Friday, April 29, 2005

Note from Alfred

Dear Writer Comrades, Curious Visitors, Loitering Jackals,
Commissioner Gordon, Friends,

She Who Plainly Doesn't Pay Me Enough has sent me to make her excuses. Again.

It seems that Madam has once again ensconced herself in the central command center. Doors have been bolted, computers networked, voice recognition engaged, weapons readied, the Hubble realigned, threats issued, the usual nonsense. The media has been alerted and SWAT remains on standby.

All this, to write. One must be grateful her career path did not take a turn toward something more immediate, such as platoon manuevering or rocket launching.

The final words which Madam uttered before she decamped were rather cryptic; something about Phillip the Fair, DNA resequencing, William de Nogaret, and Cheshire. Make what you will of it. I have relocated to the kitchen, where I can provide sympathy for her life partner, nourishment for her children, and concealment of the carbon steel knives.

I expect my employer will return on Monday, once creative calamity returns to mere chaos, or her supply of green tea runs out, whichever comes first.

Yours Faithfully,
Alfred

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thank You, Jim

I needed a reason to tear someone's head off, and some moron introducing legislation to ban authors because they're gay, or write about gay characters works for me.

For the record, books that I've written as Jessica Hall and S.L. Viehl would be included in this ban, because gay characters do populate some of them. You know. Just like the real world. Real life.

You can thank James R. Winter of Northcoast Exile for flagging this one.

Lost

A few weeks ago we found a house we were interested in buying (we're leasing this one for a year to give us time to look around.) It wasn't perfect (smallish bathrooms) but it was the right size, in a good neighborhood, and in our price range. Pretty property, scrupulously maintained. Everything said buy me.

We've been looking at houses every week for months, so I didn't get my hopes up but made the appointment to go see the place. The owners were an older European couple who were a delight to meet, and we quickly discovered that their home was their pride and joy.

Gorgeous place. Immaculate. A kitchen in which I could do some serious cooking. Big rooms, wonderful gardens, custom architectural features, the works. A little formal for us -- we're more country than town -- but not enough to make us uneasy. The bathrooms were on the small side, but we saw possibilities in future renovation. In my head, I began arranging my furniture in the rooms, painting my terrible watercolors on the lanai, and watching my kids run around the yard, and I loved what I saw.

If we didn't get this house, it wouldn't break my heart. I've lived a gypsy's life and I don't let myself get attached to real estate. Still, I suspected losing this house would give me a bigass bruise.

We don't make snap decisions, but that night we decided once and for all that the house was the house. For us, that's lightspeed. We did a market analysis, saw that the owners were on the high side with their asking price, and debated our offer. We ran the numbers every way but upside down. We consulted with our agent. We looked at everything else we'd been considering. Finally we decided on our offer and went to the agent to make it.

Sometime during the 72 hours we took to put together our offer, the owners took the house off the market. They decided they loved it too much to sell it. And, weirdly, we were happy for them. It's a great house, but it's also a home.

Now I have to get back on the MLS and find one for us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Blog Blitz

The only reason I'd go to Scotland -- other than that fun thing I talked about doing with select explosive ordnance at WorldCon -- would be to hang out at Stuart MacBride's way-fancy-sounding launch for his novel, Cold Granite. Free food, right?

Then there's the recent facial injury. How many writers do you know who could carry off that eye patch? With that accent? (You pregnant ladies and other easily-queased folks might want to skip his April 22nd entry or risk bidding your Wheaties adieu.)

I'd go, but unfortunately they won't let me out of the country. Cause one measly little international incident, get your passport yanked by the State Department. I still think the French over-reacted. My shoes almost matched my purse.

Anyway, since most of us Yanks can't crash the lad's launch, I say we go over and have a comment party on his weblog while he's gone. Enough of us show up, he'll think he's been BlogSPAMmed. We could even pretend to be SPAMmers and really mess with him.

Seriously, a novel launch is a wonderful and terrifying thing. If you do have a minute, stop by Halfhead and wish him luck.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

BlogLife

I like watching the blog memes that make the rounds. Most are fun, creative, and good conversation starters. Like horoscopes, the ones that try to predict or pigeonhole your future shouldn't be taken too seriously. Remember the What Kind of Novel Should I Write quiz? I took that one to see how it labeled me. The site crashed.

While tracking memes, I watch other types of posts and patterns of posts. Blogs seem to go through the same stages some romantic relationships do. In the beginning, it's all new and wonderful. There's experimentation and a lot of expression. Then things begin to settle down into a comfortable routine. If something sets one off, one can indulge in a rant but later apologize for it.

Some boredom follows. How many times have you seen "I don't feel like posting" posts? That's the blog version of "Honey, I have a headache." Some of the charm of blogging wears off, so this is where memes become very popular. But you can only do so many memes, and gradually days pass by without any posting.

Days turn into weeks. A sudden, guilty "I haven't posted in a month, two months, six months" post pops up. That spurs some half-hearted efforts to keep it going, but it's never the same as it was. Eventually stagnation sets in, then disinterest, and the blog goes static or disappears.

Keeping the blog alive, fresh, and interesting is a challenge for everyone. Some ideas on how to spruce up your netspace:

1. Be curious. Go bloghopping, see what others are discussing. Rather than comment on another blog, take the subject back to your own and post your opinions (linking back to the source is standard blog etiquette.)

2. Surf some blog monitoring sites, like Intelliseek's Blogpulse.com, which offers a search engine and up-to-date info on the most popular blogs, links, topics and people out there.

3. Don't make it all about you. People who only blog about themselves and nothing else seem to run out of steam faster than other bloggers.

4. Incorporate a little humor into your blog. Deadly serious blogs are generally deadly boring ones. Lighten up.

5. You've heard that if you want to seriously rant, you should write the rant but wait 24 hours before you post it. Why not do that with all your posts? Most of what I write on PBW is posted as a draft 24 to 48 hours in advance.

6. Stock up on spare entries. Write and save drafts of posts for days when you don't feel like posting.

7. Ask your readers what they'd like you to post. Tell Mom in advance that you're not going to write about how much you adore the purple sequined beaded lampshade your Aunt Frances sent you for your birthday.

8. Take what you dish out. It's easy to joke about other people, but it gradually comes off mean-spirited if you don't poke a little fun at yourself now and then.

9. Be honest. If you're censoring yourself to the point of where you only post nice happy posts, then you're boring us and yourself.

10. If you don't have something to talk about, offer links to other interesting sites. I never feel like posting on Mondays, which is why it became Ten Things Day around here.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sold

Four devotionals (writing as Rebecca Kelly); three slotted for a 2006 pub, one bought to be held in reserve for future use. The latter is a nice compliment; devotional editors usually buy only what they need. This is the last of the inspirational work I had out there, so now I have to decide what I want to do next.

Worrying Ten

Ten Things That Worry Me

1. Ted DeCorte's 200+ Ideas to Market Yourself and Your Books -- know someone who's tried 199 of these? Yeah, me too.

2. Planned Television Arts -- the front page quote: Rick and the gang at PTA can get bookings out of a rock. Who's the gang? Is the rock okay?

3. A.S. Hatch's 2003 promotional Buy my book, charter Gen. Patton's Yacht campaign -- for buying one book? And you'd trust them with it?

4. Carolyn Howard-Johnson's The Frugal Book Promoter:
How to do What Your Publisher Won’t
-- you mean things like, pay me on time, spell my characters' names right in the copy, stop putting transvestite cetaceans on my covers . . . if that's in the index, I'm buying this baby.

5. LexiKhan by thebeefboy.com -- Beefboy. Right.

6. Pamela Anderson's "Stacked" Blog -- Hey . . . OK . . . Hey . . .
Ok . . . teehee. Christ.

7. Should I Publish with AuthorHouse, iUniverse or Xlibris? -- Can I introduce you to Pam?

8. 1001 Ways to Market Your Books -- If you want to sell 85,000,000 books like we have, read and use this book. — Mark Victor Hanson and Jack Canfield, New York Times bestselling authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul, who are obviously not worried about burning in hell for eternity.

9. Yet Another Disappointing Books Thread -- misery loves company with whom to share the whine.

10. Publish and be Damned -- Probably.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

More Branding

I'm an advocate of authors branding themselves and their weblogs as well as their novels. Put away the white-hot irons; it doesn't have to be that painful. Making yourself easier for anyone to remember just requires some creative thinking.

Take PBW. Short for Paperback Writer. Now, raise your hands if you know my real name* (uh-uh-uh, no Googling.) I also write under seven other names. Without my bibliography, are you going to remember all of them, how to spell them, and which I use for what genre? Hardly.

PBW, on the other hand, is short, easy to type, and makes an immediate connection to me and the weblog. It's like PW. It's like PB&J. People remember it.

Acronyms aren't the only way to brand yourself. A short, unusual or striking name, nickname, pseudonym or blog name tends to stick better than those which are long, ordinary, or forgettable. Good examples:

1. BestSF -- Mark Watson's SF review site. The name is very simple and says it all in six letters.

2. BookAngst101 -- An anonymous industry pro who goes by the handle Mad Max Perkins and writes about publishing, marketing, and how to handle both.

3. Bookninja -- maintained by the never silent but evidently ever-lethal Peter Darbyshire, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, and George Murray.

4. Fark -- Bet you can guess what F word Drew Curtis was really thinking of when he named his site.

5. Galleycat -- edited by Nathalie Chica, who is also Cup of Chica.

6. His Nibs -- weblog of Norman Haase, owner of His Nibs, online source for unusual fountain pens as well as fine writing instruments and pen supplies.

7. Pullquote -- operated by Cinetrix; there's a double-brander for you.

8. Slashdot -- originated by Rob Malda; now owned by Open Source Technology Group.

9. Snarkywood -- written by some ladies named Martha, Lauren and Amy.

10. Tamboblog -- website of author Tamara Siler Jones, whose signature nickname is Tambo.

Other online resources for branding info:

Julie Andersen's article The Importance of Branding Yourself in a Niche Market.

Tim Bete's article Eight Ways to Promote Your Writing Online talks about online branding.

Tom Brosnahan's article Author as Brand Name.

A Single Southern Guy Across America discusses blog name branding and evolution when he was just A Single Southern Guy in America.

*It's Sheila Lynn Kelly. This week, anyway.

Hyperluminescence

I've been having a writing rush tonight. I don't usually do this, but the muse got tickled and I thought I'd knock out a few pages.

I started typing around 9 p.m. tonight last night. You know the kind of word rush that starts hot, finds more fuel somewhere and then goes nuclear on you? That kicked in about 9:30 pm. You can't type fast enough to keep up with the flow, and your mind is three pages ahead already, and you're forgetting to do things like blink and exhale because oxygen is not as vital as capturing what you see and hear in your head. Writing like you're swinging a sledgehammer --

I lost a lot of you at nuclear, didn't I? And the sledgehammer thing is a little disturbing. Sorry. It's hard to describe.

I love these rushes, though. If I am ever like water, it's when the words are flowing like this. I know I'll have to do some buffing and polishing tomorrow, or once my hands stop smoking, but the words felt right as they hit the page, if that makes any sense.

What bugs me is that I have no idea what sets off a rush. I don't think I did anything. I quilted a little this morning. We looked at a house that we really liked. Great kitchen; I could cook for a small army in it. I wrote my daily quota, did some weeding. Took the kids to a pool party and the man out to lunch. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the cobb salad.

Tonight I could stand on the roof and shout, Look at me, I'm a writer! Tomorrow I'll probably wrestle with every paragraph that hits the screen, end up way under quota and think, Look at me, I went to bed at 1:41 am last night.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Photo No-Nos

Ten Things Not To Do in Your Author Photo

1. Show your back teeth. All of them.

Only Muppets smile like that. Stop it.

2. Tilt your head to one side.

You don't look playful or adorable. You look cockeyed.

3. Wear your hair "mussed."

What, you can spend two hundred bucks on this head shot but you can't afford a brush?

4. Present your profile.

One word: rhinoplasty.

5. Sit at a desk, bent over, intent at work.

We know what you do for a living. Skip the charades.

6. Offer a brooding, serious expression.

Try Correctol for gentle, overnight relief.

7. Wear sunglasses.

Are they like mirrored on the inside?

8. Gaze at some elevated point in the distance.

Sorry, but the aliens simply aren't coming.

9. Rest any part of your face against your hand.

We know you're hiding a big honking zit.

10. Fold your arms and lean against a wall.

Step One: Admit you are powerless over alcohol - that your life has become unmanageable. Step Two . . .

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dilemma

I have sales data that might help other writers who are wondering how many copies you have to sell in order to crack the USAT BSL. I'd also like to post it here on the weblog, but if I do doubtless someone will accuse me of bragging again.

I'm trying to be more sensitive to the easily p.o.'ed, but I'd also like to make this info available to interested parties whose egos can withstand the pain.

Any suggestions? E-mail, maybe?

Update: Thanks for the suggestions and e-mails. To respond to some dismayed folks, I'm not attempting to bully other pros into releasing their sales data. Remember what your mother told you: If PBW jumps off a cliff, it doesn't mean you have to.

Seriously, I think pros need to be more candid about the reality of the business. Sell-through is huge part of that reality. Aren't you all sick of being told one thing and finding out the truth is different? If you put the facts out there, people won't be making career decisions based on rumors that their pals in MWA, RWA or SFWA told them.

Anyway, to continue my sensitivity streak and to keep both sides happy, I'll send the info to any interested party via e-mail. Please send your request with a subject line of "Numbers" to LynnViehl@aol.com.

Lost

I've talked about how giving your novel a title is a form of branding, because once the book is published, you'll forever be known as the author of [insert title]. It's also the primary promo for your novel, especially if it's a catchy or interesting title.

I presently have a novel I need to retitle before I send out the proposal. The original title is good, but circumstances beyond my control have just rendered it unusable. I can think of more titles I wouldn't give it than one that works, which made me think of how many titles I must have sent over the years to the Lost Library.

I created the Lost Library when my 7th grade English teacher threw away the only copy of a short novel I had written and shown to him (and for which I have still not forgiven him, the jerk.) The only way I could console myself was by make-believing that my book had been whisked off by magic means to a mysterious place where all lost writing goes. Silly, yeah, but I was thirteen and traumatized. I think I also still believed in Santa Claus.

The Lost Library has taken plenty more of donations from me over the years. Writing I misplaced, writing I threw out, tore up, burned, rewrote, lined through and on one memorable occasion, balled up and threw into the ocean. The last one seems very romantic, but I should mention that if you're doing this from the shore it does float back almost right away. Do it from a boat.

Who would work at the Lost Library? A nice lady librarian, of course. The one whose name you could never remember when you were a kid. She'd sit at the front counter while she uses white-out to erase all the catalog cards for new arrivals.

Whole book manuscripts would be shelved, short stories stuck in magazine racks, and in between all those sets of encyclopedias that computer CDs made obsolete, crumpled-up note pad pages being flattened out like flowers you press between the pages of a Bible. Title ideas maybe printed on ribbons and wound up in balls and left on the floor for the lady librarian's cat to play with. She'd have to have a great cat.

There would have to be a special bin for lost shopping lists, Christmas lists, and to-do lists. Poems would hang from mobiles; paper castles in the air. Somewhere in the back corner shelves of the nonfiction section, shoe boxes filled with the love letters that I never mailed and the journals that I've destroyed. Computers to store all the e-mails I've deleted. A few folders of sad song lyrics (I could never come up with a happy one.) Posters printed with the names I chose not to give my children.

I can do this all night, you know.

You can't check out anything from the Lost Library, but on rare occasions the nice lady librarian whose name we will never remember sends them back. Today while I was digging through a business file I found the only copy of a longish short story I wrote seventeen years ago. Maybe the Lost librarian sent it back because her magazine rack got too crowded, or it was something worth finding again.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Oprah Dear

M.J. Rose has signed on with the authors who have sent an open letter to television's Oprah Winfrey, entreating her to bring back her show's bestseller-making book club.

We genre writers should do something like this. I'm thinking a postcard:

Hi O,

Love your show. Want to be on it.
Know much indy dirt. Have funny
Drag Queen Flipper tail tale.
Can pass as lit writer w/low lighting
& wardrobe aid. Wish you were here.

PBW

Whatyaknow

I didn't realize that you can buy software now that edits your novel for you until this morning, when I was cruising around for editing linkage. Next thing you know we'll have software that handles brain surgery. No, don't tell me if there is already.

While I was looking for articles and info on editing a novel, I was deluged by commercial sites run by editors for hire and writers turned book doctors. Some of them charge $25 a page, can you believe that? And no one is indicting these people? Evidently there are many mysterious but stunningly effective processes involved because they're very tight-lipped about their editing superpowers.

Some things on editing for which you don't have to pay $25 a pop:

Common Proofreading Symbols

Judy Cullins's How to Edit Your Articles as You Write -- this is about articles, but she makes some good suggestions on what to look for that can also apply to novels

Jennifer Joseph's A Few Tips on Editing a Novel

Crawford Kilian's advice on editing

Holly Lisle's One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle

Nanoedmo

Ray Rhamey is not tight-lipped about his editing methods, but shows how he uses them on his weblog Flogging the Quill. Ray will also do some free editing in return for permission to post your work as an example.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Novel VII: Edit

When I first started writing novels, I didn't edit them. I just wrote, and whatever hit the page seemed so wonderful to me that I wouldn't touch it. Having to use white-out on my typed pages may have contributed; I can't stand the smell of the stuff. But I was also a kid, and like all kids I was too wrapped up in the wonder of creating my little gems to consider polishing them.

I've had no formal education as a writer, so reading other writers' books was the way that I learned my work wasn't anywhere near professional quality. Through comparisons, I began to see where I was dropping the ball, and how I could do it differently. Happily I never got into the habit of sporadic, free-for-all editing during the writing process. I would write something, and only when it was finished would I mess with it.

I believe editing styles and methods can be as individual as the writing side of things. I am also not a believer in endless editing; I think it can lead to way too much second-guessing and getting caught in rewriting loops. So the usual disclaimer: of what follows, try it to see if it works for you; if it doesn't, try something else.

The first part of my editing process is what I mentioned during the writing phase: each evening I do a light edit on the new material I've written that day. This is very quick, one-shot editing. I read through the work on screen, and make word, phrase and placement changes as I go along. Mentally I'm still in the writing mindset: I'm not hating the work, or myself, or poisoning everything with doubt; I'm just cleaning it up.

I do a final spelling and grammar check, make those changes, save the edited file, and I'm done. I won't read or edit that portion of the book again until the entire novel is finished. Yes, this takes a certain amount of self-discipline and the temptation to back read and re-edit is always there. Some people enjoy doing that; it seems to serve as a reassurance to them. I'm too impatient to keep doing things over; I want to reach the finish line.

Once I've written a complete first draft of a novel, as with polishing a proposal, I try to put a little time and distance between me and the manuscript. Six months away from it would be ideal, but I don't have that luxury anymore. Generally I take two or three days off from working on it. When I'm ready, I print out a hard copy of the manuscript, grab a highlighter and a red ink pen, find a quiet, comfortable spot, and start the final read-through and edit phase.

I read through the manuscript one time, using the highlighter as I go to slash words, sentences, paragraphs and whole pages. I highlight typos, grammatical errors, repeated words, poor word choices, things I find myself skimming through versus reading, and things that for whatever reason don't hit me the right way. I also look at things more intangible -- am I getting too wordy, not wordy enough, how's my flow, have I been consistent, is my voice in this genre coming through, that sort of thing.

This is the stage when I finally let myself get emotional about the work. I release my internal editor, and take it from me, that bitch is nasty, demanding, and merciless. She decides if I've captured my vision of this story. She jumps on my trouble areas (writing description and emotion give me the most trouble, and I know I tend to skimp or skip in both areas, so my internal editor looks for that.) If she hates something, I slash it with the highlighter. If she really hates something, I line through it with the red pen.

When the internal editor and I are done the first pass, she goes away and I take a break for at least twelve hours. I shift back into writer mode, and think about the major changes and how I want to handle them. I kick myself a few times, and then I let it go. I do try to learn something from each edit -- as in, how can I avoid that problem with the next book I write?

When I go back to the manuscript, I start correcting things. Small corrections I make on the page, major changes I'll rewrite from scratch. I do this mainly on the hard copy, but I will type up large sections of revised work on the computer and clip the new pages to the old ones.

When the hard copy corrections are complete, I do a type-in to revise the manuscript file, print that out, and do a final read-through. I used to do this on the computer, but I wear trifocals now and paper is a bit easier on my eyes. The final read-through is just for typos or errors the revisions may have caused, so this one is light, like my daily new material edit.

When the final read-through is finished, I do the last type-in, print out the novel manuscript, and box it up to ship it out.

Elimination

I'm putting together some titles and ideas for the guest column I'll be writing for RTB. Here's the discard list:

Piss on the Book of Your Heart -- too insensitive

Chicks with Dicks -- inadvertantly insults the transgendering

Egging the Hen Parties -- fun but mean

What Are You, Twelve? -- so many editors are these days

If You Want Everyone to Like You, Get a Job Delivering Flowers -- too long

Why PAN Was the God of Sheep -- just don't even go there

I Got Your HEA Right Here -- can't find a way to work in the crotch grab

No worries, I'll keep at it.

Reality Revisions

It really doesn't help when the cardinals in Rome elect a pope whose life story matches that of the major bad guy in your novel.

F's

Fear. Frustration. Failure. These three F's are the kudzu on the path to publication.

Fears like TFIA (The Futility of It All.) One version of this syndrome starts with a general dissatisfaction with the work. That becomes an itching, annoying rash of suspicion. Nothing worthwhile is hitting the page, therefore, nothing will.

TFIA continues to work its magic until all the work, no matter how bad or good it actually is, resembles low grade manure. Other forms of TFIA include Rejection Depression, Lack of Recognition Rage, and No-Contract-Deal Damages. We have to take the blame for TFIA, guys, because we give it to ourselves.

Writers who survive TFIA face the second F, frustration. A working writer is still a scared writer, but also one who quickly loses control of many things. It's not just you and the computer and the mailman anymore. No, it's you and editors, contracts, revisions, cover art and copy, copy-edits, galleys, print runs, marketing, advance buzz, print runout, distribution, shelf positioning, release dates, sell-through, chains ordering to the net, etc.

That's just one book, and anything can go wrong with any or all of the above. Anything. Guess how much control the writer has over that? Little to none. Guess who gets blamed if anything does go wrong? Hint: whose name is on the book?

Which takes us to the third F, failure. Thanks to fear, frustration and a couple of other effing factors, all writers fail sometime during their career. For aspiring writers, it's having the work rejected so often that you decide the book will never sell, and shelve it.

For rookie authors, it's being paralyzed by publication, or worse, not being paralyzed by it. I've compared my rookie year to being like Betty Crocker in the court of Caligula. That's the nice analogy.

Further along in the career there's lousy numbers quicksand, aka future deal killer. A thousand other factors completely beyond your control -- your genre tanks, your agent walks, your imprint folds, your editor goes into a twelve-step program -- are eagerly waiting in the wings to help to wreck things for you. Guess again who gets blamed? Well, if the failure is large enough, they sure don't fire your editor.

Don't be depressed by the three F's. If you're a writer, chances are you are one of the most stubborn, contrary, mule-headed people on the planet. Most of us seem to come prewired that way. That's a strength, and that's what got me through my F's. That, creative denial, devout hermitage, frequently resorting to Zen revenge*, and never making the same mistake more than, say, four or five times.

Hunting around the net for alternatives, I found Tenali's four C's approach to fear management and methods to transform failure into success. He's got good ideas on adjusting your focus and learning from the missteps.

There's this problem with kudzu: it always grows back. Same with the three Fs. Hide from them, pretend they're not there, and you'll be up to your ears in them in no time. Fight them, cut them down, stomp them into the dirt, and refuse to let them take over your road, and they'll never grow back large enough to strangle you.

*Zen revenge: Do something nice or helpful for someone you like, then do something nice or helpful for someone you don't.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Buy Me

Bella Stander's article* Book Promotion 101 comes across with a definite edge to it, as if she meant to subtitle it 25 Things You'd Better Do For Your Signing, You Twit, Or Else. Been burned a few times, I guess.

I'd never spoken in public before I was published, and I was terrified at the prospect. To combat my cowardice, I went to Poetry Open Mike night at B&N for a couple of months. Getting up in front of strangers and reading my really personal stuff banished most of my stage fright. I'll never be comfortable with public speaking, though. The whole time I'm talking, I'm thinking, the hem of my dress is stuck in the waistband of my pantyhose or did I do a spinach check on my teeth after dinner?

I think most authors do a fair job with booksignings, but few are stellar at it. Neil Gaiman is, of course, but you probably have to go through TicketMaster now to attend his signings. Mystery author Laurien Berenson does a nice, classy job with hers (and you can talk about dogs with her and her eyes don't glaze over.) Janet Evanovich is funny, and reads well, but like Neil's her signings are generally swamped.

If you're looking for a public appearance role model, go no further than Marcia King-Gamble. Marcia is a tall, gorgeous romance author who has the elegance and fashion sense of a supermodel. Unlike most of us, she looks better than her author photos. Along with the presence, Marcia knows how to put anyone at ease. She might be sitting at a rickety card table outside a B. Dalton, but talk to her for two minutes and you'll swear you're in a sidewalk cafe in Paris. A lot of Raven in The Steel Caress was me dealing with my Marcia-envy.

Who do you think gives great booksignings?

(*link filched from Southern Comfort.)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Your Turn

I've turned on comments. You can thank Alison Kent, Kate Rothwell, and Shannon Stacey for convincing me to give it a whirl (Shannon and Kate used blog blackmail.)

I've only disabled comments for one archived post because of the amount of hate-monger mail it generated. Sheer laziness; I don't feel like reading it again.

Everything else? Have at it.

Free Ten

Ten Things Online for Free

1. Free e-Books page at Fictionwise.com -- 9/11 report, Jules Verne, Frankenstein in mp3, and some SF award desperados.

2. Images of American Political History -- A collection of over 500 public domain images.

3. Mayang's Free Textures version 10 -- 1750 interesting texture images; daily max on downloads is 30.

4. Sue Fisher's The Font Thing.

5. For you emoticon addicts, free stylish emoticons.

6. Dowload audio (mp3) versions of the Bible and other inspirational audio books -- several languages, plus you can listen online versus downloading.

7. Three free books by author Holly Lisle: Fire in the Mist, Sympathy for the Devil, and Mugging the Muse. The first two are wonderful novels, the third is a terrific e-book on writing.

8. Housestyle is "a free style analysis tool that checks your documents against a range of individual house styles, helps convert documents from American to British spelling (and vice versa), support inclusive language (e.g. with regard to disability, ethnicity, gender and religion), and harmonise preferred spellings." (Not sure about this one, but if it does what it says it can it would be a good addition to your toolbox.)

9. Free online GIF editor -- edits and animates GIFs

10. Make a custom map of the world at Planiglobe.com.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

All About You

Someone once gave us a personalized book for our son's birthday. This type of personalized book is the sort that "stars your child" and has their name and certain details about them incorporated directly into the story.

It looked cute and all, but as I read it and came across the "special details" our friend had submitted to the publisher to put in the story, it kind of creeped me out. The text went something like this:

"Hi, Michael," said Peppy the Clown. "Welcome to Happy Land, where you and your dog, Missy, can play soccer with Katherine and all the Happiness elves on Shalimar Drive. Only be careful! There's a witch who likes blond boys with green eyes and Power Rangers toys, and she might try to lure you away from Mom and Dad."

Is it me, or does that sound like a ransom note?

Anyway, we never got into the whole personalized kid thing, and neither did our kids, and our friends moved on to other things, so I forgot about it. Until tonight, when I did a search for a place that sells personally monogrammed journals (other than the people who want all my money and just might get it), and accidentally discovered that personalized books have grown up.

1. Basic starter: For $29.95, you can buy The Personalized Romance Novel.

2. Basic starter with hot title, also $29.95: A Love So Bold

3. For $34.95 you can commission Romeo and Juliet the happy ending version as well as customize the cover to show you and your suicidal lover (and do you think Brad and Helen is a sequel to Brad and Jen?)

4. Finally, for $44.99, the Deluxe model -- TorridRomance.com offers five different types of personalized romance novel, from strangers meeting in Paris to strangers meeting at a medieval castle. Strange being the keyword here, I think.

I can just imagine how the story goes, too:

"Halo, Paperback Writer," said Philippe the French gardener. "Welcome to Paris, where you and your cat, Jericho, can exchange lingering looks with moi and Russell Crowe and all the sexy Frenchmen who come to sit on your heart-shaped bed. Only be careful! There's a dark and handsome vineyard owner who likes chubby brunette sirens with myopic eyes and none of your damn business toys, and he might try to lure you away from your one true love, writing."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

My Fault

I said I was only going to sign three copies of If Angels Burn. After reading this, I'm changing that to four. Sorry, Michelle. :)

Madness

Why are writers crazy? Lousy self-esteem, conflicted self-image, emotions running rampant, compulsory compromises, and self-medication via substance abuse are the latest theory.

Don't look at me. I once got into a tank with a killer whale to research some SF characters. Your life doesn't flash before your eyes, btw, your tombstone does: She was Dedicated to Her Work, and Looked Too Much Like a Seal When Wet.

If you're worried about your mental health, check out online resources like Cosmic Cherry, Psych Central, Queendom.com, and Tickle.

Friday, April 15, 2005

5% Solution

You writers out there, stop what you're doing, this minute. You don't have to chase agents, or slog through the slush piles, or slam your head against Publishing's permanently locked vault door anymore. You don't even have to write books.

No, all you have to do is compete for one of eight spots on this Fall's newest TV reality show, Book Millionaire.

Host Lori Prokop says "Books are about fun and business. Ninety-five percent of the success of a book is believing in it, the ability to market it and getting the message out there in front of readers. Five percent of the success is writing."

That's right, and you know, Lori's on TV, which means Lori is an expert. Lori is also the bestselling author of . . . something. Not this, or this, but something.

Anyway, according to Lori, in order to be a success, 95% of our time as writers should be spent believing in the book, marketing it, and spreading the propaganda. Actually writing the book, a mere 5%. And it's not a hoax, or if it is, someone is carrying it to extremes.

M.J., I think we're gonna need a lot more aspirin.

(Story and link hijacked from Nick Mamatas' Journal)

Update: Lee Goldberg says it's an infomercial-scam. That explains much.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

148

Let's play another game. You be me.

You wake up at 5 am. Yes, you have to. You fire up the work computer and the internet computer. You check e-mail and wince. You load the WIP. Then you let yourself have 15 minutes to post your weblog entry and surf the web. This morning you check the USA Today bestseller list, not because you'll be on it, but because it's what you've done every Thursday morning for the last five years.

You're realistic. You've published 28 books and not one of them ever made it to a national bestseller list. Add a little resigned to the realistic. You're pretty sure you'll make another, more modest indy bestseller list this summer. You do well with the indies.

You page through the top 150 books in the country, taking in the names and genres, making a couple of notes to talk about trends with the agent, and then it happens. In this case, at the very bottom of the last page, right above Fern Michaels and Lemony Snicket, coming in at #148 :

If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl

Now, do you scream and wake up the rest of the house, or do you go sit out on the porch and sip your morning tea and watch the sunrise and think?

Right. I'll put the kettle on.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Much To-Do

Things around Casa PBW just got interesting, thanks to those of you who went out and invested in my latest release. Evidently a whole bunch of you did, and the next book will very likely be out a month or two sooner than planned. This also trims my work schedule, but like I'm going to complain.

No pressure, really. I simply have to finish writing a book that must be as good, and hopefully better, than the one that is apparently flying off the shelves right now. In the next ten days. Mylanta, anyone?

On the Zen side of life, I've started another weblog. No, not joking. I'm almost as passionate about quilts as I am about writing, and ideally I'd like to talk about that work with other conservators and quilt addicts. I think archiving some of my work on the internet might help other quilters who want to save their old quilts. I won't be able to update A Stitch in Time as often as PBW, as quilts take a lot longer to work on than books, but I still think it'll be fun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Multiple Choice

Let's play a game. You be the author.

Here's your hypothetical moral dilemma: A small industry-entity editor contacts you via e-mail, asking for books. Your publisher and most of the other majors won't ship review copies to this entity, so the only way the editor can get them is from the authors. No ARCs, though, only final copies will do, and please sign them because it will thrill the reviewer.

You add editor to your gratis copy list and ship him signed author copies of your books on your dime.

For your efforts, you get two reviews: one limp lukewarm ho-hum and one vicious hatchet job. After the hatchet job, editor promptly e-mails asking for more books for his reviewer, who coincidentally has just put your signed copies up on eBay and is selling them for three times the cover price.

What does the author do?

A. Send the editor screen shots of the reviewer's eBay auctions featuring your novels and suggest that the thrill of signed copies may be wearing off.

B. Suggest that if the editor would like more books, he go to hell to look for them.

C. You suggest other things, using so many bad words that your e-mail bounces back as rejected pornographic SPAM.

D. You lie to the editor and say that you are presently out of gratis copies. You promise to keep him in mind and thank him for his interest.

E. You can't decide what to do so you write a weblog entry about it.

F. None of the above.

G. All of the above.

H. You quit writing and move to Tibet, where you live happily in a cave with The Abominable Yeti, who cannot read and only wants you for pretty much continuous wild and crazy sex.

I. You wonder why, for God's sake, that every time you try to do a nice thing for people it turns into a blow torch that swings backward and melts your face off.

J. You get an idea for a suspense thriller from the blow torch analogy, forget about the editor and his e-mail, and write three chapters of your next novel. Which you later send to the editor signed with only two words: Blow Me.

K. You remember you're a girl and Blow Me only works if you're a guy. You have a sex change operation to compensate.

L. You hire a hit man from Miami to take out the editor and the reviewer. He turns out to be a Fed and you go to jail for the rest of your life.

M. You consider how hard it would really be to kill someone as you compulsively chew Excedrin. Then, so as not to plagiarize King and because aspirin tastes horrible, you switch from Excedrin to peppermint TicTacs.

N. You know, there's no shame in admitting you need therapy. Again.

O. You just say no. Politely. Without guilt and without returning the nastiness. And you walk away.

P. Then again, not every hit man is a Fed posing as one, right?

Q. By going through all of your options, you come to terms with your universe once more, feel weary but satisfied, and toddle off to bed.

R. Oh, and you just forget about the editor, the reviewer, and their bullshit.

. . . Well?

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Perils of Publishing

Presented for your perusal, David Mathison's article Breaking Up is Hard to Do.

Now, was I supposed to be swapping my integrity for corporate media favors? I thought I just turned in a manuscript and got a D&A check. Silly me.

Don't be scared, though. Mathison also happens to be the author of Be the Media, the "first solutions-oriented book to address the problem of media monopoly" which will be out in June. Isn't that timely? (Blame Grumpy Old Bookman for this one.)

Planet Ten

Ten Things for the World Builders

1.   John Bray's Planet Designer

2.   C. Burke's Solar System Synthesis Applet

3.   Kate Elliot's The Fully Realized World

4.   The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia

5.   Fignations of Imaginment's huge link list to various fractal generator and software sites

6.   Michael Gherrity's Random terrain generator

7.   Paul Martz's How to Generate a Random Fractal Terrain

8.   Steven Swiniarski's article on constructing a SF universe

9.   Tree of Life web project, providesinformation about the diversity of organisms on Earth, their evolutionary history and characteristics.

10.   Your sky from any longitude or latitude

Sunday, April 10, 2005

$1

I went into a dollar store (for my overseas pals, this is a shop where everything costs $1) to get Kath chenille stems. She's recently become obsessed with making tissue-paper flowers, and she goes through about 100 a week. I, being EconoMom, buy a lot of stuff like that at the dollar store.

Next to the rack of crafty things I saw shelves of books. Yes, I always look to see who lands there. Usually it's lousy bios about people you never heard of (The Astonishing Life of Josephine CrawFish), lousy self-helpers (Free Yourself from Lunch Meat Dependency 4-Ever!) or lousy inspirational (Blessed Mother Appeared on My Grilled Cheese, and Other Collected Stories.)

Not so this time. I saw a stack of hardcover novels written by an author I know among the Remaindered Remainders. I knew the novel, too. Major imprint. Everyone had been talking about this one when it hit the shelves. This same book placed very high up in four major genre awards.

Major-major awards. Just three years ago, when it came out in print.

I don't read this author, for reasons that would only identify the author if I elaborated, but seeing it there made me angry. Blood-in-eye, steam-from-ears furious, in fact. I cleared off the shelf, lugged all eleven copies to the cashier and bought the lot. $11.00 for what should have cost me $263.45.

Totally irrational purchase, I know. This is a national chain dollar store, so there are probably a thousand copies out there in one-buck land. It was a knee-jerk reaction, I guess. I don't know about you, but the last place I want to see books by an author I know -- whether I like him/her or not -- is at the damn dollar store.

I went from there to the real book store and went up and down the aisles, militantly facing out novels by every writer I know. I was there for a good hour, rearranging stock. While I was, I handsold two other authors' books to ladies in the romance and mystery sections. I was so mad I was about ready to apply for a job just so I could get onto the floor and really work it.

Before I threw in the towel on being an author to become a bookseller, I made myself leave. I believe the clerks started popping the champagne soon as I left.

I understand that books eventually have to be remaindered. That the remainders are then sold in lots to the highest bidder. I know a book is a product, and publishing is a business, and whatever publishers can recover to balance out their losses can only be a good thing for everyone involved.

My head tells me not to get angry. My heart refuses to listen.

Yet Another . . .

The Lit-Blog Coop asks the burning question:

What would happen if a bunch of your favorite literary blogs got together four times a year and picked a book from obscurity, an overlooked literary gem that we'd get behind as a group and bring to your attention, flogging it ceaselessly both here and on our respective individual blogs?

PBW's Bad Angel: Can I answer this one? Please? Pretty, pretty please with sugar on top?

PBW's Good Angel: You so much as look at that question again and you'll be in the dog house until Labor Day.

Bad Angel: Oh, yeah? Two words for you. Literary. Gem.

Good Angel: I'll use the pepper spray this time, sohelpmeGod.

Bad Angel: Good, I needed to gargle before I go to bed.

Good Angel: Why can't you say something nice?

Bad Angel: They've got Sarah Weinman. She's our homie.

Good Angel: See? Was that so hard?

Bad Angel: Bet they kidnapped her cat to make her do it.

Good Angel: Shut UP.

All kidding aside, break a leg, guys.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Take 100

Last night I packed up 50 hardcovers and 50 paperbacks and ARC copies (80 of them are my novels, 20 written by friends.) Today I'm shipping them off to be handed out at a writer's mini-con/luncheon next month in another state. In each book I put a postcard with three marketing questions on it for the recipient.

The books are mostly author copies, so all I'm paying for is the shipping. Plus I now have 100 less books to pack and move to the new house this summer. My lower back is already grateful.

Do free books = more readers? Unless I stalk each one of the recipients, I'll never be sure. What I do know is that I can have boxes of books sitting in the garage doing nothing, or I can put 100 books into the hands of potential new readers.

If my or my friends' books hook just 10% of the recipients to the point that they go out and buy other titles we've written/will write, that will cover what little $$$ we've invested in the project. Readers don't keep quiet about good books, either. They tell their reader friends.

If no one buys any of our titles and all the donated books end up being sold on eBay or given to the local library, I've still more space in the garage than I did yesterday.

What I'm really interested in seeing is the response to the marketing survey questions, more on which I'll be posting here on the weblog next month.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Depolarization

A clarification for the outraged:

In my previous entry, I referenced a post over at Lee Goldberg's blog. This is an example of a good counterpoint opinion, and the kind of thing you shouldn't take as a personal attack, as opposed to what Sylvia, Alison and Holly have been dealing with. That was all I meant by the reference.

Lee's post also made me aware of something I hadn't realized: that by talking openly about my writing income, that some people would construe that as bragging. In an industry where no one talks about the money unless they fill out an anonymous survey, I guess I do stand out in the crowd. So, in that sense, I owe him for pointing it out to me. Thank you, Lee.

I realize that a lot of people come here looking for reasons to jump on me versus wanting to hear what I have to say. I'm a magnet for those folks. I also write what I think instead of what I think you want to hear. Not going to make me a lot of friends. But you are entitled to your opinion, whatever it is, and I respect that, even when you don't extend me the same consideration.

Slams

Sylvia Day wonders why the romance blogging community is such a shark pool with Can't We All Just Get Along? Alison Kent recently talked about how she is dealing with the shark attacks, and Holly discussed why she doesn't keep quiet on the tough issues.

I don't want the sharks to be nice to me. I avoid sharks. I don't worry about who is in my corner, because I already know exactly who is there, and I trust them implicitly. However tempting it is to defend myself, I generally don't.

Can't expect everyone to adore me. I really do try to live by those words.

Example: this morning I got a couple of e-mails about Lee Goldberg's recent post, and folks asking if I was going to respond. I could counter with my view, and a few facts about the reality of writing for the genre fiction market, but Lee's entitled to his opinion. He also has some insight into how the process is different for other writers. It's a good counterpoint post, even if it isn't particularly flattering.

You can't expect people to like you, or flatter you, or suck up to you 24/7. Not going to happen. Okay, if you're Neil Gaiman, maybe. But for the rest of us, it's an uphill battle with very few allies and lots of enemies all the way. And you already know the first thing that slides downhill, right? Expect to have many days when you get hit with a face full of it.

Wipe it off and keep moving, or throw it back. It's up to you.

46 Worries

Via Holly Black, 46 things for authors to worry about.

My additions:

Editor tells you that you have no chance to make the bestseller list. Then your book makes the bestseller list.

Editor asks for your honest opinion, and you actually give it to him/her.

Production misspells your name on your cover flats so badly that buyers can't find you on their order forms.

Your serious novel gets Wile E. Coyote quality cartoon cover art.

Production schedules to release your hardcover novel in a mass market edition but forgets to tell you.

Typesetter misspells the name of a major character 369 times in the galley. Misspelling is also the word for an illegal drug.

You get a chance for a cover quote from a world-famous author and your editor tells you he/she won't use it because the WFA doesn't write in your genre.

People start naming their kids after your characters. Usually the ones that you named after your pets.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Novel VI: Write

When I've finished visualizing and I'm ready to write the novel, the only non-writing task left is to work out a per-day word quota that will allow me to finish the book one to two weeks prior to deadline.

From there it's not real complicated. I sit down and write the book.

While I'm writing the book I do not back-track to read and mess with what I've written, edit or rewrite the new material as it lands on the page, change my mind about the story, hate myself, hate the work, avoid the work, wait for the planets to align correctly before I write, let my inner rabid bitch off her leash, wonder how what I write will affect the reader, worry about the state of my soul, chakrahs or ego, or otherwise railroad myself.

My apologies in advance to the writers who do any/all of the above. My methods are a professional necessity, because honestly I could not handle what you do in order to write a novel.

I do mentally review each scene as I've visualized it before I write it, but in reality, I don't think much at all when I write. Snicker all you want, but it's true. Being overly conscious of what I'm doing slows me down, so I shift into auto. I also complain about this phase of the work, because it is the grunt phase, and I resent being turned into a typist. At the same time, it can be fun, in the feel-the-burn sense. When I'm writing at top speed and I get into it, I'm like song says, a steel town girl on a Saturday night.

While I write, I hit my wordcount quotas or go over them every day. This started as a goal and became a work ethic for me. If I want a day off from the schedule, I write above and beyond the quota and buy myself time. The only way I won't make quota is if a medical or family emergency intervenes, and then I make it up at the next possible opportunity. Writing completely absorbs me, too, so clocks with obnoxious-sounding alarms are a big necessity around here.

I write new material in the mornings and afternoons, and do a light edit on that material in the evening. The editing portion I'll describe for you when I get into Novel part VII, aka Letting the Inner Rabid Bitch Off Her Leash.

This is the way I write until the book is finished. I wish I could make it sound more important and involved than it is, but that's it.

Novel V: Visualize

Back in March I talked about how I pitch a novel. What happens after I pitch depends on two things: if the editor wants to buy the book and if the offer is acceptable.

A few words on the offer -- I am not an advocate of huge, make-or-break advances. Luckily I started out with a $5K advance per novel, which tends to keep your expectations realistic. My advances presently average out to about $21.5K per book, which matches what my average sell-through earns. I prefer to be paid by the numbers, because my sales are slowly but consistently growing larger from one book to the next, and so should my income. An advance based on my actual sales performance also virtually guarantees the publisher won't lose money on the novel.

Once I've got the sale and the deal nailed, I've got the green light to make book. It's time to move into the construction phase of the novel process. I've already done the imagining, researching, and outlining for the novel, and I probably have at least a hundred pages of it written as part of the pitch, so everything is ready to go.

When you build a house, you don't start building right away. You need a dream, a plan, and backing, then build. Before I can build, though, I need to see the house in my head. So this is when I visualize the novel.

I've tried to explain this see-the-novel-in-my-head a million times and it inevitably comes out sounding stupid. Evidently few to zero writers think in non-existent movies about unwritten novels, but that's what I do. I cast the story with characters I can see in my head, and then I run them through the story in scenes that play out in loops that I alter and rerun until they work. I also find a song or songs to play as theme music while I'm doing all this mental choreography, and I will listen to that song/songs every time I work on the visualization.

Example: Think of a Desperado-era Antonio Banderas, only not as well-dressed or groomed. Got that image? That's Thierry Durand in my head. Think of a malnourished, non-sparkling Ashley Judd. That's Jema Shaw. In this scene, these two are going to meet for the first time.

Put Thierry on the stone balcony of a mansion with snow falling around him at night. Everything is dark winter blue and cold moonlight. Have him pick the hook-and-eye lock on the balcony door with a curved dagger.

Move Thierry into the room, where Jema is huddled under an old Jacob's ladder patterned patchwork quilt. Have him breathe in and smell old books, flowers, and candle wax. He sees the kerosene lamps and antique furnishings, but to Thierry, they look like junk. Have him approach the bed and look down at Jema. See his shadow fall over her. See her eyes moving under her eyelids as she dreams in REM sleep. Now watch him reach out one hand toward her face, and how that shadow falls over her face.

That's my visualization for the beginning of that scene. I've already visualized the rest and tweaked it until I was satisfied with exactly what happens from the time Thierry steps into that room until he slips back out into the night. Once I have a scene like this one worked out in my head, I move onto the next scene. I visualize that and add it onto the previous scene. They become a series of scenes, and then chapters, and finally the book.

One important exception: I don't imagine dialogue in any of my visualized scenes. For me, dialogue comes out on the page better if I don't rehearse it. So while I know what needs to happen in this scene, and I have an idea of what Thierry and Jema are going to say to each other, I don't worry about nailing it down now. I only have to see the characters and the choreography.

Music helps me enormously with this part of the process, and most of the time I choose one or two songs to serve as an image prompter and theme for any novel. Once I've heard it a few times, it's always playing in the background as I run through the visualized book in my head. The music helps me hang onto the story as well. I can still run through the entire visual construct of StarDoc simply by listening to Pat Benatar's Love is a Battlefield.

Once I can see the story in my head from start to finish, I'm ready to write the book.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Busting Blocks

PBW saw a movie made by Ben Joffe in Ireland and got banished from the country in a sad mood and decided to sleep it off which upset everybody, she made a giant leap across the ravine and as if it were a miracle she accidently tripped and smashed her face against a rock.

This cause for celebration was brought to you by Ben Joffe's Story Generator, which led me to DeAnna's weblog, Men Can't Live With Them, Can't Shoot Them in the Kneecaps. Amen, sister.

I don't have a problem with writer's block, but sometimes I think I get character block. There is a perpetual stone wall that stands between me and Reever from the StarDoc books, for example. Reever refuses to let me in, and during any siege he rebuilds his walls as fast as I tear them down. In the last novel, I used the fiction equivalent of nitro to blast him out of his emotional monastery, and damned if he didn't have ten feet of brand-new bricks and mortar already stacked and solidifying the second I started writing the new book.

I deal with Reever by writing pieces of his history before StarDoc book one. He really hates that.

Reever and I have been together a long time -- seven years now -- so his stonewalling me has almost become part of the process. With other characters, like the one I'm wrestling now (my crazy man from If Angels Burn, Thierry Durand) I don't have that kind of history. Thierry is tough to write, too, because he's not exactly sane and so is inclined to ditch redemption in favor of doing crazy man things. Which would be fine if he were the bad guy of the story, but he's not.

With Thierry, I'll just write through it and work it out on the page. I think that can help with whatever blocks you slam into with your writing.

It's also fun to play on the side. I take time every day to go surfing and find stuff for my ten things lists, or simply fool with some of the online idea/character/story resources out there, like the B-Movie Plot Generator, Dragon Name Generator, Fantasy Story Generator, God Name Generator, Persona Generator, Random Daily Prompt Generator, Random Name Generator, Story Generator, Story Recipe, and The Tarot-based Story Generator.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

QIP

My daughter helped me out while my left hand was giving me grief and she finished the last of the repairs on the latest quilt restoration project:

1940's beauty

Naturally the boys immediately appreciated our work:

All your quilts belong to us

Next up on the repair rack, what we're calling the Grey Lady Down quilt:

1950's wedding ring quilt

I've never seen a wedding ring quilt with a gray background before this one, so I was determined to save it. Unfortunately it's a mess: three fist-sized holes through the piece, significant wear damage and rotted fabrics, binding mostly gone and klutzy repairwork by someone who knew nothing about quilts or mending. I like a challenge, though, and the piecework is large enough that I can do it mostly one-handed if my hand goes on strike again.

After we get the Grey Lady back into shape, I have a real buzz of an antique quilt top to play with:

Colorblind quilting at its best

It's even brighter in reality. I keep expecting it to spontaneously combust.

Colorblind quilting at its best

If this is how the original maker composed a quilt, can you imagine how she dressed?

Leftist Girly Girl

Apparently I'm more left than I realized, or not right enough for the Political Compass, which Holly took and talks about her answers and more here.

The questions were manipulative, to be sure, but I answered them honestly according to my politics. I personally don't believe in abortion, but I make that choice only for myself. I don't believe that I or anyone else has the right to decide the issue for others. I don't want us to return to the days of the coat-hanger and the back alley abortionists, either. Thus I am pro-choice in my politics, and strongly agree with keeping abortion legal.

Despite my leftist inclinations, I'm not unhappy with my numbers: Economic Left/Right: -5.25; Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.00. On the example of the graph that shows where famous politicians would land, my score puts me right between Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. I couldn't have picked better neighbors.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Tool Ten

Ten Things for the Online Toolists

1. Acronym Finder -- find out what the heck those letters mean.

2. Kevan Davis's The Advertising Slogan Generator -- enter a word, get an instant slogan.

3. County/State Finder -- to find all the counties in one state, leave the county field blank.

4. Day-of-the-week Finder -- find the day of the week for any date.

5. The Random Euphemism Generator -- very inventive to completely crass, hit reload to regenerate.

6. The Random Obituary Generator of Doom -- when no one knows what to put in the paper.

7. Synonym & Antonym Finder

8. Also from Kevan Davis, The Sheep Poetry Generator.

9. Tombstone Calculator -- figure birthdate from death date and age of death in day/month/year format.

10. World Time Search and Calendar Generator

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Yes

It's 7:14 am. Daylight Savings Time kicked in last night. Go set all the clocks forward an hour and change the batteries in your smoke alarms.

AutoPoems

Via Rob Malda's Amazing Poem Generator, which will extract a poem from your URL:

Paperback Writer @is dead, via tribal acceptance. and rented
the
mystery chicken entrees, limp from a
hover


I knew if the tribe didn't get me, the limp hovering mystery chicken would.

The Goth-O-Matic needs a bit of prompting:

the night falls without a sound, soulless are we.
the light for which you sacrifice yourself
flares once, then dies,
smothered by a velvet ebon nothingness.
all hope must surely perish.


And so too must this poem. Immediately.

You'll also need a line to seed Chris Seidel's Heretical Poem Generator:

paperback writer, go away
though you remind me of Wacford Squeers
A boodly saw a boodly comin' through the rye today
and doth he squasheth the lobsters


No actual lobsters were harmed during the generation of this poem.

Also from Chris Seidel, who apparently has way too much time on his/her hands, the Beatnik Ramble Generator

Paperback writer, go write a book
its writer, Paperback there!!! is destiny Rams you a poet? No!


Destiny always rams something.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Ringers

They made me read J.R.R. Tolkien in high school, which is probably why I've only read one of his books. I never responded well to the whole compulsory reading thing. Turns teachers into Book Nazis and gets most kids to thinking, Hey, there might be something to that whole Farenheit 451 deal.

Somehow we survive high school and the Book Nazis, but the scars remain. Not having read more Tolkien or ever wanting to made me apathetic about seeing the LOTR movies, but I finally did my authorial pop-culture duty and rented the DVDs sporadically over the last year.

Some decent special effects. Orlando Bloom finally made guy-elves hot. Ghosty army backing the King guy was a decent twist. I'm trying to think up nice things to say here so I don't rile the Ringites. Yo, very manly stuff. Way Catholic. The little bug-eyed guy (I can never remember the midget freak's name) and the Precious thing was annoying, but Frodo was a cutie, the poor slob.

That name was a problem for me. Frodo. Go, Frodo. Go, Frodo, Go. Do you like my hat? No, I do not. . .

Hold the hate mail. I expect that someday I'll overcome the psychic damage inflicted by my ninth grade English teacher, grow up and give the man's books another shot. Thing is, the other day LOTR provided me with a good analogy for writers and publishing, and since analogies are like cockroaches, it led to another.

Being an unpublished writer is pretty much being Frodo. Only you're taller. There you are, living in your happy little shire, hanging with the other hobs, wondering what's out there. Next thing you know, someone decides to stick you with a gift of unimaginable potential power that will probably destroy you and sends you on a quest.

Writing books is magic. Being a writer is becoming a magical being. Getting published is the ring.

Now, for most of us hobs, the quest is going to suck. With filed teeth. All the other magical beings look bigger and prettier. They definitely have better wardrobes. We're expected to do big magic. Everyone wants to be your pal, but most of them only want to cop a feel of the ring.

And the quest beats the living crap out of us. A million times on the journey to the dread mountain of bestsellerdoom, we're ready to chuck the ring in the nearest pond and limp back to the shire. Because the shire was nice, wasn't it? And peaceful. And filled with hobs like us. And no one wanted to be our friend for any reason other than friendship.

But . . . we've got the ring. We want to use the ring. Like writers who say that the money doesn't matter, until they're offered a big heaping pile of it. Once you get to a certain level, baby, that money is nice. So is having fans. People you never met, from countries you'll never visit, are going to adore you. Important people hanging with you on the quest start asking you for advice. The really scary part is when they start depending on you for it. You can actually screw up other people's quests. Other people's lives.

So, when you get the ring, what do you do? Hell if I know. That's your quest, I got my own to worry about. I'd recommend you not turn into the little bug-eyed guy and piss and moan about My Precious. This industry already has enough of those characters. Plus you'll probably end up running around half naked and biting the heads off things.

Maybe all anyone can do with the ring of publishing is to hold on loosely. Knowing you can let go of it, chuck it in the nearest pond and walk back to the shire frees you from being a slave to it, and Sauron.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Finito

Desk check: Rebel Ice revisions, done, gone, out of here. BioRescue mass market galley corrections, likewise. Weekend, clear.

Household check: Dinner, simmering. Laundry, drying. Homework, decimated. Pets, fed. Litter boxes, sanitized. Dishes, washed. Bathrooms, doors shut. Children, bickering. Laundry . . . breeding?

PBW Status: Cookie, earned.

Wondering

So Terri Schiavo is dead, via a method we would not use to terminate the life of a serial killer. Or a stray dog, for that matter. I'm glad they gave her plenty of drugs. I only pray that they gave her enough to keep her unaware. It's a painful way to die.

I do have one question. Way back when Terri allegedly told her husband she would not wish to live in a persistent vegetative state, do you think she also tacked on, "Oh, Michael, and after you starve me to death for two weeks, please refuse to let my grieving parents give me a decent burial according to our faith."

Just curious.

Changes

Ten Things I'm Going to Do in the Next Year

1. I'm going to legally change my name to 200.59. It's the atomic weight of Mercury. Also, I'll get shelved before all the A authors.

2. I've applied to have my hair posthumously donated to the Smithsonian. This is sort of a moral responsibility, as it contains traces of every chemical coloring agent known to man. Just the hair; the rest of my remains will be auctioned on eBay. Insider advice: don't bid on the eyes, the hands, and the right leg.

3. I've decided to be artificially inseminated with semen from a Nobel-prize winning physicist who comes from a male-dominated gene pool, so that our son will grow up to infiltrate NASA. The rest of my plans for junior after he's inside naturally must remain confidential.

4. I'm getting a tattoo, Mom. On my head, so you can't carry out that lifelong threat to chop off whatever body part I get it on. Don't think you waving that machete scares me, either.

5. I've accepted a position as senior editor at a major publishing house. My first week will be spent mailing out advance and royalty checks. All. Of. Them.

6. I'm adopting another 19 year old college student from Sweden. He's Lars's cousin, Olaf. Physical therapy major.

7. I'm starting a new collection: plaster casts of the penises of homophobes. They should fit quite nicely in my thimble collection.

8. I'm going to write a how-to book for authors on providing responses to internet-based critics. Working title: "Bite Me."

9. I'm going to find the man who invented those vomit-flavored jelly beans and kill him. Yes, I know it's wrong, but he has to die.

10. I'm becoming a Mormon. They told me they're changing the rules and I can have twenty-five husbands. Do you think the Red Sox might find me attractive?