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: