February 27, 2011

I am continually amazed by celebrity egos

Via The A.V. Club:
The Tarzana-based Columbia (school motto: “No, not that one”) has announced via press release that it is launching a course entitled “Master Class: Editing James Franco…with James Franco,” in which students will come to a deeper understanding of Franco by compiling a 30-minute documentary on Franco, using footage of Franco supplied by Franco, all in the academic pursuit of Franco. Overseen by Franco’s right-hand Franco, Tyler Danna, the class will ask student editors to “create a cinematic image of James Franco”—a task akin to producing a rainstorm on paper—using Franco-chosen behind-the-scenes videos from the short films that Franco has directed.
I've always admired Franco's acting ability, but I keep hoping that this is a hoax. It's just too over-the-top. I mean, I wouldn't mind if one day I wrote a novel that was studied in a college class. And I've taken courses on writers who are still alive (Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje) - but this seems different. It's not a film analysis class; it's not a film-as-text class; this seems more to me like studies in egotism. And students are paying a lot of money to feel Franco's ego.

Sunday Pleasures

I'm having a relaxing Sunday as a way to round off a wonderful weekend. My spouse and I spent yesterday evening watching most of the 2011 Oscar-nominated short films. Our theater wasn't screening the documentaries, but we did see the animated and the live-action shorts. My favorite animated short was Madagascar: A Travel Journal, though I think The Gruffalo is a shoe-in for the Oscar. After much deliberation, Wish 143 was my favorite of the live-action films (though they are really all quite stellar), though Na WeWe, my least-favorite film due to what I felt was a cop-out ending, seems nonetheless most likely to win.

In other media news, I'm currently making my way through season 2 of Breaking Bad. This is one of the most emotionally intense shows I have ever watched, and I can't get enough of it.

And going back to Friday night, J and I had a fabulously unhealthy dinner at Johnny T's BBQ up in Round Rock. It's cheap and the food is delicious. They put more efforts into their delicious meats than they do their side dishes, but it's all-around delicious. Unless you're a vegetarian, that is.

February 24, 2011

The Poetry Table, Stage 1

Last Saturday, I realized that in 48 hours, I would be hosting the first meeting of my new poetry critique group, and that I really needed to have some kind of coffee table in the living room.

Target didn't have anything I liked in a price I wanted to pay. Goodwill didn't have anything I liked. So although I'm not a big fan of the Salvation Army, I went there in desperation and found a table in the size and shape I wanted for a whopping $20. One of the shelves was broken and the cheap black paint was peeling, but I figured I could throw a tablecloth over it and nobody at poetry group would be the wiser. Problem solved!

But then I began thinking about all the ways I could take this table and make it pretty. And I settled on a poetry table. This is going to be a bit of a slow process, but here is what I've done so far:

First, I started stripping the paint. Unfortunately, the previous owners used latex paint, which is kind of a pain in the ass to remove. I've found that a razor blade is working pretty well. It's resulted in a few nicks in the wood, but those won't matter in the end. I hope to finish this phase of the project by the end of the month, so I can have the table completed before a big party I'm having in mid-March. Here's the table, partially stripped:

I plan to cover the table in poetry. Here are some of the poems I've cut out or printed off my computer that I plan on shellacking to the table once the paint is all gone.

And here is last year's Texas Poetry Calendar, which I am using as source material. I'm so glad I can do something with this used-up planner and it doesn't have to go to waste!

Thankful Thursday

It's been a tough week, but I'm thankful for my great friends and my wonderful spouse who have all helped me out.

I'm thankful that I have a two-hour massage scheduled tonight.

I'm thankful I was able to reschedule the appointment I had to cancel due to this week's (still ongoing) car trouble, so I didn't actually lose the opportunity to make money.

I'm thankful that neither mechanic has charged me for a diagnostic fee on my car. Now if they could just get her fixed . . .

I'm thankful that although I haven't been sleeping well, at least I've been able to get a LOT of writing and submitting done this week. I'm thankful that the weekend is almost here. Things will definitely get easier.

February 23, 2011

Submissions in 2011

So I admit, I went a little crazy on submissions yesterday.

First off, last week: In addition to submitting my one-act, I submitted my novella to a second publisher. I need to get it into more markets. I can't be lazy about this. Then, on Sunday, a story I submitted in 2010 got rejected. Now, I really try not to take rejections personally. I try not to let them affect me. But this one did. This story means a lot to me on an emotional level, it's one of my best pieces, and having it rejected really stung. So how did I deal with it? By going a little crazy and submitting it to 5 new markets. This might have been a touch of overkill, I admit. But it made me feel better!

Yesterday, I also submitted three erotica pieces - one a story I finished Monday, and two stories I finished yesterday morning.

Although I've neglected my big novel project this week, I've done a really good job of clearing out a backlog of stories that were nearing the final stages of revision but had yet to be completed. I only have one left, which I plan to finish today, especially because, due to my car being in the shop, I had to cancel some appointments due to transportation issues.

I also came to the hard realization that I have a lot of stories that have been out for over a year but not formally rejected but need to be resubmitted. After a year, you can be pretty sure they weren't taken, for one reason or another. I've kept them out in hopes that they might still be accepted, even though I know darn well it's unlikely at this point. Unfortunately, I did a bad job of keeping an up-do-date submission spreadsheet last year (part of why I'm publishing it on the blog this year - keeps me accountable). And the "fiction" folder in my hard drive? A total mess. So my goal for the weekend is to get my old stories organized and submitted. By Sunday night, I'd like it if I didn't have any old work lying around, languishing on my computer. My goal is for everything to be out somewhere.

Wordless Wednesday

February 22, 2011

Literary Events at SxSW Interactive

If you were able to blow the money on a pass for South by Southwest, there are a ton of great literary events at the Interactive portion of the festival. Literary Austin has a rundown of all the book readings and other literary celebrations.

As much as I'd like to be able to attend some of these, I don't have several hundred dollars to blow on a pass, even not an Interactive pass, which is much cheaper than the cost to attend the music or film portions of the festival. I'm especially bummed at how expensive the Interactive festival is. Music and film are great, sure, but the Interactive portion has panels on the future of publishing and other aspects of literary culture that are important to me as a writer. But I just don't have the cash to spend.

Festivals always seem to have this aim of bringing people together, and yet SxSW seems to do a pretty good job of only letting monied people in. Yeah, I'm grumpy about it. I hate missing out on fun just because I don't have an extra $400-$700 lying around in my bank account.

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I haven't submitted any new writing this week and I'm feeling anxious about it. I know, I know, it's Tuesday. But I seem to be having one of those weeks, and I'm paranoid it just won't get done. I confess that of all the monthly goals I let slide, doing one new submission a week is not one that I'm okay slacking off on.

I confess that my car's check engine light came on yesterday and I got more upset than I probably should have. I confess that it's just a bad week for my car to need work. But that's always the way, isn't it? I'm sure by the time next week rolls around, something else will have happened that makes it inconvenient for me to have car trouble.

I confess that I wish Autozone opened sooner than 7:30. I'm wide awake after a nightmare and want to get this taken care of NOW.

I confess I'm the impatient type.

I confess that a hot cup of tea is making this seem a teensy bit better.

February 20, 2011

LGBT Reading Challenge 2011: Unspeakable Horror

I'm not much of a horror fan - it's not that I don't like the genre, I just never had much of an interest in it. But last year, I bought a copy of this book when I found out my friend Reesa Brown was published in it. And because I always have more unread books on hand than ones I've read, this one languished in my ever-growing "to read" stack until I decided to pick it up and read it for this challenge.

Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet is an anthology of queer-themed horror stories. The horrors here aren't just the ghosts that haunt you, the spirits that possess you, or the evil people who persecute you. The real horrors are instead the oppression and repression these characters face, and the lengths they have to go in order to hide their sexualities, protect themselves, stay closeted. The fear of the thought of having to deny one's self, to deny one's love, and the consequences of all that denial. There are ghouls and goblins here, sure - but the psychological torture and trauma these characters experience is far greater than any harm the creatures could cause them.

Although, as I mentioned above, I found Unspeakable Horror to be a good introduction to the genre. It provides a mix of "things that go bump in the night" with pure psychological stuff, and gave me a good feel for what I like and don't like in terms of horror stories. It taught me that horror writing isn't all blood and guts, and in fact is far more insidious. And as a bisexual woman in an open marriage and trying to balance (and occasionally hide) that with a family who refuses to understand her life, I found something of myself in most of these.

But I think Unspeakable Horror is relevant even for those who are not LGBT. We all have our secrets, and those secrets can haunt us. Anyone who reads these stories will understand the feelings of alienation and repression that come from hiding, that come from having to pretend you're somebody you're not. This is a fantastic anthology, and I highly recommend it.

Sunday Pleasures: Belated Post-Marfa Edition

I actually dreamed about being in Marfa last night, probably because I spent part of yesterday evening working on a collage of our trip. Nearly two weeks post-vacation, here are some of the lovely places we visited out west.

We were supposed to stay at the adorable and cheap STAY Marfa, but due to a freeze, their plumbing burst. Although we were bummed about not being able to stay in these cool apartments, we didn't complain when we found out we'd been put up in the historic Hotel Paisano for no extra charge. After a long day of driving, we got a few groceries from the Get Go and settled into our room to drink boxed wine and watch bad cable TV.

On Saturday we drove out to Prada Marfa and had fun fooling around taking pretentious photos. On our way back into Marfa proper we got absolutely delicious (and cheap!) tacos at Tacos Del Norte. Even better than many of the tacos you can get in Austin. Back in town, we walked around taking photos of Marfa and stopped in at Marfa Book Company, where I dropped far more money than I'd budgeted. Dinner that night was at Pizza Foundation, which has a fantastic array of toppings to make the pie of your dreams. And after getting lost and having to drive up a mountain in the dark, we finally made it out to the McDonald Observatory, where we got to look through powerful telescopes and have an astronomer point out constellations with the most badass laser pointer I have ever seen.

Sunday was all about hiking in Big Bend National Park. After breakfast at the Austin Street Cafe, we drove two hours (and went through a border patrol checkpoint) to have an adventure. We went down into a canyon and could see Mexico across the Rio Grande - and the river was so low that if we'd wanted to risk getting in trouble with border patrol, I would have run across and touched it. We spent the entire afternoon being floored by the beauty of the Texas mountains. I can't wait to go back so I can see them again. After getting dusty and dirty while hiking (and realizing the hard way that you really can't go off-roading in a Honda Civic), we stopped in at the Terlingua ghost town and went on the walking tour. Then we stopped in for a beer at the Starlight Theatre before heading back to our hotel to be lazy after a busy day.

On Monday morning we took a yoga class at Marfa Yoga, checked out of the hotel, and headed out to Chinati Hot Springs. We had to drive up a mountain again, but this time it was a totally unpaved mountain. After a slightly stressful trip up, we found ourselves in a beautiful, remote place without wifi or cell phone signal. We hiked, we cooked in the communal kitchen, and we spent a nice long time soaking in the springs. It was a great way to cap off our West Texas adventure.

February 17, 2011

Vote in Smut Marathon Round 10

Just because I'm out of Smut Marathon doesn't mean I'm done supporting it! Round 10 is up and ready for votes!

For round 10, the remaining four contestants were asked to revise and expand one of their earlier pieces. Alison Tyler put up each piece as its own post. Joss Lockwood revised "Something Like Love," Angell Brooks revised "Fucked to Death," May Deva revised "Overtime," and Emma Hillman revised "In the Middle."

Check out each story and then vote for your favorite!

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful that after my stressed-out post on Tuesday, I'm starting to feel like my life is back on track.

I'm thankful for two new tutoring clients.

I'm thankful that Texas has warm weather again.

I'm thankful that I get to go dancing tonight.

I'm thankful that I get to go home with someone special after dancing . . .

I'm thankful that my spouse and I finally have health insurance.

February 16, 2011

Italy Reading Challenge 2011: Baudolino

The second book I chose for the Italy in Books Reading Challenge was Baudolino by Umberto Eco. Although the book is only set in Italy some of the time (it is also set in Constantinople, Paris, and the Far East), a major plot point occurs in Italy and the title character was born there.

The novel is set in 1204, with Constantinople being raided during the 4th Crusade. Baudolino, at this point an old man, saves a court official and historian named Niketas from certain death, and as they flee to safety, Baudolino narrates his entire life story and his adventures.

Theoretically, I should have loved this book. It's historical fiction, and I love historical fiction. It's about religion, and while I'm not religious, I love stories about religion. It's also about storytelling and the ways in which history and myth are told, retold, and established. And Baudolino is an unreliable narrator - I love a story with an unreliable narrator, when I can't be sure if he's telling me the truth or if he's telling me a lie.

However, I just couldn't get into Baudolino. It's a good story, and the translation is beautiful, but for some reason, the book failed to captivate my interest or keep my attention. In fact, there was one point at which I considered giving up - it was really only this reading challenge that kept me motivated to make it to the last page. And the frustrating part is that I can't really explain why I didn't like it. Intellectually, I know it's a good book. But it didn't do anything for me on an emotional level.

I've heard from more than one person that Baudolino is not Eco's best work, and that I'd like his other writings much more. I haven't written Eco off yet, and I'm going to guess that my friends are right; that Eco is a wonderful writer, but Baudolino is not the place to start.

Wordless Wednesday

February 15, 2011

Submissions in 2011

This week I sent off the one-act I've been working on. It's been a long, slow road to get this piece up and running, but I've loved the journey.

I can't believe we're 11 weeks into the new year and so many of my submissions are still up in the air. I am so tired of the waiting game. Not to mention that I'm still waiting to hear back from pieces I submitted at the end of 2010. Granted, the waiting game is nothing new. It's a natural part of publishing life. But patience has never been my strong suit.

Confession Tuesday

I confess that I feel horribly behind on life. I don't remember I put serious effort into my novel. I have a mountain of short stories building up. And life just sort of keeps interfering. The West Texas road trip was the start of me getting behind schedule (though I don't regret a thing). The day after I got back, I got sick, and spent the entire day unable to do much more than watch TV or read. Then there was just one day until the weekend, which involved more social events than usual. Plus I've picked up two new tutoring clients. I'm not going to bemoan the presence of new clients in my life, because I can fit them into my schedule and I need the money, but I'm nonetheless frustrated by the fact that I have a deadline for the first draft of my novel (April 11th) and I'm worried that I'm not going to meet it, plus the fact that my output has been lower than usual. After several weeks of not seeing any calls for submissions that piqued my interest, I'm now seeing two or three a day. I know there's no way I could meet them all even if I had all the time in the world, so I shouldn't be frustrated, but it doesn't help.

I confess that I know that the problem of feeling behind and overwhelmed is not a new one, and it will pass. It helps to air it anyway.

I confess that I crashed at 9:30 pm last night and slept for 10 hours and in fact am feeling much more optimistic about all this, so hopefully my creative life will turn around soon.

February 10, 2011

New Musical Obsession

Entirely apropos of the general theme of this blog, I have to share this video. My friend introduced me to the band Hello Saferide on our road trip, and I nearly drove her crazy asking her to play the EP we were listening to over and over. So here's the first track from "Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times a Day?" Because I'm obsessed.

Thankful Thursday

I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to spend 5 days traveling around West Texas. To have a wonderful traveling companion with a good music collection and a hybrid. To finally get to see Marfa. To hike through Big Bend and get closer to Mexico than I ever have before. Thankful that the ice in Austin on Friday didn't prevent us from getting out of town, and that driving conditions were wonderful for the rest of the trip.

I'm thankful that we made it back to Austin in time for me to go dancing.

I'm thankful that the virus I began suffering from at three o'clock on Wednesday morning was short-lived and that I now feel great.

I'm thankful that I have a busy, fun-filled weekend ahead.

February 9, 2011

Submissions in 2011

Despite spending the first part of the week on the road and falling behind in some goals, I've still managed to keep up with my weekly submission goal. I sent out a flash fiction piece this week! Would love to hear back on older submissions soon as well.

Wordless Wednesday

February 3, 2011

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing

I'm currently making my way (slowly) through Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing, a series that Dean Wesley Smith created for his blog. In this series, Smith deconstructs major myths about writing and publishing that hold writers back or cause them to make bad business decisions. It has been an eye-opening experience and even though I'm less than halfway through, has already taught me a lot.

So far, the articles that have been most helpful are "Writing is Hard" and "Can't Make Money In Fiction." While the articles on agents, editors, and publishers have given me the most information that I didn't have before, these two pieces, about the writing progress and making money, have given me more in terms of motivation. I've realized just how much myths about how difficult writing should be and how little I can expect to make are holding me back. I don't expect instant turnaround success now that I've finished these pieces, but they've taught me more about what I should expect from myself.

Dean Wesley Smith won't teach you about style or grammar in this series. It's not one of those fluffy writing guides. And yet I'm learning a lot, and I think once it's done, I will emerge a better writer.

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful because tomorrow I get to leave for 5 days in Marfa. I'll be farther west than I've ever been before! I'll get to see the desert! I get 5 whole days with my best friend and her adorable pug! I'll hopefully be inspired and write a lot! (And now I need to think about packing and what stuff I should by for the trip .  . . .)

I'm thankful that Sugar & Spice has been published. This is my biggest career accomplishment to date. I'm so proud of myself, my fellow writers, Mira Paul, and everyone else at Ravenous Romance who put this together.

I'm thankful that nothing in life is permanent and soon enough this cold weather will break. I'm thankful for tea, hot cocoa, and hot buttered rum for helping me through this. I'm also thankful for central heating.

February 2, 2011

Submissions in 2011

Nothing new this week in terms of acceptances or rejections, but I did get new work out on Monday! Well, I submitted a previously-published story to Best Lesbian Erotica 2012. "Enforcement in the story that was just published in Sugar and Spice, and it's one of my best pieces of erotica. Since BLE2012 accepts previously-published work, and since I consider it one of my three best stories of my career so far, I decided to see if it would make the cut for the anthology.

I'm pleased that despite all the various business and schedule changes life has thrown my way, I've managed to nonetheless meet my goal of submitting work once a week. I do hate playing the waiting game, though.

Wordless Wednesday

February 1, 2011

Sugar and Spice is Out!!

I'm proud to announce the publication of Sugar and Spice, a brand-new e-anthology of lesbian erotic romance. Edited by Mira Paul and published by Ravenous Romance, this collection includes hot, sweet, and sexy writing by a bunch of fantastic erotica and erotic romance authors - one of them being me! I'm really proud to be included in this collection alongside the likes of Elizabeth Thorne, Xan West, and others.

Confession Tuesday

We have genuine winter weather in Austin this morning. Not as extreme as the real winters up north, but it's icy out there. I'm starting my day with cocoa instead of tea, and I confess that I might actually have a second cup.

In Austin (as in many other parts of Texas), the plumbing isn't insulated, on the grounds that we hardly ever have winter weather. However, on the occasions that we do, this means that we have to leave our faucets dripping to ensure the pipes don't freeze. I confess that I hate this. I confess that it's driving me crazy. I confess that I hate the sound of dripping coming from all three taps in the house.

I confess that I feel a bit judgmental towards Texas right now. I confess I'm irritated at the thought of how much water is being wasted by the entire city having their taps running. Wouldn't it be better for the environment to start putting insulated plumbing into new buildings?

I confess that my spouse set the thermostat at 81 and I flipped a little bit and wondered what planet he might be from. Yes, it's cold, but not cold enough for the thermostat to be above 75.

I confess that I can't wait for sun and warmth.