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Archive for November, 2010

Under the Wire

November 30, 2010 2 comments

I know I usually post a couple of times during the week, and this week has been kind of a quiet one. With the holidays, I assume that most people are wrapped up in the business of family gatherings, decorating, shopping and all the other trappings that come about when the calendar pages turn to November. I assume most of you lurkers have your attention focused elsewhere and won’t notice a few days of silence.

For those of us crazy enough to undertake it, November is also NaNo month. I will admit that it takes a special caliber and nerves of steel to say, “yes, I’m going to drop 50k words in thirty days, especially with a major holiday (and in my case a birthday) right in the middle of this time frame.” For procrastinators like me, I’d say it even requires a little sado-masochistic streak.

Suffice to say I’m feeling the crunch that comes as a deadline looms overhead. The mundane chores of my every day life have ceased to exist. Well, they exist, but I’m ignoring them at least for the next day or two.

As it stands, my official (unverified) word count is 40,004 and I have…oh, roughly 11 hours to complete 9,996 words. I expect this to shrink once I drop it in the NaNo validator, but I know that it will, so I plan to work to about 50.5k to give myself enough of a buffer to clear the hurdle with ease, though I may have to “move” to another time zone for the day. It’s going to be a bit of a nail-biter, but considering I did almost 7k last night on a story that running like a freight train with faulty brakes down the side of the mountain, I’m feeling cocky enough to say that I’m going to make it.

I’m taking bets…care to make a wager?

Borrowing?

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Thanks to the comments I’ve received lately, I fell into a bit of a WordPress hole today, wandering through posts and happened upon this one that posed an interesting question:

Who would you rather borrow from? Your library? Or a Friend?

(Or don’t your friends trust you to return their books?)

And, DO you return books you borrow?

I know this is silly, but I prefer not to borrow.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the library, but my schedule is such that I’m rarely anywhere near it (and awake) while it’s open. Add to that an impressive distractability and  I’m almost guaranteed to be a.) borrowing and not reading but returning on time to avoid fines, b.) borrowing and paying fines to the point where it would have been more cost-effective to buy the book, or c.) borrowing and half-reading the book, returning late and paying fines for something I never finished reading anyway.

I am better about borrowing from my friends, but only marginally. Because my to be read pile is almost large enough to require its own zip code, unless the book is something I have a burning need to dive into immediately, chances are it will languish in the pile for months before I touch it. And I’ll be lucky to remember it belongs to someone else by the time I do read it.

With such uber-American, consumerish habits, I generally “recycle” books through the used bookstore. And if the man who runs the used bookstore isn’t interested in my wares, the library always loves donations! My shameless, consumerish habits become either more books (though fewer, based on the law of diminishing returns), or a tax deduction. Either way, it’s a win.

The To-Be-Read Pile

November 20, 2010 6 comments

I’ll admit it. I have a problem. Well, not so much a problem, but a book-buying habit. Ok. Scratch that. It’s a problem.

Books call to me. They reach their papery arms towards me and whimper pitifully. It’s painful to pick them up, feel those pages riffle under my thumb as I read the back cover…and then put them back. If the blurb doesn’t interest me, that’s one thing, but when it does and I concede that I either don’t have the money or (more infrequently) responsibility kicks in and I realize I have way more to read than I will get through in decades, it’s an effort to put that beautiful book back on the shelf.

I know I am given to hyperbole from time to time, but I’m not joking or exaggerating when I say I have an entire book case full of books (double-stacked shelves with the space between the top of the books and the next shelf filled with more) and I’ve only read about half of them. Add to that the four stacks of books in front of the case, each measuring between 3 and 4 feet tall. Yes, feet. That doesn’t include the short stack on my nightstand, the downloads on my Kindle or the stack of books I’ve culled from those I’ve read and are awaiting a trip to the used book store. So how do I manage it?

Not terribly efficiently, to be honest. I love books too much to be practical about them and because I often have more than one going at a time, it can take me a while to get through one. My attention span is less than ideal (though it is improving again) and in the past I’ve been pretty notorious about getting bored with a story, putting it down and forgetting about it for a few months while I plow through something else. I am trying to kick that habit, but I haven’t done that completely yet. Oddly enough, reading short story collections has been improving the focus capabilities, though I’m not sure how that paradox comes in to play.

I was so psyched when I got home yesterday because the newest addition to the pile had arrived, and in perfect time! I just finished The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jeminsin. Eric, from Quirk Books, stumbled across my “What I’m Reading” page and offered to send me a copy of Android Karenina. When I got home, I discovered that it had arrived and I sat down to start re-reading Anna Karenina in preparation as I had done for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. In fact, it’s so exciting, I’m barely getting anything done because all I really want to do is go read!

Present in the Mail!

Alas, other responsibilities await like laundry and dishes and catching up on my NaNo count. I’m behind, but not enough that I’m concerned about not finishing. I hope tomorrow will be a mega-writing kind of day. The SO completed a 5k and is sleeping it off. I expect tomorrow will be much of the same, but that’s alright. More sleep = more quiet time in the house doing anti-social, edifying things I love.

Ok…back to being a responsible adult for a while.

A Productive Day

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment

At the real job, at least.

Thursday was the day. I pushed hard and got through 500 words that stressed me out for no good reason and then officially kicked “The Unbidden” out of the nest. In roughly six months, I’ll have some kind of rejection to show for it before shuttling it off to the next venue.

I have completed those goals, and I’m working on another story, which, I hope to finish this weekend. I had it out to work on last night, but…well….I attended the midnight release of Harry Potter and found myself taking an unexpected nap in front of the computer instead of writing anything.

I am, however, up and moving now and plan on getting some written before heading out to support my SO in a 5k this morning. I’ll also be bringing the iPad so I can work through the lull.

Too Many Pretty Words

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

The enormity of what I’m trying to do has finally hit me.

I am trying to get a horror novella published.

I have a great resource in Duotrope’s Digest, but my challenge is finding a market that’s looking for a piece as long as the one I have ready to sell. I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve selected the hardest piece to place as my inaugural story into the market (I don’t count the flash fiction piece I submitted only to find out through a query that their submission guidelines had changed and ye olde slush pile had gone ~poof~!

I’m perturbed to admit this, but I’ve failed to meet my “kick it out the door” deadline. It hasnt been a wasted day, though. I do have a list of places that seem like they’d be good submissions to make to show for today’s efforts. I need to review some of the publications of my top choice before I submit, but I will be doing that on my lunch break tomorrow. Right now, it’s time for bed. The new goal….get it out by the end of the week. I have a feeling that work is going to be hell tomorrow.

Genre Labels

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Oh what a tangled marketing web there is to navigate. I have spent a crazy amount of time sitting at my computer, staring at Duotrope and trying to figure out whether my story fits the marketing labels a publication has expressed interest in. Some of my stories are clearly one genre or another, even if there is some commingling in there. Others fall in that dubious gray area of “slipstream,” leaving me to figure out if it’s “too horror” for a primarily sci-fi market or vice versa.

Now, granted, much of this is purely speculative at the moment because I only have one story that’s “market ready,” but it’s still something I think about, especially once I have completed the first draft of the story.

One of the things that really brought genre labels to my attention was a book I read not too long ago. I wrote up a book tease in my “What I’m Reading” page, but I am going to ramble a bit more on the subject because it bugs me. The book was Poe’s Children and it professed itself an anthology of “new horror.” I suppose the first thing that stumped me was the phrase “new horror.” I understand what horror is, and I’ve been a fan for a long time. I even understand what the labels are and why they were created. They certainly make my life easier when browsing the bookstores, or for describing what I want to read and even what I enjoy writing. However, what I don’t understand is the way labels have become so very important.

To me, labels are important to convey an expectation. I expect my horror stories to scare me. I want them to hook into my spine and pull me along for pages and pages, a willing victim in a thrilling ride that will leave me in some way changed when the story is done. I want to walk across a parking lot alone in the dark only to have my heart race and pace quicken when I think I hear the scuffling step of a zombie somewhere behind me. I want to wince when I think of Tim Curry in his clown get up. I want to read a Poe or Lovecraft story and gasp for breath at the end because I hadn’t realized I was holding it. So many of the stories in the anthology made me scratch my head, then feast hungrily upon those that I knew fit the genre.

The book itself was a good collection of stories, though one that I’d advise borrowing from the library instead of investing in because I think the label was just that…a label. What the hell is “new horror” anyway? I read the introduction and I understand what Straub was trying to achieve, but I think he jumped the shark. I picked up the book to “study” short horror fiction. I picked up the book on the strength of the editor, and the strength of contributors like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Even the title grabbed me and whispered dark promises in my ear. “Poe’s Children.” What else did I expect but the breathless anticipation of watching the Red Death make its way through the party, or the cawing of the raven or even the beating of the heart beneath the floor boards. Instead, there were so many stories in that book that had me questioning what made them “horror” and trying to figure out why they had been included to begin with that I lost the feel of the story. Maybe I’m just being a book snob, or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. I do know that when the marketing tool intrudes on the product it’s trying to sell, it has gone too far.

Internet Vengeance and Apple Pie

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve waited to say much of anything about the Cooks Source fiasco that had the internet’s panties all in a bunch over the past week. I was fully aware of it as it broke and spent hours compulsively watching it unfold in all its rage-fueled beauty.You could almost consider it a bonding moment for bloggers, internet content writers and anyone else with a vested interest in the protection of intellectual property/copyright laws. As engrossing as I found it, I decided to sit back and watch it unfold before jumping in and adding my +1 to the 396,000+/- results on Google.

The basics of the story, for those who have lived under an internet rock for the past week or so, can be found with a quick Google search for “Cooks Source.” Alternatively, my favorite article thus far is found here.

This debacle was an utterly fascinating social event that justified my awe of the power of the written word, and the (terrifying) power of the internet. My sadistic side has been much amused by the Facebook dogpile that had me watching a friend count rise from 700 to 3,500 in a matter of hours. It became a game to click refresh as quick as possible to see how many joined in the seconds, or minutes I spent reading the most recent comments. Then I remember that this is because of one blog post that got reposted, tweeted, emailed, IM’ed and Facebook’ed around the world.

That blows my mind.

Not only did the mob demand justice from Cooks Source, they also demanded action from their advertisers, and like the pissed off nerd netizens we are, we started digging and researching. More pilfered content was found from bigger sources – Food Network, NPR, Weight Watchers, Martha Stewart, Oprah etc. and forwarded to their attention by those who had taken up Gaudio’s banner. It’s likely those copyright lawyers squealed with glee as they reviewed the pages in question.

It’s pretty clear to even an untrained eye that Cooks Source is firmly in the wrong and it’s easy to see why every writer whose work could and does end up on the internet has an opinion about it. Plagiarism and theft of intellectual property is an unconscionable breach in the implicit trust between writers and the publishing world. Writers spend hours, days, weeks, months and even years creating work we’re proud of and we need honest publishers and editors as much as they need us. The thought of having those words stolen and used for profit of another without permission is a sickening thought. It’s no wonder that the “Internet Threw a Righteous Hissyfit” (props to NPR for the Best Blog Title Ever, by the way); Griggs is the boogeyman of our deepest digital nightmares. We watched our dark “what-if’s” play out before us and suddenly the reality struck – this could, and may already have happened, to our own work. Stephen King couldn’t have scared us more thoroughly than Judith Griggs.

But, even though we know there are creeps out there like her, knowing there’s an almost infinite support base out there of peers and sympathizers willing to do stand up to help us defend our work gives us a little bit of reassurance. We may fling our work out into the void to see what happens, but we know the pitchfork-bearing mob is only a re-blog away.

Before we go, let’s just take a quick overview of the lessons demonstrated here so they’re not forgotten. Maybe they’ll serve a budding Judith Griggs out there and turn them from the Dark Side before it’s too late…

1. Do NOT piss off the Internet. Ever. Bad things happen.

2. What is posted to the Internet stays there forever. Or at least until an EMP blast sends us all back into a tech-less dark age. (But that’s still no guarantee…)

3. Anything that can be forwarded or shared, will be. Particularly if you’re a conceited ass.

4. If you make a legitimate mistake due to a lack of knowledge, research the issue and see if you are in the wrong and if you are, ‘fess up with humility, take your punches and make restitution. A simple apology, a little contrition (and maybe a charitable donation of $130) can save you from international humiliation, ceaseless harassment and ridicule, and the destruction of current and future career opportunities.

5. If you are doing something you and the rest of the world can identify as being wrong, don’t be surprised or incensed when thousands of people jump on your ass and ride you like a cheap whore. You deserve it.

6. Arm yourself with knowledge! Research and dissemination is what we do best, so there’s no excuse if we don’t understand our rights and responsibilities, if we don’t proactively seek out ways to protect our work, or if we don’t know what copyright really means. I stumbled across this blog post and think it is a great resource. Go read it for yourself. I know I’ll be digging into even more of the links provided and others to make sure I am more informed. It’s my work, after all. Just because I submitted it somewhere doesn’t mean it’s not still my responsibility.

NaNoWriMo, Day 2

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

NaNo day two was both productive yet not as productive as I would have preferred. I did accomplish the goal I set out the other day; the draft of The Unbidden is in the hands of my crit group. One of the emails included a long letter of explanation and clarification. My somewhat reclusive nature and lack of eloquence in emotional matters sometimes conspire to give me a taste of my foot, and I wanted to ensure that my comments were not taken in a manner other than I intended.

I did not add to my word count yesterday, but this doesn’t really disturb me as it has in the past. While I am using NaNo as an excuse to really push myself to a higher daily average word count, I am not working on a novel. I have one short(ish) story I am working on, and once I bring that to an end, I am going to finish the cafe series short stories I started sometime last year. Those stories, when compiled into one collection, do form a longer work.

So, in short, yesterday was neither a banner nor ideal day, yet I’m satisfied with what I got done.

Status Update

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Friday, I said I would:

1.) Read through the story in one sitting with no writing implement available Done
2.) Complete an edit by Monday morning It was Monday afternoon, but I call that close enough.
3.) Send the story out for feedback on Tuesday – Pending. I have to finish transcribing my changes into the digital version, but I should complete that tonight and meet my goal. UPDATE 11/3: Done! And on time 😉
4.) Send the story to market by November 16 – Pending.

I’ve expanded my crit/feedback group by one, and possibly two, in a relatively unexpected way…but allow me to rewind.

All in all, it was a good weekend for creativity and the “real” job. Friday night, I read all the way through the draft in one sitting without a writing implement in hand. At a staggering 87 pages, it took almost two hours and a tall salted caramel hot chocolate (skim milk, no whip). I was somewhat twitchy over not being able to jot notes on the text as I went, but that may have been related to the sugar in my drink. I soldiered through and checked it off my list.

Saturday morning, I was up early (8am…and for a Saturday, that’s nearly miraculous), and sat down to edit of “The Unbidden,” henceforth known as The Beast, while I waited for the SO to return from the gym. After a trip all over Charlotte doing various and sundry errands, I returned to sit down at my desk again for a couple more hours of wrangling with The Beast.

Sunday morning, up early again (8am again. I was a little concerned that I might hurt myself doing this two days in a row, but we all suffer for our art….) and at my desk with The Beast and a massive cup of coffee. After an hour and a half, the yawns got the better of me, and I rebooted my day with a brief game of Godfinger (during which, I fell asleep for another hour), and then got up and dressed to help load the recycling loaded into the car for my SO to take out, take some clothes to Goodwill, stop at the used bookstore to exchange “old” books for “new to me” books, pick up a very late lunch that became dinner. After catching up on my Thursday night TV (thank you, DVR), it was time to buckle down and finish the freakin’ edit. I vowed not to get up from my seat until I was done, and even when my tired brain squealed for a break, I stayed put in my chair and messed around with my Sims for a bit and took a spin through Facebook before getting back to work. That’s when I had my brilliant idea.

Looking over the status updates, and pondering who else I knew who might be open to giving me eviscerating, realistic feedback, I realized I’ve had the resources all along and never thought to ask….

Two of my high school English teachers are on my Facebook page. These people, I realized, are the ones I had looked up to for so long, who had taught me how to really appreciate writing that wasn’t “crap” as one of them so delicately put it, and were the first to really make me consider teaching as a profession I could enjoy. I decided to think about it overnight instead of dropping an impetuous note, but even when I stood bleary-eyed under hot shower spray, it still seemed like a good idea. I sent my note late this morning and was very happy to see that one had readily accepted the challenge of tackling The Beast! 🙂 The other is still in class, and I hope to hear from her by my arbitrary deadline of Tuesday.

Oh, I’ll admit that I quit editing about 14 pages from the end, but bedtime had arrived and was tapping its foot impatiently. I dragged my sleepy butt to bed, sat up long enough to thump out ~100 words to kick off NaNo, and then passed out with the iPad on my lap. It’s a good thing I was so tired that I never moved all night; around 3am when I woke up, it was still sitting there.

So I finished the edit today at lunch so I can meet my goal of getting this in four sets of hands Tuesday, which means I will be transcribing all my edits tonight . After I hit/surpass my NaNo goal for the day, but that is a subject all its own and one I will have to tackle later.

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