Archive for April, 2011

Tales of a Writers’ Conference Newbie – Preparation

As I let you know last month, I shall be attending the Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference this weekend.

The terror, it remains.

Luckily, my compatriots in crime Ian and Anne shall be with me, and hopefully I can just remember that confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy and not spend the entire time hiding behind fake potted plants in the hotel lobby.

I have no reason to be scared, right?  I mean, I have finished drafts, I have experience submitting, I keep up to date on the industry.

It’s just…my mom went to one of these about ten years ago, was told she had no talent, and stopped writing.  I don’t want that to be me.  (And honestly, I liked that story, and at the time, I was the right age range for it.)

Fears and panicking aside, I have been working on getting ready.  The story I’ve been submitting on and off has a new (much better, if my readers are to be believed) first chapter.  I hope to do a basic edit of the rest of the story and perhaps a rewrite of the second half of the last chapter before this weekend, but that’s probably pushing it.

I’ve printed out the schedule and tentatively selected panels to attend.  (Unfortunately, many overlap.  Perhaps Ian, Anne, and I can divide and conquer.)    I’ve made a list of things that need to be done before this weekend.  I wish I could say it’s getting done in a timely fashion but no, no.

I have yet to write my pitch, but that is the goal for today.

I know this is going to be a good experience.  I know I need to use it to its fullest potential.

I just wish the nagging panic would go away.

(P.S.  If someone has experience with this sort of thing, what is proper attire?  Should I take business casual stuff, something more formal, jeans?  Help!)


Why Doodling is Awesome

I have a habit of doodling.  I draw on everything.  I always have, with the exception of college that I can’t really explain except I think perhaps too much physics sucked the joy out of life.  Or something.

I do it at work all the time, which perhaps is ill-advised, especially in big meetings when I am sitting next to someone I do not know and do not know what their job is and he is staring at my notebook wondering why there are landsquid and turtleducks everywhere and no doubt wondering how some crazy person off the street managed to wander into said meeting.

In my defense, I am also somewhat narcoleptic and if I am forced to not move for a few hours I will fall asleep and that is more unprofessional than the stick people dancing amongst my notes.  In college I staved off nap attacks with a ridiculous amount of sudoku games.

So, Kit, I hear you ask, why is doodling so awesome?  Well, let me tell you.

Aside from the ability to keep you awake, it helps you focus.  I do use it in meetings, but it’s helpful to just do, to clear your mind and just draw whatever decides to spring from your pencil.  It’s kind of like free-writing, honestly.  Problems solve themselves.  It is relaxing, and sometimes you end up with something neat that you’re willing to show other people.

It does not, however, help that I have made up a doodlebug song that is now stuck in my head.

Do you doodle, squiders?  Do you find it helps?

The Frustration of Submission

I’m working on fixing up a book so I can continue submitting to agents with it.

The process has gone a little like this:

Step 1.  Write Book.
Step 2.  Edit Book.
Step 3.  Write Query Letter/Synopsis.
Step 4.  Submit Book.
Step 5.  Edit Book again.
Step 6.  Submit Book again.
Step 7.  Edit Book again.

I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s different but I am not sure if it’s better.  I may just be splitting hairs at this point.

Let’s face it, squiders.  Submission is not fun.  Writing?  Fun.  Editing?  Fun, especially that first real edit, where you take the raw material of your first draft and reshape it into something coherent and awesome.  Planning and research?  Still fun.  Submission?  Not fun. 

Maybe there comes a point where you are so awesome that even submission becomes fun, probably because you don’t really have to worry about rejection.

For most people, writing the query and the synopsis tends to add onto the pain.  I don’t have that problem.  Whatever else may be said about my writing, I can write a damn good query.   Now, the prose…

Sometimes I wonder if I’m going about this wrong.  In the last year, I have sent out nine queries.  Two were no-responses, two were partial requests, five were rejects, though admittedly all of those had some pages attached.  I am aware that this is an embarrassingly small amount to have done in said time period.  Also, seeing how this is my second edit since I started querying, one could argue that I have some sort of weird perfectionism thing going that I need to get over.

I’m also starting to ponder if I’ve got my age range wrong, if it wouldn’t be easier to sell it as a MG than a YA, even though the main characters are 17.  I know YA tends to be dark and gritty these days, and this is neither.  Is there even a market for off-world YA fantasy?  What’s the difference between MG and YA anyway?

I’m beginning to think that I’m sabotaging myself.  I know this is a hard,  slow process, but I don’t have much to show for my work.  I know I have confidence issues, so perhaps I am afraid of success, and that’s why I keep rewriting instead of submitting?

Come and share your submission woes and successes with me, friends.   (Feel free to psycho-analyze my submission habits too.  Whatevs.)

The Need for Focus

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words.  I appreciate them.  (The Landsquid does as well, though he’d never admit it.)

I think part of the problem is a lack of focus on my part.  This ties in a little with Friday’s entry, but I will leave that to Friday.  Anyway.  You know how it goes.  Story ideas pop up everywhere.  You have to know which ones to let go and which ones to leave for later, because if you work on everything that comes through your head you never get anything done.

Guess what I’ve been doing.

In retrospect, the lack of focus has been going on for some months now, probably since Nano, honestly.  Nano makes it easy to focus on a single goal.  WRITE 50K OR DIE TRYING (or not, but you get the point).

Every story idea that has come my way, I’ve nurtured, whether it’s a short story, a novel, a sequel, an anthology, a collab – and now I’m getting nothing done on anything, which is no doubt contributing to my feelings of uselessness.

What makes it worse is that I know it’s all an avoidance maneuver.  My big project, the one I should be on top of, is in a hard, scary part, and so I am working on other things to avoid it, and that must stop.

So.  Time to focus.  I’m instigating a Two Projects at a Time limit.   And I just happen to have two things that need to be done by the end of the month:

1.  Finish reworking my YA fantasy before the Writers’ Conference in a week and a half
2.  Finish the beta I’m working on

So.  FOCUS.  It must happen.

Any tips on how to avoid distraction?  Unfortunately, I know myself, and even if I manage to cut out other writing related projects, I’ll probably play flash games on the internet or something along those lines.

When the Doubts Hit

We all hit these low points, the ones following some sort of disappointment (or sometimes not), where you stare at what you’re doing and wonder if you should just give up.  If it’s worth it to keep going for rewards that may never come.  If you’re wasting your time and that of those people around you.

It happens to everyone.  But it’s never fun.

I find myself in one at the moment.  And it’s different from the more common “Oh no, I got a rejection or a bad review” low.  This is something more insidious.  I find myself feeling the need to examine my entire system of operating, because it’s not working.  Something deeper is wrong, and I don’t know what it is.

Something fundamental to the way I work needs to change.  I’ve had some clues over the past few months, but this fact really hit home this morning.  I’m unhappy with my progress on things, but have been unable to concentrate on actually working.  Something has to change.

I’m unsure how exactly to go about pinpointing the issue.  More likely it is a combination of things – my lack of progress, a general lack of confidence in my own skill, changes and shifts in my support groups, things of that ilk.  I am leaning towards doing a freewrite and seeing what comes out of it.

What do you do when your paradigm needs a shift?

Goodreads Giveaway: Hidden Worlds

Howdy squiders!

Just a heads up that there’s a giveaway of my fantasy novella Hidden Worlds happening from today to May 15th over at Goodreads.  Now’s your chance to get a free copy!

The giveaways can be found here.  (Note: You must be a Goodreads member to participate in their giveaways.  And you should join anyway, it is amazing.)

Writing Tools: Netbooks

Oh, Friday posts.  You are always written early.

I have had five computers that were “mine.”   The first was a Pentium III desktop, a gift from my father to take to college in 2001.  Even then it was a bit obsolete (Pentium IVs were out).  It ran Windows ME, supposedly the worst of all Windows OS, but it treated me pretty well.  It eventually died of old age, unable to stay on for more than fifteen minutes before it would blue screen, and I wiped its hard drive and recycled it.

The second was a Toshiba laptop, acquired on Black Friday 2003.  Even though I was recovering from a concussion and a bad bout of the flu and basically hadn’t moved in weeks, my mom and I got there about 3 am to wait for the store to open.  That Toshiba was a lifesaver when it came to college.  I ran meetings from it, worked on stories in between class, and wrote ridiculous amounts of Matlab programs.  It continues to limp on, though it has been retired since early 2009.

I will lump the third and fourth together.  In February 2008, I acquired a new desktop, one of those tiny ones.  It had a ridiculously powerful graphics card.  (Alas, graphics card, I miss you.)  I loved that computer.  But the tower had a poor thermal design, and last April, it died a horrible, overheated death.  The motherboard fried.  Never before had I actually killed a computer.  My previous ones had lived good, long lives and gone softly into the night.   I was heartbroken.  Research showed that this had been a known issue with the early slimline models and that they’d been redesigned.  So I replaced it with a newer, better designed version of the same computer.  And then I named it Lazarus, so it could later rise from the dead.  (And everyone said, “Why not name it Jesus, then?” and I said “I don’t want to give it  delusions of grandeur.”)

That brings me to the subject of today’s post – netbooks.  I acquired my netbook (affectionately known as the minitop to me and my husband) in early 2009 to replace the Toshiba laptop  (It had eaten my NaNovel!  44K words in! D: ).  Netbooks were just coming out at the time and I was in love with the idea of a tiny laptop I could take anywhere with the sole purpose of writing.

At the time, netbooks couldn’t do much more than that.

And it has proven its worth over the last two years.  It’s ridiculous easy to port around.  Depending on which purse I’m using, I can stuff it inside and I’m good to go.  Mine has a solid state hard drive which means I don’t have to worry about it if it gets dropped.  It’s not powerful enough to run anything that can be a major distraction.  Many many thousands of words have been written on it.  I highly recommend them to all authors.

Now, however, I have run into an issue.  My netbook’s hard drive is full.  What’s truly aggravating about this is that it’s not my fault.  I have maybe 500 MBs of stories and pictures on there.  The rest of it are security updates, software updates, things I cannot delete.  I tried to defrag the hard drive last weekend, and it told me I didn’t have enough memory left to defrag!   I guess I could wipe the hard drive and load a different operating system, but I can’t guarantee I won’t run into the same issue again.

So I may, very soon, be in the market for a new netbook.  (I see the current gen of them start with a 250 gig hard drive.  Mine is 16 gigs.)  Do you have one?  Do you recommend it?

The TV, It Does Nothing

I have a confession.  I don’t really watch TV.  There’s a variety of reasons for this – but the main ones are that I don’t like to sit still for any length of time and that I have better things to do.  I have this problem with movies as well – I just can’t sit there and not do something else.  It drives the Landsquid crazy.

I can occasionally pull up the motivation to follow a TV series (usually some scifi-related – the last two series were FlashForward and Warehouse 13 – oh, and Sherlock.  Mmm, Sherlock ♥) but most of the time I just can’t be bothered.

There is one exception.  Mythbusters.

I am in love with Mythbusters. ♥  Science!  And explosions!  They get up to the oddest stuff and I adore them and everything they do.  Have you seen the episode where they vaporize the car with the rocket sled?  Best thing I’ve EVER seen in my LIFE.

I swear there is a point to this entry.

I will watch hours of Mythbusters.  So why am I willing to watch it more than a scripted television show?

I have Theories.  One is that I tend to be able to do something else at the same time and still be able to keep track of the show.  Two is that I am Learning.  Three is that there is SCIENCE.

I love stories.  TV contains stories, but unlike a book or a game, it’s not interactive.  (Although I admit I yell at characters during horror movies.)  And more important than the story is the act of getting there.  A television show will go on whether you’re paying attention or not.  You have no control.  With a book or game, nothing happens until you make it happen.

If you watch TV, what draws you to it?

(Also, it does not escape me that I have twisted a Simpsons quote for my title.)

What Ifs

Yesterday I took my first business trip with my new job.  I fly fairly often, but it makes me nervous.  (Unnecessarily so.  I am, as I have mentioned before, an aerospace engineer.  I know how commercial aircraft work.  In terms of safety, a jet beats just about everything except sitting still not doing anything, and even then you have to worry about things like blood clots and obesity and muscle degradation.)

With my old job, I traveled much more often, but I was only going from the San Francisco Bay Area to LA.

Reasons why this was the best airtravel commute ever:
1.  Same time zone
2. Less than an hour actually in the air
3. Low probability of turbulence
4. If you have to stay through the weekend, you can go to Disneyland

Disneyland!  Happiest place on Earth.

Anyway.  Now I no longer live in California nor travel to California and the whole business trip thing is more of a big deal.  (Also, I had to go to a facility I’ve never been before and I didn’t know what building I was supposed to be in and I was late.  Rawr.)  That’s why this entry is again on Tuesday instead of Monday.  I bet you guys didn’t even know I was supposed to be posting on Mondays, based on my success rate.

Anyway, flying always brings out the worst in me.  I begin to think of things that could go wrong.  Not things like “Oh God what if the plane falls out of the sky?” because realistically I know that doesn’t happen.  Things like “I have a giant, swollen bruise on my leg (because I knocked it hard against the corner of a flatbed cart at Home Depot because I was paying more attention to moving the 120 lb grill than as to where the cart was) – what if it sends a blood clot to my brain?” or “If you were pregnant and didn’t know it would the x-ray scanners damage the embryo?”  My imagination gets very grim around airports.

Even though I find it kind of disturbing, these “what ifs” are one of the greatest tools a speculative fiction writer – or any writer, really – have in their arsenal.  What if there were a secret magical society hidden within our own?  What if the ancient gods were real?  What if our country declared war on China?

The answers to these questions and others have produced some amazing works of literature.  As distressful as my imagination can be at times, I would still take that over not questioning anything at all.

Ghost Stories

I have been reading a ridiculous amount of ghost stories lately.  Usually in the bright daylight, because I’m the sort of person that will freak myself out and then I will end up spending the night with the lights on watching Disney movies.  (I watched Cartoon Network once, but I either found or managed to dream the most disturbing Flintstones episode of all time, so that is no longer an option.)

I swear this isn’t random.  In the science fiction serial I’ve been working on, there’s a black cat.  I knew I wanted the cat to be important, but I wasn’t sure how, and so I put “cat protectors” into Google and somehow found a website called  It’s user submitted stories and pictures, and while some stories are obvious hoaxes, a lot of them read “true” enough.

I did end up finding a purpose for my cat (elsewhere) but I find the stories to be interesting and I’ve found some things that I might use for a dark fantasy novel I’m planning.  The comments are a treasure-trove, full of people offering solutions to various ghostly issues and recommending things not to do.  It is brilliant.  I do wish the search function worked better so I could search for stories pertaining to certain things (mirrors, doors, portals) because right now I have to haphazardly jump from story to story.

I am a bit worried that I will eventually manage to scare myself silly anyway, but I persist in my reading for now.

How do you feel about stories of the paranormal?  Silly, scary, good story fodder?  Inquiring minds (and landsquid) want to know.