A Little Bit Louder Now

19 March 2001

I've discovered my problem with Margaret Atwood: I always like half of her books. Not the first half; then I could quit reading after I started hating it. Not the last half; then the beginning could be considered penance for the delicious end. No no. I like half of her books by section. And I can always pick out, by the third or fourth section change, which section is going to be a section I hate. But they have stuff to do with the sections I don't hate, otherwise the books wouldn't make much sense. So I have to read them all.

I'm feeling a little scattery today. I think that's what the end of the cold is doing to me. (I have a little bit of a voice again, though!) I feel like I have about the focus needed to write a paragraph on a given topic. Unfortunately, this does not get my novel written. Nor does it get my short story edited. Nor (she said with trepidation) does it get my two nonfiction projects done. And they've got deadlines at the end of next week.

If I step back and look at it objectively, I'm doing fine on my nonfiction pieces. On one of them, at least. But it still fills me with a little dread. I like to have things done early, so I don't have to worry about having enough time to do what I want to do. I am, however, getting my butt kicked by this cold, so my periods of work are fairly limited. Not as much as they would be if I had A Day Job, but more than I'd like.

Unfortunately, these books have to be G-rated. A lot of the stuff I'm finding really interesting about Chinese immigration would get them a PG rating at least. I doubt that the editor wants me to describe the niceties of prostitution laws to fourth through sixth graders. But basically any Chinese woman in America could be deported at a moment's notice on a charge of prostitution. They had cases where they claimed that two women were "obviously" not the wife and daughter of the man they had been living with for fifteen years or more, because they spoke slightly different dialects of Chinese. (Mark knows a guy whose parents are both Chinese immigrants, but whose common language is English -- they can only understand each other in Chinese if it's written down.)

I do have to share my favorite story from my research, though. Evidently, the native Americans caused quite some trouble with the Europeans' theories on race. They were not Caucasoid, Mongoloid, or Negroid. Oh no! What to do? Some enterprising souls decided that the new people they'd found were Jews, the lost Jews scattered across North America. But others decided that they were Chinese. Now, that would be sort of reasonable, maybe, in a way...except that there was a segment that didn't mean "like the Chinese" or "many hundred years' descended from the Chinese." Heck no. There was a chunk of the white population that firmly believed that the people they were calling "Indians" were recently emigrated Chinese, who were attempting to colonize America for the Emperor, in secret, and attempting to make the white folks feel bad by pretending they'd been there all along. And that at any minute, these fake Indians were going to come swarming out of their reservations at the command of the Emperor, ready to meet up with the swarm of Chinese troops that would be landing on the Pacific shore any minute.

And you thought there were paranoid fringe groups running around now.

I really love the fact that I sometimes get paid to learn stuff. That's pretty darn cool. I mean, I was getting paid to learn stuff in grad school, too, supposedly, only I wasn't really learning much. (They had us doing permutations and combinations in my graduate Math Methods class!) So it didn't seem like such a great deal.

Mark just came in with the mail. Two rejections for me, and two letters. My aunt Mary is online now. My Onie got a bad haircut. And F&SF and Asimov's don't want my stories. Oh well. I'm getting to the point now where I have enough stuff in circulation to keep something at the big markets at all times. That's kind of cool for me. I wonder how long it'll last, considering that I'm focused on the novel now, and I know which novel I want to write after this one. (Unless, of course, I have a contract for my third other place book by then. One can always hope, no matter how irrationally.)

One of the nice things about living with An Editor is that I can keep my little writer-fantasies going. Because Timprov really does do the things you want editors to do. He has just sat back and stared at the computer and said, "Oh, this is so cool! I can't wait for you guys to read this!" He's said, "This guy is awesome! Why haven't I read anything else of his?" and promptly started web searching for the awesome author of the day. In short, he gets enthusiastic about new writers. Even when sometimes their stories needed editing. And I think there's a part of us that needs to believe that editors are like that. Even if some of them really don't seem to be.

I think my brain is finally going to let me focus now. Kind of it, really, but you won't get to reap the benefits. At least, not right away. I'm going to get down to some real work, which I was sadly too sick to do yesterday. And my parting taunt: Hey Midwesterners, I'm wearing shorts, and I'm too hot!

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