May the Gods of Heaven and Earth comfort the grieving and welcome the dead into Their realms. May the Spirits of Earth and Fire, Air and Water hold us in their arms and strengthen us against the hurt we all face. May our Ancestors watch over us and guide us with their wisdom. May Justice be swift and Healing be gentle. May Mercy, Love, and Peace fill us all with their Light. And may we all be able to look into the Dark Mirror and see the face of another as our own.
Agent Rachelle Gardner has a great post up today that was sparked by her reading Steve Jobs’ biography and his line “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off.” and how it relates to the publishing industry.
I’ve felt the same as Rachelle for the past few years. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I see so many readers clamoring for more urban fantasy books and so many amazing writers complaining that their urban fantasy series was either not picked up or it was canceled. I’ve heard time and time again that the UF market is tight and that demand is on a decline. Well, maybe demand from publishing houses is on the decline, but that’s not true for readers. When shows like Lost Girl, Supernatural, and Grimm are so popular, how can anyone say there’s a decline in interest in urban fantasy?
What readers don’t want is to pay $8 for a book that is as poorly written, error-riddled, and cliched as the self-published book they paid $.99 for. Not that I’m saying all self-pubbed books are like that. I know some self-pubbed authors who go above and beyond to put out the best book they possibly can. What I am saying is that readers buy books published by a big name publishing house because they’ve come to expect certain standards from those houses. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a sharp decline in the quality of books coming out of those houses. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t pick up a new urban fantasy author until I’ve heard some pretty glowing reviews from people and places I trust (especially now that Amazon has stopped offering their 4-for-3 mass market paperback deal)
The biggest issue, IMO, is that as soon as the genre hit big, publishing houses scrambled to sign as many urban fantasy writers as they could, regardless of how good their story was, in order to make as much money from the trend as possible. When those poorly written, badly edited stories came out, readers reared back in disgust and refused to partake of the dreck they’d been served. Now, the publishing houses, seeing how poorly those titles have sold, are saying that the market is in decline. Ummm… no. It only looks that way because you guys fouled the well.
And, it’s not only urban fantasy this happens to. Every genre that experiences a surge in popularity goes through this same cycle. You would think that the publishers would realize the pattern by now, but no. Or, maybe they do. maybe this is all a deliberate marketing strategy. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I keep hearing agents, writers, and editors all saying that the industry is driven by everyone’s passion for good books and not money. If that’s the case, then why are there so many atrocious books on the market? And I’m not just talking story-wise since that’s so subjective. I’m talking about books with plot holes as big as a house, books that have copy-editing errors on every other page, books that switch POV within the same freaking paragraph. If the industry is driven by a passion for good books, then PUT OUT good books. Otherwise I call shenanigans.
I got my Clarion West rejection email very late Friday night. I’m super bummed out about it, but it’s okay. I got the better of their two rejection letters which means they liked my writing so… Yay? I just keep reminding myself that this rejection has more to do with the sheer number of people applying rather than it being a reflection on my writing.
That said, I’m not sure I want to apply again next year. The stress of waiting for a reply really messed me up both physically and mentally. Every time the phone rang last week I practically had a panic attack. And I’m STILL pissed at the telemarketer who called. TWICE! The first time I was washing dishes and didn’t hear the phone ring and he didn’t leave a message. I was an absolute wreck that day. Then, when the asshole called back a day or two later and asked for me by name, I nearly leaped through the phone and killed him when he started his pitch for some stupid ass “oxygenated herbal drink”.
So, when application time rolls around next year, I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether it’s worth it to put myself through that again. Because it was honestly worse than querying agents. At least with agents they don’t really give you a time frame to expect their response.
Yesterday afternoon, my husband was carrying the full laundry basket to the basement and asked for my help opening the door since it’s a tight squeeze and nearly impossible to open it with the laundry basket. As I followed him to the basement, I snagged a bag clip off the kitchen counter that’s shaped like a hand and clipped it to the back of his pants. He pulled it off, looked at it, and asked, “Why are you attaching a clip to my ass?” To which I replied, “I’m giving you a hand.”
Ba dum bum ching.
And last night as we were climbing into bed, he’s hunting around for his handkerchief. He lifts up his bottom pillow and says, in a surprised tone of voice, “Oh look! There’s my hanky.”
Me [deadpan]: What a surprise considering that’s where you always keep your hanky.
Him: I keep it under there because I’m waiting for the bogeyman to come and leave me a dollar.
I’ve decided to take the plunge and apply to the Clarion West Writers Workshop this year. This is a major thing for me for a number reasons.
The workshop is six weeks long in Seattle. Now, for those people who don’t know me in real life, I’m a classic introvert as well as being painfully shy and I get extremely anxious almost to the point of having full-blown panic attacks when confronting unfamiliar situations. I’d be by myself in a group of strangers who I would have to interact with on a daily basis. That thought more than anything scares the pants off me. Even around my best friends I’m reserved and self-conscious. The fact that I’m even applying is an amazing thing and it wasn’t a sure thing that I was going to apply because just thinking about doing it made my heart race and hands shake. Still does, to be honest and I sent the application in already.
I’ve never been on my own and away from home for so long. I didn’t go to college (if I had it would have been a local college to save money) and I started dating my husband at the end of my senior year of high school, so there was no period of being footloose and fancy free for me. One of my biggest concerns is that I don’t have the mental/emotional preparedness to be away from my support system for so long.
It’s also expensive. The total cost for the workshop itself is $3600. That’s not including airfare which looks like it’s going to run about $500 unless I stumble onto a super awesome deal. Yes, the workshop costs are for six weeks worth of workshops, lodging, and partial board, but when you have a mortgage and car payment and all those other monthly bills, $4100+ (the entrance fee only covers partial board, so some meals will be paid for out of pocket) is a lot of money to be spending on a non-necessity. I can only hope and pray that I qualify for at least some scholarship monies because if I don’t, I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend even if I do get accepted.
I’m also kind of afraid that if I leave my husband home alone for six weeks I’m going to come back to find that the cats have forcefully subjugated him and taken over the house. I wish I were kidding on that, but I’m not. He’s far too much of a push-over when it comes to the cats and they have no respect for him as a leader at all.
Despite my fears, I applied. Now all I can do is sit and wait to hear back from them to find out if I made it in. Only 18 people get picked out of who knows how many hundreds of applications. I’m hoping my writing and my intro letter are enough to sway them to my side. *crosses fingers*
In other news:
On Friday we got hit with what The Weather Channel has dubbed Winter Storm Nemo. Yeah, I’m not sure why they’ve begun naming winter storms, but I think it’s stupid and I’m grateful that it’s just a Weather Channel affectation and not something the National Weather Service is doing.
Where I live we got about a foot and a half of snow dumped on us while other areas got up to three feet.
All I can say is that I am so very grateful my husband bought the biggest, baddest snowblower the store offered because we saw too many of our neighbors having issues getting through the deep snow with their smaller ones. Even still, it took us nearly three hours to get the sidewalks and walkways cleared and then another two hours to get through the wall of snow that was blocking the corner.
2012 has come and gone. Thank the Gods.
It’s not that it was necessarily a bad year for my husband and me, there were the usual ups and downs of life and finances, sure, but nothing devastating. But it was a bad year on a global scale and for a number of people we care about which greatly reduced our enjoyment of things.
Some of the highlights of the year:
My family was blessed with three more babies. I now have a new niece, a new nephew, and a new second cousin bringing the total number of children in my family who are under the age of 18 to 19. As I was making out the To Buy For list for the holidays, I realized that (except for one year) for the last decade there’s been at least one new baby born every year. That’s a lot of kids. So many in fact that we ended up buying presents just for the kids and our parents. Everyone else got homemade cookies.
My husband bought a new truck. This was both a good and a bad thing. A good thing because his Mustang which he’d had for close to eleven years was on its last legs and it would cost more to repair it than it was worth. A bad thing because we were supposed to buy me a new vehicle this year. My last car died right before we bought the house in 2010 and, since we were going to be buying a house, we didn’t buy me a new one then because it would have messed with our debt to income ratio. This year we could finally afford to buy me a car and the Mustang decided to crap out on us. Boo… Hopefully this year we can get me a nice used car since I’m getting really sick and tired of having to rely on others to take me where I want to go.
We got a whole heck of a lot further on my office renovation. It’s still not done, but it’s at about 75% done. Most of the delay right now is because one of corners is a curve instead of a 90 degree angle and it’s taking a lot longer than expected to get it to curve like it should. I’d rather take the time to get the curve right than simply square it off because the curved walls are one of the things I love about this house. BUT! We’re going to be sanding the floor this week and we’ve already got the paint colors chosen, so we’re basically just waiting on that curve to be done and then I’m going to commission one of my husband’s employees to make me some curtains for the windows. And then it’s down to simply getting furniture in there and decorating.
As I talked about before, my best friend and I had started sword training with her mentor. Unfortunately, once summer arrived, her life sort of went downhill and she wasn’t able to make it to practice for several months. As mentioned above, I don’t have a vehicle of my own, so that meant that I couldn’t make it to practice either. By the time her life calmed down and she had the time and mental/emotional/physical spoons to start going again, our teacher had already filled in that time with other activities. So, alas, there is no more sword training for me. I’m pretty sure our teacher was a bit put out by it. I really do feel bad because we were all enjoying it very much and I wish like hell I could have continued it.
I also attempted to go shampoo free last year by using apple cider vinegar and baking soda to wash my hair. That worked quite well for a few months, but then I started to notice that my hair was becoming very straw-like and brittle. So, I am back to using shampoo, but only sparingly and I’m searching for a good organic shampoo that isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg. In other hair news, I still have a bit of a purple tint to my hair from when I dyed it purple to go to Vegas back in August of 2011. I keep threatening to go have it professionally colored at a salon, but I never seem to find the time. Just a word of warning — Splat Lusty Lavender Hair Dye is not as temporary as they say it is. I’m not sure if it’s staying in my hair because I didn’t bleach the color out of it first or what.
And an interesting factoid relating to the above — the majority of search terms that led to this blog last year relate to people searching for information on Splat Lusty Lavender or No Poo.
The search for a publisher for Lost Souls isn’t going as well as I’d hoped. A person can only hear/read “This is really good, you’ll definitely find a home for it somewhere, but unfortunately not with us” so many times before it gets absolutely depressing. And it doesn’t help when every one of them cites a different reason for passing. It means that there’s nothing to fix and it’s all just personal preference and the slowing Urban Fantasy market driving the rejections. So, I’m working on a story in a completely different genre and hope that when it’s finished the market for that type of book hasn’t passed me by like it did with Urban Fantasy. It really pains me to set Alex, Ryuu, and Vic aside, but I’m hoping that the UF market will see a resurgence in a few years so that I can whip them back out and try again.
Last year I only read 50 books which makes me quite ashamed of myself. I usually read between 75 and 100 books a year. There were a few times where I went for weeks without reading anything. I’m hoping to do better this year and I’m hoping to expand my repertoire a bit more. Most of the books I read last year were fantasy or urban fantasy. This year I want to read more non-fiction relating to history and science. So, if anyone has any favorite non-fiction books, feel free to rec them to me!
And finally, the blogging group I’d been blogging with for the last year and a half has decided to close down. Black Ink, White Paper‘s final blog post was last Monday. It’s both sad and a bit of a relief for me. I barely find time to post here, so trying to come up with good blog posts for over there was starting to get a bit stressful, but I’m so glad to have been a part of the group because it allowed me to meet a number of very wonderful and talented writers.
And that’s about it for last year. There were other things that happened, but I’ve either already talked about them or I don’t feel comfortable talking about them here.
So, it’s out with the old year, in with the new, and here’s hoping it plays out better than before.
ETA: Oh, and I forgot to mention that political differences cost me one of my dearest friends from high school. She’s a dyed in the wool conservative Catholic and I’m a liberal-leaning independent Pagan. Apparently, the religious differences were fine, but discussing politics from the opposite end of the political spectrum equals deterioration. *shrugs* I’m still a bit upset over it even though it happened in March. What made it even worse was that we saw her in public just a few months ago and she tried to make like nothing had even happened. I’m not against reconciling with her and re-starting the friendship since she was the one who ended it, but I do get cranky when somebody tries to make nice in a public setting with other people around even though they haven’t once tried contacting me privately.
- It’s snowing. Nothing is sticking though.
- A few days ago they were calling for some decent snowfall today into tomorrow, but it’s not going to be cold enough for that. This makes me very sad.
- Today is the release day for Jim Butcher‘s Cold Days, the newest installment in the Harry Dresden series. Whee!
- Today is also the release day for Ilona Andrews‘ Steel’s Edge which is the final book in her Edge series. Also Whee!!
- I will be making a trip to Barnes and Noble this afternoon in order to acquire both books.
- There are just 36 hours left to donate to the Help Revitalize Books of Wonder IndieGoGo campaign. Won’t you please consider donating?
- This Saturday night I’m going to be seeing Neil Gaiman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Neri Oxman all on one stage. You have no idea how excited I am by this.
- I’m not familiar with Neri, but she sounds like an amazing woman and I can’t wait to hear her speak.
- Thanksgiving was last week and I haven’t even started shopping for gifts yet.
- I foresee this being another year of scrambling to get everything done at the last minute.
1. It’s Thanksgiving Week and we’re having my in-laws over for dinner this year.
2. That means I’m going to be busy for the next couple of days cleaning and cooking.
3. After we eat dinner here, we get to head to my mom’s to have another meal with my family.
4. I feel full just thinking about all that food.
5. I will NOT be shopping on Friday or Thursday evening. I abhor the idea of Black Friday and people mauling each other in order to buy cheap “stuff”. It makes my stomach churn.
6. I’m looking for urban fantasy books which feature a female protagonist who doesn’t end up in a romantic relationship of some sort.
7. It’s proving a very unfruitful search.
8. I can find plenty of urban fantasy male protagonists who remain single throughout the entire series, though.
9. The gender disparity is particularly irksome to me, so I may just have to keep romance out of the Alex series on principle.
10. And, finally, if you have an extra three hours to spare, here’s a modern adaptation of Hamlet from PBS. It features both David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.
My husband will be home in less than an hour. It’s our anniversary, so I need to make sure everything is perfect. I give the chicken in the oven one last peek before running upstairs to tidy my makeup and get dressed. I throw on the little black dress I wore on our honeymoon to Bermuda. Rick loves that dress. I fix my hair up just right – a beautiful updo that leaves my neck and shoulders exposed. The only piece of jewelry I’m wearing is my wedding band. The symbol of our love and our commitment to each other. The physical embodiment of our vows to love, honor, and cherish each other as long as we both shall live.
Staring at the ring brings up a welling of emotion in me that I don’t quite understand. I struggle to keep myself in control because crying will smudge my makeup and I don’t have time to re-apply it.
When I’m sure that everything about my appearance is ready, I go back downstairs to await my husband’s arrival. It seems like only minutes have passed before I hear his key in the lock. He opens the door and I can’t help but notice how haggard and worn he looks. His shoulders are slumped forward and the sparkle in his eyes is gone. My heart goes out to him. He must have had such a rough day at work.
“Happy anniversary, honey,” I say as I walk over and give him a hug and kiss his cheek.
His skin is cold to my touch and he shivers. I don’t feel any temperature difference, but perhaps it’s colder outside than it looks. I reach behind him and slam the door closed. The bang startles him and he jumps.
“I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to scare you. Please come in and sit down. Supper is just about ready.”
Rick surveys the dining room, taking in the table set with our nicest china, the candles waiting to be lit, the two glasses of wine. He shakes his head and walks silently into the living room where he sinks into the couch. He rests his head on the back of the couch and closes his eyes.
“Karen, you need to stop it. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” He raises his head and opens his eyes, slowly looking around the room. There’s sadness in his eyes. I don’t know what happened to put that sadness there, but I’m determined to take it away. I go to him and caress his cheek.
He sighs. “Actually, I do know how much I can take and I’m at my limit.”
I hear the kitchen door open and I go out to investigate. Four people walk into my kitchen, their eyes appraising everything they see. They take great pains to pay absolutely no attention to me, but they nod to Rick who’s walked up behind me.
I’m so angry at him right now. This was supposed to be our anniversary dinner. A special night for just the two of us. How dare he bring friends home when he knows how much I’ve been looking forward to this.
“Mr. Stevenson, are you taking everything with you?” The tall, dark haired woman asks. She’s holding a clipboard and making notes on it. At first I don’t understand what she’s asking, but then two more people enter behind them carrying boxes.
“Yes, pack up everything. I’ll sort through it at the new place.”
He’s moving out on me. The bastard is leaving me on our anniversary. I didn’t even know anything was wrong between us. Why didn’t he say anything to me? We could have worked it out. Gone to therapy. Done something to save our marriage. It had only been three years. Had I been such a horrible wife to him?
I grab one of the glasses of wine off the table and fling it across the room. Everybody jumps back, staring around fearfully.
“Pay no attention to her,” Rick says. His voice is bland and emotionless. “She’s just pissed that I’m leaving.”
“She?” The tall woman seems to have regained her composure before everyone else. They’re all huddled in the center of the room, their eyes darting around.
“My dead wife.” I hear what he’s saying, but I don’t understand the words. I never knew my husband spoke a different language. What other secrets was he keeping from me?
“Your dead wife?” One of the bulkier men laughs, but I don’t know why. It’s a nervous laugh which cuts off abruptly. He’s speaking the same language as my husband. The language seems to be similar to English; if I concentrate, I can almost make out what they’re saying.
“Yes, she died a year and a half ago on our anniversary. A freak heart attack the doctor said.” Rick rubs his hands over his eyes. Eyes which are surprisingly damp. Is he feeling guilty for leaving me? Serves the bastard right. “Every few nights she recreates our anniversary dinner.” He sweeps his arm toward the set table. “Which reminds me…”
He goes over to the oven and turns it off after looking inside. He didn’t even have the common decency to ask me if the chicken was done yet. Tears streak down my cheeks as I realize that the man I love more than life itself is leaving me. That he doesn’t care about me anymore.
“I always have to check to make sure there’s nothing in there. She nearly burned the house down a few months ago when she put a pan of chicken bones in the oven.” He finally switches back to English.
Is that what this whole thing is about? I had made a mistake, one I didn’t even remember making, and he was leaving me for it? I pick up the other wine glass and fling it at his head. He ducks just in time and the glass hits the wall, shattering and splattering white wine everywhere.
“She sure is one angry lady.” The man carrying a stack of boxes sets the boxes against the wall and rubs at a wet spot on his pant leg.
“Angry? Of course I’m angry, asshole. My husband is leaving me. Why the hell wouldn’t I be angry?” I scream as loud as I can, trying to scream the pain out. As if on cue, the chandelier over the dining room table shakes and the lights flicker.
They all continue to ignore me.
I want to slap Rick, but I restrain myself. With all of these people here who are obviously on his side, I would probably end up getting hurt myself.
Rick sighs as he walks over to the sideboard and picks up a pretty white abalone shell filled with what looks like herbs. How had I not noticed that before? Was he doing drugs now? My heart breaks in my chest at the thought. I’d tried to be the best wife I could be, but it obviously wasn’t enough.
“I haven’t found anyone able to fully exorcise her from the house, but I can make her go away for a little while.”
He lights the herbs with a lighter he picks up from beside the shell. The smoke rising up from the dish smells pleasant, but it makes me very sleepy. I try not to breathe it in, I have no idea what kind of drugs are in there and I want no part of it, but the smoke seems to follow me and cling to my hair and skin.
“Karen Stevenson, you’re dead. You don’t belong in this world any longer. I beseech you to move on to the next path of your journey.”
The room is growing darker. I can barely see the dark figures who are starting to move around the room, touching my things. Finally, I can’t see anything at all.
My husband will be home in less than an hour. It’s our anniversary, so I need to make sure everything is perfect. Rick had the entire kitchen remodeled as his present to me so I need to make sure this night is absolutely right.
- It seems like every time I make a commitment to post more life decides to get in the way.
- I survived Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent Nor’Easter with absolutely no damage at all.
- My area of MA didn’t get anything other than some heavy wind and a bit of rain.
- At least my office is thiclose to being done. We just need to sand the floor and other assorted woodwork and then slap on some paint. Whee!
- For good or ill, the elections are *FINALLY* over. Now maybe some of the crazy on all sides will settle down for a bit…
- Yes, I know… but I’m gonna keep dreaming that it’s possible.
- There’s a total solar eclipse happening as I type these words.
- I can’t actually see the eclipse in person because it’s viewable only in certain parts of the Southern Hemisphere, but I’ve got a live video stream of it up.
- It’s quite disconcerting to see the bright sun shining through my window and know that at the same moment, in another part of the world, it’s being covered by darkness.
- Very creepy, yet kind of cool at the same time.
- I’m going to try and keep up with at least a weekly Tuesday Ten, but the way things seem to be going, I can’t make any promises.