Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Socks

Today's Tuesday Tip: Don't leave socks around the Bulldog.

When the Bulldog gets bored he likes to get into cloth things. He doesn't really "get" toys yet, unless they have food in them, and he's pretty good at getting the food out. So far he's destroyed a dish rag and two of my scarves, and he keeps stealing The Husband's hat.

Yesterday he broke into a cardboard box of Christmas presents we'd received that I hadn't put away yet. He ripped my newest scarf and ate two socks. We weren't sure about the socks because I hadn't looked at them closely when I'd received them and I had two socks left after we picked up the mess.

Fortunately The Husband's insomnia kicked off last night, and he was still awake when The Bulldog started showing signs of bloat. He rushed him off to the vet, where they induced vomited and reunited me with my lost two socks. Sigh.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

I had the day off, and the snow trickled down.
Lights and garlands adorning the streets of my town,
I ventured outside for a new coffee pot
and to walk my white doggie, who has one brown spot
that covers his eye like a pirate's eyepatch
and charms all the ladies and little kids, natch.
I sang Christmas songs as we walked in the snow
with just one day more, and some hours, to go
before the end of my favoritist time of the year.
How best could I share this last holiday cheer
with my loyal blog readers? I strove to devise
a new way with which I could open their eyes
to the joys of this season, the one I love most.
But others have tried, countless year without end
to share Christmas spirit with loved one or friend.
The true gift of Christmas is found in your heart
and if Dickens can't help you, then where would I start?
So instead I'll just wish you much health, joy, and love,
and hope too much snow doesn't fall from above
and hinder the guests that are driving tonight
to my house for dinner, to my dog's delight.
(If he hopes for a gift of the rabbit sweetmeats,
he shouldn't have used my new book as a treat.)
Our holiday move, "The Ref," is a joy,
and good food will be had by each girl and boy.
So I wish you the best, as my guests ring the bell;
Merry Christmas to all, and much love as well!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Short Story Just in Time for Christmas!

From Ravenous Romance comes a stocking stuffer of a different kind: Sex Toy Stories: Erotic Tales of Naughty Play. This anthology contains my short story, "Geargirl," an action-packed cyberpunk piece about a rigger and her very special van.

This is one of the first short stories I wrote last year, and I'm glad it finally found a home. (You can imagine that cyberpunk erotica is kinda hard to sell.) Briony had a great voice, and the whole thing was just a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Random Writing Prompt

I'm kinda emotionally drained at the moment (but I got my 500 words done!) so today I give you a random writing prompt.

Pick a confidence trick from this wonderful list (and you should read these anyway, can't be too careful!), and then write a short story or brainstorm a story idea wherein someone uses the con with unexpected results. And if that's not enough of a prompt for you, throw in a toaster.

Happy Solstice Everybody!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Write It Down


I've had several good ideas for blog posts lately: this wasn't one of them.

When you get a good idea, write it down.

I always used to think that I'd remember my great idea, but I never did. I started writing them down – when I was near something to write on. (Email works best for me. I tend to throw out bits of paper.) Those of you with smart phones will have less of a problem than I do, as you always have a note-taking device handy. I don't have a smart phone, and I haven't quite developed the habit of making notes on my cell phone.

The other time where I don't write stuff down is when I'm lying in bed. See, I used to have terrible insomnia as a kid, so I would tell myself stories. That way, if I had to be awake at least I was entertained. Somehow, this morphed as I started writing seriously. They tell you not to think about things when you're trying to get to sleep, but my brain has a hard time shutting off. However, if I start trying to work on my current project (usually outlining or world-building) then BOOM, brain turns off.

For the most part that's great, but unfortunately sometimes I have a breakthrough right before I fall asleep, and for whatever reason I still don't keep a notepad by the bed.

Take heed, my fellow writers. Find ways to get those ideas down where they'll be safe. Because if your brain works anything like mine, that fabulous idea is only going to be around until the next one—and that one almost certainly won't be as good as the one that got away.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, December 10, 2010

100 Words About: Dogs and Snow

It snowed again yesterday. The Bulldog loves snow. It's a little odd, since he has such thin fur—I mean, yes, he's a bulldog and they're tough, but you'd think he'd be cold! But he just wants to galumph around and play.

At this point it seems that his neurological issues are due to excessive confinement, and he's shown several other signs of that as well. One of those signs is the fact that he really has no idea what to do with toys. He's started using some of the ones you put treats in, but mostly just to get to the food, not to play with. But outside yesterday The Husband was able to get across to him that we wanted to play out in the snow, and then look out! That was one excited bulldog! (His play calibration is going to need some work, oof!)

Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Tis the Season Not to Overload

It's December, and I was nowhere near completing NaNoWriMo. I'm good with that. Outside of my vacation I've been sticking to my 500 words a day on Project Toadstool, the new novel. Well, except for weekends. And you know, so what? I've made writing a part of my daily schedule and I'm pretty happy with that. There's no magical ruleset that you have to follow to be a writer other than you have to write. I'm writing. That's good enough for me. December is too insane to add more stuff to do.

On the less whiny side, I've discovered the fun of pantsing it again. I really have no idea of how I'm getting from the beginning of my novel to the end I have in mind, and I'm having a lot of fun finding out. So far I've come up with a whole bunch of new characters (I started with two) and a huge subplot. In fact, I'm not sure you can even call it a subplot, it's so big. Fun! And so much less stressful than trying to force myself to outline.

I've also got a few short story ideas to work on, and I'm re-energized to finish my rewrite of 1794. I get to work on those as much as I want – after my 500 words are done. So far, so good.

Now if only I had more vacation time so I could get some extra writing done…

Friday, December 3, 2010

100 Words About: Disney World

I'm back from the family trip to Disney World, and I'm pretty fried. I enjoyed it more overall than I did Island of Adventure at Universal Studios, but I enjoyed The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which is at Island of Adventure) more than I enjoyed Disney World overall. Probably because a) we had no kids with us and b) I felt like I could have just hung out at HP Land all day and done nothing and been happy, whereas Disney is just crowded and full of grumpy children.

Of course, I've been to Disney before and not to Universal Studios, so that could have something to do with it.

I'm apparently getting old - I can't take the rides like I used to. I only went on Space Mountain once because it hurt my neck too much. Sigh. There's something immeasurably sad about that, but I'm too tired to put it into words right now.

I'm also really bummed that they updated the Carousel of Progress. I was looking forward to a time-capsule of the 1960's vision of the future that is now. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Down in F L A

Sorry I didn't get a post out on Friday. We stopped for the night at a totally skanky Motel 6 and I just didn't have the energy.

So I have strep, and got on meds just in time to miss going to my relatives' for Thanksgiving. However, I'm now on vacation with my parents and my sister's family here in sunny Florida.

I'd thought I would have lots of time to write while I was on vacation. Yeah, not so much. Not that I probably couldn't sneak off to a Starbucks or something... The last time I was here it was me and The Husband and the parents, and it was a pretty mellow time. This time I'm being social, and it's a bit of a time sink. Not that I don't like spending time with my family - I do, or I wouldn't be here in the first place. But mellow, restful, productive writing-wise...not so much.

And I'm already sunburned. Joy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This Pain Ain't a Pleasure

Why is it that when I finally break down and make an appointment to see the doctor, I start feeling better within 24 hours? And, yet, I know if I cancel the appointment I'll start feeling crappy again. I think it's my body's way of rewarding me for crying uncle.

And yes, I'm sick. Have been for a few weeks, but it's that annoying kind of sick that's not quite bad enough for you to do anything about it beyond maybe taking some cold meds. The last time I got sick like this I had a low-grade sinus infection for a month and a half. This time it's a sore throat that's lasted a couple weeks.

Sometimes having a high pain threshold can sort of work against you. If I'm not in significant pain to the point of being debilitated, then I'm probably going to ignore it. Especially if I can put it down to something like a sinus infection, or one of my ever-present food sensitivities. And then I tell my doc that I've been sick for two weeks, or that I get headaches four or five times a week, and they give me such a look…

(By the way, if you get mild headaches very often and they can't find a neurological reason, check with your dentist. I got a bite plate for when I sleep and it fixed the headaches right away.)

So I'm off to the doctor's to see if they want to culture my throat or something. Fortunately I start a nice long vacation in a couple days, although The Husband and The Bulldog will be staying home while I visit with family. My parents are driving me. Maybe I can try taking Dramamine so I can type in the car without getting nauseous…on with the novel!

Friday, November 19, 2010

100 Words About: Stuff vs Experiences

We sold my Camaro last night.

It hadn't moved in two years due to some serious rust issues in the floor pan, but other than that it was in fairly good shape. We were very fond of the car but haven't had the funds to sink into it since my bout with unemployment in 2009.

We sold it to a high-schooler and his dad. They're going to restore it together, along with the younger brother. They promised to bring it by when it was all done.

Imagining father and son working together in their garage, remembering the excitement on their faces, the glee in the dad's eyes when he finally got the car running and drove it away—that makes me happy. It's Americana on a level you just don't see as much these days.

We sold it for a song. Worth every penny we didn't get.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not Quite NaNo, Plus RT and SFWA!

It’s the day of acronyms!

So I'm totally behind as far as NaNoWriMo goes, and I've decided that's ok. While I can do 1667 words a day, it's a lot of stress and pressure one me, and with us only having had The Bulldog for about a month, there's lots of training to be done that's more important to me than chasing a word count goal.

My experience so far has been that when I sit down to write, I think of that number 1667, and it's so big that I get discouraged. Whereas when I sit down to write 500 words, that feels like a good reasonable goal. It's doable, so I'm more likely to do it. Therefore, I'm back to the daily 500-words-a-day word goal. I'm really happy I made the attempt though, as it got me started into my new novel; a feat which, as some of you have seen if you've been reading this for awhile, I've been trying to get going for over a year.

I also wrote a 2300-word short story this month and submitted it, so I feel good about that too. I want to keep doing the short fiction while I work on the novel.

Speaking of short fiction, check out my first-ever review in RT Book Reviews! Six of the twenty-one stories in the anthology were mentioned in the review, and mine was one of them! Sweet! The anthology as a whole got four stars.

Graeme's Fantasy Book Review gave a very in-depth look at the anthology, and had very nice things to say about "White Knight, Black Horse." Thanks Graeme! As a whole we got eight and a half out of ten.

And last but far from least, I'm now an associate member in SFWA! Yeay! One sale down, two to go. I've wanted to be a full active member pretty much since I found out about Science Fiction Writers of America. Why? Because it's hard. A girl's gotta have goals, you know?

Top Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 12

I got a little writing done yesterday, but not much. I figured today I could do some catching up since I was taking the day off. Of course, I didn't start writing today until 2:30pm...

I've fled the house and am hanging out at my local library. While they do have the distraction that is WiFi, it's very nice being here as opposed to home. Here I cannot distract myself with laundry or dishes or walking the dog. I have to sit at this little table and look at my computer, and I told myself I can't leave until The Husband gets home around 5:30pm. So far it's been pretty good. I did a little research, then jumped back into the novel.

I still occasionally find myself stopping to think about descriptions, but I just keep reminding myself that I can add it in during revision. It's a hard habit to break. It's also hard to not go back and re-read from the beginning, but I'm not letting myself do that either. Rar! Keep writing, recruit!

Speaking of which...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 10

Didn't get any work on the novel done, but did power through a 2300-word short story. Whew! I feel better now. Back to the YA tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 9

Well, I at least got some writing done tonight. Word wars are fun! 950 words in half an hour, and I came in third out of four people. Up to 7900 words and still chugging. Plus, I finally finished up a small side project that's been nagging at me, so at least that won't distract me anymore. Plus did some world-building over lunch. All in all, a productive day.

Oh yeah, and I got another short story rejection. Form rejection this time, sad.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 8

I am soooo far behind.

As you might guess from the lack of posts, I didn't get any writing done this weekend. In fact, I'll I've got today so far are a few sentences I managed to get down after work before my carpool showed up.

Today was The Bulldog's first obedience class. It's at 7:30pm, which means I have just enough time to walk him and eat dinner after getting home from work before getting on the road to doggie class. The Husband has had gout for the last couple weeks, so that means I get to do all the walks. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people who can plot while walking the dog. (At least, not until he learns some better leash manners. It's a process.)

But I'm not giving up! Tomorrow I'm head out to a 3 hour write-in and we'll see how far I get. I've still got this big unplotted section in the middle. It's not a plot hole, exactly, more like plot fog of war. Or maybe Phase 2.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 5

Ok! Just finished my word count for today. Man, I forgot how much of novel writing is like pulling teeth, but so far, so good! I've got more action, and more plot points are starting to fall into place. Wootness! Now just to figure out what the big external conflict is...

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 4

Of course, the day where I think I'll have time to catch up ends up being the day where I'm struggling just to stay one day behind. At least I did finally get some laundry and dishes done, and I'm up to 5000 words.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 3

Woohoo, I'm on a roll! Of course, I haven't gotten to the hard part yet - ie, the parts where I have no idea what happens. But so far I'm having a lot of fun just writing out all the bad conversations and the extra descriptions and even a silly song. Edit later!!!

In other news, I got a short story rejection today, but it was a really good one. The editor called my story "terrific," thanked me for submitting it, and asked me to submit to her again. Personalized rejections are worth 2 points, you know! ;)

Now I just need to catch up on my word count from the first day of NaNo so I can treat myself to reading Batman: The Killing Joke.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 2

Woohoo, now I'm rocking! Got my 1667 words for today done, and feeling pretty good about it. It's not on any of the projects that I had on my radar, which I think is part of why it's working so well. The other reason is that I'm working with a setting that I already know really well, and any world-building decisions I still need to make are mostly the kind that will get figured out as I write anyway.

The project is a young adult (or possibly middle-grade) novel set using the same rules as my stories "A Wild Hunt" and "Cry Wolf." (Well, actually all of my paranormal stories are written using that world system, but those two actually deal with Faerie.) This is the perfect kind of story for me to use to get back to pantsing a novel, because there is very little research or setting decision-making to distract me; I've already done it all. And since I don't know what's going to be happening in my other stories any more than what's going going to happen in this one, well, why not?

And best of all, now I'm actually excited about it again. Sweet! Now I just need to catch up from all the false starts yesterday...

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 1

Well, so far today I've started Project Geargirl twice, and written about a thousand words of utter crap. I mean, I know first drafts are allowed to suck, but this is more suck than I can take.

The problem is that I have no idea how to get into the story. And I've changed the setting so much that I really can't fit the original story idea into it anymore.

So then I tried to start in on the Encore expansion, but got completely derailed by The Bulldog. By the time I'd taken him out to pee and got him settled down again, I'd totally lost the mojo I'd started rebuilding.

It's all incredibly frustrating. I've probably written close to my word count for today, but I'm not keeping any of it. I think my experiment with quantity over quality is a dismal failure, at least so far.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Let's get this weekend started! And what better way to kick off Halloween than with a spooky, sexy treat of a tale? Head on over to the Free Reads section of my website for a new, never-been-published short story, "Not Quite Casper." Be warned, not only does "Not Quite Casper" contain things that go bump in the night, it also contains explicit sex. Save this one for after you've come home from the office. In fact, I recommend right before bedtime. ;)

Have a safe and fun weekend all, and see you in November for NaNoWriMo!

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who Likes Quickies?

Sometimes noisy neighbors can be a blessing in disguise.

I'm pleased to announce that my short story "Good Neighbors" will be included in Cleis Press's upcoming anthology Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex. This book of steamy flash fiction will be available in March 2011. This is my second time working with Cleis Press and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, and given the quality of the stories in Please, Sir, I'm sure this is one hot anthology you won't want to miss!

And speaking of things not to miss, make sure to check back here on Friday for a new free spooktacular erotic story just in time for the Halloween weekend!

Friday, October 22, 2010

100 Words About: Drool

I knew bulldogs drooled, but wow. The Bulldog's slobber-ribbons have a strange amoeboid self-cohesiveness, and beyond being wet and slimy become slightly sticky when applied to human skin. Blarg! We've been forced to stash washrags around the house to wipe his face with. Good thing for him he's such a cutie.

Poor guy seems to have some neurological issues. We're waiting to hear back from the vet on some tests. Hopefully it's not degenerative, but odds are good it's NCL, in which case we're going to have to revise our expectations a bit. Sigh. But he's supposed to be 4 years old and he's not really bad yet, so maybe we'll luck out and it'll be something else.

Picture from bulldogbreeds.com

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming…

Hey folks, thanks for bearing with me the last week or two. It's been a stressful time, but The Dog is back at the shelter, and we've welcomed our newest addition to the house…The Bulldog! (I thought about actually using his name, but heck, if The Husband doesn't get a name, The Bulldog shouldn't either, I suppose…)

Oh, my gods, I'd forgotten how much work a new dog is. Leash manners, table manners, housebreaking, and we still have to introduce him to the cats…but after The Dog, pfft, that's all nothin'. She trained me so well for my future dogs.

(The Husband just told me "Your number of 'My Wife Is Awesome' points just went up. LOL!)

Anyway, it's nearing the end of October! I love Halloween, although this year it's really snuck up on me. Last year I was participating in the Paranormal Authors Fight Club, which resulted in the free story "A Wild Hunt." This year I'm not doing any contests, but I like the idea of celebrating my second favorite holiday with free words, so on Friday, October 29th, I'll be posting a link here to a new free short story over at my website. And since I'm not playing by someone else's rules, this story is a Mercy Loomis no-holds-barred explicit paranormal erotica original. Oh yeah.

(Which is also why I'm not posting it here…)

And it's almost November! That means it's nearly time for NaNoWriMo! (Eep!) Despite my best attempts to outline, I'll be pantsing this novel for the most part, which is a little nerve-wracking. I figure if I get stuck I can always start on the Encore expansion, which is my next project after my NaNoWriMo novel, codename: Project Geargirl. One novel or two novels, it still counts as long as it's 50,000 words of novel writing, right? Right?

Friday, October 15, 2010

100 Words About: Whole Lotta Sickness Goin' On

It seems like half the people at my job and half the people at The Husband's job are sick. The Husband is not feeling so hot either. What lousy timing! With everyone else out sick, The Husband feels like he can't take the day off and sleep. And we have a doggie to pick up tomorrow! He needs to be healthy to help me manage our new American Bulldog.

When we adopted The Dog originally, she was the product of a couple of months' searching and applying. This time we're going to be dogless for less than a week. And they swear he's cat friendly. For real this time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Cats Will Play

My house is now dogless. It's very weird. We got The Dog only last year in June, but it seemed as if we'd had her for years.

Needless to say, Sunday sucked. A lot.

The handoff went well, as such things go. She was scared at first, being back at the shelter. But then one of the guys who'd worked with The Dog when she was there before came over to us, and I saw something I'd never seen before. The Dog wagged her tail, and then jumped up on him. I've never seen her do that with anyone besides The Husband and me. Clearly she not only remembered him, she liked and trusted him. This gave us a lot of comfort as we kenneled her and walked away.

I spent the rest of Sunday cleaning the house. All the doggie blankets went down to the laundry room. The few leftover dog toys (the ones that she didn't like) were washed and put on top of the dog crate. The crate was washed out and prepped, as were the food and water bowls. There was MUCH vacuuming, and many destroyed dog toys and old beef bones were unearthed and thrown out. And once all that was done, I cleaned off my desk for good measure.

After that we let the cats out. The poor loves have been stuck upstairs since we got the dog. For as many times as we had nearly had them rehomed, I was very glad all those plans had fallen through. They were very skittish at first, but quickly were back to their old demanding selves.

It's very odd, getting used to cats again. The Husband has several times attempted to get the cats to sit purely out of habit, and he also forgot that they always lie and pretend they haven't been fed yet. And they're so short! The Dog was over 80lbs - the cats are each less than 20. I have to keep reminding myself to look for them, or I'm afraid I'll step on them or kick them.

Of course, we've already had one Hairball-of-Displeasure - all over my netbook, which was on the dining room table (that they aren't supposed to be on). Fortunately the netbook was in its case, and I was willing to take that rather than have them decorate the stack of library books sitting next to the netbook.

The hard part now is not having that dog to greet us when we get home. No face in the window or big lanky form on the couch, no collar tags jingling or claws clicking on the floor. No kisses. No lean. No wag.

The Cult of the Dog is a sickness as much as a social phenomenon. After being separated from the cats for so long, I'm seriously having a hard time remembering why I was such an adamant cat lover. All the arguments my dog-owner friends always used keep flashing through my head. "Cats only are nice to you when they want something. As long as they're fed and their box is cleaned, they don't care who takes care of them." To which I always previously answered, "Yeah, so?" It's like cats are friends with benefits, and dogs are the steady live-in SO. Apparently I've decided it's time to settle down.

Friday, October 8, 2010

100 Words About: Countdown

Tomorrow the final rabies exam, Sunday the trip to the shelter. What a way to spend a weekend. I've never been so happy to have a furlough day. (Monday) I'm exhausted and depressed, and the stress is making my digestive system act up worse than usual. Fun. I'll be glad when this is over, such that it will be. The Dog will be in the back of my head until I hear that she's placed. It'll be nice for her to not have to deal with so many people. I just hope life in the shelter doesn't set her back too far.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Tuesday Update

I haven't been writing. Too emotionally drained.

The Dog has had two of three required rabies exams so far, and the vet visits are only underscoring her issues. Both times the poor girl has been so scared she was shaking, and she's never had a bad experience at that vet other than having to deal with strange people touching her.

If Friday was bad because we didn't know what was going to happen, this week is bad because it's just waiting. The shelter we got her from is going to take her back, and they seem to be taking her issues seriously. They're hoping to find her a home in a more rural setting where she won't have to deal with so many people, and that sounds like it could actually work. She's a fabulous family dog — general population, not so much.

So now it’s just waiting. Her last exam is on Saturday, and Sunday we drive the two hours or so to take her to the shelter.

The waiting is so, so hard. We're trying to spoil her and make her last days with us as good as they can be, but she knows something is wrong. I can't explain it to her; all I can do is pretend my heart's not breaking and feed her bacon and beef bones. And up her anti-anxiety medication.

The Husband has been such a trooper. He's done all the phone calls and the planning, 'cause I just start crying and I can't talk when I cry. (I seriously hate crying.) When asked if he really thought the shelter would do right by The Dog, he said "If I didn't think they had a shot at finding her a better place, I'd pay the $3000 and have her put down myself." God, he's such a keeper. We swore we wouldn't see her locked in a cage for the rest of her life, even though her adoption contract said we couldn't have her put down and if we ever gave her up she had to go back there. Not that I ever doubted him, per se, but hearing him say it just reminds me why I married him in the first place.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A 100 Word Update

The Dog bit someone yesterday and now we're either going to have to find a shelter to take her or have her put down. The Husband spent most of yesterday on the phone. Fortunately the 12-year-old who did nothing wrong is barely hurt, though shook up. And the reason she freaked out? He was scared of her, and that scared her. Nervous people have made her scared before, but it seems to be getting worse, not better. She's on a 10 day quarantine, and after that she needs to be gone. So I imagine the posts will be short next week.

If anyone knows of a rescue where they rehabilitate large fearful dogs or dogs with bite history that has an opening, please email me at mercy.loomis@gmail.com. I don't want her going to someplace where she'll get stuck in a cage for the rest of her life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hungry For Your Love Release Day!

It's finally here! Hungry For Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance releases today from St. Martin's Press! The book features my short story "White Knight, Black Horse," and was originally published in ebook by Ravenous Romance last year.

Check out a few reviews of the ebook, and see what the Zombie Watch Network had to say.

I'm really excited about this one. The anthology contains some wonderful stories, like "Revanants Anonymous" by Francesca Lia Block and "Captive Hearts" by Brian Keene. I can't wait to run down to my local bookstore and see it sitting on the shelves!

Friday, September 24, 2010

100 Words About: Wind

There was a big windstorm here last night. Our house, being 150 years old, makes a lot of noise in the wind, but not so much as The Dog does. She's afraid of storms and wants to be with us. Problem is, storms usually come at night, and we don't let her in the bedroom.

First she'll camp out in front of the bedroom door. Then, when she gets scared enough, she'll start to scratch at the door and whine. Being 80lbs of pure muscle, this is starting to do a number on the custom-made door.

In the past one of us has gone out and slept on the couch for a little while, but last night we caved. We doggie-proofed the bedroom as much as we could in a couple minutes, brought in the dog bed, and let her sleep in there.

The Husband slept like a stone. I spent all night wondering just what she was licking. Apparently she grooms herself a lot more than I ever realized. Or maybe it was just because of the scary weather. But she was remarkably well-behaved all night.

Of course, we'll see how tonight goes…

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Projects

I'm taking a break from my own stories to do a little side work on a role-playing game. It's fun to play in someone else's universe. It's even more fun to get to shape someone else's universe, muahahaha. But seriously, it's a neat project, though the part I'm doing is rather small so far, but I'm hoping to weasel my way into working on more of the project once this bit is done.

I'm also trying to frame the Encore and NaNoWriMo projects, and this is proving harder than I'd hoped. I have plenty of ideas for Derrick and Nate, but I'm having a hard time figuring out the frame—the beginning and the end points of their larger narrative. The beginning is especially messing with me, because if I can get started I can usually find my way to the ending pretty well. I'm not used to having troubles with beginnings. Usually my problems are in the middle. I think I'll probably have to start where the short story leaves off, write from there, and then figure out what (if anything) I need to add in the beginning once I've gotten to the end. This will mean (groan!) extra editing.

The NaNoWriMo project is particularly difficult in that I still don't know what happens. Silly, no? But this is much more typical of my plotting issues. I have this great beginning, and some vague ideas of where I want things to end up (more like several options, Clue-style), but no real idea of what goes on in the middle. Sigh. I should just give up on the outlining thing and pants it, but I'm afraid to try pantsing during NaNoWriMo. That sounds like a great way to derail myself fast. My first time out I'd like to have a little more of a plan than what I have currently.

Well, I still have another month to figure that out. Hopefully my research will give me some extra ideas for the middle. In the meantime I'm having fun inventing alien cultures and playing with space opera horror.

Friday, September 17, 2010

100 Words About: Too Many Books!

I have an impressive stack of books to read at the best of times, but right now my to-read pile is getting out of control! Ever since I started listening to podcasts, I have more authors that I want to read or listen to than I know what to do with. I keep hearing about all of these great books…

And the research! Between the research I'm doing for the Encore expansion and my NaNoWriMo project, plus everything I'm reading about writing, podcasting, public domain, and physics (for world-building), not to mention all the Mythos stuff I just finished (joy!) for the last short story I did, I don't know when I'm going to get to the authors I'm already trying to follow. Heck, I still haven't read the 12th Wheel of Time book, and the 13th is coming out in two months! What's a girl to do?

Image: Catherine Hadler / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tuesday a Little Early

Hey kids, short post this week. I'm about 1000 words into a short story I had originally planned to submit for Toy Box: Pine Switch, but I'm not getting that done by the 15th. I may finish it later and post it as a Christmas freebie.

This last week has been quite hectic. I finished sewing the outfit for the wedding I went to last Saturday the morning of the wedding. The wedding went off great, but then on Sunday I had a double-gaming day, so no time to write. And tonight, well, I'm exhausted. And whiskeyfied. It never hurts.

Next Sunday I'll be out of town for a work conference until late Wednesday, but never fear, I will make Tuesday's post! I'm heading to Boston for the first time, but I probably won't have much free time. I'm hoping to stop by Copp's Hill Burial Ground, but it may not be possible. I have two Mythos stories out on submission and I can use all the help I can get. ;)

Speaking of submissions, I'm trying to hit some more professional markets. The sad part of that is that there are very few professional markets for erotica. Not that I mind working on my horror and sci-fi stories, but I want to make sure I'm taking care of my erotica readers. Never fear, plans and research are still going ahead for the expansion of "Encore", as well as a cyberpunk erotica novel or novella that I'm planning on working on this November. If all goes well I will podcast the cyberpunk piece, and maybe a couple other stories as well. First, I have to read up on podcasting. Research, research, never enough hours in the day...

Friday, September 10, 2010

100 Words About: Samsara

I'm not a Buddhist, but I think in Buddhist terms about a lot of things. I love the idea of intelligent compassion, and Impermanence has become part of my personal philosophy in a way that no other spiritual doctrine has.

The part of Buddhism I'm not into the most is Nirvana.

The whole point of Buddhism is reaching Nirvana, severing one's ties to Samsara, the wheel of pain, the cycle of death and rebirth. Well, I'm sorry, but I like it here, pain and all. (Being a masochist helps with that, I think, but there is plenty of pain I don't enjoy.)

In terms of the Parable of the Burning House, I think I'm standing in the doorway. Yeah, I know the house is on fire, and that I can walk out of the house, and that walking out of the house might even be a good thing. But I'd rather stand in the doorway and watch the pretty flames, and feel the adrenaline rush of doing something supremely stupid and possibly self-destructive.

The fact that I'm willfully choosing to remain on that threshold makes me feel better about it, which is weird when you think about it. So often we excuse people's behavior by saying that they didn't know any better. Unlike many people on the wheel, I know I can step off of it; I just choose not to. I don't think this makes me better than anyone else, just better informed. I made the decision long ago to make active choices in my life, but I'm still figuring out the balance between self-esteem and pride, humility and lack of self-confidence or self-worth, and individuality versus emptiness. I think balance is important, and it's one of the things Buddhism has always seemed to lack, at least to me. But maybe that just demonstrates how far I am from Enlightenment.

Works for me.

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tired Writer

I wrote probably around 4000 words of short story this weekend, and edited it a couple times, and still am 326 words over the word limit for the market I wrote it for. Argh! Hoping my writing group can help me with that tonight.

Other than that, the thing I spent the most time on this Labor Day weekend was sewing a bodice for a Victorian dress that I need for this upcoming weekend. Why? Steampunk wedding. I've been soooo good the last few years, I hadn't sewn anything new. (It doesn't hurt that I have a fairly extensive costume wardrobe from my earlier sewing days.) We even went to a costume shop and tried on stuff, and got The Husband's wedding costume there. But I kept looking at the prices on the dresses I was trying on and saying "$200? I could sew this, and then I wouldn't have to have a hoop skirt."

Sigh.

And, of course, my sewing machine decides to go on the fritz halfway through the bodice.

Double sigh.

Fortunately I was able to use a friend's machine, but I failed to bring a small part of the pattern so I have a little bit of handsewing to do before it's done. I was going to embellish the sleeves originally but now I'm like, screw it. It's good enough. I have at least one other short story I want to get done before the 15th.

On another subject, I've gotten a few emails about the Lucky 7 Contest over at Torquere Press. The card you are looking for is at www.mercyloomis.com, it's not on the blog anywhere. There was a problem for folks trying to view the page in question in Internet Explorer, but it's fixed now. Thanks to Kathleen, Angela, and MMJ for the emails; especially Kathleen for letting me know some of my pages weren't loading at all. Had to go into the HTML, which I'm not all that conversant in, but I think I've got it settled. If you have issues with any pages on www.mercyloomis.com not loading right in your browser, please do send me an email at mercy.loomis@gmail.com! I appreciate the help!

Friday, September 3, 2010

100 Words About: Responsibility

My mother and I were talking on Saturday, and I was telling her some of our many adventures with The Dog, especially things like not being able to stay overnight anywhere since we got her and trying to help her get over her fears. She shook her head and commented that owning a dog sounded too much like parenting.

It was stormy here last night, and we had plans to go to a friend's house and play board games. As we sat in the living room eating tacos for dinner, The Husband glanced out the window at the pouring rain.

"You know, I never would have considered staying home for the cats," he said.

I looked down at The Dog, blissfully gnawing on a new beef bone. "What, because she might get scared while we're gone?" She's afraid of storms, but as long as we're in the same room with her she's fine.

"Yeah." He looked a little sheepish.

"The cats aren’t emotionally dependant on us," I said, smiling. "The dog is. When you take responsibility for another's emotional well-being, it creates obligation. It is a little like parenting."

We did go out to game night though. The Dog's gotta grow up sometime.

(And the storms were mostly over.)

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Torquere Press is Giving Away a Nook!

Torquere Press is celebrating seven years of publishing by giving the readers gifts! Head on over to their contest page to check out the Lucky 7 Contest! As the press release says:

"Seven years?! No, we can hardly believe it either. Seven years of bringing readers the best, the sexiest, the most romantic GLBT fiction. And to celebrate, we're giving away prizes -- great themed gift baskets, gift certificates for free books every day, and a scavenger hunt that will give readers a chance to collect a deck of cards that will win big - -a Nook from Barnes & Noble!

Readers will get the chance to "collect cards" by visiting each participating author's website, blog, or Facebook page. By collecting all the cards and filling in the form, players have the chance to win free books daily, a gift basket once each week, (including BDSM, werewolf and ménage themed baskets), and be entered in the grand prize drawing for the Nook."

And yes, I'm one of those authors! So hie on over to www.mercyloomis.com and get looking!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Liquid Story Binder and Other Briefness

I had last week off, but now I feel like crap, so this will be a brief note before I succumb to some sort of medicated coma. I've started playing with Liquid Story Binder lately. Loving the automatic word count and the storyboard, hating having to figure out a new software package, but I think it'll be worth it. So far I'm still using the free version, which is the full version but with a time limit. Cool idea. I'm planning on using it for NaNoWriMo, but right now I'm testing it out with a new short story. Did a basic storyboard, used a sequence as a place for character thumbnails, and was able to sit down on my lunch break and pound out 250 words of first draft, and another 250 words after work before The Husband picked me up. Not bad at all. Maybe if I feel better later I'll get a little more done, but for now my head is killing me.

BTW, if you're in the Madison WI area and/or a fan of Harlan Ellison, today is the last day to get the cheaper tickets for MadCon 2010, which is supposedly Ellison's last convention appearance.

Friday, August 27, 2010

100 Words About: Ideas

Ideas are cheap. No young writer likes to hear this, but it's true. No one is going to steal your idea, because most of us have so many ideas already floating around in our heads that we just don't have time for yours, thank you.

Of course, even if we did, the story we'd write would be totally different from the story you'd write anyway. But even so, what's far more likely is that your idea would give us an idea, which would probably go off in a completely new direction and might eventually become quite unrecognizable, as far as your original idea went.

Still, it's hard not to get protective of your ideas and want to keep them to yourself. I'm not sure if that's because we're really truly worried about "theft," or if it's more that we're afraid the idea won't sound as good outside our heads as it does inside. Because of course the idea in your head is full of nuances and images and backstory, far more than you can hope to convey with a short description that probably sounds kinda lame. And who wants to work on a lame story? I think what we're really worried about is stealing our own thunder.

Image: Bright Idea by Zaldy icaonapo

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Make Time to Write

You can't do it all. Trust me, I've tried. If you really want to make a go of writing, but just "don't have time," then in reality you aren't making time. See if there's anything on the list below that you'd be willing to cut down on, or cut out altogether, in order to make some writing time.

Television

This is both the easiest and the hardest. Easiest, because the average American spends two to three hours a day watching TV. Hardest, because people who watch TV tend to be fiercely addicted to their favorite shows. Can you cut out (or rearrange) one hour of TV watching a day from your schedule?

Computer Games

Much like television, computer games can suck up a lot of time, especially MMORPGs. I used to be in a big raiding guild in EverQuest 2, and that was like having a second job. When I decided to start writing seriously I'd already switched to World of Warcraft, and the more serious I got about writing, the less time I had for WoW. I haven't played in probably three years now. The twitching stops pretty quickly, I promise.

Even worse than MMOs are solo games. Come on, I know they can be fun, but is getting to the next save point (or, gods forbid, the next level in Farmville) really worth more to you than writing?

Surfing the Web

This is possibly the worst culprit, because it so often masquerades as research. If you spend an hour or more a day online for leisure, see if you can cut that in half. Limit yourself to half an hour of browse time, and when that half hour is up, start writing. Bookmarks and Favorites exist for a reason, people. That webpage will still be there tomorrow.

Lunch Breaks

Can you eat while you type? Can you eat at your desk? If so, consider your lunch break as possible writing time. Bring a notebook or a laptop to the breakroom, or head down to the local coffee shop if you don't want your coworkers looking over your shoulder.

Other Hobbies

Do you do arts and crafts, or fly-fish, or volunteer? Consider heavily what time commitments you already have and whether or not they are more important to you than your writing. Some hobbies bring in money, some are important social outlets, some are good healthy exercise, and some are just plain too rewarding to give up. Those are good uses of your time. Hobbies that are less productive are possible fodder for your writing career.

Of course, there are lots of things that you shouldn't give up, like household chores or time with your family or your day job. But most of us don't use our true leisure time as productively as we could, and yet we still argue that we "don't have time." If it's important to you, make time. If that rerun of Doctor Who is really more important to you than writing, maybe you should stop telling yourself that you're going to finish that novel one of these days. At least you'll have a little less stress.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, August 20, 2010

100 Words About: Libraries

I love my library system. Maybe you'd think a writer wouldn't be so hot on libraries, since we want people to buy books, but hey, I sure as hell can't afford to buy all my research books! And honestly, I want people reading my stuff. Buying is great too, but if they can read it for free they might try it where they wouldn't have if they had to buy it. And if they like it, they might tell a friend.

Not that any of any of the anthologies I'm in are in the library yet, as far as I know. I honestly don't know if they have erotica books. But someday. Maybe even Hungry For Your Love. That would be damn cool.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Detox Intelligently

This first Tuesday Tip in awhile was inspired by events from last week. I recently had to do a stint at a sort of expo/convention booth, answering questions and talking to random people. I hate this sort of thing. I'm shy by nature and not very confident when it comes to speaking. (I think that's part of why I like writing. I can think things out and move the words around for maximum effect.)

I'd been stressing pretty hard over the event in the days leading up to it. That morning I also had to drive an hour and a half to get there. Or at least, it's normally an hour and a half drive, but I'd never tried driving it during rush hour, and I had never driven to the place I was going before, AND The Husband insisted it would take longer than I thought, so I left two and a half hours before the booth was to open.

Of course, I got there an hour early.

Well, at least I'm not late, I thought. I can't stand being late. But I can't get into the hall at all for another half an hour. So even though I knew I would be on my feet all day, I started wandering around. Most of the place was still closed up, but there were a few eateries open. I stopped at one and got a bite to eat, and hung out and listened to the guy who was performing there, voice and guitar, until the hall opened. It was a really nice way to blow a half an hour, and I was relaxed and happy when I went to go set up the booth.

The point of this is to demonstrate how important a little detox can be.

My old job used to stress the hell out of me. I liked the people I worked with, and I loved the industry, but as a whole I hated my job. I was always stressed out because I had too much to do. This meant I was still stressed out when I got home from work.

It is very hard to write when you're stressed out. It's not impossible, of course—I wrote my first contracted work in the months leading up to my eventual lay-off—but stress drains your emotional energy and distracts you, making an already difficult task even harder.

Of course, my favorite way to relax and clear my head is to take a nice hot bath and read a book. But while this works great as far as relaxing goes, it does not make me detox in a way that means I will be productive later. Reading in the tub is at least a half-hour time commitment, usually longer, and most often leaves me wanting to slack for the rest of the evening.

What worked about my detox before the booth stint was that I couldn't do anything, and I knew I had to be productive later. I couldn't read, I didn't have my notebook with me (and planning stuff out in my head doesn't work that well for me); I just had to sit there and relax and let my brain veg out. It was awesome. I don't normally give myself permission to do that—I have to be doing something! All the time! I have too much to do to waste time like that!

So the trick is to find ways to detox that a) leave you ready to be productive at the end and b) don't take up so much time that you won't let yourself do them and c) won't stress you out and will actually let you relax. For example, if you find walking your dog to be a detoxing activity, great! If you look at walking your dog as a chore, it will not de-stress you. Find something else (or learn to look at the activity differently, if you can). Checking your favorite blogs might detox you, but if it sucks up an hour of your time then you aren't being productive.

Find some way to de-stress and clear your mind before you write. Maybe journaling works for you. Or you might try staring at a candle flame and doing deep breathing exercises for a few minutes. Play with your Tibetan Singing Bowl for 30 seconds. Short rituals can train your subconscious to set aside all that other stuff and get down to business, but only if you're consistent. I find that just coming into the conference room after work and setting up my netbook helps center me: I've been doing it long enough that my brain has learned "I'm about to start writing. Time to switch gears."

Give yourself a few minutes to transition from daily life into writing time. Stress takes up the space that your muse needs to talk to you. Get rid of the stress, and the muse will have the room she needs to work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

100 Words About: Obsession

I was just reading through some of my early 100 Words About posts, and boy, I was a lot more poetic back then. So today we're harkening back to the "writing exercise" intentions I had when I first started this series of posts. As always, please feel free to leave a comment with your 100 Words!

Today's topic: obsession.

If every writer has a favorite theme, obsession is mine. There is something about it that's just so seductive, so delightfully naughty, so dangerous. I love exploring the darker sides of human nature, and obsession is definitely that. What is it about us that makes us fixate on one thing to the exclusion of all others, even when that fixation is detrimental to ourselves? What makes us reach out a to touch that candle flame again, when we've already been burned once?

I guess exploring obsession in my writing is a way for me to play with the candle without getting burned. I get to feel all the emotions as my characters feel them, but without the life-altering side effects, and hopefully provide a little safe-but-illicit cathartic thrill for my readers as well.

My poetry escapes me on this topic. I think about someone being subsumed by their desire, losing the will to fight it, wanting to give up control to this feeling that’s destroying them, and I just get all giddy inside. Literally hugging-myself-and-giggling giddy.

I am soooo looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year. (Hug. Giggle.)

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Parentheses Are My New Best Friends

Last week I was working on 1794, trying to add in a new chapter. I sort of knew what I wanted to happen, but I was getting bogged down in the description. And then I had a breakthrough.

Those of you who follow this blog probably know by now that I hate editing. I hate it sooooo much. I pride myself on having fairly clean first drafts so that I can keep editing time to a minimum. Yes, I know first drafts are allowed to suck; I just don't want to have to clean them up later. So quite often I will spend a good amount of time thinking about exactly how I want to word the next section before I start typing.

I also have a problem with getting started each time I sit down. I'll open up the file, read over the last bit to see where I was at, and then sit there thinking for ten or fifteen minutes. When I have hours ahead of me this isn't much of an issue, but when I only have 40 minutes, as I do after work waiting for The Husband to come pick me up, it severely cuts into my productivity.

So last week I was staring at where I'd left off, trying desperately to get started up again. I was heading into a section of serious description—lots of inner turmoil and wasted energy for my main character, but I just couldn't pick up the thread. I'd been staring at this section for three days straight with almost no progress.

Suddenly I said "screw it, I don't want to write this section right now, and I don't have to, this is a first draft of this chapter."

I started a new paragraph, capped it with an open parenthesis, and started summarizing. This was totally freeform, including thoughts about what other characters not in the scene might be doing and how that would affect things, notes about character motivation, and even things like (T says something clever. Probably innuendo…T goes to (official's) house. There was a wiff of magic about the place. Ok, maybe not that, but something cool.)

I was able to drop in and out of the narrative as I chose, and after only a few minutes I knew where the scene was going, how it was going to tie into the next chapter (which was already written), plus I had come up with some cool subtext that needed to be worked into the preceding chapter. And once I had that down, I'd already been writing for awhile and was able to jump back to the descriptive bit that had derailed me originally and start pounding that out.

I think the reason this worked for me, when all other attempts to "outline" usually fail, is that I was working within my draft, within the story, but what I was writing wasn't actually first draft. My first drafts are not allowed to be throw-offs…but this? This wasn't even draft. It was just summary. It didn't even have to be coherent, which is good because it jumped around quite a bit, including sentences that stopped in the middle because I was done with that thought now. And typing it, as opposed to thinking about it, kept me on task and focused on one thought at a time. Normally when I "outline" in my head my thoughts tend to wander and not accomplish much.

The key for me seems to be not overthinking it. Write until I get stuck and then stream-of-consciousness for a bit until I know where I'm going again. And absolutely no editing the stream-of-consciousness. Bad grammar? Fine. Bad spelling? Not a problem. Don't have a name for that minor character yet? Skip it and use a placeholder. Overusing certain words? Who cares? It's all going to get deleted once I've written out that bit anyway. When I got to a place where I had an idea for what I actually wanted to say, I could just cap off the summary with an end parenthesis and start writing the narrative until I got hung up again. Then new open parenthesis and start summarizing again. I never had to stop typing, and as long as I'm typing I'm being productive.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, August 6, 2010

100 Words About: NaNoWriMo

I first heard about National Novel Writing Month last year, when Victoria Wilson asked me if I would be participating. After hearing that one needed to paste one's work into the NaNoWriMo website to be counted I vehemently declined. None of my work goes on the internet anywhere until I'm ready to give it away for free. Besides, I had just started my new job, and that was enough to deal with.

This year I think I'll attempt it. After all, why not? I have a story I really want to write but which I don't think will be commercially viable in traditional markets, but what's one month? Ok, if I actually manage to get 50,000 words down on it I'll be working on it longer than a month…but I don't see a downside there either. Maybe I'll make a podiobook out of it.

I'm still not pasting it in anyone else's website though, even if it does supposedly get erased immediately with no one seeing it. I'll copy however-many-words I get done out of some Wiki articles and put my count up that way.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time Management or Neurosis?

Writers do a lot. It seems like most successful writers you hear about are insanely busy people. On top of families and day jobs and writing (and marketing and researching and doing publicity) they tend to balance hobbies like bee keeping (Neil Gaiman) or playing in a band (Stephen King, Dave Barry, etc). Of course, it's possible that there are successful writers that don't do these things, that barely manage to squeeze their writing in and who therefore probably don't have time for things like interviews which would display the fact they don't home-brew or whatever. But it did make me wonder whether writers just have to be better at time management in order to carve out that writing time, or if we're just neurotic? I mean, what kind of people sacrifice hours of their time every week in order to create a work which will probably garner soul-crushing rejection after soul-crushing rejection, and which, should we manage to finally get published, may never and probably won't pay an hourly wage higher than working at McDonald's?

Case in point...

I had a four-day weekend this last weekend, a much looked-forward-to and needed vacation. The first three days we spent either slacking or being social. (Apart from some time on Sunday where The Husband got called in by two different friends to help them with their computers.) We had planned on spending Monday at home, giving The Dog some much-needed people time and hanging around the house in general.

Monday is my chores day.

Now, Monday is my chores day with good reason. Normally at work Monday is my day to field the office voicemail, something that I hate doing, and if one really needs any extra reasons to not like a day, you might as well pile them all on one day so you can enjoy the rest of your week. Tuesday is also trash day, so I have to get the trash out the night before, and I also need to get my Tuesday blog post done on Monday, so it all dovetails nicely. I've also started doing the checkbook once a week on Mondays, and balancing the checkbook against the bank statement on the first Monday of the month. PLUS the first Monday is when you have to have any brush out to the curb that you want the city to pick up that month.

So when I had a whole Monday at home, well, I got down to it. We walked the dog, and then I took care of my flowerbeds. Then we wrangled the rest of the giant tree limb that had fallen into our yard two months ago and got it cut up sufficiently to get down to the curb. Then The Husband mowed the lawn while I got laundry going. Upon making lunch, he discovered we were low on a lot of our spices so we went shopping. We got back and ate lunch on the couch in front of the TV with the dog keeping us company. When I went to get the mail I discovered a rejection letter, so I sat down and sent the story out again, and while I was there I started doing the checkbook, with every intention of then balancing the statement and then setting up the monthly electronic payments and possibly making up a budget spreadsheet like I've been thinking about before starting on my blog post.

I was still working on the checkbook when The Husband came over. "I thought we were going to slack and watch movies today."

I glanced over my shoulder at the TV. "Go ahead, I can hear it."

Poke. "This isn't slacking."

"But it's Monday," I said, as if that should make sense.

"You're on vacation. I was willing to forgive the laundry…"

"I'm out of socks, and you need work shirts for tomorrow. And the branch had to go out today, and so does the trash, and you saw how big the pile of checkcard slips was last time I let it go, it took me two hours to go through…"

He leaned down, nose-to-nose, and said very seriously, "Those are all things your mother would say."

"She's a wise woman," I replied, but couldn't keep a straight face. I love her dearly, but my mom is a dyed-in-the-wool workaholic. Still, sometimes you're going to sound like your mother. Own it.

As you can see from yesterday's post, The Husband did prevail. (He's awfully persuasive when he wants to be.) And I am left wondering...do writers actually manage their time better, or are we just neurotics with a goal and some focus?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Slight Delay

Today's blog post will be posted tomorrow, since The Husband wants me to stop doing chore-like things and come watch movies with him on our day off. :) See you tomorrow!

Friday, July 30, 2010

100 Words About: Tupperware

Why not? I have to confess, I love my Tupperware. I have lots of other kinds of durable plastic containers, but the Tupperware set I got from my mom when my parents moved is by far my favorite. I love it so much that when my big Harvest Yellow salad bowl got damaged by a friend setting a hot toasting fork on it, The Husband went online and found me a replacement.

It doesn't warp, it doesn't break, it doesn't bubble in the microwave or the dishwasher. You can heat it, freeze it, drop it, and it doesn't leak. It's dependable. I like dependable. I like things you can count on—-flimsy has little place in my house, and no place in my kitchen. And, barring toasting forks, these bowls will probably outlive me. I much prefer that idea to the rampant disposablism of our current cultural attitudes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

College For Writers

One of the interesting topics that came up as I was listening to old episodes of I Should Be Writing was what is a good college degree for a writer?

First, I think you should be thinking about what job you're going to have while you work toward being a full-time writer, if that's what you want to do. Only a fraction of a percentage of writers will get to be full-time writers right out of the gate. The vast majority of us need day jobs, and you should plan your major around whatever is going to pay your bills. If you don't expect your college degree to have anything to do with your day job, skip college. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but it's a whole huge ton of debt that you are going to have to pay back. Save yourself tens of thousands of dollars and several years of your life and go to Clarion or another workshop instead.

However, if someone else is paying for you to go to school, or if you're going to school for one thing but want to maximize your electives with writing in mind, here are my thoughts. Focus on classes that teach things or offer experiences you can't readily learn from books. Books are cheaper than college courses.

Psychology: I got a psych degree because it was the thing I was closest to finishing when I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. As far as WTF degrees go, it's a good one; people think that it means you might be good at dealing with people. After all, that's what HR people get a lot of the time. It doesn't actually mean that you're good with people though. What a psych degree will do for you is give you some insight into why people are so screwed up, and some of the ways that people are screwed up. (What you do with that knowledge is, of course, up to you.) This can definitely be useful when developing realistic characters or when you want to manipulate your characters in a realistic way. Get yourself a broad look at psychology—-behavioral, cognitive, developmental, psychoanalytic, all of it. All of the models have their strengths and weaknesses, and since you're just a writer, you can pick and choose all the interesting bits. A lot of psych can be learned from books, but not a lot the really neat stuff, and all the really interesting classes require you to take the beginning classes anyway. (I'll start preparing you now: correlation does not equal causation. Say it with me.)

Folklore: I was one class short of accidentally getting a certificate (roughly the equivalent of a minor) in folklore, so like with psych I'm a little biased. However, folklore is the study of story. I think it's hard to go wrong with that. The way my teachers all looked at it was that history was the study of what actually happened, and folklore was the study of what people believed had happened, and why they believed it, and what it meant to them. Folklorists don't care about what the facts were. They care about the story; why the story is interesting, how does the story change or remain the same from culture to culture, audience to audience, generation to generation. You will learn a lot about good storytelling by studying folklore, as well as get familiar with the plot and character archetypes that you'll use again and again as a writer. (Please note: pretty much all of my folklore professors had two jobs. There is a reason that was not my major.)

History: There are so many interesting stories out there that studying history can be a great way to start as a writer. Many authors have built fine successful careers out of writing historical fiction, and others have been inspired by past events into creating wondrous works in all sorts of genres. I only took one history class in college, but I wish I'd taken more. Still, history is one subject that is very easy to study outside of the classroom. Go for the hands-on sorts of classes, or at least ones with discussion groups.

English: I avoided English classes like the plague when I was in college. I regret that a lot; I probably could've shaved a few years off my learning curve with the right classes. However, in those years I was not ready to learn about writing from other people: a few bad experiences in my high school writing workshops led to my belief that letting other people "tell me how to write" would turn my own original work into someone else's Frankenstein. As with so many other things, I had to grow out of my early 20s before I was able to realize just how much I didn't know. You can learn a lot about writing from books, but nothing substitutes for one-on-one time with a really good teacher. Individual feedback is key. With that said, I will point out that a bad teacher can turn you off from writing—-avoid them at all costs. If you have to ask, it's worth dropping the class. Also note that a hard teacher is not necessarily a bad teacher, and vice versa.

Art: I recommend taking at least one basic drawing class. Artists look at things differently: they learn to see what something really looks like, and not what we think it looks like. This useful skill can be applied to all sorts of things. You can also develop this skill by studying philosophy, but it's a lot more straightforward in art. Which is funny, considering how much symbolism is in art—-but then, manipulating symbols (theme!) is a handy skill too.

Phy Ed: Stay active. Writers are a sedentary lot. Some of my favorite college classes were fencing (sabre and theatrical) and Relaxation. Of all the classes I took, I probably use the knowledge I got in Relaxation the most often. (Although Psychobiology of Stress and Coping is up there too.)

There are probably lots of interesting sociology classes and anthropology classes and biology classes and hard science classes that would also be good for writers, but I didn’t take any of those. I did take some in high school and later through the Teaching Company lectures. (I'm desperately hoping my library gets a copy of Impossible: Physics Beyond the Edge soon!) If you find something interesting, look into it. Study broadly. Read a lot. Having a wide repertoire of knowledge will give you lots of idea nuggets that you should be able to combine into interesting stories.

Image: Paul Martin Eldridge / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, July 23, 2010

100 Words About: Sleep Thugs

I went to bed at a fairly reasonable time last night. Only got up once, around 3am. As far as I recall I slept ok, but apparently I also slept through a visit from the sleep thugs. I imagine them to be something like rejects from tooth fairy school—instead of giving you money while you sleep, they beat you up. I'm stiff and sore and exhausted, and I didn't even get to do anything stupid that might have made up for it. I didn't even have a freaking drink. You'd think they'd at least have the courtesy to wait until I did something that I shouldn't have.

Image: djcodrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest Post Fiction at Writing Under Pressure

Make sure to stop by Writing Under Pressure, the blog of my fellow Wisconsin Writer Christi Craig, to read a flash fiction piece based around the word "bitten."

Gee, what would I do with a word like that? Hmmm.... ;)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Closing the Lid

This weekend vanished a lot faster than I expected, given this was one of the few weekends this summer The Husband and I didn't have something planned. Of course, that meant we went to two early bird movies (Predators and Inception) and road-tripped out to Berres Brothers, a local coffee roaster, and spent time costume-hunting for an upcoming themed wedding. I didn't even get laundry done.

The weekend started on a bit of a down note, which definitely contributed to my decision to blow off serious stuff. After getting home on Friday I discovered a package on my front porch. It was from the editor I'd sent my novel to back in March.

The package was a cardboard box, just about the right size for my manuscript.

That kept me from getting my hopes up, actually, because I couldn't imagine why else I'd get a package that size. If an editor is interested in your manuscript, would they really send the whole thing back before they contacted you? Sure enough, it was a form rejection. I'm not sure why he returned the full manuscript—I'd sent a SASE, and while I didn't specifically say the manuscript was disposable, I've never had anyone else return one before—but there it was. No comments, just the short "thanks but no thanks."

This is far from the first rejection I've gotten on this puppy, but I'd told myself this was my last shot. It's time. So as of Friday the novel is officially trunked. I may pull it out if I do a workshop in the future (I'm kinda hoping to do one next year), but otherwise the plan is to not look at the stupid thing until 2015, and then rewrite it from scratch without reading the old one. I think I'll have enough distance by then that I might actually be able to do something with it. At this point I'm just spinning my wheels on it. I've been working on it for longer that I care to admit, and I hate it. I've been rearranging those deck chairs for so long that I can't tell what's good and what's crap. I love the characters, and even the story—I just hate the pile of words I've put together.

Now, I don't know if Gabriel will leave me alone for five full years. (For those of you who've read A Wild Hunt, yes, that Gabriel.) He tends to get restless if I ignore him too long, so you may see him crop up in new stories from time to time.

But anyway, I was kinda down about it. That's a significant chunk of my life I just stuck in a drawer. I know most writers have a trunk novel, and I don't regret the work I put into it because I learned so much while writing and rewriting and rewriting again. However, I'm really glad I've done all the short stories this last year or so. I think it would've been a lot harder to keep writing after trunking the novel if I hadn't. Not that I've actually done any fiction writing yet, but I'll be working on a flash piece for Cristi Craig's blog tomorrow, and I still need to get "Succor" in the can like I said I would.

As I type this I am sitting on my couch with The Crazy Dog curled up next to me. The dishwasher is going, and I have chores to do, and a husband to wake up in fifteen minutes. I have a dog that needs her walk and cats that need to be fed. I need to get down to the gym and get my workout in. I have laundry that must get started or I will have no socks to wear tomorrow. But what I don't have is a 70,000-word albatross around my neck anymore. It's done. I'm closing the trunk lid.

On to the next novel.

Friday, July 16, 2010

100 Words About: Making the Most of Work

As I mentioned previously, I've been listening to podcasts at work a lot lately. Right now I'm going through the archives of I Should Be Writing, a podcast I very much recommend. I've been getting a lot of good ideas from the podcast, and I can't wait until I'm all caught up so I can send Mur an email.

I love being able to listen to these at work. My day job is one of the things that really sucks away my writing time and my energy, but it's a totally necessary evil. I don't read blogs or websites at work (except occasionally on break), so if I want to keep up on industry blogs then it takes time away from writing. But with podcasts I can listen to advice and get ideas and good industry information while getting paid—and I'm still working, so it's not like I'm really stealing time from my job. It's the best of both worlds!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Slump Dog Blues

I'm in a bit of a slump of late, and I'm hoping my new critique group which starts tomorrow will help snap me out of it. I'm not sure how much erotica I'll be able to bring to the group—I'll read just about anything, but I don't expect other to read things that make them uncomfortable—but I hope I can at least bring the non-nookie bits of 1794, plus I have other non-erotica stuff I plan to bring as well.

Writing has become something of a chore, which makes me sad. Even projects that I'm interested it make me cringe, because I have this feeling that I should finish this other project first, or that other project first, and wasn't I going to start researching this other thing? Ugh.

I have a short I'm still trying to finish for an anthology that closes on the 15th. I think I'll make it. All I have left is the sex scene and the wrap-up. Part of the reason I want to do this one is the fact that I haven't been submitting near enough stuff this year, and part is I would love to see more money rolling in. (And part is it sounds like a cool antho and I would not mind a free copy!) Even though I wouldn't get paid for this antho until next year, I'd at least feel a little better. Now that my netbook is paid for and upgraded I'm putting all of my writing earnings toward debt. A little extra incentive to write, I hope, although I could spent my time more profitably by getting a part time job. Still, for flexible hours you can't beat writing.

I have a couple of projects I've been meaning to work on but haven't because I don't know what happens in the story yet, and my attempts to outline have been a miserable failure, as usual. Once I get this short story and 1794 done, I think I will just sit down and start writing the first chapters of the YA that's been poking around in the back of my head for awhile. Maybe I'll figure it out with the old pantster method.

Of course, that means finishing 1794. I got to the end of chapter 3, and now I'm stuck. It's another thing where I need to just sit down and write pure first draft. I'm planning on adding a completely new chapter 4, and I need to just suck it up and write it even though it means I'm going to have to edit the hell out of it later. I hate editing soooo much. I'm so jealous of my colleagues who love edits.

I did get some good feedback from last week's critique group on my story "Succor the Child." I'm hoping to finish the last tweaks on that one this week and then boot it out the door. That will feel good.

Friday, July 9, 2010

100 Words About: Waiting for Godot

Last night I went to see Waiting for Godot for the first time. I knew nothing about the play: I'd heard of it, and it was supposed to be a classic, one of those bits of culture I'd never quite gotten around to.

American Players Theatre always does an excellent job with whatever they set their mind on, and this was no exception. (If you ever get a chance to go, I couldn't recommend it more!) Not only was the acting freaking phenomenal, but the actors held a discussion of the play afterward. Many audience members said that this was the best version of it they had seen, but one thing I found very interesting was a comment by young Marco Lama, who was playing the boy. A member of the audience asked him what he thought of the play, and he replied (in part) that people often talk without actually saying anything, and whenever he hears people do that he thinks of Waiting for Godot. (For those of you who haven't seen it, a large part of the play is filled with people killing time with ridiculous and obtuse conversation.)

Of course, this percipient observation was followed shortly by a woman in the audience who, in the guise of asking a question, babbled on without really saying (or asking) anything. And I honestly don't think she realized that she was doing it. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Outlining: Do I Really?

Outlining. A contentious subject among writers; some feel lost without one, others couldn't outline ahead of time if their life depended on it. Most writing books espouse outlining in some form, as it generally saves the writer a lot of time and energy.

For many years, I thought I was a no-outline person. But a recent conversation has made me reconsider that view.

When I first started writing I was a total pantster. I had a handful of characters and a supposition, and I rarely had any idea what was coming beyond the next scene, or maybe two. Sometimes I had an idea for what the ending might be, but often it changed a lot before I got far into the story.

When I started writing short stories, a lot of times the characters-plus-supposition was the bulk of the story. These are the characters, this is the situation, this is how they got in the situation, and this is the resolution. Boom. Done.

Note that there isn't a lot of middle in this. The middle was always what messed me up before: if I had the beginning and the ending, I had no idea how my characters got from one to the other. Now, with the stories so much shorter, there was a lot less middle to muddle through. I was usually starting close enough to the end that by the time I got through the set-up I was almost to the end anyway, especially since I knew that part of the middle (and possibly part of the end) was going to be the nookie bit. And the ending had to be HEA or HFN.

I didn't think much of this transition, because as far as I was concerned I still couldn't outline. I tried, to be sure. I tried using note cards, I tried doing summaries, I tried drawing plot lines. Nothing worked for me. I'd just sit there and stare at whatever I was supposed to be writing on, because I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to get the story down. My brain would tangent like crazy until I gave up and started just writing the darn story.

So imagine my surprise when I was sitting down with E Victoria Flynn and Christi Craig over coffee, complaining about plotting, and Victoria says to me, "Yeah, but you outline."

"What?!"

"You do. You know where your story is going before you start writing it."

My first thought was, "Well, of course I know where it's going. How could I start if I didn't?" And then I remembered how I used to write, and I realized she might be right. This was a bit of a shock.

I still can't do a traditional outline. I spent some time in the last couple weeks trying to do an outline for 1794, a story I've already written, and still failed miserably. I know roughly what I want to change, and roughly how I might go about it, but I'm still not sure what the actual form will take or how the two characters are going to react to the changes. But I've managed to get the first three chapters revised without a clear outline, and I think I know where I'm taking the changes from here.

Does that make me an outliner? You be the judge.