Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Writing, 8/31

I finished Chapter 9 tonight, bringing the book up to 236 pages. I really like the chapter and the direction of the story, and some of the characters that weave in and out of it. It's getting to that point where it all seems to be coming to something. I had a lot of ideas about Chapter 10 on my bike ride today, the real turning point chapter, although there are still things coming up, strands and threads I don't know how to stitch together yet.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


New Orleans is no longer safe to live in.

Apparently attempts to repair the breached levees have failed, and the waters will rise. Looting has escalated into near-anarchy, and CNN is reporting that cops are traveling in packs after one of them was shot by a looter. Over 25,000 people are stranded at the damaged Super Dome; it's surrounded by water now. They have to be evacuated, and no one knows how. One idea was cruise ships. The people in charge down there are talking like abandoning New Orelans is the plan, for now, because the situation is quickly becoming unteneable.

The scope of the disaster reaches far beyond New Orleans, and there are some towns in Mississippi that no longer exist. If you want to help, in any way:

The American Red Cross

A variety of other charities.

Maud is blogging literary, and thoughtfully, on the disaster. Caitlin got through to her mother fine in Birmingham, and New Orleans author Poppy Z. Brite made it out of dodge to safety.

Writing, 8/30

I wish I were in Ireland this summer for this. J.M. Synge was one (of many) discoveries I made there, what, five years ago now, and one that still lingers with me. Visiting the Aran Islands and then reading about them, so starkly and vividly in his prose, I realized I could write about my home, Iowa, in the same way (not as good, mind you). We went to the theater nearly every week we were there and those were some of the best times I had, even if it was hot as hell in some of those old places. I fell in love at a theater in Dublin, I had my heart broken at one. The theater is Dublin for me, in so many ways.

I wrote - or weaved - fifteen pages in Chapter 9 of the Angel Book tonight, bringing it up to 222 official pages (lots more material there waiting to be sewn in). I feel very excited and unsure about this chapter; in a book of somewhat unusual construction, this one takes on quite a bit. I wanted to do something different and dramatic in it, something befitting the SHOCKING REVELATION that takes place in it, and I ended up splicing it together, somewhat cinematically, with another chapter altogether. I found they matched each other very well, and the tension and strain in one bounced right off the other. At least I hope so.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Heaven Of Hell

'A confirmation of Proust's quip that the only true paradise is paradise lost, Waterloo is a meditation on human failure and decline.'

Ah, you have to read this, an article about a book called 'Waterloo,' a thinly veiled fictional portrait of Austin, Texas (originally named Waterloo, by the way). Some day I will write a thinly veiled book about Waterloo, but I will call it "Austin."

You think there are tornado chasers on Mars?

I don't know who she is, but she's pretty:

I was out for my walk tonight around sunset, and one of these giant purple-violet bruisers that had been looming overhead started to break apart in the middle, right in front of the setting sun. At first, it looked like a wad of bloody spit. Then, a red/orange gassy nebula like in one of the Hubble's deep space pics. And at the end, when it wasn't a storm cloud anymore, it looked like something out of a Max Parrish painting. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Exhibit F

Out for the weekend (for real, this time; been promising I would take the weekends off from writing and not doing it, but with chapter 8 done, the Aran story done, I've got no excuses not to) so here is the lovely Kelly MacDonald. If ever there will be a movie of the Angel Book, she has to play the titular angel. Hah. I said titular.

Writing, 8/26

I finished Chapter Eight in the Angel Book tonight, bringing the whole shebang up to 207 pages; but since I actually have quite a bit of material already in place for Chapter Nine, it's more like 220. But that needs some fine tuning, and maybe so does the Big Plot Point I feared I arrived at too fast before. I arrive at it, sort of sideways, at the end of Chapter 8, and it's far less dramatic than I intended. Maybe it should be. The real drama is in the main character's dilemma upon learning about this 'secret', and the results of her actions. The first thing she does is what she always does, she steps out of the way. Then she gets her head on straight and what to that point had been merely unsettling gets pretty fucking horrifying.

I have a feeling it will take me to the end of this year, finishing this, and then, maybe early next year, I may want to start in finally on (EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) the third and final book, or at least some heavy duty research.

I'm waiting, as writers are want to do, to hear back from various magazines and readers. All my stories are somewhere, either submitted to mags or to friends for proofing. It's excruciating and exciting and bewildering, all at once.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

We're Not In Kansas Anymore

The little rover that could, Spirit, nears the summit of Husband Hill on Mars and then gets this glorious shot of a Martian dust devil. I want to be there SO BAD.

Hollywood is still brainstorming on why tickets sales are declining, and finally, FINALLY, hit upon the biggest reason: no one wants to pay $10.50 for a pile of crap.

The publishing industry is too easy to get into? Maybe over in England, where they don't bother with short stories like we do.

Update Required By Law

I wrote ten pages in the Angel Book tonight, after stepping back a bit to let the plot develop further. I'm glad I did, because I discovered things I otherwise wouldn't have; I love these quiet scenes, mostly dialogue, that on the surface appear very ordinary, but contain within the words of each speaker as much action and drama as any ridiculous action scene. The mental/spiritual tug of war between the main characters just got a lot uglier, and it helps that the huge turning point I was on the verge of is delayed, because now there's much more tension and drama. The book is up to 204 pages.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Was It The Gun, Wrench, Knife, Or Book?

I like big books and I cannot - well, on second thought. 1,390 pages! 4 1/2 pounds! Finally, the weaponized novel.

As if to answer my prayers, the MFA blog. Check it out, if you have any inkling at all of pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing.

I get to proof read some of Sugu's stories today (he's reading the Aran story right now for me) and hopefully catch up on the Angel Book. I think I did come to the bit I left it at way too soon, and I need to let things percolate a little bit more before I pull the string. The main character in the book has always been a passive, 'oh, well' type of person her whole life, and in the course of the book she is manipulated to one extent or another by opposing forces; the trick for me is to find the right moment when she stands up and says, "no more." I think with her, it's two things, in stages: she's not going to be manipulated or led around, and then, she's not going to sit back and do nothing anymore.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Six Feet Under Your Thumb


I was bewildered by the last five minutes of "Six Feet Under" Sunday night, a show I loved for its staggeringly sober examination of death and grief, and for the comic loopiness that sometimes comes out of that. So after sixty minutes of near-flawless television, they decide to have all the characters literally drop dead. The NY Times is kinder than I am, but man. Very jarring and silly.

Bob Costas has integrity.

I took a break from writing tonight, because I haven't in over a week. I plan to go back to the Angel Book tomorrow night.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Exhibit E

Still not convinced? I haven't even gotten to Monica Bellucci yet.

Friday, August 19, 2005

How Sweet Is My Ride

Discovery piggy backed home to Florida on top of a modified 747. There's flying first class, and there's this. As fun as this is, the space program is in serious trouble. NASA doesn't expect to launch another shuttle until least March, and the reality that the entire shuttle fleet has become a lame duck as it moves toward decommissioning in 2010 has put the future of the ISS in doubt too.

The fantastic Lucifer comic book series is coming to an end, and author Mike Carey talks about it some.

And if you're not watching Battlestar Galactica, shame on you.

Posty Post Post

Not a lot to post today. Today was a strange, almost blustery day that wanted to be all sorts of things, but was just in between. There were huge mountains of clouds far on the horizon, but they stayed there, all day, teasing. Had lunch with Ben yesterday. We talked about Star Wars and guys that always have to be tougher than everyone else. Hopefully I can read his story when it's done, it sounds fun.

I did a lot of revising on the Aran story tonight, and I feel like it's becoming the story it wants to be. It switched from first person to third, past to present, and suddenly found its wings. I like it a lot more than I did just a day ago. I only got through half of it, though, and it grew to 40 pages. I'll finish the revision tomorrow (maybe) and we'll see where it's at then.

And then I must get back to the Angel Book, because when last we left our heroes...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Progress Report, 8/18

I've decided to do separate posts on progress reports concerning my writing, because I tend to put them at the end of posts that then get too long. Tonight I finished - sort of - the first draft of the Aran Islands story. I got to the end, anyway. 35 pages, or about 9,000 words. I just needed to lay it all out and see what I had. I've never written a story like this; it needs some work, but there are things I like in it. It's still creepy and disturbing, maybe not spooky enough. Tomorrow night the real writing, the rewriting, begins.

I submitted the Millie story to her first magazine, too. Crossing fingers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Collisions & Revisions

Drop everything and go read this fantastic interview (by Stephany Aulenbeck) with Kelly Link over at Maud's. My favorite part (among many):

"Stories come from an intersection of things. For some stories, you don’t have so much as a starting place as a collision."

This describes my own way of finding stories perfectly. The interview is wonderful and inspiring to us writer types. Check it out.

Mary Relindes Ellis talks about we, the few, the proud, Midwest writers who resist New York.

For Sugu: Images of the Marvel Legends-esque new Obi Wan Kenobi figure. If you're any kind of Star Wars fan, this is simply one figure you have to own.

I put a few more links over on the sidebar, including the awesome Space Station Tracker.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Man of Aran

Figures. You always have to go downtown for the coolest bars.

Maureen McHugh has a fucking blog! She's also doing the Bookslut reading up in Chicago tomorrow night. I so wish I was going to be there.

Her Small Bear Press partner in crime Kelly Link also has posted a story from her new collection up on the SBP website, "The Faery Handbag."

I wrote nine pages in the Aran Islands story tonight, bringing it up to 30 pages. It has a little bit more to go yet, so it will end up being my longest short story so far. It's for damn sure the most disturbing. I don't even know if I'll show it to anybody. This one got way creepy, way fast. We'll see. I'm mailing out the Millie story for the first time tomorrow, and crossing my fingers. That means all my current short stories (except for the Aran WIP) will be circulating. Five of 'em. I look back on this summer and I think, I wrote five (five and a half) short stories. And I kinda' like them. I never thought I would be a short story writer, so it's a neat thing for me.


Someone asked me today why I never talk about XXXXXXXX on the blog. Basically, I'm not allowed to. And in case there's any other uncertainty, here's a list of what else Darby can't talk about on his blog for various reasons:

1) XXX

Just so we're clear.

Shopping Spree Leaves Two Wounded

My brother is opening his art gallery downtown in a couple months, so I went with him today to buy the things he needs to get her going, things like 10' long light fixtures, their bulbs, shelving, air compressors, trash cans (both plastic and metal), tools, lots more tools, etc. This Menards we have is so big and vast, it literally has an oasis like pit stop in the middle with some benches and a couple pop machines. Then it was price shopping all over the place for a computer and printer for the business. I think he felt a lot more tired than I did (especially in the pocket book area).

Caitlin R. Kiernan lets 'em have it, round two. I agree with most everything she says in the Monday post (after her progress update on her book). There is no perscription for writing. No formula. If you're getting one out of a book, or off the internet, or wherever, you're looking in the wrong place. Only you can teach yourself how to write, what you'll write; if you're not listening to yourself, or if there's nothing to listen to, then that should tell you something.

I wrote six pages in the Aran Islands story tonight, bringing it up to 21 pages, but it was one of those nights I spent searching. Every time I start a new story, I feel like I forgot how to write one. Even if I just finished one the day before. Each story is different. Each has its own learning curve. Finding the story feels scary each time, because you never find it in the same place.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


My Dad wrote a letter to the editor yesterday, about the debate over whether it was necessary, or moral, to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I talked about this just a few days before with Sugu when he called, because he had been there in Hiroshima during the anniversary; read about it right here.

Sugu thinks it was a mistake. My Dad, like most other people of his generation, thinks it saved more lives than it cost. And probably it saved the lives of both my grandfathers, who fought in Europe and had orders to join the fight in the Pacific (including an invasion of Japan) until Japan surrendered. If we hadn't used the bombs, I probably wouldn't be here. Nor would my Dad, or my Mom. Does that make it right? What exactly was right about anything in that war? We killed just as many or more people firebombing Tokyo and Dresden as we did in Hiroshima. Like my father points out, Japan killed just as many, or more, in Nanking. Millions of people would have died in an invasion of Japan. The Russians would have invaded from the north, as they planned, and Japan would have been cut in half like Germany was. If it survived at all. For my part, I prefer to think of all that was gained from the war, rather than what was lost.

In repsonse to the wildfire discussion sprung up by Caitlin's posts about book sales and reviews (mostly reviews), she lays down the law. You may have to scroll down a bit, to the Saturday post.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Exhibit D

It's Friday night, kids, so once more God exists because:

Image hosted by

Friday, August 12, 2005

All Darby & Joan

Turns out I'm one half of a cliche. A certain someone will find this extremely fucking funny.

I read Kelly Link's "Magic For Beginners" last night. I can't put into words how much I love her stories. You kind of wish The Library were a real TV series, and that Kelly was writing for TV, because it would be gonzo.

I finsihed Chapter Seven last night, though I think I may have come to an important plot point too soon. I'll have to think about it. I did some revision to the moon rock story after getting some good comments from my editor at Jigsaw Nation. Tonight I wrote the first eight pages of the Aran Islands story, about a nurse named Jess. Right now it's just weird. Creepy weird, and not as scary as I might have thought (I thought my last two stories would be funny, but turned out creepy; maybe this will turn out hilarious). I like what I wrote, but it's sort of hanging loose on the bone, because there's some important questions about nursing I haven't answered yet.

It's not important for me to do research before I write. I do it as I go, because most of the time, I don't know what I need until I need it. And I never let a question stop me from writing. I always put in a stand-in answer and move on. I go back with the research later, during revision. No one sees my first drafts anyway. I don't really have first drafts until I print them, and by then I've edited them pretty heavily. Then comes what I call the "Sugu draft." This is what I send to Sugu thinking it's done and then realizing, a day later, it's not, and then I hurry up and fire off another draft to him, leaving with something like the Library of Congress. And then there's subsequent drafts, and someday, maybe, a final draft.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


A couple days ago, Caitlin mentioned the low rates at which her books are selling, and what little effect a good review in EW seems to have. This discussion got picked up over at Beatrice, where some good input and math turned into a discussion about the books themselves. And that got something going over at Shaken & Stirred.

I for one enjoy her books immensely. They're beautifully written, horrific in the best sense of the word, and it's not necessary for the plot to be obvious 50 pages into the book. It's not necessary for a book to have a plot at all; maybe that's not everyone's cup of tea, but I don't think she's guilty of writing aimless books.

Sugu called last night from Japan, and we talked for four hours. He's doing pretty well, and still really hates the last SW. We talked some about that, and the growing number of writers like Kelly Link who inhabit this no man's land it seems between genre and literary, and whether this no man's land isn't where most everything is. It was good talking to him, it had been a while.

Before that I wrote another 10 pages in the Angel Book, but didn't finish Chapter Seven. It's probably getting too long, and I'll look for a place to snip it. Hopefully I'll finish that tonight, and then I want to get to the Aran Islands story.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fast Reading

Reader of Depressing Books is a great, trippy blog about writing, reading and everything in between you have to check out.

More Kelly Linkage.

The new Powells's interview is probably my favorite contemporary author, Neil Gaiman. He talks about his new novel, Anansi Boys, which comes out next month.

When I was in KC this past weekend, I gave my aunt and uncle my (EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) novel. To my surprise, my aunt read it in two days. She enjoyed it, which was a relief, and had lots of constructive comments, most of which centered on five pages of notes on misplaced words, absent words, and too fancy words. I've learned that I have a blind spot for certain words (I will think I have written them when I haven't) and I need to be a lot more discriminate when I'm looking over my work. I took an hour or so tonight to plug all the holes; going through the book reminded me again of how dramatic the tone is between it and the second book in the trilogy. If the first one is a fairy tale, let's say, a Wizard of Oz type journey, the second one is a Shakesperean style tragedy, crossed with the archetectonic novel.

I added around ten pages to Chapter Seven in the Angel Book tonight, an even mix of old and new material. The first draft was 303 pages, comically or tragically short - presently the second draft stands at 176 pages, and it's barely covered a third of the original narrative. I'm thinking it will be at least 500 pages, maybe 600.

Any bets?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Discovery Is Home

Discovery came out of the dark like a silver bullet early this morning. It was a flawless landing, start to finish. Even though the entire de-orbit process took just over an hour, it went by incredibly fast. So fast that the point everyone dreaded, the point where Columbia disintegrated, came and went without the held breath I remember with the 'throttle up' command I remember on many flights after Challenger (now that I think about it, still to this day I don't sit down until they get past this point). I'm glad they're home and all went well. Whatever the future brings, and no matter how flawed a creation the shuttle has been sometimes, it's still the coolest thing this kid from Iowa ever saw.

Are We There Yet?

NASA just called off Discovery's first landing attempt today, on account of bad storms off the coast in Florida. It looks increasingly likely that they will put down at Edwards, no matter what, around six our time.

I got back into the Angel Book in a big way tonight, writing 1,500 words in Chapter Seven. I was going to write some more, but my hands hurt terrible (even as I write this) so I'll leave something for tomorrow. I wanted to get back on track and finish a chapter in the book this week, and I'm glad I had some success tonight, because an idea for a new short story came to me today.

It actually was more like an amazing kinetic reaction that took place between a germ for a new story I got in KC and one I've had for a while now. I wrote four pages of notes on it and if not for some research I need to do on nursing, I probably could have written most of it tonight. I'll finally get to utilize some Ireland stuff I've had in the can for five years or so now, and surprisingly, to me, it focuses more on the Aran Islands than what I expected (Belfast or Dublin), but there isn't a hospital on Inis Mor, so that's perfect for what the story needs. I think it will be a little bit more in the horror vein than usual for me. And it won't be another weird Iowa story (weird Ireland), which will be a nice change of pace.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Go For Landing

Q&A with Kelly Link and an excerpt from her new story over at One Story. She also just won the Hugo for Best Novelette of 2005 for "The Faery Handbag."

Has the drive for 'realism' in our narratives, whether on the page or the screen, gone so far as to drop the need for the 'artifice' of art itself? Apparently so. Non-fiction: the new reality TV. Of course, Naipaul thinks he's better than Conrad, so take it with a grain of salt. But there has been and is now a growing trend toward the memoir and creative non-fiction (what all 'reality' anything is) in the past few years. It has its place, but if our lives replace our stories, what lives do we have?

The shuttle will be visible on approach tomorrow (provided all goes well) from here in Waterloo, about 4:30 in the morning.

Back Home

Back from my visit with my Uncle John and Aunt Charlene in KC. It was a nice, but too short visit. He's doing really well and seems to get better every day. He's one of the funniest guys I know and to see him in good spirits again was great. I gave them my (EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) book to read, which they've asked after for a while now. I got over my trepidation and gave them a copy.

Before I left, I got another rejection in the mail for the moon rocks story. It had been a long wait, and I was hoping for more, but there are many more places for me to go with the story.

Years ago, Sugu and I wondered what the opposite of disgruntle had to be - obviously if you could be DISgruntled, you had to have been gruntled at one point. Turns out we were right. Sort of.

UPDATE: The shuttle landing has been delayed for at least one more day.

Peter Jennings has gone home too.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Exhibit C

Since I'm leaving for Kansas City tomorrow, I thought I'd post Exhibit C that God Exists for the court's pleasure a day early:

Shotgun City

I mentioned the pit bull episode, but I forgot to mention the gunshots around my Mom's house the last few nights. Tuesday night it was a shotgun (she found one of the shells in the street) and tonight it was more, down on the corner apparently. 'Down on the corner' on Lincoln St. is Waterloo's all night pharmacy, if you know what I mean. There's been too much violence here in town, murders upon murders (one of a young woman in the house right behind my mom's) and it scares the hell out of me. I've been telling her for a long time to get out of the neighborhood, and I think she wants to.

Despite finding a new problem every time they fix one, NASA OK'd Discovery to come back next week. I wish I were there to see it, because I believe it will be the last landing of a space shuttle, ever. I wish - hope - it were different, but the reality is that NASA cannot gurantee the safety of the orbiter, relative to foam-shed, and thus it would be thoughtless to send up any more.

I got back to the Angel Book tonight, after gathering a little research. I'm still frustrated with what little I've found on 14th century Ireland, but the fact is there isn't much because little survived from that period (Black Death took care of that). There is material out there, though, and I'd like to get at that, but it's not crucial to the book, so I'm moving on. I'm happy with this chapter, Chapter Six; any time you can go from a church in small town Iowa to 14th century Ireland, to 1920's Dresden and back (with time for tea with Audrey Hepburn) it's got to be fun. It may be schizo as hell, but it will be fun.

And proving that there is at least some justice in the world, CNN sent Douche Bag For Justice Robert Novak packing.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Astronaut Steve Robinson skipped calling Home Depot and went out and did some repairs himself. Unfortunately, it sounds like he may have to go back out tomorrow.

Mars has gas - but where is it getting its Pepcid?

At WorldCon in Glasgow, they seem to be of two minds of the current state of sci-fi - on one hand, this quote from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman:

"There was a battle for the minds of the world and we appear to have won it. And now we need to figure out what we're doing next."

And then this one, from Christopher Priest:

"I don't think of myself as a science fiction writer but I wouldn't deny it," he says. "But there are some people who only have to hear it's SF and you hear the crash of a mind closing. Margaret Atwood, for instance, writes really quite good science fiction but will not say the name."

Sci-fi - the evil that dare not speaketh its name.

Pit Bull Blues

So I open the door tonight, and staring back at me is this gigantic black/white pit bull. All these pit bull horror stories run through my head - am I about to be on a future episode of When Animals Attack? Yeah. My dog Pepper is out there, so I go out to make sure she's okay, figure out where this guy came from, and thus it begins. He attempted what I can only call a drop kick on me, tearing my shirt, and pinned Pepper to the ground. I pried him with a shovel and tossed him (as much as you can toss a pit bull) into the pen Pepper vacated a while back.

I called the pound and they came and got him ("Do you think I can handle him?" the lady asks me - "Isn't that your job?" I said) and all is well. Except my shirt is torn, and Pepper looks a year older.

I went to lunch with Ben today, and that was fun. We talked some about his week in IC writing, and we swapped action figures, because we know no shame. Ben also found the funniest thing I've seen in a long while:

More ROTS, lost in translations.

I decided to take the night off from writing, because my arm hurts like hell, and I'm just kind of tuckered out from ol' Millie. That sounded bad. I need to get back to the revisions on the Angel Book, but I'm at a loss in certain areas. I need research info on life for average joes in 14th century rural Ireland, and nothing I'm finding is doing the trick for me. It's not holding up the book, I actually made a substantial realization about just WHAT IS GOING ON (Sugu I think wanted this more obvious in the first draft; I left it vague because like with first dates, in first drafts, I like to play coy). I'll do some thinking and reading and hopefully get back to this in a major way in the next few days.

Monday, August 01, 2005

You Can't Hurt Me & Act Hurt

Neutral Tones

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro—
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing…

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

Thomas Hardy, 1867.

Dog Days

I spent some time today with an old story that continues to vex me, months later. I think, maybe, I may have finally found a way to solve the problems that plague it (mostly the beginning; I've never known what to do with the beginning). Sometimes I think my ideas are better than my ability to present them. I feel like my life's work will be slogging toward the place where my skills are as good as my ideas. If they're even good. Good lord, they could be crap.

A massive, great interview with Joss Whedon.

So this explains a few things.

Sugu has a forum now. Someday, when I am a famous author with legions of rabid, adoring fans, I will have forums. And I will not post there. Just kidding. I'll post. But as Sugu.

NASA will send an astronaut out for the hairest space walk of all time, underneath the shuttle, tomorrow. They're going to fix two pieces of material that may or may not pose a threat to Discovery on re-entry.