Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am Effing Brilliant

My top five reasons why you should use a pen name.

5. You're in the witness protection program, and you don't want your former "co-workers" to find you.
4. You got drunk at a writer's convention. You don't remember anything that happened, but from the You Tube videos, you know you can never face anyone in the industry again.
3. Your name is hard to spell. If you're not sure, call ten customer service agents, give them your name, and ask them how they spell it. If one or more mispell your name, use a pen name. Something simple like "John Smith". Or wait, is that spelled "Jon Smith"?
2. You hate your name. You're bored with your name. You think "Spring Fairy of the Green Knowe" is a better name than the plain name your parents gave you.

And the number one reason for using a pen name:

1. When a rejection letter comes, it's much easier to "not take it personally" if it's addressed to your pen name. "Dear Spring Fairy of the Green Knowe, you suck" hurts less than "Dear Suzi, you suck".

I am surprised that these reasons are rarely listed when people are deciding whether or not to use a pen name.

Seriously, there are lots of good reasons to use a pen name and "hard to spell correctly" is a major one. I can't tell you how many times I asked for Rosemary Edghill books at the bookstore, and they couldn't spell her name correctly, so they would tell me "no". Even though they had the latest Bast book on an endcap! (The ultimate irony, of course, is that Rosemary Edghill is the pen name of eluki bes shahar.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My First Page Review is Up

My second place winning entry in Anne Mini's contest is up and reviewed. I have to admit that I was so nervous, I had to ask my husband for stand-by emotional support, just in case. However, Anne was complimentary, clear and polite as always, and I was able to swallow the bitter pill of discovery that I still have problems with meeting formatting guidelines.

I swear I studied her guidelines until I thought I got them all right. "Whatever else may happen," I thought, "at least I won't be rejected for not following the guidelines." Oh well, live and (hopefully) learn.

Her kind words (she described my premise as "darned charming and full of potential") came at just the right time, too.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Burning Droid Question

I know, my Droid is slim, it's shiny, it's great for distracting my son (he loves playing with the animated wallpaper on the phone). But I know what you really want to know. We're writers. What we want to know is, can you write on the Droid?

Simple answer: Yes

Long answer: Yes, but I think you'd have to be mad hatter crazy (or a teenager) to do so. Yes, it has a word processing program. Yes, it has note taking apps. Yes, you can type on on that tiny keyboard. And that's where it breaks down. Unless you're a dab hand at texting, you won't be able type quickly enough for it to be workable.

Now, there are faster typing programs available. (Swype seems to be winning this place right now.) I haven't used Swype yet, so I can't speak to that. There is also voice recognition software out there. I'm using Vlingo. It was free, and does a passable job for things like emails. It "learns", so as it becomes more accurate, it may work for writing. We'll see. But it's probably just easier to leave yourself a voice mail and transcribe it later.

Or, use Google Voice. More about Google Voice later.

(Seriously, I can't help but notice that Google now has all of my information. The day they decide to become evil, I will either have to create an entire new identity or become a loyal minion. Hey, as long as they keep feeding me good tools for my life, I'm picking loyal minion.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Yup, I did it. I got a Droid. I've had it for four days now, and I love it with a love that can't believe I haven't had one of these since they were first available. Seriously, it couldn't be better if were made out of dark chocolate. (If only because the dark chocolate would get all melty in my pocket, or I would eat my Droid, and then be out of the wonder that is my Droid love.)

I will undoubtedly spontaneously burst into Droid love songs and Droid App reviews over the next unknown time period.

(Likely winner for the best downloaded app is Tasker. More later.)

Eight Questions

Melissa Getting Published tagged me to answer eight questions about myself.

   1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?
According to my family, I already have a couple of superpowers (including locating "lost" objects and mind reading). But my real superpower is the ability to spread calm. I can talk people down from high emotional states, which was a huge plus when I was doing phone tech support. (Because nothing makes you crazy like your computer not working at 3 am.)

   2. Who is your style icon?
In my head I have this imaginary Suzi that has a great fashion sense. (A little bit of steampunk, a little bit of gypsy, mixed with a little bit of Ralph Lauren country/western.) Unfortunately, that Suzi doesn't exist in the real world. If she did, she would totally be my style icon.

   3. What is your favorite quote?
It changes. Right now I like Mark Twain's "Clothing makes the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

   4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
When my son got so caught up in reading my WiP that he forgot he was a human, and thought he was faeish.

   5. What playlist/cd is in your CD player/iPod right now?
Seanan McGuire, with emphasis on "Dorothy", "Earthquake Weather", "That's What A Woman's For" and "Dear Gina".

   6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?
I'm a night owl, but I've been forced by circumstance to become a morning person.

   7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
I love them both. I used to be a professional dog trainer. However, I haven't lived in a dog friendly place for years, so we have (three) cats and no dogs.

   8. What is the meaning behind your blog name.
Google vanity. When I did a search on my name, the first 42 links were for someone named Suzi McGowan not Suzi McGowen. It's bad when your name doesn't even come up when you google yourself. I figured I might as well change my blog name now, while I was still new, and try to get my own name in the top ten search results for, you know, my name. (Just in case an agent ever googles me.)

Now would be my turn to tag other people. However, I broke many of the links to my blog when I changed that name, so I'm not getting many readers anymore. (Gotta love blogger stats.) So, if you are one of the people that are still able to read me, please feel free to answer these questions. They're fun and they don't bite.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad

(My first attempt at a song lyric/post title.)

I have wanted a Droid since before they first came out. We were in the middle of buying a house (in fact, the notary that came over for our signatures had his new release day Droid on him, and I was distracted from house signing for a few minutes by shiny Droid talk). Anyway, in the middle of buying a house didn't seem like the best time.

But now that we've owned the house for ten months? Surely now is a good time to get a Droid ($199 with Verizon's "New Every Two" plan) and an extra $30 a month for the cheapest data plan? Right? Um, no. But I can fit it into my budget, so I'm getting closer to doing it. Which is why I groan and start singing, "I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad".

Updated to add: Doh! I meant to add a couple of LifeHacker links about the Droid to this post. (Since these links were really the whole point of the post, and not my Droid hunger, per se.) The Complete Android Guide and Best Android Apps for Getting Things Done

Making Choices

(I'm just realizing my post titles suck. Maybe I need to find a formula and go with it. Song titles seem fun, but my musical library may not be up to the task. Maybe I could go with book titles, or book quotes?)

I haven't posted much this week, even though I've had lots of free time. (Work has awesomely given me bereavement time for my ex-husband.)  However, today I am moved to write about writing choices. I have to admit, it was the present tense thing that started it. But it also goes to first person, second person, third person, etc.

I'm not a huge fan of first person. I can read it, and I don't hate it, but too often I think that writers pick it because it's easier for them. When I decided to write Troll Wife in first person, I sat down and thought about why. Was there a compelling reason for this story to be told in first person? Was there a compelling reason for it to be told in third person? Yes to the first, no to the second. Troll Wife is a solitary character, and misunderstood by her society. I also have a theme in my book about how outsiders view society. To show how Troll Wife feels and what she thinks, it had to be first person. It also gives a good platform to compare and contrast how Oubliette feels about society vs how Troll Wife does.

Now, present tense. I admit I hate it. I won't read it, except as an experiment to see if I still hate it. Nathan Bransford had a link to an article, which linked to an article about the upswing in the use of present tense. Philip Hensher is a former Booker prize judge and he thinks that present tense is being used to make writing sound more vivid.

The article is really good and doesn't strike me as knee jerk at all. I do think there are very few uses for present tense in a story. But I think you (as the writer) should be able to state what those reasons are. Does the character die before the story ends? That's a valid reason, in my world. A super popular book was written in present tense, so it must be good? Doesn't cut it for me.

If the reason is basically "peer pressure" then I think you need to review your reasons. Do you really want to write a book that's major trait is that you gave in to peer pressure?

I think it's not enough for writers to think about character, plot and themes. I think that tense and viewpoint also need to be made as conscious decisions, not just "it feels right". Figure out why it feels right. That will help you grow as a writer and make better choices. In my not so humble opinion.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Status of Ex

This is a hard and complicated post. I just want to get this out of my system. I'm not looking for comments or hugs.

When I say "my ex", people always nod and say "oh" as though they know what our relationship looks like. But it's not that clear cut. When I go in to work tomorrow and talk about my weekend, I don't know if I should say "my ex" or "one of my best friends that I've been mad at for the past two or three years." Not really mad at, just mad. Mad at the choices he made that ended up with him being jobless and homeless.

He went into the VA hospital a couple of weeks ago. Friday day they had to operate and a little after midnight on Friday night they called me. (He put me down as his emergency contact.) They thought he had a major heart attack, he'd been without a pulse for 20 minutes, but they would keep trying CPR. At 25 minutes they got a pulse back and called again to let me know. We (my mom, my new husband, my son and I) went out the hospital in the wee hours of Saturday morning (or late hours of Friday night) and stayed there with him for a few hours. We went back again in the afternoon on Saturday and just got back from seeing him again today.

CPR keeps some oxygen flowing to the brain, but not a lot. There's a lot of brain damage. He can open his eyes, but he can't blink on command. He can't move. He can't even twitch his fingers. He's dying. His brother has given a DNR instruction to the hospital today, which I'm grateful for.

We were married for 20 years. We have a 16 year old son. I've cried more in the past two days than I thought was possible, but I'm not sure if I'm crying for my ex, for me, or for our son.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Design

I picked out a new design for my blog. I love it, but don't know how long I'll keep it. I had to revert to the old blogger style to use it, and that means (among other things) that I don't have my nav bar anymore. That makes it harder to log in and post/comment from work. (During my lunch hour, of course!)

The design came from Blogger Templates. They had a lot of very nice designs, and I may stay with the old blogger style, just so I can swap out with the pretty pictures.

While I'm at it, I may as well change the name of my blog. I hope I don't lose everyone in the next few minutes! Keep your fingers crossed, please :)

Update. Well, that wasn't too bad. I only lost about 20 blogs that I was following. Rats! At least I still have the 80 or more I was following through Blogger. And of course, now all the links that have my old journal name in them don't work any more, but c'est la vie.

Updated Update: Hopefully fixed. I went to Google and pulled up a cached copy of my blog, and got the list of blogs I'd been following from there! Whew!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New (to me) Band

We had a band come and play for us at work yesterday. (We get this every week or two.) This was a Finnish band. Now, there's a few things you can be sure of, if a Finnish band comes to Hot Topic to play.

First, you know any blonds in the band will be naturally blond.
Second, you know they'll speak impeccable english.
Third, you can be sure they're a metal band.

Well, this band was named Apocalyptica and yes, the blonds were real, they spoke perfect english and they were a metal band. Cello metal. Yes, metal played with three or four cellos (depending on the song).

I'm not a huge metal fan, but for Apocalyptica, I'll make the exception. They were wonderful! My favorite songs were "I Don't Care", "End of Me", and "Not Strong Enough". I downloaded the whole album, so I may have other favorites to add by the time I'm done listening to it.

If you're intrigued by the idea of Finnish Cello Metal, you can check them out at Amazon or Shockhound.com (company plug).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Write Right Away

Recently The Agency Gatekeeper made an observation that she's getting a large number of stories with similar themes.

I know why. Ideas are real objects. That's why, if you forget something, but go back to where you were last thinking of it, you will remember it again. It's nothing magical about the spot. The idea was just there, waiting for you, and you ran into it again. If you don't move fast enough, the idea moves on, and then someone else will stumble over it.

Sometimes, ideas do the multiple submission thing. Several people will get the same idea, at about the same time. (Look at the history of the light bulb.) The moral of that story is, when you get an idea, start writing. Because that idea may be sent out to several people at once, and then you'll all be submitting at once, and the gatekeepers everywhere will think "What's up with all the balloon stories this week?"

In a not entirely unrelated story, I gave one of my story ideas away last week. I've been thinking of the selkie story for years (literally). But I didn't want to write it. However, the idea wouldn't go away. I mentioned to one of my writing crit/partners in crime Building a Life, and she loved it. I knew that my idea had found its forever home and gave it to her right away. She wrote 10,000 words and checked in to make sure I really wanted to give it away. I did :)

I'm so happy that I found the right home for that idea. But now I wonder how many other people are foster parents for ideas, rather than the designated writer? Is there an idea that you don't want to write? If you could pick an ideal author for that idea, who would it be? Should there be a shelter for ideas that need a forever home?

Writer's Despair

You know how writers go up and down on the despair and happiness wheel? It's kind of self-induced bi-polar disease that writers get. Right now, I'm on the down side. Anne Mini over at Author! Author! is getting closer to reviewing my prize winning entry.

And I'm dreading it.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is a contest that I entered. That I won (or at least came in the top three). That this is something I want.

And then I (or my editor) reminds me of the facts. My story starts slowly. Yes, I do have a great opening paragraph, but the fact of the matter is that I spend the rest of the entire first page (250 words minus number of words in opening paragraph) trying to show (not tell) what genre the book is, what my character is, and some of her magical abilities. People may think I have too much back story, or that I don't have enough action.

As a reader, I resent it when I'm told things. So, that's the way I write. Don't tell me this is set in the modern era. Mention cars and streetlights and I'll figure it out. I promise. 

So, I have to decide what to do. First, write the book I want to read. Then, either submit or edit based on what I think others would like to read. I think reading the first ten pages would give a good showing of my writing style, what the main character is like, and the general tone of the story. But five pages? Would that be enough? I don't think so. Maybe I should only submit to agents that want ten pages :)

Yay! Seanan McGuire won the Campbell!

I was delighted today to read that my Internet friend* Seanan McGuire had won the Campbell today. I'm so glad that her hard work and letters to the Great Pumpkin have been rewarded. I'm so happy for her! Congratulations, Seanan (aka Mira Grant).

*An Internet friend is someone that you know, from years of reading his/her blog. You know many details of hir life, up to and including details about hir pets. You have never met. S/he doesn't know you from Adam, but you still think of hir fondly, as though you were really friends. In the real world you'd be called a stalker, but this is ok because it's the Internet :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cryptozoology hook?

I might have just possibly found my cryptozoology hook in the shower the other day.

"How many years do skunks live?"

Rachel didn't look up from the seemingly innocent letter. "Are you talking two legs or four?" She was pleased to note that her voice didn't betray her, and the hand holding the note from her ex didn't shake.