Monday, June 08, 2015


My mood has been glum for a while. It shouldn't be this time of year. It's June. The day is sunny. "The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn: God's in His heaven— All's right with the world!" And so on. I think I am not doing enough writing. That means I had better get out to the coffee shop and do more proofreading. The sooner I finish the proofreading, the sooner I can get back to writing new work.

Also, I need more getting out and walking and more SFF cons. There is one coming at the end of June and one at the end of July. I'm fairly introverted, which means cons can be difficult. But I think I may stirring up. An unrest cure. (The last is a reference to a Saki story.)

C.L.R. James

A comment asked me if I knew of anyone (besides me) who might dream of C.L.R. James.

I used to know people in Detroit who knew James from his time in the US, and I wouldn't be surprised if they dreamed about him. He was a very impressive guy. He could easily haunt one's dreams. His book on Moby-Dick got me to read M-D, which I very much enjoyed. He saw the Pequod as an ocean-going factory with a multicultural crew. (Multicultural sounds so weird in a 19th century context. -- A crew of sailors from all over the world.) So you get a job at a factory, and you realize that the boss is insane, which is a common experience. And you cannot walk out the factory gates, because you are on a ship.

Of course, there are many times when you can't walk out the factory gates. You know you won't be able to find another job. You can't afford to leave this job, even though the boss is insane.

Anyway, it's great way to read Moby-Dick.

I put a character based on James in my novel A Woman of the Iron People. It's a bit part, based on the one time I met James, and the character is in no way equal to James as a historian and thinker.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


This is in response to s friend, who wrote (correctly) "writing is hard, it's not supposed to be easy, (and this) comes into direct conflict with the market reality that you need to produce frequently and consistently to succeed commercially."

My comment was:

There are people who succeed without writing a lot and publishing regularly. William Gibson comes to mind. What about George Martin? He writes big books, but they don't come out quickly. However the rule seems to be frequent books, always on schedule. Either you do this, or you are likely to have a less impressive career. I opted for the less impressive career. I'm a slow writer, and I can find a lot of things more interesting than writing. There is a trap, which I got caught in. If you can't make a living by writing, you need a day job. The day job reduces the time you have for writing, which means you write less and writing takes longer, and you are less likely to be able to build a career. Some people are absolutely driven to write and publish and make time for the writing. I don't think I was ever that driven.

Discipline also helps, along with drive. I'm not sure I have enough.

I have two other problems. I want my stories to be the best I can do, and that may take more time. And I don't want to write the same story twice. The easiest way to make production is to repeat yourself. An assembly line doesn't work if every car is different.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More on the Visit

Today was the Minneapolis Art Institute. We saw the Raphael Madonna on loan from London, a show of contemporary Native American art, a collection of 20th century American art recently donated to the museum, the African Art Gallery, some of the East Asian collection. My brother and I stopped by the Jade Mountain, which we grew up with, since it comes from the Walker Art Center. My brother said it was more fun when it wasn't in a plexy case, and we could walk our fingers up the mountain's carved stairs. Then we checked out the museum shop. I bought a scarf and a museum membership. The advantage of having a visitor is -- we do things we don't do enough, such as visiting the Institute.

In many ways the high point was a painted metal sculpture from Africa: a coffin in the form of a giant crayfish. I want to be buried in something like that. The artist, who is contemporary, has also done a coffin in the form of a giant cell phone. Patrick wants to see that. I am happy with the crayfish.

We then went to Northland Visions, a Native American store not too far from the Institute. I bought some wild rice and a beaded key ring for my brother's wife. The one I gave her previously is debeading. The wife of the couple who established the store was there. We asked about her son, who is currently running the store. He just made a trip to France to pitch Native-American-harvested wild rice to French chefs. Apparently the stuff the French call riz sauvage is fake, actually black rice from Indonesia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Today we drove south along the river and looked at eagles. One pair were chasing each other and dodging at each other. Courting, maybe. A bright, warm day. Dinner was Thai. And so to bed.

Wiscon 2

I overslept, having a complicated dream about a road trip which seemed to involve C.L.R. James. The person in question was older, thin, black and irritable, which is the way James was the one time I met him. I no longer remember where we were going (it was a group) or why, but it seemed important at the time. Given the fact was James was included, it might have been a trip to the socialist future.

I had one insight, if you can call it that, during Wiscon. All my writing lately has been finishing projects. I don't like finishing projects. I like the first draft. This suggests that I ought to allow myself a first draft now and then to keep me happy with writing

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I'm usually exhausted by cons. Too many people. Too much input. This year I tried to pace myself, because I knew I was going to have a visit from my brother right after the con. (He flew into the Twin Cities yesterday, on his way to the West Coast.) As soon as I recover a little bit from the con, I start planning the next year. I have ideas for new panels. I have people I missed spending time with.

My brother is easy to have in town. Today we went to Target, so he could get things such as a comb, which he had forgotten to pack. Then lunch at an Indian restaurant, then all of us came back to the apartment building to take naps. Naps were followed by a light dinner at a local coffee house. We left when the incoming band began to test the sound system, came back and went to our separate places to read and be quiet.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I have picked up another panel at CONvergence from Lyda Morehouse, who wanted to drop off it. It's on writing career setbacks and how you deal with them. I used to do a panel at Minicon titled "Psychological Survival for Science Fiction Writers," but gave it up after a couple of people told me they had left the room in tears. No one wants to hear how difficult a writing career can be. So I actually have an idea of the things I want to say.

Mostly, decide what you want out of writing, and then use that as a measure. Do you want self-satisfaction, pro sales, critical acclaim, a cult following, vast fame, pots of money,? If you discover you can't get what you want, consider modifying your goals. Goals should be a stretch, but they shouldn't be impossible.

Take care of yourself: exercise, eat well, avoid illegal drugs and large amounts of alcohol. If you feel depressed, see a doctor. There are medications that can help.

Find good friends and readers and listen to them. People who don't listen rarely become good writers. (Emily Dickinson did, but she is a special case.) Join a writing group. Most important of all, celebrate every good thing that happens: a good panel, a sale, a good review, a person coming up to you and mumbling, "I liked your story." One of the the best things about the Wyrdsmiths, my writing group, is that every time something good happens in your writing career, you have to buy coffee for the rest of the group. This forces even dour people like me to celebrate.

Life is short, and writing is often difficult. Celebrate everything you can.

Find things in your life that give you pleasure other than being on the New York Times bestseller list. You shouldn't rely on a single thing for happiness.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Upcoming Cons

I'm doing only three events at Wiscon (which is Memorial Day weekend) : one panel on writing, a reading and the signout. There are two events I want to attend: Pat Murphy's midlife crisis for writers discussion and Naomi's Kritzer's nuts and bolts for midcareer writers. Otherwise, I plan to hang out on the 12th floor and talk to friends.

I am on only one panel at CONvergence (which is the weekend of the Fourth) : a panel on Georgette Heyer on Saturday afternoon. I think that's enough. I ought to kill that panel. I have Heyer close to memorized.

Speaking of age, I think I have reached the age when I don't have to self promote a lot. I yam what I yam.