Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On Coincidences

"The universe is rarely so lazy." That's what Sherlock Holmes says about coincidences, at least in the BBC show "Sherlock". Not sure if it's a classic Sherlock quote or not, but it gives you something to think about. But sometimes, there are things that you just can't explain, strange coincidences that defy reason because they don't involve anyone else but you and your mind.

When writers talk about characters and books, we can get whimsical.

"A writer is someone who has taught their mind to misbehave." - Oscar Wilde
"When you start writing, the magic comes when the characters seem to take on a life of their own and write the words themselves." - Alice Hoffman
"Writers aren't exactly people. They're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

We end up talking like the worlds in our minds, our characters, our settings are real and we're just telling stories someone else is telling us from some other plane of existance. When we get stuck, it's our characters not doing what we want them to do. And then there's the idea of a muse, some non-physical entity that's the source of our inspiration, someone who can leave us at the drop of a hat if we're not paying them enough attention or listening to them. It's all silly, isn't it? When it all comes down to it, it's just us, sitting there in front of a computer or a notebook or typewriter.

Isn't it?

The universe is rarely so lazy. So why did I, alone, make a modern immortal based on Morgan le Fay and set her birthdate 12 years before the first mention of her name in fiction (1150AD)? I don't know the King Arthur legends, the era they spawned from, and yet I decided my Morgan was 874 years old, pinning her date of birth right on the metaphorical donkey's bum. I didn't realize the coincidence until after the charcter was set in stone.

Why did I, alone, name my hero and my villain for my Atlantis story the exact same names as Abraham's sons from the Bible? I like biblical references in my writing, but I will not claim to know the Bible beyond the basic stories. And yet, I named my main character Isaac after Newton and Asimov, and my villain Ishmael, for the hero of Moby Dick, completely unaware that these were the same names as the sons of the first patriarch of the Old Testament.

The universe is rarely so lazy, so how can you explain coincidences like these? Is there something in the idea that characters and muses are different people from us, with different knowledge than us, using us as a conduit to tell stories? No, that's crazy. The universe is rarely so lazy, but "rarely" and "never" are hardly the same. Still, funny little thought, isn't it?

Have you ever encountered strange coincidences in your reading or writing?

Friday, April 25, 2014

What To Do With 28?

My birthday was yesterday, and, like Stephen King used to lie to interviewers about doing, I gave myself the day off from writing. Not that I couldn't have written. I only went to dinner with Mr. Maxwell, but I chose to spend the evening buried in my new Marvel 1602 graphic novel (Marvel comics, written by Neil Gaiman, set in 1602AD. Yes, it's as wonderful as it sounds.) I've several other new books waiting for my attention as well as my own writing. So, the question of the day is: I'm 28 now. What am I going to do with it? What do I want my life to be like when I turn 29?

This year, I want to read even more.
This year, I want to write even more.
This year, I want to be able to slip a magazine into shipping envelopes with my mom and dad's addresses or compose an email with a link and, in either, a note that says "Look Mom, Dad, I'm published." An aspiration I never had before.
If I work hard, read hard, and edit harder, maybe, just maybe, by the time I'm 29, I can have an agent. That one's a longshot, though.

But then, that's all just words and desires. So what WILL I do? I really don't know. Do my best, I guess. I've been writing every day for the past 40-something days, 250 words per day (yesterday not included). In a few days, maybe on day 50, I'll bump that up to 500 per day. 15,000 a month until I bump the wordcount again. I should be able to finish a novel or a few short stories on that pace.

Six weeks, still no word from Asimov's. I'm practically living in my email now, just waiting to see "1 New Message," no matter what it says.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl.

All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl.

All right, that's enough copy/pasting. Man, we have things so much easier than the days of typewriters.

They don't tell you the wait gets easier. Maybe it's worse when the wait is longer? I don't know, but I suppose I'll find out one day. For now, still waiting, but that anxiety, that "must check every hour every day" what-if  monster seems to have gotten bored and wandered off. There's nothing to do for it but wait. It'll come when it comes. If that's tomorrow, exactly 5 weeks after I sent it in, then hoorah. If it's longer, then the editor is busy, or she had a bigger slush pile than usual, or maybe, just maybe, my story's under consideration. Who knows? Not me, and oddly, that's okay now.

Still, maybe I should go check my email. Just in case.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

To the Wolves Went the Innocent

And the innocent emerged complete.

Yesterday, my story paid the price my mouth bartered for. In an overheated room filled with people in the back of a comic book store, I read it aloud for the first time to a bunch of strangers I'm starting to call my friends. I trembled my way through the first reader's technically perfect, highly enjoyable, funny story, trying to calm my nerves with Dr Pepper and failing. Not only did I have to read, but I had to follow an act like that? Sure, let's just have me perform my first concert following up a show by Journey. I sat beside the person manning the timer and watched as the clock ticked down, counted as every person gave their critique, which was mostly, "Wow, that's great, I want more." Oh lord, the critwolves are going to be hungry. They weren't fed for the first story. I was going to get destroyed.

"Time. Maggie, your turn. When you're ready."

Never ready, but everyone was looking at me. So I started reading. They laughed at the first joke. I read more. They laughed again. I stumbled at a few places, but just before my 15 minutes were up, I finished the excerpt I had brought. Nothing to do but wait to be torn to shreds.

It never came. They liked it. They wanted to read the rest and see where it was going. They hoped it would get darker because I had set it up well to get dark (it does). They got the references and enjoyed them. The editor of the group said, "If I'd pulled this out of my slush pile, I would undoubtedly read the rest of it." That was it, that was all he had to say. Oh, my god.

There were a few minor things people pointed out that I agree with, but otherwise, most of them were interested in knowing where it goes from there and even said hours later how much they loved the premise. I entered the wolves den and emerged with my story, spine, and skin intact. Now I can spend the next few meetings learning to be a wolf.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Slowly Descending Madness

Dear blog,

It has been three weeks since I submitted my story. My patience wears thin. The first two weeks, I managed to resist looking in on my status but once or twice. Now, at the dawn of the fourth week, I can't hold myself back from checking multiple times a day. Deep down, I know there will not be a change, not yet. At 10PM, I know there will not likely be a difference from the 5PM status. I can't help myself. The niggling "Maybe Now" has my patience firmly in its clutches. I try to distract myself. I began work on my long-awaited (by me) Atlantis book. Then I scrapped it a few days later and started again, because the first version was shit. I shall attempt to distract myself further this weekend with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I do not believe it will be successful. The distraction, not the movie. I'll just be grateful that, for the time being, I do not have a smart phone. Otherwise, I'd certainly be the asshole blinding everyone around me in the theater. Come on, "Maybe Now," it's the weekend. Editors take days off too, right?

Two more weeks. Two more weeks.

If at any point, dear readers, you come and see a blog full of "All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl," send help.

Ever yours in first submission madness,
Maggie Maxwell