Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coconut Bra Optional

Wow, I just realized that I haven't posted in over a week, and I almost didn't post tonight, either. I should be getting ready for bed, but I know how quickly the internets forget about us if we don't participate; so here I am, participating...;-)

It's been a crazy week...we're leaving town this weekend for our tenth anniversary (flying to Hawaii, and my mom is coming down to watch the kids...god, I love sky miles), and we've been scrambling to get caught up on work and prepare for the trip...which means that this week is going to be crazy too, and I may not post again until we return in a couple of weeks.
I got halfway through an antho from Subterranean Press that I can't remember the name of...I was really enjoying it, and then my Alaskan Malamute, Yuma the Destroyer, tore it to shreds while I was at work. Sigh. So, I'm taking Updike's Run, Rabbit to Hawaii with me instead.
I'm hoping to break 30k on Aquarium before we leave town. I have a ton of stuff to do before we go, but I'm at like 26,700, so another 3300 is totally doable by Thursday, I think. One of my main characters, whom I knew was going to be eccentric from the get-go, just turned into Hunter S Thompson, so that'll be fun to write. My character just happens to be a doctor, so I was thinking of making his last name Gonzales (aka, Dr. Gonzo).
Watched Pineapple Express last night...funny movie. I loved Cheech and Chong capers when I was a teenager. They were such alt-reality, grownup fairy tales that it was really fun to get sucked away into those worlds. Pineapple Express has that same vibe. Seth Rogan was good, but James Franco nailed his character. Best quote (from IMDB): Rogan was asked what he did to prepare, and he said he watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and studied Spicolli. Franco was asked the same question, and he said he prepared by making out with Spicolli (hint: Spicolli was played by Sean Penn, whose lover in Milk was played by James Franco).
Here is a place we plan on visiting next week: a 1500 year old holy ground in North Hawaii where many people were sacrificed to the war gods. I'll bring back pictures.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meeting with grownups

News for the last part of the week...

Mercedes Yardley talked me into going to the Las Vegas Writers Meetup, and I'm glad she did. 15 time bestselling author, very nice guy, (and, apparently, also a Las Vegan) Stephen Coontz was cool enough to come out and pitch his new project, Arctic Gold, give out free books, and provide his insight from a few decades of professional writing. Synopsis of his speech:
  • Paperbacks are dead; they have always been loss-leaders for bookstores and newspaper shops, but with newspapers going online, there is nothing left to lead. Smoke 'em if ya got 'em.
  • Ebooks are the new black. No surprise there. But...
  • Hardcovers, he thinks, will make a resurgence. They've always been more profitable than paperbacks; not sure what that means for the longevity of a given novel...maybe more printings in hardcover, instead of selling the paperback rights? Or ebooks become the new paperbacks?
  • Audiobooks are a profit engine right now, and are going nowhere but up. That explains the brouhaha between the Writer's Guild and Amazon over text-so-speech rights. Doesn't justify it, but it does add color.
  • His crystal ball tells him that people are still reading, contrary to what the Endowment for the Arts says. 
  • Co-authored books are becoming more popular; I asked him why, and he said that the money generated by his name, coupled with the heavy lifting done by a no-name writer, is more than the amount of money they would have made writing two separate books. Who knew.
Also, I was able to meet the very friendly and very tall Mercedes in person, along with her friend Coffee, and a few other folks with whom I shared a table. We discussed the ramifications of a house being haunted by lolcats and people who can only write bloody warnings on the wall in texting shorthand (i.e., U R DED LOL!!!). And, as a bonus, I answered a quiz question correctly, and won an audiobook: Ted Dekker's Boneman's Daughter which, apparently, hasn't even been released to Amazon yet.
Writing: I'm approaching that 25k point on Aquarium where I tend to get stuck on novels (this will be my third to pass 20k to-date) far it's going well. I'm making an effort to think forward in the story and do mental outlines every day before I type to make sure I don't back myself into a corner. Ended tonight at 1400 words, and just wrapped up chapter 7.

Reading: I took Natalie's advice, and jumped from Gilead to a small market antho: Subterranean's Tales of Dark Fantasy. Got through one story so far, a good short by Poppy Z. Brite. Also, almost done with disk 1 of Boneman's Daughter. Iffy so far...not something I would go out of my way to read, but there are some good parts...and, to Jamie Eyberg's point, it helps me expand my literary (read: popular fiction) horizons.

Watching: just finished In the Heat of the Night. Good flick, actually holds well the 30-some year chasm since it was released (except the funky-ass music). 

Quarter to midnight. Time for beddie bye.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Link Stew: More Harlanator, and POD

Slashdot has picked up the recent rantings of one Harlan Ellison (specifically, his recent tirade against the Star Trek franchise); and, as usual, the Slashdot comments relating to author's intellectual IP range from inane to insightful, and every whistle stop in between.

As could be expected, it's a heated debate between those who think all information wants to be free (both kinds of free), and those who don't think writers should have to stand on street corners dancing for their dinner. Also, a lot people alternately mocking and adulating Ellison.

Oh, Slashdot...
Lit agent Janet Reid on listing a prior POD on your novel query

My reaction to that sentence in a query letter is not what you hope it will be when you write it. You hope it implies "experienced author with pub credit who has a sales record."

What I infer from it is "book that sold fewer than 200 copies and means author can't be listed as a debut novelist."

Compelling argument against listing POD on your resume, unless you can add some sizable numbers to the tagline. I didn't realize referring to an author as debut was a good thing.
Reading update: can't decide between starting an urban horror antho from Shocklines, Grapes of Wrath, or No Country for Old Men to read next. Probably Steinbeck.

Writing update: haven't gotten a whole lot done since Saturday...I did get ejected from Pindeldeyboz, because apparently I can't friggin' count, and I was almost double their max word count. Duh. Actually not a big deal, I must have been really tired when I subbed that night, because I didn't notice that it was FTL. In my defense, I think it was the night my hillbilly neighbor was being cuffed and stuffed by the police in the middle of the street, and I was a bit distracted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Gilead

I just finished Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. I was going to write a nice, lengthy review of it, but the only thing I can think to write is:

Holy shit.

Then, as a follow-up (for clarity's sake):

There is no doubt in my mind why this won a Pulitzer. Robinson uses the English language with a mastery that suggests that she owns the damn thing. Almost as a dare against her own formidable talent, she wrote a book that breaks just about every friggin' rule that they tell writers not to break: it's in the form of a journal, written in first-person as an aging third-generation preacher living in a desolate town in the midwest telling a rather narrowly focused narrative to one person--and the reader falls right into it. It's like 250 pages of tightly-woven poetry. It makes me embarrased of everything I've ever written; but not in a bad a way that reminds me why I read fiction, and want to do better at writing it.

It's that good.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Contests? Why, yes...fresh off the truck!

Two contests you very much need to know about...

1. Catherine Gardner is hosting a contest to help plan a werewolf's fate...and expose the deepest, darkest secrets of circus-folk. You could be a hero, and win a copy of the Malpractice anthology.

2. Nathan Bransford wants you to set up an account at ESPN and pick the winners for some sport that is, apparently, moving into finals. I think it may be basketball. What I did catch, though, is whomever does the best in guessing the brackets (not sure how that works...sports betting is well beyond my grasp) gets a query evaluation from one of Nathan's clients...he doesn't say who (whom? too lazy to check HOW9), but Nathan has some clout, and getting your query eval'd by someone who broke through his gateway may be worth more than a handful of magic beans to all of you novel and novella-makers out there.

Almost forgot about Natalie Sin's ongoing Pick the Winner contest...follow the linkie, pick a story, and the next one to get published wins you--yes, YOU SIR!--a prize! Step right up!
I don't fret over my hitcounts for this site, but I do check my Google stats every once in a while, and I would estimate that 75% of the hits I get go to a post from last year where I had a delirious dream under the influence of cold medicine. So every post shall forthwith contain the words Nyquil and Alcohol and Dangers. Mercedes thinks I should post a picture of myself in bright red lipstick, but I'm saving that as a last resort.
And, for really no reason whatsoever-- Lenore, the cute little dead girl:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why a zombie nurse? Why not?

This morning, we went to a flash mob down at the Planet Hollywood to support United Way. Interesting...I've never been to one. Basically, 200 people showed up at the casino, picked up their matching shirts, and stood still for two minutes. Fun, and good PR for United Way and Planet Hollywood.

All things about good intentions and supporting your local community aside (it wasn't a fundraiser, per se, but we thought it would be a good opportunity to indoctrinate the kids into thinking about supporting charities...I usually prefer to donate money to local organizations and not supersized fund aggregators); I think as soon as a superbig organization like United Way sponsors--nay, instigates--a flash mob, it is no longer cool. Cool, as in holy zhit, I just saw five hundred people dressed as zombies having lunch at the park this morning; how COOL! A multi-billion dollar group co-opting a  grassroots thing like flash mobs is the corporate equivalent of playing The Game. (you just lost, by the way.)
My night is all laid out for me: dinner, 1k words on Aquarium, short story outlines, beer (channeling Hunter Thompson for inspiration) and Stepbrothers (Will Farrel movies help the brain turn off in a way not even beer can). Speaking of movies, we watched Silence of the Lambs last night on Netflix...I forgot what a great flick that was. I'll be doing Buffalo Bill impressions for the next week or so.

Now, put the lotion back in the basket and get to work!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Funk all around

I always thought the Kindle was pretty portable and forgiving when it came to Mobibook and other non-Amazon formats...apparently, such is not the case, and Amazon is issuing DMCA takedown notices for people who try to facilitate putting non-Amazon-purchased books on the Kindle. Another reason to buy the Sony, I suppose.
Another link from Slashdot...a mind-blowing mashup of totally disparate and unrelated clips woven into a single funky-ass song. Just awesome.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who-o-o Watches the Watchmen?

I watches the Watchmen!

As I've mentioned, I never read The Watchmen--my first thought was that it had something to do with The Avengers (shows how little I know about either). Neither of my kids were interested (in retrospect, a lucky thing for me), so Amy and I did something we never, ever do: we went to a movie alone. It was like an alternate reality.

Anyway, the movie...I thought it was great. Not awesome, not the pinnacle of the genre, but for either a comic-based movie OR a dramatic/action flick, it was pretty damn good in both categories. The characters, for the most part, were well-layered--as much as they can be in such a compressed environment. 

<begin spoilers>

There is very little wrong with this story; I think it has some very interesting things to say about society, and a great depth of emotional storytelling and character development. It's also a very refreshing Socratic thought  experiment on the genre: aren't superheroes really just vigilantes in cheesy costumes? Wouldn't people who do that be total outcasts? Wouldn't they have mental problems, emotional issues, and weird incestuous relationships within their little group of superfriends?

I do think that they could have fleshed out Silk Spectre II a bit more; there were a few points where it seemed like she was just there as a storyline pivot point, yet she was so central to the overall story. Ozymandias was a bit thin, too...he was just kind of out there as the guy who is super-smart, super-rich, and super-strong, but never really explained or justified any of that.

But, those are really my only complaints, and they are minor points at that. The other characters were great--especially Rorschach. Rorschach is the kind of character that I think many writers wish they could have brought to life: singular, intelligent, powerful, vulnerable, and, ultimately, broken beyond repair. The Comedian was also great--he was a grade-A motherfucker, somebody that you have no choice but to absolutely loathe, despite his 40-year spot on the "hero" team, and long relationship with the U.S. government. He is, in a not-so-subtle meditation on the nature of good guy/bad-guy, the worst parts of humanity all in one basket, but that's what made him interesting. He is a reflection of the darker parts of society; in his words: the American Dream come true.

It also featured two things that no other comic movie has had (that I'm aware of): softcore full-nude, pelvic-thrusting sex scenes, and extended full frontal male nudity, albeit the (presumably) CGI-rendered horse-member of Dr. "Papa Smurf" Manhattan, which, in one scene, swings to and fro as he walks across the room. Very brave for American cinema (which is a sad commentary on American cinema, I'm afraid).

I put the Watchmen compilation in my Paperbackswap queue, but I think I'm like 238th in line...which is fine, I wouldn't read it for a while anyway. Also, some things I've learned in researching the Watchmen saga: Alan Moore, the writer, is a pretty eccentric guy. He's so pissed at the studios, apparently he is giving all of his proceeds from Watchmen and V for Vendetta to the guy who penned the comics.

</end spoilers>
Still reading Gilead...there is no way in hell I'm going to hit 50 books this year, but I'm not worried about long as I keep working through my TBR list, I'm happy.
Still pounding away on my full length Aquarium, although I did take a day off and knock out a 2700 word short's kind of a funny story about a sadistic, murdering marriage counselor, and it's in queue with...someone. I can't remember.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ooga ooga

Two posts in one day? What the hell is that about?

Because Aaron and Jamie started talking about man-caves and flashing the workspace/writing space pictures...I wanted to join in the fun before I get busy this week and don't ever get around to it.

So, we have a little tiny house, and there is no man-cave to be found wife and I have our computers on a single L desk (we work so much that if we didn't share a desk, we'd never see each other). Note that all three of the computers in the picture are mine; hers is hidden on the next desk section behind my big monitor.

Yes, I'm out of control. 

One is my primary personal use computer; the laptop is for my day-job (I work from home a couple of days a week); the third is my old, crusty Linux computer for testing, coding, and pretty much being a geek who needs a third computer to break--it probably has the same processing power as your cell phone. 

This is in what the previous owners used as the dining room (but, in our defense, what we now use as a dining room, they had a slot machine in. Seriously.  Welcome to Las Vegas).

**UPDATE (because I don't want to do another post): according to Nathan Bransford, this is Positivity/Rainbows/Kittens/Puppies Week. So there. No take-backs.

Now, With More Superiosity!

The wonderfully generous KC Shaw has nom-nom-nominated me for a Superior Scribbler Award! Thanks KC! (I don't do every meme that comes around, but most of gives me something to write about that isn't about me)

The rules of the game: 

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit 
this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I think I'm late on this one, so pretty much all of the writers whose blogs I read have been tagged, I think, and it's hard to pick the top five...but, without further ado, here is a list of the blogs I most enjoy reading who may or may not have been recognized so far...

Catherine J Gardner: Very prolific author from the UK...Cate is on the bleeding edge of the haps in fiction and horror, and loves to share this great and valuable info on her site.

Robert Swartwood: Robert has a bio as long as my arm, and always has sober insights into the publishing world, in addition to some noteworthy guest bloggers.

Felicity Dowker: Felicity is on the fast-track to ruling scary Aussie literature for the foreseeable future; reading her blog is like a voyeueristic window into how it's done...

Natalie Sin: Natalie explores the darker side of Korean Boy Bands, sodomy, and Chinese
 Pugs...well worth a read.

Mercedes Yardley: a fellow Las Vegan and parent, Mercedes has been kind enough to volunteer to drag me kicking and screaming into the real world outside of the internets to meet other writers. In person. Like, the same room. Where you have to talk to them. (bites nails)

I could go on, there are so many more good blogs I read...but these are the ones that stuck out.

Happy memeday!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lazy summer day in March...

What a lazy damn outside thermometer reads 92° F (but it's in direct sunlight...the actual temperature is probably closer to 75° F...but I'll still take it). I sat outside and read about 75 pages of Gilead, and my Malamute took a nap on the cool cement patio next to me. If you live somewhere where it's cold today, just remember this before you throw a shoe at your monitor: in only a few short months it will break 100° here in the Mojave desert, and then it will break 110°, then 115°, and it will stay there until September, and then ramp back down about 10° a month. This is one of two seasons when people actually leave the house in Las Vegas. Weird, huh?
I won't write until later tonight, but I've had a couple of >2,000 word days in a row on Aquarium, so I'm feeling pretty good about where I'm at. Should break 15k before bed.
It's been beat to death this past week; so the only thing I'm going to say about the Kindle 2 text-to-speech controversy is this: yes, authors are struggling for cash right now--just like everyone else in the world. No, the Kindle can't replace a professional audiobook. Yes, it's worthy of discussion. All true. But the important thing that Roy Blount doesn't seem to have acknowledged (or realized) is that by taking a hard line stance on this issue and leading the charge to protect the author-members of the Author's Guild from this minor so-tagged threat, he is risking turning the guild (and, by proxy, all professional writers regardless of if they belong to the AG or not) into the puppy-killing protectionists that the internet has twisted the MPAA and RIAA into. Reading as a pastime is tenuous as it is, and current and prospective authors don't really need someone pissing in the pool right now over a minor issue that is looking to get  overblown in another case of the Streisand Effect.
If you're one of the 1.2 million people who haven't seen this short video about superheroes Piderman and Baman, enjoy in preparation of going to see Watchmen next weekend...