Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writer's Voice 2015 - Ghosts of Rag & Bone (YA - contemporary fantasy, 85,500 words complete)


Lauren Rousseau doesn't want to be her sister's keeper, but somebody has to watch Wendi. Ever since Grandmother Winifred ended up in a Sacramento care facility, just two hours away from Lauren and her family in Reno, Wendi has gone missing.

Their parents don't see the changes in blond, athletic Wendi. Their freelance painter father is trying to balance advertising work with his own art. Their CPA mother is trying to expand her business. If anything they might think Wendi is a little more daydreamy and disconnected than usual, but she's 17. They expect it. 

It's Lauren who sees that her older sister's lost interest in her passions, like running, playing softball and teasing Lauren. And there's the way the family cats react to her, hissing, growling and running away. The way Wendi seems to fade until she's almost transparent. The way she doesn't talk anymore, or eat. Or smile. The way, sometimes, she's not there at all.

Lauren also sees Wendi's terror every time the family visits Winifred, the way Grandmother perks up at the same time Wendi shuts down. The facility staff is thrilled to see the family arrive, every time; family visits change Winifred's violent bad days into good ones. Their father is awed by his older daughter's effect on his mother. Only Lauren sees Wendi's repulsion as their bitter, angry grandmother strokes her face and calls her pretty, and steals something from her, every time. By the end of each visit, Wendi is a little more wraith, a little less Wendi. A little less of a sister, or anything at all.

Lauren sees their grandmother looking back from her sister's eyes, sees Grandmother become alert as Wendi becomes unresponsive, and Lauren believes the impossible is happening: Grandmother Winifred is taking Wendi's life. When Winifred's health declines and Wendi starts disappearing physically, Lauren is ready to do anything to save her sister, even follow her into worlds that exist only in the imagination of the three Rousseau women, real worlds that appear when there's need and disappear without warning, the same way memory does.

I am a member of Oregon Writer's Network, and a graduate of Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. A long-time desert rat, I live in Reno, where Ghosts of Rag & Bone is set. To date I've sold 145 short stories, to anthologies and magazines, including a story in "Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers," which also featured stories by John Updike, Peter Straub and T.C. Boyle, and a story in Cosmos (circ. 300,000). As a ghostwriter, I've seen 18 nonfiction books come to print.

I've pasted the first 250 words of Ghosts of Rag & Bone after this letter, and can provide a full synopsis. Ghosts of Rag & Bone is a YA contemporary fantasy, complete at 85,500 words. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.


Jennifer Rachel Baumer

The first 250 words 
           The frayed wood sign over the shop door read: "Remains: Rags & Bones" and Lauren wanted – maybe needed – to see what wonders waited inside. She knew in the back of her mind she ought to wait for Wendi. If she were honest with herself, it wasn't even back of the mind stuff. It was front and center. She needed to wait for her sister. Her mother had turned them loose within the cul-de-sac of eclectic Sacramento shops and only because the street looked like a craft fair, self-contained and crowded. Even then they were only to be out of mother's sight for a short time and with the prohibition that they go nowhere without each other.
            It was hardly any kind of freedom at all except Lauren knew how very easy it was to slip away from her careless, dreamy sister. So they wandered together, until something distracted Wendi.
            The inside of the shop was dark, and colder than she expected. When the bell over the door chimed a voice called from somewhere in the back, "Make yourself at home," or maybe it was, "Make yourself a gnome," which totally made as much sense as anything else she might expect in the crazy, jumbled shop she'd stumbled into.
            Just a quick look around to identify all the clearly unrelated glories and she'd go find Wendi.
            The sunlight shoved its way into the shop with her, then hung suspended, seemingly uncertain how to proceed under the weight of dust.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beautiful spring. But wet. Very wet. Ready for summer and the 90s and 100s.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring cleaning and the fine art of procrastination

It's windy as anything today - sky is gray with grit being blown and we woke around noon (got to sleep at 6:30 a.m. with birds starting to chirp) to the sound of the house being battered with grit and just hard slamming winds. The cats are all electric furred and delighted, rampaging through the house.

In the spirit of novels and actually Getting Something Done, which has been on hold while I keep writing and writing and writing which is wonderful but doesn't result in stories ever getting into the hands of readers because I'm working on the next and the next and the next, I took four hours last night and finally organized everything I have for each novel I should be marketing or doing something with.

This is something I've been wanting to do at the same time I have not been finding time for it primarily because the next story has come along. But last night I wrote 8 pages (and it was an all fiction day, so that was irritating) and then flatly didn't want to write anymore. That's unusual enough to not worry about so I went and did the notebook.

The project was sneered at by a writer friend and to some extent by my husband, as being the sort of thing one does to distract oneself from actually sending something to an editor. These two are often right and call me on my avoidance techniques. This time, though, it was the back of brain message: You have got to get things organized before you try to move forward. Which I kept translating as Clean your office before you start, which granted is always a possibility as it is always covered in paper, pens, books, printed out paper, more books, cat fur and cats.

Only this time the voice saying Get organized was right. Because now I have all my proposals, back cover copy, blurbs, final copies, etc. in one place with all the file names recorded so I can go right to them in the computer. I know which books have complete packages for either submitting or posting. I know which books are missing part of the package. I know where I have books with no packages and packages with no books (because I want to write them, soon).

Spring cleaning, a la writer. And to celebrate, I suppose, this morning Rick and I opened up two computers and extracted their hard drives as from what I can tell, if your computer dies and will not under any circumstances work and give you your stories and pictures and so on, you should take it to A Foreign Country Computer People Suspect of Bad Computer Karma and tell them it's all your financial info and apparently they can make it work again. There are all these arcane solutions for destroying the things – hit them with a rock, anger Zeus and duck the thunderbolt so it hits the hard drive, soak it in soda so that all the dangerous chemicals are floating around in a bucket in your house (love that one). After reading these endless argumentative geeky solutions, thunderstruck that a computer that won't work for me at all is apparently bound and determined to go spill my presumably very valuable personal data to the evil hoards of That Foregin Country's hackers (or something), I decided to hit them with a hammer (the hard drives, not the hackers, I can't afford to go to That Foregin Country and probably you can't take a hammer as carryon), wrap them in plastic and duct tape and when it's nice out, ask Rick to create some cement stepping stones, and bury these things like bodies.

And of course the really cool thing is that I replaced those two desk top computers in 2009. The project has only taken three years so far....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing What Isn't the Other

I'm a newcomer to emotions. Most of my life, until some time in 2008 as best I can recall, my emotions were loud and messy and confined largely to happy/sad and not a lot of wiggle room. I had highs and lows and mediums, but my emotions were not complex. They were surface.

In the last three years or so, I've started figuring them out. I don't much like them. I find them inconvenient, even messier, often painful, sometimes frightening. Happiness that's not surface but is complex? Damned scary.

But with regard to the writing, they started there. At a workshop in early 2008 in Lincoln City, Oregon, I turned in a SF story about a new virus on Earth doing devastating things (I don't suppose a new cold virus would get anyone's attention, after all.) My main character was a veterinary virologist who was on the right track (she wasn't alone, there were large organizations tracking it, she was just my main character) and it hit home for her when her teenaged stepson contracted the virus.

OK so far? But this scientist, she attacked the problem as I would have. She expected (or I as writer expected) that everyone around her would understand the best course of action was to find a cure, work day and night, and solve the problem. She expected everyone knew that she loved her stepson and that she didn't have to stop the action and make an announcement.

She and I were wrong. My readers in the workshop wanted to know that she was emotionally impacted by her son contracting the virus.


So later that year, in another much more intense workshop with a lot less sleep to go on I wrote a novelette that concerned itself with suicide and alien invasions and humans being much more inhuman to each other than the inhuman aliens landing here and I let it all in - the emotions, twisted and confusing and messy. And it met with the best of compliments from one of my instructors - looking for the place she could say I lost her and she put her editor line on the page and stopped reading, she never stopped. She read the entire story, which was the longest one of the 20 turned in (they all had to be over 10,000 words, and we had three days to write them).

The point of the story is, having been awakened, the emotions aren't leaving. They seem to be dragging truth along with them and the lot of them show up at inconvenient times. I was recently writing what I considered urban fluff. My own category. It was a silly little fantasy story, not meant to be long, not meant to be important in any way. It was just FUN.

And then, as I looked about for where the story was going, the emotions showed up, and truth, and they brought with them a theme, and they all set up camp. The story got longer, the writing got harder and one minute I was writing and the next I was out of the zone, wide awake and playing solitaire. Why?

Because I'd just tapped something from myself. I'd just tied into a theme from my own life and wrote my own emotions or at least some semblance of them, mixed up with truth. It was alarming and I shot out of my comfort zone and some time later when I described the story to another writer friend, she said, "That's FLUFF?" "Well, not anymore," I admitted.

So today I was supposed to have lunch with a friendly acquaintance I haven't seen in a long time. We set up the lunch weeks ago at her suggestion and I didn't email her yesterday to ask if we were still on, a habit I've been in for a very long time, just a short, quick, "Hi, we still on?" Didn't do that. Got to her office and she wasn't there. She wasn't anywhere. And because I've lately been stressed and tired and sick, I wasn't 100 percent sure I had my date right, or that I really was supposed to meet at her office (though I clearly remembered her saying "You can see my new office!" I was willing to doubt my own sanity). Plus I had never been to the restaurant she'd proposed we walk to from her office, and hadn't gotten the full name or the address. So unlikely I was supposed to go there.

Still, that niggling what have I done wrong feeling plagued me. And I wondered, as I called her cell and finally went home and emailed her, how do you write the other when it isn't? I was not particularly emotional about the event, and it wasn't an event to be particularly emotoinal about. Turned out to be a case of missed connections and her virtual calendar failing (and my not-so-virtual smugness that my paper calendar rarely crashes...) But had I missed a connection, had I showed up at the restaurant after calling her and determining that was whwere I was supposed to be, how do I write the embarrassment of that, writing an other that's actually a me? And how do I write what I haven't experienced?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flying under the radar

Maybe if I tried to only post once a month I'd succeed in doing it three times a week? I seem contrary as a cat. It never seems possible as much time has gone past as actually has.

Short update. I'm about to jump into fiction after doing 2 of 5 short blurb nonfiction things that took less time than I could have expected but more time than I wanted them to, and an afternoon of financial things I don't understand and other work that several friends have so generously loaned me their expertise on that I'm amazed and grateful.

But the jumping isn't going well. I turned in the last assignment close to an hour ago. I should be writing by now. I should at the very least want to be writing by now. I certainly wanted to earlier.

I'm thinking the fiction has to come first again. I don't know how. I have no idea how to drive off the nagging terror that I'm not making money and justifying my existence before I do the thing I love rather than after -- All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy -- but I used to do it. And I want it back.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Process, Possibly Painful

Not the writing itself, but the getting to where I can.

We are moving. This seemingly simple statement appears to actually be a euphemism for We are sitting in the house we're supposed to be moved out of, staring at a great many things that aren't even close to packed, many of which are breakable and have their own original boxes and packing, though we don't know where, and many of which are large, heavy and unwieldy (cats, for example, and entertainment units) and we're moving those and a major appliance and all the stuff in the kitchen. I predict, with optimism, that we will finish our move in 2015. Late 2015.

In the meantime, I'm writing around the move as best I can. Not because I'm wonderful and dedicated and all that, but because of a recent awakening that shook me up and that I don't believe I've chronicled here and therefore should, because it was definitely process-intensive and shook me up.

But I am writing. More than usual. 2000 word days when I can, and a lot of swearing when I can't. And what amazes me is the number of things that come up to stop it. This past week I wrote 4896 words on Tuesday and 3019 words on Wednesday. Thursday I had several short articles due, and every intention of doing them within a specific time frame, doing some moving and errands, having midnight tea with another night owl (we meet by phone Thursday night or Friday morning at midnight and drink tea and talk.) Furthermore, the short articles I was doing were actually due on Friday, but I was doing them Thursday in order to take Friday to do nothing other than a lunch meeting and FICTION.

So here's what really happened. The schedule I'd set for myself - the how long errands had to take, the unpacking and refilling of a bookcase at the new house, the driving home again to the current/old house - all that took only 30 minutes longer than I'd budgeted, which was fine. Some of the other stuff for that day was random and didn't have to be done right then. But the short articles I'd figured would be done after I talked to Rick on his "lunch" break (8:30 p.m. and why don't they just call it dinner?) and before talking to the midnight friend and afterwards I'd have a treadmill run AND do a little fiction on Thursday, too.

Nope. The articles which should have been done in three hours (they're specific, have very controlling guidelines, and are very short) took six. The midnight tea was shorter than usual, but between the extra 30 minutes everything else took, and losing three hours on the articles, I had 50 minutes left when I finished and, logically, since my brain was tired and the stories required catching up to where I'd been, I gave up and watched "Friends" until Rick got home.

OK, I can deal. I'm grouchy, because not writing on the day before an all-day-for-writing day means it balances out word-count-wise and is kind of a waste of time. The all day fiction is still wonderful, but it doesn't really up my word count for the week. Still, I was looking forward to Friday.

So here's what happened to Friday.

Friday I woke after 5 hours sleep (we didn't get to bed till after 5 a.m. and I'm very tired of the nocturnal thing, not to mention just very tired) so I could shower and make the 40 minute drive to the lunch. The lunch itself was good in some ways, in that more was accomplished or at least will be and the magazine it was for is doing better than I thought, so all in all I'm glad I went, but curious about some of it. Several people had to leave between 1:00 and 1:30 and the published didn't start talking actual publishing things until then. For the majority of lunch, it was just lunch. I had figured on 90 minutes tops, and it was 150 - 2 and 1/2 hours. Granted, good things happened for me and the nonfiction (pays the mortgage) writing in that last hour, but I had intended to leave at 1:30, run by the new house briefly and be home by 3:00. Writing.

That didn't happen. At all. I didn't get to the new house until 3:00, and once there, sick of fighting to get to the fiction*, I chose to head over to the Humane Society and spend some time both scoping out who to talk to for an upcoming article and petting a bunch of cats.

(*Sometimes when I fight, fight, fight all the things that need doing and want doing and so on to get to the fiction, the fiction feels put out and just sulks once I'm there. I'm not sure if this falls into the category of the way once I get caught up recording rejections for stories more come in [a bit magic] or if it's just that sometimes when I have to keep dealing with reality, it's harder to fall into fantasy. But it happens more than I'd like.)

Just before I got to the Humane Society something caused me to look at the horrid truck's dash displays. Rick says I must have noticed something, or heard something, without being aware. But something made me look, and the truck was running just a whisker away from the red. Amazingly hot. As well, it was 3:22 or so, and he starts work at 3:30, which meant he'd already be in Herlong, but he wasn't actually working. So I parked in the county complex and called him promptly and he told me how to do a great many things I didn't know how to do - checking things, opening things to begin with, etc. - whereupon I was able to report back that the coolant in the overflow container was actually boiling and spitting through a hose to nowhere that was attached to the overflow.

The long and short of which is that he drove back from Herlong, forsaking the Friday overtime day, and I wish it could have happened at 2:30 when he'd been in Reno, but of course I was still at the meeting and antsy and trying to leave. And I went into the Humane Society and talked to a lot of cats and a lot of people and spent the hour I'd likely have spent there and Rick came back and did things to the truck and took it home with me driving the car which, though it's mine, now felt like sitting in a deep, dark hole - one gets used to the tall of a truck.

I was giddy happy all of Friday night, having him home. I made pizza and we watched "The Bourne Identity." But there was no fiction and only a few hundred words Saturday when I had an off moment.

There was, actually, a point to this but I can't identify it now. Perhaps persistence (someday I will tire of this alliteration), though I didn't win through. I was so happy having Rick home I didn't write Friday (I can't write when he's home anyway) and only wrote something like 350 words Saturday while he was washing the truck. Today we're going to the new house and I have half a mind to pull out the laptop that's already there and play with a novel proposal while he drywalls a beam, but it wont work. Reality says I'll be interrupted too often and the idea is crazy-making.

Maybe my point is nothing more than this: Sometimes not writing is not your fault. Next post: When not writing was absolutely my fault.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A short, kind of process-y, nonfiction intrusion

So this is going to be short, because I'm going to go do fiction in a few minutes, because I've been annoyed to find that I have finally played a fiction writer's game with myself and managed to find a way to make fiction impossible for me to do. That annoys me not because I have always felt superior to fiction writers who weird themselves out, but because I have simply never done so before and really didn't need to learn how to start.

But in a short aside on the nonfiction (pays-the-rent) front, I'd just like to note something to those people who give assignments from those of us who write the assignments.

Basically. Writers who write for a living are excited to get work. Sometimes we're even excited by things that look like they're going to be really hard and hurt our brains. We're weird that way and, at least in my case, if I didn't love it, I wouldn't be doing it.

But. If you give a writer writing work and request the writer do the following 5 things on the project (Things 1 through 5) and the writer sends back Things 1 through 5 and maybe Things 6 through 10 because they looked helpful or professional or logical or could be discarded if unwanted, that's fine. No reason to pat the writer on the head. No need to say thank you for being so thorough and professional. That's fine. The writer was simply moved to go the extra step, or believed in the project, or likes to give more value for the invoice. Writer doesn't need patting.

What isn't fine is if the writer is given an assignment to do Things 1 through 5, and comes back with 1 through 5 done, and done well, and accompanied by Things 6 through 10 as extras but still things that took time/research/writing/whatever, it is not fine to then say nothing more than "Where are Things 11 through 15?"

And if the writer follows up with an email that reads "Following up" in the subject line and goes on to offer whatever may be needed to complete the project past what she was hired to do, it is not nice to say "I've been struggling with it for two days, what a pain" without clarifying if this is the writer's fault or something weird going on with the project, about which the writer had no clue. Writers being creative people, we will assume the worst.

... That said, there's something really nice about getting past the point of worrying endlessly "Will the client want to work with me again? Will he? Will he? Will he?" and starting to think, "Do I want to work with the client again? Hmmm."