Thursday 24 January 2013

Windows 8 is effing scary

Apparently, Windows 8 decides when to update. It's not even telling you in advance. You can't switch it off or defer it. This is the total - utter - reduction of the computer user to the state of toddler. "There, there, we know what's good for you, don't you worry your pretty little head."

So, when I switched on my computer, the teal background turned purple and the system informed me I was logged into a temporary account and wouldn't be able to access my files. I couldn't get online, either (so not even to work on a file in GoogleDocs). My desktop background (where I have my current files) was pretty much empty. No files reachable OR visible.

Some hyperventilation later, I assumed it was the update. No progress bar told me how long it would take. Gods be thanked for my iPad to keep me entertained. I'd actually sat down to get back to work on my birds book. When the Muse is singing like a banshee, I want to write NOW. Windows 8 thought that was unacceptable. Or at least that update was much more important than me getting back into my file.

*shakes fist*

Can we find a way to not treat users like complete fools with only two brain cells rubbing together unhappily, please? What next? Computers who enforce the 40-hr working week or switch off mid-flow because they are concerned we're not getting enough sleep? (OVER MY DEAD STINKING CORPSE, BILL!)


Now back to writing the birds book. It's hard-going enough, without rebellious technology stepping on my dick.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

The value of short

Sometimes, I write short stories. Short stories, as described by a writer friend of mine are like little shards of glass lodged in our brain that you can only pull out by writing them down. Remembering her saying that, I try to remember whether she was talking about poems or short stories. For me, that's kind of the same thing. I can't write poems worth shit, though I've written a few until I realised I'm very much a prose writer and I'll never be anything more than a dabbler in poetry.

Still, sometimes that sense of urgency (or: bleeding in your brain) comes over me. A thought. A voice I can't shake. An image. ONE image. My Muse is being stingy - it's NOT a novella, it has no real plot (just an arch, because short stories still have a structure), it's not a novel, it's not a seven-volume fantasy saga. I won't spend the next 2.5 years of my life pumping out words. I'll ... just end up bleeding quietly on a page for a weekend, or a day, or a week.

Short stories come to me as perfectly formed pebbles of ancient glass washed onto a shore. There's almost no point to ask what they were - they are perfect in the shape that they are. (Usually, they are glass bottle bottoms, I've learned, but that's neither here nor there.) I accept them in their shape. My mind has dealt with stories for twenty-five years. It can tell the difference between a short story and a novella and a novel. I sometimes go wrong - Deliverance was actually a small series, Burn could easily be a novella, but that's me trying to write to specs, which usually goes hilariously wrong anyway.

Maybe it's like digging up a dinosaur. You find a bone. After some more digging, you can tell whether it's T-Rex's pinky or the leg bone of something much smaller. The work of digging remains absolutely the same. There's no difference for me in writing shorts or novels. If anything, it's much easier to fuck up a short story than a novel.

As my very wise friend said: "One weak word ruins a poem, one weak sentence ruins a short story, one weak chapter ruins a novel."

The margin of error is the difference. A gap of a centimeter might mean nothing when you're building a ship, but means everything when you're making jewelry.

Ships and necklaces are different things. Both take different skills. They are both desirable, in both cases you're making something to a purpose. Sometimes I have crazy ideas and can't push the Muse away, and then, I assure you, the same brain that wrote Skybound wrote Quid Pro Quo (my parts of the latter, anyway). I embrace the variety. I literally cannot say what I'll be writing next, because the Muse is like a high-speed train and I seem to ALWAYS stand on the rails, back turned towards it. It's not always coming; sometimes I stand there for days and weeks (busying myself editing, usually, going about my life). But when it comes, there's no negotiation.

Short stories happen to me. I don't ask for them, and very often, I don't get to negotiate how much of it I want. For example, I'm not withholding the novel "Skybound" from my readers, because it doesn't exist, not in my reality, it doesn't. (If it exists in YOUR reality, you have my blessing to dig out those bones...  they weren't in the ground I covered.)

There's no competition. I'm not "wasting my time" on shorts when I "should be" writing a novel. If the novel rolls over me, it will. I can carve diligently for months and years on a novel, if that's its natural speed. I'm not going to ruin my T-Rex skeleton with hastily blowing it out of the rock with TNT.

Sometimes, I can hold two or three different things in my head at the same time. Sometimes, I get sidetracked by TEH SHINY. That's fine. I'm allowed to enjoy my work and follow my joy every now and then. I'm not a stone-grinding slave somewhere, I'm not a worker screwing in little monitors all day, seven days a week. My brain is allowed to play, because that's part of the joy of my work. I get assembly line-style work at my day job, but they pay me for it and I get pension and medical.

And I love the little things I build as much as the big things. It might sound like sacrilege, but if all of my work burned in a fire on the internet, I'd hope to save Skybound, of all things. (Silvio can fend for himself in that fire. There's no fire strong enough to exorcise that little demon.) There's no competition for me between Skybound and Special Forces. One has given me nothing but joy. The other - much less so.

I do wonder when small forms (poems, short stories) have become "less valuable" than novels. I've never before encountered the attitude of, put bluntly, and so common on Goodreads: "I loved this, but it was only a short story, so I'm only giving it 3 stars." (No, this post has not been brought on by a review of one of my shorter works - I've seen this for a long time and I remain flabbergasted by it.) Since when is quantity = quality?

Similarly reviewers who write things like: "This is badly flawed and needs 500 pages cut out if it, but it's so big, it's a five-star read."

Is it the emotional attachment you build while reading a gazillion pages? Is it an attempt to slap the author ("stop selling me short things, I want a novel, and if I keep griping over the shortness, you'll write one, won't you? Why aren't you at your desk yet?")? Is it an inability to appreciate small things for what they are? Or is it a desire to reward novel-length work for length alone? The logic goes like this: Only novels can be 5-star reads, and even a very good short story can only get three stars, because I can't possibly give a short story five stars AND a novel five stars, because I just prefer novels?

(And I agree, short stories are not novels, but personally, I rate anything I rate on its own merits. I rate a poem as a poem, and not as a "not-novel", which would mean it can't help but fall short anyway, because I do tend to enjoy reading novels more than poems. However, few novels have punched me in the brain like some poems. For delivering that famous two-inch killing blow, no other form does it so well than a poem. Hell, a single sentence can do it, but it'll have that "concentration of force/intent" that makes a poem in the first place.)

Maybe it's even money, though personally I'd rather pay 2.99 for a very good short story than a dog's dinner of a 250k self-published novel. I wouldn't read the latter for free, because really the only irreplaceable thing you can spend on this planet is the time of your life it takes you to read.

It's difficult.

But when I feel the rails vibrate, feel that wave of energy cresting in my soul, I honestly don't care. I only hope, whatever's coming over me, that it'll be good and that I'll be able to do it justice with what powers I have, few as they may be. 

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Who's your daddy?

The new year is 3 weeks old, and I've been incredibly busy with stuff. Mostly writing and editing, as can be expected. I have a number of releases lined up already - thanks to a shocking amount of productivity because of teaming up with LA Witt. I can't believe we wrote two novels, two novellas and two short stories  since we started working together somewhen in late October/early November?

As I write this, Quid Pro Quo has stormed the Amazon bestseller lists, hitting #13 and #17 in a couple, and around 3,000ish in the overall sales. I think it's the fastest-selling thing I've done in my life.

Four more things are in edits: two Market Garden novellas that link into each other are currently in developmental edits, which means they might jump on my desk any moment now. Our WWII novel had its guts torn out already. I've also completed the first edit of Scorpion, which will be re-released with a new edit and a new cover. So that's two novellas and two novels for 2013. I'm already feeling very productive.

And then I'll try to tackle the edits of the Market Garden novel (which is completed in first draft and is currently "resting"). Three novels and three novellas.

Extremely pleased, here. I'm hoping to add a few more during the year, but the "Oh my god, I have no releases for 2013!" panic is dealt with. It takes some pressure off, and I do want to write the Scorpion sequel between now and May, so that'll be a solo work I'm doing soon.