Monday, December 31, 2007
Do I have to save the world or what?
Now, this wasn't any kind of, you know, scientific excursion. I didn't write any impressions down or take any surveys of what I saw. But here it is anyway:
99% of fantasy novels have a dragon on the cover
the other 1% have a woman with a sword but no dragon
(about 80% of books have both a woman with a sword and a dragon)
My eye is drawn to white horses on covers, or deer
95% of fantasy novels are Book 2 of a series
100% of the books I picked up today to read the first few pages started with long, dull conversations about politics
100% of books I picked up to read the back covers of involved the World in Peril
Conclusion: If I write the second book of a series involving a woman with a sword who has to save the world, and also throw a dragon in it, and start with a conversation about politics, I will sell the book to Tor or Baen or DAW or some other big publisher.
I don't much like epic fantasy or high fantasy, and I really, really am sick of books where the hero(ine) has to save the world. Can't the world take care of itself? But obviously people still eat up that crap, because that's all I could find today.
So since I want to start a new project tomorrow, but I have no time to come up with something fresh, I think I really will just go to town with the cliches. Why not? It's working for all those other authors.
(Oh--regarding my December book of the month, it looks like I'm going to have to shamefacedly claim The Boxcar Children since I never did get a chance to finish anything longer. Hey, it's been a busy month! Of course, I did manage to find time to reread any number of books, but somehow rereading takes less time than reading for the first time. Um.)
Sunday, December 30, 2007
We hates waiting, hates it, precious
It's the holidays, of course. Everyone sort of shuts down in December in publishing, it seems. Hopefully after the new year all those editors will start the new year right by making a dent in the slush. In the meantime, I need to be writing. And I've sort of semi-shut down over December too. Except for some halfhearted revisions to Jack of All Trades and a few thousand words added to various short stories, I haven't really written anything. Time to add another new year's resolution, I think:
Write at least 1,000 words every day.
To help me along, I just discovered (via Elizabeth Bear's blog) the Novel in 90, an LJ community basically for posting daily word counts. The goal is pretty obvious--a novel in 90 days. And they're starting a new round with the new year, so I'm just in time to jump aboard. Only I can't decide which project to go with.
I'm brewing up three projects right now, but none are really ready to start writing:
Charmed Circle, a novella fantasy/detective story set in an alternate-world 1920's London--a little bit of research required, but I've written in this world twice before. Main characters are sketched out, plot is starting to take shape. This would be an ideal project to save for this year's NaNoWriMo, though.
(tentatively titled) Katie Cruel, a fantasy novel set in a world I've written about before. Main character sketched out, main story arc more or less decided on, but no details settled beyond the first part of the book.
untitled urban fantasy/mystery that needs a lot of worldbuilding (and plotting) before I can really do anything with it. Main characters sketched out (sort of) and setting decided on, but that's pretty much it.
Of the three, though, the last one is the most saleable. Urban fantasies are hot right now, and I think I have an interesting twist on the fantasy part. But I want it to be a full-fledged mystery as well as a full-fledged fantasy, so I really, really need to get cooking on the plot.
That's the problem with writing, really. It's a time-consuming process even for a fast writer, and as I've noted before--I'm really impatient. To the point where, faced with a dilemma like the one I have now, of which project to start writing in two days, I'm likely to give up and go read a book someone else wrote.
But first I have to finish this damned story I'm working on. Also, the dog is staring at me.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Cutting and adding
So I grabbed my laptop and went out to the only Starbucks on the freaking PLANET that doesn't have wifi, which was all to the good really because I wanted to write. But since I was feeling grim and a bit depressed, which may have something to do with being broke and jobless at the moment and may have something to do with watching the bleak I Am Legend last night, I spent the first fifteen minutes savagely cutting words out of my CatsCurious story. Cutting is an exercise best done when feeling grim anyway.
The result of the cutting was so good that I cheered up a bit and managed to add nearly a thousand words to the story afterwards. Although that may have something to do with the sugar-laden vanilla steamer I was drinking.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Honesty Becomes Me
Only, once I was walking out to the car I started thinking about the total, and when I looked at my receipt I discovered the cashier had forgotten to ring up the book. She had only charged me for the day planner, the puzzle magazine, and the half-off chocolate cookie that didn't actually turn out to be much good.
I went back in and told her, and she rang the book up for me and I paid for it. Because I am an honest person, and I don't want Hines to be cheated out of his royalties for that purchase, and anyway only a cad steals books.
But I do wonder--if it had been the puzzle magazine or the day planner instead of the book, would I have gone back in? I hope so, but I don't know.
The cookie? Hell no. Hey, free cookie.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
New Year's Resolutions already
Other than that, I've had a very pleasant Christmas, and I hope everyone else did too. I ate too much, of course. But I got to see my relatives, who gave me nice things, and I gave them nice things too. I'm about to settle down with a knitting pattern and some Jacob wool I spun last year, to make myself a hat, and watch the DVD Mom gave me of the Pixar short films collection. If I don't think about how I have no job and no money, life is good.
Writing-wise, everything has slowed waaaaay down for the holidays. I don't expect to hear back from anyone until after the new year. I haven't had much time to even think about my new project, except to add one character and tentatively title it Charmed Circle, but I did remember last night that I can't start it just yet. I'm still not done with my CatsCurious story, dammit! I completely forgot about it. I intend to finish it this week, and everything else will have to wait on it.
I'm thinking about new year's resolutions. I did pretty good with them last year. My main goal was to send out 40 submissions over the year and get at least four acceptances. I don't remember how many subs I actually sent--over 50, I'm sure--but I sold nine stories.
My new year's resolutions will have to be even more ambitious this year. My goals:
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
Last year when I started really sending subs out I'd never sold a single piece of fiction. I thought that meant I wasn't much good, but it turned out it simply meant I wasn't sending my stories out often enough. I would get three or four rejections and give up. This year I discovered the rewards of persistence.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I spent yesterday making Christmas cookies over at Mom's house. They look incredibly festive. I usually also make a batch of blue dough and cut it into tiny blue stars to mix in with the holly cookies. Add a few small candy canes as decoration and these cookies will hold up to even the most sophisticated party. And they taste incredibly good, too, and are super easy to make. Here's my recipe:
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
To color the dough, add a generous squirt of food coloring (not just a few drops--the color fades as the cookies bake) to the butter mixture before adding the flour mixture. Chill dough before rolling out and cutting. Bake on greased cookie sheets at 350 for 10-11 minutes.
Buy Brach's red hots if you can; don't use those big red hots they sell as cake decorations. They're too big and hard, and they melt and look awful. Also, don't press the red hots down so far that they touch the pan, because that makes them melt too. I usually make a batch of blue batter and cut them into small stars to mix in with the holly cookies.
My mom blogged about making these a few years ago, with lots of pictures.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Let's see... Charmed Life is taken...
I'm to the point where I need to pick a title. It doesn't make any sense that picking a title at this stage should help with plotting--but it does. I guess it gives me a better sense of what direction the story will go. At the moment I'm leaning towards Charmed Life, except that Diana Wynne Jones got that title first. Not that there's anything wrong with duplicating a title, but DWJones is one of my favorite authors. What if my Charmed Life did well and then I met DWJones one day? It would be so awkward.
So you'll know what I'll be doing the rest of the evening: playing Frozen Bubble and thinking about phrases that might do for a title.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Hey, ho, let's do another NaNo
Besides, it's going to be a dark story and right now I don't think I can handle dark. My grandmother's ill, my ex-boss is probably going to stiff me out of the two weeks vacation pay she promised me, so I will have to find another job immediately so I can pay the rent, and I'm in general stressed out from the move. So I want a light and cheery project to help me through this.
Since I love the alternate-world 1920s British detective-story-type setting I've used for Evil Outfitters Ltd. and Jack of All Trades, I think I'll use that world again. This time I'll have a female main character and set the story in London. No title or theme yet, but I do have a sense of the main character's personality. Since EO and JoAT both started life as NaNo novels, maybe I'll treat this new project the same way, and write it at breakneck pace during January. Writing at typing speed is fun!
Period background reading for the new project: One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens and early Dorothy Parker.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I am alive!
I'm hoping to get internet access in a few days. That way you will not be deprived of my fascinating blogs for too much longer.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Read me at EDF again!
This one is the third of my stories they've published. I don't much like writing short stories at all--give me a novel to get my teeth into any day--but flash pieces aren't too bad. The trick (for me, at least) is keeping the word count down so they don't accidentally turn into non-flash stories.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
To explain, I first need to tell you about this wonderful CD my mom gave me. It's the 2007 Southern Music CD #9 from Oxford American, and it's chock full of fantastic music. I highly recommend it. One of the songs, track 8, is a strange and haunting folk song called "Katie Cruel," sung by Karen Dalton. I am so taken with this song--it strikes the same tone I want for the book--that I'm determined to include it in the story in some way. I thought I might name the main character Katie and actually title the book Katie Cruel.
BUT that's my name. I mean the Katie part, not the cruel part. I go by Katherine or Kate usually now, but no matter--naming a character with my name is just weird. Not to mention that it raises the specter of a self-insertion story, which is absolutely not the case. But if I don't name the character Katie, it doesn't make any sense to name the book Katie Cruel, and I'm not even sure I can work the song into the story in any meaningful way. And I want to.
Then again, I'm using the byline of K.C. Shaw instead of Katherine Shaw, so maybe I can get away with it. And of course, by the time I actually start writing, it's probable that the tone of the story will change and the song won't be appropriate anymore. But the name Katie just works for the character--and yet it still squicks me just a little to use my own name as a character name. So I may not use it at all. In which case, what the hell will I call the character?
Oh, and in case anyone is wondering what the C in K.C. Shaw stands for--it doesn't stand for anything. My middle name is Elizabeth. But K.E. Shaw just doesn't trip off the tongue as well; it feels weak, staggering glottally from the tough and practical K to the sighing Shaw, whereas C glides bluely from one to the next.
Odds and Ends
But since Pratchett has asked people to keep things cheerful and not get all doom-and-gloom on his ass, I will quickly switch topics. It looks like I'll be driving down to Tennessee Friday, not Saturday as planned, because of a snowstorm that's supposed to sweep across the region on Saturday. One of the reasons I'm moving is so I can avoid driving in snow. And this has another happy result: I don't have to work Friday. Of course, I do have to drive nine+ hours with a dog and two unhappy cats, two of which animals have kidney problems that require them to have access to water at all times and access to emptying bladders at frequent intervals. I should point out that the dog is a Newfoundland and the car is a Yaris hatchback. Oh yes, and I have one box that absolutely must be stuffed into the (wee) hatchback, along with clothes, computer, TV, pretty much everything from the kitchen, and linens. And the other box, that I was going to leave with my brother since it was only yet more books--well, I opened it last night to get something to read, and discovered to my horror that it wasn't just all books, it was mostly stuff from the bedroom that I have to bring with me. God knows how I'll manage to cram it in the car.
Wait, this is not cheering me up. Today I discovered Elizabeth bear's blog, They Must Need Bears, and reading back entries has brought me joy and staved off boredom for hours. And I'm wishing my last name was something cool like Bear, only not Bear because that's Elizabeth Bear's name. My talk of names probably alarms my family at this point, since I have a long history of changing mine. But don't worry, I still like Shaw. It's bright emerald green.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Apparently I only have two favorite things.
On the other hand, my bosses are out of town today. So I brought the story I'm working on for CatsCurious (I want it polished and perfect by Jan. 1 when they open submissions for the fairy tale project). It's kind of awkward, though, trying to write light and happy prose when everyone in the office is practically baying for the blood of one of the other employees. Not me, I hasten to add. Maybe I should be writing a soap opera set in an office instead of a fairy tale.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Favorite Things #2: snowed in!
I've spent the morning packing. I would say I have too many books, but I don't think I've owned this few books since I learned to read. So I have too few books, and not enough boxes to put them all in.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
My favorite things #1
In celebration of her award, I think I will reread one of Diana Wynne Jones's books--I believe I own all of them. The only trouble is which one to choose. My choice is made easier by my having packed half my books in preparation for moving (to a house with no shelves. Hmm).
I think I'll read Dogsbody. It was the first DWJ book I ever read, and remains one of my favorites. And I haven't yet packed it.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Me, like Kermit
I just got another request for full, baybee! And it's from this week's very special guest, Wizards of the Coast! Yaiiiieeeeeee!!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
But NaNo sure is a fun way to write. I love looking at my progression chart and seeing how far I've come, and I love pitting myself against other writers I know in the word-count battle. Best of all, I love having a new completed project to play with now when a month ago it was only an outline and a few character sketches.
I made some smallish revisions today: one character named Andrew had inexplicably become Arthur, another character set off for one town and ended up in another, and so forth. I also plugged the one minor plot hole I found and smoothed a few transitions. Now I'll set it aside for a few weeks so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. In the meantime, I'll write the synopsis and query for when it's ready to send out!
Friday, November 30, 2007
I am full of win.
I think I forgot to mention, a few weeks ago, that I sold a story to Renard's Menagerie. It's a fun little story called "The King's Messenger," and it's set about a year before the events in The Weredeer, with the same main character. It'll be in the next issue, which I think is coming out next month.
Also it's Friday. Life is good.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Next stop: Endra (by way of Tennessee)
At the same time, I'm going to be moving in two weeks, from Pennsylvania where I've lived for not quite two years, back to East Tennessee where I belong. The timing is perfect, really, because I rarely start new projects until after the first of the year anyway. I'll have December to revise Jack of All Trades and finish a short story or two while I get settled in a new house, find a new job, and do all the great family stuff over the holidays.
I'm excited about the move, but I'm just as excited about my next novel project. It was going to be the mystery/urban fantasy I was thinking about a few months ago, but that needs a lot more worldbuilding. I like worldbuilding, but it does slow the start of a new project, and I want to keep the momentum I've retrieved with NaNo going for a while (since I didn't write much in 2007). And as it happens, an idea that was pecking about in the back of my mind for several months has taken flight. Like a bird metaphor.
So my next book is going to be set in Endra like The Weredeer, which is my beloved masterpiece that I'm subbing around right now. And it has a lot more in common with The Weredeer than just setting, since I'm still interested in exploring the were-animal society I've built. One of the issues that I thought about for The Weredeer wasn't something that I could address in that particular book, since Kristof has a huge extended family of weredeer; his story is partly how he deals with losing that support network. In the new project, I'm going to look at the issue of a weredeer born to a family of all werewolves and werepanthers, in an area where there have never been weredeer. If that sounds simplistic, it's not--this book is going to be very challenging to write, and in fact I almost put it off for a year or more, figuring that I'll be a stronger writer in another year and hopefully better able to pull this off.
So I'm glad to be returning to Endra, which is a country I would happily move to if it existed, but since it doesn't exist I'm glad I'm moving home to Tennessee. I'm also looking forward to having a female main character for a change (for some reason, my last several books have all had male MCs). I just need to settle on a name for her--and that's going to be difficult, but why it's going to be difficult is the subject of a future blog.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I had a great Thanksgiving and I hope everyone else did too. Of course, at 7am Thanksgiving morning I was peering into the innards of the turkey with a flashlight, trying to find the bag of guts, but things were all uphill from there and all the food was so delicious that I porked out and now I'm surprised my jeans still fit.
And I'm still working on reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It's very interesting, but I'm a few hundred pages in and cannot help occasionally looking at the 800 pages left to read and thinking, "This book is too long." I haven't conquered the supernaturally strengthened spine, either. And I'm finding it a difficult book to read while writing this particular NaNo book, since my book is set in 1920s England with that sort of rhythm, and JS&MN is set, what, 150 years earlier? I meant to stop by the library this weekend and check out some early Agatha Christie books to get the right voice back, but I forgot. I used to have a bunch of Agatha Christie books in really cool hardback editions, but I think my mom ended up with them.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
eBook reader/Kindle roundup
An excellent starting point is Booksquare. They point out many of the Kindle's shortcomings, but they also talk a bit about ebooks in general and make the link to the current writer's strike out in Hollywood. One of the things Booksquare says about the Kindle:
...the fact that this device makes Fort Knox look like an open bar really bothers me. The lack of PDF support alone should send everyone into therapy. Customers who buy the Kindle are locked into Amazon as supplier. ... There is a cumbersome process for loading your own files onto the device, but, whoo-hoo!, you get charged ten cents for the privilege.
Boing Boing feels pretty much the same way, although most of that post is simple agreement with Mark Pilgrim's post, which is itself a collection of quotes--from 1984, from the Kindle's EULA, etc. It's creepy.
BuzzMachine talks briefly about how limited the Kindle is:
The iPhone is more powerful. It gives me the ability to both buy content and see
the world of content.
The consensus so far is that Amazon has veered off the road to goodness and books, and is crashing through the undergrowth of senseless oppression. Me, I think it's mainly just stupidity and a lack of market research. I'm also amused by the customer reviews of the Kindle on the Amazon site. Out of 448 customer reviews (so far), the Kindle is barely scraping a 2.5 star review overall. To quote from a few of them:
What Amazon does not understand, is that I want something that could replace my
*laptop* so I can review work related PDF files without printing them out. I do
not want something to replace my paperback novel which is cheaper, more durable,
has infinite battery life, and I'll be able to read 20 years from now. --Alex P.
Amazon is so focused on selling books through the device that they've
dramatically limited consumer flexibility related to other reading. --D. Solberg
Until the consumer ebook market has something that functions as a standard
format, so that I can choose the device and the content service separately, and
so that I can be assured the content I'd purchase will be readable on most
devices, I'm not interested. --Kyle Felker
Now, let's trot along to a happier place. Here we have the BAEN Free Library, where lovely ebooks abound. And they are free. The authors themselves decide if they want to offer a book for download in the free library; typically you'll only get the first book or two of a series, and if you like it, of course they hope you'll go out and buy the other books. But if you don't like it, you aren't out a single penny. And you can download the books in a myriad of software types, including RTF (rich text format) and HTML.
All this squabbling about hardware is going to be moot in another ten years. It's not going to be like the kerfuffle of VHS vs. Beta or even iPod vs. everyone else. Unlike movies and music, which have always been a little bit hard to get at, people have books readily available everywhere--to buy, loan, borrow, and receive as gifts. Even before the age of recording, people had books. But now we're being told that ebooks are somehow different, that transferring a paper book into electronic format somehow makes it more like a CD or DVD than a book.
No one buys into that. The developers of ebook readers need to realize that what readers want is a reasonably-priced reader without proprietary (and therefore limiting) format that will hold a bunch of books. Publishers need to clue in that a customer who buys an ebook should have all the same rights as a customer who buys a print book--that is, the customer can loan out or resell the copy they bought. Oh, and the ebook reader should be cute and not stupid-looking. Unlike the Kindle.
I blogged about ereaders a few times in September, here and here and here. And no, I don't know why that lolcat pic doesn't show up. Dammit.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Food for free
So I'm eating chicken and rice right now, made like this:
1. Drain the broth from a can of chicken noodle soup (you should get about half a cup of broth); discard the noodles or feed them to the dog or something
2. Add enough water to the broth to make 2 cups liquid (or whatever your rice calls for)
3. Prepare rice with the watered broth (I used medium-grain rice because that's what I have)
4. Drain the water from a 10-oz can of chicken (actually my can was 12.5 ounces, but it was one of those "25% more free!" cans so ordinarily it would be 10 ounces); give the water to the cats and put the chicken in a large bowl.
5. Fluff the rice and add it to the chicken; mix.
6. Add a lot of pepper.
There you have it--totally boring but surprisingly tasty chicken and rice! If I'd had real chicken broth I would have used it, but the soup broth worked just as well.
And what does this have to do with books or writing? Nothing.
I'm at 30,000 words on my NaNo book, and I've started reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in earnest. It'll be my December book-of-the-month, but it's so long I figured I'd better get started early. It's quite good, but the mass market paperback version I'm reading is driving me nuts. The binding is very good--so good, I can't bend it back at all and I have to go through the most annoying contortions to push the pages down so I can read all the text. I'm usually pretty darn hard on my paperbacks, leaving the bindings creased--but this one resists me. Sure, it's great that the binding won't crack, but I'm finding it physically difficult to read. This book would be ideal as an ebook.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I'm a semi-finalist!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Bored with the internet, but not Smarties
I see from the wrapper that Smarties are made in Canada. I got a rejection this week from a Canadian publisher. Coincidence?
I reached 26,000 words on my NaNo book yesterday, but I haven't written a single word tonight. But the online Boggle site is down and I got bored with the internet at work this afternoon, so I guess I'll do some writing now.
Just in case you're my brother, who is 2,000 words ahead of me in his NaNo book, here's a hilarious link to a conversation about our robot overlords, which I got via Making Light. I recommend you read it over and over and over until it's too late to do any writing.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Why I'm not at 25,000 words yet
Then this morning I woke up with a fully-formed story idea. I hate when I do that, because the story always seems much better in the dream than it does when I write it down. But I have to write it down, of course. So I wrote a 1,000-word flash piece this morning, and revised it, and sent it off to Coyote Wild.
I hadn't had anything to eat at that point and it was getting on to lunchtime, so I went ahead and made the white ziti recipe posted a few days ago on Making Light. I used ground turkey instead of sausage, and added about a quarter cup of feta (I didn't have more than that), and forgot to cover it when I stuck it in the oven, but it turned out really, really good.
After I stuffed myself, it was important that I keep my Monopoly skills honed, so I played a game of computer Monopoly (courtesy of winning it in the McDonald's contest last month). And then I had to go to my brother's house and show off my new laptop. And then--then I came home and opened up my NaNo document and thought I'd better finish up this chapter and really get down to bringing my wordcount up.
That was the plan. But the TV is right by the computer and I turned it on, and there was a show on about comets destroying the dinosaurs, and then I watched a Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode On Demand that I hadn't seen, and then I came across the end of Shrek, and then after that the same channel ran Chicken Run, and now I'm watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas before the Wizard of Oz comes on.
I really need to drop down to basic cable so this won't happen.
Anyway, I'm at 21,320 words. And it's not as if I don't know what I'm going to write. It's just more fun to stare at the TV screen and eat Smarties (I got a huge bag for 40 cents, after-Halloween special). Blame it on animation. And, um, comets.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
November book of the month: Goblin Quest
It's a clever idea, but it could have been so very badly done. I almost didn't buy the book because it's marketed as some sort of laff riot and I expected fart jokes and stupid puns. But Jig is a sweet guy, while still being thoroughly a goblin, which I appreciated (and which made for the funniest bits); his introduction to the world beyond his own is fascinating and well-done. The book is longer than it probably needs to be, but then I think that about most fantasies these days (hell, Baen won't even consider manuscripts under 100k).
There's a sequel available, Goblin Hero, which I'll be ordering, and a third book, Goblin War, is due out in March, I believe it is. I plan to read both. I also recommend checking out Jim C. Hines' blog; reading it was what made me decide to pick up the book. He's a funny guy.
To meander away from my book review, I started reading Jim C. Hines' blog because he's participating in an interesting project that CatsCurious Press is running. In January they're taking submissions for a retold fairy tale project. They'll choose one story told from the protagonist's point of view, and then Jim will write the story from the antagonist's point of view. The two will be published together in one slim volume. It sounds like fun, particularly since the emphasis is on humor.
So of course I had to check out his writing style, to see how well his humor jibes with mine. And not only do I like his humor and his writing, but it's kind of eerie how his approach to story echoes my own. Just a fortnight ago I was complaining (publicly, I'm ashamed to admit, in a writer's forum I frequent) that I can't find books on the shelves that are a bit like mine. Well, now I have.
You'd better believe I'm subbing to CatsCurious on the stroke of January 1. I've actually started the story, and it's really, truly awesome and funny. I was hoping to have finished by now so I could spend the next two months rewriting and polishing it, but NaNo intervened. I guess I'd better get back to writing so I can finish my novel and go back to work on that short story. I'm still just at 16,135 words, and I see that MY BROTHER has written over 17,500! Where's my keyboard?! I need to start typing!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
13,746 words. And read my story over at EDF!
My NaNo book is going great! I'm having a lot of fun with it, which is what it's all about--and even better, I think the writing quality is pretty high. I may change my mind once it's all done and I go back and reread it.
I got my cute little tiny laptop, the Asus eee, and the keyboard is just big enough for me to type on without pulling my hair out with frustration. My only real difficulty is occasionally hitting enter instead of the apostrophe key, but I can live with that. Mobile typing! We're living in the space age now, baby!
Sunday, November 4, 2007
7625 words. Gimme pizza.
I've already changed the outline. Chapter 3 is so short I'm going to have to tack it onto the end of chapter 2. That's fine, but I'm a little concerned that the wasp man in the former chapter 3 is so strange that he's going to have to come back later in the book. I actually have him scheduled for another appearance in chapter 12, but that's an awful long time to let him hang fire. Well, I'll just take it as it comes. No time to stop and rethink the plot!
Thursday, November 1, 2007
I'm pleased with the quality of my writing so far. Each time I do NaNo I try and concentrate on some new aspect of writing or the process of writing. In 2005 I experimented with outlining, and it worked so well I've continued to outline ever since. In 2006 I tried various methods of increasing my writing output, in particular dictating my novel during my commute; that worked, but the results weren't all that impressive. This year I'm working on the quality of writing, with an emphasis on description. For years I've tried to make my prose lean and spare, but I think I've gone overboard. Time to revel in the poetry of words--without losing focus on the story or the characters.
As an example, the original version of the prologue was only 315 words long. The new version is 925 words even though it covers very little more ground than the original.
49,000 words to go. 29 days. Tomorrow I can stay up as late as I like, because it's Friday! My weekend goal: 10,000 words. I'll do it too, because I plan to reward myself with pizza.
Journey to the Center of the Earth, without spacesuits
I almost decided not to do an October New Book, because I've read lots of other books this month. Mostly Terry Pratchett. But then I decided that skipping a month would simply make a mockery of the whole resolution, and on Monday I grabbed the thinnest book on my "to read" pile (which I keep carefully stacked up all over the house). That happened to be A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Vernes. I loved the movie when I was a kid and I thought maybe the book might evoke the same dreamlike sense of being lost somewhere unlike any other place in the world.
Monday night I read the first 50 pages. Tuesday night I read the next 100 pages. And I am proud to relate that last night I read the last 100 pages and finished my October book in October!
I didn't dislike the book--it was interesting, if kind of sloppy. The characters were, well, just types. The main character was a hysterical coward, the uncle was a lunatic, and the "imperturbable Hans" of course was a robot--nothing else could explain how he acted. It's easy to smile indulgently at the silly science, but that's not fair; it's not like the author could get online and look up the Wiki article on plate tectonics and volcanoes. I confess, though, that I kept thinking, "How did this get to be such a classic?" Especially when the writing was slipping from past to present tense and back within the space of a few sentences.
Oh well, I'm glad I read it. But it wasn't a bit what I expected. My vague memories of the movie involve: someone tapping Morse code through a network of strange white tunnels in response to sounds that turn out to be made by a duck, dinosaurs fighting each other, and a volcano that was induced to blow up with gunpowder. The movie apparently was only loosely based on the book, because there were no ducks, no land-walking dinosaurs, and--well, the gunpowder and volcano are sorta kinda linked in the book, only not really. But my real confusion was the book's cover.
I wish I could scan the edition I have. It's a paperback that I picked up at a library sale. I'm (ahem) posting from work so I don't have the book to look at, and I couldn't find this particlar cover online, but I'm guessing it's a late 1950s, maybe early 60s edition. The cover shows four men in white spacesuits on the bow of a futuristic-looking boat--it's got antennas that sort of look like rayguns and things--and the boat is sailing through a cavern, on lava. I mean the boat is sailing on lava, through a cavern. That is also filled with lava. In the background are some shadowy human figures apparently watching the spacesuited men.
Where did the artist get all this? From another book, I suspect, because in this book there are only three men on the expedition, and they don't meet any other people. Well, except for a glimpse of a gigantic caveman watching a herd of mammoths. (Really.) They don't have spacesuits. They don't have a boat, although they build a raft of semi-fossilized wood to sail across the underground sea. (Really.)
I kept wondering, as I read, when I would get to the part where they meet the center-dwellers who live in lava caves and wear spacesuits and sail lava-ships. Instead, the party walks through a lot of empty lava tubes, sails across the sea despite a raging storm and sea monsters, blows up a rock blocking their way, and end up--well, I don't want to spoil it for you. Spacesuits are not involved.
I'm glad I was able to share this with you now, because the second I get home I'm all over my NaNo book. Word count to be posted late tonight.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
At midnight tonight the train departs...
And I ordered that cute little teeny laptop I posted about a few days ago. I'm hoping to have it before Monday. Because I need to be able to type everywhere! Yes, even in the car! Even in the car while I'm driving!!
Maybe not in the car.
Maybe I should stop eating candy now.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
For anyone who's interested, here's my outline. Just a few more days and I can get started! I'm going to be keeping the chapter titles for this one, and I may shuffle a few chapters around as I write. I'm hoping that some of the chapters will work as standalone stories with just a little tweaking.
Jack of All Trades
Preface: Advertising Pays
I. The Mad Colt
hag-ridden--a bite for Pepper--it follows under the stars
II. The Wasp Orchard
"hallo, ugly"--something bothering the wasps--Pepper and parafin--porch steps
III. The Long Letter Home
pen for hire--Pepper's got a bone--buzz buzz
No rain--all in a day's work--Helen's lemonade
V. The Ghost in the Abbey
The storm, and it searches--the visiting wizard--an ill wind
VI. The Fretful Old Man
Barlowe House--the anti-gaming league--Helen's subterfuge
VII. The Damsel in Distress
Disappearance of Helen--the nature of dragons--not exactly a knight
VIII. The Modern Farmer
Keen business fence--those aren't goats--laughing last
IX. The Wishing Well
poor soil--X marks the spot--silver spoon, gold ring
X. The Fairies' Infestation
delegation--what price silver?--stampede to safety
XI. The Stranger
Mrs. Peevies' lodger--screams in the night--lulled to sleep
XII. The Harvest Race
Mr. Goodacre's triumph--stolen horses--waspish culprits
XIII. The Highwaymen
stand and deliver--Pepper can roar--no gaming tables today--crossing rivers
XIV. The Cursed Wedding
hurried vows--pain--Pepper saves the day
Friday, October 26, 2007
Ooh, I want!
I stole this picture from EeeUser.com, which is fueling my intense desire for the super-portable, ultra-adorable Asus eee laptop, which is supposed to be released in the U.S. within a few weeks (hopefully by November 1, but Asus hasn't confirmed that yet). It's got a Linux OS and No Moving Parts--flash memory only, so it's rugged. And it weighs about two pounds. I need this for NaNo! Especially since the price is reasonable--various models range from about $250 to $400.
Want want want!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
It's my birthday. Where's my rejection?
I always get a rejection on my birthday, generally of a book or story I have high hopes for. Well, right now I have ten books/stories out, and five queries to agents. And it's 7:30 and I haven't heard a word from any of them.
Someone is falling down on the job of making my life suck.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I did find a few indie published books, notably Juno, which pleased me because I was looking at their website yesterday and was impressed enough to put them on my "good" list. But I couldn't find anything even remotely similar to my stuff, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing. If there were books available like the ones I write, I'd be reading them instead of writing them. Reading's a lot easier than writing. But since I can't find anything similar to what I write, maybe it'll never get published because no one's interested. Dilemma.
I could not, in fact, find anything I wanted to read. Nothing. Part of it may have been my headache, and part of it may be the fact that I'm trying to read five books simultaneously right now, but nothing appealed to me--not even remotely. I'm in the mood for something fairly light, but all the books I looked at that claimed to be satires or comedies of some sort were all, well, cruddy. I had high hopes for one called something like The All Fright Diner, but I read two pages in and discovered I didn't like the two main characters and, more to the point, didn't care about them even a smidgen. So what if they were a vampire and a werewolf? I write about those too, and frankly mine are more interesting. Even in the first two pages.
Oh, and let's talk werewolves, shall we? Limyaael, whose blog of fantasy rants is remarkable and entertaining, has ranted about werewolves many times; one of the things she says is "I usually don’t read books with werewolf characters anymore. The chances that the writer will do something new with them is extremely slim."
I so, so agree. I picked up a bunch of books with wolves on the covers or spines, hoping to find something unusual. Nope. And I was really hoping to find a book about, you know, a were-something-besides-wolf, but if there were any I missed them. I should mention that my Beloved Masterpiece has as its main character a weredeer, and I have had many happy hours inventing a society of wereanimals that actually makes sense and treats the weres as creatures fully animal as well as fully human. If anyone knows of another author who's tried that (besides Pratchett, of course, who has some very believable and fun werewolves), please let me know. Until then, I'm following Limyaael and grouping all werewolf fantasies as "angsty" and boring.
Same with vampires, except let me add that I am a teeny tiny bit over the sexy vampire motif. Recently someone in the Absolute Write forums asked the question, "What are your vampires like?" Lots of people replied (including me). Vampires are that common in novels these days, of practically any genre it seems. Which brings me to another little problem. When I was looking at books this evening, I kept running across those cross-genre fantasy romances. Shelved in the fantasy section. It might help you, at this point, to imagine me jumping up and down and screaming in frustrated rage. Look, the romance aisle takes up quite enough space as it is--keep your stupid clinch covers out of the SF/fantasy aisle, okay? I'm not interested in paint-by-numbers reading. Not even if sexy vampires are involved, because it's all been done so often and so predictably.
In the end, I didn't buy anything at B&N. (Well, okay, I bought a logic puzzle book, but that doesn't really count.) I came home and finished reading Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, which surprised me since I really did think The Subtle Knife was going to win the "which book will I finish first?" contest. I'd be more upset about not finding anything to read at B&N if I didn't have a stack of exciting and wonderful books at home already.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Now that I have permission to skimp on my character development (pre-novel, at least), I'm all set to start the fun of outlining. I'm not being sarcastic, honestly. I love outlining. It means I'm about finished with the musing and turning-it-over-in-my-mind phase and I'm about to start the actual writing. And the very start of writing a new novel is like the early stages of a white-hot (won't-last) love affair.
I don't know anyone else who outlines like I do. I mean, I haven't actually taken a poll or anything. Maybe everyone outlines like me.
I rough out my book chapter by chapter, briefly. I give each chapter a title--just for my use; I don't typically title chapters in the finished book--and underneath each title I jot three or four phrases. And that's my outline.
Here's an example from my last year's NaNo book, Stag in Velvet (gosh, I like that title). Here's the first chapter of my outline (scribbled in a spiral notebook):
1. Breaking up is hard to do
painful separation--once bitten--we should be dancing
And that's it. In this case, I used song titles because the book opens with the main character having just broken up with his girlfriend. That's the chapter title. The girlfriend happens to be a werepanther, though, and the break-up was clinched by the girlfriend slashing the main character across the chest with her claws after an argument. That's the first phrase. In this world there are vampires, but they're not spooky or undead or Anne Ricey, they're fairly common and treat the whole blood-drinking thing in a practical manner (and it helps that they eat food too, and don't need blood often); the main character's brother is bitten by a vampire in the first chapter, which sets up an issue with vampires that comes in later in the book. That's the second phrase, obviously. As for the last phrase, the chapter ends with the main character's family learning a dance that their entire clan is going to perform for the king at his jubilee in the second chapter.
So rather than write all that out, I just wrote down 14 words and that's my outline for chapter one.
Of course, I'd worked out a lot of the details mentally ahead of time, so (for instance) I knew I was going to have the dance and the vampire bite and so forth in chapter one. But I didn't have all the details worked out, which means that some of the later chapters have very vague phrases that may or may not get used if I ever finish this poor book. For instance again:
8. Ruined beauty
Death of a prince--a matter of politics--treachery
I have only the vaguest idea of what's going on here. I know that a cousin of the heir apparent will die, and I think the politics thing has to do with the king's courtship of the heir apparent's sister (I should hastily explain that the main character has traveled with his king to a neighboring country, and the king is courting a princess of that country). I don't know whose treachery I've indicated, but I'm sure once I get to that point I'll have a better idea. These are just landmarks on the novel's road, after all, not hard-and-fast directions.
Oh, and I change the outline as I go along. This one has a lot of scratch-outs and arrows moving phrases to different chapters and carats adding new phrases. I've put the phrase "shopping with Sitilka" in three different chapters and I think I'm going to end up moving it again. Despite the prosaic sound, it's actually a very important scene. It would take too long to explain why; fortunately I only need to write "shopping with Sitilka" to remind myself of all the details I've worked out ahead of time.
Okay, now I have to go do some writing.
Monday, October 15, 2007
It's all wrong!
On the other hand, the more I think about the other main character in the book, the more I like her. But she can't carry the story on her own; Jack and his dragon Pepper need to be central. And I don't know anything about them! Double bah!
*drums fingers irritably* I've only got a few weeks to work this all out! I've waited a whole year to start on this project, because it's so perfect for Nano, and I'm not switching to a different one. Although I really, really want to work on that mystery I was thinking about a few weeks ago.
No--I'm going ahead with Jack of All Trades, dammit. Maybe I'll have to make Jack a little rougher than I'd planned. That'll give me the boring (possibly) task of addressing class issues--boring because I'm actually addressing the same issue in a different book (last year's Nano book, as it happens, which I keep finding my attention drawn to; I need to finish it).
Maybe I'll just make Jack a ninja and save myself some time.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Books, stories, pizza, and ninjas
Sunday seems to be my day to overhaul old stories lately. Today I dusted off yet another retired story and sent it off. I also got a rejection and took another look at the story in question. I cut 700 words and sent it somewhere else. If you don't enter, you can't win. And more to the point, you can't order pizza in celebration.
I started work on my Nano outline, but I didn't get far. I now know a little more about the main characters, but the plot--the plot needs mucho attention. Typically, with Nano you're moving so fast that if you get stuck, the recommended method is to suddenly have ninjas (or pirates, or robots, or cowboys) show up and physically move your characters to a new scene. If I don't do more work on the outline, I'm going to have to rename the book Jack of All Trades and Also Ninjas.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Books: Vitamins for the Mind
I ordered the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I've been meaning to pick up. And I ordered Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, which I haven't yet read and which I didn't realize was out in paperback. And I ordered the fourth book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, which I didn't even know was published yet. And lastly, I ordered Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, because every single human being on the planet has recommended it to me. I have bowed to peer pressure. Besides, it looks good.
The books have been shipped, but I won't have them probably until next week. That's okay. Every time I think about getting BOOKS in the MAIL, it makes me feel all happy inside, like someone just told me s'mores weren't fattening and in fact were really good for me and also cured cancer.
I can always justify buying books, even when I'm so broke I'm down to eating food I bought on impulse and then shoved to the back of the cabinet, like strange canned vegetables (shoe peas? are they good?) and pearled barley. After all, books are vitamins for the mind.
Hey, I like that. I just made it up. "Books are vitamins for the mind." It should be on a poster!
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Spinning my wheels
On the other hand, I did drag two old stories out of the "retired" file, polished them up, and sent them out to magazines today. And I sent off my newly-revised Beloved Masterpiece out yesterday. And I beta-read a manuscript of my mom's, which is very very good--in fact, I really need to post about her writing one of these days.
So anyway, I suppose I haven't totally wasted this weekend. And I went out and bought the No Plot? No Problem! book (by Chris Baty, who started NaNo), which will hopefully get me fired up. I have a really fun project saved up for November, but I desperately need to outline it and figure out my characters.
Yes, I outline. I didn't used to, but I got sick of having to rewrite all my novels essentially from scratch once I'd worked the plot out. My outlines are very vague, though, more of signposts than Mapquest directions. I'd talk more about my method of outlining--I think it's pretty unique, and not entirely deserving of the word outline--but I think the chicken's done. And I'm hungry.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Odds and Ends
Skipping to an entirely different topic now.... If a person makes a statement in their blog, and several people post reasonable questions about the statement, and the blogger waits a few days and then responds in a snarky manner, essentially saying, "You should figure this out without me, losers," well--why would I want to keep that person on my link list? No names. Just an observation.
I've stuck a list of books I've read recently and recommend up on the right. I tried to make it less alliterative, but I can't. Sorry. So sorry. So sorry, suckers. So sorry, silly suckers. So sor--
Monday, October 1, 2007
Rats. Also, Terry Pratchett spins!
Yesterday I drove five hours to see Terry Pratchett. He gave a great talk--interesting and funny--and had an extended question-and-answer session afterwards. If you ever get the chance to see him (and you should try), he seems a little tired of answering questions about how he writes.
One of the questions he answered was why Tiffany Aching's family raises sheep but no one seems to spin. During the course of answering the question, he mentioned that he spins and has two spinning wheels. Wow! Hey, I spin too! That's too awesome for words. One of my favorite authors shares one of my favorite hobbies as well.
He said he has a fourth Tiffany Aching book planned but that after that the character will probably be too old for the children's Discworld books; he also said that he doesn't have any plans to include her in the other Discworld books. He also said he's planning a third book with Moist von Lipwig. Someone asked him if Vetinari is possibly grooming Moist as a successor, but Pratchett said no, that "Moist can be the shepherd, but he can't be the butcher." And that seemed to be an off the cuff remark, not something he'd worked up ahead of time. Currently he's working on a non-Discworld book about some people on an island, but he didn't say much about it.
He talked a lot about the filming of the Hogfather and other of his books that had been/were being filmed. He mentioned that Sean Astin plays Twoflower and does a great job, and also said that Astin is himself a Discworld fan. Apparently Pratchett was doing a signing in London or someplace and Astin showed up in line, at which point Pratchett said, "Hey, I know you--you were in Harry Potter!" That got a good laugh.
There were about 200 people who wanted books signed. Considering that Pratchett had a cold and was losing his voice, he was remarkably good about talking to people. I tried to think of something non-fangirlish but witty to say to him, but by the time I got my books signed (some three hours after he started his talk), he was really flagging so I didn't really say anything at all. At that point he seemed to be at the wretched point of a cold where you no longer care where you put the used kleenexes, so he was surrounded by crumpled pink tissues, like flowers. Poor guy. He seems really nice and obviously likes his fans. I think today was his last stop on his book tour and he gets to go home, so I hope he gets better soon.
I'm currently reading (carefully) a copy of Making Money that has the author's fingerprints on it. And probably also his cold germs.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Yum, sneak peek
WOTC Discoveries is open to submissions here, so if you're thinking of sending something in and want to know what sells, the author said I could pass along the first-chapter sneak peek he emailed me. So just drop me a note and I'll forward it to you.
Of course, my own submission is 100% nothing like McDermott's, so I wish I'd read his chapter before I sent it. On the other hand, I now have a year to rework the book I was planning to rewrite back at the beginning of September in order to submit it instead of the book I did send, and I think it'll be a much better fit.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Yet more on eReaders
Maybe they do, I don't know. The only pictures of ereaders I've seen, though, look more like calculators. No, a good ereader needs to open up just like a book, with two screens facing each other. The pages display on both screens, two pages at a time just like a regular book. When you're ready to turn the page, hit the button and the next two pages pop up. When you have to stop reading, hit save and close the ereader just like a book. It saves your place and turns off automatically.
Simple, effective, and closing it up means the screens will be protected from scratches.
In other news, I totally made it to my writer's group and back without getting lost once. That's the first time I've managed it.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
More on eReaders
Well, I do, but at least it's not usually fiction.
I did some more looking into ereaders, for ebooks. (How long until sticking e- in front of a noun sounds, like, so turn of the century?) The consensus is that they're all doin' it wrong.
Pardon me while I insert a lolcat here. This one slays me.
Anyway, there's a thread on Absolute Write that talks about ereaders some (I post there--guess which post is mine! Hint: it's the wordy one.), and a post on Booksquare that goes into even more detail. It sounds like the technology is there, but the people actually developing the products are not.
That reminds me of the Asus eee PC, a darling mini-laptop computer that is almost what people want but not quite. Not to mention that the price keeps goin' up and the specs keep goin' down and the release date keeps gettin' pushed back. The eee would be perfect to use as an ereader--small, lightweight, eminently portable, with wifi and browsing capabilities to find and download books--but it's not available yet and I don't know if I'll get one until the second wave comes out next year anyway (I want a blue one; right now they're only available in black or white).
But my poor old computer needs to be replaced with a real laptop before I start buying eees or ereaders anyway. My computer was once a blazingly fast gaming machine, but it's now over five years old and starting to have problems. And I don't do any gaming anymore (except tower defense and Boggle, of course, and the Kingdom of Loathing).
I've wandered away from my original topic, I find, but let's leave it at that. I still haven't critiqued the stories for my writing group tomorrow, and I still haven't finished the story I wanted to finish for the group, and I haven't eaten yet, and anyway there's a cricket hiding in the living room driving me crazy singing. Times Square this ain't.
Monday, September 24, 2007
"How was your weekend?" I asked Brad. _ was within earshot. I wanted him to think I was polite, even to oafs.
"Did you see Family Guy last night?"
"No. I don't watch that show."
"You don't watch Family Guy?" Brad pretended to fall backwards in his chair.
"It's not my kind of humor."
"No, you have to watch it. It's great."
I checked the fax machine and threw away a real estate ad. "It's stupid," I said, and regretted it immediately.
Brad didn't notice the insult. "It's hilarious. Remember the episode with the giant chicken? Last night they brought the chicken back and there was this big fight, and in the middle of it they stop and go to a restaurant, and they can't remember what they're fighting about, and then after they eat they go back to fighting." He guffawed.
_ passed me and raised his eyebrows with a half-smile. I smiled back. Brad must have thought I was praising his narrative, because he launched into an account of another episode he liked.
I ignored him and followed _ to the break room. From the smell, Brad had already visited the bathroom that morning. I could still hear him talking from around the corner, apparently to himself.
_ poured himself a cup of coffee. "Does he do anything except watch TV?" he murmured.
I fought the urge to giggle and agree. I had to say something witty, something terribly intelligent and memorable, something that would make _ take new notice of me. "He must eat a lot of tacos too," I said. Bad choice.
But _ snorted into his coffee cup, grinning. "Depth bomb," he said.
I slapped my hand over my mouth, afraid I'd bray instead of laugh. A moment later I controlled myself enough to say, "It's more an explosive decompression, I think."
This time _ slopped coffee over his shoes. I went back to my desk, triumphant, and only then realized that my first real conversation with _ had been about shit.
Old and New
This is all rather distressing, because even though I've decided to jettison the rewrite-from-the-ground-up of the fantasy novel I was planning to sub to Wizards of the Coast (I sent a different manuscript instead), I've got another project all set up for Nano. I've done Nano two years now and had a blast both times; I want to start working on plot for this year's project in October so I'll have my outline ready by November 1. But I can't plot that project if I'm plotting a different one; I've tried working on two novels at once and it doesn't work.
I think my only recourse will be to start plotting my Nano book now. With luck I'll get so excited about it (and it's going to be a lot of fun) that it'll push my new mystery to the back burner for a while.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Your book, I have eated it
It's awesome. I read all day and just finished it. But my reading was almost interrupted by hobbits; I was invited to a Baggins birthday party today, but I called off at the last minute, citing as my reasons A) I don't know anyone at the party except the hostess and my sister-in-law, B) I have way too much to do this weekend--which is true, especially since I spent the whole day reading, and C) I don't actually like Tolkien very much. I like the movies.
So the Grossman book. I loved it. It wasn't precisely what I expected, but it was beautifully written and hugely entertaining--so well written, in fact, that I literally did not notice it's written in present tense until I was already to chapter three. Ordinarily I don't read anything written in present.
What I like most about the book is that Grossman's focus is on the main characters, evil genius Doctor Impossible and insecure cyborg heroine Fatale. It would have been easy to camp it up, to turn the book into a prose version of the old X-Men comics (which I used to read religiously, gawd help me), all heavy-handed melodrama. But Grossman's characterization is nuanced, sophisticated, and very human.
I had expected to find the book in the SF/fantasy section, but it was shelved with the non-genre stuff. Now that I've read it, I agree. Non-genre lit has a feel to it that's hard to define but easy to recognize, a sort of bleak reality and almost joylessness--even in a book that, like this one, made me laugh out loud more than once. It's not a style I care to emulate in my own writing, and I don't read it often, but when I do I appreciate it. And I like Grossman's clean, crisp writing (although his dialog tends to be a bit too writerly to be believable). I do think the book badly needed more continuity editing--I kept noticing little things, like someone speaking up a few paragraphs after we're told that character wasn't in the room.
Now it's bedtime, and I didn't get anything done today except laundry and grocery shopping (and I see that all I bought was soup). Tomorrow I have three stories to critique for my writing group, plus two stories of my own that I must finish, one a new story I want to have ready for the group on Wednesday, one an already-critiqued story I'm rewriting as my Writers of the Future contest entry. It's a good thing I didn't go to any stupid hobbit party after all.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Books without pages
This morning I got up early because I wanted to put together a new CD, which I persist in calling a "mix tape." I downloaded a few new songs (from Napster, people, I pay for my music) and listened to them and some old favorites* on the way to work.
That made me wish I could download Soon I Will Be Invincible so easily, but my immediate answer to that thought was, "Oh, I don't want to read a book onscreen."
Why not? I had to think about it. I read my own writing onscreen all the time. But I must admit, having a printed copy makes things a lot more pleasant. It's more than just convenience, it's just easier to read a printed copy. Physically turning pages is an important part of the process of reading for me; so is the smell of ink (in newer books) and paper (in older books), and having a cover to look at whenever I want to without losing my place (because I can stick my finger between the pages while I turn the book over).
On the other hand, I remember back when music came on great big plasticky things called records, that had a lovely unique smell and a great big cover and back cover, and the sound you got from a record had an extra depth from the phsyical contact of the needle tracing over the record's grooves. But now I buy a lot of my music directly online--no records, not even a CD case to look at. I got used to the convenience pretty darn quick.
So maybe it's time to look into one of those ebook-readers. Instant gratification, that's my watchword!
*Gorillaz, Garbage, Concrete Blonde, Joe Jackson, Billy Joel, They Might Be Giants, and that new Kanye West song with the Daft Punk sample.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Books I'm not reading and why
I almost bought a copy of Terry Pratchett's new book, Making Money, while I was there. But I'm going to a Pratchett signing in just over a week (let's pause here for a moment while I whoop hysterically around the room in excitement), and I'll buy my copy then. So I left B&N bookless.
Now that I think about it, I'm glad I didn't buy anything--I'm broke until I get paid Friday. But this weekend I think I will have to find Grossman's book somewhere. I must read it.
I borrowed a stack of books from my brother last week, trying to find a new author. I took Redwall (recommended by my ten-year-old nephew) to the laundromat with me, but I got 32 pages in and had to put it down in favor of staring at the dryers. I didn't do a scientific analysis or anything, but I'm pretty sure there are more adjectives and adverbs in the book than there are actually words. I tried Dragonmaster by Chris Bunch next. The first chapter was interesting, with Hal having rescued the baby dragon from the corrupt mineowner's son, which led to him running away from home to spare his parents from retaliation. But the second chapter was set three years later, when Hal gets drunk and tries to ride a wild dragon. And the third chapter was set two years after that. And the fourth chapter was set--well, let's just say I got tired of reading Bunch's false starts and put the book down.
After that I gave The Hidden Stars a try, a book by Madeline Howard. I got maybe two sentences in before I decided that this is too much work and I don't care about all this background, who's the main character?
The next book in the stack was Morgan Llywelyn's Red Branch. It has a "welcome" and a phonetic glossary and a map and a poem before we get to the first chapter. I never read any of that stuff, nor do I read prologues, introductions, anything labeled Before or In the Beginning or Ten Years Prior, or--gawd help us all--family trees. Anyway, I read two paragraphs of Red Branch and nothing roused my interest. I'm just not into high fantasy, and that's what my brother loves (along with hard SF).
Two other books I have borrowed from my brother are Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule, which is 836 pages long and I'm not sure I'm ready to welcome Goodkind into my life for that long, and John Barnes' One for the Morning Glory, which seems awfully twee. So far I'm striking out. Now, I have found books I love in my brother's library--well, okay, I haven't, but I've read some books that stayed with me, like Rosemary Wells' City of Bones--but I'm starting to think I'm better off at the book store. Just not the one closest to the office.
Now that I've ragged on practically every book within armsreach and complained about the ones I can't get, what will I read? I have to read something. I'm sick of playing Boggle online. I suppose I'll fall back on one of my favorites--Diana Wynne Jones, Dorothy Sayers, Terry Pratchett, one of the billions of YA horse books on my shelves, or Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief, which I read ridiculously often. And this weekend, of course, I'll be reading Soon I Will Be Invincible, if I have to drive to the next state to get a copy.
Maybe the library has it.
Monday, September 17, 2007
But you never know.
Times like these, when I'm waiting to hear on a story I'm still very involved with and that I think is perfect for the market, I feel like I'm mentally whining pllllleeeeeassse, pllleeeeeeasse, like a demented puppy. It won't be long before I'm so exhausted from hoping that I'll be relieved to hear back even if it's a rejection--at least I can relax. I am so totally not a patient person.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Request for Full!
I'm trying to come up with a good analogy for explaining the significance of a request for a full. It's like in high school, when your boyfriend gives you his class ring to wear. You shouldn't pick out your wedding gown at that point, but you can be pretty sure that eventually you'll end up married--although not necessarily to this guy. Well, that's a stupid analogy, actually. Hopefully you get the idea.
Anyway, I had my writer's group tonight. I managed to contain myself until after we'd done the night's critiques and were just sitting around talking, at which point I all but leaped out of my chair to announce my news. Everyone was very congratulatory, but of course not congratulatory enough (I figured they'd throw an impromptu parade at the very least), and the next thing I knew they were talking about Tom Bombadil, as if he's even slightly as interesting as my Request for Full.
Of course, now I realize that the novel is full of terrible errors and clumsy writing and I need to go over it before sending it to the editor, but I don't want to wait too long because what if she changes her mind or loses interest? Oh well, I probably won't be able to sleep tonight anyway. I'll just stay up and revise instead.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
That interested me, mostly because it's so unusual. So I went out to the library this afternoon and checked out The Major English Romantic Poets, ed. by William H. Marshall, which was all my local (crappy) library had. I figured I'd steep myself in romantic poetry and then see what I could come up with in fiction.
Unfortunately, and I'd forgotten this fact but it certainly explains why I didn't have a single volume of the Romantic poets in my personal library, I loathe 99.9% of romantic poetry. Especially Wordsworth. God, I really hate Wordsworth. And reading Byron and Shelley and Keats (oh my) just makes me remember my hateful and hated sophomore English lit teacher Dr. Sears, the one who was so sarcastic.
So it doesn't look as though I'll be contributing to Twilight Temptations--I don't really write dark fantasy anyway. Instead, I'll finish the story I'm working on now, about a dragon who's a captain in an army; he comes across two children trapped and hiding near a battle and when he tries to take them back to base camp, he and they are captured by the dragons fighting for the other side. It's not a bit romantic, but I think probably that's a good thing.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Zippy acceptance! Whee!
The anthology sounds fascinating, too. I was going to try and write something else for it if this story was rejected, because I love the theme. Now I don't have to worry, and I get a copy of the finished anthology (plus a nice token payment and tiny royalties).
It's storming here. I have to go outside and run around in the rain to flare off some energy from my good mood. And for lunch...pizza!
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
The really good thing about any critique, though, is that no matter how off-topic it first appears, it's a good jumping-off point for rethinking problems. This critique got me thinking about one of the book's main characters and how I can flesh him out a little. I find that the best way to round out a character is to let him or her talk. So I've come up with a scene where that character can talk to the other MC. It may end up too long or too boring, but I can trim it down to its core later.
And then, while I was thinking that new scene over, I started thinking about an earlier scene, and realized I'd left out a wonderful opportunity to show an aspect of the character I hadn't even thought about. And I thought I knew all about him.
So sometimes a rejection is a good thing.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Bored, bored, boredboredboredboredbored
I love cake batter. I don't love cake. So every so often I break down and buy a cheap box of cake mix (French vanilla, for preference). I don't add eggs or oil, just water. And I sit down with a mixing spoon and eat it until I'm sick.
That's what I had for breakfast this morning, with a glass of milk. Yes, breakfast. No, I no longer recall how I convinced myself that was a good idea, except that I'd overslept and was kind of groggy and I'm out of cereal and didn't want to cook oatmeal or eggs or anything, you know, fancy.
So I've spent the day bored and unable to concentrate on anything, probably due to my massive sugar intake at 9am. I did rewrite the query for Evil Outfitters, Ltd. and sent it off to a publisher I can't at the moment recall. And I opened up the file of a story I really, really need to work on, and did actually work on the first two paragraphs before going back to Desktop Tower Defense. Which I'm really bad at, even when I'm not gorked out on cake batter.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
There I found the complete 96,000 word manuscript of a fantasy novel I wrote back in--1998? Just after I learned to spin, I know, because I was all fired up about the craft and I made my main character a weaver who has to find work as a spinster. The title is Weaver's Shroud, and as far as I'm concerned that's A) the best title ever for any book, ever, and B) the best thing about the book.
I spent last night and this morning going over the manuscript in search-and-destroy edit mode, fixing weak constructions and wordiness. I had hoped to get all excited about its possibilities, but I've read it too often. I was just bored. But I remember once finding the book completely absorbing and fun. So is it dull or not dull? I absolutely can't tell.
But anyway, back in 1999 or so when I was a complete noob at submitting stuff anywhere, I sent queries/chapters of Weaver's Shroud to four publishers. Two of them responded that they weren't taking unsolicited stuff anymore, and the other two--Ace and another publisher I can't recall (Zebra?) asked for fulls. At the same time. I had to withdraw the ms. from the second publisher with huge regret, and Ace eventually passed on it.
And that, children, is why I only query to one publisher at a time these days.
A few years ago I took another look at the ms. and sent it off to Mundania Press, who batted it right back at me with a no thanks. And that's all I've done with it. So basically, three sets of eyes have seen the book and I've had two requests for fulls. It can't be that boring. I sent it off to Cerridwen Press today. Cross your fingers.