You say good-bye...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

...and I say hello.

This blog is a'movin'. We're shifting to Wordpress, because it's prettier and we can do more with it.

The link is NOW:

Update your links, ye foolish mortals!


If everyone really hates it to death, we can always move back.

Your father's ghost.

This is for Lori, because she's working with Hamlet right now and needs any attempt at work ethic destroyed.

But since I am an enormous fan of old text adventure games (have you played Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? No? For shame.) I thought I would share it with the world.

Here you go. The Hamlet Text Adventure Game.

(even better, did you ever play Starship Titanic? You must. It may be old, but it's stunning. It's not like having a conversation with Douglas Adams or Terry Jones, but it's like having long discussions with characters only they could come up with. I spent so much time just talking to robots and not even furthering the story.)

Why I am ever a writer

This morning, on his blog, Neil Gaiman talked about why he loves being a writer...and of course, he's right on all points. Those are the same reasons which make me delight and thrill in writing. Because even though there are the bad days, where you strongly suspect that everything you write is just cleverly worded crap which everyone is going to see through, there's the other days when the whole thing is taut and singing. I think of it as an orchestra: Some days, it's tuning, some days the whole bulk of instruments is playing Night on Bald Mountain or something, and you know it's good.

But there's another part of writing which I really enjoy.

I am working on my next novel The Nondescript, although since I'm racing with several people (you know: almost the entire reading audience of this blog), I'm not actually writing anything for it. I'm not even making notes or outlining, because I just don't outline very well. The only work I've done, and will do, beforehand was I sat down with a piece of paper and worked out my timeline. It's a historical novel, after all: everything needs to line up. Since I wasn't alive in the first half of the 20th Century, I have to do some research.

But regardless of writing things down, I'm putting things together in my head. It's what I do. I know quite a large portion of my cast of characters and what they want (and what they'll get) and I know how my beginning goes and everything.

(An aside: That's why I'm doomed in this race. Every other time I've raced and won by a huge margin, I was in the middle of the book. The beginning has been figured out, the ending is not yet arrived, so all I have to do is find my rhythm and sprint. But here, I'm starting page one, word one, at the very start. Doomed, doomed.)

Last night, lying in bed and thinking about Chapter One, I suddenly realized that I knew the story of what I think will be Chapter Eight, and it arrived whole and vivid and delightful and I was really thrilled to have it turn up.

I don't know that it'll be a popular chapter. Chapter Eight is titled Nigger-Town and concerns a hanging and a kiss, and it's a dark chapter in a book which is primarily a road-trip story and a love story. But I can't wait to write it.

That's what I love about writing, the bits that turn up later which I know what to do with. They inform the earlier bits (this tells me that the other chapters have titles, and I think all the titles are names or descriptions of towns; it also tells me about one of the characters who will appear previous to Chapter Eight). It will also inform the mood of the story thereafter. I also think that maybe, that's where the violence starts.

I'm really looking forward to this novel.

I'm in frantic Rome Novel Finishing Mode. I really want to have the first draft done by October 31st. I know everything in detail from now to the ending, the trick is just sitting down and putting all the remaining words in cunning order, as Douglas Adams once said. Coming up next is a big battle scene which is a logistical and combative nightmare, for reasons I can't research. So I have to write slow, think fast, and hope I turn it into something worth reading.

Okay, I'll go write now. No, I'm going. See?

Is "Nano" a Verb? And Is "Nanoing" a Word At All?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Who cares. I'm throwing caution to the wind and singlehandedly destroying the English language by my careless usage! MUWAHAHAHAHAHA!!

*puts down the crack pipe*

Like Pete, my circumstances have changed drastically from where I was last year. Last year, I didn't have time to do Nano. This year, I have all the same stuff going on I had last year, plus a full time job. So what do I do?

I decide to Nano.

What the hell was I thinking?!

Actually, I was thinking quite a bit. Writing has, understandably, fallen by the wayside. I have all these ideas, and no time to do anything with them. So I figure that now is as good a time as any to "force" myself into writing something. I'm excited about my story, and I think it'll pan out very well. I've stolen the title from another WIP I had a brief idea for. Hey, it was my title, I'll reassign it if I want to. So there. Besides, I'm in love with the title. (But not so much that I wouldn't change it for a big fat advance. LOL) I'm really excited to get to work on Jericho Road. So excited that I've even been making notes here and there. I wouldn't go so far as to say I've been working on an... outline... *shudder* but I'm firming up some ideas.

I'm not sure I'll get anywhere near 50,000 words, but even if I only get to 10K, that's a damn good start, and it's a lot more than I'll have if I don't get my butt in the chair and do it, right? At this point, I'm hoping to reach the 50,000, but I promised myself I wouldn't get disappointed if I didn't make it. There's a shitload going on in my life, and things just don't work out the way I want them to sometimes. Lots of times.... Okay, most times.

So I will try my best, but I'm not beating myself up if I don't hit the target. Anyway. I'm carrieinpa over at the Nano website if you want to look me up!

NaNo(o Nanoo)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I haven't talked about my next novel very much here, mostly because my head's all full-up with my Rome novel right now. But my next novel is on my mind for a couple of reasons: First, because I'm doing research for it tonight (the TV was too loud, I couldn't work on Rome) and second, because the day I begin it is fast approaching.

I decided that I was going to give the whole National Novel Writing Month thing a shot. Why not? I'm a stay-at-home dad this year, I'm a full-time writer, I love writing in the public eye and racing deadlines. The deadline here is two fold, though. It means that I have to finish my Rome novel by October 31st, that way I can start on November 1st on my next project.

(That's why I put the Rome Novel word counters on the side of the blog: it's public accountability. I don't exactly think anyone's going to berate me if I don't turn in a reasonable word count, but it's public, and I know it's there. It's useful.)

My next novel is titled The Nondescript and it takes place in the 1940s, very heavily influenced by the works of John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, but also some Jack London (I'm discovering). It is, perhaps for properly the first time in my life, completely devoid of any science fiction or fantasy elements. It's a love story, a road trip story, a wartime story, and a murder mystery.

I'm planning, in November, to manage 100,000 words of it. That might be the whole length of the novel.

The interesting thing is that historical fiction seems to be my bent for the past while. Rome novel has some twists, but it's a historical novel at its core. This novel is unabashedly a historical novel, perhaps it even falls under mainstream. Very interesting.

(The research is a delight. I had to match up my dates tonight, to make sure what history in my head was remembered correctly and worked with the history of the world that year. They matched up better than I could have dreamed).

I think I'll post more about this novel during November. This is just a quiet mention because I'm doing research, and I'm thinking about the way my writing is shifting of late (as evidenced by my Winds of Change post, further down the page). So that's it.

Rome novel is potentially going to be hampered by the fact that I can feel a head cold laying bricks in my head. We'll see how much longer I remain an upright and viable member of the human race.

Speaking of which, I'm going to go lie down for a bit. Take care.

A crisis averted

(A note: I really hated titles like the one I've given this blog. I see them turn up all the time, for some reason, on fantasy novels and romance novels. A battle joined, a heart unloved, a man unmarried, a darkness rising. Sigh. They're just boring.)

The situation around here was getting pretty desperate for this past week. Tensions were really mounting, I was coming unhinged and uncertain how I would continue writing, let alone living a life and being an asset to my family. The problem was inescapable and it was swallowing my life.

I'd run out of tea.

It just happened that way. We're too busy for a trip to the Twin Cities, and frankly we're too poor to hit up the one store that sells any sort of loose leaf tea here in town (Byerly's).

So, bit by bit, the tea in the house had dwindled down to the desperate situation I was in yesterday morning: I had some African rooibos, another kind of rooibos that my wife owned and, because my sister was out of town, I could have a pot of her expensive white tea, mostly because she wasn't there to stop me. I was jonesin'! I was even reduced to making pots of tea using, I can do this....bags. I was in a real bad place.

(Rooibos tea is delicious and I love it no end, but it's non-caffeinated and, like green tea, is cleansing and calming and relaxing tea. So it mostly makes me sleepy. I'm trying to finish my Rome novel by October 31st! I don't need sleepy and cleansed! Plus, one can only drink so much Rooibos.)

Perhaps you doubt those were the only teas I had? All right, you've got me: I have a tin of Irish Breakfast, and Yorkshire Gold. Both of which produce such a thick, harsh, bitter tea that I find it undrinkable, despite my best efforts. Milk hasn't helped. Neither have a bit of honey. They taste nearly like coffee. They don't count.

Also, I knew that Lori Basiewicz was sending me tea. This was for a bet we had, racing to see how much of our respective novels we could finish in a given amount of time. I was in mortal terror, picturing her as this great machine, rolling and churning and steaming and sending out a constant stream of thousands of words a day. So I kicked into high gear, in terror every time I stopped, and turned out well over twenty thousand words in the week we raced. She, to my chargrine, was apparently a bit busy and wound up writing less and editing what she had.

So she owed me tea and she'd just now mailed it out. So I knew that, on Wednesday of this coming week, I can expect a package with Indian tea in it. I'm delighted, because I've never had Indian tea and have no idea what to expect. But Wednesday is a lifetime away!

Yesterday, a god smiled down upon me and had mercy. I think it was Bacchus.

First, my sister got home from visiting my parents, who live in Washington D.C. right now.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I chortled in my joy. She had brought me tea from a really nice tea store down there. Orange spice. I've had a pot last night and it tastes like love. Which is such a stupid description, but there you go. It's delicious, it's got the sharp undercurrent of spice, a taste of orange which appears on the back of your throat (and as the tea cools) and the whole thing tastes warm and filling and invigorating. Magnificent stuff.

Several hours later, my wife and I went grocery shopping, which was a logical progression from the realization that we had no food. We shopped for the better part of an hour. I had mentioned earlier that I wanted to stop by the tea aisle and buy a box of Constant Comment tea bags, as an emergency supply for the next time I ran out of proper tea.

We nearly forgot. We were almost done and back up to the front of the store. It's an easy aisle to forget: three-fourths of it is full of baby stuff, the last bit is mostly coffee with tea wedged in as an afterthought.

I went down the tea bit, I picked up my box of Constant Comment, and then I looked to my left...

...and discovered that my grocery store all of a sudden sold loose leaf tea.

Not just that! They sell it in the large pouring containers that are common in most grocery stores with coffee beans: you put the bag over the nozzle and tilt the handle and coffee pours out. They have it for tea now! Not the highest quality, I think (I've never heard of the brand) but loose leaf no less and fairly cheap.

They had two rows, perhaps sixteen or twenty varities. So in giggly delight, I got some Earl Gray, because life is better with that, and I got a couple ounces of China Gunpowder tea, because I've never had it and always wanted to try it. They also had Black Currant tea and English Breakfast tea, the other two that immediately jumped out at me. My wife bought some fruity teas which are sometimes not too bad.

If there is a god of tea, he has rewarded my faith well unto this life. I am a saved soul! Or, in the passive sentence theme I started with my blog title, I am A Soul Saved, or A Soul that was to be saved, if we want to get wildly passive.

I can't talk anymore. I have to go drink tea!

Things Sane People Don't Do

Saturday, October 13, 2007

As anyone who talks to me on a regular basis -- in a situation where I'm prone to musing -- can attest to, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about fairly insane things which I would love to do and then write an article about them. Vague? Yeah. I have a big series of long articles which would be physically grueling (and a bit dangerous) that I would love to try to do. I don't want to go into detail on that one because I still do hope, someday, to carry it out. My wife, who is sane and patient and has a more normal view of danger than I do, thinks that it's an awful idea and doesn't want me to do it (which is why I'm not, right now). I am ever hopeful.

Anyway. One idea which has just crossed my mind at the moment, which I could feasibly try without too much difficulty -- because it doesn't involve leaving the house -- would be along article chronicling going several days and nights without any sleep at all.

What I've read on the internet indicates that one can actually go a fair amount of time without sleep (one discussion claims thirteen days to a month). This is lunatic and not at all practical. What I wonder about, though, is three days, four nights. Something like that. And while I'm doing that, I would still go about my day to day stuff, see how that changes as I run down on sleep. I would also keep a running document going on the laptop and I add to it now and then, as things change.

I don't know that it would make a valuable article to anyone (for one thing, I bet it's been done), but it would make an interesting blog article. And it would be interesting to try.

Partly because there are shows like Survivorman as well as Morgan Spurlock's fascinating 30 Days series.

(I think that if I weren't a writer-with-family, I would be some sort of weirdo survivalist)

That's the sort of nutty things I come up with and go "Cool, how can I feasibly do that?"

(I'm not completely nuts: My second thought is always how can I do this safely?)

Icky Thud

Friday, October 12, 2007

I just broke the blog layout. Never fear. I'll either repair it, or break it worse. What could go wrong?

Icky Thump

Well, I did it. I shored up my courage and I...canceled God in the Machine.

I was nervous about doing it, I felt ashamed for it, as if I'd given in. In a way I have. These things don't work for a huge number of reasons. For me, the series worked all by itself, but *I* couldn't physically manage it. I talked about it a bit on the site.

Ten minutes after pulling the episodes and writing my apologetic newspost, I felt 1) Relieved at not having to turn out another episode and 2) Excited that I can now spend today, tomorrow, and ever-more time working on my Rome novel. Really excited about that.

I think those two feelings confirm that, shame aside, this was the right thing to do.


Yesterday, Rllgthunder mentioned in a comment section that I'd been blogging a lot more. The reason for that is, I have dramatically scaled back exactly what I'm doing on the computer. I have limited myself to E-mail, to posting on this blog, and to posting on Lori's blog. That's it. No IM, no AW, nothin'. If I want to kill time beyond that, I go off onto the internet and read interesting articles and learn things. Or I read...books. Mostly, because none of those things are immediate interactivity required (the things I'm limited to), it means I'm more easily willing to forget about the browser and just write away. I've done nine thousand words in the past two days. I don't know how much I'll get done today, but by Saturday night, I full intend to hit 80,000 words in my Rome novel.

I mapped it out. I was planning for two weeks until the end of October, with a few random days on the side for God in the Machine episodes. Now, I have over two weeks -- almost three? -- to finish writing Rome. I can absolutely do that. Then, for November, I will put Rome totally aside and write the first draft of The Nondescript for NaNo. Then, come December, I will return to Rome to edit and revise and start sending out query letters (don't make me write one. Please? I hate query letters) and trying to sell it.

I figure mid-December, early January, I'll start writing God in the Machine as a trilogy of books, which I can do without losing anything from the story.

So there's my day. I'm going to go have a celebratory drink of tea in honor of failing at the online game. (Smiley face goes here.)

Addendum: I have just realized, with no small amount of irony attached, that in a post made on this very blog in January of this year, I touched upon...well...mostly everything that I'm touching on right now. 1) Robots. 2) AW 3) Trying to get away from technology. Yessir, when it comes to consistently touching, I'm your guy. (Please don't send me to jail.)

I can has no technology plz?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Slowly, slowly, I've been getting more and more disgruntled with technology, something which is fairly easy to do since I'm a technology junkie and have a house full of the stuff. I think a lot of this came about at the same time as my television interests changed, as well as all the mental alterations I talked about below (in Winds of Change, and now I'm whistling it again...)

So, the result is that I have a large volume of technology in the house, all of which I'm finding specific reasons not to have in my life. It's not healthy for me as a writer, and perhaps for me as a human being. Whether or not it's doing you any good either, dear reader, is up to you. This may be a problem only to me.

Let me list technologies and complain about them in turn.

1) iPod - The iPod was a big deal for me. I do not have a driver's license, I never have, as I've mentioned previously on this blog. This is because I had no interest in driving when I was a teenager, so I never bothered to get one. The iPod was big deal because I walk everywhere, which affords me plenty of time to listen to music. HOWEVER... the problem was, I realized that I was going for walks with headphones on and plugging myself into all sorts of noise. This was just an escalation of the problem that presented itself when I got my current cell-phone, a Motorola SLVR, which has a built in MP3 player of sorts. Noise! Noise! Noise! So I stopped bringing the iPod on walks several months back and watched as ideas formed in my head better. Less noise.

2) DVR Cable box - This might be TiVo to you, but we have a local sort of box from our cable company. You know the deal: I can record TV shows, I can pause, fast forward, re-wind live television, all that yaz, right? Right. HOWEVER... several nights ago, when we discovered that we had three television shows set to record at the same time, we knew that the box could only record two shows at once. That meant if we wanted to see the third program, we had to watch it on a different television. So my wife and I went to the bedroom and watched it on the small TV there. THAT cable box has no special features. What we realized was that during the commercial breaks, which we could not skip, we talked more. We got up and did things. In short, we didn't sit there and vegetable in front of the TV all the way through the program. The DVR box is another noise problem. It means I have all the content I want without any pauses, any moments of free thought. That's bad.

3) Napster - Napter is more of the same. The joy and the curse of Napster is that I instantly have a huge library of music right at my fingertips. I don't even download the songs most of the time, I can just add them to my Now Playing box and instantly have tons of things to listen to. HOWEVER... I very quickly realized that I was spending time building playlists and choosing really exciting and fun music at any given moment. That meant that I wasted time choosing music, and when chosen, the music was what I was interested in right that moment and was, therefore, distracting. I have therefore set up a big bulky stereo on a book shelf just next to where I work. It's big and loud enough to fill the house, when I want it to. It's permenantly tuned to my local Public Radio station which plays really enjoyable classical music. That's what I get in my day, when I want music. I can enjoy it, I can work around it. It's not noise, it's an enjoyable background sound.

4) Instant Messaging Programs - This is a fairly small and simple problem, although it was proving to be problematic. I get very tied to the program when I'm talking to someone. Whatever I do around the house, I do it within vicinity of the computer so I can see when a new message comes in. Plus, if it's a good conversation, I wind up spending the day enjoying that instead of writing.

5) Message Boards (forums) - Again, this is a pretty specific problem. I only visit one message board. Absolute Write. I tend to come and go from there in spurts, for reason which I will keep mostly to myself (perhaps you can guess; I wouldn't be surprised). Every now and then, I get too enamored in some conversation, usually an irrelevant one and again, I wind up paying too much attention there. The problem is that, as with all this other stuff, it just becomes noise and I wind up not thinking and not writing.

My head isn't anywhere where I can work with all this stuff. So I wind up losing hours out of my day, miserable and depressed. This in turn affects my relationship with Zach. I have noticed that today, which I spent almost entirely internet and technology free, Zach and I had the first day where we were peaceful. He was never crying, I was never angry and yelling. That's a big step for us. I think they're related.

It's too much noise. Society, if you'll pardon thirty seconds of preachy crap, is just full of noise and instant gratification and noise. We live in the contradictory age where we are absolutely inundated and obsessed with ways to communicate with each other...and yet we are almost incapable of communicating with each other and we avoid thinking.

Mostly, I wind up reading about authors of the past and admiring people like Rudyard Kipling, with his technology-free life, his beautiful estates where he walked, his large desk where he wrote by hand.

I write on computer mostly out of necessity, and this is one piece of the technology addiction I cannot escape: I am painfully aware that it takes me far, far longer to write a thousand words on paper than on computer and I don't always have that luxury. Or I don't have the patience for it. I still write by hand a great deal. Never all. Never enough.

I adore my fountain pen. I like that I go through ink cartridges because it gives the sense of producing something, just like going through sheafs of paper does.

When I had it, as I stated in the comments section of a previous post, I really adored the hell out of my typewriter. Man-o-man.

So there. My technology rant. I'll try not to rant anymore, but I think I've got one more coming. But that one, I think I'll turn into an article and sell for some cashy-money. Yes.

What bits of technology are you aware are an impediment (or beginning to think of as one) in your life and want to get rid of? And are you going to?

No, NOW I'm going to write...

I was just heading offline when I saw, via Yahoo! News that Doris Lessing has won a Nobel prize.

That just makes me happy. I haven't read her most well-known work The Golden Notebook, but I have enjoyed the bits of her material I have read.

So I went off and found an interview with her, from 1999, and I enjoyed that even more. What a wonderful woman. I should love to sit down and talk to her.

Also, Harold Bloom didn't want her to win. So that makes me happy. Because if I haven't mentioned it here before, Harold Bloom is a stuck-up asshole of cataclysmic proportions. He's as snobbish as Nabokov. I am embarrassed by the both of them.

So now, made happier and prouder to be a writer after reading her interview, I'm going to go do some writing myself.

Addendum: And her reaction to winning the prize is charm itself. I hope I'm so charming at eighty-eight years old, but fear that when someone comes round to tell me I've won a prize, I'll be yelling at them to bugger off my lawn while throwing rocks at squirrels, or something. (When you read this article, watch the little video clip available on the left side of the article. She's fun to listen to. What a nice person.)

Brain Games

I've been thinking, off and on all week, that I should discontinue God in the Machine before it gets rolling too far along and I wind up disappointing both readers who enjoy it.

The reasoning is easy: It's not making money. I am a stay-at-home parent and full-time writer, which therefore means I need to Make Money, Damn It. Time spent writing robots is time not spent finishing my Roman novel and getting it out there, or preparing notes for my next novel (which I'm going to talk about a little further in an upcoming post).

On the other hand, I like having a serial, most of the time. The weekly schedule was a horrible idea, because I burned out badly on it (and I quietly think you can tell when you read Voice, Echo, Silence, Part 2; and the difference is huge compared to Voice, Echo, Silence, Part 3, which was written in a much less burnt-out state). But it's kind of fun.

So mostly, I've been indecisive about keeping it, just as I was indecisive about starting it in the first place. I just keep writing. It's the easiest option.

Then, yesterday, as I'm lying in bed wondering why I thought a biiig mug of caffeinated tea was such a super idea before bedtime, the story of God in the Machine arrives in my head, neat and tidy and entirely capable of being told in novel form. A long novel, but a single novel nonetheless.

That was one of the reasons I made it a serial in the first place: Because the story was just too long and too complex to be told in anything less than several novels. Maybe you can get a hint of that through the episodic format, maybe not. Regardless, that was a mighty tempting revelation. I like to think it'd make a pretty good novel.

Which is not to say I'm ending the series or anything. I'm just stewing.


I spent three happy hours yesterday writing my Rome novel (have I told you the title of it yet? No? It has one, finally. I'm very pleased). This chapter, oddly enough, is structured like a stand-alone episode, as if the Roman novel were a serial. I'm wondering if the remaining chapters will structure themselves like that. I really wouldn't mind. I wonder if they would have done it anyway, or if this is the result of my other major project being a serial.

If so, that's a good reason to keep doing a serial. I write best in that format (I don't know if you can tell. The robot stories come faster and easier and more confidently. I know when I've written something good. I know when it sings and when it rasps. I can play a serial like a musical instrument. With novels, I'm like a man in an iron lung with a tuba).


I am technically Not On The Internet Thank You. This is because I realized, yesterday, that I had gone beyond moderation and was spending all my time online. I don't have good middle gears, so when something like this happens, I just cut myself off the internet almost entirely and go do other things until I can approach the internet with some sensibility. So I am answering my e-mail in the morning and in the evenings (when my wife is home and I am therefore less likely to spend much time online). The only reason I'm posting this is, I'm eating lunch.

I'm still on the computer too much, I just flick the switch that turns off the wireless internet. I wish I had an old electric typewriter, I think I'd do some articles and short stories on that and be a happy camper. Of course, living in an apartment makes this impractical. My neighbors would think I'm firing off guns at 100-shots-per-minute. Then again, if they came and complained, I could dispatch them much easier with a heavy typewriter than with a small laptop. It's the difference between hitting someone with a baseball bat and a loofah.

And now I'm blithering. So I'll head back offline, thank you so much.

Winds of Change

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Unlike the song, "Winds of Change," I will not begin this article by whistling at you for a very long time.

What I'm talking about today started when I was eleven years old. I remember it very distinctly, it's been something I've thought about over the years.

One day, when I was in my room, I looked down at my action figures for whatever reason and I realized that I had gone days, perhaps weeks, without playing with them. Moreover, I realized this didn't particularly bother me any.

Prior to this, I played with them constantly. They were my first storytelling medium, before and during my discovery of things like pens and papers, and typewriters, and eventually computers. They were all individual characters with histories and personalities. The adventures and stories were long-running and as episodic and detailed as anything I've done so far with God in the Machine. I never really played with anyone else -- at least, not in this manner -- for probably the same reason I don't collaborate with other writers easily today: Because it's easier just to do it myself, since I already know how it all goes.

But anyway: When I looked at them and realized that I was going lengthy periods of time without being interested in them, I thought very clearly, I have grown out of this and into new things.

Two things came with that: First, the feeling of sadness, the idea that something once loved was now just a memory and a shell. Secondly, the confusion and fascination at actually being aware of this moment.

The first was transitory and passed easily. I remember after this thought occurred, that I sat down on the floor and I played with them...but there was no joy in it. There was no creation. I was just going through the motions of games and stories told years prior, and I knew it. My interests were in new things. I had new books, I was writing steadily (steadily, hell, I was writing prolifically; I wish I could still write as fast and easily as I did when I was eleven). My games were more outdoors. There had been places I'd lived prior where it wasn't really safe to travel around the town, but this wasn't one of those places. This was a pretty good place, despite having the built-in fault of being located in Nevada. I had begun to discover music, as well as television. I was still a few years away from discovering the internet and the delight of multiplayer gaming. I had discovered girls, of course, because boys discover girls thirty seconds after they are born, but girls were still a different planet than me. It would be another three years before I would meet a pretty, funny girl who would eventually become my wife.

The second feeling, the confusion and fascination, is the bit which sticks with me over the years. In hindsight, what has always struck me about it is the awareness of the moment, of realizing "Here, at this moment, I have outgrown this" and knowing deep down that it really was true (and it was. I never played with them again).

Something I talked about at length in a previous article on this blog, Bags, Bones & Heartstrings, was the gifty-curse of self-awareness that writers have: that is to say that you could be crying your heart out and, somewhere in the back of your head, be thinking coldly so this is what it's like...

I think of my moment realization as being part of that same thing. It's the same cold piece saying "And this is where your interests shifted away entirely. You know this."
What got me thinking about this moment actively -- and discussing it here, in turn -- was the movie The Weather Man, with Nicholas Cage.

Bear with me here.

It was a terrific movie, I walked away from it feeling happy and thinking I would have liked to have written that. That was something of a new feeling toward that kind of movie.

This was in tandem with someone recommending that I check out a historical fiction sub-forum, over at AbsoluteWrite. I've been there for years and years and didn't even know it was there, so I happily went over. And while I was browsing, I realized that my current novel -- my Roman novel -- is not exactly historical fiction, but it's closer to that than anything else. And my next novel is set in the '20s and '30s and is very definitely a historical novel. In neither novel is there anything science-fictional, nothing fantasy, nothing really horror (except the mundane, grisly horrors that pop up in life out of certain situations; I mean there's nothing supernatural).

And I thought, very clearly, as if I were eleven again: I am not a science fiction writer.

I've been stewing on that for a couple of days now, and that meant I really thought about it. I've been getting enormous pleasure out of reading Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton, which is a space-opera sort of science fiction novel. Part of the enormous pleasure comes from the fact that I haven't read something like this with any enjoyment in a lot of years. So much of science fiction which I buy, perhaps out of habit, goes unread. Likewise, I don't particularly enjoy huge whallops of fantasy. Harry Potter was the last proper fantasy work I read.

There are still authors of the fantastic I read. Gene Wolfe is perhaps classified as science fiction, but I don't know that he really is entirely. Neil Gaiman writes fantasy, sure, I guess. I have no idea what genre you would put Stephen King into anymore (and don't care, I delight in him wherever he is).

The books I've taken bigger delight in reading, recently, have been things like Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem, a novel I began reading because it was about Roman soldiers and a novel which I finished reading because I just couldn't stop, it was too powerful. Or Pompeii, by Robert Harris, which was more or less the same situation. Beyond that, I read non-fiction, or I read much older science fiction and fantasy (where modern sci-fi is so frequently impenetrable to me, Isaac Asimov is still like an easy old friend).

And as I think further about this, I consider my television habits. Very abruptly, at the beginning of the summer which is now abandoning us, I lost all interest in the movie channels we had, in most of the re-runs, in most of the story-shows. I spent the summer devouring the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, the History Channel. I re-discovered a delight and enthusiasm in deep sea marine biology and watched all manner of programs on the topic, then wandered off to read and study. Science became more interesting to me than science fiction. The science of the future delighted me more than the science of the fantastic.

The disjointing part of all of this -- and the part where you perhaps begin to think I've gone utterly mad -- is the strange feeling in my brain, a sort of off-kilter feeling, as if I can feel the gears of my brain shifting over. It's like a factory that's shutting down so workers can program the equipment for new materials and molds. Is that a cheesy metaphor? Probably. But it's what I've got. I go back and forth on all of this as I think about it, but there's no denying the fact that my short stories -- as those who read them can attest -- grow more and more quietly fantastic and more about people. If there is a fantastic element, a science fiction element, it's deep in the background. And as I look at the novel ideas which I am excited about working on, they really aren't fantastic, except in the sense of people. There's no smash-bang Star Wars novel in my future, for example.

This is so much fun. What fun would writing be if nothing ever changed? I love the big shifts and the weird days of feeling off-kilter. Couldn't be more happy about it.

And now, I've gone on at great length about it too.