Friday, December 31, 2004

Last Ten

Ten Things that I Learned in 2004

1. Surviving a major hurricane does not exempt you from getting hit by another one. Or another one. Also, never take a nap anywhere near a window during a hurricane.

2. Writing a 105,000 word novel on a PDA makes you an Extreme Writer. Being unable to back it up or print it out makes you a Slightly Crazed Writer.

3. Even under professional circumstances, it is extremely difficult to produce a polite "Thank you" when you all you really want to say is "Piss off." Waiting 24 hours before saying a word helps.

4. Footnotes in a fiction novel are pretentious. Footnotes in a fiction novel that carry on to the next page are a mile-high, fluorescent pink, animated billboard that screams pretentious.

5. You are never as known, or as unknown, as you think you are.

6. Never assume people get you. Explain things, preferably in words of two syllables or less, and send pictures. Lots of pictures.

7. Demanding the best is expensive. Settling for second-rate costs more.

8. Love leads the first charge onto every battlefield. It also hangs around afterward and helps you carry out the wounded.

9. Be careful what you wish for, especially when other people are mentioned prominently in the body of the wish.

10. Nothing bad lasts forever; it only feels like it does. And that thing people say when they're under extreme stress: "Someday we'll laugh about all this" ? No, we won't.

Goodbye, 2004.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

2005

The nine novels I have scheduled (or planned) for release during 2005, listed by title, pseudonym, book type, publisher and genre:

1. March If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl, mm, Signet. Dark Fantasy

2. April Life is a Three Ring Circus by Rebecca Kelly, hc, Guideposts. Inspirational

3. August Bio Rescue by S.L. Viehl, mm, Ace/Roc. SF

4. August Afterburn by S.L. Viehl, hc, Ace/Roc. SF

5. December Private Demon by Lynn Viehl, mm, Signet. Dark Fantasy

The books for which I don't yet have dates, info or contract ink:

6. Rebel Ice by S.L. Viehl, mm, Ace/Roc -- Book #6 of the StarDoc series. Publisher has not given me a release date and I'm not guessing anymore. SF

7. & 8. Biblical Historical Novel #1: This will be released in Spring, but I am not permitted to publicize any info on these without my publisher's permission, which I don't have. Same goes for Biblical Historical Novel #2, which comes out in the Fall. Historical/inspirational

9. Untitled, GCI Series Novel, by Rebecca Kelly, September -- I haven't seen a contract for this one yet, so while it's scheduled I can't count it. Inspirational.

Correction

Although the hardcover edition of Bio Rescue did nicely over the summer, it collided with the paperback release of Blade Dancer. The Blade reprint hit the SF pb bestseller list, which definitely impacted my hardcover sales. This, and no mention of anything from the publisher, had me telling people that, far as I knew, Bio would probably not be coming out in paperback.

A reader promptly wrote back this morning to inform me that, in fact, the mass market edition is already on sale.*

I don't know why people ask me about the books. I mean, I only write them. Obviously that means I should be the last person to know.

All I can say is, sorry. Again. Thank God for my readers, or I'd never find out anything.

*With a release date that collides head-on with the hardcover release of Afterburn. Why am I not surprised?

Rumbles

This morning someone (you know who you are) e-mailed links to a fresh little blog war, as additions to my ever-growing Authors Behaving Badly file. It is extremely tempting to post the links, as the rumble is a decidedly nasty three-way, but if I did I'd just become the next writer they jump. These days I try to avoid waving my hand in front of a frothing mouth.

I'm not in the mood, either. Today my baby girl turns ten years old, so I'm shifting into birthday mode. Also, I found out this morning that we've lost Jerry Orbach this week to prostate cancer. I loved him and I can't believe he's gone.

If you know what rumble I'm talking about, and are tempted to jump in, just compare the blog war to the death toll from the Asian tsunami. Real horror and tragedy puts the ridiculous in perspective, every time.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Milestones

This year I've smacked face-first into some hefty landmarks, most personal but some career-related. Some I've talked about here, and some I haven't, but everything 2004 could throw at me has been thrown, caught, and pretty much handled. It helps to live with three people who love me, and have friends ever-willing to stand with me.

In 1975, I earned my first check as a writer for a short story that I entered in a contest at a local community arts festival. The contest was for adults, so the judges were a little surprised when a fourteen-year-old me showed up at the awards ceremony. I wore my best church dress and held my mom's hand as I went up on stage. The check was for $25 -- the second place prize; a sixty-year-old man took first place -- and was more money than I had ever made at babysitting ($.50 an hour), even on New Year's Eve ($10 for the whole night.)

I still have the second place ribbon they pinned to my dress that day, as well as the winning story, tucked away in the filing cabinet. I signed over the $25 check to Mom, who was newly-divorced, terrible with money, and struggling to keep a roof over our heads. I can still remember how she looked when I gave her that money, which she used to buy groceries for us.

Twenty-three years would go by before I earned another dime as a writer.

Each year I keep track of my hours, and at the end of the year I figure out what would be my hourly wage. On average, I work about 84 hours per week. In my first years as a pro, I earned quite a bit less than minimum wage. This year my income moved over the six figures line; my first time there as a working writer. That's equal to about $25 an hour.

Does it sound like I'm gloating? Maybe I am. I do have to keep up my cold-blooded, non-artistic, mercenary bitch image, you know. And I have never forgotten that fourteen-year-old kid, or how often she handed over her babysitting money so that her mother could put food on the table, or how it felt to make that very first $25 from writing.

I will never forget that.

Today my mom is retired and on a fixed income, and she still struggles to keep a roof over her head. It would help if she didn't hand out money to anyone who needs it, but that's Mom: forever generous, loving, and terrible with money. One of the Christmas gifts I gave her this year was a gift certificate to Publix. She specifically asked me for it, and used it to buy groceries for her and Dad.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Nine

Slaughtered the last of my novel deadlines a few minutes ago. One final read-through and it goes in the box and out of here.

faint but sincere whoop

Being the nice, compassionate boss that I am, I'm giving myself the rest of the year off.

Monday, December 27, 2004

In Our Spare Time

Ten Things Writers Do (Other Than Writing Books)

1. Artist -- Sheila Kelly
2. Attorney -- Carol Stephenson
3. Auctioneer -- Cynthia Thomason
4. Cartographer -- Holly Lisle
5. Director -- Neil Gaiman
6. Musician -- Stephen King
7. Quilter -- Tamara Siler Jones
8. Photographer -- Lazette Gifford
9. Stray Rescuer -- Poppy Z. Brite
10. Teacher to the Homeless -- Linda Barrett

Propaganda

My interview with SF reviewer Tim Doyle is up over on the BookThink web site, along with a generous review of Bio Rescue.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Ungrateful

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday, and I'm very grateful for all the terrific e-mail and cards. We had a very peaceful Christmas and are looking forward to a better New Year.

Only one thing bothered me over the last couple of days, and that was the whiny tone of some of the industry end-of-the-year articles I've been reading. Such as: Nonreaders are the most rapidly growing demographic in the publishing industry, according to this article, with 40% of the adult population (of America?) averaging not even one book per year. This is, according to AP, what is making publishers and booksellers feel "grateful just to break even."

I'm not grateful, and I don't buy into this. Neither should you. This is what I'm doing about it:

Each year I go to area schools and give talks to children about writing and what it takes to publish a book. Often I am the first author the kids have ever met. I hand out journals for the kids to use, and explain to them why anyone can be a writer. This past year, I read them the letters I've received from soldiers in Iraq who carried my books with them as they went into combat, what I consider the highest honor I will ever receive as an author.

Each Christmas the first items on my shopping list are books. I probably spend 50% of my gift budget in bookstores, but I regard books as the best gift you can give anyone. Every kid I know gets at least two age-appropriate books from me, and my own children generally have to clear off half a shelf. If there is a movie I know the kids liked, such as Ella Enchanted, I buy the book that inspired it and ask them to read it. For adults, I buy novels or nonfiction books, depending on what I think would be enjoyed. Buying books for other people is fun.

I do buy a lot of books for myself; on the order of about $3K - $5K per year. Before we moved this year, I donated over 5,000 books to Friends of the Library. I share books with friends and other writers as well. One of my writer friends who is probably reading this has my copy of Anne Perry's No Graves As Yet and I'll be sending her the excellent but harrowing sequel, Shoulder the Sky (my Christmas gift to myself.)

I give away 98% of my author copies. I keep three copies of each book I write for me and my kids. Of the rest, half go to friends and family, and half I give away to readers and people who for a variety of reasons can't afford my books. Every Valentine's Day I take a bag of signed books to the nearest hospital and give them to my favorite real-life heroes, the ER staff.

I don't write for children, but any child who writes to me can expect a personal response. If they have questions, I answer them. If they are interested in a writing career, I encourage them. At least a dozen kids I have corresponded with are now in high school and plan to make writing their major in college. Eight of the aspiring writers I've mentored are now published authors. I regret that I can't actively mentor now as I have in years past, which is why I started writing this weblog.

That's what I've done to keep the book alive, writers writing, and the industry in black ink. What are you doing, and what more can you do?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas in Florida

We have no snow here in Florida, and the only colors the leaves turn are brown after the trees are uprooted and killed by a hurricane. Unhappily, we've got plenty of brown in our landscape this year.

We put up our usual outside lights this season, but saw that very few other people did the same. Times are tough and unemployment is rampant, so you see more garage sales and homemade fruit stands than lighting displays when you drive around town.

The drabness might depress me if I didn't get up before dawn. Each morning I take a break from the writing and sit on the porch to watch the sunrise. We have an amazing sky here, as we're at the very top of a hill with nothing to block our view. Most mornings dawn is lovely, and on rare days, it is spectacular.

PBW wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

May the colors of your holidays be as glorious as mine.

Snowdog

The best flash e-card I've ever seen, 100% safe for kids and work.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Past Blasts

People regularly e-mail me looking for things they remember reading on my old weblog. Now that Blogger has this neat search-your-archive feature, here are

Ten Things People Always Want Links To

No-Brainer Fudge -- very rich, four ingredients, doesn't require a candy thermometer or much effort.

The Worst Gifts trilogy: Ten of the Worst Men Buy for Women, Ten of the Worst Women Buy for Men, and Ten Things You Should Never Give a Woman For Christmas -- these are pretty timeless.

For the Seasonally Depressed: Ten Reasons You Should Not Commit Suicide.

For Those Planning Their Writing Conference Schedule for 2005: Ten Signs You've Attended Too Many Writing Workshops.

The Widow Version 2.0

Writer Trick #7 on how to handle showing the passage of time and related details in your writing. I don't know why everyone loves this one so much.

Ten Quotes About Reviewers and Critics

Ten Last Minute Gifts Under $20 -- make sure you get a 2005 version if you go with the calendar.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Maxed Man

Over the weekend I gave an interview to Mad Max Perkins, the blogger who has been creating a stir with his weblog, BookAngst 101. The interview was the result of an interesting exchange I've been having via e-mail with this guy since answering a survey for authors on his weblog back in November.

To give you what lowdown there is on Max, he uses a pseudonym to protect his identity and invites other industry pros to comment anonymously on the blog. All we know about Max is what he tells us, which is this:

"Mad Max Perkins has worked in the book trade in a variety of capacities for over 20 years and is currently a senior executive for a major New York publisher."

I like that variety of capacities in particular. Reminds me of some of the excellent dodges I saw on resumes when I was a comptroller and tried to hire a decent secretary. Note to aspiring secretaries: do not put "typing on various equipment" if the only thing you can operate is a telephone key pad.

Anyway, Max's survey asked fairly standard questions like "What (if anything) did publisher #1 do especially well as pertains to the positioning/marketing of you/your book(s)?" and "Why did you switch publishers?" but he was also interested in changes in sales and marketing effort, and whether or not the publisher delivered on their promises.

I thought Max might be an author posing as an editor (or marketing director, "executive" can mean a lot of things, but I'm going with editor.) Trusting soul that I am, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and sent in my answers. His first personal e-mail to me opened with this line (and please note, Max has given me his permission to post these excerpts):

"I'm digging into the survey responses, and I think you for your honesty & specificity."

Okay, so Max forgets to hit his spell check, but hey, you know I can relate to that. :) He was also careful not to squash my toes:

"I know this is terribly inappropriate of me--but it sounds like you make a pretty good living, no?"

Sounds a little French, doesn't he? And he admitted he didn't know everything about publishing, and thus earned another gold star in my book:

"I'd have to consider you one of the real success stories of this survey--and it comes from a realm I didn't even know existed! (I don't mean the genres, but that you get paid a flat fee etc.)"

I like people who don't pretend they know everything; they're less likely to piss me off. I responded with my usual candor, and he appreciated it:

"This is PRECISELY the reason I started this site in the first place--in hopes of discovering these avenues to which you allude, and giving writers--and publishers--something else to try."

Nice motive, and I mean that sincerely. I suspected he also wanted to get some fresh angles on marketing for his own career purposes, as he wanted to know more:

"Can you be more specific? Even if you don't want me to talk about it in the survey, and/or want to withhold certain details, I'd DYING to know how YOUR plan is different from what I've heard--and even said, myself..."

I have no problem with this, either. Shared information is the only way we can improve the industry. Quote me on that.

After I gave Max the information he requested, I didn't see any results from the survey posted (it never occurred to me that he might not be getting enough response to the survey to post useful results.) The only communication he sent me after the survey was a reminder to read at particular post at BookAngst in which he had other industry pros endorse him.

Frankly the endorsements annoyed me. I have little patience with coyness to begin with, and this read like another dodge. Also, I'd been very up front with this guy, but now he seemed more worried about his credibility than posting the survey results and following through on his promises.

After reading that endorsement post, this was my unsolicited advice to him:

"...the whole justifying the anonymous thing is getting old. If you're so afraid for your job or your reputation that you have to hide who you are, you shouldn't be doing this. If you're not, and you truly want to change things, just be honest. Hiding behind your industry buddies while they vouch for you only makes you look foolish. As does continuing to contact me when I don't know who you are."

He didn't tell me who he was -- and I still have no idea who he is -- but he came back with a quick response:

"I'm afraid I don't agree--I think there's utility in what's going on there, and frankly I won't be able to continue doing it if I go public, for a variety of reasons. If you want me not to send you updates, I certainly understand, and I apologize for the inconvenience. I hope it's still OK to use your story in this writer-survey I'm working on--please advise if not."

Up until this point I thought Max might be bullshit, but I work for a lot of editors, and the above paragraph has "editor" written all over it. If I'm wrong and he isn't an editor? The guy should be one.

I happen to like editors, so I sat down and thought about it. I'd been honest; he was still wearing a mask. He was actively working on the survey, something I hadn't known, and he sounded more legit than ever. I don't like being scammed, but what I'd told him was pretty much what I'd tell anyone who asked.

I decided to trust my instincts and regard Max as a genuine person with good intentions. Our exchange continued from there to an interview, which Max will be posting on Book Angst sometime after the holidays. The interview is under my name -- well, one of them -- because I do share information, and I don't have anything to hide.

Who knows, maybe if enough authors follow my example, maybe we can eventually unMax Max.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Nobel

Author Elfriede Jelinek has won the Nobel Prize for literature. Ms. Jelinek is happy about the money she was awarded, but not much else, and in an interview stated that Austrian response to her winning the prize is very negative.

"Jelinek withdrew from public life in 1996 after the populist Freedom Party of Austrian nationalist Joerg Haider denounced her writing as low and immoral art, an opinion echoed by the Vatican last month when it criticised the Nobel academy's choice."

Always good to see writers being appreciated and encouraged by their countrymen and the church, isn't it?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Create

I've seen some pretty weird generators on the internet, but this is the first time I've found a Religion Creator.

You select a religious base, such as Old Testament, New Testament, or New Age, and then fill out a longish form. It's worth it, though, because it generates the text of your new religion. Here's mine:

"From the most gloomy regions of the spiritual plane, I have channeled the disembodied spirit of Socrates, bringing to you the wisdom and cup of the lost city of Paris. To usher in the New Age of lights you must heed my words and run brilliantly. The time is soon when the space carriages of our galactic cousins will return and our collective greatness will reach critical mass. The highest frequencies of the universe will spiral through the eye chakras of the worthy, and our 3rd hand shall be opened. But first we must look deep inside and accept our inner box. We must feel the inner box, become the inner box, read it as though it was a cat. We must accept our karmic past, and, as our yogi master, Ricochet Rabbit, always says 'The true form of a lynx is actually a gigantic lamp, but enlightenment is like a pretty quilt on the wind'. For there is no right or wrong, no bed or anti-bed, only one great and omnipresent popcorn."

Hmmm. Call me skeptical, but I don't know that I'll be donning a white bathrobe, cleaning my double-ought and whipping up a big batch of grape Kool-Aid based on this any time soon...

Laughs

Not many blog titles (or the title graphics) make me laugh out loud, but this one did: Losing the Space Race. Some very funny stuff on here, too.

("Honey!" she yells across the house. "I'm not the only one on the planet anymore!")

Giveaway

If you're interested in getting your hands on a copy of If Angels Burn a little early, stop by here for details.

Family

We have a new addition to the family: a tiny ball of hyperactive white-and-apricot fur, Sweetie Pie, named for what I called him the first time I held him in the palm of my hand. A hamster topped my daughter's Christmas wish list, and we decided she was old enough to have a pet of her own (as in, she cleans the cage, she feeds and waters him, she watches for illness, etc.)

Instead of waiting until Christmas, we took her to the store a little early and let her choose the one she liked, along with all the hamster cage/food/bedding stuff. This was a typical family event, in which everyone had to go and see and help her decide. Pie seems to be a good pick; he doesn't bite and he sure loves that wheel.

You're nodding off now, I know, but when you consider how screwed up this last year has been for us, a boring family trip to pick out a hamster is something worth celebrating.

It amazes me when I think of how damaged and neurotic we could be, under the circumstances, and aren't. We are steady. We are moving on. We haven't forgotten what has happened, but it hasn't changed us. I watch my kids being kind and affectionate toward each other, or my man (who has had, hands down, the worst happen to him this year) doing something incredibly sweet for me, and I marvel.

When I mail out this mansucript I'm working on next week, I will have written nine books in 2004. I know most people think I write novels in my sleep, but believe it or not, I do go through the same things every other novelist does with each and every book. Well, I don't do that thing where they hate what they write and beat themselves up over it, but you know what I mean.

The main reason I was able to do this is my family. They let me go when I needed to write. They found AAA batteries for my PDA when the power was out during the hurricanes. They went for a ride or a walk when I needed quiet to think. When deadline week arrived, they took over the cooking and cleaning and chores so I could get that particular book done.

There's really nothing in it for them but more work. My writing income does pay for my kids to go to private school, but they're too young to read most of my books. My income also takes half of the family financial burden off their father's shoulders, but the love of my life does not read, period. They have no interest in my novels; they do it for me.

This, combined with a book I've been reading, sank in yesterday morning. Not exactly an "It's a Wonderful Life" moment, but close. Like everyone, I've taken some short side trips on other paths, and I have a pretty good idea of what I might have been, and where I'd have gone, if I'd stayed on them.

Thank God I doubled back to find this road was still open.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Discovery

Blogger won't let me post.

And women who sound on the phone as if they would eat their own young? Look like they already did.

Just FYI.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cheer

I love book store clerks, more so now that I've done the job myself and know what they have to go through to get our novels into the hands of their customers. (We won't talk about how I feel about book store managers.)

Last night while I was out finishing the very last of the shopping, I ran in BAM to see what's been released. Not surprised to see Tom Wolfe and Michael Crichton's latest stacked to the rafters but few people were bracing the stacks. Most of the shoppers were cruising the inspirational and bargain books sections. I picked up a couple of bargains myself and went to check out.

The young man at the counter was wearing the obligatory black BAM apron, but under it he had on a drop-dead gorgeous dragon shirt (and not a t-shirt, either, a real shirt with real sleeves and a collar.) It was black, with a red dragon of Chinese design curling around the sleeves and front. I admired it, he smiled and told me where he had bought it and what a bargain it had been. He invited me to touch the sleeve so I could feel the material, which was like rough silk. Beautiful, beautiful shirt. I made a writer joke, and he got it and made one of his own. Before I left he wished me a Merry Christmas, something you never hear anyone say anymore. A thoroughly delightful young man.

After I got home, a friend called and I described this brief, happy encounter. My friend said, rather rudely, "Only you could meet someone that gay and think he was cool."

Now unless I have four or five hours to think them up, I am terrible with snappy comebacks. But for once I knew what to say: "Yeah, he was the most cheerful clerk I've met since I got here."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

32F

That's the temperature here, right now. That was also the temperature last night when my daughter and I went out caroling. (For those of you who live in subzero climates, please remember that the average temperature I've lived in for the last twenty years of my life is 80F, year-round.)

Caroling is not something I've done much of in the past, but it was always indoors, like at church. Not so here. Apparently what the displaced Northerners here do is group up, walk from house to house and sing Christmas songs for folks, half of which don't open their doors, in this freezing weather.

But my daughter desperately wanted to go, and while I'd rather be tortured than have to sing in front of people, I love my daughter. So we went, we walked, we avoided people's active sprinkler systems and loose dogs, we sang such PC songs as "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls" to closed doors, and we about froze our toes off.

My daughter apologized to me as we hiked back two miles to the car. "Sorry, Mom, I thought this would be fun."

I didn't want to lie to my child, and I was too cold to talk much. On impulse, I started to sing my favorite carol, We Three Kings and she joined in. Just the two of us sang together all the way back to the car. We sang our favorite carols, the ones that aren't politically correct, like Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger. We laughed at each other when we stumbled over some words or hit the wrong note.

We earned a few odd looks from the Jingle-and-Deck people, but no one objected. I think they were too chilly to separate church and state.

During that long, cold walk back, I discovered two things: I cannot hit that high note on the soaring "peace" in Silent Night anymore, and caroling with my daughter in 32F weather is fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

PopSigh

One thing I look forward to each week is my postal carrier delivering my magazines. I subscribe to a bunch -- Archaeology, Smithsonian, and the Atlantic to name a few -- and I have been known to hoard them, but I'm working on that.

The mag I've always liked the most was Popular Science. It's the one place where I can read about science, see what NASA's crashed lately, and best of all, not have SF writer issues shoved in my face.

So what happens? I open this month's PopSci issue and, you guessed it, there's a damn SF writer in it screaming about, what else, issues. Not even good issues. Lousy issues. Stupid, infantile, tightfisted little twerp issues. Worse, this genius is going to be writing a monthly column. How much you want to bet it's more of the same? Come on, make me a rich woman.

Anyway, I'm cancelling the subscription. I know, they quoted me once, and it was weirdly flattering but . . . no, sorry, doesn't make up for ruining my favorite mag. (sniff) At least I still have Discover.

Motivation

My editor sent me an ARC of a big-buzz biblical historic novel about to hit the shelves, and I read it last night. As I've promised not to trash other authors, I won't mention the title or name of the author, but my opinion of this gem can be distilled down into a single, strangled word:

ick

Outside of being a muddy, badly-constructed clone of The Red Tent, the novel offers not a single redeeming quality. The writing was stilted and often just plain bizarre. If there was a plot, it was printed in invisible ink; I never caught a glimpse of it. By page three I didn't care about the characters and by page twenty I actively hated them. When the lousy ending arrived, I already had my pom poms out and was doing cartwheels while cheering for it. The biggest disappointment: The protagonist survived.

My prediction on this one? The critics will absolutely love it. Readers, eh. I think readers want more than this. In a way it's reassuring and quite motivating, as I know I can do better than this. Which is what I'm off to do right now.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Ten Things Under $10

Last minute shoppers, these I can personally guarantee as excellent, under $10 bargains:

1. His Nibs Palace's Chinese Excercise Balls -- (scroll down to see item listing) these work for any size hand, and they're a great gift for your favorite writer. $7.00.

2. Platinum Pen Store's Swirl Pens & Basket -- these are gorgeous, refillable ballpoint pens that twist to open. Five barrel designs, you receive two of each plus a basket in which to keep them. $9.99.

3. Also from Platinum, The Black Ice Fountain Pen & Rollerball Set -- a gorgeous pen set, and Platinum also throws in a year's supply of FP cartridges and a rollerball refill, all for $9.99.

4. Clouds by Pekka Parviainen -- This is a beautiful book; I love my copy and it's the one people pick up most when they're in my reading room. $8.95.

5. Piano Classics CD -- A sampler of some of the best classical music ever performed on piano, by Dame Moura Lymphany. A steal at $3.98.

6. Unforgettable Classics Glorious CD -- Another mind-blowing collection of classical music, performed by various artists. $9.98.

7. Barbie Glamor Surprise Doll -- I'm not a huge fan of Barbie, but this one isn't as obnoxious as some of the other models. The AOL outlet store is selling her for $9.99.

8. Make it yourself Movie Night Bowl -- Fill an inexpensive holiday bowl (we found decorated plastic ones at Walgreens for $1.99) with a box of microwave popcorn, a liter of Pepsi and a pre-viewed DVD movie purchased from BlockBuster Video (you can get these DVDs 3 for $25 if you watch for sales.) The kids and I make these every year for hard-to-shop-for people (like their Dad, who always loves it.)

9. Phone Time -- Purchased phone cards can be found at any grocery or drug store, you can mail them in a Christmas card and everyone appreciates them. $10.00.

10. Your favorite paperback novel from 2004. If you read a great book, why not share it by buying extra copies and handing it out to family and friends? You're also helping your favorite author's sales, which I assure you is a nice gift for us. Here is the novel I'm tucking into everyone's stocking this Christmas. $6.99.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Clean Up

Probably my largest author headache has been defective books. I've been lucky in that I've only had two -- Paradise Island, the galleys of which were published minus the ending of the novel, and Blade Dancer, the hardcover edition of which has a page repeat problem.*** And not having a whole book can really ruin the experience for a reader.

It's not my responsibility to deal with the publisher's screw ups, but it's my name on the book. I care, they don't. That's why I've (quietly) been using my author copies to replace defective editions of Blade Dancer since the problem was brought to my attention.

I've now just about run out of author copies of Blade Dancer, so I'll have to think of something else.

***Edited to clarify: This is not a problem with every copy of the hardcover; most editions of Blade Dancer are just fine. Judging by reader reports, about 5-10% of the first print run books are the defective editions.

Bumped

I spent a good part of the day and night wrestling with one of the four protagonists in the current WIP. Not since Reever showed up have I had this much trouble with a character, particularly one who has been living in my head for the better part of two years.

As usual, I want to give the character the tools to make repairs, but this guy is not interested in an easy retrofit. He doesn't even want a moderately difficult one. Somewhere during the actual writing of the book he went beyond the fix-it stage.

Tonight we're somewhere entirely different, and there is a lot here that can't be repaired or ignored or glossed over or saved for the next book in the series. All that is something I didn't see happening back when we were in the plot-the-book stage. Now he's tossing it in my face.

Things like this are the bumps you hit as you drive down the novel road. They are not convenient, and they mess up the alignment of your plot threads, and I don't know about you but that makes me cranky. Yet no plan is perfect, and no writer should become complacent. Bumps won't let you.

Squilyp from Beyond Varallan was a bump, as was Danea from Blade Dancer. Both of them wrecked their respective outlines -- Squilyp actually changed a thread that affected the entire StarDoc series plan -- and both of them drove me nuts. They're also two of my favorite characters.

When I hit one of these bumps, I tend to go with the character rather than the plan. Yes, it's easier to force the character to stick to the plan so you don't have to make a lot of changes, but I think that's lazy writing. Something made you hit the bump and it might do the same to your reader. You owe it to them not to take the easy way around it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Freebie

Through January 15th, 2005, Lulu.com will publish and ship you one copy of your NaNoWriMo novel for free. Check out the details here.

Fun

Writing is the most fun I have, and will probably ever have, outside of one other activity that is, alas, none of your business. :)

Seriously: writing should be fun. Why? Because without the enjoyment factor, being a writer is a very difficult, demanding, exacting, exhausting lonely job with lousy pay in which you have to deal with obnoxious people, regular disappointment, and frequent depression.

Still need some prodding? Blocked? Okay, here are some recent internet finds:

For you aspiring poets, Peter Howard has an online haiku/tanka generator that allows you to choose different vocabularies.

Catherine Tudor's Random Name Generator provides names for your male and female characters with a single click.

I have long been in love with Steven Savage's Seventh Sanctum, home to the most interesting generators on the net, like The What-If-inator and The Room/Location Generator. For those who want more of a challenge, there is The Writing Challenge Generator.

Tatyana Chiocchetti's GoldMind gratitude/inner activity journal is a guided journal that gives you a daily quote (not religious) and one-page writing challenge. I find it's been an excellent kick in the spiritual butt for me, especially when I've got a lot on my mind.

Now (puts hands on hips) I want you to have a wonderful time with writing today. Is that understood? Don't make me talk to you about this again.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Interesting

I've been looking for a program sophisticated enough to keep up with my ever-growing writing database of characters, plots, planets, novels, series, etc. and Mind Manager seems like it might do just that. I'll report more on this after I download the free trial and give it a whirl. (discovered via Katherine's Blog)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Dictionary, Stat

I never defend myself against trolls, but occasionally I correct their spelling.

Sight

On the day when my son would break his arm, I woke up with this feeling I sometimes have. Nothing specific, just a sense of uh-oh, bad things about to happen. The last time was just after Hurricane Charley, when we thought we were done with storms for the year (and two, much worse storms hit us after.)

I usually don't tell people about this because it spooks them, but this time I did confide in someone about whom I was already worried, thinking it was about her. I got the call about Mike a few hours later.

Let me state up front that I'm not psychic. If I was, I think I'd have a lot more details than just vague feelings and no clue as to who/what/why/when/where. I think almost everyone gets these feelings, too, so it's nothing special.

Yesterday the opposite of the uh-oh feeling hit me around noon. I hardly ever get these, but they're the flip side, as in hold on, wonderful things about to happen. Sure enough, an hour later I received another phone call. I'm not at liberty to go into the details, but suffice to say that with that one phone call, I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas.

Now that the universal balance has been put to rights, I'd better go to work.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

PBW's Top Ten

Thanks to the insane writing schedule, I don't think I read more than fifty works of fiction this year. I can't provide a list by genre, but here's what I found notable in 2004, in no particular order:

No Graves As Yet by Anne Perry
Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard
Gods Old and Dark by Holly Lisle
Slightly Sinful by Mary Balogh
The Demon's Daughter by Emma Holly
Visions in Death by J.D. Robb
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Raven's Shadow by Patricia Briggs


And the best book of 2004? No contest -- Midnight Rain by Holly Lisle

Mundanity

I generally ignore self-appointed censors, but I was asked to take a look at this project. I guess I was supposed to be upset by this, but I thought it was seriously funny. Several times I laughed so hard I almost had an accident. The manifesto is particularly precious. They've even got their own weblog going. I'm pretty sure it's not a parody, either, which makes it even more hilarious.

As one of the few successful and actively published science fiction writers in the world, I suppose I should also express my view. So, okay, you want to know what science fiction should be? Anything you want it to be. There, let's make that my manifesto. And I didn't even go to Clarion. How about that.

Excuse me, I have to go laugh some more now.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Lines

Another poetic moment this morning -- they're getting like cockroaches around here, aren't they?

Once there was a garden here
but time took care of it.


Sometimes you write things that come out like these lines. Like hand grenades.

Denial is the main entree
served to the starved at faith's buffet.


If you have the spine to reach for more of the same, you can keep going with them. Or you can put them back, very carefully.

he made me eat the fish I scorched
and it tasted like forever in that house


Novels are not like poetry. Novels are my faithful companions, ever ready to do wonderful tricks to entertain me. Sort of like having really great dogs (and I apologize right now to every novelist who takes offense at that.)

My postcards from Hell returned
burned.


Poetry doesn't particularly like me, and could care less whether I like it. Poetry sneaks in and hides and waits. Poetry doesn't show its face until I'm at the brink of another black pit depression. It does not cast safety lines or flotation devices.

More often than not, it pushes me over the edge.

Run forever toward that line
Where they promised us an end
And we know they lied so many times.


Poetry is a ghost cat with very real, accurate claws.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Where's George?

I went into my wallet this morning and found a dollar bill marked "Track this Bill" with a web site addy. I investigated a little further and discovered the neat currency tracking project at Where's George?

According to the site, my dollar started out in Rhode Island and has travelled 1,090 Miles in 1 Yr, 251 Days, 18 Hrs, 20 Mins at an average of 1.8 Miles per day. The bill is in fair condition, and if the original owner doesn't want it returned (you can e-mail via the site), I'm probably going to put it back into circulation this week.

Ten Things from Readers Mail

1. "What's your real name?"

I can't remember. I think it was . . . Anastasia Something.

2. "Why do you write so many books?"

No one will let me play with explosives.

3. "Why aren't there any pictures of you anywhere?"

There are. Check out the next Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. I'm the one frolicking playfully in the surf.

4. "Are you and Holly Lisle the same person?"

No, we're two different people. Except when the quantum writer field converges, and then . . . never mind.

5. "Why don't you have booksignings?"

My chains don't stretch that far.

6. "Don't you think writing in so many genres is risky?"

Yes, which is why all my keyboards are reinforced with Kevlar.

7. "Who do you think you are?"

I don't think about myself that much.

8. "Why don't you read reviews of your books?"

The same reason I don't stick needles in my eyes.

9. "Where do you get your ideas?"

From the future; I'm psychic. I only pretend it's fiction so you don't freak out. You should go home and shut off that coffeemaker you left on, btw.

10. "When do you plan to retire?"

When I make twenty million dollars or George Clooney pops the question, whichever comes first.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

C-minus 19 Days

Have you failed to register that Christmas is less than three weeks away? Me, too; this is why I do my shopping in August. Only I couldn't this year because we were being pounded by hurricanes.

This year I've resorted to lots of online shopping and gift card giving. The best presents I give, everyone agrees, are gift certificates. They're also a fine way to say "I love you but you really need to get out of the house."

Seriously, gift certificates are cool. I recommend the ones they sell for grocery stores -- remember, everyone has to eat -- and folks on a fixed income especially appreciate it. When I offered to get her whatever she wanted this year, my own mother asked for a Publix gift card (which is what I got her and Dad last year.)

Online, I try to shop at unique sites. For Anglophiles and A&E's Mystery! series lovers, there is an online version of the Acorn catalog. Shopping hint: If you put in the source code for the Fall 2004 print catalog you'll get a free Rumpole DVD with your order.

The Smithsonian Store has something for just about everyone on your list, and it's all gorgeous stuff. I can attest to the speed and superiority of their packaging and delivering. Shopping hint: Smithsonian members get 10% off everything.

Like many authors, I am addicted to shopping at His Nibs, my personal online source for unique fountain pens and writing instruments. Norman always has something fun or totally unexpected to offer on the site, with a wide range of prices to suit every budget. His customer service is fast and flawless, too. Shopping hint: visit the Palace for special deals.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Arkady, Where are You?

On Tuesday this week I took my son to the bone doc for his last follow-up appointment. The broken arm had healed beautifully, according to the new x-rays, and the doc removed the last of the restrictions and told my son to "go be a kid."

On Thursday Mike was being a kid and playing battle ball (like dodge ball, only rougher) at school, took a spill, and landed wrong. Brand-new, clean fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot.

There's nothing to blame. No bone disease. No health threat or danger at the school -- although I intend to investigate further there, to be sure -- and no bully regularly beating up my kid. As the doc told me, it's just coincidence, or bad luck. Considering the year we've had, par for the course.

I sat thinking last night that 2004 now resembles the the plot of a Martin Cruz Smith novel. Awful and quite unbelievable things regularly have happened; interesting people stood around being mildly, intellectually surprised; no one yet has offered me a decent explanation. I need Arkady Renko to quit moping over Irina so he can explain this year to me and maybe beat someone responsible to a pulp before he saves the tattered remnants of Communism again.

Fiction not being reality, I simply need this wretched year to be over. No, actually, I want it dead, but I'll settle for over.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Earlier

To squeeze fourteen more hours of writing into the schedule, I'm getting up an hour earlier each day for the next two weeks and starting the day at 4:30 am. Not a terrible hardship, as I hate to sleep anyway. It also gives me two full hours of blissful silence before I have to shift into mom mode and wake the kiddies.

The sun doesn't rise here until 7 am or thereabouts, so I have an extra hour of porch time for hand writing and reading, and the moon and stars to enjoy. It's pleasant to walk around the yard and look down at the valley without slapping on the sunglasses first. My sensitivity to sunlight has increased to the point of where I literally cannot step foot outside during the day without my sunglasses (unless I want a vicious migraine, of course.)

When I got up this morning, I thought of Stephen King's novel Thinner, and wondered what sort of curse a ticked-off gypsy might drop on my head. Earlier wouldn't work. Later, where I'd sleep more and more until I never woke up, would be, or Lazier, where I'd sit around and gradually become incapable of doing anything but sitting around. You think about stuff like this at 4:30 am, then you call the attorney and make sure your living will doesn't need any updating. You're positive it still says 'Pull the plug on me, babe,' right?

But not to worry. My trusted manservant Alfred will take care of everything, including the unpublished manuscript funeral pyre and ceremoniously scattering my ashes all over my mother's livingroom rug...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Done

Corrected galleys faxed off to production today; another deadline buys the farm and I'm a week early, too. Helped that the proofs were in near-pristine condition. I'm waiting on two more galleys, which will probably arrive as soon as I reach goal this month.

My daughter fell madly in love with Kate DiCamillo's wonderful novel Because of Winn-Dixie. We made a shadow box with a scene from the book to serve as a visual aid for her report at school in November, and she's still talking about the book. If you want to grab the nine-year-old girl's market, I'd recommend adding a homeless dog to your cast of characters.

At the moment I'm buried in the essentials of Norwegian grammar. Note to self: do not immigrate to Norway until you can master som/at/hvem/det. One interesting linguistic difference: English has only to think while Norwegians have three or more verbs to express the same word with subtle differences in meaning and response approach . . . but som det er en annen sak.

Another Vanity Scam

"Meet the Author was founded on the premise that the best person to publicise a book is its author." -- Meettheauthor.com

Pretty good way to make four hundred pounds while watching a dumbass author monkey for a camera, too.

NaNoWriMo

November was an extremely productive month for me. On the novel writing front, I finished writing one book, wrote most of another one, both sold to major publishers. I started writing two other novels currently under contract as well. Final collective wordcount for the month was 184,675.

Short stories: I wrote three stories on the PDA while waiting in doctors' offices and at school for the kids. These are for fun, to keep my hand in, so I don't count them, but that was another 20,916. One I'm thinking about polishing and sending out when (cough) I find the spare time.

I also wrote and submitted five short devotionals for the 2006 inspirational anthology -- an invitational with a very tight deadline -- and turned those in last week. They're presently under editorial review, but I feel pretty confident about them. Total for these was 1,326, but I didn't count those because they're not officially sold yet either.

I have no idea how much I wrote for the PR release, web site related stuff, correspondence or the weblog. Whatever the wordcount equivalent for a ton is, maybe.

This month's goal is a bit easier; I only have 75K to write and I can take the rest of the year off. I hope to be done with that sometime between 12/10 - 12/15.

Trash

This story perfectly illustrates why I say bestselling authors should burn everything they don't want published. Not even the damn trash is safe.

Speaking of garbage, the final word on this is something like we'll change the sky to the right color (green) but you're stuck with the rest of it.

Many things run through your head when you get stuck with the rest of it. Like buying back your contract and telling the parties involved a creative, non-literary use for the rest of it (the agent stopped me in time.) Or taking a large chunk of the savings account and offering readers a bounty on the rest of it which they tear off your novel and send to you, hopefully in pieces, and which you then collect in a large pile, douse with gasoline and burn while dancing around the rest of it, preferably on national television during a SuperBowl Game while Eminem sings the National Anthem.

Okay, a bit of a personal fantasy involved there, but you get the picture.

What do you really do, when there is nothing left to do? You move on, that's what. You keep your chin up and you keep smiling. It's a nice version of spitting in their eye and it won't get you sued.

Of course, no one can stop me from doing as I want with the jackets on my author copies. I'll have nine months to dream up something really special, too.