Archive for May, 2008

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What Stace had to say on Friday, May 30th, 2008
Lose Five Pounds in Five Days! The stomach flu way

Oh, dear.

I’m sorry, everyone.

I thought I was feeling better on Tuesday; I rallied a bit, and was able to do my League blog post, but I did spend much of the day resting and watching lame daytime tv.

Wednesday, though…Wednesday was bad. So bad that when the hubs came home from work he called the doctor, and the doctor actually made a house call to give me some sort of anti-nausea shot which did help somewhat. So bad I couldn’t even read. The words just swam on the page and made me feel yucky.

I have not eaten anything except a couple of Ritz crackers. I’ve managed to keep down some Gatorade and some Sprite. And today I even took a shower!!! which was very exciting, if a bit tiring. And yes, I lost just over five pounds (which, okay, I’d be fairly please if that sticks, I admit.)

So I’m hoping I’m genuinely on the road to recovery now. Let’s hope.

Meanwhile, not a lot has been happening. I lost an entire week of work, not good. Well, I did manage to scrape 2k words together on Tuesday night. But considering my goal for the week was at least 14k, it’s rather depressing. Especially as this was Princess’s half-term week, when I thought I’d really be able to get cracking.

There is some good stuff going on, though! Have you all seen Cyn’s news? Cyn’s been a friend of ours here for a long time, so let’s all congratulate her!

And honestly, that’s pretty much it for me, I’m sorry. The week has not left me much room to formulate opinions on anything, and my stomach is making ominous sounds despite my feeling a bit better.

What Stace had to say on Monday, May 26th, 2008
uhhhh

No post today. I am too busy having the stomach flu.

Hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow for my League post, and will be back here Wednesday.

What Stace had to say on Friday, May 23rd, 2008
I’m a Winner!

Hee! My lovely CP Anna J Evans and I decided to enter the Smart Bitches’ “Silver Anus Purple Prose Contest”, because we’re sick, twisted girls who get our kicks that way, baby. Our entry was #1, Taint Bottomwell, and we won!!

This is so awesome, because it has always been my secret, most fondly-held wish to be the possessor of a Smart Bitches Title. So I am very proud to announce you may all now refer to me as:

You may call me “Lady Manholleton” or simply “Your Grace”. Either is correct. (Of course if you’re a regular here I give you permission to refer to me as “December Manholleton”.)

This tops of an awesome day. I had planned to rant today but I simply cannot dredge a rant from anywhere in my being.

Last night the hubs and I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie, win! We loved it. Not as good as Raiders, of course. And some of the CGI was kind of bleh. But it was fun, really, really fun. So go see it.

The hubs had yesterday and today off, and Monday because it’s a long weekend here too. So we went shopping in Taunton. Stopped in at what used to be the Virgin Megastore and stocked up on budget CDs–Van Morrison’s Moondance (I loves me some Van Morrison, especially Them), a Hank Williams Greatest Hits collection, the soundtrack to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (£3!), and some Iron Maiden. Rock on!

Then we toddled over to Ann Summers and bought me some new lingerie, which is extra fun now that I’m slim again. Leopard print, with little red bows. Lovely. AND I found a fantastic book: Le Dossier: How to Survive the English, which is hilarious. Might not be fun for anyone who doesn’t live in England, but awfully fun for me.

And now we’re going to Bristol, to check out what’s new at Forbidden Planet and visit the only decent Starbuck’s in the West Country, which is the one at Borders Books.

So sorry, no ranty. I just honestly cannot remember the last time I had a day this nice.

Oh, and I managed to add almost 5k words to UG2 yesterday, and this weekend I’m hoping to bring myself fully into the climax (heh heh.)

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008
Tomorrow’s Post–Today

(A little note first: Personal Demons is now available in ebook format from Fictionwise! And it’s on sale this week.)

Because I’m still a little freaked out, and wanted to blog about it, but didn’t want to wait until tomorrow.

So the hubs was upstairs putting the girls to bed, and I was standing down here in the living room grumbling because our buddy three doors down decided to mow his lawn at 8:30 at night again. (BTW, if you haven’t already seen my post at the League blog, go check it out. It’s about neighbors from hell, with particular emphasis on noise, with extra particular emphasis on my neighbors and their new karaoke machine and their excrable musical tastes.)

So I’m grumbling, and I hear someone screaming outside on the street in front of the house. And I’m thinking, WTF is it now, because we always have people screaming on our street, or singing drunkenly, or gossiping outside our window, or whatevs.

But the screaming doesn’t stop. So I head for the window and look out, and there’s two big guys, carrying a kid across the street (away from my house) by the arms and legs. And a very tough-looking woman standing there yelling, holding a bat.

They dump the kid in the grass. He is seriously freaking out, screaming for help. And I think, okay, should I call the cops? Because it sounds like the woman is calling him by name, but at the same time the kid clearly says “Help” at least once.

He tried to get up and run. The two guys grabbed him. The hubs came downstairs and I told him what was going on.

The kid got up and started running. The men chased him down. One of them threw the kid over his shoulder.

Hubs is dialing the police. The man and boy disappear behind the community center across the street.

Okay, the cops did come very quickly. But not fast enough; the kid and men were gone by the time they arrived. They drove around, they looked behind the center, but saw nothing.

Now, I’m hoping my initial impression–that the kid knew the adults–was right. And honestly I’m pretty sure it was. It’s pretty frigging ballsy to kidnap a screaming child on a busy street in the daylight with lots of people around. And really, while the kid ran away, he didn’t run into the community center, where there were people who could have help him, or back across the street toward our house (which is where they dragged him from, not like my house is the obvious bastion of safety to any strange child), or to the restaurant and convenience store right next to the center. And he did seem old enough to be able to think of going those places, if he was really trying to escape and not just stir up shit with his parents.

But I still wish I’d called the cops sooner. Next time I won’t hesitate. Next time I’ll grab my cellphone and take some pictures too. Because until a few days have passed without me hearing about a boy going missing, I won’t be sure. And that’s terrifying.

Sorry it’s a bit of a downer. I’m just still a little freaked. But there’s fun to be had at the League blog, so come on by!

What Stace had to say on Monday, May 19th, 2008
What’s erotic?

Okay, first, a couple of newsy bits.

First, tomorrow the 20th is the Miss Snark Tribute over at Pat Wood’s blog. Our Pat is the Orange Prize nominated author of Lottery, a great gal, and a loyal Snarkling, and I think this is an awesome idea. We haven’t all stayed in touch since Miss S left us, so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone there. (And, shit, what is wrong with me, because I’m tearing up again. What a wimp I am, sheesh! Embarrassing.)

Second, I got a great new review for Black Dragon from Enchanting Reviews. The review itself won’t be up until next month, but I’m so pleased about it I wanted to share it right away:

“I wish sometimes I could give a book a higher rating, 5 is as high as we go, but this story was fabulous. Ms. Quinn beautifully wove romance, heartbreak, pain, happiness, and intrigue into a beautiful tapestry of a phenomenal story. I totally loved this story. I was glued from the beginning to the end, and I loved the epilogue! This is a must read, and I will read it again.”

So. Somewhere else on this great wide internet, I have become embroiled in a discussion about putting distasteful or taboo elements in erotic romances. And by taboo I don’t mean a little what-what or BDSM or whatever, I mean taboo. Underage sex. Incest. Rape. Etc.

As you know, two of those elements are in the EC novel Anna J and I wrote, Demon’s Triad. So I offered my thoughts on it–especially since, as far as I know, I’m the only one there who’s included such things in their work for a major erotic romance publisher. (EC is a small press, yes, but when it comes to erorom I feel confident I can refer to them as a big name.)

My take on it, from what we were told during editing, was you can put any elements you like in the story as long as it serves the story and is not gratuitous. DT has an incestuous rape. We originally had the victim (male) respond to the (female) rapist’s overtures, in an oral kind of a way. EC said no no no, because of the incestuous relationship. It didn’t matter that the victim was at that time unaware of that relationship; we were not allowed to portray incest as an erotic moment, to write it in such a way that readers would be aroused.

Which was fine with us, frankly. We knew we were pushing hard at some boundaries in the book–more on that later–and had no problem scaling back the scene. I don’t think it lost any intensity. I don’t think it suffered. I don’t think the book in general suffered.

So the question arose, was that boundary-pushing part of what made the story erotic?

Well. Yes and no.

I don’t think the incestuous rape made the story erotic. It made it very dark. It made it rather more twisted than we originally thought it would be. But it wasn’t erotic.

Having said that, though, I think DT was the most erotic book I’ve written, and that is because some other boundaries are pushed. We have spells making people crazily, insatiably aroused, which made for some very hot moments and I think nudged at some boundaries re public sex and such.

But mostly, I think we did push it a bit by making two of the characters turned on by violence. They really liked hurting each other, before, during, and after. Not in a ritualized BDSM kind of way, but in a more random and shocking way. And I think in that case, stepping over that line really did make their scenes together much hotter (and the reviewers seemed to agree).

Having said that, though, I don’t think the book wouldn’t have been erotic without the violence. And I don’t think the violence makes the book any less romantic.

(Interestingly, someone else commented that such elements as rape, murder, etc. should only be in books that are about the rape and murder, that these things are too “big” for the characters to get past. I strongly disagree with that, personally, but found it an interesting take.)

So I guess the point of this is, where do the erotic and the romantic cross over or not cross? Is there anything in a romance that makes it suddenly not a romance, assuming all other elements are present (HEA, etc.)?

And does calling a book an erotic romance mean that there are areas the book should not go? Does putting the work into that genre really mean that we aren’t allowed to tell very dark stories?

What Stace had to say on Friday, May 16th, 2008
Oh, grow UP

So something good has happened.

Lori Drew has been indicted.

For anyone here who doesn’t know, Lori Drew is the sick, twisted excuse for a human being who drove a thirteen-year-old girl to suicide by posing as a teenaged boy of MySpace, befriending the girl, spreading her secrets, then cruelly making fun of her.

Apparently drew told police she “didn’t feel as guilty” as she might have, once she found out the girl had attempted suicide once before. Which makes perfect sense, really, because all feeling people let themselves off the hook when they discover the child they were manipulating was fragile to begin with, rather than simply driven to fragility by their own acts.

What the fuck is the matter with this woman? What the fuck is the matter with parents like Roseana Scaduto, who not only drove her own daughter to a fistfight, but participated? When did parents start totally abdicating their responsibilities, and start behaving as though they themselves are the same age as their children?

I know, I know. It’s actually been going on for years and years. Nobody wants to be a parent anymore. They want to be “cool”, they want to be a “friend.” They want to shove their children into the adult world before the kids are ready, then take a step back from that world themselves. Shit like this has always happened; these parents have always existed. But I think the capacity for true harm used to be smaller, and I think it used to happen less often. So why?

I’ll tell you why I think it is, at least in part. (Oh yeah, I have a LOT of theories and opinions on this one, but I’m going to focus here.)

It’s because being an adult isn’t fun anymore.

Remember when you were a kid? Remember your parents having adult parties, with cocktails and cigarettes and fondue? And they’d get dressed up and play music, and you wated to be at the party but weren’t allowed because this was something only grown-ups got to do? So being grown-up seemed like a really big deal? One day you’d be able to drink daquiris made with Kool-Aid in the blender, one day you’d wear high heels and perfume and eat whatever you wanted, one day you’d have a cool car, once day you’d get married and actually have sex, and it all seemed like such a huge privilege you just couldn’t wait?

Except now nobody’s allowed to smoke anywhere, and drinking is frowned upon, and it seems like once you hit the age of about 27 you’re expected to eat nothing but fruit, vegetables and bran and drink nothing but water. You’re expected to be in bed at a decent hour and spend your weekends having “quality time” with your kids at some theme park somewhere. Don’t have even a glass of wine in front of the children, it sets a bad example. Don’t watch anything more mature than Shrek (if there even is such a thing; it seems very few good films are being made these days that aren’t “for the whole family”.) Watch your language. No fatty foods. Exercise. Blah blahblahblah.

In short, once you become an adult you’re expected to give up all the fun things adulthood should represent. It’s teenagers today who seem to get to live the lives we all wanted as kids: drinking, smoking, fucking, driving, wearing expensive pretty clothes, staying out till all hours, doing whatever they want, while the adults piddle around with bowls of cereal and bottles of water.

Adulthood used to be something people looked forward to. Now it’s dullsville, baby.

I say we take adulthood back. Make those damn kids keep their parts in their pants and go to bed by eleven, make them work for their spending money, while we stay up drinking bourbon and watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (One thing I love about Judd Apatow; he’s actually making fun movies for adults only. Aside from all the other things I love about Judd Apatow, that is, which is everything.)

Let’s have parties again. Let’s drink and eat whatever crap we like. Let’s do what we want to do. We’re fucking adults now! WE get to say what happens. Isn’t that what we all wanted when we were kids? So why did an entire generation give up their right to rule their children like fascist dictators and have some fun themselves?

It probably wouldn’t do much for sick twisted shitheads like Lori Drew, a woman who must feel very proud of herself for having cleverly outwitted a vulnerable young girl. I know when I tell seventh-graders that the world would be a better place without them, I feel really clean and pure and good about myself, so why wouldn’t she?

But for the rest of us? Yeah, I think it would be pretty cool. Maybe if we stopped making adulthood into some sort of prison, our adults wouldn’t be so eager to behave like teenagers again.

Just a thought.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
Some random stuff

I was going to say something very serious. I actually started a serious post. And then I deleted it. Suffice it to say, something has been bothering me for about a month now, and it’s cost me some enthusiasm for blogging and the internet in general. Because I’m tired of how vicious people can be for no reason, over an imagined slight or simply because someone has the gall to see things differently than they do. I’m a very opinionated person and I always have been. But I have never to my knowledge attacked someone else for their opinion, or told them they didn’t have a right to that opinion or that their thoughts and feelings on any given subject aren’t valid.

Not everyone is the same way. For a long time I thought they were. Realizing they aren’t has actually really affected me, to the point where a few times I’ve found myself ready to give up blogging because I feel like I can’t say what I’d like to say, no matter how innocuous the topic may be, that it’s not okay for me to do that. And yes, some of it is merely being polite. I’ve always tried to do that. But it gets to a point where I find myself wanting to blog about things that matter to me and my hands freeze over the keyboard because it’s just not worth it to have one or two people somewhere take what I’ve said the wrong way, or see an offense there that wasn’t intended, and the next thing I know my name is being slung all over the place and I’m being called names.

Is there such a thing as blogger’s block?

So while I continue to attempt to recover from my brush with reality, here are a few other things.

First, I had the following conversation yesterday with the Faerie (she was wearing a plastic tiara and princess gown at the time):

Me: Faery, are you poopy?

Faery: No.

Me: Are you sure? Let me check your diaper.

Faery: No. Princesses do not get poopy.

Also…head on over to the BookEnds Literary blog and check out this post. The lovely BookEnds ladies are inviting anonymous venting on the subject of agents, and some interesting things are popping up.

In fact, I’m actually tempted to ask people to comment anonymously here about something one of these days, and see if I can get you lurker types to make your presences known.

So watch for that one. :-)

Oh, and don’t forget to come to the League blog and play! Demon fun! Book club fun!

What Stace had to say on Monday, May 12th, 2008
League Stuff!

That’s right! It’s Demon Week at the League! Remember all the fun we had with zombie week? This will be even more fun. So make sure you keep checking in!

Also! This week the League Book Club is discussing Personal Demons (eep!) This is your chance to say anonymously all the snotty things you’ve never had the guts to say here. And I just might give away some of those prize-type things, you never know. Mark’s running the discussion, so you know it’s going to be fun!

And speaking of contests…Mark will be announcing the winner of the “Which League Baby Picture is Missing” contest. And, as my way of announcing whether or not *I* was the missing one, may I present…My family, circa 1975/6 (I’m not sure quite which).

…and that’s it. It’s hot here. And of course there’s no a/c so I’m sitting in the living room with all the curtains drawn to keep those basted rays of sun out. Remind me to never ever again live in a home where the sun shines directly into the living room and kitchen all afternoon and evening in the spring and summer. With no a/c. It’s brutal.

I know, whine whine whine. I’m off to come up with some cool demon content for the league this week!

What Stace had to say on Friday, May 9th, 2008
Chat with me today!

I’m over at Chris Eldin’s blog today until 9 PM EDT! The whole shebang starts shortly, but I will only be there sporadically until about 11 am EDT, as I have the kids to pick up from school etc. etc.

I’m editing, editing, editing, working on Unholy Ghosts. Fun, but tiring. I love editing just a little more than I hate it–I love tinkering and making things stronger, but I hate the fear that I’m leaving some sort of weird plot hole, or that what I’m adding isn’t as good as the other stuff, or whatever. It’s kind of like getting dressed up to go out. You have beautiful earrings on, but is the necklace that goes with it too much or just right?

I was going to do a longer post today but as I will be devoting most of my day to chatting, I’m going to keep it brief. So head on over there if you like and say hi! I’m giving away a book and everything!

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
Those pesky words and punctuation

I’m always amazed when I see this argument:

If my story is good, nobody’s going to care how it’s written.

And really, I see it a lot more often than is to be believed.

Grammar and punctuation are important. They are the most basic tools a writer has. Through correct grammar and punctuation we make ourselves understood; what is so difficult to get about that? (And why am I suddenly finding dozens of typos? I think my keyboard is getting old and worn down, actually.)

Vocabulary is important, yes. Incredibly so. Especially since without decent vocabularies we make stupid homonym erros, like site for sight (which drives me batty) or bear for bare or peek for pique or peak (another batty one.) But you don’t need a huge vocabulary; I find sometimes the most basic words work the best, conveying as they do not only their intended meaning but the very purity of their basicness.

Case in point (for me at least): I wrote a sentence the other night in which I mentioned a character’s big chest. (A male character.) Now I could have said huge or gargantuan or broad or anything else, but I didn’t. I used big, not only because I meant big, but because the character thinking this wasn’t thinking just of the size of said chest but of the safety of it. “Big”, the word we learn as children to use for anything larger than ourselves, put the thinking character, if not into a childlike place (which would be highly inappropriate considering it was a kissing scene), then at least into a place where her thought process has regressed to that point. In seeking to curl herself up into the chest of the man who made her feel safe, she brought back the need for safety a child would express.

And lots of other basic words are perfectly good. They have an impact; they delve straight into the reader’s psyche. We should always use the most clear and direct word we can; sometimes that word is “big” or “red” or “hot” or whatever else.

But grammar and punctuation? So much easier to grasp, really, especially in fiction writing as opposed to, say, school reports where you have to follow silly rules like not ending sentences with prepositions (as Churchill said, “That is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”) It’s simple, and to be perfectly honest it should be instinctive. If you read a lot and pay attention, these rules should be absorbed effortlessly.

I know it’s fashionable in some circles to wear bad grammar like some sort of shiny crown, to insist you yourself are a rebel with a new voice and style. But there’s a difference between someone who obviously knows the rules and is playing with them, and someone who doesn’t know the rules, and the reader can tell. I fnd it absolutely infuriating to hear people say things like “The readers won’t know the difference” because yes they will. They will even if they’re not big readers; they will even if they themselves write terribly. Because grammar written should be much like grammar spoken: when I talk to you, or you talk to me, we “hear” grammar almost as a separate language, gliding beneath what’s actually being said. Readers aren’t stupid. People who enjoy and choose to read are not stupid people, and they’re your audience. Who do you think is buying your books? Last time I checked, people buying books were people who read books. I knew a woman (an absolutely horrible woman, btw) who didn’t read; you can bet she didn’t spend a lot of time buying books.

So here is a nice, handy little list, from me to you, of my personal grammar and punctuation bugbears.

1. Quotation marks used for emphasis. Seriously? Seeing this makes me want to find the person who did it and ram a copy of Strunk & White up their asses. “Car Wash” $1.00: is it a real car wash, or an alleged one? Are you going to charge me for a car wash but really just spit on my car and run away? When you put up a sign at the grocery store that says “Pears” $.25, are you implying those aren’t actually pears? Are they made of plastic?

2. The aforementioned homonyms. “Morning” is the beginning of the day; “mourning” is what you do when people die. “Site” is a website or a place where a building is being constructed or a specific location; “sight” is what you have. Something “piques” your interest, it doesn’t “peak” or “peek” it. You climb a peak, you peek with your eyes.

3. Elipses are three periods. They indicate a sentence has trailed off, or that someone has taken a longer pause in speech than they would if just a period were used. You do not use the number of periods in an ellipsis to indicate how long the pause lasts…..or to create drama……..or simply because you don’t feel like using an actual period….or because maybe your finger just got stuck on the period button.

4. Questions do NOT have to end with question marks every time. They just don’t. The punctuation indicates how the sentence is spoken; it is and can be fluid. For example: when Character A gets home, and Character B says, “Where were you?” it indicates, without needing to use dialogue tags or unecessary description, a totally different tone of voice and demeanor than Character A arriving home to Character B’s “Where were you.” That’s not the best example in the world but you do see my point, I hope (and likewise, characters who say almost everything as a question tell us something about themselves and their general demeanor too.) I have twice been dinged for this by line editors and it’s the only line edit nitpick that pisses me off. The fun of punctuation is that it determines how a sentence is spoken; it tells the reader something. Think of Willy Wonka, telling the children, “No. Please. Stop.” Instead of “No! Please! Stop!” See the difference.

5. It is perfectly acceptable in fiction to start sentences with “And”, “But”, or “Because.”

6. I find the grammar nitpick that unless a word ends in “s” it cannot be hissed most irritating. “Hissing” implies a furious whisper much more eloquently and directly than “whispered furiously” or “said in a furious whisper”. Much like the nitpicking about how eyes do not follow people, gazes or stares do. “Her eyes followed him” is colorful and, I think, clear to just about every reader; frankly, if something like that is throwing you out of a story, there are other problems with the writing to the point that you are, consciously or unconsciously, looking for them. (I know there’s at least one other of these that bugs me but I can’t remember what it is.)

So you tell me now. What are your grammar issues? What drives you nuts?

I have been thinking of doing another summer publishing series, perhaps about agents. Thoughts? And if you or anyone you know has any Bad Agent stories, please send them along.



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