blood geek

I’ve been doing some clean-up work on my blog, trying to eliminate duplications and other messes that happened long ago when I transferred it from LJ to Dreamwidth. It’s never been a high-priority thing, but something I dip into when I’m in the mood to do something fairly mindless (and kidding myself it’s productive). (Or as a time waster instead of writing, but we won’t talk about that.)

I ran across an old post from June of 2011 which was just at the beginning of my caregiving for my mother when she was on peritoneal dialysis and still able to do most things for herself. That changed in September of that year when she had her stroke—but that’s not the point of this post. Apparently, in June I had just finished my last read through/clean up of my second completed novel, Blood Geek. I think maybe I had the idea of self-publishing. That idea was overtaken by my mother’s illness and never came about. It’s just as well, I suppose. It was a decent effort, but not my best work.

But that’s not the point of this post, either. In the above-referenced post I was talking about the strange parallel of writing a novel (almost twenty years prior at that point) about a woman whose early life had been constrained by caring for her sick mother. She was just about to break free and live life for herself. In 2011 I was rather amazed by the “haunting echo, now that I am helping to care for my own mother, that keeps bouncing through the chambers of my heart. It’s a little disturbing. I knew more than I thought I knew back then.” But in June of 2011 I had no idea, really, of what was to come, how consuming caregiving would be, how it would leave no room for anything but working and caring, how it squeezed out all time for anything like creativity.

But again, that’s not the point of this post. This is, this paragraph I came across:

And now I am in a different phase of my life. I have no vision for what comes next. I can’t see that far beyond the day-to-day. I do know that when I get back to writing something new again, I don’t want it to echo that day-to-day in the slightest. Which is not to say I might not use some of these characters again—in fact, I fully intend to. But they will be engaged in some other enterprise, something that blows the doors open to other worlds with no fences.

What blows the doors off my mind on this day, in 2020, is that I am writing new things again, and the new novel I’m writing does involve some of the same characters—in a whole new enterprise, a whole new process of growth and transformation. (And I am going through that transformation with them.) I haven’t really thought about these characters much in the last nine years, although one of them, Carmina, kept popping up now and then to insist she had a story I really needed to tell. I poked at her story over the years, but beyond the first two chapters, nothing gelled. I didn’t start last year thinking she will be the one. I started last year just trying to write something, anything. And then I wrote a completely different novel in a completely different universe. Also one I’d used before, but nothing to do with these characters.

Yet here I am. Happy and more than a little surprised that this fall Carmina’s story finally took off.

And that’s why I say that no story I have ever committed to paper or electrons (or, hell, even the ones that knock around in my head that I haven’t bothered to do that with) is every truly dead—until I am. Or until my brain blows out. Even my first completed novel, which if I have anything to say about it will never see the light of day, has produced nuggets that I have mined and used in later books. Like the clerk in the dead parrot sketch of Monty Python fame keeps insisting, these stories are not dead. Even if I’m not aware of them on a conscious level, they’re still in there. Resting.

It’s so odd writing again for characters I first created 5 novels ago (Jeremy, Susan, Carmina, Maff from Blood Geek). Kind of like meeting up with old friends you haven’t talked to in 20 years. You kind of know them, but you kind of don’t, and it’s partially getting to know them all over again but with this strange deja vu.

Oh, criminy! The December 19 Democratic debate is going to be held about two blocks from here, at Loyola Marymount instead of UCLA. Looks like I don’t leave the house that day.

The Lao Tzu quote I used for the November 8 random quote of the day is so ubiquitous that it appears on t-shirts and coffee mugs, but I couldn’t verify that he actually said it. I don’t normally like to use quotes I can’t verify because there’s already too much of that on the internet. And I try to avoid ubiquitous quotes altogether, because generally the more ubiquitous they are, the less likely they are to be an accurate attribution. But when I pulled this one out of my random quote file yesterday shortly after posting about learning to live with limitations on Twitter, I thought, “Okay, Universe, I get the message.” I felt I had to use it. So, “attributed to Lao Tzu” and adding to its ubiquitousness. (Any time I use “attributed to” it means I couldn’t verify the authenticity of the attribution but decided to use the quote anyway.)

An interesting article on art and arthritis:

We overcome what we must. I’m kind of in a place now where I’ve said to myself, “You can either limit yourself because of your legs [arthritis] or do what you are able to and not make excuses.” This is almost a daily argument I have with myself.

I think I finally turned the corner there (and I really am so much better off than so many others). I’m still limited but trying not to limit myself. It’s tough not to give in to despair and self-pity sometimes, though, when you can’t do things like you used to do. But that accomplishes nothing. The lady in the arthritis article come through it, too, after a requisite period of mourning.

Losing my eyesight would be utter devastation. I think of what it did to my mom. Her stroke left her with severe vision impairment and she’d been a visual artist all her life. But she never gave up, not until maybe the last six months of her life when other things started to take their toll.

I fear sight loss, too. But that’s a fear for another day, and not part of my current objective reality. We have to deal with what’s on our plate right now, and keep digging deep to find the resources to continue in some way to be who we truly are.

If I had an RV, I’d call my RV Maria.

Yoiks. So many talking heads in the chapter I’ve been working on, and characters standing around frozen until it’s their turn to talk. I look forward to the rewrites. A very long scene, and possibly told from the wrong POV, but talking heads are easy to write when you’re trying to get through a lot of information. Not so much interesting to read, though. I still look forward to the rewrites.

People love to hate, and they love dancing around in their underwear feeling superior to everyone else.

Here’s another interesting article: “Ancestor Worship with Mother Nature: How Indigenous Death Rituals Illuminate the Web of Life” by Maria Popova:

The worst earworms are ones that play in your sleep and every time you wake up the tune starts up. Or is that just me? For a week, every time I woke up “My Darling Clementine” started playing in my head. I finally had to unleash extreme countermeasures by singing “Brandy” to myself until that replaced it. Lately, they have improved considerably. “Brandy” was replaced by “Look At Me,” which is heavy rotation on a VW commercial right now, then “Ave Maria,” also in heavy commercial rotation (Amazon). But that has now been replaced by Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” which is not in a commercial but a gift from the gods. A much classier run of earworms.

1. There has not been much to report except the same old same old so I haven’t reported.

2. I continue to poke at The Numberless Stars, my Old California fantasy. Not really writing. I’m poking online research, specifically about the El Camino Real and the Los Angeles River and stuff. I’m obsessed with learning as much as I can. Considering that the bulk of the novel has nothing to do with these things, it seems a bit excessive, BUT I maintain that knowing that stuff, whether I use it or not, enriches the story.

3. I’m the girl who once read three books and countless partials on Robert Clive’s India for what wound up being one paragraph in my novel, Blood Geek. BUT, I do think all that informed the character of Jeremy Jones, the hero, so it wasn’t a waste.

4. I did a trip count Monday on the miles I drive on Monday and Wednesday when I come to work, go home at lunch, pick up Mom, take her to dialysis, come back to work, finish my shift, go home to feed the cat, go to pick Mom up at dialysis and thence back home. 52.4 miles on these days. I knew it had to be significant because I really notice the difference in my gas tank. Thank the gods it’s only twice a week.

5. I really must stop waking up at 4 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m usually a champion sleeper, but things have been screwy this week.

I’ve taken the week off from writing due to bad attitude. My attitude has improved mightily. I’m still going to take the week off from writing. The Universe has reinforced this decision by sending me a rejection this week on a story that’s been out for months.

‘Course, the message could just as likely be, “Get back to work.” Good thing I don’t believe in Cosmic Messages.

Except, of course, when I do.

Blood Geek was supposed to be a quick and dirty edit because My-God-I’ve-Edited-This-So-Much-Already-What-Could-Be-Wrong? But there’s that old Samuel Johnson quote, “The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully.” I’ve found the same to be true when I get close to actually releasing a piece of my writing to the world. I cannot see releasing something that I didn’t do my best job on.

So…I’m going to have to rewrite several chapters of Blood Geek because the voice is just wrong, wrong, wrong, and I’m going to have to rewrite a couple of other chapters from the ground up in order to make the heroine protag instead of thinking about protagging. I just can’t see any other way of getting around that. I’ve tried tinkering with the material that’s there countless times and it just doesn’t work.

I have examined my mind, my heart, my spirit to see if this is just a perfectionist delaying tactic, but I honestly don’t think it is. Whether anyone looks at this book or not, it’s still going to be out there. Why would I want it to be out there if it wasn’t the best book I could make it?

The rest of it reads pretty well to me. Decent escapist fare. So I’m going to take a week off, gird my loins, and get back to the dirty work next week.

I’m dying to write something new, itching for it, and I know just what novel I want to work on next. It’s been plumping in my mind for weeks now while I work on other things.

All of which is a good thing, except I can’t work on anything new because I’ve got to finish revisions on Blood Geek first. Then there’s the question of when to finish the next round of revisions on Venus in Transit. I wasn’t entirely happy with it when I got through with that last hard slog. I’m not talking about perfectionism here. I’ve long since given that up. I’m talking about having a workable draft, something I can polish and start sending out.

Yet if I diddle around too long with old ideas, I’m afraid the new idea will die on the vine. It might anyway, because as I’ve said before, my writing time is extremely limited these days. I’m determined to chip out time every day, but weekends have become very difficult, and mostly the default has become my lunch hour at work. That’s always been somewhat sacrosanct, but last week, even that got eroded away. I had to run errands at lunch every day last week. It made me despair a little. Or more.

But this week I’m back on track with my revisions and feeling generally better about a lot of things. I think Venus will have to wait, though she’s notoriously impatient. I really do believe I need to balance the old with the new, the revisions with the creation. Carmina has been talking to me consistently lately: low whispers while I sleep, a sudden bright snatch of song as the sun dapples the leaves while I’m driving to work, shared shadowy confidences while I move down a hallway and turn a corner.

She’s there. She’s waiting for me to be ready for her. I really think I have to follow her lead.

It’s funny the parallels life hands you. I’m currently doing the final polish on my old novel, Blood Geek, which has a heroine (Susan) who spent most of her youth caring for a sick parent. She’s ready to burst free of her constricted life, to explore the larger world in a way she’s never been able to before.

When I wrote this story I was much younger myself and imagining what it would be like to have your life defined by the illness of another. I had no experience of it in my real life. But there is this haunting echo, now that I am helping to care for my own mother, that keeps bouncing through the chambers of my heart. It’s a little disturbing. I knew more than I thought I knew back then.

How could I have? Because those parallels were not just about one thing, not just about the illness of a parent. They were about living a constrained life and wanting to break free. Back when I wrote this book, I had spent a number of years living such a fenced-in life, dealing with my own illness. I also was yearning to break free, to explore the larger world—in a way I’d once done before getting sick. The book was great therapy in that, although I’m not Susan and her life is not mine. It encouraged me to break free and I did for many years.

And now I am in a different phase of my life. I have no vision for what comes next. I can’t see that far beyond the day-to-day. I do know that when I get back to writing something new again, I don’t want it to echo that day-to-day in the slightest. Which is not to say I might not use some of these characters again—in fact, I fully intend to. But they will be engaged in some other enterprise, something that blows the doors open to other worlds with no fences.

I also know this, and the last week or so has only crystallized this “revelation”: creative work is not a luxury for me, although I’ve been treating it that way lately. Creative work is absolutely necessary. It helps keep me as sane as I’m ever going to get. It helps me breathe. I need that room to breathe or I, the me that means something, will cease to exist. I will become nothing more than another middle-aged woman going through a life of duty and chores. That person will not be worth knowing, and will not be a balm of comfort to an aging and ill parent, or anyone else. Including myself.

Creativity sets me free, no matter how limited my life is at any given time, to be the best person I can be. I will cling to it, thank you very much, as my golden-glowing life preserver until I slip beneath the waters of oblivion.

Revamped covers for Blood Geek—but first, a musical interlude:

Here’s the new mini version:

new small cover

And here’s the new click through version:

new clickthru cover

Please let me know if you think they are better than before.

I’m conducting an unscientific poll. Does this teeny icon intrigue you enough that you would want to click through and see what this is all about?


I am inspired to ask by this article.

This strikes me as a fairly balanced article, presenting both the giddiness of the new frontier, as well as words of caution.

Now I must come up with a better blurb. Which is why I didn’t put that with the click through.

You can leave a comment here, or take the poll on my Livejournal blog.

Picture this: a long shot of a carnival, all brightly lit against the darkness, glowing in the background. A tall, well-built man with auburn hair stands in the foreground with his back to “the camera.” He wears a white 30s-vintage shirt and black gaberdine pants with suspenders. Perhaps he wears a bowler hat, perhaps a fedora. In one hand, he holds a hammer; in the other, he holds a rose. No wait, he holds the hammer and the rose in the same hand. Then what’s the other hand doing? And a bowler? Seriously? Fedoras? Aren’t those too Indiana Jones? Oh wait, this is a period piece set in the 30s? Maybe that might make a difference…

What’s he holding and wearing?

  • I like the hammer in one hand, the rose in the other.
  • I like the hammer and the rose in one hand. You don’t need the other hand to be doing anything.
  • I don’t mind bowlers.
  • I like fedoras better.
  • Haven’t fedoras been done to death?
  • Bowlers make me think of Laurel and Hardy.
  • Bowlers make me think of Magritte.
  • But seriously, the hammer in one hand, the rose in the other.
  • I ain’t kidding: the hammer and rose in one hand.
  • Something else which I’ll talk about in the comments.

The upbeat (for me) tone of the current WIP has not been matching my mood or life circumstances lately, so I find myself wanting to write something darker.  I also thought perhaps I should work on something with series or trilogy potential since I understand that standalone novels might be a tough sell these days.  I don’t think I should (and don’t want) to write to the market, but  the circumstances of mood/market might be an excuse to work on something my subconscious has been leaning towards for weeks now—maybe much longer.

My second novel, Blood Geek, was set in a traveling carnival in 1938 and although the novel itself was flawed and I trunked it long ago, I’ve always thought there was quite a bit of life left in the setting I created for it.  I could see a number of potential stories revolving around minor characters in that carnival.  Apparently, my hindbrain thought so, too, because I have been assiduously collecting historical data and pictures from the 1930s and early 1940s. It’s been an almost unconscious process.  I see myself stashing this information in folders and occasionally ask, “What do you propose to do with this stuff?”  To which my backbrain answers coyly, “You know perfectly well.”

I suspect I do.  I’m not sure it’s the place where I should be putting my energy now, but I reckon I have little choice or control about some things in my life or in the market. I’ve got to write what I can when I can, and push through to the finish of something—which takes a lot of commitment and a certain kind of obsession.  If I am not properly obsessed with an idea or a piece of work chances are it will be an interminable struggle with little pay off.  Without the obsession, it may not be the right time for that work.  Perhaps it will never have a time, or maybe it will take the vast, subterranean journey through the aquifer that my carnival idea has taken and come bubbling up again years hence, fresh and full of life.  Done with waiting, it declares its time is now, that I must set all else aside because it is finally ready.

But the question is, am I?