Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm notatallohmyGod Ready for my Close-Up

I once saw Ralph Fiennes play Hamlet in London. Francesca Annis - of Dune fame - played a very sympathetic Gertrude (I've always actually liked her a little nasty and in-the-know) and Tara FitzGerald was a passable Ophelia. I don't recall the name of the actor who played Horatio, but I liked him very much.

I fell off-my-rocker in love with Ralph Fiennes that afternoon. It was a matinee, and therefore I got to sit very close to the stage. It was also put on by the Almeida Theatre and was the first professional-level play I'd ever been to see. Now, I already loved Shakespeare, and I can suspend disbelief in a heartbeat (just ask my sister, who stared at me in abject, gaping horror when I cried during the preview for Air Force One...the air force pilot flies in front of the missile to save the President...that's heartbreaking, folks!).

So, I'm working on gutting stomping on rewriting my god-awful piece of crap manuscript for submission, and I'm trying to put on the page the written equivalent of Mr. Fiennes' performance. He lived, he breathed, he moved up and down the depth of the stage, coming so close that I could see the sweat on his brow, the color of his eyes. Now, my friends say "Ralph Fiennes? How do you even pronounce that name? Isn't his hair getting thin? Didn't he get into trouble on a Quantas flight or something? Didn't he play that awful Nazi?" * First of all, I don't want to hear about the Australian flight attendant debacle. Second, he was a really hot Nazi, if you didn't pay too-close attention to his actions.

I don't mean that I'm trying to write about his actual life, with its waking up and yawning and wearing rumpled khakis or anything like that. I just mean that I want to write in such a way that I can affect someone the way that performance affected me.

I don't for a second think I'm going to succeed. I'm not classically trained. I haven't been selected to write alongside the literary equivalent of Judy Dench** I've taken some classes. I've written to amuse myself forever. I've received good advice and listened very closely to the good advice given to others. So I'll roll up my sleeves and squeeze every last inkling of creativity out of my brain. None of this "I'm tired of rehearsals" or "I can't remember my line". No. I'm going to put on the best damn show I can.

*For the records, my friends say nothing like this, but I'm trying to make some inelegant kind of point.

** Margaret Atwood, perhaps? I'll have to think on that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

the end of the world as we know it, my plans to take over Australia (one genre at a time) and the scent of love

I just received a contract for a short story entitled "The Light at the End", which will appear at some point in the next year plus one week in the anthology Doomology: The Dawning of Disasters. Yes, that does sound light-hearted.

My short story "Where Do We Keep the Monsters" continues to reside on Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine's (yes, I know, doesn't the name just freaking rock?!?) short list. ASIM is Australian, and therefore an integral piece in my plan to infiltrate Australia's awesome spec fiction landscape before 2015. Watch out, Twelfth Planet Press, you're next.

And, I'm finishing up my out-of-nowhere romantic novella (that's two things I don't write, romance and novellas), and will send that out somewhere in the next few weeks. I'm tentatively considering naming it "Boom Goes the Dynamite" (@ 2:30) because there are not one, but two explosions in it. That's right. I do like my romance to smell like burning cars.

Friday, July 23, 2010

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things:

- Ethan Laughing 35 seconds in and I'm lighting up like a Christmas tree.

- Phalaenopsis Orchids I have two, one with two boughs, and I am enchanted every time I look their way. The only plant on Earth that I will nurse for years at a time until I can coax a bloom out of it.

- The Audi A3 (US Model) I don't know what it is about them, but I love it. I nearly crashed my own fuel-efficient, utterly-reliable car the first time I saw one. It was black, shiny, with some light tinting to the windows, and I was sure it had fallen from Heaven.

- Sam Roberts Band's Lions of the Kalahari A simple song that eats me up, probably because I listened to it during a raw moment while away from my young son for a week.

- SlushPile Hell It's funny 'cause it's true!

Et Tu, Le R?

The divine, the delightful, the sensation and superlative Rejectionist has asked her author friends what Form Rejections mean to them. Thanks for twisting the knife, Le R.

The Form Rejection is the softened bang. The firecracker that sputtered out, decaf in your Irish Coffee, a single cough in the silence following your serenade.

But don't cry for me, Argentina...the FR is also small enough to crumple in one tiny, writerly hand, and won't be missed once it is deleted.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Permission to Pass

It's been a week since I updated the blog, so it's past time to update the blog. I even have some ideas for posts. What I don't have is time. So, for today, I give myself permission not to post. I pass this permission on to you as well, should you need it. Keep it in you back pocket if you want to save it for another day.

But, because I don't totally want to cheat you, I offer a link. The delightful and impossibly busy Jackie Kessler has posted about maintaining balance while fitting writing in around life. This post is important. If you've already got the family and/or the full-time job, you know. If you don't yet, read this and file it away somewhere in your brain for later. It's important.

Jackie mentions her health, and I have seen a lot of writers have trouble with their health lately, whether it's eye strain or high blood pressure while trying to meet life's obligations plus a deadline, or chronic back pain from sitting at a chair for forty hours a week and then for four hours more each night. Your body is important. It's the only one you get, and if you want a long career as a writer, you need to keep it in shape.

So, I said I was skipping the post tonight, and look where I'm at. The fourth paragraph. I'll stick that permission slip back into my own pocket for later use.

Take care, gentle peeps.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Out of the Slush Pile and Into the (Revision) Fire


So I am working with an agent. I do. Why, you ask? Who did I know? What convention did I attend? What childhood friend moved to NYC and interned at The Venerable House of Old Letters? Nobody. Nothing. Nada.

I wrote a story. Let's call it MS#1. I read up on how to query and how not to query. Heart in throat, I emailed out a batch of queries, all to agents who required only the query letter. Two hundred and fifty words about the 100,000 page story I'd written and fallen in love with. I started another story, we'll call it MS#2, snagging a supporting character who wouldn't leave my head and throwing him at another character who, if I ever give her the plot she deserves, will rule the goddamn world. I started blogging. I got chummy with peeps on forums. I got responses to each and every query. Rejections all.

I thought I was going to be sick. I read about how famous Mr. So and So got 100 rejections before he sold his first story and now he's sold a trillion and two books, and movies have been made about the making of movies based on his stories. I read posts on forums from aspiring writers logging their twentieth, fiftieth, hundredth rejection. Or from people who bowed out after two rejections. I shrugged and trudged on.

I spent almost two weeks writing a fucking synopsis. I realized that it was difficult, in part, because MS#1 had some serious deficiencies in ye olde plot. I spent two weeks rewriting and ended up cutting 10,000 words. I spent another week rewriting the synopsis and fiddling with the story. I sent out another batch of queries. I got a request for a partial manuscript (first 50 pages) and a full. With a big, fat smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, I sent them out. The partial and full ended with rejections.

I felt like someone had pulled my heart out, Temple of Doom style, stomped on it, and shoved it back into my chest, dirty and flat and upside down. Friends and family asked how it was going, and I wanted to punch them in the face. I was halfway through my second story and couldn't figure out the next word. The characters stood there, holding hands and staring at me with expectation.

I fiddled with MS#1 and sent out another batch of queries. I think I got two requests for partials. I didn't even care. I outlined -aha!- MS#3 and put together what I thought was a tight plot. I snatched a couple of nebulous characters out of the air and tossed them into it. I filed a rejection on one of the partial requests without hardly looking at it.

I completed MS#3 and it was woefully short, coming in around 65,000 words. I fleshed it out. I sent it to a BETA reader. The BETA reader ignored me and continued to solicit manuscripts to read from other people. I found another BETA reader and sent it to me. She told me there were some things wrong with the plot, but that I should probably query and see if some agent out there might want to help me correct those things. I put MS#3 in a dark drawer so that it could think about the bad things it had done. I went back to MS#2 and tore it to shreds, scrapping 40,000 words and starting over. It was better, but I still ground to a halt in the middle.

I pulled MS#3 out. It was looking pretty good. I rewrote, and added about 15,000 words. I sent out a batch of queries. My heart wasn't in my throat, but I could feel it beating. Within three days I had three requests for full manuscripts and a request for a partial. Holy Fucking Shit, I thought - except it was in ALL CAPS - this is it. I sent them off. Three rejections within the next three days, including one agent (the partial requester) to whom I will always be grateful, who said: you seem to have some problems with the plot. And then, miracle of miracles, he pointed to two places and said "here" and "here".

A light went off. I rewrote like a madman. I tore through that manuscript like it owed me something precious. Something essential. I sent off another round of queries and resubmitted to the agent who'd taken the time to point (he said I could, FYI). I got two requests for partials. I sent off one. The other required an exclusive and I told him I'd send if all the others declined.

On Thursday, July 1st, I got a request for a full from Susannah Taylor of the Richard Henshaw Group. I emailed it. On Monday the 5th (the Monday on which Independence Day was observed) Susannah emailed asking when I might be free to talk. I gave her my schedule for the next few days and went hiking. It rained, and there were signs of bear in the woods. We changed clothes and ate sushi. My stomach felt fluttery. Susannah called on our way back from sushi. She said "I loved it"...

I have some work to do before we can submit. A lot of work, to be honest. But I feel like I have an excellent guide. We'll see. Maybe I'll soon be able to write an "out of the fire and onto the shelves" post.

LISTENING TO: Margot and the Nuclear So & So's

Monday, July 12, 2010

When You Put Your Butt in the Chair, Make Sure Your Head Stays With It

Let's talk about distractions, m-kay? You always said you'd write if you had enough time. You decided to make the time. You cleared off a little table, corner, closet, milk crate and got out your paper, pencil, iPad, chisel and stone, computer, and started to write.

You did very well at first. You thought, this is what I've always wanted to do. You should a piece to a friend. He laughed in all the right places and looked thoughtful toward the end. I'm good at this, you thought. You sat back down and picked up your pencil, stylus, mouse.

And then you got caught up in the news on the oil spill, or pictures of your ex-girlfriend looking fat and happy with her new boyfriend even though he had less hair than you and his eyes were too close together, or you spent twenty frenetic minutes participating in the #movieswithbatman frenzy on twitter (and by "you", I mean "I").

Making the time is the first step. Putting you bum in the chair is the second. Focusing is the third and most difficult. Things will require your attention, things like infants with hunger and significant others with problems at work, and friends who found a new place with dollar beers and slices. Now, you have to feed the baby. And change it, too. But what else do you have to do?

Will the world start spinning in new and beautiful ways, and I'll be the only one not to know about it, as soon as I finish this post and click off my wireless connection? Presumably, no. Will I fail my word count and lifetime goals if I allow myself to peruse the web and chat constantly? Yes.

My advice? While your butt may obediently sit in the chair, make sure your brain knows its job, too.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Absolute Write July Blog Chain - Saddies for the Baddies

July's AbsoluteWrite blog chain prompt was to: Cast your antagonist in a sympathetic light (suggested by CScottMorris). The posts I've read so far have been fantastic, and I highly recommend that you peruse the blogs of the writers listed at the end of this post. Shout out to Aheila for again administrating this thing to perfection!

For this exercise, I've chosen Nora, who playfully popped into a short story I wrote a few months ago and subsequently scored herself a larger role in the urban fantasy I'm about to embark upon. I hope you enjoy.

* * *

The last to fall was a woman. The blonde, her eyes rolled back in ecstasy, had opened herself willingly to the pleasure Nora offered. Sweat had run over her skin in shimmering rivulets as she sucked in the air, thick with smoke and the overripe fruit scent of a working succubus. She had taken and taken, drinking pleasure in great, heaving gulps, and then responding with a heady flood of sensual energy. Rapture, almost.

Nora walked down the hall, the lights flickering overhead as she passed. Her legs were firm and taut and she could almost feel the rush of heat and strength through her veins from the feeding. A servant opened the door to her sitting room, the boy’s eyes widening as he looked at her. He turned away to shield his obvious reaction, and Nora laughed.

“Don’t you know, my dear, that I consider it a compliment?” she asked. “Now, go help the others. Get our guests back on their feet and out before someone thinks they’ve gone missing.”

The boy hastened away, and Nora walked slowly toward the full-length mirror affixed to the door, a smile lifting her plump, red lips. She ran her hands from her full breasts to the slight curvature of her waist, and over smooth, rounded hips. She should eat something, she thought absently, or call the boy back and allow him to pleasure her.

Nora reached up, watching her soft white hands working the small, pearl buttons of her gown. It had been a good night. Eight guests, a fine catch for a small town, each sticking in the honey of her magic, each emitting a spark for her to consume. The blond had generated a full flame.

Nora shrugged out of the gown, listening to shuffling footsteps passing her door, her guests being escorted from the house. She strode into the bathroom in high heels and nothing else, the cool air kissing sensitive skin. Maybe she could stay another few nights, partake of the blond again. Such delicious abandon.

The bathroom was lit with candles, the dancing light reflected in the big mirror over the sink. The boy had drawn a bath and the water still steamed. Maybe she wouldn’t need its comfort tonight. Something twitched in the reflection and Nora’s smile faded. Her gaze dropped, inevitably, to her stomach. A dull, familiar ache rose up from her center. Her reflection looked calm, almost bored. The ache turned into pain and, before her eyes, her skin began to wrinkle. Nora looked down at her hands, watching matte brown spots blossom beneath her skin, the nails growing brittle.

Eight. She’d eaten from eight humans in the prime of their lives, and the energy was fading already. She lifted her chin, refusing to look away as the skin beneath her eyes went bruise-dark, and thick, black streaks radiated toward her temples, climbed for her hairline. She used to drink from dozens at a time, feeders given to her as gifts. And now she was reduced to this, stealing from town to town with an entourage of stupid, besotted young people hoping she would teach them her gift, not understanding that her magic had to be fed. Her legs buckled, one ankle cracking sharply as the bones settled in the joint, and she grabbed onto the edge of the sink to hold herself upright. A knock sounded softly on the door.

“Madame,” the boy’s voice sounded thin and high. “As soon as you are ready, it is time to move on.” She closed her eyes.

* * *
July Blog Chain Participants
hillaryjacques: YOU ARE HERE
M.R.J. Le Blanc:
Fokker Aeroplanbau:
Amb The Creative:
Alpha Echo:

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Can Has Agent?

*Shuffle shuffle. Tap, tap, tap.*

Ahem. *tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters, Butchers and Bakers and Candlestick Makers,

I have partnered with a angel of mercy literary agent and will now begin the terrifying faint-inducing exciting journey of attempting to sell my manuscript.

I have not slept in three nights, so I shall end this post here and get back to you when I have a little more functionality in the frontal lobes of my brains.

LISTENING TO: Nothing. Just sitting here with head phones on. Huh.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Say What?

That's right! Due to some strange anomaly in the forces of reason and likelihood, I am being interviewed at the brilliantly-named Pitch Slapped! (exclamation point is mine) by the lovely and amusing February Grace. And what do we discuss? Matters of great and grave importance. Keywords include: pea, feet, and Pedroia. Need I say more?

Stayed tuned, my lovelies, for news...I mean NEWS. It will probably hit by Tuesday, and it's guaranteed to blow your mind! However, if it doesn't, I'll also offer my recipe for Halibut Piccata.

Happy Friday! No, I cannot stop using exclamation points!! I don't know what's wrong with me!!! Could I be excited for my forthcoming news?!? Probably!!!!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ho Finito! - My Space

*UPDATE - I was remiss during my initial posting and assumed (mistakenly, I have since learned) that everyone who the gentleman delicately imbibing spirits in the linked video. He is not an "old writer". He is Jeff Somers, author of fantastic short fiction and novels like THE DIGITAL PLAGUE. Now, on to the original post.*

So I've almost finished my writing space. It would be nicer if the room didn't also transform (yes, with the sound effects) into a guest bedroom on occasion. I think it's the addition of the corkboard that did it. What's a writing space without a designated pin-sticking patch on which to affix snippets and pictures and mantras and advice? Just a guest bedroom, I guess.

I would have been done with this space approximately ninety-five and a half years ago, but we don't have an IKEA in Alaska. And how is one to design a cheap, cramped workspace without an IKEA? Maybe that's why the old writers used to drink so heavily, because IKEA hadn't been invented (or at least hadn't made it to these shores) yet. I'm not going to show you a picture though, because I don't have my photo software on this computer. Just watch the video in the link and imagine less facial hair and slightly larger eyes.

Anyway, now that the space is done, surely I'll be more productive. More creative, even. Any minute now...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Query Stats - Battle Log

By popular request (a couple people asked), below are my updated query stats. It's been a dynamic process to date, with a mad rush during the first wave and a slow, parceled response to the second.

Of course, that was to be expected. For my first wave, I chose agents that I'd communicated with - favorably - when I queried my first manuscript, who accepted emailed queries and responded quickly. The hit rate was a bit of a surprise (40%!). For the second wave, I sent out several snail mail queries, to some agents I was not familiar with, and to some smaller, boutique agencies who likely don't have a full-time support staff of assistants.

Queries Sent: 20
Full MS Requests: 5
Partial MS Requests: 2
Rejections: 7

The interest has been high, and I've received excellent feedback and suggestions from a couple of agents. So, I shall keep you all updated.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Today Was a Good Day

My brother and his lovely girlfriend are up visiting. They hosted my husband and myself in April in St. Paul, MN, and very good hosts they were - assisting us in keeping up our self-imposed eleventy-billion calorie-a-day diet.

We followed a beam of sunshine into the forest today for a hike. Sunshine has, sadly, been more rare than rainbows in the last month, so we were hard-core, all the way, balls-to-the-wall stoked about it. It was gloriously beautiful, except for the mosquitoes and horse flies, which kept strafing my hair and buzzing something that sounded ominously like "fresh meat, fresh meat". Of course the clouds sensed our euphoria, tracked us down and released the Kraken! I mean, the Rain! It was freezing cold, hard as pebbles thrown by a moderately-athletic child of six or seven, and soaked us through within two minutes.

We followed the adventure in the woods with sushi from the appropriately-named Sushi & Sushi. I recommend Chong's roll and the hamachi, both of which nearly required me to make unladylike sounds of appreciation. Highly recommended if you're in Anchorage and want either traditional or modern/fusion sushi.

And now everyone else is either asleep or elsewhere, and it's time to write. Cheers.