Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Timeless themes

I take the bus to The Day Job, and even though it's a short trip, I
try to write or read to make the twenty minutes useful. Right now I'm
reading a lot of Mary Balogh on those bus rides. Balogh, if you're
not familiar with the name, writes Regency-set historicals, and I'm
enjoying them thoroughly. Before two or three months ago, I'd never
picked up any of her books, but a friend of mine is a big fan of hers
(so Roberta, I blame all this on you!), and I found I enjoyed them
(though the overuse of the word "haughty" set my teeth on edge with
one book -- Josh and Lady Freyja's story, if anyone familiar with
Balogh's work is wondering). These books, set against the Regency and
the wars on the continent as a backdrop, are a perfect counterpoint
to the sf shared-continuity I'm writing and rewriting for Cerridwen.
Reading one cleanses my mental palate for writing the other.

But these stories about Regency England and a farflung fantasy future
(FFFF) have more in common than you would think. My story got its
start from an op-ed piece I read in The New York Times, a son finding
out his father had been accused of war crimes -- and never told about
them, or allowed to clear his name. Doesn't that sound like a Regency
story? If not Regency, certainly something historical. But it's a
timeless theme, so of course it works even in the FFFF.

Which is why, of course, romance fiction is big. Love is a timeless
theme, and so is family. Love and family, among other timeless
themes, connect the distant past with the FFFF. Timeless themes
resonate in us, and that's why they're popular. Love and family are
two such themes. How many others can you think of off-hand?

Eilis Flynn
"30-Day Guarantee,"


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Will Psychics' Heads No Longer Explode?

The saddest news in publishing entertainment this week has to come
from the folks at the <i>Weekly World News,</i> home of the
adventures of Bat Boy and headlines like "Famed Psychic's Head
Explodes!" (That headline had been cut out from an issue and tacked
above The Hub's office desk, where it served to inspire him to
greater heights of creativity.) That august periodical, which has
amused, amazed, and inspired us to reach for the improbable (at least
those of us who write out-of-the-normal-world stories), has shut its
doors. The issue now on the newsstands is its last.

We've always been fond of the periodical, and in more recent days it
didn't hurt that one of our oldest friends worked there. It gave us
Bat Boy (complete with his being discovered, escaping from custody,
and my personal favorite, the gleefully crudely mocked-up photos of
Bat Boy DRIVING, screaming as he does so -- and since I don't
remember any stories "reported" that he took driving lessons, no
wonder he was screaming as he drove on the freeways), stories of
aliens having passionate affairs, most notably with Hillary Clinton
(or was it Bigfoot?)(or aliens with Bigfoot), the ghost of Ronald
Reagan appearing in front of True Believers, as well as a number of
other US presidents appearing also in improbable places and doing
unlikely things. Speaking of Bigfoot, there was the issue with the
lady Bigfoot consenting to a centerfold, complete with turn-ons and
turn-offs (no body hair, it turns out, is a turn-off. Who would have

But like all wonderful, wildly creative things, it had to come to an
end. The last issue reported that a set of aliens who invited humans
to their outer-space lair wanted the WWN staffers to join them, and
so the print edition would cease. But I'm guessing the online version
will continue to amaze, amuse, and inspire us ... at least until the
WWN staffers come back to tell us about the wondrous things the
aliens have taught them.

Eilis Flynn

Monday, August 06, 2007

A few days after the Fourth of July 1999, in the evening, coming home from a baseball game, The Hub noticed the shadow of a familiar-looking cat across the street when he got out of the car. He thought it was Fido, our Tonkinese, somehow gotten out of the house and now waiting to be let back in. Getting closer, though, he realized it wasn't Fido -- coloring was wrong, though the shape was similar. The cat came running toward him anyway, and even though The Hub told him to shoo, go home, the cat wasn't having any of that. The Hub started down our sidewalk, and the cat followed him. The Hub went up the steps; the cat followed him.

Long story short, The Hub figured that the cat was too domesticated and friendly to be wandering around since it was clearly lost, so it resided in our garage for a month while we tried to find its owners. We had no intention for "The Little Gray Cat Who Lives In The Garage," as we referred to him, to join the family. We had two others, much older, and we had recently lost another older cat six months previous. But as the days and weeks went on, it seemed inevitable: the cat was going to be part of the family. Bowser, as he was renamed, must have been abandoned: He was dirty and scrawny and had three different kinds of parasites, but he was insanely friendly.

After the vet checked him out -- and for some reason, the name of "The Little Gray Cat Who Lives In The Garage But Isn't Really Ours" cracked them up -- we began the slow process of moving him from the garage to the house. The other two cats weren't happy about it -- in fact, Rover, the calico, nearly had to be put on tranquilizers at one point -- but they got used to each other eventually. In fact, Fido and Bowser got to be best buds, sleeping together all curled up, following each other around. (Rover, not so much, but that was another story.)

Last week, we noticed Bowser wasn't eating -- not even ice cream, which he loved -- so we took him to the vet, who told us the cat had a large tumor. Further investigation revealed that he had cancer of the lymph nodes and of the small intestine, and the diagnosis was grave.

After we brought him home, he wouldn't eat. In fact, he went and hid. We thought it was because he wasn't happy he had been poked and prodded -- this despite the fact that he was the friendliest cat in the world. And he wouldn't come out. After a day of that, we tried to get him to come out.

He'd died sometime during the night or even the day, because he was already stiff.

Bowser was the only optimist in the house. Rover is a fatalist, Fido neurotic, and The Hub and I tend to be pessimists. But Bowser was sunny and friendly and sweet-natured, and he was only eight years old.

Life sucks.

Eilis Flynn,
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The final "why" -- this one's the toughest. It's a matter of interpretation. How do we write? Are we talking psychological, are we talking physical? Are we talking fountain pen, no. 2 pencil, Microsoft Word on a laptop? I was an anthropology major, so I'm thinking ... physical.

Years ago, I wrote my stories with a fountain pen. I'm a fountain pen fan. I think I was nine when I was first given a fountain pen, a simple Sheaffer, and provided with a gross of refill cartridges (hey, you find something on sale, you take it!). Previously, my life was all about crayons and Bic pens, but the fountain pen ... it just flowed. My words would appear as if by magic, accentuated by the twist of the letter, enhanced by a downstroke. Suddenly I understood why all those old documents looked the way they did, why there were flourishes where none were necessary, with uneven strokes and letters with sharp strokes and blots. At some level it's art. (Of course, if the pen malfunctions, the blots are on your hands, but there was a charm to that, too.) And in a way that elevated my writing to art.

Then there was the Royal manual typewriter ... it succeeded the fountain pen, mainly because I learned how to type, and I'd seen one too many black & white movie. From this stage came plays ... terrible, terrible plays. And papers for school; many, many papers. And letters to the editor. Mostly I wrote a lot of letters to the editor. When I think of my Royal manual typewriter, I think of those. Not that creative (but some), certainly not like the fountain pen. But efficient.

Even though the electric, and then the electronic, typewriter came soon after that stage, I lump these together with the manual. These encouraged more creativity (possibly because my hands didn't get quite as tired as the manual), but the art wasn't there. But the Selectric certainly allowed for faster, more efficient production. The electronic, not so much, because for whatever reason, they slowed me up (the buffer wasn't much of one).

These days, like most people, I use a computer. It's more efficient, it's faster (hey, no matter how fast I type, it can keep up with me), and I can do what I need to do.

But I miss the fountain pen days.

Eilis Flynn,
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