Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Happy 100

This is my 100th blog post. Hurrah!

I missed my 1-year blogiversary by a few weeks, but hey--we're all still hungover from Evil Editor's rawkin' party, so the oversight comes as a massive relief to our virtual livers, I'm sure.

To celebrate my blog's odometer ticking over to zeroes again, I propose a contest! And to make it really interesting, I propose:

(Picture that in blinky font; I dunno how to do blinky font.)

Aaaaand because I'm po' the prizes are in fact a prize, and a chintzy one at best: a $15CAD gift certificate to Amazon for the winner.

But you're all slavering like crazed beasts, right? You're pulsating in anticipation 'cause it's free, darn it, and free is like candy wrapped in bacon dipped in maple syrup and slathered with cream cheese, right?

Okay, so you're not quite that excited. Regardless! Here's the contest:

Write me a story exactly 100 words long. Being even one word too long or too short disqualifies you, although I will be lenient about sketchy cases like hyphenated composite nouns (e.g. "ten-year-old".)

Post it in the comments; you retain all rights (unless Blogger steals 'em; I haven't checked their fine print.)

The story can be about anything you like, and the winner will be chosen by the thoroughly dodgey criterion of having been the story I liked best (humour is always a safe bet.) Commenters may sway me with their eloquent online votes. There is no limit on the number of times you can enter!

Tell your friends. Tell your neighbours. Tell that hairy guy at the bus stop who wears no pants under his trench coat.

The deadline is Friday, May 2nd, 7 PM Pacific Daylight Time (i.e. expect whiny snivelling and self-pity from me if nobody enters by then.) The winner will need to provide me with an email address to send the gift certificate to.

*Grins wildly and fires the starter's pistol*

Fine Print: Comments on the stories are encouraged, but only if they are complimentary, i.e. this is not a critique session, so all negative comments--even if constructive and polite--will be deleted. Only say nice stuff, okay? Okay. Thanks for your cooperation, guys!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ode to an Evil Editor

Oh, Evil Editor, breaker of hearts, scourge of the querily-challenged, snarky friend to writers--happy two-year anniversary, O Hallowed Bearer of the Sideburns of Sarcasm! Who loves ya, baby? WE DO! WE DO!

Genesis of an Evil Editor

There once was a harried poor editor
Who frothed at the queries coming in his door
He told the authors they stank,
And their writing was rank
But the fools just flocked back for more

"You're so funny!" they squealed,
"And you give us feedback for real!
O Editor, it's you we adore!"

So he rolled bloodshot eyes
And heaved a great sigh
Then gave in and put on some horns

Now Evil rules all it surveys
And in blogland, the writers chant and sway
Adoring their Editor
Whose eyeballs are still sore
But whose blue pen bad queries will slay!

(Speaking of blogversaries, I missed my own by several weeks. My next post will be my 100th, however, so I'll do something special for that one.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I've been tagged, dagnabbit! Please pop by Merry Monteleone's site to read her six interesting facts, but I warn you--her first entry will make you crave sugary badness liek woah. I'm still salivating.

The rules:

a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

Six Weird Things About Me:

1: I'm allergic to pretty much all food. Really. I would die without medicine.
2: I'm really good at drawing and painting, enough so that everyone assumed (when I was a kid) I would become an artist. Instead, I got a master's degree in Physics.
3: You've heard that most people dream in black and white? It isn't true. We all dream in colour but most of us forget the colours. Me, however? I remember my dreams in vivid, amazing colour--but I forget all the sound. I know people speak and even sing in my dreams, but I always remember the dreams as being silent.
4: Speaking of sound, I have a lot of trouble remembering things someone says to me; if they write it down and show it to me, I can often memorize the information at a glance.
5: I can't whistle. I've been trying to figure it out since childhood; I just can't make that sound.
6: How appropriate is this for the sixth fact? I stand six feet tall in my socks.

Tag six people? Oh...I always hate doing that. I'm the dork who (bravely! It's brave! Bad luck, and all, ya know.) breaks chain letters, too.

Instead, I'll just leave this as an open tag. If Six Weird Things sounds like a fun thing to do on your blog, considered yourself tagged! And if you let me know you've snatched up that gauntlet, I'll link to your blog here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If You Decided to Do It, Then It's Valid

What makes a book "publishable"?

We're told all that's required to get published is that we write a good book, but what does "good" mean?

I define "good" in this context to mean "enjoyable to others", but that's where the diversity of humanity comes in, because different people enjoy wildly different things. One person will read anything that has a great voice; another insists on an exciting plot; another wants magnificent writing foremost. One person's "good" is another person's "trashy drivel" or "pompous navel-gazing".

So if "good" can mean many things, what does "publishable" mean?

"Publishable" means the publisher can make a profit on that book. You can be a weak writer on a variety of fronts, and if there are enough people out there willing to buy your work, then it's publishable.

Conversely, you can be a spectacular writer and have your work still not be publishable. If there's only twenty-three people in the world brilliant enough to enjoy your writing, then it's not publishable.

But it's still worthy.

Your writing is valid, and valuable, even if it's not publishable. What you are doing has worth, even if it isn't considered to be worth money. By writing, you are sharpening your opinions and purging your emotional poisons. You are exercising your mind and proving your abilities to yourself. You're making worlds out of pure imagination, and that's pretty freakin' awesome, even if it isn't saleable.

By writing, you're engaging in one of only a handful of pursuits that make human beings great. Seriously: what you're doing is part of why you deserve to be called a person. This makes you alive in a way that simply eating and breathing don't. Compared to this, money is beside the point.

So keep writing and keep creating--and good luck in your pursuit of publication, too, because it's not like that isn't a worthy endeavour. Anything that helps you to become your best is; just remember that it's the writing that makes you amazing--not whether or not other people are willing to buy it.


And in other news, a pigeon laid an egg on our deck. :-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Is It Rude to Point? Not in Blogger-Land!

Time to point and stare! Well--I'll point, and you stare. Hopefully, you'll participate also.

The Happy Cat, Merry Monteleone, is graciously hosting a pitch/query workshop on her blog. Submit your query or pitch in the comments, and Merry will give you her thoughts and suggestions on it. This is a great opportunity to get a cold reading from a very warm-hearted fellow writer! Please pop by Merry's site and join the fun.

And speaking of fun, if you have a questionable sense of humour, Ello has the contest for you! It's the Pee-My-Pants Funny contest. Write a (250 words max.) short story for Ello, or caption a photograph for her, but whatever you do, your mission is to make Ello laugh so hard she pees her pants. (Please read her instructions on how to submit.)

I have no idea if this is a simple task or not, but the fun is in the trying! And there are prizes... (But not urine-related ones, thankfully.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I'm hardly a new-agey, spirits-and-crystals type. I'm more of a hard-edged, point-and-mock science geek. However, I've really noticed that my mental state makes a huge difference to my creative output. The new-agey types may now point-and-mock back at me for this astounding revelation. Energy matters.

Since getting an agent, I've made a lot of progress on plotting my next novel. It had been going very slowly prior to that.

I'm certain this is mostly due to the excitement of feeling like my writing career is going somewhere again. I started sleeping less; I started getting more ideas for the book. I also feel like I've got an obligation to get cracking on the next novel now, since there is another human being in the world who is expecting me to. However, most of the progress is simply due to a jump in my mental energy.

In this post, Josh links to David B. Coe's list of habits writers should acquire, and the top two are exercise and healthy eating. If you think about it, these are just ways to keep yourself mentally at the top of your game. You're more likely to feel like writing if you've got more energy.

The one thing I would add to Mr. Coe's list is to keep yourself well stimulated (hur, hur.) (Okay, no, I didn't really mean it that way.) (Although... If you write erotica, that sort of activity might come in handy useful to your writing also.)

Rather than holing up in your writing spot all the time, give yourself opportunities to go to movies, go for walks with friends and sweeties, read books, and visit museums and art galleries. Heck, go ahead and give yourself permission to play computer games in moderation; some of them have awesome and inspiring story lines. All of it serves to keep your brain zippy and inspired, and that will only benefit your writing.


What do you do to keep yourself in top writing form, and what techniques would you suggest to other writers as being particularly effective? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks.

Real Life - Nothing to See Here; Move Along, Move Along

This is all pedestrian real-life stuff, so feel free to pass on by. My attempted-weekly writing post will be up after this.


Real Life 1:
We got a new computer--and a sleek and sexy beast it is, too--and we also bought an enclosure for our old hard drive, which means I've now got access to all the files I had potentially lost. Hurrah! No lost writing.


Real Life 2:
Although I could not possibly top the hilariously nerve-wracking and fearful experience Ello recently had at the dentist, I am currently also feeling like the dentists are out to get me.

I've never minded going to the dentist. You lie back in that comfy chair with a bright light shining on your face and it's almost as relaxing as lying on a beach--provided you can ignore having a stranger's hands in your mouth, which I can.

However, I had a molar break recently. This is the second one in a little over a year, which is disturbing for a person who has never had much trouble with her teeth before. Apparently it's due to old silver amalgum fillings, which eventually begin to flex. Unfortunately, your teeth aren't particularly flexible.

The dentist decided to put in a crown this time. The session that saw my original tooth filed to an itty-bitty stub and the temporary crown glued on was...less relaxing than lying on a beach, shall we say.

Apparently I have a muzzle. My jaw is small, yet long. It doesn't help that the freezing makes my muscles tighten up. Thank goodness my dentist has small hands, or she would have had to saw my jaw off and fix that damned tooth on the counter top instead. Regardless, I left the first session feeling manhandled, snivelling, and so numb I could barely speak.

This week, she tried to put in the permanent crown. Tried. Twice. She made a heroic attempt, I must admit. Then she put the temporary crown back on and informed me the lab had made a mistake and they would have to recast the crown. Thus, I left the second session manhandled, snivelling, so numb I could barely speak, and with nothing to show for it except another appointment.

As it happened, my regular check-up and cleaning was scheduled for the day after the permanent crown was supposed to go in. That went well except for the hygienist saying, "You've got a lot of recession. You really need to go to a periodontist and get gum grafts." Hmm; lovely. I've had those before. They are also not quite as relaxing as lying on the beach. Then the dentist came in and did her checkup and said, "You've got another tooth cracking. You'll need another crown in the next few years." Ooh, even better.

So now I've got another week of squishy foods, which isn't bad in that I'm using as justification for eating squishy foods I love, like humous and pesto sauce. I'm also not nearly as bad off as poor Travis, in that I can actually have things that require chewing, provided I chew gently and on the correct side of my mouth.

So are the dentists out to get me? I don't know, but they are getting a lot of insurance money out of me. Thank goodness they're all such lovely people, or I really would start dreading the dentist chair.

Oh, wait; I've still got that appointment on Friday to go through, don't I? *trembles*

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Late Night Ramblings, Ahoy!

First, a tangent. Actually, this whole post is a tangent.

Graduate school was the hardest thing I ever did. It wasn't just intellectually challenging, it was emotionally devastating. I worked in a great lab with great people and my supervisor was arguably the nicest human being on the face of the Earth, but I was confronted daily with the limits of my own abilities. And that experience was nine pleasing shades of hell on my ego. I was miserable.

But there's one thing I did during that time that I'm proud of. I owned my failures.

It's fairly common to witness frustrated writers getting angry at the query system--at the "gatekeepers" of publishing who bar them from the industry based on a whim and a one-page letter. I'm not going to discuss whether these writers have a valid point; I'm only going to note that this isn't a useful mindset. For one thing, it's not healthy to get angry at something you can't change, and on a deeper level, that mindset will cause you to miss opportunities for future success.

Events (and sometimes people) will always get in the way of you reaching a difficult goal. If you suffer a failure, you may be completely correct in blaming outside circumstances for it.

However, you can't stop there. You shouldn't think, "It's their fault," and then hop in the hot tub of sulk. You have to go one step farther if you want a better chance of reaching your goal on the next attempt.

That one step consists of owning every part of the failure that you can. Don't blame yourself for the things you really can't control, but everything you can accept responsibility for? Humbly nod and say, "Yup. That part was my doing." The query letter? Own it. Sample pages? Own them. The presentation, the manuscript, the way you spelled someone's name? Own all that. It's not relevant whether the person receiving the query should have been more forgiving of your naivety--own those parts that you were responsible for.

The reason why is simple: if you blame others for a failure, then by that logic, there's nothing you can do to make things better. You're impotent; you're helpless; you're irrevocably held down by The Man.

However, if you accept responsibility for every part of the failure that you can, then you've admitted to yourself there's something you can do--something you can improve on for next time. You've given yourself the means to keep fighting. You can now concentrate your energy on everything you can change, rather than everything you can't.

Blaming your failures on outside obstacles is always easier on the ego, but please decide which is more important to you--your goals or your ego? In order to learn from your failure, you have to own it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Query Letter to Ms. Wood

Due to overwhelming demand (i.e. Julie and Josephine), I've posted the query letter I originally sent to my (*tra la!* My. Hee!) agent, Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency, below.

A few things first, however. A lot of my excellent and brilliant blogging buddies helped me hone this version of the letter in this post, and I really want to thank them again for their input and fine suggestions. Every one of their comments was useful, helpful and made me think carefully about what I was doing in the letter, line by line. This query wouldn't have been nearly as strong without their kind assistance.

Also, as a caveat, I have to say I don't actually think the query letter was the thing that kicked me over the last hurdle. This manuscript got rejected by almost thirty agents before I got an acceptance, and most of those rejections were form letter passes. This is what I think really made the difference:

I had the good fortune of having Nathan Bransford, a literary agent for Curtis Brown, Ltd., critique my query letter and sample pages on his blog in December. His reaction was basically, "Nice query letter; your pages don't work." He then gave me very specific comments about what the issues were, and his blog and mySpace readers chimed in with their thoughts also.

And dang, it was painful, but he (and they) were so very, very right. His critique did what all good critiques do: it made me see into my own blind spot. I balled up in wibbley self-doubt for a period of time, but then I sat down with my opening scene and rewrote that puppy within an inch of its life.

I queried four more agents with the new pages, and one of those agents was Ms. Wood.

I think my query letter was strong (thank you, blogging buddies!), but I'm certain the rewrite is what made the difference. (By the way, when I thanked Mr. Bransford again for his help, his reply really cemented my opinion that he is one heck of a class act. All of you aspiring writers: query Nathan first! He would make a fantastic agent for you.)

That all said, here's the query I sent to Ms. Wood:

Dear Ms. Wood,

Arthur C. Clarke said sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. In DARK HEIR, my 94,000 word science fantasy novel, a damaged A.I. litters the world with unstable "magical" guardians to protect a peace that failed thousands of years ago.

Katirin is a princess of such embarrassing parentage her family forced her into a convent to get her out of the royal succession. She just discovered that the convent's priestesses, who share a communal mind and seek only to increase their numbers, aren't holy women serving God, but empty husks puppeteered by what Katirin believes is a demon. If she doesn't escape, the creature will devour her soul.

For Katirin, however, evading telepathic priestesses and her irate family isn't enough. She can see the demon's hunger will one day destroy the nation she should have ruled, so Katirin vows to stop the creature--but how do you kill a demon that lives in a thousand bodies? And what if the monster turns out to be the most benign weapon humanity ever created?

DARK HEIR reads like fantasy but with a science fiction twist that makes it unlike any book on the market today. I'm deeply impressed by your agency's client list (Lynn Flewelling is a particular favorite, thanks to her Nightrunner series) and I hope you will consider my novel for representation.

I am a physicist, visual artist and rock climber. DARK HEIR is my first novel and is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

*floating on air*



an agent.


The only reason you're not facing a half-page of blithering gibberish right now is because I had a few days between the offer of representation and actually chatting with the agent and saying yes. So I've calmed down a bit. Not much, but a bit. Whoa, was it hard keeping my mouth shut until now.

I'm delighted to be able to tell you that Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency has agreed to represent my novel DARK HEIR.

I don't have much else to say at the moment except blithering gibberish and another heart-felt *SQUEEEEEEE!*, so I think I'll go caper around on the ceiling again.

Blog Roll Call!

It's about time I put up a list of all my blogging buddies on the sidebar, isn't it, Y/Y?

The reason why it happened NOW is frankly that I've been missing you all terribly. When our main computer died, I lost my more-dependable brain all my website bookmarks. Thus, if you're wondering why Goblin hasn't been hanging out with you lately, and thinking it's something you did or maybe a symptom of an abruptly-developing dental issue, I assure you--it's only that I've been wandering in the wilds of the internet for the last week going, "Hellooo? Helloooo? Guys?"

Hah! Let blogger's server be my substitute brain henceforth. So; have I got everyone? If I've missed you accidentally, drop me a comment and I'll add your blog or website to the list! (If you have more than one blog, please let me know which one you want linked.)

And in other writing news...

...I'll have more to say later today.

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: