewer could see clearly. It was too much. I have a big new respect for the TV chefs that I never had before. I took some photos during the process. I'll do a little video slide show for everyone and post it later this week.
I was going to write about how the characters from one of my books, Simon Molinar of Demon Under Glass, is having trouble getting along with the characters in my Soldiers books. It's causing a huge problem in writing the latest book. However, that short story assignment threw me off further, so I couldn't really suss out the problem for this blog. It will have to wait until next week.
Next week, I'm on a comic convention panel with Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Buffy)!