Monthly Archives: September 2009

Fame, Movie Reviews, Exercise

Woman admits embezzling from Danielle Steel – Yahoo! News
See, this is what happens when you become uber-successful. I don’t intend on becoming a rich enough author to have employees. That should avoid the problem.

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Recent movie watching:

So, there’s this movie called Deadgirl. It made the film festival rounds, has been released on DVD, and I was surprised to find it available on Netflix as an instant view. I had read a review of Deadgirl before I saw it, so I sorta knew what to expect. Many people find it to be distasteful to downright reprehensible. The word misogynistic has been used to describe it too. The basic plot? Two high school misfits find a fairly attractive zombie girl tied up in an abandoned mental institution. While this movie isn’t high art (and actually I’m glad it’s not), it’s better than its offensive potential. The movie is really about how far each character will go in a situation that, in the beginning, might be morally ambiguous but lacks repercussions. Decent horror movie fodder.

Also watched Quarantine. Using the “found footage”motif, the hand-held cameras follow a lifestyle reporter as she follows firemen on a call to a building that quickly becomes quarantined. The rub? The people have been closed into the building with a something carrying a rabies-like virus. On a plot-depth level, this isn’t a great movie. On an experience-level? Pretty intense, at least superficially. There are scares in all the right places, but nothing that lasted more then the run-time of the movie.

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I’m trying to get back into running and/or rowing a couple times a week in addition to disc twice a week. Okay, so I’ve done it for one week. As with most things lately, I probably won’t keep it up. But I do feel better. Well, when playing disc I have a screwy right ankle/foot and a slightly pulled left upper quad/groin muscle, but when just running and afterward, I’ve been feeling better.  (It’s all relative…)

The Return of Ice Cream Reviews

I had hoped that after Lucinda Week, I’d get back to posting more regularly. It hasn’t happened that way. September has been strangely busy. I expected things to calm down after league started and then after Lucinda Week, but I haven’t quite hit my stride with my fall schedule.

I did do OMM on Monday: Obscure Media Monday: Movie: Mr. Brooks. I might even start doing it regularly again.

Amusing link of the week:
Wondermark Fiction Generator.
There’s also an automated version!

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Product Reviews: Ice Creams!

I’m not a big fan of Ben & Jerry’s but Basha’s had a really good sale a while back. I figured I give a few new flavors a try.

First up,Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. My main problem with many B&J varieties is that there is too much stuff in the ice cream. I was a little worried about this one, but it walks on the tolerable side of the line. It really tastes like a good, thankfully raisin-less, oatmeal cookie. I will agree with Eric’s assessment: B&J’s ice cream often doesn’t taste much like ice cream. This was more like a creamy cookie dough than ice cream.

Next was Mission to Marzipan. I really wanted to like flavor. I like marzipan, a lot, and I was encouraged to see that there weren’t many “add-ins”. Unfortunately, it falls short. There isn’t a marzipan swirl. It’s a liquid sugar swirl. The almond cookie bits were very plain. While the first bite of ice cream did have a sweet, almond-y taste, it faded quickly and ends up tasting simply like sweet cream ice cream. With bland cookie bits.

Last, Pistachio Pistachio. This is the outstanding one of the bunch. The ice cream is good, creamy as well as flavorful. Unlike pistachio Jello pudding, this B&J variety has big roasted pistachios in it (the instant pudding uses almond pieces). And the pistachios are the weak point, actually. They’re a very variable nut. Good ones are excellent, bad ones are vile. But all in all, I’d buy this one again.

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And on that note, I need to start exercising on a regular basis again. I’m currently playing ulti twice a week, but that’s not quite enough. Bizarrely, Eric is considering trying a marathon, maybe the Rock & Roll marathon in January. A pricey endeavor, but an interesting challenge.

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

Book #16 – We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle

I enjoyed We Never Talk About My Brother a great deal more than I did Beagle’s previous collection The Line Between (aside from "Two Hearts"; that novella is the core of that book, but I always see it as from Asimov’s instead of part of an anthology). It might be due to my general state of mind lately. I’ve been stressed and rushed and harried. This has been a little book of get-a-ways for me.   Whether to a through-the-mirror reality where the supernatural intrudes lightly (in "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel", "The Stickball Witch", and "Spook") or to a completely fantastical world (in "Chandail"), all these vacations were needed. Lovely stuff.

I’m debating reading The Innkeepers Song again, or maybe I should finally read Giant Bones. Sink into Beagle’s fantasy world for a while.  Or maybe I need a good horror story to get in the mood for October even if the weather isn’t being cooperative.

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SF/LH Week 2:

Kathi’s elbow was not dislocated, but broken. She’s out of the season for all intents and purposes. Fortuitously, Kelly Lovell-Taylor emailed Jose Friday morning after the first game wondering if we had room for a veteran player. I played on a Kelly-captained team back in 2003. That league is notable for being the first time I threw out my back. (To illustrate the turnover of players in the VOTS community, the only people on that team team that are still playing VOTS league on a regular basis are Reif and me.) Alas, Kelly had to be out of town Thursday, still leaving Kristi and me savage for Thursdays game.

We suffered from similar problems second game as first, along with adding zone defense into the mix. We kept the game tied until about sevens and then they pulled ahead. We played Big Nate’s team. In general, very tall and with Dixon. Eric ran out of juice and the rest of us made the usual mistakes. Byron’s fingers are almost back to normal and having another long thrower would be good. Since I played the whole game, and much of it versus Melanie, I don’t really remember how good anyone’s play was, including my own. I do remember Kristi making some great catches, including two scores. For the second game in a row, Eric made good on the looong hammer part of our team name, sending one to me for a score. My low point, late in the game, I threw the disc to Duane while Big Nate was looking my direction and was pretty much in the way. It was maybe a yard away from being a Callahan.

Lucinda Week, Day 7: What Will I See When I Look Back

First, a big "Thank You!" to everyone who has commented, congratulated, and supported me me this week and in the past, whether online or in person. It’s a very strange thought that people I know might read Lucinda. Geoff Cooper once described writers as "egomaniacs with inferiority complexes." I’m don’t know how accurate that is for all writers, but I’ve certainly had those moments.

You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.

The semi-official 1st chapter is available for download (PDF).
The novel is available at
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Lucinda Week Index

Some people are good at seeing a clear picture of the future, whether it is an accurate vision or not. I am not one of those people, and I try not to worry about it. I don’t know how many copies Lucinda will sell or how it will be received by those who read it. Most of that is out of my control now. I’ve written the book; it’s a book I’d enjoy reading. To some degree, that’s the main thing a writer does.

What does interest me is how past decisions and experiences shape the present. When I signed the contract with Stone Garden I decided that, at very least, it would be an experience. In the process of editing the novel and writing this log, I’ve come to realize the importance of my collaboration with Eric. Lucinda at the Window is the viable novel we collaborated on the least.* When left to my own devices I meander my way through a story and get lost in its dark, dead-end alleys. Minnette’s primary criticism of Lucinda in the editing process was that I include too much detail, that my sentences often contain unnecessary words. Being succinct is important. This was a lesson I had half-learned in the writing of my fourth novel Pas de Chat. I wrote Pas de Chat over the summer of 2004. Eric and I discussed what was going on in the novel nearly every day. The writing is tight; worlds ahead of Lucinda.

I say this lesson was half-learned because, despite the obvious advantages of having someone "in-house" to keep me on the right track in terms of plot  and to prevent me from skipping down descriptive primrose paths, I resist. Over the course of our relationship, the most knock-down drag-out fights between Eric and I have been over writing. I take the position of the lone writer "artiste" against his practical, dispassionate objectivity. It is a false view and it leads to useless arguments. Even for the writer that isn’t in an active collaboration, writing is not a solitary process in the end. And despite Eric’s overview perspective, he is truly concerned in making our writing better…and not just annoying me. Working with an editor has given me a better perspective on this. Changing behavior based on lessons "learned" is no one’s strong point, but maybe I’ve finally had this one drilled into my head.

Obviously, I’m learning about the promotion aspect of having a product with my name on it. If I’m lucky, I’ll have to learn to deal with criticisms and reviews and problems of publication that I can not fathom. Successful or not, this is the start of a new aspect of my career that will have to be managed. If you’ll pardon the paradox, I look forward to seeing what lessons I’ll have learned from this time in my life.

For this last day of Lucinda Week, I ‘d like to share a piece of art my sister Tessa drew many years ago to accompany Lucinda at the Window‘s first chapter. I wish I could link to some of her more current art because the canvases and guitar customizations I saw over the summer were really impressive.

*Eric had even less day-to-day involvement with novels #2 & #3, the sprawling, non-viable fantasy novels.

Lucinda Week, Day 6: XXX in the Accept Column

You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.

I have a simple spread sheet that I use to keep track of submissions. The first column is labeled TITLE. The second is PUBLISHER, which could be more descriptively labeled as “Editor/Agent”. The next two columns are for DATE SENT and RESPONSE DATE. Columns E and F are labeled ACCEPT and REJECT and every response is accounted for by three capital Xs in one of these columns.

By 2007, I hadn’t given up on Lucinda at the Window, but I wasn’t working as hard to resubmit after a round of rejection slips. This was mainly a function of being a busier writer. After finishing Lucinda, I did what any writer does: I started another book. By 2007, I had written two sprawling, flawed fantasy novels (that have been fodder for a later novels) and a tight contemporary horror novel (which I am still  submitting to publishers and agents), and in 2004, Eric and I started work on a loose series of books set in on a non-Earth world. The process of researching markets for Lucinda, sending out submissions, and receiving rejections was no less painful than at the beginning, but it had become a necessary routine. Searching through my LiveJournal archive, I find that Lucinda is mentioned at least quarterly no matter what else I am doing. Therefore, it came as a shock when Kristofer Stamp of StoneGarden.net Publishing contacted me on September 19, 2007 with a contract offer. As one of the “new” internet-connected publishers, I had sent a complete manuscript to Stone Garden along with my cover email. The contract was attached. And I was flummoxed.

I didn’t tell anyone for a day. Eric had recently returned to school to begin work on a master’s degree. He was very busy with homework that week, and I didn’t want to distract him. I am also a bit of a pessimist and, like a newly pregnant woman, I didn’t want to get people (or myself) excited until I had decided nothing would go wrong. I emailed Andy on the 20th and told Eric later that day. I took a week to contemplate the contract, and to have Eric and Andy look it over. I sent it back on September 28th.

Then I waited. Kris Stamp had let me know that the docket for 2007 and 2008 was full. Lucinda wouldn’t be published until 2009. It tried to be very zen about the wait. 2008’s recession was slightly alarming, but I could see how a smaller publisher might be outside of the problems bigger houses and booksellers were having. I parried questions about progress from family and friends with the phrase, “I’m not going to worry about it until 2009.” My plan was to query in January of ’09 if I hadn’t heard anything. There was no need. Minnette Meador, working as an editor for Stone Garden, contacted me in December. We bounced files back and forth with editing suggestions and changes. It was a good process, though cringe-worthy. I was revisiting a novel I had written nearly a decade before.

In June, while I was visiting my family in Nebraska, Kris Stamp uploaded the cover art for the third quarter novels. Including Lucinda at the Window. Slowly, measure by measure, what began as three pages of “assigned” writing had become book.

[Tomorrow: What I’ve Learned]

Lucinda Week, Day 5: How Many Rejections DID Lucinda Get?

You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.

The semi-official 1st chapter is available for download (PDF).
The novel is available at
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Lucinda Week Index

Every-so-often Eric will ask, "How many rejections DID Lucinda get?"

I always claim to not remember.

The joy of finishing a novel, being in that 10% (an important thing for a former over-achiever), is short-lived for me. The process of deciding where to to send the finished novel, the fretting over a cover/query letter and synopsis, the anxiety over whether everything is to the potential editor/agent’s specs: these things turn me into a neurotic mess. Worse yet, these efforts are most commonly met with a coldly-written half-slip of paper sent back in your own SASE. It’s not pleasant, but it is necessary.

When I started submitting Lucinda at the Window back in 2000, it was a very different world. The internet was not yet the useful tool it is today. I began by purchasing the most recent Writer’s Market, a weighty and pricey tome, and began to educate myself in the differences between submitting a novel-length work versus a short story, which I had published in the past. Looking at the hierarchy of publishing, I decided to start at the top. There was no reason not to. Many of the major publishing houses still accepted unsolicited queries and writing samples. My first submission packages were to them. While I knew it wasn’t likely, part of me expected to sell Lucinda within the first year. Or the second at the latest.

Richard Laymon wrote in A Writer’s Tale that rejection slips are badges of honor that show "you’ve done your duty. You’ve written your stuff and sent it out. You’ve done your part. … They’re not fun to get." The rejections for Lucinda were not the first I had ever received, but these were different from short story rejections. They were form letters, sometimes only a half sheet of paper. They were addressed to "Author". They were also rejecting something I had put two years of work into, instead of a two months. And hadn’t I put enough sweat and blood into the query to deserve more than a Xeroxed shoddily-cut half-sheet? It’s easy to get righteously indignant as an author. It also does little good.

For the first three years or so, I re-queried the big houses on a yearly basis. This is probably not a good thing to do, but I didn’t know better. Eventually, due to 9/11 or corporate consolidation or other factors, most of the big publishing houses stopped accepting unsolicited queries. I started adding agents to my submission list. In the meantime, the internet began to get interesting. Information about houses and agents was plentiful. Editors and agents began to blog about what they did!* More importantly, the internet was opening up new publishing avenues. Smaller publishing houses had new methods of marketing and distributing. POD and ebooks began to be viable options. While the storied, highly regarded publishing industry was becoming less accessible, a new opportunities were opening up.

Lucinda at the Window was rejected by 25 different editors and agents between February of 2000 and September of 2007. In that time, a partial was requested once and I received one hand-written note. Rejections still sting. I’ve learned to take what morbid amusement I can in them, such as a cool stamp on the rejection from a UK publisher, and remember that no one becomes a published author by never submitting their work.

Royal Mail!

[Tomorrow: XXX in the Accept Column]

*And gained an order of magnitude more respect from me. I am continually stunned by the numbers Jennifer Jackson quotes in her Query Wars posts. Editors and agents work hard. Be nice to them.

Lucinda Week, Day 4: The Real Work is Making It…Better

You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.

The semi-official 1st chapter is available for download (PDF).
The novel is available for purchase at
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

Lucinda Week Index

About a month ago, while moving stuff from one part of the apartment to another, I came across several printed out emails from my friend Andy regarding the ending of Lucinda at the Window.* The ending went through four rewrites, and all of them were sent to Andy for his invaluable input and opinion. It was the first section of the novel to received extra attention. The ending of Lucinda is a hard-sell. Eric had to work to convince me that it was the best, and perhaps only, ending. It had to be written just right. In terms of plot, it was possibly the only thing that changed from the initial draft.

Dubiously, Lucinda is the most workshopped of my novels. In the fall of 1998, I took a graduate-level writing class at UNL. Honestly, it was very similar to the undergraduate writing classes except that students were expected to be working on novels or at least a novella. We all brought in the first 3-5 chapters to be read and discussed. Mine was one of the few works of genre fiction. While my fellow students were enthusiastic, the professor didn’t quite catch on to the supernatural aspects of the plot. Eric and I also participated in a workshop with Nancy Kilpatrick at World Horror Con in 2004. This was more helpful, emphasizing how the first chapter of a book can be improved to hook the reader. The first chapter of Lucinda was slimmed-down 4.5 years after the thrill of putting THE END on the ‘final’ draft.

In many ways, Lucinda at the Window spoiled me. Four rewrites of one scene and the removal of extraneous details isn’t much. At the time, the tooth-grinding over those last twenty pages was agony enough to blot out the carefree days of first 450. But it was worth it. It’s said that 90% of writers never finish their novel. For about an hour, it was good to be in that ten percent.

[Tomorrow: How Many Rejections Did Lucinda Receive?]

*I’ve been looking for the emails since Sunday, but I can’t remember in which cunning place I put them. I offer in their stead, as today’s archival document, a planning/rewriting artifact: the 3×5 used to keep track everyone.