Monday, June 30, 2008

The slow passage of time. Or not. Or something.

I'm seeing a lot of discussion around the internet these days about how long it takes to write a book. And whether one book a year is too much to expect. And if we're sacrificing quality, and all of that stuff.

It's sort of an odd subject for me, because I write fast. My current WIP is taking me longer to write than any other book save the very first one I ever wrote (one day I'm going to find that thing--it survived in hard copy somewhere, I think the garage--and post a little of it somewhere so we can all bask in the suckitude. Really. Just awful.) Anyway, that one ended up clocking in at about 100,000 words by MS count. A lot of it was padding.

It took me roughly four months to write, I believe.

The current WIP is at 13 weeks. 97k words. And I am literally writing the last few pages as we speak. Well, technically, literally, I'm writing this blog entry as we speak, but you know what I mean. I'm writing the last scene of the WIP, I'm just taking a break. But the book is effectively done, at least the first draft. All mysteries have been solved, everyone's died who's going to die and everyone's lived who's going to live, and I have two little loose ends to clear up, one in the form of a casual pick-up who must be dealt with somehow and the other I'm not revealing.

And that is the second-longest it's ever taken me to write a book.

Even then, really, I guess I need to take a few weeks out of those 13. Because at least two full weeks were taken up with edits. Then there was the week I lost to the stomach flu. And various other odds-and-ends: a night I went to bed early, or there was a movie we wanted to watch, or whatever. So I guess in terms of actual writing time I think 9 or 10 weeks is probably a fair count.

The thing is, I do write rather fast. And I do set high goals for myself and I do force myself to meet those goals, as a rule. I do that in part because I believe the book loses freshness and urgency if I dawdle too much. But I also do that in part so I can afford to take the occasional night off, or so if I lose a week due to a stomach flu it's not the end of the world.

And then there's editing. This project will be fairly edit-heavy, I think, but even then I'll probably devote two or three solid weeks to it. That's about what edits usually take for me, re-reading, re-reading, re-reading again, making notes, playing with sentences, moving scenes around, filling out or thinning subplots and adding in stuff I decided would be cool at the end and so need to go back and foreshadow.

So working at my laziest pace, a novel (from start to complete edited ms) takes me, say, four to five months.

The thing is, I've always thought that was pretty standard. Or even that I'm rather slow at times. But I guess not.

What do you think? Or are you tired of this subject?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Okay, I need help

I'm doing this interview for, the girl who gave Personal Demons the fun, cheeky review a little while ago? Yes. She's interviewing me. It's fun.

I actually quite enjoy interviews. It's not the huge kick it was when I was very first starting out--I think I did my first interview ever for Fallen Angel Reviews a couple of years ago--but it's a kick just the same. Remember, I'm the one who, at one point in my early childhood, told my parents that when I grew up I wanted to be a preacher so people would have to listen to me.

So interviews are cool. I enjoy them. I love talking about my writing process and what little tricks and twists I've inserted in any given book, or whatever.

And this interview has been particularly fun, as it's being done on a question-by-question basis, so it feels more like a conversation.

But I am stumped. Stumpedy stump stump stumped. (Wow, "stump" is a fun word to type. Try it. Your fingers kind of bounce over the keyboard. Hee! Hey, simple minds, simple pleasures, right?)

The question is: What is the one question you wish someone would ask you but nobody ever has, and what is the answer to it?

And I have no clue.

I've been sitting on this question for a week now, thinking about it on and off, trying to come up with a question no one has ever asked me but I wish they would. My ideas have ranged from the silly (How did it feel when you won the Oscar? Well, it felt great) to the serious (What do you think is the most important piece of advice a new writer needs? or something like that, to which my answer would be something long and involved about avoiding start-up publishers and agents with no sales and PublishAmerica) to the cliche (What is your favorite food? Although, I shouldn't knock that question really, as not only is it often interesting, I once managed to fill a very awkward pause with it--the MIL and I were out with a friend of hers, a very nice but very elderly lady who, because she is a widow and doesn't leave her house much or read or watch tv, didn't have much to say. But the "favorite foods" conversation filled an hour) to the personal-cause-y (Was Richard III guilty of murdering the Princes? NO!)

But the problem is, none of them feel like big secrets. I have repeatedly blogged about my publishing opinions. I have repeatedly mentioned that a day doesn't feel complete without french fries. And fantasy goofball questions like the Oscar thing might seem amusing when I come up with them but probably won't come off that way to everyone.

So I'm opening the floor to you guys. Is there a question you always wanted to ask me? What question would you love to be asked but never are, and can I steal it?

Seriously. I'm getting desperate here.

Let's see, what else did I want to mention. Faerie's bottom is healing, thankfully, although she's been really clingy these last couple of days which usually means she isn't feeling well (she didn't sleep well last night either). Also, we dragged out the Barney DVDs last weekend and have been watching them nonstop all week. Barney is oddly hypnotic; you might try to read or have an adult conversation but sooner or later you realize you're staring open-mouthed at the screen. I have no idea why.

Rain rain rain.

I baked a white cake from scratch last weekend. I never realized there's buttermilk in them. I also never realized that buttermilk is lumpy and disgusting to behold.

And I think that's it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Weather Men

Yes, this is how sad my life has become. I'm blogging about the weather.

Or, well, about weather men.

See, I checked Yahoo US this morning, as I do. And my "Local News" is set to Ft. Lauderdale, since that's where I lived for a dozen years before we came here.

And Bryan Norcross is retiring from TV.

Now, if you've never lived in South Florida, ths means nothing to you. But if you did...especially if you lived there in August 1992, as I did...this is like God retiring.

When Hurricane Andrew hovered around in the Atlantic, just a baby storm--category 2, I think--all the other forecasters told us not to worry. Andrew wouldn't hit us, they said. Just forget about him.

All of them except Bryan Norcross, anyway. Which is why, when we woke up that morning and discovered Andrew had not taken the turn all the other forecasters said he would and was in fact heading straight for us, Bryan Norcross became a hero in South Florida. And stayed that way. He stayed with us on TV through the whole thing, and we watched. (Okay, sort of. Channel 7's news coverage during the storm was much more entertaining, because Channel 7 has Rick Sanchez, who was one of the biggest buffoons on the planet. He and hi co-anchor--I want to say Jessica Aguirre--were down in 7's bunker, and Sanchez was sprawled out in a lawn chair like he should have a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and several times the camera actually caught him trying to look down Aguirre's blouse. That, coupled with the dumb things he said, made 7's coverage highly amusing.)

Anyway, we all watched Bryan. And kept watching him. Every time a hurricane threatened, you heard his name invoked all over the place: random strangers at Publix or the gas station or wherever asking "what does Bryan say?"

So it's sad. And it's made me think of the other weather man I used to watch all the time, Bob Richards (St. Louis), whose story is told in the link by AA blogger Byron Crawford (with particular emphasis on the racial aspects of the case). Bob killed himself by flying his small plane into the ground, after his obsessive threatening phone calls to an ex were leaked.

So I guess I don't have much luck with weathermen. Or rather, they don't have much luck after I leave their cities--although to be fair, Bryan is the head of his own company and is in fact moving up in the world. So I guess it's a mixed bag.

It's funny how anchormen and news personalities, even local ones, have such an impact, isn't it?

Oh, and here's a little rant for the day. Is it too much to ask that a doctor actually pay attention when you tell him the problem? Faerie has had what I think is a reaction to the immunizations she got last week, in the form of blisters on her sweet little bottom (things always start on her bottom, poor baby. You should have seen when she had chicken pox, it was awful. And one day she will want to kill me for posting this. Anyway. So I took her to the doctor, because I called and they said I should bring her in.

The doc barely glanced at her poor little wounds. Ignored me when I told him what I thought it was. Interrupted me when I tried to explain my she-has-a-very-reactive-butt theory. At one point he actually said, "If it was a reacton it would look like little blisters!" To which I repled, "Well, it did, before they popped." He ignored that, too.

In the end I don't think it matters much; he gave me some ointment and that's probably what would have happened either way. But I hate being ignored when it comes to my baby's health. I'm her mother; I know her. I mentioned she had a slight fever today, he said, "Kids get fevers." Wow, really, you freaking NHS hack?

Bottom (heh) line? "Give it a few days, we'll see what happens." Just like when the doc famously told the severe-bronchitis-inflicted hubs, "Give it a few days, and come back if you start coughing up blood." Or one of hubs's co-worker's boyfriend, who broke his foot and was sent home without even an x-ray and instructions to come back in a few days if the foot didn't feel better, and they'd do an x-ray then. Meanwhile he got to walk around for a week with a broken foot and the equivalent of Tylenol for the pain.

Weather, hurricanes, suicide, butts, feet, and the crappy NHS. We're covering all the bases today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who do you see?

So the hubs and I were discussing my blog post for the day, which was going to be about "street teams" and the writer/reader relationship. It's still a topic I want to blog about, but frankly, our discussion veered off and gave me the giggles, and I'm in the mood to have some fun today rather than be serious, so this is what you get instead. (You'll eat'll eat it and like it!)

How it got started was talking about reshelving books, which led into a bit about how AA authors are relegated to the AA section. Hubs pointed out that AA crime/noir writer Walter Mosley is shelved in Crime. Hmm.

"Well, crime isn't like romance," I said. "Maybe AA romances are shelved in AA because there's a feeling that white readers won't be attracted to an AA hero?" (Okay, disclaimer time: This is simply conjecture on my part. I'm not accusing anyone of anything, I'm not saying I feel this way, I don't approve of this shelving practice, and this is only a lead-in to today's topic. I know you guys know that but I wanted to make it clear anyway.)

"So, what," said the hubs. "People won't read a book if the hero isn't their type?"

"Well, I'm not generally attracted to blond men, so I look for books with dark-haired heroes and I'll buy one of those before I'll buy a book with a blond hero. And if the book looks really good and I can't resist it but the hero is blond, I picture him in my head as dark anyway."

Hubs shook his head. "That's weird. You wouldn't be interested in the story if the hero wasn't attractive to you? You wouldn't enjoy it anyway?"

"Well, if you look at naked lady pictures, don't you have a particular type that you like to look at more than another type?"

The conversation degenerated a bit from there, with hubs suggesting outlandish social studies wherein the hair color of naked ladies is disguised and men are asked to grade the photos's attractiveness level, etc. etc. From there it went to whether or not I picture certain actors and/or actresses in my head when writing characters (I don't) and that there's no way to be certain the face you describe is the face the reader sees, etc. etc. etc.

But it made me start thinking. When reading a books, of any genre, do you try to picture the character as described, or do you tend to put your own "face" on the characters? Do you like or dislike lines like "He looked like Brad Pitt"?

I dislike them. I think it's lazy. But more than that, I think it limits the reader's imagination. I want to give them room to play; I want them to have some freedom of interpretation. Not that I want things to be totally ambiguous; at this point hubs was suggesting I write character description like, "He was dark, or maybe pale, or short or tall." Ha ha. So my description tends to be sketchy, just enough to give the reader an idea.

But even then, does my propensity for tall, dark heroes turn off those who like short, stocky blonds? Or does it bother you when you get only an outline? Does it bother you when you don't get a description right up front (This is another issue; there are people who get upset when a character isn't described right away while at the same time condemning every writer's trick for describing. No looking in mirrors allowed, no thinking about the color of your hair as you push it out of your face, no "pale tresses", no nothing. I agree with all of those--well, except for "She pushed her dark/pale hair out of her face," because I think complaining about that is a little pedantic, although I don't do it myself and don't think it's a huge deal either way. I mean, I may not think "I'm pushing my blonde hair out of my eyes" but if it's in my eyes I'm seeing the color and I do know what color it is anyway)?

In other words, what do these people look like to you? Does that change as you get to "know" them better? Does their appearance have any effect on your enjoyment of the book?

A Couple of Endnotes:

The Book Roast blog is up and running! So please pop by and hang out for a while, there's lots of cool stuff going on!

Thanks to all those who emailed or commented about my MIL. She is fine, doing very well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just some random stuff

The hubs is away for the weekend--my MIL had minor surgery this morning (she's fine) so he's off to spend a few days with her, helping her out. And I assume he will help, although the temptation to whine about being bored and try to force her to get up and take him shopping--as she did to me, two days after my doctor cut me open and pulled a live human being out of me--will, I imagine, be very strong. At least it would be for me, which is why it's probably a good idea I didn't go along.

So I'm a little lonely, and a little distracted, so here's some links and interesting things.

Ellora's Cave is planning on doing its very own reader con, fall 2009 in Akron, Ohio (where they're headquartered.) Before you leap to ask (haha), yes, I do really hope to go. If all goes well (keep your fingers crossed for me!) we will be back in the States by then, and I think it sounds like a lot of fun. I just really enjoy cons and events, and can't wait to get back to the States so I can fill my schedule with them! If you are a reader and would be interested in going too, please email EC--they're trying to figure out how big a space they'd need, etc.--at conventions AT ellorascave DOT com. You're not obligating yourself or confirming anything by emailing, it's simply for pre-planning. So please do drop a line if this sounds fun to you.

This weekend we have a special treat for you at the League of Reluctant Adults blog! Agent Jonathan Lyons will be doing an interview, so make sure you come on by and say hello!

Also this weekend, my fellow Deliciously Naughty Writers and I are having a chat day at the EC chat loop, so come say hi there too! There will be (as always) excerpts galore--I may even be persuaded to share some from my next EC release (date TBD) Accustomed to His Fangs, the vampire My Fair Lady spoof that should start editing soon.

Oh, and Urban Fantasy Land is back!! I'm totally excited about this because I love the blog. AND, they're looking for contributors--reviewers, people to do little articles, whatever. If you're interested, email them--the address is on the UFL blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


So yesterday at the League blog I bragged about what a brave little stalwart my Faerie is. Which made me think of how lucky I am in general, that my kids are basically good and haven't done any of the things I did when I was a kid (there was an AW thread about this a few weeks back as well, but I thought it would be fun to bring the topic here.)

Like the time when I was about three--just about the same age as I was in the family photo I posted a little while back--and, apropos of absolutely nothing, I wandered into the kitchen, grabbed a big heavy metal spoon from the drawer, walked calmly over to my brother, and whacked him over the head with it as hard as I could.

Apparently my parents, who'd witnessed the whole thing, had a very difficult time trying to both yell at me and keep from laughing.

Oh, but that wasn't the end of me tormenting my brother. Once I threw a pair of scissors at him (I admit I'm still horrified I did that, although I don't remember if I did it because I was mad or if he'd asked me for the scissors and I unthinkingly tossed them to him.)

When I was in first grade (or was it kindergarten?) I met his teacher, Mrs. Kovasic, and said, "Oh, my brother hates you!"

(Don't worry. He got me back, although I did what I did out of childish innocence and not terrible vengeance the way he did. When he was in sixth grade he was on the Safety Patrol, and he actually reported me for some stupid thing I did. His own sister--even the Principal didn't know what to do about that one. I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!)

We raised some tadpoles once. I was supposed to go down to the creek in the backyard to get more water for the Tupperware container we kept them in, but I was too lazy and instead filled it from the hose spigot outside. The tadpoles all died. I felt awful.

In eighth grade I found the Christmas presents in my parents's closet. This was actually a good thing, though, as it taught me it really isn't as much fun if you know what you're getting, and I've never done it again.

I used to steal cigarettes from the people I babysat for (in my defense, they paid shit. $12 for an entire night's work--we're talking 8 pm to 2 or 3 in the morning. And I didn't really smoke. And I was 12, for Pete's sake. I was bored and stuck in some stranger's house all night. I read their copy of The Joy of Sex cover-to-cover, too. Which they rather inappropriately left right there on the bookcase in the living room.)

Every weekend for like two months we TP'd the same house. The guilt! I still wonder what the grocery store clerks thought when four giggling thirteen-year-olds came in and bought nothing but multipacks of toilet paper and four cans of shaving cream.

Oh, this is really diabolical. My best friend and I used to sneak out at night during Christmas and pull one bulb from the strings of lights people had on their bushes or whatever. We made a huge deal out of this, dressing all in black, including hats and gloves. We even smeared our faces with black eyeshadow. The trick was not being seen--we had hiding places all over the neighborhood.

When I was seventeen a couple of friends of mine and I stole Christian Slater from the Mobsters standee at a theatre near me. This was an even bigger deal because the theatre in question was in the same chain as the one I worked for. I remember one of my managers telling me about the theft. I'm pretty sure she knew who did it, but I kept cool and never got busted for it. I kept Christian in my bedroom for a while (no, get your minds out of the gutter. Where was I supposed to put him, in the kitchen? I was seventeen and living with my Dad and brother.)

So, do you think I'm an awful person now? Or will you join me in shame, and tell me some of the awful things you did when you were young and careless? (I will say this, though. We never messed with little kids's stuff. No pumpkin smashing, no touching toys left outside, no real theft--we even left the pilfered lightbulb somewhere it could be found. The fun was in sneaking out and wandering around, not in actually causing harm.) And I have lots of other stories, too, but these are the ones I remember best.

So go on. I'm forcing my sharing on you in order to make you feel like you have to share in return. Confess. It's good for the soul.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kill Your Darlings?

So I read a lot of writing advice. Well, you do, don't you, when writing is a major interest and you spend most of your time on websites and forums for writers, or reading about writing, or about books, or whatever.

And one of the biggest pieces of advice I see is: kill your darlings.

And I don't agree with it.

Now, that doesn't mean I don't agree in theory, or that I think it's wrong all the time. Just the other day I cut an entire scene from my WIP, a good scene. It was exciting. It was action-packed. It had what I thought were a couple of really good lines.

But it didn't advance the story the way I needed it to. So it had to go. And I came up with something else, that I think works much better and is still exciting, but it more atmospheric and deepens the personal conflict and the emotional stakes and ups the danger even more than the original.

And obviously, in working with editors there are times when they tell you something doesn't work. And no matter how much I might not like it, I simply say okay and remove what they tell me to remove (99.9% of the time.) Because they're not me; they're a better judge of what works and what doesn't, or what feels unecessary or like repetition. The fun of editing, for me, is having someone to work with you and polish everything up, and experience has taught me that (again, 99.9% of the time) they're right, and the suggested changes make the book much stronger and better even if I grumble to myself about it or don't understand it at first. So in that case, yes, if it's one of your darlings on the editing chopping block you go ahead and swing the axe (I keep all of those in separate files, in case I ever have a chance to use them again and have them really work that time.)

But I'm not talking about that type of editing. I'm talking about the advice that tells you to ruthlessly excise any line or scene to which you are particularly attached, because if you like it that much it's probably showy or unecessary. And I just can't agree with that.

Because, logically, if you're removing all the lines and scenes that especially excite you, you're dulling down your work. You're altering your voice; you're taking yourself out of your book. And I think that's a mistake. It's those bits, the little jokes and the moments of grace, that make your book yours.

Here's a little example, a sneak peek from Demon Inside:

The Christmas season always had an air of time suspended anyway, as people spent their days at work eating rumballs and doing shots—which were basically the same thing, if Megan was doing the cooking—opening presents, running into other offices in the building with cookies and snacks…it was like a bubble existed, and in that bubble responsibilities disappeared.
Death was kind of the same way, although with far less tinsel and photocopying of private parts.

Now, you know what? I'm really fond of that little paragraph. It may not be the greatest paragraph ever written but I think it's pithy and fun and should make a reader smile when they get to it, which is especially important given that this book isn't as light as the first one.

According to the "Kill your darlings" mob, I should cut it out.

I know, I know. It seems like I'm being overdramatic, doesn't it? Like it should be obvious they mean kill only those lines and scenes which don't serve the story but which we clutch to our chests like a fifth grader with a picture of Zac Efron, stubbornly refusing to let them go.

But it doesn't always sound like that, and it's not always made obvious when that advice is given. It's the first piece of advice I tend to see people give new writers, and it bugs me.

Because the trick shouldn't be in killing your darlings, it should be in making the entire ms good enough that you don't need to have darlings. It should be in learning to be objective and decide what works and what doesn't, and I don't think "kill your darlings" conveys that well enough to someone just starting out. It should be in serving the story, and doing what needs to be done to serve the story, rather than abiding by "rules".

What oft-heard piece of writing advice do you disagree with?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Do you like me?

It seems the topic of likeable authors vs. authors people don't like or don't agree with or whatever is a perennial favorite in blogland, and the general feeling seems to be, it matters. It matters if a writer acts like a jerk, it matters what they say, it all matters (see this recent example is here on Karen's blog, with discussions linked at the bottom of the post.)

It's a topic I think about fairly often--certainly it's one reason why I don't blog about politics, for example, or why I keep my mouth shut on certain issues that bother or upset me.

But this morning I read this post on Chez Pazienza's blog, and it got me thinking. (Fun side trivia note: I've met Chez, although I seriously doubt he remembers me. I used to work for his Dad, back in the late 90's, and he came into the office once or twice. We all thought he was hot. Because he was. Also, judging by the pics now on his blog, he is the spitting image of his Dad, who I adored.)

The post, for those who don't feel like clicking over, is about an interview Chez produced with M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Giamatti, and Bryce Dallas Howard, and about what a jerk M. Night is. (And btw, I have to mention this because it's bugged me for years, although I want to make it clear--again, if you haven't clicked--that Chez does not actually do this: Am I the only person in the world who thinks people who call Shyamalan "Shamalamadingdong" or "Shyamawhatever" or whatever "funny" little joke they can come up with, are in fact being horribly racist and offensive? If his name was M. Night Smythe-Gordon, would you be called him "Smithawhatever" or "Gordolamadingdong"? If his name was M. Night Nobutku, and he was from Nigeria, would it be okay to call him "Nobuttiebuttbutt"? You know, we get it. You are apparently so uneducated and uninterested in the world around you that you can't take an extra ten seconds to attempt to actually pronounce or spell an adult male's name, and would in fact rather imply that he's got some crazy, ridiculous name that deserves to be belittled and made fun of because it's "ethnic" and not like yours. Ohhkaay.)

Anyway. So Chez hates Night, and the feeling was mutual. And you know, this isn't the first time I've heard that Mr. Shyamalan is in fact kind of a jerk.

But I don't actually care, because I freaking love his movies. It's a directorial voice issue; I don't care what story he tells because I adore the way he tells it. (Which, btw, is something I've come recently to believe is the most important thing of all in writing, voice. If they like your voice, they like you, and even a story that isn't your greatest will be well-received. If they don't like your voice, they're not going to like your book no matter how great the story is. Not that characters and story aren't important, of course they are incredibly important. But voice, to me, is the ultimate. JMO. Anyway.) So, hear the guy's a jerk, see evidence of him being a jerk, will still see his movies.

Now, there are some actors or film people whose movies I won't see (Tom Cruise, I'm trying not to look at you, especially given how litigious you are), but that tends to be a combination of my personal distaste for them and the fact that the movies they're making simply don't interest me. I dislike Cameron Diaz, for example, and that works well because I also think most of her movies are drivel of the worst sort. On the other hand, I don't particularly like Alec Baldwin but still tend to quite like him on screen, and I know there's a good handful of others who for one reason or another I don't like but whose films I'll still see if they interest me (speaking of which, Keira Knightley has a movie coming out that looks great, and it's killing me because my antipathy to her is well-documented here. I'll see it, though, because it really does look good).

So if that's the case (and it is)...why are we willing to forgive actors/directors/whomever but not writers? Is the difference in the type of unprofessionalism? Do we see "film people" as being somehow less professional anyway? Do we expect them to be loony or demanding or whatever?

Why? Although the medium may be different, it's still creativity. But we tend to forgive those in the visual arts more, I think, unless they're Hemingway. The old literary lions could get away with just about anything, but the actors etc. still do. We still go see their movies, despite their odd rantings or how many assistants they beat in their spare time or whatever. Whereas it seems sometimes writers have to be so careful not to say or do anything that might offend someone, somewhere.

I'm not saying that is the case, just that it sometimes feels that way. Perhaps because more people watch tv or go to movies than buy books, so we have to be more careful?

Or perhaps we connect more intimately with books and authorial voice than we tend to with actors or directors?

What do you think? What behavior turns you off in an actor or director, or in a writer? Do you care or not?

Wow, I'm deep today, huh. :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


So all day I have been trying to think of a good blog topic.

I have considered and discarded several. It's very frustrating. I suspect it's the heat. I have a hard time working when I'm too hot. Or it could be the WIP, which is cooking along nicely at the moment and has just hit 80k words. I'm still hoping to bring this first draft in under 100; I have a subplot I need to add in but there is also some stuff I can remove, as the new subplot will accomplish what those scenes do much more efficiently. I'm excited about it; I'm looking forward to finishing.

So here's some random thoughts and stuff.

1. A very interesting discussion took place on Dear Author yesterday, about writers and formal education. I'm actually mentioned in the post, which seems to spring in part from a discussion a little while back on Fangs Fur & Fey.

I never went to college. I have a GED, actually. Don't think it matters one bit for writing. In fact, I don't believe college is necessary for most jobs that want college graduates.

What was particularly interesting in the DA post though, and what made me the most uncomfortable at the same time, was the question of whether writers are born or made. Is writing a gift that you either have or don't, or can anyone be a writer with enough study and practice?

It makes me uncomfortable because I write. And while the point was made that if writing is a gift, the person who has the gift isn't responsible for it any more than they are the color of their eyes, I still can't help but cringe a little when asked to identify myself as someone with a particular "gift". I suppose it's a modesty ting, which isn't to say that writers who say writing is a gift are immodest; that's not my point at all. They simply see it differently from me. It's very easy for me to agree with them when I don't feel like I'm talking about myself. So how about if I just say, writing is a talent which can be developed in those in whom it already exists, but if you lack the talent no amount of work will give it to you? You may become competent, but that's about it.

2. Mark Henry's birthday is tomorrow. Make sure you stop by and say something. (Notice I did not tell you to say something nice; this is Mark, after all. He loves the abuse.)

3. We are Blogging the End of the World at the League of Reluctant Adults blog this week; we're trying to set up a safe house. So join the fun and spread the word!

Monday, June 09, 2008


I went to see the Sex and the City movie yesterday. It was okay. I'll post a review on my lj because I can cut for spoilers there, and anything I would have to say about it would probably be too spoilery.

Except the following:

1. Was David Eigenberg (Steve) drunk through the whole film? Why was he constantly holding his head in that weird way? I kept expecting him to throw up all over himself, seriously. I guess he was supposed to be choked with emotion but he just seemed like he was fighting to be coherent.

2. Samantha's neighbor? HOT. We didn't get anywhere near as much full-frontal as has been implied, but that man is HOT. He should have been in the movie more.

3. Everybody looked old. Especially Candice Bergen; it was very sad.

4. Yes. If you grew up in St. Louis you have seen Meet Me in St. Louis. No, I'm not being sarcastic. That rang more true for me than anything else in the movie. We wtached it in elementary school. We learned all the songs.

5. SJP, I'm sorry. But you are not that pretty. I do not want or need to see you modelling outfits for what felt like ages. Over and over again. It's supposed to be a movie, not an ego massage. Yes, you have a beautiful figure, despite those gnarly bowlegs. From thighs to neck you are perfect, and I mean that sincerely. But you are not pretty and watching you try on clothes and put various expressions on those horsey facial features of yours does not give us the same kind of pleasure we get seeing, say, Beyonce doing the same thing. It's boring.

...and that's about all I can say, for general non-spoiler comments.

They've done a remake of The Women, which is an old-movie gem with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Rusell. Apparently, in keeping with modern mores, they've included a childbirth scene in the film, because while the original had lots of women being bitchy and saying clever things and that made it awesome and worth seeing, women today will not go to a film if a baby is not being born. Or so filmmakers seem to think. It's very irritating.

And last night the hubs and I watched The Breakfast Club and realized that, all these years later, we essentially still have the entire film memorized. Seriously. We recited it. Whole stretched of information from my years of education are missing, but I can repeat "I know, and I feel all empty inside because of it. I have such a deep admiration for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys," with hand gestures and facial expressions. "Over the bra...Calvins rolled up in a ball on the front seat past eleven on a school night?"

Oh yeah.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Yes, this post is late. And yes, it's rather a sorry excuse for a post, as posts go.

But it is kind of important. In a way. Or something. Hey, you know what? Go read some other blog if you don't like it. (Of COURSE I am kidding, because it makes me very sad when I think y'all are cheating on me with other bloggers.)

Anyway. Because it is quite warm out again today, and because I am a bit stressed about a few things, and because I went out for a drink last night with some other Moms from Princess's school and was roundly ignored--yes, me ignored!--all night, and because I am gearing up to start my Summer Series in the next few weeks (still figuring on doing agents, unless anyone has any other suggestions)... I am opening up to questions.

I'm still a little lonely from last night and want some attention, lol. No, seriously, I thought this might be fun. Maybe we can get some people to delurk? That might be fun, although Friday isn't a great day for that as my hit count falls on Fridays as it is.

Anyway. I dirgess, as I am so fond of doing. So here we go.

Ask me anything. Comment anonymously if you like. Whatever. Questions about me, questions about my work, but especially any questions about agents or any suggestions you have for a topic you'd like to see me blather on about for 6-8 Fridays throughout this summer. I don't think I can stretch the agent series as far as the publishing series went, but I'm also hoping to get one or two agenty types in here to interview. (If I do I'll open up for questions for them separately, of course.)

So it's your thread today. And while I'm under no illusions that we'll have one of those Nathan-Bransfordesque open threads, where like a million people comment in the first two minutes, I'm hoping that by Monday afternoon I'll at least be in double digits. :-)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sorry, wrong number

So as I was sitting here on the couch, wracking my brain to think of a blog topic for the day, the phone rang.

It wasn't for me. It was for the people who used to have our number. Two and a half years ago.

I can only assume they had it for a long time, because they get more calls, even now, than we do. So many, in fact, that last year I actually spoke to them about it.

What happened was, a lady who sounded quite elderly called looking for them. I repeated my usual "They don't have this number anymore" speech, and she seemed very confused. We talked for a minute and she hung up (after saying goodbye and everything, she didn't just slam the phone down.)

Several minutes later the phone rang again. It was Mrs. Number. She was so sorry we were still getting her calls, they had no idea, etc. etc.

I was nice about it, although I couldn't help thinking that we wouldn't be still getting their calls if they had bothered to tell people what their new number was. Their golf club called once, for example. Their doctor's office. Various friends. The sort of people you would notify when you had a new number, you know?

The best part was, their doctor's office accidentally gave me their new number, which I wrote down. So I can now give their number out. Which, frankly, I do. Not indiscriminately, but...well, okay, kind of indiscrimately, sure. If someone calls for them and I feel like getting up to check the number I do.

It reminded me of a wrong number I am still pissed about now, which is like seven years later. I was watching...I believe I was watching Monk. I know I was watching a mystery, though, and it was the last ten minutes. You know, when you find out the answers? And my phone rang.

It was some guy, looking for some girl whose name I'd never heard. I tried explaining there was nobody there by that name and he didn't believe me. He kept insisting that he'd just spoken to her. He checked the number with me. He got very, very pissy.

Then he hung up on me. Made me miss the end of my show and never apologized. And of course, when I tried *69ing him, the number was untraceable.

I should have just hung up on him myself. Isn't it funny how we try to be polite ("I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number") even when we're the one being inconvenienced?

I have no doubt that guy met some chick in a bar and she gave him the wrong number, but that was no reason for him to be rude to me.

This happened to me several times, actually. Our number in Florida was one, too. The phone company is supposed to hold onto numbers for six months, but we had so many people insisting they'd just spoken to whomever in the weeks before that we believed they'd just reassigned it right out of the box. Lucky us.

Yeah, I know. It's not the most thrilling topic ever. Give me a break. I'm figuring out how to work the next scene in my WIP so I can start rolling toward the end--not far now (I hope!) Be glad I didn't try to make y'all give me a topic.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Who do you write for? Who reads it?

First, thanks everyone who sent me well wishes. I am feeling normal again, finally--yesterday I finally woke up and didn't feel fragile anymore, which was great.

Something interesting has happened to me, which has never really happened before. My current WIP has gone off in a very odd direction, and I've realized it needs some big fixes back in the middle so I can redirect it.

I'm not sure if I should be worried about that. I'm really not--at this point, although I still don't see myself as any great shakes, I'm at least confident in my ability to produce a coherent story. So this is more of an annoyance than anything else.

But it is confusing. Because I've never been a plotter, and I've never had a story derail like this. Usually it just comes out, and whatever fixes need to be made--there are always fixes--are small enough that I can go back later and insert the missing facts, or whatever, and it doesn't affect the ending. This one does, or maybe I'm just being too nervous. Either way, it's a little odd but I'm not worried.

Except when it comes to my beta readers, that is.

See, I know all the conventional advice, which is to write the first draft with the door closed and don't show the book to anyone. To not invite feedback, etc. etc. But I don't work as well that way. I like feedback from the start. I like having people to discuss the story with as I go along. It keeps the project alive for me. It alerts me to possible trouble spots I may need to fix later. It lets me know what I need to amp up now. But mostly, it lets me know if I'm on the right track or if I'm the only one who likes this story. (Case in point: my best friend Cori [yes, her again] always likes my work, but her tastes tend to run towards lighter, funnier books in general--she's not a big uf fan. But when she read the first few chapters of Unholy Ghosts and couldn't stop talking about how much she loved it and how desperately she wanted more, I knew I had to keep going, that I had done something special. Not like I think it's oh-so-special or anything--oh, you know what I mean.)

Keep in mind, the people reading this--two or three, tops--are people I trust implicitly. And I don't always take their advice. But if something big is missing, I prefer to know about it earlier, so I can add it in and make later editing much easier. Another case in point, Cori mentioned recently that if I didn't insert a particular type of scene soon, people were going to lose all interest in a particular character. Of course she was right. I amped up the previous scenes a bit and added a new one, and now the balance works much better.

All of that is stuff I could have done after the first draft was finished, of course. But I think it's easier for people to give feedback on an unfinished work, where what happens next is still a question. It's easier to make suggestions when nobody's going to have to delete a whole bunch of stuff to implement your suggestion.

Plus it's fun for me. It makes the work more fun. It eggs me on, frankly. I haven't been posting metrics here for the second UG book because I'm afraid they might be too spoilery at this point, but knowing people were expecting them really made me push myself. Knowing Cori or Anna or Caitlin is waiting for the next section pushes me too. I might be able to laze about and let myself down, but it's a stupid girl who lets down her best friends and her trusted crit partners.

So who do you write for? Do you let people look while you're working?


Oh, and I posted this rant last night on livejournal so I'm copying it here, because I am still irked:

I hate iTunes here. I know there are songs in the US we can't get here. I feel it in my bones. And it pisses me OFF.

Seriously. Is it that hard to make the original Runaways version of "Cherry Bomb" avilable here? They have both the Joan Jett version and the Cherrie Currie version, but I don't WANT either of those. I want the real one.

Same with the Lazy Cowgirls' "Goddamn Bottle". I can get the slowed-down version but not the amped-up "Tapping the Source" one. Or anything else from that album, which is one of the greatest albums of all time.

Why? Why can I not find any Cringer or Sewer Trout on UK iTunes? Nothing from Nine Pound Hammer's "Hayseed Timebomb"? Some cuts from a live Pagans album but nothing from "Shit Street"?

I know what it is. It's the US giving the big finger to our former rulers. And you know, I totally applaud that, but it's inconveniencing me now.

OH! AND, if I were in the US, the lack of these songs on iTunes wouldn't be a problem because I could download them from Amazon and they would automatically convert into iTunes. But nooooo...that's for US customers only.