Friday, May 31, 2013


I think I have the revisions done. I think.

The trouble with revisions is, you're never sure and you keep going back for one more read-through and there's always something and then you wake up in the middle of the night...

I'll worry about it Monday. In the interim, I have a cat to worry about. Bruce is limping and the cortisone shot didn't help enough. He hasn't woken me up all week. How am I supposed to function without my alarm cat? But Thai apparently thinks he's still hale enough to be boss cat because she hasn't taken over the job. So instead of Government Canyon tomorrow, I go to the vet.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: We'r Fine, Y'all (But What if We Weren't?)

Casa Griffin is on high ground between two watersheds and the whole city would float away before we were troubled as long as we stayed home, which we tend to do, so whatever you've seen in the national news, you don't need to worry about us. A death toll of two is not very impressive in any case, but sweeping away a bus is. I've never seen a flood shut down bus service before.

Flooding is a recurrent factor here in San Antonio, with the city's fanciest districts located in the flood zones of waterways that are dry or insignificant-looking most of the time; but we're used to it. For the most part, we are good at floods, and getting better all the time. The locals who know better than to drive into running water (most of us) tend to be contemptuous at people who are so careless as to do so, and when the folks who live in those flood zones get notice to evacuate, they don't go back for the family silver, they evacuate. I don't remember the last time a vote to fund flood engineering failed around here. It sounds callous to say so, but for the most part people who need rescuing or die in flooding do so as a result of their own bad judgement, which is hardly a consolation to their relatives. Floods aren't like tornadoes, after all. You can make a reasonable guess at how flood water will behave, based both on experience and the known qualities of water. All the sensible decision-making in the world won't help you predict the movements and behavior of a tornado.

My calmness in the face of flooding has, of course, been paid for by preceding generations. Plenty of people have died in San Antonio in floods over the years; downtown was nearly washed away in 1865 and in 1921. I wish the local polities and citizens would react to drought the way we do to flooding, in fact. We learned from events of those years, spent the money to prepare ourselves for future similar events, developed a culture in which good flood management and sensible behavior during flood warnings can flourish. We're still monumentally stupid on the subject of droughts, which are far more common.

So what would it take, I wonder, to make a true flood disaster in San Antonio?

Alternatively, what kind of drought event would be sufficient to finally prod us into treating droughts with the same level of preparation and common sense that we apply to flooding?

It's not a story till it has characters; but the advantage of playing "what if?" with your hometown is, that you can stick yourself and your own family in as placeholders while you're developing the concept.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Eternal Questions

Like, is it more important to work on the revision for something that you know where you're going to send it; or on yet another query to yet another agent?

Do I keep putting the revision work first because it's really more urgent, or because I hate writing queries so much? (Okay, that one's rhetorical.)

Why do I feel that citing Sullivan as my most recent work is somehow different from previous publications? Is there a good way to address my publication gap in a query? (This is one of the things that makes querying so hard.)

Am I in the process of reinventing myself as a YA author instead of one for middle grades?

Is it possible to do both anymore?

Has the washer stopped yet?

Is it too early to think about lunch?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Accidental Kid

I am 50. The person I took to the Zoo yesterday is nine. Therefore, I am zonked today. (But hand-feeding lories is awesome and I have no regrets.)

As we pulled into the parking slot at her father's apartment complex I said: "Let's go see if your dad's apartment is still there." Which is the kind of thing I say when I'm tired and will give you an inkling into why I never had children. This is a conscious choice on my part and one of my smarter ones, if I do say so. I'm a tolerable aunt when the occasion calls for it but I live too much inside my head for a full-time gig and anyway, given the appalling overpopulation of the world today, I think the only people who should be breeding are the ones to whom their children are The Most Important Thing in the World.

But, what if I, or someone like me, were the only person a kid had left? What if the apartment had not, in fact, been there when we arrived?

In this particular child's case, we would have gone to her mother's; plus she has extended family in another city, so it would have to be a pretty dire implosion of the poor kid's life to result in her having nobody but Damon and me to rely on - and us with no legal right to her, too. "Nightmare" doesn't cover it, and the horror would be a good deal worse for her than for me, dealing with a major trauma with someone no more prepared to cope even with normal childhood incidents than I am to help her through it.

But good books grow from nightmarish situations, so - there's one.

The child thrown into the care of the should-be-incompetent caregiver is a standard trope. The literary world is populated by orphans, and there's at least as many who bond with and make a profound difference to their caregivers (Heidi, Anne Shirley, that kid in Silas Marner; my personal favorite is the collective entity of the 24 woodies Snufkin has to look after in Moominsummer Madness) as there are maltreated ones who have to strike out on their own. But it's standard for a reason, and the thing to do is to build strong and sympathetic characters, put them through the wringer suggested by your own taste and circumstances, and see what you get. It'll fit into any genre - domestic fantasy, high fantasy, realism, dystopian, science fiction, whatever - which in this case would be dictated by the circumstances I dreamed up to account for my being the person left in charge of K. Ideally, as with Heidi and Anne Shirley, the reader who identifies most readily with a character of one age will also be led to understand the behavior and interior workings of the character of the other age; which is no light task, especially if you want to avoid both the Scylla of sentimentality and the Charybdis of didacticism.

At the moment, I am a great deal too tired.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nothing to see here

Revising an old book, three chapters at a time, followed by housework.

It doesn't feel like enough.

I don't remember the last time anything I did in a day felt like enough. This is called "the human condition."

I wonder when I'll get used to it.

Melissa Etheridge has a song about that. A really good song. I should put that album on.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Those Little Toss-Offs

This sort of thing happens to me a lot.

I'm reading a simblr (a tumbler site devoted primarily to pics from one's Sims game) in which the poster reveals the randomly-assigned name of her NPC Master Vampire, Count Jeffrey May. I respond: "Or, he may not. My own vampire's name is Count Ralph." Because it tickles me no end to have a Master Vampire named Count Ralph and I take every opportunity I can to tell people who might be even a tiny bit interested. She responds in turn that Count Ralph needed to partner with a werewolf named Moon Moon, to which I return: "Count Ralph and Moon Moon. Together they fight crime. I can see it."

And as I hit Post I think: "How is this not already a series on the CW?"

I don't mean Count Ralph and Moon Moon, specifically, but a vampire/werewolf detective team? That's got blinking neon lights all over it. Two hot leads, either very bromancy for the huge slash* audience out there or a female vampire and a male werewolf; either way they can have all sorts of power and interspecies political issues; supernatural framework; vampires and werewolves both come with huge wells of cultural capital to draw on and recombine in fresh ways; detective shows are always popular; if Supernatural really is in its final season the CW will have an open slot to fill - it could totally work!

Most fen toss off some perfectly viable concept like this as a joke every two or three fannish conversations. If you think about it, you've probably got a dozen or so kicking around your subconscious and/or your circle of friends right now. Why not pull one out and try to develop it?

Why not? Stupider ideas have hit it big. (I won't cite examples as I'm sure you have lots of your own, which may or may not correspond to mine, and I don't want to start any taste wars.)

*Though originally referring to any fanfic highlighting a fantasy romantic pairing between two characters, the term "slash" has come to mean specifically male homosexual relationship fanfic, as in "Kirk/Spock." Most slash fans are straight women.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Poking Through Old Manuscripts

So I was looking in the old manuscripts to see if there's anything I can gussy up to send in during Strange Chemistry's unagented window (I wouldn't be able to finish anything suitable that's unfinished before October) and I'm finding that the most intimidating things about some of them is the technology gap. I'm way behind on technology - no digital anything except a DVR, which my husband only bought last week and he's the only one who's used it so far - and in most of these manuscripts references to tapes and CDs were perfectly reasonable.

I know nobody uses cassette tapes anymore (and honestly I don't miss them) but - what slightly outmoded technology would a couple of underprivileged kids be making do with these days? And how would it go wonky?

This has nothing to do with the plot, mind, but it matters to characterization.

There's huge gaps in my modern musical education, too.

I am old, I am old. But I will not wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled and I absolutely do dare to eat peaches whenever I can.

If I Don't Respond

This is just to say, we had a blue screen of death for no readily discernible reason last night and since we don't know why it happened, we don't know it won't happen again.

So if you try to contact us in the next couple of days and hear nothing, and don't see us around the net, it's probably technical difficulties, not unsociality.

Though we are occasionally unsocial, too.

Migratory Bird Day is Saturday. Grab some binoculars and go find out what your local Audubon is planning!

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's not Procrastination, it's Research

You know what drafting a guest post for Cynsations provides?

An excuse to go back and read ALL THE GUEST POSTS!

Yeah, not making visible progress this morning. But is visible progress the only kind? Hmmm....I'm good at this procrastination stuff, aren't I? Too bad I can't get paid for it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Arrested - for Science!

Here's one for you: A high school student was arrested for doing an extracurricular science experiment that blew the top off a bottle.

As it happens, the student is black, female, and living in the south.

This is a tailor-made story for the school library market. You have a sympathetic, curious, good-girl protagonist; you have a school setting; and you have Relevant Issues out the wazoo. Security and paranoia, "zero tolerance" policies on school grounds, the overstepping of authority, the meaning of discipline, the nature and interpretation of rules, race, class, gender issues - it's overwhelming! A student not just chastised but arrested for conducting a science experiment at school! A young woman discouraged from doing science! A black person criminalized for behavior that is well within normal range!

Add to that the fact that I was alerted to this story via a petition notification on geared toward freeing the young lady, reinstating her at school, and wiping her record clean. If the situation goes viral, that opens up worlds more of story material, as the world descends (literally or figuratively) on this school.

You'd have to detach from the news story early and figure out how to get a tight enough focus to write a coherent novel without either shortchanging or oversimplifying the issues. You'd have to figure out how and why a school gets to the point that this sort of thing is even possible; not only who the student is, but who the school administrator in charge is; where the student fits in the school social and academic hierarchy; and what else is going on at the same time that makes this incident into a flash point. A comfortable familiarity with high school interior politics would be a great aid in writing this.

In order to produce something more than an issue-driven problem novel, though, you'd have to drill down through the public issues and bring out the personal ones involved. Play with roles. How do the conflicts change when you change the story's heavy - the school administrator responsible for her arrest - from a white man to a black man, or a black man to a white woman, or a white woman to a black one? The protagonist's identity as a "good girl" is emphasized in all the articles I've seen - what does that say about the public reaction?

And what does "good girl" mean, exactly? Perhaps she's not as good as all that, but is primarily good at not being caught. Maybe she's sick of being good and does the bottle-popping stunt to impress someone. Maybe she's been set up...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Odious Comparisons, or Why I Am Midlist

So yesterday I got my first-quarter - actually first month, since it came out in March - royalty statement for Sullivan, That Summer. Five copies sold. Oh well.

But check out the downloads page for Widespot. It became available at almost the same time as Sullivan, and as of this writing it's been downloaded 548 times!

So my exercise in making something for a game that is no longer supported or sold by the company that owns its copyright is almost eleven times more successful than my book in a popular genre. Sigh.

I can whine about it, or I can learn from it. From what differences does this discrepancy arise?

It's not quality, I can tell you that. Both are solid, workmanlike storytelling.

Comparing across formats is always problematic because the technical requirements of storytelling in different formats - book, video, game, oral transmission, graphic - vary so much, and though techniques from one medium may be usefully translated into another (considering "camera angles" in a novel, say), they will not have equivalent values. Creators are often the worst judges of their own work, also. However, I'm in position to state that the same degree of care and creativity went into each; that both spring from the same fangirly place in my psyche; that both were created under considerable internal pressure, to the point that I could not leave them alone over an extended period of time. If work and care count for anything, in fact, Sullivan ought to be the better work, since I had almost ten years to polish it (I think it first forced me to write it around 1995) and I have a lot of experience and skill in prose storytelling. Possibly Widespot benefits from unstudied naturalness or something, but I doubt it.

Price should not be a factor. Widespot is free, of course, but Sullivan is only $4.99. And whereas Widespot is only useful to Sims2 players, Sullivan is available in trade paper and a variety of electronic formats; and Widespot is only available at a single website, while Sullivan can be acquired through the publisher or a variety of other retailers, including big players like B&N and Amazon.

Ah, but here's where the law of supply and demand comes in. Whereas the demand for LGBT YA literature is much higher than the demand for premade Sims2 neighborhoods, and the supply is not as great as it ought to be, the proportional supply-and-demand is skewed against me in the literary market, and for me in the gaming market. The number of populated premade Sims2 neighborhoods available is small, and the proportion of them that contains corruption (bad code that will eventually render the neighborhood unplayable) is large (and includes the original neighborhoods shipped with the game!); though I have no statistics on the matter, this supply is nowhere near big enough to satisfy the demand. The pay rate is low, the currency of tender is intangible, and the market is shrinking, so my only competition is from other people who were intrigued enough by the creative problem of making one to assay it and motivated enough to complete it. LGBT literature, on the other hand, is a growing market in which it is possible to make money as well as ego gratification, so competition is stiffer.

The size of the pond is also relevant. MTS is the oldest and one of the largest (possibly the largest) fan forum the Sims franchise has online. Even people who don't like to hang out there, even people who rag on their upload policies and sneer at their downloads, check it out periodically. Within this tiny pond, I was able to hitch a ride aboard a good big fish.

Queer Teen Press is a small, niche venture; small enough that I didn't submit Sullivan there till I'd run out of mainstream publishers to try it on. It's one of a number of specialty publishers taking advantage of the digital revolution to launch, all vying for a good lane position on the information highway. Even within the tightest focus of this particular niche market, consumers are bombarded with more information than they can possibly absorb; any given company, let alone any given publication, in this market needs as much luck as skill in order to catch the attention of an interested buyer.

And within the small world of each pond, at MTS I'm a talkative poster who has become familiar to a fair proportion of the other participants, while at Queer Teen Press I don't really know anybody. MTS is part of my normal social milieu. Queer Teen Press is just another place where I submitted a story over the transom. I have a platform at MTS; I have none with the queer YA audience.

Nor do I know how to get one. I'm not a teen, and although I self-identify as bi I've never been part of the queer subculture. I live within a heterosexual marriage, for heaven's sake! And I'm just not social enough professionally; I never have been. I can make friends with other writers, but when it comes to being a personal presence to the audience - I suck at that. I'm sufficiently aware that most people who've ever met me have either been indifferent to or have actively disliked me (and that I could never isolate what I did to bring that on) that the idea of going out and trying, with an ulterior motive, to put myself out there were people can get to know me makes me physically ill. And even the most basic social networking with a purpose seems to be beyond me. Sullivan has a Facebook page, but with the best will in the world I haven't been able to find things to put on it and I'm not even certain it's published properly.

Maintaining a simblr (a Tumbler page consisting mostly of game-related pictures)? Ffft, that's easy! I can tell myself that nobody looks at it, really, except my friends who are genuinely interested and whose game pictures I'd also like to see more of, though I've been pleasantly surprised to find some "big name" simblers whom I don't know personally following me back. I promote Widespot accidentally, as a byproduct of stuff I do for my own amusement. I want to promote Sullivan, but can't relax and do it naturally.

Sometimes you know exactly what the problem is, and still can't solve it.

So that's where I am. Suggestions appreciated; but don't get your feelings hurt if you give me viable solutions and I'm too chicken to implement them.