Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Critters - Wow!

My third story went out to Critters last week, and the last of the critiques filtered in yesterday.  I have to say that in my three story cycles, I've noticed quite a correlation between length of story and number of critiques.  That is, the shorter the story, the more critiques it receives--to a point, anyway.  Stories shorter than 2,000 words get only half credit, so I imagine it may drop off for those.

My first story, The French Maid, was around 5,000 words, and I got 25 critiques for it--many more than I had expected.  My second story, Pandora's Time, was 10,000 words, and I only got 10 critiques for it.  This story, Bleeders, is 2,500 words long, and I bagged an incredible 39 critiques!  I mean Wow!  My next story, The Weatherman, which is scheduled to go out August 18 or 25, is only 2,300 words long.  I wonder how many I'll get next time?

I would like to think that I tell a good story, and that this is also a factor in the number of critiques--certainly some of the stories I've looked at (and usually passed on) have been difficult to read because of grammatical and other issues--but I also don't want to sound cocky.  I'm in this to improve, after all.

And improve I shall.  There are two points that came up in most of the critiques I've read so far, and a few more that came up frequently, so I already know what needs work.  But for the first time in my three cycles, I didn't read all the critiques as they came in.  (I really couldn't keep up anyway.)  I've made it through about two-thirds of them, and I'll be taking the rest a few at a time over the next few days.

To be honest, the novel I've blogged about a few times now has just taken over, and I've preferred to spend my precious naptime working on that than obsessively reading my critiques.  I ought to finish categorizing the critiques, because Bleeders doesn't seem to need too much work, and it would be wise for me to get it out into Submissionland.  It would also be wise for me to make a second draft of my most-recently-written story so I can get it into the Critters queue, and get it out into Submissionland soon as well.  But... the novel calls.

It sounds so weird to say "I'm working on the novel"--I guess I'm not used to it yet.  It's really been taking over.  It's on my mind a lot, and it's flowing a lot faster than anything else I've written recently.  I'm frequently hitting the 1,000 words a day mark (I don't set myself wordcount goals, but I've been counting after stopping) and it just keeps coming.  It's a little odd to have more time to meander and set the scene--I'm fleshing out things that I'm used to skimming past (the short story form has been all I've done for years now)--but I'm enjoying it.  It's going to take a long time at this pace, but I'm excited to branch out into this new form.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Made Frog Legs!

This was a new experience and culinary adventure for me, so I thought I'd share.

Our King Soopers had frog legs available a few months ago, which was unusual since we have probably the least creative King Soopers in the state.  But anyway, we bought some and put them in the freezer until we felt ready to give them a try.

Having never done this before, I looked around online for a good recipe--one that sounded tasty and would also be easy to make.  I found this one, which I modified both intentionally and unintentionally.  As a result, my Sauteed Frog Legs turned out more like Frog Leg Scampi, which was fine by us.  And it was very tasty!

Here's what I did:

3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced (I probably used more, can't remember--I love garlic)
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
dash salt
dash pepper
2 pairs of frog legs

Melt butter in a skillet over medium head.  Add garlic and spices and sautee for about a minute.  Add frog legs and sautee until tender.

We served it with brown rice and salads.  Now, one pair of frog legs is a pretty small serving of meat (we didn't know) so we'd probably get a little more next time.

Of course, the recipe I loosely followed gave no real indication of how long it would take to sautee them, but I'd say it was between 5 and 10 minutes.  I just kept turning them until a few pieces of meat were starting to fall off the bone.

The meat tasted like a cross between fish and shellfish.  It had more of a fish flavor with a shellfish texture (or that might have been reversed--sorry, this was a few weeks ago.)  Either way, we liked it.  We wouldn't go out of our way to have it every week or anything, but we'd definitely have it again.  Our son wasn't very interested, but that just meant more for us.

We got to wondering why people just eat frog legs and not whole frogs.  Is it that the legs are the only part with enough meat?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Have a Contract!

Yes indeed, the contract for Night Terrors, which was recently accepted by the anthology Doomology:  The Dawning of Disasters from Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy Press, was sent to me yesterday.  All the terms are now in black and white (well, pixels anyway) and is just waiting for my digital "signature" for me to return to them.  It feels good.  It's mostly been a waiting game since the acceptance letter two months ago (and I am aware that there is L-O-T-S of waiting in this industry) but now I have something concrete.

I also have a timeline.  The contract states that they will "publish and commence distribution" by August 1, 2011 or all rights will revert to me.  Therefore, in a year and a week at the latest, I will have a book with my story in it!

This is so exciting!  My career begins to unfold.

Well, back to writing, got to work on the next one.  The story/novel inspired by my dream (which I blogged about here) has been flowing pretty well so far.  I still have to make a lot of decisions about it, but that hasn't stopped me from getting started.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I am Without Wisdom

Teeth, that is.

I always thought I'd get away with leaving them in my head indefinitely, but about two years ago, one of them decided to cut through.  But not quite.  The result was a gap in my gums prone to catching stuff, and I finally took action and had them removed.  It was quite sudden, actually, as my expected surgery date was August 30, but I got a call on Tuesday saying that a spot had opened up for Wednesday, so off I went.  Thankfully, my Mom was able to come stay the night before and watch my son, as well as pick me up after.

I napped for most of the day Wednesday, waking up for a snack and more pain pills.  By the time I woke up Thursday, however, I was already ready to be done with Hydrocodone.  It was just making me too sleepy and dizzy to take care of my son (and was starting to make me just a teensy bit nauseous.)  Thankfully, my husband's Mom was able to come over for a few hours, so I could score a nap and get the rest of that potent drug out of my system.  I'm now getting by on Ibuprofen and ice packs.

Pain levels really aren't too bad, although they get worse towards the end of the day, and after eating.  I am SOOOOOOOOO ready for real food again, but I'm afraid of getting stuff caught in my tender gums, not to mention chewing hurts my jaw.  Hopefully soon.

I've still been extra tired, but life is slowly getting back to normal.  Potty training is back on, at my son's request, after three days off (the first, because Mama turned into The Hulk and wanted a break, and the other two because of the surgery,) and I'm hoping to do some writing again today (too tired the last two days.)  Hopefully I still have enough wisdom to write.  At least I didn't have to lose Creative Teeth!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dreams and What They Become

I had a very vivid dream last night.  It involved me being some sort of fugitive and the target of a very large manhunt.  There were a whole lot of details regarding my trying to hide in an attic--I won't bog you down with most of them, though you may be amused by the fact that Santa Claus made an appearance.  Ultimately, I took off downstairs and outside in an attempt to escape.  I couldn't get very far because of the crowd of police cars outside which made the street look like a parking lot, so I tried again to hide.  The detective who was my nemesis (criminals always have one detective, with whom they have a rapport, tracking them down--at least if you believe the movies) came outside and convinced me to surrender to him.  He then asked me some questions, at which point I learned that my crimes involved the space program and I had been slated to be an astronaut before I moved to a life of crime.  When he was showing me a timeline of my offenses, I saw that they'd thought I wasn't on Earth while committing some of them.  I laughed and said "You have me operating off-planet?  I don't even have a ship!"  Shortly after this, I woke up when the dentist called me.

This dream really stayed with me all day.  It wasn't a nightmare by any means, more of an adventure, and I've enjoyed going back over it.  I recited it to three separate people throughout the day.  Of course, my son can't converse back, but he did say "uh oh," "ah," and made other noises, often in the right places.

I'm recounting this dream here because, for the first time ever, one of my dreams has inspired a story.  Many writers have had successes that started as dreams (Mercedes Lackey, a fantasy author who helped get me through my adolescent years, started her Valdemar series with a dream) but I've never been one of them.  Most of my dreams don't make enough linear sense to inspire a plot, but this one kept growing on me. 

Once I finally got my kid down for a nap I sat down and transcribed the dream, and started brainstorming.  I brainstormed further over dinner with my husband, who gave me some really good ideas (I love having another writer in the family.)  In fact, this dream might not have simply inspired a story, but a novel.  I know I'd been intending to write my first novel this November for NaNoWriMo, and my husband pointed out that I could do a lot of brainstorming and outlining and write it in November, but I think I'm probably going to attempt it now.  I don't want to break its momentum--and I know from experience that the momentum is greatest when the idea is fresh.

Perhaps I'll get two novels written this year.  Even one would be a first, and I think I'm ready to take the plunge.  People don't make livings on short stories, after all.  This will require putting a few shorts aside (including the elusive French Maid,) but I'm really enthused about starting it.

But tomorrow.  After my wisdom teeth are removed.  And, I suppose, depending on how I react to the drugs and anesthesia, perhaps I won't start until Thursday.  But either way, I'm eager to get started.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Aaaahh, I'm Falling Behind!

I don't like it when markets send rejections within a week of submitting to them.  Some people might like such a fast response time--after all, if they're just going to reject it anyway, why not get it over with sooner so you can get the story back out to someone else?  Perhaps the next one will be *the one.*

But I still don't like it, and it all boils down to time.

As I mentioned in my June stat check, I had several stories bounce back to me during the crunch before the Time of Trouble deadline, and I didn't resubmit them right away, like I usually try to do.  I took a few days off after the deadline, and then got back to writing.  I've had three (well, two) rejections since that time, one of which only had my story for four days.  Four.

It takes time to figure out a good market for a story, so between writing and life, I usually can only submit one per day.  A lot of times, it takes me two days to find the next market:  the first to browse, and the second to actually submit (remember that I'm working exclusively during naptime and after my son goes to bed, here.)  It's especially hard for my non-genre stories (three of my current seven) because they're harder to match to a market.

My usual reaction whenever a market keeps my story for less than two weeks is "Don't these people understand that I have other things to do?  Can't they keep the ball in their court for a little longer??"  Perhaps it's silly, but that's how I feel.  The feeling is multiplied if I already have a backlog of stories to resubmit (like now.)

I also recently realized that one of my stories didn't win a contest... two months after I should have noticed.  I was looking at my submission tracker on Duotrope and realized that one of my stories had been out for a long time.  I looked back at the submission information and saw that contest winners had been announced on May 5.  I can't fathom why I didn't write that date on my calendar; that's what I usually do for markets that have contest dates and don't send rejection letters.  I could have sent it to another market or three in that time.  This is why it's really important to pay attention!

We can also add the fact that I need to do three Critters critiques in the next week (it's a three-week batch, and I put it all off to the end) so my next story can go out on time, and the fact that I'm in the middle of potty training my son, so it would be safe to say that I'm feeling frazzled, and like I'm always running from behind.  I'm hoping to catch up soon, or at least take a breather before the next race.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Does anybody else do this?

A few nights ago, I got some ideas for one of my stories while I was lying in bed.  This is not the first, and certainly will not be the last, time this has happened.  I typically try not to think much about writing while lying in bed, because I have enough trouble falling asleep as it is.  However, there is nothing I can do about the occasional flashes.

In the past, I used to try to remember the idea the next morning--which is a really bad idea.  At least, for me it is.  The problem is that, more often than not, the terrific idea I had at 1:00am will run off in the middle of the night, to be only vaguely recalled the next day like a half-remembered dream (sometimes I'm not even sure I had an idea, maybe it was just a dream.)  It didn't take me very long, even years ago before I started enacting writing-self-discipline, to learn to keep a notepad and working pen on my bedside table.  I also keep one in my purse/backpack/diaper bag at all times.  All times.  You never know when lightning is going to strike, and you need to be ready!  It also comes in handy for jotting down phone numbers, prices, and other miscellaneous bits of information that you may, one day, need.

At any rate, the notepad and pen on my table meant that I didn't have to do more than roll over to write down my ideas and clear my head so I could sleep.  I drifted off, content that my thoughts were safe.

Until I woke up, and realized that only half of what I wrote was legible.

The biggest problem was that I was writing in the dark.  I don't want to turn a light on, because I don't want to wake my husband, so I just felt my way across the paper.  The result of this was a few lines that had huge gaps between them, and others that I wrote right on top of each other.  Some lines even crossed like flattened Xs.  As a result, my notes look something like "on friend, bristles asks him bar 2 why he..."  And those are just the words I can decipher.

Another problem is that my middle-of-the-night handwriting is crap.  Well, to be honest, most of my handwriting is crap.  I can write neatly, if I'm (slowly) writing a short note on a birthday card or copying down a recipe, but most of the time my writing looks like chicken scratch.  I can never write stories longhand because my story looks legible for about a paragraph.  Then it looks messy for another two or three paragraphs, and then it gets so bad that I have trouble reading it; plus, I can't write as fast as the ideas come, so my writing gets even worse as I try to keep up with myself.  This is even more true now than it was, say, eleven or twelve years ago, when I was in high school and writing longhand regularly.  Now that I utilize the hand muscles for typing but not for writing, I really can't sustain longhand for much time.

But I digress.

Luckily, this time I remembered most of what I'd been thinking about, so deciphering the notes didn't take too long.  But I haven't always been so fortunate.  I suppose I have yet to learn to keep a flashlight on the bedside table too.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fourth of July Activities

It's been very chilly here these last few days--since July 4, in fact.  We started with nice weather early in the day, but our fireworks were disrupted by brief downpours.  This is two years in a row that we've needed jackets to enjoy the evening's pyrotechnic activities.

Our son loved this slide, and kept signing "more" after each time we went on it.  Pity it cost money, or we could've let him play on it all afternoon.
In fact, we really didn't see many fireworks--just the fountains our party host generously supplied (we have a Canadian friend who throws an Independence Day bash every year :) and the big ones our neighbors set off illegally.  Which was probably just as well.  Our son enjoyed watching the sparks, but he turned into Barnacle Baby whenever they made noise.

The cloudy/rainy weather of the past two days has been putting me in mind of fall.  It's time for pumpkin pies (or better yet, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!) jack-o-lanterns, shorter days, and a cessation of yard work.  But wait!  It's only early July!  We're supposed to get back into the 80s and 90s tomorrow though, so my internal clock ought to reset at any time.

I changed the content of my son's sensory bin yesterday:  it now holds dry pinto beans.  They're much heavier, but so far they're a hit.  Especially hunting for the lonely black and red beans that snuck in somehow.  I've added a new rule:  he needs to help pick up accidental messes right away, or we put the bin away.

I think we might be on the brink of a language breakthrough.  My son is finally calling my husband "Dada!"  (He's been calling my poor hubby "Mama" for many months now, even though he knew the difference between us.)  He also leanred the word "happy," and possibly "up."  Plus, he sounds like he's trying to tell me stuff.  Perhaps he'll be talking my ear off any day now.  Here's hoping!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ah, Sleep, I will welcome your return. Oh, and June Stat Check

During the month of June, I wrote on 23 of the days (not bad considering there was a vacation in there)
I completed the first draft of a new story, started (but didn't finish) a rewrite of my first Critters story The French Maid, sorted through the critiques I got from my second Critters story Pandora's Time, and started revising Pandora's Time.
I made 1 submission
I received 3 rejections
I have 7 stories currently in slush pile circulation (well, technically it's 4 right now, but they're going back out in the next few days)
I only took 1 day to resubmit a story after a rejection early in the month, but then I had two rejections during crunch time, which are still waiting for resubmission at 12 and 5 days, respectively (for shame, for shame)
I made 9 blog posts
Between writing, this blog, and Critters, I took 4 days off (technically 5, since I planned some posts ahead of time before vacation)

Pandora's Time is the reason I have been depriving myself of sleep.  It's not unusual for me to go to bed late, but not as late as I've been doing for the last week.  The deadline for the anthology is tomorrow, and once I realized how close that was I worked like mad to figure it out.  I wound up switching back to its original ending (I had modified the ending for Critters, and based on some comments decided to go back,) plus I tightened/cleaned it up and tried to address a few reader concerns.  At any rate, it's done with a day to spare.  In case anyone is wondering what I did about the dilemma I blogged about here, I went ahead and sent the story to Times of Trouble despite being over their word count.  In my cover letter I told them it was a bit longer than they called for, but I hoped they would do me the courtesy of starting to read it, just like they would with any other submission.  I really do feel like it's a good fit, and I had a lot of positive responses from Critter folk who said they didn't want to put it down, so I'm hoping the editor will feel the same when he reads through it.
I feel pretty satisfied with my progress this month.  I stalled a bit while rewriting The French Maid--that story has given me more trouble than any other I've written.  I don't want to abandon it, but I keep getting stuck with how to proceed.  This one will definitely need a second round of Critters once I get a complete draft again (I think I'm on draft 9 since I first created it.)
I even managed a little networking this month.  Not much, but more than I've done in May or April.
My goals for July are to finish rewriting The (danged) French Maid, do a second draft of my most recently finished story so I can send it to Critters, find some people to critique my mystery story (which is the wrong genre for Critters,) start a new time-travel story I had an idea for (thanks Dad,) and check out (and possibly participate in) a shared-universe story collection I've been invited to.  My blogging goals remain the same:  10-15 posts, and more networking.
Happy Independence Day, everybody!  (Unless you're not in the U.S.--in that case, just have a good July!)