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Posts Tagged ‘writers are not nice people’

for the edification of others

The other day at the dojo, our sensei had us punching bare-handed against bags (the flat pad type that another person holds onto). I wound up punching mine a few more times with a little more force than was strictly wise — because of course I did; I’m a writer and I was curious to see what it felt like, and I’m unlikely to go around getting into fist-fights just for research.

Since my hand is still complaining at me a little bit today, I figure I should share what I learned with others, so they don’t have to do the same thing. 🙂

The actual impact stung a fair bit, and increasingly so as time went on, of course. But I was good about keeping my wrist straight, so the impact went up my forearm in a direct line; you can really mess yourself up if your wrist isn’t straight, because then it will buckle under the impact and you’ll probably sprain something. (And I really do mean straight. Mostly straight = not good enough.) My knuckles turned visibly red, and I got a small mark in the webbing between my ring and pinky finger, like I’d chafed the skin or something. Fortunately I didn’t persist to the point of really doing myself a mischief, because near the end I subconsciously flinched from the sting of impact; my wrist buckled, but there wasn’t enough force in the punch for that to do any damage, and then after that everything I threw was complete crap. I imagine that adrenaline would have carried me much further in a real fight, but odds are good that it would also have made me more likely to use bad form and hurt myself that way.

My knuckles stayed faintly red for the rest of the night, but were back to normal the next day, and the mark faded about as quickly. The lingering effect is in the soft tissue between my metacarpals: I still feel an intermittent ache there, and if I use my left hand to shift those bones around, I can tell there’s tension and stiffness. So the moral of this story, I think, is that if you’re going to talk about punches leaving a mark on the one who threw them (and you should, unless your character is a hardened bare-handed brawler), the problem isn’t so much in the knuckles as in the hand itself. Or the wrist, if they threw a stupid punch and sprained something. Or, y’know, all over the place if they were really dumb and dislocated a finger or broke a bone. But the palm of the hand is going to take a beating even if nothing more severe happens elsewhere.

So now you know. And don’t have to pound your own hands to find out.

‘Tis the season of good news, after all . . . .

I’ve been scarce around here because I’m head-down in the third book of the Memoirs, but I do feel compelled to brag a little bit more. 🙂

The big thing is the Sword and Laser podcast (also posted here), which gives a brief but glowing review of A Natural History of Dragons. Why is this a big thing? Well, apart from the fact that they’ll be interviewing me soon, check out the URL on that first link. They’re partnered with BoingBoing, which means that for a little while yesterday, their review was posted on the front page of BoingBoing.

I don’t know what that did to my sales, but I bet it was pretty good. ^_^

And then you’ve got Mary Robinette Kowal saying exceedingly nice things over on Book Smugglers, and Liz Bourke singled it out as one of her favorite books of the year, and so did Juliet Kincaid, and y’all, this is so totally the best thing I could have when we’re nine days from the solstice and I’m in the Middle of the Book and everything is conspiring to make me have no energy and just want to sleeeeeeeeep. (Well, that and caffeine. Of which I have some in the fridge.)

Now if you’ll pardon me, I have to go chop a character’s hand off.

(No, I’m not telling you whose.)

This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.

when in doubt

I have this tag for posts, “when in doubt.” It refers to the old writer’s axiom, “when in doubt, send in a man with a gun.” Not literally a guy with a gun, necessarily, but something to shake up the plot, jolt you out of whatever rut you’re stuck in or route you around whatever wall you’re facing, and make it possible to move on with the story (in a more interesting fashion, hopefully).

Well, right now I have a bit of plot I need to figure out and haven’t yet, plus I’m exhausted from waking up at 4 a.m. (Thanksgiving travel, how I hate thee). So I sat down and thought, “okay, I can splice in this bit, and hopefully that will get me up to my word count for the day, but a) it’s going to be hard work with my brain this dead and b) I don’t know where I’m going after that.”

Instead, I gave a character malaria.

When in doubt, send in a mosquito with P. falciparum.

Angsty Fun Times

alecaustin and I had a long conversation today about how fiction sometimes needs to have depiction of horrible things, and the fine line between “necessary horrible” and “voyeuristic horrible,” and the way that readers have sometimes been conditioned toward voyeurism regarding horrible things (see: the problem of depicting rape), and so on. And he got me wondering what I would consider to be the worst violence I’ve inflicted on a character of mine.

Off the top of my head, I decided it was the stuff that happens to Seniade in drafts of what eventually became Dancing the Warrior. It isn’t actually the most damaging violence — she doesn’t die of it — but it’s horrible because it’s being done to her by a sadist, and she knows it, and she accepts it because she think it’s what she needs to do. Plus I dwell on the details of it, the step-by-step process and the pain that follows, which I don’t generally do otherwise. I called it “borderline torture” in that conversation, and only leave it at “borderline” because Sen could walk away at any time.

For all that, though — as I told alecaustin — it bothers me less than, say, the plague stuff I wrote for In Ashes Lie. Partly because Sen volunteers for it, but partly because most of us are desensitized to violence. And then that made me realize that what I find “worst” about the DtW stuff isn’t the physical suffering after all, but the psychological: what’s going on inside Sen’s head. (Which is why it’s the drafts, not the final version, that are the worst. One of them — not so much a draft as an exercise — is a pure, unadulterated inner monologue.)

And then I started thinking, you know, that might be why I tend to prefer torturing my characters psychologically, rather than physically. Because it bothers me a lot more. <g>

I’ve known for a long time that I’m a sucker for suffering and angst. It only works if you get me to really care about the character first; angst in an unlikeable or boring character will just make me roll my eyes. And it has to be the right kind of suffering; my taste tends toward the operatic end of the spectrum, rather than the grinding, day-to-day banality of things like “how will I find the money for rent this month.” But if you hit the right notes, on a character I’m invested in? I will eat it up with a spoon.

I can’t say it’s fun, exactly. “Magnetic” would be more apt. The next-to-last scene of the film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is excruciating to watch; something truly horrible happens, and there’s no resolution afterward to let me feel it’s All Okay Now. But it’s an amazing scene. (One which I didn’t see until after A Star Shall Fall was over and done with — but if you want to know what psychological note I was aiming for near the end of that book, watch the movie. Or, y’know, watch it just because it’s a bloody brilliant piece of work from Cillian Murphy. It’s streaming on Netflix, and worth it for the ending alone.) I can’t look away from such things, and they stay with me long after they’re over.

Really, it’s cathartic. And yet — why do I enjoy the experience? Why am I so often a sucker for drama over comedy? And what determines what kind of suffering I’ll enjoy, versus what will just depress me? I’m still working on the answers to that. So I’m curious to know how others feel about this kind of thing. Do you like angst, and if so, what kinds, under what circumstances? Which kinds of suffering bother you more, and which are you desensitized to? What can you bear to write, versus read, versus watch?

I’m hoping your answers will help me understand what’s going on in my own head. 🙂

writers are messed-up people, yo

Within fifteen seconds of being kicked in the head during karate tonight, a part of me was thinking, “I should pay attention to what this feels like, in case I need it for a story.”

For the curious: very brief disorientation; swift (and only partially voluntary) decision that it would be better if I put my center of gravity lower for a few seconds, i.e. knelt on the floor; massive radiating heat from my ear lasting for a good half hour or more afterward. (It’s still red now, an hour later, though not swollen.) Oddly, the most painful spot is actually the skin in the crease behind my ear; presumably that has something to do with the cartilege being mashed by the impact.

(I was not kicked with any great force. Though admittedly, when one’s kumite partner is six foot three, “not with any great force” is still enough to be troublesome. And more than enough to guilt one’s kumite partner with — especially when he is also one’s husband. ^_^)

apologies I only sort of mean

Dear Dead Rick,

I’m sorry I’m a horrible person.

Tomorrow morning kurayami_hime will read this and say, “You’re not sorry at all,” and she’ll kind of be right — but I have to say it anyway. Because one of your levers is more like a giant knife sticking out of your heart, and sometimes I just have to give it a good twist.


If it’s any comfort, I suspect you have some RIGHTEOUS FURY OF REVENGE scenes coming up later in the book. It’s got that feel in my head, even if I don’t know the specifics yet. I hope that helps.

Love and apologies,
A mean, mean person

adding to the list of reasons the FBI is watching me

Tonight, for writing purposes, I have been googling information on what happens when you smoke opium.

This goes onto a list including items like “once looked up how to transport firearms to Hungary” and “published a story in an anthology called Glorifying Terrorism” that I’m pretty sure have me on an FBI watch list somewhere. Writers: we’re suspicious types, always curious about how to commit crimes.

the avalanche has started

Word count: 110,810
LBR census: Ladies and gentlemen, THE BLOOD HAS ARRIVED.
Authorial sadism: I’ve been looking forward to writing this bit for four months now. I’m pretty sure that makes me a Bad Person.


There’s nothing I can say at this point that wouldn’t constitute a spoiler. Except that we’ve hit the fun part.

Fun for me, anyway. My characters might beg to differ.

What is *wrong* with me?

These days I tend not to set an alarm for myself, which means I get to wake up gradually and naturally, rather than being catapulted out of sleep.

During this process, my brain randomly wanders along various topics, which often include bits of writing. And sometimes it offers up interesting ideas.

But there’s “interesting,” and then there’s “ooh! i know! vivisection!”

. . . it’s even worse because that’s a good idea for its context. Kind of perfect, actually. But brain, please to be waiting on the vivisection-related suggestions until I’m more awake? Please?