Sunday, August 19, 2007

News, Shopping, Incurable addictions...

Keep writing. That's always been everybody's motto on how to be a writer - keep writing. Sometimes, though, it's been hard. Really hard. Like, you're writing this story (*cough* "The Middle Child" *cough*), and you absolutely know it's heading in this awful, sticky, amateurish direction ("quirky college romance??!"). And you don't want to keep writing, because the more you write the farther you go into the awful direction ("does the boy like her? Will her sisters understand?!") and the longer and less structured the story gets. So you'd quit, right? Or at least, you'd want to - but then you'd imagine that all the literary greats emerging out of the pages of your University-assigned bookpile and pointing fingers of contempt in your direction.

You're not a writer! You're quitting a story! Any shmuck can start a story, a real writer can finish it! etc, etc.

But of course, all those people are right about keeping writing - because, as in my case, eventually in the course of writing I finally got a whiz-bang idea that made me delete/burn all of the previous pages and start afresh on the same story but in a whole new direction. See, they tell you to keep writing.

They never said anything about keeping what you write.

So I've got a whole new idea for "The Middle Child" (and it'll probably get a new title, soon, too) and it's been like I've been possessed. It's got a killer opening line, and it's cynical and adult and wacky and bizarre and SO MUCH BETTER than the previous incarnation which was "three-headed girl meets one-headed guy. Can their teenage love survive??" So yeah, I'm happy.

In the "bad me, BAD ME!" *wrist slap* department, after I deep-cleaned my room (partly to make room for books) I sold a bunch of my old, unwanted books at this second-hand place. Due to luck, or maybe my obsessively-well-kept condition of my books, the employee took nearly all of them and gave me $70 bucks back. The problem? I spent $25 of that on 5 second-hand romance novels, $30 of that on three new books (one fantasy, one romance, one sequel to PC Cast's excellent-you-have-to-read-it Divine By Accident; Divine by Choice), and then my prizes from the Smart Bitches' LOLurve Contest came in the mail - so now I have, like, 10 new books on top of all the other books on TOP OF my new University Books which have yet to be read. Gee, darn....*lol*

I spent the rest on two pairs of new dangly earrings and a ticket to see Stardust (with modest concessions). I'll be reviewing the movie for Green Man Review pretty soon.

So yeah - I still have my book-buying problem. There are worse addictions, definitely - books don't make me fat for reading too many (they can even make me thin if I read them while exercising, which I do), I'm not allergic to them, no one thinks you're a fat cow if you sit in a public place reading all alone, they're addictive as hell but the worst physical effects they give you are headaches...I'm not doing too badly.

Also, I'm a redhead now - no, for real this time. My done-in-a-box colour was fading, and for a last-year-in-University present, my parents paid for me to have it done professionally - so now it's a deep, shiny ruby red with gold highlights. It's actually very lovely on my complexion, and it'll probably last a lot longer.

Chao for now, I have to keep digging at my To Be Read pile, writing my stories/novels, and getting ready for school

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Submitted: "House Hunting"

To Realms of Fantasy magazine. I actually did it with real paper and envelopes and International Reply Coupons - it's weird, because I've gone such a long time without sending actual, physical manuscripts. So many of the magazines take electronic submissions.

So I spent about seven bucks on postage. Oh well.

Sorry I haven't updated much - I went to Animethon (which was great - check out Ouran High School Host Club - seriously, it's great!), then I had two ten-hour workdays (five hours at one job, five at the Disney job) which leaves me very little time for anything productive. And today I went ahead and deep-cleaned my room. I'm relatively tidy - I mean, you can always find a clear view of the carpet when you come into my room (which isn't always the case with Sister #2), but I tend to be a severe packrat, and a lazy packrat, too. I don't just run out of room for all my things, but I put them back in the wrong places because I'm too tired to look for the proper ones.
So today was the day I went in and cleaned everything up. I filled FOUR black garbage bags with broken knapsacks, old receipts, first drafts of forgotten novels, old shoes, dusty adapters and extension cords....Sure, I could have saved some of that stuff, but that's the thing, if I say I'm going to save it, it'll be stuck there collecting dust for another year so I just went ahead and threw a lot of it out. As a result I found:

-several pairs of lost earrings

-several pairs of (hopefully clean, not brave enough to check) underwear that were not put away

-a twenty dollar bill in one of my forgotten purses (I spent some on dessert and a movie for me and my sibs today, and I think I'll spend the rest on a novel).

I also got a wack of old books piled up to sent to the second-hand bookshop with my parents on Friday. We try to go every year. We're real big on books in my family, so every year we end up having to "cull" some. I'm the only major contributor among my sibs - I always wonder what Sisters 1 and 2 do with only two shelves of ratty YA novels apiece. And then I'll spend that culling money on a ticket to see Stardust, and maybe on the Jack Skellington hooding I've been eying in the Disney Store.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Question of Medium

I've found something out recently - because I haven't been home much to do my writing on my laptop, I've been resorting to the old-fashioned notebooks-and-pens method. Ever since I got my laptop, the writer's callous on my right middle finger's shrunk, because I've been typing more of my stories because I've always felt it's been faster.

But I've come to realize that I just might write more if I write it first on paper, and then on laptop. Who'da thunk, right? Well, the largest piece I ever wrote - my terribly cheesy first novel The Shining Empress - started out as a huge binder of scribbled looseleaf before I took it over and translated it onto my laptop. I always thought that writing on the laptop was faster, so I think I started to limit my writing to my laptop.

For instance, if I was on the bus and had an idea, I wouldn't write it down - I'd save it for the laptop. Same if I was at work or at school. I also didn't write if the laptop wasn't working, or if it was too much trouble for my lazy sensibilities to carry it up from the basement or down from my bedroom, or if I just couldn't be bothered to wait the two minutes it takes for it to fully boot-up. I had no idea how much it hampered my writing.

Plus, I come up with more when I write in a notebook. When I write on the laptop, I'm writing a story on a machine that's carrying dozens of my old stories at the touch of my fingertips, so I'm always tempted to stop writing and re-read, or stop my current writing and re-read what I've written. And then I discover I've spent an hour writing only a few paragraphs. That's not so bad when I write in a notebook, because I have to turn so many pages I don't bother.

And yes, while I write slower when I'm physically penning words, I think it helps my writing. When I'm on my laptop, I write at about 80 words per minute - and it's almost too fast for my ideas to catch up, so I'll write about a paragraph and just go blank for a minute or two while I scramble to think about something else to write. When I'm writing in a notebook, I have lovely, curving handwriting, so it's fun and my ideas come to me naturally so I don't have to pause nearly so often.

Since I've started writing in my notebook, I've written much more regularly than before. So I guess that's how I learn. I'll write in my notebook, and then translate it onto my computer. Plus - it's much more secure. If I drop my laptop off a cliff, there are at least five stories that were born on that machine and have no backups except on disks, but my novel and my screenplay and my short story "The Middle Child" are all in books.

Rejection, Times Two: But With a New Hope

Sorry I haven't been blogging lately - I had to work a thirty-hour week in the space of three days, so I've had precious little time to myself.

As it is, I received rejection letters for "Parasite: A Love Story" from Clarkesworld and "House Hunting" from Strange Horizons, but there were pretty thick silver linings on both of those clouds.

For the Clarkesworld rejection, I got a personalized rejection from the editor about why my story wasn't accepted - he didn't like the beginning scene with the whiskey because he felt it didn't do much other than introduce people to the world, and he also said they ran a similar aliens-take-over-humans story in their previous issue. But, on the plus side, he made the (increasingly frequent) comment that my writing "wasn't bad." So I still have potential.

The rejection from Strange Horizons was a lot better. The editor wrote back to say she really liked "House Hunting," thought it was a charming and engaging story, but her other editors weren't as charmed by it and they had to make some tough calls, so it didn't make the cut. But still - a professional editor, if she'd been alone, would have accepted "House Hunting"! She liked it! I can't wait to send it somewhere else - I have to say, I do think "House Hunting" is one of my best stories, because while I sometimes get an "eeeh" feeling when I reread some of my old ones that makes me nervous about their quality, everytime I've read "House Hunting" I still have that "hot damn, I'm good" feeling.

I'm pretty sure I'd like to send it to Realms of Fantasy. I haven't sent anything their way since "My Brother's Own Words" because their rejection (at least, I'm assuming it was a rejection) got lost in the mail. Seriously. I received my Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope and not only did it not have any returning address on it, but it was open, and empty. But I think I'll try again with "House Hunting" - the rejection from Strange Horizons really makes me believe it has serious potential.

Also, I'm reading Margo Lanahan's Black Juice, and it's really prodding me to be more faithful to my short stories, especially the first draft I'm working on, "The Middle Child" which is proceeding very stubbornly. It keeps trying to turn itself into a young romance, but I want it to be significant and artistic, y'all. Stop flirting with cute guys and start thinking about the effects of having three heads, main character!

Monday, August 06, 2007

"The Raven Prince" by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Chick: Anna Wren, a mousy widow who hires herself out as a secretary to keep herself, her kindly mother-in-law, and her maid in stockings and sewing needles. As hard as she tries to keep herself as proper as a widow should be, she's frankly tired of seeing men frequent whorehouses and remain blameless.
Shady Past: Her late husband cheated on her with the village belle, and Anna blames her barrenness for his infidelity.

The Dude: Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, a brooding, temperamental, pox-scarred nobleman who returns to his ancestral home to spruce it up for his intentions to find a bride. Despite his attractions for Anna, he's afraid his scars repulse normal women and turns to whores instead.
Shady Past: He lost his entire family to the smallpox that scarred him, and his first wife died in childbirth cursing his ugliness.

The Plot:
Edward: I need a secretary!

Anna: I can write!

Edward: You're hired! Wait - you're a woman? I'll just use my patented remedy for unwanted attractions to proper widows - one visit to a whorehouse, on the double!

Anna: Grrr...NO FAIR. *disguised as whore* Hey, baby.

Edward: Hurrah!

*Masked Georgian Bordello Sex!*

Edward: I'm cured! Wait a I'm not.

Anna: Here are those papers you asked for.

Edward: *recognizes!*

Anna: *recognized!*

Edward: Slut!

Anna: Whoremonger!

Edward: I'm ugly and you're lustful!

Anna: You're sexy and I'm in love with you!

Edward: Yeah, I like your version better. Marry me!

Anna: Not for another 100 pages!

Edward: DAMMIT!

Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 horny widow
1 scarred, brooding dark hero
1 hooker with heart-of-gold
1 proper wife who actually is a slut, sans heart of gold
2 Romantically Lackluster Exes
1 Misunderstanding

The Word: I actually enjoyed this, for the most part. I particularly emphathetized with Anna. While yes, she did go beyond the social strictures for Georgian widows, she was aware she was doing so, and she had believable and relatable reasons to be exhasperated with social norms. Edward managed to be the stereotypical overbearing, arrogant, dark, broody, beast hero and still seem completely new and layered. The sex scenes I skimmed- I do with most romances I find, nowadays. Graphic sex scenes make me uncomfortable and bored so I skim to make sure I'm not missing any crucial character development and go on to the parts that matter - the dialogue and description. Whoo damn, great dialogue! I loved Anna and Edward's repartee. Edward's first lines - muttering obscenities at a horse - grabbed me and really clued me in to his character. I found the epilogue to be a little convenient - *kinda spoiler* I mean, it's nice Anna found out she could have kids but this development was just out of the blue and seemed too easy. Other than that, though, a great story. A - (yeah, I'm getting rid of the Crush du Jour Rating - I was tired of uploading images all the time. So sue me.)

"Anyone But You" by Jennifer Crusie

The Chick: Nina Askew, a woman new to her 40s who buys an ugly, smelly dog to emotionally recover from her recent divorce.
Shady Past: In her previous marriage, her husband was the absent breadwinner and she was the dependent housewife - so now she's on her own.

The Dude: Alex Moore, a hot ER doctor just into his 30s who lives below Nina. He's content to remain an ER doc, but a family full of "something-ologists" is pressuring him to choose a specialty.
Shady Past: His father's a drunk, and it's looking like his older brother is going down that path, too.

The Plot:
Alex: You're hot!

Nina: You're a child!

Alex: I'm a hot piece of man-child!

Nina: Despite the fact you're a doctor, I'm pretty sure you'll be totally disgusted and probably mentally scarred if you expose your tender 30-year-old senses to my 40-year-old naked body!

Alex: And I'm so afraid you think I'm a feckless youth that I'm going to ignore everything you say and start turning myself into your ex-husband!

Fred (the aforementioned ugly, smelly dog): *WOOF!*

Nina and Alex: Problem solved! *kissyface humpysex*

Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 Relationship-aiding pet
2 Sexually-experienced, meddling best friends
1 Romantically Lackluster Ex
1 Very Bad Parent

The Word: I enjoyed Crusie's Bet Me - but this is like Bet Me - Lite, all the plot, none of the emotional depth. It could be because this book is only about half the length of Bet Me, so that all the characters seem compressed, but it's basically the same story. Woman with body issues but no plan to have kids leaves man who doesn't understand her (and wants her to have kids) and meets a man who loves her for who she is and has to repeatedly tell her so. The writing and dialogue have Jennifer Crusie's trademark zing, but if Bet Me's within easy reach, this book is definitely skippable.

Crush du Jour Rating:
Hugh Laurie says: "What are you waiting around for? Get Bet Me instead." B-

"Sins of Midnight," by Kimberly Logan

The Chick: Lady Jillian Daventry, the curvy, ebony-haired, scandal-courting eldest daughter of a Marquis. Of course, her scandals have nothing to do with actual scandal, but instead in her secret investigative partnership with the Bow Street Runners.
Shady Past: Four years prior, her mother was murdered and her killer apparently committed suicide - but Jillian believes the real criminal is still out there.

The Dude: Connor Monroe - a wealthy trademan, who sports auburn hair, "aqua eyes," and a sculpted bod, natch. Someone out there with an insane grudge is murdering his closest friends and confidantes, and he'd like to find out who.
Shady Past: Grew up in the London Streets with an evil stepfather while protecting his vulnerable brother Brennan.

The Plot (in dialogue):
Connor: My friends are dying! I need a Bow Street Runner!

Jillian: I'm no Runner, but my daddy studied criminology! Lookee! *findsclues*

Connor: Alright...

Jillian: But we have to keep our partnership a secret!

Connor: Why?


Connor: I see. Well, how 'bout I reminisce about my past and blame myself for everything that's ever gone wrong, ever, while you proceed to do all the work and disobey everything I say, ever, while remaining obsessed over your dead mom?

Jillian: As long as we can squeeze some kissyface humpysex in somewhere.

Connor: How 'bout now?

Jillian: Okay! *kissyface humpysex*

Insane Grudgeholder: Nyaa-hahaha! *kills again*

Romance Convention Checklist:1 Interclass Romance
1 Bout of Convenient Amnesia
1 Anachronistically Independant Female
1 Evil Twin
1 Romantically Lackluster Ex
1 Dirty Dancing reference ("He didn't do it officer - I was with him all night. ALL NIGHT.")
1 Obvious Sequel Setup (Gabriel Sutcliffe + Jillian's li'l sis Maura)

The Word: M'eh. The mystery's kinda obvious - cat's outta the bag once Connor says, "Oh, I should tell Jillian everything - except anything to do with Brennan. Yeah. Cause he's dead. Totally dead. Didn't find his body, but he's got to be dead." Jillian and Connor are alright - but neither has any defining characteristics that I could root for or empathize with. As for the romance - they spent more time telling themselves why they couldn't do it, than actually doing anything. While I think a certain amount of internal monologue is necessary - the story should take place more out of the characters' heads than in.

Crush du Jour Rating:
Alan Rickman says: "Stop thinking and make out already!" C

I have been elevated!

Huzzah! Today is a fabulous day! A week ago, I entered a contest over at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels, a contest in which one has to make a LOLcat into a romance cover, and provide an acceptance/refusal letter from a publisher. Here was my entry:

And today I found out that I won! I won prizes! First off - I'm getting an unabridged CD audiobook of Susan Elizabeth Phillip's Match Me If You Can, then a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate (which I've put towards Loretta Chase's Not Quite a Lady), and then, most lovely of all - the thing that no money can buy - a Smart Bitch Title!

Basically, it's an aristocratic title that reads like something convoluted and probably French - that read out loud sounds like something vaguely dirty (for instance, I know a previous contest winner who was dubbed Marchionesse Manne-Sausse). Well, now I am a member of the Smart Bitch Peerage:

*LOL!* I'm so pleased! And to express that, I'm just about to provide you with a long-awaited book review of Sins of Midnight, a.k.a. the romance novel I picked out at random. I haven't been doing book reviews of late, because a lot of my reading lately has left me apathetic - the experience has been pleasurable, but I haven't been able to come up with anything to write about in my review. Maybe Sins of Midnight will kick-start a few dusty reviews (like for Anyone But You or The Raven Prince).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I've changed my template!

Yup, I was getting tired of the same old grey and pink - so I switched it around. I've also got a new book on my "To Be Read" list - Sins of Midnight by Kimberly Logan. Heard of her? I haven't - I was waiting for my sister at the library, and I was looking over the shelf of paperback romances, and I literally closed my eyes, waved my arms, and pointed - and checked out the first book I saw, which was this one. I'll see if I can review it once I'm done.

Submitted - "Whiff" Heliotrope Magazine. The guidelines say I should wait at least a week after being rejected before submitting something else - since they were prompt enough to reject "Golden Opportunity" way back at the start of July, I submitted "Whiff," which is aimed at an older audience, to them to see what they thought of it.