inasmuch as it concerns Industrious Thoughts:
Pondering that dysfunctional little corner of the economy known as The Publishing Industry.
OK. Everyone who knows my husband needs to give him a hug for me. Like, right now. Because if it wasn't for him and his generosity in emailing me the latest copy of "The Right Door, The Right Time" (title now condensed to the latter phrase) on absolute short notice and in spite, it must be admitted, of my sickness-shortened temper, I wouldn't have been able to enter that story in last night's Flash Fiction contest.
In which I placed third! Squeeeee! Happy dance!
And among the illustrious personages upon the judges panel was WHC 2006 Toastmaster and, of course, celebrated horror writer Peter Straub! Squeeeeeeee!
There were pictures taken of everyone involved, which Tina Jens of Twilight Tales will be emailing to me, so, pictures as soon as I've got 'em. Tina also invited all the winners to send her their stories so they could be published on the Twilight Tales website, so, links when I've got 'em too.
(Interesting. I hadn't been aware, until going to their website, that Twilight Tales was connected to Tim Broderick's Odd Jobs series. It's obviously been awhile since I've checked in--maybe it's not called that anymore--but they seem to have the whole Lost Child storyline hosted there, and they sell a hard copy graphic novel edition of Something To Build Upon.)
I won a great Twilight Tales T-shirt and copy of one of their anthologies, Blood and Donuts. But I am in much covetous admiration of the first place prize--which was well earned by that winner, whose story was amazing and funny and totally effed up. That was a plain white shirt with black sleeves which sad, simply, in red serif print, "I Read Like A Motherfucker"--in homage to that immortal countdown which starts the five minutes ticking for each competitor. ("Three... Two... Rrrrread like a motherfucker!")
I'm writing this while sitting in on the traditional Gross-Out Contest, which I am emphatically not going to participate in. I could absolutely not compete with champions in this tournament. There's a lot of potty humor involved. In great detail. And with much hilarity. After a few minutes, the MC takes away the microphone and asks the audience to show by their thumbs--up or down--whether the contestant should be allowed to continue. I'm almost ready to leave, not because I'm too grossed out or anything--I've no problem hearing descriptions of things as long as I don't have to watch them acted out on TV--but because some of the more enthusiastic contestants get a little close to the mike and sting my ears.
As for the second session of the Editing Workshop, that went well. We only went over out 3-hour time window by about 15 minutes, which was pretty impressive, and the critiques were more in-depth than I would have expected from a read-aloud format. Stephen Jones did indeed join us, but not for the reading and critiquing; instead he gave us a great talk and Q&A on the business of anthology publication. He also gave us his atcual web address, which found myself strangely unable to Google up yesterday. My story went over well, with much love for the POV character and the diary format, and the main thing everyone pointed out that needed improvement was the ending. No surprise; I still haven't figured that on out myself. I got some good suggestions as to how I might resolve that. The title needs changing, too; I need to think about that.
Next, I hope to get a new draft done in time to submit it to Borderlands Press's "Writer's Boot Camp" (deadline May 15, no application fee, workshop takes place August 4-6).
And I'm feeling much better today, thanks!
Uh-oh. Gotta go. They're about to start throwing chickens at the contestants.
Fan Fiction: Good For The Soul
Well, sometimes fan fiction is bad for the brain, or at least is accompanied by a lack of a brain, as is evidenced by the case of Lori Jareo. Lori wrote a Star Wars fanfic, cranked it through a POD-machine, and then put it up for sale on Amazon. Despite trying to make a buck off of it in Bezos's backyard, she thinks she'll dodge the impending copyright/trademark violation cease-and-desist with the claim that she only did it for friends and family and that no one knows it exists. John "Whatever" Scalzi begs to differ.
But I digress. In its place, fan fiction can be good for the soul. It can be a playground in which the blocked writer lets the creative self play and play out from under the thumb of the editor-ego. And that's what I've been up to this week.
My dabblings in that arena have been few and, aside from one story that was turned in as an assignment in high-school English (a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale set in the world of Rush's 2112), largely unread. But every once in awhile I get this Idea. It tends to be the sort of Idea that sticks around for awhile.
Here's one of 'em.
I just got done feeding my annual craving to reread Michael Ende's The Neverending Story. If you've only ever seen the movie (and if, Gods forfend, you've suffered through the abomination that is the second movie), then you owe it to yourself right now to go get this book and read it. But if you've seen the movie, you'll remember how this disembodied narrator voice comes out of nowhere in the last minute of the movie and says something like, "Bastian made many more wishes and had many, many adventures. But that's another story." In the book, the narrative does that all the time. Some chapter will come to an end, and a secondary character will wave goodbye, and the narrative will hint at what will become of the character but then break off with, "But that's the beginning of another story that will be told at another time."
Ever since I first read this book, I've wanted to write a cycle of short stories, each one inspired by one of these "another story" teases. So this week I started playing around with one of the first prompts. It involves Cairon, the black zebra-striped centaur physician who assigns Atreyu his quest, whose "destiny was to lead him over very different and unexpected pathways" after he successfully delivers his message and nearly dies of the effort.
I have no illusions that the results will be publishable, not without seeking all the right permissions and of course rewriting and revising and rewriting again. But it's fun to dabble. It's a good thing to work on when I've just finished one project and can't seem to get started on another. And who knows? Maybe it will have a destiny upon unexpected pathways itself, ones beyond gathering cyber-dust at the bottom of my writing archive zip disk.
(And come to think of it, the Rapunzel story might in fact become publishable if the fanfic element remains oblique enough. Someone's looking for retold fairy tales.)
Public Service Announcement: Scam Agents Are Bad
Quoth Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
Want to strike a blow against scam agents? Link to the 20 Worst Agents list. While you're at it, link to Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors. You could even link to Everything you wanted to know about literary agents and On the getting of agents. But the 20 Worst Agents list—that's the important one.So she has said; so it has been done. Because I want my very own cease-and-desist letter from Barbara Bauer. Because I hear they're collector's items.
Remember, friends, the wisdom of Yog Sysop: "Money Flows Towards The Author." Remember that a literary agent who is paid out of your advance and royalties has an economic incentive to sell your book, and a so-called "agent" who is paid from up-front fees, editing charges, and annual "retainers" has no such incentive. Remember that an advance against royalties is a both the publisher's estimate of how much a book will sell and a publisher's investment in getting that book to sell; realize what that implies about a $1 advance. Remember that an agent who makes a big deal about being "first-time author friendly" or a publisher who claims to "give your book the chance it deserves" isn't interested in your career; s/he's interested in your naivety.
Follow the links above and innoculate yourself against scams.
On Kicking Other Manuscripts Off The Couch, The Lazy Bums
- 5,000 wds. long
Aaaaaand another one goes back out into the world.
Have I ever linked to The Black Hole? Black Hole good. It's a database of paying F/SH/H markets and their minimum/maximum/average submission response times. It also contains relatively up-to-date guideline and masthead information. It's toothsome, low-fat, and high in fiber. Go nibble on it yourself.
Now. Now I have so badly got to write a synopsis for Drowning Boy. More later. Probably after sunrise.
Mostly About Train Accomodations
- 58,644 wds. long
- 119.25 hrs. revised
Approaching Omaha, Nebraska. All roads lead there. This track goes there, in any case. I'm going to bed, having finally gotten myself out of chapter two and into Mike's gold corvette at the beginning of chapter three.
One of these days I'll actually get through the whole damn book. And then I shall hobble out to the bus, being too old to safely drive, and limp into the post office, and say, "What new-fangled devices do you have for sending two hundred and fifty page manuscripts to publishers? Back in my day, we used cardboard boxes. Do you have some sort of instantaneous matter transport for this now? Because," and here I shall flip my long white hair most fetchingly, "I didn't get to the age of one hundred and seventy just to keep on using cardboard boxes!" Because that is how old I shall be when this damn book is finally ready for prime time.
Meh. Back on the train. I upgraded to a sleeper because, y'know, I could, and I was curious, and I liked the idea of complimentary dinner in the diner and a room/closet of my own with privacy and a bed.
I got a lot of writing done. There is an outlet in the room (it says "razors only" but I don't think they actually mean that anymore), so I could keep my laptop charged without worrying about the cafe lounge steward asking me, "Did you take the duct tape off that outlet?" all accusatory-like. And since I'm not in the cafe lounge, I am not constantly being asked "So is that schoolwork? What are you studying?" and being told, "Writing, huh? I wrote a few things myself," and being invited to play spades with a trio headed for Greenwood, Mississippi, and being asked where the outlet is, and all. And I've been playing my music without headphones, and singing along, and everything.
On the other hand, all of the above are reasons why riding coach is great for socializing. I had a lot of fun playing spades last night, and I got into all sorts of neat conversations that started with someone asking me what I was studying, and I was able to find Laura at The Corner Bakery because my cell phone conversation with her was overheard by someone with a map. On this leg of the trip, the only socializing I've really done has been over dinner--but whoa, boy, did some socializing get done. (Hi, Jason! You're supposed to be writing, remember? Go on! Meh-heh-heh-heh.) And I've only been in the cafe lounge twice. The first time was to acquire a cup of hot water for my tea (the steward was all like, "No," and "Where did you get that cup?!" and then, "Oh, sleeper? OK," and then he filled it up with hot water finally. Apparently the cups by the coffee machine in sleeper are distinctive and arouse suspicion in the lounge car). The second time was to contiune the conversation begun over dinner when the dining car stewards asked us to leave so they could clean up.
So I suppose the summary is, riding coach is like staying in a mobile youth hostel, while riding sleeper is like being on a cruise ship. The lack of privacy in coach leads to meeting a lot of people, unless it leads to covering your face with your jacket and your ears with your headphones, which it does for just about everyone at night because the aisle lighting and general movement about the car can lead to insomnia. The availability of privacy in the sleepers leads to much enjoyment of said privacy, which includes the ability to turn off all the lights and sleep in whatever state of undress you please. And, y'know, I'm OK with that. Once in a while. When I have the extra $$ to spend on it.
Tomorrow: Breakfast, another hour or two of novel revision (that would be Brian's abortive road trip and much flashback of his conversation with Todd the night before), and arrival in Denver. And finally getting to post these blog posts I haven't been able to yet. Beware Of Backdating.
Period of Mourning
- 15,510 wds. long
So, I did about 2,000 words yesterday. I plan to do another 2,000 words today. But I'm having one of those "Who the hell cares about my petty concerns?" days, ever since hearing that they're pulling the plug on SciFiction. Damn it. Without my ever managing to sell Ellen Datlow a story for it. Double damn.
You should go there, now, and read the voluminous archives of short fiction. I think it'll be on display until the new year; after that, all bets are probably off. Today I read the latest original story on it ("Man For The Job," by Robert Reed) and over the next few weeks I'll read the archives in backwards order, one story at a time. Such a wealth of fiction should not go to waste. I hope someone (Ellen Datlow maybe?) will anthologize it.
So, yeah. Huge, huge bummer.
Talk to you in another 2,000 words, I suppose.
You mean I'm allowed to do Adam & Eve spec. fic.?
- 257 wds. long
Sex and the YA Novel
- 52,888 wds. long
- 7.50 hrs. revised
Western society lives in a most incredible state of denial. The more I hear about schools wanting to ban books like The Giver and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, the more I'm amazed at the sheer duplicity of it all. "We can't let teenagers read about sex like it was normal!" When of course not only is sex normal to humanity, it's exceedingly normal to adolescence. I mean, think about the hormonal storm that puberty unleashes in a teenager. If YA literature conspires to pretend sex doesn't exist--or to only acknowledge sex as That From Which Godly Folk Refrain--why are we surprised when kids don't know how to handle their urges and start hating themselves for having those urges?
It's just freakin' stupid, OK? That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
None of which helps me figure out how best to handle the main story arc of my novel, in which a love spell comes to fruition with frightening effectiveness. The "climax" of that problem occurs when the two main characters Very Nearly Do It, and if you can't put that in YA literature, where the heck do you put it, given that the characters are high-school students? How do you write about real live fourteen-year-olds with hormones and emotions and believable complexity and still escape the censure of your community?
You get one lie for free, because it's fiction. I've already used up my lie quota on the magic notebook. I'm not going to push my luck by pretending that teenagers Never, Ever Think About That.
I remember a phone conversation with my grandmother recently; she had just finished complaining about all the sex and violence in today's TV, all the nudes in today's artwork, all the sex in today's pop songs... and then she wants to know when she gets to read my book. "I don't think you'll like it much," I said.
Neil Gaiman: "I once said in an interview that I'd just about got used to the idea that my parents would probably be reading anything I wrote when I realised that my kids were now reading anything I wrote."None of the above, of course, excuses the extremely self-indulgent way I treated the almost-sex-scenes in the NaNoWriMo draft. The rallying cry of "Realistic Teenagers, For Gods' Sake!" shouldn't be confused with the ubiquitous spam come-on of "We Got Yer Hot Teen Pr0n Right Here." So I'm making lots of notes in the margins along the lines of "Back off," or "She only gets as far as touching his zipper," or "What are you, fixated? Stop it!"
Whoo-boy, type-in's gonna be fun.
On Hypothetical Deadlines
- 52,888 wds. long
- 2.00 hrs. revised
- 44,982 wds. long
- 41.25 hrs. revised
Did I mention that I mailed the book proposal off Wednesday? I mailed the book proposal off Wednesday. I imagine it's in a towering stack of book proposals, manilla envelopes weighing a pound and a half each, early birds with first class stamps lording it over late-comers with their electronic priority mail postage stickers. I imagine a room filled with the smell of coffee, the slowly hystericizing giggles of overworked slush readers punctuated by the rip of envelopes and the flip of pages.
Well, no, it's probably a little early for slush readers to get slush drunk. At 8:00 AM Pacific Time, it might even be too early for slush at all. I have no idea what a WOTC slush reader's schedule is like.
And how's the book coming, you ask? You just keep right on asking that. You go right ahead. While you're at it, ask me how much sleep I'm going to get tonight. Uh-huh. That's right.
In better news, NaNoEdMo 2005 is coming along nicely.
And let's close this morning's entry with product placement: Have you looked through your share of keyholes today? Well, why not? Look at the kind of stuff you get to see! For instance, this blog entry features a lovely composite satellite image of Gasworks Park, in Seattle, where several important scenes in this story take place. Look! You can see the sundial!
(It should be noted that Google--who bought the software, incorporated it into their Maps Beta, and renamed it "Google Earth"--did not pay me to say that. But I wouldn't turn down payment for having said it. Should Google feel moved to grant me a free subscription for plugging this delightful piece of software, I won't complain.)
In Which The Author Gets All Macho-like.
- 48,078 wds. long
- 31.50 hrs. revised
- 52,888 wds. long
- 0.00 hrs. revised
Oft-heard advice to writers new to the novel-writing scene: "Do not send in your 3+synop to an agent or publisher until the entire novel is finished!" I agree. Until you've written a few of these beasts and determined for yourself how long it takes you to finish—hell, until you've determined that you can finish—it's sheer madness to send out the first three chapters of an unfinished novel. Not only do you risk getting a request for the full manuscript before the full manuscript is actually ready; you risk those first three chapters developing changes as you finish the rest of the novel, causing your original submission to become inconsistent with the full manuscript. Both of these problems are bound to cause you to lose reputation points.
Well, hey. Madness. Fine place to visit. I'm headed there Monday.
The WOTC deadline is March 1. That leaves only, erm, 9 days between now and then. And here's where I'm at: I've got three chapters done and edited, all except for the final fine-tuning. What the hey. Let's ship 'em off on Monday and then write like a fiend, right?
Reason 1: If I don't submit until after I've edited the whole manuscript, I'm going to miss the deadline. So it's go mad, or just stay out of the pool.
Reason 2: I've mostly been stuck on the edit because I know the novel needs a lot more structure and interim crises than it has at the moment. If I prepare a submission for mailing on Monday, that means I'll have written up a synopsis and a well-organized, exciting chapter-by-chapter outline. Ta-da! Structure and crises. After that, the rest of the edit should go swimmingly.
Reason 3: Submitting on Monday puts me in the position of either hoping they don't pick my submission as one of the ten finalists, or working like a dog to get the manuscript ready in case they ask for it on March 2. I don't enter contests that I hope not to win, which leaves me only plan B. Tricking the external world into enforcing my internal deadlines is a nice way to make deadlines stick.
Reason 4: This is not the novel I want to work on for National Novel Editing Month. Nope. This is. Accordingly, I need to get the current novel the hell out of my way by the time March 1 rolls around.
So, there you go. Four reasons for the absolute madness of a first-time novelist submitting the first three chapters without having the rest of the manuscript in hand. If I manage to get caught with my literary pants down, you'll be the first to know. But I ain't planning on that happening. Just You Watch.