Archive for August, 2009

Publishing links

I’m clearing out tabs. These are some links I’ve come across (mostly from twitter) with publishing tips, news, etc, over the last couple of weeks.

Maggie Stiefvater with a Giant Butt-Kicking How to Write a Novel Post.

Stephen Pressfield on research as resistance.

Things you should be able to expect of your editor. (Yikes)

Nathan Bransford’s Book Publishing Glossary.

William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Jessa Crispin on Jeff Vandermeer’s Booklife. “To the other writing students, I would tell them another Booklife is possible. One where people are allies and not contacts, one where you work with the people who bring your best writing out of you, who are not necessarily at the highest profile or best paying publications.”

Kristin Nelson on how to get publicity money out of your publisher.

Nancy J. Parra on the perfect pitch.

Rachelle Gardner on tightening up your manuscript.

Rachelle Gardner, again, this time on myths v facts of publishing.

Posted on August 26th, 2009 by Eliza  |  2 Comments »

Weekly links

Once again, pulled mostly from what I posted on my twitter account.

Historical food timeline.
Medieval Gastronomy.
Trailer for the Fame remake, which I am exceedingly excited about. (youtube, unfortunately no embedding.)
My favorite protest sign so far this year.

I can’t stop shouting ZARDOZ at my husband.

22 free songs from Nylon mag. (itunes only, ends 31aug.)
Great post from Craftivism about making, seeing, being boldly.
Harlequin is going to sell those great paper goods featuring vintage covers.
The world’s hottest chili pepper, used in smoke bombs to keep wild elephants at bay.
Everyone’s probably already seen this, but John Scalzi on Star Wars universe design fails.
William Pitt the Younger, spendthrift.
For a good time, call.

Decemberists cover Bjork’s Human Behavior.

Doors to the Brooklyn Public Library.

The BANK that’s a FACE.

Target: Women on being old.

Posted on August 22nd, 2009 by Eliza  |  No Comments »

Mabeline redux

Today we went back to the vet for yet another follow-up. The tech weighed Mabeline and she was down almost another pound.

This is bad.

Mabeline took this opportunity to hiss at the poster on the wall (“The Top Ten Reasons Cats Visit the Vet!” featuring a kitten with GIANT EYES) and then growl at me some. I gave her pets. I understood how she felt.

The vet then suggested that we leave her for the ultrasound that we cancelled yesterday. She warned me that Mabeline’s belly would have to be shaved. I got the only amount of levity I could out of the situation, hoping instead that somehow she would end up with a lion cut. Alas, it was not to be.

I spent the day checking my cell phone every five minutes. Finally I broke down and called the vet’s office, only to find out that they were just finishing. An hour later, I finally spoke with the vet.

Everything is completely fine. No blockages, no funny masses, no heart disease, no bladder sand. And no lion cut. Final diagnosis? She probably doesn’t like the new food she got six weeks ago from the CAT DERMATOLOGIST. Apparently Rabbit and Green Pea is also an affront to justice.

Yes, I just spent many hundreds of dollars to find out that my cat is a picky eater.

My mom ran by to pick her up and bring home the bag of new food that we’re going to try out.

She called while standing my kitchen. “Do you think I should put some of the new food in a bowl?”

“Well,” I said. “Usually with cats you have to give them new food gradually and –”

“She’s eating!”

“What? The old food?”

“I just saw her take four big mouthfuls of the old food. Now she’s licking her lips.”

You know how some people order the $500 hamburger, just to say they’ve eaten it?

Since cats have no inherent right to dignity, here’s a picture of her shaved belly. It’s no lion cut, but it will do.


Posted on August 19th, 2009 by Eliza  |  3 Comments »

Meet Mabeline

mabeline is hiding

Or, as I’ve taken to calling her, the world’s most expensive cat. My husband and I adopted Mabeline (and later, our other cat, Amelie) six years ago from Tree House Animal Shelter. Tree House is awesome because it’s a house tucked away in a Chicago neighborhood that’s filled with CATS. It’s a no-kill shelter, so you’ll see everything from kittens to cats so old they can barely walk.

Tree House didn’t know Mabeline’s history when she arrived. She’d lived on the streets for a while, long enough to get a broken tooth in a fight and to have to spend some time in the feral room being rehabilitated before she was ready to move to the adoption floor. “I don’t understand why Mabeline hasn’t been adopted already,” the counselor told us. “We think she must have been someone’s pet, though.” We watched her follow a girl around, batting at the string that trailed off her floor-length coat, and decided she was the kitty for us. Incidentally, though she had been feral when rescued, her personality has never been anything but delightful. I suppose that’s why I keep her around.

I think that the time she was a stray probably wasn’t good for her health; she’s had to go to the vet much more than Amelie has — we adopted Amelie as a kitten from Tree House. But over the last two weeks I’ve spent more time in vets’ offices than I’d like.

She had to go to her regular vet for a check-up before she could go back for a follow-up at the cat dermatologist. (As an aside, yes, I DID feel like I should be featured on Stuff White People Like for taking my CAT to the DERMATOLOGIST. However we seem to have gotten to the bottom of the terrible ear infections that she’s been suffering from for six years and through five different vets (don’t get me started) so I’m grateful that they exist.) Then on Friday night she started having stomach troubles that lasted into Saturday. Her newest regular vet is literally five minutes away, luckily, so my husband was able to take her over that afternoon. She got a couple of injections and stopped vomiting.

And then we realized she wasn’t eating and we didn’t know the last time she had. It’s really, really bad if cats don’t eat for more than, say, a day — they can get fatty liver disease, which, left untreated, can be fatal. So on Sunday I went on a wild total freakout trying to get her to eat. I got advice to try and feed her baby food, yogurt, and kitten milk.

Of course, none of these worked. Have you ever smeared chicken baby food, which by the way smells like Satan’s flop sweat, on an unwilling cat’s face? First I had to catch her, though, which involved a chase up and down the stairs that would have been improved only by the addition of the Benny Hill song. I had to haul my mattress off my bed and pull half the slats up before I could grab her.

And then I fell down.

And then I finally took her downstairs and smeared disgusting stuff all over her face. For my troubles, I got scratched up. Mabeline then hid in the corner of the dining room, emerging only to glare at me balefully. I felt like my mother must have when I wouldn’t eat my vegetables.

Still, though, as much as I got a bit of food in her, she wasn’t eating. We took her into the emergency vet at 9pm. The emergency vet is never a cheerful place; one couple clearly had to put their dog down; another guy brought in a giant golden retriever who had eaten garbage. Later, I heard him on the phone — because I’m a terrible eavesdropper — say that the dog had eaten corn cobs. Corn cobs! From the look on the guy’s face, I surmised that corn cobs are not digestible.

While waiting for Mabeline to finish a round of subcutaneous fluids, we got to watch a show about how these deer broke into a liquor store and bad stuff almost happened. A family had gotten out right in time! The deer might have broken stuff, but they didn’t! The clerk could have totally gotten trampled, but he dodged them! I just looked the show up and apparently it’s called Untamed and Uncut. Just imagine how many people are disappointed when they tune into that one.

She perked up on the way home but still wasn’t normal, so yesterday we took her back to the original vet. For those counting, we’re now at three days in a row. The vet gave her an appetite stimulating pill and sent us home with a can of wet food that smelled, amazingly, worse than chicken baby food. Since Mabeline thinks wet food is an affront to justice and good taste, we also got three syringes with which to spray it down her throat. After being watered down, of course.

You see where this is going, no? It’s been a cat food apocalypse here for the last twenty-four hours. Have you ever tried to shove a syringe into a squirming cat’s mouth, with the hope that she’ll eat what you put there? At first she swallowed, but tonight she got crafty. She let the mess sit there and then spit it out everywhere. EVERYWHERE. She, of course, managed to do this before she was back on the ground, so both Peter and I got covered in it. This was about as pleasant as you’d imagine.

She somehow got food on the back of her head. No, I don’t know how.

There have been some small improvements. We plied her with cat treats until she finally deigned to eat some. I cried. She pretty much wants to eat just the treats, and only a few at that, but I caught her eating a few bites of kibble just now. We’re back to the vet for another follow-up tomorrow. I’m hoping we’re at the end of this little ordeal, if for no other reason than that she’ll somehow develop some other wallet-crippling malady soon, and I’d rather not deal with two at one time, please.

At my house, the rule is only one of us can go crazy at once. I’m thinking about extending that to the non-human occupants, too.

kitty drawer

Posted on August 18th, 2009 by Eliza  |  5 Comments »

Weekly Links

Culled mostly from things I posted on my twitter account (over there in the sidebar.)

Lots of good info over at Pimp My Novel.

Time Enough at Last, my favorite Twilight Zone episode.

Pet Sounds, a capella.

Crasher Squirrel.

Where I Write, offices of SFF writers.

Things You Wouldn’t Know if We Didn’t Blog Incessantly, my new favorite blog.

Shave that Unibrow!

The Top 5 Angriest Pet Models on Etsy.

Posted on August 15th, 2009 by Eliza  |  1 Comment »

I want to like ebooks

I really do.  To be clear, by ebooks I mean any book in electronic form, not books specifically made available only in electronic format.  That’s a hornet’s nest I am not ready to get into.

I have always been a voracious reader, and now that I’m in a fiction writing program it’s like I have given myself a license to buy ever more books.  Because it’s for school! In a way! Osmosis!  My nightstand is usually piled literally a foot high with my to-be-read pile.  I say usually, only because my idiot cats take turns knocking the pile down at 3am once or twice a week, so a lot of the time I have kind of a book carpet on my side of the bed.  For my last birthday I got myself an Amazon Prime membership.  That plus the Amazon iPhone app means that I sort of accidentally buy books all the time.  I just kind of… think of them, right, and then two days later the UPS driver is cursing me again.

In short, I am the PERFECT ebook customer: I love to read, I love gadgets and I have poor impulse control.

So why haven’t I taken the plunge to a dedicated ebook reader?

I’ve installed both Stanza and the Kindle apps on my phone.  They both have problems.  When I installed the Stanza program on my Mac, it was incredibly wonky and slow.  Nigh useless.  I couldn’t get the program to work when I wanted to buy something to sync to my phone so I ended up deleting it from my computer completely.  Buying books is a nightmare.  I still have the app installed on my phone — it’s much better than the Kindle app for Project Gutenberg books, for example.  I’m not a novice at all when it comes to technology, so if I throw up my hands trying to use the program, I know people less comfortable with tech aren’t going to bother.

For books I want to buy I use the Kindle, which has its own set of problems.  I have a really, really big aversion to the thought that my own books, the ones that I paid for, can be disappeared overnight and I HATE the built in DRM.  It’s interesting — I have no problem with the iTunes system, which has DRM on most of the music I’ve purchased from them.  Maybe I’m willing to put up with it for a dollar, but not much more.  Amazon does get it right when it comes to actually purchasing, though — the one-click system that so tempts me on the rest of the site works through the app just fine.

The Kindle itself has wireless internet, but from what I understand not all of the competitors (like the Sony) do, which is totally ridiculous.  I want to get a book when I’m out somewhere like in a restaurant or waiting in a line.  They need to hit readers when they’re bored.  If I’m at home, I have literally dozens of books I could choose from.  Out in public?  I’m at their mercy.  Make it easy for me to spend money.

There are a few things that are more pet peeves that I’m sure I could get over.  I like reading while lying in bed, for example.  I can use my phone that way, but let’s be honest.  Some of the romance is gone.  I also like knowing where, roughly, I am in a book.  I can’t tell if what I’m reading is an argument or an ineffective black moment.  When I have a book in my hand, I’m on more solid ground.

For now, my ebook reading apps are working for me.  I want to like ebook readers.  The price isn’t really that much of a barrier for me — I bought one of the original iPods when they were $500, due to the aforementioned poor impulse control.  But I want something I can put any book I buy on, without having to worry about cracking it or fighting with the device.

Is there anything I’m missing?  Some killer device that would make all my troubles go away?

Posted on August 12th, 2009 by Eliza  |  1 Comment »

The Fear

I spend a lot of time thinking about The Fear, enough so that the phrase somehow graduated to Capital Letters recently.  The Fear does a lot of things, but mostly it keeps me from doing my creative work.  The Fear tells me that perfectionism is a perfectly reasonable way to get through life.  The Fear tells me that my stories are insipid, my prose flat.  The Fear tells me that to be a good writer, I shouldn’t have to practice.  The Fear tells me that, no matter how much I practice, I’ll never sell it anyway.

Honestly, The Fear is kind of a jerk.

I’ve been looking back through some of my writing from maybe ten years ago.  Back then, I was writing on the web regularly.  I had a web journal, since the word blog hadn’t even been invented yet.  (And yes, the children can get off my lawn while I’m thinking of it.)  Going over my old work, I was struck with the immediacy of what I wrote, how I poured all of my emotions on to the keyboard.  The Fear was there then, too, I know, but I was able to ignore it long enough to get something done.  I don’t know how to get back to that place, but I’m going to try.

I know The Fear won’t go away.  I have friends, authors who have published multiple books, who tell me that The Fear is still there, but that it gets more complex.

I want to learn to listen to something else, that still voice, the one that says I can do this, that I can craft a novel, that I can tell a story that people want to read.

Here’s to small voices, out there in the dark.

Posted on August 5th, 2009 by Eliza  |  2 Comments »