Monday, November 29, 2004

Crosscultural Writing

What I said in answer to a question about crosscultural writing at NCTE 2004 in Indianapolis: "As it happens, my next book is a vampire novel.* And I in fact am not a vampire although I did go to law school. However, I certainly meant no offense to the undead community."

*technically, it's a multi-monster-verse.

Still struggling with what to do about what's going down at Q's house during the climax. Am thinking about typing up the whole fact pattern, available options (a, b, c) and bringing it to group for opinions. But that's wimpy.

Isn't it?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Mammoths To Go

How appropriate! Watched all of the segments except the last, about the mammoths and early humans (I suppose).

Thinking about police/RK/MM at Q's; possibility of photo of VTB to go with DM/GM/G&PM in the foyer of S; using the BL quote as the header of the author's note. Possibly KM should just say that MM and her contacts can handle both of first above.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Walking With Prehistoric Beasts

Picked up a copy of "Walking With Prehistoric Beasts" on DVD from BBC Video at the Discovery Channel store at the mall.

I know what you're thinking, but this clearly counts as shopping, right?

It's not research (or, heaven forbid, writing) until I at least load the disc into my DVD player.



It's still shrink-wrapped!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Fresh Eye

Fresh eye...

Sounds like a really gross recipe ingredient, doesn't it?

Okay, this is it. I absolutely must stop fiddling or I'm never going to have a fresh eye to read for the final polishes before sending back.

If all goes well, spookycyn will be quiet until after the holiday.

But she will miss you.


Sometimes when you're looking at a passage, you have to ask yourself if it's specific enough. The difference between the narrator saying "me" versus "my shoulder" is enough to paint a more vivid picture for the reader, which is seldom a bad thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Critiquer Comments

My, I was chatty yesterday!

Some of my recent manuscript reader comments:

"Sounds so real for the situation."

"Good, different name."

"So true."


"The story reads well, flows well, + it's tight. Very polished. Great info about characters + background."




Almost there!

Someone wrote late last night asking when I would give more specifics about the manuscript itself. Basically, I'll say more once the advanced reader copies are sent and then the book is released. All things in good time!


According to readers, the suspense is up, the mss is tighter, and heightened emphasis on questions has upped the page-turning quality. Directly laying out stakes in terms of inviting in badness also ups the ante.

SP thought of a way to better delineate a tone issue.

And the intellect of placekickers was defended.

All in all, a bloody good night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Have confirmed that Econ is offered as an elective in some Texas high schools, so that's realistic. Little things, don'tcha know.

Still torn about what to show. Have printed both the Q/D at home scenes and the 2nd hr. school scenes. May bring both and ask to go if someone else doesn't have anything. Is that obnoxious?

It's obnoxious, but no one will mind.


Picked up a novel yesterday that started out innovative and amusing, but by the last two thirds seemed unforgivingly predictable. And the same jokes were wearing thin.

I'm not 100 percent sure it's me or the book, though, so I'm putting it aside to try later. Sometimes it's just the mood you're in when reading something, how it connects with your own emotional space.

I hope reviewers and awards committee people do the same, but I suspect they don't have the time. Thirty percent (or fewer) always seem to do one hundred percent of the work in just about every pursuit.

Trying to decide what to bring tonight for feedback. It should be one of the new or massively revised scenes, which basically means anything. I'm thinking though the D/Q scenes at home because they're the most new and possibly a little flat.

P.S. for she who wrote to ask, I found "Saved!" (forgive me for having overlooked the exclamation point in my previous post) funny, fascinating, a tad preachy, but all and all totally worth watching; "Raising Helen" (beware of this site; it starts singing to you) bittersweet with its so many ends too neatly tied but great for a good cry; "A Cinderella Story" bubblegum beyond tolerance--fast forwarded through the last four segments on the DVD; and "Mean Girls" something I'd already seen before (old-school teen movie plot updated; appealing star), so I apparently rented it for no reason.

P.S. II. neatest thing I've seen online lately, the break-dancing front page at the Out Youth Austin site.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Scent, Truth, and OCD

I've been brainstorming a bit on sense of smell. It's interesting because I was far more generous (or at least acknowledging) on that for characterization of my bad guy than I was on the good. What is it with that whole bad boy sexy thing? Fortunately, I grew out of it personally, but professionally, it seems to linger. Eh, considering my current artistic focus, probably okay.

I'm also cutting out overused words and phrases. Some repetition is okay; in fact, it's voice. Everyone has their pet words and patterns. But too much gets grating, and the impact of each reference is much greater on the page than it is aloud in casual conversation. My worst offender: "Truth was." I had something like nine of these in the manuscript, some just a couple of pages apart from one another. Now there are three and they're spread out.

I'm also pumping up (so to speak) two of the three hot-and-heavy scenes because they are so important for emotional and plot impact. And as long as you're in that state of mind, might as well take advantage, right?

Huh. Can you say a man "slithered?" What if he's not a man anymore?

How O-C I've become:

I don't want to reprint the entire mss again until 12/1 so I'm changing a word here, adding a few sentences there. Then I have to print the changed page (more if it affects page breaks until the end of whatever chapter). Then I back up on my desktop, on my laptop, on disc, and on my highspeed USB device (which I generally refer to as "the little plastic thingie"). (I keep these on separate floors of the house.) Then I have to replace the previous version of the morphing pages with the new ones in my hard copy file. Because this is not insane enough, I've bought an additional little plastic thingie that I can carry in my purse in case I go out of town or something.

Anyway, trying to shake off some generalized pre-holiday angst with a teen movie/chick flick bonanza. Rented "Saved," "Raising Helen," "Mean Girls," and "A Cinderella Story." If they're awful (which particularly "A Cinderella Story" promises to be), I will nevertheless take comfort in mocking them.


Just read the whole scene aloud with "slithered" and laughed for a good three minutes. Ah, I needed that, though it's really not the reaction I'm hoping to inspire in readers. Needless to say, the word is back to "slid."

It's funny because beginners often obsess endlessly over word choice on their first drafts, the result of which being that they're married to what should probably be disposable text and so focused on the trees that they can't see forest to save their lives (or manuscripts).

But at the polishing level of one's revision a small word choice issue can have huge impact.


So help me....


Monday, November 15, 2004

Curse of Three

So I'm reading yet another third Goth novel in a non-series series, and again, it's falling flat. I'm betting it's the deadline pressure that comes with that kind of deal. May I be so fortunate as to face (let alone face down) such a curse.

I have no idea what to bring to crit group on Wednesday. I should bring one of the new scenes that deal with the parents' death, but I'm doing good to write that stuff right now without having to discuss it in an upbeat and professional manner. Bah.

Cranky today.

Bela Lugosi

Doing some deep background research, I found this page on Bela Lugosi. Fascinating stuff, especially if you're into the classical films. I plan to spend some quality time in the future making my way through the links.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Great And Terrible Beauty

Surf by the official site of A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Have I mentioned how amazing Libba is lately? Very really quite extremely amazing. So there.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Spit Polish

Spent some time on the two new D/Q scenes--mostly working on little details like making sure the reader (at least in rhetrospect) understands how he's trying to manipulate and establishing their pre R dynamic. More minorly, changed what Q has for breakfast to something more local. Sometimes the difference between good and better is putting in more thought on the storytelling details.

Also finished To Catch A Wolf by Susan Krinard (particularly affecting heroine), which maxes me out on the romance gothics. I don't think there's that much else available. Moving on to the mystery gothics.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Enfield Again

Once again I'm on a Randall's run, and when I hit Enfield, it occurs to me how to rephrase a couple of words that were driving me nuts.

What I'd had sounded way too obvious, and I knew I wouldn't keep it. But I'd jotted what came to mind just as a place holder. I ended up scribbling a note to myself on the back of a Halloween card envelope (I knew I'd left it there for a reason) at a stop light.

Then on the way back had another thought about how to up a dramatic moment with a descriptive line that tagged directly into the real-world analogy at work in the novel.

My conclusion is that my muse is flirting with another one who just happens to live on Enfield. Maybe I should pass that way more often.

Why Am I Doing This?

My sweet (and very promising) friend Keri asked me yesterday if I thought that keeping this blog was in some way helpful to my process, and honestly, I hadn't really thought about it.

My initial reaction, which is what I'd told her, was that I thought it might make good fodder for speaking when the next novel was released and that it seemed a potentially interesting feature for the young adult audience increasingly likely to visit my site. Also, I supposed, I was trying to be hip (feel free to chuckle).

But having slept on it, I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that.

People often compare "birthing" a novel to "birthing" a child--that you forget the pain afterward. Part of me hopes this blog will serve as a reminder how much work and uncertainty and internal cheerleading is involved so the next time I sit down to do this, I won't be intimidated by my own most recently finished effort.

No more of that "But it'll never be this good!" whining for me! (Or at least less).

I'll remember that it can take a long--often challenging--path to get to that point, and that the journey is an end in itself.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Keyed In and Keyed Up

For those keeping track, I'm at 44,364 words, plus the 208 word author's note (that's 241 pages btw).

Keyed in changes today while watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A few paragraphs were rearranged for flow, a few words trimmed, but mostly it was about smoothing out transitions. I'd tightened so much with this last revision that some of the scene and focus changes had seemed jarring.

I imagine mythical reader curled up under the blankets reading this story, sinking in. I don't want him/her to put it down. And on occasion, I do want to jar him/her. But on purpose, not because I can't polish my prose.

I am really wired on iced tea right now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Delight Held

Finished the read-through, ironing out some flow issues. But again, nothing major. I'm going to key in changes tomorrow, let it sit through the end of the month (yes, I know I have zip credibility on that), and reread in early December.

Must say though, I'm likin' it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Have completely forsaken the idea of abandoning the mss for the moment. Began reading with the idea that I could rest this mss later instead. Got about 50 pages in, and the news is de-light-ful.

Definitely there's a need to smooth out some of the beats. Perhaps carnage from having cut too deeply--just for the sensibility of each passing moment. But big picture, saucy! Will continue in the a.m.

Lovely day at Daya (hair and mani/pedi--polish is tuxedo, a black with blue sparkles on top) and night on the town.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Gothic 101

Added another clarification line about the core mythology.

You'd think that would be the stuff I'd address first. But... Maybe because it was so obvious, I didn't pay enough attention to it.

I have to watch that. Sometimes I become so entranced with my supposed cleverness or twist that I forget the audience has expectations about the fundamentals. Bad Cyn.

Mostly, though, I'm reading multi-monster-verse novels. It's really tough, I think, once you hit book three plus not to get convoluted.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Manuscript Page 188

Researched manuscript page 188. Yowza.

Extended the exposition.

Something I don't do...lightly.

Devil in the Details

What is the name of that clock tower (not the clock tower, but that clock tower) by Town Lake anyway, and when does it chime, and should I make mention of it in the scene at the trail? Especially if no one, even locals, recognize it.

Can you hear the bands outside after midnight on Thursday on South Congress? What if you're across the street? Or is there already enough flavor of the music scene?

In December, I need to do a read aloud, perhaps up the beats. Terse is good at times, flow better at others.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Internal Growth

In fiction, "internal growth" is supposed to be a good thing. But if you look at the literal words, they sound kind of horrific and kind of gross.

So maybe we should call it "shape-shifting"? K would probably say so, but look who's talking.

When GK first read the mss, that was her question. My theory had been that because Q had been led so far astray, the goal for her growth and change should be to get back to her original humanity.

It was a good theory.

There was nada wrong with the theory.

Plenty of Gothic stories are like that.

But then having shifted Q's role at S, her relationship with D, and her voice, enough of the character had changed that there evolved a clear internal arc in both directions, back to the girl she was and the woman she's becoming. It's like driving the story in two directions at once--not for the faint O heart.

DW tends to skew minimalist on internal dialogue, which is all good, but last night I did add a few clarification lines here and there, sort of like traffic signs. As in, the story is going....this way-->

At least now I know where it's going.


Thursday, November 04, 2004


I'm at Central Market tonight, eating a square of dark chocolate with bottled water. Greg is checking us out at the register, and I glance over.

There, sitting on a bench beneath the painted tile mural is this young woman who to me just screams Central Austin. Everything about her. Her hair, her slouch, her musical accessories.

I just keyed someone who's got her look into a scene where I needed flavor.

She's flavor.

You'll notice what a bang-up job I'm doing letting the mss rest.

My hands are totally covered in pink ink again.

Attack of the Mundane

Due to intense weeks of writing, today will be filled with doing laundry, doing dishes, clipping cat nails, dusting, changing bed linens, sweeping floors, vacuuming rugs, and all those other nifty home duties that fell behind schedule.

But first, Blizzard, the puffy white cat, has pounced to purr on my lap so I really must pet him, and then maybe I'll take a hot bath because autumn has finally hit and it's really too chilly in this old house today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Just cut the author's note from 680 to 190 words. Much better.

Changing Mind

I'm rewriting the generational reference to be funnier and less specific to which generations are involved. People now will just link it to their contemporaries and future years will still find it applicable.

Now, I wonder, is it necessary to explain that some Austin houses do have basements? Mine does, but that is unusual. I can't imagine the general reader though would be interested in limestone hills and the water table.

The Connoisseur's Guide

New purchases include the Dracula: The Connoisseur's Guide by Leonard Wolf and a T-shirt featuring a wolf howling at the moon from Turquoise Trading Post.

I plan on wearing the T-shirt today to dinner and hope to start in on the book as a reward for outlining my upcoming speeches, though the latter may have to wait until tomorrow.

Driving down Burnet today, I realized that a paragraph that had been cut from the basement scene should probably go back in. I'm going to dig back into the previous draft and see if I can salvage it. I will not at this point write it back into the manuscript, but I will pull it and put it with the print-out in the file.

There's another line that's bothering me too because it includes a specific generational reference. Two actually--boomer and Gen Y, which arguably will date the book. But won't the cell phone references date it anyway? Maybe, maybe not. Will cell phones be called something else in the future? Will they be solar? I don't know. Humph.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Tall Dark & Hungry

The manuscript is secured in its folder and on multiple electronic back-ups. I haven't touched it since yesterday morning. Noon, maybe as late as noon.

Today I'm going to keep myself otherwise preocupied. I'll continue working on my class for next week, and I'm going to finish reading Tall Dark & Hungry by Lynsay Sands, which is a light, entertaining vampire romance. (As in a genre romance with a vampire leading male, not as in a gothic fantasy with a romantic element). I'm about halfway through, and from the back story references I'm pretty sure this is one of a line of vampire romances she's written. Checking... Yep, titles at the front include Love Bites and Single White Vampire.

In scarier news, I've resolved today to catch up my laundry. And then there's that election... Yikes! Talk about your nail-biters!

Monday, November 01, 2004


My name is Cynthia, and I fiddled with my author's note again today.

Probably no one will ever even read the author's note.

It's not necessary to understand the story.

The editor will think I'm just being self indulgent.

I like it and find it witty and fascinating.

I must now work on preparing to teach the YA novels class on Saturday.

I am backing away from the manuscript.

Really. I swear.