Towse: views from the hill

February 28, 2005

Charlie Stross talks about "what goes into making a successful novelist?" and "why I am able to write"

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:54 pm

Haven’t stopped by Charlie Stross’ Diary from the link over >>>?

Stop by today and read his Why I am able to write entry from yesterday, 27 Feb 2005 (Sun).


So what goes into making a successful novelist? Dogged persistence taken to an irrational extreme: check. Willingness to work for years without reward: check. Crap wages: check. For every best-seller there are a thousand writers making £2500-5000 off their books. Even if you hit the jackpot, the return on your investment of time isn’t that great. (Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a publishing sensation with a reputed million pound advance, but that’s the return on ten years of work with no guarantee of success, and if it doesn’t earn out (or at least deliver break-even to Bloomsbury) it might be the last novel she ever sells, in which case that’s all she gets for her entire career: megadollar failures stain reputations indellibly, rendering it impossible for the writers to sell subsequent work however different it might be or modest their expectations.)

So let’s add “selective stupidity” to the list of attributes that go to make a successful writer and move on.


February 26, 2005

Fairy Tales Can Come True

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:03 am

It can happen to you,
If you’re young at heart. [a nod to Carolyn Leigh]

Tale of love and redemption wins grandmother £50,000 book deal
By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent, The Independent Online Edition. Published : 23 February 2005

Richard And Judy’s book club has transformed sales figures for dozens of novels, and turned modest publishing successes into triumphs. And now the husband and wife team have turned literary talent spotters too, with a competition for budding authors that could make a star of a grandmother and homeopath from Bournemouth.

Christine Aziz, 52, who left school at 15 with a single O-level in English, won the Channel 4 show’s competition and will receive a £50,000 advance for her first novel. She beat more than 46,000 other viewers who were asked to submit a synopsis and the first chapter to the show’s How To Get Published contest.



[Hattip to Sarah Weinman]

February 25, 2005

Friday Blog Pick: Chez Miscarriage

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:52 pm

I came across getupgrrl’s Chez Miscarriage blog through TNH’s Making Light entry The mother drive-by.

Whoo boy. The uproar over at Chez Miscarriage that led to the mention in Making Light is an um. discussion of Judith Warner’s Newsweek article, Mommy Madness. Warner, in case you’ve been hiding out from the 24/7 news feeds, is the author of a recently-published book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.

The uproar at Chez Miscarriage, which spilt over into Making Light — which has its own mini-uproar on the subject — has morphed into the subject of mother drive-bys AKA the Bad Mommy Brigade: helpful souls who are willing to tell perfect strangers that their baby should be wearing booties because they (the babies, that is) will catch cold otherwise.

Some folks who have never had children are appalled at the stories. Can they really be true? Do total strangers, PTA parents, close friends and family actually come up to parents and tell them how to parent?


There has not, as far as I’ve seen, been one mother-type who claims to never have experienced a drive-by, put-down, you’re-doing-it-all-wrong piece of “friendly” advice. Father-types, however, do claim to never have been so graced. The father-types go on to say that perhaps that lack is because father-types seem more intimidating to the Bad Mommy Brigade and more likely to tell the helpful soul to poke their parker elsewhere.

Criticisms from the Bad Mommy Brigade would have no effect if it weren’t for our inherent worries that perhaps we are doing something wrong. As I’ve mentioned before, the guys are in their twenties now and reassure us that we did just fine. They like who they are. They tell us they’ve heard some very weird tales from friends about other families’ dysfunctions.

I still wish I’d baked more chocolate chip cookies, though, and could undo some of the choices I made. But they’re happy with their childhoods and themselves so maybe I should just let go of the if-onlys.

My favorite drive-by happened at a PTA luncheon. I’ll be generous and say that perhaps Mrs. B had had one too many glasses of Chardonnay before lunch and overconsumption had freed her from her usual social inhibitions. Perhaps.

On hearing that his nibs and I have different last names, she went into a tirade about people with different last names and how if people have different last names she assumes they aren’t married and if they aren’t married, that means their children were born out of wedlock and how it is absolutely terrible for people to have children out of wedlock, unfair to the children, failing society, and on and on.

The look on my face must’ve been the one I use when I poke at a stink bug or millipede. You know the one, the oh-what-have-we-got-here look, or maybe the look was just stupified and “are you for real?”

She finished her blitz and asked, “Well, what do you think of that?”

I answered, “It’s your problem, Nancy, not mine.”

She spluttered and didn’t talk to me for the rest of the meal. In fact, I don’t think she’s ever talked to me since.

When people told me that my children would catch cold because they weren’t wearing booties, I shrugged it off. I knew that booties had nothing to do with it. When people told me that I should be doing this or that, I’d explain that my parenting style was benign neglect and that my guys had to really (really, really) want something before I’d even consider it. I was not going to rent a trombone only to find that they’d lost interest in the school band two weeks later. I was not signing them up for a season of T-ball unless I had a pretty good feel that they really wanted to play T-ball and they weren’t just clamoring because Devin was playing T-ball and they wanted to be all things Devin.

Sure, there were times when the “helpful” advice caused a twinge of doubt. My shrink mother, for example, told me that our plan to have no TV in the house until the younger niblet knew how to read was just wrong-wrong-wrong. I stayed with the plan, though, and the niblets use the lack-of-TV stories when twenty-something conversations turn to just how weird parents and childhood can be.

As adults, both guys read voraciously for pleasure, and that’s what I’d been aiming for. Would they read as voraciously if they’d been watching TV from Day One and the first words out of their mouths were TV commercial taglines? I don’t know. Too late to unring that bell though.

But, back to getupgrrl’s Chez Miscarriage and why it’s the Friday Blog Pick. getupgrrl is Literate, Funny, Thought-provoking.

Go thee hither and see what you think.

February 24, 2005

A Menu For Hope: Rihaku Shuzo "Dreamy Clouds" Sake

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:19 pm

I link to Alder Yarrow’s Vinography: a wine blog over there >>>. But wait, there’s more to it than that.

Today is our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, which means I’ve now spent half my life married to his nibs. No longer a twenty-six-year-old wife I be. I like to think I’m more charming and interesting than I was then. I certainly have a lot more life experience.

In honor of the day tonight, we are going off to a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, a dinner that will pair David Kinch, whose restaurant (Manresa) it is, with Alder Yarrow, who has chosen the wines for the meal.

We chose the dinner because Kinch is creating the food and we would’ve probably been having dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos to celebrate the anniversary anyway. We’ve been eating Kinch’s culinary treats since he made his magic at Sent Sovi. Having the Alder matchup was such an added pleasure. I’ve had Alder on my blogroll since I first stumbled over him and found it an amazing coincidence that the two had paired up. I shouldn’t have been surprised: sometimes it seems the folks who hang out in the Bay Area all know each other.

Example: At a dinner at Manresa last summer, I bumped into someone I know from San Francisco who posts to rec.arts.mystery and whom I see at Bouchercon. He was *way* away from anywhere I’d expected to see him. Turns out he and his partner drive down to Kinch’s on occasion for dinner. Sixty miles! and then home another sixty miles to lay down their weary heads! Are they nuts?

Or is Kinch’s food just that good?

In any case, I was wandering through Alder’s blog today in anticipation of dinner tonight and came across this. Not only are there interesting recipes, but also the recipes are provided by food bloggers. All for a good cause.

A Menu For Hope

Thought you might find the recipes and the bloggers interesting.

Making Light: On the getting of agents

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:01 pm

Teresa Nielsen Hayden On the getting of agents (20 Feb 2004) with a zillion useful comments.

Don’t read Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light? You should.

Posts or comments on Making Light frequently come up in conversation when the older niblet and I are together.

Writerly blogs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:31 am

Reading writerly blogs makes me feel like I’m not such a freak at times, fretting and fussing about … words.

Over there >>> is a link to Sandra Scoppetone’s Writing Thoughts.

I so identified with her post on Sunday.

I have to stop all that. I have to get down to work. I can’t get distracted. If I want to do these things I’ll do them after I finish writing. This is my vow for the coming week.

This is my vow for the coming week.

Moody Monday Mood: Protective

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:44 am

Moody Monday Mood: Protective Posted by Hello

Roadside shrine. Stromboli, SICILIA

February 23, 2005

I want this

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:39 pm

I want this

Wide open. Room for books. Space to dream.

[Update: Updated link to actual pics of the place because the real estate Web site is 404.]

Zdzislaw Beksinski dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:31 pm

Zdzislaw Beksinski has been found dead from stab wounds at his home in Warsaw.

What a brilliant, unsettling painter he was.


Top court to review assisted suicide / Oregon lets doctors provide death drugs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:11 pm

A Chron article by Bob Egelko today titled, Top court to review assisted suicide, wraps up the latest news on assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Bush administration’s challenge to Oregon’s voter-approved Death With Dignity law that allows doctors to prescribe fatal doses of drugs for terminally ill patients who can then self-administer a lethal dose.

Attorney General Ashcroft (and now AG Gonzales, one assumes) would have it that the Oregon law violates the Controlled Substance Act. Ashcroft insists that federal drug law prohibits doctors from prescribing fatal doses of federally-regulated drugs — barbituates, in this case. Doctors so doing, said Ashcroft, will lose their federal drug prescription licenses in addition to facing criminal charges. Is this truly what the Controlled Substance Act was intended to control?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, bless their liberal hearts, said that Ashcroft was outta line and interfering with state law sanctioned by the Supreme Court decision in 1997 which left the law-making on assisted suicide up to the individual states.

The SCOTUS will hear arguments when the next term starts in October — which may be with or without Chief Justice Rehnquist, with or without his replacement. What difference will Rehnquist’s presence or absence make to the ruling expected mid-2006? Whatever the ruling, it will affect whatever laws California may enact in the mean time.

Arguments counter to the Oregon law run along religious grounds and right-to-life issues and raise concerns about possible suicide pressures brought to bear on the disabled. Arguments also run along slippery slopes and if now this, what next?

Does Oregon just allow prescribing death-inducing doses of drugs willy-nilly? No. The patient must be mentally competent. Two doctors must say that the patient is terminally ill, with death forecast within six months. The request must be renewed within 15 days.

In the past seven years, 171 Oregonians have taken advantage — two a month on average. How is Death With Dignity that much different from existing laws that allow a patient to refuse treatment, request that no artificial means be used to extend life, or insist on a Do Not Resuscitate order?

Hunter S. Thompson just died of what is alleged to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Speculation is high as to why, but no one is saying that he had only six months to live. Some say he was in pain and declining health and dreaded living out his life the way he was. Maybe so. Some say he had lost good friends like Warren Zevon and dreaded the direction the country was taking. Maybe so. Am I to decide that his decision to cut his life short was wrong and he could not make that decision, or having made it, not follow through? Who am I to decide that? If I’d been his wife or his daughter, I might — maybe — have had a say in the matter. Or not.

My oldest brother killed himself at twenty-nine in a depression-spawned black ooze. Another brother, diagnosed as terminally ill at age forty-eight, made the decision to keep fighting until the last minute. He almost made it to fifty-one. Did he keep fighting because he knew what suicide does to family and didn’t want to put us through all that again? I don’t think so. I think he was just the way he’d always been and had a robust scientific curiosity about the whole process of dying — Death, The Final Adventure. … except for him, maybe not. Case opted for cryonics and hoped there’d be more adventures further down the road.

Suicide. Suicide. Thirty years later, I am still affected by the unexpected sudden death of Skip. Would things have turned out differently if we’d known what he was going through thousands of miles away? Would we have been able to talk with him, get him into treatment that would have mitigated the black ooze and kept him with us? I come back again and again to the knowledge that one never knows, one never knows whether things could’ve turned out differently. If not this time, when?

But the Oregon law is not intended for black ooze and suicide. It’s intended for people with a short time to live who would rather check out now.

I am glad we had time with Case above and beyond the six months or so he was originally quoted. I am glad he decided to stick around until the bitter end, but who am I to tell someone given a terminal prognosis that they can’t die now and avoid the time dragging on and on until … they die anyway?

Why can’t the patient decide now that they’d rather not spend that time, thanks. Why aren’t they allowed to make that decision?

Who are we to play God?

Update: Juan Thompson gave an interview to the Rocky Mountain News. The resulting article says, Few, if any, can conceive of Thompson’s reasoning in committing suicide, according to his relatives. But it is a thought process with its own beautifully dark logic, they say.

“I’ve known for many, many years that this is how Hunter would go,” Juan Thompson said. “There was just no question that when the time came he would choose to do it himself. The idea of Hunter lying in a hospital bed with tubes, gasping for breath, is so contrary to his whole life and purpose and drive.

“It was just a question of when. This was a big surprise and I didn’t expect it to be now, but the means was exactly as we expected.”

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