Wednesday, October 31, 2007

At midnight tonight the train departs...

That's what it says on the back of No Plot? No Problem!, the book about NaNoWriMo by Chris Baty. I'm all revved up! I've got my fingers practically poised over the keyboard to type type type all November long! I'm R-E-A-D-Y!!

And I ordered that cute little teeny laptop I posted about a few days ago. I'm hoping to have it before Monday. Because I need to be able to type everywhere! Yes, even in the car! Even in the car while I'm driving!!

Maybe not in the car.

Maybe I should stop eating candy now.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I finally got my NaNo book outlined this weekend! I started the outline yesterday, and last night after going to bed I worked out the ending. Right-before-I-fall-asleep is my best time for plotting, for some reason. Last night it backfired a bit, because while I figured out the perfect ending, resolving the major story arc using something introduced naturally in chapter one, I got so excited that I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. I ended up getting up and working logic puzzles until midnight.

For anyone who's interested, here's my outline. Just a few more days and I can get started! I'm going to be keeping the chapter titles for this one, and I may shuffle a few chapters around as I write. I'm hoping that some of the chapters will work as standalone stories with just a little tweaking.

Jack of All Trades

Preface: Advertising Pays

I. The Mad Colt
hag-ridden--a bite for Pepper--it follows under the stars

II. The Wasp Orchard
"hallo, ugly"--something bothering the wasps--Pepper and parafin--porch steps

III. The Long Letter Home
pen for hire--Pepper's got a bone--buzz buzz

IV. Haying
No rain--all in a day's work--Helen's lemonade

V. The Ghost in the Abbey
The storm, and it searches--the visiting wizard--an ill wind

VI. The Fretful Old Man
Barlowe House--the anti-gaming league--Helen's subterfuge

VII. The Damsel in Distress
Disappearance of Helen--the nature of dragons--not exactly a knight

VIII. The Modern Farmer
Keen business fence--those aren't goats--laughing last

IX. The Wishing Well
poor soil--X marks the spot--silver spoon, gold ring

X. The Fairies' Infestation
delegation--what price silver?--stampede to safety

XI. The Stranger
Mrs. Peevies' lodger--screams in the night--lulled to sleep

XII. The Harvest Race
Mr. Goodacre's triumph--stolen horses--waspish culprits

XIII. The Highwaymen
stand and deliver--Pepper can roar--no gaming tables today--crossing rivers

XIV. The Cursed Wedding
hurried vows--pain--Pepper saves the day

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ooh, I want!

I stole this picture from, which is fueling my intense desire for the super-portable, ultra-adorable Asus eee laptop, which is supposed to be released in the U.S. within a few weeks (hopefully by November 1, but Asus hasn't confirmed that yet). It's got a Linux OS and No Moving Parts--flash memory only, so it's rugged. And it weighs about two pounds. I need this for NaNo! Especially since the price is reasonable--various models range from about $250 to $400.

Want want want!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's my birthday. Where's my rejection?

Today's my birthday. I am now officially Too Old. Also, I've decided to start counting years backwards from now on.

I always get a rejection on my birthday, generally of a book or story I have high hopes for. Well, right now I have ten books/stories out, and five queries to agents. And it's 7:30 and I haven't heard a word from any of them.

Someone is falling down on the job of making my life suck.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Survey says...

I went to Barnes & Noble tonight and spent some time going through the SF/fantasy aisle. I was looking for two things: books by independent publishers, and books that were sort of similar to the ones I write. Oh, and something to read. Because you can never have enough books.

I did find a few indie published books, notably Juno, which pleased me because I was looking at their website yesterday and was impressed enough to put them on my "good" list. But I couldn't find anything even remotely similar to my stuff, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing. If there were books available like the ones I write, I'd be reading them instead of writing them. Reading's a lot easier than writing. But since I can't find anything similar to what I write, maybe it'll never get published because no one's interested. Dilemma.

I could not, in fact, find anything I wanted to read. Nothing. Part of it may have been my headache, and part of it may be the fact that I'm trying to read five books simultaneously right now, but nothing appealed to me--not even remotely. I'm in the mood for something fairly light, but all the books I looked at that claimed to be satires or comedies of some sort were all, well, cruddy. I had high hopes for one called something like The All Fright Diner, but I read two pages in and discovered I didn't like the two main characters and, more to the point, didn't care about them even a smidgen. So what if they were a vampire and a werewolf? I write about those too, and frankly mine are more interesting. Even in the first two pages.

Oh, and let's talk werewolves, shall we? Limyaael, whose blog of fantasy rants is remarkable and entertaining, has ranted about werewolves many times; one of the things she says is "I usually don’t read books with werewolf characters anymore. The chances that the writer will do something new with them is extremely slim."

I so, so agree. I picked up a bunch of books with wolves on the covers or spines, hoping to find something unusual. Nope. And I was really hoping to find a book about, you know, a were-something-besides-wolf, but if there were any I missed them. I should mention that my Beloved Masterpiece has as its main character a weredeer, and I have had many happy hours inventing a society of wereanimals that actually makes sense and treats the weres as creatures fully animal as well as fully human. If anyone knows of another author who's tried that (besides Pratchett, of course, who has some very believable and fun werewolves), please let me know. Until then, I'm following Limyaael and grouping all werewolf fantasies as "angsty" and boring.

Same with vampires, except let me add that I am a teeny tiny bit over the sexy vampire motif. Recently someone in the Absolute Write forums asked the question, "What are your vampires like?" Lots of people replied (including me). Vampires are that common in novels these days, of practically any genre it seems. Which brings me to another little problem. When I was looking at books this evening, I kept running across those cross-genre fantasy romances. Shelved in the fantasy section. It might help you, at this point, to imagine me jumping up and down and screaming in frustrated rage. Look, the romance aisle takes up quite enough space as it is--keep your stupid clinch covers out of the SF/fantasy aisle, okay? I'm not interested in paint-by-numbers reading. Not even if sexy vampires are involved, because it's all been done so often and so predictably.

In the end, I didn't buy anything at B&N. (Well, okay, I bought a logic puzzle book, but that doesn't really count.) I came home and finished reading Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, which surprised me since I really did think The Subtle Knife was going to win the "which book will I finish first?" contest. I'd be more upset about not finding anything to read at B&N if I didn't have a stack of exciting and wonderful books at home already.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I'm still reading (on and off, mostly at red lights during my commute) No Plot? No Problem! in preparation for NaNoWriMo. Today I read this line: "It may be counterintuitive, but when it comes to novel writing, more preparation does not necessarily produce a better book."

Now that I have permission to skimp on my character development (pre-novel, at least), I'm all set to start the fun of outlining. I'm not being sarcastic, honestly. I love outlining. It means I'm about finished with the musing and turning-it-over-in-my-mind phase and I'm about to start the actual writing. And the very start of writing a new novel is like the early stages of a white-hot (won't-last) love affair.

I don't know anyone else who outlines like I do. I mean, I haven't actually taken a poll or anything. Maybe everyone outlines like me.

I rough out my book chapter by chapter, briefly. I give each chapter a title--just for my use; I don't typically title chapters in the finished book--and underneath each title I jot three or four phrases. And that's my outline.

Here's an example from my last year's NaNo book, Stag in Velvet (gosh, I like that title). Here's the first chapter of my outline (scribbled in a spiral notebook):

1. Breaking up is hard to do
painful separation--once bitten--we should be dancing

And that's it. In this case, I used song titles because the book opens with the main character having just broken up with his girlfriend. That's the chapter title. The girlfriend happens to be a werepanther, though, and the break-up was clinched by the girlfriend slashing the main character across the chest with her claws after an argument. That's the first phrase. In this world there are vampires, but they're not spooky or undead or Anne Ricey, they're fairly common and treat the whole blood-drinking thing in a practical manner (and it helps that they eat food too, and don't need blood often); the main character's brother is bitten by a vampire in the first chapter, which sets up an issue with vampires that comes in later in the book. That's the second phrase, obviously. As for the last phrase, the chapter ends with the main character's family learning a dance that their entire clan is going to perform for the king at his jubilee in the second chapter.

So rather than write all that out, I just wrote down 14 words and that's my outline for chapter one.

Of course, I'd worked out a lot of the details mentally ahead of time, so (for instance) I knew I was going to have the dance and the vampire bite and so forth in chapter one. But I didn't have all the details worked out, which means that some of the later chapters have very vague phrases that may or may not get used if I ever finish this poor book. For instance again:

8. Ruined beauty
Death of a prince--a matter of politics--treachery

I have only the vaguest idea of what's going on here. I know that a cousin of the heir apparent will die, and I think the politics thing has to do with the king's courtship of the heir apparent's sister (I should hastily explain that the main character has traveled with his king to a neighboring country, and the king is courting a princess of that country). I don't know whose treachery I've indicated, but I'm sure once I get to that point I'll have a better idea. These are just landmarks on the novel's road, after all, not hard-and-fast directions.

Oh, and I change the outline as I go along. This one has a lot of scratch-outs and arrows moving phrases to different chapters and carats adding new phrases. I've put the phrase "shopping with Sitilka" in three different chapters and I think I'm going to end up moving it again. Despite the prosaic sound, it's actually a very important scene. It would take too long to explain why; fortunately I only need to write "shopping with Sitilka" to remind myself of all the details I've worked out ahead of time.

Okay, now I have to go do some writing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's all wrong!

I'm wrong about my MC for my Nano book. He can't be a former knockabout who got his pet dragon from a shady dealer in a Turkish bazaar, not if he's going to be the same guy I'd intended. Now I'm back where I started. Bah!

On the other hand, the more I think about the other main character in the book, the more I like her. But she can't carry the story on her own; Jack and his dragon Pepper need to be central. And I don't know anything about them! Double bah!

*drums fingers irritably* I've only got a few weeks to work this all out! I've waited a whole year to start on this project, because it's so perfect for Nano, and I'm not switching to a different one. Although I really, really want to work on that mystery I was thinking about a few weeks ago.

No--I'm going ahead with Jack of All Trades, dammit. Maybe I'll have to make Jack a little rougher than I'd planned. That'll give me the boring (possibly) task of addressing class issues--boring because I'm actually addressing the same issue in a different book (last year's Nano book, as it happens, which I keep finding my attention drawn to; I need to finish it).

Maybe I'll just make Jack a ninja and save myself some time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Books, stories, pizza, and ninjas

I got my books! I love books. The only real problem is that I got them all at once so I can't decide which one to read first. They're all sitting on various pieces of furniture, opened to page one or two or five and then abandoned because this other book is even shinier!

Sunday seems to be my day to overhaul old stories lately. Today I dusted off yet another retired story and sent it off. I also got a rejection and took another look at the story in question. I cut 700 words and sent it somewhere else. If you don't enter, you can't win. And more to the point, you can't order pizza in celebration.

I started work on my Nano outline, but I didn't get far. I now know a little more about the main characters, but the plot--the plot needs mucho attention. Typically, with Nano you're moving so fast that if you get stuck, the recommended method is to suddenly have ninjas (or pirates, or robots, or cowboys) show up and physically move your characters to a new scene. If I don't do more work on the outline, I'm going to have to rename the book Jack of All Trades and Also Ninjas.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Books: Vitamins for the Mind

Someone recommended I pick up a copy of Everyday Life in Traditional Japan by Charles J. Dunn, since I was complaining about not being able to find a good reference book about peasant culture in the Japanese olden days. I ordered it off Amazon, and while I was on Amazon I ordered four paperbacks. Hey, what with the free supersaver shipping and the buy-three-get-one-free-paperback deal, it was practically cheaper to get five books instead of one! Okay, it wasn't.

I ordered the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I've been meaning to pick up. And I ordered Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, which I haven't yet read and which I didn't realize was out in paperback. And I ordered the fourth book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, which I didn't even know was published yet. And lastly, I ordered Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, because every single human being on the planet has recommended it to me. I have bowed to peer pressure. Besides, it looks good.

The books have been shipped, but I won't have them probably until next week. That's okay. Every time I think about getting BOOKS in the MAIL, it makes me feel all happy inside, like someone just told me s'mores weren't fattening and in fact were really good for me and also cured cancer.

I can always justify buying books, even when I'm so broke I'm down to eating food I bought on impulse and then shoved to the back of the cabinet, like strange canned vegetables (shoe peas? are they good?) and pearled barley. After all, books are vitamins for the mind.

Hey, I like that. I just made it up. "Books are vitamins for the mind." It should be on a poster!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Spinning my wheels

Ordinarily in early October I'd be revving up for NaNoWriMo. This month I just can't seem to get motivated. I've had that problem since summertime, though, with all my writing.

On the other hand, I did drag two old stories out of the "retired" file, polished them up, and sent them out to magazines today. And I sent off my newly-revised Beloved Masterpiece out yesterday. And I beta-read a manuscript of my mom's, which is very very good--in fact, I really need to post about her writing one of these days.

So anyway, I suppose I haven't totally wasted this weekend. And I went out and bought the No Plot? No Problem! book (by Chris Baty, who started NaNo), which will hopefully get me fired up. I have a really fun project saved up for November, but I desperately need to outline it and figure out my characters.

Yes, I outline. I didn't used to, but I got sick of having to rewrite all my novels essentially from scratch once I'd worked the plot out. My outlines are very vague, though, more of signposts than Mapquest directions. I'd talk more about my method of outlining--I think it's pretty unique, and not entirely deserving of the word outline--but I think the chicken's done. And I'm hungry.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Odds and Ends

I got the final edit of the Black Dragon, White Dragon anthology today. My story "Sea and Sky" is in it. I was all excited when I got it, because it was the entire anthology and I'm really eager to read everyone else's stories, but I decided to wait until I have the print version. There's no website up for the anthology yet (Ricasso Press is new), but I'll post the link when it becomes available.

Skipping to an entirely different topic now.... If a person makes a statement in their blog, and several people post reasonable questions about the statement, and the blogger waits a few days and then responds in a snarky manner, essentially saying, "You should figure this out without me, losers," well--why would I want to keep that person on my link list? No names. Just an observation.

I've stuck a list of books I've read recently and recommend up on the right. I tried to make it less alliterative, but I can't. Sorry. So sorry. So sorry, suckers. So sorry, silly suckers. So sor--

*smacks self*

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rats. Also, Terry Pratchett spins!

Well, I got a rejection from the editor who requested the full ms. a few weeks ago. On the other hand, she gave me a good critique and said many very nice things about the manuscript. So I'm disappointed, but also hopeful.

Yesterday I drove five hours to see Terry Pratchett. He gave a great talk--interesting and funny--and had an extended question-and-answer session afterwards. If you ever get the chance to see him (and you should try), he seems a little tired of answering questions about how he writes.

One of the questions he answered was why Tiffany Aching's family raises sheep but no one seems to spin. During the course of answering the question, he mentioned that he spins and has two spinning wheels. Wow! Hey, I spin too! That's too awesome for words. One of my favorite authors shares one of my favorite hobbies as well.

He said he has a fourth Tiffany Aching book planned but that after that the character will probably be too old for the children's Discworld books; he also said that he doesn't have any plans to include her in the other Discworld books. He also said he's planning a third book with Moist von Lipwig. Someone asked him if Vetinari is possibly grooming Moist as a successor, but Pratchett said no, that "Moist can be the shepherd, but he can't be the butcher." And that seemed to be an off the cuff remark, not something he'd worked up ahead of time. Currently he's working on a non-Discworld book about some people on an island, but he didn't say much about it.

He talked a lot about the filming of the Hogfather and other of his books that had been/were being filmed. He mentioned that Sean Astin plays Twoflower and does a great job, and also said that Astin is himself a Discworld fan. Apparently Pratchett was doing a signing in London or someplace and Astin showed up in line, at which point Pratchett said, "Hey, I know you--you were in Harry Potter!" That got a good laugh.

There were about 200 people who wanted books signed. Considering that Pratchett had a cold and was losing his voice, he was remarkably good about talking to people. I tried to think of something non-fangirlish but witty to say to him, but by the time I got my books signed (some three hours after he started his talk), he was really flagging so I didn't really say anything at all. At that point he seemed to be at the wretched point of a cold where you no longer care where you put the used kleenexes, so he was surrounded by crumpled pink tissues, like flowers. Poor guy. He seems really nice and obviously likes his fans. I think today was his last stop on his book tour and he gets to go home, so I hope he gets better soon.

I'm currently reading (carefully) a copy of Making Money that has the author's fingerprints on it. And probably also his cold germs.