Saturday, October 29, 2011

What I'll be doing instead of NaNoWriMo

I'd like to think that I'll be spending the month of November in the exact opposite spirit of NaNoWriMo, but editing isn't really the opposite of writing. What would the opposite of writing be? Not writing? That's hardly any fun. At any rate, I made a firm decision last year that I wouldn't be doing NaNoWriMo again. This might be a strange declaration considering I am a writer, or a wannabe writer at least. I won't re-hash my reasons, but they can be found here, in my post after last year's writing marathon.

So, editing. I'm going to spend the month of November (and probably several more to come, really) editing manuscripts. I want to call this the opposite of NaNoWriMo, because the organizers encourage participants to write as much as possible and edit later (if ever...). I'm also going to send out a couple of manuscript submissions, both to the same publishing house. Putting my eggs into one basket? I don't think so. This is just the first step. I've decided to query Tor since they're one of the few large publishers I've seen that will accept unsolicited manuscripts. I'm sending both Nora (YA speculative fiction), and Ava (YA/adult cross-over fantasy) off.

Nora should be ready within a week (once my American stamps arrive--kindly supplied by a friend living in the US). I've tweaked a few more things in the opening chapter, but otherwise I'm to the point where every time I re-read it I just change a word here or there, but I'm no longer making substantial edits. Ava (who's story is entitled Cimwai's Bay) needs more TLC. I worked on her (which was also pretty much the last time I looked at it) three years ago. I submitted her to Luna, but well you can probably guess it wasn't accepted. After opening up the manuscript this week I'm actually pretty please with the writing. It needs cleaning up to be sure, but it's not the hot wreck I feared it might be. I should have the submission package for this manuscript ready by mid/late November.

Of course, my manuscripts are going to the Tor editors' slush piles and getting a response could take months. In the meantime I'll go through the rest of the Ava's story and then probably start taking a look at the second and third manuscripts of Nora's tale. They were both NaNoWriMo projects and need A LOT of work. I looked at The Cause (book 2) back in September, and in a matter of days hacked out almost 3,000 words from the first 3 chapters (want to ask me again why I dislike NaNoWriMo?).

And then? Well that will all depend on the response I get from Tor. Rejection will mean a return to querying. I've got a couple of Canadian YA Publishers I'd like to try with Nora. Ava, I'm not quite sure what I'll do. If I get a request for more? Well after the happy dance, I'll send more, then continue to wait. I probably shouldn't make any plans beyond that. One thing's for sure, even with an offer of publication I'll have to keep working. The average author doesn't get rich off their craft and I'd probably need to be checked into a mental health facility if I though I'd be any different. If I got two offers (now I'm really dreaming of heavenly pie)...I might be able/have to to keep my sanity reconsider the day-job thing.

That's all for now, I'll give an update of the writing situation at a later date.



Monday, October 17, 2011

Wedding cake, the fourth

I made another wedding cake this weekend (wedding date: October 14th). This one was a bit odd in a couple of ways. For starters, I made the cake in one place then transported it to another to do the decorating. Second, I only had part of a day to complete the work (i.e. I started icing at 8:30 am Friday, and had to be finished by 4:00 pm for the wedding). Also different (although not the least bit odd), I used my very own stand mixer to make the cake. We've been saving up Canadian Tire money for months and we finally had enough for me to cover the entire cost of a Cuisinart Stand Mixer. It's beautiful, and fast and it's my new baby (although I'll still kneed my bread by hand).

I baked the cake two weeks ago—bottom layer of chocolate, middle layer of vanilla, and two layers (another middle, and a small) of chocolate-vanilla zebra-stripped—then slipped them into our new cube freezer. Last week I made the leaves and set them out to dry in an egg carton to achieve the curled-up look. Then on Friday I set to finishing the decorations. I should point out that the lovely Andrew assisted me a here. Being busy the couple of days leading up to the wedding he was kind enough to level out the cakes for me and apply the first (crumb) layer of icing. Then Friday morning I slathered on two more layers of buttercream plus the fondant. I had all three layers suited up by about 11:30.

I find that the application of buttercream and fondant almost always take the longest. This might be because I've yet to do a really complex cake design, but it only took me another hour and a half to complete the cake. I'd changed my mind several times over how I wanted to decorate it. At first I'd thought I might go for some type of medieval theme, but quickly recognized that I simply didn't have the time for that. Then I settled on the fall theme, but wasn't sure how I should accomplish the motif. I scoured through cake pictures, toyed with the idea of drawing with a paint brush and food colouring, to finally settling on this piping/brushing technique. Naturally I'd never tried it before. Whatever. It worked. I was reasonably happy with the result, and the couple seemed pleased too.
Full-length shot of the cake.
Close-up on the side, showing the piping/scrolling work.
Top down shot, catching the leaves on top.
Mmmm...cake. I'm thinking of doing one for the Hallowe'en party I'm going to.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The mistake I made (and others I will likely make in the future)

In grade 4 we received stars for our spelling tests based on how close we were to perfect. Something like a gold star for no mistakes, silver for 1, bronze for 2, etc. I have always been challenged by spelling (I really hated it when I'd ask how to spell something and be told to sound it out. If I knew how to spell it based on it's sound, I wouldn't be asking for help...). I was a good student aside from spelling and eventually my teacher granted me a special star for having only 4 mistakes because I did try and I think I may have been upset that I had very few spelling stars.

I'm also challenged by grammar. I've read several books on the subject (including the popular Eats, Shoots, and Leaves) and I've taken a couple of copy editing courses. Still I tend to apply the rules of the English language in my own unique way. I partly blame the school system, which to my recollection spent very little time on teaching grammar outside of what nouns, verbs, and pronouns were (useful knowledge for playing Ad Libs). The other part is me, I suppose. The rules just won't sink in. I've always had to have someone proof reading my school assignments. My mother when I was younger, my husband after we were married. He says I've improved since when he first read my work, but the typos and other mistakes I make can leave something to be desired (I also fear he's getting too fluent in Andrea-ese to pick up on my errors).

Despite my best efforts to spell-check and proof read my blog posts, errors slip in. I try. I really do. Even in my The Cure manuscript (which has been read by four or five people other than myself) I found errors in my last read-through. Oi. So, when I discovered the typo in my most resent blog post I let out a huge groan. How could I make such a blatant error and not catch it? Admittedly, I sometime forget to check my titles, but still. What, pray-tell is the ESP? E-S-P? Double Oi.

ESO. Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. My apologies.

I know I could have just changed my blog post title. I get about 3 or 4 page hits per post, so it's not as if many people saw my mistake. Still--ugh.



Friday, October 7, 2011

New seats and a new season at the ESP

Last Friday (September 30th) night was our first ESO concert of the year. As noted in the title, Andrew and I decided to request new seats this year. As much as I loved having the dead centre, first row spot, we were getting tired of having to crawl over other patrons' knees to get to them. Now we're sitting in the stage right loge. We have lots of room to stand and move around, and we can shuffle our chairs around to get a better view if we want. The only downside, is we'd have to snuggle right up to the railing to get a full view of the orchestra, which might annoy our section companions--although it's just the violas and some of the brass I can't see. Regardless, I think we both liked our new spots, as neither one of us had sat in a loge before.

Three pieces were on the program on Friday. Two classics, and one brand new piece by the ESO composer in residence, Robert Rival. His piece was titled Scherzo and both Andrew and I enjoyed it. I heard little hints of other pieces I like, which I think is why it resonated with me. It started out with a rhythmic staccato section, which reminded me of the music from the movie, Catch Me if you Can (John Williams). The middle section was a flowing waltz with the melody jumping around the woodwinds. Finally it ended with a lively string section that brought Aaron Copland (I think the Grand Canyon suite in particular) to mind. Rival says in the program notes that he wrote this piece of music to be fun, which I think he managed. It was also originally scored for 9 instruments, then expanded to the version we heard (a small wind section, with the full string complement).

The second selection of the evening was Mozart's 41st Symphony--known as the Jupiter Symphony. I'm not too sure what to say here, I mean it's Mozart, it's the ESO, it was very lovely. This was the last symphony that Mozart wrote, although it was still 3 years before his death, and apparently he'd initially titled it the Zeus Symphony. It was the publisher who changed it to Jupiter.

After intermission was Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major with guest violinist Karen Gomyo. Karen studied at Julliard (when she was 11 years old), Indiana University, and the New England Conservatory of Music. Not to mention, she plays on a Stradivarius violin purchased for her by a private donor. So, was she any good, you might ask? Yeah. She was good. I actually got a little choked up after her opening stanza. When I read in the program that the concerto was 50 minutes long (who else but Beethoven would write a mammoth concerto like that?) I was a little worried it might get tedious, but it didn't. It was fantastic. I'd said to Andrew before the music began that I wasn't sure if this was a piece I knew (I recognize a lot of classical music, but I don't always know what it is), but when we got to the final movement recognition struck. This was actually one of my earliest classical music memories as I'm pretty sure it was one of the Hooked on Classics pop-remix tapes we kept in the car when I was a kid. This last movement is very lively, which made it a fun way to finish the program.

A great first night at the symphony.