Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hit & Run

I spent the afternoon building a quilt rack/shelf and had to run out to the Home Improvement shop to get a bit for my Dremmel -- what, you thought I was just a pretty face? -- and since BAM is on the way, I did a hit & run to see what's new.

What's new: the usual front of the store blahs I don't read, and too much interesting nonfic. I am not allowed to buy any more nonfic until I clear the ceiling-high nonfic TBR stack. However, I have very little fiction to read, so I gave myself permission to blog shop. Here's what I scored:

Valiant by Holly Black -- found on one of the aisle tables. I recognize the author's name from her Live Journal but I've never read her stuff, so I figured, why not. Good title, nice little hardcover.

Seduced by Beth Ciotta -- Did you know Beth is also writing paranormals with Cynthia Klimback as C.B. Scott? Neither did I, until I read her bio in the back. So? What other secrets are you keeping from us, Beth?

Getting Hers by Donna Hill -- This was in Fiction/Lit (Monica makes me schlep over there, too.) Wasn't hard to find, though; the visual from this cover really jumps out from the shelf. Very classy, subtle embossing, elegant title font and a gorgeous glossy finish; best art design I've seen all year for catching attention from the casually cruising customer.

A Taste of Crimson by Majorie M. Liu -- Majorie had a pile of books faced out and they are moving; my store had ordered 12 copies and about 7 were left.

Courting Danger by Carol Stephenson -- Carol is an old friend of mine from South Florida, and it was a real joy to find her back on the shelves.

I also bought Passion by Lisa Valdez because Vanessa's posts about it got me interested. Anything that offends that many people has to be fun. Would like it better if Ms. Jaye would hurry up and get into print so I could buy one of her novels, hint, hint.

What books by bloggers have you bought recently?


I have found the perfect candidate for RWA's next President: slithytove, who while thinking up oxymoronic genre movements provided this absolute gem:

Chaste Porn. A man and a woman, both 18 years old or older, fully clothed, sit on a sofa and pitch woo. I'm sure other things happen—taffy-pulling and the like—but I'm falling asleep just thinking about it, and must stop.

The possibilities are endless, you know: Fashionless Chick Lit, Futuristic Historicals, Victorian Regencies, Satanic Inspirationals, and that favorite of all the uptight and silly, the Sexless Romance.

Romance hasn't seen this much optimism since the Shakers took a vow of group celibacy. Ladies, kidnap this man and make him your leader.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Writing & Selling VIII

JM wrote in comments: Should I ever get published, I would like to save myself, and those others interested, time and money in the marketing department by not trudging down paths where the investment isn't worth the return.

I suspect JM is a writer after my own heart. So let's tackle this list of questions:

Specifically, what methods work and what methods don't work for marketing your novel, or, by order of increasing effectiveness, what methods have you used to market your novels?

Traditional marketing methods, such as widgets, booksignings, conference appearances, mail-outs and print advertising are the least effective. Newer marketing such as websites, online interviews, articles and weblogs are better and, depending on the quality and appeal involved, can be terrific.

M.J. Rose's theory of getting big time media attention, particularly the kind that thrives on scandal, is likely the best marketing, but it can also be the worst. I tried most of the traditional methods for my first novel, and the newer stuff for the first Darkyn book, but I only kept up a small web site for all the books in between.

In your discussions with your published cronies, what are the similarities and differences in the effectiveness of their marketing efforts when compared to yours?

I don't really have any published cronies. My best friend is an author, but we talk about the creative side of work almost exclusively. I sometimes offer advice upon request, but I rarely if ever talk about my stuff with anyone else.

What methods have other published authors reported to you as successful that you haven't tried yet?

None so far.

How helpful were your publishers in marketing your novels?

My publishers used to take out print ads in the trades, and send out the usual amount of review copies. To my knowledge, that's all the marketing they've ever done for me. Print ads do very little for a book, and you all already know my opinion of reviewers.

What promises did your publishers make to you regarding the marketing of your novels and how many of those promises did they keep?

My publishers never promised me anything on marketing in writing. Of the half-dozen verbal promises that were made, only one was kept. I never believe anything unless it's in writing.

Should I get an agent before circulating my first novel to editors/publishers?

People are going to debate this forever. In today's market, a decent agent** will not take you on without a book offer from a major publisher in hand. I'd recommend nailing an offer first, then go agent-hunting.

What's your take on online critique groups and/or critique groups in general?

They don't work for me, but I know many other writers depend on them and enjoy them. If they help you, great. If they mess with you, dump them.

Assuming you had a day job, how long after you first became published did you quit your day job?

I had retired from business and was a ten-year veteran housewife when I got published. I'm still a housewife, and aside from writing, taking care of the people I love is not something I'm likely to quit doing.

If you haven't already done so, if you could only give us one bit of advice about the business of writing and selling books, what would that be?

Oh, no pressure . . . okay: Somewhere in the midst of all the important marketing, strategizing, planning, researching and obsessing, try to write some books. I know, it's a completely radical idea, but the more you write, the better a writer you become, and the more likely you are to sell.

**Important Contrasting Opinion: Literary agent Miriam Kriss responded with the following in comments: I sold someone out of the slush pile last week to a major publisher and I'd like to think I'm more than decent. Any agent will take you on when there's money on the table, but only an agent who will really fight for you will take you on out of the slush. That being said, if you have an offer in hand, be picky. Find an agent who will really share your vision of your career and your brand and help you build both. Don't panic and take the first person who says yes. The offer won't evaporate if you take a week or so to decide.

You can read more about Ms. Kriss in an interview she did here.

Writing & Selling VII

Ellen Fisher wrote in comments: PBW, I recently read an article about Janet Evanovich, who basically said that selling books is all about taking up as much "real estate" in the stores as possible, which means writing across genres. Since you write in multiple genres too, I'd love to hear your take on this when you return.

The Divine Ms. E definitely takes up major real estate with her Stephanie Plum series and the collaboration romances she writes with other authors, but no matter what she publishes, it ends up on the bestseller racks and in the front of the store. Prime turf to sell books -- but getting there isn't easy.

In my situation, being all over a bookstore doesn't have much impact on my sales. For one thing, despite my presence on the internet, few bookstore patrons are familiar with the diversity of my work. They don't know that Jessica Hall = S.L. Viehl = Lynn Viehl = [Writer-for-hire Pseudonym] = Rebecca Kelly and so on. The most crossover I've seen has been from new readers of the Darkyn books who went and found my SF novels, but the pseudonym surnames are the same, and unusual. If I was writing those books as Lynn Smith and S.L. Smith, they probably wouldn't have found my other novels.

Also consider that for various reasons most publishers don't want writers to use the same name or pseudonym when they write in other genres. If you write in more than two genres, or work for more than one publisher, you'll probably have a hard time keeping the same name on all your books.

What are the alternatives to getting more real estate in the stores? A large print run that puts you in the front of the store is great -- as long as your books sell so you don't have huge returns. These days a 100K print run will not get you in the front of a major chain store. I'd guess it takes a 150-200K minimum. Shelf sitters, book dumps and other eye-catchers might grab some attention, but not enough to spike your sell-through. There's just too much competition.

The publishers and the booksellers are the ones who decide who gets prime store real estate, and it's always the established bestsellers or the rookies who for whatever reason get major backing for their first book. Which we'll all agree is not fair, but that's how this business works.

If you're not fortunate enough to be a BSLer or Elizabeth Kostova, then maybe the best thing you can do is to write the kind of books people want to read. Dazzle your readers, and they will tell other people about your books. Reader buzz is something publishers and booksellers can't generate, buy, control or reserve for their pet authors. It can only be earned -- by great storytellers.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sub Op

Want to try out writing vampire fiction but unwilling to commit to a novel? Simon Owens over at Lithaven has posted some sub guidelines for Vampires 2. They're looking for "Action Packed Short Stories that have plots dealing with a pretty sexy female vampire and a mortal man falling in love with each other."

It's not much money -- $25 per story -- but they accept electronic subs. More details can be found here.

Writing & Selling VI

Jessica wrote in comments: The discussion I would like to read most is about conflict. I never seem to have enough of it in my stories and when I brainstorm for ways to increase the conflict I find myself saying, "That would so never happen."

Jessica, your present solution -- " just keep writing and know I'll figure it out eventually." -- isn't a bad one. More often than not, the toughest reader to convince is the author of the story. Sometimes you subconsciously detangle this stuff as you write, though, so pushing through can help.

Back when I started babbling about how I write novels, I mentioned asking a character three questions. Thing is, the characters come from the writer, so you're really asking yourself those questions, i.e. "If I was a bioengineered doctor who wanted to do no harm, what's the worst thing that could happen to me?" The worst thing should be what you believe could happen to such a character.

Our belief systems are all different, and in some part they govern how we write. The more pragmatic you are, the more you'll wrestle with the impractical or unlikely. Wrangle it into a form that it makes sense to you. Example: I don't believe in magic or mythic creatures, but I write around that disbelief by making the magic function only in dreams and turning the mythic creatures into aliens populating another part of the galaxy in a distant future.

I think conflict in fiction needs a good balance of reality and imagination. Enough of the real stuff to make the story resonate with the reader, but not so much that it reads like a lecture or a textbook. You shouldn't go so far off into Imagination LaLaLand that the reader can't make sense of the story, either.

You writers and readers out there, what makes novel conflict work for you? How do you make the conflict you dream up work?

Pet Panic

I couldn't find Jak this morning. I woke up, went out and did the cats' food and water, and Jak, who is always first to the food bowl, didn't show up.

Jak has bad lungs from a respiratory infection that put him on Humane Society Death Row as a kitten, so I walked around the house listening for his wheezing. Not a sound. I called to him, but no answering yowl. The other two will occasionally play hide-and-seek with me, but not Jak. He's like a dog; call his name and he's in your lap two seconds later.

I checked all the rooms, in all the closets, and under all the beds. Jak is a big kitty, 22-1/2 lbs, so sometimes he gets stuck in odd places. I went out to the garage, into which Jak loves to sneak. I checked under my car and under the hood. No cat.

By this time I was convinced he'd slipped out while I was bringing the groceries in and was dead. A typical hysterical pet owner reaction, but Jak has never lived outside. He's got claws, of course, but if a fox or coyote came up to him he'd probably try to lick its nose. Then there was the local traffic; much faster than Jak. I put on my shoes and went out and walked the road, looking for his body. No corpse, and none of my early-morning neighbors had seen him.

I came home and wondered what the hell I was going to tell my family, when I remembered a closet I hadn't checked. It's under the stairs, and I had it open last night for a few minutes while I was stowing some photo albums.

I opened the door, and out popped Jak, looking highly indignant.

False Alarm

Thursday, July 28, 2005


The unpacking is almost done. Ditto the latest book. It'll probably take me another three weeks to catch up on e-mail, but I'm working on it (and my apologies to everyone who is waiting patiently for responses. I'm really flooded.)

As a result, I have not had time to do much of anything, especially self-maintenance. Which is why this morning when I looked in the mirror I thought my hair was falling out. It wasn't, but my roots had grown out to a solid inch of white. Beyond the white was a narrow margin of light brown-red/silvery hair where the non-permanent dye is fading. The rest is dark brown that glows dark red in the sunlight.

As I was pretty sure the Pepe Le Pue look is not going to come into fashion any time soon, and I don't have time now to mess with it, I took myself off to the nearest decent hair salon. I was smart this time: I waited for an hour for the most experienced stylist, dropped into her chair, pointed to my head and said, "Do something."

To her credit, she didn't quit her job on the spot, but pursed her lips and rummaged through my tresses. She questioned me like a Style Cop: "You used what here? And here? What were you trying to do?" Whenever I answered, she hmmmmed. Not the good kind of hmmm, either. The ominous, your-hair-is-toast hmmmm.

Finally she delivered the verdict: "We'll do a test, see if we can work in highlights to blend it."

I remembered the last time I bleached my hair. I walked down the street, cars skidded off the road. "What if it turns orange?"

"You'll have to cut it off or grow it out."

The stylist smeared the goop on a test strand, foiled me, and I began to pray to Kelly Clarkson. Twenty minutes later, the foil was gingerly removed and the highlighted hair examined. She said, "I think we can do it if we trim some of the really dark stuff."

We negotiated on the length -- I wasn't spending another 6 months looking like a damn Madame Alexander doll -- and then she went to work. Two hours, two containers of bleach and a pile of hair on the carpet later, she let me put my glasses on to see the final results.

In the mirror was Meg Ryan.

Well, a chubby, middle-aged, myopic, streaky brown/blonde version of Meg Ryan, anyway. The cut she'd given me is semi-short, chunky-layered from earlobes to just about my shoulders. My silver roots blend in nicely with the golden blonde highlights and the way she worked them in with the dark brown makes my hair resemble a polished tiger eye stone.

Before I floated out the door on a wave of hair bliss, my savior loaded me up with smoothing and nourishing hair products that cost more than I want to think about. I promised her I would never dye my hair myself again, and this time I wasn't lying. That Pepe Le Pue look was pretty scary.

Like any girl, I came home and spent ten minutes in front of the mirror, studying and debating it all. Was it too young a style? Too short? Too light? Then there were all the new hair politics involved: Can I still call myself a redhead? Does having highlights mean I have to be nice to blondes now? What if I washed out all the blow-dried waves and styling gel and ended up looking like Willard?

I just took a shower, washed out all the crap, combed and let it dry, as I always do, by itself. I may be hair-vain as hell, but I can't stand blow dryers. It all dried into a slightly rumpled but still acceptable Meg Ryanish mop.

I know my hair. It will take another two years for everything to grow out and me to go completely au naturale. I'm not sure pure white is going to be any better than me going blonde, in which case, I might start wearing my Cubs cap outside. But for once, after years of awful do's and purple dye jobs and never ever being happy with my head, I think I actually love this cut and color--

(known universe collapses)

Writing & Selling V

Mary Stella wrote in comments: Right now, my biggest conflict with writing and selling books is how to balance all the aspects of the business with my life and day job. So much to do with marketing and promotion on top of writing -- so little time to do it!

I admire writers who work in publishing and hold down a day job. Writing full-time is something we all aspire to, but in reality, it can't be done (unless you're a wealthy childless orphan living in a plastic bubble are surrounded by lots of trustworthy servants.)

Even if you don't have a day job, you've got a life that probably includes a spouse or significant other, children, a home, extended family, friends, and/or pets. At some point, no matter how understanding they are, the people in your life need your attention.

Balancing writing with your day job and your life requires very creative time management, but you first need to know how well you're using your time. Put on a watch and slip a little notebook and pen in your pocket, and go about doing what you usually do every day, only write down what it is and how much time you spend on it. Repeat for an entire week, then tally up your activities and hours.

You should have time listed very day when you were writing or working on writing-related projects. If you didn't write, look at what you actually did that day. What would you be willing to trade off for some writing time? Twenty hours a week watching television, talking on the phone for social reasons, playing video games or cruising the internet could be turned into 5,000-10,000 words in new material.

Be sensitive to your creative rhythms during the day, too. I always thought I was a night person (I'm not.) I doubled my productivity by switching from being a mainly evening-nighttime writer to predawn writer. It was hard to get used to beginning my day at 5 am, but I found out that I write better and faster early in the morning while I'm more in the mood to do editing and other projects at night.

Don't try to go the all-work, no-play route; you'll likely burn out. No matter how busy I am, every day I take an hour to paint, quilt, listen to music, walk or do something else that makes me feel relaxed and happy.

If you've found something that better manages your time and/or boosts your productivity, let us know in comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Left Behind

I'm seeing a lot of poor you posts by authors and writers who have since taken off for the RWA National Conference. The assumption here is that RWANat is so fabulous, so fun, and so freaking wonderful that we must be miserable, to be deprived of its many delights.

Ten Delights I Remember from RWA National

1. Staying at an overpriced hotel with 1000 writers, 500 of whom are allergic to perfume and 500 who evidently bathe in it.

2. A room on the twentieth floor, no stairs, and waiting thirty minutes minimum to use an elevator. Which then takes twenty minutes to get to your floor.

3. Chicken something in mysterious brown and purple sauces, salads that appear and taste like grass clippings and wilted leaves, watery iced tea, tar-thick coffee, and something floating in your water glass that looks like a booger.

4. Needing desperately to visit the ladies room while being trapped in a front row seat at a workshop taught by The Most Boring Writer in Romance.

5. Reserving a room with two beds, being stuck with a one-bed room and having a roommate who can't sleep on a rollaway, which turns out to have a lump in it the size of a honeydew.

5a. Insomnia not helped by discovering that your roommate snores, grinds her teeth and talks in her sleep.

6. Dodging being trampled by the herd as they race to get to seats at the big luncheon and fight over who gets the freebie Linda Howard hardcovers (I have seen women almost come to blows over this.)

7. Sitting next to Big Name Author's table at the literacy signing and listening to her readers gush over her books while you smile at the stacks of your novels that no one wants.

8. Walking through the cloud of smoke emitted by the Lung Cancer crowd gathered around the tiny ashcan just outside the lobby door. If one of them is gesturing, add dodging a cigarette burn.

9. Sitting next to a redheaded lady for thirty minutes at a party but avoiding eye contact and not talking to her because you've run out of small talk. Later, having all your friends rush up and ask you what you said while you were sitting next to Nora Roberts (at least Nora can never say I bugged her.)

10. Discovering at the RITA awards that the reason everyone keeps looking back at you is not because your name was announced, but because the well-dressed lady beside you is farting silently but continuously.

Yep. Poor us.

Hired Guns

May asked me to blog about how being a writer-for-hire works and a general rundown of how you go about getting the job. Here's what I know:

A publisher, packager or franchise that wants a book or books written to their specifications solicits and hires a novelist to write them. The writer is contracted, usually for a flat fee. The assignment can be anything from a vague idea to a complete package including specific plots, characters, settings, maps, themes and so forth. Wordcounts, page counts and certain creative restrictions (like sexual content) are also generally spelled out.

To break into writer-for-hire work, you usually have to audition, which is a lot like pitching one of your own novels, or the publisher may seek you out based on your published work or a recommendation from someone who knows you and your work (I've recommended a few writers to publishers for projects that weren't right for me.)

My first audition came via a request to my agent, and I was asked to write a sample chapter based on a fairly detailed outline of a series package. On another job, my agent sent a couple of my books to an interested party. I didn't have to do anything for that one. Another job came from the subsequent success of my first writer-for-hire work, and I was asked to submit one-page synopses outlining five books.

When you pitch writer-for-hire jobs, you have to be ready to put together almost anything the publisher wants to see.

One way to find work like this is to make yourself available. If you have an agent, let him/her know you're interested in working for hire and ask that he/she put out the word. Be sure to detail what you'd like to write. You can do the same with your editor. Unpublished writers have a tougher time getting writer-for-hire work because a) they don't have the agent/editor connections and b) they don't have books in print to demonstrate the level they're writing at and/or their range as a writer.

Drawbacks are plentiful, too. Publishers can contract-gag you so that you aren't permitted to publicize the fact that you've written the book(s) without their permission. If this doesn't sound awful, imagine your writer-for-hire book hitting the New York Times BSL and your publisher deciding that you can't tell anyone. Ever. The publisher usually specifies in the contract that they own the copyright, not you.

The editorial process involved in writer-for-hire work is much more intense, particularly on books that have a lot of predetermined factors. Because you're hired to write what they tell you to write, you have to actually do that. Another writer or writers may share the same pseudonym or work on the same series with you, and you have to keep track of each other's work.

The rewards? A source of income, publishing credits which you can list when submitting your own work to other publishers, a chance to test your range. It challenges you to write your best on demand, and that can be fun.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Reviewer David Kipen complains about hostile e-mailed criticism he's received for his "mixed" review of the latest Harry Potter novel. He does welcome non-threatening e-mails, though, implying in the article that he's somewhat attention-starved. So while Dave can say whatever he wants, he chafes at being criticized and prefers favorable e-mails only. Got that?

Sarah Weinman states she was only being deliberately provocative when referring to publication in paperback original as a ghetto, and now would simply like to know if PBOs are a marketing strategy change or a backward step for writers published in hardcover. See, Monica? We're not Eastern European orphans of the Publishing Ghetto after all. We're a marketing strategy, or maybe we're backward. Stayed tuned to find out!


To settle an argument I'm having, I need some booksellers to answer this question: when an author drops in and signs all their mass market books in stock, and the books don't sell, do you keep them forever, or do you strip covers and return them like the unsigned stock?

Writing & Selling IV

Lori Devoti wrote in comments: How about knowing you are writing the right thing for you?

One popular method is to depend on others (writer friends, crit groups, teachers, agents, editors, etc.) to look at your work and tell you which is right for you. There is nothing wrong with this, and it can be helpful if you already have a high success rate with the feedback you get from these folks -- meaning, things they give you the green light on actually sell for you and do well on the market.

That method didn't work for me.

You can also test drive genres and different ideas in short story form. If you're a published author, you can submit them to magazines and anthos and see what sells. I put mine up on my old web site and gathered feedback from readers, who told me what they liked. I took the stories they responded most positively to and made them novel length, which resulted in three book sales.

If that doesn't appeal to you, do some self-analysis. Are you having fun, or are you fighting for every word? Do you run to the keyboard, or come up with excuses to avoid it? Are you faithful to your genre, or are you playing around with others on the side? What do you love? What do you want to do on the page? Is there anything you're dying to try out, and if so, what's stopping you?

Anyone else have ideas, methods or experiences that resulted in finding and writing what was right for you?

Done and Done

Mr. Winter finished his novel Devil's Dance tonight, bless his prolific heart. Which means I won my bet and the Loser now has to pay up*.

Congratulations, Jim.

(*specifically, a nice-size donation to my charity, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mind Your Place

Sarah Weinman assures the Lit-Heads that while certain writers deserve nothing more, it is not wholly shameful to be published in mass market original via Working the paperback ghetto to your advantage.

I say let's welcome them with open arms. Come on, you guys, hop in the lowrider of publishing and we'll take you for a spin through our murky little neighborhood. You will need to leave your fancy book tours, bigass advances and personal publicist pacifiers at home, unless you want to get your face kicked in.

Wait, does this mean I have to change the name of the blog to Ghetto Writer?

Ten Ten

Ten Things about Ten Things

1. The Top Ten Blog.

2. The Top Ten Dot Cons.

3. The Ten Most Translated Authors.

4. The FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

5. Pat Holt's Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do.)

6. David Letterman's searchable Top Ten Archive.

7. Peter Schjeldahl’s Ten Commandments for Artists: "Work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, don't whine." (Found over in the archives at

8. British rock band Ten's official web site.

9. Be on the lookout for gators, ghosts and construction workers in the Top Ten Cam Sites

10. My personal favorite from the StarLines archived top ten lists, The Top Ten Signs You've Attended Too Many Writing Workshops.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Writing & Selling III

Margaret wrote in comments: As far as the business of selling books, I read something somewhere (and no I can't remember where) that said you should establish yourself in a genre with 3-5 books before adding a new genre. Looking at your publication dates, I kind of figure you didn't follow that model. My question is: what do you think of the idea and maybe both what happened in your case with the romance and SF (I know StarDoc was your first, but the Gena Hales followed soon after.) and if you'd change anything given the chance to start again?

I didn't follow any model. If it wasn't in Writer's Digest, my only source of information about the industry (yes, go ahead, snort) then I didn't know about it.

My initial plan was to write what I wanted to, pitch everything I wrote, and sell as many books as possible. That worked fairly well, until I lost two editors and hit a career slump. That was when I added work as a writer-for-hire as needed to pay the bills and pulled out of the slump.

For multi-genre writers who want to publish in more than two genres, the 3-5 book/genre establishment model doesn't work. Even for the two-genre writers it can be hazardous. Establishing slaps a label on you and, whether you're successful or not, may run interference with you moving into the next genre. (See more about this in the comments I made about Alison's reference to the same model here.)

The big problem with actively publishing and achieving success in more than two genres is the production level required. You should write and sell at least one, preferably two novels in that genre per year. Multiply that by the number of genres in which you want to publish. Three genres = three to six books per year. Five genres = five to ten books a year. Aside from the twelve to sixteen hour work days involved in writing that many books, you must also sell them, and keep your numbers healthy enough to keep bringing in the new contracts for several years.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from multi-genre writing, either. I am proof that it can be done. It does demand discipline, commitment and hard work, and even then there are no guarantees.

If given the chance to start over, ugh, I'm no good at what-if scenarios. Aside from my criminal naivete, I doubt I would change anything. I think having a charmed career without any bumps can spoil a writer, so I'd rather keep all my mistakes. I learned a lot from them. Even this one, awful as it was, helped me.

You writers out there, are there any publishing business models you've found that have helped you? Are there any that you think other writers should avoid? Any that you're looking for right now?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Morning Surprises

Old morning ritual: Get up before dawn, brew my tea and take it out on the porch to watch the sunrise. New morning ritual: All of the above minus the sunrise (porch is on the sunset side of the house.) Here at the new house, I may be watching, among other things, the bats.

Yep, we have real bats: wren-size brown ones that like to swoop down and gobble up whatever is fluttering around the porch lights. And guess who was sitting directly under the lights yesterday morning, the first time one of these speedy little bug catchers came by for breakfast and brought twenty of his friends?

One of them flew not six inches from my face, so fast I finally get that like a bat out of hell analogy. What did fearless PBW do? Why, she shrieked like a girl and ran in the house so fast she left flame trails, is what.

I really don't want to be afraid of the resident fauna, so I braved the pre-dawn Moth Tartar feast again this morning. I sat tense and quietly terrified, waiting for them and remembering everything Jeff Corwin ever said about not fearing bats. Jeff, you're a crazy man, do you know that?

The bats never showed up, and as the sun turned night sky into that lovely pre-dawn violet-blue, I switched off the porch lights and relaxed. That was when something that looked like a big silver dragonfly with its tail hanging down sort of floated by the Japanese maple near me.

I peered at it, thinking, Oh, God, what now?

It moved weird -- fast/slow, fast/slow, and not like a bug at all -- and went into the flower gardens. Since it didn't bring twenty friends with it, I stepped off the porch to have a closer look.

There hovering above the white roses was this teeny little critter, no bigger than my thumb, all silver and blue, flying on dragonfly wings. I was wondering if Celestial Seasonings had accidentally added some illegal herb to my tea when I saw that it had a beak. It finally dawned on me that I was looking at a real live hummingbird. Right there, not two feet away from me.

I watched it sample some of the roses, and then it seemed to notice me and delicately floated off around the house. I was tempted to run after it, but I was still kind of stunned and lost in the magic of the moment. I've never seen a hummingbird except on television. It was like discovering a fairy in my garden.

What's the most surprising thing you've ever found in your backyard?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Writing & Selling II

Carter asked in comments: Are professional organizations like RWA, HWA, SFWA, or NWU worth the money? Aside from networking and name exposure, are they actually doing anything worth while for their members?

I've been a member of RWA (three years) and SFWA (one month), but I didn't qualify to join MWA or HWA. I know a little about other writer organizations, like NINC and AG, but not enough to speak about them with authority.

Writer organizations are wonderful for writers who want to meet their favorite authors. All the big annual conferences are a gaggle of famous faces, and they will happily sign books for you, especially if you buy them there. There's also that nice local chapter meeting/luncheon for which you can dress up and go to and hang out with other writers while you eat bad chicken entrees and pass out bookmarks.

If you love having someone tell you how to write, you've hit the jackpot: writer organizations are workshop/seminar factories. You can't belong to one without getting sucked into at least four or five of those things a year. You can also go away for a week to one of those college workshop/retreats and let a famous writer, editor or hasbeen tear your work apart (this costs extra -- a lot extra -- and you usually have to apply for it like a job.)

I'm guessing a lot of you are like me, though, and think that's all bullshit. So let's stop thinking like fans and talk about the real career benefits.

RWA offers only one: the opportunity to pitch at their conferences. Agents and editors from major publishers go to many of these (mainly they go to RWA's annual national conference) and the editors will take appointments for one-on-one pitching (I can't say if the agents do or not. They didn't when I was a member.)

You don't have to join RWA to pitch an editor at a con, however. You can simply go to whatever con they're scheduled to be at and pay the non-member rate. And given RWA's current campaign to censor their membership, I'd recommend not joining. The Sisters have stepped way out of line.

SFWA did not offer editor appointments six years ago, and you had to be a published SF author to join them. I've avoided those people for six years, but maybe they've changed. Any SFWA members out there care to report on the present state of your org and the benefits they offer? Same goes for members of HWA and MWA -- tell us what benefits you enjoy.

If you consider writer organization awards valuable, you should join the respective organization and prepare to do some heavy campaigning via the organization's con circuit (particularly for SFWA awards, which are highly politic.) I don't think any award sells many books, but the trophy does look nice on your mantelpiece.

When you look at a writer's organization, remember that it is set up to make money off you. You pay to join and you pay annual dues. You pay to attend meetings and cons. You pay for ads in the org's magazine. You contribute to various fund raisers. They say it only costs $50 - $100 per year in dues, but you have to add in all the extras you pay for. To be an active member in RWA, for example, runs around $3K to $5K a year (that would cover attending 12 local chapter meetings, 2 regional cons, RT annual and RWA National, plus contest entry fees and other expenses.)

You can work your way up the ranks of your writer org and eventually be comped for con appearances, hotels, airfare, speaking fees, teaching workshops and so forth. If you want to make money off other writers, it may take a while, but watch the upper echelon, do what they do, and no doubt you'll get there.

Whatever organization that you consider joining, ask questions like: "What do I get? Can I pitch my work? Do you offer group insurance? Legal aid?" Etc. If all you get are a membership badge and a monthly or quarterly magazine marketing other writers to you, then I'd suggest taking the money and use it instead for postage to mail out more submissions.

In Transit Ten

Ten Things That Happened While I Was Moving

1. Alison finished her latest novel.

Now if we can just get her to stay away from blogs that annoy her.

2. Mad Max folded BookAngst 101.

Which sucks, and I'm not going to wish him farewell. I don't want him to go.

3. Sasha sold to Berkley and Kensington.

This is just too fabulous. Way to go, Sasha.

4. Some terrorists tried to mess with London again.

The Brits were bombed by the Nazis and didn't flinch. You jerkoffs haven't a prayer.

5. Kate went Blogger.

Just as I'd gotten used to scrolling down half a page....

6. Mr. MacBride and Mr. Rickards went off to make friends and influence people at the Harrogate crime fest.

I'd pay good money to watch these two work a room.

7. Shannon noticed that RT stinks.

Might have rubbed off from the RWR (rimshot.)

8. Holly relocated Silent Bounce.

Pretty new sidebars, same great header.

9. James Doohan, who played Chief Engineer Scott on the first Star Trek series, passed away.

I always loved the character of Scotty. Rest in peace, James.

10. Gabriele renovated The Lost Fort.

I like the changes she's made, and that cool mint green background gives me an instant craving for Ande's candies.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Writing & Selling I

Thanks for the many good wishes left here in comments and sent by e-mail. Amazing counter space can't compete with you guys.

Before I took off to relocate, I mentioned starting some discussions on the business of writing and selling books. Of all the business ventures I've been involved in, publishing seemed the most confusing -- at least on the surface. But it is a business, and like any other, there are a few ways to succeed and many, many more ways to fail.

If you think of writing a book as being the same thing as opening a small shop, you get a better idea of what I mean. To open a shop, you need to sell something that people want to buy, money to fund the operation, advertising, location, and so on. Same thing with a book: you need a great story, a publisher to manufacture and distribute it, publicity, decent print runs, etc.

In comments, Andi wrote: Anything you'd be willing to divulge about writing/publishing in multiple genres would be appreciated. I have so many questions about what to do and not to do, and most things I've read don't cover multiple genres, for some reason.

I think the lack of info is because most writers don't try to write in multiple genres. Lack of interest, fear of the unfamiliar, inability to sell and the desire to become established in a single genre are the reasons against it that I hear most often.

They're not wrong. It's difficult enough to write well in one genre. Knowing a genre is the smart way to write for it. Some agents and publishers don't like multi-genre writers, although I've yet to hear someone couldn't sell solely because of that. If you write at a slow pace, or work a day job and have limited writing time, it's probably better to concentrate on becoming established in one genre.

I pursued publishing in multiple genres mainly because diversifying made sense. I knew going in my chances of success as a pro were slim to none, and wanted some insurance. Multi-genre writing offered more exposure and more chances to breakout. I wrote fast enough to handle the workload, and it also appealed to the easily bored three-year-old in me. I get restless and I want to try different things all the time; why not start off with that as a selling point and see where it took me?

To handle more than one genre, you have to forget about the usual one-writer one-novel one-genre linear mindset. There's nothing wrong with that, btw, it just doesn't help you with the multi-genre juggling act. Here are some of the things that I think help:

1. Write at least two books per year; four would be ideal.

2. Develop a unique voice for each genre you work in.

3. Boost your time efficiency by doing things like parallel researching (using the same research you put together for one novel in a different way for another book.)

4. Work on more than one book at once.

5. Read widely all the time; don't focus on one genre.

6. Unpublished writers: don't try and pitch three books in three different genres simultaneously. Pitch them one at a time to the appropriate editor/publisher.

7. Find an agent who is willing to represent you no matter what you write. The agent should be capable of selling you in all genres, too.

What do you all think of multi-genre writing? Any problems, reservations, roadblocks?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


This post is the first thing I'm writing from our new place. Well, not counting all those checks for the cable, phone, and the zero turn 52" lawn mower we bought in lieu of the tractor (which will take out a large tree at 25 mph, reduce it to toothpicks and turn on a dime to eat another half acre of grass [insert a Tim Allen owr-owr-owr grunt.])

Over the last four days I've mostly unpacked about ten thousand boxes. Only ten thousand more to go.

One minor tragedy: after warning the kids about the great big bristling catepillars I'd spotted in the garden, and describing the horrendous, man-o-war-type stings they inflict, I went to put some trash in the outside garbage can, lifted the lid and met the great big bristling catepillar that had been lurking under the handle. Thus the first words our neighbors heard out of me were shrieked and not very polite, but the subsequent swelling and need for ice impressed my children to no end.

I love nature. I love butterflies. But those catepillars? Are all going to die.

The neighbors do seem to be quite forgiving, as one came over last night to say hi and brought us a loaf of homemade bread. It was wrapped in a kitchen towel to stay warm, just like my mom used to do. People are already bringing me comfort food; I'm going to like it here.

The house seems huge. All of our furniture fits, and I keep finding closets I didn't know we had. The kitchen is a dream. I like to cook, and have enough pots, pans, appliances, utensils and dishes to accommodate feeding a modest army. After unpacking I still had empty cabinets and six feet of open counter space.

Wildlife: cardinals, jays, doves, wrens and finches hang out in our big oak tree. So does a large family of squirrels. One of our neighbors keeps chickens, so we wake up by rooster. Our kids have never heard real chickens before and think they're hysterically funny. A couple of sandhill cranes have taken up residence in the neighborhood somewhere and squabble a lot. There are mutant-size moths, dragonflies and grasshoppers, and lots of different frogs, wasps, flies and bumblebees, but so far I've only seen one orb spider.

A large horse came to watch me while I was out dead-heading some of the rose bushes this morning. It was only fifteen inches yards away, but I did not scream and run into the house. It did not jump the fence or race over to stomp me into mulch. We eyed each other, then I went back to pruning and it went trotting off to do whatever horses do. Maybe it heard about the catepillars.

It's after midnight. My feet are singing the Ave Maria, and I think I just hooked up Harry to Darth instead of Mrs. Peel. I can't find the coffee filters, my watch or my favorite sneakers, but those ten thousand boxes aren't going anywhere.

Doesn't matter. We're here. We're home.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Outta Here

We're off to our closing, and then four joyous days of transferring the contents of this house to the new one. Forecast: Rain, rain, thunderstorms, more rain. Hurricane Emily doesn't look like she's going to throw us a house-warming party, though, so I'm fine with the non-property-destroying precipitation.

I won't be posting for a bit, and I don't know when I'll be back. The phone people are being a pain about getting our new lines installed, and I can't hook this thing up to my cell.

While I'm gone, some discussions to check out:

John Rickards is looking for some books that show description by inference versus descriptive info dump. If you've got some good recs, post them here.

Alison Kent's AK Bookclub is talking about Michele Albert's One Way Out this month. I've already posted my thoughts on the book, which is a fun read and really moves.

Jim Winter has a guest blogger named The Master in this week; a Brit married to an American who gets a lot of marriage proposals from Wal-Mart cashiers. He's a bit like David Niven on mescaline; check him out.

Monica Jackson, Shannon Stacey and Jordan Summers have more to say about supporters of the RWA censorship campaign, and it's definitely my fault. I apologize in advance to anyone else upon whom my linkage inflicts a migraine. I couldn't let it pass, either.

Stuart MacBride is heading out for the Harrogate crime festival in a few days, and is interested in, among other things, who else is attending.

When I get back, I'd like to start some discussions about the business of writing and selling books. If there's any particular topic under that general category you'd like to see, let me know in comments.

See you later.


Over at Romancing the Blog, Kassia Krozser throws down on the Times and general lit snobbery toward romance. This sprang off Lauren Baratz-Logsted's piece on book reviewing on Kassia's blog here, in which she talks about the big boy's club of publishing and admits to having worked as a PW reviewer (I wouldn't say that real loud around Caleb Carr, Lauren.)

I don't agree with a few things, such as the proposal to exclude male writers just because they're guys, but it's interesting stuff.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

4X44 Winners

Because a few folks have asked, a brief explanation about how I do e-mail entry giveaways: Everyone who enters is assigned a number (in this case, 1 through 316.) Slips of paper with only the numbers on them are then placed in a real hat, tossed like a salad many times, and then my kids pick the winners without looking at the hat. That's about as random and fair as I can make it without getting the state Lotto people involved.

The winners of the Four by Forty-Four giveaway are:

Tiffany Gibson
Mark Justice
Carter Nipper
Joan Reeves

Congrats to the winners, and thanks to all who entered (stop by in August, after I move there will be more book giveaways, including another shot at previewing Private Demon.)

PBW Speaks

Amy Brozio-Andrews allowed me to brag on myself and slam censorship in this interview over at

Speaking of the Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene, I've been watching Squawk Radio, the popular author group blog which supports RWA's efforts to censor their membership. After Elizabeth Bevarly ranted about it during her Sex is Just Not My Thang post, they went and dressed the chicks.

So, telling other writers how to write their books is not offensive, but naked, badly-drawn cartoon chickens with the heads of authors are. Gotcha.

Birthday Ten

Ten Things I Didn't Learn During Year 43

1. How to write by the seat of my pants. Maybe my butt is illiterate.

2. Who Mad Max Perkins is (did narrow it down to a possible five.)

3. What you call writers who harp on that Creative Commons thing. Creative Communists?

4. Why Mrs. Peel (the internet computer) hates my scanner, while Darth (the work computer) loves it. They're both the same model/make, just different-sized drives.

4a. No, don't explain it to me. By God, I'm going to figure out this one on my own.

5. Why teenage males find lifting the toilet seat as tiresome as putting it back down.

6. A reasonable justification for a writers' organization to practice censorship of its membership.

7. If that Whitebread Lady is ever going to show up at that Blog I Promised Not to Rag on Anymore.

8. Why looking for, bidding and buying a house takes approximately twice as long as conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to a child. Babies hurt more, though.

9. If/When I'll be ready to take the next big career gamble. (Stayed tuned, could be just around the bend.)

10. Where will we writers go from here?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Four by Forty-four

Tomorrow we're celebrating my 29th birthday (yep. For the fifteenth time.) I find the older I get the more I'd like to skip this event altogether, especially when despite my stern no-gifts rule I discover suspiciously-wrapped packages in certain loved ones' hiding places.

I don't mind moving up on the middle-aged scale. Well, the pure white hair under this dye job annoys me, but everything else suits me fine. I'm more comfortable with myself inside and out at 44 than I was at 24, too. I guess I had to grow on me -- or maybe everyone goes through that?

Anyway. I'm going to celebrate the big double-4 by doing one last July giveaway: four sets of these books: An unsigned copy of Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle and a signed copy of the unbound hand-corrected galley of Private Demon, the next Darkyn novel, by Yours Truly.*

To enter the giveaway, send an e-mail to by noon EST on Thursday, 7/14/05. My kids will pick the four winners and I'll post the winners' names tomorrow afternoon.

*This one won't be published until October, so the winners will be the first four people beside my editor and agent to read it.

Worthy Cause and Effect

Everyone has been talking about M.J. Rose's experimental approach to marketing her latest release. She combined buzz-generation marketing efforts with raising funds for a worthy cause:


The goal of this two-week campaign is to connect book lovers with a good cause and a great summer read via the vidlit for THE HALO EFFECT.

I've secured pledges from real-life supporters - my publisher, agent, family and friends – who will collectively donate $5 to the nonprofit literacy organization, Reading Is Fundamental , for each website or blog that links to the Vidlit for THE HALO EFFECT before July 19.

The goal is to get at least 500 blogs to link and raise $2500+ for the charity.

If this works, we'll have to call it The M.J. Rose Effect.

I had to wait a bit before putting up my link because I had my own ideas on how to jump in on this project. You see, I've already read The Halo Effect (bought it a few months ago in the trade pb edition.) I think the book and M.J. are both worth more than $6.99, so I bought five more copies of The Halo Effect, which just arrived this morning.

To do this, I need five people who have already posted or are willing to post a link to M.J. Rose's Vidlit for The Halo Effect (the URL is on their weblogs. I will send an unsigned copy of The Halo Effect to the first five who post their MJR Vidlit weblog link in the comments for this post (don't e-mail your link to me, it messes me up.)

The Good, The Bad, and The Exhausted

We're down to the wire now.

While my good angel (GA) is still rejoicing that Hurricane Dennis passed by us and the rest of Clan Kelly, my bad angel (BA) is trying to estimate the track of (presently) Tropical Storm Emily, which may make U.S. landfall next week. Probably on the day the movers come for my furniture.

I am about to move into my dream house, GA reminds me. I am also about to hand over more money than I have ever spent in my life for anything, including ex-husbands, BA chimes in.

GA points out that my new domicile is situated between two gorgeous horse ranches in a tiny country town that is pastoral near-perfection. I will write in this place as I have never written before. The same place, BA sneers, that is 15 minutes from a decent hospital, where my kids will (again) go to new schools and and where I will (again) know no one. Have I completely forgotten, BA wonders, how horribly accident-prone I am, and that childhood fear of horses I've never quite shaken? What was I thinking?

(This is where GA gets into a snarling girlfight with BA, while I go read more of Andrew McCall's The Medieval Underworld and try not to think much.)

The kids are excited, the cats are gleefully playing kitty-in-the-empty-box, and my guy is his usual stoic self. Me, I'm staying busy. A busy PBW is a pleasantly exhausted, non-worrying PBW. Over the last couple of weeks I have packed up the rest of my household into too many cardboard boxes, and all that's really left is to go to the table, close, and move.

There's got to be something else around here I need to pack . . .

Like anything new, audacious and potentially wonderful/horrible, this requires a leap of faith. All I really have to do is keep my eyes open, the angels on either side of me, and dive in. The same way I do every time I pull out this keyboard and start to write.

You don't think those horses will jump the fence, do you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Michael Allen ponders P.D. Han's motives in writing Publishing Arrogance, described on the author's site with a blurb and Q&A. "It has been said that if Douglas Adams had spent his life being rejected and got really upset about it," the blurb claims, "Publishing Arrogance would be the tone he would have used to describe the feeling."

Really. Someone in the UK, go put an ear to Douglas Adams's grave for me and estimate how many RPMs he's doing, will you?

Ed Gorman wonders if college education, and being exposed to literary fiction, has a negative impact on reading habits. He's too polite to call those who suffer from this brain disorder names, but offers this shrewd assessement: "A lot of educated people believe that they must read only literary fiction if they wish to possess a refined literary sensibility."

Sad but true. So: read everything your college professor tells you not to, keep an open mind, and you might avoid becoming a Book Snot.

Tobias Buckell hosts the Carnival of the Godless, which was evidently moved here. COTG encourages open submissions with the following fine print: "The post you send in must be from a godless perspective and address something such as godlessness, atheism, church/state separation, the evolution/creation debate, theodicy, philosophy of religion as it relates to godlessness, etc."

Well, we have a Christian Carnival, why not? All's fair on the internet. Both the Christian and the Atheist fronts have been so lame and negative lately that whatever I read makes that "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right . . ." song loop in my head.

PBW contemplates how the dickens her ten year old daughter managed to amass four thousand stuffed animals in a single year, all of which must be carefully boxed up and moved to the new house as every one of them have names, personalities, enormous individual value and, possibly, breeding capabilities. Wait a minute . . . what's my Grumpy Bear doing in here, kid?

Monday, July 11, 2005


Mr. Winter, who will pay, got me with this:

1. Imagine it’s 2015. You are visiting the library at a major research university. You go over to a computer terminal (or whatever it is they use in 2015) that gives you immediate access to any book or journal article on any topic you want. What do you look up? In other words, what do you hope somebody will have written in the meantime?

Medical journals with cures for AIDs, cancer, drug/alcohol addiction, birth defects, and heart disease.

2. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever heard or seen at a conference? No names, please. Refer to “Professor X” or “Ms. Y” if you must. Double credit if you were directly affected. Triple if you then said or did something equally weird.

Pass. I don't want to be the one to ruin what's left of that marriage.

3. Name a writer, scholar, or otherwise worthy person you admire so much that meeting him or her would probably reduce you to awestruck silence.

Dr. Jonas Salk if he were still alive, or Dr. Maya Angelou.

4. What are two or three blogs or other Web sites you often read that don’t seem to be on many people’s radar?


Now, no more memes or quizzes, I gotta move this week. Oh, and Carter? You are SO tagged.

Strange Ten

Ten Things for the Strange Lovers

1. Signal2noise's 49,682,923 stories about -- "Is it a haunted museum or an allegory for the beginning of time?" (Beats me.)

2. ASCII Art Farts -- the cavemen of digital art.

3. Au bord du fleuve/On the Riverside -- a "meditative flash site." Have no idea what that means, but it's pretty neat.

4. Daily Rotten -- "News You Can't Possibly Use"

5. An oldie but goodie, Steven Frank's Disturbing Auctions

6. Jerk City -- for your daily strange comix fix.

7. Also by Steven Frank, Spamusement -- cartoons based on SPAM subject lines.

8. -- an "evolving, experimental design piece." Uh-huh.

9. Your tuition dollars hard at work: Iowa State University's Tasty Insect Recipes

10. Joel M. Reed's The Bureau of Missing Socks -- "the first organization solely devoted to solving the question of what happens to missing single socks."

Sunday, July 10, 2005


After I saw Holly's, I had to give it a go:

You're To Kill a Mockingbird!

by Harper Lee

Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you've also taken a significant amount of flack. But you've had the admirable guts to persevere. There's a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you, but you're pretty sure it's worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Now I have to find an online quiz that Carter won't be able to resist...


We've been under a tornado watch here for the last day, as we're on the eastern edge of the storm, but the power is back on this morning and we're all fine. The winds here never got much over 40 mph, and we've only had hard rain in brief patches. The sky is all solid gray cloud. Lots of lightning with this storm, which we think is what actually knocked out the power.

Hurricane Dennis just passed by in the Gulf 300 miles to the west, heading northeast toward Destin in the Florida panhandle. Dennis will probably make landfall some time this afternoon. Winds are currently 145 mph, with the worst of the storm surge expected at 14 to 18 feet. This hurricane has strengthened to a category 4 storm, which means it will pretty much flatten the panhandle and parts of southern Alabama, Mississippi and possibly Louisiana.

This storm is very strong, well-organized and bringing a lot of rain and surge with it. If you live in the predicted landfall area, which is roughly Mobile, Alabama east to Destin, Florida, don't ride this one out at home -- get to an emergency shelter. Bridges will be closed as soon as the winds reach 45 mph, so those folks who are still planning to evacuate, go right now.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Final Winners

As the weather is getting worse, I'm going to post this a little early.

The response to the Take PBW's Books, Please giveaways was tremendous, so much so that I wish I had another forty boxes of books to give away. I'll work on that.

In the meantime, here are the winners from the Rocket/giveaway #3 drawing:

StarDoc: Kathy Fohn, Nathan Shumate and Karen Witkowski
Endurance: Denyse Loeb
Shockball: Nicole Hurst
Eternity Row: Crista Rucker
Blade Dancer (paperback): Doc Marius
Blade Dancer (ARC): Robin Bayne
Bio Rescue (ARCs): Tim D'Allaird and Gina Black

Our time capsule is almost finished, and all the messages you left to the future have been added. I'm leaving instructions on where to find it to my heirs, with my wish that they be passed along to future generations and the TC not be disturbed until July 4th, 2080. We put all your names in the hat this morning, and the winner for Message in a Bottle drawing for a set of all five StarDoc novels is Christyne (who needs to e-mail me her ship-to address.)

Congratulations winners, and thanks to everyone who participated. This was a lot of fun.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Report from UK

My cousin was not in London during the bombings, and she and her family are fine. She wrote this to Mom today about the trains:

Our train line runs directly to Kings Cross. I was going to meet my Belgian friend next Tuesday but he has begged off coming over.

Our trains are still stopping at Peterborough and then buses take passengers into London [and ditto for the return]. GNER is the premier line in Britain going London to Edinburgh and as far north in Scotland as Inverness, so you can still get around and to interchange points to get to other places. However, the Underground Line [Piccadilly] which was bombed runs under the main line train station so they are keeping heavy trains out while they check to see how much damage there is to the tunnel. They estimate it will be three weeks before the Underground will be back to normal, and so most people who are not working in London or need to go there, are just giving them time to sort things out.


Thunderstorms rolling in advance of the hurricane knocked out our power twice today. We're prepared to stick it out, but if Dennis strengthens and take a sudden turn, as Charley did last year, we may have to pack up and get out of here in a hurry.

All of the above may prevent me from posting updates and contest results. I'll be back when possible and let you know what's happening here. Folks in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, New Orleans and the Gulf coast, please keep a close eye on this one, and do what you have to protect your family.

National Hurricane Center

American Red Cross Hurricane Preparations

Orlando Sentinel Tropical Weather page and Atlantic Visible Satellite Map (Loop)

Winners II

You guys made it really tough on me with the entries for the Sister Christian/giveaway #2. Serves me right for having a contest I'd have to judge.

Here are the winners, and why their entries were particularly inspirational to me:

Bill Peschel: "Get to work! Why do you sit in front of the computer blogging when you could be writing!" -- Mrs. Peschel

Mrs. Peschel reminded me of how much harder it is to do this job without support of some kind. How often do our spouses, partners, loved ones and friends give that to us? If we're fortunate, daily. There's also a lot of love behind those words, the love that takes care of the household, makes dinner, folds the laundry and otherwise keeps the world away while we're creating -- and kicks us in the butt when we're not. Bill, you're a lucky guy to have that lady in your corner.

Stephanie: "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." -- Credited to Theodore Roosevelt

Elegant, lyrical, and reviving. Beautiful, Stephanie (and I need to read this one the next time I feel like ripping off some reviewer's head.)

J.A. Coppinger: "Never be afraid to try new things. Remember: Amateurs built the Ark, Professionals built the Titanic."

This applies to so much more than writing that it boggles the brain. It also says, better than I ever will, why passion and daring are usually the only two line items on a successful person's life resume. Thanks, J.A.

Briana: "Will yourself to stand ready and courageous on the battlefield. In this way, all that is difficult or dangerous will be yours." (The Way of the Samurai)

We don't always get to pick our battlefields, and sometimes, as we saw in London yesterday, it's an act of courage just to get up and go to work in the morning. Briana, I'll read this one the next time I feel like hiding under the bed.

Marie: "Success requires 3 bones - wishbone, backbone & funny bone" - Unknown

A writer's anatomy lesson -- very funny and very wise, Marie.

Your winnings:

Bill -- Going to the Chapel by RK & Tempest in a Teapot by Judy Baer
Stephanie -- Portraits of the Past by RK & Tempest in a Teapot by Judy Baer
J.A. -- Home for the Holidays by RK
Briana -- Home for the Holidays by RK
Marie -- Life is a Three-Ring Circus by RK & Winter Wonders by Melody Carlson

Winners, please e-mail a ship-to address to so I can send you your books.
Thanks to everyone who entered the contest, and congratulations to our winners.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Data Reminder

For those of you who live in the path of Hurricane Dennis, a reminder: if you evacuate, backup your computer files and take the discs with you. If you are not evacuating, backup and zip the files, and ask a friend if you can e-mail them to him or her (or create an e-mail account with one of the free services like Yahoo and send them to yourself.)


My mom has been trying to get in touch via e-mail with my cousin in the UK, to make sure she wasn't in London this morning. So far no word, but odds are that she is probably safe at home, many miles away, and worrying is silly. She uses the Tube whenever she's in the city, though, so we'll worry anyway, like everyone else with people over there.

My cousin is an expert on Richard III, and gave up her US citizenship after she married a Brit historian and moved to the UK permanently in the 70's. At the time it scandalized most of the family. On one rare visit home, my cousin made us roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I was a kid, and couldn't understand why you'd call spoon bread with drippings pudding. Her husband probably found hush puppies and grits just as exotic.

I've not been cruising the internet, because I can't deal with the lack of compassion being displayed by the ever self-absorbed political opportunists. I know, they're entitled, but it seems a little disrespectful to broadcast it while they're still carrying out the bodies. Also, we have a Cat-3 hurricane, Dennis, roaring up toward the gulf, so we're starting our storm prep now. We learned last year that what looks like it won't hit us is no guarantee X 3, and we're moving in eleven days. We hope.

These days, hope is all we can count on to get us through the storm.


Our first bunch of winners for Easy Lover/Giveaway #1:

Dream Mountain: Nancy Bond

Sun Valley: May in Singapore (May, I need to get your surname for shipping -- please e-mail me when you have a chance)

The Deepest Edge: Alice Phoenix and Sasha White

The Kissing Blades: Maripat Sluyter

JH Sets: Margaret Fisk and Tracy Greene

Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone who joined in.


To our UK friends -- hang in and stay safe. We're keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.

Some early details on the terrorist attacks in London that happened this morning are here.

Message in a Bottle

PBW's Le Grand Giveaway Finale

To win a complete set of all 5 StarDoc novels (StarDoc, Beyond Varallan, Endurance, Shockball and Eternity Row), help me make an online Time Capsule. In comments, write a personal message you'd like to send to the future*. Say whatever you want, and everyone who posts a time capsule message here by midnight EST on Friday 7/8/05 will have their names put in the drawing for this set. The winner's name will be posted by noon EST on Saturday, 7/9/05.

*I will also be adding your messages to a real time capsule that the kids and I are making.


Take PBW's Books, Please giveaway #3:

S. L. Viehl SF novels (paperback and ARCs)
StarDoc (3 copies)
Eternity Row
Blade Dancer (paperback)
Blade Dancer (ARC)
Bio Rescue (ARC, 2 copies)

To win one of the above novels or ARCs, send an e-mail with your ship-to address to by midnight EST on Friday, 7/8/05. If you have a book preference, please note it in your e-mail. I'll have the kids draw the names out of a hat and post the winners here by noon EST on Saturday, 7/9/05.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No Limits

Maripat brought up a question about entries in her comments on the previous post. The official ruling: you all can enter as many Take PBW's Books, Please contests and giveaways as you like. Winning one will not take you out of the running for another. Enjoy.

Sister Christian

Take PBW's Books, Please giveaway #2:

Rebecca Kelly inspirational novels (hardcover)
Going to the Chapel*
Portraits of the Past*
Home for the Holidays, Large Print Edition (2 copies)
Life is a Three-Ring Circus**
(just found this one today)

Bonus books:
*Winner also receives an unsigned copy of Tempest in a Teapot by Judy Baer
**Winner also receives an unsigned copy of Winter Wonders by Melody Carlson

To win, reply to this post in comments with your favorite inspirational quotation or saying (saying does not have to be Christian or Bible-related. Just inspire us.) If you have a preference on which RK book you'd like to win, also note that in your comment. I'll pick the five entries that inspire me most as winners and post your names on Friday, 7/8/05 by noon EST. Contest open to everyone on the planet.

Easy Lover

Take PBW's books, Please giveaway #1:

Gena Hale romance novels (paperback)
Dream Mountain
Sun Valley

Jessica Hall romance novels (paperback)
The Deepest Edge (2 copies)
The Kissing Blades

JH Sets
Into the Fire and Heat of the Moment (2 sets of both books)

To win one of the above novels, or one of the JH two-book sets, send an e-mail to with your ship-to address* by 6 am EST on Thursday, 7/7/05. If you have a preference for which book you'd like to win, please note that in the e-mail. My kids will draw the winners' names out of a hat and I'll post them here on Thursday by noon EST. Giveaway open to everyone on Earth.

*E-mails and addresses sent to me are not saved, distributed or used for any purpose other than to ship the books if you win.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Take My Books, Please

You can never have too many books, unless you're moving. Then you start thinking Why am I not an e-book author?

Between the obligatory 35 author copies per book, the book club editions and the large prints, publishers ship me between 400 to 600 copies of my own books every year. This year I decided to keep three copies of the books I write for posterity (I figure one copy for each of the kids) and give away the rest.

I thought I had rid myself of all the extras, and then today I go and find two boxes in the back of a closet containing these:

Gena Hale romance novels (paperback)

Dream Mountain
Sun Valley

Jessica Hall romance novels (paperback)

The Deepest Edge (2 copies)
The Kissing Blades
Into the Fire (2 copies)
Heat of the Moment (2 copies)

Rebecca Kelly inspirational novels (hardcover)

Going to the Chapel
Portraits of the Past
Home for the Holidays, Large Print Edition (2 copies)

S.L. Viehl SF novels (paperback and ARCs)

StarDoc (4 copies)
Beyond Varallan
Endurance (2 copies)
Shockball (2 copies)
Eternity Row (2 copies)
Blade Dancer (paperback)
Blade Dancer (ARC)
Bio Rescue (ARC, 2 copies)
BioRescue ARC (2 copies)
Blade Dancer ARC

You all wouldn't mind taking them off my hands, would you?

Most of these are original author copies, so the older ones like StarDoc and the two Gena Hale books are starting to yellow around the edges. The rest are in new to like-new condition, with only the occasional cover, spine or page dings and dents. Also, I have three cats and they like hiding in boxes and closets, for those of you with an allergy situation.

Before I start dumping these on you, any thoughts on how to give them away? Want a simple name-entry via comments or e-mail, or should we have some fun with a couple of contests? Suggestions would be appreciated.

Update: I've crossed off a couple of duplication typos I made. All I have are 2 BioRescue and 1 Blade Dancer ARC -- sorry for the error.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth Ten

Ten Things to Celebrate American Independence Day

1. Send your online buddies free Independence Day cards over at American

2. Did you know that Betsy Ross, who made the first American flag, was a disowned Quaker who had seven daughters? Do you know who she sat next to in church? Find out these answers and more about America's First Seamstress at The Betsy Ross homepage.

3. Celebrate the Fourth of July -- games, decorating and celebration tips with a little history thrown in.

4. The History Place offers info on the American revolution, along with a copy of the Declaration of Independence and a list of the founding fathers who signed it.

5. Independence Day the movie -- if there's a SF purist in the house, put on this movie and watch their head explode. Or just watch it to enjoy Will Smith punching out and blowing up invading aliens.

6. Marvelicious -- Endure the annoying cursor-chaser message to check out history, recipes, poetry, and animated fireworks graphics.

7. Explore American history without leaving your house over at the National Museum of American History/Behring Center's History Explorer page.

8. Patrick Henry offered the most electrifying line of the American Revolution: Give me liberty or give me death. But do you know what he said before that? You can read his full speech here.

9.'s Independence Day page offers links to historic documents, patriotic music, and a free flag screen saver.

10. To keep the little darlings occupied while you barbecue, check out Yahooligan's July 4th activities for kids.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


If you're the parent of a child in America, you have read at least one issue of Highlights magazine. Long ago, some very smart marketing person at Highlights said, "Hey, let's put free copies in every doctor's office in the country. That might snag us some subscribers."

I don't know if the subscription angle worked, but I've been reading this rag for the last twenty-five years. I've lost count of the number of Science in Action articles I've explained and Hidden Pictures I've tried to find for my sniffly progeny (I can never find the freaking hammer. Never.) I know one thing -- if I don't see a copy of Highlights at a doctor's office, I leave, because the guy's medical license is obviously counterfeit.

I don't have anything against Highlights. It's hard enough to entertain a kid with strep throat during the obligatory hour sick room wait. Still, there's one thing in the mag that has always bothered me: the Goofus and Gallant (TM) page. For you parents with extremely healthy children, G&G are two comic boy characters who teach kids how to make good choices.

Gallant is the good boy, naturally, who always does the right thing. He's clean, neat, his hair is combed and he's forever smiling while he walks little old ladies across busy intersections only when the WALK light comes on. Gallant is kind and generous and always shares, and never, never runs out into the street after a fouled kickball.

The comic never offers much backstory, but I can guess what kind of life Gallant has: perfect. He lives in a pretty little Brady Bunch house in the nice part of town with Donna, his sweet mother, Rex, his manly father, and Muffy, his adorable sister. They have a dog named Rover, and Rex drives a station wagon to work while Donna cleans and makes delicious, well-balanced meals. At night they play board games or watch Disney movies together.

Yet this happy family might have some dark secrets. I've always suspected that Gallant and Muffy were secretly adopted. Donna and Rex remind me too much of Doris and Rock, and you know how unlikely it was that they, you know, [insert RWA approved phrase]. Also, who names their son Gallant? Did Mom & Dad even consider the nicknames the kid is going to be stuck with? Gal, Gall, Ant?

Goofus, on the other hand, is definitely the bad boy. He usually shows up scruffy or dirty, with his wrinkled shirt tails hanging out and his hair mussed. He doesn't look especially goofy, but instead glowers and scowls as he runs around kicking old ladies and throwing baseballs at oncoming traffic. He couldn't make a good choice if he stole it out of your locker at school.

Goofus is kind of cute, actually.

Okay, to me the bad boy is always more interesting than the good one. Especially Goofus, who is more like a real child, in his hostile, selfish and possibly psychotic way. Goofus is a force of nature; he doesn't mess with people unless it's to give them a reality check. Unlike that insufferable boy scout Gallant, who can't do anything wrong.

Now that I think about it, Goofus is probably the victim of a terrible home life. Sure, he's mean as a stepped-on snake, and only makes friends with kids named Chainsaw and Skull, but what chance does he have? Orphaned so young after Mom and Dad blew up in the home meth lab accident, and now stuck living at the trailer park with his drunk unemployed construction worker Uncle Rufus and his jailbait girlfriend Bobbie Sue. Look at how pale and skinny he is. Kid's probably been raised on a steady diet of Fritos, government block cheese and what lukewarm Budweiser Uncle Roof forgot to guzzle from the can. . .

Anyway. There is a writing lesson to be learned from G&G. When you go back to work on your WIP today, check out your characters and look for this Hidden Picture: Goofus and Gallant. Because we want the reader to cheer for our heroes and boo our villains, too often we write in dead ringers for G&G. So if you discover that you've got the Hitler Youth or Psycho Boy in your novel, try a little retooling. Let your characters be real people, not cartoon morality lessons.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Let's Dance

It's a holiday weekend, so let's celebrate. I'll send an unsigned copy of Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle to the first three people on the planet who respond to this post (remember, you have to e-mail a physical address to

Friday, July 01, 2005

Caution: Hot Contents

Summer Just Got Hotter

No more complaining that there's nothing good out there to read, people. Holly Lisle's newest suspense thriller, Last Girl Dancing, is hitting the shelves this weekend.

Here's the premise: Jess Brubaker dreamed of becoming a dancer, until her twin sister disappeared without a trace. The tragedy drove Jess to become a cop and find justice for other victims. To act as bait for a serial killer targeting strippers, Jess volunteers to go undercover as an exotic dancer. Her backup is an ex-Army Ranger martial arts teacher, Hank Kamian, whose grim past has also radically changed his life. Jess doesn't believe in Hank's psychic ability, but it may be the only thing that keeps her from becoming the next victim. Whatever happens, Jess can't walk away from this case. Somewhere in the shadows of the stripclub is a killer -- one who may be the only person who knows what happened to Jess's sister.

If you want a better preview, you can read the first three chapters of Last Girl Dancing by heading over at Holly's website. Holly's also put up Chapter Four for registered members of her weblog, Silent Bounce, here.

Gone and Here

I'm a little off-kilter, as I'm dealing with the death of one of my favorite writers. I will always love Shelby Foote for the superb historian and storyteller that he was (and don't just watch Ken Burns, read Shelby's books.)

Just after I read about Shelby's death, I followed a link* and read Reflections upon finally reading about 17 pages of Fight Club, including a pleasantly brief but nevertheless curious introduction by the author, and simultaneously trying to write a parody of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew that incorporates elements of Clare Boothe Luce's queer classic, The Women.

I think that one wins first prize for the longest blog post title I've ever seen. But in reading it, the writing universe reminded me that for every storyteller we lose, there is another out there, waiting to be read.

(*directed via How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons.)


I haven't commented on author Terry McMillan's situation for a couple of reasons. I know, it's newsworthy stuff, what with her book and all.

Honestly, it reminds me of the whole Martha Stewart debacle. I don't think someone's fame and success should make everyone else declare open season on them the minute they're in trouble. Also, would Terry have gotten as much media attention if her husband was hetero?

Divorce is hard enough to get through without that kind of spotlight. Then there's dealing with the post-divorce fallout, which can be worse sometimes. I caught this letter online tonight that brought back a few old, bad memories:

DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband is being married next week to a woman who was the catalyst in breaking up our 21-year marriage.

Did they send you an invitation or call? I only rated a phone call. "Hi, honey, I've got wonderful news" is not the way to start off this conversation, btw.

My children don't care for her, although they are respectful in her presence.

Same here. I encouraged the respect, too. Don't make your kids fight your battles. Especially when their new stepmother goes to the same school.

I am friendly toward her, but refuse to be her "friend," and, in her words, "put the animosity in the past."

Oh, yeah. Because there are so many other interesting places we'd like to stick that animosity. New wives, don't try to be friends with the ex. Trust me, while we're being polite to your face, we're thinking of how we can make your death look accidental.

Because I have chosen to remain friendly toward my "ex" for the sake of our three children, I feel a need to give him a wedding gift.

God love you, darling. You're a far better woman than I was.