Thursday, December 24, 2009

Play That Dead Man's Song

Okay, so I'm supposed to be posting daily blogs, but I'm vacating. So here's my song for the day, thanks to Warren Zevon: "Play It All Night Long." Amen, brother. Scroll down for the lyrics.



Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don't give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn
He ain't been right since Vietnam

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

Daddy's doing Sister Sally
Grandma's dying of cancer now
The cattle all have brucellosis
We'll get through somehow

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

I'm going down to the Dew Drop Inn
See if I can drink enough
There ain't much to country living
Sweat, piss, jizz and blood

"Sweet home Alabama"
Play that dead band's song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long

Monday, December 21, 2009

Outer Space


In his fascinating On Writing, Stephen King talks about his writing space.

Currently, he has an attic room with space for kids and grandkids, sofas and chairs, and a desk tucked into a corner.

When he started his journey as a published novelist, after selling Carrie, he didn't want that family-friendly space. He wanted a big slab of a desk he could sit behind and Create. Looking over his massive desk, he'd feel like the captain of a spaceship, surveying his own creative universe. A real author would have a desk like that, not the laundry closet in a trailer he wrote in up to that point.

I'm lucky. I have a whole room devoted to nothing except books and writing (and the rare overnight visitor). What I don't have is a desk.

I don't want a slab of a desk. For one thing, I don't have room for a slab of a desk and I'm notoriously messy, so I'd end up with a slab of wood covered in stacks of books and papers. No, as a junior testing-the-waters novelist, I'll settle for a folding card table or game table, which I'm planning to purchase shortly.

After two completed novels, a third that's three-quarters done, and a fourth that has a proposal due in a few months, I believe I'm ready to move past my current setup, which consists of a laptop-on-a-TV-tray. Pathetic, isn't it?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Santa

I've been a very good girl this....well okay, I've been crabby and overwhelmed this year, so gimme:

* A new vehicle I don't have to pay for, preferably one that gets more than 15 mpg.
* An end to annoying "unknown caller" calls to my home from people wanting to sell me things I don't want.
* A bazillion-dollar gift card for Amazon.com.
* Lots of indoor games for the little boys who live on my street so they won't scream and play football in my front yard.
* A desk so I don't have to keep writing novels using a laptop on a TV tray. I mean really, Santa, did Stephen King have to do this?
* A fast-moving publisher who likes to dispense advance checks.
* A quick and easy way to add 20,000 words to my Stockholm manuscript.
* Uh....I'm sure there's more....oh yeah. Peace on Earth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Size Matters


At least in fiction, it does. Writers spend a lot of time staring at the small writing in the bottom left corner of our Microsoft Word documents. Word count.

Repeat the mantra:
Less than 8,000 words=short story
8,000-50,000=novella
80,000 and up=adult novel

So, you might ask, what is that black hole between 50,000 words and 80,000? Well, if you're writing a middle grade or YA novel, you can get away with 70K, maybe a tad less.

Otherwise, you're in rewrite hell. Which is the real estate I am currently occupying with my work in progress.

It was 52,000 words when I wrote "The End," so I added a couple of chapters. Now, it's 62,000 words.

My great swampy middle, as novelist Jim Butcher calls it, needs more swamp. I hate swamp. The journalist in me feels creating swamp is just wrong. We pare sentences down to bare bones and edit things within an inch of their very existence.

So now I'm creating another subplot and trying to weave it into the swamp. Is it enough to add at least 18,000 words? Probably not. I hate swamps.

And what did writers do about blasted word counts before Bill Gates?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Color of Satire


This is not going to be a diatribe about New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Been there, done that. If you want to read my post-Katrina rants about Hizzoner, go and slog through my old post-K blog, No-No-Nola. Be prepared for hysteria, anger, cynicism, and occasional bouts of literary depression.

Now I'm laughing. I don't know how I missed this, but artist Karen Ocker has published the perfect Christmas gift for those who remember such gaffes as "Chocolate City," "vagina-friendly mayor" and "murder keeps the brand out there," we now have the Ray Nagin Coloring Book.

I must have one. I simply must.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Waiting

It's December 15, a date of significance.

Ten days till Christmas? Meh. Six days till Winter Solstice? Erp. Two weeks till New Year's? Hmph.

No. It's contract day. Revision letter day. Or not. Because they come when they come. And I'll sit here and wait, tapping my foot and singing rude songs about headless Norwegian Thompson gunners and Woodrow Wilson's guns.

But Ray Davies says it best. Sing it, Ray.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Splendid Isolation

Writing is a yin-yang kind of thing. On the one hand, writing -- especially fiction, where everything's coming from some internal wellspring -- is an isolated business. We need quiet time. Uninterrupted time. No phones. No e-mail. No knocks on the door. Life needs to stop for a while so we can get off and do what we do.

At the same time, we need the stimulation of conversation, of observation, of a cacophony of input from the outside. It keeps us honest. Gives us the voices and insight we need. How can we write about the human condition (and even urban fantasy is about the human condition) without being a part of it? How can we get any writing done without stepping away from it.

Yin and yang. Just makes me want to scream sometimes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Navel-Gazing


After a serious creative burn for the past fifteen months, churning out two novels and most of a third, I don't know quite what to do with myself as I wait for contracts to sign and a revision letter bound to send me screaming down the middle of South College Street at midnight.

I'm anxious to dive into revisions on Royal Street after being away from it now for almost six months, but why start changing things until I know what the publisher wants?

Same problem with River Road, which won't reach publisher's revision stage till next summer.

Which leaves book No. Three, Stockholm, which is such a different beast it takes a whole different mindset to work on it. And a book proposal for Elysian Fields, which isn't due till May and makes my head hurt to think about.

Wait. I've got it. I could actually SLEEP for more than five or six hours. It's a novel concept. (Pun intended.)

The Year of the Series


I'm a tad on the OCD side (just ask my crit partner, who goes screaming into the ether whenever I mention color-coding my plot outlines), so I keep a reading journal. It started out with actual reviews, then degenerated to tweet-like comments, then dwindled to a list, with a notation if the book failed my 50-page test (if you can't grab me in 50 pages, you've lost me).

So, here's what I've read in 2009, more or less in order....

1. Drinking Midnight Wine, by Simon R Green (failed)
2. How I Write, by Janet Evanovich
3. The Map of Moments, by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon (should have failed but I was too outraged to quit reading)
** Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series:
4. Moon Called
5. Blood Bound
6. Iron Kissed
7. Bone Crossed
** Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series:
8. Guilty Pleasures
9. The Laughing Corpse
10. Circus of the Damned
11. Lunatic Cafe
12. Bloody Bones
13. The Killing Dance
14. Burnt Offerings
15. Blue Moon
16. Obsidian Butterfly
17. Narcissus in Chains
18. Cerulean Sins
19. Incubus Dreams
20. Micah
21. Danse Macabre
22. The Harlequin
23. Blood Noir
24. Skin Trade
** Charlaine Harris Southern Gothic Vampire Series
25. Dead Until Dark
26. Living Dead in Dallas
27. Club Dead
28. Dead to the World
29. Dead as a Doornail
30. Definitely Dead
31. All Together Dead
32. From Dead to Worse
33. Dead and Gone
34. Lafitte the Pirate by Lyle Saxon and E. H. Suydam
35. The Buccaneer: The Story of Jean Lafitte, Gentleman Smuggler, by Mitchell Charnley
** Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward
36. Dark Lover
37. Lover Eternal
38. Lover Awakened
39. Lover Revealed
40. Lover Unbound
41. Lover Enshrined
*** Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison
42. Dead Witch Walking
43. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead
44. Every Which Way But Dead
45. A Fistful of Charms
46. For a Few Demons More
47. The Outlaw Demon Wails
48. White Witch, Black Curse
49. The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf, by William C. Davis
50. Cry Wolf, by Patricia Briggs
51. Mean Streets (anthology)-- Jim Butcher, Simon R Green, et al
** Jim Butcher Harry Dresden series
52. Storm Front
53. Full Moon
54. Grave Peril
55. Summer Knight
56. Death Masks
57. Blood Rites
58. Dead Beat
59. Proven Guilty
60. White Knight
61. Small Favor
62. Turn Coat
63. Putting Fire into Fiction, by Donald Maas
64. How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, by James Frey
65. Antoine's Restaurant (history and cookbook)
66. The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld, by Herbert Asbury
67. Hunting Ground, by Patricia Briggs
68. Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater
69. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown (okay, I broke down and read it)
70. The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice (failed 50-page test)
71. The Watchman, by Robert Crais
72. The Well and the Mine, by Gin Phillips

My eyes are tired.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Nosedive Off the High-rise

Once upon a time, in teeny-tiny Winfield, Alabama, a shy (but secretly sarcastic and oh-so-hip) girl in Cyrus Brock's eighth-grade English class abandoned her notebook of bad poetry, written in the grand manner of Richard Brautigan, and sat down to write a short story.

Actually, I wrote two short stories. Because you knew it was me, right?

In the first, an elderly man suffering from dementia trudged to work as a night guard at a small factory.(Hey, I was 14, okay?) That night, the factory caught on fire. As he was overcome by smoke and flames, he thought, "Martha's burning the bacon."

In the second story, my protagonist took some ungodly amount of an unnamed psychedelic drug (because I didn't know the names of any such drugs, being 14 and living in a small town before crystal meth became the preferred cash crop). He then dressed himself like Captain America, complete with star-spangled cape, and tried to fly off the roof of a high-rise. He nosedived.

Get the idea romance was never going to be my genre?

Some short time afterward, I decided I had no skill in fiction writing and I moved on to a career in journalism.

Imagine my surprise when my long-abandoned fiction muse suddenly awoke in August 2008 and decided to write a novel. It was a cathartic exercise in the beginning, just a way for me to record the sights I'd seen and things I'd experienced living in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Somewhere along the way, it turned into a real novel. I called it Royal Street.

Then the miracles began.

1. I sent it to agents, and most of them wanted to look at it. While I waited, I wrote a sequel, River Road.

2. My own miracle worker, agent Marlene Stringer, offered to represent me.

3. My soon-to-be miracle worker, Stacy Hague-Hill at Tor Books, offered a publishing deal for both books. The whole publishing process is about to begin, and I can't wait!

Most of my blog posts won't be so long (I promise). And I'll probably find a groove eventually that will take the blog in a different direction. Along the way, I'll introduce you to my urban fantasy world and my characters, and will probably throw a few publishing rants into the mix along the way.

I hope you'll join me for the ride.

P.S. I still can't write short stories.