Monday, April 25, 2011

Electricity and Me

As you may know, or you may not, for my day job I'm a test proctor at a state college. I do a variety of stuff, office work as well as test proctoring. One of the things I do occasionally is proctor standardized placement tests like the ACT.

Twice this month I've had to travel to one of our site campuses to give placement tests (note: not actually the ACT, but you won't have heard of the test I did give and it's not important anyway). Two weeks ago when I tested, we were two freaking minutes away from the end of the timed writing when the power went out. Boom, there went the test! The students had to start over with a different version of the test, and no one was happy. The proctor was very cranky that evening.

Tonight I remember thinking, "Well, no matter what happens during this test, at least we won't lose power."


Lightning loves me. What can I say?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Four days passed like lightning

Well, let's just bury yesterday's whiny post as soon as possible.

I got my edits done. I didn't actually break the mower after all, just flooded it, so I was able to finish mowing the lawn. I've also typed up all the handwritten pages for Bloodhound. That's all I got done this long weekend, although I did buy two pairs of shoes and some clothes. Now I am broke, but I look stylish.

I also bought a copy of Weird Tennessee, which is giving me ideas for roadtrips and stories.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Heavy sighs all around

For about half a year, Jim C. Hines has been running First Book Friday, which I've really enjoyed reading. They're posts by various authors--usually fantasy authors, but not always--talking about their first sales and how they came about. In my memory, all the stories are atypical--no one ever does what we're supposed to do: writes a good book, finds an agent, and the agent sells the book to a publisher. This afternoon (because, you know, I don't have enough to do) I went through all 33 posts and reread them, and actually kept track of how each author got his or her first book sale.

It actually was pretty surprising, although admittedly it's a small sample. I made very broad categories as I went, and here they are:

Got an agent, got a publisher - 14
Approached publisher directly - 5
Tie-in novel/revived career in different genre - 3
Helped by established pro - 8
Self-published/got small publisher first, then agent - 2
Self-published only - 1

Where there was a year mentioned, I jotted it down--1985, 1987, 2000 (three reports), 2003 (two reports), 2004 (two reports), 2007 (two reports). A few authors mentioned how much easier it was to find a publisher ten or fifteen years ago compared to now.

So after reading all those accounts, I'm now bitterly depressed (although breaking the stupid lawn mower earlier today probably didn't help). While many authors said that they'd written lots of books before they sold their first one, I don't think anyone has written as many unpublishable books as me.

Seriously, here they are--and these are just the ones I can remember, and doesn't even count the awful books I wrote when I was in middle school, high school, and right after college:

late 1990s - The Ghost in the Snow, The Rooftops of Simminee Soo, some book about a dragon I can't remember the title of, Weaver's Shroud
early/mid 2000s - a different book about a dragon, Evil Outfitters Ltd., The Weredeer, Jack of All Trades
late 2000s - Stag at Bay, Stag in Velvet, The Taste of Magic, Blood and Taxes, The Dragon Whisperer
2010/2011 - The Trickster Society, Shadows over Oakhill, Bell-Men, Bloodhound (well, Bloodhound will be finished this week, anyway)

That's 17! And yes, I've sold three to small publishers with two more under contract to other small publishers. But where's my big payoff for years and years of hard work? I've queried 43 agents about Bell-Men, which is easily my strongest work, with only two partial requests and no interest whatsoever. Yeah, Angry Robot still has the full, but the odds are very slim that it'll make it to the next tier of reading. Meanwhile, I'm writing more books and editing/revising old ones, and working hard all the time to improve. I know I'm not a bad writer. I know I'm writing at a professional level. I just wish someone else would see that.

Hmm. I didn't actually mean to end up ranting. I really, truly meant to just give some interesting statistics about those First Book Fridays. Oh well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The To-Do List

I don't usually write actual to-do lists for myself. I keep 'stuff I need to do' in a mental drawer that I check pretty much constantly, sort of like my email. But right now the list is getting so unwieldy that I'm worried I'll forget something important.

1. Address The Taste of Magic edits.
I got them Tuesday! I haven't even opened the file! I feel really guilty about this, especially since I try to make edits a priority once I have them. I've got to do this first thing tomorrow, even if it takes me all day. At least I'm off work for a change.

2. Type up Bloodhound handwritten pages and finish writing the freaking book.
I'm close. At least, I'm pretty sure I'm close. Who knows? But I really want to finish this thing before I leave for the beach (!) early Wednesday morning, because if I don't I know I won't get around to it until I get back late Saturday night.

3. Mow lawn.
This wouldn't be so complicated except that first I have to go out and get gas for the mower, which is smelly, messy, and time-consuming. On the other hand, I suspect I'll be desperate for a break from editing tomorrow and can get it done then.

4. Finish crocheting this shawl.
My etsy shop is down to only seven items. I've been working on a shawl like the one I made my Mom for Christmas, and I need to finish it; I was hoping to get it done in plenty of time for Easter orders, but, um, that didn't happen. I estimate it'll take at least six more hours of work before it's done, and that doesn't include adding the beaded fringe at the very end.

5. Read the Leather, Denim & Silver anthology and start the contest.
I got my copies of the antho today, but since I'm leaving for the beach (!) Wednesday morning and not returning until Saturday night, I don't want to run the contest until I get back. So this is one thing that's not quite as urgent--in fact, I think an anthology of monster hunter stories is perfect beach reading.

6. Read an e-arc and post a review on Tuesday.
I wouldn't stress over this except that I requested the arc from the publisher and I'm honor-bound to follow through with a review. I just forgot about it until today. The book releases Tuesday. Another e-arc I requested and forgot about releases on May 1, so I need to get to it too before then.

7. Fill up my MP3 player with interesting stuff.
Since I'm going to the beach (!) Wednesday, and since I'm riding down with my mother and my sister-in-law's mother, I need to make sure I have many hours of listening pleasure on tap. Otherwise I'll be tempted to read while riding in the back seat, which will give me a raging case of carsickness. I'll probably go for This American Life episodes, but if anyone has any suggestions I'd happily welcome them.

8. Pack.
Because I'm going to the beach (!).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nearly finished

I'm nearing the end of Bloodhound, finally! It's just over 90,000 words at the moment and I'll probably be able to wrap it up at around 100k. That's considerably shorter than Bell-Men (the book it's a sequel to), which I've only managed to trim to 116k words (from 125k originally). I have no idea if having a sequel that's shorter than the first book is good or bad or doesn't matter. I'm not going to worry about it.

I'm glad to nearly be finished with Bloodhound, because I have a lot of other projects pending. I still need to finish the rewrite of Trickster Society, and I want to finish the first draft of Adventures in Zoology now that I know how to end it. I plan to do both in that order, and hopefully I'll be done with both before the end of summer.

Also, I just got my edits for The Taste of Magic and need to work on those. It would be nice to have about twenty more hours in every week.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The monster hunter anthology is available!

The monster hunter anthology Leather, Denim & Silver is now available from Pill Hill Press! I've got a story in it called "Antler and Eye," which I think is just awesome. (The story and the fact that it's in the antho.)

There are 30 stories in the anthology, incidentally. Thirty! Holy cow! I think it's available as an ebook through Amazon and other online venues too, if you prefer your anthologies electronic.

Best of all, I've ordered an extra copy to give away. I'll be running the contest as soon as I get the book (since I don't know how long it'll take to be shipped to me), so if you want a shot at a free print copy of the book, keep checking back!

Friday, April 15, 2011

We regret to inform you, maybe

I got an email today from a publisher I sent a story to a few weeks ago. The entire contents of the email are as follows:

"Thank you for your submission."

You wouldn't think five words would cause so much consternation. I'm pretty sure this is just a submission confirmation, which is a nicety I always appreciate.

I still feel like there should be more to it. Like maybe the editor was typing it, and her kid started screaming from the next room and the dog started barking and there was a huge, ominous crash, so she hit send without finishing the email. Maybe she meant to write, "Thank you for your submission. We will get back to you with our response within X days/months."

But maybe she meant to write, "Thank you for your submission. We regret to inform you that it's not right for X publication at this time. Also, it sucks."

And maybe she meant to write, "Thank you for your submission. We would like to throw a large wad of cash at you for permission to publish it immediately."

But I don't know. Details, editor, details!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Tears

I managed to get some writing done this afternoon, for a change. I haven't written much on Bloodhound all week because I've been stuck. Finally I just started writing and managed to get through the stuck part, although it's going to need a lot of revising later.

Most of what I wrote today consisted of main character Cam and another character killing vampires and trying not to get killed in return. They were going in to rescue some other characters, some of whom had already been killed. Cam discovers their bodies.

At which point, I sat back and thought, "Who can I kill off? Who don't I need in the next book?"

Finally I made my decision, and felt awful about it. I really liked that character! He was a good guy and totally didn't deserve to be killed by vampires. I spent the rest of the work day considering that and how Cam would react to finding her friend's corpse, and kept tearing up and getting sniffly.

Since it's spring, I was able to remark occasionally to my coworkers, "I don't know what started blooming today, but it's driving my allergies crazy."

I don't have allergies. I just have a sensitive soul and cry over imaginary people.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eating by Color

I bought a book off the remainder table a few weeks ago, Colorfully Slim. Each day you're supposed to only eat foods that are certain colors. Mondays are white food days, Tuesdays red food days, and so on. I bought it partly because I was charmed at the thought of sitting down to a meal where all the foods were orange or purple, and I was sold when I opened the book at random and saw a recipe for cold carrot soup. I love carrot soup.

Now, if I were going to plan a menu for all yellow foods, for instance (Saturdays), it would look something like this:

breakfast oatmeal with honey, scrambled eggs, mint tea with lemon
lunch lemon chicken, yellow squash, rice pilaf, lemonade
snack vanilla yogurt with pineapple (or just pineapple yogurt)
dinner cornmeal-fried trout or catfish, baked potato with butter, more yellow squash (because I love it), white wine, banana pudding for dessert

That assumes that I want to shop for all that stuff and have time to cook all day. But I'd say that's a good day's worth of yellow foods.

Unfortunately, the important word in Colorfully Slim is 'slim.' Their yellow day sample menu is this:

breakfast pineapple milkshake, small English muffin, coffee or tea
lunch 4 oz roast chicken with mustard and herbs, pineapple squash, 'add a beige' (which means you can have a slice of bread or a small portion of another carb), herb tea
snack banana with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
dinner lemon consomme, 4 oz baked fish, yellow and white vegetable casserole, bananas and pineapple, decaf coffee

Now, even assuming I could eat 4 oz of roast chicken in more than two or three bites, and even assuming I would not run amok after three days of these tiny portions (or the suggestion I put barf peanut butter on barf bananas) and bury my head in a bag of chips or just start eating butter by itself, there isn't enough yellow. Coffee? Coffee isn't yellow! Even I know that and I don't even like coffee. I guess you could add a whole lot of cream.

And let's talk cauliflower. I dislike cauliflower although I'll eat it. I would totally add it to my white day menu just to keep the theme. But in the book, cauliflower shows up on the white day sample menu and on the red day sample menu. Cauliflower is not red. The vegetable on red day should be beets, for those who can stand them (not me) or a salad made of red lettuce with tomatoes and red wine vinaigrette dressing, or red beans and rice. Excuse me while I slobber all over my keyboard.

If I had the money and time, I'd totally do my take on this diet--at least for one week. And really, considering my current (horrible) eating habits, having to stick to any kind of whimsical theme would be good for me--there's no brown day, so I'd have to cut chocolate, Cokes, and overcooked beef from my diet entirely. I'd have to eat a lot more vegetables than I currently do, especially on green day (Wednesday). But I would also totally not limit myself to 4 oz of chicken or fish, because seriously, are you crazy?

I like the book, though. I like the idea and the recipes look good, and there are even beauty treatments listed for each day that stick to the theme (cucumber facemask for green day, Vitamin C skin treatment for yellow day). Maybe one day I'll have an extra few hundred bucks and an entire week where I can do nothing but cook, and I can embark on a color day diet. If I do, I'll post pictures. Until then, unfortunately I will probably stay on my fast-food-eaten-in-the-car-on-the-way-to-and-from-work diet.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reasons for shorts

I wrote a short story today! It's less than 900 words and not all that great, sure, but it's a real live short story, the first I've written since the end of December. I wrote it for two reasons.

Reason one: I'm 85,000 words into Bloodhound but I've painted myself into a corner. Our heroine Cam is on her way with a friend to rescue her vampire-hunting colleagues from a few hundred vampires who have them besieged. I have no earthly idea how two people will make a difference in this case. Everything I think of smacks of deus ex machina. So while I'm frantic to keep writing, I have no idea what I'm going to write, and I thought I should drop back and work on a short instead. It hasn't helped.

Reason two: I got the edits this week for "Antler and Eye," which will appear in the Leather, Denim & Steel anthology from Pill Hill Press really soon. That was the story I wrote at the end of December, and I was impressed at its quality when I read it over. It's not perfect, but it was a lot better than I remembered. It also made me want to write another short story.

As I've complained before, I'm not all that good at writing short. I'm a novelist. But short stories really are worth writing, if I can dredge up ideas for them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What we talk about when we talk about ducks

This is what I've been doing lately.

That's the culvert and the little connector ditch I blogged about recently. You can't tell from the picture, but it's raining. Also, if you look closely there are two rubber duckies floating down the rainwater.

Because that's my new hobby.

Mom has a little table next to the front door, and on it are two small bowls, much cracked-and-repaired, from Ming dynasty China. They happen to be precisely the right size for small rubber duckies.

After I came in this evening from racing my rubber duckies, Mom walked by the bowls and stopped to stare at them. She said, "This may be the first time any Ming bowls anywhere have been used to hold rubber duckies." And I said, "But not the last time."