Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hello from Rancho Mirage

I'm in the desert.

No, not the middle of my novel, though I'm there as well. I mean the actual, non-metaphorical desert, with cactus and creosote bushes. A little inland of Palm Springs. And, in June, that means temperatures of over 108 Fahrenheit (42.5 C for you metric geeks). Back home at the beach, it means 78 F (25.6 C) and luscious.

But out here it means the Annual Palm Springs Writing Retreat. Note that it isn't a "writer's retreat." Nope. "Writing retreat." Write, get critiqued, read, give critique. Have a few drinks (and make sure you drink 20 oz of water per alcoholic beverage) and go write some more.

Unlike the usual process of hammering out words and getting a reaction months later, here people read you the next day. Instant Karma. The feedback might be valid or invalid, but either way it's about as instantaneous as it is likely to get. That might not be what you want day to day, but for a week or so it's luxurious.

Rancho Mirage used to be...well, a Rancho. Out here on the edge of habitability, between Palm Springs and the more questionable towns of Indio and (dare I say it?) Mecca, California. It's hard to imagine that anyone, even those addled by the sun, would have decided to settle here. But the town has grown and grown and they have laid down golf courses and shopping centers, and now, by god, there is a Borders within walking distance and a Barnes & Noble within staggering distance, and though between ariconditioning and water wastage the resource footprints look as though they were made by Pleistocene megafauna, it is definitely civilized.

Let me tell you how civilized. June 12 was the US pub date for RN Morris' Dagger-nominated A Vengeful Longing. And, after we stumbled out of our late Zinfandel-addled dinner, I led a little troupe of my fellow writers through the Borders on the way back to our hotel, and, voila!--A Vengeful Longing sat there upon the shelves. In MiddleOfNowhere, USA. and I have pics to prove it. (I'd post them right now except I don't have that little wiggly USB object that connects my camera to my computer. So you'll have to wait.) Tomorrow I'll manage to get to Barnes and Noble and snap some shots there, too, assuming they've managed to get them onto the shelves. (If Borders is Germany speedwise, Barnes and Noble is Italy. It will happen--but will it happen on pub date?)

Roger ought to be patting himself on the back (assuming he can get the cat to move). In readership terms, this is the true middle of nowhere, yet AVL has penetrated even here. A Londoner selling a book about 1860s St Petersburg within a short hop of Death Valley...well, it's a bit odd, and it makes one want to move to Kuala Lumpur just to test the reach of Porfiry Petrovich, redux.

Meanwhile, I'm in the desert, with a baker's dozen of other novelists. All of them are pretty damn good, and some of them will be on your radar screens soon.

Pictures when I get back home.


David Thayer said...

Kudos to Roger for his latest.
As far as the desert goes remember what Lord John Warfen said: "Work is the greatest duty."

Alis said...

Just imagining you in the heat out there - surreal about the Borders' efficiency...
I couldn't cope with the write it one minute get feedback the next model you describe. The thing has to be in third draft at least before I show it to anyone, and I mean anyone. The poor old other half has to listen to me wittering on about how it's going, what the difficulties are etc without having read a word and without, therefore, understanding what the hell I'm on about on anything but an entirely theoretical level.
But, as my Mum always says, thank goodness we're all different! Hope you have a fabulous week!

David Isaak said...

Hi, David--

Well, indeed I did get some work done and a bit of drinking, too.) Christine Rhodes says hi; she's almost done with her novel.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Alis--

I fiddle with my first drafts so much that they are third drafts. But keep in mind that the pace out here is not rapid--you only turn in 5-10 pages every other day.

I admit that it is jarring to let loose of pages before they've had time to incubate, and when they are not tied to other pages and shown in exactly the context we'd like. We writers are by nature control freaks, at least on the page. But you'd be surprised how much fun it is to just slam down some "fresh" (though you may have rewritten them ten times) pages out of the middle of something and have people react.

Plus it's not that scary. You can always ignore the comments!

Jen Ster said...

I used to go to the San Diego Writers Conference when I lived thereabouts and it was always a good time. Cheap, too. Can't say as there was ever more than two or three people you've "heard of" hanging around but I picked up a few good reads there. My only complaint: Those guys were way too hardcore about carrying on until three in the morning. Writers, what party animals. Worse than librarians...

David Isaak said...

Hi, Jen--

Well, this little desert thing involves a lot of writing--no seminars, no speeches, no special guests--so there's inherent limits to the partying.

Conferences, on the other hand...