Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cute Foods and other lists

I remember once, on a slow day at work many years ago, compiling a list of cute foods with a coworker. I don't know why. Blueberries were on the list, I remember, as were early peas. I will now mentally add "Bun-dinos" to the list. They're not very good (think little Hot Pockets) but they're awfully cute. Small round things seem to make the list.

Another list I think about from time to time is Cars Named After Animals. I don't remember where I read it, but some (no doubt) shrill and self-important writer reported in some book or article or something that although there are far more prey animals in the world than predators, cars named after animals overwhelmingly have predator names. The writer used this as an example of people being, I don't know, stupid or something. Every time I notice a Mustang or a Skylark or an Impala or a Rabbit I think of that unsupported statement and go over my mental list. I am pretty sure that writer was wrong.

What does this have to do with writing? Nothing, actually. I just thought I'd better stop myself from complaining about work today, and mental lists was the first thing I thought of. Also, I am putting off addressing the edits on my article for Les Bonnes Fees, because if there's anything I dislike more than gearing up to write a nonfiction article, it's revising an article I've already written. Fiction is so much more fun on every level.

Friday, May 30, 2008

most boring post ever

We're back to the usual semester schedule at work, so today isn't Friday for me. It's Thursday, and tomorrow's Friday. But Sunday is Sunday because I have to work Monday. But I do get Thursdays off. I'm not sure how well I'm going to like this schedule, but I do still love my job so I'll adapt. And I got my first paycheck, which was great--we get paid monthly, and I was worried I wouldn't get my first check until the end of June.

I just sent two stories off, and one of them at least I think is a good fit for the market. Let's hope the editor thinks so too. All my novel subs are still hanging fire. I did actually drop an email to Mundania the other day to check the status of my sub, since it's been six months now and I'm worried I might have missed their reply. Other than that, no news is good news.

Stag in Velvet has me by the throat, which is thoroughly wonderful. I do love these characters, and the plot is working well. Today at lunch I slipped into the Zone and it was very very very difficult to make myself stop writing and go back to work. It was slow this afternoon so I would have had time to do some writing in the spiral notebook I drag around with me all the time these days, except that one of my coworkers was in a chatty mood. I was her captive audience while she told me all about people she disliked in high school--and this woman is in her 50s. By that age, you really should put the petty annoyances of high school life behind you. So I spent the last hour of work almost as bored as you must be now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Typing and Crying

I don't know if all writers do this--probably not--but I tend to cry a lot while I write. If a scene is even the least bit poignant, I'm dripping tears while I type. I try and write fraught scenes at home. Otherwise, total strangers stop and ask if I'm okay.

I just spent the last two hours weeping, blowing my nose, and typing furiously. I didn't even realize going in that this particular scene was important--but suddenly the book's themes of betrayal and trust were RIGHT THERE and of course I took advantage of it. But since I'm only about halfway through the book (or less), it was only a short, sharp taste of what's to come later.

I guess I'd better lay in a supply of kleenex.

Edit: I should point out, incidentally, that all this weeping has nothing to do with my personal emotions. I feel fine. I think I just have to concentrate my main character's emotions to a really ridiculous degree in order to write about them so that readers feel what the character feels.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seeing happy makes me happy

Last week I helped proctor a placement test for students over 21 years old. Proctoring gives me the excuse to look closely at people who are concentrating so hard they don't know I'm watching them, a mildly voyeuristic delight--it's rare to get the chance to actually look at a stranger. I distinctly remember two of the guys in the room: one because he was the dead spit of Mr. Tumnus (without the goat legs and horns, of course) AND he pulled out an actual handkerchief at one point to clean his glasses, which was just adorable; and the other because he looked just like a minor character in the book I was revising last week.

Summer term classes started today, and this morning the minor-character guy showed up in the study area outside my office. I overheard him ask if it was okay if he hung out there for an hour while he waited for his next class to start, which of course it was, and he sat down and spread his books out to study.

All this is rather ordinary except that it's not every day you see a guy who looks just like a minor-character. But the thing is, this guy was happy. Not in a goofy way or an excited way or anything like that. It was just clear that on this particular day, all was right with the world for him.

I kept thinking of him all day, and every time I did I felt good too. It's deeply satisfying to see a person taking joy in something so innocent and good as starting college classes for the first time. Godspeed, guy-who-looks-just-like-Alex. May the happiness you feel today last you for the rest of your life, and may your academic career bloom like the hyperactive rosebush in my front yard.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I need another three-day weekend now

I didn't do a damn thing this weekend except eat Sun Chips and Pop-Ices and Oreos. The last real meal I had was on Saturday, and that was just a roast beef sandwich before the movie (the new Indiana Jones movie, which kind of sucked). No wonder I feel a little bit sick.

I picked up Daniel Pinkwater's The Education of Robert Nifkin this evening and I can already tell I'm going to stay up to finish it. That means I'll be grouchy tomorrow at work. Too bad.

I did get a little bit written on Stag in Velvet. Like, maybe 30 words. Mostly I just played a whole lot of Exile III. So since I wasted this three-day weekend, I think I need another one, and I promise I'll do much better and eat actual meals instead of snacking more or less constantly.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day blues

I'm sitting here alternately working on Stag in Velvet, the unfinished but so far very good third book in the Weredeer series, and Exile III, and of course my neighbors are in their yard. Because they always are. Sometimes I wonder if maybe their house is just a facade and they sleep in the yard too.

They just fired up the grill. The smell of lighter fluid and charcoal is distracting me from pwning the lizardmen in the Golddale mine. I wouldn't mind the neighbors entertaining eight feet from my studio window if they'd, you know, invite me over. Just to be neighborly, of course, since naturally I'd say no.

Unless they're grilling steaks. Then I might go over and be sociable. Because I did go to high school with one of them.

I could pitch in with a brand new bag of Sun Chips.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Revisions revised

I went ahead and read over the newly-revised sequel to The Weredeer. I hadn't looked at the first half for a while, since it was the second half with all the problems. I added several paragraphs at the beginning to set the scene a little better, and I caught and fixed a few minor continuity errors.

I'm very pleased with the result. It's got more in common with the first book than I like, but I purposefully left some things unresolved for the sequel. Unfortunately, that means the characters had to go back and revisit people and places from the first book, although I did add a lot and I think it's actually a stronger book than the first. It's also longer, clocking in with a final count of 92,000 words--a full 10k longer.

Now I just need to do three things: Sell the first book, come up with a decent title for the second, and finish the third. Much more fun than writing a stupid paranormal romance novella, frankly.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


As it happens, I've already received a reason to update my website again. I got an acceptance today from Space Squid for my story "Comparative Anatomy"! It'll probably appear in their August issue. And yes, this is the raunchy story I talked about a few months ago. Take THAT, snarky-editor-who-rejected-it!

So far, this has been a damned good week for writing. Let's hope it continues this way, even unto novels!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This is what I do when I'm not writing

I finally overhauled my website. It's not great, but it's a lot less amateurish-looking than it was. It still needs more work, but I'll wait until I have more content to add before I get back into it.

I'm sort of at loose ends right now with my writing. I had so much energy pouring into those revisions that now that I'm done, I don't feel like starting anything else. I've decided not to bother with the paranormal romance novella--for one thing, I've never even read a paranormal romance and don't ever intend to, and for another thing, after fifteen minutes of thinking hard about plot and characters, I was already bored with the whole idea.

I need to get started on a short story, since I have no entry for Writers of the Future this quarter. But I have no ideas. Bleah, bleah, boring. And tomorrow morning I'm proctoring a four-hour standardized test at work, which means about twenty minutes of reading script aloud and making sure no one's trying to cheat, and three hours and forty minutes of staring around the room doing absolutely nothing. I can't read or write while I'm proctoring. Maybe I'll think up story ideas.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Slam dunk!

Whenever I sell a story to the first market I send it to--which I don't, usually--I feel like yelling "slam dunk!" I don't know why, since the closest I've ever come to basketball is watching that Scooby Doo episode with the Harlem Globetrotters.

But...SLAM DUNK! I got the acceptance letter from Fictitious Force this morning. The story is called "Snow Magic," but that's such a terrible title that I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the editor asked me to for-gawds-sake change it.

I'm very proud to have sold a story to them at all, much less before it had been seen by other eyes (particularly since I usually revise every time I get a story back). I'll post as soon as I know what issue it'll appear in.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A dread of nonfiction

At the editor's suggestion, I wrote a short article about spinning motifs in fairy tales for the new magazine Les Bonnes Fees. It'll appear in the first issue, out on June 15. I had fun doing the research and once I got started writing the article I had fun with that too--but gearing up to write an article is my least favorite writing activity.

I don't know why. I used to do a fair bit of article-writing, and in fact the biggest paycheck I've ever received from a piece of writing was for an article. And half the articles I've sold have been to magazines available on the shelves at any given B&N or Borders. Why can't this happen with my fiction?

Anyway, the editor has suggested I do a second article about spinning for the second issue, and of course I'll agree. It'll be fun once I get started on it. But until I start on it, I'll dread the whole thing and I'll complain a lot about it.

Just like I used to do when writing papers for class. Aha.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rewrite is rewritten

I finally finished the revisions to The Weredeer sequel. It took much longer than expected because I changed so much, I had to rewrite almost the entire second half. It ended up much longer, too--91,000 words! That's 9,000 words longer than The Weredeer, although I suspect I'll trim several thousand when I polish the rewrite. I think I finally got it right, although until I reread the whole thing in one go I don't have a good feel for how the story is shaped now. I just hope I don't have to do this again--this was the third major rewrite of this book.

I'm glad I'm done, since I've got so much else to do. I've agreed to write a nonfiction article for a new magazine, and I need to get that done this weekend so I can free myself up to work on the paranormal romance novella I have planned. I've still got two weeks before Samhain's Tickle My Fancy deadline; if I can bash out a decent outline, two weeks is long enough to write 18,000 words and do revisions too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Silly Anthology!

I got my comp copy of Strange Worlds of Lunacy, an anthology of silly fantasy and science fiction. The silliness is a lot of fun (and strictly G to PG rated), the writing is good, there are comics and poems and fun illustrations, and even a glossary. My own story, "Newton the Baker's Boy," is in it. So far I've really enjoyed Catherine J. Gardner's marvelously surreal "The Shoes, the Giant and the Wizard of..." and Casey Fiesler's sweetly funny "Answer Me This," although I've been dipping in and out of the antho instead of reading it straight through, so I'm sure I have yet to discover many more favorites.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A crack in the ice

I spent an hour tonight updating the binder where I keep track of all my fiction subs, and I also sent out a story that's been waiting for some attention. Not five minutes after I'd finished with all that, I got a response from one of the subs that have been hanging fire for months. It was a rejection, but a nice one with an apology for the delay.

Obviously, I need to update my submission binder more often. It gives results!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I know I sound like I'm obsessing over this, but chronic lack of sleep is a creativity destroyer and anything that messes with my creativity is bad. It's all I've got. Plus I've seen someone with severe sleep deprivation and I never ever want to be like him.

Way back in 1993 or thereabouts, I temped for about six months in UT's Federal Programs office. (I started drawing snarky comics about work at that time and published them in the zine Temporary Insanity, incidentally, but that's beside the point.) While I was there, my boss was working on a big huge major grant, which is not a simple process. There's a lot of paperwork involved, including gathering some 50+ letters from various important individuals telling the government why UT deserved the grant and not some other university.

Well, while he was working on this grant, my boss apparently decided he could get more done if he stopped sleeping. I saw him go from an affable, intelligent, reasonably organized guy to a gray-faced automaton who kept losing things. I had to retype a lot of stuff for him because he couldn't find it. His organization skills went down the toilet, and he lost his sense of humor entirely.

He also lost all those letters. Every one. They never turned up. And he lost them about one week before the grant's deadline, which meant he had to call all the important people who'd sent a letter and ask them to resend it immediately.

Don't be like that guy. Get some sleep.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Short Misc.

I hope that when I edit posts, it doesn't spam RSS feed or whatever, because this weekend I went back and added a bunch of tags to older posts.

I changed my Galley Cat link for Boing Boing, because the former wasn't working correctly (all I've been getting was an ad since last week) and I've been meaning to add the latter to the link list for months.

I didn't get a lick of writing done this weekend, and I'm still not done with the revisions I've been working on, so I don't know if I'll get that novella done in time to sub it to Samhain after all. Which would be a pity, but I don't want to lose the momentum on the revisions for a project I've only written about 300 words on so far and still have no outline for.

Sleep is urgent, as usual. I'm not sure if I have an unacknowledged problem with insomnia or if I just make stupid choices (like staying up until 3am to read, and the next night staying up until 2am to read, and the next night staying up till 11pm to watch a movie, when I know perfectly well I have to get up at 6am on weekdays and typically about 8am on weekends). Either way, I am mucho grouchy at the moment, so I'm going to bed RIGHT NOW.

Wait, I haven't eaten yet. *ponders if I'm too sleepy to eat* Yes, actually I am. Astonishing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Night Reader*

I've done a lot of reading this weekend. I just finished Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. This is not only an excellent and entertaining book, it feels like a very important one to me.

If you haven't heard about the book--and it only came out about a week ago--let me very briefly explain what it's about. Marcus is a geeky high school senior in a five-minutes-into-the-future San Francisco, with nothing much more on his mind than outwitting his hated school vice principal. But when he and three of his friends ditch school to hunt down a clue in an ARG, they're caught in a terrorist attack and arrested as possible suspects. They're jailed in a secret detainment center for days, questioned, and finally released--but one of their friends just disappears. San Francisco is essentially locked down by the Dept. of Homeland Security. Marcus's efforts to bring down the DHS are realistic and scary, and have realistic and scary consequences. This is much more than a "hacker kidz outwit stupid adults" story.

Like Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four that inspired its title, Little Brother is remorseless in its portrayal of a government out of control. I read Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was in ninth grade, because that happened to be the year 1984 and I thought I ought to read the book. I haven't read it since, but I remember it far more clearly than any book I read for class in ninth grade (or tenth, or eleventh, or twelfth). If you haven't read Orwell, you really ought to. And you ought to read Little Brother too (it's shelved in YA, incidentally). It's uncomfortably realistic, and it makes you think.

There's been an upwelling of the theme of fighting against unjust government decisions lately. Think of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (book and movie), think of V for Vendetta (the movie that came out in 2006, based on the graphic novel). I'm sure you can come up with half a dozen more without even thinking hard. Of course that's a reaction to current events, but unjust government is nothing new.

Last night I stayed up till 3am reading Bill Bryson's book The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. It's a very funny and charming memoir, but Bryson does something admirable in the middle of the book. In between hysterically funny memories of growing up happy and middle class in Des Moines in the 1950s, he includes a chapter about wider events in the world. He talks about McCarthyism and institutionalized racism, for instance, in ways that had me shaking with helpless rage. And now, after reading Little Brother, I realize that we've hardly come any distance at all socially in the last half-century. Our special effects are just better now.

I think that's partly why I was (and am) so excited about the Anonymous attacks on the Church of Scientology. They held another protest yesterday, incidentally. It's the sort of thing that Marcus of Little Brother might admire: the exercise of Constitutional rights blended with clever use of technology to draw attention to a social wrong.

I don't really have a point in all this--it's almost 2am now and I only got five hours sleep last night, so I'm doing pretty good to even write coherent sentences. I just wanted to share some thoughts and urge you to read Little Brother. Oh, and if you're my brother Richard, I'm sending you a copy for your birthday present. I think you'll like it.

*my wit slays me. I am thinking of the song "Michael (Jumpin)" by No More Kings at the moment, an excellent song I've been listening to all week but which I only realized yesterday must be about the old TV show Knight Rider. Well, I never watched that show. Everything connects to everything, you know--I bet the band No More Kings takes their name from the Schoolhouse Rock short about the Declaration of Independence. And the song ends with the lines: "It's not like you to turn your back and let the dark side win / So come on, Michael, open the door and jump in."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lightnings! and movies

The last of the daylight has faded behind the trees, and thunder has rolled in with a lot of clouds and lightning, like a circus marching into town with the brass band out front and the lions roaring. The first rose on my rosebush opened fully today, and it's a brilliant shocking PINK! I love it! That bush has about 10,000 buds, but I plan to cut that first rose and take it to my mom tomorrow for Mother's Day. And then, because my mom loves movies and neither of us are terribly sentimental, I'm going to take her to the movies. Speed Racer. In digital!

Iron Man was good, by the way. We saw that last week. And The Forbidden Kingdom was good too. Next week is Prince Caspian, and then of course the new Indiana Jones movie--in IMAX! And I can't wait to see Kung Fu Panda, although for some reason everyone else I talk to is hesitant about it.

Incidentally, I used to review movies for The (Oak Ridge) Observer, a very good weekly newspaper. (If you want to read some of my reviews, you can look through the archives, from November 2005 to February 2007.) I stopped reviewing for them because I had a new job and a lot less time--good thing, too, since if I hadn't stopped then I'd definitely have to stop now, with my even newer job. Starting at the end of May I'll be working every Saturday (although I do get Thursdays off instead). That still gives me time to watch movies, of course, but it's amazing how difficult it can be to write a 600-word review of the damn things.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


(Warning: Extended metaphor ahead.)

Tru TV is showing a bunch of those police car chase programs this evening, so I have to type fast and get back before the commercials are over. You know how I love those awful shows, although I don't like the ones where people shoot at cops or get into fights or get tasered or drive their muscle cars into the crowd. I prefer Forensic Files anyway.

I have Bunny the World's Cutest Laptop set up on the bed, and I've been typing away on my revisions during the commercial breaks. Unfortunately, I just realized I've done the writing equivalent of bumping the curb during a high-speed pursuit. If I'm not careful, I'll lose control and crash, and maybe explode in a ball of flames that looks really cool on TV, but not so good in revisionland.

Because I'm doing a total rewrite of a big chunk of this book, I've been thinking in writing mode instead of revision mode the last few days. So when I reached a good spot to throw in another bit of tension, I took a side street that turned out to be a blind alley. I can't have them meet Whitwell yet, because he's the narrative equivalent of stop strips. Once he steps in, the book is nearly over, because he's a reasonable guy and he's going to fix everything. No, he has to wait his turn; I have a bunch of angst to get through first.

It's a pity, because I like some of the writing I've done this evening. But if I'm going to execute the perfect PIT maneuver here and merge my writing into the rest of the book, I've got to go back and rewrite the rewrite.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Frozen mail

I dreamed last night that I went to get the mail at my old house, and the mailbox was full but the mail was all frozen with snow and ice so I could hardly drag the envelopes out. My subconscious is drubbing me over the head worrying about non-responses from editors, apparently.

The Battle Royale is over without any blood shed, incidentally. Thanks to the mediation of Jordan Lapp, co-editor of Every Day Fiction, the K.C. Shaw of Utah is revealed to be Kirk L. Shaw of Utah, and all the confusion was simply a mistake. Kind of disappointing, really.

Between work, my extra long commute, and the revisions to the sequel to The Weredeer, which has a working title but I don't like it, I haven't really done anything else in the last week. Except play Exile II, which I beat tonight. That'll free up some time. My goal is to finish the revisions by this weekend--and since I'm nearing the end of the rewrite portion and it'll go very fast after that, finishing in the next two days shouldn't be a problem--and then spend the weekend plotting that urban fantasy romantic comedy novella so I can get it written, polished, and sent out to Samhain by the end of May.

Hopefully, by the end of May my mail will also have unfrozen, because I don't think I can take much more suspense. I don't mean I haven't been getting any rejections at all, because I did get one this week and a few last week. I'm thinking about half a dozen or so subs that have been out far longer than I expected. Two are novels (one a requested full) and the others are stories, two of which I know have been held for further review by the editors because they sent me emails. The stories aren't a big deal--although it would be nice to actually sell something again for a change--but the novels are a huge huge huge deal. Huge. Because the requested full is from Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, and the other is my Beloved Masterpiece, The Weredeer, at a good small press. I don't actually want to hear back because I know it'll be bad news, but I hate having to wait for bad news because it gives me hope that it will be good news after all. And then my hopes will be dashed and I'll be low and out of sorts for weeks, and--aw, hell, I'm going to bed. Hope I don't dream about mail.

Monday, May 5, 2008

In brief--

I haven't posted the last day or two because I've been busy with non-writing stuff, and because I haven't had any activity on writing stuff. Nearly 50% of my Duotrope listings are red now. I don't know if that's a good sign or just means that editors hate my stuff so much they can't even bear to respond to my subs now.

Revisions are still going nicely. Now I just need 10 more hours in each day.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rainbow weather

It's raining here, but the sun's trying to come out at the same time. I went out on my little deck, where the rose bushes twined among the railings are about to bloom, and watched the rain. If I looked up to where a ray of sunshine slanted above the house, I could see the raindrops flash silver as they fell. And above that in the gray part of the sky I saw a faint rainbow--and then a second, fainter rainbow above it, only the second double rainbow I've ever seen. It faded within minutes, and now the sun truly is out and the rain is pattering only lightly on the roses and the marigolds, the peppers, the baby bean and azalea plants.

Oh, and my neighbor is in the yard smoking. Of COURSE. I hope he grows mildew.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I've never said this before:

I love my job.

Yes, after innumerable temp assignments, several permanent jobs, and a double-handful of part-time/evening/weekend/second jobs, I have found one I want to keep. I made my mother happy this evening by bringing her all my benefits paperwork and having her help me pick out a health plan, dental plan, and 401K deposit total.

I have an hour for lunch, and I can take my laptop to the hidden staff lounge downstairs (off limits to students and other interlopers) to write. Yesterday while I was there, another woman came in and sat at the other table. I braced myself to have to talk to her, but she was silent: she was reading.

Revisions are going swimmingly. Strange that I'm pulling poor Kristof backwards through a hedge, so to speak, while I'm unexpectedly quite happy in real life. Now if I'd only get my first paycheck before June 30.