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2010 2nd Quarter Summary

First Quarter Summary

Model Species
Seven rejections so far this year. Queries out at five other agents/agencies.

Zeta Iota
Put on the back burner in May in favor of polishing Divine Fire. I had started over and was about 4K in. Zeta Iota wasn’t quite working. As I had said, I wanted to love the project, but it wasn’t jiving with me.

Divine Fire
Mostly took a look at this novel and said, "Yep, there’s lots of work to do." I started smoothing out the two romantic relationships. To be honest, I should have gotten a whole lot more done in two months.

Pas de Chat
Decided to give Pas de Chat away, chapter by chapter every Sunday and Wednesday. The first post was released early in conjunction with a blogfest.  A couple weeks in PJ Kaiser and Tony Noland established #TuesdaySerial on Twitter and I switched to posting on Sundays only. I’ve received a few comments and seem to get 20-30 visitors every Sunday and Tuesday.

Luck for Hire
Last week (okay, maybe Saturday) Eric floated a new idea. We talked about it again this morning. At this point, it seems that it will be urban fantasy. The idea behind this novel is tasty to me, but will take some doing to pull off. I am cautiously excited. These are my very first words "on paper" about this project. It is also the first project that was titled before it was written (the validity of this statement may be in question).

Other Works

  • "Breakfast in the Garden" Polished up a short story that I wrote a few years back and had Crittered. So far, three rejections; submitted to two other markets.
  • #FridayFlash (on Twitter) and 52/250 – Between these two venues I’ve posted six reworked pieces, six brand new pieces (including "Consequences" posted today), and one fragment that received a proper rewrite.  Twitter has become a fairly large part of getting eyes on my work and seeing the work of others.


Analysis

I’ve done a lot of "for me" writing and not done much work on bigger projects. I’ve also let non-writing things take priority (like this post, in fact).

Several things:

At the end of March, my attitude toward writing was fairly grim. Eric and I had a pretty long conversation about the "work" aspect of writing and what motivates me to do this instead of some other job. When the work isn’t fun, It comes down to moments when the pieces click together and seeing that what I’ve/we’ve made is greater than its parts. (And I realize today that when that happens in bigger projects its much more satisfying than when it happens in 500 words of flash fiction.)

In April I had a dream while napping. I was sitting in a bar with Eric Reif (I think my dreaming brain munges Erics) and he asked me what I’d rather be writing since I was unhappy. "Horror," I said. On waking, I decided to do what I wanted in short pieces. Since then I’ve written very little horror, but quite a bit of humor. Apparently, my dreaming brain is also hard of hearing.

In May, Josie of safetycomfort posted about magnetic attraction analysis, which involved making a list of thing that I find particularly intriguing. Eric pointed out that those concepts (esp. something seeming like something else) are pretty obvious when looking at my flash pieces and every longer fiction project up to Zeta Iota. I hadn’t quite found those aspects in Zeta Iota, though they are there. I see them now. What makes Luck for Hire "tasty" to me is that is falls smack dab in the middle of those interests.

If I want to view the sloth of the past three months in a way that is favorable to me, I could say that it’s been a journey of becoming more self aware and that time has allowed other ideas to come to fruition. More to the truth, I’ve probably been waiting for the newest, bestest project to come along.

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Book #16 – The Devil in the White City

Book #16 – The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

As much as I liked Thunderstruck, I think I like The Devil in the White City more. History is much more interesting when it’s a cloth rather than a thread. On its own the World’s Columbian Exposition is an interesting thread. When seen in context with other events, it’s absolutely remarkable. At least when presented by Larson. If I were a history teacher I’d be very tempted to base my curriculum on his books. I also think David Milch and HBO should make this their next project.

Again, Larson juxtaposes two stories: the building and run of the World’s Columbian Exposition and the history of serial killer H.H. Holmes. As with Thunderstruck, the two stories don’t entirely mesh.  They are each interesting, but Holmes’s story is a bit more of a tangent than a parallel. Holmes’s evil is meant to be a counterweight to the better humanity shown in the building of the world’s fair, but it’s not that simple. Within the realm of the Exposition alone, there are plenty of shades of gray. Holmes is another thread that modestly run through other events. Still, Larson ranks as one of the better writers I’m reading.

—###—

It’s the end of June and I’m two books shy of a book-every-10-days average. On the other hand, I’m a book ahead of average for my 30-books-in-a-year goal.

I’m torn as to what I should read next, though I suppose I have China Mieville’s The City & The City on loan from the Greater Phoenix Digital Library. It’s been given so much praise that I feel I should read it.

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Friday Flash: What Moonlight Sees

What Moonlight Sees

Moonlight slipped off the waves of the Rhone River and through the town of Lyon like a snake wending its way across a shallow stream.  The moon wasn’t full, but it gave off enough light to cause ripples of silver around the darkened homes and shops.  The light ran hurriedly through the ruins near the abbey that were older than anything remembered by the town.  It slid though the blacksmith’s overhang, spinning around the anvil and dark iron tools, avoiding the soft glow of the still molten forge.  The white of the weaver’s storefront glowed palely.  The windows were shut tight, inky rectangles that mimicked the sky.  Above, the weaver and her husband slept soundly.  Light played across the face of the strange store with herbs and skins hanging outside to dry.  It did not linger there for very long.

The shimmer of moonlight avoided the windows of the inns and taverns. It was not needed there.  A yellow glow, inviting and intoxicating, spilled forth bringing with it sounds of laughing and brawling, song and argument.  The silver rays streaked around the corner fleeing the firelight that followed a bard’s voice over the sill.  For an instant, it illuminated a figure that ducked around the corner after it.

She was short and light of frame.  One might have taken her for a child, an urchin, if not for the mature proportions of her body.  She moved quickly away from the sounds of the inn, making no noise of her own. The silhouette, for that’s all that she seemed to be, crept from one dark spot to another.  She paused at a quiet growl from alley across the lane.  Monstrosities walked the earth that not even the moonlight might touch, though they were rarely seen in a populated towns.  The shadowy form tensed, waiting to see.  Dark monstrosity or not, this could be trouble.  A dog, thinner than a moonbeam, loped into the street from the alley.  The mongrel’s claws clicked on the hardened ground.  The dark figure tensed minutely, as if trying to withhold her very scent from the mangy canine.  After the dog was well past, the silhouette dashed across the lane and into the alley.  Her footsteps barely made a sound.

From the muffling darkness of the alley, the scrapping noise could have been the wind, a dog, the very moonlight itself.  After a moment or two of diligent work, her right arm stretched out against the filthy wall, reaching as high as it could.  Thin, gloved fingers searched the grime-caked cracks, searching.  With more scraping, the tool in her hand dislodged a sliver of brick.  She put the tool away in  pouch at her waist and boosted herself off the ground.  Her left hand caught the inch-wide ledge near a window and the toe of one boot caught easily in the hastily hewn foothold. 

The figure paused again, poised on the side of the building.  The moonlight shifted by and found the face of the burglar for an instant.  All that might have been revealed to anyone watching closely in the dark alley was the smooth face of youth.  Pale and clean; a very odd thing for a thief in Lyon.

In a smooth movement, the thief gathered a tool tucked securely at her waist.  The flat hook of metal was blackened, and light avoided it.  With a quick flick, the metal was between the shutters and out again.  The clank of the latch was monstrously loud in the thief’s ears.  But she did not hesitate.  Now was not the time to be caught.  The hook slid in again and with a quick twist, it caught on the inside of the shutter and swung it open with blissful silence.  Summoning strength, the dark figure swung over the window ledge.  Before any moonlight could catch the thief, she was gone from the half open window.

—###—

After writing Lucinda at the Window, Eric and I took a crack at adapting the exploits of a couple C&S characters. That became the two sprawling fantasy novels. Some characters survived to become part of Weordan in Divine Fire. This is the prologue-ish introduction of one of those characters from the original work. I wrote it sometime in early 2001. Earlier this week someone on Twitter asked about reading old works; whether it’s delightful or painful. For me, it’s both and maybe leaning to the latter. Sometimes things surprise me and I smile because I forgot I wrote something that good. Other times I wince and say, "What the fuck was I thinking?" and hope there aren’t sentences that bad in my more current work in progress. (Sadly, there probably are.) But it’s kind of fun to go back and touch up something old, make it a little shinier.

I considered not posting anything for #FridayFlash. This week has been kind of screwy. I’ve been tired and inanimate and haven’t had an original thought. Maybe I’m suffering from some low-grade crud, maybe it’s the doldrums of summer. Maybe I just suck. Doesn’t matter. I am happy that today will have less sunshine than yesterday.

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Call me Ranty McRantpants

Understanding Men seriously cheesed me off.

To be clear: I agree with the conclusion. Men are about focus. That has its good side and its bad side. Just as women’s "multitasking" has its up- and down-side. It’s good to know these things when writing characters. But the article is disappointingly wrong in other ways.

The expert author, a psychotherapist, didn’t check her facts. A quick search at Wikipedia reveals that popular notions about the corpus callosum have been found to be incorrect. Men actually have a bigger corpus callosum than women, even when normalized for brain size. Besides that, the corpus callosum probably doesn’t have as much to do with sex-based cognitive differences as over-all brain architecture does. For instance, more current research  shows correlations involving sex, white and gray matter, and areas of use. (Don’t get me started on right/left brain nonsense.*) Since I’m not a psychologist of any sort, why am I familiar with these concepts? Eric had to shift his theory on brain architecture and sex-differences based on this info. I’ve heard about it. A lot.

I couldn’t find anything to back up the statement "a brain scan while a man is reading or at the computer will show he’s mostly deaf."  Such statements should probably come with a citation. Why would anyone cite scientific articles in a piece about writing characters? Because in many ways everything is science fiction. Biology informs behavior and vice versa. When Romance University brings in an expert they’re implying that an expert’s opinion is needed. What ticks me off is that this expert is propagating old, incorrect information.

*Sadly, an .edu filtered search of "right brain left brain myth" brought up a bunch of curriculum documents about how to use the difference to teaching advantage.

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Katherine History: Electronic Texts

I’ve been thinking about books as electronic texts for a long time.

I read my first fan fiction (probably Blake’s 7 related) back in high school. Yes, the late 80s and early 90s. When my parents bought an upgrade, I got the Commodore 64 in my room. Hooked up to a modem, it wasn’t long before I familiarized myself with BBSs. As many of that era describe, suddenly there was a whole world of people who liked the same things that I did. And for me, the exciting thing was having the deluge of new things to read. I still remember a piece of original horror fiction, written by some user somewhere, that scared the bejeezus out of me. These were text files with the occasional ANSI art that I either read on the black and green screen or dumped to my printer (usually the latter). Since this was far inferior to books, my enchantment with the world of BBSs didn’t last long.

By 1997, the world wide web was populated by more than BBSs and after my autobiographical fiction prof required his students to set up a web page, it was populated by me as well. Between the search for background patterns and my slight obsession with all things Russian, I again found texts online. Pushkin, Lermontov, Chekhov were all there, as well as other things I couldn’t find in bookstores, like the non-Russian Fiona McLeod. My feelings about this were mixed. I love books. I love their look, their feel, their smell. And here was…non-book, but the content was compelling. How could I not love this too?

Even at that point, I believed there was the potential for an electronic text to be more than just the text itself. I was learning HTML at the time. I could "link" things. Imagine the works of Shakespeare with links within the text to commentary and history and art! And while I realized that one day some hand-held device with files on it might replace books, wouldn’t those "hypertexts" make that sacrifice worthwhile? (Ubiquitous wireless was a ways off in ’97. I imagined that you’d have to host the files on your device and pray that you had storage space for more than *just* Shakespeare.) I wrote a paper on it for some class or another. Wish I had kept it.

Thirteen years later, we’re awash with hand-held devices. There’s squabbling about file formats, wireless carriers, and how the publishing industry can continue to make money when the device makers hold many of the reins. As a literary student, the publishing industry mattered little to me. As an author, I’m by turns excited and alarmed by the coming of actual ebooks. Still, we have very few hypertexts. Maybe those aren’t needed or wanted. I’m currently reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.* I sat down yesterday at my desktop computer and fired up Bing to see pictures of the World’s Columbian Exposition. A few keystrokes and it’s all right there. How can anyone not think that the age we live in is pretty darn spiffy?

* Grimy, used trade paperback. I’m a writer; I can’t spend money on single-purpose electronics that are sort of redundant. I own over 1000 books and several computers on which I can read the large amount of free fiction that’s available. Kindle, Nook, or otherwise, until it can make dinner for me too, I’ll settle happily for what I have.

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Introversion & Online Presence; also other stuff.

This journal goes pretty quiet when nothing new is going on.

I’m still trying to find a happy medium between working on the novel projects and my own for-fun writing projects (#FridayFlash, 52/250, Pas de Chat). After five years of world building, Eric is still coming up with tweaks for Weordan. I’ll deal with those when I need to. Plotting the course of the "romantic" relationships in Divine Fire has illuminated false acting on the part of my characters. Bringing actions and intent into alignment has been good, though I’m snail-slow at making changes.

For the first time in ages, I felt really good playing disc yesterday. Wednesday disc has moved to mornings for a few months. Rough getting up and making my hands work properly at 6am, but the weather is fantastic. Honestly, we’ve had a really nice spring. Which makes the rise in my SRP bill compared to last year that much more painful.

Also contemplating the balance between online presence and being offline, which I suppose is particularly in vogue right now. There are those that think the internet is rotting our brains, and others who think we’re going to be okay (the Wall Street Journal has a pretty good set of pro-/con- articles). I fall into the "pro" internet group for the most part. Yes, the internet is changing us, but the change isn’t going to be all bad or all good. Ultimately, this is how civilization evolves. It’s not going away, so really it’s a matter of how you cope with the growing interconnectedness of our world. Like so many other things, it’s up to the individual to look at what’s going on in their own life and make changes if changes are needed.

I don’t own a cellphone. I don’t care for the intrusive nature of phones to begin with so having a phone with me at all times isn’t something I want, despite the occasionally handy nature of them. I do participate quite a bit in social media. I have this journal. I have fiction up on various sites. I have a Facebook and a Twitter account. For me as an introvert, it doesn’t matter if socializing is face to face or online. Social media exhausts me. I feel that I need to continuously keep the online side of my life going; chatting, promoting, consuming good stuff, but I burn out very easily. I have trouble pacing my involvement, and instead it’s all or nothing from me.  I don’t have an exact solution for this at the moment.

I’ve also cultivated a tendency to do too many things at once. A couple weeks back I was approving messages for the VOTS message board and scheduling tweets about open play and updating the calendar when I approved a message I shouldn’t have. Not good. I find myself spread between several things quite often. Maybe the generation weened on Twitter (or whatever’s next) will handle that sort of thing better than I do. For me, I need to be aware of when I have five things going at once and finish one thing at a time.

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Friday Flash: Hypsometry

Hypsometry

He hadn’t been thinking when he left his hat and sunblock in the car.  He had stumbled over the rocky sand dune toward the mottled pink dawn and the dull steel ocean, certain that it wouldn’t take so long to find her.  He had followed the broken line of deposited debris and the tide came and went.

The sun warmed him and then singed him. The glare off the water darkened his freckles. The sand teemed with living things that fascinated and repulsed him.  He didn’t like being barefoot on the beach.  He swam occasionally for the coolness of the water, but was always slightly sickened by the brush of kelp against him. He never swam long. He might miss her if he was gone from land.

Others filled the spaces between the clots of green-black seaweed and the hungry rise and fall of the ocean. Most were bronzed or weathered, used to the sun and the wind and the salt. They were not like him, pale like rust-flecked sand. He continued to walk, following where the waves had been, where she had been, and ignored the attention that his white legs garnered. He was not here for them.

He found her when the horizon bled.  The water lapped at her bare feet and the wind twisted her hair.

"I’ve been waiting for you," she said.

Sunburnt, he smiled.

He wasn’t thinking at all.

—###—

From the 52/250 prompt "lovelies on the beach." I had intended to write this only for 52/250, but it might have to do double duty. The #fridayflash I had intended to write is still being cultivated. Other writing (and lazy days) got in the way of working on it.