cranky pants

dum-da-dum-dum: tweet

I am told that I should be tweeting, and so I’ve resurrected my dormant tweet account @rosinalippi and if I can figure out how, I’ll add a sidebar widget where tweets will show up.  So if you are a tweeter, please feel free to follow me.

And here’s a perfect illustration why the whole tweet-dom bothers me. I do not like that dopey bulging bluebird icon. A quick search tells me there’s nothing even vaguely better out there. So here, a post without an image.

perfect working chair: found and lost

intrsthl_mtos_02__16348.1405436448.500.500I’ve been looking for something like this for last last five years, at least. Ergonomic, adjustable to the nth degree, a built in, well design laptop arm. Expensive, but not completely in the stratosphere. This is the Interstuhl Mitos Mobile MS 14. And it’s nowhere to be found in this country, as far as I can tell. It may not even be in production any more.

Back to the drawing board.


Newsflash via the NYT: Things are Tough for New Novelists

If you don’t laugh at this, you’ll really have to cry. If you’re an aspiring novelist, you may find yourself weeping.

The New York Times has an article about the pseudo-anonymous novel The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling. If you’re not aware: Rowling wanted to see how publishing feels for the rest of us, so she used a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith)  to sell a mystery novel, which got only a few mediocre reviews and sold few copies. She planned to reveal herself as the true author but was sad that it got leaked so soon:

“I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer, because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name” (quoted in The Author’s Guild article on this same phenomenon).

I don’t know how to feel about this. The Queen dresses as a peasant and goes out to wander the city, and is surprised when her cover is blown. She intended to blow her own cover, but gosh, somebody beat her to it.  What’s that about? The theories in my head are not complementary, so I’ll let this aside for the moment after pointing out that Rowling stood to make no money from the novel, all the proceeds go to charity. The thing you need to know is, she wrote a mystery. It did not sell, and got mediocre reviews. Somebody leaked the fact that she was in fact the author, and sales are now through the roof. And positive reviews are pouring in. A lot of negative ones, too, but quite a few that glow on the page.

In my last post I talked about the fact that a first class novel, one with both critical and commercial success, is  rare. There are some wild cards:; an indifferent novel can dance at the top of the best-seller list  for weeks with the right marketing or name on the cover. And the NYT kindly provides an example of this exact thing happening, but starts by pointing out the painfully obvious::

In any event, a publishing contract is hardly a guarantee of critical or commercial success. Much depends on how a new manuscript is treated by the publisher.

Thanks for clearing that up, NYT.  My own rather jaded version of this can be found here.

The example they provide is for the 2010 novel Matterhorn  by first-time novelist Karl Marlantes. A prominent editor with deep pockets  found one of the 300 printed copies of the book, and set out to make a star of it. This really was excellent news for Marlantes, but the odds of this happening were astronomical.

First time novelists should be realistic about the chances going in, of course. But it’s still frustrating to see concrete examples of how very stacked the deck is.  I believe that there are many hundreds of really excellent novels out there that their authors will have to fight for before they see the light of day. I hope they persevere.

Now I have to say one more thing about JK Rowling. Somebody made up a bio for her alter-ego Galbraith, which appeared on one of the publisher’s websites (this is also from The Authors Guild article):

Born in 1968, Robert Galbraith is married with two sons. After several years with the Royal Military Police, he was attached to the SIB (Special Investigation Branch), the  plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for protagonist Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who have returned to the civilian world.  Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym.

This sits wrong with me. Authors who claim authority that they don’t really possess are viewed askance by readers and critics both. Or am I’m being too critical?

If i had a hammer: or, that opinionated bitch, my muse


Heather Renee (click to go to her Flickr page) seems to be my muse’s photographer.

If I had a hammer, maybe I’d be a carpenter and maybe I’d work for somebody else, and maybe I’d have a time card. That would be good, because I could make bookshelves and cabinets. But really, it’s the time card part that appeals. Because with a time card, you have to be someplace, you have solid goals and the tools to achieve them. If you’ve got a time card, you don’t need to depend on a muse.

Because muses are not easy. A muse can be generous, yes, and shower you with ideas and images and words. A few authors have muses who won’t shut up. My personal muse is more of a bitch. Now, I often use the word bitch in a positive way, but here I mean it the other way: cranky, fussy, willful, stubborn, self-absorbed, possessive, opinionated. Sometimes I want to throttle her, but then the joke would be on me.

My muse and I have had a tough year. For a while there I thought she was going to walk out on me and never come back, but I had neither time nor energy to deal with her moods. When your kid is in danger or sick or lost, everything else becomes very small, and the Girlchild was in a perilous spot. Even a six foot tall, broad shouldered, chain-smoking transvestite bitch of a Muse has no power over the Mother-you. Writing? What’s that? Oh yeah, that contract thing. Would you move? You’re in my way, and I have a call to make.

As the crisis (or I should say, long string of crises) slowly resolved, other things began to impose on my conscious mind. Hey! Look at the size of that cobweb! Um, what is this … thing in the fridge? Oh, I guess we forgot about the propane bill. And the big one: wow, imagine that. Already six months behind on book six. When am I contractually obligated to deliver it? Really?

Time for my Muse to come back. I knew it would take some wooing, but I forgot how vindictive she can be.

Here is her rule, inviolate: Ignore me, and I will pay you back in kind. If you really piss me off, I will turn my back on you for a very long time. You may beg and grovel, but from me? Crumbs. Dribbles. Until I’m feeling generous again, which if I may be frank, don’t hold your breath.

During this whole period I regularly sat down to write. I suppose I was hoping my Muse would be understanding, as she likes the Girlchild; but no luck there. I did beg and grovel, and all I got were the promised crumbs. I’d look at the manuscript and force myself to write while she cackled in the next room. Book Six crawled along, dribble by dribble.

And not good dribbles, either. Nothing felt right. Then one day I printed out the ms to read it (something I do very rarely) and I realized that all those words I had put down in the hard times, words extracted one by one like slivers, stank. The story lines stank, the rhythm stank, the dialog stank. Muse sat in the next room affing her lass off while the truth dawned on me: For the first time in my writing career, I had to dump thousands of words and start over again.

Muse was satisfied with this sacrifice. She came back to sit across from me and keep me moving along. Of course, the usual nitpicking and snarky comments also came back, but the story was moving and shaping up. Carpenters have to put up with a lot of sawdust. I’ve got the Muse’s moods and her cigar smoke.

I’ve been writing pretty well for the last two months, but it’s all very tenuous. My muse is ultra-sensitive to any kind of external emotional interference. For example: earlier this afternoon I made the mistake of checking my email. She told me not to. Another irritating thing about the bitch, my muse: she’s always right, she always announces she’s right, and not in a whisper, either.

Today we got some not-so-great news that will require some time and energy, and the minute I closed the email the Muse got up and went to the door looking very indignant and put-out.

I said: Wait! I need to get another 1,400 words down today!

She snorted, stormed out and slammed the door shut behind herself. Maybe if I’m lucky and if I can get the other problem resolved, she’ll come back later this evening. I’ll be thrilled. I’ll write through the night, if the bitch will let me.

Wish me luck, on all fronts.