Saturday, February 28, 2009

1/6 into 2009

February is over already--it flew by. I didn't do very much in February. I did finish writing Blood and Taxes and made some minor revisions. I started querying agents about The Taste of Magic, although since I've received six agent rejections already I'm not so sure it's as good as I thought. But what else is new?

Not only did I not do a lot of writing in February, I didn't do anything I'd planned to do this week. I still need to finish the time traveling story I started weeks and weeks ago. Maybe I'll make that my goal tomorrow. It's a fun little story and I know exactly how it'll end. I just need to sit down and write it.

I didn't write a single short story in February. I did sell a story to Alienskin, which pleases me mightily, but that was my only acceptance this month (and only my second for the year). I have five stories and one novella out at the moment. I only read three books this month.

Well, it was a short month. Those two or three extra days make all the difference!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ranging farther afield

Man, I've hardly read anything this month. I'm only eight books into my read-50-books-this-year reading. That's terrible!

I'm reading Nathalie Mallet's The Princes of the Golden Cage right now, but finding it slow going. I'm about 60 pages in, and how many times does the main character have to realize he has to find out who the real killer is before it's too late? Because he's realized it two or three times at the very least. And so far, nothing much has happened. But much more annoying is the evident lack of copyediting. Does Night Shade Books even know what commas are for? They seem to shove them in pretty much anywhere.

One of the things I like about ordering from Amazon (as opposed to going to the bookstore) is that I'm not limited to the same handful of big publishers that B&N stocks in their fantasy/SF section. I'd never even heard of NSB before I dropped this book in my Amazon cart. One of the books I read recently was published by one of Dorchester's imprints, so I'd never have picked it up in the bookstore since I never enter the romance aisle. I may not like everything I order, but I'm finding an awful lot of good books I'd never had read otherwise. Yay for the internets!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It lives! It liiiiives!

I got my contributor copies of Fictitious Force #6 in the mail today. That was a surprise! I was pretty sure I'd killed that market. My story "Snow Magic" is the lead story in this issue.

They haven't updated their website yet to reflect the new issue, so I don't know when it's technically being released. From the editor's comments in the front of the magazine, it sounds as though they're still not sure what they're going to do about future issues. I'm selfishly glad they decided to print this one, though.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rewriting works

I finished my reread of Stag at Bay last night and did some light editing. The first half needs work. The second half--well, remember last summer I trashed the entire second half of that book and rewrote it? Well, I had forgotten that.

But when I read the whole thing, it's obvious. The first half is light, rather slow, a little underwritten. The second half is much better written, with better pacing, and it's dark. It's dark. I wrote something dark! And I didn't even realize it.

So eventually I need to work on the first half, and there are some changes to the second half that I think I need to make too. But it sure makes me feel better to see solid evidence that my writing has improved in the last two years.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blogging the Oscars

Watching the Oscars. Wall-E just won the Best Animated Feature Film, which should have gone to Kung Fu Panda. But Kung Fu Panda swept the Annies. So that's okay.

Anyway, Mom and I have decided they need to change the Oscars next year. Next year, they should hire an actual comedian to open the event. I nominate Steve Martin, who is always funny, except in the embarrassingly bad Pink Panther remakes.

Also, next year, they shouldn't let anyone give speeches. Women can go up, collect their statuette, and say, "Thank you." Then they turn around once so everyone can see their dresses, and that's it. Men aren't allowed to leave their seats because their clothes are boring or, if not boring, interestingly hideous. They'll get their statuettes sent to them backstage after the show.

If someone does start talking, instead of playing the music to drown them out, they should drag them offstage with a hook.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Okay, I promise I will stop posting when I'm feeling sorry for myself and whiny.

Writing goals for this week:
Finish the time travel story I started a few weeks ago
Minor revisions for Stag at Bay, since I just revised The Weredeer
Start work on Charmed Circle

Yes, I've decided Charmed Circle will be my next big project. I already have the first chapter written and it's a lot of fun. I know where I'm going with it, too (at least partly), so it should be pretty easy to jump in.

I've decided to make Tiger my Nano project this year, assuming nothing else pops up before then. I haven't talked about Tiger before, but it's a weird little book idea and perfect for Nano.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yes. I suck.

I've finished the revisions for The Weredeer, or at least the first round of revisions. I changed and added so much to the first chapter that I thought the whole book would change the same way. Instead, except for breaking 13 chapters into 30 (which picked up the pace a lot) and adding paragraphs here and there, I didn't change that much.

I'm not sure if it's because the book is pretty good to begin with, or because I've read it too many times to be very objective, or if I am deluded and everything I write sucks and I am incapable of evaluating my lack of talent and skill. Anyway, I added several thousand words and the first chapter is a billion times better than it was. Most of what I added was description. I did some trimming too, but mostly I added.

Now I don't know what to do with it. I'm discouraged anyway, because I've received four agent rejections on The Taste of Magic already, and only one of those wanted to see a partial first. The rest were just rejections from my query and sample pages. I have five queries pending and a list of more that I can query if I need to. I just thought I'd get a little more response than I have. So once again, I assume that I am a terrible writer and I should just give up and spend my spare time playing video games.

And yet, I still send out queries. And I will continue to send out queries until I have queried every single agent out there who might conceivably be interested in my book. And if I run out of agents, I'll start querying publishers directly. It's a strange and terrible thing, being a writer.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

what was the question again?

I've been writing bits and pieces of The Weredeer from the ground up, but it's time to go in and start marrying the new parts to the old. It's a delicate operation, like a prose transplant.

Before I started, I went out for a walk to get my creative juices flowing. Unfortunately, I passed the Baptist church and their sign says "Whatever the question, Jesus is the answer," and I spent the rest of the walk coming up with questions to which Jesus is not actually the answer. Such as, "What is that smell?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Black Dragon, White Dragon anthology!

I got my contributor's copy of the anthology Black Dragon, White Dragon today, edited by Robert J. Santa. I've read about half of it so far, and I'm very impressed with the quality of the stories! You may have guessed that they're all about dragons. My story "Sea and Sky" is in there, about a sea dragon named Spider who meets a young orphaned inland dragon.

"Sea and Sky" was only the third story I sold (the anthology was considerably delayed by ongoing printer problems; I think Ricasso Press ended up getting it printed through Lightning Source, and the result is very nice). It was also the first story I ever wrote for a specific market. When I sold it (after a requested rewrite), it was honestly as though Rob Santa had said, "Yes, you're a real writer." The three days or so between resubbing the story after the rewrite request and the acceptance were probably the most acutely stressful days of my entire writing career so far. So thanks, Rob, and I'm still thrilled and honored to be a part of the anthology!

Monday, February 16, 2009

weak and strong female characters

Via Jim C. Hines's blog, here's a fascinating discussion of kick-butt women as characters and how realistic/unrealistic they are, and about female characters in general. I love that kind of discussion. If I didn't have a headache and if I didn't want to work on this short story I have half-finished, I'd go join in over there.

Anyway, after reading all the comments, I got to thinking about my character Ana in Blood and Taxes. I just finished the book a few days ago and one of the things that bothered me even while I was writing it was that Ana was acting too passive. But when I read the whole thing this weekend and did some light revisions, I realized that's not the case. She is forced into inactivity by the plot, but she's not simply reacting to things outside of her control. She makes decisions--and one of the things I really like about Ana is that when she makes a decision, it stays made, even if she suspects she's wrong--and when the time comes to act, she acts instantly.

But toward the end of the book, she repeatedly has to rely on others to help her--and in every case, the helper is a man. She escapes two different captures with help, is told where the man she's going to rescue is being held, and at the very end, she has to be saved by a friend. That isn't to say she doesn't put up a fight, but she's not a fighter. But I worry that because she has to accept help from male characters, and because she doesn't beat the bad guy up, she'll be perceived as a weak or passive character--which is how I perceived her while I was writing her.

I'm interested in other people's opinions on this. I'm not fool enough to think that woman who doesn't kick butt = weak character, but where do we draw the line between a strong female main character and a passive one? Ana spends a lot of the middle portion of Blood and Taxes going to parties (she's trying to infiltrate a secret society, that's why) and she does a lot of flirting, but she's not a girly-girl or someone who needs a man to empower her. I just don't know where I stand with this. But I'm getting awful wordy here, so I'll shut up now.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Long day

Mundania finally bothered to get back to me with a rejection this morning, with some advice for revisions and an invitation to resubmit afterwards. Um, yeah, I'm just dying to let you hold my manuscript for another 442 days.

Some perspective: I wrote The Weredeer in early 2006. At the time, I hadn't published a single work of fiction. Since then, I've written five novels and a novella and have lots of publishing credits to my name, including my first pro sale. I wrote two of those novels and the novella after submitting The Weredeer to Mundania at the end of 2007. Since 2006, my writing has improved to a tremendous degree.

I have plans for The Weredeer. I'm looking forward to revising it; I intend to use the current manuscript as a framework, and I'll pour every ounce of my newfound skills into it. It's going to be the best thing I ever wrote when I'm done. And by the time I think it's ready to see the light of day again, The Taste of Magic will have hooked me an agent, and I won't need to bother with POD publishers.

If I sound a little overwrought, it's probably because I also saw Rigoletto today (an excellent performance by the Knoxville Opera Co. They don't, alas, sell T-shirts, but they should) and I just finished reading the awesome The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Now I have to do (yawn) laundry and psych myself up for my annual performance review at work tomorrow (I have such a huge problem with authority, honestly, I go into performance reviews with black hatred in my heart). Life is boring. Thank gawd for books.

Friday, February 13, 2009

That's why it's called a rough draft. Very rough.

The storms that roared through on Wednesday night knocked out our internets until this morning. I was forced to waste time not by playing Wordtwist online, but by starting up a new game of Exile I: Escape from the Pit. I play the Exile trilogy about once every 18 months, so I'm due to start it again anyway. I have a spiral notebook jammed full of maps and notes. It is a superb time-waster.

I also managed to finish the rough draft of Blood and Taxes. It's horrible. It's 10,000 words too long. It's full of plot holes and dangling loose ends and it's boring boring boring and the main character is way too passive. But it's done. Problems can be fixed.

Now I think I'm going to have to focus on writing some short stories. I have indulged myself with novels for way too long. I haven't even started the tentacles story I was thinking about more than a week ago, and the story I did start last week is half-done and needs to be finished. Also, of course, I have to finish playing Exile.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Economic Crisis and You

I just read this post on the Dystel & Goderich Lit Agency blog. It's kind of scary. "[I]f editors and publishers keep trying to build front lists with 'big' books at the expense of their backlists, then when this publishing economic downturn is over, there will be no backlist in the pipeline."

As someone with the realistic goal of becoming a midlist writer, and the willingness to claw my way up and then hang on tightly, like a kitten climbing up a curtain, this scares the willies out of me. It's hard enough to kickstart a writing career without all this stupid economic crisis stuff everywhere. *sulks*

Monday, February 9, 2009

An early book memory

Let's start a new meme! Here's how it works: blog about a memory from your childhood that has something to do with books or reading. That's it! Here's mine:

When I was in fifth grade, our school readers had a passage from The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton. I think we read it in class, but I may very well have read it on my own (I tended to read ahead in my English books). I was so fascinated that I checked the book out of the library and read it on my own. Amazon says the book is for kids ages 9-12, and I was a young fifth grader (I started school at age four), so I was probably nine years old or just barely ten, but I remember quite clearly that I didn't understand a damn thing about the book. But I loved it--I loved the language, I loved the description of the strange and haunted house, I loved that the book was about a family completely different from mine.

I distinctly remember that for several days in a row, in the bright fall sunshine, instead of running off to play horses with my friends at recess I sat under a maple tree and read The House of Dies Drear. And I also remember overhearing the fifth grade teachers talk about my sudden change of habit. They were worried that I was sitting out instead of playing with my friends. And I remember thinking, "Hey, I'm reading. Teachers are supposed to encourage reading!"

Anyway, The House of Dies Drear is an awesome book and my fifth grade teacher was an idiot, but at least she wasn't an evil bitch like my sixth grade teacher. But by sixth grade I'd figured out that I could read surreptitiously at my desk during class, thus freeing up my recess time for playing horses. [Playing horses: running around with my friends and whinnying.]

So what's an early book/reading memory of yours? You're all tagged!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Alienskin accepted my story "Realer Than Real" last night! It'll be in the April/May issue. I'm especially thrilled since I've been trying to sell them something for a while.

It's 70-some degrees today, gorgeous sunny, spring-like weather. I've been down to the river to walk twice already on the two-mile songbird trail; staying inside seems stupid. This weather won't last. I've opened the windows in my bedroom, at least.

I finished reading Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston. It was good, and if I was 15 again I know it'd be one of my favorite books evar, but as an adult (and a writer) I found myself constantly aggravated by the sloppy writing. Adverbs and adjectives galore, said-bookisms, and lots of italicized words. But the characters are likable and the story is solid and interesting.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Whirling dervishes and opera

My mom was invited to see--no lie--whirling dervishes perform next Thursday. She won't drive into Knoxville alone, so she asked if I'd go with her and see the whirling dervishes.

I have no desire to see whirling dervishes. But I do want to see Rigoletto next weekend, and I don't want to go alone, so I said I'd see the whirling dervishes with Mom if she'd come to see Rigoletto with me.

So I just bought tickets to Rigoletto online, and even for the crappy seats at the very back of the Tennessee Theater I paid $95 for two tickets plus fees plus a will-call fee since they won't mail tickets within a week of a performance. I'm kind of wondering what the hell I'm thinking, and wondering if we'll be able to see the surtitles from our seats, and wondering if Knoxville Opera Company sells T-shirts now.

(Probable answers: I am insane, no, and no.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Doing the 5k Strut

I checked my wordcount on Blood and Taxes over lunch--because I knew I'd written a lot yesterday, but I wasn't sure how much--and holy cow! I wrote 5,000 words yesterday! I figure I'll be done with the book within about 10,000 words. I do worry that the main character is awfully passive throughout most of the book, and I'm a little concerned about the pacing, but those are things I can address when I revise. For now: onward!

I got my print version of MindFlights issue #4 yesterday. It's very nice, and you can read my story "Gaming Real Life" on actual paper inside it! There are other stories and some poems in the issue too; I've read several of them, and they're a lot of fun.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

cage match! cage match!

Unless you have been under a rock the last few days, or don't have an internet connection (in which case, how are you reading this?), you have likely heard the kerfuffle about Stephen "scary clown" King dissing Stephanie "sparkly vampire" Meyer in an interview. Specifically, he says: "Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."

(In an aside, wouldn't you love to see a cage match arranged? My money's on King. Even if you gave Meyer a chainsaw and a rabid lion.)

Now, if you read the original interview, which is apparently an excerpt from a larger interview that's going to be posted at some point, you can see that King is actually making some important points about Meyer's storytelling and why her books appeal to teenaged girls. Here's the relevant paragraph, and I think King comes across as reasonable:

"...[I]n the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet."

You can read some interesting comments on the topic over at Nathan Bransford's blog, everything from the (sigh) unpublished writers saying they wished Stephen King would diss them in public, to people accusing King of being jealous of Meyer's success (!), to people saying King is awesome for being so forthright or un-awesome for being so bitchy, to some well-reasoned and therefore rather boring responses.

My take? We are all readers first. We all respond as readers before we respond as writers, as critics, as scholars, as whatevers. So the opinions of everyone who's read the book are equally valid, although you get more points if you can write your opinion coherently and with proper grammar and punctuation. And if you haven't read the book*, you are not allowed to express your opinion about whether the book is any good or not.**

*which I haven't

**You can, however, diss Meyer's freaky-ass Mormon "religion" all you want. Because that shit is crazy, and colors the themes in Meyers's books in ways that have nothing to do with her writing ability.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

431 days and counting

A few weeks ago, remember, I posted that Mundania had emailed me saying that I'd hear their final decision soon. And I did point out that it was very nice of them to keep me updated. I still think that was an awesome piece of graciousness.

I say this mostly because I'm about to do some whining about how long they've taken to decide on my book, and I want to keep it all in perspective. It has taken them a long time, but they've been very nice about it. Plus waiting for the decision is kind of fun in a really weird way, like peeling dead skin off an old sunburn.

That said, after midnight tonight they are officially the publisher that's taken the longest to get back to me. I know because the only publisher that's ever taken this long was Baen, where I subbed (a different manuscript) on Dec. 1, 2006 and received a rejection on Feb. 4, 2007, which was one year ago today. I subbed to Mundania on Dec. 1, 2007 and, hmm, I haven't heard a yes or no yet. And actually, 2008 was a leap year so they've already passed that magical longer-than-Baen threshold.

Baen rejected me, yes, but they also sent a very in-depth and useful critique of the manuscript. That still floors me.

So I've decided that, since it's very easy to say NO to a manuscript, either someone at Mundania really likes my book and is fighting hard for it, which is awesome (except that that implies that someone else hates it just as much), or there's some other reason why I haven't yet heard back, such as:

1. They did actually send the email but my spam filter ate it.
2. The person who makes final decisions is in a) a coma, b) Sri Lanka with someone he/she met on the internet and the entire acquisitions budget for 2009, c) jail, or d) St. Fraught's Home for the Criminally Insane.
3. Someone at Mundania finds my impatience and anxiety...amusing.

Anyway, we're now in an uncharted territory of anxiety. Because, you know, the whole spam filter thing....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ereaders AGAIN

I keep revisiting this subject, from time to time. This weekend I was almost convinced I had to buy an ereader. Now I've changed my mind again, after a little bit of research.

Item the first: I really like the Sony reader. It's small, comes in a nice case, and you can get it in red! Red is the best color! But you have to buy books from the Sony store exclusively, or suffer with smallified (un-zoomable) PDF versions of text. Also, there's no internet connection; you plug it into your computer to load it, like my cheap-ass MP3 player. So you can't buy and download a book on impulse.

Item the second: the Kindle is hideous, badly designed with too many buttons, and you have to pay to transfer PDFs onto it. It has internet capability, but an oppressive EULA.

Item the third: $400 for a Kindle, $300 for a Sony reader, and then around $10 for each book.

Here's an excellent article about ebooks and readers and how people think of them at Ars Technica (I got it via Making Light). Essentially, the article's point is that ebooks are inevitable and the resistance people have to them right now is illogical, but that adoption of ebooks is hampered by DRM and confusion about ereaders and downloads (and a lot of other stuff).

Back about (gosh!) a year and a half ago, when I was first thinking of ebooks and wondering what I wanted in one, I said I wanted one that would mimic a book in certain ways--opening up with two screens in the middle (like facing pages) and so forth. I don't think that's necessary now. What I want in an ereader is the ability to download on the fly from anywhere. If I want to buy a book in PDF form directly from a small publisher, I want to be able to do that. If I want to buy a book from Sony's store, or Amazon's Kindle store, I want to be able to do that too and read it. In short, I don't want to have to deal with DRM, or proprietary software crap, or restrictions on internet access. Slap a wifi connection in my reader and let's go!

Oh, and I want to pay about $100 for my reader, and about $5 each for my books. I think that's reasonable. And if this $100 reader and these $5 books perform the way I envision, the ebook/reader market will blossom like a rose garden in June. Someone's going to get filthy rich when they figure it all out. I wish they'd hurry.

Do Not Want today

I was hoping the snow would continue and we'd have a lovely snow day today, and I could stay home and drink hot chocolate and write. Instead, the snow mostly melted and then froze and now it's melting again, and everything is mud-colored or gray, and I don't feel very good today anyway (but not bad enough to take a sick day), and I woke up to a rejection of my partial by the agent that requested it last week.

I did send out a query to the next agent on my list before I left for work. At least the agent who rejected me got it all over with quickly. *glares pointedly at the agent who has had my requested full since SEPTEMBER OF LAST YEAR* Also, no word from Mundania yet.

Monday, February 2, 2009


It was raining this morning, and then it turned into snow. And it's been snowing ever since. I left work at 10:30, since I have a long drive and the roads were getting bad. Now I'm at home wasting time and eating pizza, and it's still snowing.

I intended to treat this as a writing day. Instead I've been, well, wasting time and eating pizza.

Okay, time to write that awful tentacle story. Let's do this thing!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Getting organized

I took almost the whole afternoon and updated my submission records (I use Duotrope but I also keep everything on paper). I also dusted off two retired stories and revised them enough to un-retire them and see how they do, and I went through my other active stories that weren't already out somewhere. I sent everything out, five submissions. There's no sense in letting perfectly good stories languish on my hard drive just because I'm lazy.

While I was trawling Duotrope and Ralan's for markets, I ran across the Book of Tentacles anthology again. I remember thinking about writing something for it when it first opened to submissions, but then I forgot about it. I thought it was mostly for Cthulhu stuff anyway, but it turns out it's not. They just want stories that have tentacles featured in some way, whether it's fantasy or SF or horror or whatever.

So now I have to follow up on one of those stupid-weird ideas I get when I'm half-asleep. In this case it was me wondering what an (intelligent, literate) octopus would think about tentacle porn* and if I could get a non-gross story out of it. SF, of course. Hopefully I'll be able to work that story out, because if I did it right I think it could be very funny and hopefully interesting.

*I thought that was called hentai, but I just edited because I think I'm wrong. Anyone know? I'm not about to google it.