Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Bookcase for My Blog

My blog has a bookcase! How incredible is that! (Now, if I were to make my blog look like my home, those books would be stacked on their sides, filling each shelf from top to bottom, and there'd be bookcases all around my blog posts, but this one is a start.)

On the top shelf are the two books I'm reading right now. One's fiction, one's nonfiction, so it works. Below that, you'll recognize Lick of Frost, which I just finished. After that, I'm trying to decide between Kim Harrison and Janet Evanovich for the next book I want to read after Neil Gaiman. It's like my own blog book queue! I love it! By far, it's one of the best things Cody's found for me in a while.

Friday, January 30, 2009

NON Author Awards

Just this week, I interviewed Jonathan Friesen on the NON blog about his first book, Jerk, California. His novel was released in September 2008, yet mere hours after I posted the interview, The Knight Agency blog posted that Friesen's novel won the American Library Association Schneider Book Award (someone was also kind enough to let me know in the comments section of Friesen's interview post on NON that Friesen had won this award, too).

Was this coincidence? I might have thought so, but then just hours after I finalized the interview with next week's author (Jamie Ford), awards for his books started rolling in, too. Apparently, NON's got the magic touch! How exciting!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Disjunction Between Length and Time

The first novel I finished writing, Areia, is 1,309 pages long, spans approximately eighteen years of my character's life, and is actually only 1/3 of the original book I intended to write--the other two will wait their turn, wait until 1,309 pages is trimmed down to at least half that. The novel was a learning experience and a story all in one, and I decided that for my next book, I wanted to drastically cut down the story's time frame as well as the book's length.

Hence, Conventional Demon, which is currently about 250 pages and spans about 1 week of Madison's life. Book 2 also takes place in approximately one week's span, though it is 384 pages long. The shorter time frame limited and inspired me, and ultimately made both stories better, I think.

Is there, however, such a thing as too much story in too short a time frame? I just finished Laurell K. Hamilton's A Lick of Frost, which is 342 pages long, but the character and storyline advanced a mere 12 or so hours. That's it. Not even a full day and night, if you don't count the time lapse when the main character was unconscious.

As only Hamilton can, every scene became an example of many writing instructor's advice: make it as hard on your protagonist as you can, then make it harder. There wasn't a scene where someone didn't argue, where someone's feelings didn't need to be explored, where something unexpected or awful didn't happened. I was marveling over this last night with Cody, and he asked me if it was painful and if I'd started skimming sections just to get on with the book.

Oddly, no. I loved it. I zipped through this book with record speed (3 days, I think). I wanted a longer book, at least double, though. Frost feels like a very long episode, but not a novel. As if it were a made-for-TV miniseries coming out before the season of the main show. Were I capable of waiting that long, I'd treat this series like I do many TV shows, and "Netflix" it, waiting until all the books were out before reading them all in one big rush. I simply don't have the patience, though. It's bad enough to wait for the books to be released in paperback.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hand-fed Literary (Dis)Taste

My adventures in Borders started out well last night. I went straight to the books on writing section and immediately found and wanted more books than would ever be useful. I skimmed through many, decided which ones I wanted, and then wandered to the fantasy section, a soft hum of happiness buzzing through my mind.

My euphoric bubble was promptly burst.

I'd read several months ago that Borders was trimming down the number of titles they carried so that they could have more face-out books, which in test stores, increased sales. I'd not noticed a difference in my Borders since reading that article, and thought perhaps the changes had been subtle and sensible. Unfortunately, it appears my Borders was only late jumping on the bandwagon.

Last night, the shelves were gutted. Stripped expanses of bookcases and shallow protrusions of faced-out books dotted the bleak shelves where previously there had been spines pressed tightly together, hugging each case from side to side, top to bottom. Cut from the desecrated fiction sections were the lesser-known authors with their one or two titles. The isolated books that remained, now facing out, were the popular, New York Times bestsellers, the award-winners, and the televised and Hollywood success series.

Shell-shocked, I shuffled through the store, really paying attention this time, and my horror transformed to disgust. The tables I'd previously enjoyed perusing were stacked high with books only seen on TV (mostly Oprah--Dr. Oz was everywhere, as were the "Eat This, Not That" books), written by or about celebrities, and top sellers. A few tables catered to the new releases, but even those were of popular authors only, not debut authors. Hand-fed literature decided by TV personalities assaulted me from all sides, and creativity was smeared and sullied into a thing of marketing and not talent. Dazed, sick, and feeling manipulated, I found Cody and left the store as quickly as possible.

A day later, I realize my naivete. I was seeing what had always been there--the raw commercialism that is necessary for the remaining Borders stores to stay in business. Those celebrity-driven books have never bothered me before, when the rest of the selection was there, and I understand the need for prominent displays of (and usually enjoy) good fantasy stories adored by the masses--but not at the cost of new talent.

I now understand the people who've sworn off chain bookstores in favor of their local stores. I understand the aversion and even hatred of these larger stores. The blatant catering to the highest-grossing novel smacks of Borders attempting to lower the expectations of its customers, not of a wise marketing move. And yet, even with this clear bid to appeal to the masses and ignore the individual interests of their customers, large book chains aren't surviving much better than the smaller, individual bookstores.

There has to be a happy medium. There has to be a way to make money and still stock copies of lesser-known authors. There even has to be the demand for this. I can't be the only one who hunts down new authors, new stories, new talent. And I'm highly insulted by the idea that Borders will now order for me the books that they previously carried in store, so that I can wait for what should have been an instant-gratification purchase. No, thank you. If I wanted to wait, Id' just order it from Amazon myself.

Even worse, there are no individual new-book bookstores in the area. It looks like I'll be buying even more of my books from the used bookstore, which carries a small selection of new books but a gazillion used books by authors of all popularity levels.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lee Adama Puzzle Pieces

A few days ago I posted about my desire to dislike Lee Adama (from Battlestar Galactica) because he was a character who never had to achieve anything on his own; he has every promotion handed to him and never strives for a higher position of power, though he still makes it to presidency. I want to dislike him for his passivity, but he also possesses many of the traits I consider heroic. I finally realized the core of my conundrum.

It goes back to my childhood, in which I was never allowed to watch cartoons...

No, wait. Scratch that. This one is about plot versus character.

We've all read plot-driven novels and character-driven novels, or seen plot-centric movies which are very different from character-centric movies. I'm a big fan of character-driven novels and movies. I think that there's so much more enjoyment in following a well-thought-out character through a tale, discovering their dimension and personality as defined by their reaction to events than there is enjoyment derived from watching a two-dimensional character placed within an exciting plot element/scene.

Think Ironman vs. Spider-man. Ironman is an interesting character who uses his knowledge to change and grow throughout the movie/story. Spider-man is a rather two-dimensional character who gets placed in some pretty amazing CG scenes, which make decent video games. Both are comic book characters, but what a world of difference!

Think The Princess Bride vs. Made of Honor. The Princess Bride relied on strong characters to flush out scenes and bring the story to life. Made of Honor relied on generic genre characters and predictable plot points to push through a Hollywood "chick flick" during the wedding season.

Think Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark vs. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In Raiders, Jones was still being developed as a character. The story was still formed around him, and the choices he made as a character directed the action (to a point). In Crystal Skull, there was no character development whatsoever. The director/producer/writer expected you to be familiar with the characters, to expect certain actions out of them, and the movie was one plot gimmick after another, each seemingly contrived to get the characters to the right CG point.

Which brings me, a bit belatedly, back to my point. Somehow, Lee Adama is a character who functions like a plot. He's too flat. Too bland. There's no development happening with him. All his storylines are plot-driven, not character-based. That is the root of my distaste for him. He may be part of a heroic plot line, but he's not a three-dimensional hero.

Monday, January 26, 2009

First Query Sent

I submitted my first official query this weekend! This was the query letter I mentioned in the "Hungry Monster" post--the query which wouldn't let me sleep until I wrote it down...and was actually still good in the morning. I didn't send it to a literary agent in hopes that she would take my book, but to a literary agent who critiques the actual query letters. Some of you might know of the blog on which she posts the queries with her critiques, but I'm not saying the name for those who have no idea what I'm talking about in case she A) doesn't post my query or B) posts it and reams it. However, if she has good things to say about it, you bet I'll be posting a link and doing a silly dance around my office. For now, I'm pleased to have another feeler "submitted."

NON Interviews Jonathan Friesen

The newest author interview is posted on the Number One Novels blog. This week: Jonathan Friesen, an YA author with a humorous story of how he got published:

I attended a writer’s conference in California. It was my first, and for whatever reason I arrived a day early. Around dinnertime, I wandered around the grounds searching for food. I heard the distant tinkling of silverware, and unaware that I was a day early, walked into a room filled with people I assumed were fellow conferees. Turns out they were faculty. But as I didn’t know, I sat down at a table with literary agents and authors and started eating. They assumed me to be a new faculty, and I figured they were aspiring writers and we all got along famously.

Read the rest of his amusing story and the entire interview at Not only is the interview great, there's also a trailer for his novel!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On the Fence with Cherry Adair

I just finished Night Secrets by Cherry Adair (book 4 this year, for those of us who are counting). I'm really torn on how I feel about it.

I loved--loved--her nonparanormal romance books (Out of Sight, In Too Deep, Hide and Seek, etc.). They're action packed, with dynamic characters and hot romances. I'm also a big fan of paranormal romances, in general. However, the combination of Adair with paranormal isn't as spectacular as I might have imagined.

The problem might be a rather simple one: her characters were already fantastical enough without having paranormal powers. All the men, and some of the women, are T-FLAC operatives, who are the badass of the badass when it comes to military/fighting situations. They're the elite of the elite and able to perform feats that are nigh inhuman. Which was fine and lovely when it was a regular romance and everyone was using their guns, fists, and knives on the tangos. At least everyone was fighting in a world that followed the normal rules of physics.

However, combine all that badass with the ability to teleport (self and objects), mind control, memory wipes, and a plethora of other paranormal powers, and it becomes overkill. I mean, the normal romances already have characters who manage to have sex atop a running camel in the middle of the desert, at night, in between fights; they have underground bunkers with cabin fronts and elevators in the middle of a forest; and every T-FLAC can shoot seven tangos dead before one can shoot at him, a shot that merely nicks some nonmandatory limb. Wasn't that fantastical enough?

I've read two of Adair's paranormal romances now, this one and Edge of Danger. I feel the same about both. However, this one has an added gross factor. As I've expressed, I'm not fond of violence and romance combined (though perhaps I need to take a second look at that, since I liked all the other Adair books...), and for the most part, Adair keeps the two separate--meaning there's some distance on page between the characters in bloody action and their sex. However, there's one scene, one horribly suspenseful scene after which any person would be needing intense therapy and a long, screaming run in terror away from the scene of the incident before they'd be calm enough for tender sex. Not these main characters, though. The female lead was in a state of terror for at least an hour--pure, unadulterated terror--and less than five minutes after she's rescued, they're softly touching each other, ignoring all her wounds.

Or maybe my aversion comes from the fact that this is the first book in a long time that I almost stopped reading merely on gross factor (not the sex, but the action, which was centered around black market organ transplants). Some of the scenes...haunting.

So I'm on the fence. Do I buy another Adair book?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hero vs. Serendipity: Or Why I Can't Love Lee Adama

This is the second time in a few weeks that I'm making another reference to Battlestar Galactica. Is it because the show has so much wisdom to offer? So many thought-provoking concepts? Or is it simply that we've been watching season 4 (the truncated 2007-2008 season) at an average of four episodes a week for the last three weeks. We just finished the last episode, and I don't think anything I say here will be a spoiler for anyone, since most people are already watching season 5. (And please don't give me any spoilers about season 5, though if you could just let me know if the series ends with season 5, that'd be great.)

In the rushed episode "Sine Qua Non," though Lee Adama is rather anticlimactically handed the presidency (side note: do you think this storyline would have been flushed out if not for the writer's strike?), it was Romo Lampkin, the apparently delusional lawyer, whose words caught my attention. As Romo holds Lee at gunpoint in a hallway, the lawyer points out something I'd completely missed: that Lee never once sought an advancement. He was promoted from captain(?) of the pilots to admiral of his own battleship to council member of the government, with each promotion handed to him on a silver platter, and all he had to do was accept it. The presidency was no different.

I think the writers are trying to make a point--or I hope they are--but I don't get it. Are they trying to show that some people have greatness thrust upon them? That integrity and honesty and being a reliable, trustworthy person will garner you advancements, especially in times of crisis? That some people go through life just doing their job, and are rewarded (or punished, depending on how you view such increasing responsibilities)? Or that some people are simply lucky?

Any way I look at it, I don't like it. I can't completely explain it, either--not even to myself. I think it's part of why I've never grown attached to Lee the way I have other characters on the show. He doesn't fit my version of a hero. Or maybe he only fits part of it. He has a lot of the right traits, but he doesn't have something--the motivation to put himself in a place to put those traits to the best use, maybe?--to make him fit my idea of a hero. I would never write a main character like him. Definitely not a novel's worth. Maybe a short story, but there would be irony in it. I want a main character who is consciously making decisions and putting herself in places where she can do the most good, not passively accepting the offerings of fate like some special chosen one.

And yet, every argument against Lee fitting the role of a hero that I've crafted, I've had to delete, because I do think that he exhibits the traits needed in each role he's fulfilled and has followed the arc of a hero's journey. He's just a passive hero. Though he doesn't ask to be handed more responsibility, he's capable of shouldering it. He had the skill and belief in a military system to carry out his orders as the pilot captain, the knowledge and experience to be responsible for the lives of the men and women aboard the battleship he was handed, he taught himself the laws when he needed to defend Baltar (part of his whole black and white thing, which I don't agree with), and all that experience did make him a very capable president--in respect to a small civilization at war and fleeing across a galaxy (I'm not saying I'd want him for president of the US, though, that's for sure!).

Just the fact that he's had everything handed to him really bugs me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Little Frothing

I've been delighted to discover, as I find more and more writer and literary agent blogs, that I'm not the only one keeping track of things. There's Kristen Nelson's Pub Rants "A Year in Statistics" and Janet Reid's "8 Things I loved in 'O8"...and then there's this:

Sarah Weinman, author of the LA Times "Dark Passages" column, read 462 books last year!

I don't know whether I should place this woman on a pedestal (and feed her at least a book and a half a day) or be horrified. She claims in the article linked above that she retains what she reads, so the speed doesn't mean loss of quality. So maybe I'm just jealous. At that speed, I could get through the books sitting in the queues on my shelves in 44 days. By March, I'd be back out at Borders and my favorite used book store buying more. Book shipments would roll in weekly from Amazon. My library would grow by a bookcase a year.

Pause. Breathe. Wipe the frothing spit from my mouth. Remember that I'm, at best, a book-a-week kind of girl. (We're three and a half weeks into January and I've finished three books. Not too shabby, right? Honestly, I'm not that jealous. Right?)

How're your book totals coming?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pet Peeves

We've all got them. Some of them are larger than others. Some are very specific, and some are general. Mine are, thankfully, few: I can't stand the sound of nails being flicked together or chewed on. I'm betting that one's pretty common. I don't like people who correct the grammar of others in conversation (and occasionally have to stop myself from being a hypocrite). Other than that, I thought I was pretty much peeve-free.

I discovered a new one today: People who have publicized programs (radio/TV/Internet) yet think it's cute to say some variation of, "Don't tell anyone this, but..." I mean, we all know that they're talking to hundreds, if not thousands, of people at that moment. To pretend you're telling a secret becomes just another gimmick to get people to listen closer. Bleh! Annoying.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hungry Monster

I think that after my recent posts all about sugar and sweets, now would be a great time to bring up another food(ish)-related thing I think is great: Weight Watcher's new hungry monster. He's adorable. I love the commercials, and that's saying something. I hunted all over the Internet for a better picture of the guy, and this was the best I could find. However, I did discover that there're a few more people out there who think he's great too. I challenge y'all to get Weight Watchers to create and sell the dolls (because I want one, and I don't want to do the legwork).

In writing news (remember writing--that thing I began this blog about?), I've been taking my much-needed break from my stories and focusing on work (that crazy thing that keeps a roof over my head, electricity feeding into my computer, and my Internet connected) and some fun (after I finished being sick, but we all know how I felt about that). I think that tomorrow I will begin the rewrites/edits, round something (I've lost track), on Conventional Demon. I also thought of a great new query letter the other night when I was trying to sleep. I got up and wrote it down and still liked it in the morning, so I might be sending that off soon too. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Bit of Hero-Worship

I'll be the first to admit I've got a bit of hero-worship going on when it comes to our new president. I wasn't paying attention when Bill Clinton was in office (other than noticing the tabloid bits) and I've not been enchanted with Bush. President Obama, though, I find inspiring.

Which was why I wanted a fancy cake from Ace of Cakes today, and my sugar high to go along with my emotional high and excitement for the inauguration. I didn't get the cake. I wasn't willing to pay $1,000. I was, however, willing to go over to Safeway and get one of their delicious chocolate chip muffins. I even decorated it. If you can't tell, the picture to the right shows the O and B of Obama. (You try writing on a chocolate-chip covered spherical surface with cool whip using a fork as your "pen." See the top-down view below. I'm sure that will make it clear.)

I watched more news today than I have in the last three months combined, and I reveled in every moment. I was unashamedly addicted.

I stood when the president was being sworn in, feeling proud and foolish in front of my TV. I cried when he gave his speech. I have several favorite quotes from his speech, but will spare you and share with you only my top three:

"The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

I believed before Obama was elected that we were all equal, all free, all deserving of our chance to pursue happiness. I didn't need to hear him say it. But it was nice.

"...know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy..."

This appeals to me as a woman, an author, a citizen. I could add this line to my "The Hero Question" post as one of the things that I think defines a hero--what they create, not what they destroy.

"...there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

Did I not say the same thing just a few posts ago? (Okay, okay, my "Lessons in Life" post might not have been quite as eloquent...or quite as publicized.)

I hope you all had a fun, celebratory inauguration day. I'm off to consume that delightful chocolate masterpiece.

(If you're wondering, the book hidden by my tribute to Obama above is The Secret Lives of the First Ladies. Also of note, everything I had to eat today was round...we'll say that coincidence was also in honor of Obama.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mmmm, Cake

We went over to a friend's house last night for some dessert and game-playing. Fun was had by all (though I won only once). While we ate our dessert, we watched a show that if Cody and I had cable, I know I would be addicted to: Ace of Cakes. (Many of you with Food Network probably already know of this show and watch it regularly. I'm not jealous. Honest.)

We watched one episode, and now I want to be a pastry chef. The way I figure it, being a pasty chef takes out most of the bad parts of being a chef (working with raw meat, working late nights/weekends/holidays) and you get to make things that are colorful and pretty. Plus, the way they make these cakes, it's more like art than food.

I have hit upon the idea (read: obsessed with the idea) that for our Inauguration Party (for just Cody and me), I want to have a cake to commemorate the occasion (and to devour, transcending into a sugar high of celebratory proportions). However, I now specifically want an Ace of Cakes cake. Which, according to their website, cost a minimum of $1,000 and they're book through February 22.

Unfortunately, that means I'm back to some Safeway cupcakes or a splurge on some sort of Whole Foods confection. Still, there's always our wedding...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Six-word Stories

I'm fascinated with the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak, a compilation of famous and obscure authors' six-word stories. I think part of my fascination is simply at the brevity. The first complete story (novel, not short story) that I wrote took 1,309 pages. That's a lot of words! My second story is roughly 72,000. This last was almost 120,000 words. All to tell a single story. And yet, here these people have created whole stories in just six simple words. Which is the second part about these "stories" that fascinates me: that a mere six words is all it takes for my mind to conjure the whole of a life/story.

For instance, my favorites of the few I've seen: "I loved the idea of you." and "It's worth it, despite your mother." Succinct. To the point. Yet, I see the whole world, the whole story. Even a bit of irony in the first, humor in the second. Of course, what I picture and what you picture when reading those six words might be two totally different things, but that's also part of the beauty of a six-word story.

The idea of a six-word story wouldn't get out of my head the past few days, so I've decided to create a few six-word stories to try to sum up Conventional Demon. None tell the whole story, not as I feel they should (because I know, honestly, my story can't be told in six words), but I liked writing them. I also found that, put together, they almost told the story like a query letter. (Would a literary agent notice if every sentence in the query was six words in length?)

Here they are, in a vaguely particular order:
  • Clean souls are only one requirement.
  • Evil hasn't met its match in Madison.
  • Imps, demons, and magic, oh my.
  • Self-note: Demons think you're tasty.
  • Madison Fox: breakfast for local demon.
  • It's time to fight or die.
  • Defend souls, convince evil you're scarier.
  • Some things are harder in person.
  • Confused but confident, Madison faces evil.
  • A job, a destiny, a disaster.
  • Enforcing good with a small stick.
  • Evil lurks, happy at Madison's incompetence.
  • Facing her fears, find her destiny.
  • Soul-searching in black and white.
Tomorrow: NON blog interviews Peter V. Brett. It is a fascinating, inspiring read. Checking back weekly for new interviews.

Okay, I'll stop now; I promise.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Being Sick Bites

I have come to the conclusion that it's a very good thing I'm a healthy person. I hate being sick. I hate not feeling up for fun activities. Tonight, I missed getting to attend a friend's art exhibit and a dinner out with Cody and friends. Instead, I stayed at home and felt sick and sorry for myself. Sucky. 100% sucky.

The good news, I'm feeling better than yesterday. Thank the gods for Monday being a holiday. Hopefully I can make up for missed fun then. (Can you tell I've been watching Battlestar Galactica? I was reading a book today and thought it was a typo when it said "My God" not "My Gods.")

Lest I rain more of my pity party down upon y'all--here's to future good health for all! Good night.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pineapple Express: High Optional

I'm not a big fan of pot movies, though I've seen a surprising number of them. Watching other people get high and be silly has a very limited appeal, and I'm rarely in the mood. (Maybe if I opened the vent in my kitchen, I'd understand better.) However, Cody's been excited about Pineapple Express since it was first previewed like crazy for the big screen, so we settled in the other night to watch it.

(**Like all movie discussions, beware for spoilers. Continue reading at your own risk.**)

The previews had hyped the film to be a pot movie with some action, which was a dubious combination to begin with and could go wrong in so many ways that I didn't get my hopes up. When one of the first scenes viewed like a cinematic High Times centerfold scene, where drawers of enormous bags of pot were opened and displayed, various types were named, etc., I began to fear for the fate of the movie. When Saul, one of the main characters, pulled out the cross joint, I thought the end (of me liking the film) was near. It was the point in the film where the director/writer probably expected every pothead watching to pause the film, roll their own cross joint, turn to their nearest friend for help lighting it, and experiment to find out whether or not the smoke trifecta really worked the way Saul explained.

(Now that I think about it, perhaps there's some genius in that: it's like the ultimate 3D experience with a bonus--get the audience to feel what the main characters are feeling, and then they'll most likely be high for the rest of the film and be more inclined to like it. Not a bad plan. If only they'd do that with wine instead of pot...)

Just when I was about to give up hope, a little violence was added to the scene. Now I've talked about how I don't like violence mixed with sex/romance, but violence mixed with humor I'm a big fan of (in movies only). This movie delivered both in spades. It shifted from being a movie about a pothead to being a movie about a dynamic character on the run, with comedy mixed in. (There's even a lovely theme about the strength of friendship and good karma.)

Here's what I liked most about the movie: each scene got more ridiculous than the previous. The characters jumped to correct conclusions about what people off-stage were plotting faster and less realistically, the action got progressively more fantastical, and the general plot became less and less believable. And it worked. Really well. By the end of the film, I'd been led along so nicely, my willingness to suspend disbelief built up so well, that it was hysterical rather than annoying that Red was eating, drinking, driving, toting a gun, and speaking normally all with several bullet holes through his gut.

Contrast this movie to Tropic Thunder, which we also just saw, and Pineapple Express wins hands down. Tropic Thunder was better and worse than I thought it was going to be, but given the choice to watch it again (as in, go back in time and watch it), I don't think I would. The best thing about the movie was Tom Cruise (and I'm so NOT a Cruise fan). Pineapple Express I would see again. Maybe without the whole time travel thing, too.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

First Submission

I sent off the first chapter of Basic Trouble (under the title of Conventional Demon) to a literary agency yesterday! My first submission! I'm so excited to finally be getting my book out there! This one was to Firebrand Literary Agency. They had a query holiday, so instead of sending a query and waiting to hear back, I got to send the first chapter, no query needed. The holiday ends today, so I just squeaked in (I really hadn't planned on Book 2 taking so long!).

However, the near non-stop demands on my body/mind from November 1 to yesterday took their toll. I'm feeling a little rundown with a slightly runny nose and scratchy throat (yesterday, my nose obligingly ran on the left side, in honor of Non-Dominant Hand Day, to be sure). I'm taking today, and probably tomorrow, off to rest. And it feels so nice!

I've got big plans for reoutlining Basic Trouble--oh, what the heck, let's just call it Conventional Demon from now on like I plan to--doing a whole new editorial/rewrite pass on the book, sending out queries to a few agencies I've researched, and finally reading through Book 2, but for today, it's time to lounge in a sunbeam with a kitty or two and take a nap.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

National Non-Dominant Hand Day Recap

I didn't have any mind-blowing ideas of inspired genius as a result of using my left (non-dominant) hand, but I did come to one realization that had previously completely escaped my notice: The world is not made for left-handed people. All you left-handers and probably rolling your eyes at me and saying appropriate things to your computer screen, like "Duh!", but it took this day for me to realize it. From my washing machine, which has the writing around the dials angled so they're easier to be seen when you're using your right hand than your left to the placement of a handle on the door--it's all designed for us righties. Granted, perhaps I'm more sensitive to it than normal left-handers, but this hardly seems fair. I should start a movement to have all door handles placed in the middle of the door. That's how they do it in Spain. (Of course, it occurs to me that when you go back through the door the other direction, the lefties have it better, so maybe I'm making too much of this.)

The hardest thing I've found about National Non-Dominant Hand Day (aside from actually remembering to use my left hand) was brushing my teeth. Even twirling spaghetti on my fork with my left hand was easier than angling that toothbrush around my mouth despite the fact that I have a Sonicare that does most of the work for me. Pulling my hair back into a respectably smooth ponytail was also difficult.

I also learned not to attempt to scratch my left shoulder blade with my left hand (reaching around from the waist and up, not over the top of the shoulder), as it makes the muscles between my neck and shoulder spasm in an effort to attach my hear to my shoulder blade. Not a fun way to start a morning, though that wasn't the holiday's fault.

Did you have any non-dominant-inspired revelations?

National Non-Dominant Hand Day

The day is finally upon us. It's time to buckle down, gear up, and otherwise get into the spirit and mindset of putting that lazy non-dominant hand and arm to work. Today's the day to show your appreciation for both halves of your body. So grab that cup of coffee with the opposite hand, lock your house door with the use of that neglected appendage, and carry that purse/briefcase/wallet on the opposite side today.

Warning: be prepared to experience everything as if its brand new. Otherwise mindless tasks might become cumbersome and difficult. New ideas might spring to light now that you've got that other half of the brain firing. A whole new world of opportunities could open up before you.

And if none of that happens, but you participated, you can still give yourself a pat on the back (with that cherished non-dominant hand) for a job well done.

Feel free to share any trials or triumphs in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Gift Worth Sharing

I just finished my first book of the year. No, it wasn't Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, which I've been reading for nearly as long as I was writing my latest novel. It was a book my friend got for me and was one of the funniest, best reads, so I have to share. The book: Porn for Women.

As you can see by the cover, this isn't a racy book, but it is definitely eye candy for women, showing men doing chores around the house and in general saying very sweet things. My favorite page, one that I want a full poster of, shows a man at the thermostat, hand on the dial, and the text on the page next to him says, "Let's keep the heat set permanently on 'tropical.'" Have sexier words every been uttered?

When I went to Amazon, I saw that the Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative have a whole series. There's XXX Porn for Women: Hotter, Hunkier, and More Helpful Around the House (Amazon lets you see a few pages--the one that says "I know how you hate to fly coach, so I got us fractional ownership in a private jet" cracks me up!), Porn for New Moms, and calenders to savor all year.

The people at Cambridge Women's Pornography Cooperative are geniuses.

(Tomorrow's National Non-Dominant Hand Day. Start flexing those non-dominant hand and arm muscles--it's almost time to really put them to use!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

So Many Books

In the process of searching for first-time authors to interview for my new blog, Number One Novels, I've been cruising through a lot of literary agency blogs. This is also good for my research of where I want to submit queries for my novel, so it's been really nice to work toward two goals simultaneously. However, I came to an unfortunate conclusion today: I'm going to have to give up my life, TV, friends, family, leaving the house, blogging, and writing, because there are simply so many books out there that I want to read that I don't think there's time left for anything else!

Okay, so maybe I won't go to that extreme, but I'm feeling a certain urgency, like a pressure or a deadline, to rush through the book I'm currently reading so I can get on to the next (and the next, and the next). This is rather ironic, because I'm currently reading Ageless Body, Timeless Mind in which Deepak Chopra discusses the perception of time. The more time you feel you have, the more time you have (one of those relativity of time things I have a hard time wrapping my mind around). So the very thought that I don't have enough time to read all the books I want is detrimental to me having enough time.

Hum, my head is spinning a little trying to follow my own logic, so back on point: I was recently perusing the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management site (which, incidentally, I learned is the agent for my favorite author, Jacqueline Carey), and I was scrolling through their lengthy list of clients. It seemed like every other author had a book out (or three) that I wanted to read. A lot were cookbooks (I was hungry, so everything sounded good). One in particular I think I might get just from reading her blog. The blog is called the Gluten-Free Girl, and she's also sold a book by the same title. Check out her "About this site" tab--I was entranced by her writing style. (And, no, I'm not allergic to gluten.)

This was only one literary agency site, though. I've been to at least ten now. I've found books, websites, and blogs that I want to read. I feel saturated with the desire to own all these books and read them all and soak in all the stories and knowledge.

Cody, however, was not pleased to hear that I thought we should give up TV and movies to devote ourselves to reading (if I'm doing it, he should be too), so I have a feeling he'll be my voice of reason, as usual.

And speaking of books to be purchased, check out today's interview with Jeri Westerson on Number One Novels.

(Only two days until National Non-Dominant Hand Day! Prepare yourselves!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two Posts in One Day

Why two posts today? Why another post that might overshadow my excitement about Number One Novels? For a very good reason:

I finished Book 2!!!

That's right--the tracker at the top is finally accurate! I finished. A mere 40,000 words and a month past my goal, and I'm done. Finito benito. Huzzah! 390 pages of Book 2 are now saved on my hard drive, a back-up flash drive, and in my gmail account, waiting to be read and edited and sold.

Tomorrow I'll get back to the edits of Basic Trouble (the title of which might be changing in light of some events of Book 2), but for tonight, I think I'll celebrate.

Thanks for all your support!

Number One Novels

I am very excited to announce that Cody and I are starting a blog together! It is called Number One Novels (, and on this blog, we will be interviewing first-time authors about the sale of their first novel. Our first interview will be posted tomorrow, and three more interviews are lined up for the following weeks. The goal is to post at least one interview a week (on Monday), though I hope to get up to two a week (Monday and Thursday).

I started the site for a selfish reason: for personal inspiration. Every day I dream about my novels being sold and published and formally launching my life-long career as an author (more specifically, as a New York Times bestselling author), and seeing other people achieve this dream is good motivation to keep plugging away at my writing and editing. However, I hope the site will be entertaining and informative for all its followers and a good promotion site for first-time authors.

Please check out tomorrow's post and let me know what you think. You can either bookmark the NON blog site, or you can always find a link to it from this blog under my "Blogs for Writers" section on the right.

Tomorrow's guest: Jeri Westerson with a medieval noir.

(Don't forget: The countdown to National Non-Dominant Hand Day continues. Only 3 more days!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Like I Pictured It

I watched an episode of Legend of the Seeker today, a show based on Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. I've seen a few episodes before this (you'll recall the "Legend of the Seeker Delivers" post), but none of them were from parts of the story that I'd found particularly memorable (having read the book they're making episode from nearly fifteen years ago, so I was bound to have forgotten a scene or two). However, today we met up with a character, Denna, who I vividly remembered, in a scene I also vividly recalled.

Jessica Marais cast in the role of Denna was surprisingly close to the way I'd pictured the character (on the show she has a long, blond braid that hangs to her hips). I'd imagined her slightly more voluptuous, a little shorter (or perhaps the main character, Richard, taller), and with a rounder face, but all in all, they did a good job capturing her.

After Craig Horner not looking at all like the way I'd pictured Richard (though this was an improvement) and Bridget Regan not looking at all the way I'd picture Kahlan, Denna was a nice surprise. However, I pronounced her name as "Deena" in my head, while they pronounced it like a Bostoner might say "dinnah" instead of dinner.

The scene itself did not go at all like I remembered. It makes me want to reread the series to see if I've forgotten things or if they're making them up. Maybe if I didn't already have 25 new books on my shelf waiting to be read...

(Don't forget: Only 4 days until National Non-Dominant Hand Day!)

Friday, January 9, 2009

National Non-Dominant Hand Day

As I hinted at a little over a week ago, I would like to announce my self-made national holiday on January 14: National Non-Dominant Hand Day.

In honor of this day, please use your non-dominant hand for all reasonable activities (emphasis on reasonable: so don't mouse with your opposite hand, wield knives, or do things that make your life tedious, like writing with your opposite hand).

The purpose of this holiday is to get the brain thinking. We all have a tendency to go through parts of our days on autopilot, not really present in the moment. When was the last time you really thought about unscrewing the cap on the toothpaste? What about turning on a faucet? Unlocking a door?

For the most part, I don't think we typically need to think about these things, but for one day, I think it's good to stretch the synapses and halt the mind chatter to focus on the task at hand.

I wish you all luck. If you want to practice in preparation of the holiday (now a mere 5 days away), feel free. Or if you want to save up your energy for the fourteenth, that's fine too. And thank you all for graciously participating in this holiday. The Non-Dominant Hand gods will be pleased.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lessons in Life

I just finished watching Battlestar: Razor last night (I know, I'm a bit behind, but it's the Netflix thing). I'm not sure how I felt about it. The story seemed out of place after the ending of the previous season, I wanted more about the main characters and less about the new character, and I was a little lost from having forgotten some of the previous season. So the show itself was an "eh" for me.

However, I watched the "My Favorite Episode" bonus feature on the disc and that's what I've been thinking about all day. It was a short interview with various cast members, asking them what their favorite episode was. Inevitably, the episode they liked the most was the episode that challenged their acting the most. It was the energy they had to put into the episode and the stretching of their talents which made them remember one particular episode out of so many that they've done.

At first, I thought they were all a bit pretentious ("My favorite episode was the one that centered on my character's struggles"), but then I realized that I actually kind of liked the fact that everyone's favorite episode was the one in which they had to work the hardest. It's one of those strange experience/memory juxtapositions that I've experienced time and again. The things that are really hard, and that when I'm doing them make me wish I was doing something different, something easier--those are the things I'm often most proud of. My books are one of them: how many times have I wished to be done with this last one, with each one as I'm writing it, yet I'm incredibly proud of each one once I've finished it--even if they still need work. My education was another: I just about quit college my sophomore year, but ended up graduating magna cum laude, another thing I'm incredibly proud of.

I think this same phenomenon occurs with travel, too: those god-awful experiences when your traveling are sometimes the things you look back on with the most fondness. For instance, years ago when I was in Rome, it was so hot and humid and I was traveling with everything in a backpack on my back, crammed into a tiny bus full of people who didn't wear deodorant, and I was wilting from exhaustion having not slept the night before on the train ride from France, but I vividly remember that bus ride and the sights I saw along the way, the different side of Rome that I saw then compared to what I saw walking it on foot the next few days. I remember that more than I remember parts of Venice, later, when I was content and relaxed.

So I took a little inspiration from that "My Favorite Episodes" interview: to cherish the things that make me struggle and know that I'm growing, achieving, and remembering more than if I coasted.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Profession

I've decided, after having watched the first four episodes of Monarch of the Glen, that I would make an excellent laird. I love the pacing of European society, or my idea of what the pacing of general life is like in France and Italy and Scotland. I love the idea of a 35-hour work week, of long walks, of lots of socialization over food and wine, of close-knit communities (even if that community isn't necessarily the neighbors you live near), of life that celebrates relaxation and pursuits of pleasure above the no-pain, no gain, rush, rush, rush philosophy of most of America. Being a laird sounds like the best of this world.

First of all, if you're a laird, you've got a castle, hopefully a very attractive one, and the money to go with it to heat it (because, as Cody pointed out, it's cold in Scotland and the castle could be rather drafty). You've also got lots of land, presumably rolling green hills and lakes and streams and the kind of scenery similar to that which Jane roams about in on the sets of BBC's Pride and Prejudice. And you've got time--time to write and garden and entertain. On top of that, I think I'd really enjoy maintaining a staff and running a house and lands of that size. All the organization and keeping track of all the details really appeals to me.

So along with publishing Basic Trouble, quadrupling my self-employed contracts, and earning lots of money, I'm also on the lookout this year for a lovely castle and some land in need of a laird. Let me know if you hear of any openings.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Victory, or The Tale of Those Who Lived

The final battle is complete. It's over. Done. It was beautiful. It was fun to write. Now everything left are end-of-story, draw-everything-together scenes. There's still one last semi-big event, but the climax is over. I'm a little melancholy but mostly excited that I'm that much closer to ending what has become a very long book.

That sad little tracker at the top of the blog looks like it's never getting anywhere because I have to keep adjusting the total "goal" number up so I don't run out of tracker. I can't predict how much longer the book is going to take (I thought it was going to be wrapped up over 30,000 words ago). It can't be much, since the climax is past. Soon, it'll say 100%. Then I think I should have a party.

Monday, January 5, 2009

That Girl

So a few days ago, Cody and I were roaming the mall more just to get out of the house than to shop. In one of the more trendy stores, I saw a teenage girl in fashionable clothing and sunglasses. Sunglasses. In the mall. I proceeded to mock her to Cody once we were several stores away.

On Friday, I was that girl. I had an eye doctor appointment late in the afternoon, and the doctor dilated my eyes. She instructed me to relax my eyes and keep them shaded from too much light. Since most of my favorite activities involve lots of light and things that involve a bit of eye strain, like writing, researching online, reading, and watching TV, we decided to while away some time at the mall. However, to shade my eyes from the mall light, I cruised around in my rather trendy, very large glasses. Of course, I did not have the accompanying Ugg boots, tight jeans, tiny half-jacket, and an inch or three of cleavage showing to make me nearly as trendy as the girl I saw a few days ago. In my normal-fitting jeans and jacket (with a long sleeve shirt and sweater under it), I wasn't going to be mistaken for a celebrity or even someone cool.

Still, it was amusing. And when we got home, I spend the evening chillin' with my shades on inside and avoiding looking at my wildly dilated eyes in the mirror, which after the first hour or so were dilated at different widths. Basically, I looked drugged and creepy. Everything's great with my eyes, though. They're healthy and my prescription only changed slightly in one eye.

I was also smart and got all my writing done yesterday in advance of the appointment. Good stuff, too. Each writing session feels like I'm making leaps toward the finish line.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On a Roll

Another 13 pages done today! Whew! That was a lot. The fight scene is officially over! Now it's clean-up and wrap-up time, then a few final scenes to tie the story together. Hooray! I'm so close!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Heaven

A Borders near(ish) my house recently closed, and everything in the store was selling for 40% off. As much as it saddens me that my favorite new bookstore is having to shut down stores to stay in business, I nobly did my part to help them generate as much money as they could from the store's closing. Between Cody and I, we saved nearly $60 on books! (I'll let you do the math on how much we spent.) Here's what I got:

  • Two Fox Trot books (And When She Opened the Closet, All the Clothes Were Polyester and How Come I'm Always Luigi?). I love Fox Trot. I've collected almost all the books and read them often.

  • Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan. I've never read any in this series (the book says it's "A Carpathian Reunion"), but when a hardbound of an author I like is only $5 and then 40% is being taken off that, it was a no-brainer.

  • Mercury's War by Lora Leigh. I've picked this book up several times and put it back because I really didn't need any more new books (again, 40% off means all bets are off). Leigh's books are deliciously steamy and paranormal, a great combination.

  • Night Secrets by Cherry Adair. I love her books. I love her website. I am adapting to her paranormal books (I still think her nonparanormal T-FLAC books are the best). Again, steamy. Her characters are intense and intelligent and fun even when they're in bad situations.

  • Up in Smoke by Katie MacAlister. I'll buy anything she writes. She's hilarious and her characters are great.

  • Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton. This is the only book I went into the store for. I bought the last copy on the ravaged shelves. Victory is MINE!!! (Ahem. Excuse me.)

We stood in line with our books for at least 40 minutes, though since Cody was holding all the books, he might say it was longer. It was such a glorious feeling to walk out of a bookstore with TWO bags full of books!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Final Battle Setbacks

(I actually wrote this post on December 31, but I didn't want to interrupt the Year-end Tallies, so I'm posting it a little late today.)

So I've been plugging away at the final battle of Book 2 for what feels like a month now, though I know it can't be that long. Thanks to some recent great advice about some changes I need to make to Basic Trouble, I realized I was making a similar mistake again in the pacing of Book 2. Which meant I would need to go back and add a scene or two into the book. Well, some of the information from those needed-to-be-added scenes was crucial to the final battle scene. I've been trying to get away with just plowing on to the end of the book and writing those new scenes as part of my first editing pass, but it wasn't working. I desperately want to get to the end of the book. And the end is so close!

But I was trying to force it, and forcing it doesn't come out so well on paper. Which is why I was having a hard time meeting my word count each day. So today I did something I try to avoid doing when I'm writing my first draft: I went back through what I'd written and added new text.

I did it safely, and by that I mean I looked for certain scenes and didn't let myself get bogged down in reading everything (which can be a hard temptation to resist). Today, I added the necessary scene (and a good 6 pages) to the middle of the book. I also went through a few chapters later in the novel and added notes to myself of what changes I need to make now because of the new scene.

Tomorrow, I think I'll be able to sit down and continue the final battle scene with confidence! I think I made the right decision, even though I went against one of my personal rules, but it's a good reminder that the novel-writing process is a fluid thing, and no two books or no two books' strategies are going to be the same.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Firsts, 2008

Happy New Year! Did you make any resolutions? I didn't. I have some goals, many of which are the same that they were last year, like finish Book 2, sell Basic Trouble in a three-book deal, get more exercise (all this writing has been great for me, but not so great for my thighs...)--nothing far out of the ordinary, like build my own hot air balloon and sail across the pond to England.

To wrap up my statistical reenactment of 2008, I have saved my favorite list to last: the list of things I did in 2008 for the first time:

Built my own website (Check it out at I hope to improve it tremendously soon, but that's kind of low on the priority list, after finishing Book 2 and getting Basic Trouble into the hands of several agents.)
Started a blog (And look--I've got over 100 entries!)
Emailed with a published author (As in, talked via email, not just sent an email requesting a signature on a book or something like that.)
Wrote my congresswoman (Got a form response, but it was a response, nonetheless.)
Became fully self-employed (Far and away, this is the best thing I've done for myself in years!)

Cody has his own list of things he did for the first time in 2008:

Started his own business (Check out Cody's website! He's got several repeat customers and is getting new clients all the time.)
Built and designed automated blinds using PIC microcontrollers and an LDR sensor (Yes, I just smile and nod, because I'm not completely sure what that means other than he used this lovely little green board with copper (??) wiring, but when light hits the sensor, the blinds shut, and that's way cool!)
Built my computer (...for cheaper than we could buy one. He's since built two more.)
Built a pneumatic robotic arm (He used wood, metal, Plexiglas, and plastics to build this crazy-cool arm.)
Welded (Welding and Cody didn't really take. This is a man who wears shorts in the winter. Enough said, I believe.)

As you can see, Cody's far more technically inclined than me (which is rather convenient for me).

Hey, did you notice the tracking bar at the top? I topped 100,000 words today! (And no, that's not the longest book I've ever written.) I also beat last year's single-day word count total--today I wrote 4,131 words! This final battle scene is finally coming to the climax. Hooray!