Friday, December 31, 2010

Rain for the new year

Here we are careening into 2011. This year flew by with frightening speed.

Last year I made a huge list of resolutions that I didn't keep and don't even want to look at. I did learn a lot in 2010, though. I learned that if you stop writing short stories, you stop selling them (funny how that works out). I learned that I have a huge capacity to read other people's books, especially if it means I don't have to work on mine. And I've learned that I like writing novellas and can even sell them occasionally.

So this year I wrote one novel and two novellas--technically two novels and a novella, but the romance book is so short I'm counting it as a novella (and I still have 5k to add to it, today I hope). I wrote zero short stories. Coincidentally, I sold one novel and two novellas this year, and zero short stories.

Next year, hm. Frankly, I'm tired of being in a holding pattern at this stage of my career. I'm going to see if I can kick things into gear by going completely commercial. I've already started that with my ignoble experiment of the romance book--still untitled; if I can sell it to Harlequin, that's a good, solid sale to mention to agents when I query. Maybe it's not what I ordinarily write, but it'll prove that my writing is at a professional level. I also hope to finish the MG book I started this year, Christopher Kaplan, since MG sells pretty well and I might be able to find a good home for it (or interest an agent). And I also want to finish the mystery novel I started at the end of November. I'm reading a lot of mysteries lately and the genre is pretty hot. I was going to give my mystery book fantasy elements, but I dropped that in favor of pure, unadulterated commercialism.

Yes, I'm a sell-out. Or trying to be, anyway.

My two-week vacation is almost over, but it's been really good for me. I feel less stressed than I have in a long, long time. In 2011 I'm going to have to make some hard decisions about my day job. For various reasons I won't bore you with, I'm very frustrated with it and I'm wondering if it's time to move on. Of course it's a terrible time to try to change jobs, but I've got a weirdly specific skillset now and if the right opening pops up, I'll probably apply. Or maybe not--there's a possibility that things may change at work for the better since we have a new branch campus opening this fall (hopefully) and I'm the logical person to move up into the new position that will have to be created for it.

Anyway, so, I guess my resolutions for 2011 are:

lose weight and get in shape (that one's always on the list)
join a fencing group
write at least one novel and one novella
write a few short stories, because I really like selling them
stop carrying stress from work into my off-hours, because it's not worth it and makes me sound whiny on my blog
Keep up better with my online friends
Sell out, yo

That's fairly reasonable, I hope. Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The math is always grim

Here are some depressing numbers about agents, taken from my own records. With extra math!

I keep careful track of all the agent queries I send so I won't accidentally send the same project to the same agent twice. I give all agents about four months to respond, at which point I mark them down as nonresponders (and of course change that if any responses trickle in late). Back in July I brought the table up to date and indicated that the overall nonresponse rate was almost precisely 1/3--that is, 22 out of 65 agents had never responded one way or another to my queries.

That was before I started querying for Trickster Society. Keep in mind that I never re-query a nonresponder, and I'm also cautious about the agents I do query. I research them all carefully and make sure they're open for queries, that they're interested in the genre I'm querying, and that they don't have a reputation for not responding.

Even so, according to my records my nonresponder rate is now up to 42%. Jeez louise, that's getting perilously close to half of all agents who aren't even professional or courteous enough to hit reply and type "Not for me, thanks."

And don't even try to whine that you're too busy to respond, agents. If you're that busy, you have no business being open to queries.

I really hate the agent-querying side of writing. The only thing more depressing is the small-publisher-querying side of writing, because once you're to that point it means that A) all the agents have said no (or not responded) and B) all the big commercial publishers who take non-agented work (all four of them) have said no too.

Yup, I've got the after-holidays, mid-winter, too-many-hyphens blues.

EDIT: I rechecked my figures and the actual nonresponse rate is 36%. Please subtract 6% of the bitchiness from this post.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Yes, okay, most of the major midwinter/solstice holidays are over, but I've been sick with the Cold from Hell and my interest in blogging is at an all-time low. I hope your holidays were/are fantastic, and with the new year looming and the holiday baking mostly behind us all, we can look forward to a future wherein we will all be trim, athletic, efficient, and successful!

As I say, I've had a terrible cold. I got a sore throat two Thursdays ago, which ripened into a snotfest of a cold which then migrated as secondary infections in my chest, sinuses, and ears. I'm still dealing with that. My poor mom has caught a milder version of my cold which is really taking hold with her now, and I still sound worse than she does.

But Christmas was lovely here, particularly since we had our first white Christmas in years and years--an inch on the ground Christmas morning, and another couple of inches overnight last night, and they're also calling for a few more inches of snow this afternoon and evening! That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that it melts very fast here so by morning we'll still just have maybe two on the ground. Even so, this has been the snowiest winter I can remember in decades--and we usually get all our snow in late January/early February.

I haven't done any writing all week, partly because I've been in bed surrounded by crumpled tissues, partly because of the madness preceding Christmas, partly because hey, it's my vacation. I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things, though. I still need to add 5,000 words to my untitled romance and 5,000 words to my steampunk Goldielocks novella--but more about both tomorrow, I suppose. Right now I have to get ready to go to a memorial service, assuming we can get out of the driveway to get there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The manly dog scarf

Here it is, the very short scarf I made for my uncle out of the fluffy puppy fur he saved from his dog Jack. If I'd started this project before December, I could have spun up a bunch more of the fur into yarn and made him a decently long scarf. Don't tell him I slacked off. I'll just quietly let him believe I used up all the fur.

Anyway, the scarf is actually a good length for him to put around his neck and button the ends under his coat. That's what I tell myself, anyway. It's very soft and warm, and I used the same pattern I used last year for the neighbor whose scarf I made out of his dog's fur. I feel so typecast. The result is an attractive, manly scarf that was really, really super easy to knit. I didn't do any kind of edging because I didn't want it to look too frou-frou and anyway I ran out of yarn.

Here's the pattern, for those of you who might be interested. I used size 10 needles and I guess the yarn is around worsted weight. I rarely bother to check the gauge on my handspun unless I'm making something that absolutely requires it.

Manly Scarf

CO 20 sts
2 rows seed st
K P K, K2 P2 across, K P K
K P K, P2 K2 across, K P K
K P K, P2 K2 across, K P K
K P K, K2 P2 across, K P K
rep until almost out of yarn
2 rows seed st
cast off

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lest I forget again

I have a little half-slip of papers that's been kicking around for years, and I keep losing it. I found it again just now and will immortalize it on the internet:

1 qt 3% Peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tsp liquid soap (Ivory)
Bathe in mixture for 10 min. Rinse with water.

In other words, if you have a dog, and the dog gets skunked, this is how you get rid of the smell.

Ice Day

Ice day isn't as fun as snow day. We had some freezing rain overnight, which means this morning the roads (and trees, and houses, and power lines) were glazed over with ice. Fortunately I was off work today anyway (and my college wasn't even closed, just on a two-hour delay) and also fortunately, the temperature has already warmed up above freezing and the ice is melting fast.

Tomorrow's my last day at work before I get a two-week holiday! Of course I have to work ten hours--we've extended the testing center hours to make up for being closed Monday--but it shouldn't be too stressful and then I can recharge for the remainder of the year. I have a lot I want to finish up before 2011, mostly revisions. My main goal is to have the still-untitled romance finished and ready to sub in January. I also want to do the rewrites of The Trickster Society (I've already started and it's going to turn into a major rewrite, I think).

The hard part is keeping to a writing schedule while I'm off work. Structure helps me stay productive. NaNoWriMo helped me a lot this year, just by getting me back into the rhythm of writing every single day. Now I need to make sure I stick with it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Day!

We had a snow day today! We didn't get a whole lot of snow where I live--maybe an inch and a half, most of it melted off already--but Knoxville got two or even three inches. I work at a state college and it was closed today!

So being more or less housebound with a free day off, what do you think I did? If you guessed 'nothing,' you're right!

Okay, so it's not even four o'clock and I did read and review a book. I also went out with Mom for lunch and did some minor Christmas shopping (the main roads are safe enough, but the back roads are still treacherous). Tonight I plan to work on my uncle's puppy-fur scarf. That leaves me several hours where I can write.

So I need to pry myself away from the internet and other people's books and the big outside world and get some work done. I'm editing the still-untitled romance, which does not fill me with excitement.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No one noticed my makeover

This has been a nightmare of a week at work. Seriously. I won't go into details since they're boring to everyone but me and have nothing to do with writing or reading. I'll just say that the first three days of this week were an unremitting series of small humiliations and defeats. Monday night I was so grim when I got home that Mom asked if I'd received a rejection. She knows me well.

I was off yesterday, thank goodness. What I mostly wanted to do was curl up and lick my wounds. Instead I decided that dammit I will not take this shit lying down. I need to stop apologizing to the universe for being alive. That means not just sticking up for myself at work when people try to walk all over me, but treating myself properly the rest of the time too.

Now as a writer, I fight hard against that inevitable feeling of "I'm awesome" since it comes with a set of blinkers that make it even harder to evaluate my work. But there is absolutely no need for me to be embarrassed of my accomplishments.

Here's the progression, and I bet I'm not alone in this kind of thinking: When I sell a story, I don't congratulate myself, I point out--to myself and others--that it's just a small magazine, not a pro sale. If I sell to a pro market, I'm quick to acknowledge that it's probably just a fluke, that most of my sales are just to small markets. When I sell a book, I say it's just a small press and the book won't actually be in stores. And one day when I do have a book accepted by a large commercial publisher, I can hear myself saying, "Well, it's just a fantasy/romance/mystery story," as if the only real books are whatever genre I haven't had published.

I'm going to stop this self-denigration now. I know I have a lot of hill left to climb in my writing career, but I'm proud of everything I've had published. I'm thrilled silly that The Weredeer has found a good home, and I believe in all the stories and books I still have in the works.

So to commemorate my new badass self, I went and got a drastic haircut yesterday: from long, floppy hair to short and bouncy(ish), and I threw away the ugly slacks I keep wearing to work even though they make me feel like a defeated old lady. Today I walked into work with an attitude of "I'm here to chew bubblegum and proctor tests, and I'm all out of bubblegum." I all but whistled the Dirty Harry theme.

And no one even noticed I'd had my hair cut. Dammit.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The POC Reading Challenge!

Last year I took the "read 50 books in 2010" challenge, with an added challenge of at least ten of those books being small-press published. Since starting Skunk Cat Book Reviews last fall, my reading has increased considerably. I stopped counting at 50 books and 10 small press books, but I met both goals easily this year. I estimate I'll have reached around 100 books read by the end of the year, with around 15 of them small-press published.

So what will I do next year? Where do I need to branch out?

Well, I'm going to take the POC Reading Challenge in 2011. My goal will be level 4, to read 10-15 books by and/or about people of color, although I'm going to try and read more than that. I'm looking forward to finding some new authors!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sit n' Spin

I actually sat down with my spinning wheel tonight, for the first time since early spring. I usually only spin during the winter. When it's warm out, I don't want to sit still for several hours with a lapful of wool.

I finished up a bobbin of gorgeous hand-dyed bamboo silk that I should have finished months and months ago, and which I'm planning to knit into something for myself eventually. I still have another 8-oz skein to spin up, though, and it's slippery. I switched to spinning more Jack fluff--Jack being my uncle's dog, and the fluff being his shed puppy undercoat that I asked my uncle to save several years ago. Last year I spun a bunch of it up for him, but he decided he wanted something made of it so I need to finish the spinning and make him something--probably a scarf which will be 10 million percent too hot for him ever to wear. I have a kerchief I made from my old dog Jasper's fur (Jasper was a Newfoundland with beautiful soft black fur) plied with purple mohair, and even though it's filet crocheted and therefore not very dense, it's still too warm to wear.

And you thought I was boring when I talked about writing!

I watched the new Karate Kid movie while I spun (you know, the one that was titled Kung Fu Kid everywhere except in America, home of the stupid). That's a sweet movie. Tomorrow Mom said I should spin some more while we watch The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Then Monday we can watch Kung Fu Panda while I spin. My uncle's scarf will be made with love and kung fu movies.

I am covered in puppy fur.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I need more hours in the day

The end of the semester is kicking my butt. I've been blaming NaNoWriMo for my time management issues this past month, but yesterday I didn't write a word and I still wasn't able to do more than check my email a few times. Today was almost as bad. We're nearly to finals week and the students are driving me even more insane than usual.

Yesterday the power went out briefly across campus, which kicked the servers offline, which meant all the students taking computerized tests (most of them) lost their work. I know I shouldn't complain since I only proctor the tests, not take them myself, but it was just one of a billion horrible little things that happened yesterday. I felt like I was stung to death by gnats. The last straw was the girl who came in to take her nursing final and we couldn't get the password to work. I was nearly in tears, she was nearly in tears. It was terrible. I had one of those 'Calgon take me away' moments where I wanted to just walk out, get in my car, and drive away into a better life.

I may be a little stressed out right now.

I did get some writing done today, to my surprise, mostly over lunch. I've also wasted the last couple of hours reading an awesome mystery--I'll probably review it tomorrow, although I have to work tomorrow (I'm usually off Thursday) so I might not get around to it. What I do know is that I plan to take a hot shower right now and go to bed early.

No wait, I have to do laundry first, and I'm going to have to iron those gray slacks for work tomorrow. *weeps brokenly*

Monday, November 29, 2010


Look at that! The monkey says I won!

I made it to 50,000 words at last--it was touch and go, moreso than previous years. At least, it felt harder this year than previous years. This is my sixth time playing and my sixth time crossing the finish line, and the first time I didn't have one dedicated project to work on.

I made the most of my time, though. I finished the steampunk Goldielocks story, which is edited and on submission now. I also finished the (short) rough draft of the untitled romance. After that I was going to work on Christopher Kaplan, and in fact I did write a few thousand words on it, but then I stalled out. As I mentioned last week, I've been reading nothing but murder mysteries this month, and since my brain is bathed entirely in murder-mystery juice as a result, I've been thinking about the Darla Dare mystery I've been wanting to write. In desperation to get my last several thousand words in for nano, I started the book. So far it's pretty good. Of course, I'm now to the point where I actually have to work out the plot, so I doubt I'll be continuing at the same pace. Still, it's going to be fun.

Now I have edits coming in from stuff I've sold this year--perfect timing, too, since I can now concentrate on them. I also want to revise and edit (and title) the romance so I can get it out hopefully by January or February. Lots of stuff to do!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

My mom has her first published short story up at Every Day Fiction, "Turkey Shoot." She's very excited about it, and I think it's an awesome little story.

I stayed up until 1 am this morning to finish the (very) rough draft of my untitled romance novel. I still need to go back in and add about 10,000 words, but that shouldn't be too hard. I'm still not done with NaNoWriMo yet, though. Next project is work on Christopher Kaplan. Starting tomorrow.

Today I have a feast to eat! Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the U.S.! For everyone else, Happy Thursday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just add time!

I'm awful. Not only have I not been posting, I haven't been reading my friends' blogs. It's been busy at work, busy at home, and I have been frantically reading a series of mystery books that I'm obsessed with--one more and I'm done until the next one comes out--as well as trying to scrape up enough words to keep from being defeated in this year's NaNoWriMo.

Here's what I've been doing. This is the condensed-soup version. Just add time!

I bought my membership for the 2011 DragonCon, since I checked with my coworker who is the only one who can cover me on Saturdays, and she said she can work for me that weekend in 2011 and 2012. This is what you call planning ahead.

I finished the steampunk Goldielocks story, which turned out to be 20,000 words and not appropriate for the market I had in mind initially. I edited it and sent it out to IGMS because the editor sent me a nice personal note last time I subbed to them.

One of my (few) short stories has been shortlisted at Apex!

After I finished the Goldielocks story, I intended to start work on Adventures in Zoology. Instead, for some reason I immediately began to work on my untitled romance. I've added about 7,500 words and I'm actually getting pretty close to the end. I reckon another 10,000 and it'll be done. It'll still be too short, but there are some scenes I want to add anyway, which will hopefully get it to the right length for a Harlequin Intrigue. Once I finish this blog post, I'm going to jump right in and write a steamy sex scene, ooh la la. For the romance book, I mean, not the blog.

I've decided that November should be my "read nothing but mysteries" month, in hopes that I can read without it distracting me from my NaNo projects. Instead, what's happened is that my NaNo projects have become not-fantasy. The Goldielocks story started out as fantasy but it almost immediately turned science fiction instead. And of course instead of writing fantasy after I was done with it, I went to the romance book. Apparently what I'm reading affects what I want to write. That explains why I started writing Christopher Kaplan suddenly a few months ago--I'd been reading a solid diet of middle-grade books at the time. Incidentally, Christopher Kaplan is up for finishing as soon as I'm done with this romance. I'll have to stop reading mysteries and go back to MG books, though.

And speaking of mysteries, I know what my next new project will be. I plan to plot it out very carefully before I start writing, but I have a title. It's going to be a...mystery! Bet you didn't guess! And I'm finally going to use the character Darla Dare, which I've been dying to write about for literally years but didn't know what to do with her. The title will be Darla Dare, Girl Detective and it'll use my other old idea of a mystery series with a woman who works as a temp. In Girl Detective, Darla Dare takes a temporary receptionist position with a private investigator, who promptly drops dead. Darla has to solve the murder! Because no one else thinks it's a murder!

So anyway, that's what I'm up to. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to write a sex scene.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I am totally not dead

I don't know why blogging has become my lowest priority this month. But I am totally alive and doing the same old boring things as always, and on Wednesday I might actually have time to blog about that.

Right now I have to do laundry, type up all this handwritten stuff I've been scrawling in a notebook, and finish reading this murder mystery. I've been home from work a whole half hour and all I've accomplished so far is eating leftovers!

I'm actually writing (and enjoying writing) my untitled romance. Possibly I have been abducted by aliens and replaced with a cunning replica who enjoys writing romances. I mean, how would you know if I was an alien replica?

(Upon rereading this post, I realize I sound like I'm drunk. I'm not, promise. Unfortunately.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Coming up for air

Whoa, I haven't updated here all week! I've been typing. Er, writing.

I'm 7,500 words into NaNo (well, nearly--something like 7,300), so I'm doing great. Of course, my mom is over 20,000 words, but she's retired and is racing with another retiree, so there's no real way I can compete with her. She's writing short stories with weather themes and plans to go past 50,000 words because she can. I think she's inspired because she sold her first story to Every Day Fiction (still her first story because the market she sold the same story to last year folded before it was published). It'll run on Thanksgiving day!

Anyway, I'm currently working on the steampunk Goldielocks story. It's going extremely well, but it's also going to end up much longer than the limit of 12,000 words. I'm just going where it takes me; once it's done, I can trim it down under 12k if I can; if I can't, I'll call it a novella and see if I can sell it somewhere.

(oh, btw, if you want to buddy me for NaNo, my username is Saanen.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Here we go!

Less than two hours to go until NaNoWriMo!

I've decided to do it this way: Tomorrow I will open a brand new file on my computer. Every day during November I will type into that file, no matter what project I'm working on. At the end of the day, I'll copy the day's text and paste it into the appropriate WIP file. That way I can keep track of how many words I've written while still working on more than one project. With 50,000 words, I'm bound to finish at least one project even if I mess around and add to all of my six projects during November. Yes, six. Freaking crazy.

For those keeping track at home, I'm actively working on Adventures in Zoology, the steampunk Goldielocks story (tentatively titled "Goldie"), How Christopher Kaplan Learned to Lie, Little Sparrow, Stag in Ruin, and the untitled romance. Seven if you count the revisions I need to do for The Trickster Society.

I'm also going to have to spend NaNo working on edits--not just for The Weredeer but for my novella coming out soon from Double Dragon, The Dragon Whisperer. Which was last year's NaNo project, as it happens.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I don't have anything to say, but I need to blog. <--words people dread seeing at the top of a post.

I am so completely unprepared for NaNoWriMo. Two freaking days and that's it! I'd planned to outline the rest of Adventures in Zoology but of course I haven't. I guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

I have come to the conclusion that I'm not actually done with The Trickster Society. As soon as NaNo's over, I'm digging in for a complete overhaul of the plot. I pretty much know what I want to do although I still need to decide what the bad guy's motivation is and how that will affect Ivy. I think the rewrite will only take a few weeks; hopefully I'll be able to go back to querying by the beginning of 2011.

But by hook or by crook, I'm going to finish Adventures in Zoology this year. It's waited long enough.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Awesome. Just awesome.

My copy of Cate Gardner's awesome book Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits came today! I can't wait to read it!

As if that weren't great enough, I also got a great big box from my brother's family, full of birthday goodies! Seriously, I don't know which part I like best--the Clan Shaw T-shirt (awesome) or the Halloween throw (awesome) or the B&N gift card (awesome! because of course I don't have enough books) or the drawing from my littlest nephew (fridge-door-worthy awesome).... Anyway, it's all awesome.

It's pouring rain here tonight. The only task I have for myself before bedtime is ironing my work clothes for tomorrow. Then I can get into my pajamas (who am I kidding? I'm already in my pajamas) and read all evening while I listen to the rain. Again, awesome.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The me of 20-some years ago

The summer before my sophomore year of college, I started what I called The Sandwich Diet. I had a sandwich for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a sandwich for supper. Usually ham, because I like ham sandwiches. Every afternoon I walked down to the store and bought a 3 Musketeers bar, which I ate. When I started back to school that fall, I looked fantastic. Not that I thought I looked good. I still thought I was fat.

I was thinking about that as I walked back from the store today after buying a 3 Musketeers bar (I'm not on the Sandwich Diet. I just wanted some chocolate). I was wishing I could pop back in time to meet myself as an 18-year-old college student, to tell her to enjoy being young and trim with her whole life before her. I also wished I could give her my sword and tell her to join a fencing group, because then I'd already be a good fencer and wouldn't have to be nervously putting off joining a local group until I lose just five more pounds.

And after that, of course, I wished I could just sit down and talk to my 18-year-old self. I think the conversation would go something like this, once I'd convinced her that I was actually her older self....

2010 Me: I've brought you a book about how to study effectively. You're going to need it next year. Oh, and don't take any classes from Dr. Sears.

1988 Me: I have to. He's the only one who teaches that class on the Romantic poets.

2010 Me: He's going to retire next year. I've also brought you a reading list. These are books I wish I'd read when I was your age.

1988 Me: These books look boring.

2010 Me: Yes, I know, but trust me when I say that you need to read Dorothy Sayers right now. Now, this box here contains printed-out copies of manuscripts. You'll have to retype them before you send them out on submission, but do not change one freaking word. They've been edited by someone twenty-three years your senior--that would be me--and I can't give them away because of the economy. Here in 1988, publishers will buy anything.

1988 Me: I have to type all this? Don't you have floppy discs in 2010?

2010 Me: No. No, we don't. Just type them. Here's some money for the 1989 Writer's Market. Look, if I get back to 2010 and I still have my dead-end job, no agent, and no contracts with major publishers, I'm going to come back in time again and kick your ass. And I'll take this sword back, see if I don't.

1988 Me: I'm kind of too busy to type this much stuff.

2010 Me: You are not busy. You've spent the entire summer sitting around reading horse books and listening to the radio. Speaking of which, you need to get a job. Seriously, it will do you a world of good.

1988 Me: I'm a sensitive flower. I don't think I can handle the pressures of a job. I also have a massive intellect and shouldn't have to work for a living. I'm a writer.

2010 Me: No, I'm a writer. You're a poser. Hell with it, I'm going to kick your ass just for the exercise.

Flabby 2010 Me kicks 1988 Me's ass thoroughly, since 1988 Me is weakened from her three-month diet of nothing but ham sandwiches and 3 Musketeers bars.

2010 Me: Now sit down and type this stuff up, get a job at a book store, and join a fencing group.

1988 Me (wiping her bloody nose): When I'm your age, I won't be such a bitch.

2010 Me: Oh yes you will. You just won't notice it happening.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I haven't been able to settle to anything after finishing The Trickster Society, which surprises me. I finished it some two months ago and NaNo's coming up. I should have dug into something new by now, but I can't leave Trickster Society alone. I keep going back in and rereading parts of it. I even did a full editing pass earlier this week.

Last night I realized the problem. It's not done. This is not a good realization when you've got 20-some queries out to agents.

The problem is the beginning, which is unusual for me. Usually I have trouble with endings. The book starts way too slow and the inciting incident doesn't occur until a third of the way in. I spent an hour last night trying to figure out how to rearrange a very closely-plotted book to make things start faster, and finally moved the book's opening back about twelve hours of book time.

Now there's a brand new first chapter where something alarming takes place, which hopefully will add a sinister pall over events in the next few chapters. I was able to introduce the shadow people properly in the new first chapter, too. I plan to cut several thousand words from the scavenger hunt since it's no longer as important (and just drags on way too long). I'm also shortening chapters when I can, which will help the pacing seem faster.

I wish I'd done this before I'd started querying agents. I should know better than to start querying so soon after finishing revisions, since I always come back to a book after a few months to fix stuff. But there are still a lot of agents out there I haven't queried yet.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Six! Six reviews ah ah ah!

OMG, my brother (who goes by Lertulo sometimes online and sometimes just goes by his name, Richard) has posted FOUR reviews over on Skunk Cat tonight, and I've posted one! That's FIVE REVIEWS in one evening! This is, like, the best day ever!

NO HE JUST POSTED ANOTHER ONE! *faints* That's six reviews tonight!

NOW SEVEN! *faints again*

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yet another bunch of plans

I didn't get much writing done this weekend, but I did catch up on a lot of other stuff. The upstairs bathroom is finally really clean (well, except for the floor) and I bought myself a new toothbrush and lavender soap, and made some awesome beef stew with the best turnips I've ever seen in my life, and finally planted the winter radishes and cleaned out the garden a little, and read someone else's book that I'll review tomorrow, and did laundry. I have my usual end-of-October feeling of setting things right for winter--compounded, of course, by the feeling of getting things sorted before NaNo.

The steampunk Goldielocks story is going well. I'm not as far along as I want to be, but I think it's really good so far. I'm definitely on track to finish it by November, at which point I'll pick Adventures in Zoology back up and finish it over NaNo.

No one believes me anymore when I set out my writing plans. I don't believe me either. Oh well, whatever works. As long as I'm writing and finishing at least one book a year, I think I'm good. Of course, my "need to finish" projects are piling up.

I've still got two and a half months left in 2010. I want to finish the Goldielocks story, Adventures in Zoology, Christopher Kaplan, and possibly even the unnamed romance this year, but I'll settle for any two of the four.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Awesome book time!

I almost forgot to post this! Cate Gardner's book, Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits, is now available! It's a collection of her wonderfully strange short fiction. You can order it from Amazon or directly from the publisher. I just found out I get a limited-edition bookmark with my preorder, and also because I am SPECIAL.

Cate's fiction is truly awesome! If you haven't sampled any of her stories before, you're really in for a treat.

What is fantasy? How does it differ from SF?

A brief post yesterday at The OF Blog has set off a number of other bloggers. What's the difference between SF and fantasy? The post doesn't really speculate, just brings up the topic in an "I've been thinking about this lately" kind of way, but a few other bloggers have followed up with more in-depth thoughts.

Spiral Galaxy responded with a post arguing that in fantasy, certain special people are "born with the power." That is, only certain people can wield magic, while anyone can use technology. There's a follow-up at Smith Orbit that agrees and goes a little further, stating that fantasy contains a "romantic notion of authenticity"--that is, in fantasy, certain things or places are more pure or sacred or special and therefore contain power, while in SF, places and things are subject only to natural forces, which do not include "specialness."

Me, I'm inclined to follow Orson Scott Card's advice that SF contains rivets and fantasy doesn't, a short-hand way of differentiating between technology-driven SF and non-technological fantasy. But that's a bit simplistic too. Not all SF is about spaceships. Not all fantasy is about magic. When I shelved the fantasy section at a used bookstore years ago, I used to argue with our fiction director about where Anne McCaffrey's Pern books belonged. I wanted them in SF because the dragons were bioengineered creatures on another planet, the dragons' teleporting abilities were explained (in a handwavy way) as using natural processes, and while the people on the planet Pern had mostly forgotten about their past and had reverted to a much less technologically advanced society, they had originally arrived by spaceship. The fiction director wanted the Pern books in fantasy because, well, they had dragons on the covers. We were both right.

I don't really agree with the bloggers I linked to earlier, since I think they're using fantasy in a very narrow way. As I say, not all fantasy has magic. (Think of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint). Giving fantasy all the people with special abilities ignores the varied abilities of real world people. For example, some people are tone deaf and literally cannot hear music as music, which doesn't make the rest of us special for hearing music where others hear cacophany. Likewise, ascribing specialness to things and places that are not actually any different from similar things and places is a human attribute and shows up in all kinds of fiction (the lucky penny, the sacred grove, the Indian burial ground, the magic sword, the holy book).

If this post is coming across as disjointed, that's because I've been working on it on and off for about two hours now. Basically, everyone draws the line between SF and F in a different place. Sometimes you don't even need rivets.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thanks, brain. Thanks a lot.

Just a few weeks before NaNo starts and what have I been doing? Have I been finishing up Christopher Kaplan like I'd planned? Have I been jotting notes for Adventures in Zoology? Maybe I've just been too busy editing The Weredeer to do much writing at all.

No, indeed. The last two days I've spent my time obsessively plotting out a steampunk version of "Goldielocks and the Three Bears." Today I started writing it and I'm 1,000 words in.

Seriously, that's what I've been wasting my time on. "Goldielocks and the Three Bears." WTF, brain, WTF?

Actually, this isn't a novel and I've been meaning to write it for weeks. CatsCurious Press has opened for submissions to its second Faery Taile double-feature and I wanted to try it out. What could be more of a challenge than a 12,000 word retelling of "Goldielocks and the Three Bears"? It's a story with hardly any plot to speak of. Take out the actual, literal bears, turn it into a gritty steampunk drama (but not too gritty, because this has to be appropriate for the 12 and up crowd), and make sure the bad guy--Papa Bear, now a steamworks part-owner (a "bear") named Jimson Ramsey--has plenty to do off-screen for the companion story, and it's even more challenging. So yes, that's what I'm working on right now. Why do you ask?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Now it can be revealed

I have the okay to announce this already! BeWrite Books has accepted The Weredeer for publication--maybe even as soon as this December. We've already done one round of edits, which has me cringing at my overuse of certain words and phrases. Time to edit everything else I've ever written. They're also interested in the sequel. That's doubly awesome, but I need to do some work on it before I let anyone (much less an editor) see it.

I'm thrilled, since The Weredeer has long been my favorite of all the books I've written. I've learned an awful lot about writing from it, too. I can't wait to see the cover once it's done!

So it's celebration time for the Weredeer!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A tiny message

I have good news*! Which I can't share yet! But I will soon!

Um, so, that's the extent of my blogging abilities tonight. I tried to get some writing done today at lunch but accidentally picked up a book instead. I've been reading a ton of YA/MG books lately. I just seem to be in the right mood for them right now. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed how much fresher stories for kids feel right now? The fantasy I'm reading for grown-ups feels formulaic and mostly 'safe,' whereas the YA/MG books go off in fun and unexpected directions.

*Which does not involve anyone having any babies! Especially me!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eight Questions

The lovely and talented (um, that phrase is only half-working right now) Alan W. Davidson has tagged me! You should definitely check out his blog, if only to see him in a fez, although definitely stick around for the thoughtful posts, photographs of Canadian wilderness, and of course the excellent fiction!

I have to answer these eight questions.

If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?
I want the flying superpower. That's it. I'm not picky. I think it would be completely awesome to be able to fly. And think about it--you could swoop up and rescue people when they were about to fall from a high place, or from the top of a burning building, or cats stuck up in tall trees.

Who is your style icon?
I'm pretty sure I'm not smart enough to answer this question. I don't know what a style icon is. I'm 100% sure that my style icon is not Lady Gaga, though.

What is your favorite quote?
"Evil will always triumph, because good is dumb."
No, wait, that's not it! Really! Actually, I'm terrible at remembering quotes, even if they're important to me at the time. I had a quote by the brilliant animator Seamus Culhane taped on my computer monitor for years, and I can't even remember now what it was about, much less what it said. Um, my favorite quote is by Seamus Culhane.

What is the best compliment you've ever received?
Like all writers, I remember the negative comments jot and tiddle, and can't remember the compliments. For that matter, I do that in my regular life too. I guess I'm just one of those sensitive, high-maintenance people.

I'm not doing a very good job of answering these questions.

What playlist/CD is in your CD player/iPod right now?
As it happens, I've got Pandora Radio playing in the background this very moment. It's playing "Wild Horses" by The Sundays. Oops, it finished and now it's playing "Run Run Run" by Concrete Blonde. Concrete Blonde is one of my very favorite bands ever.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Morning person, definitely. My mom said she loved waking me up in the morning when I was little. She'd have to go into my brother's room repeatedly to make sure he was actually out of bed and reasonably mobile. Then she would go into my room and say, "Time to get up, hon," and I'd jump out of bed and say, "Hi, Mommy!"

Do you prefer dogs or cats?
I like them both equally. Millions of hugses for the dogs and cats! I miss my Newfoundland dog and mixed-breed cats fiercely. All my pets are waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.

What is the meaning behind your blog name?
It's from the poem "Forester's Song" by A.E. Coppard. The relevant lines are "And I leave a knotted thicket / As a chamber for the stag." I love that little poem far more than it probably deserves.

Of course, my blog is where memes go to die, so although I'm supposed to tag some other folks, as always I will say "if you want to do this, consider yourself tagged!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where's my fanfare?

The princess is going to bed. Where is her fanfare? Her ladies-in-waiting scattering rose petals? Her handsome young man playing the harp?

Oh well, at least she still has her lovely, lovely bed.

I got my canopy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Now that's what I call a TOC

The TOC for the Distant Realms novella antho has been announced!

Katherine Shaw, "The Price of Justice"
Trent Roman, "The Battle of Transvaal"
Alfred D. Byrd, "The Seventh Proficiency"
Eliza Granville, "Snatchlings"
Robert J. Santa, "Turning Point"

As it happens, Rob Santa was one of the first editors I ever worked with. He bought the third story I ever sold, and the first story I wrote specifically for a market, "Sea and Sky" in the awesome anthology Black Dragon, White Dragon. The world of writing is a small one.

I'm really looking forward to this anthology! I think novellas are sadly underappreciated these days; hopefully this antho and its SF companion, Distant Worlds, will help change that.

(I should point out modestly that the Katherine Shaw listed up there is me. The editor listed me on the website by my full name, although by the time we do edits and proofs and all that good stuff, I'll be properly listed as K.C. Shaw.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Gearing up for November

I've typed up everything I had written out longhand for Christopher Kaplan. I'm at 13,000 words! That's more than I thought, and I figure it's probably a third complete. Since I know precisely where the story is going (well, minus the details), I'm going to try and work on it for the next few weeks. I'll see how far I can get before NaNo.

Don't forget to sign up for NaNoWriMo! I've already signed up and donated. If you want to join me in the race to 50,000 words this November, buddy me. My handle is Saanen and you can find my profile at here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October Gardening

The pepper plants are turning out peppers like they're on an assembly line. I've sent off all the peppers people ordered; if you still want some, drop me an email. There are lots left, and will continue to be lots until our first frost, which probably won't be until late November (or even December).

I think I've chosen my NaNo finish-it project for this year. And the winner is...drumroll...
Adventures in Zoology
. It's two-thirds finished already and it would benefit from the zany details I tend to shove in when writing at breakneck NaNo pace. Better yet, it only needs about 25-30,000 words, which means once I'm done I'll have to pick up another project to finish, probably Christopher Kaplan. It's a twofer!

Dear God, I never thought I'd use the word 'twofer' ever in my whole life.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In for a penny, in for $155

Well, I've done it. I've bought my pass to the 2012 WorldCon, which is going to be held in Chicago that year. It takes place over the Labor Day weekend, but by god, if I can't get one damn Saturday off two years in advance, I don't need my stupid job.

Anyway, I'm going to Worldcon in two years, see if I don't.

And as soon as they open up reservations for the hotel where the con is held--the Hyatt, I think--I'm going to get my reservations in. And then I'm going to book a flight to Chicago that weekend. Yes, I'm going in style, honey. I hope to see some of y'all there!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Canopies and canapes (well, I thought it was funny)

I just ordered myself a bed canopy. Specifically, a blue mosquito-netting canopy that hangs from a ring on the ceiling. This one, in fact. I HAVE WANTED ONE SINCE I WAS SEVEN, THAT'S WHY.

If you sent an email about wanting peppers, I'll be mailing them tomorrow. If you meant to send an email about wanting peppers but forgot, go ahead and shoot me an email. I have tons of peppers.

I haven't done a lot of writing in the last couple of weeks, actually. I'm not sure why. I was writing like billy-oh on Christopher Kaplan, and then I stopped to write the Trickster Society synopsis, and that was about it. I've been writing small scenes here and there, but no real progress. I think I'm going to have to do NaNo this year after all, because I need to finish some of my partly written projects.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And that was 50!

I've now read 50 books this year, ten of them published by small presses. I may not be doing so hot on any of my other new year's resolutions, but by golly I've nailed this one.

Book #50 was a very funny one by Harry Harrison, which I reviewed over at Skunk Cat (of course), and which happened to also be published (okay, republished--but it counts) by a small press. Go me.

Skunk Cat Book Reviews is actually the main reason I've been keeping up with my reading. Since I want to keep new content up (at least one review weekly is my goal), and since I want to post reviews of a good variety of books, I have to read read read. I can't say that my to-be-read pile has shrunk (because I just buy way too many books), but at least it still fits on the new shelves I built this summer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Great Chili Pepper Giveaway

I was going to wait until Oct. 1 to do a pepper giveaway, doubling it up with the Oct. 1 garden update (because EVERYONE CARES). But I've got way too many peppers, and I want to start clearing out parts of the garden so I can plant the winter stuff.

So here's the deal. If you're interested in receiving some free peppers, email me at kateshaw123 [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also send it to my other gmail address, kcshaw123, either way. I check both. Send me your mailing address and tell me what kind of peppers you'd like. I'd be happy to send a sampler of different kinds if you want to try different ones.

I've got mostly hot peppers, and I can't claim that they'll get to you in prime edible shape. I don't think I'd better send any overseas--sorry, pepper fanciers from other lands. You can dry the peppers and harvest the seeds if you don't want to eat them, although you may end up with a strange cross, since my plants are all crammed together in a small garden and may have cross-pollinated. But that's part of the fun, right?

In return, all I ask is that you buy a small-press book before the year is out--I don't care what press or what book, and you don't have to prove you've bought one. It's all on the honor system, although it would be nifty if you post to let me know if you've found a new treasure.

I've got these peppers available--first come, first served. Let me know if you have a preference for green peppers, half-ripe, or fully ripe. All the peppers are pesticide-free and I don't pick the ones that have been bug-nibbled.

Tabasco (lots and lots of these)
Habanero (red and yellow varieties)
Serrano (lots of these too, a few ripe but mostly green)
Thai Hot
NuMex Twilight, or possibly Sunrise--can't remember which and the tags are gone
a few Jalapeno and Cayenne
...and mystery peppers that have lost their labels and don't look familiar to me (but I promise they're edible)

You can ask for some milder peppers if you like and I'll send them if I have them.

Oh, and (ahem) I have a Lulu book available as a real book or a download if you're interested in growing or using peppers (including recipes!), 25 Chili Peppers You Should Read About in This Book Before You Die.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I have a sword!

My awesome and wonderful Aunt Barbara came by this afternoon and GAVE me her old fencing foil and facemask! And she gave me a very laid-back lesson (because Barbara is always laid-back) on how to stand and stuff, and made me feel A) 1,000 pounds heavy, and B) clumsy in comparison to her nimbleness. Barbara actually won fencing tournaments when she was in college. She says she used to wear old ripped-up jeans with duct tape over the rips. She's so cool.

So now I have to lose weight (trust me on this--I didn't put the pictures up of me looking humongous for a reason) and join a fencing group--either the one at the college where I work, or hopefully one that's a little closer.

And I have a sword!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This is how I spend my money

I got my book orders today! Ten books! This is why I have no money; I have more books than sense at this point. I would claim that I won't buy any more books for myself this year, but who am I kidding? My birthday's coming up next month. I have to buy myself a book, or two, or ten.

With one exception (Gary Blackwood), I ordered every single one of these books because I'd heard of it on a book blog. I don't browse for books the way I used to; I don't need to. I've found a number of book bloggers with tastes similar to mine and whose reviews I trust. Word of mouth is a very real, very important thing these days.

Anyway, here are the books I've ordered. I don't know what to read first!

The 13th Reality by James Dashner
Freak Show by James St. James
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh
The Demon and the City by Liz Williams
Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski
The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas
Magic Below Stairs by Caroline Stevermer
Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low
Jaran by Kate Elliott
The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood

Monday, September 20, 2010

Uh oh, synopsis time

I've done several editing passes on The Trickster Society over the past month or so, and I finally decided it was time to query. I tweaked my query letter Saturday and sent a bunch out to agents.

I've received a full request and a partial request already. Hot diggity! Unfortunately, the agent who requested the partial also wants a synopsis. And, um, I haven't written the synopsis yet.

This is actually an unusual book in some ways. While it does have plenty of action, the character development is the main thrust of the story. Main character Ivy is six years into the Einnars of her trollish culture--a decade-long separation from family that's required before a troll is considered a full adult. Not only is Ivy dealing with that, she's also feeling guilt for sleeping with a human and is having to come to terms with her relationship with the guy, who also happens to be her best friend. On top of all that, she's a nonhuman minority and keeps bumping up against racism and her own assumptions about where she belongs in society.

That's all good and meaty stuff to me, and I hope it's compelling enough to carry the book before the action parts of the plot unfold, which they don't start to do until about a quarter of the way into the book. I'm proud that the character arcs of Ivy and her best friend dovetail so neatly with the action plots (of which there are two, which are in turn closely related and intersect at the end). But I'm not sure I can convey the plot's complexity in two pages without making it sound like a confusing mess--or just lame.

I hope it's not just lame.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Novella Redux Hooray!

I've sold a second novella this year! "The Price of Justice" will appear in the Distant Realms anthology. I'm not sure when it'll be released, but my guess is early 2011--I know the editor is still working on edits for the companion volume, Distant Lands, which is an anthology of SF novellas.

So I may have only made two sales so far this year, but they add up to 64,000 words sold and that's pretty darn good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poor toe

Sunday I stubbed my pinky toe so hard on a chair that I made up new cusswords to yell because the old ones weren't potent enough. I hopped around screaming and dripping blood from my damaged toe for about an hour--okay, maybe two minutes--before determining that my injury was not in fact life-threatening. It's been a good excuse to wear sandals to work every day, though.

Well, this evening I went by the store, and after I'd paid I picked up my bag and promptly dropped it on THAT SAME TOE, which immediately began to bleed all over the place (or at least all over my favorite flip-flops). I would put it down to coincidence, but here's what I had in the bag:

two plums
carton of strawberry yogurt
single-serving plastic bottle of lemonade
puzzle magazine

In other words, nothing heavy and nothing with sharp corners. I can only assume that my toe is destined to lose its nail--it's looking pretty gross and purple--and that I'm destined to keep wearing those really cute sandals to work.

I'd liken the injuring and reinjuring of my little toe to the repeated blows of getting rejection letters, but frankly I'd rather just eat this yogurt.

To keep this writing-related, even if tangentially (toegentially?), I have no idea how much I've written on the tentatively-titled How Christopher Kaplan Learned to Lie because most of it's still not typed up, but I'm pretty sure I'm close to 10,000 words. That means I'm probably a quarter of the way through, maybe more!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Happy for that monkey on my back

I'm 6,600 words into the untitled monkey book. I'm having a blast with it, to the point that I wonder if maybe this is actually the kind of book I should be writing. We'll see how it goes.

I'm only going to have two days off in the next 17 days, which makes me want to quit my job, sell everything I own, and take off for parts unknown with only a pack on my back and a monkey by my side. Maybe that's why this monkey book is so appealing to me right now.

I need a working title for the monkey book. I keep playing around with it, from How Christopher Kaplan Learned to Lie, which doesn't mention monkeys (and I think the title should mention monkeys) to The Laser-Powered Monkey, which sounds like he's mechanical. I'm hopeless at titles.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Books I didn't finish and why

Oddly enough, I had already decided to write this post when I found a very similar post over on The Book Smugglers published just a few days ago.

Anyway, until fairly recently I never put down a book I'd started reading. I made myself finish no matter how much I hated it, probably because I was an English major and often had to read books for class that I didn't like.

But now, I need to read a lot to keep new content up on Skunk Cat Book Reviews. If a book doesn't hold my interest, I'll usually set it aside and pick up another one.

Here are a few books I've set aside recently.

Tigerheart by Peter David
This one started out very good, but it went downhill fast. By the almost-halfway point I hated it so much I intended to finish it so I could eviscerate it in a review, but I just couldn't make myself keep going once the small boy main character started mouthing the author's philosophical ideas at tedious length. The Little Prince this isn't. It is, however, plodding and dull.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
I loved Little Brother and was very excited about this book. I was really disappointed with it (and annoyed that I'd spent all that money on a hardback). I got about 1/3 of the way in and found it so depressing and disjointed that I set it aside. It has so many viewpoint characters that by the time the book cycled back around to one, I'd forgotten who he/she was or what had been going on with him/her.

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
First of all, I do not for one second believe that Faith Hunter is the author's real name. I also suspect the author is a man. Nothing else would explain why the female main character thinks and acts like a man--this is a classic "man with boobs" characterfail. I don't care about motorcycles, guns, or vampires with retractable fangs, so obviously this book is not for me.

What do I do with books I don't finish? Three words: used book store. So I can get new books.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WIP Wednesday: monkey edition

Yesterday evening I had a rejection waiting for me when I checked my email right before leaving work. On the drive home, I ranted mentally about the State of Publishing, as one does. I ended up wondering what the hell I could write that would actually get published.

My thinking went like this: "I'll write a YA book. YA is hot. Vampires are out, zombies are peaking right now so there's no point in writing a new zombie book. What'll be the next big thing? I know, monkeys. I'll write a YA book about a boy who finds a monkey and they go on adventures. It'll be rollicking fun and also a tender coming-of-age story. And the monkey can shoot laser beams out of its eyes."

After that I calmed down and spent the evening avoiding working on my boring, boring romance novel.

At 5:30 this morning, a storm moved in and the thunder woke me up. I listened to the rain for a while with my mind drifting, and this line popped up in my traitorous brain (traitorous because it should have been thinking up plot points for the romance): "Chris found Ojo sitting under a forsythia bush one drizzly Friday afternoon."

Who is Chris? He's a thirteen-year-old boy who lives with a foster family and wants a dog. Who is Ojo? Ojo is a monkey who can shoot laser beams from his eyes. I have written 3,300 words about Chris and Ojo and I AM HAVING A FUCKLOAD OF FUN.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A sad lack of tiny ponies and dragons

Best blog post ever. Trust me on this. I got the link from, and you know they never steer you wrong.

I remember now why I stopped writing the romance novel this spring. It wasn't that it sucked, although the beginning was really uneven (fixed nao ha), it was that it was boring. I like the characters, but they lead tedious, small lives with not even the slightest possibility of a dragon or a unicorn or even a tiny pony showing up unexpectedly. I'm going to forge on with it because it's not hard to write, but this is my only foray into non-paranormal romance, I swear.

I did find my original outline, which I'd written in paragraph form. You know what? It's not an outline, it's a synopsis. And it's already written! *bursts into tears of joy and relief* Now I have to finish the book, because I am not going to waste a perfectly good (actually, it's very good--clear and concise and with notations of character development) synopsis.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome to Cliche-land

I've now reread all 25,000 words of the romance book I started writing this spring. The bad news is it needs a lot of work. The good news is that it's actually almost done--most of the work it needs is padding so that the first few chapters don't feel so rushed, and once I do that and write the last few chapters (where the poisoner is revealed and the main characters declare their love for one another, very physically), I should be right at the wordcount goal.

It's kind of amazing how many cliches I've stuffed into 25k words, though. I don't know how much of a drawback that is in category romance; presumably the plots don't need to be terribly fresh since it's the characters that are the real focus. Then again, there are so many cliches: the heroine's ex-boyfriend who wants to pick up their old relationship where it left off, the conniving other woman who's after the newly monied hero, the heroine's struggle to choose between the ex-boyfriend and the hero, the attempted rape of the heroine and her rescue by the hero (I'm particularly embarrassed about that one), the hero's dark secret that he dares not reveal to the heroine.

Still, I said I'd do this and I will. I'll do my damnedest to make it a good book--and I do really like the characters, and the writing is better than I remembered. If it sells to Harlequin, great. If it doesn't sell to Harlequin, there are a billion online romance publishers and I'm sure I can sell it to one of them.

(I vaguely remember writing a very similar post to this one months ago. What the hell, if I don't remember it no one else will either. Sort of like the age-old question, "Did I wear this shirt already this week?")

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Now 3% grimmer!

I've added about 2,000 words to The Trickster Society, fleshing out the worldbuilding just a bit and adding a longer, darker fight at the end. I still want to do some tinkering, but I think the revisions will be fairly minor. For once I took the time to get the ending right!

Now that I'm getting close to wrapping up the first-pass edits and will soon set Trickster Society aside to cool a little, I'm ready for my next project. I'm going to finish that awful romance book I started this spring, by God, even if it kills me. It would be totally awesome if I could finish it before NaNo--I might even allow myself to write something new in November if so.

Hey, I have a full two months before NaNo! I wrote Bell-Men in less time (um, and took twice as long to rewrite it because I rushed it, but never mind). I can totally write a frothy romance book in two months. Just watch me!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Happy 3rd birthday to my blog! I started it on Sept. 1, 2007. My goodness, what a lot of blather I've perpetrated since then.

Since it's the first of the month, here's a picture of my garden. Everything got so tall it fell over. We took down the fence since I didn't think it was keeping the deer out; turns out it was keeping some of the deer out, and now the deer have eaten up the tomato plants and the sweet potato plants and even some of the pepper plants (geez, deer, what the hell is wrong with the neighbor's garden?), the sunflowers got some sort of weird fungus so we took them out, and the squash plants died because it's been dry lately and I forgot to water them. Oops.

I've done a read-through of The Trickster Society and done the first round of light edits. It's not bad, but it feels a little thin and light to me. Of course, my last project, Bell-Men, was a juggernaut--originally 130,000 words, full of angst and murder and horrible things happening. This book is much shorter and lighter in tone. I like the characters, but I'm just not sure if the book itself is okay as is or if I need to grim it up a little.

Oh, and I have a purple daisy of some kind in my garden and not only do I have no idea what it actually is, I didn't plant it:

Monday, August 30, 2010

What I write when I've finished writing

I didn't have anything to write today. I've finished The Trickster Society and I don't have anything lined up to work on immediately, so what did I do today when I had some downtime to write?

I wrote the query for Trickster Society, of course!

One good thing about writing one or two books a year, I get a lot of practice writing queries. Of course, I'm still no good at them (just consider the 100% disinterest in Bell-Men). But I keep plugging away at it because otherwise I'd have to figure out another hobby. Anyway, here's the query. Please let me know if it A) makes no sense and/or B) causes you to actually fall asleep.

Ivy Andersder is a troll--literally. It's hard fitting in when you're big, green, and scary. Ivy's become an expert at hiding her emotions as well as her fangs.

When her best friend suggests they blow off steam by pulling trickster pranks, Ivy thinks it'll be fun. But during their first prank, not only is Ivy nearly arrested, she asks a shadow person for help--and ends up in his debt, oathbound to rescue a captive fairy.

With help from her friends--five humans and a homesick leprechaun--Ivy breaks into a company called BioTech and rescues the fairy from magical experimentation. But BioTech is a sister company to the security firm where Ivy works, and she soon discovers it's also developing weapons that selectively affect nonhumans--including trolls.

One of her friends is missing and Ivy's job is at stake. It's time for the troll to show her fangs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My summer baby is all grown up

The Trickster Society is now complete at 90,000 words--precisely the length I'd hoped for! It needs a lot of tinkering and editing and probably some rewriting in spots, but I think it's pretty solid.

Even better, I finished it without haste but in time to rev up for the first fall project. After a light editing pass on Trickster Society, I plan to return to my unnamed romance book. I'm hoping to finish it either before NaNo or during NaNo, depending on how much work I need to put into it. I can't remember how many words it has, but it doesn't need to be too long--something like 55,000 words, I think.

It feels good to finish a project. This one took me longer than usual. I started it in May and finished now at the end of August. A summer book, who would have believed it!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pencils and Pens

I haven't been slacking from posting (much), I wanted to delay posting until I could say I typed THE END on the last page of The Trickster Society, which is back to its original title. And I have! Only I'm not done! I skipped ahead and wrote the very short last chapter since I knew precisely what I wanted in the denoument, and now I have to go back and write the big fight at the end. I'm partway into that, but I think it's time for bed.

But the real reason I posted is because I'm thinking about pens and pencils. I just read this over at Boing Boing about a revived famous old pencil: --I read the comments too, because it meant I could avoid writing for a few extra minutes--and I kept nodding my head or frowning.

I write a lot longhand, almost always in pen, so I'm very picky about the pens I use. I prefer the V7 Pilot Precise pens, although they're hard to find so I usually get the V5. Recently I bought a Bic 537R because it had a .7 tip, but while I like it, its ink is so dark that it soaks through the page of the cheap notebooks I use.

As for pencils, I've paid more attention to them than I ever have since I started working as a test proctor. You'd think all #2 or HB pencils are about the same, but oh lordie they are not. Last time we ordered supplies, we ended up with a lot of cheapass Office Depot pencils. They suck, OMG they suck. Half of them have the leads in so crooked it's impossible to use them, and the erasers pop out of the ferule on the other half. Some of the best pencils, oddly enough, are the ones with glitzy, elaborate decorations on them.

You know what I hate? Cheap mechanical pencils. They're crap. I'd rather use an Office Depot pencil. We have hundreds of cheap mech pencils in the testing center at work that people have abandoned. No one wants them. The lead snaps off all the time, they're flimsy, their erasers are tiny and not very good (and pop out and get lost), and they often just stop working so that you can't advance the lead or keep it in place once it's advanced. We just throw them away. Bad for the environment, bad for the test-taker, and a waste of money.

My gawd, I'm ranting about mechanical pencils. Someone needs to put me out of my misery.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Empty-headed as usual

I'm stuck on The Trickster Society, or as its shiny new title is, Shadow Crossing (100% more urban fantasy in that title! 100% less fun!). I have no clue how to tie everything up with a proper whizbang ending. I'm around 77k words in and have maybe 2k more that I can write without having to make a decision on the plot.

I tried outlining the ending last night, but I kept getting bogged down because, yes, it's hard to outline a big mental blank spot. I think the main problem is that this book's set in the real world, so I keep trying to apply real-world solutions to the book's plot issues. Why yes, I could get the bad guys arrested...but wouldn't that be lame? My main character has spent half the book training to be a bodyguard. I think she needs to kick someone's ass before the end of the book.

Monday, August 23, 2010

emails and titles

I'm embarrassed to admit that sometimes I submit stories to anthologies just because I want the comp copy. Thus it is with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Cookbook anthology, which I happen to have a story for--but I can't get my sub to go through! Anyone know if that antho is still alive? If they are, does anyone have a working submission email address? [ETA: I got the email to go through today. Maybe it was just a glitch this weekend.]

It's starting to feel like fall here, just a little. The light is golden, the air clear, and it's in the balmy 80s instead of the sweaty 90s. I'm revving up for the autumn writing season, which I'm looking forward to even though I've been writing steadily all summer. Suddenly I'm ready to write my head off, as many words as I can get down in a few months.

First, of course, I need to finish this book. I've tipped just past 75k and it's time to wrap things up within 10-15k words max. My goal tonight: work out the timeline of the ending and figure out exactly what I want to happen. Easy, right? Hunh.

Oh, and I'm ready to start thinking up a real title for the book. It's an urban fantasy, and The Trickster Society sounds like a YA book--but would be a good tag for a series name, if it comes to that. Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Noble Sport

Rather than wait for my fencing aunt to make an appearance in town, today I went ahead and gave myself my first lesson out of a book. Fifteen minutes of lunging an imaginary sword at an imaginary opponent and my fat, weak legs are all wobbly and sore. I reckon this means I'm doing something right.

It's actually fun, this fencing thing. It doesn't seem very practical, of course. In modern fencing, one moves back and forth in a straight line like opponents in a 2d video game. In real life, anyone trying to fight like that would get a chair to the back of the head. But modern fencing isn't designed for real life, it's designed for, I don't know, people who don't like to move side to side.

I figure I'll learn the basics of fencing--I never bother to learn more than the basics of anything except writing, to tell you the truth--and then I can find resources that will help me adapt the moves to swashbuckling-type fencing, which is what I really want to learn. Arrrr.

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's the trivia that makes us real

Until I lost an online friend, I never realized how important you all are to me. The last several months I've been lazy about posting here and commenting on my friends' blogs. That's going to change. I don't have to wait to post until I have something to talk about; the most important details are the tiny, seemingly mundane ones that define our lives. I've been writing like crazy the last couple of days. I'm at 70,000 words on The Trickster Society and coming up on the end. That's good, since it means I'm on track to finish at less than 90,000 words. It's taken me longer than usual to write this one--I started in May--but that may be good too. It has a more measured pace with a lot more carefully crafted character development that I sometimes skimp on in favor of action. There's plenty of action too, of course.

I've rearranged my bookshelves again so that the books are in strict alpha order by author. It's not as fun as the color-coded shelves, but I can find what I'm looking for again. Now I'm casting a frowning eye on my brick-and-board shelves, which is where I keep my to-read books. I need those shelves, so I'm going to try and read as many of the to-read books as I can in the next few months. And I'm already at 42 books read for the year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

RIP Jamie

I just found out that fellow writer and online friend Jamie Eyberg and his wife died this past weekend. I'm shocked and horrified. Things like this don't really happen, not really, not in real life--or at least they only happen to people I don't know.

I don't have any words to say, except that Jamie will be sadly missed by his friends and readers. Rest in peace.

A memorial fund has been set up to help their children; information about it is available here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Horror meme!

Oh no! Natalie L. Sin has tagged me! I'm supposed to tag five others, but honestly, by the time I get tagged for anything, everyone I know has been tagged already. So if you want to do this one, consider yourself tagged. I'm so boring.

Now, the meme. I'm supposed to post a series of photos from horror movies, and the photos must all relate to a theme.

This one's hard for me. I don't watch horror movies because they either gross me out or bore me, or both. Therefore, I'll fudge just a bit as none of these movies would probably be considered real horror.

Can you guess the theme? Can you? CAN YOU? Here's a hint:

Bela Lugosi = awesome.

From The Vampire's Assistant, which I quite liked.

I never did see a single episode of the show, but I saw the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie like five times in the theater. I'm willing to bet most people who liked the show never even knew there was a movie that started it all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blah blah blah

I think the more I twitter, the less I blog. Of course, it doesn't help that I don't have much to blog about lately. Blah blah wordcount blah blah my job is exhausting blah blah rearranging bookshelves blah blah rejection blah blah blah.

Last night I mowed the lawn. I think I made about a dozen tweets about it, as if it was important or something, and then I realized just what a tedious person I've become. Not that I've ever been the sort to do great big amazing things, but seriously. Tweeting more than once about mowing the lawn? Sad.

At least I can console myself that while I was mowing the lawn, I was working out plot points for The Trickster Society, which of course is a book about a troll woman who spends her days as a bodyguard-in-training and her nights as a trickster. So I was being a supremely boring person and a kind of interesting person at the same time! Although you couldn't tell that from the tweets.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cargo Cult Ironing

This is hell week at work, which means I basically come home, go to bed, and get back up and go to work again. My feet hurt. I'm about to go to bed, but I need to iron a shirt for tomorrow, so I set up the ironing board and put the shirt on it and I'm going to go to bed now. Maybe in the morning the shirt will be ironed!

It was great to see my brother's family this weekend. Not only did my brother fix Bunny the eee's keyboard, we also actually played a little bit of D&D! That was especially awesome since my eldest nephew, who is an unbelievable 13 years old--the last time I played D&D, he was three--joined us and we all had a great time.

I didn't get much writing done, of course. That's okay, since my brother also gave me an awesome idea for a plot point in The Trickster Society (it was the fish, Richard). I managed to find time yesterday to write that scene, and now I'm over 58,000 words into the book and still going strong. I'd make it to 59,000 words tonight but I have to fail to iron this shirt and go to bed.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


My trio of awesome nephews have gone back to their hotel to swim before bedtime, and I'm taking a break from frantically typing up everything I wrote today. Currently the wordcount stands at 51,000, but I have a lot left to type.

This afternoon I attended a meeting in the downstairs conference room (at work, of course). When I walked in, there were bottles of water on the table along with a few boxes of cheap cookies, a binder and pen at every place, and graph paper. Yes. Graph paper. I still don't know why; probably no one could find any lined paper in time. But I still had this wonderful moment as I took my place, because I was certain, in my heart of hearts, that we were about to start a D&D campaign. Alas, it was not so.

I'm rethinking the 3-day novel thing this year. For one thing, it costs $50; for another, I don't know if I'll be done with The Trickster Society in time. I refuse to set this book aside to work on anything else until it's not just done, it's done to my utter satisfaction. I learned my lesson with Bell-Men last year. I'm convinced that half the problem with the difficult rewrites and revisions was due to rushing the ending so I could do NaNo.

I do expect to finish Trickster Society in another month or six weeks (hopefully). I'm shooting for ninety to 95,000 words and I know what the very last scene will be. I'm a little fuzzier on the big ending, but ideas and pathways are unfolding beautifully as I write. Once I'm done, I'll start preparing for NaNo 2010: The Finishing. I'll be picking up the abandoned romance novel I started this spring and finishing it, after which I'll work on Adventures in Zoology. Once that one's done (and we're talking well past NaNo and into December or even January), I expect I'll be rabid to do some editing, and then I'll circle back to finish Little Sparrow. Until all these projects are done, I'm not starting a single new one. Really!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In the middle of the book in the middle in the middle

I got a lot written today! I need to type it up, but I suspect it's more than 2,000 words. I'm more than halfway through The Trickster Society, around 50,000 words so far and accelerating.

I'm not sure how and when it happened, but something clicked in the story recently and I feel pretty confident in how it's going. That may change tomorrow, but right now it's great.

Oops, my nephews are here! Bye!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The August Garden

I can't believe how fast this summer is going. Here it is August already. The garden is looking very August-ish: tangled, messy, and just the beginning of autumnal browns and golds among the leaves. The tomato plants are not very visible in this picture because they've gotten so big they've toppled their cages and are lying along the ground, sending down roots from their stems and letting the heavy tomatoes rot amid the weeds.

I'm over 40,000 words into The Trickster Society and writing as fast as I can. I'm hoping to finish the first draft by the end of this month so I can clear the decks for the 3-day Novel Contest and my usual fall frenzy of writing.

I'm starting to think happily about Halloween coming up.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Week of the Mighty Novella

Finally! My novella The Dragon Whisperer--last year's NaNo book, the one I wrote at breakneck speed so I could get back to rewriting Bell-Men--will be published as an ebook by Double Dragon Press! DDP published my novel Weaver's Shroud this spring and I'm very happy with them, so I'm glad they liked The Dragon Whisperer too.

Also in novella news this week, Cate Gardner has just announced that her novella Theatre of Curious Acts will be published by Hadley Rille Books! Congratulations to her, and huzzahs all around for the great and fabulous novella!