INTERVIEWER: …So the question going the rounds in the fictional-character or character-meta world right now is: Have you always been gay?
THE FIVE: (exchange bemused glances)
HEREWISS: I’m not sure I follow you.
INTERVIEWER: That is, explicitly gay in canon instead of being declared so without actually displaying any indicators there.
FREELORN (dubious): He’s usually fairly cheerful. Except early in the morning, he’s not really a morning person. And as for her, better avoid the subject entirely.
INTERVIEWER: Sorry, um, idiom problem. I mean, homosexual.
HEREWISS: …Excuse me?
INTERVIEWER: Have you always liked men?
HEREWISS: …At least since the late 2800s. My dad got me started.
FREELORN: Oh, wait, wait, you meant sexually!
SEGNBORA: The “like” usage’s a bit on the euphemistic side, wouldn’t you say?
FREELORN: A bit mealy-mouthed, actually.
SUNSPARK: I keep forgetting some of Herself’s people are so nervous about this. Must be dreadful for them.
HEREWISS: Well, it’s not ours to judge. ‘Sexually attracted’ to men? Yes, for quite a while. (smiles at Freelorn)
FREELORN: And here I thought our shouts of “WE’RE FUCKINNNNNG” in book 1 would have been a bit of a giveaway? Seems not.
HEREWISS: Though for me it’s hardly an exclusive preference. I’ve been known to break over in other directions. (glances at Segnbora & Sunspark: grins) From time to time. When there were no other options.
SEGNBORA (to Sunspark: dry): Let’s toss for which of us makes him sleep on the couch tonight.
FREELORN (to Sunspark): Her coin’s loaded.
SEGNBORA: Of course it’s loaded. After all, I stole it from you.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, all right. (to Segnbora) And you?
SEGNBORA: Is it same-sex issues we’re concerned about here? Then yes. I ‘like’ women. In fact, in canon my first loved was a woman, and later on I married her, so that would seem to be some kind of an indicator.
HEREWISS: You’d think.
FREELORN: And not just any woman!
SEGNBORA: All right, the beautiful princess. (smiles)
HEREWISS: Come on now, she was Queen by then!
SEGNBORA (patient): It’s a trope, Dusty. Do keep up.
FREELORN: And you married a King, as well. (smirks)
SEGNBORA (resigned sigh): Yes, it’s true, I also married these two idiots.
SUNSPARK: Well, there’s no accounting for tastes.
SEGNBORA: As well as this delightful creature.
SUNSPARK: She does get it right more often than not.
SEGNBORA: And the one sitting on the roof.
HASAI: She is nothing if not generous with her time.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, all right, I, uh – thank you. And this was in what year?
INTERVIEWER: Sorry, what year in our world?
FREELORN: Oh Goddess, your calendars! Honestly, how do you cope?
SEGNBORA: You have to wonder. Half the months are different lengths. Herself told me the little poem they have to keep the lengths straight and I flat out did not believe her.
HEREWISS: You two just stop it, now. It was 1979.
SEGNBORA: That was NOT when we got married! That was 1992.
INTERVIEWER: Something of a gap…
FREELORN: In our timeline she and I had only met three seasons before and had just found out we were going to be parents. Didn’t seem like that much of a gap to us.
HEREWISS: One of those relativity things Herself’s always going on about.
INTERVIEWER: So what you’re saying is that, in our world’s meta, you’ve all been openly gay for…
HEREWISS: More or less forty years.
INYERVIEWER: That’s… quite a while.
HEREWISS: Look, if you’re hunting for a polite way to say that you think she could have been writing these faster, let me whisper in your ear: the opinion’s not exactly novel. But in any case, any further revelations about our sexualities would probably prove, um, redundant.
FREELORN: You could always ask him about his discovery of chocolate.
FREELORN: What he does is, he–
INTERVIEWER (to Sunspark: hastily) Sorry, I didn’t really give you a chance to answer. How about you?
SUNSPARK: I swing.
INTERVIEWER: Which way?
SUNSPARK: All the ways. (grin) Are you spoken for? I can demonstrate.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, thanks, that’s as much as I… uh. Thanks. I’ll see myself out.
HEREWISS: Thank Herself that’s over with. Who’s the next one?
FREELORN: Somebody called Buzzfeed.
SEGNBORA: Oh Goddess, get some more booze in here, we’re going to need it.
SUNSPARK: And by the way, this time can you find some way to let them know you’re not actually married to a horse…?
(for more details, see MiddleKingdoms.com)
(This post originally appeared on Tumblr and has been crossposted here for those who [understandably] don’t care for that platform’s data ToS.)
That’s today! (As Himself has reminded me.) And theoretically this is the day I get to take off from work to celebrate… but normally when I make such declarations I wind up blocking out a novel with Peter over dinner. So I’m not getting my hopes up.
I want to thank everybody for all the good wishes on Facebook and Tumblr and elsewhere*. It’s nice to be thought of. For those who were inquiring about my health here and there: It’s not too bad, thanks! (A brief veer here into what my mom used to call “the Organ Recital”.) The cartilage in my knees crackles a bit every now and then, but not in any serious way. I have a weird retinal slightly-blurred-vision thing going on in my left eye, but it’s not major and there’s nothing that can be done about it right now, so mostly I ignore it. I’ve been working on some gentle weight loss, and that’s coming along nicely. So, generally speaking: physically, things are good… and specifically, nothing physical is interfering with the Work. Which is what counts.
(I’m working on Young Wizards #11 right now. Yes, still no title, don’t ask me, I don’t understand it. And yes, dammit, I’m working on The Door Into Starlight. Give me a break here, yeah?)
Meanwhile, some nice folks have inquired privately what they could get for me to celebrate (as we say in Ireland) The Day That’s In It. Well, if they feel driven to do something, let them go over to Ebooks Direct and buy something. That way I get to tell them a story and get given something**! So we all win. (Especially since some of our bigger-ticket items are on sale at the moment.)
(ETA: **Something like these. I was looking at these Ecco sneaker/boots the other day and thinking, “Hey, those are cool… but are they €130 worth of cool?…” And then this morning I was looking at them and saw the price had dropped by 40%. (W00t!) So go on, buy an ebook if you like, and help me rationalize getting these for myself for my birthday.) (I mean, I don’t normally get all that excited about shoes. But for one reason or another these spoke to me.)
…Or sure, if you’re a fan of Amazon wish lists, I’ve got one, though mostly it’s just a place I stuff things that I don’t want in the shopping cart right that minute. If the mood moves you in that direction, feel free.
In any case: thanks again to everybody who sent wacky messages or just generally expressed the sentiment that they’re glad I’m around. What can I do but smile and thank them? — and add, “Same here.” With luck, the condition will persist for a good while yet. Meanwhile, Peter and I will go out for pizza later. (And probably wind up blocking out another damn novel over the second bottle of wine.)
So please consider yourselves toasted genially as we celebrate. After all, being around here wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without all of you. For a writer, what counts most of all things is to be read, to be heard: and all of you who do that, and take the time to say so, are the important ones. 🙂
*And Himself Upstairs, who sent me the fireworks at the top of this. Love you, sweetie, now and always!
The “How Lovely Are Thy Branches” Advent Calendar
ETA: The Advent calendar is now shut… maybe until next year. But a compiled version of the whole Calendar is available below…
Every day, from now until Christmas, behind a door of the Advent calendar here there’ll be a small chunk of dialogue material that either didn’t make it into the final cut of How Lovely Are Thy Branches, or occurred to me after the work was finished. Snippets and snatches of conversation, half-heard (as it were) from across the room. Think of them, not so much as outtakes, but more like DVD extras.
All you need to do is click on the little red tab on the right side of the window to make the calendar pop out: then click on the door for the day. Obviously, today only the December 1 and 2 doors will open. One more door will be available each day until we hit Christmas.
Now available: The How Lovely Are Thy Branches Advent Calendar — 25 days of extra dialogue / outtakes from the work. Download the ebook or PDF formats free from our cloud storage at Box.com:
Advent Calendar generic .epub | Advent Calendar Kindle-friendly .mobi | Advent Calendar .PDF
For some time now we’ve been intending to move Ebooks Direct off the subdomain at dianeduane.com where it presently resides. Over the last couple/few years things have been changing in the search-engine optimization world, and the way SEO is working now makes hosting a store on a subdomain, rather than on its own dedicated full domain, a less effective way to do business than it once was.
So some time around the middle of next week we’ll be moving EBD away from dianeduane.com and over to its own domain at ebooksdirect.co. (I would have preferred the .com TLD, but someone is squatting on it and I have no intention of wasting the eyerolls I’d inevitably spend on being invited to pay umpty-ump bucks for the privilege of buying the domain from them.)
There’s nothing the store’s patrons need to do about this (except change their browser bookmarks if they feel inclined). Fortunately the tech end of the change is fairly simple: a change or two at the Shopify end and the installation of a redirect instruction at dianeduane.com that’ll send anyone who types an old page address to its equivalent new one.
For those of you who’ve been in contact with the store’s help email address: there’ll be a new address to deal with, yeah, but all your emails from the old help account will be forwarded to the new one before the domain change kicks in. The old help address will continue operating as previously for a couple/few weeks before it starts automatically forwarding all incoming mail to the new help address.
So otherwise everything will be business as usual. I just thought I’d give everybody a heads up about this before the fact.
Anyway, when I started looking for more Sherlock stories after the BBC show premiered I got into reading fanfic, and eventually the amazing art on Tumblr. It was great to see someone whose books I’d always loved was right in there as a fan too.
Reading someone’s tags today, I noticed the latest example of something that makes my heart hurt a little every time I see it. The art (it was a short Sherlock comic strip) was great! Well laid out, engagingly drawn, funny, entertaining, etc. But the artist’s tags were all about how terrible it was. How she couldn’t write, how she couldn’t draw, etc. I know how hard it is to put your work (of any kind) out there and just let it speak for itself, but the prevalence of young girls making something amazing and then sharing it by saying “here’s this thing I did. It’s probably terrible,” just kills me. I can’t count how many posts I’ve seen people tag or comment that their art or they themselves are “trash”. I mean, I get that they’re self deprecating for comic effect, but…
I don’t know. Maybe learning to not put down your work before someone else gets a chance to is just something that has to be grown out of, but I also wonder if more of us older women should be saying something. I’d love to see girls say “here’s this thing I made [full stop]” if it still seems too hard to say “here’s this thing I made; I’m proud of it.” Just not tearing themselves down would make a world of difference, I think.
I guess I’m just curious if you have any thoughts to add. Thanks again for writing such enjoyable stories and building such cool worlds! May you live long and prosper.
First of all: thanks for the nice words. It’s always nice to know I’m getting the job done.
Re the self-esteem problem as regards talking about one’s work: I see a lot of this from girl creators too. (Yet also from the boys, until they gradually knuckle under or get pushed under the surface of the whole patriarchal never-say-anything-that-might-make-you-seem-weak crap, and get it institutionalized out of them.)
Part of the problem is that the creation of art (or indeed anything else useful) is unnerving business, because you’re essentially making the invisible visible: making something out of nothing — and even that phrase is culturally loaded. (“Don’t make something out of nothing!”: a classic putdown for overreaction.) Yet making Something out of Nothing is also, as it happens, what Gods do. (The classic western-culture version of this: Deity moves over the surface of the empty void, says, “Hmm. Light…” and bang! Light.)
So creation routinely frightens those who who do it — because the actual process of mastery of art takes a long time, and in the meanwhile you may frequently feel like you’re riding the tiger, only half in control, while your grip on the tiger’s ears is always threatening to slip. And creation frightens more badly those who don’t do it (not that you’ll ever easily get them to admit that), because they see you making Something out of Nothing and that’s not normal. Everybody gets a little freaked as a result, and it’s probably no surprise that the responses to the act of creation by both creators and spectators can get skewed — reactions based on fear not routinely being the healthiest ones.
(Adding a cut here, since more discussion and a brief how-to course in auctorial esteem lies below. Also, “pieces of shit”…)
One of the classic reactions, when you’re afraid that something is going to cause you pain, is to cause yourself the pain first — the rationale most likely being that at least that way you’re in control of something in the process: the amount of pain, if nothing else. And you see this in the damndest places.
It was in Hollywood (while I still lived near there) that I first heard, from a well-placed and fairly-well-known writer, the usage that William Goldman mentions in his famous Adventures in the Screen Trade: “POS.*” As in “Hey, wanna read this POS spec [script] I wrote?” …POS standing for Piece Of Shit. This usage is so commonly used out there that it’s genuinely shocking. Seriously, I thought Goldman had been exaggerating: I should have known better. But again and again you hear it, in what is (theoretically) a hotbed of smart, sharp, self-assured people: the quickest way to defuse criticism or deflect pain — dissing your own work in front of others. Do it before they do it to you. Do it first so if they do it, they’ll only be the second to say it and therefore the sting will be less.
So plainly this isn’t just a problem for young girls. Nobody likes pain, be they young, mature, old, or any damn thing in between. And getting into this kind of habit to attempt to prevent it is way too easy.
(Let me briefly add for clarity’s sake that I’m perfectly aware of how educational and creative milieus in general, especially in the US, are skewed against girls and young women getting an equal chance to express themselves and their abilities, and these situations need to be dealt with, urgently. The point I’m dealing with here, though, is that the creator-negative-self-esteem situation’s endemic in human experience.)
Every person who makes art (verbal or visual), regardless of the shape of their physicality or the state of their gender, can benefit from learning how to assert the value of their work as it stands: the work (written or drawn or painted or danced or photoshopped or carved or whatever) as its own fact, as a self-proving statement that has the right to be evaluated on its own merits — just left alone to tell its own story. This is hard to learn how to do by yourself.
If I was going to attempt a short how-to guide, it would look like:
(a) Before you start: if you feel the urge to diss your own work, set it aside. Any artistic work that you take the time to do demands that you respect it first. Otherwise no one else will. But — more to the point — you are channeling one of the greatest and most ancient human urges: to make, and to be through your making. You are, in the archetypal sense at least, standing on holy ground. So act like it. Treat what you make with honor.
(b) Having done the work, get it out there.
(c) About the work itself, to its intended audience, say merely, “Here it is: I hope you like it.” And nothing else. It is neither your job to praise your own work in its presentation or to run it down when initially presenting it. Quiet self-confidence is the tone to take. Not feeling quietly self-confident / have never felt that way in your life? Fake it. We all do at one point or another. Just indicate the work and step back: let it do the job for which you created it, which is to communicate on its own.
(d) Wait for feedback. And while you wait, be quiet. Don’t be dumping your excitement or your nervousness where the audience can see it.
(e) When the cruel and nonconstructive feedback arrives — because it will — recognize it for just that and do not respond except with something very neutral like “I hear you. Thanks for taking the time to comment.” (No matter how much you want to rant and rave, no matter how much you hate even thanking them. Be the grownup about this, since they’re plainly not going to.) Do, however, examine the feedback for signs of anything that’s genuinely useful to you. If there’s nothing: kick it to the curb. But when evaluating, trust your instincts. Sometimes even a nasty asshole will put their finger on something that needs handling, and your duty to your art requires that you take that on board. But you don’t have to take the nastiness with it.
(f) When the positive feedback arrives — because it will (and hilariously, sometimes way more of it than usual will arrive about a piece of work that you’re none too sure about) — say “Thank you, I’m really glad you liked it!”, or something along those lines — and as little more as will go along with that stance of quiet confidence. Do not meet gushing with gushing. The squee (if any) belongs on the other side of the transaction. If it arrives, accept it gracefully. If the reader pauses to discuss at length something they really liked, you’re allowed a few more words about that to say (if you like) a little about where it came from or what was in your mind. Then step back again.
…And then (with the next piece of work) repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat again and again until the process starts feeling more comfortable. It will never feel entirely comfortable. You are a creator, and creating in a universe where entropy is running will always be a challenging business. But it’s worth it.
…This entire issue is probably the core of a writing workshop, online or elsewhere. I need to think about this for a bit.
In any case, thanks for giving me an excuse to hold forth on this. 🙂
*The full quote: “(Piece of shit by the way is the standard terminology in Hollywood for a project. If you ask a producer what he’s working on, more than likely he will say, ‘Well, I’ve got this Western piece of shit I’m working on’ or ‘this piece-of-shit comedy.’)” You can see it in context in chapter 4 of the book, here.
Happy birthday, old friend.
Your creator was the first person I consciously took as a tutor in the art of structuring fiction. I didn’t do it because I loved him. I did it because I loved you… and because the way he handled you made you more real than a lot of the (allegedly) real things in my world.
You were the first fictional person to really change my life, and I’ve never forgotten it. Your incisive-yet-benevolent presence has been hanging over my work for a long, long time. I have repeatedly taken your name “in vain” both covertly and in the clear while writing for some of the world’s larger fictional franchises, and (because there’s no way I can keep you out of other things I love) in worlds of my own. And I doubt this is likely to stop.
I think it was Jorge Luis Borges who said some years back that there are only three fictional characters who’re universally known. Of the three he cites, Tarzan has slipped a lot of late, and even Superman has been struggling a bit. But you just keep going from strength to strength, adding dimension with every new iteration. That’s a tough row to hoe, with fiction being the essentially ephemeral art form it is. So few stories, regardless of the passion poured into their creation, will last more than a few handfuls of generations. An Iliad here, a Nibelungenlied there, and precious few more, survive to be retold repeatedly in every century after they manifest themselves. But your story, though young yet as such things go, is showing signs of real staying power. It’ll be interesting to see where you are in a few centuries more.
Meanwhile, I raise a glass to you today, old friend — and inevitably also to the companion who’s always by your side, without whom you wouldn’t be who you are — and think of the streets of the great Metropolis where the two of you can always be found walking together: unstoppable Reason and unshakeable Fidelity, inseparable in search of Truth and (if sometimes only secondarily) in defense of the Right. This is a better world with the two of you in it, even if only in the realms of the imagination — for they inevitably spill over into what passes for the Real, to all our benefit.
So… many happy returns of the day, my dear Holmes. Many.