Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When am I?

Well, I had an idea for a post but it just flew out of my brain. I'm watching hip-hop videos, maybe that's why. 50cent ruined my blogging.

It's finally warm here. Everything's brilliantly green and gold the way it only is for a short time in spring--oh, wait, I remember what I was going to write about.

Since it's early in the year, as usual I can't seem to settle to a project. I'm flitting like a hummingbird from one project to another, writing a little bit here, a few pages there. That's fine--eventually one will hold my interest and I'll finish it over the summer--but it is a bit confusing to keep the details straight. Not the plot and character details, I don't mean: those are too important for me to forget, even during a writing hiatus. No, it's the season of the year that mixes me up. Little Sparrow and the swashbuckling fantasy (I'm going to have to name it; I'll start calling it Adventures in Zoology) both take place in early spring, but Stag in Ruin is set in mid-fall and the Bell-Men sequel (Bloodhound) is set in early winter.

So Monday I was writing about Kristof the weredeer running around in drifts of dead leaves in the Endric high mountains in Stag in Ruin; yesterday I wrote a little bit about Terry and Cledesculen escaping from bandits in a golden spring dawn in Adventures in Zoology; and today I spent my lunch break writing about Cam riding her unicorn through the snow in the bell-men's world. I have to look out the window to see what time of year I'm really in.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Stings less than a sweat bee

Bell-Men got its first rejection today, from Pyr. That didn't surprise me, but the letter itself did. It was a very nice personalized rejection that read in part: "It was very well-written, but unfortunately not quite right for Pyr. You have an engaging voice. I enjoyed reading Bell-men; it is one of the few manuscripts I have read in its entirety." That took the sting out of the reject for sure.

I decided to go ahead and start querying agents aggressively. That's what I've been doing for the last couple of hours. I just sent out 19 queries, in fact. Now I just sit back and let the rejections roll in.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gardening woes

Does anyone have any recipes that call for chile peppers of any kind? I need them for my ever-expanding pepper guide project. Also accepting title suggestions, like Get a Real Hobby, Loser.

I got some work done on the garden after work today, until I died of heat exhaustion. Actually it was pretty chilly today, but to protect myself from those sweat bee abominations I was gardening in jeans, a long-sleeved turtleneck, heavy gardening gloves, and my beekeeper hat. And shoes and socks, of course. Absolutely no skin was exposed directly to the outside air. It worked, but after an hour I was drenched in sweat and couldn't even wipe it out of my eyes without taking off a glove (danger!) and lifting up my beekeeper veil (danger! danger! sweat bee alert!).

I'm going to be the pastiest gardener in the world this year. Apparently these sweat bees are not usually very bad, but this year they're everywhere--one of our neighbors says they're cyclical, like cicadas. They do not, of course, bother my mother. Apparently I smell better. To BUGS.

Friday, March 26, 2010

In which Our Heroine talks too much about peppers

Well, things are getting back to normal around here, or as normal as they ever get. We're busy at work, of course, which means I'm worn out when I get home and I don't want to do anything except play Kingdom of Loathing, read, and research peppers.

I feel disconnected from my usual online writing buddies lately. I haven't been reading y'all's blogs regularly, and I haven't been writing much myself. I hardly have any stories out there right now and have yet to make a sale in 2010, which I think is contributing to my feeling of isolation. Once I stop feeling so rocky and grim (I expect part of the problem is our late and chilly spring so far), I hope to get back into the swing of writing.

The "research peppers" thing has actually turned into a minor writing project, at least. I started out jotting down notes on the growing and uses of various chile pepper varieties, which morphed into a small document where I typed up and elaborated on my notes, which in turn morphed into a bigger document with much more information on many more pepper varieties, with no end in sight. My goal is to cover about 100 pepper varieties, together with recipes and other general information, and then I'll put it on Lulu, order a few copies to take with me to the farmer's market, and print out relevant pages (with recipes) for the pepper varieties I'm selling, to give away to potential customers.

My pepper plants are starting to come up. First up were the Serranos, then the Cubanelles and the Hungarian Hot Wax, and now I've got a few Minibells up too. The Grand Bells have stubbornly resisted germinating, although they may yet surprise me in another week or so. The more interesting peppers--Thai hot, Anaheim, Fatali, and more--won't be up for a few more weeks. I've also got Black Hungarian and Fish pepper seeds on their way to me; I ordered them yesterday. I wish I'd started all this peppermania back in January or early February instead of March. Peppers take a long time to mature, and I've never grown them from seed so I didn't know going in how long some varieties take just to germinate (a month is not unusual for some varieties).

The garden isn't quite ready, but it won't be time to transplant the peppers until May anyway. I will be planting radishes in about a week, though. I don't particularly like radishes, but I can sell them at the farmer's market along with my seedling pepper plants in late April. I'm all about the farmer's market right now. Considering that the cold weather and earthquakes this year in various parts of the Americas have had a bad effect on the pepper crops, I could make a tidy little sum over the summer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


On Tuesday, while I was at work for my endless long day (8:30 am to 7:30 pm), Mom had to take my cat Vincent to the vet to have him put to sleep. He'd been ill with chronic kidney failure for a long time, and I knew he was going downhill this week, but I'd hoped this wasn't the end. Unfortunately, on Tuesday around noon he stopped even being able to walk. It was time, and Mom was so nice to take the responsibility when I wasn't able to come home and make the decision myself.

Fortunately, before I left for work on Tuesday I'd spent a quarter of an hour sitting on the couch with Mom, Vincent between us, both of us petting him. He was the most outgoing, people-oriented cat I'd ever met. Right to the very end, Mom said he was happy at the attention from her, her friend Cindy who went with her for moral support, and from the vet and the vet's assistant.

I'm now petless for the first time in almost 15 years. I don't plan to have any indoor pets again, or at least not right away. My beloved Newfoundland dog Jasper died in November of '08, my sweet cat Angel died on August of '09, and now Vincent is gone too. It's too much all at once to think about going through this ever again.

We buried Vincent next to Angel's and Jasper's graves and planted a fern on top. The bluebells are coming up on Jasper's grave, the sea oats are coming up on Angel's. Later this spring, I will plant rue.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Radio Silence

My word, I haven't posted since the middle of last week! Time flies.

Nothing much going on, except my last remaining cat is not doing well and, as a result, everything I do seems pointless and counterproductive and instead of singing along to the radio during my daily commute, I catch myself thinking about the transient nature of life and how cruel the universe seems. So you should probably be glad I haven't been blogging.

This year the region seems to be thoroughly infested with biting gnats of some sort. I've been calling them sweat bees although they're not; sweat bees have hard bodies like ants, but these have soft bodies that are smooshable. They resemble the bastard offspring of gnats and mosquitoes, and their bites both itch and hurt. They love me as much as I hate them, which makes it hard to get my garden prepared. Mom went out today and found me a green hat with mosquito netting, made for hikers and other outdoor types, and a long-sleeved red shirt with a high collar. Take that, killer gnats!

I have not written a word in days. This post doesn't count.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's all a mistake!

Well, darn. My Mystery Package turned out to be a mistake. That is, it was a copy of a book that I'd ordered and received already, but for some reason I got sent a second copy by mistake. I'm going to have to return it.

It just goes to show, anticipation is often better than satisfaction.

We had a used book sale at work today (one of the perks of working at a college), but I only found three books, all mysteries, two of which I've already read. While I was browsing the tables, I discovered I was lacking in enthusiasm. I knew there were gems lurking amid the battered V.C. Andrews and David Eddings paperbacks, but I just didn't care. I think I'm book-saled out for the time being.

On the writing front, I'm in my usual spring slump. I've got a number of projects pending--the swashbuckling fantasy, Little Sparrow, the untitled romance, and any number of minor stories that I could easily develop--but it's hard for me to buckle down to anything in particular. On the other hand, I've been thinking a lot about the sequel to Bell-Men (since you know there has to be a sequel; in fact, I envision it as a trilogy), which I've tentatively titled Bloodhound. And yesterday I opened my spiral notebook to a new page and started writing it. Why not? I still haven't heard back from Pyr or the agent I've queried, incidentally. The business end of writing is so much of a waiting game.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Mystery Package

I stopped on the way home from work tonight to get my mail. In my mailbox were a package slip and a big envelope containing the pepper seeds I ordered! The seeds got me all excited right away, and I figured the package slip is my B&N book order I placed last week.

But when I got home, my B&N books had come by UPS and were already waiting for me. So now I have absolutely no idea what the package slip is for, which is even more exciting than pepper seeds and books. It could be anything!

One of the books I ordered is Karl Shuker's The Unexplained, "an illustrated guide to the world's paranormal mysteries." I wanted to give it a shoutout here since it's got too many pictures for me to count it toward my "50 books in 2010" count or my recommended books list. Yes, I know, I am arbitrary and full of meaningless rules.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Link Day

The awesome and excellent Jarmara Falconer has nominated me for the Prolific Blogger Award! I'm going to be a carmudgeon and not pass it on (it's mine! all mine!), but you should definitely hop on over to Jarmara's blog if you don't already read it.

Lisa Shearin, whose books I love (and I can't wait for the next one to be released next month!), is running a mini-synopsis workshop on her blog this week. I'll link to the first post, where she gives some thoughts on what makes a synopsis work, and the second post, the synopsis of her first novel, Magic Lost, Trouble Found. She's posted synopses for her other books too. It helps to have read her books, but even if you haven't, it's clear that she's captured the voice of her books. Thanks to her posts, Friday I wrote a synopsis for Bell-Men that A) doesn't suck, B) was a million times easier to write than I expected, and C) I actually am kinda proud of. Dang!

I mention Kingdom of Loathing a lot in my tweets and occasionally here in my blog, so I'll link to it today. It's an awesome, fun, free game. I have a KOL bumper sticker on my car, that's how much I love it.

And if you haven't been following Aaron Polson's blog lately, you really need to jump over there and read the serial story he's posting this week, "Howard's Game," starting with the first installment.

Oh, I almost forgot: Skunk Cat Book Reviews now has 100% more skunk cat pictures.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Within ten minutes

I just got a rejection for a short story and a shortlisting for a novella within ten minutes of each other. This is after weeks of nonactivity in my inbox, and the two markets involved could not possibly be more unalike. Just one of those things, I guess. Maybe I will get a third email with an acceptance in a few minutes.

My short but lovely spring break is over. I have to work tomorrow--although I do have Saturday off, so I have a real weekend for a change! I intend to work in the garden. I started getting it ready yesterday and did a little more work today before the rain set in. Yardwork is a great way to discover that you're in terrible shape; after a few minutes with the hoe, my arms feel like limp noodles, and today my muscles are gently but persistently sore. I guess that's good for me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pepper Summer

In addition to the four types of pepper plants I've got planted in little peat pots in the laundry room, and in addition to the cayennes, jabaneros, and other common varieties I'll buy as sets in late April/early May, I've just ordered five varieties of extremely hot pepper seeds. I'm planning to expand the garden ten feet to accommodate all the peppers, which will hopefully also give me room to plant squash and marigolds.

Yes, I like growing peppers. They're so easy to grow! You just jam them in the ground and a few months later you have 10 billion peppers to harvest (or, in my case, to look at, admire, and let rot on the vine because honestly, how many peppers can one person eat?). This year, I'm actually planning to take peppers to the local farmer's market--which conveniently is open on Thursdays, my day off. I won't make much money, but it'll be fun.

You know my secret dream in life is not to be a bestselling author, but to own a huge sunny farm where I can grow peppers of every variety imaginable. I will be known far and wide for my peppers. Also, I will keep those chickens that lay eggs in different shades of green, blue, brown, and pink. And spotted goats. Because I am cool, that's why.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'm Ready. Except for the synopsis part.

I spent this afternoon researching agents for Bell-Men. I haven't heard back from Pyr yet, but it's only been a few weeks and I reckon I ought to get ready to start querying. I actually did query one agent today just because he seemed like a good fit. I'm going to wait for his response too before I start sending out more queries.

My first step was to make a spreadsheet of agents I've queried for other projects. I was surprised that there weren't all that many, actually. I marked down which projects I'd queried about and I also marked down if they'd been a non-responder (because I think no response=no is rude and unprofessional; if you don't have time to respond, close to queries).

After that I made a new list of agents who might be interested in Bell-Men. I did research on each one and marked several off my list, either because they aren't taking on new clients or because they have some drawback like, you know, never responding to queries.

I've ended up with 22 agents. I have a fatalistic feeling that this time next year I'll have added 22 agents to my "already queried" list and will be retiring Bell-Men the way I've had to retire The Taste of Magic due to utter non-interest in the project.

Researching agents may be the most depressing part of the writing business.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bad Romance

I read the first two chapters of the unnamed romance this afternoon.

Oh. My. Gawd. It's awful. It needs so much work I'm tempted to just say hell with it, except that I'm halfway through and I know the writing gets better as soon as I hit my stride. I just have to rewrite the first few chapters. I think I'd better wait to do that until I've finished the first draft; otherwise, I might not finish at all. Next week I have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off work (spring break!) so hopefully I'll buckle down and get some writing done.

I've been trying to decide why I'm having so much trouble with this romance book. Of course, I'm just not all that interested in the genre, but that shouldn't keep me from writing reasonably well. The first two chapters of this romance are stilted and awkward, without enough description, without a clear idea of what the characters are thinking and feeling at important moments. And no wonder I'm already running out of plot: I crashed through big chunks of it in about 5,000 words rather than developing the characters. Hey, me: the characters are the whole reason for this book! Maybe I should spend a little more time developing them.

I guess this is a good thing, really. When I do the rewrite, I'll have to add many, many thousands of words. Hmm. Maybe I should do the rewrite first after all.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Pina Colada/Toyota Yaris Song

Yesterday, after buying a ridiculous number of books at the Friends of the Library awesome book sale, I cleaned my car out and washed it and took it to the Toyota dealer.

I said, "I've got this 2007 Yaris but I'm interested in a newer one. What kind of incentives are you running right now?"

The dealer gave me a wary look as though he was dealing with a crazy person, particularly after I explained that I wanted a Yaris yes-exactly-just-like-my-current-Yaris-only-blue, and that I didn't like keyless entry and power windows and all that kind of thing, and that my floormats were still in the original plastic and stored in the back because I don't like floormats.... Anyway, he took me to see the 2010 Yarises.

I looked at a red one--because they didn't have any blue--and sat down in the driver's seat and thought, "Hmm, this is just like my car except it smells new." And I've never liked that new car smell, just like I don't like the smell of coffee.

So I left. All day today I pretended that I did actually have a brand new car (it's certainly clean enough), only it's magically half paid for already and the dealership preset all the buttons to my favorite radio stations. And I've been really happy about the car that I was bored with yesterday. It's just like The Pina Colada Song, and in fact you can sing it "If you like Toyota Yaris" instead, but I'm not interested enough or clever enough to work out the rest of the chorus to make it about cars too.

So anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I didn't buy a car yesterday but I bought 14 books. Which is as it should be.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Outrageous Lies

The lovely and talented Anne Spollen has nominated me for the Creative Liar Award! Thank you, Anne! The rules: thank (and link to) the nominator, put the award on your blog, and then tell six outrageous lies and one outrageous truth. Here are my lies-and-a-truth:

1. Only a busted leg when I was seventeen kept me from joining the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team.

2. A policeman once mistook me for a burglar and pulled a gun on me.

3. I have owned twenty different cars in my life, including a silver convertible BMW.

4. I saved a bunch of little kids from a rabid skunk once.

5. Also a burning building.

6. I hold a patent for improvements related to how the next folded tissue comes out of the box when you pull one out.

7. I once worked for the Disney company, but not as an animator.

See if you can pick the truth from the lies! Oh, and if you want to participate, then you're nominated (I know, it's lame, but most of the people I know have already done this one).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Day to Twitter about

Actually, it's a good thing I didn't have access to Twitter today, because I would have bored everyone silly. After the horribleness and exhaustingness of the last two weeks (work! I work at a college and it's MIDTERMS OMG), I really need something fun to look forward to. And tomorrow is the big huge giant yearly Friends of the Library booksale in Knoxville! Well, the sale's been going on all week but tomorrow is the first half-price day and it's my day off too, so all day at work today I was clockwatching ferociously. My tweets would have been along the lines of "four more hours and I can go home, and then tomorrow I can buy books!" and "three more hours and I'm out of here and this time tomorrow I'll have a lot more books!"

So anyway...15 more hours and I'll be buying books.

I've been terrible about reading my friends' blogs lately and updating my own. That's going to change after tomorrow. Tomorrow, of course, I'll be busy buying lots of books.