Archive for January, 2011

Friday Round-up

Thank Landsquid it’s Friday, amirite?

Extreme Planet Makeover (Might be fun for world-building scifi/off-world fantasy)
Some confusion over the existence of the Triceratops
First One-Fingered Dinosaur Found (It is apparently Dinosaur Week.  But that’s okay, because dinosaurs are awesome.)
Picture of how deep into the universe we can see versus time

Thundercats Cartoon Network Redesign  (Whhhhhhy leave my childhood alone)
Excerpt from The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
5 Astronomical Goofs in Scifi Movies

Find and Replace (Sweet!)
Best Tweets from WDC11
Query Vocab Lesson
Being a good critique partner

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Disaster. :\


Of Sleep Deprivation and Haiku

I have gotten a total of 7.5 hours of sleep over the past two nights.  As such, I am admittedly a little, um, what’s the term – punch-drunk?  What does that even mean? 

Also, wordpress informs me that I have misspelled my title and now I must fix that.

My friends, landsquid love them, have come up Sky Turtles and Sky Sharks and Land Piranhas.  JOY.  Uh, I mean, what, I don’t have an obsession with fictional animals.

Right, focus.  I had planned a nice writing post for you all today, but seeing how I’m having issues staying awake and coherent and how everything is funny, we are going to leave that for another time and instead communicate in haiku.

Now you may ask why
The answer is quite clear
Because I said so.

Come, haiku with me
Perhaps we’ll tell a story
Possibly about squid.

The Squid Majestic
Ruler of the Deep Waters
Except the Landsquid

ABNA Musings

I had a friend say that whenever she saw “ABNA” she thought “ABBA” and that it’s been a very strange week.

So the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award submission opened last night.  For those of you who don’t stalk the internet like I do, Amazon accepts 10,000 entries (5000 general, 5000 young adult) and through an elimination process ends up with one in each category that gets a publishing contract with Penguin and $15000. (Your advance.  Pretty generous from what I hear.)  They do accept self-published novels (Hidden Worlds is too short, for those wondering why I didn’t do anything with it) and any single-author novel that has never had a traditional publishing contract as long as it’s between 50 and 150K words and meets a variety of other requirements.

I first heard of the ABNAs last year.  I watched a couple of friends go through the process of entering and decided I would enter this year with WLBtB.  It’s probably my favorite of my own novels – I adore the characters – but I haven’t gotten around to doing an in-depth edit.  I’m still working on getting BM out to agents, so I’ve been putting WLBtB on a back-burner as kind of a “if this never gets published, this is my back-up plan” sort of thing.

I still didn’t really edit it beyond fixing typos and grammar and clarifying some scenes.

Here’s the thing – I don’t really think I want to win.

First of all, the ABNAs seem kind of random.  From my friends’ experiences last year, it seems like your chances of moving forward to the next round really depend on who’s assigned to read your entry.  It’s not really a commentary on the quality of your writing or your book as much as whether the reader you get is a good match for your topic/genre.  (Well, I take that back.  I’m sure some of it depends on writing quality.)

Secondly, let’s assume I somehow manage to win this, and Amazon says “here is your $15000 and your publishing deal.”  I wouldn’t know what to do with either.  I would want an agent to look at things.  I’ve read places that if you have a publishing deal, you can contact agents and ask if they’ll take you on, but man, pressure and streeeessssss.

One would wonder why I even bothered entering if it makes me nervous and I’m not even sure I want to win.  Well, a couple of reasons.  It’s practice.  I’m trying to get more things out there.  I can’t hoard my stories forever.  I would like them to be read, and the more I practice and the more I get out there, the more likely it is that some of them will escape and prosper.  The story I submitted isn’t my most polished piece of work – after I rewrite the first chapter (again) I’m going to continue submitting that and I didn’t want it tied up in this contest for however many months it takes before I get knocked out.  I’m kind of interested in seeing how far I can go on a first draft.  I am a masochist.  Things like that.

Did you enter ABNA?  Why?  What do you hope to get out the contest?

Friday Round-up

Discovery Astronaut Hurt in Bike Accident (Poor shuttle astronauts.  They are having a bad month.)
Darkness on the Edge of the Universe
First Mammoth Cloning Experiment Officially Underway (Poor mammoths.  They are going to look around and wish they’d just been left alone to stay extinct.)
Dark Matter Galaxy Detected (bonus gorgeous picture of the Milky Way)
NASA’s Kepler Discovers First Rocky Exoplanet (Video)
How Deep the Universe
Business Case for Mining Asteroids

Fantasy and Steampunk Debuts for 2011
Excerpt: Among Others by Jo Walton
Interview with Gene Wolfe
Science Fiction Musicals (Personally, I rather liked the Simpsons’ parody of Planet of the Apes)
What Apocalyse Scenario are You Best Cut Out For? (Terminator for meeee)
Vader vs. Voldemort

Misc Books
11 Books That Take Place in a Single Day
Babysitter’s Club: Where Are They Now?


Whatever Floats My Boat
You have an accent on Twitter

Twitter friends, don’t forget to track hashtag #wdc11 to keep track of the Writer’s Digest conference this weekend.

Writing with a Partner – Collaborative Editing

To continue our discussion from last week (tl;dr – writing with a partner is awesome, assuming you find the right partner), this week I am going to discuss the theory of editing collaboratively.

I say theory because I have not done this.  Sure, I’ve edited anthologies and other group projects, but that’s still very much an individual sort of thing – at least in my experience, you’re assigned a story, you edit it, you send it back to the author or some central person – not a lot of interaction.

But this is different.  This is something that we have equal shares in.  You can’t really break up a novel and say “okay, you edit this part and I’ll edit this part.”  All that will get you is incoherence and discord.

By myself, I edit like so (note: this only works for books with chapters – books without chapters like Hidden Worlds tend to involve more re-reading and a ridiculous amount of post-it notes).  However, here’s how I imagine a dual editing process would go (my lovely partner Sarah is welcome to tell me I am crazy.  I do not know what her usual editing process is).

I imagine first off we’d both do an overall read through to determine overarching plot issues.  And then I imagine we would discuss our findings and determine a path forward.  We are nothing if not cooperative.

From there, I see things getting tricky.  We switch off, scene by scene, between our characters.  What if some scenes need to be cut out?  It will ruin our back and forth.  There will be CHAOS and DESTRUCTION.

I just like capital letters.

Where to go from there?  I imagine we might divvy up the parts that need to be fixed based on which character’s viewpoint it fits best in and then go through an iterative process of rewriting and discussing until we’re happy with how things have turned out.

And then we can re-read it again and repeat the whole process.

I wonder if it’ll be more or less frustrating working on something together as opposed to going it alone.

Anyone ever edited a collaborative story?  How’d you do it?  How’d it go?

Of Turtleducks and Self-Folding Plesiosaurs

To continue our series on strange fictional animals, today I bring you turtleducks and self-folding plesiosaurs.  (As evidenced by the title.)

Isn’t it interesting how the oddest things catch on?  As an example, I like terrible jokes.  Jokes like “A man walked into a bar.  Ow.”  or “Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?  Because it was dead.”  or “If it’s a thousand miles to Kansas, how many flapjacks does it take to cover a doghouse?  Purple, because ice cream doesn’t have any bones.”  (Re: that last one – one of the contractors at my last job asked me it and was outright flabbergasted when I knew the answer.  I was his favorite person forever.)

One of my very favorites is “What’s big, green, has four legs, and if it falls out of a tree onto you will kill you?”

The answer is “a pool table” but once, several years ago, I had a friend immediately reply, “An alligator!  But why is the alligator in the tree?”

I shared that answer with my writing group and it spawned a running in-joke, a short story anthology, and continues to be a question posed to new members. 

That may have seemed like an unrelated tangent (down the bunny trail, as my HS physics teacher used to say) but this brings us back around to Turtleducks.  Many years ago, a writing friend of mine was having a bad day, and I decided I would cheer her up, and that the best way to do so would be yell gibberish at her.  (My mind is a strange place sometimes.)  It did, however, work, and she (and others) latched on to the concept of the turtleduck and they continue to be randomly sprung on people.  (Usually at full volume.)

Years later, the turtleduck would be chosen to represent our publishing label at Turtleduck Press.  (The alligator in the tree was actually our first choice, but it was too close to already existing publishing labels.  I am still slightly in awe that I am responsible for both these phenomena.)

Now the self-folding plesiosaurs are something that seem to amuse mostly me (like Mad Tea Parties and eeevil robots) but I like to bring them back up every now and again.  They spawned during a conversation where I insisted everyone talk in haiku.  (See above about my brain.)  For some reason or other, someone sent me a picture of a plesiosaur (specifically of the Elasmosauridae family) in a living room, and we had a long discussion on how it had gotten in, and somehow decided that it had been folded up to accomplish the feat, and perhaps it had even folded itself.

Someday I will figure out how to sell self-folding plesiosaurs and all my money woes will be a thing of the past.

Anyway, on that note – know any good jokes?

Friday Round-Up

I’m moving the round-up to Friday this month as I’m trying out a new posting schedule.  Let me know if you prefer Thursday or Friday.  I work on the round-ups all week long, so it doesn’t much matter to me what day they go up on.

Zambia’s Forgotten Space Program
Last week’s solar eclipse from space
Creation of Hanny’s Voorwerp
Problem with Discovery’s External Tank Determined

There’s a Delta Heavy rocket launch scheduled for next Wednesday from SLC-6 (pronounced Slick-6 by those of us in the industry) at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California.  SLC-6 is interesting because it was intended for West Coast space shuttle launches but was never used for such, though the link above has pictures of the only time a shuttle ever stood on the pad.  (Interesting to note is that the shuttle is the Enterprise, which was purely a mock-up and was never intended for actual spaceflight.)

I am a space neeeerd.

Science Fiction Novels to look forward to in 2011
Be a character in John Scalzi’s new book

Misc Books
Most Literate US Cities

Lyrical Press is looking for editors (I thought about it, but I don’t have the time)
Suturing Readers into your Characters
5 Situations Where it’s Better to Tell Than Show
Are you using “there” as a crutch?
Naked Writers
Query Letters – Hooks
Steampunk Writing Contest – Fairy Tales

Writing with a Partner – A Discussion on Collaborative Writing

Once upon a time, I read Sorcery and Cecilia by the lovely Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.  If you haven’t read this, you are missing out.  It is marvelous.

It’s an epistolary novel, meaning each person writes letters as their characters and there is no plotting with each other.

Anyway, I got to thinking that I would like to write with someone else.  At first, I tried epistolaries myself.  The first got, oh, four letters in.  We were writing and sending real letters through the mail.  On one hand, real mail!  On the other hand, it was slow and then you didn’t have a copy of what you’d written.  Fail.

Second attempt went better.  A friend and I wrote through private messages to each other on a writing community.  We got maybe 20K words in before someone hacked the forum and we lost 10-12 letters.  Pros: Could get through several letters in a day, could see both sides of the conversation.  We didn’t feel like trying to rewrite so many letters, so we let the project die and I later re-wrote the entire story by myself.

At this point, I came to a revelation.  I was not Patricia Wrede.  My friends were not Caroline Stevermer.  The likelihood of us somehow managing to write a cohesive story through letters without talking to each other was probably never going to happen.  With the above example, I remember having a plot line in my head and trying to steer my partner to it through the letters, but it was like herding landsquid.  (Landsquid hate being herded and they are grumpy.  I do not recommend trying.)  We were on different pages and there was no way to say “I want to go this direction” without breaking the epistolary rules.

So, time to try something else.

A few months later, mid-2007 or so, Script Frenzy launched.  I’d had never written a screenplay but I thought it might be fun, so I recruited a writing friend to work on it with me.  It proved to be a rewarding experience, and we’ve been writing on and off together since.  (Not on screenplays, though.  That went in a drawer and hasn’t come out since.)

We’ve written a variety of ways – epistolary (though true plottiness still eludes me), alternating character viewpoints with each of us writing one character, and a neutral viewpoint that we both wrote.

While I still prefer to write alone on most projects, I’ve found this to be a rewarding experience.  When we get stuck, we can bounce ideas off each other.  We can catch POV errors and typoes for each other.  We can challenge each other to new heights.  (Plus she always lets me write the horribly embarrassing parts. ♥)

Not to say it always goes smoothly.  When something goes wrong in one person’s life we’re both in limbo.  We’ve gotten into fights about story direction, character issues, plot holes.   Luckily we’re fairly compatible so even after we’ve had to take a step back we can usually work out some sort of compromise and move forward.

Overall, I would say that the bonuses of working collaboratively outweigh the negative.

Have you written with a partner?  Would you do it again?

Discuss how interest in it started, how things have gone, etc.

Of Octopi and Landsquid

You may have noticed that I have a small obsession with cephalopods.

This is actually a fairly recent addition to my favorite animals.  I think I can pretty much guarantee that no child will ever answer “Blue-Ringed Octopus” when asked what their favorite animal is.  Part of this I think is a matter of visibility – dogs, cats, birds, farm animals are all readily apparent in a child’s life.  (Also?  Dinosaurs.  My favorite dinosaurs all come from the plesiosaur family.  Except for raptors which come from Jurassic Park.)

(The blue-ringed octopus is venomous, by the way.  It does not make a good pet.)

I am an equal-opportunity cephalopod lover – I like squids, octopi (or octopodes, whichever you prefer.  I like the latter but I find that people don’t know what I’m talking about), nautiluses, and cuttlefish.  I remember going to the Seattle Aquarium with my grandmother when I was 14 or 15 and seeing the nautiluses and being like WHAT ARE THESE THINGS THEY ARE AMAZING THEY LOOK LIKE THEY BELONG IN THE DINOSAUR AGE (all things require capslock and run-on sentences when you are a teenager).

Cuttlefish are masters of camouflage.  Nautilus really do look like they belong in the fossil record.  Squid can be impossibly large (the newly discovered Colossal Squid can be almost 50 feet long) and are truly ruthless and efficient predators.  They deserve every fictional creature (kraken, anyone?) designed after them.

Octopi may be my favorite.  My sister (who wanted to be a marine biologist) told me that octopi can fit through anything their beak fits through. (She is a font of incredibly random information.)  Like, say, pipes.  Which is why they escape from aquariums and flood things.  They’re smart, they can take down sharks, slip through tiny openings, and even copy other animals.  Heck, they’re the only invertebrate group of animals to be observed using tools.

How can you not like an animal like that?

The landsquid are a little more complicated.  I saw them on a television show called The Future is Wild some years ago.  In fact, I only watched the program because I’d seen a commercial with the squid on it (which they call Mega Squid on the show) and said to myself “Laaaaandsquid.”  They also had treesquid but they didn’t catch my attention as much.

The best thing about the landsquid is, being completely fictional, you can make up whatever facts about them that you like.  Such as their great love for Cheez-Its.

Another thing I like about cephalopods is that they are unexpected.  Sure, llamas, moose, and alpacas all have excellent comedic timing, but no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition Humboldt Squid.  Or folding plesiosaurs, for that matter, but that is a topic for another time.

Midway the Grumpy Octopus thanks you for your time.

Happy New Thursday Round-up!

Greetings, friends!  Here’s what exciting in the new year thus far:

Round-up of Space Science Performed in 2010
Titan May Be Capable of Creating DNA
Awesome Solar Eclipse Picture (with bonus ISS)
Mars Rovers Celebrate 7 Years on the Red Planet

Odd fact about why the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters are the size they are
Solar System Missions for 2011

NASA Rates the Best/Worst Science Fiction Films (by SCIENCE)
11 Scifi/Fantasy Books To Look Forward to in 2011
11 Scifi/Fantasy TV Shows To Look Forward to in 2011
Contest to win a copy of Gena Showalter’s Intertwined

Misc Books
New York Times’ Bestsellers from week of your birth (#1 for me? Space by James Michener)

Writing vs. Storytelling
Writing in the Age of Distraction

Whatever Else I Thought Was Neat
Detroit in Ruins
Map of US Dialects
Steampunk Pen
Lovely Steampunk-y Art

And for those who are interested, Hidden Worlds (fantasy adventure novella extraordinaire) is now available for Barnes and Noble’s Nook.