Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Bitter End Again and Again

I've been here before. I'd hoped it wouldn't be like this. I'd hoped that this would get better with practice. I'm five thousand words from the end of the short story I'm trying to finish, and putting words on the page is like pulling teeth--my own.

But I'm going to do it. I will.

Take a deep breath.

Get a grip on those pliers girl.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sing It Like Prince: Controversy

To quote the Purple One, "I just can't believe all the things people say (Controversy!) ". There seems to be a whole lot of postin' going on at Smart Bitches, Karen Scott, Kate R. and other sites regarding the Shomi authors who dressed as their characters at the RWA convention, the role of blogging, and what constitutes a personal attack. I'm not about to join the flame wars, and I'm not here to offer another opinion on Professionalism v. Publicity. Plenty of people have done that, and, frankly, I'm bored with it. (I'm also too lazy to add links to the other blogs mentioned above. Most of 'em are linked in the side bar, so click away.)

But here's the thing about controversy: for the price of a couple of pairs of thigh highs, Shomi generated a hell of a lot of buzz. To be honest, I'm beyond caring about the authors' behavior. Instead, I'm wondering what Shomi books are like. Are Shomi heroines as daring and ire-inspiring as Shomi authors? 'Cause that might make for a good book. If I had room in my budget for two more books this month, I'd buy Liz Maverick's and Marianne Mancusi's titles. Heck, given my poor impulse control, I'll probably buy them anyway.

Controversy has a way of generating public interest, even when the publicity seems bad. So here's the $65,000* Question: Will there be fewer authors in costume at next year's RWA* conference in San Francisco, or more?

*$65,000 not included / I'm not affiliated with RWA.


Bad Versus Worse

Completely random and apropos of nothing except the use of the abbreviation for the word "versus" in the post above, here are three movies I'd like to see packaged as a box set:

  1. Freddie vs. Jason
  2. Alien vs. Predator
  3. Santa Claus vs. The Martians


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Can Has Books: Redux

Just as I was running out of the books I ordered with the gift certificate I won in Bam's July contest, I won another book (Marjorie M. Liu's Soul Song) in a random drawing on Lynne Viehl's Paperback Writer Blog. Woo hoo! Also, thanks to my mad Inter-Library Loan skillz (and half-dozen library cards) I was able to get my hands on Throne of Jade, book two in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series.

I devoured Throne of Jade in less than a day. It was yummy, but not quite as filling as the first book. It suffered from being a transitional book in the series. A lot of the emotional weight of the plot hangs on some questions which are very easy to guess, given that this is a series, and I've already got the next book on order.

Nevertheless, Novik again delivered a fascinating, imaginative, well-rounded world, with characters I've really come to care about. Can't wait for round 3.


Friday, July 20, 2007

It's the Same Dame

Yesterday I linked to David Denby's piece on modern romantic comedy films in general, and Knocked Up in particular. While discussing older romantic comedies, Denby casually lumps The Lady Eve in with the "Screwball Comedies".

Now, don't get me wrong, I adore those screwball comedies. But the thing about them is that the heroines are almost always daft, dizzy debutantes. In The Lady Eve, the heroine is a conwoman and a card shark. There's nothing daft or dizzy or innocent about her. The hero is a more conventional stock character, the wide-eyed academic, so engrossed in his studies that he hasn't a clue about love (Denby mentioned Ball of Fire and Bringing Up Baby as two examples of this hero type. If you haven't seen them, do. They're both loads of fun.).

Denby says, "The screwball comedies were not devoted to sex, exactly—you could hardly describe any of the characters as sensualists." And this is why he was wrong to lump Eve in with her contemporaries. The Lady Eve is hot. Not scorching, but definitely damned sexy for a movie in which no sex actually occurs.

Working at the height of the Hayes code, writer/director Preston Sturges was a master of suggestion. (He wrote a movie about an girl who gets knocked-up with septuplets by a soldier she can't remember during WW2 without ever saying the word "pregnant" or showing a pregnant belly. The Miracle at Morgan's Creek). Sturge's screenplay for The Lady Eve is sexy and suggestive when it shows Barbara Stanwyck's Jeanne seducing Henry Fonda's Charlie. It casts Charlie's high-falutin ideals about love against Jean's earthy sensuality, and Jean wins every time. In one of my favorite scenes, the two are standing on the deck of the boat at midnight discussing their romantic ideals:

CHARLIE: I shouldn't think that kind of ideal was so difficult to find.

EAN: Oh, he isn't. That's why he's my ideal
What's the sense of having one if you can't ever find him?
Mine is a practical can find two or three of
in every barber shop getting the works.
CHARLIE: Why don't you marry one of them?
JEAN: Why should I marry anybody that looked like that?
When I marry, it's going to be somebody I've never seen before.
I won't know what he looks like or where he'll come from or what he'll be.
I want him to sort of take me by surprise.

CHARLIE: Like a burglar.

JEAN: That's right.
And the night will be heavy with perfume,
and I'll hear a step behind me...and somebody breathing heavily.
And then...


JEAN: Ohhh! You better go to bed, Hopsie. I think I can sleep peacefully now.

CHARLIE: I wish I could say the same.

JEAN: Why, Hopsie!

If you haven't seen The Lady Eve, put it at the top of your Netflix list. It's funny, it's witty, it's romantic, it's a little bit sexy. And in my humuble opinion, it's The Best Romantic Comedy Ever Made.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


It doesn't rain, it pours. My books arrived this week, so between bouts of PS3ing, reading, and web surfing, I've hardly written a thing. This won't do. I've a novella to finish by the end of the month, and since I plan to spend the last few days of said month lounging poolside while waiters bring me froofy alcoholic beverages in a rainbow of unnatural colors, I'd best get back to writing.

Thirteen things I read this week

  1. Sons of Heaven, by Kage Baker
  2. The Rest Falls Away, by Colleen Gleason
  3. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
  4. David Denby's piece on modern romantic comedies in this weeks New Yorker
  5. Victoria's Secret Sale! Catalog This is the fourth such sale catalog I've received in two weeks. I don't know why VS keeps sending me the damned things. They don't even make/sell my bra size. I know I have an eentsy rib cage, but for a company that's trying to diversify into Asia, Victoria's Secret has a terrible selection of band sizes smaller than 34.
  6. PS3 manual
  7. BBC News (my precious!)
  9. L.A. Observed
  10. Scandal on the Romance Blogs! The Usual Suspects: Bam, Karen, Smart Bitches, Mrs. Giggles, Dear Author, Kate R.
  11. catalog (Why does a website have a paper catalog? Country-living relatives leave the strangest things behind when they visit.)
  12. Vogue, España. Vogue, España still uses models on their covers. Vogue, España is full of images of American celebrities. Vogue, España makes me feel like I am not indulging in shallow pursuits because I am not just reading a fashion magazine, I'm Practicing my Spanish. Also, writing about Vogue, España today has helped me learn to use the tilde in HTML.
  13. God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens


Monday, July 16, 2007

Ultimate Temptation

It's summer. TV's all in reruns, weather outside is broiling--there's nothing to distract me from writing, right? Wrong. My darling SmartAss got a PS3 this weekend. How will I resist the temptation? Even though the game I am desperately looking forward to (John Woo's Stranglehold, starring Chow Yun Fat [squee!]) isn't out yet, our new gizmo upconverts the old PS2 games so prettily. And, who am I kidding, I could stare at the menu for hours. Seventy Days of Sweat just got a whole lot harder.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Here be Dragons...

Best to take care of the figurative dragons first...RWA has roused the fiery ire of many a small-press, ePubbed and aspiring author. I won't waste time explaining when Carrie Lofty did a better job of it over on Bam's blog. Suffice to say, RWA declared that ePublishers weren't real publishers, and rained all over my published author parade. But not too much. I'm pretty sure they'll change their mind in a year or two. Remember, you read it here first.

Samhain editor Angela James responded with professionalism and class.

As to the literal dragons...things come in threes. Apropos of nothing, I picked up Shana Abe's The Dream Thief and Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon at the library day before yesterday (my Amazon order won't arrive till next week). Read them both. Abe's book was pretty damn good, even if the ending seemed a little *coughsequelbaitcough* anticlimactic. But she's got me. I'll read her next one.

And Novik's book--my goodness!--she's got me for as long as she wants. Can't say enough good things about it. Check out Jane's review for specifics. Throw in a fangirl squee! and you've got my take on the matter.

Drat the quick-fingered library patron who snatched up the sequels before I could put an electronic hold on them. Waiting just ain't my thing.

As to the third dragon thing, Kate R. posted a picture of the cover for her alter-ego, Summer Devon's, forthcoming novella with Samhain. It's purty. Go have a look.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

To the 21st Century, and Beyond!

Newsflash: Bettie discovers Google Reader. I know, I know. What rock have I been buried under all this time? But, fact is, I was in the habit of reading my blogs the old fashioned way. You know, click the link and hope there's something new. Then I notice Google Reader listed at the top of my iGoogle page. Usually I'm so distracted by the adorable antics of the Frog and Ladybug theme that I don't notice the links at the top. I click Google Reader, subscribe to all of my blogs, et voila! I cut my daily net time in half. Cool.

Now, onto the good stuff: My 70 Days of Sweat update:

My total word count for Monday and Tuesday is 2,200 words.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
7,200 / 27,000

(I admit, I also read The Dream Thief by Shana Abe Tuesday afternoon. Good book, though the ending struck me as too quick, or too...something. Point is, I will NOT do a Not a Review on it. I will NOT try to pinpoint what I didn't like about the ending of a book that I otherwise liked very much. Who am I kidding. I am such a procrastinator.)


Monday, July 9, 2007

10 Haters Capped

I'm supposed to be writing 2000 words today, so what the hell am I doing on youtube? I blame my darling husband. Youtube is like a virus that we keep passing back and forth. I show him something, and then wrestle free of it while he spends a couple hours free associating links only to call me over to the entertainment computer to look at some funny thing he found. Can you say vicious cycle? Damn you, YOUTUUUUUUUUUBE!


Sunday, July 8, 2007

70 Days of Sweat

I just read about Allison Kent's 70 Days of Sweat challenge, so, of course, I had to go over and sign up. The challenge is to write your novel in 70 days, which, unlike NaNoWriMo, is a doable challenge for folks who are staring down the barrel of a 100,000 word novel.

I'm not working on a new full length right now. Currently, I'm trying to finish a novella (Bright) and a short novel (Split) and the as-yet untitled Sci-fi thingy. Overall, I need to write about 50K words, and edit and polish. So I'm doing a modified version of the challenge. It's rather like doing a modified push up--same name, way less difficult.

Point is, I'm gunning to write 1500 to 2000 words a day for the next 70 (okay, 75) days and have 3 finished stories by September 20th, 2007. Participants are supposed to report updates every Wednesday and Sunday.

Here are the stories I'm working on. I'll create word count charts for them, soon:

1) Title: Bright
2) Hero/Profession: Kostantin Amur / Man of Mystery or Criminal?
3) Heroine/Profession: Rosalind Stark / Waitress and non-starving artist
4) Setting: Dark River City
5) Length: 25K-30K words
6) Current Status
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
5,000 / 27,000

1) Title: Split
2) Hero/Occupation: Jake Wright/Jack Sinistral / Scientist/Assassin/Split personality
3) Heroine/Occupation: Mara Keane / Professional Knife-thrower
4) Setting: Dark River City
5) Length: 45K-60K words
1) Book Title: Untitled
2) Hero/Occupation: Undecided/Alien liaison
3) Heroine/Occupation: Ysabel Ravi/Translator & Traitor
4) Lost planet
5) 45k-60k words


Saturday, July 7, 2007

I Can Has Books?

Joy and happiness! I won an Amazon Gift Certificate in Bam's July Contest. While I am so very happy that people liked my entry, I am beside myself ecstatic to be able to buy books again! Not that I don't heart the library, but I'm the kind of girl who likes her gratification instant. That hold list just wasn't cutting it.

A while back, I made a list of books I'd love to buy when I got money. There were five on the list. I'd ordered exactly two when I noticed that Kage Baker's final Company novel, Sons of Heaven, will be out on July 10th, 2007. My mom and I are both hooked on this series, and seeing as she gave birth to me and all, I figured it might be a nice thing to get a book I could maybe lend her...after I've read it a couple of times.

Anyhoo, Sons of Heaven kinda screwed with my list, so I had to switch things up.

  1. Sons of Heaven by Kage Baker.
    Baker is an incredible writer with a sly, dry wit; an admirable appreciation for pirates; and a delightful appreciation for California history (Even though it's set in the 19th century, Mendoza in Hollywood is on my list of all-time favorite Books Set In Los Angeles). Her Company novels are a vast, conspiracy-riddled tapestry of interconnecting novels and short stories that span, oh, all of human history, and then some. Sons of Heaven is supposed to wrap up this tale of time-travel, immortal cyborgs, corporate iniquity and star-crossed love. Goody. I've been waiting years to see how it all turns out.

  2. God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
    My favorite droll, drunken Brit. I don't always agree with the man, but I love the way he shows those Fox News bobbleheads up for the blathering echo-chamber of idiots they are. For that alone, he deserves my money, but the book looks pretty interesting, too.

  3. The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleeson
    Vampire slayer tale that rates (favorable) comparisons to Buffy? History-ish setting? Many good reviews? Okay, I'll bite.

  4. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
    Hard-boiled/Noir classic. I love me some Hammett. While writing on my WIP, Bright, I was thinking about Hammett's description of Sam Spade ("He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan"*) when I realized that even though I'd read The Maltese Falcon several times, I didn't own the book.

    The Maltese Falcon is my third favorite Hammett novel. My adoration of Hammett characters goes: Continental Op (there's just something about a morally flexible, nameless hero that gets me every time); Nick Charles (The Thin Man. Actually, I'm more partial to William Powell than the book version, but when I read it, I imagine William Powell); Sam Spade (for some reason, I never imagine Bogart when I read the Maltese Falcon. Funny since I love the movie, and I think the out-the-window fade to black is one of the loveliest around, but there you go.)

    I just love the way Hammett writes. Spare, and what a way with descriptions and dialog! Red Harvest is my favorite, and it's my go-to book when I think I'm getting too wordy. Still, third place ain't nothing to sneeze at. And, The Maltese Falcon fit my remaining budget, with free shipping to boot.

*FYI, the thing I love about the description is that Hammett describes his character in a way that makes Spade seem attractive, but not handsome. I was writing a description of a character with an attractive/ugly vibe.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal

Another month, another entry in Bam's Monthly Contest. Perhaps one of these days, I'll win that Amazon gift certificate. In the mean time, I'm having a terrible lot of fun writing.

The challenge was to write a scene portraying heat--both meteorological and sexual--without straying into purple prose or naughty words. My entry's below.

Ingrid’s gin-and-tonic sat in a puddle on the scarred table— sweating, like everything else. The ice had melted in minutes; nothing could stay cold in this place, nor dry. When she tried to sleep, the sheets and mosquito netting stuck to her skin like wet tissue.

The radio hiccoughed. Duke Ellington became noticias; lights flickered, the fans slowed. The generator must want petrol.

She’d the tin in her hand when she got outside and heard the generator’s well-fed chug over the jungle’s nighttime chatter. A match flared in the shadow of the pump-house. Ruiz appeared in lantern light, leaning against the steel wall like he’d never left. He’d three days of black stubble, and a sheen of sweat that she wanted to lick off him.

Hot breath and hot mouths; he tasted of Scotch, she of gin. Her hands slid from his sweat-slick skin – he’d always been hard to hold onto.

“Why’d you return?”

Silent, he undid her shirt, baring her body to the thick night air and his dark eyes.

She struggled against the heat of his hands. “It’s too hot.”

He reversed their positions, pressing her naked skin against the cool steel wall. She sighed.


“Oh, yes...”


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A More Perfect Union

Happy 4th of July!

Having just vowed to write fewer posts about myself, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the 4th of July, and what America means to me. (Hey, I never claimed to be consistent.)

Friends and relatives are often surprised when, in the course of conversation, I reveal something that marks me as a big ol' America-loving patriot. They think I've got some sort of beef with this great country because I'm liberal, or because I'm black, or because I think the war in Iraq is both a tragedy that will haunt our nation for the next century and a harbinger of our falling international stature.

But what they don't get is that I consider having a beef with my country to be my civic duty as an American citizen. We declared our independence because we wanted the right not just to debate with our government, but also change it. And for two hundred and thirty one years, Americans have been disagreeing with government and doing what they can to change what they don't like.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The very first civic goal mentioned in the preamble to the constitution is that of forming a "more perfect Union." Perfection is not an attainable goal. If a thing can always be more perfect, can the quest to improve it ever stop? No.

This is what I love about my country. Our most important document enshrines the goal of continuing improvement (and, given the size of our modern self-help industry, most Americans share that goal--at least when it comes to their personal lives). So, while the founding fathers may have been sexist, racist, slave-owning douches who talked high but lived low (I'm looking at you, Jefferson), the process of continually improving government, of striving for a more perfect union has ensured that this great-great granddaughter of slaves has the same freedoms under the law as every other American (as long as I don't try to marry a woman).

America isn't perfect, but I've always loved the way we keep striving for a better, more equal government. The only thing that has ever or will ever derail our progress is when Americans stop debating and disagreeing. When Americans let themselves get fooled into thinking that disagreeing with the government means disagreeing with America. Nothing could be fur from the truth. Every time we let the government take away our freedoms, every time we shut our mouths when some talking head accuses dissenters of "treason" wether are betraying our country's first and most important goal: to form a more perfect union.

So this July 4th, I'm going to write my senator and tell her to give Dick Cheney hell for keeping secrets from the people who pay his salary. I'm going to write the mayor and tell him how much I hate the potholes on my street. And I'm going to write the president and tell him he's a douche to imply that people who disagree with his administration hate America or hate freedom, because as far as I'm concerned, there is no greater service an American civilian can perform for her country and for freedom than to stand up and disagree.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Blogger, Be Good.

Blogger extraordinaire Lynn Viehl has a great post up today on her blog, Paperback Writer. It's about ways to stay interested in your blog. She says, "Blogging is a labor of writing love..."

But here's the thing: I love to write, but I don't like to write about me. That's why I write fiction.

Viehl advises bloggers to reinvigorate their blogs by reviewing their favorite and least favorite posts. That snippet proved much more useful. All of my favorites, the Not-a-Reviews, the discussions of / rants about genre conventions, and the omphaloskeptic examinations of the writing process are only tangentially about me. My least favorite are all about me.

Note to self: write less about yourself. D'oh!

In the future: Less me; more everything else.