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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Because I adore all things gnomish — especially after having spent a year writing a YA novel about a warrior gnome’s quest to follow his beloved across the US even though he is too short to drive — I’m pretty excited about Chuck Sambuchino’s new book, When Garden Gnomes Attack.

I am even more excited that it is going to be featured in the upcoming issue of Reader’s Digest. I am taking this as an implicit promise that this venerable publication will next feature  werewolves, and then perhaps (in turn) faeries, goatmen, mothmen, Bigfoot, hellhounds and ogres. Considering that these subjects are my bread and nectar, bringing gnomes to the forefront of public consciousness bodes very well for me and for other writers of Strange. Chuck Sambuchino, I salute you!

Besides, I own a few garden gnomes myself (although Oskar, hero of my novel The Kobold finds them ghoulish) and several times I swear I have seen the one holding the sharp spade twitch a bit when the dog or I walked past.

For the record and for comparison between the garden variety gnome and the real thing, my reference drawing of Oskar the Kobold is below. His story is complete and available, in case anyone wonders.

Oskar, the Kobold, a warrior gnome in America

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Whee, win prizes! Get critiques, free books and maybe an agent who will fall in love with your 50-word Best Last Sentence Ever! What’s not to love ? Contests are generally good for all involved, but before I will spend my valuable writing time to come up with a decent entry, I think hard about certain criteria.

For instace, this blog post will help qualify me to  enter Guide to Literary Agents Fourth Dear Lucky Agent Contest for Middle Grade and YA books http://bit.ly/99cnKG

What made me decide this particular contest was worthy? Here are those aforementioned criteria:
1. It is run by a reputable website (love GLA)
2. The prize, a ten-page agent crit, is worth my time and effort
3. I have a finished product (MG fantasy novel) that is ready for some professional feedback
4. Entry requirements – 2 links and 150-200 words – are not too onerous
5. It has been a while since the last one I entered
6. My entry suits the guidelines – in this case, must be a completed MG or YA novel.

There is also an element of networking in any well-structured contest that attracts me, as well, and I am glad to help promote a blog that I use and enjoy.

There. I’m now officially entered, and may the best teen protagonist prevail!

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As an artist and recovering overachiever, I always try to offer something original in the Christmas cards I send every year. And since becoming embroiled in the mystery of unknown animal sightings — especially the canine and lupine variety — cryptid forms often sneak into my yearly greetings. I am still working on this year’s, but here are a few ghost cards of Christmases past:

My fave so far; sort of a Native American influence wedded to the Noel carol:

Then there is the photographic approach, requiring cooperative family. This was taken about three years ago and my hair is weirder than the beast…

And finally, crossing the species divide, I had to use a drawing to depict this guy as he will NOT stand still for a photo

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Unintentional Writing Tips

If your gift is crochet, better to make a great doily than a lousy parachute.

You know you are obsessed with the craft of writing when random quotes all seem to apply to your work-in-progress. Here’s a baker’s dozen from one crazed, revelatory evening with my thesaurus of quotations:

1. “By labor fire is got out of a stone” – Dutch proverb: Exactly describes the process of my novel revision.

2. “To really know someone is to have loved and hated him in turn” – Marcel Jouhandeau: = recipe for a believable character?

3. “The mind of man is more intuitive than logical, and comprehends more than it can coordinate.” – Vauvenargues: So THAT’S why my plot structure sucks!

4. “Pour not water on a drowning mouse.” – T. Fuller: Dear agent, I know you meant well with that query rejection, but…

5. “Little by little does the trick.” Aesop: 500 words/day WILL a novel make, given enough days.

6. “Alternatives, & particularly desirable alternatives, grow only on imaginary trees.” – S. Bellow: And thus, I write fantasy.

7. “It’s absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” O. Wilde: Substitute “books” for “people.”

8. “Men perish because they cannot join the beginning with the end.” – Alcmaeon: Substitute “books” for “men.”

9. “The man who suspects his own tediousness is yet to be born.” – T.B.Aldrich: I definitely need more beta readers.

10. “By the husk you may guess at the nut.” T. Fuller: Truly, let the pros do your cover.

11. “He that is everywhere is nowhere.” T. Fuller: FOCUS!

12. “Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.” – Pascal: Let the protagonist lounge, and the Story Mortician will come a-knocking.

13. “Never fall out with  your bread and butter.” – English Proverb: This either means don’t eat toast over your laptop, or take care switching genres. Equally useful!

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My Evening Adventuress costume

Me as "Evening Adventuress"

Steampunk costumes are glorious things. My own effort was not contest-worthy (though I still had fun wearing it), but I was blown-like-a-zeppelin-in-a-hurricane away by the grand prize winners; a wheelchair tricked out  with everything from a dangling faux gaslight to a metal-tubing cupholder, and a man with a wooden cabinet backpack that had moving gears, Tesla lights, and an array of other steamish objects too vast to describe here.

My quick take-aways from the weekend:

Victorian-era clothing looks great on every age group, with the possible exception of corsets worn as sole top. A corset-fail pictorial would have been horrendously easy to document.

Most SF/F fans believe Bigfoot is also SF/F, judging by the Mystery Animal Panel.

Autographing tables really should be located someplace near the attendees.

Girl Genius is a funny and top class comic.

Panelists in the know mentioned Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi and Catherynne M. Valente  as some of their fave, upcoming novelists. My Amazon wishlist runneth over.

Concensus from the 2012 Apocalypse panel I sat on was that the big change will be a spiritual transformation rather than an all out Armageddon as in the movie. Whew! I can drive again without checking for yawning sinkholes to Hell every two minutes. And does this mean anyone can be Pope in 2012?

It is possible to go an entire weekend eating nothing but Con Suite and Green Room food. And those who do, really appreciate it.

With the exception of one argumentative dealer, SF/F people are the nicest and most mannerly of crowds. Maybe it’s because we have so much practice at keeping our monsters in our heads where they belong.

windycon 007

WindyCon36 attendees

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My Necravenomicon Wings

My Necravenomicon Wings

I’m not a costume person. I had a bad costume-fail for my second grade class Halloween party and never quite recovered. I have always blamed my mother.

She had this thrifty notion that my costume should also be able to double as pajamas, so she had my grandma whip up a baggy bodysuit out of tiger-print flannel, complete with an eared cap that tied under my chin. The really egregious part was that she had forgotten to buy a mask or costume makeup, so she drew jagged stripes all over my face with her bright red lipstick. Altogether, I looked like Freddie Krueger had gotten hold of the neighborhood cat.

My classmates were grossed out. Worse yet, my two best friends, Mary and Leslie, were dressed like little dolls as Little Bo Peep and a fairy princess, respectively. My boyfriend  of the week, Larry Vorba, said Leslie was pretty but I was not. And the lipstick smelled like my mother’s saliva. I pretty much swore off elaborate costumes forever.

Then came WindyCon’s Steampunk-themed con, happening this Nov. 13-15. I’m on two panels and have a book signing — how could I not wear a costume? Besides, Steampunk is Victorian+fantasy+cool, Neil-Gaimanesque imagery. Irresistible. I decided to forget the tiger suit debacle and bought a hat and corset. I then set about creating a fantasy gadget “jet-pack” and attached it to some post-Halloween sale wings from Walgreen’s. I’m aiming for a gothy Victorian Tinkerbell look.

Here is a shot of the wing ensemble, and I’m also rigging up a big pocketwatch/brooch combination and will be carrying a transformed old book. I also have a very short ruffled skirt and tall black boots. And the only lipstick on my face will be between  my nose and chin where it belongs.

Larry Vorba, whereever you are, this one’s for you.

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I just finished my 11th (to be) published non-fiction book, and the good news is that I didn’t have to make an index for it.

The bad news is that I didn’t have to make an index for it.

My Strange Wisconsin index

My Strange Wisconsin index

My dirty little secret: I like making indexes. The old way. With a pencil and index cards. I know there are software programs for this, but I agree with the Chicago Manual of Style when it states that a computer-made index “cannot in any way substitute for a real index prepared with the aid of human intelligence.” (Thankfully, degrees of human intelligence are evidently not an issue.)

The crux of it is that indexing requires a sifting process to decide exactly what is pertinent to the subject at hand, and that process is at least partly subjective . If a book is about strange creatures, “phantom pigs” is probably a pertinent entry, but its exact  location in the obscure Welsh hamlet of Pentrefoelas may not be considered index-worthy. At least I didn’t think so when I prepared the index for Hunting the American Werewolf. A software program set for  proper nouns might have beeped to differ.

Besides, I find the process relaxing. You get the galley in the mail and look at how the pages have shaken out and how the designer has arranged things. That’s always enlightening. Then starting at page one, you write the words you choose on the indexcards, alphabetizing each. And don’t forget the page numbers.  Several packs of cards will be required for most books targeted above kindergarten level. And that Chicago Manual of Style will be invaluable for the picky parts.

Along the way you pick out any lingering typos that can still be fixed without disrupting design flow. A favorite beverage and snack is mandatory. The only tedious part is the data entry after you reach The End, but you could also enter as you go.

I’ve done this for five books — the others provided professional indexers at their cost — and this last one is part of a series with detailed chapter entries up front. But an index is normally a lovely and necessary thing to any researcher (or purchasing librarian — I’ve been one), and in my opinion no NF book should suffer the indignity of an indexless rear end.

I will add that I would never sign a contract for a book that required ME to pony up for a professional indexer. It would be like paying someone else to pet my dog or do my crossword puzzles. Genre NF advances are meager enough as it is.

And in the end, literally, a non-fiction tome without an index is just, er, book-naked.

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