Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Da Winchy Code

The New York Times has posted its 100 best books of 2005 list, and masochist that I am, I went over to have a look at the fiction. Yeah, I know better, but I keep hoping a genre writer who isn't richer than the Queen of England will slip in at #99.

Now, not to criticize the illustrious editor(s) who composed this gotta-read list, but the blurbs are so winchy they read like a muttered conversation between two badly shaven semi-stoned unpublished lit-heads at the local java joint on open mike poetry/ladies free latte night.

I mean, look at some of these catch-phrases they use:

1. ...this darkly comic novel -- let me guess: one unfunny character tries to be a comedian and everyone dies in the end, am I right?

2. ...this morally concerned novel -- I'm gonna get lectured big time, I just know it.

3. ...a muscular historical novel -- Old? Brawny? Old and brawny? I think I need an outside consult on this one. Scott, any ideas?

4. this novel by an ace student of sexual violation -- so, the author is studying . . . do I even want to know this answer to this?

5. A novel, mostly in stories -- it's a story told mostly in stories. Right.
I need an aspirin.

6. This keen observer of the surface of life -- oooooh, someone really doesn't like this author.

7. ...a loser but unbowed, asserts in endless letters to his alumni magazine -- At last, the definitive cure for my insomnia.

8. A shining miscellany -- No discernable plot.

9. ...this dreamish novel -- No discernable characters or plot.

10. ...this intricate novel -- Waaaaaaay too much plot.

11. ...this absorbing novel -- Can't follow the plot, or Banville wrote it. But I repeat myself.

12. A strange and luminous novel -- written by either Allende or García Márquez... (checking)...yep, García Márquez. Nice title there, too, Gabe (shudder.)

12a. Luminous, btw, is winch code for a non-English author's novel that we don't understand but the English translation is just so goshdarn PRETTY.

12b. Or there's a chick with green hair in it.

12c. Or, if it's Allende, both.

13. Half a century's work -- (making sign of the cross) Omigod they reincarnated Wordsworth . . . ahem. Sorry. (hunting for aspirin bottle.)

14. This novel peers into the void -- So does a proctologist, pal.

15. ...oddly moving litanies -- Ex-Lax is cheaper. Or see #14.

16. ...a cultural-politics comedy -- (popping aspirin) I don't want to read about the last Presidential election.

17. A scholarship girl at a nifty prep school -- not that one of our reviewers wrote this, or that we're showing any favoritism. P.S. it's NOT chicklit.

18. large in its concept of fiction's grasp on the world it takes seven narrators just to tell it -- Get this book away from me. Right now.

19. A whodunit tragicomedy by Albania's pre-eminent novelist -- A who...a what...Albania? Is that still a country?

20. And the winner for the winchiest blurb on the list: A novel that ruminates on beauty and cruelty, told by a former Paris model now sick and poor -- chicklit for people who hate chicklit, yipee!

Guys, if you're going to rec high-brow literary books once a year, and you want to fool a couple of people into purchasing the damn things, at least try to make them sound appealing. I know you're all into being cool and keeping that NYT grindstone crank in good operating condition, but lit authors can barely sell a thousand copies of a book these days. The big bucks committees keep handing the cash prizes over to the writers who don't need it, too; not like these other poor slobs can eat their Very Important and Shiny Literary Prize Medals, Trophies and Best Writer 2005 Certificates, correct?

Personally I feel bad for them. The worst we genre writers usually get are little snotty PW digs like highly entertaining or surprisingly thoughtful, which is industry code for Geez, we didn't think the dumbass could write this well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'm suffering from a bit of PTBD (post-traumatic book disorder) so it'll likely take me a day or two to get the motor rewound and the impellers back up to speed. But I see you guys have certainly been busy:

Jon and Lisa Hansen are pregnant.

Monica Jackson redesigned and moved her place (this happened a while back, but that's how backlogged I am on links.) More recently, so did Dean.

Alison Kent is finding the writing life sans RWA much better for her.

Jayne Ann Krentz is evidently ditching the solo blog thing so she can blog with friends.

More babies -- Stuart MacBride has become an uncle. We want to see pictures, MacBride, so take some already.

Any minute we should hear a gargantuan clunk from Scott Oden's place as he finishes up his latest deadline. Although in Scott's case I bet it'll be a solid gold gong, struck by a nubile Mesopotamian wench in something scanty and silken, her hand-carved enameled terebinth staff inlaid with bone and beryls . . .

Bill Peschel renovated his site, giving it a very cool journalistic look. I like the subtle green touches, too, being the less is more kinda gal I am.

Jordan Summers finally got permalinks, hooray! (pays to nag your blog pals.) Now I say we gang up on Tess Gerritsen and make her get them (especially if she's going to be writing posts about writing sex, so I don't have to type stuff like see blog entry dated 11/20/05.)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Edit 11 9 10

Ten Things for Editing Novels

1.'s Editing Tips Section.

2. Caro Clarke's Explaining Too Much: Why More is Less.

3. The hieroglyphics of publishing, Copyediting Marks.

4. Apryl Duncan's Manuscript Format.

5. Holly Lisle's How to Revise a Novel and One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle.

6. Elizabeth Lyon's Can Your Novel Pass This Test?

7. Linda Madl's Ten Guidelines for Strong Sentences.

8. NaNoWriMo goes to the next level over at NaNoEdMo.

9. How PBW edits her novels.

10. Dave Sheppard's Jungian Novel Editing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


After spending the last couple of days with this guy:


I am done for the year.


Now I'm off to roast turkey, bake apple pie, love my guy, enjoy our kids, nap with the cats, and be very, very grateful for my patient family, my long-suffering friends, my terrific readers, my much-missed blog pals, and my life. I hope you all do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


The responses to the Decide for Yourself Giveaway were great, and I appreciate everyone taking the time to offer so many thoughtful ideas.

Here are names of the ten winners, drawn at random from all the responses:

Invisible Lizard
Sarah Trick
Deuz M.A.
Lynda H.
Briana N.

Winners, please e-mail me at with your full name and where you'd like me to send your package. Thanks to everyone for your input.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Finishing the Damn Thing

I'm taking off blogging for a bit to do the above. Listen for the clunk, at this point I think it'll register on a seismograph.

For you NaNo'ers (and anyone else) having trouble getting to your finish line, try Rob Preece's article Finishing the Book.


My ten-year-old daughter delivered this to me last night:

My Christmas Wish List

1. First I want a dog that is a sheltie (shetland sheepdog) that has long brownish-grayish hair.

2. Then I want a play station 2 that is black.

3. Then I want Neopets the darkest fairy for the play station 2.

4. Then I want monster rancher 3 and 4.

5. Then here's something that you are definitely going to say NO!!! But you can't blame a girl for trying! Here it goes! A snake!

6. Then here's another NO!!! thing. A bunny.

7. One more NO!!! thing. Internet!

8. Finally one of all the Horse computer games at the game store!

Substitute books for the computer games and it's almost carbon copy of the wish list I wrote when I was ten. So much for mom's theory that all little girls want are Barbies.

Missy, the dog we lost to cancer and old age two years ago, was a Sheltie, which explains #1. #5 & #6 are a little more difficult -- I'm thinking of the care involved, for which she would be responsible -- but doable. #7 is already available to her (and her older brother) if she uses my computer or her dad's while one of us is in the room. What's she's asking for with #7 is her own internet account and a cable modem hooked up to her bedroom computer.

The internet is the real issue here. My daughter is active on a number of web sites for kids and has made some terrific friends out there in cyberspace (because of the hate mongers who come after me and other safety issues my kids have always had to use online pseudonyms.)Unfortunately I've found adult-aged users on several of the G-rated children's sites she visits, so we've also had some serious talks about giving out personal information, what is appropriate online contact, etc.

I trust my kids, but I also do e-mail and activity spot checks to keep up with what they do on the internet. Yes, that probably makes me a Nazi, but those are the house rules. My daughter has an active buddy list and has been in moderated chats, and she understands what is acceptable language. She's already been approached by adults and brushed them off, and hangs out mainly with girls her own age (we hope. We really never know.) I have asked her to let me know if anyone says or sends anything to her that frightens her, but so far as I know, no one's tried. I think that's all a parent can do without sealing their kid in a plastic bubble.

I think this year I can manage a new dog, because we feel we've mourned our poor Missy long enough. Although we love our cats, we all miss having a dog in the house, too. The personal Internet connection . . . no. Maybe I'm overprotective, but I'd like to keep a close eye on my kids' use of the Internet for a few more years. Maybe I'll get that for her thirtieth birthday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Paging Dr. Hoffman. Dr. Douglas Hoffman.

They don't use wolverines during this procedure, btw. Garden moles work much better, don't they, Doug?

Decide for Yourself Giveaway

(Posting this early as I'm going to be buried in work tomorrow)

One of you anonymous lurkers suggested having a giveaway, and since so many people are now interested in Touched by Venom by Janine Cross, I say let's do one for her book. Maybe we can cook up some new ideas on how to handle situations like these in a positive fashion, too.

In comments to this post, answer this question: Besides ignoring them, what do you think authors should do about snitfests over them and/or their work?

Post your comment before midnight EST on Friday, November 18, 2005. I'll draw ten names from everyone who participates*, and send the winners an unsigned copy of Janine Cross's Touched by Venom PLUS a surprise for being open-minded enough to give it a try. Names of the winners will be posted here at PBW by noon EST on Saturday, November 19, 2005.

*Add-on: Giveaway open to everyone on the planet; doesn't matter if you've won something before here at PBW.

Opting Out

A blog post all authors and copyright owners should read, in case you haven't been following the story: After a great deal of e-mail and effort, Holly Lisle has successfully removed her books from Google's online library service.

Untouched by Venom

I've been the victim of some fairly vicious snitfests, and I know how annoying it is to see my name and work tossed around by people with whom I've had absolutely no contact and/or who have never even bothered to talk to me or read one of my books. I've never concerned myself with responding, because naturally everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when it's baseless or generated solely by hearsay.

It's harder to watch it happen to other authors. After witnessing the juvenile behavior of some folks out there in the blogosphere this past week, I wanted to balance the scales for once. So I wrote to Janine Cross, the author of Touched by Venom, and asked her what she would like readers to know about her novel.

I was delighted to find this e-mail response from her today:

"Uninformed opinions can be so delightfully, outrageously ridiculous, can't they? Haven't got a clue who is saying what about my book, but I'm just chuffed that people are talking about it (though it would be much finer if they were buying it and reading it first... ah, the vagaries of human nature).

To keep it brief: many things inspired me to write the book, (books, actually, as it is a series) but one thing in particular inspires/drives me: how human beings, women and children being my main interest, can survive tragedy and persecution, torture and deprivation--not only survive but continue with life. These things are happening every day, and have happened in our little corner of the world in the not-so-distant past, too. Really, my books are the stories of these people.
I also explore, on the side as it were, the interesting boundaries we human animals draw around the passion-evoking subject of sex. We are a confusing, fascinating, contradictory, terrible and terribly wonderful species."

I don't know about you guys, but I'm definitely buying this book.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


If You Want Everyone to Like You, Get a Job Delivering Flowers.

I threatened to write this article for RTB a while back, but never found a shorter title. Grow Up was a strong contender for a time, but it was too vague. So I'm sticking to the original; I'll just make the piece shorter.

I won't get into the latest online writer hearsay-driven snitfest that has hurt feelings and outraged others. There seems to be one or two every week now, and when this one dies another monster bunch of yapping heads will grow in its place. Also there are rookie authors involved, and my policy is to leave them alone for the first year, which is awful enough without me dropping more shit on them.

What I want to talk about is the expectation or desire some authors have for everyone to like them and, by extension, their books. When you were in school, did everyone like you? Probably not. How about in your neighborhood -- all your neighbor's kids want to be your buddy? Unlikely. Everyone you've dated, have they proposed? Have you been promoted and given raises at every job you've worked? Did every editor who looked at your query call your house to shriek God sell me this book I will write you a check for two million dollars immediately. (okay, Elizabeth Kostava, the bitch. But everyone else? Never happens.)

So tell me, why does the fact that you're an author mean everyone has to like you (and your books), speak well of you (and your books), be your pal, etc.? Is it like that doctor thing where everyone expects a physician to be a wise, sober, uber-intelligent human being who can do no wrong? That everything a doctor does has to be right, too?

Example: I had a critic once give me a hatchet-job review which was posted on the internet. One of the strongest objections was that I had portrayed a doctor using a physical exam situation as the means to seduce his patient. To paraphrase the critic, Would never happen, doctors just don't do those sort of things. This critic also happened to be in a position to influence one of my rights sales. Happily, the editor ignored the lousy review and bought the rights anyway.

At the time I didn't respond to that criticism -- another PBW policy, never defend the book -- but let me ruin a few illusions now to make my point: once in real life, I walked in on a doctor in the process of giving a patient an internal exam with his god-given instrument. The doctor confided in me later about the situation. They were both married, things got out of hand during the initial exam and that was how they conducted their affair ever after: on an exam table; standing appointment twice a month. It was stupid, immoral, not to mention unethical as hell, but he was not the first doctor to have sex with a patient, and he won't be the last. It was also the inspiration for that particular scene.

Doctors are human beings. They mess up. They make bad decisions. They do the wrong thing. Do I like all doctors and think they can't do wrong? No way. Do I hate all doctors because I found one screwing a patient (answer: no, but I don't get on the table when I'm wearing that paper towel gown thing unless there's a big strapping nurse in the room, just to be safe.)

Any of this ringing bells?

No matter how careful you are, if you're an author, there are probably a dozen to many hundreds of people out there who don't like you and/or your books. They don't like your books, your face, the fact that you're published and they're not, or whatever. These people will never, ever like you. Just as your loyal readers spread the love, there's always someone to spread their hate. What can you do about it? You can be nice to people who hate you, it messes with their heads, but otherwise, not much beyond letting it go.

Obviously there are business reasons behind blogging. Being a successful author in today's market means getting your name out there. Sometimes that means taking some risks. Putting out books and blogs and opinions that people aren't going to automatically like is a way to get attention. Trashing other authors' books is another. Being sweet and happy and never rocking the boat is yet another, although it doesn't draw as much of a crowd. However you blog, some people are still going to like or dislike you.

If you look at that list of the best author blogs they recently stuck me on, you'll notice that a lot of those weblogs belong to writers who are outspoken or controversial in some way, shape or form. I don't think there's a soul on that list who hasn't been attacked by someone. Monica Jackson, Alison Kent, Holly Lisle -- we've all been through more than one online firestorm, and dealt with them in our different ways, but we didn't let them silence us. We go out there knowing everyone isn't going to like us, and we handle it.

Should you start a snitfest? If you weren't there and you didn't witness what happened, I'd suggest you get the facts first rather than perpetuate rumors, ala the Ann Jacobs/BEA situation. Tell the truth, not the story. Should you defend yourself in a snitfest? Up to you. I've found that a lot of these things are started simply to get attention and blog traffic, so I ignore them. Plus no one can argue with silence. Silence, like diamonds, is forever.

Is there anything wrong with trying very hard to assure as many people as possible like you? I don't know, I'm not a shrink (Dr. Sue, where are you when we need you?) but I'd be worried that you're going to become neurotic and disappointed. Publishing simply isn't a nice industry. But if it's that important to you to be accepted and liked, or it's a way to keep your online life peaceful, and you're willing to do what's necessary, go for it.

Or get a job delivering flowers. Everyone will like you. I promise. Except people who are allergic to flowers. And people who are mad at the person who sent the flowers. And people who wanted candy or jewelry instead . . .

Monday, November 14, 2005

Left Behind Ten

I prefer to buy books new from a bookstore. I budget my book money so I can afford to, and it's direct support of other authors and booksellers, plus the books are usually in the best condition. Thus we all win. However, when a book goes out of print, I have to resort to buying from rare/used book dealers. I will also buy used books at charity auctions, church rummage sales and friends of the library sales to support those institutions.

Used books sometimes come with surprises inside them left behind by the previous owner. Usually makeshift bookmarks, but often things you don't expect to find in a book. Like the $20.00 bill and shopping list I found in one of my grandmother's books on Watergate. On the list were three things that I loved as a kid: Oreos, Hires Root Beer and Jiffy Pop.

The strangest thing I've found in a book sparked the plot for one of my early unpubbed novels, Safekeeping. I bought a box of books at a Baptist church silent auction without looking too carefully through the box. When I got home, I discovered that one of them, a Bible, had been used as a stash. The original owner had glued the pages of the middle section together and I could see the center had been cut out. Because it was completely sealed, I had to use a razor blade to open the homemade cache. Inside I found three Polaroids of a woman's naked torso.

I doubt anyone wants to do a study on what people leave behind in books, but just in case you're curious, here are:

Ten Things I've Found in Used Books
(most frequent to rarest)

1. Hand-written inscriptions -- most often on the inside front cover, usually birthday or Christmas messages. Almost always on hardcover books; rarely in paperbacks. Longest: one newly-wed bride wrote a long and affectionate letter to her husband on the inside cover of a how-to home repair book. Oldest: a little girl named Sarah Jane Carman in Hempstead (England?) practiced writing her name on the inside leaf of an 1860 edition of Byron's complete works. She also dated her inscription August 14, 1860.

2. Bookmarks -- Used and new bookstore bookmarks are the ones I find most frequently, but I also find the laminated "gifty" bookmarks with braided tassels. Rarest one I've found was a hand-drawn bookmark with a pencil sketch of a tree that looks pretty professional but has to be fifty, sixty years old. My personal favorite: a Beauty and the Beast TV show bookmark with a photo of Vincent and a quote from my favorite of Shakespeare's sonnets, the 29th.

3. Margin notes -- usually in pencil, sometimes next to passages highlighted in yellow or pink. I find these most often in nonfiction books. They're annoying as hell, too.

4. Objects used as bookmarks -- things like hair ribbons, photographs, pieces of plastic or cardboard, a flattened beaded bracelet, cereal box tops, and business cards. The most unusual object I've found was an ancient curved piece of hand-tatted blue lace that was probably part of a collar for a lady's blouse or dress. Most recently found was a red satin A-B honor roll ribbon from a local elementary school.

5. Student notes on notebook paper -- inevitably in nonfiction books I pick up at library book sales. Written in pencil are okay, but the notes in blue, black or red ink sometimes transfer to the book's pages if left in there long enough. The neatest thing about student notes are the doodles they draw on their papers.

6. Newspaper and magazine clippings -- recipes, ads, comics and articles that have been clipped or torn out, as well as whole pages from magazines folded in half.

7. Index cards -- you may find some of mine in a book one day; I use index cards while I'm reading reference books to make notes and then use the card I'm writing on to mark my place.

8. Mold and water marks -- I once borrowed a novel from the library that was so moldy I literally could not read it; the odor was too much for me. Books that get soaked from a roof leak or flood swell and mildew. These are the hardest books to detox and clean so I've stopped buying any used books with this sort of damage.

9. Cigarette ash -- not so much in these days of non-smokers, but it was a real problem in the seventies and eighties. Today's reader seems to eat more than smoke while reading; lately I'm seeing more food and drink dribble stains.

10. Letters never finished or mailed -- To date I've only found three letters left in books. One is a fan letter to the author of the book in which I found it (gushy one); one was a newsy couple of pages from a daughter in Florida writing to her mom up North; and the last was a single paragraph of Hi, how are you, I am fine, the weather's nice writing.

And finally, one thing I've never found but that I leave behind in books on purpose: my poetry, always hand-written, always unsigned.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


This is likely old news for you guys who follow publishing awards, but I just came across it the other day while looking for a book ref.

After winning the $88,000.00 Booker Prize, novelist John Banville's The Sea was slammed by critics and evidently even some of the judges as unworthy of the blue ribbon. In follow-up interviews, Banville has been delighted by the controversy and indicated that it was high time that a work of art (his book) won. According to Banville, "some books are art, and some are not" and his criterion is, "Did it have to be written?"

Writers generally don't make a lot of money, so I'm glad John won and all. Writers also come with supersized egos, so him viewing his own stuff as a work of art doesn't bother me. What I have a serious problem with is a guy who has such good fortune turning around and snotting on the rest of us.

Art is not one-Booker-Prize-fits-all.

I don't think I'm eligible for the Booker, and I seriously doubt my books will ever be described as works of art. I'd preforate an ulcer if I was or they were. But if Banville walked up to me, pointed to my backlist and asked, Did they have to be written? then I'd need a few questions of my own to be answered first:

Should my imagination thrive?
Does my love of story-telling have to be expressed?
Do I have to channel my energy into something productive?
Must I try to achieve personal success?
Should my desire to improve as a storyteller be permitted?
Am I to have a chance, the same chance as anyone who loves to write, to pursue avenues that allow me to make a living from it and share my stories with others?

John can't answer those questions. As artistic and rich as he may be, he's not entitled to tell me what I can or cannot do, what I may or may not write, and whether or not what I write has deserves to be written. You can't, either. Only I can decide that.

As for art, no one can decide what that is. It's too personal. It changes. Everyone has their own idea of what it is. John Banville's concept of a work of art may be the equivalent of word-valium to me. I think the art of the novel is something a writer never achieves or finishes; we're forever trying to perfect it.

You probably wrote something today. You may feel it's gold or trash, but you wrote it. Did it have to be written? I don't know, only you do. Do I hope you'll write something tomorrow? See post title.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What's in Your Book Bag?

One of the self-renewing tips I picked up from Tom Peters's The Brand You 50 is this (paraphrased): You meet someone interesting. Ask him or her what's the best thing they've read in the last 90 days, then go and order it and read it.

Tom Peters, you see, is a sneaky book tyrant.

Let's assume we're all interesting. I won't pick favorites in fiction, but the best nonfic I've read in the last three months was T.R. Glover's The Ancient World. I'm going shopping in another week or two, so tell me, what's the best book you've read lately?

Friday, November 11, 2005


It's unofficial freebie links week at PBW; here are three more that I found while cleaning up my notes today:

1. offers a free download of Merriam Webster's Concise Dictionary 2.07

2. A free .pdf issue of Celebrating Christmas 2005 magazine can be found here

3. Better U Inc. offers two free e-books on fitness and personal health: 79 Fat Loss and Exercise Questions Answered and Do It With Your Dog (no, not that with your dog, the other kind of exercise.)

M.J. Rose has a post on writer etiquette that tempts me to dig up a few unpleasant anecdotes from my first pro year. Alas, this is an industry chock full of wobbly egos; as the T-shirt says, Manure Occureth. My philosophy is to maintain your silence and your dignity, forgive, and forget. It doesn't hurt to work toward becoming more successful than those who slight you, aka the best revenge.

Marjorie M. Liu got herself some pretty cover art and a favorable mention in Newsweek. Next week she will probably take over a small country as a benevolent dictator and create a luxury writers colony for the rest of us (not that I'm hinting or anything here, Marj.)

Douglas Clegg announced that he is leaving the blogosphere to write and enjoy his life. Which makes me happy for him, and sad for us. We'll see you on the shelf, Doug.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How Not To

Every writer has things they won't do when they write. Some of this is taught by that rule-wielding monster commonly known as the high school English teacher.

I've struggled for years with using the word said as a dialogue tag. One of my English teachers insisted that it was a flat word, and demanded we use more exciting "audible" words (like retorted, snapped, shouted, whispered, etc.) I was 13, she was 45; I figured she was right. When I turned pro, I found out very quickly that nearly everyone uses "said" and nothing else (evidently because Stephen King convinced them only said is an acceptable dialogue tag.)

Who's right, my English teacher or Stephen King? Let's put it this way: who's made a gazillion dollars writing books?

One article that I think positively influenced me on what not to write was written by an astronomer named Paul W. Merrill, and originally published in the January 1947 issue of The Scientific Monthly. Merrill was actually spoofing how-to articles by presenting one on the principals of poor writing (as in, how-not-to.) He was pretty funny, too, although he drifted off on a Shakespearean tantrum in the middle of it.

There were three points Merrill made on how not to write that just sounded right to me, as follows:

1. Ignore the reader. "The world is divided into two great camps: yourself and others. A little obscurity or indirection in writing will keep the others at a safe distance; if they get close, they may see too much."

2. Be verbose, vague, and pompous. "Avoid being specific; it ties you down. Use plenty of deadwood: include many superfluous words and phrases."

3. Do not revise. "Have no plan; write down items as they occur to you. Hand in your manuscript as soon as it is finished. Later resist firmly any editorial suggestions. Be strong and infallible; don't let anyone break down your personality."

Holly Lisle tickled me when she wrote a slamming article here that expands on the same theme.

I'm still wrestling with said, but here are a couple of things I've added to my personal how-not-to list:

4. Use a proper opener. Never begin your book with an interesting hook; it's vulgar. Always start with the weather, preferably a variation of It was a dark and stormy night.

5. Be decent. Never stray beyond the boundaries of what is politically correct. Keep things bland, safe, and innocuous so as not to possibly offend anyone.

6. Stay in the herd. Be sure to imitate bestsellers rather than discover your own voice. Clone everything they do so that you sound exactly like them.

What's on your list?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I saw a bumper sticker on a Chevy truck today that rocked me:

Get in, sit down, shut up and hold on.

I love it. I'd put that on my business cards, if I had any. Every word encapsulates my ambitions as a writer:

Get In: I want to catch your attention, pull you in, hook you on my ride.

Sit Down: I want you to like my ride, enough to get comfortable, go with me and see what's down the road.

Shut Up: I want to shake you up, surprise you, shock you if I can, take your breath away, leave you speechless.

And Hold On: After I've done all that? I want to crank it up even more. I don't want you to let go until we cross the very last line.

This isn't a new idea for me. Back when I taught online workshops, I described a novel as a vehicle for the reader. My idea of a great book is always one that invites the reader to come along for a joy ride, in the middle of the night, to places you're really not supposed to go. Those are the kind of novels I love to read, so no surprise that I'd want to write them.

What would the bumper sticker on your current ride say?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Our pal Trace has gone pro on us.


A couple of folks have e-mailed to ask where the other free stuff for writers lists I've done are -- you can find them here, here, and here.

Also, some extra freebies I had bookmarked:

Our pal Simon Haynes offers a bunch of freeware over at his Space Jock Software site.

For disabled folks who can't type but who can still use a mouse, reclaim your qwerty via the Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboard.

TreePad has a freeware Lite version, along with an e-book creator for TreePad files (I'm not sure if this will help anyone or not, being the total compu-idiot that I am, but it certainly looks interesting.)

Other freeware out there that may be of interest to writers: The Literary Machine, Title Scroller, and Writer's Block.

Regarding the comments I made over on Jordan's blog about using voice recognition software, I plan to do a long detailed post on what it's like to work with the Dragon and other alternatives out there as soon as I nail this last deadline.

Monday, November 07, 2005

No Charge Ten

Ten Things for Writers That Cost Nothing

1. Artella offers a whole page of free stuff for writers and artists.

2. The FBI makes available scanned copies of some of its historical records via its Electronic Reading Room.

3. RWA's From the Heart Romance Authors Chapter #77 has a page of articles on writing -- a little outdated, but there's one by our pal Robin Bayne at the top.

4.'s Editor's Choice Free Software Page has some old favorites and a bunch of new stuff.

5. Sick of using index cards, sticky notes or the back of a bank envelope to write down, organize and track your ideas? Test drive a trial version of Idea Tracker here.

6. Manuscript tracking freeware for Mac, Windows and DOS (who still uses DOS? The Amish?)

7. Register for free to use special features of the Old Farmer's Almanac online.

8. Because you can never know too many words no one else understands, The Phrontistery.

9. Poets & Writers Magazine's Grants and Awards Page

10. Web Chrono Desktop offers a calendar, a reminder, a to do list, a program launcher, a file grabber, an extended clipboard, a unit converter, a web update checker and more at no charge.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Someone, please stop Tess Gerritsen from reading those idiot reviews of her latest book. Or at least introduce her to the reviewers in real life, that should do it.

It appears that Jayne Ann Krentz has edited out some of the Okays beginning the posts at her new blog. Huge relief; I was starting to get Pamela Anderson flashbacks.

I think J.K. Rowling and John Grisham should have blogs. They have everything else.

Who else? Well, I've vowed to be nice to every author on the BSL list named Jennifer who has had a baby or is going through menopause until January 1st. That eliminates half the list.

In honor of his upcoming ball-and-chain ceremony, I've named a fictional daiquiri after Douglas Clegg. Still deciding on the ingredients -- yes, I was a bartender in my youth -- but it will be featured prominently on the drink menu at Infusion, Lucan's nightclub in Dark Need. Should go well with the Peter Strauberry Margaritas. Congratulations, Douglas and Raul.*

*Who will hopefully forgive me, please, for renaming him in the earlier version of this post.

12 Step Editing

1. We admit we are powerless over our work-in-progress -- that our manuscript has become unmanageable.

2. Come to believe that an Internal Editor greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Make a decision to turn our ego and our manuscript over to the editing of a novel as we understand it.

4. Make a searching and fearless inventory of our protagonist and characters and determine how much they suck.

5. Admit to the Internal Editor, to ourselves, or to another writer the exact nature of the holes in the plot that desperately need reworking.

6. Are entirely ready to have the Internal Editor remove all these defects of manuscript, including those we're not willing to admit we have in public.

7. Humbly ask the Internal Editor to search and destroy all of our lousy writing.

8. Make a list of all other areas needing rewrites on the corrected manuscript, and become willing to fix them and not kick ourselves for missing them the first time.

9. Make direct amends to ignored spouses, partners, family members and other such people whenever possible, except when to do so would mess up our editing time.

10. Continue to edit on the final read-through of the manuscript and when we are wrong promptly edit it again.

11. Stop editing, seek through queries and submissions to improve our conscious contact with Publishing as we understand it, praying only for a shot at full manuscript request for us and the power to carry the edited manuscript to the post office for mailing without running back to the car shrieking Jesus I can't I've gotta read through it one more time.

12. Having had a professional awakening as the result of these steps, we will get over the finished manuscript, get off our asses and write the next book, try to carry this message to other writers, and practice these principles in all our editing affairs.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Go Cheetahs

Some brief thoughts on why I think NaNoWriMo is terrific. The pretty lady in the article photo is not me, btw; she's Lani Diane Rich. I am not that pretty (and thanks, Kathleen.)

I also like that everyone who jumps in has to (sort of) live my writing life for a month. I get a lot more sympathy from people at the end of November every year.

Honestly, I just appreciate that people are writing novels, and talking about novels, and having fun trying to write novels all under the same banner: just because we can. That's the only thing that got me here, folks. Well, that and a skull like concrete.

My wordcount for the month of November to date is at this moment: 34,052. How are you NaNo'ers doing?

Friday, November 04, 2005


Oh for God's sake (linkage courtesy of Holly Lisle and Pam Templin.)


Ten Things for NaNoWriMo'ers

1. My first stop when hunting a title: I use the verse search engine to look for interesting phrases or lines from poems.

1a. My second stop: The Bonsai Story Generator.

2. Our friends to the north, the Canadian Authors Association, have a Writing Resources by Genre page.

3. When all else fails, talk to ELIZA.

4. Sami Pyörre offers the Everchanging Book of Names, a random name generator shareware program.

5. The Giallo Kit Generator offers a crash course in concise if bizarre giallo plot premises that sound like stuff a couple of writers I know would be interested in (not that I'm naming names, John, Stuart, Kate, Jon, James, Tam, Douglas . . .)

6.'s Grammar, Usage & Style page

7. Instant Muse Poetry Generator is supposed to help when you need a poetic line or phrase but your muse is out to lunch. All the lines start with "In the...", and I got: In the city of misery the weeds march.

8. Muse Creations offers a free trial download of Muse Names naming software that looks pretty neat, and if you scroll down you can get also some of author Vanessa Grants's writing templates for free.

9. Need a life? Download Educational Simulations' Real Lives for free.

10. For the wordless, WordGizmo (also good for those times when you have to name that vital stardrive component something but you have absolutely no idea what, i.e. "Captain, if you don't shut down the engines in thirty seconds the idübert will fail and the ship will blow up.")

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Finished, the novel that was driving me bonkers, after much dithering, off to NY, bye-bye.

One more to finish and I'm done for the year. Probably another week. Trust me, you'll hear the clunk.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Gabriele tried to sneak this by me in comments, but I think it deserves a post of its own.'s for-charity anthology, Stories of Strength, can now be ordered here. You can also support the book with banners and other goodies available here.

Many of our writer pals out there contributed articles and stories, and all the proceeds from the book sales will be donated to Hurricane Relief, so go, order, and spread the word.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Quick rounds this morning:

Imagine being Alison Kent and having your kids part of a wedding with weather like this. The woman has nerves of steel.

I have no idea who this woman is, but I'm not messing with her.

Got cover art? Scott Oden does. I'm trying not to turn green. And failing. Miserably.

Thanks to Jordan's Halloween post, now I have to take back some of the bad things I've said about contests.

NaNoWriMo has begun. I could tell because of the shrieks of outrage.

Monica, repeat after me: I will stop reading reviews. Especially RT reviews. And, if I am tempted, I will call PBW at once so she can tell me all her RT reviewer jokes, of which she has ten thousand.

Treats Winners

Here are the names of the winners for the Halloween treats books giveaway:


Milady Insanity

Peregrina Australis







Lai Zhao

Winners, please e-mail me at with your full name and where I should send your treats (as always, I keep this totally confidential and only use the info to ship the books, nothing else.)

Thanks to everyone who participated, too. I think I gained four hundred pounds just from reading your entries. :)