Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review; 2000s in review

Here we are at the end of 2009. It went really fast. I think it went so fast we skipped over some days in there somehow. I'd like them back, please.

I did pretty good this year, all told. I met a lot of my writing goals and came close to meeting most of the others. Here were my goals for 2009:

land an agent
sell a novel
sell a novel to a major publisher (i.e. one which will get my books on shelves)
sell at least four short stories
sell a story to a SFWA pro market
write at least six short stories (flash doesn't count)
write at least two novels
finish writing White Rose

Now obviously I didn't get an agent or sell a novel to a major publisher, and I abandoned White Rose as not worth finishing pretty early in the year. I also didn't make a sale to a SFWA pro market (I might have done better if I'd actually submitted stories to pro markets more than I did). I did, however, sell a novel to Double Dragon, sold 13 short stories, wrote five short stories and five flash stories, and wrote two novels (Blood and Taxes and Bell-Men).

I most regret not finishing my "read 50 books in 2009" goal. I only read 47, which isn't bad, and if you count rereads then I easily passed the goal. Next year I'll read more.

As for the whole decade, it's been good. I started selling stories in 2007 after never having a piece of fiction published before then. I sold Jack of All Trades, my first published novel, which came out this September. I've got my own website and a new book review blog. I feel like my writing has improved in leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I feel part of a small writerly community online, which is particularly awesome (thanks for letting me play with you, guys!).

And in my personal life, two of my three nephews were born in the oughts, I gained my M.Ed, and I have a decent job with good benefits. I've had losses (two grandparents, an uncle, an aunt, my beloved dog, and one of my cats all passed away this decade), but they were balanced by the good things in life. I've seen good movies and read good books. I've had fascinating conversations with intelligent people. I met Terry Pratchett and got him to sign a book for me. I went to my first convention and loved it. In short, it's been a very good decade.

I fully expect the 2010s to be even better. Here's to the next decade, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not quite there.

Well, okay, it doesn't look like I'm going to read three books by the end of the year. It also doesn't look like I'm going to write that elusive sixth short story for the year. And while I'm still hoping to get the Bell-Men rewrites done before the end of tomorrow, it's certainly not done yet despite my best efforts last night and this afternoon. Dammit.

On the other hand, I did do laundry today and cleaned out my closet, which was sort of full of shoes and clothes I haven't worn in a year or more.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No sleep till 'the end'

I absolutely wasted yesterday. I wrote two paragraphs of a new story and then just stopped. I had all freaking day to write and I didn't do anything!

Then--probably due to guilt--I couldn't sleep last night. I got up this morning annoyed with myself and decided I'm going to finish the Bell-Men rewrites today. If I don't get that finished, I get to deal with another sleepless night, and you know how I love my sleep.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The decade in film

In spring of 2000 I bought a "Movie Journal" at a book store. It's a nifty spiral-bound book with lots of pages to fill in. The first section is "Film Log" with a place to indicate the movie title, date viewed, what kind of movie it is, and what I thought about it. Other sections of the journal are for Sneak Previews, Trivia, Museums, Autographs, and so on. But I've just used it for reviews. For every movie I've seen in the theater since April of 2000.

I should point out also that between November of 2005 and February of 2007 I wrote a weekly movie review for a local newspaper, so that I saw almost twice the number of movies than usual during that time. But let's look at the overall statistics!

# Movies I watched in the theater between April 2000 and December 2009: 247
# of these movies that were animated: 58
# of these movies I hated so much I walked out early: 5

Here's how I liked the movies I saw this decade:
# I loved: 99
# I thought were okay: 90
# I hated: 58

I'm actually surprised I only saw about 250 movies this decade (it feels like a lot more), and I'm surprised that I loved so many of them. I guess I choose wisely most of the time.

Animation has really changed over the last ten years. The first movie I reviewed in my journal was "The Road to El Dorado," of which I wrote, "Good animation but weak story." The next few animated movies I saw in 2000 were "Dinosaur" ("Frankly, I am tired of CGI") and "Titan AE" ("Okay to very good animation, though heavily rotoscoped"). If you saw "Dinosaur" you probably wish you hadn't--it was all computer animated and beautifully done for its time, but dull as dishwater, with talking dinosaurs and a main character who could do no wrong. Most animation in 2000 was still traditional hand-drawn animation. Now that's unusual. Yesterday I saw "Avatar" ("Meh"), which I don't count as an animated movie, but which uses the same technology Pixar and co. use. And it's pretty much seamless. It just goes to show how sophisticated computer animation has become. The same with "Where the Wild Things Are," an amazing movie ("Odd and honest, with the keenest view of real childhood that I've ever seen") that used computer animation to fully animate the wild things' mouths so they'd seem more realistic. They do seem realistic. I forgot I was watching people in giant furry suits.

I'd like to say that movies are getting better, but they're not. I'm just getting savvier, I think, when it comes to Nicholas Cage movies. I used to see them all. Now I pick and choose carefully. (I'm definitely going to see "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" next year, though).

In looking through my journal, I find entries for movies I've completely forgotten. I can't even remember what they were about. 2002's "Sum of All Fears"? I wrote "Very good--not too tense but very, very riveting." Apparently I liked it a lot, but I can't remember it now. 2003's "View from the Top"? I wrote, "The plot seemed to meander without really taking off and the writing just tended to the pedantic and obvious." I don't remember. I don't remember at all.

I'm also fascinated with the way my take on a movie changes. I fill in my little journal entries as soon as I can after watching the movie. Take a movie like "Shrek," which I adore and have seen a thousand times now; I initially wrote, "Fun once, although I can't see watching it over and over." And about the movie "War of the Worlds," which I loathe now, I wrote, "Really tense and well-done." (Of course, I also added, "Tom Cruise is the King of Tards.")

I can't possibly pick a best movie out of the list of almost 250--there are far too many I loved. I'll just give a few shout-outs to movies that were excellent but didn't really catch on, together with my original journal entry:

"The Life Aquatic" (viewed 12/29/04)
Really dark but often hysterically funny. The story took some time to really get started, but it wasn't a bit predictable. Lovely deadpan, quirky humor, and excellent acting!

"Mad Hot Ballroom" (viewed 7/14/05)
Excellent documentary, really sweet and feel-good without seeming contrived. Really articulate, talented kids!

"Good Night, and Good Luck" (viewed 11/6/05)
Powerful and claustrophobic. Superb acting and writing! Watching--and enjoying--movies like this one reminds me I'm a grown-up.

"3:10 to Yuma" (viewed 9/15/07)
Really surprisingly good, particularly surprising since I don't love westerns and I'm not a fan of either main actor.

"Be Kind Rewind" (viewed 2/24/08)
Not what I expected--better, in fact. It had a deliberate pace that worked well contrasted with the homemade movies' frenetic feel. Sweet and well acted, too.

"Ponyo" (viewed 8/15/09)
Best animated movie of the year. Period. Brilliant, gorgeous, charming, and the kids in the audience loved it.

And to finish us off, here's the entry for a movie I really, really didn't like.

"King Arthur" (viewed 7/11/04)
A failed attempt at a heroic LotR clone, the sort of movie where you can tell who the bad guys are because they have bad teeth--except they didn't even manage that detail. Everyone had good teeth. And let's not even talk about the spunky Guinevere, a woman whose teeth appear to be too big for her mouth, and who goes to battle wearing a leather strap and a lot of make-up. *shudder*

So what were your favorite movies of the oughts?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bad dreams all night

I dreamed last night that I overslept for work and didn't get up until 2pm, and then I had to call in to explain my absence, so I called the office and pretended I had laryngitis. When I woke for real, it was 7am and my mom was pounding on my door so I would get up and go shopping with her. I was dressed and downstairs within ten minutes. My mom said, "Congratulations, you are now a bonafide member of this family." Then we hit all the after-Christmas sales.

Christmas was awesome here. I hope it was for you too if that's what you celebrate; if you celebrate something else, I hope it is/was awesome too. I got seven books and a pair of pajamas for Christmas, which is my idea of utter bliss.

Oh, and Mom and I saw the Sherlock Holmes movie today. It's terrific. I highly recommend it!

Tomorrow I've got to help clean up the house and I want to finish reading the book I'm in the middle of (Dr Shuker's Casebook by Karl Shuker, which is absolutely wonderful). If I have time, though, I plan to finish my stupid never-ending rewrites of Bell-Men. And on Monday I'm going to write a short story if it kills me. Hopefully it won't kill me, because I've got all these great books to read before I die.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our heroine becomes revoltingly domestic

I woke up this morning thinking, "I need to take the butter out of the fridge so it can warm up."

This morning I spent almost four hours knitting. I'm not a fast knitter, but I got most of the neighbor's dog-hair scarf done (it helps that I'm using size 11 needles). Then I had a quick lunch, changed into a shirt that wasn't covered with dog hair and my great-grandmother's apron, and made about six dozen sugar cookies. Mom took some to the neighbors (the other neighbors, not the neighbor I'm giving the scarf to) and some to our landlord and landlady, and some to choir, and the broken or burnt ones we're keeping to eat. Once I'd finished baking and had cleaned up the kitchen, I had a quick supper and changed back into my dog-hair-covered T-shirt and finished knitting the scarf.

Now I just need to wash and block the scarf in the morning, and once it's dried I'll take it over to the neighbor. Then I can RELAX because I have fulfilled all my current obligations.

Of course, today's schedule hasn't left me much time to read or write. Fortunately, I still have a few hours left before bedtime.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

26 questions

Anne Spollen has tagged me! I love her responses; hopefully mine will be half as interesting. If you think it would be fun to do this meme, you're tagged!

1) What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I wrote (which I'm still working on) is Bell-Men. The first thing I wrote that I still have...hmm, most of my really old stuff I've pitched long ago. I think I still have a copy of a (terrible) YA book I wrote in the late 1990s called The Rooftops of Simminee Soo. The title was the only good thing about that one. I've stolen the city's name for Little Sparrow, incidentally.

2) Write poetry?

Not anymore, not since college.

3) Angsty poetry?

Not anymore, not since college. :)

4) Favorite genre of writing?

Fantasy, definitely.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?

The annoying ones get cut and deleted from my brain, so I don't remember any.

6) Best plot you've ever created?

Ah. Ahahahaha, um. My plots are terrible.

7) Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

Plot twist? I do not understand this thing called a 'plot twist.'

8) How often do you get writer's block?

I don't think I've ever really had writer's block. I stress a bit when I'm not writing, but I've recently come to realize that I need recharge time after finishing a project or two. I may not be actively writing, but I'm still working on some level.

9) Write fan fiction?

Ew, no. I find the concept of fanfiction distinctly icky, like watching someone wank off. Maybe that's just me.

10) Do you type or write by hand?

Both. Sometimes if I feel stuck on a project, switching to longhand seems to help. I also like writing longhand because I do an editing pass as I type without feeling like I'm editing.

11) Do you save everything you write?

Usually. Even the awful, unfinished stuff tends to have parts I like. I sometimes crib ideas from retired stories, so it's helpful to have old documents on the computer to look over. Of course, the really old stuff is all gone--and good riddance, frankly. I probably ought to do another purge.

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

Sometimes, but it rarely works the second go-around if it didn't work the first time.

13) What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

I love it all until I hate it--how's that? I (alone in all the world, apparently) love The Weredeer and I absolutely adore The Taste of Magic even though it's received 18 agent rejections. I'm less sure about Bell-Men, probably because it's still in progress, but it's the most commercial thing I've ever written.

14) What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?

I have no earthly idea. People seem to like Jack of All Trades.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

No, but that's next on my to-do list.

16) What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Secondary worlds. I very rarely set stories in the real world. It's boring, and I have to do research.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Just one, Bell-Men, although considering how often I catch myself thinking about other pending projects, I suspect I'm actually working on several. I'm just only adding actual words to Bell-Men.

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?

It's sad that I had to think about this one. No.

19) What are your five favorite words?

I've been sitting here for several minutes trying to think of just one. I don't get stuck on favorite words the way I used to. If I did have favorite words, no one would know because I would edit them down to one--maybe two--uses per novel-length project.

I like writing about snow.

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?

Ana from The Taste of Magic. She's enough like me that I keep nervously doing the Mary Sue checklist to make sure she hasn't fallen into the Mary Sue puddle.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?

I have no idea. I usually start with a vague idea for what the story needs, find a name I like, and then start writing. It all evolves organically from there. Sometimes I don't like the character I've created, which means the whole project is dead. Fortunately that doesn't happen very often, especially not recently.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?

I've written three stories based on dreams. Two of them have sold after major huge extensive rewrites, and the third has not sold despite major huge extensive rewrites. Never again!

23) Do you favor happy endings?

Oh, definitely! I just want my characters to deserve those endings.

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Yes, although it's sort of second nature for me and I don't stress about it much as a result.

25) Does music help you write?

Not really. When I'm writing, I tune everything out so I don't hear any music playing.

26) Quote something you've written.

From Bell-Men:

I heard Patience scream and looked back into the main room. I didn't see any dogs, but a bell-man had cut Patience’s throat and was standing over her limp body, hacking at her neck with a knife nearly big enough to qualify as a small sword. I stared in horror as he sawed through her spinal cord and severed her head entirely.

I covered my mouth with both hands to keep from screaming. I thought I would puke. I thought I would faint. The bell-man straightened up, covered in blood, holding the head in one hand and the knife in his other. He saw me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Having the file open doesn't equal working

Well, here it is the shortest day of the year. Assuming the sun comes up tomorrow as planned, we're on our way to summer.

I've had Bell-Men open on my computer all day, but I think I've only written about 500 words. This is not how I'd planned to spend my holiday. I may take a spiral notebook to bed and write the old-fashioned way. I bet I could get a thousand words in easy before I get bored and decide to read someone else's book.

Speaking of other people's books, I bought a Harlequin Intrigue at Goodwill today for 50 cents. You thought I was kidding when I said I was considering writing one, didn't you? Assuming I can gag my way through it (I had trouble forcing myself to pick one up; the titles revolted me so much I kept shying away), I'll see if I can manage to write one. Since I suspect my writing strength is characterization and my writing weakness is plot, I should be pretty good at writing romance. Also, I get to pick a pseudonym and that's always fun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Plying love

I realized today that I've spun nothing but dog hair this year. Not that I've done much spinning at all; in addition to the neighbor's dog hair I've only spun up my uncle's Golden retriever's fluff that he saved from when the dog was a puppy.

Next year I'm going to spin a lot more than I did this year. It takes a long time, but I do love the result. This evening I plied some of the neighbor's dog hair that I've been spinning. It was awful to spin--really short staple, full of guard hairs and VM*, and coarse and ugly. But once I had it plied and wound off onto the niddy-noddy, I wanted to hug it. I love the way newly-plied yarn looks. And after I washed the yarn in four changes of warm water, the first two with generous dollops of (expensive and hard to acquire here) Kookaburra Woolwash, it looked even better and smelled much better too.

While I was tearing the house up today looking for my ballwinder, I found a lot of wonderful fiber I forgot I had--silk and mohair, wool and cashmere. I can't wait to get started spinning it.

Um, this post had nothing to do with writing. So I'll just mention that I have been working intermittently today on Bell-Men and it's at 118,500 words. I'll be cutting probably 8,500 words after I've finished the rewrite, but it's still going to end up way long. I'm not sure if that's good or not.

*VM=vegetative matter, in this case mostly burrs

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Small press books

Well, we didn't get any snow after all. It just turned back into rain and melted. That was after Mom and I rushed out in excitement to the store and bought marshmallows, Hershey bars, brownie mix, and hot dogs--in case we were SNOWED! IN!--and the clerk said she wished she could come home with us.

A lot of folks are talking about supporting small presses, which has made me think about it too. I haven't been too good about that this year. I don't read a lot of short fiction so I don't have any subscriptions to anything, but I did order a few anthologies this year, notably the excellent 52 Stitches antho. I also ordered and very much enjoyed Catherine J. Gardner's chapbook "The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon."

Mostly, though, I supported small presses this year by buying books. At the moment I'm reading The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan, which I started earlier this year but never finished (I was probably distracted by something shiny). So far I'm really enjoying it; it's taking off in unexpected directions, which I like.

I've read several other small press books this year, and I hate to say it, but I have not been terribly impressed. I blogged (twice) about Nathalie Mallet's book The Princes of the Golden Cage, but I never mentioned how little I liked Anne Logston's Shadow because, you know, I'm not cruel. I did enjoy Emily Veinglory's Father of Dragons, but that was the bright spot in the small-press offerings this year.

I don't want to think small press books are on the whole of a poorer quality than the books big commercial publishers release (my own Jack of All Trades came out this year from a small press, and I have another book coming out in 2010 from another small press)--but of course they are. The good stuff is there, but it's harder to find. That just means it's important to look harder (oh, and read Aaron Polson's new review blog that focuses on small presses).

In 2010 I vow to read at least ten books published by small presses. That's support where it counts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow splats

I'm home! I'm off work until January 4! And it's snowing!

Actually, it's not exactly snowing. Rain is falling along with what Mom calls "snow splats," big drops of rain mixed with sleety snow. We might get some snow tonight or we might not. Except that snow will ruin the family's plans to get together at my aunt and uncle's house, I don't care what the weather does--because I don't have to go to work!

I've got a lot I want to do while I'm off work, like read five books and write at least one short story (which will finish off a couple of 2009 resolutions). I also want to finish the Bell-Men rewrites. I really should have finished them by now, but I'm very, very close to the end. I think I can get it before the end of the year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Finals week is killing me

I used to update almost every day. I used to have time to read other people's blogs too. Funny how the end of the semester still gets me even though I'm not taking classes. I guess that's the way it is when you work in a college.

(That sounded like a punchline, but it wasn't funny.)

I'm still lacking six books in my "read 50 books in 2009" challenge. I think I may have to pick up six really thin YA/MG books to make it, although after this week I'm off work until the new year! Maybe I can settle in next week and read and read and read. Er, no, wait--I have to spin and spin and spin up the nice old neighbor's dog hair and then knit and knit and knit it into a muffler to give it to him for Christmas, and at this rate that's going to take every spare minute of my time since right now I only have enough fur spun up to make a doll's muffler.

I've had this fur for an entire year, too. I have absolutely no excuse for leaving it so late.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Support Tu Publishing

This one has received the imprimatur of Boing Boing, so it might very well reach its funding goal. I've been keeping an eye on it for a week or so and finally donated.

Tu Publishing is a going to be a multicultural publisher of SF, fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction for children and young adults. That's an awesome goal, and the founder, Stacy Whitman, has worked as an editor for Wizards of the Coast and other publishers. She knows what she's doing. She's also pleasantly low-key about the whole multicultural thing. It's not a militant view; she just wants to publish books with characters who aren't all white, with settings that aren't all America, with viewpoints that aren't all the same. I think this is awesome.

I just donated $15--you can donate any amount you like, using Amazon's pay service (just like you were ordering books through Amazon). They have gifts available if you donate over a certain amount. Moreover, if they don't reach their goal of $10,000 by the end of this week, your card/account won't be charged for the donation. Currently they're 50% toward their goal, and I know they were only 40% toward their goal yesterday because I dropped by to see. Hopefully they'll make it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quitcher bitchin

There's a link going around to a Salon article by an anonymous writer talking about how difficult it is to be a midlister. It's an interesting article, but by the end of it, I was frankly fed up with anonymous writer. Basically, she's upset because her first book got her a six-figure advance but didn't do well, and her next three books have gotten her smaller and smaller advances--barely five figures!--and only one has earned out, and that one that's earned out was the smallest advance of all, and she's all sad because she's had to take a day job.

Excuse me while I tune up the world's tiniest violin.

I think big advances are a big problem. Agents push for them because they get paid right away, writers want them because hey, money!, and publishers--well, I have no idea why publishers offer bloated advances. I do know that the higher the advance, the longer a book takes to earn out. Duh. That was fine back in the olden days when only, like, four books were published every year and they stayed on bookshelves for decades before being returned and remaindered. Things move a lot faster now. Oh, and there's a recession on.

So no, I'm not very sympathetic to an author who's written four books in two decades and is whining because she finally has to get a day job. My advice: write more books and branch out into genre fiction if you really want to keep the money coming in. In the meantime, I'll be cranking out one or two books a year and hoping to eventually sell one to a big publisher and get a low four-figure advance. I won't be able to quit my day job, but I never expected to.

My thoughts mesh beautifully with Aaron Polson's post today about short fiction pay rates, incidentally. Also, I'm seriously considering writing one of those cheesy category romances. Apparently that's where the money's at, if you write enough of them. The advances are low, but they almost always earn out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Today was made of suck

I'm really surprised I haven't gotten a rejection today, since everything else has gone wrong. I guess it helps sometimes to have just one story out.

We're supposed to get a little bit of snow overnight or tomorrow morning--like, less than an inch, but that's exciting! because it's snow! in December! If we do get snow here, it's almost always in late January or early February. The last several years we haven't had any snow to speak of at all, but it's been so rainy this year that I'm hoping we'll have at least one day where we get a few inches of accumulation (even if it melts the next day, as it always does).

If it snows a whole lot overnight, they might close the college where I work, which means I would be able to sleep in tomorrow morning. Since I've been staying up way too late all week to read, I could really use a sleeping-in day. I suspect lack of sleep may have contributed to my rotten day. (Oh yeah, you think?)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

That odd paradox

If I didn't have to work, I'd be able to spend all day writing, right? Except that on days when I'm off work, I usually actually spend less time writing than on days when I do have to work. And that's one of the reasons why I'll probably never quit my day job*.

I haven't typed up what I wrote longhand today, but I probably cleared 1,000 words on my Bell-Man rewrites. I'm about to link to a scene that's already written, which encourages me. Of course, then I have to rewrite the entire climax of the book from scratch, and I'm not sure what precisely I want to happen. I just know I want it to happen a lot better than it happened the first time around.

*Other reasons include health insurance, steady paychecks, and the fact that no one's paying me all that much money for my writing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

everything here smells like skunk

Finally, November is over. NaNo is over. I may change my mind next year, but I don't think I'll be doing NaNo again--I've done and won five times now, and I don't really need it to keep me writing the way I used to. In fact, this year it was a bit of a detriment. I had to stop progress on Bell-Men to do NaNo; I could be done with the rewrite by now if I hadn't.

Oh well, it's all good. I'm closing in on the last of the Bell-Men rewrites. I expect to finish in another week or two, and then I can relax and do some reading before picking it up again for another editing pass.

Hey! I've about decided that the last week of December is going to have to be a short story frenzy write-in! I've only got one story out right now and I really need to write more. If you're interested in joining me, I might start a blog for it pretty soon so we've all got a place to congregate. Ideas welcome!

I didn't sell any stories this month--not a big surprise, since I only have that one story out. I wrote the abysmal The Dragon Whisperer, which needs a lot of work to make it readable. Maybe I'll make 2010 the year of rewrites and editing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Early new year's resolution

In 2010, I will lose all the weight I meant to lose last year, start calling myself Alexa Serpentine, and take up treasure-hunting as a career.

700 words until I "win" NaNo. It's slow going.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Me and the Bell-Men

My story "Fall or Fly" is up at Every Day Fiction! I've also got a guest blog post up at Flash Fiction Chronicles about the editing/rewriting process after a story's been accepted.

I've finished my NaNo book, such as it is--just 40,000 words, but I'm counting the new stuff I'm writing for Bell-Men on my NaNo count until the end of November. I shouldn't have any problem reaching 50,000 words total written this month, but I do feel like I'm cheating. Oh well.

I'm so glad to be back working on Bell-Men. It's so much better than my NaNo book! Of course, it also still needs an awful lot of work. The original ending was truly awful. I'm literally rewriting the entire last third of the book to improve the ending. As soon as I figure out how I'm going to actually end it this time, I can go back for an editing pass instead of a rewriting pass. I'm really looking forward to that phase. It means the book is almost finished!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Almost there...almost there...

Yes, okay, I'm not finished with my NaNo book yet. I've been writing steadily on it, though, working hard to wrap it up with a reasonable ending.

I reread the whole thing for the first time yesterday, and you know what? It's actually pretty good. That's the main reason why I decided to take a little more time to finish it; the beginning is so promising, and the follow-through not bad either, that it seemed a shame to rush the ending just to get it done. That's essentially what I did with Bell-Men, when I was trying to finish it before NaNo, and now I'm having to rewrite the last third of that book. I'd rather do a good job the first time.

Besides, I think I can finish tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting to those magic words

I've made it to about 32,000 words in my nano book. I'm really getting impatient with it. The writing is terrible, the story banal, the plot more of a plod. I like the main characters, but they never have engaged my imagination the way my best characters do.

So I decided today that I'm going to wrap it up as soon as possible. Tomorrow's my day off, so this is my goal: tomorrow I will finish my nano book. I won't get to 50,000 words, of course, but I'll get to "the end." Then I can go back to my Bell-Men rewrites and I'll just count any additional words I write on my nano count.

I like that idea! Cam has been really patient with me, especially considering that I left her in the middle of a scene where she's been kidnapped by vampires and she thinks all her friends have been killed, but she's getting really insistent about me getting back to her.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No books in November

I'm feeling much better today, so much better that I no longer loathe my NaNo book. Still, at lunch when I dragged my beat-up notebook out of my bag along with the leftover pizza, I had a wave of "oh hell, not now." So I tra-la put the notebook away and pulled out the paperback book I've been carrying around for weeks, Fritz Lieber's Swords & Deviltry.

I know, I know, I've been talking about reading it for probably two months now. I even started it in October, but before I could get more than a few pages in, suddenly it was November. I don't read much during NaNo. But today I read through lunch.

At first I couldn't really get into the book. It's a parody of those swords and sorcery books that were popular in the 60s and 70s, which I've never loved. But--about twenty pages in, I suddenly realized that I love this book dearly and want to read it until I'm done. That's going to make it hard to get a few thousand words in on my NaNo book tonight. And that's why I don't read much during November.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Other people suck (present company excepted)

I just went through my files to find an old story to rewrite or a WIP to finish that might catch my fancy. I'm so bored with my NaNo book that the mere thought of writing one single word on it today makes me want to take an axe to the computer. Alas, I can't find anything else I want to work on either.

I know, I know, I ought to go back and finish the rewrites for Bell-Men. But my current reluctance to write, and my loathing of my NaNo book, are directly related to stress. I'd just open up the Bell-Men document and reach for the axe too. Until my stress eases up (it's about work, and I'm hoping to get it resolved tomorrow, which I dread because it involves confrontation), I doubt I'll be racking up many words. It's infuriating that this is happening now, during NaNo, but at least now that I've figured out what the problem is, I know it's not the project itself that's failing to hold my interest.

You know what my idea of bliss is? Working for myself, by myself, without needing to deal with other human beings in person at all. Other people are self-absorbed jerks.

Of course you're not a self-absorbed jerk. It's all those other people.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Time to call in the evil clowns and cowboys and attacking robots! I've run out of plot. How do you run out of plot in a book that is so far only 23,000 words long and probably will be wrapped up by 35,000 words? I don't know, but I just managed it.

Of course I'm not entirely out of plot. The plotlines aren't resolved yet and the main character keeps getting into worse messes. It's just that I have the notebook in front of me and I'm staring at the next blank line thinking, "Now what? Nothing is happening. Nothing is about to happen. Unless I have May's breakfast brought to her by ninjas or something, there's a definite lack of things happening in the foreseeable future."

Maybe I'll just have the bounty hunter return and menace May for a little while. Except that he wouldn't do that when she's hanging out with a dragon. So I'd better get her away from the dragon. She really needs a bath and a change of clothes. Hehe, maybe she'll discover a bounty hunter spying on her then.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The hard parts of writing

Ideas are easy. Writing is easy, even though writing well may not always be. Even revisions are easy. No, the hard parts of writing are the parts no one ever tells dewy-eyed young writers about.

I just had to write another bio. I hate those things. How do I make a bio sound interesting but not amateurish, informative without being brusque? Answer: a lot of work. And I still probably failed.

Queries are hard. Synopses are hard. Sure, there are writers who like writing both, but there are some people who enjoy getting their heads run over by trucks. There's no accounting for taste. If I had to choose one or the other, queries are not quite as awful as synopses. Synopses are horrrrrrible.

Keeping track of contracts is not easy, no matter how organized a writer is. I have a big plastic file where I keep contracts, each one in its own folder, and on the front of the folder I write when I signed and sent the contract, when my copy of the contract was returned, when reprint rights become available, how much I'm being paid and when the payment was received, and whether I've received my comp copy. Thank goodness for manila folders.

Keeping track of submissions is simpler than it used to be because of Duotrope, but I never rely 100% on Duotrope. What if its server tanked tomorrow? I keep a binder with careful records of every submission I've made since 2007. I'm always having to refer to it.

Taxes. Taxes are really hard. This week I received my first, albeit tiny, royalty check for Jack of All Trades. Taxes this spring are going to be...interesting. As in "may you live in interesting times" interesting.

Networking and The Business is not as hard as writing a synopsis and can be fun, but it's complicated. This week alone I've written a guest blog about editing, posted a review on Skunk Cat Book Reviews (which I love to do and started for fun, but which is all part and parcel of writerly networking), written that bio and sent a photo for an anthology, read a short story proof and responded to that editor, and updated my blog.

Yeah, this blog. Updated!

Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm down to one active short story. I've either sold or retired everything else I've written. I have three stories forthcoming in different magazines, but that's it.

I hate writing short stories, but it's becoming obvious that I need to do just that. Once my nano book is finished and I'm done with the Bell-Men rewrites, I want to knuckle down and write some short fiction. It's either that or not sell anything next year, and I like selling stories. It makes me feel like a real writer.

Besides, when I get a really juicy idea for a short story, it's almost as fun to write as a book--with the added bonus of not taking very long. I just wish I got those juicy ideas more often.

Speaking of juicy short fiction, here are three you ought to read:

"Faith" by Aaron Polson
"The Revival" by Jeremy Kelly
"A Cause for Celebration" by Jameson T. Caine


I made it to 15,500 words on my nano book as of last night. Today at lunch May was having lunch too with a king and the maybe-pirate. For some reason, I decided that the meal was made up of three courses, each of them soup. I spent a paragraph describing the soups.

Today is gloomy and looks like rain. Maybe I'll make soup (just one kind) tonight and stare out at the melancholy rain and write.

Also, I just remembered with great joy that I have an unopened box of chocolate covered cherries at home.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Other people's enthusiasm

I got home from an exhausting day at work to find Mom waiting for me in the side yard. She looked so smug that I thought she'd done something crazy--bought that moldy house on Dogwood Road, maybe, or bought tickets to the Nutcracker even though she knows I loathe ballet. It just turned out that she'd passed the 25,000 word mark on her nano book while I was at work. I bought her a used copy of No Plot, No Problem on Thursday and it's revitalized her book. She talks about it all the time, in between asking me how my wordcount is going.

Not so good, actually. I've been sitting in front of the computer all evening, trying to dredge up enough enthusiasm for my own nano book to do more than type a few lines between tower defense games. I've managed to inch past the 12,000 word mark, but it is not going well. I'm bored bored boredboredbored with this story. I want to go back to Bell-Men.

I just have 38,000 words to write. I can do that on my head. Maybe if I remind myself how sweet it will be when I surpass Mom's wordcount and BEAT HER TO THE FINISH LINE.

Friday, November 6, 2009

1,061 words an hour

I have an hour for my lunch, and today (as I usually do) I pulled out my sandwich, chips, and spiral notebook to write while I ate. I figured I'd written maybe 500 words, but when I typed it up, I'd written 1,061 words. Nice! I didn't even realize I could write longhand that fast.

Of course it's rotten, wretched, horrible writing, and I suspect the next scenes are going to include a bounty hunter with a tame werewolf or something equally illogical, but it's engaging me reasonably well. I do intend to wrap it up right at 50,000 words when I get there instead of making this a full-length novel.

Mostly, I want to get back to my Bell-Men rewrites. Even when I'm actively writing The Dragon Whisperer, I catch myself thinking of the next scene I want to include in Bell-Men. That's where my interest really lies. Much as I'm enjoying hanging out with May and the maybe-pirate Petersen, I want to return to Cam and her troubles even more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too much math

I play the online game Kingdom of Loathing, and today I ran afoul of the Dwarven Factory Complex Puzzle. I've spent the last hour figuring out the code for which rune stands for which word--I got that part without too much trouble--and then struggling with converting the digit runes to real numbers and then from base-7 digits to base-10. *weeps hysterically* I can't do it. I simply can't do it.

Finally I gave up, because my eyes were glazing over and I was wasting time I could be using to type up today's handwritten NaNo pages. I don't like giving up on this sort of thing, but I know when I'm beaten. I'll try again after NaNo when I have more free time. So anyway, after I gave up I checked my email, and my editor at Ancient Tomes needs me to fill in a W-9 before she can figure my royalties for Jack of All Trades. I printed off the form and started to fill it out.

*weeps hysterically some more* I think the Dwarven Factory Complex Puzzle is actually easier than figuring out if I am an Individual/Sole Proprietor or an Exempt Payee. The Dwarven Factory Complex Puzzle fried my brain, but the IRS's W-9 form has fried my soul.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Writey write write

I dug in and wrote today, even though it's Tuesday and Tuesdays are my long days at work. I wrote longhand, so of course I had to type it all up when I got home. Considering that I had a lot of really important stuff to do when I got home, like play video games, I didn't get started typing until about an hour ago.

I typed over 2,000 words before I quit just now because I have to get to bed. And I didn't even finish typing up everything I wrote! I think I'll do okay in Nano this year after all.

The story is rocketing along. I really like the character of May. She's very different from any character I've ever written--tough, confident, practical, and stubborn--and she and her maybe-pirate boss snark at each other constantly, which is a lot of fun to write. The writing may not be first-rate, but I'm having fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No Name May

I've written 2,500 words on my new NaNo book. Sorry, Tiger, you've been kicked out of the NaNo club. Enter The Dragon Whisperer, which has managed to engage my interest. I may not have to give up in frustration after all!

I am having fun, oddly enough. Yesterday Mom and I took a two-mile walk down by the river and discussed our NaNo projects. We came up with enough of a plot for me to get started, and we both agreed that we needed to approach our projects without such grim determination.

My starting idea was: a woman who used to be famous for communicating with animals and making them do her bidding had to retire from the business when her ghost friend--whose ability she was using--vanished. Now she's been called out of retirement with an offer she can't refuse.

Within 500 words, I'd given the woman an interesting job in a shipping office. She's pretty sure her boss is a pirate. I immediately started to change the idea, morphing it into something that would allow the maybe-pirate to be involved. As of now, the maybe-pirate was injured when his ship ran aground during a storm, and he told the harbor authorities that the woman is his wife and she's just now gotten him home and is about to find out what he's up to. Fun!

On the other hand, you will notice that I have not named the poor woman. Her current name is _, which is not a name at all but a placeholder. I think she goes by May but it's short for something longer. This is the first time I've written this much into a book without knowing the main character's name. At least it's in first person, because otherwise the page would be sprinkled with underscores.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Only two months left in 2009!

Here is is, November 1, and I've written 800 words on my Nano book. I stayed up to midnight last night to start (since I was watching Ghost Hunters anyway). Those 800 words were like pulling teeth. I hate the story, I hate the setting, I hate everything about it. I suspect I'm going to pitch it and just start writing for fun. I never write for fun anymore; even my fun projects, like Bell-Men, are meant for publication. That's what Nano is for, after all: write and write and write, and have fun doing it even though at times it's hard. I think I'll just do this year's Nano book stream of consciousness style and see how it works.

For one thing, last night I dreamed I was stuck in a house that had me trapped. It was a magical house and I was its slave, keeping the magic going even though it meant I couldn't sleep or eat. I didn't mind, because I loved the house and I wanted it to be in good condition. I woke up feeling a little creeped out, because it's not a big jump to see that the house in my dream can easily stand for my writing career. I don't have to work 24/7. I can slack off and enjoy myself without trying to produce something I can necessarily sell.

Anyway, since we're sliding down the last hill toward 2010, I think I'll revisit my goals for 2009:

land an agent
sell a novel
sell a novel to a major publisher (i.e. one which will get my books on shelves)
sell at least four short stories
sell a story to a SFWA pro market
write at least six short stories (flash doesn't count)
write at least two novels
finish writing White Rose

Yes, BT, I know I can't control a lot of this. :) Still, I've done rather well in spite of my setting my goals way too high. I have sold a novel to Double Dragon--not a major publisher, but not a major novel either. I've sold far more than four short stories and written five (not counting flash). I've written two novels, Blood and Taxes and Bell-Men. I've already decided to jettison the last goal, since White Rose is pretty bad. If I'm going to write a bad novel, I should write it during Nano.

Since publishing grinds along so slowly, I think I can safely say I won't sell a novel to a major publisher in 2009. I'll push that goal, and the agent goal, to 2010. And I do have one story out to a SFWA pro market; we'll see how it does. I should hear just before the end of the year.

And now to The Baby Name Wizard, to pick out the name of my new Nano protagonist!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pay attention!

Here it is, the only picture of me you're ever likely to see here, at least without me half-hiding behind something. I don't like having my picture taken. Halloween, though--that's different. Here I am as a rather pleasant-looking witch (a costume I threw together from stuff I already had, when I realized the little kids are already out trick-or-treating):

That's my cat Saint Vincent I'm holding. And yes, I'm looking rather annoyed because Mom kept telling me to smile. I didn't want to smile. You can't tell from the picture, but I'm wearing orange and white stripey socks. Happy Halloween!

Do you have any Halloween pictures? Let's see them!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Just in time for Halloween

I just found out that my story "Voices" is up at Everyday Weirdness (actually it was up yesterday). You may recognize the influence on my fiction of me watching way too much Ghost Hunters. (Speaking of which, live show tomorrow night, woot! Yes, I'm spending Halloween night watching TV.)

ETA: My mom just posted on her blog about the naming of Skunk Cat Book Reviews, for your reading pleasure.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Review blog up

I've started my new book review blog, Skunk Cat Book Reviews, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing.

Two days and a few hours until NaNoWriMo, and I have made peace with the fact that I have no freaking idea what my NaNo book will really be about. Serenity now, serenity now. I have a title, what else do I need? Also I've already named my main character, so I don't have to sweat over that. Everything else will be pirates and ninjas, if necessary.

In book-reading news, I have just over two months left in the year and ten books left in my "read 50 books in 2009" thing. Since I won't be reading much in November, I'd better start sorting my to-be-read books by thickness again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Because I don't have enough to do

I've decided to start an informal book review blog, mostly so I can keep track of which urban fantasy books I've read and which ones only sound like ones I've read. Well, also I think it might be interesting. I'll probably recruit a few folks to post reviews too--I've asked my mom and she said sure, which is cool.

Anyway, I can't think of a title for the blog. I'm hopeless at titles no matter what I'm titling. Any suggestions? It's not going to be themed to a particular genre or anything.

As you can possibly tell, I'm deep in denial about Nano. Why yes, it's only three days away and I have no plot. Of course this is a great time to start a book review blog.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More words! More words!

I just found out today that my story "Orcs and Trolls" will be included in the Every Day Fiction 2009 Anthology! I really didn't think I'd be in this one, although I have two stories in last year's anthology, which you should totally order. Every Day Fiction will be publishing another of my stories soon, "Fall or Fly."

I wrote a bunch of new scenes for Bell-Men today. I need to type them up, but as of last night I was up to 94,500 words. I suspect I'm closer to 98,000 words today. Eventually I'd like to, you know, stop writing on it. On the other hand, the scenes today were fun to write. Cam got beat up a little (again, poor thing) and she retaliated by hitting the guy in the head with a glass paperweight. Yeah.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saving the world

Oh yeah, I have a blog, don't I? Maybe I should post.

I've been adding to Bell-Men this evening. There's a lot I want to change and add, which is worrisome. NaNo starts next Sunday! I don't even really know what Tiger's going to be about; I had planned to spend the week thinking about it, but Bell-Men won't let me go yet.

I've noticed that the Bell-Men plot is morphing into something more fantasy-ish than I originally had. I try and stay away from the "hero saves the world" fantasy plot, but it's hard to resist. I think "more is at stake than the hero initially realizes" is one of those tropes woven right into the fabric of the genre. Well, you know what I mean.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finally, I can read again

Mom gave me the new Terry Pratchett book for my birthday, Unseen Academicals, and I spent many lovely hours today reading it. It's awesome. I had to set aside Jim C. Hines's The Mermaid's Madness to read it, and in turn I had set aside Fritz Leiber's Swords & Deviltry to read that. I am surrounded by awesome books. And now that I'm done with Bell-Men, I can read them all muahahaha at least until NaNo starts next Sunday.

Next Sunday! And I'm already wondering if maybe I should throw out Tiger and write a YA story I have in mind instead--but I think I need to spend more effort worldbuilding and plotting and ultimately writing the YA story. Tiger is just a fun throwaway idea, perfect for NaNo.

And despite the reading, I find Bell-Men creeping into my thoughts frequently. The writing is solid, and the plot and pacing is good up to about 3/4 through. Then things feel rushed and the ending frankly sucketh mightily, with a bonafide deus ex machina. I'm already coming up with ways to fix all that. I wasn't intending to tinker with Bell-Men until probably January, but I suspect I'll be writing new scenes for it this week. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the final wordcount comes to 100,000.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Now I can stop yammering about it.

I finished The Bell-Men last night. Somewhere along the line, the working title stuck and I think I like it as the real title. I'm taking suggestions for improvements, of course.

The word count ended at 91,063, although that's already changed a bit. Because what did I do a few hours after I typed THE END? I opened the file again and started rereading it. I told myself I was insane, but actually, it's an important step. I'm going to set the book aside until probably January, but my brain will be working on it quietly until then. I need to know the shape of the book--its pacing, the characterization, the plot, etc.--to get a better idea of what needs to be fixed. Until this final readthrough of the draft, I don't have a sense of its weaknesses.

This reading also gives me the opportunity for a very light editing pass. I'm making final name changes (Thomas is now Tomas, a minor character Robert became Kilian), adding a line or two here or there to fix the flow, taking out a line or two that seem redundant, eliminating adverbs and adjectives, fixing typos and grammatical bobbles, and so forth. I actually like doing this. It makes me feel like I wrote a real book.

Once I'm done, I can start thinking about Nano! Only a week and a half!

Monday, October 19, 2009

What I will do if I finish Bell-Men today

I'm so close. Also, finally, I think I know how I'm going to end this thing. The only problem is getting butt in chair and bashing out the last five thousand or so words.

So: reward time! If I finish Bell-Men today, I will go out and buy a carton of Ben & Jerry's (I'm not sure what flavor, since they no longer seem to make The Gobfather, which is my absolute favorite). Then I will change into my pajamas, get into bed, and read Fritz Leiber's Swords & Deviltry while I eat as much ice cream as I can hold.

I guess I should change out of my pajamas first, huh?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's cold, and the virtue has gone out of everything.

Someone needs to tell Mother Nature that it doesn't get this cold in mid-October in the Tennessee valley. We had to turn the heat on today. I have my flannel sheets on the bed along with a heavy blanket and a comforter and five pillows, and I was still cold last night.

I've cracked 80,000 words on Bell-Men, but the words are a bit of a struggle today. I still don't know how the endgame is going to play out, and I don't have a whole lot of time remaining to figure it out before I have to actually write it. All I know is that it's about to start snowing where Cam is, because why the hell not?

I'm tempted to go to bed and watch a movie or something until I fall asleep, but I still have about 1,500 words to write on my self-imposed daily wordcount. Dammit.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

5k day

My 10k day turned into a 5k day, but I'm happy. It didn't really take me long to write 5,000 words, either, considering I didn't start until 1pm and took a lot of time off to do important stuff like drive into Oak Ridge for Big Ed's pizza (best pizza in the world, even worth risking Oak Ridge's ridiculous traffic cameras for, and the place hasn't changed since I was a kid).

I'm 77,500 words into Bell-Men. I'm to the "exhausted, miserable, want to finish" phase of the book. I spent half the afternoon weeping gently while I typed, because poor Cam is having such a rough time and I have no clear idea how I'm going to tie all the subplots and the main plot together without a deus ex machina.

I keep forgetting I've got Monday off work. I'm going to try my damnedest to finish the draft by the end of Monday.

That's not what I'd planned to do this morning.

Fifteen minutes after I dragged myself out of bed (late) and dressed, because I was determined to be efficient today and write 10,000 words, Mom came in and said she was having trouble with her new Sony Pocket ereader. Specifically, the Sony elibrary crap program was no longer able to put books on her reader.

I checked it out, and sure enough, it wouldn't. Microsoft ever so helpfully informed us that "A problem has caused the program to stop working." A problem. I love how they're so specific. Mom had found a workaround online, but when I tried it that didn't work either. I tried a few other things and nothing worked. Her $200 ereader was now a $200 paperweight.

She only bought the thing a few weeks ago, so she's now returned it and I've given her my ereader, which I haven't used much since I bought it this February. I'm disgusted with Sony, which can't even make its own software work properly, and I'm disgusted that I couldn't use Mom's reader on my computer because my reader was already registered to my computer. It's sort of like Sony is saying, "The reader you spent a small fortune on is not actually yours, and the books you bought in good faith are not actually yours, and while we're at it, we'll take that computer too." Lame. Sony's now on my shit list and frankly I'm already tired of my ereader, which had too many minuses for me to want to enjoy the pluses. I'll try again when the new generation of readers comes out, maybe next year.

In the meantime, I have all these paper books that work just fine and which I can reread and loan out and sell to a used book store if I like. In fact, I got my used copy of Fritz Leiber's Swords & Deviltry in the mail today. I've been wanting to read it for years but it's been out of print. I finally broke down and bought a copy, and if I weren't so close to finishing Bell-Men, I'd say bugger off to 10k day and just read instead. Lord knows I haven't written a single word all morning anyway.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WIP Wednesday: the end-game is nigh!

I just finished the day's 2,000 words on Bell-Men. I'm now 72,545 words in, which is a little over 10,000 words this week. That's a lot more than I thought I'd written, so I'm pretty pleased.

Tomorrow is a 10k day, which LMEighmy turned me onto. I have tomorrow off work since it's an ordinary Thursday, and I'm going to write as much as I can. I don't know if I can hit 10,000 words, but I'd be thrilled with just 5,000. I'm close enough to the end of Bell-Men that I think I can finish this week.

Let me say that again, because it's awesome to be able to write it: I THINK I CAN FINISH WRITING BELL-MEN THIS WEEK! Thank goodness!

Monday, October 12, 2009

This book's not going to finish itself

Last week I wrote 17,000 words on Bell-Men. I haven't counted up this week so far, but the count is pretty low. I don't usually get a lot done on the weekends--I seem to feel I have lots of time left, and then suddenly it's Monday morning--but good grief. 1,000 words over the weekend? Pathetic.

I've got around 20,000 words to go on Bell-Men. If I knuckle down, I can have the draft finished in another week or ten days. And since I'm running out of October, that's good.

So here's my solemn pledge. Let me raise one hand in the air, solemnly. For the next week, or until the draft's done, my minimum wordcount per day is going to be 2,000 words. If I miss the wordcount, I have to write an extra 1,000 words the next day.

Oh, and I'm going to start tonight. Since I've only written around 500 words today, I'd better get to work. Only five hours until midnight.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Let's kill some vampires

Okay, so Bell-Men has two types of vampires. One type of vampire is more or less traditional. You have to cut their heads off to kill them. I need to figure out how to kill the other type. Even the traditional vampires don't know.

Stakes are out--they just slow vampires down in this world. My imagination has dried up completely (or rather, it's shut down in the face of illogic--I mean, how could cutting someone's head off not kill them?). Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bee Zombies! They eat books!

Yes, I've been looking at the search terms that led people to my blog. "Bee zombie" is one, which absolutely charmed me. And if you Google "Embarrassing lines," my post of the same title comes up as the second hit currently. But embarrassing lines are not as cool as bee zombies.

I got my Amazon order today. Ten books go into the already overflowing "to be read" stack. Actually, it's a pile now, taking up valuable carpet space behind a chair in my room. It's full of lots of delightful books, absolutely wonderful books that I can't wait to read--but I can't read them now, I'm writing Bell-Men. I don't have time to read!

I've noticed lately that I've turned into an "in one gulp" reader. I've always tended to this, but lately it's just gotten worse: I'll start a book, and if I like it I read straight through and finish it as soon as possible, even if it means staying up half the night and acting like a zombie (or a bee zombie) the next day. I think that's a big part of why I prefer shorter books. But I didn't realize until today that I've also become an "in one gulp" writer. Witness my mad gallop through Bell-Men, where in roughly four weeks I've written almost 65,000 words. Any time spent not writing or thinking about Bell-Men is time wasted as far as I'm concerned, because I want to get it finished.

But after I finish, dammit, I'm going to read and read and read.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WIP Wednesday: Bell-Men

Last WIP Wednesday I was 45,000 words into Bell-Men. Now I'm 62,000 words in. 17,000 words is a pretty good week's wordage; pardon me a moment while I smirk.

I'll get to 65,000 words tomorrow even though--ick--I have to work unexpectedly. Usually I have Thursdays off. Then again, usually I waste my Thursdays-off by playing video games, hiking, watching TV, and reading other people's books. I'll miss the hiking, but I can go this weekend.

The pace of Bell-Men has picked up, although I've got a lot of ground to cover before the end of the book. At some point soon I'm going to have to sit down and map out the last few chapters. I have a handful of images and scene snippets I want to include, but I don't know how they all tie together. I suspect that on some level I do actually know where everything's headed because I keep dropping clues as I write, often without realizing what I'm doing until it's already on the page. Huzzah for subconscious plotting!

Monday, October 5, 2009

In public and everything

I've only written about 1,000 words today. I think I will force myself to write at least another 500 before bed.

But posting my wordcounts is getting boring even to me. Unfortunately, I absolutely cannot think of anything else to blog about. The weather isn't doing anything exciting, Vincent has not caught anything interesting lately (he did re-catch the skink a few days ago and I managed to get it outside, where presumably it immediately sought out a skink therapist to treat for PTSD), and my job is dullsville, man. I could tell you how interesting I found the book The Deer of North America by Leonard Lee Rue III that I read yesterday morning, and how I was excited to discover that it was an inscribed copy (I picked it up at a used book store), but I suspect no one but me wants to talk at length about the deer of North America. Even though really, it's an excellent book! It's full of esoteric information that I've never come across anywhere else despite searching for it actively while I was writing Stag in Velvet; for instance, I now know the typical gaits of deer, including average speed and length of stride while running, something I actually do need to know as a minor plot point. Also the book has lots of information I never would have dreamed even existed, like the fact that during the rut, stags masturbate. Yeah. There's even a picture.

Anyway, so I'm the most boring person in the world and I am reduced to blogging about masturbating deer. And I am very tempted to just erase the last couple of sentences, because I really really do not want to see the search terms that lead people to this post.

I'll try and do something interesting tomorrow.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I've wasted my whole weekend!

Maybe 'wasted' is a bit strong, but I'm not even quite at 55,000 words on Bell-Men and I'd planned on 60,000 by now. Cam's in the bell-men's world now and she's about to meet her first real vampires, and her first bell-men vampire hunters.

It should be interesting to write, but I'm finding it hard going. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's forcing me to do a difficult juggling act: not only do I have to keep the main plot and subplots going, but I'm introducing a lot of new stuff that could overwhelm the story if I'm not careful. I'm introducing new characters and settings with their own subplots that have to tie into the main story. The last thing I want is a feeling of disconnect for the reader when Cam leaves her world for the bell-men's. Also, I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to end this thing--and I need to figure it out soon, since I'm into the last third of the book now.

Incidentally, I found these lines incredibly fun to write:

Melody’s not with Shadow. He thinks some vampires have taken her. What are vampires?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard the word.

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's that time of year again!

I just updated my NaNo profile for 2009! If you're going to be doing Nano this year, hop on over and buddy me. I hope they've fixed the bug where the page only displays 11 of your buddies, because I love being able to see how other people are doing and race them.

I've tossed my hat in the ring for Tiger, an odd little idea I've had floating around for a while. I may end up changing my mind, but Tiger is the perfect kind of project for Nano--quirky, of questionable salability (I don't think that's the right word, but you know), and short.

Jack of All Trades was my 2007 Nano project, incidentally.

OMG say it ain't so!

I totally, seriously, truly got this email from
Amazon this morning.
Please, no one ever let me know if Jack of All
Trades is as bad as Vampirates.
Dear Customer,
We've noticed that customers who have purchased or
rated "Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean" by Justin
Somper have also purchased "Jack of all Trades" by
K. C. Shaw. For this reason, you might like to know
that "Jack of all Trades" is now available. You can
order yours for just $13.22 ($3.73 off the list
price) by following the link below.
Jack of all Trades

K. C. Shaw

List Price: $16.95
Price: $13.22
You Save: $3.73
To learn more about Jack of all Trades, please visit
the following page at

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

end of Sept and WIP Wed, all in one!

Unless I get an acceptance in the next five hours, September will be the first month this year in which I didn't get an acceptance. On the other hand, I don't have much out right now. I did have my story "Meet Mary Sue" appear in ASIM #40 this month, which delighted me considerably.

And I'm writing. Boy howdy, how I'm writing! At the very beginning of September I had the merest idea for an urban fantasy, which ripened when I went to DragonCon. When I got home I started writing it, and now I'm halfway through, with about 45,000 words written.

You know what? Yesterday I was disappointed that I only had time to write 2,000 words. Only 2,000 words in one day. There have been many months this year where I've barely scraped 2,000 words in the entire month. But this seems to be my regular rhythm the last few years: I'll write very little in spring and summer, but at the end of August I bust loose and write like crazy for several months. Last year I wrote the novella The Price of Justice (formerly Hilda and Justice), and the novels The Taste of Magic and Blood and Taxes between September and February. This year I've written half of working-title The Bell Men already, and I hope to finish it before NaNoWriMo. Oh, and I wrote a short story the other week too.

So sure, I haven't sold anything this month, but I'm writing. That's the important thing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pacing woes

I got to 35,000 words on Bell-Men last night, mostly by reminding myself that Nano is coming up really soon and I want to finish this project before then. I'm aiming for 80,000 words minimum, so I'm almost halfway through the book.

So why does it feel like I'm not very far in? I read over the whole book so far yesterday, and the pacing seems all right. I just feel like I'm still waiting for the plot to bust open so it can really move forward, but almost halfway through and that hasn't happened.

Which tells me that I'm either not halfway through--and 90,000 words would be a good length, too, which would make me only about a third of the way through--or I've got a real problem with my plot and/or pacing. For now, I guess the only thing I can do is smash my way through to the end of this draft and try and fix it on the rewrite.

Of course, I'm a writer who gets very impatient with even 1,000 words of not-much-happening, and I just had to write several thousand words of (essentially) exposition. Today I'll be writing an argument between Cam and Thomas, Cam's going to talk to the bad guy's family and steal something of his from them (and angst over it), and then, thank goodness, in the story timeline it'll be the dark of the moon and I can finally get Cam into the bell-men's world again, this time semi-permanently. And then the plot will bust open like a pinata. I hope.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And that's why I didn't get any writing done.

I opened up the Bell-Man document earlier and was finally starting to read over what I'd written the night before, when my cat Vincent started making mighty-hunter mews from the doorway.

Vincent is not a mighty hunter. All he knows about hunting is what Angel taught him--Angel was a damn fine mouser. I once saw Vincent pick up a mouse by its hind leg, and of course he got bitten. He looked offended at the mouse's audacity.

So anyway, Vincent tends to make mighty-hunter noises when he's caught anything. Once he caught a marshmallow I'd dropped on the kitchen floor and paraded it around the house proudly, which was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. So when I looked up and saw what looked like the curved edge of a ponytail holder sticking out of his mouth, I just smiled and told him what a good hunter he was.

Then I realized he didn't have a ponytail holder. He had a lizard.

It was one of those little fence skinks, I believe, the kind that shoot around like lightning and eat bugs. How it got into the house I do not know, and how Vincent caught it I simply can't imagine, unless it was trapped in the house and half-starved. I tried to get it away from Vincent without making Vincent bite down harder--ew ew ew--and it slithered away and disappeared. I mean, seriously, neither Vincent nor I saw it go. I know I didn't--and I was checking my pants cuffs thinking maybe it shot up one to hide--and I know Vincent didn't because he was literally checking his own paws and looking underneath him to see where it had gone.

I finally found the skink hiding under the bottom of a nearby curtain, which is long and drapes on the floor. I took Vincent outside for a few minutes so he'd forget about the skink--he has a memory about four seconds long--and when I brought him inside, I put a few catfood kibbles on a saucer, cut them into tiny pieces, put a little water on them, and took the saucer upstairs. Because maybe skinks will eat wet pieces of catfood, that's why. But the skink seems to be gone again. It's probably sneaked off somewhere unreachable to die, and I won't know where until the smell starts.

Somehow Bell-Men seems a lot less interesting than my own life at the moment.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Scary stories and rainy days

I stopped by the post office on the way home from work, and my copy of the new 52 Stitches came! I can't think of a better thing to read on a super-rainy September day than a collection of scary stories!

Unfortunately, when I walked in the house and said to my mom, "Hey, look what I got!" she plucked the book from my hands and sneaked it away to read it first. But that's okay. I know where she lives.

52 Stitches, of course, is edited by Aaron Polson, and I'm a member of his fan club that Cate Gardner started. If you join the fan club now, you can beat the rush. :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

So very, very stuffed full

I haven't written very much yet today, but I exceeded 30,000 words last night on Bell-Men. Cam is angsting a little bit, but she spent the night in jail so she's allowed.

Last night I also made chapchae with bulgogi, Korean dishes that my sister-in-law makes but that I've never tried myself. It turned out really well! I went off an online recipe I found and changed it so that it seemed a little closer my sister-in-law's recipe (she doesn't actually use actual recipes, since she is a brave woman and knows what she's doing in the kitchen, unlike me). Here's how to make it, mostly so next time I won't have to reinvent the recipe I used:

Traditionally, this is marinated beef that's grilled at the table. My sister-in-law uses a pressure cooker, but I don't have one. I used a packaged bulgogi marinade mix, cut the beef into thin strips, marinaded it in the fridge for a few hours, and then stir-fried it in sesame oil with a diced onion. My sister-in-law says chicken works great for this too.

Remove the meat and onions to a bowl and reserve. Return the pan to the stove to stir-fry the vegetables for chapchae (below).

sesame oil (around 3 Tbsp)
3 carrots, sliced into thin strips
1 can water chestnuts
thumb-length chunk of ginger, minced
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 cayenne peppers, minced
black pepper
smallish handful brown sugar
(and snow peas would be awesome with this but I didn't have any)

Mix it all up and stir-fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

While doing this, soak a package of glass noodles in warm/hot (not boiling) water until they soften. Just before the vegetables are done, bring the noodles to a boil and cook about two minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water so they won't overcook.

Add the vegetable mixture and bulgogi mixture to the noodles and stir as well as you can--glass noodles stick together and resist stirring. Eat fast while it's all still hot!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Turning the sizzle down to a simmer

Since The Bell-Men is an urban fantasy of sorts, and since UF is such a strange category--taking on aspects of fantasy, horror, romance, and mystery pretty much equally--I thought I'd ask you all for a bit of advice. Actually, this is less of an urban fantasy question than it is a general character/plot question.

Within the first 10,000 words of The Bell-Men, Cam has met Thomas. Within a few hundred words of meeting him, she's got him in bed. I intended to give them a flashpowder romance--burns hot and fast and then turns into a charred mess that leaves soot marks everywhere--but they're not cooperating. There's chemistry between them, and more than that, they seem suited to each other. I can adapt the plot to them staying together without Thomas trying to take over the plot and/or rescue Cam, but it means that I'm writing with almost no sexual tension in place. Obviously it can be done, but does this make for a good urban fantasy? A good book in general?

I'm not being flippant, really. I can't think of any UF I've read that hasn't sizzled with sexual tension, and since I'm writing on the outskirts of the subgenre as it is, I don't need to do anything to tilt the story too far in the direction of any one genre. Also, UF heroines typically fall for the bad boy and then angst about it for a whole series, in between bouts of adventuresome sex with him. Thomas is not the bad boy. In fact, he's a cop--which works for UF--but he doesn't have a dark past or secrets. I could, of course, give him a dark past and/or secrets, but it wouldn't fit very well with his character, which is open and straightforward.

So my only other option is to give Cam a secondary character to supply some sexual tension, although it might be difficult to make it feel natural when she's so happy with Thomas. Should I even bother, though? I'd love to hear your views on this, no matter what genre you read and/or write.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WIP Wednesday: the engine's revving again

After a mid-week slump--I blame the vampirates--I'm back in the saddle for Bell-Men again. I finally finished typing up all the longhand writing I did the last few days, and I'm at 27,400 words. I was at 18,000 last Wednesday, which means I'm going to write 600 more words tonight before bed.

The plot is moving again, and I have some excellent scenes to look forward to. Cam's roommate is going to talk her into breaking into someone's walled garden tonight, for instance, and they're going to get caught. Muahaha. I think I'm going to have Cam arrested, which is going to lead to a fun-to-write argument with her boyfriend, who's a policeman. Oh, and she's going to discover something odd in the garden too (although I don't know what yet).

I also wrote a short story this weekend, so go me. It needs a bit of work, but I like it.

I love fall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The words, they BURN

I just finished Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper. It was very bad. Not Return to Quag Keep bad, but definitely "Little, Brown published this?" bad. Spoilers ahead--lots of spoilers--so if you are fool enough to want to read Vampirates, you might not want to read on. Or then again, maybe you ought to.

First of all, the two good things about the book: the cover art, which is truly awesome, and the idea of vampirates. They're vampires and pirates!

In the hands of a decent writer--note that I don't even require a good writer for this, just a decent one--the book might have been a lot of fun. Grace and Connor are 14-year-old twins who have grown up in a lighthouse that their father owns and runs. When he dies, they set out to sea to avoid the orphanage, but a storm sinks their boat. Connor is rescued by a pirate ship, but Grace is rescued by a vampirate ship. Each worries that the other is dead.

The problem is, Somper is a terrible writer. His prose is leaden, his dialogue stilted, his characters completely one-dimensional, his pacing lethargic. Here's a fine example of his writing, from page 99:

"'Drink the hot chocolate,' said a voice inside her. It belonged to a whisper inside her head. 'Drink.'
"She had heard that voice before. It belonged to the captain."

Somper is a master of telling instead of showing. I've read self-published books whose authors didn't have such a perfect grasp of telling. We're told that Connor is a brilliant athlete and that Grace is blindingly intelligent, and that despite these gifts that both children have always felt like outsiders. Apparently their blinding Mary-Sue-ishness repels people, as well it should. (Oh, and Grace hides her intelligence so well that she comes across as dumb as a stump and about as perceptive as one too. Despite her obsession with the vampirate sea chanty her father always sang to her and her brother, it takes her a week to figure out she's on a vampirate ship.)

But the writing is only part of the problem. After the twins are rescued separately, they have separate adventures. Here's where major spoilers come in, because I want to contrast the twins' adventures.

Connor, on the pirate ship, is accepted by the pirates, makes some friends, saves the captain from two thieves who smuggled themselves on board to assassinate him, is given a swordfighting lesson (he's a natural, of course), takes part in a pirate raid, drinks part of a beer in a tavern to celebrate, and then rushes to save his sister when he learns of her whereabouts. Also, his dad gives him advice from beyond the grave.

Grace, on the vampirate ship, is locked in a cabin for her own safety, protected by an Irish vampire named Lorcan (he doesn't actually sparkle, but I wouldn't have been surprised), talks to the vampirate captain briefly, wanders around belowdeck and finds the kitchen where she helps the cook chop vegetables, is menaced by a vampire and rescued by the captain, and finally is rescued by her brother. Her father does not give her advice from beyond the grave, possibly because the only possible advice is "Wait here until you're rescued again," and she should already know that.

Who has the more interesting adventure? The boy, of course. Boys have adventures. Girls help cook and get kidnapped. Grace even remembers at one point that she learned porridge is good for her in home economics class. Um, home ec had already been discontinued from school curricula when I was a kid, and that was back in the 1980s.

And let's just talk about the setting. The book takes place in the year 2505 for no apparent reason. There are a few vague mentions of there having been a cataclysmic flood, but it doesn't seem to have made much difference in the world except that, oddly enough, there's very little technology. The pirate boats seem to be galleons, although from the number of crew (at least 120, from what I could figure from the numbers given in various spots), they're galleons the size of the Queen Mary. That would explain why the pirates each have their own cabins, with beds and everything. It would also at least partly explain why the ships seem to be so completely free from ship-like motion. The pirate ship pulls up next to its victim and apparently parks there while the pirates run across on metal bridges. I'm not making this up.

I can see that Somper might want to make up his own fantasy world in order to keep from having to research olden times. It's clear from the labored sections on swordfighting that he was already exhausted from reading Wikipedia and had no energy left for researching pirates, ships, history, or anything else. What I cannot forgive is sloppy worldbuilding. I can accept that this is 500 years in the future and a giant flood has somehow caused technology to crumble, but please, just explain to me right now why the ships should have cannons but there are no guns. All the pirates fight with swords--lots of different swords! Like broadswords! Because broadswords are totally appropriate for fighting in the close quarters of a ship.

I didn't mean to make this so long, but I must touch on the character of Cheng Li. Somper doesn't describe anyone except for eye color and hair color, but I'm pretty sure Cheng Li is Asian. I'm also pretty sure that's a Chinese name. So that explains why she uses katanas as her swords of choice, because of course a Chinese pirate would use a Japanese sword.

Shoot me now. Better yet, shoot this godawful book.

Rip it up and throw it away!

The Bell-Men WIP has bogged down in a swamp. Not a literal swamp. A swamp of bad ideas and poor characterization, I'm afraid.

It's Ruby the roommate who's the problem. I never intended for her to be a main character, but I made her a little more important to the plot and now I realize I don't have a handle on her personality. Is she silly and fun? Is she practical and organized? I know she teaches dance, but that's about it.

So this morning I decided I had to give her an Issue to deal with. I decided she wasn't happy with her job and was thinking of quitting before she's fired. Then she started yammering about wanting to start a business with Cam, the main character. Every word I've written today feels false and stupid. I'm going to have to pitch just about all of it, I'm convinced. In fact, I'm about to go in and draw big X's over the pages I've written already.

Then I have to rewrite it. The honeymoon is over with The Bell-Men; now this is work, and I don't have any scenes lined up that I'm looking forward to writing. Worse, I've set it up so that the spell that drives the whole plot only works on the full moon, which has just passed, so now I've got a whole month to kill before the plot moves forward. Something tells me I'm going to have to change that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mini-flood waters

Here are some pictures of the storm/flood yesterday that I tweeted about all night. Because East Tennessee is a profoundly rainy place under normal conditions, we don't flood much here; when we do, the wet-weather creeks and streams carry it all away quickly. To look around now, you'd hardly be able to guess we got three inches plus of rain in about an hour last night. Even our driveway has new gravel now.

Above is a shot of the little culvert that runs down the side of our front yard. It doesn't ordinarily look like this when it rains, obviously, or we'd have moved the chairs. The big clump of plants behind the chairs are some very happy Tennessee water iris.

Above is the back yard, taken from the upstairs hall window. That's my car getting washed by God right there. The back yard floods every time it rains, but not this badly. You can see it's all washing down into the neighbor's yard, where the bamboo forest thrives in the swampy conditions. Do not talk to me about invasive plant species or I will have an apoplectic fit.

Here's me, drenched despite my umbrella. You can see the lower part of the side yard behind me.

That was a surprise

Five hundred words into my Bell-Men writing today, and I had to stop and write a short story. I guess when you're hot, you're hot. :) I finished "Blood Oranges" a little while ago and love it so much I'm quite sure it's the worst story I've ever written. I can't decide if I should let it rest a while before I look at it again, or if I should send it off immediately before I start to hate it. Maybe I should just keep it to myself forever and ever because I love it so much I want it to be mine, all mine.

It's about a vampire who likes to cook. Yeah, a chance comment on a blog post and it gave me a real story idea--not just flash fiction either, this puppy's a trim 2,400 words long, which means it counts toward my "write six short stories in 2009" goal. Woot!

Friday, September 18, 2009

*smack smack* Wake up!

I only have four stories out right now. Unless I write some new ones or rewrite some retired ones, that's all I've got. It's not urgent to me that I sell them--I've made a lot of sales this year and I'd be churlish to complain--but dayum editors, wake up!

I've got one story subbed to Weird Tales. WT seems to have imploded with shock after they won a Hugo, and they don't appear to be replying to subs at all. Since I'm now way over the response time for them and don't have much hopes of selling to them anyway, I simsubbed the story to an anthology. And now that antho is not responding either. Is it me?

And I've got another story out at the only market that might want it, a market that does not actually even pay. I'm basically just dumping the story. And--yes, wait for it--they too seem to have stopped responding to subs!

And what's up with Everyday Weirdness? One of my stories is out to them too (and has been for a few months), and yesterday when I tried to go to their website, Firefox told me no way Jose, they're covered in viruses. Or whatever. And according to Duotrope, they haven't responded to anyone in about a month.

I don't know what's up with all this, but I'm getting kind of fed up. The main reason I write short stories anymore is for a quick egoboo. If these editors don't snap out of it, I won't even have that.