Friday, July 31, 2009

Me no scary

Okay, I tried, I really did. I wanted to write a blood-drenched, haunted, freakish story to send to the Shadows of the Emerald City antho. It was called "Hunger" and starred the Hungry Tiger.

But I couldn't do it. I don't know how to write a scary story. I had to drag in bad guys--nomes, from several of the Oz books--to even bring myself to write about the Hungry Tiger attacking anyone, and then once the nomes had kidnapped Dorothy (and Billina the Yellow Hen, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion), the Hungry Tiger and Toto decided to rescue them. I did not actually mean for this to happen. The Hungry Tiger was supposed to be killing and eating everyone!

Obviously, I'm no horror writer. I'm happy writing fantasy. I've deleted my wretched attempt at "Hunger" and feel much better. Besides, I wasn't going to be able to finish before midnight anyway.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

300 words and not sure it's worth it

I'm a mere 300 words into "Hunger," which has to be finished and submitted by tomorrow night's Shadows of the Emerald City deadline; if I don't finish in time, there's no point in finishing at all since there is no other market for this story. I feel like I'm an Iron Chef challenger and the last five minutes have been announced, and none of my dishes are plated yet.

I was going to do the random picture meme that some folks have been doing, but I realized almost all of the pictures I have saved to my harddrive are lolcats. So instead, I'm going to go work on "Hunger" and leave you with this single random picture.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WIP Wednesday

I actually started a story this evening, one I've been thinking about for a while. It's for the Shadows of the Emerald City antho, and if I want to submit there, I need to finish the story, edit it, polish it, and send it by Friday. I am so not going to make it.

Anyway, I had planned to write the whole thing tonight--it's going to be pretty short, hopefully around 2,000 words--but of course I had to watch four hours of Ghost Hunters instead. Hopefully tomorrow night I'll have time to finish it.

Basically that's all I've done all week except for that tiny flash story I wrote Monday. On the other hand, my mom sold her first piece of fiction today, a flash piece called "Turkey Shoot," to Ruthless Peoples Magazine. [I'd link to them too but their website seems to be down right now.--nm, they're back, and Natalie L. Sin has a story in the current issue too!] Anyway, hurray for my mom! Now I just need to badger her into writing more stories, since she has now sold 100% of the stories she's written.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Three little words

Today I had a little window of complete down-time at work, about twenty minutes where--for complicated and boring reasons--I truly had nothing more to do than sit at a desk in a quiet room, waiting for one person to finish a test.

Of course I never ever do any writing at work. But this was a unique situation, and my brain was bored. So I grabbed a few pieces of scratch paper and a pencil, and the battered old dictionary that I knew was in the drawer. And I picked three words at random.

My three words? They were awesome words, so awesome I couldn't believe my luck: equinox, purgatory, and megaphone. Fifteen minutes later I had written a fun 450-word story using all three words. I polished it a bit this evening and sent it off.

I enjoyed writing that little story so much I think I'll try the prompt again tomorrow over lunch with three new words.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Four days sort of wasted

Last week, pretty much the only writing-related thing I did was edit a story and submit it to an anthology. I'd written the story expressly for the anthology, because the theme sounded interesting. Of course that's always a mistake. I got an email from the editor an hour later, letting me know the anthology was already filled and closed. Maybe they should have posted that somewhere online, huh?

I almost retired the story right then. Instead, I tinkered with it all weekend and finally got it more or less salable to a market that isn't that particular anthology. I sent it off again tonight. Let's hope it's not as bad as I suspect.

Other than that, I did nothing during my long four-day weekend. Well, I booked hotel reservations for my DragonCon trip (no, I'm not staying in one of the con hotels--even if I could afford it, they're sold out. I'm staying in a cheapass hotel in nearby Marietta, GA). I also read two books and sent The Taste of Magic off to Ace, who will bat it back to me in a few months the way they do all my books. Oh, and I mowed the lawn. I guess that's enough for four days.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sleep? We don't need no stinking sleep.

Last night I tried to open iTunes and got all kinds of warning messages from AVG anti-virus. So instead of watching one of my downloaded Ghost Hunters, I had the fun of cleaning up my system. Actually, since I also got a message that some files were missing and iTunes couldn't open, I suspect the issue was corrupt files and not a virus at all--AVG is bad about giving false positives. But to be on the safe side, I uninstalled iTunes, deleted it and emptied the trash, ran a full virus scan, then did a disk clean-up and defragged the computer, which was overdue anyway. Now I'm running another full scan, just in case. If it catches anything, then I'll panic. I don't know enough about computers to do any more than I already did.

I stayed up last night because I was reading a good book, Alex Bledsoe's The Sword-Edged Blonde. When the defrag finished around 12:30 am I intended to go on to bed--but I wasn't done with the book. So I stayed up until 2am to finish, and it was excellent and worth the loss of sleep. Also I don't have to work today, although I woke up naturally at eight and decided to get up.

I've been wanting to read The Sword-Edged Blonde for a while, ever since I saw some really positive reviews online. It was originally published by Night Shade Books in 2007, but Tor picked it up and republished it this summer, with a sequel coming out in September. That's as close as I'll get to reading a NSB release, since the last one I read was so full of grammar and punctuation errors, particularly homophone mistakes (including the infamous "fowl breath" episode) that I swore I'll never buy one of their books again. Copyeditors are important.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My First ARC

I have the day off work (and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow--a four-day weekend!), so I slept late and then staggered down to the post office. There I mailed my contract to Double Dragon, and picked up a package that turned out to be my proof copy of Jack of All Trades!

This weekend I'll go over it with a fine-toothed comb and send any absolutely necessary changes to my editor. At that point, hopefully it won't be too much longer before the official release! I'm thinking about running a contest to give away one of my author copies (most are already slated for reviewers or family members), so if you have any ideas for a contest, pass them along. I'm not good at contests.

Here's another picture of the inside, with one of Richard Svensson's awesome illustrations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just one rejection, come on

Remember Weaver's Shroud? I can't say anything really until the contract's finalized, but Double Dragon likes it. :)

One odd problem I have is with reporting an acceptance on Duotrope. I've had good luck lately with sales and my acceptance ratio is 30% at the moment. I'm afraid that if I report one more acceptance, it'll discount all my responses until I start getting rejections again.

I hasten to add that I'm not complaining about this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watch those names

I just read an article by Bev Vincent, a writer who happens to be a man, about his recent experiences with an editor who didn't know his gender and made assumptions due to his name. It's definitely a bit of a horror story, and fascinating too. I got it via J.M. McDermott, who tweeted the link with the notation: "Advantages to being ungendered initials?"

I agree with the initials thing--I mean, I write as K.C. Shaw, not Katherine Shaw or Kate Shaw or any other iteration of my real name--but I'm not so sure I agree with the ungendered part. Most people assume someone who goes by their initials is a guy. I have no idea why, actually. It ought to be ungendered. I chose initials mostly to obfuscate my sex, precisely because I write male characters at least as frequently as female characters, including The Weredeer books that are written first-person with a male main character.

Anyway, I do sometimes wonder how much a reader's assumption about an author's sex impacts the reading experience. I thought E. Nesbit was a man for years and years and years, and once I discovered the E. stood for Edith, I caught myself thinking that parts of her books are actually a little, you know, twee--when I hadn't thought that when I assumed E. stood for Edward or something. I also thought Robin Hobb was a man until after I'd read three of her books, but I don't recall that my perspective of her writing changed at all.

As for writers, I think we get lazy sometimes when it comes to names. It's an easy shorthand to name a ditzy character Candi--or name a cutthroat lawyer character Candi and make a dumb joke about it. Slightly more subtly, if I name one female character Terry and another Gwendolyn, it's easy to signal to the reader that Terry is a bit of a tomboy and Gwendolyn more of a girly-girl.

It goes both ways, of course.* A girl given the name Gwendolyn is more likely to grow up to be a girly-girl because that's how she's treated, while Theresa-known-as-Terry has the freedom to be a tomboy or a girly-girl as the whim takes her, since that's more what her name implies. Possibly that's why I've got two different characters named Terry and none named Gwendolyn. Possibly also that's why so many boys' names get appropriated for girls.

I'm rambling because I don't really have a point--I just like to talk about names--but this is a wake-up call not to make assumptions about someone because of their name. It's like judging a book by its cover, and of course none of us would ever do that, right?

*I'd quote from The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg, the best baby name book I've found, except that the new and revised edition that just came out has the same freaking ISBN as the old edition, so that the new and revised edition I ordered from Amazon arrived as the old edition and I had to send it back, and the old edition I've had for years is now at a used book store, and I'm wishing I hadn't been quite so hasty.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Movie Meme

Since I just read three people's blogs doing this meme (Alan W. Davidson, Jameson T. Caine, and Natalie L. Sin), I can't stop myself from picking it up too. Besides, I love movies!

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
The original Star Wars, of course. I've probably seen FOTR ten times by now. Anything animated that I own on DVD I've definitely seen at least ten times.

2. Name a movie that you’ve seen multiple times in the theater.
On Friday I saw the new Harry Potter movie, and Mom and I went again yesterday. I'm a big movie-goer, so I see a lot of movies multiple times in the theater, especially anything animated.

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Alan Rickman. Mmmm.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
I can't stand whatshisname--rubbery-faced guy, not a very funny comedian, plays the same type of character in every movie he's in. I can't think of his name. The only role I've ever thought he did a decent job in was The Grinch. Somebody help me out here, who is that guy?

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
My family is big on dropping movie quotes into conversations, so I could list about a million here if I thought about it. One of my favorite movie quotes is "Now you see that evil must triumph, because good is dumb" from Space Balls--a movie I otherwise didn't find all that hilarious (although my brother did).

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
Hairspray. In fact, I may have to watch that one tonight.

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Hairspray again, and Chicago, and of course Rocky Horror Picture Show. And a lot of Disney movies. I love a good musical, and I like to sing along with the DVDs or soundtrack CDs.

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
Spirited Away. It's the most amazing animated film ever made.

9. Name a movie that you own.
The three sitting next to my TV right now are Ratatouille, Kung Fu Panda, and The Forbidden Kingdom. (I have sort of a martial arts/food theme going there.)

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Natalie mentioned David Bowie in Labyrinth on her blog. He was also in The Prestige a few years ago (a pretty good movie) and he was very good in that too. If not as yummy as he was when I was a teenager.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
I saw the original Star Wars at a drive-in one of the times I saw it, and I remember seeing Grease at a drive-in too.

12. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it.
Sweeney Todd.

13. Ever walked out of a movie?
A few times. I walked out of Swordfish, From Hell, and The Hills Have Eyes (the remake). That sort of tells you the kinds of movies I don't like, I guess. In the case of Swordfish and The Hills Have Eyes, I got so depressed that I wanted to slit my wrists, and I go to the movies to have fun. I was at From Hell with my mom and she wanted to leave; I probably would have enjoyed it if I'd stayed.

14. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
I cry very easily, especially at movies. I think the strongest reaction I've ever had was at Up, the new Pixar movie. Parts of it are so poignant that I sat in the theater with tears streaming down my face. When I went back and saw it a second time I thought I wouldn't react like that since I knew what to expect, but it was actually even worse. I expect when I get it on DVD and watch it at home, I'll actually be sobbing out loud. But most of that movie makes me laugh, so I don't mind crying too.

15. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (I actually have a little movie journal I got in 2000, and I have jotted down a one or two sentence review of every single movie I've seen in the theater since then, with the date I first saw the movie. I'm going to be really bummed when I fill that journal up.)

16. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Animation. I'm not too picky about the subject, as long as the animation is well done. Beyond that, I like comedies.

17. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
I honestly don't know. My mom's a HUGE movie fan, so I was going to movies as soon as I could reliably sit still through a feature film.

18. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Epic Movie. It was abyssmal. The only reason I saw it is because I was doing movie reviews for a local paper at the time, and nothing else was out. I gave it (as I recall) one star, and that was for the acting, which wasn't bad.

19. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
I'm not sure. Weird is so relative. There's a bizarre and excellent little movie called The Triplets of Belleville that I do love dearly. Oh, and the Gundam Wing Endless Waltz movie makes absolutely no sense, even if you've committed the entire GW series to memory as I have.

20. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen?
I truly don't remember ever being actually scared in a movie. Tense, sure; grossed out, sure; but not scared. I think I disengage when I start feeling too scared, and start to look around at the darkened theater and the people around me, and think about what I need to do when I leave the theater, etc. As a result, when someone says, "That was such a scary movie," I say, "Really? I wasn't scared, I just got bored."

21. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen?
There's no way to pick one, so here are three: Kung Fu Panda, Mystery Men, and Galaxy Quest.

Friday, July 17, 2009

TV pressure is killing me

Carrie Harris, Query Ninja, has ninja'ed one of my queries. Now I have to rewrite it--but I know the direction to take it, so it won't be so bad. I hope.

We're a Nielsen Family this week, with official booklets for each TV and everything. It started yesterday. I'm frankly embarrassed to have to write down that I watched four of the five hours of VH1's One-Hit Wonders of the 80s show this afternoon, and that I'm watching one of those awful police car chase video shows right now. Not only that, but I feel oddly compelled to keep the TV on and watch it. There is a column for "TV on but no one watching/listening" but that feels like I'm not taking the Nielsen Family thing seriously.

Mom must be feeling the same way, because earlier when I went down to get some lemonade, she came out to ask me something, then said, "I have to get back--I said I'm watching this show about pyramids." I'll be glad when our Nielsen Family Week is over.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And the week from hell hath ended with a whimper

I missed WIP Wednesday! And I actually have been working on a project, although not, alas, today. Today I didn't do jack except work work work workworkworkwork and I still didn't get everything done, including something rather important that is going to backfire on me and cause me (I can see this clearly) to be unable to take any time off in August.

On the other hand, I'm off work for the weekend, because the five hours I work on Saturday don't really count. And Mom picked up tickets to Harry Potter for tomorrow!

This weekend I want to edit "Standard-Bearer" and get it sent off, and I'd like to finish that story I was working on all week too. I'm about halfway through and can't tell if it's going to be any good. Since it's a short story, my guess is no, it will not be any good. But maybe it won't be all that bad.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Because my last post was a complaint

I thought I'd better post so people dropping by my blog for the first time won't know immediately that all I do is complain. Unfortunately, all I can think of to blog about is how someone stole my sandwich out of the fridge at work today and I ended up getting a burrito at (urp) Taco Bell instead, dammit.

Ah, yes, I know. I'll mention casually that despite my having worked 20+ hours in the last two days, I have somehow managed to write about 1,000 words of a new short story. I was going to write a tiny short little flash story, but I couldn't come up with a tiny short little idea. Unfortunately, as usual the short story idea I had is trying very hard to turn into a book idea. I am resisting this impulse.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why this week will suck

Indulge me for a moment while I talk about work. I'm a proctor, which sounds vaguely dirty but basically just means I give college-level tests; I work at a state college. This is my schedule this week, which is unusually weird:

Monday: Due entirely to my inability to count (long story), I have to work a regular day or at least most of a regular day, then I drive out to one of the satellite campuses to help give a placement test. Start work 8am, leave work about 9pm.

Tuesday: Depending on who else is going to be available today, I may have to work a long day, or I may start late and work late. Start work either 8am or 10:30am, leave work 7pm.

Wednesday: This summer Wednesdays are my long day. Start work 8am, leave 7pm.

Thursday: This is a regular day for me--except that I may have to drive out to one of the satellite campuses this evening to give a placement test. I am going to fight hard to keep from having to do this, so I optimistically predict I will start work 8am, leave work 4:30 pm. Otherwise I'll start work 8am, leave work 9pm.

Friday: This summer I'm off on Fridays. I plan to spend the day sleeping and feeling resentful of my coworkers, even though none of this is really their fault. Well, some of it is.

Saturday: A regular Saturday, which means I have to work. Start work 8am, leave work 1pm.

Don't get me wrong, I do really like my job ordinarily. Just not this week. Oh, and keep in mind that I have a 45-minute commute, one-way.

My writing goal this week: write the shortest flash story I can manage. If I have time, I'll write two!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finish Friday: The Weredeer

Yes, okay, it's only just barely Friday still (11:59 pm as of right now), but I just finished my final editing pass on The Weredeer. It's good. I don't think I can improve it anymore right now. In other words, I've rewritten it to the limits of my current ability, which was my goal; I'm more proud of this book than I am of any other I've ever written. I think Little Sparrow is actually better written, but Little Sparrow isn't finished.

My next step is to finish polishing the query letter and then the synopsis. Then I'll try querying a few agents and see if I get any nibbles.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WIP Wednesday: Standard-Bearer & Little Sparrow

I've almost finished "Standard-Bearer," which is flopping all over the place and way too long, but hey, it's almost done. I'm glad, because I'm tired of short fiction. Both Little Sparrow and the still-unnamed new project are pulling at me something fierce. I hope this means my subconscious has been working on both.

I have been thinking (consciously) about Little Sparrow on and off lately. Originally, Sparrow and Hildy were going to leave town after Sparrow witnesses a murder, but the second I got them out of town the plot just dropped dead. That's why I stopped working on it; obviously, I've got to figure out why my plot isn't plotting. Now I'm starting to wonder if they need to stay in town after all, at least long enough to get into worse trouble.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday morning goodness

I woke up to an acceptance from Emerald Tales this morning. Yes, "Cult of the Butterfly" will appear in the first issue! Not only that, but I'll share a TOC with Catherine J. Gardner, whose story "Empty Box Motel" was also accepted. I can't wait to read her story and see what weird flights of fancy she took the "follow the butterflies" issue theme on.

Anthology Builder is running a contest that looks interesting. You pick a cover from their database (and they have hundreds) and write a story about it. There's no entry fee and the winner gets $200 and publication on Anthology Builder. Finalists get a critique by founder Nancy Fulda and a $30 gift certificate to Anthology Builder (and I've put together an anthology there and have stories listed, so I think that's a great prize). I'm definitely going to be looking through their covers sometime this week.

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's a sugar spoon

Conversation this evening between me and my mom:

Me: Where's that fancy spoon I always use for ice cream?
Mom: We have a fancy spoon?
Me: Yeah, the one with the scallopy edges. We only have one of them.
Mom (dryly): You mean the sugar spoon?
Me: Is that what it's called?
Mom: I can't believe you're almost 40 and you don't know what a sugar spoon is.
Me: I don't remember you ever sitting me down and giving me the silverware talk when I was a little girl.
Mom: I think it's in the sink.
Me: Everything I learned about silverware, I learned on the street, man.
Mom: Here it is.
Me: It's no wonder I'm tarnished.
Mom: If I wash it for you, will you shut up for a while?
Me: I'll try.

Now I'm eating ice cream with a newly-renamed ice cream spoon, about to start another round of revisions on The Weredeer. One day I'll feel comfortable enough to send that manuscript out again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How to love squash.

Step 1: Have a mother who's friends with someone whose closest friend is an olive oil connoisseur, and who gives Mother a bottle of extremely fine, fresh, and expensive olive oil to thank her for helping him unpack after moving.
Step 2: Plant yellow crook-neck squash in the garden. Harvest several young squashes.
Step 3: Rinse and cut up squash into bite-sized chunks. Roll in cornmeal. Saute in a little olive oil for about ten minutes or until tender.

Step 1 is the important part. I will never go back to cheap grocery-store olive oil again.

In writing news, I revised and sent out a story this evening. It's not much, but it's better than nothing. I thought I had other stories to send out, but no; I've either sold or retired all but five of my stories. If I have time tomorrow I really want to finish "Standard-Bearer." I'm very close to being done with the rough draft, but it's very rough. The sooner I finish it, the sooner I can start hacking it down to a reasonable length as the first step in revising.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thank goodness for hats.

I spent July 4 with my extended family in Kingsport, Tennessee, where my aunt and uncle live on the side of a steep hill. Me, my mom, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends had a great time talking, laughing, playing croquet, playing cards, and eating. The humidity was low for a change, so it didn't feel very hot--so I think most of us ended up with sunburns. Even I did, after I'd complained loudly that I never tan but at least I don't burn. Hubris! Fortunately I was wearing a ball cap so my face was mostly shaded.

I'm home now, listening to the distant thunder of the town's firework display going on. If I wanted to walk down to the little playground/park on the corner I'd probably be able to see some of the fireworks, and if I wanted to walk a few minutes more and go downtown I could watch them from the Commons--but I just got out of the shower, and I just slathered my sunburn with aloe lotion, and I'm tired and ready to go to bed and read for a little while.

Obviously I didn't get a lick of writing done today. Tomorrow.

I keep thinking it's Saturday

Happy Fourth of July, myfellowAmericans! The rest of you, enjoy your non-holiday weekend.

Why the hell am I still up?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's sucking my will to live

The Week from Hell is over at last. Of course I didn't accomplish half of what I should have gotten done, but that's all work stuff and I'm happy to drop it like a coat when I get home. But I am awfully tired from working flat out all week, although staying up until midnight watching Ghost Hunters last night didn't exactly help.

I've got a lot I want to do tonight writing-wise, like type up the new story I've tentatively titled "Standard-Bearer" (another of my rotten titles) and finish it, or do some minor revisions of a few stories that have come back recently and need to be sent out again, or at least do some heavy-duty thinking about my idea for a major rewrite of the second half of "Never Be Alone." But I'm too tired. So instead, I'm going to read a little bit tonight and go to bed early. Tomorrow I'll do all that other stuff.

Hey, I'm 25 books into my read 50 books in 2009! Halfway through and exactly on schedule!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

DragonCon is go!

My serial Twitter story, "Unicorn Chase," started today at Thaumatrope (@thaumatrope). It'll run throughout July.

I just asked a coworker (well ahead of time) if she can fill in for my Saturday hours on September 5. She said yes, so that means I can attend DragonCon in Atlanta this year for the first time! I've been to conventions before, but never a SF/F con. I need to get online and see where it's being held this year and so forth. If anyone out there's planning on attending, we can meet up!

ETA: I'm definitely going now--I just Paypaled the membership fee ($90 until July 15, after which it raises to $100).