Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bad Karma Ten

Ten Things That Wreck Your Writer Karma

1. Attacking Dan Brown for writing The DaVinci Code, but only because he's made so much money.

Guess who reads your new book, decides to give it a quote, and stops by your weblog to let you know the very same day you compare him to pond scum?

2. Supporting a group you dislike out of fear for your career.

Any rat can become a cannibal. Multiply that by the membership roster.

3. Tampering with another author's books at the store because you think they don't deserve to sell.

Most book stores have security cameras, and very bored employees. You could end up publishing's Gary Brolsma.

4. Refusing to shake hands with readers at your booksigning.

Some highly contagious people are easily offended, excellent spitters.

5. Sucking up to a reviewer in hopes of getting a good write-up.

This is like becoming a necrophiliac for the romance, but guess who gets screwed?

6. Deciding that You Know Everything About Publishing immediately after you sell your first book.

Hello, Three Book Career.

7. Telling your editor the his/her incompetence is ruining your novel, when it's really your lousy writing.

No contract -- or editor's patience -- lasts forever.

8. Pretending never to have heard of or read a popular author.

That's okay. They won't have to pretend about you.

9. Making a ton of money as an author but sponging off the unpublished at cons because you're cheap.

Someday, chapter two of the industry expose.

10. At the big writer's conference, not allowing an exhausted handicapped person to sit down on the only empty chair in the hotel lobby while she waits for the elevator jam to disperse. Why? Because you're having a private conversation with your best girlfriend.

Gimps have very long memories, and you were wearing that big, easy-to-read conference name tag around your neck.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Distractions

I'm taking a break from editing to write this post for tomorrow morning. The little turn-dial timer on my desk is set for ten minutes, in case I get distracted. When that bells dings, I will sign off and go back to work.

PBW's secret weapon against internet time-sinkage: a kitchen timer.

Using a timer to regulate my online time is something I started when I used to moderate writer think tank sessions in chat. Writers can ramble on forever, so the group and I would use the timer to brainstorm a writing problem in ten minutes or less. Everyone got a chance to talk about their work but we kept it focused and efficient.

The timer allows me to spend about an hour total on the internet each day without getting sucked into it. Bell dings, time's up. While I'm on (besides writing posts) I use the time to read weblogs, hit some web sites, gather links and answer e-mail. If anything on the internet or related to it gets me angry, I sign off and walk away.

I have no problem doing this. I unplugged from the internet once for a year after discovering it was taking over my life and messing with my work. Unplugging taught me that I don't have to be online to have fun.

Being online is fun, though, isn't it? The internet is a great research tool, and for many of us it's an ever-changing window to the rest of the world. For writers, weblogs and websites can be very effective in the self-marketing department.

Online friends are truly wonderful. Low-maintenance, generally funny, happy, and trouble-free folks who you see when you want. Unlike your RL friend Bubba who shows up drunk on your doorstep at three a.m. with two hookers, no money, and an Impala with a screwdriver in the ignition. Okay, Alison did send two guys over here once, but it was strictly for professional reasons . . . .

Anyway, I'm all for fun and promo and friends who don't boost cars, but the timer keeps me from getting too distracted by them. So does walking away when I get steamed. Even when I feel passionately about something, like the censorship of romance writers, keeping an emotional balance is more important.

The internet is part of my life. It's just not going to take over my life.

Ding -- time's up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

RWA Responds

I'm stealing this from the Big Sister post comments so it doesn't get missed:

Author and new RWA member Marlys Pearson wrote a letter to the board about the current censorship controversy, and she's receiving responses and posting them here.

Party

According to my editor, PW didn't trash my new book. They were nice. Which is like a hangman admiring your neck, but okay.

[rest of post deleted. Old PW wounds.]

HotM

Heat of the Moment
Author Name/Publisher: Jessica Hall, Onyx
Mass Market Paperback, U.S., $6.99 cover price
Distribution: National
Publication Date: 10/01/04
Advance: $15,000.00
Royalties: 6-8%
Current Released to date: 24,162
Reserved against returns: 0
Current returns: 6,431
Sell-through: 73%

This is the first royalty statement on this novel, and HotM did modestly well. I prefer to see my sell-through a little higher, but considering the state of the market, the genre, and romance's short shelf life, I won't complain. In romance I'm definitely midlist, and these days a midlist writer is lucky to sell 5,000 copies. The book is still selling, however, so I hope to earn out my advance. A good if not stellar performance (to see a scan .jpg of the actual statement, click here.)

If you look at it from the promote-or-die angle, this book should not have sold this well. There was no publicity for it, and like most of my books, the small first print run kept it out of the front of the store. At the time I was tied up with hurricanes, cancer surgery and launching Darkyn, so like most of my other books, I did zero promotion for this one.

Given the circumstances, I'd say that the novel sold as well as it did due to three factors: the Jessica Hall name, the story, and word of mouth by my readers. Our pal Tam always talks about stories needing to resonate with readers; judging by the fan mail, this one did.

HotM was a good story for me personally for a couple of reasons. It was the first book I wrote after I unplugged from the internet: no distractions. I fell in love with Terri and Cort in my previous JH novel, where they were secondary characters. I had just hooked up with an editor who got me, so I relaxed and finally wrote a romance the way I wanted to. It was a rush, too; one of those novels that just pours out of you. My editor in turn did a brilliant job on her end and drew even more out of me with a light but dead-on revision. I felt as if I came into my own with this book.

After seeing the statement, I don't know what Jessica Hall's future is. I have two more JH novels outlined: Some Like it Hot, Caine and Moriah's story, and Dark Side, a standalone with Jo Edgeway, who has been mentioned but has yet to make an appearance in the JH novels. My editor and I have talked casually about doing another book in the near future. I'm a romance writer at heart, so I don't want to walk away from the genre, especially now that the Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene are trying to censor it.

I also have to be realistic. Romantic suspense is a hard sell and extremely competitive, and I'm doing a lot better in other areas. Publishers buy what works. HotM worked, but not as effectively as my SF and vamp novels. I'm at the mercy of chains ordering to the net, an over-crowded genre, and a writing schedule that makes psychosis look fun. There are other things I want to do.

On that slightly depressing note, any questions, comments, thoughts?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Incoming

Offensive Material Alert: tomorrow morning I'm going to post my numbers and analyze some of the factors involved/not involved with the market performance of Heat of the Moment, my last published JH romance novel. This particular book was born on the internet; I plotted it out live during an online workshop.

Also, we're in the midst of a deluge here, so if I don't show up, you'll know I'm on the cell phone yelling at the power company.

Way Out Ten

Ten Things About Outside Artists

1. Aw Boon Haw -- the Tiger Balm gardens inspired the dragon wall in my third JH novel.

2. Ferdinand Cheval -- a must-see if you're in this part of France.

3. S.P. Dinsmoor -- he liked his creation so much he had himself entombed in it.

4. Ed Leedskalnin -- I lived about thirty minutes from this most of my life, and yet never visited it until 1996. It reminded me of the moai on Easter Island -- mysterious, inexplicable, wonderfully creepy.

5. Simon Rodia -- a little more info about the Watts Towers can be found here.

6. Ed Root -- some of his work was saved, but the rest is at the bottom of Lake Wilson.

7. Herman Rusch -- efforts are being made to save this outsider artist's sculpture garden.

8. Clarence Schmidt -- I first saw the House of Mirrors in a 1968 issue of Art in America, which I picked up at the library book sale. I was reminded of it again when I read Douglas Clegg's Harrow novels. Schmidt was supposedly harmless, but I got a very nasty vibe simply from seeing photos of this place.

9. James Tellen -- buried some of his early work in his yard.

10. Father Mathias Wernerus -- inspiration for a character in an upcoming Darkyn novel.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Shriek of Joy

There's a new Pride and Prejudice movie on the way. (Other rabid P&P fans, go hug Sara Donati for posting the news and link on her blog.)

Winners

All of the bribes are in, so it's time to announce the winners of the Bam MacBride contest:

Jim for his entry, "Grendel slashed my wrists today..."

Darren Wheatley for his entry, MacYoda.

Well done, guys, and congratulations. You each win a brand-new U.S. edition of Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride. Send your promised payoffs and snail mail addresses to me at LynnViehl@aol.com.

One of our contestants decided to take herself out of the contest so she wouldn't get sued because she wanted to give someone else the chance to win, and told me she had already planned to buy Cold Granite when it hits the stores in her town.

Well, we can't allow that kind of extreme generosity to go unchallenged, so Ms. Tam, I'm sending you my reading copy of Cold Granite (the cat hair, tea stains and crayon scribbles no extra charge), and you also score a signed UK edition whenever the Brits get around to shipping them to me.

Thanks to all for helping me torment the Scot.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Big Sister

I had to wait 24 hours before I commented on the latest stage of RWA's morality campaign, and while my temper has settled to a low roar, I'm still deleting every other line I write about it.

Now that Big Sister has spoken*, I can see what's ahead. No doubt the membership will vote in favor of censorship** (if you don't, why then, you're not a nice girl writer, and we all want to be nice girl writers, yes?)

Any self-respecting and intelligent writer will likely quit rather than fight the many and clueless. Thus the romance herd will be safe, and clean enough to pose for smiling snapshots with the First Lady, and made to inbreed until all they produce are idiot books.

I guess I'm still a little too angry to write about this.

Not too angry to post a couple of clarifications, though:

*This is an old press release. Once the survey results are in, expect it to change.

**This is not the first time RWA has done something like this to their membership.

It's not just RWA

PBW is going to get political for a minute. Please return your tray tables to the upright position.

Freedom of speech in America is always a serious issue, not just for those of us who depend on the First Amendment to protect us and our craft, but now the everyday average citizen who keeps an internet weblog.

To back track a little, censorship is basically about crowd control. Before the internet and the information age in which we live, politicians, the media and, by extension, religious leaders and big corporations decided what information was made available to Americans, and what was withheld. They pushed their own agendas and suppressed those which they opposed. They told us what to like, what to hate, and what to think. It's the traditional way leaders run a country and exercise power and influence over their populace.

Despite our laws separating church and state, a troubling amount of religious factions were/are involved in this censorship and media manipulation. Religious factions are the reason why the AIDs plague, for example, was not dealt with when it should have been, in the initial stages of the epidemic. No one wanted to talk about a disease that primarily affected gay men, because religious leaders labeled gay men as evil and the disease that was killing them as a punishment from God.

Ronald Regan, the much-loved U.S. President who received such a wonderful obituary when he finally dropped dead, wouldn't even say the word AIDs until April 2, 1987, when he issued this unconcerned statement: "How that information is used must be up to schools and parents, not government. But let's be honest with ourselves, AIDS information can not be what some call 'value neutral.' After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons."

Many people wept when Regan died. I wasn't one of them.

AIDs had already been identified six years before Regan spoke. One of his family friends, actor Rock Hudson, died of AIDs the year before the president made the little above mention. By the time our government acknowledged there even was a disease, nearly 100,000 people were infected with HIV. It spread beyond the gay community. People were infected through blood transfusions, IV needles and hetero sex. The God-punishment disease started killing housewives and Little Leaguers and newborn infants.

What was the price tag? The CDC has published online statistics in America only up to 2003, so these figures aren't even accurate:

"The cumulative estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2003 in the United States is 929,985. Adult and adolescent AIDS cases total 920,566 with 749,887 cases in males and 170,679 cases in females. Through the same time period, 9,419 AIDS cases were estimated in children under age 13."

How many lives could we have saved if information about AIDs had not been suppressed by our own government? Here's the CDC death toll stats:

The cumulative estimated number of deaths of persons with AIDS through 2003 is 524,060, including 518,568 adults and adolescents, and 5,492 children under age 13.

The internet has taken access to information away from the media and the politicians, and made great progress in destroying censorship control. Anyone who followed the last Presidential election saw it happen in real time. Today anyone can be and is a source of information, opinion and debate on any subject. Having those resources accessible and available is why I consider myself to be living in the most enlightened time in American history.

That time will quickly come to an end if the internet is regulated. That could happen as early as next week.

Everyone should read Tech Central Station.com Editor Nick Schulz's interview with FEC Commissioner Brad Smith about regulation of political speech on the Internet. (Link nicked from ProfessorBainbridge.com.)

The FEC hearing is scheduled for June 28-29 in Washington D.C. To see what you can do to help fight the proposed FEC regulation, go over to the Center for Democracy and Technology's Protect Online Political Speech page. If you're still not sure why you should help fight this regulation, read this page.

Friday, June 24, 2005

BAM MacBride Update

To add a little intrigue to the Cold Granite giveaway contest, the unsuspecting victim author has threatened to sue graciously agreed to provide signed bookplates for the two winners. Contest ends midnight EST tonight.

Indiana Jones Jr.

A lot of us mom and dad writers have kids home for the summer, and on rainy days keeping them amused is a challenge. At my house we're into history and archaeology, so I went looking for some interesting sites where my kids can play online plus actually learn something. Here's what I found this week:

The American Museum of Natural History's 'Ology site. We just discovered this one, thanks to a mention in the July/August issue of Archaeology. Kids can collect 258 virtual cards while they cruise through the site and try out the different activities. (Click the curly arrow at the bottom right of the card to read the back.)

Dig, an archaeology magazine for kids that we subscribe to, has a neat companion site with online quizzes and fantastic factoids.

You need Shockwave to play on the Austrailian Broadcasting Corporation's site, the Holodek, but you can download it here.

Download-a-Dinosaur allows you to do just that so the kids can make paper models. For a paintable version, let them trace and cut the patterns out of craft foam or cardboard. (Or try the companion site, Download-a-Dragon, here.)

More links to great kids' web site can be found at Kid Arch and Dig magazine's links page.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hervorragend

Beyond Varallan German lang edition

Another great cover from Germany. I may have to immigrate.

Darkness Needs No More

My third Darkyn novel, Darkness Has No Need, has officially been retitled by TPTB. (drum roll, please) The new title is now:

Dark Need

My sincere thanks to everyone who helped with suggestions.

The average writer's options in the retitling department are usually pretty limited. You can keep fussing and hate everything they suggest, of course, which makes you look like a jerk and everyone on the publishing side unhappy. Or you can grab a reasonably acceptable suggestion before the unhappy people think up something harder to swallow.

Moving right along, our pal Tam now needs a new title for her third novel, so if you've got a minute, stop in and share some inspiration.

MacBride Contest Disclaimer

Unlike some authors, PBW can assure readers that no money, goods, services, kilts, bagpipes, kittens or beard kits were offered in exchange for her BAM Stuart MacBride contest giveaway. If I ever make it over to Scotland, though, somebody better buy me a decent cup of tea.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

BAM Truly Delivers

My friendly online BAM came through for me, and as of this moment I possess three brand new (unsigned) copies of Mr. MacBride's elusive novel, Cold Granite, version U.S.A.

Nice jacket photo, Stuart. Wait a minute, is that a scarf around your neck? Geez, what's next, a bottle green Jag in the background?

To further needle the author, I'm going to have a contest and give away* two of my copies to a couple of you faithful PBW readers. To enter: post your best imitation of Mr. MacBride on a bad day in comments -- no bleeding eyelid pics, please -- by midnight EST on Friday, 6/24/05. Winners to be announced on Sunday, 6/26/05, by noon EST.

Remember that my teleportation powers are limited, so I'll need a snail mail address from the two winners.

*Giveaway open to everyone on this planet; all I ask is that you please live in a country that doesn't regularly seize packages from the U.S.

Harry

It's deadline week at Casa PBW, and I'm ready for the final manuscript crunch. Got my tea canister stocked, the man briefed, the kids prepped, the pets pampered, the housework done, and seven meals pre-cooked, packed and in the freezer with instructions taped to the lids. Bought a brand new box of printer paper, a backup toner cartridge, and a document box ready for the final product.

All I need is a printer. Only I don't have one. Mine blew up.

Harry, my beautiful high volume laser printer, who has never failed me once in three years, died last week. I was in the middle of printing out a draft and he simply shut down. He would not respond to reason, pleading, begging, or tears. I had to rush him out to my repair guy and pray for it to be a simple fix.

Repair Guy called today with the good news. It's the fuse assembly, Ms. Kelly. Happens once in a while. I can fix it for a hundred thirty bucks, have it back to you by Thursday. It's a great machine, so it's worth it.

I know Harry is a great machine. I take care of Harry. He's worth more than $130.00 to me. Naturally I said, Fix him.

I triumphantly reported this minor fuse assembly situation to Angel, my technowiz and hardware consultant friend. Angel immediately disagreed with my decision. Harry's repair cost too much money; it wasn't worth it. We got into a volley of words as I defended my beautiful outdated high volume junky laser but no color Harry printer.

Angel insisted I go to the local computer store with all the bright new shiny laser printers and call him from there so he could use the visual aids to further explain the error of my ways. I went because I needed some document wallets, and the man did once prevent me from using a hedge trimmer to finish off a petulant FAX machine.

Look for the new HP all-in-one, I was told once I had arrived and phoned Angel from the store. Dutifully I found a monstrosity that had so many buttons and trays and feeders and flaps that it looked like a square R2D2. That one will print black-n-white and color, scan, FAX and copy stuff, he said. For less than what you paid for the old junky thing. See if they have a pamphlet.

Junky old thing. Angel simply doesn't understand my relationship with Harry. Harry has printed out my last eighteen novels. Harry has never let me down, never jammed paper, never spit blobs of toner on my manuscripts, and never skipped a page. Harry has been a constant, dependable presence in my career. Big bonus: Harry never argues with me.

I found the pamphlet for the R2D2-squared thing. It required not one but five different toner cartridges. The system requirements sounded like a shuttle preflight checklist. It did things for which I had no working definition. I flashed back on the first time I hooked up a VCR to a cable box, and superimposed scenes from a horrible seventies movie called The Demon Seed.

You sound like Darth Vader, Angel said over the phone. Quit it. You have to stop getting so attached to these things. How much do they want for it?

I finally looked at the price tag. $999.00. The cell phone didn't break when I dropped it, but I did have to call Angel back. Then there was a short interval of strangled choking noises through which I managed to relay the price.

Not bad, he said. Though I can probably get it for a hundred bucks less. Well?

I told him what I thought. In French, so I wouldn't get booted out of the store.

Angel sighed. You better not call me when that old junky thing blows a motherboard. Go on, run.

With much gratitude, I fled the store.

Harry will be home day after tomorrow. I can't wait to hook him back up. Two cords, one button, all done. Harry will never scan or FAX or copy or take over my house and reprogram me and the kids. He'll just print out manuscripts, which is fine with me. And if something else blows, well, how much could a motherboard cost, anyway?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Focus Factors

I'm finding I have problems reading some blog posts out there. Not due to content, but the format of the post itself, especially posts I have to scroll down to keep reading. I've figured out a formula for it:

Extended length posts + small font - paragraph breaks = hard to follow text.

I have a form of visual ADD -- I tend to skim long blocks of text unless the content holds me -- but small-font text on the computer seems ten times worse than print. The more I read, the more the letters actually seem to dance across the window. Yet if there are paragraph breaks, the text doesn't do the Hustle, so I'm pretty sure it's not me (I plan to ask the eye doc next month when I go for my routine checkup.)

As to font size, the smallest print I can read in comfort seems to be 9 pt. Anything smaller is a challenge. Some font types are even hard to read at 10-11 pt. because the shapes of the letters can be easily confused with each other (arial, mangal, and trebuchet are natural focus-killers, for example.)

I also find I almost never read other writer's blogged snippets or short stories when I'm online. If I'm intrigued, I will print them out and read them off paper, but I avoid reading fiction off the screen. I do the same thing with e-books. I've always kidded around about being on the computer enough with my own work, but actually I have no logical excuse as to why it bugs me. An unnatural fixation with fiction on paper, perhaps?

What are your focus challenges when you're out and about blog-hopping?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Building Ten

Ten Things to Help & Inspire Site Builders

1. Chris Locke's article Cheap Thrills for the Beer-Budget Blogger -- tools and tips from the BlogMaster (via Mandarin Design)

2. Don Barnett.com -- very talented artist and designer with an incredible portfolio.

3. Free Photo Station.com -- when you need an image but you dropped the digital camera in the dog's water bowl.

4. Free Toolkit.net -- "free online/offline tools, such as: flash generators, javascript generators, graphic generators, html code generators, calculators or translators, color charts, dhtml/css geneartors, system info tools, code validation, code convertors and more."

5. Fresh Templates.com -- view and download all kinds of templates.

6. The Vampyricon -- the official website for author Douglas Clegg's new dark fantasy series (before you link hop around, watch the top of the page.)

7. From Lynda.com, an index of creative and inspirational websites -- check these out to see other great ideas (found Don Barnett's site here.)

8. Templates Box.com -- more free templates.

9. Templates Land.com -- if you don't like what you see over at #8.

10. WebMasters Channel.com -- lots of freebies, downloads and other things for you Masters of the Web.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Back

Home, Mom happy, truck in one piece. Bought my Dad new tires for his van and a handtruck for Father's Day, and consulted with him on the tractor we need to buy for the new house. He's growing eggplant and watermelon in the yard. Some things never change. I love my Dad.

I have to take my guy and our kiddies out for dinner, so I will direct you to Mary Stella's blog, where she has a beautiful post about her Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Road Trip

I'm heading out in the early am on a solo day trip to see my mom. How do you know if your guy really loves you? He hands you the keys to his truck without whimpering (he has, however, checked every belt, fluid, pressure, nut, bolt, the insurance coverage and also changed the windshield wipers. Then he parked it so I don't have to back out in the morning. Knock over one measly mailbox and they never let you forget it.)

While I'm gone, please feel free to behave yourselves and conduct deep, courteous, meaningful discussions in the comments section. Suggested topics:

1) Mamatas vs. Rickards: who'd win in a cage match?
2) Passing out free promotional condoms at RWA National -- more effective to imprint each packet with your book title, or simple instructions?
3) How many reviewers does it take to . . . no, skip this one.
4) How to get in the Times without shooting your editor on Book TV.
5) Posting comments while the blog host is out of town (Shannon Stacey's gone camping this weekend, btw.)
6) Why can't I back the truck out? It wasn't even the mailbox at this house. Geez.
7) How Mundane SF became the Latest Dark Cabal in six silly pseudonyms.
8) Who watches Book TV, anyway?
9) If he looks out the window at that truck one more time I'm going to hit him.
10) Whatever you like. Have fun.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I Can't Watch

Notably absent from the news since announcing the invention of the ultimate in author hand sanitizers, a remote-autographing machine, Margaret Atwood tells the world why we need science fiction. In the article, she manages to dodge any mention of squids but invokes the dreaded R word and still maintains that she doesn't write science fiction.

Ladies and gentlemen, let the bloodbath begin.

Mysteries No More

I love a good mystery. Real or fictional, doesn't matter. A real life, unsolved murder is the only kind that drives me a little crazy. Too many cops in my family. If anyone knows who really shot JFK, e-mail me. I'd like to know before I die.

There are some mysteries shouldn't be solved. Such as how within seven days after purchase my son manages to make his new sneakers smell as if he's been working at the local landfill or the sewage plant. Don't tell me it's sweat, either. Sweat does not smell like that.

Then there are mysteries too elegant to solve, such as the man who visits Edgar Allan Poe's grave every January 19th to leave a tribute of roses, a tradition that has been going on for more than fifty years. I love this mystery. I will hate the person who exposes the man's identity, and why he does it. Let us wonder.

Some mysteries being solved have shocked me, such as recently discovering that Born Free author Joy Adamson was not killed by a lion, but murdered by Paul Wakwaro Ekai, a disgruntled employee. This won't mean anything to you youngsters, but Born Free was a huge hit with my generation. Oddly, Joy's ex-husband was also murdered a few years later.

There are other mysteries where I just want to know everything is okay, as when an author drops out of sight, or why the romance I'm reading sounds like a guy wrote it. For those of you who are in the same boat, try Barb Deane's Whatever happened to... list, or the outing male writers who write romance under female pseudonyms page.

"The worst-kept secret in publishing" was one I never actually cared about as a reader, but you can solve it by reading David J. Schow's essay AKA Trevanian. I thought the one-name thing was a little odd, but I didn't know there was anything behind it. I've been one-name blunted by Prince and Bono and Jewel and Cher. Whatever his real name is, Trevanian's The Main and Shibumi are excellent reads.

The latest mystery in my life to be solved was finding out what my favorite editor looks like. In my imagination, she was something like Gwyneth Paltrow. Blonde, tall, slender, elegant, ivory silk suits, stiletto heels, no purse, the cool gleam of publishing savvy in her ice-blue eyes. Great eyebrows that never had to be plucked. You know, the woman we all want to run down in the street and back over a few times. Yes, there's probably a need for therapy somewhere in there.

I told this to my editor, and when she was done laughing, she sent me a photo. Alas, she is not as I imagined. She's a petite brunette with the cool gleam of publishing savvy in her deep dark eyes, and a great smile. Now every time I talk to her, I'm going to see Julia Roberts instead of Gwyneth in my head. Which will make me think of George Clooney, Julia's co-star in the Ocean movies . . . who needs Gwyneth Paltrow, anyway?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Clubnapped

I was working on the computer this morning, trying to knock out some words before I started packing for the move to the new house. I heard a knock on the door, and looked out to see two large, muscular, very cute guys dressed like the Blue Brothers standing on my doorstep. Behind them was a long, black limo.

They were too well dressed for movers, and the FBI and the IRS are too cheap to use limos, so I figured they were well-to-do spiritual advisors. "I know Jesus is my personal savior," I told them when I opened the door. "My neighbor doesn't, but he has a rottweiler and is not what you'd call a morning person."

"Alison Kent Bookclub, ma'am." The taller one flashed a badge like a Fed, only this one was pink and gold and had AKB on it. "Are you Lynn Viehl, author of If Angels Burn?" I nodded. "We have your title under investigation. You'll have to come with us."

(I'm sending this post from Alison's limo. You would not believe what she has in here: champagne, Godiva chocolates, fresh flowers, and every kind of wireless in the techworld. I could be wrong but I think the chauffeur is Christian Bale.)

Renovate

Our pal Tam has just redesigned her blog, and put up a very cool header. Go, look, envy as I did. Beth also turned up the wattage over on her blog the day she was talking about To Blog or Not to Blog in this interesting post.

I look around and think about changing things here, but I'm kind of attached to the old plain nothing look. I also don't want to have bells, whistles, be syndicated, run sidebar ads, be hosted Somewhere Special, open a PBW mug-shirt-hat store, or otherwise go platinum. I don't think they're bad things, and I'm not a blog marketing snob. I love seeing the creative ways people use these things. It's just not what I want for this place.

I want to be contrary, what else? Contrary got me this far.

Honestly, what I'd like is to keep this weblog simple, open, uncensored and non-affiliated. I see it as a loose circle of writer friends, colleagues, and anyone else who happens to drop in. Enjoy the posts, the comments, the links, and the occasional RWA-banned graphic. Share what we know. Debate things. Have some laughs. Learn from each other.

So that's why there won't be any changes here. It'll stay the same old boring plain nothing, and will run on words and thoughts and ideas for however long it rolls along. That work for you, or is my vision skewed?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Darkness Has No Title

My third Lynn Viehl novel, formerly Darkness Has No Need, needs a new title. This happens when your publisher looks at your book and says, "Yo. That needs a new title."

My editor and I are working on cooking up a new one today because a) she's brilliant and b) I'm feeling a bit surly (I like the old title, but I like everything I come up with; doesn't mean it's marketable.) I raided Bartleby.com's verse search engine and washed the key words for the novel through my Visual Thesaurus, and came up with this prelim list:

Midnight Lost
Like the Night
Dark Games
Night Touch
Dance in Darkness
Rule the Night
Darkness Dawns
Call the Night
Comes the Darkness (no pun intended)
King of Pain*

We'll probably bounce a few more around and refine the list, which will then go back to the publisher for consideration.

*My personal nickname for the novel's anti-hero.

Numbers

Romance Novel
Author/Publisher: Withheld by Request
Trade Paperback, U.S., $14.00 cover price
Distribution: National
Publication: 10/01/04
Advance: $17,500.00
Royalties: 7.5%
Current sold to date: 20,022
Reserved against returns: 12,876
Current returns: 270
Author earnings to date: $20,732.12

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Incentivize

What does the standard industry term "proactive" really mean? We here at Paperback Writer understand that it is better to iterate robustly than to mesh intuitively. Quick: do you have a next-generation plan of action for dealing with emerging experiences? What do we redefine? Anything and everything, regardless of standing! If all of this sounds amazing to you, that's because it is! If all of this seems confusing to you, that's because it is! What do we unleash? Anything and everything, regardless of semidarkness! Think six-sigma. The ability to strategize robustly leads to the capability to extend proactively. We believe we know that if you harness iteravely then you may also incentivize holisticly. If all of this may seem amazing to you, that's because it is! We have come to know that if you scale iteravely then you may also cultivate cyber-efficiently.


Want your own hunk of official-sounding utter nonsense? Visit Andrew Davidson's Corporate Gibberish Generator. (Link brazenly pick-pocketed from author John Walkenbach's J-Walk Blog)

Red Hat

To expand on a comment I left over at M.J.'s blog:

The Red Hat Society is a social organization for women over 50. These are the ladies who dress in the red hats and purple scarves, and get together for luncheons, seminars and other social events.

According to their web site, the society presently has more than 41,000 chapters with about one million members in more than 30 countries. Their weekly e-mail newsletter goes out to 90K+ members.

I'm in the process of finding a contact person to discover if the RHS would be interested in starting a book club, newsletter or provide book recommendations for their membership. If they are open to the idea, I'm going to volunteer my services as author coordinator. Ideally I'd like to put together a weekly newsletter highlighting new releases in as many genres as possible, with links to author web sites, blogs and other related info.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions?

Art Break

They don't all have to be fed to the pulp machines: Artist Beth Cote turns old books into new art.

Artists lined up for blocks hoping to be one of the eight finalists for the latest reality TV show, Artstar. PBW was tempted to try out with some of her own watercolors, but alas, it's not a comedy.

On the subject of paintings, stop by Carla O'Connor's website, which is as lovely as her watercolors. If you can't paint 'em, admire 'em.

All of the above found in the July 2005 print issue of the Artist's Magazine.

Monday, June 13, 2005

BAM Delivers

Remember when I went to get Mr. MacBride's book back in May, and that BAM clerk said uh-uh won't be here until July?

I called my local BAM today to check again. Still not there. I whined about moving and how St. Martin's is shipping it tomorrow. My plight and my intel didn't impress the clerk, who stuck with "Mid-July is what the computer says, ma'am."

I knew someone had to have it, so I did a little digging online today and found out I can have Cold Granite shipped to me in three to four days right here from BAM. Not even Amazon and B&N online can beat that ship time, btw.

I'm not going to try to fathom this distribution system.

I'm the Problem

I've been whining to a couple of people (especially Bill and Steph) about how for some reason or another I can't use their comments.

Come to find out it's me and my AOL -- if I use Internet Explorer, I can post. I didn't figure this out on my own; my 12-year-old son the compuwhiz suggested AOL was the problem.

Now I owe him lunch and y'all an apology. Sorry, folks.

A Question of Cuisine

Holly blows her chance for RWA linkage. Caution, work-safe but funny-bone lethal; I'm still coughing up the tea I inhaled.

World Ten

Ten Things for Global Blog Lovers

1. Domo Domo -- weblog; Beijing, China

2. Edlundart -- weblog/artblog; Norwegian artist living in NYC

3. Giornale Nuovo -- weblog; Welshman living in Sweden

4. How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons -- weblog; American living in Sweden

5. Invisible Threads' Daily Photography -- photoblog; Toronto, Canada.

6. Kerchik -- photoblog; London, UK

7. Montanha-russa (in Portuguese; scroll down to hit the English-translate option on the left sidebar) -- weblog; Portuguese writer living in Sweden

8. Penmachine.com -- weblog; Vancouver, Canada

9. The World According to Hina -- weblog; all over the place

10. Zoom Vienna -- photoblog; American living in Vienna, Austria

Bait Pass

The weather has me on edge. Tropical Storm Arlene has saturated us and the power can't decide what it wants to do. When I finally did get back online today, I found some garbage dangled right in front of my nose that shifted me from moody to pissed in ten seconds. Happily I recognized it for what it was -- trash bait -- and swam on by.

I'm not really growing up. I needed inspiration for the victims my psycho killer is going to murder slowly more than I needed to rant.

The lights are dimming again, so I have to post Monday's Ten list fast. I'll leave you with a poem that I've been pondering lately:

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through
narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?


--John Ashbery, At North Farm

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Unique Marketing

On the free books = new readers front, is there anything smarter than what Bill Bryson is doing?

Lobbying

I'd like to take a moment to lobby those RWA members who will be voting on the graphical standards in the near future. Wording is everything, and can be applied to a much broader range of images than you think.

Take the hands or mouth covering naked female breasts portion of the standard, for example. A hand on, covering, pressed against or otherwise engaged with a naked breast is unacceptable, correct? Then this image might be considered too graphic for RWA linkage:

PBW & Son

Admittedly, I could have dressed more decently, but I'm a big girl and I have a hard time finding bathing suits that fit on the top as well as the bottom. Also, crazy me, I don't wear turtlenecks in the pool. I would have no problem posting a photo like this on my web site; my hair could be better but I think it's cute. Yet technically speaking, the image does show a hand (of my one month old son) on my (partially) naked breast.

Please be careful what you vote for, ladies.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Blog round up

On the reviews front:
Jennifer Weiner 1, Curtis Sittenfeld goose egg.

Alison Kent posts the latest update in the RWA standards debacle. I'm trying to follow the logic here, which is apparently: 1) Acts of censorship temporarily suspended. 2) We're going to form a committee to look into this, girls. 3) Acts of censorship reinstated. 4) PBW needs an aspirin.

Stuart MacBride blows his chance at RWA linkage. There may be S&M involved here, too; that bra looks damn uncomfortable.

Shannon Stacey is getting very poetic. If she starts chain smoking, moves to Soho and hangs out with an unemployed French performance artist named Arnaud, we'll have to do an intervention.

Update

I spoke with literary agent Nancy Coffey yesterday, and it turns out she is the same lady who was an executive editor at Avon back in '76.

It was fun telling her about the letter, and what happened to the kid who received it. Probably the coolest part was that she knows who I am now, but had no idea she was the one who gave me my first shot. Now to write a long overdue thank you and send her a couple of books so she can see what she started.

Blogfolio

LiveScience.com has an interesting article on how blogs and websites can give your career a boost. Intrigued, I did a quick search and immediately found Cindy Eng's web portfolio. More a virtual resume than anything, it's simple and yet quite informative about her career in publishing (the daisies instantly reminded me of Lori Devoti, who has made the daisy her trademark.)

I don't think weblogs are static enough to be portfolios, and if you crowd too much bulk data or big graphics onto your blog it can become confusing (especially for those of us who have the attention span of a three-year-old.) Most authors have one-click links on our weblog sidebars that take you to our web sites, which is the easiest and most unobtrusive form of marketing via blog. If you want to know more, you click, if you don't, no problem. Links to online bookseller ordering pages for current releases are also popular, as is using cover art as click-through icons for these.

Monica Jackson and Donna Hill are presently collaborating on Donna's new Wordpress website, which like Monica's own website is eye-catching and yet simple and easy to use.

Alison Kent's weblog has click-throughs that will lead you to comprehensive info on her books, her bio, latest content, message boards, the works -- all via six modest little links on the sidebar.

Personally I covet the subtle linkage over at Holly Lisle's writing diary -- it's all over the place on her page, and yet she's integrated it so well that it doesn't get in your face.

I'm not practicing what I'm preaching, of course, but you've never seen what I can do to poor, unsuspecting HTML. It isn't pretty.

Do-it-yourselfers, for more ideas, specific techniques and even the codes to customize and refine your blog linkage, try my absolute favorite in free weblog design resource sites, Mandarin Design.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Erotica 101

One of the better educational articles I've read on the internet about erotica and romantica, and its impact on the industry, is Tracy Cooper-Posey's An End to Euphemisms: Is Erotica Right for You?

Who got the million dollar advance? Robin Schone?

Attn: Jake

I am ex-military, and one of my brothers is at the Pentagon. So it would be a very good idea to give me back my vampires right this minute.

Note to Steph: Your comments keep telling me I can't post. It's giving me a complex.

Rejects

Got out one of my boxes of rejection letters tonight to make an ego adjustment (whenever you start to feel it swell, it's good to insert a drain.) This is one I haven't gone through in years; all bounces from serious poetry publications back in the 80's, when I was going to be the next Sylvia Plath.

I can't imagine why none of them wanted to buy Raw Silk, the 4,000 line epic I wrote when I was 22. I mean, it rhymed and everything.

In this painfully polite pile -- poetry editors tend to be much nicer than their fiction counterparts -- I found sort of a rejection letter from Dominick Abel Literary Agency, dated September '83. Evidently I had written to them looking for representation for my monstrosity.

I guess the agency didn't want to waste their letterhead, as they sent back my original query to them with simply Not for us, thank you. DA scrawled at the top of my letter.

It burned twenty-two years ago, but now reading the query I'd say it was a good call; my pitch sucked. Hopefully Mr. Abel has moved up from using purple felt-tip pens and recycling queries.

Deeper down in the box was an ancient file I'd packed in with the poetry stuff because it was so fragile. In it was a copy of my first and only gothic romance, Sea Hold, typed on my trusty old Royal, and this letter:

9/14/76

Dear Miss Kelly:

We would be happy to look at your gothic romance if it is at least 400 manuscript pages long.

Sincerely,
Nancy Coffey
Executive Editor
Avon Books


Avon had already rejected my first historical romance back in 1974, but this note gave me a lot of hope. It was personally signed. It was an invitation to try again. It made me feel like a pro. When you're 15 years old and still horribly bruised from your first bounce, that means the world.

I'm wondering if this editor is the same Nancy Coffey who's now a literary agent. If she is, I need to write a letter to her.

I've sworn someday to burn all this junk, but the older I get, the more sentimental I feel about it. This is my history as a writer. I remember how excited I was about the Nancy Coffey letter (Mom ran off copies at work and mailed them to every member of the family.) I didn't cry over the Abel letter, but the burn of that indifferent scrawl made me more determined to get into print. I never let anyone but the slushpile reader at Avon Books look at the manuscript for Sea Hold.

What of your history as a writer do you hold onto, and why?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Speak Freely

I speak freely because it's my right to do so, as specified by the Bill of Rights of 1789, Ammendment I:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If you are an American, this is also your right, unless you submit to bylaws or restrictions which give another person, organization or entity the power and the permission to take it away from you and decide for you what is respectable and what is not.

I advise you think very carefully before you do that.

The word respect is being thrown around heavily at the moment, mainly by entities involved in morality campaigns who believe 1) they deserve it, 2) have the right to tell you how/when/what/whom to respect, and/or 3) expect you to adhere to their tastes and standards in what's respectable and what's not.

I was raised to believe that respect is what you owe other people. Not what you're owed.

Keeping that in mind, I am responsible for the content of this blog, and was kicked in the butt about it when I read Shannon Stacey's stand on profanity and censoring comments.

My posts do sometimes contain what I consider mild profanity, and it's about equal to what I use in real life. I have already posted what has been interpreted as a graphic image. Folks who comment here also use a wide range of language, and like Shannon, I will not censor anyone except SPAMmers.

No rules, no standards, no expectations. You stop in here, you speak freely.

This also means that PBW can no longer be considered a respectable place. In the event there is some question on this, allow me to be momentarily explicit: Fuck Censorship. There, now I'm officially ban-worthy. Please adjust your linkage accordingly.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Housing

Behind the scenes at PBW, we've been house hunting. You might remember me whining about one we really liked but lost back in April.

You know that annoying thing your mother always said about nothing bad happens without a reason?

Time is running out for us; to get into a new place before the kids start school, we had to buy before June 30th. I've been house hunting heavily, but I kept driving over once a week to eat my heart out over the house we lost (and wonder if the owners would change their minds, in which case, it would be mine.)

One day I saw another house for sale right around the corner. It looked beautiful from the outside, but really, how good could it be? I'd already found the best house in the neighborhood and lost it. Not too optimistic, we went to see the house for sale over the weekend. And I was right; the house wasn't as nice as the one we lost.

It was better.

Better, bigger, more flow to the living areas, great kitchen, immaculate, more space, and gorgeous lawns and gardens. As near to perfect for us as I will ever get. This was the house I've been looking for since we got here.

Like any great house, it was market-hot. We were the first people to see it, but a long line of buyers immediately came in after us. We learned our lesson from the last time and put together an offer in 24 hours. Someone still got to the table the same minute we did.

Instant disaster. We couldn't match the other buyer's offer. However, there were certain advantages to taking our offer over the other one, so we held our breath. Nothing was guaranteed. The owners could sit and just watch the offers pour in and take their pick. We had to be firm on our offer, so if there was a bidding war, we wouldn't win.

I didn't want to jinx it, so I only told a few people we made the offer. Then I worked on giving myself a new ulcer while waiting for the call. We haven't slept much since we made the offer. One part of my mind was decorating the place, the other was convinced we were going to lose it, never find anything decent and end up living under a bridge.

This morning I got a call from the owner's rep. She didn't sound too excited, and my stomach shriveled. Obviously we'd lost the house. She told me how the owners felt about the offers, and how she had presented them, and then waited as the owners went out to dinner to talk about it before they came back, signed the contract offer and told the rep that they were accepting ours.

We hadn't lost. The house was ours. Is ours, I should say, as I just put down the deposit.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who said prayers, lit candles and sent good thoughts our way. They worked.

I was feeling so left out, and then . . .

Posted without permission (you SPAM me, you take your chances):

Hi,

My name Blaise Cinco and I'm your Publishing Consultant from Xlibris.

Hi Blaise. Why did your mother name you after the British Library Automated Information Service and the number five? Do I sense an intriguing conception story here? Are you single? You sound single.

I'm just checking in to see if you have any work you'd be interested in publishing with us.

(fluttering eyelashes) Do you have any money I'd be interested in depositing?

Meanwhile, here's a brief introduction of our company.

Don't be evasive, sweetie. Show me the offer.

Really, that merely skimmed the surface.

That? That was a sales pitch. Wait, I don't even rate a full company introduction? What are you, ashamed of me?

Our team of Online Support Representatives will submit links for your book to numerous websites . . .

Sure, toy with me then pass me off on your friends.

Online Listing Campaign 3,000 (links submitted to 3,000 websites) - $1,299

All that money, for such a little thing? Blaise, I don't know what to say. I 'm shocked. I've never done that for money . . . all right, you talked me into it. Pay me $1,299, and I'll let you use my link. Just please don't tell my mother.

Please feel free to give me a call at (888) 795-4274 ext. 882.

That phone number looks familiar. You didn't write it on a cocktail napkin at the open bar after the RITAS while you were breathing Bourbon fumes in my face and telling me how my legs are better than Lisa Kleypas's, did you?

Call me today toll free at (888) 795-4274 ext 816 to take advantage of these exciting limited-time offers.

I'm the one who always has to call. This is supposed to be a relationship, Blaise. We both have to work at it.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

No, you don't. Don't lie to me. I know about the other writers you've been e-mailing. You thought I didn't, right? Ha. I know it all.

Respectfully yours,

Yeah, you're all mine. Soon as you've gotten what you wanted, you'll be chatting up five hundred other hot prospects. You cruise the internet for them, don't you, Blaise? Will you think about me when you're SPAMming Alison Kent? No. You'll be too busy using the same lines on her. Then you'll come to my place at 1 a.m., stumbling and giggling, waking up the kids, your tie knotted around your forehead and printer ink all over your collar.

I'm sorry, Blaise, but I do have some pride. It's over between us. Take your POD and get out.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Deadfolk

Author Charlie Williams talks about what he learned from his season in hell. Funny and painfully true. Plus we Yanks can get his book right now off Amazon.com, unlike some writers over there I could mention.

Just wondering, you think he might hire out to do other authors' reviewers? (link swiped from Bill Peschel.)

Coping Ten

Ten Things to Help Cope With Unpleasant Debates

1. Ignore rumors. Get the facts first-hand from the sources.

Don't seize them by the throat too tightly. Keep the shaking brisk but light.

2. Treat others as you expect to be treated.

If I said something that stupid, I'd expect you to knock me through a wall.

3. When debate doesn't work, agree to disagree and walk away.

It takes some time to think up five hundred synonyms for Pinhead.

4. Ignore people who trash you for your opinion.

Remember where they live.

5. Respect is not a given. You have to earn it constantly.

Especially seeing as they're not making a dime in this business.

6. Talk to a spouse, family member or a friend who is not affected by the issue.

Tell them the tire iron you want to borrow is for working on your car.

7. There is nothing wrong with staying out of it.

Lulls them into a false sense of security.

8. If you don't get clear, concise answers, ask for them in writing.

Use words of two syllables or less so they don't have to ask someone what you mean.

9. If you're that angry, take 24 hours to calm down.

Your cousin Joey needs at least a day to hack into their mainframe.

10. No one can tell you what to do unless you let them.

And these are people who ask for a price check in a dollar store.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ann Jacobs

Rumors are flying, and you know here at PBW we like dealing with the facts. So I decided to go after it, contacted author Ann Jacobs and asked if she would tell me exactly what happened to her at BEA. I received the following response:

Hi, Sheila--

When I decided to attend BEA as an Ellora's Cave author, I sent in a request (and the requested fee) to sign A MUTUAL FAVOR, my 2004 Golden Quill winner for best hot, sexy and sensuous romance, at RWA's booth. I heard nothing about this request until two or three days before the start of the convention, when Allison Kelly called me and said I could not sign that book because it didn't meet RWA's new graphical standard, which she then read to me.

I don't believe my cover (I've attached a .jpg of it) violates the letter of the standard as written, and I mentioned this along with my thought that it was a rather late date to be advising me that RWA would not allow me to sign the book in their booth. I also mentioned that I had three other Ellora's Cave print books, any of which would unquestioningly meet the new graphical standards.

To be honest, nothing happened to me *at* BEA. I happily signed books--the one I'd have signed at the RWA booth as well as two other titles that my publisher provided-- at the very well-placed and well-attended Ellora's Cave booth. (If my publisher had not attended and scheduled me to sign in its booth, and I'd planned attending BEA for the sole purpose of signing books at the RWA booth, however, I'd have been out several hundred dollars in travel and lodging, for nothing.)

The late notification by RWA was wrong. My first reaction when I was read the new graphical standard was that morality policing by RWA smacks of censorship, which most writers I know find abhorrent in any form. My second thought was that I was being penalized by the organization to which I've been paying dues for fourteen years, because of something over which I have little or no control: the cover art my publisher placed on my book.

I'm a very nonpolitical soul who wants to write and sell books, not mold the policies of writers' organizations. This issue, however, is one that may bring me onto my soapbox. RWA has no business trying to dictate morality to its members, though, so I may have to pull out a proxy and give it to someone who thinks as I do since I'm not attending the RWA conference this year. I don't want to quit RWA, but I don't want my rights as a general member abridged-- and I certainly don't want to have my webmistress replace my "too hot" covers on my website with plain brown-bag type covers marked "Censored by RWA".

Ann Jacobs
www.ann.jacobs.us

Cover art for A Mutual Favor by Ann Jacobs

My thanks to Ann Jacobs for taking the time to respond to my request and get the facts straight.

Nosy Ten

Ten Things that We'd Love to Know

1. How can those of us who are chained to our bread machines clone James?

2. Who is M.J.'s handsome friend?

3. If we all get together and pay Monica $100K, think we could make her keep this promise?

4. Why anyone would name their blog I Was Hitler's Wet Nurse?

5. Who finally showed C.J. Cherryh how to code paragraph breaks (actually, we'd just like to give him/her a big sloppy kiss of gratitude.)

6. How Trace managed not to kill Ken and his pals -- and what were they doing in the basement?

7. Where is Jimmy Hoffa buried? (even the pros want to know)

8. How we all knew Alison was going places, even way back when.

9. Who nicked John's only tube of toothpaste? (Donations to buy him another are being coordinated.)

10. Will a certain blogger ever publicly admit that she is, in fact, Angelina Jolie?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Seven

Your editor e-mails to ask if you have any quotes for one of your published books. You don't have any.

Welcome to Writer Hell.

First level: review trawling.

I hate this. I hate this. You Google your book, click on and skim the first twelve reviews. Nice. Nasty. Cute. Vicious. Eh. Lukewarm. Oh, for God's sake get a job. Twit. Whoa-ho, very nasty. Ouch. Good one. That's not my book, moron.

You weed out and send the best of the lot to your editor, and pray it will be enough. Your editor e-mails you and says thanks, but could you get some quotes from writers? Preferably BSL-ers.

Second level: asking the BSL writer you know for a quote.

You write the following e-mail to a BSL writer you know, have helped in the past and have never asked anything in return:

Hey, stranger, it's me. You're not going to believe this, but I need a quote for my new novel. Mind taking a look?

Two weeks later, you receive the following response:

Sorry I didn't get back to you right away on this; was writing my next book and it's so wonderful!!!! Also signed a seven-figure deal with Huge Important Publisher. Dying to help you out but I'm just now going on tour again. Love to your hubby and the kids.

This is the same writer you helped find an agent, held her hand through her first five novels, gave quotes every time she asked for them, and hauled drunk out of more hotel bars than you can count. To add insult to injury, you've been divorced for twenty years and you don't have kids.

Third level: asking a BSL writer you have met once for a quote.

Review trawling wasn't that bad. You love reviews. Adore them. Next reviewer you see, you're going to kiss her on her lips.

On that note, you open a new e-mail window, address it to a BSL writer you barely know, and write: Dear Jane. Does a handshake and a hiya at a publisher party five years ago rate a first-name exchange? Survey says NO. You delete Dear Jane and write: Dear Ms. Doe. Why am I writing Dear? She could hate Dear letters. She could hate me. Oh, God, I bet she hates me. You delete Dear Ms. Doe and write: Ms. Doe. Too terse. I sound confrontational. If she doesn't hate me now, she will when she reads that.

You write: Hi Ms. Doe, I don't know if you remember me, but we met at the Big Important Publisher's cocktail party back in 2000. I know you must be extremely busy, so I'll get to the point. I have a new novel coming out, and my editor is looking for cover quotes. Would you have time to take a look at the manuscript? Let me know when you have a chance, and thanks so much.

Six days later, you send this e-mail, which you have rewritten twelve thousand times, to the BSL-er. Within 24 hours, you receive the following auto-reply response:

Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, I am too busy writing my next New York Times bestselling novel to consider your novel for a quotation. I know so many readers enjoy your cute stories and wish you all the best. Yours, Ms. Doe. P.S. To subscribe to my new bi-weekly newsletter, send an e-mail to blah blah blah and win a chance for my next giveaway, a genuine self-adhesive bookplate signed by me!

Your head does not explode. It only feels like it does.

Fourth level: asking a BSL writer you don't know from Adam for a quote.

You copy the e-mail you sent to the writer you barely know, weed out the friendly parts, polish it like a submission, and send it off.

A short time later, you receive a response. It's from the writer's personal assistant,who gently but firmly delivers the no.

Fifth level: Telling your editor you can't get any quotes.

You're extremely depressed. For you, not being able to get a decent quote is like going to the prom and not being asked to dance once, not even by the class dweeb who's wearing the powder blue tux and dyed-to-match penny loafers. But your editor is waiting on you, so you e-mail her and deliver the bad news.

Ten minutes later, you receive the following response:

No problem -- John Grisham called and while we were chatting I got a nice quote for you. Will send it along as soon as I can find the darn notebook I wrote it in; I don't know where I put it.

Sixth level: John Grisham is reading your books. John Grisham gave you a quote.

You're on the floor. You're hyperventilating. Your significant other is hovering over you, waving something at your face. It looks like the New York Times. And there, there's your name, right at the top of the BSL. Right next to John Grisham's.

Seventh level: Your editor never finds the notebook.

Applause

Mr. Goldberg totally wrecks his chances for official linkage with Is that a new RWA rule in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Memories

My first year doing this gig, I received a lot of criticism for some of the content in my first and second SF novels. More than one concerned SF writer tried to save my career by explaining to me how SF was supposed to be written.

Here's the killer: the sex was fine with them, as long as I cleaned it up and used more of a softer, more distant focus with the presentation. The problem was the romance subplots that they predicted would ruin me as a SF writer.

Romance -- the love story between two characters -- had no business being in a SF novel.

Looking back now, some of what was said and done to me seems unforgivable. I cannot believe these people did this to a rookie; you never, never mess with a newly-published writer that way. But even in my first pro year, I was contrary. I believe that love, sex, and romance are an important part of life. As a writer, I'm not going to hide them under the story carpet. Also (important tip) it's a mistake to tell me what I can and cannot write.

Six years and eight SF novels later, I'm still here. Still writing my SF novels with plenty of icky romance subplots in them. And yeah, I'm still hitting the SF mass market bestseller list every year.

This did not come without a price tag. Go against the flow, and you will get blackballed, ridiculed, sneered over, pointed at and otherwise censored -- and not just by other writers. Although my sales are terrific, you won't ever read about my books in most of the industry trades. The minute a SF writer gets on a national BSL list it's reported, but try to find a mention of me doing it. My books, which rack up pretty decent numbers, are not listed with the other new releases in SF. They're also not reviewed (but hey, I like that part.)

I am not a role model. Please make note of this.

The point is, if you're going to stand up for what you believe is right, and act on it, be prepared for the long-term cost to you. The herd does not thank you for leaving them. Even if you bond with other loners, there are always more of herd than there are of you. It is in the herd's best interests to ignore you, and/or to do what they can to assure that you are not a success.

For the Good of Love

Diamond Heart Contest
Year: 2015
Entry #75,893

Title: For the Love of Mary Good
Category: Contemporary Romance (Pre-rated: Spicy)

Scene: John and Mary's Wedding Night

John stepped out of the honeymoon suite's bathroom, a look of relief on his handsome face. "Mary," he said gently, so as not to startle his blushing, virginal bride.

"That didn't take long," Mary said. He must have done number one instead of number two. She blushed.

"Too much punch at the reception," he admitted, as if reading her thoughts. "My darling, at long last, it's time."

"Time to . . ." Mary hardly dared breathe the words, and blushed deeply. "Consummate our love, dearest?"

"We're married, and this is our honeymoon. Finally we're free
to . . ." John took out his PDA and checked a stored memo from Mary's mother on romantically correct terms. "Do it."

"Oh, John. Are you certain?" Mary dared to glance at that place below John's belt, a place upon which she had never directly gazed while they were dating. Even through the thick tweed of his pleated trousers, she could see that his . . . thing . . . was ever
so . . . ready.

The naughty-girl thoughts made her blush again. What would her famous romance writer mother say if she knew what her innocent daughter was thinking right at this moment?

John approached her with slow, careful steps. "Do you know what I love most about you, Mary?"

She peeped up through her lashes at him. "Tell me, dearest." She could feel the blush spreading over her face. "Only be careful. Mother did give you an updated copy of her romantically correct word list, didn't she?"

"Yes, as always. I'll memorize it tomorrow." He was a true gentleman and refused to look down at the high-necked bodice of her wedding gown. "What I love most about you -- besides your kindness, gentleness, chastity, devotion to your Higher Power, membership in the Conservative Girls Who Don't Want the Vote, the charity job working a safe distance from those handicapped straight lepers with AIDs, and your lovely yet discreet feminine wardrobe hand-picked by your mother . . ." he frowned. "Did I forget anything?"

"No, that's perfect," a blushing Mary assured him. He'd forgotten her donations of used clothing to the Children of Unfortunate Heritage, but that was only twice a year, so she could let it slide.

"Right, thanks." He smiled. "What I love is that part of you I can now, you know, admire with more than my respectful glances. Your full, womanly, beautiful . . ." he looked left and right, and then lowered his voice to a mere whisper to add, "bosums."

Mary's mother, who had been hiding in the suite's walk-in closet to assure herself that her new son-in-law wasn't a sex maniac (as she had rightly suspected for the last four years), burst into the room.

"John!" she screamed. "How could you! Speaking that filthy word in front of my little girl! What kind of monster are you?"

"But, Mom," Mary whined as she blushed with embarassment. "We're married now, and it's not on the list!"

"It will be after my next chapter meeting, baby. As for you, you indecent, sex-crazed pervert" --Mary's mother lifted her arm and pointed to the door-- "Get out, and expect the annulment papers from our family attorney tomorrow."

John's masterful features drooped as he trudged out of the honeymoon suite. Mary abruptly burst into tears of shame that trickled down over her blushing cheeks. Mary's mother picked up the phone to call Romance Central HQ, grimly determined to report the violation voluntarily, as was clearly specified in the new membership packet.

"Tara? This is Mary's mother. My soon-to-be-ex son-in-law used the b-word. I'm so sorry. We chaperoned their dates for four years, but he was a good actor. Yes, he had your list. Probably a serial rapist, I agree. I understand you have to remove my website link. I can only thank God for you brave, brave women. I'll take her in right away." Mary's mother hung up the phone and jerked her weeping daughter to her feet. "All right, time to go back to the convent."

"No!" Mary shrieked, blushing with humiliation. "I hate the convent! I hate it!"

"You can't hate the convent, not when it's run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene," Mary's mother said. "They set the standards of decency for love and romance. Why, without them, his country would be overrun by the . . . " she consulted the laminated terminology card that she always carried in her pocket. "Heterosexually-challenged."

"But Mom," Mary sobbed, blushing furiously. "I love him."

"If he truly loved you, sweetheart, he'd have not treated you like a . . . " Mary's mother checked both sides of the card. "I can't say what, but it's someone who genuinely does not respect the sanctity of true romance. Now, let's go." She ripped Mary's veil from her head. "My future career as a romance writer depends on how hard you pray with the Sisters for your soul. John's is lost to you forever."

(Author's note: Hi, judges! I know this scene ends with the black moment, but after this part John actually cleans up his bad boy behavior and goes to the Romance Convent to win Mary's heart. I'd be happy to send the subsequent HEA along as soon as I can get the kissing scene in it approved by the Diamond Heart Entry Morals Committee.)

Comments by Judges:

Judge #1: What's Mary's motivation? This doesn't work for me.
Judge #2: Too many rape references.
Judge #3: Refused to judge this category
Judge #4: Refused to judge this category
Judge #5: Refused to judge this category
Judge #6: H/H were rather extreme. Liked the mother.
Judge #7: Refused to judge this category
Judge #8: Disqualified; right margin is .000813 mm shorter than guideline
Judge #9: Heroine seems over-eager. Hero too alpha!
Judge #10: Refused to judge this category

Friday, June 03, 2005

Other Than Ranting

Jordan has an informative post up on the latest RWA controversy (see RWA-Sigh, 6/2/05, and let's all nag Jordan to get Permalinks). I was tempted to jump in, but I can't be level-headed about stupidity and censorship, and you know PBW is trying to be more reasonable these days. At least, every other Friday.

Instead of ranting, I'm going erotica shopping tomorrow, show my support. First stop, Ellora's Cave.

Someone sent me a link to Yet Another Righteous Hatchet Job on the new Star Wars movie by Yet Another SF Oughta-Be. I simply can't comment without repeatedly using the words pinhead and pathetic. I can't even figure out why the Oughta-Bees keep going to see SF movies; they always hate them.

Anyway, to show my appreciation, I'm taking my son to see Star Wars on Saturday. I expect to have a wonderful time, just as I did at the last Star Wars movie. And if I don't like it, guess what? I'll have spent an afternoon with my kid eating popcorn and snitching Twizzlers and Raisinets from him. What's not to like about that?

That's how I'm getting into allowing my actions speak as loudly as my opinions. What alternatives have you found to the common rant?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dark Lover

Here at PBW, I don't have a committee of literary experts to tell me what to read. With good friends to recommend books, writer weblogs to check out the talent, and the terrific variety of genre fiction in general, why would I need one?

Furthermore, I don't mind talking about what I'm reading, but why should I tell you people what to read? You've got friends, weblogs, bookstores, and brains, don't you?

That was the status quo, until an editor sent me this book, which I had three weeks to read and consider for a quote. I've only done this a couple of times, and I usually end up regretting it, but I would walk barefoot over broken glass for this particular editor, so I said I'd take a look.

The day the book arrived I read one page. I admit, to see how bad it was. Then I read another page, and another, and then the chapter, because it wasn't bad, it was great. Another chapter, and I realized it was better than great, it was kick-ass. Somewhere around chapter three the world went away and I forgot to make dinner and the house could have burned down and it wouldn't have mattered, because by then the Black Dagger Brotherhood owned me, and I wasn't putting the book aside for anything.

The hell with quotes and blurbs; some books are just too damn good to keep to yourself. That's why I'm backing this book, Dark Lover, a novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, by J.R. Ward.

Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

The basic premise: Wrath is the last purebred vampire on the planet. Caught up in a turf war with inhuman slayers bent on exterminating his kind, he fights alongside his warrior brothers, the Black Dagger Brotherhood, as the last defenders of their race. When one of his most trusted fighters is killed, Wrath discovers the dead man left behind an unprotected, half-human daughter who is unaware of her heritage. Wrath has no choice but to go after Beth Randall and bring her into the world of the undead -- by any means necessary.

I've been trying to think of how to describe Dark Lover. It's going to be called a lot of things. Dark erotica, you bet. Vampire/paranormal romance, absolutely. But J.R. Ward is not like anyone else who's already out there writing it. She's got her own unique voice, and it's so clear and strong that it grabs a reader right away. You can't slap a label on someone who writes like this.

There were so many things about the book that impressed me from the writer's perspective, too: the tone; close attention to detail; flawless pacing; the clean, uncluttered writing; plus the drama, the fun, the scary parts, and the terrific romance. What I loved most was the style of this book. You can't fake style; you've either got it or you don't.

Dark Lover is J.R. Ward's debut novel for Signet Eclipse, and will be coming to bookstores nationwide in early September; ISBN#0-451-21695-4; you can pre-order it from Amazon.com here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Numbers Link

Lee Goldberg posts his IUniverse royalties. Note that by doing so, he does not get struck by lightning or has his career squashed like a bug.

So that's Lee, Alison, and me. Who's next?

Come Together

Group promotion, as in having three or more authors promote their work together, is one of the ways writers can pool their resources and attract more attention than they might on their own.

I've seen postings for Karin Gillespie's Girlfriend Cyber Circuit all over the place (Alison, Tam and M.J. are members), and Marianne Mancusi and Martha O'Connor have definitely gotten more exposure via GCC than they would by promoting from a solo blog.

There are author group blogs, like Sirens' Blog, which host entries by a bunch of writers (everyone, wave to Sam.) Not all of these are done well or are very attractive -- Squawk Radio is just begging for a blog makeover -- but it takes some of the pressure off a writer who doesn't want to post every day.

There are the usual pros and cons with online group promo. One thing I'd like to see more of are groups where each member put out their own opinions versus having everyone post pre-approved publisher propaganda. To do a comparison, here's me talking about another writer's book, as opposed to GCC's promo for Marianne Mancusi. My post generated comments, but I also received another 50+ e-mails asking me for the title to the book. The GCC post provides more information, for sure, but it has no personality. It reads, well, like copy. Competent and very proper, but not exciting. We need to get readers excited.**See end note**

A good mix of authors is essential, especially on a group blog. Sirens' hosts a fairly diverse bunch of voices, and that makes the posts interesting. Another suggestion -- don't have the group just talk about their books. Have them discuss the process, offer funny stories and jokes, debate industry issues, put up link to blogs outside the group, poke a little fun at the books versus shilling them, etc. That way the group doesn't come across like they're only interested in the hard sell.

Has anyone spotted some interesting group blogs? If you have, post a link in comments.

**End note correction: I'm cut-n-pasting this directly out of comments:

Karin Gillespie writes: That's just the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit site which I agree has no personality, and is basically just for information. It's the individual blogs that give the GCC books personality. There are 22 blogging authors and they each blog about the book and put their own spin on it, just like you did with Marianne's book. I, for instance, always interview the author. E. Lockhart finds out their boyfriend list and M.J does their backstory. The main GCC is just a press release site because we get so many inquires.

I made my assumption based on reading two GCC blogs, one of which was the copy site, a couple of weeks apart. Now it's pretty obvious that I should have looked at all of them before I threw out an opinion. My sincere apologies, Karin.