January 30, 2011

Robert Swartwood's Q & A With Grand Mal Press

Via Robert Swartwood: Q & A With Grand Mal Press

In December, Robert Swartwood wrote a post about Grand Mal Press, in which, after going through their information about the submission process, royalty rates, etc., and pointing out the problematic aspects, advised writers to stay away from this publisher.

After seeing the blog post, Darren Heath of Grand Mal Press contacted Swartwood, addressing his concerns. This resulted in a great Q&A about publishing that you should definitely check out.

Sunday Pleasures

On Friday night, I celebrated my friend's birthday by taking her to dinner at Cru. The food was delicious and the wine flights excellent. I also had the best red wine I have ever tasted - El Picaro de Matsu. I dropped a bit of extra money to get a bottle to take home. So worth it! After dinner, we got drinks at The Highball and then saw The King's Speech at the Alamo Drafthouse. A great start to a great weekend.

Yesterday was the Free Day of Dance in Austin, Texas. Although I didn't have time to go to every single class I wanted to attend, I got the chance to take some great free lessons and hang out with wonderful people!

I spent last night celebrating at the Austin City Dance Club 1st Anniversary Party. I took a fantastic workshop and then danced all night. I absolutely love this club, and am excited to dance with them as they move into their second year.

This afternoon, I'll be helping out with inventory at BookWoman. Although inventory is a lot of work, the atmosphere is actually really fun. This will be my third year doing inventory, and my second as a volunteer rather than an employee. Yep, I do it even though I don't get paid!

January 27, 2011

Calling Austin Book Lovers

The staff at BookWoman are doing their annual inventory, and they need your help! There simply aren't enough staff members to get it all done in one day. They need volunteers to help get everything squared away.

Inventory will take place on Sunday, January 30th, starting at 9 a.m., with a shift change at noon. I've done it two years in a row now, and while there is some hard work, it's a wonderful atmosphere, and I always end up having fun. If you're able to come for one of the shifts, call the store at 512-472-2785 to let them know.

Thankful Thursday

So much to be thankful for this week!!

1. My settlement money came in. The ordeal from the accident is OVER. And I don't have to worry about money at all for the next few months. And I might splurge on Lasik. Such a happy week.

2. Some excellent career news that I shouldn't say too much about at the moment. But it's good. And exciting. And scary. And awesome. And has hijacked my whole writing schedule this week. And is more than worth it.

3. I got my email inbox down to fewer than 10 messages. This seems like a small thing, but is really quite cool, considering the backlog I had.

4. I got a free smartphone! A friend of mine got one free with a new plan, didn't want it, and just gave it to me. So now I have a shiny new Palm Pre! and I didn't have to pay for it!

So yes. Lots of wonderful things all around. 2011 is going great so far.

January 26, 2011

Submissions in 2011

As I mentioned yesterday, I got my first acceptance of 2011! I've published a second story up at Tinglemedia.com.

I also got a submission out this week, despite being really busy with another big project (more details on that later). But I revised an old story and sent it off to the Filament magazine fiction competition. Submissions are open until January 31st, so check out the guidelines and submit!

Wordless Wednesday

January 25, 2011

New story up at Tinglemedia.com!

My first publication of 2011 is up! I have a story entitled "Breakup/Hookup" available for purchase at Tinglemedia.com. You'll need to set up an account and a queue in order to read it, but the rates are cheap! Tinglemedia.com is a great venture for erotica, and I encourage you to check it out.

Confession Tuesday

I confess that 2011 is going great so far.

I confess that I cashed the settlement money from my scooter accident today. Even after lawyer's fees and covering the medical expenses, I came away with a good chunk of change - enough that I don't need to worry about money for about a year, maybe a little less (as I plan on doing significant traveling this year).

I confess that I made a few impulse buys this afternoon with my new funds, including some jewelry and a new pizza stone to replace the one that got damaged in the oven fire over Christmas.

I confess that I got a new smartphone (a Palm Pre Plus), and I am in love with it. Best of all, I got it for free when it came included in a friend's plan and he decided he didn't want it anymore.

I confess that I am working on an outline for a novel and I'm going to submit it to a publisher by February 1st. I am so excited.

January 20, 2011

Submissions in 2011

This week, I sent a story to Tinglemedia.com. I have a story up on the site already, and I love the Tinglemedia venture - small bits of erotic fiction delivered to your cell phone or other mobile device. Since I want to support the site's success, I decided to send over another piece.

January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Smut Marathon 9 Results

It was a pretty close race - I lost round 9 by two votes. On the one hand, I'm disappointed. I've really been enjoying this challenge, and was of course hoping to continue on. But on the other hand, I'm pretty pleased with myself. We started with 17 writers and I made it into the top five. That's nothing to sneeze at. I'm really proud that I made it that far, especially dealing with a personal setback that affected my motivation and inspiration.

As a result of participating in Smut Marathon, I've started doubting myself a little less. I'm always my own worst critic, but I made it into the top 5 of this contest; I'm good. Not the best. There's room for improvement. I still need to hone my skills. But when you get right down to it, I'm good.

Participating in this competition also reinforced the importance of writing even when you don't feel like it. Been dumped and don't feel like writing a frisky sex story? Too bad, you have a deadline. I wasn't about to drop out of the competition - not when I had already come so far. Having these contest deadlines every few weeks reinforced that, while you might need a break from time to time due to certain life circumstances, if you want to be a writer you can't let those bad experiences overwhelm you forever. You need to write despite all of that. You can't give up that essence of yourself for very long. Besides, having something to focus on other than the problems at hand is often quite helpful.

So while I'm a little bummed to be leaving, I'm proud of myself, and I'm very happy that I participated. Congrats to all the winners! I look forward to seeing how this contest ends.

January 18, 2011

Small press publishers offer lifetime subscriptions to readers who get tattoos inspired by their books | MLive.com

Via the Hayden's Ferry Review blog: Small press publishers offer lifetime subscriptions to readers who get tattoos inspired by their books | MLive.com

Think that the University of Pittsburgh Press will give me a lifetime subscription because I have a few lines from Barbara Hamby's All Night Lingo Tango inked onto my right bicep? It's great publicity! I always have people coming up and reading my tattoo, asking me what it means, where it came from, etc.

Confession Tuesday

I confess that though I'm trying to eat out less often, my main downfall is breakfast tacos. For some reason, my brain doesn't consider grabbing some tacos while I'm out doing my morning errands as "eating out." "Eating out" connotes a full sit-down meal in a restaurant, or ordering appetizers while out on drinks with friends - not grabbing some tacos to-go while on a grocery run. I think this is because I don't eat fast food. I haven't been through a real drive-thru in nearly five years at this point. And while taco places aren't drive-thrus (typically, at least, though there are a few exceptions around town), it's the same principle: I'm just grabbing some (cheap) tacos as I go about my day. That's not really eating out. Except it is. While tacos are cheap, they would be even cheaper to make at home. They're not especially time-consuming, either. I need to remember that getting tacos really does count as eating out.

Totally unrelated to tacos, I confess that I've been having trouble getting back in my writing routine since getting sick. About a week and a half ago, I got severe food poisoning that had me out of commission for 3 days. For some reason, it's been really hard to get back in my routine. I think it's because the day before I got sick, I had family in town for 9 days. And while I did an admirable job of writing every day despite the distraction, I was still distracted. Add that to being sick and not being able to write at all (it was too much effort for my body to sit upright and focus on the computer screen), and you have a perfect recipe for losing track. Since then, I have been prone to distraction - and a weekend-long dance competition this past weekend didn't help. I'm hoping to get my chores done early this morning and then focus intently on writing for 5 solid hours this afternoon, until it's time to go to dance.

I also confess to feeling lost in my work because I have so many incomplete projects. There's a new novel I'm drafting and I'm not sure where it's going. The more I work on it, the more things fall into place, but it's still very fresh, new, and unfinished, and it makes me nervous. And I have two characters I want to write a story about, but the story itself is slow in coming together. I have a lot of projects undergoing revision, but nothing close to being done. It's frustrating to feel like I don't know the next time I'll see a completed piece. I know it's nothing about my value as a writer, because I know I can finish and submit projects. I know that I will soon enough. I know that sometimes, these phases happen, and that sooner or later I'll have a lot of finished pieces and be freaking out about where my next idea is going to come from. It's just weird to have so little finished right now. It makes me feel insecure.

January 13, 2011

Submissions in 2011

Three poems out this week to the Austin International Poetry Festival anthology. Still no response on my other submissions, but it's been too soon.

I notice I've been submitting a lot of poetry lately. I haven't been writing as much fiction, instead focusing on drafting my new novel project. But I do have a piece up for revision. I should focus on that after my competition and get it out.

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful that I'm learning how to rest when I need to - especially if I'm sick - rather than trying to power through and risking making things worse.

I'm thankful that I'm learning to let go of certain goals when certain unexpected events (such as getting sick) prevent me from meeting them - my bout with food poisoning cause me to fail to meet one of my monthly goals for January. But it's okay. It wasn't my fault. Things happen. I'm grateful that I'm learning to accept such realities of life.

I'm thankful that I've still managed to accomplish 11 of 25 goals so far this month.

I'm thankful that all of my motorcycle accident insurance settlement stuff is about to get resolved. It's not quite done yet, but there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm thankful for 2 hours of Thai massage yesterday.

January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

LGBT Reading Challenge 2011: Swan by Mary Oliver

For my first book in the LGBT Reading Challenge 2011, I chose Swan, Mary Oliver's newest poetry collection. Unfortunately, to be entered in the monthly prize drawing, we have to read fiction or non-fiction, which I totally forgot about when I selected the book, but oh well. [Edit: Nevermind! It's all good!] Hopefully I can take a break from my novel research to get a good LGBT novel in before the end of the month! If not, no worries.

Anyway, to the review. Mary Oliver's poetry is not especially political. There are moments when politics shows up, but it takes the form largely of peace activism and war protest - I have read nearly all of her collections, and never seen an overt reference to issues she's faced as a lesbian. But I chose to read the book anyway because (1) she's my favorite poet, and (2) because I don't believe LGBTQ authors have to carry the political label all the time.

One of the things that has especially fascinated me about Mary Oliver is the way she uses the masculine pronoun (he) for almost everything - animals, plants, whatever doesn't have a concept of gender the way we do. I understand why she wouldn't want to use "it" (while I have no problem with that, I know that many people find it objectifying), as someone who cut her teeth on feminist rhetoric, I'm not really used to seeing late-twentieth and twenty-first century women writers using the masculine pronoun as the default. Often, it irritates me. I admit, I don't like it. I don't mind that she's apolitical, but I do mind that masculine pronouns are neutral to her. But that doesn't change how I feel about Mary Oliver's poetry as a whole, so I read anyway.

Unfortunately, I really didn't connect with Swan as I've connected with Oliver's other books. In the first poem, entitled "What Can I Say?," she writes:

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I'll say it again.

What bothers me not is that she revisits old themes - what I have always loved about her work is the emphasis on nature and peace, and I appreciate that she writes about both frequently. What bothers me is that her thoughts seem repetitive this time around. While in her previous books, Oliver has found the ability to talk about the same ideas in new ways, she does not appear to be thinking anything innovative this time around. Further, her style appears to lack a certain intangible spark that her other collections have had. I feel like she's more imitating herself than anything else. Whereas in her other books every other poem has lines bracketed or highlighted because they've overwhelmed me or spoken some truth, in this collection there are only three poems with such annotation. Whereas in other collections I have often been moved to tears, only the afterword, "Percy," makes me cry.

I feel almost guilty in writing this. Mary Oliver has been my favorite poet since 2004. She's something of an institution. But Swan simply lacks the qualities that made me fall in love with her work in the first place.

January 11, 2011

Italy Reading Challenge 2011: The English Patient

My first book of the Italy Reading Challenge 2011 was a re-read of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient - which, despite the title, is actually set in an Italian villa. I first read it six years ago (holy cow! I feel old!) in an undergraduate literature course which consisted entirely of works by Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. To this day, it remains one of the most memorable classes I ever took in college; I loved everything we read, every class discussion, and every paper. So I was excited to re-read this novel with a new perspective.

However, I found The English Patient far less engaging than I did in college, and it took me awhile to figure out why. But finally, I understood. While The English Patient is not a mystery novel in the genre sense, there is a lot of concealment. There are twists, hidden identities, and all sorts of other intrigues. Part of what drew me in back in college was the mystery behind the title character, as well as all the others holed up with him in the villa. Going back to re-read it, there was really no mystery. I knew everything that was going to happen, everything about all the characters - I will never be able to reclaim the feelings I had during that first read, because they were based so much on the discovery process.

Which is not to say that The English Patient is boring the second time around. Ondaatje writes some of the most elegant prose I have ever encountered. I enjoyed being swept up in his writing style. And as I continue to work through a breakup, I found the title character's meditation's on heartbreak to be far more poignant and relevant than they were back when I was an undergrad. Ondaatje can write about lost love without being sentimental or ridiculous; his words ring perfectly true, especially now that I have experienced it firsthand.

Italy, however, is more of a backdrop in this novel than anything else. We see a lot of countryside, but little local color. I'm hoping the next book I pick really gives me a sense of the country as well as narrative.

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I'm a little stressed this week. I got horrible food poisoning on Thursday night that put me under until Monday morning, so I'm behind on stuff I had to do last week. And of course, I'm trying to stay on top of all of the stuff I already had to do this week, including getting ready for a major dance competition this weekend. It's one of those situations where I feel like I'm just holding on. It's not that bad, it will pass, but it's definitely frustrating.

I confess that I've made progress in terms of actually taking time to rest when I'm sick, and that's good. While in other years, I would have tried to power through and work through my illness, I just let my body rest and take all the time it needed to heal, rather than trying to push myself to get things done when I wasn't really up to it. While my productivity took a hit, it's good that I've finally learned to slow down when I'm not well.

January 9, 2011

Poetry Exercise

Caveat: This is an exercise. It's a response to Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" that uses the same form and borrows many of the same words. I did it for both poetic and personal reasons, and it was immensely helpful in both regards. Normally, I don't like to post exercises, especially rough ones, but I feel compelled to do so this time around. I feel the need to put this one out there.

Lost Art
I thought that loss would be easier to master
Especially when it wasn't my intent
But it seems I just create disaster

It's been five months; no day regains its luster
I wonder where my optimism went
I thought that loss would be easier to master

They're all surprised I don't recover faster
That I let me sorrow be so evident
That I let myself create disaster

And every time I try to make a gesture
Of forgiveness, it only sparks dissent -
I thought that loss would be easier to master

But the pain, it seems, only grows vaster
And it seems more energy is spent
On creating (or trying to clean up after) disaster

Recovery is sealed away in plaster -
But in my weakness, feels hard as cement -
I thought that loss would be easier to master
But it seems I just create disaster

January 6, 2011

Smut Marathon #9!

After a break for the holidays, Smut Marathon 9 is up! This time around, we were instructed to write a 2,000-3,000 word story (the longest challenge yet), as well as include a photo of our inspirations. This was a really fun challenge, and provided a nice break from the holiday stress.

Voting will run until January 18th (extra time because the stories are longer), so go vote!

Thankful Thursday

Sad as I am to see my brother in law head back to Louisiana, I am thankful to have the house to just me and my husband again. And I'm thankful that we finally get some couple time. It's been nearly 2 weeks! But I'm also thankful we got to spend so much time together.

I'm thankful that I finally got things together and sent out a book proposal! My very first book proposal! Wahoo!

I'm thankful that three of my avocado plants are growing strong; two are definitely going to be repotted this weekend because they've outgrown their starter containers. I hope that in 5-7 years I'll have some fruit!

I'm thankful that I've managed to be productive in terms of accomplishing weekly and monthly goals so early in the new year. I know that there will be hiccups along the way, but last week the only thing I didn't accomplish was my fitness goals (and I at least got those partially done). And I've already accomplished 6 of 25 monthly goals. I'm reveling in productivity now, in hopes that if a slow period hits, I can look back on how much I already accomplished.

I'm thankful that I've been getting sleep recently.

January 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


Via dumbfoundry:

Filmpoem, a project by poet and artist Alastair Cook, is an endeavor dedicated to the filming of poetry. The pieces he has up there so far are entrancing - in fact, have eaten up more of my morning than I care to admit. His work is just beautiful. Check it out!

January 4, 2011

Submissions in 2011

I'm going to try an experiment in 2011, in which I keep track of all of my submissions on this blog. Since I am supposed to be submitting once a week, we'll all know if I flake out. And since I'm generally bad at updating any submission tracker I attempt to maintain, it might help if said tracker was on display. Look for weekly updates on my submissions as the year goes on!

So here is what I have so far:

Confession Tuesday

I confess that as much as I love having my brother-in-law here, I look forward to having more space in the apartment in a few days. And also some quiet time.

I confess that I'm not getting much writing or reading done while my brother-in-law is visiting, and I look forward to getting my routine back.

I confess that even at 26, I still have trouble with "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

I confess that I'm stressed out because though our health insurance was supposed to kick in 4 days ago, we haven't gotten our cards yet. My husband is handling this one because I can't do everything. The HR department is hard to reach. Blah. I feel scattered and worried.

I confess that 2011 started with a bang in both a good way and a bad way, and I'm hoping for a more peaceful New Year.

January 2, 2011

New Year's Goals

I'm not a big fan of resolutions, when you get right down to it. Largely because I've never been able to accomplish these mysterious New Year's Resolutions. But I'm great at setting goals! So here are my plans for my writing life in 2011:

  • Continue with a semi-regular blogging schedule.
  • Make a concerted effort to secure a publisher for my novella. If I feel I've put forth a good effort and it's just not working, self-publish.
  • Accomplish certain milestones for my super-secret anthology project. I wish I could elaborate more here, but that would kill the secrecy. I do have them written down elsewhere, though.
  • Have a rough draft of my newest novel finished by my birthday in April; have a draft ready to submit to agents and publishers by the end of the year.
  • Get my one-act play produced and/or published.
  • Submit one poem, story, or nonfiction piece per week to either a journal or a contest.
I'm sure new goals will creep up throughout the year. But these are going to be my priority. 

Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you well on your own writing endeavors.