Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Also I built a fire in the fireplace and sat by it and spun up the last of some ugly teal wool I've been putting off finishing since, like, May, and plied it too, and watched Kung Fu Panda (again--it's my favorite movie of 2008) with my mom. And ate pizza and popcorn. Also we made smores, since where there's fire, there should be smores. I'm going on a diet starting in about 50 minutes, so no smores in 2009.
I didn't get any writing done today, but my newest nightgown, which is currently my favorite, smells faintly of woodsmoke. It's a tradeoff.
I hope everyone has a fantastic 2009!
Monday, December 29, 2008
I've bogged down on writing and started revising--Stag in Velvet currently; I've managed to hack more than 10k words out of it so far. Since my writing goes in rough cycles of write-revise-rest, I'm not surprised I've stopped work on Blood and Taxes. I may take part of tomorrow to work out an outline for it, though. That way when I come back to finish it, I can finish it quickly.
If I mention undead sharks one more time, I bet I can get to #1 on the Google search.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
That story was inspired by a dream, and I am very leery now of dream-inspired stories. "Never Be Alone" was inspired by a dream too, and I can't give that damn thing away (never mind that it's 13,000 words long). But "Shortcut, with Traps" is less than a thousand words long, a humorous fantasy story with fun science fictiony elements, so it doesn't make any sense that I'd have spent so much effort on it. It was the last story I had critiqued at my old writer's group, Pittsburgh Worldwrights, and I must have done half a dozen intense revisions since then. I'm glad it's found a home so I don't have to fool with it anymore.
I'm not sure why, but this afternoon I opened Stag in Velvet and just started cutting. I've cut more than 6,000 words already and moved some stuff around, and tomorrow I'll cut even more drastically. It feels good.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Mom and I went shopping today and bought nothing but books and shoes. Life is good. We visited four bookstores (a used bookstore, an indie bookstore, a remainders-only bookstore, and B&N), had lunch at Olive Garden, then hit the mall to buy shoes. I bought four books and a magazine (Discover), plus a pair of really cute gray suede flats for work, and only spent a little over thirty bucks.
And this evening after we got home, we went to my aunt's house for dinner, and I managed to find a few minutes to ask Mom some plot advice about Blood and Taxes. I had plotted myself into a corner--that's the problem with working without an outline--but she helped me figure some details out. Then we all played what my family calls the game, a fiendish card game with the real name of Manipulation which we've been playing for at least twenty years, and on the last round I was dealt three jokers and went out on my second turn, catching everyone else out. Since that'll never happen again, I thought I'd immortalize it on the internets by blogging about it.
Friday, December 26, 2008
It didn't help that the vampires in the book--like the vampires in practically every urban fantasy I've ever read--are ferociously strong, nigh-invulnerable, cold-blooded killers who are unaccountably fascinated by the main character. In fact, that may be the core of every vampire story ever, which makes me think that as a whole, women who like vampire fiction--and yes, that includes me--are pretty fucked up, actually; but that's a topic for someone else to tackle.
My problem with ferociously strong, nigh-invulnerable, cold-blooded killer vampires is that they naturally become the driving force of the story. The main character is left to react to the vampires' actions until the very end, when she exploits The Weakness she has discovered over the course of the story to destroy the bad vampire. (Dead Until Dark didn't actually do any vampire-destroying, but I bet it happens in the sequel, which I am not going to read.)
Making your main character react instead of act is a bad thing. Making your vampires so strong that the main character has no chance of acting against them without Special Knowledge or help from another vampire is even worse. And funnily enough, while I can accept, in any given fantasy world, that vampires can exist, I cannot accept that vampires can exist without humans having evolved a way to destroy them that doesn't involve learning a Closely Guarded Secret and heading out at dawn with a stake. Because when a shark evolves a new way to swim faster, all the slow fish die and the fast fish survive and reproduce, and then the shark's speed is no longer that much of an issue anymore. That applies to undead sharks too.
I hope you all had a great Christmas or whatever you celebrate!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
During those months, without really consciously thinking about it, I get a real sense of the story. And when I come back to it, I already have a good sense of where I need to rewrite to pick up the action or the pacing, what I need to cut or add. But first, I reread the whole thing. Then I make the changes. If I make drastic changes, I'll reread it again afterwards to make sure I haven't wrecked the flow or left out details. Then I'll set it aside for a while longer and see if it still seems okay when I reread it again.
I read my own stuff countless times. The more problems a book has, the more I read it, work on it, read it again. The best thing about so many rereadings is that after a while, I notice myself skimming some parts as boring. And then, those parts must go. Boring to me = boring x 1 billion to readers, who don't have all the energy invested into the book that I do.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sell a novel or novella
Make my first pro sale
Make at least four other sales
Write two novellas and a novel
Write at least four short stories
Finish revisions for Stag in Balance and Jack of All Trades
Finish writing Stag in Velvet
I actually did really well. Not counting Trunk Novels, I did actually sell a novel in 2008. It's not a big huge deal, but I am getting cash money for it plus royalties and it will be available as an ebook or POD print book. That's Jack of All Trades that I sold to Cyberwizard Productions sort of by accident (long story) and I'm going ahead and announcing now because I'm tired of waiting.
I also made my first pro sale this year, "Sand-Skin Man" to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which will be released on January 1, 2009! I continue to be impressed with BCS's quality.
I sold more than four stories this year (just barely), most of them early in the year: the BCS sale, a story to Fictitious Force (which then promptly went on indefinite hiatus), a flash story to ASIM, a flash story to Space Squid, and the recently released "Gaming Real Life" to MindFlights.
I wrote only one novella this year, Hilda and Justice, which was for the 3-day novel contest. I wrote only one novel, The Taste of Magic. But I did a lot of rewriting in the middle of the year, so I'm not counting that lack of a novella against me.
I wrote more than four short stories, and sold a good percentage of them. Short story production has trailed off into almost nothing, though, after a strong beginning to the year.
I finished revisions for Stag in Balance (renamed Stag at Bay) and Jack of All Trades. And I finished writing Stag in Velvet, a book which turned out to be a ridonculous 130,000 words long.
I also redid my website with its own domain name (thanks Richard!) and have released a couple of old stories for free on the site's main page. If I'd thought about it last year, I would have made that a goal on my resolutions.
So...what will I resolve for 2009?
I'll be a bit more aggressive this year with the goals. Here they are, in all their unattainable glory:
land an agent
sell a novel
sell a novel to a major publisher (i.e. one which will get my books on shelves)
sell at least four short stories
sell a story to a SFWA pro market
write at least six short stories (flash doesn't count)
write at least two novels
finish writing White Rose
Oh, and I'm about over my cold, but grouchy because I'm at work with NOTHING to do; thus, I blog. Oh, and I still haven't heard from Mundania. Or the agent who has my requested full. Or anyone else.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
My cold has appropriated my head for snot production, which doesn't leave a lot of room for anything else. I'm in Panera at the moment, pretending to write but actually just sitting here wishing I could taste my hot chocolate and actively (no doubt) giving my cold to everyone in here. I think I'm going to leave in a minute. I think I may have a fever, so I ought to get back to bed. Or maybe the hot chocolate is hotter than it seems.
I did have a cough-drop-fueled brainwave and changed the title of my work-in-progress to Blood and Taxes. That's much more fun than Blood Treasure and actually makes more sense with the story. Other than that, I haven't done much work on the book. I want to write, but I also want to go back to bed with kleenex stuffed up my nostrils so maybe I can sleep for more than five minutes at a time without waking up choking on yuck.
I am unlovely. I hope you weren't snacking while you read this.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Things are finally back to (reasonably) normal at work, and I only have two more days and then I'm off for the holidays! So I will hopefully be returning to my normal overactive bloggish presence here, and maybe I'll also get some writing done.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I got an email from Mundania Sunday saying they're making their final decisions on manuscripts within the next two weeks. Last night I dreamed that I got a rejection from them. And today I see on Duotrope that someone has reported an acceptance. So I am feeling sort of stoic and doomed every time I check my email today.
Even a weekend did not catch me up on anything. I'm feeling sort of guilty about some stuff I've promised to do and haven't gotten to, and guilty about not doing hardly any writing lately--although since I've been thinking through the plot, I think taking a brief writing hiatus is actually good. I don't have tomorrow off, either, which is a bummer.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Yesterday at work, in an excess of wretchedness, I wrote a draft of the synopsis for The Taste of Magic. I don't know a single writer who likes doing synopses. They're horrible. You have to take a novel the size of, for instance, Mount Kilamanjaro and reduce it to something about the size of a Hershey's Kiss.
Jettison the subplots! Do not mention most of the characters! Collapse events that happen days apart into the space of half a sentence! Ignore everything except the high points of plot and just enough character bits so that anyone reading will know that there is character stuff going on! Reduce reduce reduce!
And of course, don't forget to make it PUNCHY and HOOKY, and make sure it reflects the flavor of the book! Which is not actually possible in 500 words!
But it's done, at least, although it needs more work than the actual novel took. Next is the query letter, which is much more fun although just as difficult.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
And tomorrow I get to get up and go to work again. I feel like I never come home anymore except for long enough to take care of some of the shit that piles up because I'm never home.
Yeah, the honeymoon phase of my job is over. This is why I temped for so many years, you know. I get BORED with anything after about six months.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I did swing by Trunk Novels this afternoon briefly, and they are not dead. They have a new book up, although it's not mine, so presumably eventually mine will show up. I'm not exactly worried, since I'm not going to make anything off the story--mostly I just wanted to order a hardcopy of the thing for myself. How's that for a good reason to give away a manuscript?
No rejections and no acceptances since last I posted, although I seem to have had yet another story disappear into a black hole after hitting send. If I don't kill publishers, the internets swallow my emails. One way or another, it's a wonder I ever see print.
What little free time I've had this week has been spent knitting a scarf that I started last year (almost finished!) and reading the sequels to Patricia Briggs's Moon Called. WANT MOAR. The next one in the series won't be out until February, which was a nasty surprise since I thought it was already out.
I haven't talked to my brother since he left for home after Thanksgiving, taking my cats' Advantage with him, but I did ask him how he was liking Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin when he was about halfway through, and he said he was finding it amusing fluff, and he liked Raine's snarkyish attitude much more than I did initially. The third book of that series is not out until, what, April? I'm not sure I can wait until then. I reread the second book over Thanksgiving for a bit of comfort reading during the move, and that really is a fun series.
I have done zero writing in the last week. I'm talking nothing. I don't feel particularly guilty since I wrote so much over October and November, but I don't want to get out of the habit of writing every day. So since I can probably hold off sleep for another hour, I'm going to write right now. And tomorrow maybe I'll actually find time to post again and read other people's blogs as well as their books.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Not much going on here after all the excitement of the move. I'm writing the tentatively-titled Blood Treasure and I still haven't figured out how to work in the titular blood treasure part--I mean, I know what it is, but I don't know how it fits with the plot I've come up with. Still, I forge ahead, because that's better than writing short stories!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Thank goodness for my eee, that's all I can say. And yay for wifi!
I got the proofs of my story "Gaming Real Life" today and found out that it will be up on MindFlights on December 19. I do like that story. The trolls in it are very similar to the trolls I put in The Taste of Magic, too, which I didn't even realize until I read the story over at lunch. That goes right along with Jamie Eyberg's blog today, where he talks about how he approaches stories--starting with an idea and then seeing where the idea takes him. It's interesting to read the comments to that thread, as different writers talk about how they approach stories. It's actually something I've been thinking about lately, as I notice how so many bits and pieces of my other writing have sifted into The Taste of Magic.
Using a version of the trolls in "Gaming Real Life" is one example. Another is the main character, Ana, who is a healer--because the novella I wrote for the 3-day novel contest had a main character, Hilda, who is a healer. And the issue of race relations as translated into a fantasy setting is one that I keep revisiting; again, it's in "Gaming Real Life," but it's also in the Weredeer books. And so on.
Jamie's post was inspired by Aaron Polson's recent post about how to define horror as a genre. And Aaron has a story newly posted to MindFlights, "The Tiger in the Common Ground," which is really good! Everything connects! Everything connects! Everything connects!
Monday, December 1, 2008
I sent out one story, which was rejected. That's it!
Okay, I also won Nano and finished writing The Taste of Magic, and started the sequel. I also made one sale, but I still can't tell you about it. *heavy sigh, because I'm tired of sounding all secretive and impressive* It's not a big deal, I promise, but I am proud of it and want to tell you all about it. I wrote zero short stories in November.
I've got several stories out, one being held for further review (I should hear back in a few weeks). I have a requested full still out with an agent--not sure when I'll hear back on that one; soon, I hope. Mundania has had The Weredeer for one full year as of today and it's still under consideration.
Oh! I almost forgot. I put a new free story up on my website, "Home at the North Pole." It's a Christmas story--not much to it, but it should put you in the holiday mood without cloying you to death. It's available as a PDF and as a Stanza download for iphones.
The move was punctuated by frequent small crises, like the $50 worth of feline Advantage I bought disappeared and turned up in Pennsylvania, which would be a whole lot funnier if it didn't have a good explanation. (My brother and his family accidentally packed it up with their stuff and took it home with them.) A big shout-out to my mom and brother, incidentally, who did the bulk of the packing and moving for me while I was at work.
I didn't do a whole lot of writing over the last week, but that was good in a way because it gave me time to think about the new project. I'm still working out the plot, but I'm further along than I was.
It's been snowing today! Just flurries, but flurries excite us here in East Tennessee. A call for accumulation sends everyone running out to the store to frenziedly buy milk and bread and hot chocolate.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
The living room is empty except for some trash bags and my purse.
The bedroom has my mattress on the floor, the TV on the floor, and all my most important worldly possessions on the mattress: eee pc, pajamas, the book I'm currently reading, and the notebook I'm writing Blood Treasure in.
The bathroom contains essentials and one towel.
The kitchen contains nothing except cleaning stuff. The house smells oppressively of lavender oil, my mother's current favorite cleanser.
I can't move in with Mom yet because my brother and sister-in-law and three nephews are staying with her until Saturday morning, and my sister-in-law is allergic to cats.
I so totally hate moving.
Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your furniture.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
But I can't blog about it because the notebook where I have that list of names, and also the bedside table where the notebook was sitting, and in fact pretty much everything else in the whole house, is gone. Because I am moving in with my mom this weekend and while I was at work little pixies came and packed up my belongings and took them to my mom's house. I had to go over to Mom's when I got home to collect a pair of jeans.
Fortunately, the pixies didn't notice the book I am reading, Stevermer's A Scholar of Magics, which I am enjoying immensely and didn't want to put down just yet. I think that's the only book in the house at the moment. Oh, and I loaned my brother Shearin's Magic Lost, Trouble Found, partly out of curiosity to see if a guy would like it, partly because I like the series and I'm recommending it to everyone. I'll keep you all posted on my brother's reaction.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
On the other hand, damn this is the fastest book I ever wrote. I can't remember the precise day I started it, but if it's been more than a few days over six weeks I'd be surprised. 82,000 words in six weeks! Go me!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Anyway, I managed to get not quite 3,000 words, enough to tip my word count over 50,000 for November. I win Nano! And I have the first chapter and a half written on the sequel, which is a pretty good start.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
It's done like dinner. It's totally finished. There is no need to add one more scene. But if I don't write 2,500 more words, I will fail NaNo!
I guess I will just have to write a 2,500 word short story in the next week and count that. But even if I don't, The Taste of Magic is done! I read it over today and it's good! It flows well, the characters are interesting, and it's a fun plot.
Now I set it aside for a month or two and let it age. When I come back and reread it, let's hope it's as good as I think it is.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I am doing my part to support the publishing industry. Also, I bought myself some books.
I'd list what I got for everyone but I don't want to spoil the surprises in case they read my blog. I'll just say that I think I chose well and if I didn't, well, at least I supported some authors. Oh, and I ordered a hardback of In the Company of Newfies by Rhoda Lerman to donate to the local library in Jasper's name. It's a wonderful book, if you know someone who loves big cuddly dogs.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The editors, they taunt me with longer-than-usual response times until I think maybe I'm under serious consideration, and then I check Duotrope and realize there are no responses to anyone for the same amount of time! It's like the editors all fell off the side of the world. And then--rejection! And the whole process starts over again with the next magazine.
And no, I haven't received any rejections since Oct. 14. In fact, except for a hold request on Oct. 23 and an acceptance I can't tell you about yet on Nov. 6, I haven't heard anything at all about anything. Which is BOTHERING ME.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Let's pause for a moment while I roll my eyes.
So, yes, at 14 I was a clueless noob. But I did one thing right: I started worldbuilding. I didn't really know what I was doing, so I just threw everything in, a big cauldron of creative stew that I just kept adding to. I don't think that's unusual in writers. What's amazing to me in retrospect, though, is that I consciously kept my stew free from ideas that I got from other writers, TV shows, movies, and comic books. It was all my stuff, and I did it on purpose so that I wouldn't accidentally use someone else's idea and think it was mine.
That's kind of awesome. Thanks, mini-me. Because I'm still drawing on that amorphous, all-encompassing stew of a world that I started building a really embarrassing number of years ago. The Weredeer books are set in a chunk of that world I named Endra, for instance. And the reason I've been able to write The Taste of Magic so quickly from a standing start is because I had not just the world but the characters, setting, and plot ready-made, just waiting for me to write about it. It had been pending for so long I'd nearly forgotten about it.
And I'm still adding to the stew. One day, for instance, one of my books will include something called the Mare and Stallion Dance. I thought that up about a month ago and I'm still not sure what sparked it, but it's a fun idea and it'll fit in a story one day. Now, though, it's in the world stew (that metaphor is not really holding up, is it?), where I can play with it and turn it around and add more details until I'm writing a story that needs the Mare and Stallion Dance. And there it will be, ready to use.
Monday, November 17, 2008
It's bad, because while I am typically a rather emotionally volatile person anyway, when I'm in the throes of a difficult scene or the end of a book, I'm much worse. And this week I don't even get my usual Thursday off. And everything managed to go wrong today, from minor irritations like running out of a particular handout, to major ones like the incorrect installation of a testing program I was supposed to use tonight that could not be fixed, so that tomorrow I have to call and reschedule ten people who were supposed to test tonight. And oh, were they happy.
Last night I picked up Moon Called by Patricia Briggs out of my To Be Read pile, because it was the thinnest book in the stack and I needed something to occupy me in between me getting intimate with Mr. Toilet from up close (TMI, I know. Sorry. Hope you weren't snacking). Not only is it darkish urban fantasy with werewolves, but Patricia Briggs is on the bottom of the "I want to read this" stack because I read her Dragon Bones book a few years ago and thought it was crud. But you know what? I'm enjoying Moon Called very much, which just goes to show that one should always revisit authors one dislikes from time to time.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The total wordcount for The Taste of Magic is almost 70,000, with half of that written in the two weeks or so before Nano started. That means I'm nearing the end and the action is picking up a lot. Big important events are about to occur, character allegiances are about to shift in some major ways, and hopefully the ending will indeed contain all the thrills and spills I can cram in. And to signify to the reader that all this is on the way, the book's weather has turned nasty.
This is such a cheesy plot device, but it's also completely ingrained. No matter how hard I try to make sure the weather is Pleasant! even when the world is going crazy, rain or snow or oppressive heat or gawd forbid even a storm sneaks in when I turn my back for one second. And no matter how hard I try to convince myself that weather does actually have to happen in books, and that sometimes (like the rain on the river that I just wrote) weather plays its part in the plot too, I still know perfectly well I'm just being cheesy.
Still, I'm not proud. The rain stays. But I will do my darnedest to turn the weather mild and sunny for the big finale, see if I don't.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I stopped on the way home from work and got him a bunch of his favorite chew treats, the ones that promise "hours of nutritious fun!" I gave him two of the biggest (a giant Busy Bone and another brand I can't remember), and of course he had them demolished and every crumb eaten in about half an hour, tops. I need to get him a new cow hoof--those actually take some chewing and he likes them.
I've got a headache and it's cold and I'm totally unmotivated to write. I just want to lie around feeling sorry for myself and watching Dale Hinman's Body of Evidence. But I can't, because it's still Nano and I've still got just over 20,000 words to go--to cross the Nano finish line and to finish my fastest-novel-ever! I want to get at least a few thousand words today if I can.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
One moment Rafael and I were flirting, the next moment the roof had caved in and people were screaming. I hate it when that happens.
Pieces of wood and shingles rained down on us, and a big chunk of the ceiling landed on the table and scattered plaster everywhere. Rafael grabbed me and dived under the table.
I realized he'd cast a shield spell over us. He threw himself on top of me and I felt his energy feeding into the shield, pouring into it like me healing in a hurry. More pieces of roof fell around us. "Rafael, don't--you'll kill yourself."
"I'm fine," he gasped. "There's something out there. I won't let it hurt you."
The table sheltering us was flung aside, and I heard more screams. Plaster dust shrouded the room, billowing down from the ruined ceiling; it obscured my view through Rafael's shield, but not enough to stop me from seeing what was climbing in from the roof.
A dragon, red-gold and not quite solid. I could see the edges of the roof through it, and the cloudy sky.
So this time I ended up with:
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
I don't remember my mood when I placed this order, but it must have been DARK. Because all these books look depressing and half of them are urban fantasy--and we all know how much I just love urban fantasy. That was sarcasm.
Nano has knocked my reading time on its ear, so I don't know when I'll get to these. I already have almost a whole shelf full of To Be Read books. And Mom wants to drop by Books-a-Million after we have lunch together today.
I stayed up late last night and wrote until I got to the explosion! Yay for the explosion! Now fun stuff can happen again.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I was pretty bummed about that, actually, since all day I've been imagining myself as a raccoon savior. I figured I'd march right over there and release the raccoon by using my awesome human intellect coupled with my slightly less awesome (but still awesome by raccoon standards) muscles. And after that I fully planned to stage nightly raids on the Havahart trap, springing it after my neighbors went to bed but before the raccoons were out, which is more satisfying than breaking it and probably won't get me arrested. I even planned to wear a black burglar mask. It seemed fitting. And then, years from now, one day when I was menaced in an alley by a bad guy, the raccoons would come to my rescue!
But as of now, all is quiet on the Raccoon Commandos front. I'll keep you posted.
Okay, so, in writing news: Nothing to see here. Please move along. We are a hedge. Also, I have still not reached the freaking explosion in The Taste of Magic and I am frankly getting really bored with this neverending section. I just hope it doesn't turn out boring to read. I just have to write one stupid conversation before the kaboom! Why can't I manage that? Well, because it's almost all exposition and I have to dole it out carefully to keep it from being an infodump--or worse, turn it into, "As you know, Ana, your friend Ash has escaped from the Tower and is on the run from the guards...."
My neighbors--the ones I loathe, and did I mention that Mom says the guy is on the Tennessee sex offender list?*--have a Havahart trap on their garbage cans to trap raccoons. I guess it's easier to trap a raccoon and relocate/kill it than it is to, oh, BUY A BUNGEE CORD to tie down the can lids.
I peeked out the bedroom window and had a good view of the trap, containing one big fat raccoon. Three big fat raccoons were trying to get their buddy out, to no avail. Finally they gave up, and when they had gone the trapped raccoon fell silent. So I tried to get back to sleep before my alarm went off at six.
And of course I couldn't sleep for worrying about the raccoon, and at 5:30 I got up, pulled on a jacket and my shoes, and went outside.
The raccoon was all huddled up in the rain. Now, I've opened a Havahart trap before--with a skunk in it, no less--but that was about 15 years ago. I couldn't remember how it worked now. But hey, I'm a human being, the supreme tool-user, with opposable thumbs and everything.
So after ten minutes I went back in and turned on the internet. Which FAILED ME. I finally found a list of manuals on the Havahart site and guessed at which trap my neighbors had (a really old, crappy one, apparently), and found out how to open it. With a really bad diagram. Apparently one wrenches up on the door and props it open with a stick. Not included.
It's November. All the sticks I could find broke when I looked at them. And it was raining harder, and my accursed neighbors seem to be awake now. So I failed to save the raccoon.
But I swear to gawd or dawg or whoever, I'm going to break their damn trap. I'm a clever human being, after all. And I know where I can get a set of boltcutters.
*all the guys I went to high school have "issues." It's probably why I'm still single.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
That's a reply to a status query about my manuscript out at Mundania. They've had it since December, and I've been half-assuming I just missed the rejection email. I did hear from them in June that it was with an editor for a full read, but a lot of spam emails have choked up my old email address since then. It's too easy for me to miss an important email. That's why I use my gmail account for almost all submissions these days.
Speaking of submissions, from a post over on the Absolute Write forums, Mundania received over 2,200 subs between December 2007 and April 2008, of which they kept about 25 for full reads. So even if they ultimately pass on The Weredeer, obviously I'm doing something right.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I'm almost through the boring part of The Taste of Magic, which admittedly is not as boring as I originally thought. It's just not as actiontastic as I like, so it feels like it's just dragging on and on. Fortunately, a few people are going to break some laws, and something will explode (I still haven't reached the explosion I promised myself). Then I should be into the last third of the book and things will have to heat up a lot--which means more fun stuff to write about.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I comfort myself by remembering that I've got some funner scenes coming up. But first, oh gawd, I've got to send Ana to a Meeting of Revolutionaries, where Nothing will happen, and that in itself is Significant.
No no no! I refuse to do two boring scenes in a row! Something's going to happen at the damn meeting. Maybe I'll blow up the building.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I bought a paperback in celebration, Fairie Wars by Herbie Brennan. I couldn't find anything else that looked even remotely interesting in B&N. Last week I bought Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff and took it with me to read in the eye doctor's waiting room, and it was a real disappointment. She kept changing POVs for one thing, initially breaking to new sections to do so, but then she just gave up and wobbled back and forth from paragraph to paragraph. That's not omnicient, that's sloppy. For another thing, the supposedly 27-year-old main character acted and spoke like a 40-year-old. That made it vaguely creepy(er) that she was all about the other main character, a 19-year-old kid. Cradle robber much? Not to mention that the pace seemed really slow and I didn't actually like the characters, and the talking cat did not actually act much like a cat. Cats don't frown.
I know, I'm horribly picky. While I was browsing the shelves, I kept adding to a mental list of what I don't want to read:
too much hard SF, or indeed much SF at all
most urban fantasy
retold fairy tales
anything about Roman times
anything about King Arthur
anything about Robin Hood
[because look, those themes have been mined WAY too much]
anything based on a game or a movie
wolves or werewolves
vampires (mostly--I do make rare exceptions)
political machinations (see epic fantasy)
twee fairies (a la The Good Fairies of New York, which is pretty much unreadable)
evil fairies (sorry, E. Bear, I just can't get into it)
heavy-handed humor (i.e. most humor)
And I could go on and on. And on and on and on. It's a wonder I can ever find anything to read.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
"You know, I don't care, but don't let anyone else know you're writing a book during working hours. Because if they found out, the college can claim intellectual rights to the book."
I've heard this before. The argument goes that since the writer is being paid for the job, everything they produce while being paid should belong to the employer. I've heard that some companies have even latched onto ideas that their employees have had, because the employees must have had the ideas on the job and therefore the employers own them. The ideas, not the employees. Although it's a fine line at that point.
So, can the college claim The Taste of Magic is their intellectual property? Will they? I don't know why they'd bother--it's a fantasy novel that isn't all that well written (I'd love to be a great writer, but I know I'm not and I'm okay with just being a writer who writes fun books with appealing characters), and mediocre fantasy novels are a dime a dozen. No, actually, they're free. Take one. I have a bunch.
But I'd rather burn the manuscript than let some entity claim it's theirs because I wrote it on the clock. And let's just split some hairs about that too. Sometimes I write on the clock. Most of the time I don't. Do parts of the book belong to the college and the rest belong to me? What about revisions? I always do revisions at home. The college is welcome to the rough draft--it's certainly not worth jack. And the characters, world, and most of the plot was invented at home on my own time. Some plot twists came to me at work, but plot twists are worthless on their own.
So no, I don't think the college, or any other entity, owns my books. I own my creative output no matter when or where it's produced. If the college dislikes me writing on the clock, they can fire me. They can't take my book.
Hopefully I can do that again today.
I moved up a big event that I'd planned to put near the end, because there wasn't enough going on, and it actually worked really well. I threw in a dragon (sort of), a werewolf, and someone dies.
I just did a quick Mary Sue test for Ana, and she is so totally a Mary Sue (score of 35). I knew that, though. I'll have to have her do something irredemably horrible. I think I know what it'll be.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Incidentally, I will be moving in with my mom (heavy sigh again) at the end of November. She just moved into a bigger rental house that is about one minute away from my teensy rental house, so it only makes sense to double up for a while. We'll split the rent and utilities and so forth, which means she can save money and I can start to pay off my student loans. The CEO of EdAmerica probably just burst into tears of gratitude.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The Nano site is still really slow, as it always is the first few days. I have the first chapter of The Taste of Magic posted on my Nano page, but of course I can't even get to it to get the URL for you. Oh, wait--got it. Go here for my page, and then click on the Novel Info tab. Incidentally, after this coming Saturday I'm going to jettison anyone from my buddies list who shows a word count of zero, because the site only displays 11 buddies.
And I thought Weaver's Shroud was supposed to go up on Trunk Novels Saturday, but the site still hasn't been updated from October. So I don't know if they're just running behind or if they've pushed the date back or what. I'll post as soon as I know. Because I know you're all just dying to read a ten-year-old unedited fantasy novel about spinning.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Me: I figured out what cows sound like.
Me: They sound like zombies.
Mom: What do zombies sound like?
Mom: That's a zombie?
Me: A zombie cow. All cows sound like zombies.
Then we went to Panera, where the food is overpriced and not very good, and they have about one plug for every twenty tables, and we wrote for a while. Mom's doing Nano too. She's writing about a man who gets laid off from his job at M&M Brakes and enters a turkey shoot for the money, and accidentally shoots someone. I'm working on The Taste of Magic, of course, which still feels like the awesomest book of awesome evar to me.
I just introduced a new character. Yeah, 40k words in and I've introduced a major character. At least, he keeps trying to become a major character. I'm going to hold him back for now, but in the sequel (of course there will be a sequel--these characters are too fun to drop) he can take center stage along with Ana. They have some interesting chemistry. Maybe because he's a troll.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
It flummoxes me. I like "Bad Luck" okay, but I never thought "How My Sister Lost the Game" was my best by a long shot. In fact, I really didn't expect to get into the anthology at all. I have a tiny feeling that maybe they made a mistake, and the two slots I ended up with ought to have gone to more deserving stories.
Still, I'm pretty pleased. And while we're talking about EDF, one of the co-editors, Jordan Lapp, has won first place in the third quarter 2008 Writers of the Future contest! WOOHOO! Way to go, Jordan!
And speaking of Catherine J. Gardner, for that matter, she has a story up at Macabre Cadaver's new issue, "In the Dumpster King's Zip Code." And in the same issue, Jeremy Kelly has a story too, "The Crop Bearer." Both stories are awesome with a capital awe. You really have no excuse not to go over there and read them.
And I have written about 200 words on my Nano book today. Which is about 1800 words less than every single other person on my buddy list. Must...write...faster....
Thursday, October 30, 2008
No, actually not. It's just that I went to the eye doctor today for a checkup. I'm going to get contacts again! It's been years since I wore them and I really hate wearing glasses. I did get two cheap pairs of glasses with my new prescription (two because it was actually considerably cheaper to get two instead of one, which is weird) and one of them has blue frames and the other lavender. They were supposed to be ready this afternoon but "the machine" was messed up so I'm going to pick them up Saturday after work.
My life is just one big pile of excitement after another, isn't it?
They dilated my eyes at the doctor's, which I didn't expect. I didn't have any sunglasses in the car (who am I kidding? I don't OWN any sunglasses) so I had to use the crappy plastic shades they give out for free, the ones that sort of look like flimsy 3d glasses. Mine made me look like Supertard. When I got home, with my eyes all dilated for the next four hours so I couldn't read, I wanted to put on my fancy movie-star nightgown and robe and swan around pretending to be an Italian countess in the renaissance with belladonna in her eyes, but it was too cold.
You will notice I do not mention my book. That is because I am STUCK. RIGHT BEFORE NANO! This is some kind of cosmic justice for me starting my Nano book early.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
And since I have only three days until I have to write like a mad thing for Nano, I need to make my decisions now. Now! Nanow! Oh, I slay myself.
So that means subplots galore. It's okay, I can go back in and add stuff so the subplots don't appear out of nowhere (Nanowhere?). Maybe I'll throw a troll into the mix. Yeah, a troll! And, um, maybe Ana has a Secret Fear--no, wait, she already has a Secret Fear. Two Secret Fears is just stupid. Okay, then, I'll make the glass ruby she found into something Important! Of course, that means I have to go back and make sure it's not a coincidence when she finds it, which means also that I have to figure out its significance. And since I already have to figure out the significance of the tattoos, they're probably related. Oh, and what is going on with the attacks on the king's guards? Zeeda's a king's guard, so maybe he's going to end up in danger! And maybe I should bring out the theme of racism and classism in this world more than I've done so far. And the bad guy needs motivation, so maybe that all works in with the Themes! And maybe Ana kind of thinks he may be on the right path even though he's evil! Or not! Yeah! And a troll!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Same with that book I read several months ago, Dead to Me by Anton Strout. The main character is a psychometrist but I didn't think there was enough psychometry in the book. Hey, I'm interested in this stuff! Don't get me hooked and then drop the one thing that hooked me in the first place!
That's my reaction as a reader. As a writer, I know it's not always possible to arrange the plot so that the hooky stuff keeps popping up. The hook in The Taste of Magic is Ana's healing abilities. I start the book off with big important chunks of action mostly revolving around healing, but then I have to drop it for a while. There is other stuff going on in the book, after all. Now I'm over 30k words in and I'm starting to think I need to work in another healing session. Because writers are all hookers, baby!
Monday, October 27, 2008
I work in the office on Mondays, and today it was fairly quiet. I got a full chapter written, maybe 2,000 words (in between phone calls and the other stuff I was, you know, getting paid to do).
So I spent the bulk of the day working out a complicated conversation between my two main characters. The chapter starts with Ana waking up with a hangover, and then she gets the fun of wondering what the hell she said to Vincent the night before. Then Vincent shows up and I spent the afternoon trying to balance important exposition with just the right touch of character stuff. The chapter ends with Ana realizing--with delight, confusion, and just a touch of alarm--that Vincent is flirting with her. What did she say last night when she was drunk?
As my coworkers and I were leaving for the day, one of them said, "Well, another day over" and sighed.
I am so lucky. Excuse my Klatchian, but I am so fucking lucky. I not only have a job I enjoy, but most days I have at least a little time to get some writing done. And on top of that, when everyone else is bored, I'm figuring out how a vampire would flirt with a hungover elf. If I ever complain about this job, throw a shoe at me.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
So I took the creative writing course, and I got one piece of advice that I have kept and used to good effect. It's such an important rule that I've never seen it written down--writers are supposed to know this innately. On the other hand, obviously we don't, because I see the rule broken all the time. The rule? Don't self-reference writing.
See, I'd written a story for the class--something silly about a woman who ends up running off to Australia with a rich man who owns an ostrich farm. At the end of the story, when she announced her intention of leaving, she said, "How ironic!" because her sister and romantic rival always wore ostrich plumes on her hats, or something equally goofy.
My professor called me on the remark. "Don't tell us it's ironic. You're self-referencing yourself as a writer," she said, or words to that effect.
An example of what not to do? I read The Hero Strikes Back by Moira J. Moore yesterday* and on page 46 here's this exchange:
"How do you know until you try?"
"Because I'm not some all-powerful protagonist in a ridiculous drama who acquires some new unheard of ability with each new improbable situation," he snapped.
Self-referencing! Bad! Do not want! Threw me out of the story instantly and made me sneer, "Oh, yes you are, you just don't know it." Also, too many adjectives.
Don't do this, authors. You should know better.
*Not only is it a terrible cover, the title is appalling too. The book is okay. I liked the main characters marginally better this time, but the plot was thin.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Dear Fantasy Authors:
Before the industrial revolution, everyone wore homespun. Even queens. Who often did plenty of spinning themselves, actually, because all women were expected to spin.
yeah yeah whatever
This is an example of writers parroting what they've seen in other books, without understanding the significance of the word. Not only that, but as a spinner myself (for a decade now), I resent the implication that homespun goods are inferior to mill-spun. Come over to my house and I'll let you drool over the wool and thread I've spun. And I'm not even all that good a spinner, certainly not a professional.
More on this in a week, I'm sure, when Trunk Novels releases Weaver's Shroud, because it's all about spinning. Well, spinning is involved. So are ghosts and necromancers and gods. But the spinning is pretty darn interesting.
Friday, October 24, 2008
The only problem is, I'm about to run out of plot. I know where I'm going with it, at least mostly. I just don't know what I'm going to write about for most of the next 60,000 words.
Maybe I should work on that tomorrow.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
We visited these stores and I got these books:
McKay Used Books
where I picked up a cookbook about eggs and a hardback of Return to Quag Keep by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe. Norton's Quag Keep is one of my guilty pleasures from my middle school D&D-playing and fantasy-reading days, so I'm delighted there's a sequel. I bet it's wonderfully horrible, just like the original.
Carpe Librum, an independent book store
where I bought nothing because their SF/fantasy section consisted of about twelve Terry Brooks and Tolkien books, and nothing at all from small presses. Mom bought An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke, though, and she loaned it to me.
where I was going to buy the sequel to Moira J. Moore's Resenting the Hero, but they didn't have it. So I bought a big Girardelli or whatever it's called chocolate bar for Mom to repay her for loaning me An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England before she's even read it.
Barnes & Noble
where I bought not just the sequel to Resenting the Hero, but the third book too. What the hell, carpe librum. I was spending found money anyway, an unexpected payment to my mom and me for helping address envelopes for a local antique store's upcoming Christmas sale.
Then I drove us home. We ate chocolate while Mom read aloud from The Arsonist's Guide etc. and we laughed hysterically. So it's been a good bookish day.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Anyway, I'm glad guy-who-looks-just-like-Alex came in to test this afternoon at work, because seeing him always makes me happy. He's changed his hair again. He's so cute.
I'm working on The Taste of Magic, my Nano book, and yes, I'm actually writing it. I want it to be a bit over 80,000 words total, so my goal is to reach 30,000 words by the end of October and then write the next 50,000 as the "official" Nano part. I'm about 15,000 words in and I've only been working on it a week or so, so it's entirely possible that I'll reach 30k by Halloween. I don't have an outline, though, which feels perilous to me. I've been working with outlines since my first Nano book in 2005, so it feels odd and without-a-netty not to have one now. On the other hand, so far the plot is holding together and I kind of know where it's going.
I'm at the fun part of writing, where everything's going swimmingly and when I think, "What shall I read tonight?" nobody else's book seems as interesting as my own.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Also he said my Stanza download thingie words, sorta, but it's full of garbage characters, so if you were going to download "Spinning Lies," better wait a few days until I can get it sorted out.
I am 100% full of squee! Which sounds kind of gross, actually.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thanks! If it doesn't work, or if it works but it's screwy-looking or something, please post here or email me at kateshaw123 [at] gmail [dot] com. You could also email me at the kcshaw123 email I list on my webpage, but I don't check it very often. Oh, and if there's a particular download format you'd like besides pdf and epub, let me know and I'll do my best to figure it out!
The theme of BCS is literary adventure fantasy. If the literary part turns you off, after reading the first issue I can assure you that the adventure part is just as important. Stuff happens in these stories, and the writing is great. In fact, I'm really excited about reading all the upcoming issues, and it's rare that I get excited about short fiction at all (I don't even love writing it, to be honest). If you like Black Gate, you should find a lot to like in BCS. The artwork's great, too.
The first issue consists of two stories (or one and a half if you want to get technical). The second half of Chris Willrich's "The Sword of Loving Kindness" will appear in issue two, but you've only got about a week to wait. It's a fun, lively Gaunt and Bone story. I hadn't encountered the characters before, but now I really want to read the others--this one's hugely inventive and a quick read despite its length. I'm definitely looking forward to the second half. I wasn't always sure who was talking during some of the rapid-fire dialogue, but the descriptions are lovely and the pace never flags.
This issue's second story is David D. Levine's "Sun Magic, Earth Magic." In the hands of an amateur writer, this story would have been horrible horrible horrible--but Levine pulls it off with elegance and subtlety. I didn't expect to like it, to be honest, but I was very pleasantly surprised. You might have trouble reading if it you're claustrophobic.
I'm very impressed with BCS so far. Best of all, it's available online for free.
(Full disclosure here: BCS will be publishing one of my stories, "Sand-Skin Man," in their Jan. 1, 2009 issue--but I would have enjoyed these stories even so. Incidentally, "Sand-Skin Man" takes place in the same world as my weredeer stories, but on a different continent. And without any weredeer.)
Friday, October 17, 2008
I got the cover art for Weaver's Shroud today, and also got permission from Trunk Novels to post it! I put it up on my website, of course, but I'll share it with you all here too.
I really like it! I should point out that there are no werewolves in the story at all. No were-anythings. No wolves, even. But there is a wolf-headed god who's sort of the whole linchpin of the story, so I'm happy he made the cover. Oh, and it looks like Weaver's Shroud will be released starting November 1! These folks move fast!
This is my first cover art except for the story I had in Renard's Menagerie #5, "The King's Messenger," which is about a weredeer.*
*Damn, I am smooth. Look how I slipped that in!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I checked out my competition on page one. There's a woman who makes quilts and calls herself weredeer, and a man who has the most boring blog in the universe (sorry, dude, but it's true--you don't mention books at all) who calls himself weredeer. I can't figure out why either of these two chose that particular handle. Even I never thought about weredeer until one morning two and a half years ago when I thought someone who could shapeshift into a deer instead of a wolf would be an interesting character, and kind of funny too.
The rest of the pages seem to be related to various awful-looking video games, excruciatingly bad fiction, and a few joke news articles. People! I wrote a book called The Weredeer and I'm not even on the first page of a Google search for "weredeer"? Where's the justice in that?
Oh, right. I haven't actually had the book published. A mere quibble! The manuscript's at 320 days and pending at Mundania, where I sent it last year; at least, I hope it's still pending and I didn't just miss the rejection email. I can't pester them again because I just pinged them in June and got a nice note back that it was still under consideration. I try to be patient, I really do.
Also, weredeer weredeer weredeer. Geez, do you think that should do it or what? (Oh, and Google, no I do not mean "were deer." That doesn't make sense.)
Then we went back to Mom's house and I cooked sweet potatoes, because our nice warm weather is turning cool and fallish and it's supposed to rain tonight. My sweet potatoes are awesome. I got the recipe from a woman I used to work with; I think it's the cinnamon that really makes them. Or the pecans. Anyway, no marshmallows come anywhere near them.
Here's the recipe, if you're interested:
3 c. cooked mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 15-oz cans)
1 c sugar
1/2 c milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon or allspice (I always use cinnamon)
1/2 c melted butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1 c chopped pecans
Mix and pour in well-buttered casserole, then spread on topping (it's thick--you sort of have to drop it on by spoonfuls). Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
It's a very forgiving recipe, very rich and very good. And it's good for you!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The home page is here, and the fiction listing page is here, and there's links at the top for other stuff. Please let me know if you notice a dead link or something looks funny. I haven't checked it in Firefox to make sure it looks okay--I may have to do some adjusting.
I'm just so proud of myself. It looks very clean and uncluttered, doesn't it? Every writer needs a decent website. Once I have more to brag about I'll get my own domain, but my brother very kindly lets me have as much server space as I want for free, and you can't beat that.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I had to move some stuff around on the page to make room, and my story "The King's Messenger" had to be demoted. I really love that story, mostly because its main character is Kristof, the weredeer from my weredeer novels. (If Carrie Harris can become a world expert on Batman Eyebrows as per Google searches, I can hit the first page when people Google "weredeer," darn it.) I am chuffed to see that the story is on the Ursa Major Awards short fiction recommended list, which sounds really impressive until you realize that the actual nominations aren't taken from that list.
Because I'm a grown-up, I washed the dishes when I got home from work. And also because I'm a grown-up and can if I want to, I ate waffles, peanut butter Captain Crunch, and ice cream for supper. For some reason, I'm craving raw meat right now.
I'll let you know when the book will appear.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I've got a name for my main character and a title for the book! The first is Analefa (Ana for short), the latter is The Taste of Magic. I kept Carafel as the name of the city Ana lives in (although I tacked another L to the end). I'm still not done fussing over names, though, since I've decided Byron is a stupid name and anyway that character is going to die at the end of chapter two, which means the real bad guy still needs a name. Vincent's name stands, though. It's perfect for him. I even gave him a good last name, Ondarr. I think I made that up, but if I unwittingly swiped it from someone else's book, please let me know.
I went to Borders today and tried to find something new to read (because my to be read stack isn't quite to the ceiling yet). The selection sucked, though--just the same old names over and over, and nothing that looked even remotely interesting. No wonder bookstores aren't doing too well right now. There's no variety.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Look what I found at the dollar store! I got this cool plastic bag for a buck and I'm using it for my knitting. In the bag: my awesome cool Halloween Hello Kitty pencil roll (containing a few pens, knitting needles, scissors, stitch markers, etc.), two balls of handspun Jacob yarn, white and brown, the in-progress Kittyville-hat-with-ears that I really need to finish, my Stitch n' Bitch pattern notebook, and Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin that I took over to Mom's house to loan to her (she took the picture--I don't have a camera).
My new Nano project outlining is coming along very well. And I've decided to name the main character, um, Carafel. I made that up just now. Sounds too much like caramel, doesn't it? What do you think?
Friday, October 10, 2008
First step at this point is to name my main characters, which will help me make some decisions on how they play off one another. I sat down with two name books and made some lists earlier.
The bad guy's name was easy to pick out. He's going to be Byron, rakish and dark. Also corny, but I think I can pull it off. Once I had his name, I had to strike Rowan, Tobin, Alban, Kilian, and Tarkin from the good guy name list (-en names are hot now for guys, have you noticed?). None of those were right anyway. I picked Asher instead, to be abbreviated to Ash--but I changed my mind when I thought that sounded like a Buffy name. Since that character's a vampire, I had to strike any possible Buffy connotation names, which isn't easy since I've never watched that show. After a lot of thought, I picked Vincent instead. That happens to be the name of one of my cats, but I really like the name and I think it'll work well for that character.
So now I have the bad guy, Byron, and the good guy, Vincent. The main character's name is a lot more difficult. I'd like to avoid another two-syllable name if I can. One-syllable women's names are fairly rare, but they're almost always strong--stronger than I really want. Three-syllable women's names are common, but they tend to sound too soft. I want a feminine sounding name but not a frilly or girly one.
I need a three-syllable name with hard consonants, then, but I can't use a B, R, N, V, or S. I can probably get away with a T since it doesn't really sound in Vincent. See how difficult this is? You think I'm being picky, I bet, but it really is vitally important that my main character's name doesn't echo the names of other characters too much.
I don't think I know my main character well enough to name her yet. But at least I've named the two other main characters. Boys are always easier for me to name than girls; maybe that's why the girls end up with clunky names like Hilda and Ellen.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
ETA: great review of the magazine here.
Fortunately, spiders don't bother me. I like spiders because I don't like bugs, and while the gnat infestation is pretty much over, it's not entirely gone. So I keep an eye on my yellow spider, hoping to see gnats stuck in its web.
Yes, and that has absolutely nothing to do with writing or reading, so on to bookish things. My new Amazon order came today! It's the last bunch of books I'm going to order for a while, so I hope they're all good. Among the books is Lisa Shearin's Armed & Magical, sequel to Magic Lost, Trouble Found that I read last week. I had to take my car in for its (ridonculously expensive) 30k mile checkup, and I read half the book while I waited. I am definitely a Shearin fan now. I'm about three-quarters done reading the sequel and it's actually better than the first one. Raine's character seemed a little shallow in the first book; she's deeper now, and the predicaments she's in feel more tangled and harder to solve. And it's still a lot of fun, with fascinating worldbuilding, solid plotting, and the sexual tension ratcheted up to ever more delicious levels. The narrative snarkiness seems a little toned down too, or maybe I've just gotten used to it. I definitely can't wait for the next book to come out.
(The only reason I'm not putting this one on my recommended list is because I make it a point to list only one recommended book per author. Hey, you have to have rules or the world will end!)
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I just finished Tinker by Wen Spencer. The first third or so was great. Then it sort of devolved. I saw the big transformation coming, hoped I was wrong, wasn't wrong, and almost gave up on the book in disgust. Instead I read another 200 damn pages, skimming all the boring SF techie stuff and all the boring fantasy elf stuff, and the ending was just a stupid fight. I got very annoyed with the Mary Sueish character of Tinker and the author's blatant plot-steering.
You know what? I liked Magic Lost, Trouble Found a whole lot more than this book. There's a sequel to Tinker. No thanks. There's a sequel to Magic Lost, Trouble Found. I can't wait until I can read it.
One interesting thing about Tinker, though, is that it was set in a version of Pittsburgh, PA. It just happens that my only foray out of the south was to Pittsburgh, or to the little town of Ambridge near Pittsburgh, where I lived for almost two years. It was weird whenever the book mentioned places like the strip district or the various rivers surrounding the city, because I knew exactly what was being described and could picture it. No mention of Ambridge, but at least Sewickley got a shout-out.
So I've updated my pitiful website to reflect the sale. I'm very impressed by the Double-Edged Sword submissions process--it's all completely automatic, right down to the contract! I like getting a contract immediately after acceptance.
This afternoon at work, guy-who-looks-just-like-Alex came in again, which delighted me almost as much as selling a story. He's changed his hair so he looks less like Alex than before. That's probably a good thing.
Why did I get four hours of sleep? Because I'm reading Tinker by Wen Spencer and I finally made myself put it down at about 11:30 pm, knowing if I stayed up any longer I'd end up staring out the window etc. But the book has hooked me so badly that I ended up not being able to sleep anyway, because I couldn't stop thinking about it. I should have just stayed up to read, but I'm only about halfway through and it is a pretty damn thick book.
So far I like it a lot, although it's SF and not fantasy (although the cover and the little word "fantasy" on the spine would pretend otherwise). It's much more intense and dark than I usually like my books. If you take a look at my recommended list over there, you'll see I tend to prefer lighter reading. Tinker reminds me a lot of Cherryh's Angel with a Sword, which I also liked although the ending infuriated me, to the point that I haven't read anything else by Cherryh. I certainly hope that this book doesn't let me down that badly.
Tinker is in the category of books that I read in a permanent flinch, because I just know Something Truly Awful is going to happen to the main character soon. Elizabeth Bear's writing is like that, which is why I have yet to finish one of her books. It's not that I want to read flavorless books where nothing much happens except that the protagonist Realizes Something Important somewhere around page 300. I think I just want the protagonist to be more than flotsam in the plotstream. Permanent-flinch books always seem to be about soulless societies (one way or another) and the Little Guy who's caught up in events beyond his or her control--and the events stay out of his/her control, no matter what he/she does, because it's a soulless society that doesn't care about the Little Guy.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Now a similar list of male names, all of them taken from the same stories as the names above:
While I do like some of the women's names in the list above, I like all of the men's names, with the possible exception of Harris. I don't know what this says about me, but here's something else: most of the women's names were chosen because they sounded flat-footed. And I write fantasy. I wonder if I might be trying too hard to avoid allegations of Mary Sueing.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Well, so what? This is the fourth year I've done Nano. I can bend the rules if I want. And after my rigorous attention to the 3-day novel contest rules, and my dropping wordcounts lately, I don't see any reason not to let myself write before November.
I'm probably only going to write the short first chapter, anyway. It'll set everything up for the plot, and then I can work on the outline. Then I'll write 50,000 more words during Nano, and hopefully finish the book before the end of the year. Since I want this one to run at least 80k words, starting early only makes sense.
Besides, I'm going to pour everything I have into this project. If Evil Outfitters, Ltd. doesn't get me an agent, this one will.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
It's not that the book is bad, but it's not really very good. And it's not a murder mystery. I'm to chapter six now--89 pages in--and there's no hint of a body hitting the floor any time soon. That's not all that unusual for Sayers; in fact, I can never even remember if Gaudy Night even has a murder, much as I love the book and as many times as I've read it. The mystery in Gaudy Night (and to some extent Busman's Honeymoon) takes a back seat to Sayers' literary romance between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They're delicious books, wonderful in every possible way.
I wish I could say the same about Thrones, Dominations, but so far I'm disappointed. It's not a murder mystery, and it's not a literary romance. It's a historical novel trying to seem literary. It doesn't matter if the parts I've read were penned by Sayers or Walsh (if it's Sayers, I strongly suspect most of it would have been cut from the final draft), the book goes into such minutiae of the times--furnishings, clothes, fashions--and the minutiae takes such a central role, that this is flat out a historical novel and nothing more.
One thing I'm finding frustrating is the constant viewpoint shifts. Sayers did this frequently, but the central characters were always Peter and/or Harriet, depending on which novel you read. So far, the first 89 pages of Thrones, Dominations have very little of either Peter or Harriet and too much of lots of other people, none of whom show the least sign of being murdered. The writing is good enough to keep me reading past the third chapter mark (where I usually allow myself to abandon a book if I'm not enjoying it enough), but it's just not engaging me on any level beyond light curiosity as to who is going to die or if maybe no one will. In which case, why am I reading this book, since it doesn't seem to have a plot?
Saturday, October 4, 2008
I love Shearin's worldbuilding, and the plot is solid. Raine Benaris, an elven seeker--she finds things people want found and other people want to remain not found--stumbles upon an amulet of unimaginable power, which links itself to her with near-fatal results. She can't take the amulet off, it's feeding her new magical skills she doesn't want, and she's attracting the attention of lots of unpleasant people as a result.
The book reminds me inescapably of Jim C. Hines's short story "Blade of the Bunny," oddly enough. It's got the same light tone, bantering and not-entirely-honest good guys, and a dangerous item. That's fine in a short story, but at times while reading Magic Lost, Trouble Found, I really wished for more depth of character. I also found the chicklitty, streetsmarty narration a little tiresome.
But it's a fun book, and I just put the sequel in my shopping cart over on Amazon. And now I'm going to go update the recommended books list over there. --> (Even though I also have to go rewrite part of the masquerade scenes in Stag in Velvet because I dressed the king in a peacock costume, and everyone will think I copied.)