Sunday, October 30, 2011

Breaking things

We're down to three regular-sized bowls and one small decorative dessert bowl, because I am a klutz. I broke two bowls at once today. I should have known that stacking them while I took them out of the dishwasher was a bad idea.

On the other hand, I put together our new coldframe (9 square feet!) without any trouble at all this afternoon. Mom sat on the patio wrapped up in about twenty shawls because it was still chilly, watching me and occasionally saying, "Can I help?" in a slightly smug tone of voice--knowing that of course I'd say, "No, I'm fine, thanks."

And I've spent the last four hours putting together a document of the best of Mom's blog posts. She wants to self-publish it as a collection for family and friends, so we have to do it fast so we can order copies in time for Christmas. I didn't break anything doing that one, although my right foot is inexplicably sticky--I think from some Jello I must have dropped earlier. On the rug. The white rug.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Mom got out her camera and between the two of us, we managed to take some pictures (she has trouble with some fine motor skills like getting the fiddly little camera's memory card in and out of the slots; I have trouble with knowing what the hell you do with a camera at all). So here's a picture of my car with the tree I planted. I crammed that tree into my car!

We were supposed to have rain all day today. Fortunately it held off, since we finally got the guy out to build a tiny deck out back so Mom can get to the patio easier, and a handrail along the front of the house. We'll paint both white once the wood has weathered properly, probably early spring. So here is Mom standing on the front porch of our new little house.

I planted daffodil and tulip bulbs this afternoon and mowed the front lawn. We are ready for Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A gallon in a pint pot

I really wish I could post pictures I took on my phone. I'm sure there's a way to get the picture off my phone and onto the computer, but it would probably cost cash money and I already spent my money on the tree.

Mom wanted a ginkgo tree in the worst way, so last week I called around and found a nursery that had them. Two hundred bucks for a six foot tree! But I got some unexpected birthday money from my good and deserving Aunt Barbara, and I figured buying a tree with part of it would be good karma. Plus, I like ginkgo trees too. So Saturday after work I went by to get the tree.

First of all, it was much taller than six feet--probably eight or nine. And it was half price! HALF PRICE! See, the karma already kicked in.

So with the help of three nursery workers, we stuffed this gigantic tree into my Mini Cooper, with about three feet of it sticking out the passenger side window. I was certain I'd be pulled over by an incredulous cop before I made it home (a half hour drive), but I made it and got the tree planted in the front yard where Mom can see it from her bedroom window.

Then I ordered some books with the left over money, because that's what I do.

If you ever run into me in person, ask to see the picture of the tree in my car. It's most amusing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Filled with anticipation

I found an outline for a younger middle grade book, an outline I wrote a year or two ago and promptly forgot all about. I looked it over today and thought, "Whoa! Here's my NaNo book!"

It's the perfect NaNoWriMo project, light and silly. It's about a group of wild animals--a deer, a raccoon, and a fox--who find a cabin in the woods and decide to make it look like people still live there, which will make it a safe den for them to hide in. Just go with it, okay? It'll probably only run about 30,000 words and I doubt it'll find a publisher, but I want to write it.

In fact, I can't wait to start. I have a wonderful, detailed outline and I made up names for all the characters today. It's so tempting to write just a smidge of it, maybe the first chapter--or two. But I have to wait.

I'll try to come up with a decent title before November. The working title is The Cabin on Wildwood Hill, and that's pretty awful. Any suggestions? All my creativity went into naming the Raccoon character Delicious-Smell-of-Walnuts (he goes by Walnut).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bring me candy, minions

Halloween is coming up! Today Mom and I went shopping and bought some decorations--nothing fancy, just a garland of jack-o-lanterns for the porch, some cute little yard decorations (a ghost, a skull, and a jack-o-lantern, all smiling benignly), four big bags of candy, and a big orange bowl to put the candy in. We live right across the street from the elementary school now, so we're expecting a lot of trick-or-treaters. If not, I'll be forced to eat all that candy. Mom may discover me on November 1, passed out in the living room surrounded by wrappers.

I finally arranged my books properly on the shelves. I'd crammed them in all anyhow while unpacking. Now I can find what I want to read! With some judicious arranging and stacking, I've made room for everything with a little extra space to spare for new books.

My birthday is Friday. Mom bought me a new phone. It's blue and has a querty keyboard, and I got a new cell plan with unlimited texting. I'm now living in the same decade as everyone else! And my monthly bill actually only went up like five bucks, which is cool, except that actually it went up forty bucks because I got Mom's plan hooked together with mine so we only have one phone bill, and I'll be paying for hers. But overall we both save money, so that's a good thing.

And since my birthday is Friday, I expect that to be the day Angry Robot sends me my rejection. They say all twenty-odd of us still waiting for final decisions should hear this week. At least I have Halloween candy to console me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Soon we'll all be reading the same book over and over

Harry Connolly, author of the awesome Twenty Palaces series of kickass, blood-soaked urban fantasy, posted an announcement today. His publisher, Del Ray, has dropped the series after disappointing sales.

A few months ago Moira J. Moore, whose Hero series is set in one of the most unique and unusual SF/fantasy worlds I've ever read, posted a similar announcement. Her publisher, Ace, has dropped the series.

And earlier this summer, mystery writer Karen E. Olson, who is one hell of a writer and whose books ought to be required reading for anyone who wants to study character and voice, announced that her publisher, Obsidian, declined to extend her Tattoo Shop series contract.

I could probably find several other examples without trying too hard, but these are three authors whose books I love and whose books deserve much more attention. I just don't get it. Ebooks were supposed to save publishing, right? So why are publishers nosediving like this? Why aren't books selling, if everyone's buying Kindles and Nooks? Why the hell am I trying to break into a field where I'll be lucky if I get a few thousand bucks advance per book and will probably see my contract dropped after three or four books?

If you read this, please go out and buy a book this weekend that you might not otherwise have bought: a book by an author who doesn't get tons of advance hype and all the reviews, who doesn't have an HBO series based on his or her books, who maybe only has one or two books on the shelf instead of half a wall. I guarantee you'll discover a great new author.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a query is good for

I am pretty sure all my obligations are currently met. I returned the edits for The Weredeer and Blood and Ashes, and I read and critiqued a (very good) YA book for someone. And I still have three weeks before NaNoWriMo!

I still want to finish the Misfits revisions. It's the first book I've written where I knew immediately that I needed to fix something, but I couldn't figure out what, so rather than convince myself I was wrong and it was ready to query, I just set it aside. Of course, I was busy with other stuff at the time. But it still counts as growth!

Figuring out what was wrong with Misfits turned out to be easy. When I started writing the query, every time I got past the hook I had to stop. I couldn't put my finger on the main theme of the book, which meant it wasn't clear enough. So once I had time, I jotted some notes down on ways I could focus the book--and then I had to do those damn edits, and never did get around to the revisions. Not until now.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Old and sad

Ugh. I was all set to start reading The Lightning Thief today, but when I got to work my coworker had brought me a mystery I'd expressed mild interest in last week. She'd finished reading it and gave it to me. Now I have to read it. The pressure!

Mom wanted to watch a movie this evening, and as it happens I'd brought home "Clerks" a few days ago. I found it in the $5 DVD bin. I hadn't watched it in probably 15 years, although for a while in my 20s it was the number one movie to quote among my friends. Say "THIRTY-SEVEN?!" to any one of my friends and we'll scream with laughter, and we'll probably answer with "That's his fuckin metal face." I'm admitting both my age and what I was like as a 20something when I say that Clerks is the quintessential GenX slacker movie.

So we watched it and laughed a lot, but now I feel really depressed. It only seems a little while ago that I was living in a crappy apartment and hanging out with my friends Wolfgang and Qathy, and planning revolutions that wouldn't require, you know, a lot of effort. We were going to change the world someday. In the meantime, we drank a lot of Slurpees and published zines and didn't have any health insurance because we were all young and healthy and couldn't get real jobs.

I think I'll go read that crappy murder mystery my coworker loaned me. It'll probably make me feel old.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Books as sacred objects

I worked at a used book store years ago, and one of the things I learned quickly was that it's okay to destroy and throw out books. We used to have many, many copies of certain popular books, too many to resell. We bought them for very little, so we'd end up pitching a lot of them. For paperbacks, the easiest way to make a book unsellable is to strip it: rip the front cover off and throw the book itself in the trash. Since we were a used book store, we also trashed the covers; new book stores return the covers to the publishers for credit.

But many people bringing books in to sell to us would bring us books that were already stripped, or falling apart, or water-damaged, or otherwise virtually unreadable. Sometimes the person would say, "I found these old books that someone just threw away," with the same air of pride that you'd expect from someone who'd just rescued a nest of kittens from being eaten by trolls.

People value books way more than they value even comparably more expensive household items. Not very many people would see an obviously broken-past-repair toaster oven on the side of an alley and pick it up, thinking indignantly, "Who threw away this toaster oven?" Many people actually get angry at the thought that a book could be considered disposable--read it once and throw it out.

We're taught to respect books as small children, when library books are vulnerable to clumsy little hands, and in school when textbooks are too expensive for schools to easily replace. But I think there's more to it than just that. Most humans respect books because they're repositories of our collective knowledge. Even showing disrespect for specific books takes on a ceremonial air. Hate groups don't hold book-trashings, they hold book-burnings. The wrong knowledge has to be destroyed by fire.

But please, people, respect your local used bookseller. Don't fish books out of the dumpster and try to sell them. Because that's just gross.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In for a seventh time

Today I ran into a friend I hadn't had a chance to really talk to for about ten years. She's working on a nonfiction project that sounds really, really good, and is planning to write fiction for NaNoWriMo. It was awesome to talk to her, and she also has a book blog that I would totally link to except that IT'S INVITE ONLY, KELLY, DID YOU REALLY MEAN TO DO THAT OR IS BLOGGER JUST MESSING WITH ME? We talked for an hour and a half in the YA corner of a bookstore. I'd forgotten how great it is to talk to someone who knows you're a writer, who's also a writer herself so she knows exactly what you mean when you complain about something writerly, and I'd especially forgotten the fun of bouncing ideas back and forth. So IT WOULD BE TOTALLY NICE IF YOU COULD INVITE ME TO YOUR BLOG, KELLY.

In similar news, a few Saturdays ago at work one of the instructors came in wearing a NaNoWriMo T-shirt. I said, "Hey, I've got that shirt too!" Turns out that teacher knows one of the English faculty who's just started a creative writing group. She invited me to join and I had to decline since it meets while I'm at work, but she also said they were going to do some NaNo write-ins this November. Hopefully I'll be able to go to some of those.

So I guess this means I'm doing NaNo again this year. Not at all to my surprise.

ETA: It's Book Dirt. I can access it today. Who knows what was going on last night?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The exhaustion sets in

I know I whine a lot lately about how busy I am and how tired I get. I'm even finding myself insufferable. I want to smack myself lightly about the head and tell myself to suck it up. Lots of women have full-time jobs and take care of kids by themselves; compared to a bunch of kids, taking care of Mom is easy.

But the truth is that I'm worn out almost all the time. A lot of it is probably stress. Some of it's pure physical exhaustion, especially the last few weeks when we were packing/moving/unpacking/cleaning the old house. Some of it's lack of sleep, since I'm one of those people who needs a full eight hours every night, and quite often I don't get that much lately. And, of course, there's the added detail of trying to keep up my writing career (such as it is) while also working full-time and being sole caregiver of my mother after her stroke.

So today, despite my best intentions, I fell down on the writing job. I just could not make myself do one thing with words. Instead, I did some cooking, some cleaning, wrote out checks for the monthly bills, went grocery shopping, watched some TV with Mom (who was feeling very bad today, which further stressed me out), and finally gave up entirely and picked up a Georgette Heyer murder mystery to read. Now it's about 8:30pm and I'm about to go to bed--not to read, but to hopefully fall asleep. I'm too tired to read, and it makes me feel guilty.

I promise this will be the only complaining post for the entire month of October. I have used up my quota! Tomorrow I will be little ms. sunshine. Assuming I can get to sleep now.