Thursday, October 30, 2008


For your Halloween pleasure...a post about eyeballs!

No, actually not. It's just that I went to the eye doctor today for a checkup. I'm going to get contacts again! It's been years since I wore them and I really hate wearing glasses. I did get two cheap pairs of glasses with my new prescription (two because it was actually considerably cheaper to get two instead of one, which is weird) and one of them has blue frames and the other lavender. They were supposed to be ready this afternoon but "the machine" was messed up so I'm going to pick them up Saturday after work.

My life is just one big pile of excitement after another, isn't it?

They dilated my eyes at the doctor's, which I didn't expect. I didn't have any sunglasses in the car (who am I kidding? I don't OWN any sunglasses) so I had to use the crappy plastic shades they give out for free, the ones that sort of look like flimsy 3d glasses. Mine made me look like Supertard. When I got home, with my eyes all dilated for the next four hours so I couldn't read, I wanted to put on my fancy movie-star nightgown and robe and swan around pretending to be an Italian countess in the renaissance with belladonna in her eyes, but it was too cold.

You will notice I do not mention my book. That is because I am STUCK. RIGHT BEFORE NANO! This is some kind of cosmic justice for me starting my Nano book early.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I need about 50 subplots

I'm still having fun with The Taste of Magic, but I'm definitely to the point where I have to make some hard decisions about where it's going. I'm a third of the way in now. Events need to pick up and the plot needs to thicken a lot.

And since I have only three days until I have to write like a mad thing for Nano, I need to make my decisions now. Now! Nanow! Oh, I slay myself.

So that means subplots galore. It's okay, I can go back in and add stuff so the subplots don't appear out of nowhere (Nanowhere?). Maybe I'll throw a troll into the mix. Yeah, a troll! And, um, maybe Ana has a Secret Fear--no, wait, she already has a Secret Fear. Two Secret Fears is just stupid. Okay, then, I'll make the glass ruby she found into something Important! Of course, that means I have to go back and make sure it's not a coincidence when she finds it, which means also that I have to figure out its significance. And since I already have to figure out the significance of the tattoos, they're probably related. Oh, and what is going on with the attacks on the king's guards? Zeeda's a king's guard, so maybe he's going to end up in danger! And maybe I should bring out the theme of racism and classism in this world more than I've done so far. And the bad guy needs motivation, so maybe that all works in with the Themes! And maybe Ana kind of thinks he may be on the right path even though he's evil! Or not! Yeah! And a troll!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hook me! Hookmehookmehookme!

I finished reading Moira J. Moore's Heroes Adrift yesterday. I liked it enough to put it on my recommended list (like that means anything), and I'm looking forward to what she does with the next book. But while I was impressed with some aspects of the book--she's taking the series in an unexpected direction, and I like it--I thought there just wasn't enough of the really fascinating aspect of the world, the channeling of destructive natural forces that the two main characters do together. There was hardly any of that going on.

Same with that book I read several months ago, Dead to Me by Anton Strout. The main character is a psychometrist but I didn't think there was enough psychometry in the book. Hey, I'm interested in this stuff! Don't get me hooked and then drop the one thing that hooked me in the first place!

That's my reaction as a reader. As a writer, I know it's not always possible to arrange the plot so that the hooky stuff keeps popping up. The hook in The Taste of Magic is Ana's healing abilities. I start the book off with big important chunks of action mostly revolving around healing, but then I have to drop it for a while. There is other stuff going on in the book, after all. Now I'm over 30k words in and I'm starting to think I need to work in another healing session. Because writers are all hookers, baby!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another day over

I'm still completely in the flow with The Taste of Magic. I'm haaving a blast with it. I think I'm about up to 30,000 words now--I haven't typed up what I wrote today--and I guess I'll just keep going. As long as I get a full 50k during Nano, I figure it all counts.

I work in the office on Mondays, and today it was fairly quiet. I got a full chapter written, maybe 2,000 words (in between phone calls and the other stuff I was, you know, getting paid to do).

So I spent the bulk of the day working out a complicated conversation between my two main characters. The chapter starts with Ana waking up with a hangover, and then she gets the fun of wondering what the hell she said to Vincent the night before. Then Vincent shows up and I spent the afternoon trying to balance important exposition with just the right touch of character stuff. The chapter ends with Ana realizing--with delight, confusion, and just a touch of alarm--that Vincent is flirting with her. What did she say last night when she was drunk?

As my coworkers and I were leaving for the day, one of them said, "Well, another day over" and sighed.

I am so lucky. Excuse my Klatchian, but I am so fucking lucky. I not only have a job I enjoy, but most days I have at least a little time to get some writing done. And on top of that, when everyone else is bored, I'm figuring out how a vampire would flirt with a hungover elf. If I ever complain about this job, throw a shoe at me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't Do This: writing advice from a college professor

Many, many long years ago, in the dark ages when I was an undergraduate English major, I took a creative writing course. I would have taken more than one, but my small school only offered one creative writing course. Anyway, back then I was steeped mostly in badly written fantasy novels and the effects of reading English literature (and a lot of it) hadn't yet seeped into my writing. I wasn't exactly a bad writer, but I was young and clumsy. I wouldn't go back to those years for anything, not even if I could change some stupid decisions I made back then. (Stupid decision #1: ignoring the really adorable music major guy who I realize now had a crush on me. Stupid stupid stupid!)

So I took the creative writing course, and I got one piece of advice that I have kept and used to good effect. It's such an important rule that I've never seen it written down--writers are supposed to know this innately. On the other hand, obviously we don't, because I see the rule broken all the time. The rule? Don't self-reference writing.

See, I'd written a story for the class--something silly about a woman who ends up running off to Australia with a rich man who owns an ostrich farm. At the end of the story, when she announced her intention of leaving, she said, "How ironic!" because her sister and romantic rival always wore ostrich plumes on her hats, or something equally goofy.

My professor called me on the remark. "Don't tell us it's ironic. You're self-referencing yourself as a writer," she said, or words to that effect.

An example of what not to do? I read The Hero Strikes Back by Moira J. Moore yesterday* and on page 46 here's this exchange:

"How do you know until you try?"
"Because I'm not some all-powerful protagonist in a ridiculous drama who acquires some new unheard of ability with each new improbable situation," he snapped.

Self-referencing! Bad! Do not want! Threw me out of the story instantly and made me sneer, "Oh, yes you are, you just don't know it." Also, too many adjectives.

Don't do this, authors. You should know better.

*Not only is it a terrible cover, the title is appalling too. The book is okay. I liked the main characters marginally better this time, but the plot was thin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I keep reading books where people (usually women, pertaining to their skirts) are wearing "homespun."

Dear Fantasy Authors:

Before the industrial revolution, everyone wore homespun. Even queens. Who often did plenty of spinning themselves, actually, because all women were expected to spin.

yeah yeah whatever

This is an example of writers parroting what they've seen in other books, without understanding the significance of the word. Not only that, but as a spinner myself (for a decade now), I resent the implication that homespun goods are inferior to mill-spun. Come over to my house and I'll let you drool over the wool and thread I've spun. And I'm not even all that good a spinner, certainly not a professional.

More on this in a week, I'm sure, when Trunk Novels releases Weaver's Shroud, because it's all about spinning. Well, spinning is involved. So are ghosts and necromancers and gods. But the spinning is pretty darn interesting.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Running out of plot

I wrote almost 5,000 words today. This is awesome. I'm over 20,000 words with a week left to get the next 10k. I really like the way this book is going.

The only problem is, I'm about to run out of plot. I know where I'm going with it, at least mostly. I just don't know what I'm going to write about for most of the next 60,000 words.

Maybe I should work on that tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Books galore

Jasper seems to be doing a little better, so I went out with Mom today for a belated birthday celebration. We went to four book stores and had lunch at Olive Garden, which made for an excellent day out.

We visited these stores and I got these books:

McKay Used Books
where I picked up a cookbook about eggs and a hardback of Return to Quag Keep by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe. Norton's Quag Keep is one of my guilty pleasures from my middle school D&D-playing and fantasy-reading days, so I'm delighted there's a sequel. I bet it's wonderfully horrible, just like the original.

Carpe Librum, an independent book store
where I bought nothing because their SF/fantasy section consisted of about twelve Terry Brooks and Tolkien books, and nothing at all from small presses. Mom bought An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke, though, and she loaned it to me.

where I was going to buy the sequel to Moira J. Moore's Resenting the Hero, but they didn't have it. So I bought a big Girardelli or whatever it's called chocolate bar for Mom to repay her for loaning me An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England before she's even read it.

Barnes & Noble
where I bought not just the sequel to Resenting the Hero, but the third book too. What the hell, carpe librum. I was spending found money anyway, an unexpected payment to my mom and me for helping address envelopes for a local antique store's upcoming Christmas sale.

Then I drove us home. We ate chocolate while Mom read aloud from The Arsonist's Guide etc. and we laughed hysterically. So it's been a good bookish day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Up and down

Not to alarm anyone who knows him or make people feel sorry for me, but things have been rough the last two days with my dog Jasper. He's not doing very well. I'm hoping it's a temporary issue, but if I'm not my usual chipper self--okay, my usual vaguely-annoyed-and-100%-self-centered self--you'll know why.

Anyway, I'm glad guy-who-looks-just-like-Alex came in to test this afternoon at work, because seeing him always makes me happy. He's changed his hair again. He's so cute.

I'm working on The Taste of Magic, my Nano book, and yes, I'm actually writing it. I want it to be a bit over 80,000 words total, so my goal is to reach 30,000 words by the end of October and then write the next 50,000 as the "official" Nano part. I'm about 15,000 words in and I've only been working on it a week or so, so it's entirely possible that I'll reach 30k by Halloween. I don't have an outline, though, which feels perilous to me. I've been working with outlines since my first Nano book in 2005, so it feels odd and without-a-netty not to have one now. On the other hand, so far the plot is holding together and I kind of know where it's going.

I'm at the fun part of writing, where everything's going swimmingly and when I think, "What shall I read tonight?" nobody else's book seems as interesting as my own.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Look, look!

Look what my brother gave me for my birthday, which is tomorrow: MY OWN DOMAIN! He is so ossum. He even ported all my pages over to it so I wouldn't have to. I'll still keep the old pages open, but I'll slowly be switching everything over to the new domain until ultimately I'll only be updating it.

Also he said my Stanza download thingie words, sorta, but it's full of garbage characters, so if you were going to download "Spinning Lies," better wait a few days until I can get it sorted out.

I am 100% full of squee! Which sounds kind of gross, actually.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wow, bad luck for that cover, Moore.

Yes, I stole that from Amazon. You can tell, can't you?

That is the worst cover ever. Not the artwork, although that horse is definitely unnatural. I mean it doesn't fit the book at all. At all. Dude, I can't even tell you how wrong that cover is.

This is a book I've picked up at the book store not once but about half a dozen times. I've read the back, looked at the cover with a shudder, and put it back. Because the cover makes the story look retarded and predictable.

Today at Borders I thought, "What the hell?" and bought the book. And while I won't add it to my recommended list, because I thoroughly disliked all the characters without exception, it does not deserve this cover.

Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore is not one of those spunky-princess-saves-the-incompetent-knight romps. It's also not actually a fantasy. It's set on an alien world, although since it's basically earth with strange forces involved, it might as well be a fantasy. But it's not a fantasy, and it annoys me that it's packaged as a fantasy. This is the second time in, what, a week? that I've read a SF book masquerading as fantasy, from which I assume that fantasy is selling better than SF right now.

But I digress. This world is beset by strange forces that cause natural disasters. Certain people called Sources can channel the forces and nullify the disasters, but the stresses of doing so will kill them unless they have another person called a Shield to keep their physical symptoms in check. Sources and Shields are trained from a young age and then bond together for life. If one dies, the other dies.

Resenting the Hero is about a newly-bonded Pair, practical Shield Mallorough and her Source, Lord Shintaro Karish, who has a reputation as a partyer. They have to save the world, or at least part of it, although the plot takes a painfully long time to take shape and drags a lot. And like I said, the characters are not likeable, and the traitorous ones are transparently traitorous. But the channeling and shielding bits are interesting, enough that I read the book today and don't resent the time it took me to do so. I may even read the sequel; the characterization may be better.

But lordie mercy, that cover. It's astonishing how wrong it is for this book. People who read the book thinking it'll be like the cover won't like the book; people who would have liked the book won't read it because of the cover. Ace has done all its readers a huge disservice with that cover, not to mention poor Moira J. Moore, who must still be seething--although since there's a third book out, she must not be seething too badly.

The other covers are just as bad.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

free story, need a beta tester for download!

I've spent the last few hours messing around with a story, trying to get it into downloadable form for my website. I thought it would be fun to offer an occasional story for free creative commons licensed download on my spiffy new website. The pdf download seems to be working, but I don't have an iPod so I can't check the epub Stanza download. If you've got an iPod with Stanza, and you're a brave soul, would you mind hopping on over and seeing if the download works? It's on the main page:

Thanks! If it doesn't work, or if it works but it's screwy-looking or something, please post here or email me at kateshaw123 [at] gmail [dot] com. You could also email me at the kcshaw123 email I list on my webpage, but I don't check it very often. Oh, and if there's a particular download format you'd like besides pdf and epub, let me know and I'll do my best to figure it out!

[P.S. weredeer]

Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue 1

I've been meaning to write an actual review of the first Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue, but too much happened this week and I kept forgetting. I figured I'd better hurry before issue 2 came out.

The theme of BCS is literary adventure fantasy. If the literary part turns you off, after reading the first issue I can assure you that the adventure part is just as important. Stuff happens in these stories, and the writing is great. In fact, I'm really excited about reading all the upcoming issues, and it's rare that I get excited about short fiction at all (I don't even love writing it, to be honest). If you like Black Gate, you should find a lot to like in BCS. The artwork's great, too.

The first issue consists of two stories (or one and a half if you want to get technical). The second half of Chris Willrich's "The Sword of Loving Kindness" will appear in issue two, but you've only got about a week to wait. It's a fun, lively Gaunt and Bone story. I hadn't encountered the characters before, but now I really want to read the others--this one's hugely inventive and a quick read despite its length. I'm definitely looking forward to the second half. I wasn't always sure who was talking during some of the rapid-fire dialogue, but the descriptions are lovely and the pace never flags.

This issue's second story is David D. Levine's "Sun Magic, Earth Magic." In the hands of an amateur writer, this story would have been horrible horrible horrible--but Levine pulls it off with elegance and subtlety. I didn't expect to like it, to be honest, but I was very pleasantly surprised. You might have trouble reading if it you're claustrophobic.

I'm very impressed with BCS so far. Best of all, it's available online for free.

(Full disclosure here: BCS will be publishing one of my stories, "Sand-Skin Man," in their Jan. 1, 2009 issue--but I would have enjoyed these stories even so. Incidentally, "Sand-Skin Man" takes place in the same world as my weredeer stories, but on a different continent. And without any weredeer.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cover art! I has it!

I got the cover art for Weaver's Shroud today, and also got permission from Trunk Novels to post it! I put it up on my website, of course, but I'll share it with you all here too.

I really like it! I should point out that there are no werewolves in the story at all. No were-anythings. No wolves, even. But there is a wolf-headed god who's sort of the whole linchpin of the story, so I'm happy he made the cover. Oh, and it looks like Weaver's Shroud will be released starting November 1! These folks move fast!

This is my first cover art except for the story I had in Renard's Menagerie #5, "The King's Messenger," which is about a weredeer.*

*Damn, I am smooth. Look how I slipped that in!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No weredeer Google-fu for me.

I just Googled "weredeer" and I haven't moved up in rank. I'm still on page two (a very old post), with my blog itself listed on page three along with an old capture of my website as it used to be, and the main page of my newly revised website on page four. The only reason I want to hit page one is so when I do (eventually) sell my book The Weredeer, by gawd people can find my blog and website! Without having to browse around!

I checked out my competition on page one. There's a woman who makes quilts and calls herself weredeer, and a man who has the most boring blog in the universe (sorry, dude, but it's true--you don't mention books at all) who calls himself weredeer. I can't figure out why either of these two chose that particular handle. Even I never thought about weredeer until one morning two and a half years ago when I thought someone who could shapeshift into a deer instead of a wolf would be an interesting character, and kind of funny too.

The rest of the pages seem to be related to various awful-looking video games, excruciatingly bad fiction, and a few joke news articles. People! I wrote a book called The Weredeer and I'm not even on the first page of a Google search for "weredeer"? Where's the justice in that?

Oh, right. I haven't actually had the book published. A mere quibble! The manuscript's at 320 days and pending at Mundania, where I sent it last year; at least, I hope it's still pending and I didn't just miss the rejection email. I can't pester them again because I just pinged them in June and got a nice note back that it was still under consideration. I try to be patient, I really do.

Also, weredeer weredeer weredeer. Geez, do you think that should do it or what? (Oh, and Google, no I do not mean "were deer." That doesn't make sense.)

I voted! and food

Mom and I went over and early voted today, since Election Day is on a Tuesday and I don't get off work until 7:30pm. I voted for Obama, of course. I don't argue about politics, incidentally, because anyone who doesn't believe exactly like I do is obviously insane and should probably be locked up for their own protection, and there's no point in arguing with crazy people.

Then we went back to Mom's house and I cooked sweet potatoes, because our nice warm weather is turning cool and fallish and it's supposed to rain tonight. My sweet potatoes are awesome. I got the recipe from a woman I used to work with; I think it's the cinnamon that really makes them. Or the pecans. Anyway, no marshmallows come anywhere near them.

Here's the recipe, if you're interested:

3 c. cooked mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 15-oz cans)
1 c sugar
1/2 c milk
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon or allspice (I always use cinnamon)

1/2 c melted butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1 c chopped pecans

Mix and pour in well-buttered casserole, then spread on topping (it's thick--you sort of have to drop it on by spoonfuls). Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

It's a very forgiving recipe, very rich and very good. And it's good for you!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Look what I did!!!!!

I redid my whole website! It now actually looks, you know, not horrible!

The home page is here, and the fiction listing page is here, and there's links at the top for other stuff. Please let me know if you notice a dead link or something looks funny. I haven't checked it in Firefox to make sure it looks okay--I may have to do some adjusting.

I'm just so proud of myself. It looks very clean and uncluttered, doesn't it? Every writer needs a decent website. Once I have more to brag about I'll get my own domain, but my brother very kindly lets me have as much server space as I want for free, and you can't beat that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The webpage, she buuuurns.

Since I got the Trunk Novels contract this afternoon, I went ahead and updated my pathetic webpage. I think I'm going to have to break down and actually design a real page that doesn't look like it was slapped together in 1997. I'll wait until I get the cover art for Weaver's Shroud first.

I had to move some stuff around on the page to make room, and my story "The King's Messenger" had to be demoted. I really love that story, mostly because its main character is Kristof, the weredeer from my weredeer novels. (If Carrie Harris can become a world expert on Batman Eyebrows as per Google searches, I can hit the first page when people Google "weredeer," darn it.) I am chuffed to see that the story is on the Ursa Major Awards short fiction recommended list, which sounds really impressive until you realize that the actual nominations aren't taken from that list.

Because I'm a grown-up, I washed the dishes when I got home from work. And also because I'm a grown-up and can if I want to, I ate waffles, peanut butter Captain Crunch, and ice cream for supper. For some reason, I'm craving raw meat right now.

book acceptance (but don't get too excited)

I woke up to my expected Cinema Spec rejection, and also to an acceptance from Trunk Novels for my fantasy novel Weaver's Shroud. I sent it to them last month on a lark and didn't really expect them to want it. Yes, I would probably make more money from the story sale, because there's no pay involved for Trunk Novels except through reader donations, but it's still kind of nice that Liza and her friends will be available for anyone to read about.

I'll let you know when the book will appear.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A name and a title!

I just signed up my blog at Technorati. Well, why not? All the kids are doing it.

I've got a name for my main character and a title for the book! The first is Analefa (Ana for short), the latter is The Taste of Magic. I kept Carafel as the name of the city Ana lives in (although I tacked another L to the end). I'm still not done fussing over names, though, since I've decided Byron is a stupid name and anyway that character is going to die at the end of chapter two, which means the real bad guy still needs a name. Vincent's name stands, though. It's perfect for him. I even gave him a good last name, Ondarr. I think I made that up, but if I unwittingly swiped it from someone else's book, please let me know.

I went to Borders today and tried to find something new to read (because my to be read stack isn't quite to the ceiling yet). The selection sucked, though--just the same old names over and over, and nothing that looked even remotely interesting. No wonder bookstores aren't doing too well right now. There's no variety.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ready to Knit!

Look what I found at the dollar store! I got this cool plastic bag for a buck and I'm using it for my knitting. In the bag: my awesome cool Halloween Hello Kitty pencil roll (containing a few pens, knitting needles, scissors, stitch markers, etc.), two balls of handspun Jacob yarn, white and brown, the in-progress Kittyville-hat-with-ears that I really need to finish, my Stitch n' Bitch pattern notebook, and Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin that I took over to Mom's house to loan to her (she took the picture--I don't have a camera).

My new Nano project outlining is coming along very well. And I've decided to name the main character, um, Carafel. I made that up just now. Sounds too much like caramel, doesn't it? What do you think?

Friday, October 10, 2008

The right name

An idea that I've been turning over in my mind for, like, evar has finally blossomed. I may do this one for Nano instead of Charmed Circle. It's going to take me a lot of heavy-duty plotting and worldbuilding in the next three weeks, but I should be able to do it.

First step at this point is to name my main characters, which will help me make some decisions on how they play off one another. I sat down with two name books and made some lists earlier.

The bad guy's name was easy to pick out. He's going to be Byron, rakish and dark. Also corny, but I think I can pull it off. Once I had his name, I had to strike Rowan, Tobin, Alban, Kilian, and Tarkin from the good guy name list (-en names are hot now for guys, have you noticed?). None of those were right anyway. I picked Asher instead, to be abbreviated to Ash--but I changed my mind when I thought that sounded like a Buffy name. Since that character's a vampire, I had to strike any possible Buffy connotation names, which isn't easy since I've never watched that show. After a lot of thought, I picked Vincent instead. That happens to be the name of one of my cats, but I really like the name and I think it'll work well for that character.

So now I have the bad guy, Byron, and the good guy, Vincent. The main character's name is a lot more difficult. I'd like to avoid another two-syllable name if I can. One-syllable women's names are fairly rare, but they're almost always strong--stronger than I really want. Three-syllable women's names are common, but they tend to sound too soft. I want a feminine sounding name but not a frilly or girly one.

I need a three-syllable name with hard consonants, then, but I can't use a B, R, N, V, or S. I can probably get away with a T since it doesn't really sound in Vincent. See how difficult this is? You think I'm being picky, I bet, but it really is vitally important that my main character's name doesn't echo the names of other characters too much.

I don't think I know my main character well enough to name her yet. But at least I've named the two other main characters. Boys are always easier for me to name than girls; maybe that's why the girls end up with clunky names like Hilda and Ellen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Beneath Ceaseless Skies first issue out!

I totally forgot that the first issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies went live today! I haven't read the two inaugural stories yet (by Chris Willrich and David D. Levine), but they look good. My story will probably appear in January.

ETA: great review of the magazine here.

It's kind of like having another pet.

I've got a big spider living above the study door. It's one of those yellow-brown spiders that build very dense, draping webs that look like instant cobwebs. I call them yellow spiders and they're really common around here. This one's legs would comfortably fit over a quarter without its even stretching them out.

Fortunately, spiders don't bother me. I like spiders because I don't like bugs, and while the gnat infestation is pretty much over, it's not entirely gone. So I keep an eye on my yellow spider, hoping to see gnats stuck in its web.

Yes, and that has absolutely nothing to do with writing or reading, so on to bookish things. My new Amazon order came today! It's the last bunch of books I'm going to order for a while, so I hope they're all good. Among the books is Lisa Shearin's Armed & Magical, sequel to Magic Lost, Trouble Found that I read last week. I had to take my car in for its (ridonculously expensive) 30k mile checkup, and I read half the book while I waited. I am definitely a Shearin fan now. I'm about three-quarters done reading the sequel and it's actually better than the first one. Raine's character seemed a little shallow in the first book; she's deeper now, and the predicaments she's in feel more tangled and harder to solve. And it's still a lot of fun, with fascinating worldbuilding, solid plotting, and the sexual tension ratcheted up to ever more delicious levels. The narrative snarkiness seems a little toned down too, or maybe I've just gotten used to it. I definitely can't wait for the next book to come out.

(The only reason I'm not putting this one on my recommended list is because I make it a point to list only one recommended book per author. Hey, you have to have rules or the world will end!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Now for gawd's sake sleep

Yes, I know, this is my fourth post today. Or third, maybe. Hell, I'm running on four hours' sleep here from last night. I'm lucky I can still type.

I just finished Tinker by Wen Spencer. The first third or so was great. Then it sort of devolved. I saw the big transformation coming, hoped I was wrong, wasn't wrong, and almost gave up on the book in disgust. Instead I read another 200 damn pages, skimming all the boring SF techie stuff and all the boring fantasy elf stuff, and the ending was just a stupid fight. I got very annoyed with the Mary Sueish character of Tinker and the author's blatant plot-steering.

You know what? I liked Magic Lost, Trouble Found a whole lot more than this book. There's a sequel to Tinker. No thanks. There's a sequel to Magic Lost, Trouble Found. I can't wait until I can read it.

One interesting thing about Tinker, though, is that it was set in a version of Pittsburgh, PA. It just happens that my only foray out of the south was to Pittsburgh, or to the little town of Ambridge near Pittsburgh, where I lived for almost two years. It was weird whenever the book mentioned places like the strip district or the various rivers surrounding the city, because I knew exactly what was being described and could picture it. No mention of Ambridge, but at least Sewickley got a shout-out.

Story sale to MindFlights!

Much to my surprise, I just got an acceptance from MindFlights! It's one of those slam-dunk moments, because they were the first market I sent the story to. Call it a case of researching the right market very carefully, particularly since this story, "Gaming Real Life," is hard to categorize.

So I've updated my pitiful website to reflect the sale. I'm very impressed by the Double-Edged Sword submissions process--it's all completely automatic, right down to the contract! I like getting a contract immediately after acceptance.

This afternoon at work, guy-who-looks-just-like-Alex came in again, which delighted me almost as much as selling a story. He's changed his hair so he looks less like Alex than before. That's probably a good thing.

Permanent Flinch, Tinker so far, and lack of sleep

We're finally getting rain here--finally. It's a gray, rainy morning and I only got about four hours' sleep, so despite my massive caffeine intake, I still find myself staring out with the window with glazed eyes, listlessly humming "Don't Know Why." And yes, I'm at work. Apparently we have low standards for alertness here.

Why did I get four hours of sleep? Because I'm reading Tinker by Wen Spencer and I finally made myself put it down at about 11:30 pm, knowing if I stayed up any longer I'd end up staring out the window etc. But the book has hooked me so badly that I ended up not being able to sleep anyway, because I couldn't stop thinking about it. I should have just stayed up to read, but I'm only about halfway through and it is a pretty damn thick book.

So far I like it a lot, although it's SF and not fantasy (although the cover and the little word "fantasy" on the spine would pretend otherwise). It's much more intense and dark than I usually like my books. If you take a look at my recommended list over there, you'll see I tend to prefer lighter reading. Tinker reminds me a lot of Cherryh's Angel with a Sword, which I also liked although the ending infuriated me, to the point that I haven't read anything else by Cherryh. I certainly hope that this book doesn't let me down that badly.

Tinker is in the category of books that I read in a permanent flinch, because I just know Something Truly Awful is going to happen to the main character soon. Elizabeth Bear's writing is like that, which is why I have yet to finish one of her books. It's not that I want to read flavorless books where nothing much happens except that the protagonist Realizes Something Important somewhere around page 300. I think I just want the protagonist to be more than flotsam in the plotstream. Permanent-flinch books always seem to be about soulless societies (one way or another) and the Little Guy who's caught up in events beyond his or her control--and the events stay out of his/her control, no matter what he/she does, because it's a soulless society that doesn't care about the Little Guy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Unfantasy names

I just realized how mean I am to my female characters. I give them horrible names. Witness these names taken from recent stories--and these are all central characters:


Now a similar list of male names, all of them taken from the same stories as the names above:


While I do like some of the women's names in the list above, I like all of the men's names, with the possible exception of Harris. I don't know what this says about me, but here's something else: most of the women's names were chosen because they sounded flat-footed. And I write fantasy. I wonder if I might be trying too hard to avoid allegations of Mary Sueing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nano uhoh

I've written 1,200 words today, which is 1,200 words more than I wrote all weekend. Unfortunately, I wrote the first 1,200 words of Charmed Circle, which I was saving for Nano.

Well, so what? This is the fourth year I've done Nano. I can bend the rules if I want. And after my rigorous attention to the 3-day novel contest rules, and my dropping wordcounts lately, I don't see any reason not to let myself write before November.

I'm probably only going to write the short first chapter, anyway. It'll set everything up for the plot, and then I can work on the outline. Then I'll write 50,000 more words during Nano, and hopefully finish the book before the end of the year. Since I want this one to run at least 80k words, starting early only makes sense.

Besides, I'm going to pour everything I have into this project. If Evil Outfitters, Ltd. doesn't get me an agent, this one will.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thrones, Dominations

I've been reading the Dorothy Sayers/Jill Paton Walsh book Thrones, Dominations, which Sayers never finished and Walsh was commissioned to write from Sayers' notes. I'm not finished with it and may not continue.

It's not that the book is bad, but it's not really very good. And it's not a murder mystery. I'm to chapter six now--89 pages in--and there's no hint of a body hitting the floor any time soon. That's not all that unusual for Sayers; in fact, I can never even remember if Gaudy Night even has a murder, much as I love the book and as many times as I've read it. The mystery in Gaudy Night (and to some extent Busman's Honeymoon) takes a back seat to Sayers' literary romance between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They're delicious books, wonderful in every possible way.

I wish I could say the same about Thrones, Dominations, but so far I'm disappointed. It's not a murder mystery, and it's not a literary romance. It's a historical novel trying to seem literary. It doesn't matter if the parts I've read were penned by Sayers or Walsh (if it's Sayers, I strongly suspect most of it would have been cut from the final draft), the book goes into such minutiae of the times--furnishings, clothes, fashions--and the minutiae takes such a central role, that this is flat out a historical novel and nothing more.

One thing I'm finding frustrating is the constant viewpoint shifts. Sayers did this frequently, but the central characters were always Peter and/or Harriet, depending on which novel you read. So far, the first 89 pages of Thrones, Dominations have very little of either Peter or Harriet and too much of lots of other people, none of whom show the least sign of being murdered. The writing is good enough to keep me reading past the third chapter mark (where I usually allow myself to abandon a book if I'm not enjoying it enough), but it's just not engaging me on any level beyond light curiosity as to who is going to die or if maybe no one will. In which case, why am I reading this book, since it doesn't seem to have a plot?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"To be read" pile down by one

I just finished Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin, and I really liked it. I didn't expect to, to be honest. The whole first chapter had me almost putting the book down repeatedly--it was pretty much two lines of dialogue, one paragraph of exposition, over and over, to the extent that I actually wondered if maybe I'd picked up a sequel instead of the first book in a series. But after the first chapter, things improved.

I love Shearin's worldbuilding, and the plot is solid. Raine Benaris, an elven seeker--she finds things people want found and other people want to remain not found--stumbles upon an amulet of unimaginable power, which links itself to her with near-fatal results. She can't take the amulet off, it's feeding her new magical skills she doesn't want, and she's attracting the attention of lots of unpleasant people as a result.

The book reminds me inescapably of Jim C. Hines's short story "Blade of the Bunny," oddly enough. It's got the same light tone, bantering and not-entirely-honest good guys, and a dangerous item. That's fine in a short story, but at times while reading Magic Lost, Trouble Found, I really wished for more depth of character. I also found the chicklitty, streetsmarty narration a little tiresome.

But it's a fun book, and I just put the sequel in my shopping cart over on Amazon. And now I'm going to go update the recommended books list over there. --> (Even though I also have to go rewrite part of the masquerade scenes in Stag in Velvet because I dressed the king in a peacock costume, and everyone will think I copied.)

Friday, October 3, 2008


Instead of writing today, I cruised Mr. and Ms. Internets. To prove to myself that this wasn't a waste of time, here's the best of what I found in my trawl:

Leigh Dragoon's What Will Totally Happen If Gay Marriage Is Legalized
hysterically funny!

Ten Epic Fantasy Themes We Don't See Enough by N.K. Jemisin
scientific rigor, yes! If more writers wrote with this list in mind, I might be able to stomach epic fantasy again.

Booksquare's From Print to E, Some Items to Consider
and Dear Author's 10 Things Epublishers Should Do for Readers
And I know I read another article about ereaders that was great, but I didn't write down the URL and can't remember where I found it.

Oh, I almost forgot one! Scalzi's Schadenfreude Pie!

My work here is done. I had planned to go to an early Nano writer's group meeting this evening, but I forgot about it and told Mom I'd help her with some last-minute stuff--the movers are coming tomorrow.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Saving the world from killer oranges!

I spent two solid hours scraping gummy old linoleum glue off the dining room floor in my mom's new house, because rather than put new tile down she wanted to showcase the house's original stone tiles. We got some paint stripper stuff that smells sort of like oranges...oranges that would kill you if you ate them. It works, but only with a lot of scraping (with gloves on, to negate the oranges' evil powers). Oddly enough, the activity seems to have helped my leg, even though it hurt like the dickens at the time. Hopefully I'll sleep better tonight.

Pretend I put a clever transition here. I'm stuck about what to do with my Nano book. Maybe you all can help me decide which project to choose!

Project #1, crappy working title Strange Beasts from the Fabled Lands or some such.
Quenton last-name-not-chosen is the king's retired animal handler; in his youth, he captured African animals for the king's menagerie and raised them successfully. Now he's looking forward to his first grandchild's birth and wants nothing more than to spend his remaining days breeding fancy cockatrices. But the new king drags him out of retirement to sail on a newfangled (yet apparently haunted) steamship to the fabled lands, to gather animals--and information.

Project #2, Charmed Circle
Set in an alternate-world 1920s Britain. Twenty-year-old Grace lives with her uncle, the noted lepidopterist, and spends her time playing lawn-tennis with her friend Dottie. When Dottie falls for a social activist and chases after him to London, where she takes work as a kitchen general to prove herself to him, Grace is aghast. She follows her with the excuse of a job at a company owned by a wizard friend of her uncle's. Nefarious plots ensue, with jazz.

Project #3, untitled fourth book in the Weredeer series
Weredeer Kristof contracts a terrifying disease called the ruin, which stops him from being able to control when he changes bodies. His adopted brother Gabe, an apprentice healer, is convinced the disease is magical in nature, and they head into the high mountains in search of magical herbs. When they find the person who seems to be responsible for the ruin, though, a magical accident throws them into the clutches of a powerful enchantress--400 years in the past.

I could easily work up an outline for any of these three. Which of them sounds like the best Nano project to you? ETA: Or I could just wing it this year and see what happens! Hmm.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Books and furniture

My books came today! There's not much better in life than opening a box full of brand new books. I want to read them all first.

I helped Mom move some furniture to her new house yesterday and managed to wrench my left hip something fierce. A woman at work says my symptoms sound like the time she bruised her bursa, which I thought was some foreign article of clothing. Maybe that's burka. Anyway, it hurts when I move my leg any way except carefully forward or backward, as in walking, and I feel like an idiot because I'm limping as if I want attention when it's just a bruise or minor strain or something. Stupid furniture.