Take That, You Bastard

Andrew Karre occasionally opens up Carolrhoda for unsolicited submissions, and it seems that he's had his fill of Pollyanna narrators.

He says: "I’m going to ask that you all send me your bastards (of all genders, naturally). Send me your problematic narrators, your cousins of little 6655321, your children of Humbert. In short, heroes need not apply. I’m not looking to like your narrators, but I’m hoping to adore your prose.

I don’t want really care about cover letters, so you can cut and paste this into the body of the email to which you attach your complete ms:

Please find attached a book narrated by a loathsome brute. Take him or leave him, but don’t like him.

In addition, if you’re inclined, I would welcome a brief note about your favorite unsympathetic narrator and why he or she won you, in spite of it all."

So if you have one of those books that all the crit partners kept saying, "I don't really like your MC," then send it in by March 25. I'm thinking along the lines of some of Saki's works, or possibly some of the stuff that shows up in Crow Toes Quarterly.

FIDO: ever faithful

Zombies seem to be everywhere these days, so my husband rolled his eyes when I put in the disc for FIDO, another zombie movie. But we both ended up liking this one. Zombies give me the heebie-jeebies, but I can tolerate them better with a dose of humor.

FIDO delivers on the wry humor (I almost said "tongue-in-cheek" but that takes on a different tone when you're talking zombies)--like Pleasantville meets Shaun of the Dead (another must-see that I've blogged about), which sounds like an odd mix but actually works. I was surprised when I looked back and saw that it got an R rating for "zombie related violence." I've seen gorier movies with a PG-13 rating.

Here's the trailer:

A Tourist in Your Own Town

My current work-in-progress is set in a fictional small town in California's Gold Country (fictional because it's an amalgamation of several towns) called Crow's Rest. So to help me establish the details and the atmosphere, my husband and I set out for a drive to some nearby Gold Rush-era towns last weekend.

Camera in hand, we visited some spots that the locals know about, like this historic cemetery:

where I found the perfect character name:

There's an interesting dichotomy, in that the locals are sometimes unaware of the nearby treasures. I used to be a docent at a historic park and the highway runs right through the middle of it; I'd have people tell me, "I've lived in the area for years and I never stopped to see what was here until now." Usually they were there with their child's fourth grade class, as a required field trip for California history.

As a historical fiction writer, one of my favorite places is a real snapshot of history in Sutter Creek: when the owner of a general store passed away in the 1950s, she left the store and its contents to the city, to be used as a museum or library. It's now a museum, with goods from the 1890s all the way through the mid-20th century, but it's rarely open because they don't have enough volunteers to staff it. My husband and I lucked out and got to go inside one afternoon, and I could have spent hours in there.

And yet, people that have lived in the area for years have no idea that it's there. I kind of like the feeling of it being a bit secret, but it's a shame that it doesn't get more attention. You know who usually knows about these kinds of places, though? It's the local kids. How great is it to grow up in a place where ruins and old mines are literally in your backyard?

What about you--have you recycled bits of your locale or hometown into your writing?

Squeamish Tuesday

Squeamish Tuesday: a Teaser Tuesday that is not for the squeamish, because it contains stinky things and injuries.

The set up: Spirits from the Vasty Deep is an historical (1851) and this section is newly-added. Olivia has taken a position as assistant to Mr. Oakleigh, an obsessive naturalist who has asked her to tackle some preserved specimens for cataloguing:

I was not generally squeamish, which had served me well thus far as Mr. Oakleigh's assistant, but some of these specimens had been pickled haphazardly at best. Today's selection included those so poorly preserved that merely cracking the seal and releasing the fumes nearly knocked me from my seat. Then I had to reach into the sludgy mess with a pair of long forceps, and extract whatever flesh and bones could be saved.

But fortunately not all were so horrible, and a few of the fish must have been truly beautiful in life. I recognized one or two from the fish mongers, so I was able to guess their original colors more accurately.

One particular particular denizen of the sea fascinated me; with its lumpy appearance and frilly attachments it resembled nothing so much as a disanimated section of reef. I stood and placed it on a blotter where I could spread it out and examine it more closely, curious to see if the bits of what looked like lichen were part of its skin, or another organism attached to it.

But as I articulated the dorsal fin, I felt a sharp jab in the meat of my thumb, followed by a burning sensation racing up my arm. I drew in a sharp breath and cradled my hand to my chest, but the pain grew so intense that I wobbled on my feet.

"Mr. Oakleigh . . ." I hissed.

"Hmm?" He did not look up from the stack of papers he was sorting.

"Mr. Oakleigh," I said more firmly, "I'm wounded—that blasted fish stung me."

"Oh?" Now I had his attention. "Let me take a look at that."

I held out my throbbing hand as he approached, but he reached past me to the specimen I'd been handling. "Fascinating," he commented. "Which part injured you?"

"A spike in the dorsal fin, I believe." When he continued to poke and prod the fish, I said, "Mr. Oakleigh, the fish will still be there later, but my hand needs attention now."

"Hmm? Quite so, but we'll be sure to document your symptoms." He examined the puncture and surrounding tissue, already red and puffy past my wrist.

"There do not seem to be any spines or barbs left behind," he said. "This looks to be a reaction to venom."

"Can you do anything for it?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"When I was collecting specimens in the field and one of us got stung, there were two remedies that helped," Mr. Oakleigh mused. "One was to immerse the hand in very hot water, and the other was to bathe it in urine."

I recoiled. "I'm willing to try the hot water treatment."

At my expression, Mr. Oakleigh hastened to reassure me, "Oh, it doesn't have to be human urine. I could send down to the dyers for a jug of bovine urine."

"The. Hot. Water." I spoke clearly and firmly.

"Suit yourself," he said, shrugging. "I'll have Mrs. Chatsworth heat some."

In the meantime, I sank into a chair and laid my swimming head on the upholstered arm. Mr. Oakleigh sat across from me and proceeded to interrogate me.

"Now, what are your symptoms? Describe any neurological, mental, and physical complaints as best you can."

"A burning pain shooting up my arm, lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, and a lack of patience for more questions," I said waspishly.

He looked up from his note-taking, and raised his eyebrows. "I believe I must add irritability to the list of symptoms."

"If you must."

RTW and some news!

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: Who are your favorite literary couples?
You know -- the ones you like by themselves, but LOVE together!

First, some nominations in adult titles: Sookie and any of her many lovers (but especially Eric), Claire and Jamie in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, and Jack and Eliza in Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson.

For YA: Mary "Jacky" Faber and Jared in the Bloody Jack books, Blossom and Alexander in Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck, and Aislinn and Seth from Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series.

What do all these various couples have in common? Each half of the whole is a fully-realized character, with a "real" life taking place offstage. No sitting by the phone waiting for a call for these love interests!

And now for some news! My video pitch was chosen to be critted for Pitch University's Pitch Evaluation Lab! What's more, I impressed agent Christine Witthohn so much that she asked me to send her the full manuscript of my book!

I would really encourage people to dive in and submit a video--it's a great learning experience, and it just may lead to a request!

P.S. for another example of my burgeoning mad video-ing skills, check out this special video for Valentine's Day

Are You Ready to be Schooled?

Pitch University launches their first "Pitch U Pitchfest Week," wherein agent Christine Wittohn of BookCents Literary Agency will consider your pitches. If a video pitch intimidates you, they've added options for audio and written submissions to ease you into the process.

There are lots of details to get straight, so be sure to read the rules carefully. I recorded a pitch last week that I liked, and after re-reading their rules I discovered that I'd left out the important "completed" tag. So I tackled it again, and I thought I'd post the result today, in case anyone sees some glaring errors I need to fix by Sunday.

And as a bonus, some advice to prospective pitchers on word choice: beware dangerous word combinations like "sets a ship," or you could end up with a blooper like this:

Yes, I said "Olivia Herald sets a shit" before I cracked up. Mom would be so proud.

If you'd like to read the text of the pitch, it's the same one that's on my Novels page above.

O Magazine Wants Poems!

For a special poetry issue of O Magazine, Oprah.com is calling for your favorite poems. They can be your original work, or a poem that particularly moves you.

Open to submissions through February 11, so hurry! Tried to embed a video with an invitation to submit your poems from the guest editor, Maria Shriver, but I'll have to give you the link instead: