Saturday, September 29, 2007

Yum, sneak peek

I just got a sneak peek at the first chapter of Last Dragon by J.M. McDermott, which (plug time!) will be available February 2008 from Wizards of the Coast Discoveries. This is the new WOTC line of books, and judging from the chapter I read, it's going to be very successful. Last Dragon is sumptuously written, full of sensory detail and intriguing glimpses into the story's world. I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing. Oh, and it can be preordered here.

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

I keep thinking about the perfect ereader. I think I've got it all figured out now. It needs to feel like a book as much as possible. It needs to fold!

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

Hmm, did I really post a raw-rough scene from an unformed project last night? It appears I did. Let me just post above it in case someone wanders along and thinks I post dull, badly written crap all the time.

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

A scene.

Dammit, this new book has really taken hold. I was ironing clothes for work tomorrow when I realized I was writing a scene in my head. Granted, it was based on a conversation I had with a really stupid coworker this morning (lifted almost word for word, which I never ever do, but this was too priceless to not use). So I went ahead and typed it up so I wouldn't forget it, and thanks to the miracle of semi-anonymous blogging, I offer it here for your enjoyment. Or not, whatever. I've changed the name of my coworker, and the underscore is how I indicate to myself that the other character doesn't have a name yet (when I name him, I can search and replace).

"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

I've had an idea for a book kicking around for a while, and now--when I really don't have time to work on it--it's starting to gel. I've been trying to put it in the back of my mind to simmer some more, but I've got the main character's voice now and she's starting to get talkative. As of today, I know she's been living in L.A. for nearly ten years, her parents are new-age flakes who live in Montana, and she's recently divorced and wanting to start over in her old hometown. And I know she's going to run into her old best friend (a successful lawyer, divorced with two kids) and that she's going to get a crush on a coworker. I still don't have names, and I haven't worked out the murder (or even who's going to get murdered--yeah, it's a mystery), but that'll come later once the characters are worked out. And the characters won't leave me alone, dammit.

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

I went to the good B&N today, the one that always has the books I can't find at the bad B&N. (Around here, my choices for buying books are B&N, Walmart, and online.) They had Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman.

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

My quest to find a copy of Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman is not going well. I think I may have to order it off Amazon.

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

Today Galleycat mentioned Austin Grossman's book Soon I Will Be Invincible. It was one of those moments when I went from having never heard of a book to being consumed with the need to read it immediately. I dropped by the local Barnes & Noble on my way home from work, which of course was nothing but a waste of time. I do not lie or even exaggerate when I say that I have never, ever been able to find a book I'm looking for at that particular B&N. They didn't have it.

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


I emailed my book Thursday evening and the editor very kindly emailed me back Friday to let me know she got it. So now I wait. And check my email every thirteen seconds. Because you never know when the editor will respond, even though--yes, okay, she's only had one full business day to look at it, and if her Mondays are anything like mine she spent 99% of her time doing stuff she didn't have time to do Friday afternoon (and 1% of her time wondering what to have for supper). And let's face it, a manuscript trawled from the slush pile is probably not at the top of her must-read list.

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 got an emailed request for a full this evening, which means the editor wants to see the full manuscript of a novel I queried. That means the editor liked the writing in my sample chapters and thought the synopsis of the entire novel sounded pretty good. It's a very encouraging sign; it means I've done something right with this book.

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

Read Me!

I've got a story up on Every Day Fiction. Go read it, it's awesome! (I might be a bit biased, of course.) It's a bit different from my usual stuff, but it was a lot of fun to write. And while you're there, look around on the site and read the other stuff. I especially recommend "Scientists" by Andrew LeBlanc and "I Quit!" by Beth Langford.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Ralan's reports that the Twilight Temptations anthology still needs stories. I hadn't really paid attention to that one (even though I love themed anthologies), but I took a look at the guidelines yesterday. They want dark fantasy (and horror and SF) with a romantic conceit--not romantic as in romance novels, but romantic as in the artistic movement of Romanticism.

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!

Last night I sent a story to a new anthology, Desolate Places, and got an acceptance within a matter of hours! Considering that that particular story, "Honeymoon," had previously been subbed at Chaos Theory (I withdrew it after months and months and months) and then Neo-Opsis (I withdrew it after months and months and months), a less than one-day acceptance was a nice change. Especially for an impatient person like me.

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!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I got a query reject today on a novel, but it came with a small critique. That's always a bonus, and it's clear the editor read the sample chapters and thought about them. Some of what she said makes a lot of sense. Some is--well, some is really off the wall. I won't go into details, because I think ragging on rejections, especially personal rejections like this one, is unprofessional and unbecoming.

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

It's terrible to be bored over a three-day weekend. I blame the cake batter.

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

Familiarity Breeds...meh

When I checked my Duotrope submission tracker last night, I was annoyed to realize I only had two stories out, one of which I don't like anymore, and a novel query pending. And since I don't have any other stories ready to send out (or even close to ready), I dug around on my hard drive for older stuff I could dust off.

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.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

13 hours in...

I almost entered the 3-Day Novel Contest this year. I filled out the form and everything, but $50 seemed too much when I didn't even have an idea--much less an outline--so I never sent in my entry.

If I had, I'd have been writing for the better part of 13 hours by now. Instead, I spent the morning getting my weekend errands done (oil change, grocery shopping, bought a wedding gift for a cousin, post office, car wash, shameful fast food lunch with fries). I had a notebook with me as always, but I only wrote about a page of notes on my current project. If I was in the contest, I'd have aimed for a minimum of 10,000 words by noon.

Could I do it? With a solid outline and well-thought-out characters, sure. I've written 10,000 words in one sitting before, and my head didn't even explode. The trouble is keeping that kind of pace over three days; in fact, really it's two days, because you want to leave time to do some triage editing before you send the entry in.

But I'm glad I didn't enter after all. My goal for September is to strip down and rebuild a novella I wrote two years ago. The characters are great, the setting interesting, but the plot is junk. By the end of the month I want to have the new rough draft ready for revisions in October. And I have to get it finished by the end of October because I want to submit it to the Wizards of the Coast open call with plenty of time to spare.

Plus I want to do Nano again this year.