Sunday, April 29, 2012

Still mired in grad work

I think I may lose it if I don't get this paper finished by tomorrow. I was really hoping to have it finished this weekend, but we drove two hours to an almost entirely useless* job fair in Chico yesterday--and actually had a nice time walking around Chico, so not a total waste--and today Jeff has a lot of work to do for his lessons this week so I won't have enough time once the baby is done with his nap to do all that much. And I felt compelled to post this blog entry, of course. Because even a short blog entry bitching about having to finish this paper is more fun to write than this paper. Ugh.

*Jeff got a lead on a job in Martinez, but he's not sure what it would entail or if it would actually be preferable to his current position, so we're waiting to find out about some details. I didn't even go in. All the districts there, according to Jeff, said the same thing. "Oh, we don't know what we're going to need. Check Edjoin." Thanks. I could have done that on my couch at home. Why do these people even come to job fairs, I ask you? What is the point? Anyway, I walked the baby around Chico in his stroller and we checked out a really great farmer's market. Made me want to live in Chico. The produce was gorgeous.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ack... be back soon...

Just a quick note to say, I will me MIA for the next few days (and have been already for the last few, in case you hadn't noticed). It's the end of my quarter with my MA program and that means paper-writing time. Which makes me feel like this:

...because there's no time for novel-writing, and with the baby, every minute he's napping I have to be working on the papers, and it's very stressful. In fact, I should be doing that now, so bye.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters

No, A Morbid Taste for Bones is not a horror book and it's in no way a part of the current zombie craze. It's actually the first book of the Cadfael mystery series. In case you've never run into this series in its television incarnation, Cadfael is the name of a monk who solves murders. The show is a lot of fun and popular among those who've seen it. I enjoy a good mystery series, so I thought I'd give the first book a try.

Cadfael became a monk in later life after participating in the Crusades and having several love affairs, so he's a lot more worldly than your average monk. It's probably why he's prone to looking at situations more practically and why he's willing to examine bodies and investigate murders. In A Morbid Taste for Bones, Cadfael travels as part of a group of monks to claim the bones of a Welsh saint. As a Welsh man himself, he has sympathy for the villagers who would rather not give up their saint. The first half of the book focuses on this conflict, and then a murder complicates matters a great deal.

The best thing about A Morbid Taste for Bones is it had a Pillars of the Earth quality--it's set around the same time, and of course there are the monks. If you haven't read Pillars, stop reading this review and go buy it. And read it. Now. Don't look at the jacket description, either. You just can't get a sense of how engrossing that book is by reading the description, trust me. Just read it.

Anyway, back to Cadfael. The book was sleepy; not exactly a page-turner, I'm afraid. If all I had to do was read I might have enjoyed it more, but these days I squeeze precious minutes out of my day here and there for books, often only reading a page or two at night right before going to sleep. So it felt a little like I was wasting my time when I could have been reading a really fascinating book like Pillars of the Earth, for instance. Don't get me wrong, it was a pleasant book, but I won't be buying the next one until I'm really desperate for another book to read.

However, if you're just looking for a light mystery and you enjoy period pieces set in the 12th century, give A Morbid Taste for Bones a try. You can buy it here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Editing Blues

Yes, I have them: the editing blues. Or rather, I have the "I wish my husband, who I asked to read my draft, would just get to it already" blues. He's buried in work, but that's nothing new.

The real trouble is, at the moment all I want is for someone to read the WiP and catch the typos and stupid word-switch errors I'm prone to. Like writing "many" when I mean "main." Or "sure" instead of "such." The problem with these kinds of errors is my eyes just whiz right over them when I'm revising.

And of course I don't have to have it done right away. But it's like an OCD thing. I think about it. I worry about it. I have to wash my hands over and over until it's dealt with.

I'm not ready, at this point, for an in depth beta-reading. It's too early to start obsessing over phrasing or word choice: I'm in first-draft sprint mode, as much as that's possible under the circumstances (with a baby who usually doesn't sleep longer than 45 minutes at a stretch--although today he's been down a while). So I don't want to beg an online writer friend to read it because I'm afraid they'll give me more feedback than I want right now/I don't want to use up favors too early on. I'm looking at you, Kathryn.

How about you? Do you feel compelled to deal with basic errors early on? Have you ever been stuck waiting for a loved one to do you a favor? What other sorts of writing or editing blues are you dealing with at the moment?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sample of Broken Ones

The pounding on my front door woke me, which told me two things right away. One, I’d overslept. Two, whoever was at my door was about to break it down, they were pummeling it so hard.

I straightened out the tee-shirt and drawstring pants I slept in and ran my fingers through my hair a few times, although from the feel of it, there was no taming it.

“Alright!” I shouted as I made my way to the front of the house. “Alright, stop it!”

“Marie!” came the answering bellow. “Marie, I know you’re in there!”

Everett. “Oh, god,” I whispered, unsure of what to do. A quick look around my living room showed that Marie and the kids had already left. The afghans were folded, stacked one on top of the other on one end of my old worn-out couch.

Everett started pounding on the door again.

“Everett, knock it off!” I shouted, and opened the door. He stood there, red-faced and panting, eyes wild. Everett has coffee hair and eyes, and just a hint of olive in his complexion, but at the moment it was as dark as a beet.

Everett Karrar came from a “nice” middle-class family in Point Loma. WASPy-types; they went to their church and attended fundraising events at local nonprofits. Everett fit their image of the good son--but to look at him now, you’d think he was a reject from some reality show. He was so mad, spittle was flying from his mouth with every breath.

“Everett, she’s not here,” I said, trying to project calm.

“I know she’s here!” He was trying to look past me.

“See for yourself,” I said, and stepped out of the way so he could come in and look around.
Everett stalked into the entryway. I watched him take in the empty living room, and his eyes came to rest on the afghans on the couch. Some of the red was fading from his face. He kept his eyes on the afghans and said, “She was here.”

I shrugged. “Yeah. She spent the night.”

His gaze flashed to me. Two spots of red stayed in his cheeks. “Where’d she go?”

I shrugged again. “I don’t know. You woke me up. I didn’t know she’d left.”

His eyebrows plunged down and his eyes teared up. His hands balled into fists. “Bull-fucking-shit, Louise. Bull-fucking-shit. You think you can hide my wife from me? My kids? Where is she?”

I stood with my hand on my hip, trying to look bored. Inside, I could feel my pulse accelerating, and my hands went cold. I wasn’t going to tell him where Marie went, and I wanted him out of my house. But Everett used to be a Marine, and although his body was going to seed, he was still a lot stronger than me.

“Everett, I don’t know,” I said. “She was here when I got home last night. She asked to stay over, so I said sure. Now she’s gone.”

Everett grabbed my arm, fingers hard and squeezing. “You think you can just laugh at me, don’t you, Louise! Who the fuck are you to get in the middle of things? She’s my wife!”

“Let me go,” I said, trying to yank away, but he kept his grip on my arm. “Everett, I told you, I don’t know where she is!”

“Yeah, you do,” he said, nodding. “And you’d better tell me.”

“Listen, you fucker, I’m not telling you anything!” I said, my temper snapping. I raised a bare foot and slammed it as hard as I could against his shin, raking down to pound his sneaker. It wasn’t all that effective, except that his face flushed bright red again. “Let me go!” I shouted.

Everett gripped my arm tighter and then threw me down and away from him. I stumbled and my knees hit the floor.

“Jesus, Everett!” I cried. I scrambled to my feet and pointed at my door. “Get out!”

He ignored that and strode towards me.

“Get the fuck out of my house!” I shouted. “You’re crazy!”

That’s when he punched me. I hit the floor again.

“You think you can hide my kids from me? You think you can hide my wife? Where are they?” he yelled. I tried to get on my feet again but my head spun and my jaw felt like it had exploded. “Where are they, Louise!”

I grabbed at the couch for support, pulling myself up. He was fucking crazy. I had to call the cops. On my feet at last, I lunged for the phone, which sat on a table by the wall.

“Oh no you don’t!” he growled. My feet flew out from under me—he’d knocked them out—and then the phone was in his hand. I don’t remember much after that.

You can purchase Broken Ones on Kindle here, on Nook here, or in other formats here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Titles: How do you pick them?

Man, when they say "full-time mother" they aren't kidding. Lately the bug has been limiting his naps to 30 minutes at a time, and only about three of those a day. And the rest of the time, he demands constant attention. Even as I type he's fussing. ::runs over to crib::

::returns after entertaining the baby with his toy monkey and giving him a paci::

And yet, I've managed to finish part 2 of the serial novel, which is as yet unnamed.  Which brings me to the question of titles.

For The River and the Roses, the title came after a lot of deliberation, and while I think it's the best of the options I was debating at the time, I don't know if I really like it. It's long. It doesn't really say, "This is a mystery novel about a woman coming to accept her psychic ability." But I do like the gothic quality of roses, and I like the cover, which mirrors the title. So... I'd give it a B, I guess.

Broken Ones was tough, too. I wanted to address the emotional damage the characters are coping with, as well as make a reference to the several broken windows in the story (which are tied symbolically, of course, to the emotional damage). I also wanted a title that was original, and there are a lot of titles with "broken" or "broken windows" or whatnot. When I chose Broken Ones, it was the only book with that title that came up in an Amazon search, although since then more have popped up. But I wonder if it sounds too angsty, and maybe that's why people haven't been downloading it. I changed the (VERY) brief description I've been sending out with my "thank you for following message," though, and there have been three more downloads in a week, so I do think calling it "paranormal" was part of the problem there. It's very hard to capture what Broken Ones is about in three or four words, though, so the new description says "a novel of escape & survival of abuse." Which has a weird feeling to me, syntax-wise, and may give the impression, again, that the novel is angsty. Which I guess it is, a bit, but I wouldn't describe the narrator, Louise, as angsty at all. I think what makes Broken Ones stand out is her voice, which is very matter of fact. Louise has a lot of humor and she tends to see things in fairly cynical terms--she's not the "woe is me" type. Anyway, so I'd give that title a B, too.

Veronica in Paris is the best of my title choices, and it was totally easy. There was no debate. It was my working title, and it stuck. It gives a pretty accurate impression of the story, I'd say--it's about a woman named Veronica who goes to live in Paris for a year. Paris is pretty strongly associated to romance in people's minds, so the fact that there's romance involved probably comes as a shock to no one who reads that title. So, A for that one.

Anyway, so now I'm working on this new book, and the working title is the name of the city, Helésey, where most of it is set. Which isn't going to tell anyone anything about the book, and may even mislead them into thinking it's French in some way. It actually draws on Norse mythology for some of the culture, although I've altered a lot of aspects. I also draw inspiration from America and Italy in the 1920s, as well as Germany in the 1930s. But there's really nothing French about it--the word "Helésey" is an altered version of the name of an island in Norse mythology, and the city is on an island, so it seemed to fit. The accented e comes from the original word, too.

My main character is named Miadar, which is not a common enough name, I think, to put it in the title--I suspect most people won't recognize it as a woman's name at all, which isn't surprising since I made it up by combining the words for "honey" and "hair" I found on a site claiming to have words in old Norse. I have no idea if the site is legit, and it doesn't really matter--I often choose names for characters based on what they mean, but it never comes up for the reader, so if it only means something to me, that's okay. The first part of the novel revolves around a coronation, and Miadar leaving her home because she's summoned to Helésey, the capitol, to witness it. So I've thought about The Coronation as a title, and also Summoned. The former may work, but I'm not sure about the latter, although I like the idea of having a verb in the title. Summoned conjures images of magic and demon summoning to me. Maybe I've read too much urban fantasy. The second part revolves around a night out Miadar participates in, where she visits an illegal gambling hall (think speakeasy). So I thought about Invited, The Invitation or The Gambling Hall for that one, although I'm really not in love with any of them. The next part will have to do with a seduction... so The Seduction, perhaps. Seduced, maybe. Parts four, five and six I haven't worked out completely yet, but they will have something to do with a vigilante, and probably at least one debauched party, and a betrayal. The last parts (not sure how many there will be total) will involve fighting for freedom, bringing down an evil leader, finding someone who is lost, and escaping. It's fairly murky in my mind at this point, and I don't like talking in detail about stories I haven't written, but you get the idea.

I'd like the titles to all work together:
The Coronation - The Invitation - The Seduction - The Betrayal - The ???
Summoned - Invited - Seduced - Betrayed - ???
The Capitol - The Gambling Hall - The [location] - etc.

Or I suppose it could be something like: Miadar Summoned, Miadar Invited, Miadar Seduced, Miadar Betrayed...

What do you think? What makes a good title? How do you choose your titles? Are you satisfied with the titles you've chosen in the past? Do you think about parts of speech or other specific characteristics of titles when you're trying to choose one?