I seem to be on some kind of Breton music kick. I blame my husband for this. Anyway, today’s theme song is Tri Yann’s Hañvezh ar bonedoú ruz. Isn’t it merry? The “Lalalala lalenola” chorus is almost madrigalesque in its silly cheerfulness.
Er. Never mind that the song seems to be about some sort of rebellion with people being hanged and all.
In other news: I am reading through the sequel! Parts of it are glorious! Parts of it are, uh, sub-par. But! I will fix those parts and make them glorious! I am using up all my exclamation marks here because Captain Horatio Editorpants always makes me weed them all out if I put them in the manuscript!
I am feeling highly optimistic about handing it over soon, however. Then maybe I can finally play Skyrim, hahaha. I heard it’s good.
I am so sad to hear that Maurice Sendak has died. His books were a huge part of my childhood, of course, but he was also someone who inspired me to write as an adult. I saw him give a talk when I was in college, and he was cranky, yes, but also so unabashedly, unapologetically himself. Seeing him helped give me the courage not to go to graduate school, but to pursue art and writing instead.
One particular quote stuck with me: “People ask why I write children’s books. I don’t write children’s books. It’s not my fault booksellers don’t shelve me next to Saul Bellow!”
I took that to heart. Write what you need to write. Let someone else decide how to categorize it.
Rest in peace, old man.
Edited to add: Holy crap my friend Phantom can write. Here’s her eulogy to Mr. Sendak.
A lovely review at Amazon.co.uk.
I mean, it contains the phrase “artistic mathematism,” a phrase custom-made for me if there ever was one.
“Is mathematism a word?” you may ask.
It is. I believe in it, absolutely. I have adopted it and given it a home in my heart.
Every author has the unfortunate duty of naming her characters. I say “unfortunate” because I’ve never felt comfortable doing it. My characters are usually born with names – maybe even born from names – and sometimes those names are weird. Back when I did comic books, and before I had a kid, my husband used to shake his head over my stories and say, “You are NOT naming our children!”
There are a few characters who have been with me such a long time that I don’t remember anything about naming them. Josef, Earl of Apsig, is one. He wasn’t always an Earl, but he’s always been ready to step into the story wherever I need a jerk, a cad, or sometimes even a bad boyfriend. He’s like my utility infielder. Need somebody at jerk base? Josef, you’re up.
There are others, though, whose name origins I remember quite clearly. Here are a few:
Lars – I first conceived of Lars while watching the documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. I thought that was a really interesting film — particularly coming from my classical music background. There was a segment on the classical origins of heavy metal, and that got me thinking. Surely, in every era, there have been people who would have been metal fans if they lived today. What were they doing back then? Playing bagpipes? Pipe organs? How did they get their loud music fix? And thus, a character was born, my Medieval Metalhead, and I named him after Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica.
Abdo – Abdo was named after George Abdo, one of the great early recorders and popularizers of raks sharqi bellydance music. And he is a dancer, yes. And it is not a coincidence.
Orma – Orma was named after this grumpy guy I used to work with, whose name was actually Norman. And to be fair, I didn’t know him that well. He may not have been in a bad mood every day; he was never anything but polite when I talked to him. He just looked grumpy, all the time, and this fascinated me. Owner of a grumpy face. I think that’s a song by YES.
Glisselda – Glisselda has been with me a long time as well, but I remember looking for the most over-the-top spoiled princess name I could come up with. One of those names that seems to encapsulate a personality already, that’s shorthand for something. Because what can you do when you have a name like that? You either live up to it, or you fight it with everything you’ve got. Unexpectedly (to me, anyway), my Glisselda seems to do both.
All right, I could go on, but I’m sick and should be napping. Let’s do this again sometime! I only have, oh, forty million characters, ha ha ha.
I kid. Four million, tops.
So if you Google “second book syndrome“, a friend pointed out to me on Monday, quite a number of hits come up. Apparently the second book, just by virtue of being second, presents challenges that the first did not.
Sometimes “second book syndrome” is going to refer to the middle book of a trilogy, of course. That’s a structure issue, in part, particular to trilogies. I’m not writing a trilogy. I’m just trying to write a sequel that doesn’t make everyone who read the first book say, “Gee, she had so much potential. I guess we were wrong.”
I don’t know whether this happens to everyone, but it’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to my son. You happily go on a carnival ride – a rollercoaster, say – not really knowing what you’re in for. You live through it, obviously. Even so, even though you now know for sure that it’s not going to kill you, you’re too scared to get back on it again. You’re MORE scared than before you ever went on it.
That’s a bit what writing the second book is like. I was too ignorant to be scared the first time around. I didn’t understand all there was to lose, or how painful the process could be.
There is also significant pressure that wasn’t there before. The pressure to write something as good as the first one. The pressure to get it done quickly so that your demanding readers (and I already have some! And I’m not sorry I do!) can be satisfied sooner. The pressure to not let everyone down — and “everyone” is so much bigger than it used to be! It used to be if I choked I let down myself, and maybe my sisters (including Josh) who were getting a chapter each month. Now everyone is a large publishing house, librarians, bookstore owners, readers… everyone is potentially EVERYONE. How scary is that?
I might even let myself down. Somehow even that is more daunting than it used to be.
So that’s the elephant I’ve been carrying on my marathon. But you know what? It is an entirely self-generated elephant. I really do have the option – now that I see it, now that I’ve identified it – of putting it down and stepping away. I did that this weekend, in fact, without really meaning to. I was exhausted. I said, “Bite me, book!” and I slept in, played D&D with friends, and generally ignored all of it for a while.
And as I was walking to the post office one afternoon, I had a… a vision. I don’t know what else to call it. But it was like the clouds (of my mind) parted and I saw the promised land (of my book) spread out before me. A golden thread wound through it all, holding everything together, and I realized that the book was possible. All right, I realize that sounds goofy, but I saw it for one shining moment and felt my faith restored.
Faith is an interesting thing. I am not a religious person, not by a long shot, but boy do I need to believe. For a glorious instant, I believed in this book. The vision evaporated, as they do, and the next day I was back to banging my head on the keyboard in frustration. But I know, from experience, that if I’ve seen it once, I will see it again and all the more clearly.
The book is possible. I am setting down the elephant. Everything is going to be okay.
Nolwenn Leroy’s irrepressibly cheerful version of Bro Gozh Ma Zadou, the state hymn of Brittany. Interestingly, the same tune as the national anthem of Wales.
In other news, good reviews are always music to our ears! Here’s one from my GR friend Archer, guest posting at Cuddlebuggery. Aww! Brings a tear to me eye, it does.
And reminds me, yes, that I really should get back to work.