Saturday, July 24, 2010

Short Post

Dear Employer/co-workers/customers (may you all rot in hell for all eternity):

1. If one has sudden orders from corporate re: doughnut case that involves rearranging shelves and cutting storage areas and otherwise doing bizzare things to my workspace, LEAVE ME A FRICKIN' NOTE, Kay? I mean, you do that every time you decide you don't want to break down the freezer load, which adds fifteen minutes because they always put the doughnuts on the bottom of a shitload of boxes. Also, explain what the mystery dough is, and what I am supposed to do with it. Otherwise it will go in the oven for 15 mins at 380 F with fifteen seconds steam, just like everything else. Because if I don't cook it you will chew me out for leaving work for somebody else (kinda like when you leave the frozen load for me to fuck with)

2. I know you only have two settings: Humming and "Where's my glasses?" What you may not realize is that both are annoying, and squeeking is not an acceptable alternative. Also, I have just worked an eight hour shift overnight, whereas you just got on shift five minutes ago. I DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOUR FRICKIN' GLASSES ARE.

3. It is three am. No, I will not place your cake order for eight a.m. tomorrow, as tomorrow is TODAY and you missed our deadline. Also, TAKE YOUR CHILDREN HOME. THANK YOU.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Rejectionist + Essay

First off, if all one of you are not reading Rejectionist religiously, convert post haste and begin reading. She is funny, she is spectacular, she is an agency assistant which means I must find some way to bribe with shippable foodstuffs (Preferably whiskey filled chocolates).

 This stuff.

She's having a Birthday Uncontest, which I guess is related to an Unbirthday Contest somewhere (probably via Alice eating the wrong side of the mushroom) and has decreed that all us loyal slaves readers shall write an essay on a predetermined subject, and that subject is ... "What Form Rejection Means to Me"

Your reaction. Sorry.

And you just rolled your eyes because you already know what I'm going to talk about here. So I'm going to start off with a story I have not repeated to ANYBODY, ever. Deepest, darkest, soul buried secrets, unveiled for the universe to see, point and laugh at.

I was a huge slacker when I went to a normal school. Back then I thought it was because I was a failure and  there wasn't much point in trying. In reality, I was bored. As a homeschooler I got to read whatever I wanted, study whatever I wanted, WRITE whatever I wanted, and as a consequence, I was diagramming sentences and reading the encyclopedia for fun when I was nine, playing at what I now recognize as fan fiction, and doing many arts and crafty stuff in my bedroom, which usually looked like a tornado had gone through a Christmas wrapping plant and a yarn factory. Also, dates and names bored me, and history and science in that school were little more than a recitation on who made what discovery and why.

They wouldn't let me get away with this, either.

So when we had to choose a Project (I still don't remember what the fuck this was, exactly) I delayed until the last possible minute and settled on science fair. Initially, I was going to repeat an old experiment from a homeschooling book where you mixed supersaturated salt- and sugar-water, as well as that blue crystal stuff, and stuck them in different temperatures to see which one grew faster (salt and sugar grow fastest in fridge, the other stuff grows fastest in the oven. Totally contrary to my hypothesis. Rocking Awesome). However, I decided this was too non-creative ... and I also ran out of time. I read the guidelines I'd been given, figured out that nothing said it had to be an experimental, and spent the next week or so studying, researching and basically obsessing over monarch butterflies. My display won second, and qualified me to go to the regional competition.

Suddenly, I was excited about school. Here was something I did reasonably well, as judged by the science fair committee. Here was evidence that I had brains! Here! Was! Proof! That my family could be proud of me! Somehow! That I could do more than read! (a full sized novel a day, at thirteen, which made my mom grumble because she was tired of buying me books and/or driving me to the library) This was great!

I redid my display, made it look better, and had my mom look over everything. She assured me it was perfect. We went to the regional competition (and missed Crazy Hat Day back at school, which sucked. I had made a real crazy hat, peacock feathers and all) I stood proudly beside my in-depth study of monarchs. The judges came by, looked at the maps, the text, and the little butterflies I'd pinned everywhere, and asked me where the hypothesis was.

It turned out that I was one year too old to get away with a display sans-experiment and this fact was mentioned nowhere in the information our school had been given. I should have been disqualified at the school level and was not. I got a green ribbon at regional, an honorable mention. The only one in the entire competition. Everybody else placed. Hundreds of other students placed. I think my ribbon came off somebody's purse, now that I think of it. I threw all of it into the trash on my way back home, and I don't think I tried hard at anything else that year. I figured I'd just fail anyway. There'd be a line or something I skimmed over, something I didn't check. Even if I did do well and I was good enough, it'd get sabotaged somewhere along the line, either by my own stupidity or chance. I passed with a C average. The only time anybody in that school discussed anything with me, good or bad, was the day after my Dad kept me and my brother out of school so we could go to flea markets (his idea. I spent the whole day being sick inside the car). The principal asked me what my problem was.

Whenever I get rejection from anything, I feel like I'm thirteen and I've got that goddamn ribbon in my hand again. I feel like it will never matter how hard I try, or what I do, there will always be someone who does it better than me. Someone who has figured out what "Good enough" is. They have the training, or the experience, or that little extra "umph", and I will always be outside, the imitator, the second rate. Not worth the time for a reason. Maybe it's because I suck. Maybe it's because I read the directions wrong. Nobody cares, and they're right not to. I should have done the work, I should have tried harder. I should have revised eight times instead of just seven.

I guess my reaction is betrayal. (and I know I've discussed this before, I'm sorry) that ... you know, there's an unwritten rule that your family checks you over before you go out in public. Make sure you don't have toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoes.

Or, ya know, other places too.

Yet when we start doing creative stuff, our family stops doing their job. Like when I started focusing on my art, I would bring my work to my mom for critique, and she'd say it was lovely. It didn't matter if I sucked or if it really was good. It was lovely. Obviously, now I can paint. Kind of. But ... you know, can I really trust it? If they say the same stuff now that they did back when I really sucked at it ... how do I KNOW if it's any good? Yes, I'm getting more good compliments than bad, now ... but does that really mean anything? How do I know that I don't just really, really suck?

Same thing goes for my writing. I give it to my family and my friends so they can go "Hey, this part doesn't make sense. You need to fix it!" And I get it back, unmarked, with good reviews. So my little heart is glowing and my little brain is floating, and I show it to a professional, because my family made SURE that everything was wonderful. You know, they're your family. They wouldn't let you go outside in gold lame' pants, so surely they wouldn't say your writing was good when it actually isn't.

There is, of course, a natural result.

After the crying, I revise and give it BACK to my family, saying "You REALLY don't have to worry about my feelings. Just critique." And I get it back. Glowing reviews. So I show it to another professional, who kindly points out that he's getting a totally different ending than what I intended.

Dry tears. Revise. Bring it back, crawling on hands and knees, with a small supply of red Sharpie pens and a plea of "Please do not worry about hurting my feelings. Please tell me what I need to fix today." Mother leaves several messages on cell phone throughout first reading that consist of heavy breathing, the words "Oh My God" and "Bestseller" dotting the incoherent mess like islands in a sea of spooge. I seriously do not feel it is safe to listen to these messages, given that this is my MOTHER and there are certain lines our little brains ought not cross. Father reads it, opens every single conversation post-read with "So have you gotten any offers yet?" and tells me I am an "idiot" a "ding-a-ling" and "hysterical" for being less than enthusiastic in my answers ("Dad, I'm serious. I don't think anything's going to happen. Ever. It's just not ... something enough." "Well, then you're an idiot.")

Take one last shot, package everything up, and receive the by-now predictable result. Short-term kindness, short-term ego trip, long term crying jag. "You're there! You're ready! STOP WORKING ON IT AND JUST SEND IT OUT ALREADY!" *send* *rejection*. And me looking at my support system and wondering why I should even bother giving them another chance at supporting my career and not just my ego.

But wait! There are professional authors who are willing and able to give good advice! So let's go to them! And work with them! For months and months and months at a time! And they tell me it's ready, and ...

...I stop. Because if my mom would lie to me about my writing ability, why the fuck should I trust somebody on the internet/in a writer's group/total random stranger? Maybe they don't want to hurt my feelings either? Maybe they're as genuinely nice as they seem on the internet and they decided the best thing they could do is polish the shit out of that turd, except you can't really do that because then it dissolves into a lot of little tiny pieces, which makes flushing a lot easier but doesn't really help when you have a BOOK. So they lied too. Of course they would. All genuinely nice people lie. After all, my mom lied.

Okay. Hire a book editor. Surely that will help! Surely he won't lie to me.

... unless he happens to be a scam artist, and making me feel good is how he makes sure he gets paid.

So a form rejection, which basically says "not for us," leaves me wondering WHY is it not for "us"? Is it because I screwed up and you don't look at my genre? Is it because I screwed up and left a couple of typos? Is it because the plot makes no sense? Too fast paced? too slow? Too much description? not enough? Is it completely and totally nothing more than a giant, polished and steaming turd, or is it ALMOST there, and if I had just worked on it another six months you'd take it? What did I do wrong? Obviously whomever I query is too busy to explain (justifiably so, as they have another six hundred queries to answer) and I must work this out on my own. Also just as obviously, I can't see it on my own. So to whom must I go for help?

Mom. Dad. Other assorted people who have read it and told me that it's READY TO GO three versions ago.

...yeah, fuck this shit. Book, go in trash. I'll just get started on the next one.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Bitch: A Kiss of Shadows

Everybody's had that relationship. You know the one. All your friends say he's awful. She runs up your credit cards and empties your gas tank. He decides he wants to have sex in the middle of Pride and Predudice's upteen-millionth showing on Lifetime/WE/Oxygen, she WATCHES the upteen-millionth showing of P&P on Oxygen (instead of buying the uninterrupted DVD because dude, we all know you like it too). He drinks, she cusses in front of mom ... in short, the relationship is never going to be what you want. He will never be Mr. Darcy, she will never be Pam Anderson, and yet you keep on dating them. Because someday that person will realize the awesomeness of their potential and magically transform into your dream date. And at the end of the day you find yourself holding a bouquet of soggy roses and a tissue with a number on it, walking home because s/he's got the car keys.

This is my relationship with Laurell K. Hamilton. One more tidbit before we get to bitching: She's too good an author to write porn.

Book: A Kiss of Shadows
 Author: Laurell K. Hamilton (AKA LKH)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Readability: Good. And poor. And really good. And really, really poor. Depends on if you like logic with your smut.

What you need to know before you buy:  LKH's narrative voice is addictive crack, but she's a con artist when it comes to writing. She baits you with a kick-ass plot and then gums it all up with boring, out-of-place smut. Sex is the answer for EVERYTHING. Also, MASSIVELY NSFW, eyeblinding in a couple of places, and I hope to god you like a healthy seasoning of BDSM with your Mary Sues.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Ovaries are coming! The Ovaries are coming!

Carol Burnett once described labor as follows: "Grab your bottom lip and pull it over your head."

I have actively considered becoming anorexic, not because I want to be skinny, lethargic, unhealthy and have my family fawn over me constantly, showering me with steak and chocolate (...actually that last part doesn't sound so bad) but because one diagnostic criteria is, your period stops. Your body becomes so unhappy with you, it begins shutting down critical functions, kind of like car manufacturers going on strike until they get health benefits and a pension. I guess your body wants to blackmail you back into compliance. The problem is that your period has stopped.

  It's basically the Ransom of Red Chief on a biological scale.

Men joke about it. "Never trust anything that can bleed for five days and not die," "she's on the rag", so on, so forth. One section of the totally awesome first Council Wars book, There Will Be Dragons (It's silly as all get out, but how many books do YOU know contain a literal dragon catapult AND Sluggy Freelance's Bun Bun?) uses period humor, where the previously artificially sterile women suddenly have periods en masse and all think they are dying. And while this may seem very fucking funny to a guy, let me point out that the female human body contains a function where your first reaction is OH FUCK I AM GOING TO DIE. 
People wonder why thirteen year old girls are so flighty and brain-dead. My proposal is, about two weeks before/after their thirteenth birthday they looked down and saw a great deal of blood staining their clothing and, naturally, screamed because they are fucking bleeding out of an orfice, and humans are trained from birth to consider sudden blood out of any biological opening as a bad thing. Naturally these terrified shreeks bring either Daddy or Mommy, who (our child knows) will sweep them into their arms, run downstairs without stopping for coffee and take them to the ER, where a CT scan will show the source of the bleeding.

So imagine our little girl's horror when Daddy backs out of the room veeeeeeery slooooooooooowly and Mommy starts laughing and cheering and discussing ways to celebrate this huge step via a large dinner. There is much cheering, and Daddy may be sent to get a stuffed bear and Baby's First Maxi Pads while Mommy shows her daughter how to rinse blood out of panties (always use cold water, kids). Our heroine here realizes one of nature's fundamental truths: Her parents want her to die. There could be no other possible reason for such celebratory behavior. They will probably put her ashes into the stuffed bear, or worse, into the maxi pads.

Then the truth hits her. This is normal. Mom does it to. This is how we get babies to continue the cycle of life. And then the cramps hit her, and she realizes she would rather cut these organs out of her stomach with a blunt button than she would ever have children, if it means she's going to feel like this more than once. And when the tears are dried, the cramps are over, and the maxi pads applied, our little girl finally sees reality clearly. She sees what life wants to do with her. She sees a future of rigorous sanity punctuated by a period of red, a celebration of womanhood preformed by women in too much pain to stand upright, and our heroine says, "Fuck it and pass me the hair gel."

Also, I'd like to address something that feminists keep bringing up. Now, I do consider myself slightly feministic, in a Susan B. Anthony kind of way. Equality, ya know? And yeah, I do the whole when-I-have-a-brand-new-hair-do thing, because there are times when I do like being girly. But there are a group of women who insist that the reason women consider their periods a curse is because the Patriarchy says it is. Which leads me to believe that the misogynist accusation that all feminists are transsexuals is correct. These women have obviously never had a period in their life and experienced the joy of severe cramps, or putting on your favorite off-white jeans and then looking down halfway through your workday, or trying to explain to a humorless male boss that your abs hurt so much you are dry heaving and you need to go home and lay down. It is not a gift, it is not the moon's blessing, I am not going to fucking paint with my menstal blood what the hell!?! I am going to go lay down with tylenol and a heating pad and a tub of chocolate ice cream and try to pretend that I am not bleeding uncontrollably into cotton batting. There is really only one picture that can fully portray what a period makes me feel like and this is it:

The chestbuster is my uterus.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Vet

Abbot, my psychotic fuzzy bundle of joy, has spent the last five days throwing up on my rug.

I am not particularly attached to the rug. It's that generic gray that stains can only improve. I am, however, very attached to the kitty. So I must now venture into that area of kitty ownership that folk don't talk about, because it is disgusting and you don't want your friends to know that you regularly handle large amounts of urine soaked clay or small, dead animals.

Abbot has always required performance above and beyond the call of duty. She was abandoned as a kitten, two days old, eyes shut, umbilical cord attached. She wasn't too sure how nursing worked, and of course, had no clue what this "bathroom" stuff was about. The first two weeks of her life were warm cuddling and cute kitten noises, punctuated by me holding a squirming kitten over a toilet and rubbing her nether-regions with a warm, soft towel so she would "go". Her first voluntary turd brought much celebratory squealing, and tuna.

Incidentally, I discovered Abbot does not like Tuna. Or any form of fish, fowl, meat, veggie, or milk, if it is not either in a bottle or part of pre-formed kibble. She will, if forced, eat canned cat food, but only if there is nothing else in the house. I gave her small chunks of turkey for her first Thanksgiving. She looked at me as if I'd just produced a whole dead rabbit kit and asked her to skin it. Also on her hate list are vacuum cleaners, rustling bags, sudden noises, me moving from my bed, at all, ever, outside, the kitty carrier and anyone human who is not me.

So on the third day of hearing that distinctive sound, I got off my lazy butt and poked through the kitty vomit to identify component parts and maybe discern what was wrong. And I found nothing, save for a little foam that the carpet quickly swallowed. In addition to barfing, Abbot wasn't eating. An attempt to hand feed her was met with temporary success, and a pile of soggy kibble and cat hair deposited in the middle of my bed five minutes later.

I check my first resort for first aid information ... the internet. Which, in reality, should be avoided at all costs when medical stuff is involved. A simple check for the words "cat vomit" summons pages on bowel obstructions, feline distemper, cancer, and a terrifying description about why pulling yarn out of your cat's throat is a very bad idea. I will never buy Christmas tinsel again. Completely freaked out, I call my step mom and get an appointment with her vet this morning.

At seven thirty, my dad calls me and lets me know he's on his way. I ask him to call me when he's a block from my house, to minimize the amount of time Abbot is in the carrier. He calls. I get the carrier down from the closet. Abbot sees it in my hands. She hunkers down, ears flat, eyes wider than a pair of shooter marbles, and her claws sink into my bed. I set it down and grab a towel off the laundry. When I turn back, she's evaporated. There are a few bits of tabby cat hair on the bed, that's all.

I find her under my bedroom table. I move it, pick her up and gently wrap her in the towel. Cooing softly, I take her to the carrier, letting her know everything will be alright.

She pees down my leg.

She also catches the carrier with one rear foot and sends it careening into my other leg, and then escapes while I try to get the cage upright again. I catch her clawing at the couch as if she could tear a hole through the recliner. I wrap her in the towel again and try to slide her gently into the carrier. She gets both back feet braced against the door and pushes back. I let go so I can brace the cat carrier and she gets away again.

My phone rings. Dad is now at my front door.

Attempt three turns Abbot into a small blue caterpillar-like creature with a cat head sticking out one end. Quick, I shove her in, let go and close the door. It takes her two seconds to shred the wrappings and peer through the cage door forlornly, screaming "LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT!" at the top of her little kitty lungs.

I repeat to myself, slowly, "Obstructed bowel. Distemper. String," and for good measure re-read the flash fiction I wrote two days ago about a dead cat. I grab purse, keys and kitty carrier and head out the door.

Abbot burrows under the towel and doesn't move.

I get to the vet. The walls are covered in photos of people's pets. Someone is depositing two kittens, I shit you not, Mario and Luigi, I think for ingrown testicle removal. I blink, because it is eight thirty and I am still trying to wake up, and I'm still pretty sure I heard the words "three testicles" attached to the kittens. Abbot hears the dogs in the vet's kennel and digs deeper under the towel. Her eyes glare at me from under the edge. If looks could have killed, I'd be a grease stain. It didn't help her cause that her shelter was baby blue.

I tell the vet tech that I am with my step-mother, because my step-mother has enough cats to keep their kids in college. They send me to a back room. I set the carrier down on the steel table and look at the medical posters, which is also something you should never do when you have an active medical concern. One is for tooth decay, one is for canine separation anxiety, and one details just what roundworms will do the feline intestine. Complete with pictures.

Abbot makes a despairing sound from under the towel.

The vet is male, a bald guy in turquoise scrubs. He looks like the Six Flags guy. I keep waiting for somebody to start playing that song so he will do the funky dance.


He asks me what's wrong. I tell him I brought him a towel, then relent and show him the kitty. He asks me how long she's been throwing up. I tell him. He asks me what was in the vomit. I tell him. He asks me if I brought any of the vomit with me, and I make the same gagging sound Abbot's been waking me up with for the past five days.

He gets a tech in and opens the cage. The towel moves all the way to the back. He reaches in, grabs Abbot and starts pulling. She plants her back feet against the front of the carrier. He gets the tech to hold the cage while he gently manipulates Abbot's pointy ends. When she's out, they dump the carrier and weigh her. All limbs have to be INSIDE the weigh station and there can't be any extra human weight attached. All Abbot wants is to go back in the carrier. Watching this would be amusing if it were not my baby scared out of her mind.

They get her weight, put the towel back on the exam table, and then get out the rectal thermometer.

Somehow, nobody required stitches when this was over.

He declares that she has no fever (102 degrees f is normal for a kitty) and starts pushing on her tummy. I wait for the buzzsaw noise to start and for the tech to run for a pair of gauntlets. Instead, he gently palpitates everything, then sends the tech for an allergy shot. Apparently her fur pulling, hairballs and scabby skin could be indications of allergy and not anxiety, and he's going to give her a shot. The whole time, Abbot is squirming and twisting and twitching and he gently pulls her back onto the table and while not precisely cuddling her,  is being very gentle while she tries to take off like the thermometer was a rocket sled. I am very impressed.

The tech comes back. He hands her the kitty. She takes her as if kitty were radioactive and holds her by the neck and tail. So much for gentle. Vet grabs a fold of skin and sticks Abbot with the needle. Abbot's eyes get even wider. Vet lets go. Tech puts carrier on table. Abbot runs into carrier and immediately shoves head back under the towel.

They hand her back to me. I go up to the front desk, give them money for the privilege of manhandling my cat, and leave.

By five o'clock, Abbot is eating her kibble and snuggling without twitching for the first time in months. I am just glad that all it cost was sixty bucks. That's the good news. The BAD news is, now I have to figure out what the hey she was allergic to.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Bitch: Left Behind pt 1

You know, there are books that need to be killed, books that just need a little bit of help to be good (and are thus annoying as hell because they won't ever get there) and then there are books so awful, bitching about them is just shooting fish in a barrel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Left Behind series.

I shouldn't. I know I shouldn't, but I just can't help myself. I cannot bitch about bad books without mentioning the worst bestselling series in the history of Christian fiction. It just wouldn't be right.

So without further ado, let us begin.

Title: Left Behind
Author: Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Genre: Christian Fiction
Readability: Not Bad, but ... gah, just keep reading.

What You Need To Know Before You Buy: Starts off okay, gets progressively crazy. This is a REAL specific flavor of Christianity, REAL REAL specific, and if you adhere to a different branch you'll want to throw the books against the wall by the time you get to Apollyon. If you're not a Christian, you'll want to set the whole series on fire by Nicolae. LaHaye and Jenkins use the series as their personal soapbox and take unnecessary potshots at secular society every chance they get.

And now for the spoiler-rific cut.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

State of the CW

So the last time I posted about the Book Code Named WBR (Hey, we could call it Webber!) I mentioned that I had gutted and rewritten the fantasy sections because they focused on the wrong characters, thus necessitating the Infodumps of all Infodumps. Well, today I'm reading my way (slowly) through the whole thing, and barring some massive mistake between now and "The End" ... it's ready.

Shit. I'm actually scared now. I can streamline the prose from now until the Second Coming of Christ, but I can't do anything else to the narrative on my own. I'm ... done. It's time to start shopping it around. And hope and pray to God that it's good enough for publication somewhere.


So, plan of attack for the next six months or so:

1. Finish the Great Proofread.
2. Complete Synopsis
3. Complete and test drive Query Letter via AWWC Query Hell (I've mentioned the Absolute Write Water Cooler before, right?)
4. Compile list of first choice agents and query.
5. Compile list of second choice agents and query.
6. Compile third choice, fourth choice, and fifth choice if I have to.
7. Send query/copy of manuscript to Baen Books, because they're the only large publisher I know of who still accepts unagented manuscripts in my genre
8. Compile list of smaller presses in genre who accept unagented submissions.
9. Compile list of second choice presses.
10. Give up, because if we get this far that means the mss. pretty much sucks and the only things left are the little bitty guys who can't pay and wouldn't count as a publishing credit anyway. Or vanity, which I won't do.

Why is this "we're done" thing so fucking depressing? I thought you were supposed to go celebrate with champaigne or something. I just want massive amounts of drugs.