Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year End

I have only one resolution for 2006, and that's to write. Somehow I think I'll keep that one.

To try out something new this year, I've shoved aside my aversion toward groups to join Jo Leigh's Uber Challenge. Her explanation of the group challenge is here, and anyone can join.

Do you all have some resolutions, goals, or experiments planned in 2006?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Moon Called

Remember way back last April when I told you that this book was going to rock the genre? Not that I want to rub it in -- well, yeah, I do -- but there's another novel soon to be released that's going to raise the bar again:

Many of you know Patricia Briggs from her fantasy novels The Hob's Bargain, When Demons Walk, Dragon Bones, and Raven's Shadow. If you've read her, you know how good she is. She's what we call a writer's writer; the kind other authors read for the sheer pleasure of seeing it done right, and who is already so good that you don't think she can really get any better.

Moon Called is not just better. It's brilliant.

With this novel Patricia Briggs kicks off the story of mechanic and skinwalker Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson. Mercy's got her share of troubles, which include changing into a coyote, a dark and disturbing Alpha werewolf neighbor, vampires with car troubles, and all manner of fascinating Otherworld creatures being forced out of hiding by modern technology. When Mercy hires a young drifter to work at her garage, she has no idea the chain of events she sets into motion -- or how quickly all hell can break loose.

I loved how smart this book is, along with the world-building, the characters, the plot, and damn near everything about it. As much as I enjoy her fantasy work, it's so cool to see Patricia write in our world (which she promptly rebuilds to suit herself, but then, don't we all?) My only complaint: I have to wait months before the next Mercy book comes out. I should bribe her editor or something.

Moon Called will be hitting the shelves on January 31st, but if you'd like a preview, you can read the first chapter here right now.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Caveat Emptor

Many thanks to those who sent in corrections to for the Richard Chizmar/Endurance snafu, as you all were able to fix it.

Some questions have been coming in about a new SF/F market op that looks tempting, so here are my thoughts: is promising to pay more to authors and provide their upcoming Summer 2006 bi-monthly electronic magazine with no copy protection (which means consumers can buy, bootleg and distribute it without hindrance.)

The submission process seems a bit overly complicated, with the guidelines "strongly recommending" new and pro writers to register and post a story on one of their Baen's Bar slush pile boards. I'd strongly recommend that you check out the Bar thoroughly before posting.

For pros, considering your work will not be protected, the money is not all that great. If you're into the give-it-away-to-the-world mindset, however, then this won't bother you. Writers who depend on resales and reprints for a chunk of the annual income should probably give this a pass.

Pay rates are subject to this clause: "Our rates are lower for stories that we buy from unsolicited manuscripts, whether submitted through the submissions address or the AS conference. They range from six to fifteen cents a word depending on various factors." Rights are also not defined very well; the wording as is seems too vague. Pubbed or unpubbed, if you're considering this market, I'd request clarification on the money, those "various factors" and rights.

Subscribers can snag six issues for a range of prices under different snappily-worded classifications of membership, as defined here. There are a wide range of subscription rates, depending on what perks you desire. The front page says $30.00 for six issues; a Titan membership costs $50.00 per year, and an Andromeda membership costs $500.00 per year, and there are seventeen other packages here. Pros, note the "author access" being offered to Andromeda members is not specific; I'd get clarification on precisely what that access is.

Baen is considered a major publisher, so if you're angling for SFWA membership, some sales to BU will likely get you in Le Ski-Fi Klub. As a stepping-stone to novel writing, Baen does a lot of two- and three-way collaborations, and if you're not a Name and/or aim to become a Baen book author you might be sharing cover and creative space. I've only done one small project with this publisher, but based on that experience, my advice is to read a few Baen books, take a look at the Bar, and (if possible) talk to some authors with more Baen experience before you dive into their universe.

All of the above is, as usual, my opinion, not to be chiseled in granite, etc.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Art Break

Dreamlines makes morphing works of art ala Pollock out of your keywords (Java, may take a while to load and process due to heavy traffic; gorgeous stuff.)

Generate something that looks like a bonsai out of your URL at Organic HTML. We're not going to discuss what PBW's URL grew. It might autonomously regenerate and devour a small city.

TIME pass you by as person of the year again? Me, too. Create your own magazine cover here from your digitial photos.

PBW turns publisher -- full riot coverage!

(all of the above links pick-pocketed from a fort intéressant discovery, Snapperhead.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


A PBW by Any Other Name

1. I am not Richard Chizmar.
2. Richard Chizmar did not write my novel Endurance.
2a. He didn't edit it, either.
3. I have no idea who Richard Chizmar is.
4. is convinced otherwise.
5. This kind of idiocy makes concerned readers write to me. Repeatedly.
5a. Not to, or Richard Chizmar, but to me. The one who doesn't own the site, and has no freaking idea how Richard got listed as the author/editor/whatever.
6. Still, I have to do something about this. Readers have written. Richard might get hit with extra taxes.
7. I e-mail and politely ask them to correct the listing.
8. I get a return e-mail thanking me and asking me to provide more information.
8a. Hello, the brief and pointed explanation, the fact that I wrote the novel, and the sig block weren't enough?
9. I e-mail again and point out in words of two syllables or less #1-3 and 5, and the additional astounding fact that if they look at their own photo image on the page they will see that my name, not Richard Chizmar's, IS PRINTED ON THE BOOK COVER. Furthermore, will not find a single mention of Richard Chizmar in, on, near, or within the vicinity of this book except on
10. does not respond, and the listing does not change. I repeat #7 and #9 five times respectively, with the same results.

So what do you think would work better as a nickname for my newest pseudonym, Richard, Rich, Rick or Ricardo?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Work Ten

Ten Things About Writing Jobs

1.'s writers wanted forum for Paying Markets.

2. The Federal government is looking for writers and editors.

3. Freelance's Morning Coffee posts a variety of new job listings for writers.

4.'s Ghost Writer jobs page.

5. has 99 freelance writer jobs presently listed here, and you can register with them and post your resume for free.

6. keeps an updated market list for SF writers here.

7. Sunoasis Jobs has a bunch of writer job listings, as well as links to writing jobs on the internet.

8. Some interesting technical writing jobs are listed over at

9. Applying for a writing job but have no resume or C.V.? The University of California, Irvine offers a breakdown on how to write them page (examples on the left sidebar are in .pdf format.)

10. has a jobs for writers section.

Before I became an author, I worked a variety of freelance writing jobs. Always remember to check out any writing job thoroughly and read every word of any contract or release you are asked to sign. A legitimate writing job and/or market should never require you to pay anything for it -- the money goes to you. Also check the classifieds of your local newspaper; sometimes companies looking for writers will advertise in them versus the internet.

I hope you're all having a good holiday (Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanzaa, to all of you whose celebrations are today.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Wishing You

Winter Sunrise

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Christmas is almost here. Are you having fun yet? If not:

Tell them what they can sing over at The Carol of the Chins.

Release your inner Grinch over at Christmas lights smashfest 2001 (click on lights, watch them shatter, hear satisfying sounds of breaking glass.)

Didn't have enough of crowded malls, angry shoppers and piles of gifts? Make a cartoon lady do it when you play Shop Til You Drop.

Or, if all else fails, Send An Elf (gratis the folks at the Discover Card; takes a while to load on dial-up, e-mailable.)

Friday, December 23, 2005


Twas 7:14 am on the Friday before Christmas, by some quantum flux of the damn universe, and I rolled over to nudge the gigantic lump on the other side of the bed. "We overslept."

"You overslept." A single, saucer-sized yellow eye glared at me. "I survived a war, a political coup, the machinations of madmen, and your fondness for plot twists and sub-arctic temperatures."

In winter, I always wake up with either cats or Hsktskt in the bed. I don't know which are more annoying. "You're supposed to be running a planet on the other side of the galaxy, not on Earth hogging my covers."

TssVar yawned. "We need to discuss the resurrection of the rogur."

"Book eight. Maybe. Go back to the future." I got up, pulled on my robe and went out to make a small vat of Irish breakfast tea. After putting the kettle on, I discovered a note from my guy telling me he'd taken the kids out for breakfast. No one had figured out the insanely complicated task of pushing the ON button to engage the dishwasher, so I drank my first cup of tea from my daughter's Barbie Petshop juice mug.

"Good morning, my dear." A slim, silver-haired woman carrying a 20 lb. bag of wild birdseed came in from the garden. Her pearls went nicely with her beige twinset. "Did you sleep well?"

"Too well, thanks, Louise." I eyed her. "I stopped writing you ten months ago."

She gave me a gently exasperated look. "I was Louise. Now I'm--" she paused as a six-legged blue and white scarfaced snowtiger came out of the livingroom to investigate the amount of Eukanuba left in the cats' bowl. "I'm not in that book, am I?"

"No, but you can be in my book, love."

"Don't hit on the senior citizen." I didn't look at the big blond vampire standing in the shadows by the fireplace. "And you're not supposed to be hanging here until the copy-edit arrives."

"You've been second-thinking the apartment love scene," Lucan reminded me. "It was too bloody short, if you ask me." He smiled at Louise. "Does she rush you?"

"We had a very strict wordcount limit," Louise admitted. "And there was no sex in our novels. Although I always had my suspicions about the man who ran the floral shop. He was the secret torrid affair type."

"I think the same of the seigneur's seneschal," Lucan said. "I'll wager he has a little human tucked away somewhere."

My head was starting to pound, so I pointed to the book room door. "Back, both of you."

I put on my bunny slippers and carried my second cup of tea out to the porch. It was a bit chilly, but there were still some birds having their morning seed feast, and no one usually came out here. The neighbor's evil-eyed horse was chewing ground over in the pasture, but we ignored each other.

"You can't ignore me much longer." A warrior who would be king, dressed like a beggar, emerged from the rose garden and came to stand beside my Japanese maple. He was short like me, but built like a brick coliseum. "She wants to see the proposal." He swung the tip of his sword toward my favorite tree. "Useless, but pretty."

"Touch it," I advised him, "and I'll change your life forever."

He laughed. "You can't."

"Want to know what the world would have been like minus you? We call it alternative history." That shut him up. "Look, before I write the proposal I need to decide if you're two or three books."

His spine stiffened. "Surely I'm at least five, woman."

I shook my head. "No more series for now." I saw a dark face peeking out from behind the oak tree and called out, "You're 2008. Don't even think about it." I got up and stalked inside.

I walked past Michael Cyprien, who was cavorting on my sofa with Alexandra Keller. "Lord, be nocturnal, will you? Or get a room." That reminded me. I went to the spare bedroom, listen at the door for a minute, then hammered on it. "Caine." I waited as two nubile, barely-dressed smiling women slipped out before going in. My new sleeper sofa was a wreck. "I thought we agreed next Spring."

A naked Caine Gantry yawned and folded his arms behind his head. My guest sheets almost covered him from the waist down. "That was before Katrina destroyed my setting."

"I told you, I'll handle it." I turned and saw a seven-foot shadow stretch out in the hallway. "Not now, Jory."

"You've got mail." The blade dancer shoved a small stack of envelopes into my hands. "They all want the next installment." She glanced in at Caine. "He's nicely-sized. Can I have him for the Clan?"

"Wrong time period, and you've already got one guy too many." I tucked the letters in my robe pocket and headed for the stairs, stepping over a stray Aksellan youngster who was stalking the small cage my daughter had left next to the window. "You haven't developed mouth parts yet. Quit scaring the hamster."

No one was supposed to be upstairs when I was working, so of course everyone was waiting. Vampires, aliens, and FBI agents stood by the walls. A giant worm was reading indignantly from my biography of Keats to a rather bored-looking scarlet dragon. The girls had all gathered around the work table and were examining my latest cover flats.

"We're tired of being depicted as Running Woman," Terri Vincent mentioned, waving her cover. "Moriah would like to be Lying in a Hammock Woman."

"I can't control cover art." I saw Phillipe at my work desk and smacked the back of his head. "Off the internet."

"By the way, I'm not having a torrid affair," he said as he surrendered the chair. "But I know someone else who is."

Moriah rested her cheek against her hand. "It isn't me yet."

"Or me." Jo Edgeway frowned at one of my covers. "Is that Flipper in drag?"

A lupine alien with two golden marks on his chest fur shook his shaggy head. "No, it's an Ylydii princess. As depicted, she's suffocating, but we did protest."

"Fat lot of good that ever does," Raven grumbled, pointing at her cover. "Check out the title they stuck me with."

Kameko had a look. "Mine was worse."

"Do I have to stick my fingers in my ears and sing LaLaLa?" I demanded.

A short dark-haired woman appeared in the doorway, put two fingers in her mouth, and produced a piercing whistle. "If you want her to write you, you have to give her some room, people. You know you'll all get your turn. Now, everyone out."

Everyone grumbled, but everyone got out.

I needed to learn how to do that. "Thanks, Joey."

"No problem." Cherijo came to look over my shoulder at the screen. "I guess this isn't a good time to talk about book eight, or the rogur, or Reever, or how you ended book seven."

I rubbed my forehead. "Yes, sort of, no, and tough."

"That's what I thought." She winked. "Happy writing, boss."

I waited until she close the door before I began typing. Twas 7:14 am on the Friday before Christmas, by some quantum flux of the damn universe . . .

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I couldn't find this classic make-a-snowflake site when I was hunting links for the Monday ten, but rediscovered it over at Larissa's place, along with a virtual snowglobe (as Larissa advises, watch what happens to the snowman builder.)

Quick holiday centerpiece for any table: fill a pretty bowl with red (Rome, Red Delicious) and green (Granny Smith) apples, or whatever leftover glass ornaments you have from the tree, or different-sized pinecones sprinkled with fresh cranberries.

My infamous No-Brainer fudge recipe; four basic ingredients, ten minutes to cook, tastes like you slaved for hours.

The best generic adult gift: Books. Other than books, a basket of scented candles of various shapes and sizes. Both genders seem to like forest, spice or sea scents. I get the glass-jar kind, but if you buy pillar or votive candles it's nice (and safer for the recipient) to include candle holders. If you go to a candle shop, they usually have baskets already made up.

The best generic kid gift: Books. Other than books, Etch-A-Sketch (younger kid) or the Magic 8 Ball (older kid.)

The best generic writer gift: Books. Other than books, bookstore gift card. Don't make us beg.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


From e-mail, posted with permission: Your story on PBW about Robert Frost was so sad. Do you have any happy memories of Christmas past?

Childhood, not really. We were orthodox Catholic, my grandmother always bailed, and the alcohol flowed like Niagara Falls. Dec. 26th was my favorite day, because I knew I had 365 days of freedom before I had to endure it again. When I became an adult, I was able to celebrate Christmas the way I wanted to. I either worked extra shifts so my married coworkers could stay home with their kids, or spent it alone reading, painting or writing. Both ways were absolute bliss.

That all changes when you have kids, but then your bad memories kick in and you make an extra effort to make Christmas special and fun for them. I've been extremely lucky that my ex never kept my kids from me at Christmas, but was willing to timeshare the holidays.

Despite the bad start, I never saw much use in being miserable during Christmas. For me it's a time of dwelling in quiet faith, showing a little joy and charity to the world, and doing what you can to make loved ones, friends, and total strangers happy. Even if you have to fake it now and then, they're worth it.


We dance around in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

-- Robert Frost

I read Robert Frost compulsively, obsessively in the winter; I discovered him on a cold Christmas night when I was a very unhappy girl. That day I'd gotten Frost's Complete works as a gift from my grandmother (who had left us a month earlier to spend winter with other relatives.) Later, my future brother-in-law, a cop who liked his beer, got angry at me during the big dinner. Without warning he reached over and slapped my face, hard enough to leave a handprint and almost knock me off my chair.

I remember being stunned that a strange man could hit on me (only Moms, Dads, and the occasional nun or teacher gave you the back of their hand in those days.) He outweighed me by about 150 lbs., and he was armed, so there was no hitting back. Besides, I was twelve. Like I had a shot.

No one said anything for ten seconds. No one defended me. No one told the cop to get out. Everyone stared in horror at me for my criminal act of provoking future-bro into losing his temper, then rushed to chatter as if nothing had happened. After dinner, Mom demanded in whispers to know what I'd done to make him angry, and when I wouldn't tell her, scolded me for ruining Christmas dinner.

You know why I got slapped? Because he was fairly drunk, and tried to joke with me, and I didn't laugh or say anything. Because I was a nervous and horribly self-conscious kid. In other words, I got slapped for being shy.

But I had Robert Frost, and my flashlight, and all night to read under the bed covers once everyone had gone to sleep. By that age I had started writing my own poetry, too, so there was plenty of fuel for the next several hundred verses. That made up in part for that awful Christmas, and what at the time seemed a terrible embarrassment. I forgot about the drunk cop and lost myself in the snowy woods and the birches and friends stopping by stonewalls to talk.

Moral of the story? None. Just a thought: if you have to give a kid something at Christmas, make it poetry, not a slap.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


To everyone singing the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and thinking it's the days before, it's not. The song describes the twelve days after Christmas. The Western church counts 12 days from December 25th to January 6th, the beginning of Epiphany.

[Updated to clarify] Also, all of the doves, rings, ladies etc. in the song are (or may not be)* symbols for something, and if you're dying to know what, here's a good explanation (and a link to the opposing argument.)**(I actually have * and ** arguments with people about this song every year. Drives me nuts because both sides miss the point: It's Christmas, sing the damn song and quit worrying about who's right.)

The Twelve Online Reads of Christmas

1. One Curious Feline: Douglas Clegg's December newsletter : anyone with a curious pet will appreciate Natalie's hijinks. (I have three of them, Doug, so you're not getting any sympathy from me.)

2. Two Hot Excerpts: part one and part two of Alison Kent's excerpt from her new Blaze release, Goes Down Easy.

3. Who Were Those Three Masked Gems?: M.J. has letters from three anonymous authors, all whining to Santa about something horrid in the publishing industry. I guess Dr. Sue is taking off this week.

4. Four Times a Year: Does that mean posts, or books? Seems pretty dead over at the Lit-Blog Coop. (See, I didn't make any comparison to the books they read. Aren't you proud of me?)

5. Five We Missed: Lee Goldberg on the short-lived TV series The Fifth Corner.

6. Smart Six: Jo Leigh goes for focus instead of resolutions with her post on the same. You can't become the most boring person in the universe, Jo, because I already hold the title -- and will defend it.

7. Cool Seven: Marjorie M. Liu takes on the Dreaded Seven Things meme with her usual style.

8. 8 Track Player?: One of the items James Winter has on his Christmas wish list. Maybe he'll let me borrow it to play some of my old Bobby Sherman tapes.

9. 9th Level of Hell: Kate Rothwell tortures me with a delicioius-sounding cheesecake recipe.

10. Ten Shuffled: Some writers have left the Storytellers Unplugged weblog, but other new writers are coming on board.

11. Blog to Eleven: Well, none of you wrote eleven of anything to fit this list, and like Jon I'm a Spinal Tap fan.

12. Twelve the Hard Way: Stuart MacBride's posting The 12 Stories of Christmas, which start here. Be sure to click on The Hunger Site button and feed some hungry folks for free.

Monday, December 19, 2005


My WIP's title scored as follows: This book title has a 45.6% chance of being a bestseller title. (Another generator to play with, thanks to Ms. Jaye.)

I saw a ridiculous post elsewhere this morning that jabbed a number of my writer buttons, but it was written by a rookie author (and no, none of you), and I really am trying to stick to the leave them alone for the first year philosophy. I'm reminded of rebellious teenagers, forever trying on images and testing their boundaries while pronouncing the world this or that. Everyone older or more experienced than them is an idiot, naturally. Leaving them alone to figure it out may be the only kindness a vet can show them.

We went to another holiday party last night and despite many, many Christmas-y food temptations I ruthlessly stuck to my diet (even during extended, close proximity to fifteen kids decorating gingerbread houses with icing and candy, a special torture.)

It was a good mix of young, old, business and farming people. Regional politics was a hot topic, as were problems with local wildlife. I've not met many farmers so I was slightly mesmerized by tales of losing livestock and when/where we can go and pick berries. It seems that I'm going berrying for the first time in my life this spring. In the midst of real woods and large wild animals and stuff. I think I need baskets, boots and maybe a semi-automatic weapon.

I'm tempted to blog cruise a little more, but from the grumbling sounds downstairs it looks like my kids are finally awake. I want them to take a nature walk down by the lake with me today, so I'm going down to bake some cinnamon rolls. They can never resist that temptation.

Holiday Ten

Ten Things for the Winter Holidays

1.'s Christmas around the world.

2. Jerry's Christmas Jukebox.

3. Download Christmas software at

4. One of my favorite cooking mags, Cooking Light, is counting down the days until Christmas with 25 days of cookie recipes online. 1-20 are currently available (I've already tried out the raspberry strippers recipe and they're terrific.)

5. E-mail Santa Claus at

6. This year Hannukah is on December 26th -- find out more about the festival of lights at's Hannukah page or's Chanukah Overview and Links page.

7. The official Kwanzaa website offers information about the African-American and Pan-African holiday, along with annual messages from Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa.

8. Make an online virtual snowflake.

9. See what this Santa has to go through to get some cookies in Eye in the Sky Productions' delightful online movie Ornaments.

10. For our Wiccan friends: Circle Sanctuary's Selena Fox has a good article on Winter Solstice Celebrations for Families and Households.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Dateline NBC and Prevention Magazine say 41 percent of people polled find the holidays as stressful as a job interview. Other conclusions from the poll: money is the #1 cause of stress, and women are more likely to stress than men.

It's been a while since I had to put on a suit, but I remember job interviews being a lot easier than the holidays. You go in, you hand over the resume, answer a bunch of silly questions, smile and hope there is no spinach in or lipstick on your teeth, a handshake and you're out of there. Little to no shopping, baking, visiting and wrapping involved. You can always get another job interview, too. There are no second chances or do-overs for a holiday.

I've learned over the years to reduce the holiday stress to a manageable level by simplifying and preparing. Some tricks:

1. Gift shortcuts: Wrap and bow gifts as soon as you bring them home. If you don't think you can wrap it attractively, gift-bag it. Keep at least two generic gifts on hand for when someone in the family says "I need a present for So-and-So in five minutes."

2. Fast food: keep a box of Rice Krispies, a bag of marshmallows, and a disposable sheet cake pan on hand at all times so that when someone needs a kid dessert in a hurry, you can make Rice Krispies treats. For grown-ups, keep a bag of big corn chips, salsa and your favorite cheese on hand to make nachos. One of our favorite simple fast meals is salad, grilled cheese and hot tomato soup.

3. Time: When you are completely stressed, give yourself a time out. Sit somewhere peaceful by yourself, stop by church to pray, go to a library, or strip and take a hot bath. If circumstances don't allow a time out, have a peppermint or drink a cup of chamomile tea (both are natural soothers.)

4. Skip stuff: If you've got too many events to handle and/or attend, consider shortening the list and doing only what really matters to you. No one will give you an "F" in party-going.

5. Get involved: If you're alone for the holidays, don't sit around feeling miserable. Volunteer your time to a local church or charitable organization. Offer to babysit for busy relatives or neighbors. Make dinner for other single friends who are also alone during the holidays.

I think it's also a good idea to make some new traditions, because keeping up with some of the old is often impossible, exhausting, and makes no sense. Example: when we were kids, me and my guy rarely spent any time on Christmas Day with our mothers, because they were always in the kitchen making the traditional Christmas meal, which was generally a clone of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. We both hated this, so one of our new traditions is that neither of us cooks on Christmas Day; we spend it with our kids. I do make a couple of family favorites ahead of time, but we usually pick up seafood platters, sandwiches, cold salads etc. the day before and have a buffet-style dinner (also great for unexpected visitors.)

What are some of the ways you guys de-stress during the holidays?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Writer Gifts

With a week left before Christmas, some of you may still be scrambling for gift ideas for the writers in the family. Jan Kenny over at Writeminded put together a good list; #5 is one I particularly endorse. Creating some extra time for your favorite writer to write is no to low cost, and priceless to the recipient.

Some other writer gifts and gift ideas:

1. The Austin Chronicle also recommends time, as well as pens, how-to writing books, subscriptions, and...real estate? (I'd like an island in the South Pacific, if anyone with eleven million dollars is interested.)

2. Books: we love them. Bookstore gift cards: we covet them. Please, give them to us. You can send gift certificates online, too; check out the offers at your favorite online bookseller's site (mine is B&, which is presently offering free shipping and Christmas delivery if you order $25.00 worth of merchandise by 12/19/05.)

3. You writers can offer another writer a free critique, or a critique exchange (I read yours, you read mine.) Another thing to help a fellow scribe: be another pair of eyes and offer to proof-read a manuscript, query, or proposal.

4. lists 250 free or free to try out Calendars and Planners; offers a free 2006 Buddhist Calendar, and Zirgo has a free Calendar Printing Program.

5. You might find something for your writer on the freebie ten lists I've posted here: Freeware, Online for Free, Free Workshop/Crits, and No Charge Stuff.

6. I remind everyone of this every year because so many people like it: buy some microwave popcorn, a bottle of the writer's favorite beverage, and a previewed movie on VHS or DVD from Blockbuster. Put it all in a big popcorn bowl (you can find these at most dollar stores). Wrap it up, stick a bow on it and you've got the gift of a movie night.

7. Music: buy an album by the writer's favorite artist, or burn a CD of some new music from free mp3 download sites like

8. Get a virtual corkboard screen saver from for free plus free add-ons. Upgrade with 100 mb of premium add-ons with a $14.95 annual subscription. **Update**: Eiluned reports a Trojan virus comes along with this one; I'm crossing it off the list because that's not something you want to give to your favorite writer. Thanks, E.

9. To help your writer unclutter, check out the organizers and desk accessories at Office Depot (I can't find it online, but the Office Depot I stopped by over the weekend had a neat stress relief set of wrist, back and other pads for the desk in dark red or black sale priced at $14.99.)

10. Every Target store I've been to has a nice office/stationery section where you can find unusual paper, pens, desk sets, planners, diarys, calendars and journals like this one that won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Friday, December 16, 2005


The next time I feel like whining about my troubles I'm going back to read all the terrific comment/entries for the Iced Giveaway.

As for me, I always look at the odds as a mechanism of fear. If our species was ruled by that, we'd all still be carrying clubs and wearing furs. Laughing at the odds, ignoring them, and refusing to bow to them is what brought us out of the caves. We are rarely more noble than when we flat out defy the odds.

I wish I had books to give to everyone (if it helps, these giveways are mild torture for me), but I will do another RI giveaway in January. For this giveaway, the winners are:

Wendelin the Weird


Winners, e-mail me at with your mailing address, and thanks to everyone for participating.


Jordan got me thinking about branding the other day, and I started playing with the idea of word association as branding.

Association is used in many psych tests to determine and explore a subject's free or conditioned responses to words, images, concepts, or other mental stimuli. Single word associations often prove to be the most memorable because, well, they're easy to remember. Here in the U.S., when we hear single word brands such as Pepsi and Oreo we all think of soft drinks and cookies because we've been conditioned to associate those words with their respective products. Even when a manufacturer diversifies, we still associate the word with the original product -- which is why a Kleenex usually means facial tissue to most people, just as a Xerox usually means a copy.

Some famous authors' surnames become single-word brands. Say King or Rowling and most readers recognize the author and can often reel off some of their titles. (Rowling is easier because all hers start with Harry Potter and the..., a series form of branding.) Speaking of titles, they can be just as much a brand as the surname, as with Sue Grafton and her alphabet-titled mystery novels, starting with A is for Alibi and currently at S is for Silence.

The trick with branding is to create a unique word or phrase that in time will immediately identify you to readers. If you don't want to wait around for your surname to earn that kind of attention, you generally need to create and reinforce your brand through your career.

StarDoc and PBW are definitely the most successful one-worder brands I've created, with Darkyn coming up fast. All of these brand something I do: SF, the weblog, the dark fantasy. I never found a brand for the GH and JH romance novels, probably because I've had to switch gears three times in romance, and I'm looking at a fourth shift, but I also think a single-word romance brand is harder to nail. There are more romance writers than there are writers in any other genre, I believe, based on the number of titles released each year. That does work against us, as even famous romance author surnames generally aren't known outside the genre unless they go mainstream (say Stephen King and Mary Balogh to romance readers and they know immediately who you're talking about; say the same names to a horror reader and she/he will ask, "Mary who?")

Still, I think one-word branding can be done for any writer. I'm going to pick on Jordan for a minute to demo this: when I think of Jordan Summers, the first words that come to mind are serene, mystical, balanced, searching, curious, calm, oracle, meadow, journey and temple.

I can explain some of them; I often visit Jordan's weblog when I'm annoyed or ticked off because reading her posts always calms me down. How I got meadow and temple is probably influenced by some of the free associations I've made with her personality and work. Add devoted in there, too. Jordan is not all about the writing at her weblog, but it's woven into everything there even when she's not talking about it. She's always looking to improve (something that resonates with me at the foundation level) and she doesn't mind laughing at herself when she messes up. Add in the endless curiosity about the process and the business you don't get much more pure writer than that. (Have no idea where oracle came from, but that's Jordan, too.)

All of those words mean very different things to other people, however, so they don't work as a brand for Jordan. But by rearranging them, making up lists of synonyms, recombining them and so forth I might create a single word to capture Jordan (which I will not be presumptuous and do as I've likely embarrassed the poor woman enough by now.) The same thing can be done for any writer, and any writer's work. You've just got to play with the words.

Practice: if you could describe yourself or your work with one word, what would it be?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Taming the Dragon

I promised to post this info a while back, and I apologize to all who have been waiting to hear about it.

I now do most of my writing and correspondence via Dragon Naturally Speaking, Version 8.0 Standard, which is a voice recognition software program that allows me to dictate verbally versus type by hand. This version of the software costs around $99.00 (last price check I made at Office Depot) and supports most current word processing programs (always check out the system requirements before you buy.)

I am typing this blog entry with the Dragon, btw, as I do most of my posts.

Before I get into how great the program has been for me, let me warn you that the Dragon is not for everyone. Speaking your work can be quite different from typing it, and some writers have told me that they were not able to make the transition. Also, if you have a speech impediment, slur your words or have any sort of related voice impairment you may have trouble training the Dragon to understand you. Finally, this is an excellent program, but it can require some work learning it, using it efficiently, and incorporating it into your daily writing routine. My advice to everyone is to find someone who has the software or a store willing to demo it and see how it works before you invest.

The Dragon offers a good demo and do-yourself program tutorial, which I also recommend everyone go through from start to finish. Version 8.0 Standard has about 17 lessons, I think, and you nail the basics of how to run the program by working through them in order. The accompanying manual is also well-written and helps a great deal.

Voice recognition requires you to wear a headset and speak into a microphone. I use the one that came with the software as it works fine with me. Nearly everything you do in the Dragon when it's enabled is by voice, so it's a lot of speaking. After several years of using the software daily I average about 100-120 accurate words per minute; I started out at about 40 wpm with lots of mistakes. I got into the habit of correcting my mistakes as I made them, which helps train the program to recognize your speech patterns, too.

Talking to the Dragon is different for everyone. I imitate Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) from 2001: A Space Odyssey when he's talking to the ship's computer. Remember Open the pod bay doors, HAL before the shouting part? Like that. Some writers have told me that their accent interferes, but I've not had a problem with that (and Larissa Ione can tell you how bad my southern accent is.) Basically even, steady dictation is what the Dragon recognizes best.

I use a good amount of coined and exotic words in my work, so I've also learned a little trick. It started with Cherijo, which the Dragon kept interpreting as Cherry Joe, Cheery Ho, Sherry Go and a couple of other annoying variations. To save time, through the book I began referring to Cherijo in dictation as Jerry, a more common name that the Dragon easily recognized. When I was done the book, I did a find-and-replace of Jerry with Cherijo. The same thing can be done with exotic words, places, names and such; just make sure the common substitute name you use is one you don't use anywhere else in the work.

I work mainly in Dragon Pad, which is the note pad/word processing program that comes with the software, then cut and paste the work I've done to Microsoft Word for review later during the daily editing session. The program will work fine directly in Word; it's just an old habit I've never shaken. I also take advantage of the auto-punctuation feature which adds in periods and commas automatically to save using those commands (the Dragon can be a bit arbitrary about punctuation with slow or hesitant speakers, though, so this might cause you some headaches if you pause a lot.)

The more you use the Dragon, the smarter and more accurate it becomes, and the more comfortable you'll be with using it. Unfortunately your voice needs a bit of training, too; few people are able to speak steadily for more than an hour or two without courting laryngitis. I do one hour on the microphone, thirty minutes off, and speak about four hours total per work day (the rest of the time I type or handwrite edit notes.) I also find mornings are better for using the Dragon, as I'm rested from the night's sleep; the end of the day and late night tend to be more of a strain on the vocal cords.

I've been recommending the Dragon to other handicapped writers for several years, but I think it can be a benefit to regularly-abled writers too. Sometimes talking out the draft of a scene can help polish it, nail down dialogue, etc. Writers who have no practice reading their work in public can certainly use the Dragon as a sounding board. In ancient times all storytellers had were their voices to deliver their work, so in a way the Dragon allows us to get in touch with our origins.

Anyone have any questions about the program I can answer, or comments about your own experiences with the Dragon or other voice recognition software?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Thanks to my very kind SF editor, I presently have in my hands two copies of Rebel Ice, the new StarDoc novel, which will be hitting the shelves the first week of January.

I haven't talked much about RI because this is a landmark book for me. It's a novel I've worked three years to get into print. It also fulfills the promise I made to my StarDoc readers not to give up on the series. I didn't do it alone, either. My readers did their part by spreading the word about the series, keeping all five of the previous StarDoc novels in print, and buying up the other SF books I've written since StarDoc went on hiatus with Eternity Row in 2002.

Finally, it's here. We did it.

I also promised to give away the very first copies that landed on my desk, so in comments to this post, tell us how you keep going when all the odds are against you. Post your comment by midnight EST on 12/15/2005. I'll draw two names at random from everyone who participates and sign the copies for you. Winners will be announced by noon EST on 12/16/2005. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW before this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Match Game

Just for fun, match the rejection with the author who received it (and no Googling):

1. "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."

2. "We found the heroine as boring as her husband had."

3. "This is a work of almost-genius – genius in the power of its expression – almost in the sense of its enormous bitterness. I wish there were an audience for a book of this kind. But there isn’t. It won’t sell."

4. "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."

5. "I am sorry, [author's name], but you just do not know how to use the English language."

6. "The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable."

7. "I loved it. I stayed up all night reading it. There is no way in hell we can publish this."

8. "My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can't see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep."

9. "...too different from other [genre] on the market to warrant its selling."

10. "Get rid of the Indian stuff."

The authors:

A. Rudyard Kipling
B. George Orwell
C. Dr. Seuss
D. Marcel Proust
E. Ayn Rand
F. Ursula K. Le Guin
G. Stephen King
H. Tony Hillerman
I. Mary Higgins Clark

(Correct answers will be provided in comments later today)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Pen Ten

Ten Things for Pen Lovers

1. Sign things and store data with DiskGO! 512MB Combined USB 2.0 Portable Flash Drive & Ink Pen ($49.95).

2. Tres elegante: Glass dip pen and ink sets from Paris (assorted prices).

3. My favorite fountain pen supplier, offers some of the most gorgeous and reasonably-priced writing instruments on the internet (assorted prices). Check out the new telescoping Speeno keychain pen ($8.00).

4. Handwrite up to 40 pages of notes, stick the pen in a cradle, and transfer the notes to your PC with Logitech io Personal Digital Pen ($99.95).

5. M probably made one of these for Bond: The Planon DocuPen DPEN-R700 Rechargeable Handheld Pen Scanner will store up to 100 scanned pages in memory ($183.99).

6. Short on pockets? The Multi-function pen offers red and black ink, pencil and stylus all-in-one ($10.70).

7. Zen for Pens: The Nirvana Pen Holder ($68.00).

8. If you'd like to work and listen to the ball game or music, try out the Pen Radio ($19.95).

9. I can't believe they still make these: the Stripper Pen ($7.95).

10. The Wordkeeper Bible Study Pen is a three-in-one with black ink, pencil, and red underliner ($4.99).

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Mom came up to spend the weekend, and got me out of the house and out in the sunshine. I think we must have walked twenty miles today, window-shopping in town, running a dozen or so errands, and just hanging together. May I have half the energy she does if I make it to 70.

We took my daughter to our favorite bakery in town so we could have some pastries and tea. We went outside to sit for a few minutes, and met a young couple out walking their two beautiful Shelties, a golden-brown and white sable and a very light blue merle. The little blue merle was almost identical in size, shape and personality to Missy, the Sheltie we lost to cancer two years ago. The only difference between them is that Missy was a tri-color (you can see the color differences here.) The dogs were very well-behaved, but most Shelties are angels that way.

The couple told us the dogs' names were Jessie and Skye, and asked my daughter if she would watch them while they went into the bakery. I thought my kid would burst into song, she was so delighted to be asked.

I was not so thrilled. I haven't gone near a Sheltie since Missy died, and I haven't wanted to. I was bracing myself to go and look at some new pups after the first of the year (the breeders we've contacted who have new puppies don't have any old enough to come home with us for Christmas.) Add to that my depression over Frank's death, and I thought I might start wailing right there. Then Skye, the little blue merle, came to sit at my feet, just the way Missy used to when she wanted a scratch behind the ears.

Here was this beautiful animal, the color of cookies and cream, staring up at me with that hopeful expression I have seen a hundred thousand times since Missy came into my life. He wasn't my Missy, but he didn't know that I loved another dog who resembled him. It didn't matter that in ten minutes he and his owners would move on, or that he'd likely never see me again. He just wanted some love and attention, and I looked like an okay human to him.

I petted Skye, and gave him a good scratch behind both ears, and talked to him, and watched the joy light up his eyes. Ten minutes later we were both headed in different directions, probably never to meet again.

But that was okay, too. That is life. I just needed to be reminded of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rounding the Rocks

This is from one of the letters Frank wrote to me, in a card with a photograph of Cascade Head, Oregon:

Ignore what the back of the card says. This is really a photo of the entrance to Port Red Cloud, an important location in my novel The Engineer. You are the second person in the world to know what it looks like. Should it ever see publication, you can read about what happens there first-hand. If you squint, you can almost see Chazul's boat rounding the rocks and making its way into the port. Well, ok, you have to squint a lot, but it's there.

Had an interesting weekend in the best Chinese fashion. It included a major car accident. We weren't involved but had to stop by to help since my wife is a doctor and there were no emergency people on the scene. It also involved a minor accident that we were part of when we stopped to assist. You said something about being a former ER Nurse or EMT. Sorry, I don't remember what you did in your prior life but I recall that it was along those heroic lines. Anyway, being first on the scene sucks (as you know) and I think the people that respond for a living are terribly under appreciated. So, even thought you don't do that any more, please accept a belated thanks from a member of the general population who benefits from those who take on such careers.

Enough of the chatter. Time for some serious reading before the weekend is gone and I launch myself back onto the keyboard.


I'm squinting, Frank. I'm trying to see you rounding the rocks with Gretchen and finding a safe harbor somewhere far beyond this place, where you can be together forever. I pray that you are.

Friday, December 09, 2005


It breaks my heart to write this, but we've lost one of our friends, F. O'Brien Andrew, who drowned with his wife Gretchen while out sailing. Holly Lisle announced it on her weblog here.

Frank was more than a blog pal to me. He was a friend. Over the last couple of months we've been corresponding privately about writing, life and the difficulties we've both faced. His letters were always a welcome sight in my post office box. I've been sitting here all morning re-reading his letters, which are full of reality and encouragement and hope.

I just can't believe he's gone.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I went to a neighborhood all-ladies tea party and cookie exchange tonight. I did not spontaneously combust. No one bit into my special pecan cookies and choked, coughed, shrieked or fell over unconscious. Success!

I haven't been socializing much lately, and hardly at all in the neighborhood, which won't do. I'm reclusive enough as it is. It's been so long since I've done a homemaker thing like this that I did feel a little awkward at first. I was checked out, but in an open and friendly way (I am the new mom on the block, after all.) I already knew a few of the ladies by tagging them with their kids' names: Debbie's Mom, Hannah's Mom, and the Mom of triplets under five, God bless her.

It was not wall-to-wall Stepford Wives; I don't live in an all-white neighborhood so I was glad to see there were as many black, Asian, and Hispanic women as there were white women (the hostess and her family are Hispanic so any Stepford types wouldn't have come anyway.) Everyone wanted to talk about the holidays, parties, gift ideas, and decorating.

I mingled and got into various discussions about making pralines, husbands and grilling, getting discolored grout clean without using acid-based products, pets for Christmas and the joys of not having to wear pantyhose or heels anymore. We older gals all hate ceramic top stoves and long for the old days when Sears actually put out a decent major appliance. I got a simple recipe for vegetarian chili, some other women interested in starting up a morning walking group, and invites to two more holiday parties. I also met up again with the lovely European lady who decided not to sell her house to us way back when we were looking and we talked.

None of this will change the face of publishing, naturally, but it was good to get out and meet people who were only interested in how I got my cookies so round and if I know any good pre-fab gingerbread house kits. If you have a chance to meet your neighbors for something similar, go.


This week I'm sorting out what proposals I want to send my agent, considering whether I want to take a shot at two more new genres, mulling over some interesting writer-for-hire work, and figuring how many books I'd like to sell and which editors I'd like to pitch the new stuff to. End of the year cleanup work, for the most part, but also to nail down what I'll be writing in late 2006-early 2007.

The biggest problem is that I have four novel series at present rolling along and making money (not that this is me complaining about that, you understand.) Writing four genre series at once = writing at least four novels a year. Darkyn is two novels a year, and I've already sold book four and five for 2006. StarDoc the series starts up again next month with book six and a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this one, so I don't know what will happen with that. Book seven has been delivered, so now I have to decide what's next with Cherijo and company.

Two of the new proposals I have are also series novels, but I think I'm maxed out on the number of series I can comfortable write simultaneously at the moment. Something has to go. Another pitch is a big historical standalone with a potential sequel if it does well, but no more than two books in that one. Then there are the standalones: one has generated interest from three publishers and I know I can sell it to at least two of them; one I love and would love to write, and the last is what I consider the best new stuff I've cooked up since I pitched Darkyn. Throw into the mix two personal marketing/moonlighting projects and you get an idea of what a juggling act this career is.

The market is always changing its demands, so that's a consideration too. So is competition. There are some immensely talented people putting out wonderful books, and more great new writers getting into print every day. If you think you can sit, be complacent and rest on your backlist, they will knock you right off the shelf. You are only as good as your last gig.

I'll probably brood a bit more about this, but I'm leaning toward sticking the new series pitches on the back burner and going for a couple of standalones first, see how they do.

Anyone else mapping out a career/book/sales plan for 2006?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Family members are thoughtful enough to give me bookstore gift cards every year -- or they simply hate shopping for me that much -- and I've just started making up my gotta-buy list with Dean Koontz's Forever Odd and Monica Jackson's Mr. Right Now as my first two picks. I may not be able to wait three weeks for Monica's, although I know it means I have to venture into the damn Fic/Lit section at BAM to get a copy.

For gifts, I'm wrapping up a bunch of my favorite reads from 2005: The Priest of Blood by Douglas Clegg, Talyn by Holly Lisle, Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride, and Dark Lover by J.R. Ward.

What book(s) are at the top of your wish list this holiday season, and/or what book(s) are you buying as gifts for others?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


As a writer, I don't like long titles, and rarely do I go over two words with a title (most of the longer ones on my novels were thought up by a well-meaning editor.) I am moderately to seriously picky about the wording, and prefer to title my books myself, but I will compromise with the editor when absolutely necessary.

As a reader, the longer another author's book title is, the less likely I am to buy the book. Sometimes simply the title wording will nix my interest. Like one of the worst I've seen this year: Memories of My Melancholy Whores (I don't think Gabe will mind me picking on him; he's in the top 100 books of the year.) I guess this title is supposed to be luminous, like the author, but you know what my first impression was when I read that title? It's The Unhappy Hookers*. Sure, I'm going to want to read about them. Right after I stick a needle in my eye.

When I put together a title, I think about the reader, not me. I already know what the book's about; what I want to do is communicate a little of that in one or two words to the person who looks at the cover. Titles, like colors, can cause a reaction in some folks. I know jarring titles make me edgy, and depressing-sounding titles chase me away from the shelf, while complicated titles make me suspicious.

Then there are the titles that for whatever reason simply irritate the hell out of me. Like the ones that include punctuation (Title!) or try to be cute with symbols (Title & title). Exclamation! Points! Are! Just! Annoying! and you know, if I want symbolism, I'll go read Baudelaire.

Both the writer and reader in me expect good to great titles on books. I know more than a few writers have to put up with lousy titles slapped on their novels by someone else, but I think a good title is worth fighting -- or holding out -- for.

What bugs you about novel titles?

*For you youngsters, back in the early seventies there was a rather infamous autobio written by former call girl and Penthouse columnist Xaviera Hollander titled The Happy Hooker.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Gen Ten

Ten Things to Generate Stuff

1. Modest, too: RPGTable's The Best Damn Random Name Generator Anywhere.

2. When a whole poem just won't cut it:'s Broken Poem Generator.

3. Your road to Internet fame and fortune might begin here: Google Blogoscoped's Domain Name Generator.

4. Write an essay on anything without trying over at's Essay Generator.

5. Your goth pals can't come to the phone but you need a quick dark fix? Try Lore Sjoberg's Goth Quote Generator.

6. Need some history for your world? Build some with's Historical Timeline Generator.

7. Future slang in the works:'s The Infinite Teen Slang Generator.

8. Blurbs on demand:'s Random Logline Generator.

9. Just for fun:'s Walking Bug Generator.

10. Need a web page but can't write HTML? Check out's Web Page Design Generator

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Most of us are all guilty at one time or another of starting a scene like this:

It was a dark and stormy night.

Unless you write scenery very well, it's a boring way to start a scene. I try to enter the scenes I write as late as possible, preferably in the midst of dialogue or action, and skip the travel log.

If the character is in a new place I want the reader to see, dialogue and action can show the place (versus me telling the reader about it):

"More pink," Alexandra said as she looked around the beach house. "Holy Toledo. Is there some state law that says every other thing in Florida has to be pink?"


"Why am I here instead of at home trying to sleep through Gloria’s game shows?" Harry demanded as he dropped his tray on the cafeteria lunch table.

I also sometimes start with a bit of condensed backstory needed to give perspective to the action:

Lucan had been trying to wake Samantha from the catatonic trance she had fallen into after Faryl’s escape, with no luck. He had tried cold water compresses, a capsule of ammonia from Burke’s first aid kit, and brandy. Nothing roused her.

And even an impaired character can still show what's happening through senses and dialogue:

"Hey." Someone was shaking her. "Time to make the donuts."

Sam groped for a pillow, found one, and put it over her face to block out the noise and the light. "Go away."

"I’d be happy to, Officer, but you’re in my apartment."

If I have to go with a descriptive opener, I like showing the characters versus the setting:

Byrne came out of the shadows, the hem of his great coat swirling in the faint mist. He pulled back the scarf covering his head, revealing blood-red hair that fell over his shoulders in waves, some of which had been woven into thin, tight braids. Byrne’s garnet mane contrasted sharply with the enigmatic swirls and lines of the dark blue tattoos on his face. He moved with the quick, easy power of a man accustomed to climbing mountains on foot.

What are some of the ways you open a novel scene?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Being PBW

Dear Shiela,

Wrong spelling. I before e, except if you're me.

How long has it been?

Who are you? (checks sig block) That long.

As you know, in [month] my [industry group] has [event]

And this matters to me because . . . oh, no. You're not going to ask me to do a [dreaded author thing.] You wouldn't.

and while I know you must be extremely busy

Don't. Please. We were nodding acquaintances once.

and you have so much on your plate right now

and the last time you looked at my plate would have been? When Clinton was in office? Yes?

but I would be so grateful if you would consider doing a [dreaded author thing].

(shrieks) You asked. (shrieks again)

The reason I'm asking you is [persuasive argument, much flattery, small monetary bribe.]

If you're going to throw money at me, it had better be enough to cause a concussion.

Seeing how well your last [dreaded author thing] did for [ancient industry event].

I remember that. Rome was sacked about the same time.

I feel you are ideal for [dreaded author thing.]

Couldn't get anyone else, I bet.

We have to finalize the [dreaded author thing], so please let us know when we can start on this project asap.

You're assuming I'm going to say yes. Cake, iced.

Warmly, Former Nodding Acquaintance.

(contemplates how to respond)

Dear Nodding Acquaintance, Over my dead body. Too mean

Nodding Acquaintance: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Sheila. Too honest; can't embed the mp3 file of me screaming.


(e-mails insane colleague who actually likes to do the dreaded author thing, gets an okay on a rec.)

Actual response e-mail: Dear Nodding Acquaintance, Thanks so much for asking me to do your [dreaded author thing.] Alas, my present schedule won't permit me to participate. I know [insane colleague's name] is available, if he might be an acceptable alternative. Good luck with your event. Best Wishes, Sheila

Thursday, December 01, 2005

6 Lbs. of Separation

Today is Blog Against Racism Day. Here's my contribution:

Racism is only skin deep. It doesn't go any deeper than that because it can't. Don't believe me? Look at the skin's structure here.

The human skin weighs about six pounds. We all have roughly the same amount, give or take a few ounces. Melanin, produced by melanocytes in the deepest part of the epidermis, is what colors everyone's skin, unless you have a skin pigmentation disorder, in which case color isn't an issue for you because you're an albino.

Take notes, there'll be a pop quiz on this later.

Any medical person can tell you that under that thin layer of pigmented cells we're all the same. Same major organs, same circulatory system, same skeletal structure, same tissues, same nerves, same everything. Reproductively speaking, we're either innies or outties, with the respective plumbing, but otherwise? No difference.

Skin is cool. It protects us from infections, helps regulate our body temperature, keeps things like our intestines from dragging around on the ground and, if the Clearisil works, gets us a decent date for Prom night. If it's sunburned, it hurts. If you cut it, we bleed, you guessed it, the same red blood.

So tell me, why does it matter what color this particular six pounds of us is? You wouldn't judge me by the color of my liver, or my uterus, or my brain tissue, would you? So why look at a person and only see six pounds of them? Why let the amount of melanin in that six pounds decide whether the owner gets a job, is good enough to date your best friend, or should have their new book shelved next to mine?

I don't care how anyone tries to justifies their racism. Treating a person in any way, shape or form with prejudice solely because their skin is darker or lighter or a different shade than yours is like saying the Christmas present isn't going to be as nice if you wrap the damn box in red paper instead of green. It's stupid.

It's also all that separates us. Six pounds.

I'll now direct your attention to two ladies who are far more eloquent than I will ever be, and who have written two of my favorite sledgehammers against racism: Dr. Maya Angelou's poem Still I Rise, and author Octavia E. Butler's NPR Essay - UN Racism Conference.

(Thanks to Monica Jackson for the heads-up.)