Dec 29, 2004

Wow . . . tsunamis.

I'd always imagined them to look like a curling wall of water, but the footage from Sri Lanka and India shows that they look more like ordinary beach waves on a massive scale. It's like a bucket slopping over miniature models of buildings, vehicles, and people. I can't imagine the devastation and anguish that the survivors have to face. I rarely comment on global news that reaches my corner of the world (because it's usually about fighting over my two least favorite topics: politics and religion) but this one left me a bit shocked. For some reason, tsunamis are one of my weird childhood fears. I was never worried about tornadoes, earthquakes, or sharks, but when I went to the beach, I'd sometimes think "If a tidal wave sped toward us right now, we'd never be able to outrun it."

I recently sent out my Abby Update newsletter, and I was going to paste it here. Now it seems too happy in the face of recent world events. Hence the preface. Also, after I reread the newsletter, I realized that it sounded way too friggin' happy. I'm more of a pessimist than an optimist. So I want to take a quick moment to say that I was in an unusually good mood when I wrote it! In fact, I've had such a great month so far, I'm expecting a ton of bad luck to come crashing down on me in January. Yeeks! I can almost see its shadow!

Okay. My biggest cause for celebration is that a literary agent has requested my manuscript. That may not sound like a big deal, but I was jumping for joy. Literally. Why? Well, here are the usual steps in the process of a first-time author getting a novel published:

  • You finish your novel, and revise/edit it obsessively over a period of years.
  • You send out lots of query letters to reputable agents and major publishing houses, hoping that one of them will be interested enough to ask for the first three chapters. (A good literary agent may be able to get your novel read by major publishing houses.)
  • No one answers your query letters. Years pass. You revise your query letters incessantly, trying to write the perfect query letter.
  • More years pass. Your new query letters don't work. You try networking with agents and editors.
  • Finally, your years of networking and query letter revising come together in perfect harmony. An agent requests the first three chapters of your novel!
  • Months pass. You worry that the agent has lost your submission.
  • But wait! The agent had a huge slushpile of submissions to wade through, and as it turns out, she "literally flew through" the first three chapters. And she looks forward to reading the rest of the book!!!

That's where I am right now. I've FedExed the novel to her, and I'll let you know what the outcome is.

This is by far the furthest I've ever been toward novel publication. I have some worries--she may not take me on as a client--but I still consider this to be a huge step. It's the first time my novel will be judged by an agent on its own merits, rather than on my query letters or poor salesmanship skills. I figure that no matter what happens, at least ONE agent in New York will know that I can write. I have high hopes that she'll remember my novel, because it's an unusual story.

In addition to that, my animation career is perking up. I'm slated to work on a few Nintendo games as a lead animator. As always, this industry is unsteady, and I can't say what I'll be doing six months from now, but I feel good and secure about the immediate future.

Larry and I celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. I've received a Dell pocket PC--a very nifty little computer that comes with a retractable keyboard and wireless internet access--and a 20GB mp3 player. This is perfect for my audio book listening habits. I go through seven or eight unabridged audio books per month. I also got some delicious Belgian chocolates, and a bunch of magazine subscriptions and gift certificates that I've wanted.


We saw Life Aquatic at a fabulous outdoor mall in L.A. Yes, fabulous is the word. It was the epitome of Beverly Hills / L.A. culture, although it was closer to Hollywood. Anyway, my friends give the movie a thumbs-up. If you liked The Royal Tennenbaums, you'll like this one. But I didn't particularly like The Royal Tennenbaums. 'Nuff said.

I thought A Series of Unfortunate Events was worth seeing, but I haven't read the Lemony Snicket books. The acting and the movie sets and costumes were completely awesome. The story adaptation may have been a little shaky.

Blade III was campy, good fun. I think it was better than Blade II, with more character and plot. And it has some funny scenes.

The Return of the King, Extended Edition was well worth the four hours of watching! I think it needed the scenes they'd cut.

Meet the Fockers was entertaining. It was pretty much as funny as advertised in the trailer, and a good way to spend a few hours, but don't go expecting a deep story!

Um . . . I'm not sure if I saw anything else recently. Hey, the trailer for the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks great! I'm angry at Tim Burton for remaking something that didn't need to be remade, but after that trailer, I'll see it. I'm less enthusiastic about the upcoming War of the Worlds movie.


So, I listened to Across the Nightingale Floor, by Lian Hearn. I've heard rave reviews about this one, but after reading it, I don't understand what they were raving about. The story and style both seemed very conventional. It was well-written, but . . . well, nothing to rave about, IMHO.

And I listened to David Brin's The Postman. My diagnosis on this one is that it has a kick-ass, original premise, and poor execution. I had this feeling throughout the entire story that it wasn't hitting its potential. The characters were too clueless within the context of the story. The suspense never really peaked in any place, although there were plenty of places where it could have. Worst of all, I kept predicting what the main character was going to do well before he realized what he was going to. This could have been a wild, unpredictable story, but it was pretty tame for the subject matter.

I've been reading a lot of short stories. I'm picking through genre magazines and anthologies, and my two critique groups are keeping me really busy. I probably read fifteen short stories per week. I listen to audio books because that's my way of sponging extra reading time. If you're wondering, I only listen to unabridged audio books. Abridgements are an affront to nature and all that is holy! Next up: Orson Scott Card's Lost Boys, Ursula K. Le Guin's first Earsea novel, and Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

And now it's time for me to sleep. I humbly beg your pardon if you've emailed me and I haven't responded. My backlog of emails-to-answer is nearing 100. I'm going to make an effort to reply to some of those over the holiday week. If you don't hear from me . . . .I'm a jerk. But I'll still like hearing from you, and eventually, I hope, I'll reply.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Dec 1, 2004

eulogy for Billy

I had a shock today when my mother called and told me that my dog died. He was a golden retriever named Billy, and he died from a ruptured spleen and other complications at the age of twelve. I knew this death was coming, because he was getting old, but I'd thought he'd live another year. I'd hoped to visit him one last time and let him know that I hadn't forgotten him. The last time he saw me was in August 2004, three months ago. I'm writing this now because Billy was a dog who deserves to be remembered. He was the finest example of a dog that I've ever known.

He was born from a family of golden retriever show-dogs. My family adopted him in the winter of 1992, when he was three months old. I was thirteen at the time, and nervous around dogs, having had a few unpleasant experiences with them. Billy was a surprise. I came home from a winter camp to find that we had a puppy in our house. But he was gentle and innocent, so I found it impossible to be afraid of him. My parents caged him in our basement at night, but he cried, and soon I let him sleep in my bedroom, on the condition that my sister and I take full responsibility for training him. Billy was extremely intelligent. House-training him took a few weeks, and he learned every conventional doggie trick in a few months. He slept at the foot of my bed until he grew bigger, and then he slept under my desk. Eventually he slept downstairs with a dog we bought to keep him company, a female tri-colored collie named Layli. Billy had a lot of funny personality quirks that I'd never imagined in a dog. For instance, he would try to smile by holding in his lips so his teeth showed, but his face was relaxed, not like a growl. He had superstitions about robotic toys and floating balloons; both were things to be avoided, probably because of the weird way they move. He also learned how to communicate with people by shuffle-dancing (when he wanted something), making noises in his throat (he made low whining sounds that were almost like questions or comments), and pointing by looking back and forth between the object and the human. He had a bin full of toys, and he assigned each toy to a specific person. If he wanted to greet me, then he would search though his toy bin and find the human-doll. If he wanted to greet my sister, he would find the duckie-doll. He had a toy for each family member, and different toys for friends. I thought it was cute that he always greeted people with a toy, no matter what. There were a few times when he rooted through his toy bin to the bottom and whined because he couldn't find the correct toy to greet someone with. Usually the toy had been left under a cushion or in another room.

While the dog-tricks are cute, Billy's best trait was his compassion. He was a companion to my grandmother, who lived in our house for a year, and who disliked dogs until she met Billy. He offered comfort to people in pain by resting his head in their lap, and by giving them extra attention and sympathetic looks. Although he was energetic during his puppyhood, and he grew to be 90 lbs, he knew when to be gentle. He never jumped on anyone aside from healthy family members who could handle it. He never knocked anyone over. He never bit or growled at people. At one time, my mother (a social worker) brought him to her patients as a therapy dog. And I can't neglect to mention that Billy was a wonderful friend to me; he was a being whom I absolutely trusted, and who trusted me unconditionally. I'm not sure I would have survived my teenage years without Billy. At the very least, he kept me from slipping into a pool of self-loathing. He kept me sane. The hardest part of leaving for college was leaving Billy behind. During my first or second semester away, I heard that Billy had run past the dog-gate and into my bedroom, leapt onto my bed, and wouldn't leave for a day. I wish I could have taken him with me to college. The first few times I returned home to visit, he cried more than I'd ever seen him do before. After a few years, he got more used to it--but I wish my long absences didn't hurt him. I noticed that he grew more lethargic and took to barking at night, both traits that he hadn't had until after I left.

I have a lot of happy memories of Billy. I'd like to share them all, but I could go on for pages. I'll mention a few highlights. Billy liked to play squeaky-under-the-rug. This would involve me (or anyone) hiding one of his squeaky toys underneath a small rug. I'd press the squeaky so he could hear it. Then Billy would pretend he was stalking it. He'd rear up and leap upon the rug like an attacking bear. I'd move the squeaky around so it wasn't where he'd expect. Eventually, he would throw the rug aside and grab the squeaky, then do a dance of triumph. He would prance around in a circle, snorting, tossing his head, and squeaking the squeaky. In later years, he'd do the triumph dance with the rug in his mouth instead; I guess he considered that a bigger trophy. He also liked to play fetch, and he would chase balls down flights of stairs and swim after them as well. He knew every variation of the terms "walk" and "food", and how to spell all of them, so our family was eventually reduced to using code phrases like "Let's do a W" (take Billy for a walk) or "Is it time?" (to feed Billy). If he understood what we were talking about, he would expect us to carry through with it immediately. If anyone said the word "walk," he would run and get his leash. If anyone said "dinner", he would look at the kitchen and make noises until he was fed. Of course, if we failed to carry through, he would look dejected and sigh a lot. Yes, he could actually guilt-trip humans into walking and feeding him. He had very expressive eyes and eyebrows.

I've missed Billy for eight years now--that's how long I've been gone from home--but he was always close in my heart. I will continue to miss him now that he's gone, and mourn him. This is the best I can do, and I know that it's less than he deserves. He's earned the respect and love of this particular human.

b. October 15, 1992 -- d. November 30, 2004
Rest in Peace. I will never forget you.

Nov 5, 2004

World Fantasy Convention 2004

he palm trees are green, the hedges play jazz music, and it's late autumn in California.

The last time I posted in my blog, I was going insane with my novel rewrite. This is no longer the case. I have attained a zen-like attitude of fatalism. If I finish the rewrite and it works, great. If not . . . I still believe the current version is a good book. If it never gets looked at due to its structural problem, then I'll just wait until I'm famous and have it published then!

I just returned from the World Fantasy Convention, which is a conference for professional genre authors, editors, and publishers (despite its name). They're so professional that they hold the convention on Halloween and don't dress up in any costumes. There was an art show there, and panel discussions, but the point of this convention was mostly to shmooze--aka network. I'm not a social person, but to my surprise, I had a really good time. I met a lot of online friends for the first time, and (to sound corny) met new friends. It was also a thrill for me to hear some big-name authors and publishers speak their minds.

I want to go on about this conference at great length, but that would be boring to many readers, so I'll save it for the end of this entry.


On the animation front, I'm full-swing into the job hunt. It's a demoralizing process, because most of my queries receive no reply, and I'm not qualified for most of the jobs I want. I'm not qualified because I don't have the right experience, and I can't get the right experience because I can't get those jobs. It's the old catch-22. I can see a way out of this vicious cycle: I need to make a kick-ass 3D film single-handedly. But that requires a lot of time and dedication, and I don't like the idea of putting aside my writing ambitions in favor of that.

However, I am learning Flash MX and making an animated short that will probably put my other films to shame. It's a lot of fun, and I think it'll be a great thing on my demo reel. The process is also setting me up for my future ambition: A series on online cartoons, a la Homestar Runner. I have high hopes for this project. The voice actors are lined up (thanks, voice actors!), the scripts are ready, and the characters are designed. All I need now is to do it.

Speaking of animation, I just saw The Incredibles. Go see it! I think they made an incredible film, exceeding my expectations by a long shot. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually WANT them to make a sequel. (pout) I wish Pixar would hire me. My applications to them never received replies.


So anyway, back to other stuff. Larry and I took a little road trip through the deserts of Arizona on the way back from the convention. The photos should be on his website soon. We stopped at Montezuma's Castle, an ancient fortress built into a cliff wall by Native Americans. It was inhabited by 35 people from a community of 200. Apparently the other people had a ground-level place, but it burned down 600 years ago. The same day (Halloween), we drove from a saguaro cactus desert--with warm summer temperatures--to an icy cold pine forest with a foot of snow on the ground. We passed through the town of Sedona at sunset. All the kids were trick-or-treating. According to the people of Sedona, there are energy points around the town that make people feel good. I'm a total skeptic, but I must say, I felt good driving through there! It was so pretty. Larry and I turned to each other at the same moment and said "Let's live here!"

We stayed overnight in Flagstaff--brrr--and then we checked out Meteor Crater. Yeah, it's basically a big hole that got blasted into the desert 50,000 years ago, but it was impressive. Also windy. I figure the wind chill factor was 30 F. And then we drove the eight hours back to L.A., reading the last book in the Dark Tower series on the way. We're still not done with it, but I must say, the action is building toward some kind of crazy climax. My favorite books in the series so far have been Books 2, 3, and 6. Book 6 was hands-down awesome. If anyone out there is looking for a good SF/Fantasy epic, I recommend this one.


As you know, the process of editing my novel has become gruesome to me. I'm taking it more slowly now. I also want to polish my scary screenplay and write new short stories. I'm afraid to start a new novel, because I get sucked in and tend to pay less attention to job hunting and films and stuff like that. Once I feel like my life is on a more comfortable track, you can bet I'll start another major project. I have more than enough ideas to run with.

I have a story accepted by Aoife's Kiss. "Leveling Mountains" will appear there sometime in 2005.
I have one submission waiting at Realms of Fantasy, one at Borderlands 6 anthology, and one at Corpse Blossoms anthology. That's all I have out there right now, which is pretty meager for me. You can count on a lot more news with my next update.


The Grudge was relentlessly scary. Lots of fun! Team America was very funny, but not the sort of movie I can watch repeatedly. Most of the gags were one-time only. But other than those movies and The Incredibles, there haven't been many good films lately. The Forgotten was like a low-budget made-for-TV movie. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a huge disappointment, to me. They went all out on special FX, and the imagery was beautiful, but the plot completely failed in its attempt to pay homage to old-time pulp fiction.

Um . . . what have I been reading? Lots and lots of short stories. I'm a member of two critique groups now. That amounts to about three critiques per week. I'm also working through the last Borderlands anthology, in which my friend Lon Prater was published. And reading a bunch of SF magazines I got at the convention. And reading/critiquing a friend's novel. The novel is a relief, because I'm still more of a fan of epics than short form, but I'm also continually suprised by how much plot and character one can pack into a short story.

And now it's time for the . . .


This was my first con, and I learned a few things. Here are the highlights.

01) Many of the authors I talked with had completed five stand-alone novels or so before their first book was picked up by a publisher. There were a LOT of neo-pros there. I had this weird feeling that no one was taking me seriously because I have no pro publications. My conclusion is that I haven't written and submitted nearly enough stuff. I need a few pro publications!

02) The panels were pretty silly. A friend advised that I should attend panels based on WHO is on them rather than the topic, and I think this held true. The panelists were often answering audience questions or talking about their personal opinions rather than holding an illuminating discussion of the topic. There was one panel where they strayed completely from the topic and never came back to it. However, it was illuminating to listen to all these published authors and major editors speak. I feel like I have a much better sense of who they are and what they're about.

03) Ellen Datlow says that the SciFi Channel doesn't read her magazine, SciFiction. Both Ellen Datlow and Gordon Van Gelder want more SF and more Humor, and more complete stories with a protagonist who changes during the course of events. They believe that the importance of story structure is being forgetten, and want to see more stories with the traditional structure of a single hero who undergoes the most important change of his or her life.

04) Gordon Van Gelder gives detailed feedback to writers whom he considers to be promising. He says that sometimes a story is great except that the fantastic element shows up too late, or the setting/style is generic, or it's too literary.

05) All of the panelists on short stories agree that Robert Reed is a model of what a short story writer should be. He has at least 15 stories per year in all the major markets, and they're always good.

06) Tor editor David Hartwell cares so much about finding talent that he actually read a short story of John C. Wright's, then tracked him down and asked him if he had a novel.

07) I was really happy to talk with a screenwriter who's produced TV shows such as DS9 and Sliders. He gave me some nice tips on how to get in on the industry here. I know that book writers and screenwriters don't often mix, but I don't see why not. The mediums are not hugely different. The biggest difference I see is this: Screenwriters cannot survive if they're overly attached to the purity of their work.

08) Interestingly enough, I met an extremely talented animator who's attending the school (and department) I graduated from at CalArts. That was a surprising coincidence. We talked animation industry for a while.

09) The parties were tiring, and they stuffed a lot of people into those little suites. The Tor Books party was particularly crowded. There were about 100 people in a room designed to hold maybe 50. I'd been told that the parties would be mostly invitation only, but it seemed that anyone could walk into any party. There were only four suites or so in the hotel, and a party in them every night. I popped into most of them.

10) Shmoozing was not nearly as frightening as I'd imagined. Writers are very open to conversation. Unfortunately, most of the people there knew each other and were wrapped in private conversations. A few times, I struck up conversations with other people who looked alone. Most of them had their own weird tales about the getting-published process, and most were further along than I am (I have a competetive spirit, and couldn't help but compare). I really found everyone easy to talk to, which was a HUGE relief. I've known writers who are snobbish. It was also nice to realize that just about everyone at this convention wants a lifelong career as a writer or editor.

11) I met a whole bunch of people that I've hitherto only known online. It was exciting to meet other Odyssey graduates, friends from science_fiction_writing on Yahoo, and Samantha Henderson from my online critique group.

12) There were some good artists in the art show amidst the not-so-talented ones. I found a new artist to admire: Sarah Clemens. She's one talented woman. It was also cool to see the original book cover paintings by Janny Wurts and Don Maitz. They're much more impressive up close than on book covers.

13) One of the highlights of my experience at WFC was that a girl asked for my autograph. She was collecting them in case any of the new writers get famous. It was the first time anyone's requested my autograph, and I was flattered!

14) Authors did readings at the con, and I thought this was a great way to sample their work and decide if I wanted to buy one of their books or not.

15) The first panel I went to was a discussion on why adults read Young Adult novels. I thought that one of the best points in the debate was brought up by an audience member. He said that adult fantasy often focuses on using the magic for war and fighting, whereas YA fiction is still about the sheer wonder of magic. This may be why Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is compared to the Harry Potter series. Although it's adult fiction, it's about the wonder of magic rather than using magic for war.

16) I enjoyed the panel about stereotyped characters. The panelists all had interesting things to say. Charles de Lint said that for him, beginning a new novel project is like starting a new job and having to get used to a new setting, new co-workers, etc. He also finds it important (as I do) to have people read the novel before it's published. Jo Walton mentioned that the "spunky woman heroine" in a medieval setting often doesn't belong in that world. The spunky woman heroine is a 20th century woman, not a person that grew up in a medieval society.

17) The panel about villains got a little silly, but it was fun. I'm glad that L.E. Modesitt, Jr. pointed out the done-to-death stereotype of stupid bad guys who also happen to be powerful. Those also bother me. I get bored with stupid villains in novels and movies. Enough with the James Bond cliches! David Levine mentioned that villains are often the agents of progress or change--a new regime--while the protagonists are often trying to restore the old way of doing things. Strange, huh? I think so. But it holds true more often than not. Even in my Yeresunsa saga, the protagonists are trying to restore an ancient culture, and the bad guys are all about technological progress.

18) Finally, the panel about recurring characters in series was a good one. James Barclay doesn't believe in writer's block; he said that Terry Pratchett holds the same opinion. An audience member--Carrie Vaughn--brought up the point that a character must change in order to be interesting, but this might get tiresome in a long series where the character changes in every book. L.E. Modesitt answered this by saying that he never writes more than three books about any given character; beyond that, the character begins to seem plastic. Barclay said his limit is six books before the character gets tired. There was much mention of Lois McMaster Bujold handling a character through seven books without making him seem too plastic. Yes, Bujold is definitely on my list of authors to try soon!

With that, I believe I've run out of things to say. Oh! Email. If you email me, and I don't reply for a month or two, it's because I want to take the time to write a thought-out response. I'm usually too busy or lazy to do that. The one-sentence replies tend to go out the fastest. If I have more than one sentence to say to you, then . . . sorry. I'll reply eventually.

Best of luck to everyone who had the patience to read this. Happy Holidays!

Sep 15, 2004

Rewrite Frustrations

I've just got to say . . . right now, the idea of being attached to my writing is a HUGE JOKE to me. I must have written and discarded about 20,000 words for the new version of my novel, and I'm barely halfway through this monstrous rewrite. I mean, I must have written a novella's worth of words that will never see the light of day. I'm not bitter about that part of it. I don't mind losing crap that isn't working for the story as a whole. What bothers me is that I have no idea if I'm really making improvements, or just making a mess. For all I know, some of those discarded scenes would have been perfect. For all I know, I'm wasting a lot of effort on a new version that isn't any better than the old. And I feel certain that I will be writing another 20,000 words within the next two weeks, thinking that they're marvelous, only to have my hopes crushed when I reach a point and realize it isn't working. It's like repeatedly having my hopes crushed. Rewriting is a form of purgatory or something.

And I'll add that my "Scrap" file for this novel -- that is, the total amount of permanently discarded scenes -- is up to 84,000 words. That is literally a novel's worth of crap. The only reason I save it is for sentimental value. I can't stand the idea of throwing all that work away, even though no one will ever read it, and it's completely useless, and it's just taking up computer memory. I'll probably delete it when my novel is published. The next step after this rewrite is truly terrifying . . . I'll have to try to interest an agent or publisher. Let my query letter not suck! Let me be able to pitch this story without stammering!

So that's my month. I'm halfway through the rewrite, and I no longer find it remotely enjoyable. I yearn to write something new--I dream about it--but if I start a new project now, I know I'll never finish this one. I have vowed to myself to never undertake a rewrite like this again; not unless I'm offered money for it. This is hellish. I hate it.

Now you may be wondering why I'm doing it in the first place. I wonder that myself, sometimes. But here's the answer, as far as I can ascertain within the rotting mush that my brain has become: I'm not satisfied with the current/old version of my novel. I never was satisfied with it, even when I wrote the first draft. I feel absolute confidence that the story is wonderful, and I love the characters, but this novel had some major birthing pains, and I think it's a deformed baby. So now I'm trying to hammer it into a more acceptable shape. (Please excuse the crude analogy; I told you my brain is mush.) I'm willing to go to these great lengths and suffer to improve it, because I know this story is worth reading, and worth publication, and quite possibly bestseller material. I know I sound like an overproud author--or a mother talking about her child--but please remember that I have been known to shelve other novels rather than spend the effort to rewrite them. This one is worth the effort. I've already poured three years into it, on and off, and I will continue to pour effort into it until it sees publication . . . even then, I'll still promote it. And I can tell you that the current/old version wasn't BAD. It had a good reaction from test readers. A magazine even offered to publish it as a serial. But the reaction wasn't as great as I was hoping for, and like I said, it's a deformed baby. I think it can sell to a major publisher, with some more hammering. But wow, my arm is getting tired.

Jul 29, 2004

The Odyssey Writing Workshop

Back to reality. As I write this--long hand--I'm flying back to California after attending a six-week workshop devoted to genre writing. "Why long hand?" you may wonder. Well, I've become pretty handy at it after writing two to three critiques per day! Using the school's printers turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth (I'm a night person), and I was doing line edits anyway, so I practiced my handwriting. It's nearly illegible. At least I can read it to type it up.

The Odyssey Writing Workshop completely exceeded my expectations, which were high to begin with. Admittedly, when I received the acceptance letter, I had some momentary doubts, wondering if they let just anyone in. But it turned out that all sixteen students were the sort of experienced, determined, talented writers that you rarely (if ever) find in online critique groups open to the public. Everyone had useful insights, and it was interesting to be able to talk with each author in person, and learn from their critiques of each other. The workshop teacher, Jeanne Cavelos, comes from a professional editing background and has a skill for adapting her advice to each writer's needs. I'm grateful that she was able to offer me fresh ideas and new angles on the novel series I've been writing and rewriting for years.

The guest lecturers and writer-in-residence (George R.R. Martin) added their personal experiences in the publishing industry, and plenty of interesting anecdotes and advice about writing. Looking back at my notes, I see that I've covered 8 pages from G.R.R. Martin alone. And, of course, some of the best things about the workshop included networking with other hopeful writers, and the pleasure of focusing solely on genre writing for six weeks. I've come out of this workshop with a new feeling of confidence. I believe that I've improved as a writer, and I also have a clearer view of the publishing industry, so my old reservations about submitting to major magazines and agents are gone. I'm eager to see if I can make pro sales and win awards!

Odyssey 2004 class photo
My writing plans now consist of a lot of revising. I want to revise all of my unsold short stories, including novels and screenplays, and submit them to my top choice publishers. That will be an immense task . . . but you know I'm shamelessly crazy about writing, so I'll give it a try. And yes, I also plan to write new stories. I'll fit that in somewhere. Oh, and yes, I'm going to keep reading books and participating in my critique group. I'm back on my hectic my-computer-takes-up-my-entire-life schedule.

Two of my short stories were published while I was at Odyssey. The Blur can be read in Twilight Times, and Sunrise (longer yet sexier) is available in this month's Cyberpulp e-book/PoD anthology. This is my first story in print!

Novel status:

The Illusionist was rejected from Mundania Press in a polite and timely manner. Thanks to an insightful critique from Dave Fallon of DargonZine, and other test readers, and the Odyssey Workshop, I'm really seeing that this novel has problems. I may retire it until I have time for a major rewrite.

I heard through the writer grapevine that Baen Books lost everything in their electronic slush pile a month ago. If this is the case, they didn't notify the authors, and you can imagine my frustration. My novel Yeresunsa Book 1 was there exclusively since February 2004. Maybe (hopefully) it's still there. I've considered resubmitting it to them, but after Odyssey, I've oscillated back to my original ambition of querying literary agents. There are a few major ones I haven't tried yet. I still have a lot of faith that this book has major sales potential. Test readers have responded extremely well, and I'm going to revise it ASAP to get a better reaction. Now I just have to manage not to freeze up when it comes to querying agents. The problem is that I'm really proud of this book, attached to it in a way that I don't feel for my shorter works, so I'm paranoid that I'll ruin its chances with a bad query letter or synopsis.

Wrap up:

This is where I usually launch into short reviews of the most recent books I've read and movies I've seen. I'm too tired! I hope everyone is having a good summer. Best of luck to you all with your writing, artwork, or whatever your passions may be.

Jun 9, 2004

preparing for Odyssey

This Friday, I embark on an odyssey. Actually, it's the Odyssey Writing Workshop. This is a six week course for aspiring writers of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. It takes place at the Southern New Hampshire University, near where I grew up. It's also a very intensive course, with classes every day, events every weekend, and a large workload, so I'll be slow answering email for the next six weeks. If you live in New Hampshire, I'll give you a call.

What's so special about this workshop? Well, I signed up for two reasons: a) I'm guaranteed a lot of personal critiques, and b) the guest lecturers include renowned authors such as Catherine Asaro, Ellen Kushner, and George R.R. Martin. I'm really excited about this! G.R.R. Martin is one of my influences, so I'm looking forward to classes taught by him,, a personal critique.

The downside is that I won't be working for six weeks, and I'll be apart from my friends and significant other. I'm not exactly a big fan of New Hampshire, either. Lots of mosquitoes and black flies. But what the hell; an opportunity to learn from authors like this doesn't come along every year.

I'll be at Odyssey from June 11 through July 25. Larry will visit me during one weekend in the middle of it.

My animated short film Like Liz and Beth is now online! Quicktime is necessary to view it. This film was featured in the 1999 CalArts Producers Show, and leased to Level 13 Entertainment, Inc.

There's new artwork in my art gallery. You'll find new pictures in these categories: Landscapes, Characters, Animation, and Fan Art.

Two magazines have offered to publish my artwork! You'll find my drawings and paintings in Lighthouse Magazine, a print zine based in the U.K., and the online zine EOTU.

Life in Southern California isn't complete without celebrity sightings. However, one rarely gets to sit next to Tommy Lee Jones at a sushi restaurant, or say hi to James Cromwell in the street! Yup, two in one week. And I have lived here for seven years without seeing a single actor! Talk about universal synchronicity...or maybe they were filming something up here. Anyway, both incidents were a bit awkward, because I (in typical Abby style) did not recognize the actor until I had humiliated myself in front of him.

In the case of James Cromwell, I stared at him because I was sure I knew him; thinking he was someone I know in real life. Then he said "hi there" and walked on, and Larry and I realized in the same instant that this was the voice best known for saying "That'll do, pig."

In the case of Tommy Lee Jones...okay, Larry and I sat down to eat some sushi. Larry immediately noticed that a famous actor was sitting approximately five feet to my right. So he gestured with his eyes a few times. I didn't get the hint. So Larry proceeded to write "Tommy Lee" on a napkin. I said out loud "Tommy Lee?" Finally Larry wrote "CELEB --->" in big letters. But the funniest thing is that all of the waiters, waitresses, and manager gave us extra attention, because we're regular customers. Tommy Lee ended up glancing at Larry like "Should I know you?"

This past semester, I took a course in screenplay writing at a local college. Our teacher has written S.W.A.T. and a few other movies, and he's a fun guy to listen to. Anyhow, the class wrapped up and I did not complete my screenplay in time. Now I'm angry at myself for all that procrastination! But my screenplay is 90% complete, and I'm looking forward to finishing it ASAP. Okay, it's a zombie film, but I truly scared myself while writing it! With luck, maybe I'll be able to sell it to a movie studio. I also have a few ideas for future screenplays.

Screenplays are a much more limited format than novels, but they're also quicker and easier to write. Other differences: When you sell a screenplay, you give up all of your rights to that work (including characters and plot), but you can get paid big bucks. Novels are much harder to make money from, but you can keep ownership of your work.

Yeresunsa Book I: The Nameless is still sitting in the slush pile at Baen Books. It's been there since February, and I expect it will be there until 2005. I hope an editor at a major publishing house reads it within the next few years! I feel confident that this book can sell. On the other hand, I'm very eager to give it one more revision, thanks to reader feedback.

The Illusionist has been at Mundania Press since January. After I sent a query, they sent a very polite, prompt reply that they're still considering it. I expect to receive a rejection (or acceptance) sometime this summer.

I saw Harry Potter 3, Troy, The Day After Tomorrow, and a few others. Without giving spoilers: I recommend Troy, especially if you like to watch buff men fight each other in skimpy outfits. Actually, it was a good movie, despite a few Hollywood cliches and Brad Pitt's recognizable factor.

Harry Potter 3 was better than the first two, but I was still disappointed by how much vital plot information they cut from the film, or told out of order. At least this one holds together reasonably well. I imagine that Harry Potter 4 will absolutely suck unless they divide it into two films; the book is three times longer than the first three, and from what I remember, not much of it can be cut without losing the story.

And please don't see The Day After Tomorrow. Don't support the idiots who thought it would be a good idea to tell a father-son reunion story against a backdrop of plot holes!

I'm on a binge of good books lately. My highest recommendations go to: Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, and American Gods by Neil Gaimon. Really. Those books are page-turners, and better than anything I've read in years. Now I'm hooked on the Hyperion saga; I wish I had time to finish all four books before Odyssey.

Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is also very good. And I read Barry B. Longyear's Enemy Mine, as he's the first guest lecturer at Odyssey. It's worth a read, if you can find it!

Now I need to pack for my six weeks in mosquito country.

May 7, 2004

Fire season

As the weather warms up and fire season starts, my schedule is getting hotter! That's hotter meaning hectic. Have you ever longed for the gift of More Free Time? Incidentally, I wrote a story with that premise, because I wish for that a lot. Every day. Several times per day. You can find A Taste of Time in the May 2004 issue of the e-zine Deep Magic.

I also had a daily short story in Flashshot, and I will have a few upcoming publications this summer. Exciting! In other news: Well, I have three weeks to finish writing a feature-length screenplay, prepare a pre-class assignment for the Odyssey Workshop, write a screenplay coverage report for a class, revise my epic novel based on recent feedback (thank you Jackline, Maggie, Sue, J.R., Steven, and Cecile), critique a few stories for a workshop, and fulfil a few outside obligations to people. I know I'm forgetting something. Did I mention that this is all slated for the next three weeks? Did I mention that I have a full-time job now? And that I want to read all the authors who'll be at the Odyssey Workshop? And that I want to update my WoT Theories section and add new art to my online gallery? Oh -- and that I really want to write a few more short stories and submit my current ones to zines?

Please be understanding if I'm slow in answering my email.

Currently reading: Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson, Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson, and the first three Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey. It's rare for me to read three books at once like this, but they're all in different formats. Audio, paperback, and read aloud with boyfriend. :-)

New online hang-out: Orkut. Those Communities are addictive.

Addendum: Yes, I still have a semblance of a real-life social life!

Mar 30, 2004

unemployed and unpublished

Firstly, I was accepted into the 2004 Odyssey Writing Workshop! It's a six week program that takes place from June to July in Manchester, New Hampshire. That happens to be near where I grew up, which is just a coincidence...anyhow, I'm really excited about this, because the guest lecturers include George R.R. Martin (one of my favorite fantasy authors) and Gardner Dozois (the editor of Asimov's SF Magazine).

My job hunt continues, but I've picked up some freelance work animating sprites for a GBA game. It's fun!

COMING SOON on my website: Love Advice from Mack Master Sugar Batter! This guest columnist is *not me* (I feel the need to stress that), but she will have a section HERE. Send your questions and pleas for relationship advice to Sugar Batter!

Also, I've added some new illustrations to The Illusionist, and I plan to add more when I have time.

I'm writing a screenplay about sentient alien parasites that possess a group of human scientists. It's sort of a cross between Alien and Resident Evil. This will be my first feature length screenplay, and my goal is to have it finished by May.

My two completed, ready-to-go novels are currently in the slush piles at Baen Books, and Mundania Press. Reply times are four months at Mundania, and over a year at Baen, so I won't know if I'm rejected or accepted for quite a while. Unfortunately, the odds of being published in print are piled against new authors. Most publishers (even major ones) only publish one or two new authors per year, and they get thousands of submissions. And there's a nasty catch-22: In order to get noticed by a publisher, you usually need an agent, but in order to get an agent, it seems that you need to have a contract with a publisher. Genre fiction is a hard field to break into.

If you're wondering what my track record for these novels is so far, here it is:
  • I've been unable to get an agent to so much as read the first three chapters of either novel. I think the problem is either a poor synopsis, a lack of impressive writing credits, or a lack of connections.
  • The Illusionist has been rejected from LTDBooks and Renaissance e-Books. LTDBooks offered a little bit of feedback with their rejection.
  • Baen Books is the first publisher that will ever see Yeresunsa Book 1: The Nameless...provided they actually see it, of course, and don't lose the manuscript or chuck it into the trash without reading it. Yes, I have fears about that. Of course, I won't find out until mid-2005, and I can't submit it elsewhere until then.

What else...? Hmm. Short stories. I've written a few more, and I'm finally starting to like doing it, a little. I still prefer epic novels (both reading and writing), so short fiction is really hard for me. It's literally harder for me to write a good 5,000 word story than a well-plotted 150,000 word novel! What is my problem? Anyway, I'm pleased to report that I've had a story accepted for publication in Deep Magic. This is a really nice genre e-zine; well above standard, in my opinion. And I formed that opinion long before they accepted my story. :-)

I will be attending the 2004 World Fantasy Convention in Tempe, Arizona, this October. Look for me there! Okay, so maybe you won't be there...(or maybe you will; if so, I'm the redhead carrying a notebook portfolio)...but I'll write an update on how it goes. This is my first writing-oriented convention, and I have nothing notable published yet. Scary!

So, that's the end of my news. The weather is getting nice and hot here. I have my first sunburn of the season. I will continue to whittle through my backlog of emails, job hunt, prepare for Odyssey and conventions and other stuff, and write that screenplay. Oh yeah, and finish updating The Wheel of Time section before Robert Jordan writes the next book.