I am constantly amazed at how fast attitudes have changed about sexual orientation. Not fast enough, of course, it’s been hell for non-heterosexuals for centuries, but the change is speeding up. In 2016, 61% of Americans approved of gay marriage. in 2018, it was 67%. That’s a majority, albeit probably located on the coasts. The reactionaries that have taken over our government this year told our embassies not to fly the Pride flag, something the embassies have been doing for years, but this year a lot of the embassies ignored them and flew it anyway, which makes me so proud. We’re obviously not out of the national closet yet given the way we marginalize anybody who doesn’t go for the missionary position with two different genders (the ones they were born with, damn it, don’t confuse the bigots) but we really have come a long way. Kind of like with women’s rights: Not there yet, but getting there. And I really do believe this administration is the last gasp of patriarchal, homophobic, racist, sexist morons, an extinction burst that was necessary to show us how bad things could get so we’ll get up off our lazy asses and vote and protest and speed up the bend that the universe takes toward justice.
But in the meantime, it’s Pride Month so let’s celebrate. Get out your rainbows, people, and support love in all its forms. It’s the decent thing to do.
Jeanine asked: I know you’ve said that every writer has their own process and they must discover what works for them. Nonetheless, in your discussions of the craft of writing, you often speak of guidelines for writing or, at least, for the finished product. For example you speak of things to avoid, such as prologues or flashbacks. Have you encountered any occasions where the writer completely breaks the rules or ignores the guidelines that you’ve established (at least for yourself), and what shouldn’t work, works brilliantly?
All the time. That’s why I slap the “many roads to Oz” disclaimer on everything I teach.
I’m a big Ben Aaronovitch fan, not the least because he does things I can’t do, like work with actual locations and incredible detail and deep history. But mostly I like his characters, especially his protagonist, Peter Grant, who is almost a young Sam Vines without the alcohol problem. He’s easy-going but dedicated, loyal and brave, with a dry wit and a worldview that’s fun to follow. Another thing I like about Aaronovitch is that his books are actually better on rereading. There’s so much stuff in there that I miss some of it searching for story–the first person narrator loves his info dump–but the story is there and it’s always fascinating (okay, he lost me with the unicorn and the train into faerieland, but everything else is excellent). So when I saw he had something new out, The October Man, I bought it even though it wasn’t a Peter Grant, and instead of being London-based was set in Germany. It’s not one I’ll re-read, although I applaud him extending his world outside the UK, and it was fun to see Grant’s German counterpart talk about him and his boss, Nightingale, as distant competitors. The big problem is that the protagonist is bland. I just now finished the book and I can’t remember his name, although his partner’s name is Vanessa and the river goddess in this book is Kelly. I think the problem is that it feels like a shadow of the Peter Grant books: he’s Grant’s opposite number, the female cop he works with becomes a new apprentice at the end of the book, he has a contentious relationship with a river goddess that foreshadows a love affair, there’s even a baby river goddess as a counterpart to Nicky from the Grant books. It feels like Grant Lite. None of which means that I don’t already have the next Grant book on pre-order (out in November). Grant’s been kicked out of the Force and he’s about to become a father, and his ex-partner, now a rogue magician is on the loose and dangerous, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only writer here who goes nuts in office supply stores, or who loves Target at the end of August because of the back to school stuff. But my tool lust goes beyond the writing stuff; I’m currently obsessed with kitchen tools to the point where I have shelled out big bucks for Cutco and Mison knives and I almost (but sanity reigned) paid $75 for an Alessi pepper mill. There’s something about having really good tools that make it possible to really good work or at least give the illusion that you’re going to do good work now that you have This Great Thing. But my fave is not expensive: it’s grid paper and Sharpie fine point pens. I can’t write books on paper, although two of my friends (Gaffney and Stuart) do, but when I’m brainstorming, I love forming neat letters in clear black shapes on blue lined grid paper. It’s like having a safety net; those grids will catch me. And if not, I just rip off the top sheet and start again. I love my Mison bread knife, but if I had to choose between that and my cheap grid-and-Sharpie, it would be grid-and-Sharpie all the way (also good for recipes).
What’s your tool obsession? Oh, and what did you work on this week?
I love the cusps, those times of year when the seasons shift and change is everywhere, and spring into summer is probably my fave. Summer into fall is pretty good, too, except there’s always a hint of excitement (back to school!) and sadness (things start to die), that makes the whole time seem richer and heavier than its counterpart. But spring into summer is all light and happiness, like a little kid dancing, the world warming up, bulbs popping like crazy, wildlife getting gutsy about staring down humans, lovely breezes and warm rainstorms, and the sense of potential everywhere. Spring into summer is all promise, and it makes me insanely happy.
I read through most of the Reginald Hill books I could afford on Kindle, then when they got too dear ordered used paperbacks. Eighteen bucks for an e-book? No. While I’m waiting for those, I started re-reading the Rivers of London books and the BookBub has a P. D. James for $2.99, and I know I read those back in the day but I can’t remember them, so I bought that one. In short, I’m wallowing in British mystery.
A British study of over seven hundred thousand women showed that happiness does not lead to a longer life. Ill health can make you unhappy and kill you early, but when that was taken out of the calculations, happy and unhappy women’s life spans were about the same.
I read that and thought, “Oh, thank god.” As a cancer survivor and a current heart patient, I’ve got enough “You shouldn’t do that” and “You should do that” concerns without adding, “And be happy, damn it, or you’ll die.” The fact that I am happy helps, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel guilty when I get down because now, on top of being depressed, I’m killing myself. And now I don’t have to, thanks to the Million Women Study. That makes me happy.