Sunday, August 31, 2008

Complete at 22,607 words

Okay, I've finished my 3-day "novel" in two days. It's actually more of a novella, or even a novellette, not even 23,000 words long.

But considering that I wrote almost 11,000 words yesterday and almost 12,000 words today, and my previous best was 10,000 words in one day and that was way back in around 2003, I'd say I've done pretty darn good.

Besides, the story holds up well. I don't think there are any big holes, although I already know a few things I need to go back in and change. That's okay, because I have one whole day left to edit and add stuff!

And I got a request for a full this afternoon from an agent, one I'd really love to have. So it's been a pretty good weekend all in all. Now I get to go to bed and watch TV without guilt. Because I have finished my 3-day novel in two days.

1 day, 13.5 hrs in--hungry to not hungry in 5.4 minutes

The pizza came! It's surprisingly good. I was starving before it got here, and then after only one (big) piece, I was stuffed. Damn! Still, pizza and microwaves go together just fine.

I'm about to start chapter 7, and I'm 18,500 words in. I've deviated so much from my outline today that it's going to be useless pretty soon. I expected that; I just hope what I've written in place of the outlined plot will actually work.

I can actually see the light here. I basically just have the big climax and the short denoument to write and it'll be done. Go me!

1 day, 8.5 hours in--and cat food problems

I never thought I'd be interrupted by this.

On Thursday I bought a big new bag of cat food (to the tune of twenty bucks) because the cats were almost out of food. I got Nutro Max Cat as usual, indoor formula, chicken flavored. They had the fish flavored last time, so I thought I'd mix it up a little. They like that.

They ran out Friday night so I started using the new food yesterday morning. Last night Vincent kept acting like he was staaaaarving. And both the cats tried to sneak some of the dog's food from his bowl; Vincent always does, but Angel only tries dog food when I bring home a brand new bag, because I guess she wants to make sure it's okay, or that I'm not slipping Jasper the good stuff. Then this morning I went to refill the cats' bowl and they hadn't touched the food from yesterday.

So I drove out to Walmart and bought them some Purina One junk food. They're in there eating like starving refugees right now. I don't know what's wrong with the old food--it looks okay, no mealworms or anything. I even looked online to see if there's a recall out. So then I did something I hadn't done since I was a kid: I ate cat food.

First a piece of the old cat food, and I must say it was nasty. It had a really strange aftertaste. Then I had a piece of the new cat food, and it was okay. I wouldn't want to have to eat it every day, but it wasn't revolting. It just tasted like cat food, and believe me when I say I have eaten a lot of pet food--I used to really like Meow Mix when I was a kid. Yeah. Anyway, for a complete test I also tried a piece of dog food, Nutro Max High Energy Formula because poor old Jasper is so skinny these days--he's almost twelve years old, a Newfoundland dog. The dog food was the best, with a pleasant aftertaste and toothsome texture. If I had to eat pet food for the rest of my life, I'd choose that. Or Meow Mix.

Anyway, if anyone else has had problems with Nutro Max Cat chicken flavor bought recently, let me know. I hate to throw it out, but obviously there's something wrong with it. My cats aren't picky eaters.

Oh, and I'm 13,500 words in and am about to start on chapter 5!

1 day, 6 hours in

I went to bed about 10pm. I got a decent night's sleep, which I really didn't expect to do all weekend. But I met my day's goal of 10k words last night--in fact I got almost 11k. The handwritten portion (which I typed up last night) turned out to be over 2,000 words after all, which tipped me past my goal easily.

Now I'm up and ready to start chapter 4. There are ten chapters in my outline, so I'm only about 1/3 of the way through (the last chapter will be very short, so I'm not worried too much about it). Today's my big push day. I want to write at least 15k today and get as far as I can. If I can finish today, or mostly finish, that would be awesome. Tomorrow I want to keep open for some editing if I can manage it--plus I'd kind of like to relax before I have to go back to work.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

19 hours in

I'm more than halfway through chapter 3, over 6,700 words typed and another maybe-thousand untyped, and the story has grabbed me by the heart and head and won't let go. Thank goodness! I was worried it would turn out soulless, nothing but a finger exercise. Now I know it's good.

I had crab rangoons for supper. I thought they were microwavable, but it turns out I had to use the oven to cook them. My oven is awful, awfulawfulawful. It's like trying to cook in a volcano. The directions said to cook the rangoons at 400 for 10 minutes. I set the oven to just under 350 and cooked them for five minutes, and they still burned a little. They were okay--not as good as the ones at Harvest Moon, my favorite cheap Chinese food place. Unfortunately, I also burned myself--just slightly--on the oven door. I have a nearly limitless capacity to hurt myself in baffling ways.

I need to take a break, but I want to finish chapter 3 first. But there's still a lot of stuff to put into this chapter--the meal with Dominick, Dominick's attempt to kiss poor messed-up Hilda, the payment of the entry fee so Justice can enter the tournament, and finally a minor info-dump about Justice's past. I'd better get to it.

14 hours in

I'm not sure how much I got written at work because I don't intend to type it up just yet, but I'd say probably 1,000 or 1,500 words. Not that much. I'm still in chapter two. But I think I've done a good job setting up Hilda's problems so far. She's met Justice, I've hinted at the real issue going on with Hilda, she's had a near panic attack in a crowd, I've hinted at Justice's issue, and they've both just met Dominick.

I'm going to eat some yogurt, then jump right back in. When I finish chapter two I'll take a break.

Two hours in

And I'm already sick of this. What was I thinking?

I've written chapter one and the first part of chapter two. I've been at it two hours and I've only written 2,300 words! I have to throw some clothes on and go to work now, and frankly I'm glad.

This is going to be a rougher weekend than I expected.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Editor kitteh edits

That's Vincent, sitting on my outline. It is an extensive outline with lots of notes on it. I told you.

Bookshelves, and I should be in bed

Here's my bookshelves, picture taken by my mama, bookshelves given to me by my mama. I love my mama.

I need more books, obviously. Poster above the small shelf is of Duo from Gundam Wing, incidentally. Poster almost hidden by the chair is Gorillaz. Poster mostly hidden by curtains is Kung Fu Panda.

The picture of Vincent investigating my outline follows in a few minutes, and then I absolutely have to get to bed!

Tomorrow is where your book begins...

So in a little less than four hours, I can start my 3-day novel contest. Except that I plan to go to bed here in about half an hour and get up at five, write two hours, leave for work, write at work (longhand) until I get off at 1pm, go home and write write write until I have a minimum of 10,000 words for the day. This is doable unless my outline goes horribly awry.

I will be checking in occasionally throughout the weekend to post, and probably vent incoherently. The house is spotless. If my landlady walked in right now, she'd burst into tears of joy at having found The Perfect Tenant. (Except that one of the cats would probably barf on the carpet then.) I have nothing to distract me from my task. I even put flystrips on the kitchen and study windows to trap those damned gnats!

Speaking of the study, Mom took a picture of my new bookshelves. As soon as she emails them to me, I'll post them. She took a picture of my outline, too, with Vincent the cat investigating it. I hope that one came out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I lied.

Okay, so I wrote another story this morning for Cinema Spec. I couldn't help it! I had nothing to do at work and my brain would have exploded from boredom otherwise! It's a true flash story, right at 675 words, and it's SF set in an undetermined future where the "movie" isn't exactly a movie. It seems to fit what the editor wants a lot better than my earlier stories, so I'm crossing my fingers on this one.

Anyway, if Cinema Spec doesn't want it, it's perfect for Every Day Fiction and I haven't sent them anything in a while.

I'm gearing up for this weekend. I've cleaned the kitchen, bought groceries, and I even remembered to get a menu from the only pizza place that delivers to my tiny town. They sell spinach pizza! I even got cash to pay the delivery guy. At the moment I'm working on killing the gnats which have infested my house in the last month or so. I really hate them. I got one in my ear a few weeks ago, which was disgusting, but no more disgusting than the most effective way of killing them, which is smacking them with my bare hands.

Guidelines and wordcounts

Just got my third rejection from Cinema Spec; at least this one was personal. I think basically what's wrong with the story, and all the stories I've sent her, is that my style and the editor's style just don't mesh. So I'm not going to bother to write anything else for that market.

Incidentally, if an editor really wants stories under 1,000 words, she needs to put that in her guidelines instead of changing the pay rate for stories 1-2,000 words long and thinking that'll keep people from sending her stories 2,000 words long. Witness the guidelines for Cinema Spec here, and the editor's blog about story lengths here.

At least now I can put all the fun character bits back in to the story that I had to take out to get it under 2,000 words. I am not a 2,000-word-and-under story writer anyway. Only one of my published stories (not counting flash, which is a different animal) is under 2,000 words, and it just barely. By the time I'm done with the rewrite, this story will probably be around 3,000 words and it'll be something I can be proud of.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Random nattering

I took a walk around town tonight, in the humid post-tropical-storm evening. I love the way it smells after rain. The kudzu growing at the mouth of Sawmill Road* is blooming, and if you've never smelled kudzu blooming, go to the store and buy a grape-flavored Jolly Rancher and open it. Kudzu flowers smell like grape candy, only better. I'm not sure what it is about plants originally from Japan, but they all seem to smell nice. The empress tree (which I think is called princess tree in other regions) blooms in early spring and smells like incense--absolutely stunning, exotic, delicious incense. I'd like to visit Japan and just walk around smelling the plants.

I did intend to write a flash story or two this week to keep my hand in before the contest, but I can't think of anything. So I'm just going to hope that I'm so ridiculously competitive--which I am--that I will write and write and write this weekend even if every word has to be forced out of my brain. My outline is covered with scribbled notes. I feel like I've mentally written this novel already.

Tonight's vegetable: green beans.

*Yes, the same Sawmill Road of the story, which had only a gloss of fictionalization applied.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A completely unexpected acceptance!

I just got home from work--we're back on our regular semester schedule at work, which means I work ten hours on Tuesdays--and I'm so tired I almost didn't even bother to check my email. I'm glad I did! My story "Meet Mary Sue" has been accepted at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine! *does many backflips*

I totally 100% did not expect this. I've only sent them a few stories before, but none of them has even passed the first round of readings. My story will appear in issue #40, thus fulfilling one of my unwritten new year's resolutions--get a story into an issue (of any magazine) in the double-digits.

Oh, and I'd link to ASIM but their site seems to be down right now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Outline worries

I'm a bit worried that my outline is too ambitious. It's hard to tell, though, because I wrote the outline in paragraph form instead of my usual half dozen words per chapter. It's more of a synopsis than an outline, really. I had to do it that way to make sure I don't forget anything while writing it--I won't have time to go back and add much before the three days are up.

There are twelve chapters, one paragraph per. I gave each chapter its own page and printed it off, and now I'm going to go over it and make notes. I keep thinking up details I want to add. I wonder if I'm the first person to enter who is not just writing a book, but who has built an entire new fantasy world solely for the book. I started pretty much from scratch at the beginning of August and the world feels pretty rich to me, and it's different from anything I've tried before. Even if the book turns out terrible, at least I've got a new world to play in.

I guess this time next week I'll be desperately trying to finish up so I can get a decent night's sleep. I just hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

Speaking of which, tonight's vegetable: okra.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In training--and bookshelves!

My shelves have been delivered and they're stacked with all the books that were stacked on the floor and in the ugly old shelves and on any flat surface. Still lots of room for more books! It looks like a library in here with the massive oak shelves, although the anime/animation posters lighten the tone just a little. No pictures yet because Mom forgot to bring her camera; she did get a few pictures of my new haircut, but I decline to post them because I look like trailer trash.

Anyway, from now until next Saturday morning, I'm in training for the 3-day novel contest. I will go to bed at 9:30 sharp, get up at six, and eat a green vegetable every night along with supper. No caffeine except maybe tea in the mornings. My house is clean, I changed the sheets on the bed and washed my favorite nightgown, and in a few minutes I'm going to put the finishing touches on my outline.

I am serene. I am ready. I am not wondering why the fark I paid to write a novel in three days.

Bad Haircut

I got a haircut yesterday. I don't like it. I think it makes me look like someone named Crystal who lives in a trailer park and drinks too much on the weekends. She works at the Tyson Meat Packing plant and occasionally parties with her ex-husband, Darryl, but even though he wants to get back together with her, she likes being independent. Most of the time she hangs out with her best friends Sherri and Tina at the Lone Star Bar, playing pool, drinking, and flirting with the guys. Crystal especially likes karioki night. Sherri and Tina keep telling her she should try out for American Idol, but she can't afford the trip to Atlanta. Occasionally Crystal babysits for her niece Britney, who loves coming over because Aunt Crystal has the biggest collection of Avon products of anyone she knows, plus Crystal's as much fun as a big sister and they spend all day fixing each other's hair and watching soaps. Crystal did have a pet chihuahua with runny eyes, named Punkin, but it got run over--one of the things she doesn't like about living right off Highway 441. Crystal's mother lives in the double-wide next door and wants Crystal to give Darryl another chance; he's going places, now that he's an assistant manager at Wendy's.

Oh my gawd. All that from a haircut.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Three Bookshelves!

I got home today to find a note from my mom. As a gift for me making my first pro sale, and almost making my first novel sale, she has bought me three bookshelves! They'll be delivered this weekend. They're nice bookshelves too, apparently--oak, and two of them are tall. She bought them at an antique shop, from a booth going out of business, so they'll fit in with all my other furniture (my grandmother was an antique dealer for decades, and in fact co-managed one of the largest and nicest antique malls in the region).

I desperately need bookshelves. At the moment, I only have a stepback that isn't particularly large and a small, ugly set of shelves that leans forward a little, so that I expect it to dump all my Terry Pratchett books on the floor one of these days.

I'm deleriously happy to be getting bookshelves, and Mom's happy because she gets to come over to my house this weekend and help me rearrange my study, one of her greatest joys in life. I may have to move some of my animation posters, but it'll be worth it not to have books stacked all over the place. Maybe I'll borrow Mom's camera and post a picture when the study's all fixed up!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From the ashes, a pretty little phoenix

With perfect timing after my harrowing disappointment yesterday, I just got the email that my story "Sand-Skin Man" will appear in the new magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. My rewrite worked! And I'm particularly excited because BCS not only pays pro rates, but it looks like it's going to be a fantastic magazine. The first issues will include stories by David D. Levine, Aliette de Bodard, J. Kathleen Cheney, and Charles Coleman Finlay. I'm definitely in exciting company here!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The worst pain is regret

A few weeks ago, if you'll remember, I posted about Wizards of the Coast Discoveries line closing, and me being bummed because I'd had a full with them.

I just got a very nice email from the editor who requested the full. She explained about the imprint closing. And she said she had been planning to make an offer on my book.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book 3 of this binge

I swear this is my last post of the day.

I just finished House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones. I've been meaning to get a copy for weeks and finally did. It's a fun and often funny sequel to Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, although I do admit that of the three, I think this one's the least good. Still marvelously entertaining, of course, but not as dense and layered as the others. It's also not as long--it looks long on the shelf, it being a thick hardback, but the print is big, the margins are huge, and there's lots of space between lines. It's not a long book.

Charmain Baker is the main character of House of Many Ways. She's been brought up to be proper, although she doesn't much care for being proper. She just likes to read. And it turns out, when she's told she must take care of her great-uncle's house while he's away, she doesn't know how to do anything much except read. She doesn't know the first thing about taking care of the house, particularly this house, which is magical. Then her great-uncle's new apprentice shows up unexpectedly.

I won't tell any more of the plot because even saying what Charmain does after that would be a spoiler. Suffice to say that Jones is much more inventive than most other writers.

Note to the Bandaid Company

There is such a thing as too much sticky. I am not applying this Bandaid permanently. Or I wasn't intending to.

That is all.

My head's okay, but my hand will fall off now

I must have just been tired last night. This morning I wrote the entire story start to finish, in a few hours. It turned out a little too long, 2300 words, but I can trim that down easily. I'm not sure it's a great story, but it's nice that I wrote something.

I went out for a walk with my MP3 player afterwards, and when I got home all sweaty, I kept the earbuds in while I cleaned dog poop out of the yard and took out the trash. Raccoons or something had gotten into the trash, so I even brought out a big clean bag and managed to cram all the trash into it. Unfortunately, when I pushed the garbage down to get it all in, something stuck out and sliced the back of my fourth finger across the first joint. It didn't hurt that much, but by the time I got the trashcan lid jammed on and clamped down, I was bleeding all over the place.

So I went back inside and washed the cut out carefully and dried it, and dripped blood all over the bathroom, and held a Kleenex over it until it mostly stopped bleeding, and slathered it with antibiotic cream and stuck a Bandaid over it, and then got an ice pack from the freezer because I figured that might help. All while Norah Jones and then Flogging Molly played.

I can still type, obviously. That had me worried. I guess that'll teach me to leave the lid askew on the garbage can.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Uh oh.

I broke down and bought an MP3 player today, because Mom got one and I really like it. It's a 2G Sansa something-or-another and it's blue. (I would have gotten red, but the store didn't have red and anyway Mom has a red one. The blue is pretty, though.)

But that's not the uh-oh part, although I shouldn't be buying MP3 players on my budget. The uh-oh part comes after I charged up my Sansa, loaded it with tons of music, and went on a long and enjoyable walk around town. While I walked, I came up with a new idea for the Cinema Spec anthology--because they've rejected both my submissions, dammit--and it seems like a pretty good little story. By the time I got home, I had the whole thing worked out and sat down to write for a while before bed.

And, uh oh. Because writing the first few hundred words was like chipping gravel off a block of concrete with my fingernails. Two weeks from now I have to slam out a whole novel (or at least novella) in three days. I can't lose my flow now.

I'm worried that taking August off from writing was a bad, bad, bad idea. The only solution is to jump back in and write for the next two weeks and hope that limbers me up. But I can't write anything in-depth that might grab my imagination right before I have to focus utterly on Hilda and Justice. I predict I'll be writing a lot of flash stories in the next two weeks.

Friday, August 15, 2008


In gearing up for the 3-day novel contest, I've been working on worldbuilding. The book will be centered around fighting tournaments between small, intelligent dragons, sponsored by human trainers who also provide magical healing after matches. I've been working out the biology of the dragons and the rules of the matches.

Last weekend I went with my mom to the airport to wait for my brother (hi Richard!), and I took my notebook. While I talked to Mom, I designed various types of markings for the dragons. Then I gave my notebook to my mom while I ran to the bathroom, and when I got back--well, my mom had designed another creature. Hell, I might put him into the book.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

forthcoming raunch

I got word that my story "Comparative Anatomy" will be in the next issue of Space Squid, which I guess is #7. It was originally planned for the current issue but wouldn't fit. In the email, the editor said he looked forward to running "your perfectly lovely and tasteful story about pornography." I'll let you all know when it's available.

I like those Space Squid guys.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So simple a caveman...

I just found this interesting article about Neanderthal DNA via Colleen Lindsay's blog. I can't read stuff like that without turning it around looking for story ideas.

Even if you're not interested in the article, scroll down to the bottom of it where there's a little sidebar thingie comparing Neanderthal Man and Modern Man characteristics. Even if we did live in a Geico commercial, where the possibility would exist of the article being written by a Neanderthal, that sidebar would be a total clue-in that a Modern Man [sic? I mean, we've got Modern Women too] wrote it. Compare the adjectives associated with Neanderthals (heavy, strong, thick-set) with those associated with Moderns (graceful, softer, gracile). I think it was the phrase "graceful chin and jaw" that annoyed me. That is so totally subjective. Species-centric much?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I could title it "The Unpantsing"

Well, the rewrite is done (although I'm sure I could have tinkered with it all week and not been completely happy with it) and I've finished rereading Evil Outfitters, Ltd. Now I can go back to reading other people's books.

This weekend I'm going to outline my 3-day novel contest book, tentatively (sigh) titled Hilda and Justice. Because I am terrible with titles, that's why. Anyway, I know pretty much what's going to happen in the book; it's the characters and details that I will have fun with. The plot isn't scintillating, although I did manage to answer all the whys; since three days is too little time to focus on beautiful writing, the characters and details are going to have to knock the judges' socks off. I want them not just sockless, but heck, pantsless too.

Hehehe. I said pantsless.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Can I get a rewrite? (whoop whoop)

I got a rewrite request this afternoon from a market I really, really want to break into. It wasn't an easy rewrite, though. I like rewrite requests that go, "Can you cut 500 words and tighten the ending?" This one required me to--gasp--THINK.

So I went for a walk and thought and thought and thought, and when I came home I made popcorn and cut the entire climax of the story and rewrote it from scratch. On balance, I added almost a thousand words. The story is much, much better now. Even if I don't sell it to this market, I'll sell it.

Tomorrow night, after letting it rest for a day so I can go over it one more time with fresh eyes, I'll send it back. I do not like letting rewrite requests sit around weighing me down.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reading my own book

I'm rereading Evil Outfitters, Ltd for the first time in months and months and months, and while I have made a few small changes, I'm happy with it. I just don't know where to send the damn thing. It hasn't been out to many publishers; it's only gotten three rejects, one no-response, and one request for full from WOTC Discoveries that just folded. Unfortunately, there aren't many big publishers that take unagented stuff. I was going to send it to DAW, but I don't want to print 400-some pages and mail them off just to get them rejected. Talk about wasteful.

I guess I could start querying smaller publishers, but--let's face it--they all suck. If they didn't suck, they'd be big publishers. I might be generalizing just a little bit here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book 2 of this binge

I just finished River Rats by Caroline Stevermer. It was even better than I'd hoped. She's got such a clean, elegant writing style--but the story is great too. Tomcat and a handful of friends live on the steamboat River Rat, which they pilot up and down the river, taking mail from town to town in barter for food and goods. It's twenty years after the Flash, and life is hard; but the Rats know how to handle themselves. Only when they break one of their own rules and rescue a man from the poisonous river do things start to go bad.

It's a fascinating book, and it's a fast read. I'm not sure which book I'll move on to next, but I'm glad I chose this one today.

Well, I'm in.

I mailed my entry fee to the 3-day novel contest. Now I've paid, so I have to play.

My plotting/characterizing/worldbuilding is going well. By next weekend I may be to the point where I can start a real outline. Just three weeks left until the contest starts!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Addendum to book one post

I just finished reading Anton Strout's Dead to Me and I liked the second half of the book a lot more than the first half. Also, Strout dropped by yesterday's comment thread and made sad-puppy eyes at me, so now I feel like a heel for praising him with faint damns. I did like the book; it's just not my favorite sub-genre, apparently. I liked the psychometry stuff at the end--that's what I was hoping for during the first part!

Anyway, I think I'll read River Rats next, by Caroline Stevermer. I've been meaning to read it for about a year, even though post-apocalyptic YA isn't my cup of tea either. But I do like Stevermer's other books.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book one of this binge

Since I'm taking the month off from writing, I'm free to do all the reading I want. And in a massive coincidence, my shipment of books from Amazon just arrived yesterday.

I'm reading Dead to Me by Anton Strout first. It's an urban fantasy about a psychometric paranormal investigator in Manhattan. I got it because of the psychometry angle. Good hook, and I've always been interested in psychometry. Unfortunately, the book is short on psychometry readings except for boring stuff; instead, it seems to follow lock-step in the Dresden Files mold. That's fine if you happen to like the Dresden Files books. I read the first three and found them competent but not terribly interesting, and was actively put off by the clumsy characterization and transparent plotting. Same with Dead to Me, although I am enjoying it enough to keep reading it. It's just not my thing, I guess.

Next up will probably be Dog Days by John Levitt, but I may not be up to another urban fantasy so soon after this one. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

why, dammit?

I have my main characters' names, Hilda and Justice, so that if I have to, I can title it Hilda and Justice, although I'd rather not. And I know how they're going to play off each other, and what they want (or think they want)--but I don't know WHY.

Why why why whywhywhy? Why does Hilda want terrible revenge against the guy I haven't invented yet? Why is Justice living on the outskirts of the drake colony after being brought all the way to the city at great expense? Why can't I dredge up anything except the most banal of plot points?

Ice cream might help. Ice cream, or a really long walk around town so I can think. And then ice cream.

Monday, August 4, 2008


I finally beat Exile III. For a change, I didn't have to fight my way to Rentar-Ihrno more than once because I actually pressed all the buttons the first time without missing any.

So that's out of the way. I'm finishing stuff up to get ready for the 3-day novel contest, incidentally. That's part of the reason why I cleaned the house this weekend. Of course, I've still got four weeks before the contest starts. Mom thinks I should enter, and I do have a kickass idea for the book. I'm allowing myself to spend August plotting and worldbuilding (and cleaning house), so I'll be rested and ready when August 30 comes.

I think I'll have a bowl of ice cream and curl up with a notebook to jot down notes. Or--even more fun--I'll browse through The Baby Name Wizard (my favorite name book evar) and name my main characters.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A new pleasure!

I bought a fantastic new book yesterday, The Search for the Last Undiscovered Animals by Karl P.N. Shuker (formerly titled The Beasts That Hide from Man). It's a cryptozoology book written by an actual zoologist, so it's not overly credulous like so many cryptozoology books; instead, it's well-researched and open-minded and it covers obscure cryptids, like the Mongolian Death Worm, instead of rehashing the same old Loch Ness Monster sightings and so forth. It reminds me a lot of Willy Ley's wonderful essays from the 1940s and 50s, and in fact Shuker covers some of the same ground as Ley did (like legends of man-eating trees), but much more up-to-date.

It just goes to show that reading nonfiction is at least as important as reading fiction for generating story ideas. Within pages of starting this book, I realized I had the perfect plot for my NaNoWriMo book. Sorry, Charmed Circle, you've been pushed back yet again.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cleaning Up

I just updated my website slightly because one of the editors of Every Day Fiction noticed that my earlier stories were published under Katherine Shaw and the most recent under K.C. Shaw. So now they're all bylined K.C. Shaw, which is just awesome!

I also cleaned my entire house today, top to bottom. My mom came over to help. She said my house is so small she felt like she was playing with a dollhouse. After all the upheaval of vacuuming and moving furniture around and so forth, the dog is asleep, one of the cats is drowsing in a window, and the other cat is drugged out on the new cardboard scratcher thingie that I put way too much catnip in. I think I'll take a quick shower, change into clean pajamas, and spend the evening reading and eating ice cream.

Oh, and Mom also bought me some tennis shoes. They're black and make me run really fast!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Generic Publishing Rant

I walked downtown to get the mail--my new nightly activity--and meant to do some thinking about my 3-day novel idea. Instead I kept thinking back to the closure of WOTC Discoveries and working up to a rant about the state of publishing today.

Never mind that the rant hasn't changed in decades, no matter who's ranting, and never mind that anything I say about publishing is sour-grapes flavored since I'm just a tadpole in the publishing pond (how's that for a mixed metaphor?). I can't stop myself, so here it is.

A prospective author used to have to rely on Writer's Market and word of mouth to find out where to send manuscripts, which had to be mailed through the actual mail. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't cheap. These days, anyone with a minimum of Google-fu can find up-to-date information about markets, which increasingly accept electronic subs. Click click boom, the manuscript is in the slush pile, along with thousands and thousands of other people's manuscripts.

At the same time, and probably as a result, fewer publishers accept unsolicited subs. The smaller publishers have either been eaten by bigger ones or gone out of business. The big publishers only release so many books a year. Look closely at the books in your local bookstore next time you're there, and in the SF/F section at least, you'll see the same half-dozen or so logos on almost all the books.

And the economy is not just in the toilet, it's been flushed into a decaying and overfilled septic tank. People don't have extra money to buy a lot of books, even people who love to read.

And even people who love to read spend a lot of their free time on the internet, or playing video games, or watching movies or TV, or downloading music (I know I can happily while away weeks doing nothing but mixing CDs), or, um, blogging. Know how much time I spent reading books today? About five minutes. I used to read a book a day when I was in high school. Yes, okay, I read during class, which is why I don't know any algebra and didn't learn how to study until I was a sophomore in college, but that's not the point. If I'd had the distractions in high school that are available to people now, I would have been texting friends during class, not reading. And my thumbs would be as big as Volkswagens.

Now head back to the SF/F shelves of your local bookstore, this time with a measuring tape, and take a look at the length of those books. I just checked DAW's guidelines, and they don't generally consider manuscripts under 80k words. Baen likes books at least 100k words long. When's the last time you picked up a slim volume that wasn't a reprint of something published a few decades ago? No, the emphasis is on brick-thick paperbacks. They're expensive to print and ship, which means a higher cover price, and they require a lot of dedicated time from readers.

To sum up:
1. More people sending submissions to fewer publishers.
2. Fewer people buying books.
3. Even avid readers spending less time reading.
4. Publishers publishing great big long books that no one can afford and no one has time to read anyway.
4. Kate hasn't had any stories accepted since May, and she seems bitter about it.
5. Also Kate doesn't actually text people, she just wanted to get the thumb joke in.
6. It wasn't very funny, was it?
7. In the time it took you to skim this post, you could have read several pages of a worthy novel.

Another one bites the dust

Well, I guess I can mark down an attrition reject for Evil Outfitters, Ltd. I subbed it to Wizards of the Coast Discoveries during their open call last fall, and in December got a request for full. But now Discoveries has been closed after only one year.

This sucks on any number of levels, and not just for me and other agentless authors who had a shot at making it in on the ground level of a new large publisher. It sucks in a big way for the authors signed by Discoveries--including J.M. McDermott, whose book Last Dragon came out this spring--and especially for authors who were signed but haven't had their books released yet. I hope they all got at least part of their advances.

The most monumentally crappy thing about this is that Discoveries was doing really well. Its first releases got great reviews and deserved them. But from what I hear, Hasbro--which owns WOTC--wants to focus marketing on their new edition of D&D, and apparently they only have about fifty bucks allocated to marketing and just can't do two things at once. It probably cost more to start and shut down Discoveries than they will save in the next ten years by not having the imprint.

Now where am I gonna send Evil Outfitters, dammit?