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Quiz Squee!!!

OMG, y'all ... you HAVE to look at this week's SSHG Quiz (and not just because I'm a featured author on it, although, really, that should be reason enough for anyone). But no ... it's the 300th edition of the SSHG quiz (holy longevity, Batman!), and it features artwork! Yes, artwork!

Head to the quiz, drool over the fantastical display of visual delights, and then test yourself on which story inspired which masterpiece. Heh ... I said, "master." Heh-heh.

You're probably wondering the appropriate gift for a 300th anniversary. It's not silver ... or gold ... or even platinum. It's ...

... Gilderoy Lockhart!! (natch)


For my fellow Hufflepuffs

This has been around awhile, but since I just saw it today I had to share. Hufflepuff pride, yo!

I'm On the Quiz! (and other news)

All You Need Is Love, which I wrote for the 2008 Exchange (gosh, has it really been 5 years?) is on the SS/HG Quiz today! Waltz your way over there and test your knowledge of dancing Snape. ;-)

In other news ... I'm still alive! And thanks to morethansirius' comment today, I realized I still have an LJ. Go figure.

So where have I been these past two years? Right here, of course. I've been writing o-fic and attempting to build an author platform (which is code for "screwing around on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog when I ought to be writing").

The big news in my writing life happened earlier this year, when I entered my manuscript into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Amazon accepted a total of 10,000 manuscripts (2,000 in each of the following five genres: YA, Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Horror/SciFi/Fantasy, and General Fiction). Since my novel didn't quite fit into the first four categories, I entered it in General Fiction.

Contestants had to submit the following by the January deadline: a pitch of up to 300 words (the query, really), an excerpt of 3,000-5,000 words (which had to be the beginning of the story onward), and a full, completed manuscript of 50k-150k words. The first round was judged on the strength of the pitch, and those moving forward were announced in February. The 2,000 entries from each genre were whittled down to a more manageable 500. I made it through, as did my buddies melenka and little_beloved (who had stories in the YA and Horror/SciFi/Fantasy genres, respectively). I was feeling pretty good about my pitch at this point.

The next cut would happen in March, and it would take the number of contestants in each genre from 500 down to 100. Yikes. Judging would be based solely on the strength of the excerpt, and those who advanced would be Quarterfinalists. The cool thing about this round was that Quarterfinalists would win a full reading and review of their manuscript by Publishers Weekly. I really wanted that prize. But when I'd entered the contest back in January, I was battling the flu and had expended my dwindling brain cells on crafting a good pitch. I never thought I'd get far enough for the excerpt to really matter. But lo and behold, my questionable excerpt made it through to the Quarterfinals. I received very flattering reviews from the judges (Amazon "expert" reviewers), but best of all was the fact that melenka and little_beloved had also advanced.

We eagerly awaited our Publishers Weekly reviews, which we'd learned would consist of a summary of our novel with a couple sentences of opinion tacked on. This is when I started to get nervous. Publishers Weekly can be brutal — there would be no sugar-coating here, no obligation to be constructive with one's criticism. When the reviews began to roll in, folks started posting them to the ABNA forums. That's when I really started to panic. I saw things like "this sub-par time-traveling thriller that never comes together [has issues], but the greater problem is the lack of a plot," and "this inelegant and inexpertly paced story [has] several potentially good mysteries, but they are obscured by clichéd dialogue, irksome characters, and banality."

Ouch. I have to admit I was more worried about my PW review than advancing to the semifinals. That's because this cut would be the broadest of all, leaving few survivors. It was the Red Wedding of rounds. Of the remaining 100 contestants in each genre, only 5 would advance. FIVE. That means a whopping 95% of entries would perish based on the Publishers Weekly scoring of character development, originality of idea, plot, prose/style, and the overall strength of the submission. I cannot imagine how hard it was to go from 100 to 5. The mind boggles. And although Publishers Weekly is a well-respected institution, this is still just one person's opinion. I'd bet the 5 I'd pick would be nothing like the 5 you'd pick, and so on.

Bottom line is I'd given up all hope of advancing to the semifinals. Which is why I was beyond stunned when little_beloved texted me in April to tell me I'd made it. My first thought (no joke) was, "no, she's fucking with me." But in my experience the Irish have a fairly good sense of humor, and I knew her to be incapable of such cruelty. So it had to be true. And it was: my name was among the five semifinalists in General Fiction. What's more, I was the only female author remaining in that genre.

It was another day or so before my PW review came in, but it held great news, as well. Here's what they said about my novel:

A blend of corporate thriller and light rom-com humor powers this delightfully offbeat manuscript. After Kate Shepherd commits the ultimate corporate faux pas at her Silicon Valley company’s Christmas party – tipsily kissing the VP – she’s dispatched to do a compliance audit of a contractor in Shenzhen, China. Here, the intrigue picks up: If you expect Kate’s VP, Alistair Cartwright, might be a non-starter, or that mega-wealthy and powerful Chinese businessman David Liu is nothing but a playboy with only a romantic interest in Kate, think again. Meanwhile, Kate’s audit of Dado Tech to ensure that workers are being treated fairly hits some early snags, as the discovery of a security breach at the plant bars Kate’s access. The tension ratchets up once Kate’s hacker brother, Jake, informs her that a prototype Einstein phone is missing, and trouble closes in from all sides. Smart plot twists and insights into life in China add even more fun to the action and tech trickery.

Should I ever decide to self-publish, I believe there are some excellent bits I can pull out. "Delightfully offbeat" makes me ridiculously happy, but I suppose the "smart plot twists, blah, blah, blah" would make for a better blurb.

In May, Amazon selected one finalist from each genre and bestowed upon them an all-expense paid trip to Seattle, a publishing contract, and a minimum advance on royalties of $15,000. Amazon customers can vote to select which of these five will be the Grand Prize winner, and that lucky duck will have their advance bumped up to $50,000. I was not chosen as a finalist, although both the winner and another semifinalist from my genre contacted me to express their surprise and their best wishes for my future publishing success. I did far better than I'd ever imagined I would, and I'll definitely be entering the contest again next year. I urge all you writers out there to do the same. The contest should open again in January, so you have six months to work on your pitch, excerpt, and manuscript. Good luck!

So that's what's been happening around here. I have been querying for an agent, and I have to believe that the PW review will help encourage someone to at least take a look at my novel. We shall see.

I miss the community and camaraderie of the fandom terribly, and I hope everyone is happy, healthy, and whole. xoxo

For mischievous_t ...

Sending virtual hugs and positive thoughts to our fellow Hufflepuff, mischievous_t  ... If you're unaware of the deets, you can read PJ's post here.

Like everyone else, I have fingers crossed for the outcome of her surgery. Hufflepuffs are tougher than they look. Not for nothing is our mascot a badger! 

(Honey badger doesn't give a shit!)

Need Your Help, Fellow Texans!

As you may know, I recently returned to college after a 17-year absence.  The first class in which I enrolled (because I just couldn't WAIT to learn about this topic) was Texas Politics and Government.  Part of my grade for this course will be based upon service-learning projects: for example, I was deputized as a Volunteer Registrar and have already spent several hours registering folks to vote in Travis County.

Another aspect of my first project will be a short, simple poll on the elections Texas will hold in 2010.

If you live in Texas (whether or not you're a registered voter), I would really appreciate your responses to the seven questions below.  My project is due the beginning of March, so I will close the poll on Sunday, 28 Feb.  Thank you so much!!

Poll #1525234 Texas Elections of 2010
This poll is closed.

How likely are you to vote in the Texas primary elections on 2 March 2010?

Very Likely
Somewhat Likely
There are elections in March?
N/A - Did not register to vote in time

How many candidates (Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian) can you name for the gubernatorial primaries? (And Kinky doesn't count this time!)


Who do you think will win the Republican nomination for Governor of Texas? (Not whom you'd vote for or whom you'd like to win ... just your best guess.)

Kay Bailey Hutchison
Debra Medina
Rick Perry

Who do you think will win the Democratic nomination for Governor of Texas? (Again, just your best guess.)

Farouk Shami
Bill White
One of the many other candidate of whom no one has ever heard

Will you vote in a run-off election if one is required in April?

Only if the run-off involves the party with which I'm registered
Depends on what's showing on TV that night
Not a chance

Will you vote in the uniform election on 2 Nov 2010?

Only if there will be more ticky boxes

In your opinion, what is the single most important political issue facing Texans?


Need Diabetic Recipes

That's right, I'm cookin' up diabetics for dinner tonight! 

Okay, not really.  But Deb's hubby has just been diagnosed with whatever is one step below diabetes.  He was borderline at the DoT physical our boys had to take (part of the requirements for the new company that bought out Wheeler, where both our hubbies work).  He was given a temporary pass only, and if it isn't better when he has to retake his physical, he will lose his Commercial Driver's License.  Which means he will also lose his job. 

That cannot happen, for a number of reasons.  Not only does the economy suck, but thanks to a case of rheumatic fever that almost killed him as a child, he has a learning disability and cannot read well.  He doesn't have a diploma or a GED; he never finished school and still struggles to read and write (Debby has a number of cards addressed to "Deddy.")  He's plenty smart—this guy can learn anything he sets his mind to.  I'm sure most school systems would have recognized his problems early on, but we're talking rural Mississippi schools and a family full of hicks.  Not a good combination.  (Seriously - these people believe if you hang upside down your liver will flip over and kill ya dead!  I'm not making this up!!)

Anyway, if you have any diabetic-friendly recipes you'd like to share, we'd really appreciate them.  Also if you know of any good web sites for appropriate meals and such.  We know sugars and sweeteners are out, but we're also trying to limit anything that spikes his glucose.  So we're talking very little starches and fruits here.  No bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, etc.

Any ideas are welcome!  Thanks, f-list!


Your Horoscopes, Courtesy of The Onion

After reading my horoscope (Taurus), I just had to share this with everyone.  Enjoy!

Aries Mar 21 - Apr 19 
The suit jacket and tie might make you look more professional, but at the end of the day, you're still not wearing any pants.

Taurus Apr 20 - May 20 
Try as you might, you'll find yourself completely unable to escape this week's M.C. Escher Museum fire.

Gemini May 21 - Jun 21 
While it's natural for human beings to be resistant to change, after losing your family, job, and home, it's probably time you start accepting some from passersby.

Cancer Jun 22 - Jul 22 
What begins this week as a hilarious balls-copying prank will end minutes later with the discovery of a rather large testicular tumor.

Leo Jul 23 - Aug 22 
In many ways, you're still a child. None of them, however, will prevent you from being tried this week as an adult.

Virgo Aug 23 - Sep 22 
For the third time this week, you'll be forced to open up that same old tupperware container of leftover whupass.

Libra Sep 23 - Oct 23 
A man is defined by the decisions he makes. Not listening to this piece of trite advice is probably a good start.

Scorpio Oct 24 - Nov 21 
Long, gray beards have for centuries been linked to wisdom and shrewdness. Sadly, you get yours caught in the fax machine far too often for that to be the case.

Sagittarius Nov 22 - Dec 21 
When it comes to race relations, you're colorblind. Also when it comes to sofas, desk chairs, and traffic lights.

Capricorn Dec 22 - Jan 19 
Farm animals can often sense an earthquake seconds before it hits, which explains why they're all looking at you with that huge grin on their face.

Aquarius Jan 20 - Feb 18 
They say you can't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes, but after 3,000 feet, you're beginning to suspect he'd like to have his sneakers back.

Pisces Feb 19 - Mar 20 
After years of intense searching, you'll finally find yourself this week—naked, alone, and with a six foot gash across your forehead.

Sir Mix-a-Lot Had It Right!

This has to be the best news I've read in a long while ...

Having big thighs, hips, and bum is healthy!


The Square Root of 81 is "Huh?"

Way to go, America.

Article on high school exit exams ...

And special kudos to you, Arkansas, for lowering your standards so severely that a passing math grade is awarded as long as a student scores 24 out of 100 on their exam. On ONE of their three attempts.  Since when is 24% considered a passing grade??  Since states cannot deal with the embarrassment of true test results, apparently.  What's that you say?  Twenty-four percent is still too tough for the little darlings?  No problem ... They can take a computer tutorial with a built-in quiz to earn their diploma.  It's not as if they'll ever need math skills in the real world, after all.

Nice to know just how worthless a diploma will be.  Heaven forbid we repair what is broken.  No, no ... That would require far too much effort.  Better to manipulate the numbers until it appears as if a problem never existed.  No one gets hurt that way, right?  Okay, maybe the student who graduates without fundamental skills, but no one who matters, right?  Right?



The lovely folks at OWL are hosting their awards again!  A list of my eligible stories can be found here.  (I'm known as Witchy Woman on OWL.  Don't ask.)

All my stories qualify as Fire and Ice.  That's a highly competitive category, though, so I've listed some alternate suggestions below:

And The Stars Never Rise
Summary:  Why is Severus Snape such a bitter man?  The answer is revealed through an annual ritual.
Category:  BEST TEARJERKER.  Break out the hankies. :-) 

All You Need is Love
Summary:  Hermione despises flight.  Severus excels at it.  A silly little tale about learning to fly ... and then some.
Category:  HUMOUR 

It Takes Two to Tango
Summary:  Hermione is convinced Snape didn't die in the Shrieking Shack, so she sets out to prove her theory—twenty years, two children, and one questionable marriage later.
Category:  NINETEEN YEARS LATER (I think it will work for this category ... Depends on whether we're allowed to account for/explain away Snape's death.  If not, then it's just Fire & Ice, I suppose.)

The Best Laid Plans
Summary:  Hermione has a bold plan.  Snape's is a bit more subtle.  Plotting can be fun!
Category:  BEST SNOG.

I also must recommend a story by the lovely melenka .  She wrote Beyond the Veil to a kick-ass prompt of mine and produced an even more kick-ass story.  It features a smoking-hot Sirius Black and a perfectly characterized Luna Lovegood, and it definitely qualifies for the BEST RARE PAIR category.  Read it.  Love it.  Nom it!