Tuesday, January 31, 2006

All That Glitz

One of my childhood hobbies was finding and saving pictures of ornate, heavy silver tea services like this one. I'd never actually seen one up close, but the ones described in stories about England dazzled me. My mom encouraged this, as it was less destructive than other hobbies of mine, like digging deep ditches in the backyard in hopes of striking oil or a vein of gold.

To the kid me, that silver tea service equaled the proverbial spoon. I knew I'd never have one; you had to be born to things like that, but I dreamed. In my fantasies, that tea service commanded almost mystical admiration and respect. You might live in a single-wide with a rusted-out Impala up on cinderblocks in the weed patch of your front yard, but if you used a silver pot to pour your Lipton, you still had Some Class.

My mother, knowing my secret daydreams, stunned me years later when she gave me a silver tea service as a wedding gift. I almost fainted when I opened the box. That first year, I used my silver tea service with the aplomb of a New Wife With Some Class. I invited my girlfriends over for an English high tea, complete with cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and crumpets and real butter and cream. I poured for everyone, just like the wonderful English ladies in the books I'd read.

The girlfriends were a little mystified by the cucumber sandwiches ("You put butter on them?") and one compared crumpets to naked Egg McMuffins, but they seemed suitably impressed. They came for another tea or two, but then they made excuses not to. Tea was okay, but it was more their speed to go shoot pool and drink beer down at the local watering hole, and why didn't I come with them?

I resisted the dubious charms of the tavern and the cue, because I had Some Class. I started going to tea shops and tea rooms to ooooh over the expensive stuff, sit by myself and watch the lovely ladies of the silver tea service. I felt in awe of those finely dressed, elegant, obviously wealthy women, who demonstrated their exquisite manners, and engaged in small talk. Often they wore gloves -- real, white ones with pearl buttons at the wrist -- like little girls do at Easter for church. They never appeared agitated or angry or even mildly steamed. Their small gestures seemed as smooth and slow as if they were underwater.

I was never invited to join any of their teas (a few called me over now and then, thinking I was the waitress) but oh, how I wished I could. To be a part of those refined circles instead of eavesdropping on them. To have a reason to produce languid gestures and serene smiles. To know what they knew: the confidence only wealth, acceptance and respect bestows. So maybe eight-ball was a lot more fun; I told myself that was single-wide mentality. I could learn plenty from those tea room ladies. They had So Much Class, and it was all so pretty.

At home, I had to hand wash my silver service, naturally, and polish it weekly to prevent tarnish from marring it. Some Class required a lot of upkeep. Every person who came into my home had to be artfully guided by the hutch to see it. I never bragged, because the very presence of the silver service whispered for me: Hey, Baby, She's Got It.

The second year some odd little dark spots appeared on the bottom of my silver tea pot, spots that no amount of attention and care could remove. In fact, polishing made them bigger. Concerned, I mentioned this to the British lady who owned the most expensive tea room in town.

"If it's American made," she told me, "the silver plating is probably worn thin." She recommended a product that restored the look of silver to tarnished, cheap sets like mine.

I went home feeling a bit tarnished myself. Thin. Cheap. The look of silver. Silly that I hadn't ever realized my set wasn't the real deal, but I knew nothing about silver. That my mother couldn't have afforded to buy anything but silver plate had never registered.

Not Classy. Single-wide pitiful, really. And not my silver-plated service, either -- me. I'd assumed I had what I would likely never possess. I'd tried to go where I would never fit in. I'd been a tea room groupie, longing for acceptance and respect from women who mistook me for the help. I knew nothing about tea except what I'd read in books, and I'd probably gotten half of that wrong, too.

A very unpleasant lesson, served up on a silver-plated platter.

I might have saved up for a solid silver service (back then it would have only taken me seven or eight years) but the glitz was gone. After that I still used the service, but not to impress my friends. I used it for every day, ordinary teas. I stopped hanging out to silently gawk at the lovely ladies of the tea rooms. When I had tea, it was only for me, to be enjoyed while I read a good book, or listened to some music, or watched the rain fall.

The little teas I made for myself remained a habit. Over time I became more daring and, like an armchair voyager to unknown countries, I started trying out new teas. I sampled imported tea from England, and China, and India. I found real Irish black tea has ten times the wallop of Starbuck's coffee. I discovered delicate white teas, exotic flavored teas, and a few unhappy revelations, such as the Earl Grey tea so favored by Her Majesty tasted as if I were drinking perfume.

Despite my care (and I never stopped caring for it, even after the glitz had nearly worn away) the silver set slowly corroded over the years. Finally a weld broke on the teapot and it began to leak. I donated the usable pieces to a thrift shop and let my crafty neighbor turn the leaky pot into a "shabby chic" planter. I went out and bought a replacement service; an inexpensive but attractive set in stoneware to match my every day dishes. Dishwasher safe, durable, and not so much as a fleck of glitz. It kept my tea hot and looked nice on the table, which was all that mattered.

The girlfriends who dropped by my house weren't especially dazzled by my humble stoneware, but it didn't scare them off to the pool-hall, either. They giggled over my tales of Around the World in 80 Teas, and tested baking experiments, like my versions of Dundee cake, and tart cherry-vanilla scones, and Brazo de Gitano. We swapped stories and recipes and laughed a lot.

Tea is a daily part of my life now. This morning I drank my breakfast brew from a big mug with a Charles Wysocki cats-and-books design. Tonight I'm brewing a pot of green tea to drink from tiny cups like these before we go to bed. Both the mug and the tea cups are precious to me, not for their monetary value, but because they were gifts from friends.

As for the glitz, well, I no longer covet things that require endless polishing, or the wearing of white gloves, or the cutting off of crusts. Like so many things in my life, it's what I love that's important, not how impressive it looks, and the people who share it with me, not the ones who never will.

Monday, January 30, 2006


When a literary writer SPAMs me about the release of his new book (as so many do these days) why would he think the word "Ballsey" and a wry description of one of his testicles appearing on the cover art would entice me to buy it? Is this like some new shock-promo thing?

No sale here, pal, sorry. I am kind of curious to see* the cover art, though.

*Went and looked it: no testicle, only an accidental (or artfully-placed?) shadow on the inner thigh. I should probably embarrass the author and link to it, but I'm feeling too mellow. And dude, if you're reading this? Do the reading public a favor and stop posing for your covers. Fabio you're not.

Not a Dime Ten

Ten More Things to Distract Bill Peschel from Writing

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

1. The Netter.com is giving away free downloads of The Big Book of Web Design Freebies, which promises "1000's of free webmaster resources, freeware and tools for web design."

2. eQit all-in-one freeware offers a clock, diary, notepad, program launcher and contact database; dockable, re-sizeable and configurable.

3. Freeware Arena is giving away an ebook about freeware sites here.

4. Manage your agendas, activities, notes, contacts, documents and so forth with Kplan Personal.

5. Paperless Printer is an ebook maker and document exchange utility.

6. Softboard.net has two freeware programs available: Photo2Web Publisher, a "useful program that allows you to easy publish photos on your website. It creates thumbnails, resize photos and generate HTML pages"; and PhotoView, "an easy and compact photo viewer for Windows. It allows you to view and organize your digital photos easily and comfortably."

7. Pindersoft.com has two freebies of interest to writers, PS Whiteboard and Floating Clock.

8. Send to Notepad is a neat little utility tool to cut down on the cut and paste time -- click on the StN task bar icon and your highlighted text is copied to notepad.

9. Time Sentry offers "a small, multi-purpose calendar and time application designed to make finding out date and time information easy and fast."

10. Xint is a freeware alternative to Windows notepad.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I like to look around the internet for freeware. Writers are generally poor; we need free stuff. I think (when possible) it's also a good idea to test drive freeware, lite and trial downloads before you invest in expensive software.

On my searches I do find some oddities that I save in a junk file. Joke programs that actually do nothing, like the Penis Size-O-Matic, or fandom-type stuff, such as the Matrix Code Emulator screensaver program. I find virtual widgets annoying, so out of spite I'll trash links like Konfabulator. I also like freeware that is writer-specific versus general info programs such as Kwik Facts.

I'm becoming a little leery of freeware sites such as another virtual sticky notes program, SyncNotes, which require registration before the downloads can be accessed -- if they're giving it away, why do they need the registration? What are they doing with that info? Is it just another SPAM addy collector? I wonder.

Then there are the programs I'm simply not sure about, like SLang, which is meant for screenwriters but may or may not be useful to writers. I wish I had time to try them all out myself, but as I found out tonight with a freeware program from Europe, some are so complicated I'd have to reset ten thousand things on my system before they'll even run.

Tomorrow I'll put up another bunch of freeware links for the Monday ten, and eventually I hope to compile a master list of freeware for writers and stick it somewhere here where you all can explore it at your leisure. To help me with my future hunts, what type of freeware programs are you all most interested in finding?

Saturday, January 28, 2006


In keeping with the week's unofficial brevity theme: describe your novel, your body of work, or yourself in comments -- and use only a single word.

I'll start: insurgent.


Now that James Frey has been fried, we have a long-lost letter surfacing which questions author Upton Sinclair's ethics. Is that timing, or what?

Is this the beginning of open season on nonfic and memoir authors? Hard to say. Frey's faux past has stirred his colleagues to offer so many righteous and indignant rants that finding a hooker in a convent would likely cause less pious fuss. I do think the truth is important, even if it only serves as a cautionary tale for future writers. But when the soapbox becomes an open mike night stage, and those who climb on it start sounding like the cast of A Chorus Line, then it may be time to move on.

At least Oprah won't be able to book Sinclair on the show. Not without a backhoe, anyway -- he's been dead for 38 years.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday 20

Ask away.

(The explanation of the Friday 20 is here.)

Brief Me

Brevity appeals to me. I fell in love with brevity code in the military. One-liners are my favorite type of joke. When I see a one-word title on a cover, I'm instantly drawn to the book. Ogden Nash is one of my personal heroes.

Storytellers are spinners, not tailors. It's difficult for us to be brief when we have so much story in our heads. Even on the internet, the kingdom of acronymous, we're often too wordy (and I am as guilty of this as any writer, especially when I feel passionately about something like, hey, brevity.)

Today while I was talking with a sales rep from a completely different industry, she related this observation: people remember advertising with images and single words and phrases more so than ads with blocks of text -- even if they're a captive audience and have nothing to do but look at the ad.

Makes sense to me. Attention spans are short these days. Both men and women are busier; we work long hours, have more responsibilities, and we're tired. Time is a precious commodity we don't want to waste.

Now and then I challenge writers to trim their pitches. I see it as a necessary skill, and you never know when you may need a quick pitch. Brevity with impact is even more important, because if you don't have significant wattage, you're not going to dazzle the editor.

Consider trimming down when you work on the following:

1. Title: Your title, like cover art, is a selling point. It doesn't have to be one word, but it should convey your story's power. Change titles as often as you like until you find one that works (I often wonder how well StarDoc would have done if I had stuck with its original title, Border FreeClinic.)

2. Query letter: My advice is keep it to three paragraphs and no more than one page. The shorter it is, the more likely the editor will read the entire letter.

3. Synopsis: Get out of the storyteller's mindset and into a more journalistic approach. Resist the urge to persuade or impress the editor, and discard the lyrical in favor of the concise and powerful. Don't worry; you'll have plenty of room to be pretty in the novel.

4. First three chapters: These make or break your pitch. If your first three chapters are a set-up, travelogue, droning narrative or some other form of writer security blanket, delete them and start your novel with chapters four, five and six.

More info:

Strunk's Elements of Composition; scroll down to #13. Omit needless words.

In Writer Trick #7 from the old weblog I showed how to condense the passage of time in a scene.

Columbia University's Writing Summaries.

Jonathan Treisman's Writing Loglines that Sell is geared toward screenwriters but will work for novelists, too.

The University of Pittsburgh's How to Summarize.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Four Score

Want to be a terribly hip writer but can't fathom how to write the pointless prose? Try out the Random H.P. Lovecraft Story Generator.

Not for depressed people: crack open a Misfortune Cookie.

If you don't know, chances are Mr. Smarty Pants does.

Marjorie will appreciate this one: the X-Men Random Story Generator.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

UnMasked Man

For all those who have always wondered about the real identity of Mad Max Perkins from BookAngst 101, he's been unofficially unmasked.

Added: A few folks have e-mailed asking for my personal reaction. As Dan and I work for the same publisher, I think it's probably a good thing that I didn't call him a jerk in any of the e-mails we exchanged, even when I was tempted to. It also explains some remarks he made to me, and confirms some suspicions. It even made the Breast Cancer Foundation some money. Anyway, I wish him best of luck with pushing his evidently fabulous new author.


Ten Things That Instantly Bug Me, and (if I Know) Why

1. Artificial Tanning Products: Because they're dumb. Ladies, when you dye your hides with this glop, you don't look tan. You look orange. It fools no one. Stop it.

2. Balloons: PCBPGTSD (post childhood birthday party game traumatic stress disorder) induced dislike. It bugs me simply to hear them being inflated.

3. Being Fed: Have no idea why. Just let me eat my own food, thank you.

4. Grope-huggers: Dishonest. Either hug me, or cop a feel, don't try to do both.

5. Mouth-kissing Strangers: Fastidiousness. Besides, you don't know where my mouth has been.

6. Pantyhose: Discomfort. A man invented them as a torture device for big girls. And I would personally like five minutes alone with the genius who developed "Sheer Energy" pantyhose.

7. Pet Names for Grown Men like "Snookums": Please. I call the dog things like that.

8. Pointy-toed cowboy boots: Gratis Stephen King's The Stand. Since reading it, I've thought they were creepy-looking.

9. Talking or animated stuffed teddy bears: not a clue. I can't stand the damn things.

10. Underwire Bras: Distaste. They're horribly uncomfortable and too symbolic of what women used to do to their bodies. The corset died a long time ago; can we get rid of the last symbolic whalebone now?

What are some of the things that get a knee-jerk reaction out of you, and why?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Romantic suspense, chick-lit, and vampire fiction all have one thing in common: they're powerful trends that changed the course of many a career. Predicting trends in the industry is like playing a stock market on Thorazine; you have to think two years ahead before you invest.

Take the micro-trends in various types of historical fiction over the last couple of years. I think they're tremors, gradually building up to something bigger. I also think the reason that they haven't yet is because most historical fiction is not written to appeal to the mass market, or be accessible to the average reader. There are also some story elements missing. Think of how well Dan Brown has done simply by following the basic story line of Raiders of the Lost Ark in The Da Vinci Code (not that I'm accusing him of plagiarism. I know I'd have to stand in line.)

I don't think a writer should write for a trend, but they bear watching in the event you have something that will fit into a trend. It's also fun to try to predict what readers will want down the road (because you know if I'm right about historical fiction, I'm going to rub it in big time.)

What do you guys see as the potential trend-makers in the next couple of years?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Syn Ten

Ten Things about Synopses

1. Vivian Teresa Beck's Me Write a Synopsis?.

2. Mia Crews's Writing a Selling Synopsis.

3. Del Rey's How to Write a Synopsis: FAQ.

4. Fiction Writers Connection Writing a Novel Synopsis.

5. Lisa Gardener's .pdf file for her lecture on Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis is available here.

6. Dr. Vickie Hinze's Synopsis vs. Outline.

7. Sheila Kelly's Writing the Novel Synopsis (hey, that name looks familiar...)

8. Lee Masterson's Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis -- Condensing Your Novel.

9. Mary Rosenblum's The Novel Synopsis -- Just What Is It?.

10. Robbert J. Sawyer's Outlines and Synopses page has examples of both.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pup Moment

Conversation with my daughter about the puppy today:

"Mom, why did Daddy scold Buddy this morning for hugging me?"

"Buddy can hug you?"

"Well, not me, my leg."

"Um, honey, he wasn't hugging your leg."

"Then what was he doing?"

"Do you really want to know the answer to that?"

"But he wasn't . . . oh, euwww."

Way of the Cheetah

Here's the announcement I promised last week:

My first book of 2006 is a brand-new venture for me: Way of the Cheetah, a how-to ebook. I got the idea last year after so many e-mails and comments came in about my WotC posts here at the weblog. When Holly Lisle told me she was setting up an e-book shop, I pitched her the idea and she kindly agreed to sell the ebook at the shop for me.

I've always wanted to write a book about writing, but I wanted mine to be about what I really do. Using actual writing experience rather than talking about theory seemed the best way to help someone else, and realistic ways to boost productivity is something I think every competitive writer needs.

Way of the Cheetah the ebook is about the methods and disciplines I've developed and use to be a productive writer. Along with detailing these, it's about the way I work, the reasons as to why I work the way I do, and the exercises I've used that can help other writers learn to be more productive.

While I was writing, I also tried to make it a quick, fun read. I don't know about you, but nothing puts me to sleep faster than a stodgy how-to text.

The ebook is done, and it's on sale right now at Holly Lisle's new web site shop, Shop.HollyLisle.com: Way of the Cheetah by Lynn Viehl. If you stop by, also check out Holly's terrific new ebook, Create a Character Clinic.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Rumors about authors are funny things. We hear them from friends, colleagues, readers, booksellers and even our own agents and editors. We read about them in biz rags and on industry blogs. Like any gossip, rumors can spread like wildfire, especially if they have anything to do with an author's professional wrongdoings, as James Frey just found out.

One of the most enduring rumors I've heard surrounded the dismaying but apparently forgivable change of direction a popular author's work took that chased off many of her readers. While I was a bookseller, at least a dozen customers told me the exact same thing -- "Her writing is horrible, but I heard she's going through a divorce" -- and that rumor is still going around the biz four years later.

As a hobby I collect rumors about myself, which usually sound like something out of a Twilight Zone episode. I think it's because I write SF. Anyway, here are ten of my favorites, and in parentheses at the end, the source of the rumor:

1. I only published a science fiction novel in order to break into the romance genre (colleague.)
2. While serving in the AF, I met real alien life forms (slightly unbalanced booksigning attendee.)
3. Someone tried to kill me at a writer's conference (internet rumor.)
4. I am a man pretending to be a woman (discussion board.)
5. Author Holly Lisle and I are the same person (internet rumor.)
6. I don't make public appearances because I am disfigured (genre rag.)
7. Author S.L. Farrell and I are the same person (amateur expose web site.)
8. My StarDoc novels are semi-autobiographical (book club critic.)
9. None of my editors have ever met me (colleague.)
10. I'm deceased (colleague.)

Now for fun, guess which two of these rumors actually have a little truth to them.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday 20

No biz post today -- I've got some books to ship out -- but the floor's open. Any questions? (Loyd, I'll move yours over to these comments in a sec.)

(The explanation of the Friday 20 feature is here.)


You know how much I hate picking the winners of the giveaways, right? Because I want everyone to win. For me, it's torture not to be able to get the books into everyone's hands. I was really feeling the pain with the Ice Giveaway, because what you all wrote about your writing and life landmarks was so great.

Well, tonight I took a hard look at the promo budget for Rebel Ice, and there's just enough left in there to cover what I was thinking about doing. Plus I've always wanted to do this for one of my novels on the weblog, and we should celebrate all of our landmarks once.

So the winners for the Ice Giveaway are:

Everyone who participated.

Now, I need all 61 winners to e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com, and send your full name and the address where you want me to send the book. It will take me a few more days to get the extra books, sign, package and get them all out, but I figure you'll be okay with that.

Congratulations to everyone.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tres Cool

At first I thought this was some sort of beaded tornado sculpture, but it's actually a tower made of books. Thanks to Patricia for the heads-up on the exhibit.


Author and Storytellers Unplugged Kahuna Joseph Nassise's novel Heretic, the first book in The Templar Chronicles dark fantasy series, will be the first novel from a New York publisher to be podcast in its entirety starting January 31st. More details about signing up for the podcast are at The Templar Chronicles website here.

I think I'm the only writer left in the U.S. who has never listened to a podcast or used an iPod. Yeah, 'tis true. I like my Walkman. Anyway, what do you guys think of this podcasting stuff? Effective marketing move, or yet another vanity perk?

Ich Bemerkte es Nicht

Cover art for the German edition of Endurance

I think Die Flucht means "The Escape."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ice Giveaway

I promised I'd do another giveaway for my January release, Rebel Ice, and lo and behold, my box of author copies just landed on the doorstep today.

Every book you write is special for one reason or another: the first book published, the one that became a bestseller, the story that changed your career. Some are special for reasons more personal than the traditional writer landmarks, and RI is one of those. To see it in print is the ultimate reward for a very long haul.

If you'd like a chance at winning one of fifteen signed copies of Rebel Ice, tell us in comments about one of your own personal writing or life landmarks. Post your comment by midnight EST on Thursday, January 19, 2006, and I'll draw fifteen names at random from everyone who participates. Winners' names will be posted here by noon EST on Friday, January 20, 2006. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW before now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Slow Times I

Slow Times at Publishing High School
(Part One)

Well I don't care about Sacred Cows
Publishing, publishing, publishing high school
'Cause that's not what I wanna be
Publishing, publishing, publishing high school
I just wanna sell some books
I just wanna get some chicks
Publishing, publishing, publishing high school

Well the congirls out there knock me out, you know
Publishing, publishing, publishing high school
Cruisin' around in my leisure suit
Publishing, publishing, publishing high school
I hate it when the NYT don't find me cool
Don't wanna be no reviewer's fool
Publishing, publishing, publishing high school...

"Jimmy Frey, please report to the Principle's Office," a tired-sounding voice announced over the intercom. "Jimmy Frey to the Principle's Office, please."

Liz stood just inside one of the entry doors to the student lobby. She looked back over her shoulder at the curb, and the lean blond boy behind the wheel of a black and silver GTO. The surf board on the GTO's roof rack gleamed like the ocean, green and blue. Her boyfriend grinned, cocked an eyebrow and patted the empty seat beside him. Liz shook her head and walked into school.

Writers, bloggers and reviewers choked the lobby like restless salmon in home-faded blue jeans. Most were clustered in their cliques, the schools within the school. A few rogues hemmed the edges, looking for opportunities to spawn. Posters of all the hot new books written by the students of Bestseller University adorned the walls. The smell of Love's Baby Soft-scented bookmarks didn't quite cover the odor of young, earnest sweat.

On her way in Liz passed a slinky girl dressed in black leather and exchanged a passing low five. "What's up, Sel?"

"I got detention for speaking up during awards assembly." Selah rolled her eyes. "Again."

Liz smiled. Detention had been boring since John had finished doing his time for his last Hardboiled Jesus parody. "See you there."

"Good morning, students. It's another wonderful day at Publishing High School," Binky, the President of the Literary Glee Club announced, mouth-breathing between the words. "Please stand while we have the Sacred Pledge of Publishing Allegiance. I pledge allegiance, to promote the image, of the publishing industry of America..."

Liz watched her peers go still, press their hands to their wallets, and recite the pledge. She'd gotten detention more than once for not doing the same, but there were no image safety patrols around this morning. Probably out in the parking lot looking for Jimmy Frey.

"You may be seated," Binky said with nasal graciousness after the pledge was over. "Here are today's announcements: The Junior Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene are having a super-dee-duper non-erotic historical romance sale at lunch time; proceeds to go toward instituting mandatory chastity belts and religious instruction for all female students. Girls, make the proper, decent choice and buy all your romances only from the Sisters."

Liz eyed Dodie, a pudgy girl in a pink twinset with pearls who was glaring at her. The Junior Sisters still hadn't discovered who had defaced the JSILS chastity belt drive bulletin board with unused Trojans and tubes of KY Jelly, but Dodie had put Liz at the top of their suspect list.

"Our mystery team, the Way Cool Guys, are taking on Tartan Noir tonight at 8 p.m. in the gym, remember to wear your sunglasses and think up nasty things to call the Scottish."

Liz blew a kiss to Dodie, receiving a sniff and a plump shoulder in return, and made a mental note to wear her shortest kilt and sit by Fiona on the opposing team's side at the gym.

"Which reminds me, have you stopped by the Literary Glee Club's student bookstore and checked out our Better Read It! novel of the semester?" Binky demanded. "It's another fabulous story by a struggling writer who's not actually struggling but we think makes us look fabulous for picking her. Remember our motto: All the smart students in the know-know know where to go-go-go to be told what to read."

A worried-looking freshman rushed over to Liz. "Hi, Lizzie. Are you going to read the Club's new pick? It sounds like what we should be reading."

Liz imagined shaking Binky until her brains rattled, but she wasn't sure Binky had any. "Hell froze over already?"

The freshman laughed, paled, looked from side to side, and grimaced. "Um, thanks." She hurried off.

"Hey." Alison, Captain of the school gymnastics team, stopped and nudged Liz. "Be nice."

Liz yawned. "I am not nice."

"We know, but you could pretend." Alison linked her arm through Liz's. "C'mon, I'll buy you a latte at Nick's Java Hut before class starts."

(stayed tuned for part two)

Story Ops

A pair of submission opportunities for you short story and novella writers out there:

Genre Benders and Rebels: The Interstitial Arts folks have open submission until May 2005 for their anthology Interfictions, with payment and submission guidelines here, 5 cents/word; hard copy submission only.

Old School Horror & Rod Serlingites: Tabloid Purposes III is looking for novellas starting Feb. 3rd; e-submissions only, lead story $45, e-copies for other contributors; guidelines are a bit quirky but definitely enthusiastic.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Awards Policy

In e-mail over the weekend, a couple of these came in: PBW, just to let you know, I've nominated you for [award] . . .

I appreciate the compliment, but I don't accept awards of any kind. I have had my name and/or my work removed from everything for which they have been nominated since 2002, and with the exception of one romance rag, everyone has respected my wishes. I hope you'll save me the headaches and do the same.

There are many, many other writers out there who deserve recognition and rarely get it. Please nominate one of them for your favorite award.

Scheduling Ten

Ten Things for the Calendar/Schedule Junkies

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

1. Agenda from Wallie Online is a simple and small calendar/organizer program.

2. Into calendars in a big way? Check out Calendar Magic.

3. OSAF's Chandler is an experimental, server-based free calender being offered for individuals and small workgroups as a test release (they want to know how it works for you.) Use it for a basic and multiple calendar(s), recurring events and more.

4. Sort out your schedule with Martin Bresson's Chaos Manager.

5. Never forget another anniversary or birthday again with Vellosoft.com's MiniMinder.

6. Multi Reminders from TheAbsolute.net reminds you of holidays, celebrations and when to pay your bills.

7. Our blog pal Simon Haynes freely offers Remind Me Please, a program to give you a nudge on: " . . .upcoming events, appointments, TV programs, movies, birthdays and so on. Enter one-off or repeating events: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and specials like 'Every two weeks from 1/1/2002' or 'Third Sunday of each month'."

8. pAgenda from Pcbypaul.com is a calendar/scheduler program using sqlite database. "A single click prints daily schedule."

9. Cinnamon Software's Talking Alarm Clock does just what it says with a talking animated alarm, or any sound you choose.

10. Need a cross platform standalone calendar application based on Mozilla's XUL user interface language? Whatever the dickens that is? Well, you guy should go look at Sunbird.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

For Laughs

As her paralyzed arms turned white and the room started to spin, Victoria suddenly realized that her brand new Wonderbra was possibly just a wee bit too tight . . .

Harry, Don't Read This One

All right, a post about the pup.

Buddy has been with us two weeks now, and he's doing fine. He spends a lot of time in the yard with me, helping me weed, sunning himself, and trying in vain to catch squirrels and cardinals and jays that come to the bird feeders. His big thrill is chasing a chicken or rooster back over the fence (we live between a couple of farms.)

He's got a great personality; bright and alert but also pretty mellow for a pup. He cuddles with me and most puppies won't do that. Like all pups, he wants to chew on everything so we're majorly invested in chew toys. He loves sock tug-of-war.

Outside he's a ball of energy, already trying to herd my kids and their friends when they're out playing basketball in the drive or tossing the football around the yard. With our dogs we prefer to use hand signals instead of voice commands, and he's so smart he's already got down the basics.

At night, we keep Buddy in our master bath with a baby gate up in the open doorway. I don't like keeping pets in kennels or cages. In the bathroom he has a comfortable quilt and dog bed, food and water, and plenty of space and toys. The gate allows him to see us and me to hear him. The floor is tiled so accidents aren't a big deal (we're almost house trained, and as soon as he is, he gets the run of the place.)

Our cats have accepted Buddy for the most part. It was obvious the first week that they'd forgotten what it's like to live with a dog in the house. Buddy is dying to play with them, but so far only Jak, my friendliest and most laid-back cat, will let the pup approach him. Jeri walks away or climbs out of reach; Rush simply won't stay in the room. We've always had dogs and cats so I don't anticipate any problems; it'll just take time for them to adjust to each other.

Sometimes it's tough to see him and not think of Missy, our Sheltie who passed away two years ago. I've had a couple of bad moments, but the joy of having a dog in my life and with the family again outweighs the sadness. I do think after you lose a much-loved pet that it's important to wait until you know you're ready to bring a dog into your life again rather than try to do a replacement. Buddy can't replace Missy, but he doesn't have to. We've let her go now, and we're enjoying our pup for his own unique personality and presence.

I don't have my new roll of film developed, but when I do I'll post some new pics.

Blog Raiders

Here's an interesting question someone e-mailed me today before I blew a fuse over paying for editing (posted with permission):

I should save this question for next Friday, but today I read two blog posts elsewhere about some of your techniques. Neither blogger gave you any links or credit. It also was not the first time I've seen that happen to you. What can you do about this?

Not much. Blog links are a courtesy, not a requirement. So far there has been no outright copyright infringement of my posts that I know of (and I did check out the links you sent, kind reader) but if someone were genuinely trying to pass off my work as their own, I'd probably hear about that, too. I'm not what you'd call generic.

Weblogging is about interconnections and information sharing. It's a good idea to credit any source, but the Blog God doesn't strike you down if you don't. You can't copyright an idea, a couple of words, or even a writing technique (and as to the latter, many are just common practice among pro writers.) Also, I think a lot of bloggers simply forget to post the links or aren't aware that it's a courtesy.

Even if they like or use what they read here, some bloggers don't want to link to PBW because of the taint of association and implied endorsement. That sort of thing still holds water in a few parts of the industry, and even more so among blog cliques. You have to do what you think is right for your career, and to get along with your friends, so I understand this and hold no grudges (and if anyone ever wants me to take down a link to their weblog for any reason, just let me know via e-mail and I'll delete it, no questions asked.)

Blogs like mine are easy to raid. I'm not much of a trend-follower, meme-doer or quiz-taker, so I end up writing a lot of my own stuff here. Despite my best efforts to drive you off, you all keep coming back here to read the blog and have interesting discussions. Maybe I should talk about the puppy more often . . .

Seriously, I don't notice that many blog raiders out there, so I don't think it's a huge problem. I think eventually, like James Frey embellishing his memoirs, it will come back to bite those who do in the ass. Why should I waste the energy? Besides, I like seeing my ideas and techniques out there in BlogLand, even if I don't get credit for them. It's a backhanded compliment, but the ideas are way more important than my ego.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I promise that I will no longer get sucked into comment debates with anonymous bloggers claiming to be pros on other people's blogs because, you know, they might not blurb my books in the future, and we all know the value of a cover blurb written by ANONYMOUS. It could wreck my whole career.

Yes, I know better. I know better. Jesus Christ.

You guys, just do me a favor: don't pay to get published unless you're self-publishing. No matter what some anonymous publishing conspiracy theorist assures you that is what all the Big Name authors do. We don't. Ask those of us who don't hide behind anonymous blogs and threaten anyone who disagrees with us.

Vanessa, I apologize again for making shoddy use of your comments. It won't happen again.


The Publishing Fairy Godfather has just materialized in your writing space. He is a nearsighted bald fat man in a powder blue tux with a yellow sequined cummerbund that is one size too small. He smells of old money (reserves against returns) and old slush pile manuscripts (pages of which are stuck to the back of his heels.)

"I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse." He sets down his martini glass, refills it with straight gin, and regards you over a toothpick adorned with two green olives and a former literary agent's pickled testicle. "You get one wish."

You immediately say, "I wish for--"

The Publishing Fairy Godfather wags his hairy finger at you. "No can do. My powers only extend to your writing and the publishing industry."

You then say, "I wish for--"

"Only Cinderella's Fairy Godmother can grant that, and she's tied up in Vegas outfitting Wayne Newton for his next show," the Publishing Fairy Godfather informs you. "Pick something else."

You think.

The Publishing Fairy Godfather lights up a Havana cigar with a flaming midlist author's last contract. "Did I mention after you that I've got to go and visit a plague of toads and cockroaches on that Frey guy for abusing the wish I granted him?"

Now post your answer to the Publishing Fairy Godfather in comments.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Feature

For this new feature, I'd like to do a weekly variation on the open thread: 20 Questions Friday. You post a writing- or industry-related question in comments, and I'd try to answer it, up to twenty questions max per Friday (any more than 20 and I'll never get any work done.)

I know more than 20 people visit here, so if you all can take turns that would be great. I'll also open the 20 Questions post at a different time each Friday so everyone gets a fair shot at posting theirs.

I also think your suggestions, like Doug Hoffman's Tales from the Trenches, are terrific, so I'll try to work those in on a revolving basis to serve as my Friday post.

Some things that I don't think I can do as a feature:

1. Authors Behaving Badly -- We had a lot of candidates for ABB show up this week, but unless you go to certain genre cons and hang out in the bar, it's not really a predictable thing.

2. Book recs -- I'm going to add some sidebar links for books I recommend in the genres I read, but I'm reluctant to start writing up any kind of regularly scheduled recommendations. Also, I really don't read much fiction these days outside of market analysis, which is not reading for enjoyment. I'd rather write a post about a great discovery when I make it; more spontaneous and fun that way.

3. Book reviews -- I am not a reviewer. See? I said it nicely.

4. The Process -- I don't know. When I talk about my own writing, I think my eyes glaze over. Here's something I wrote about my process last week for Jo Leigh's Uber Challenge group; you tell me if it's interesting:

I'm still waiting for some how-to books to arrive, but I started off on
my write-better-setting challenge by forcing myself to write a scene
with no characters and no dialogue. All I had to work with was a small
town, a quiet lake, an assortment of birds and Nature-related stuff.
For me, this equals writing agony.

I wrote of description of the town, lake, birds and Nature at large. I tried to make it sound interesting without that annoying, patronizing omnipotent narrator thing syrupy travel writers do. I admit, I was tempted to crash a gigantic meteor into the lake and flash-fry the town to cinders, but I didn't. Boring people need somewhere to live, right? Also, no birds or other defenseless fauna were harmed in the writing of this scene.

I printed out the scene, tagged it UC#1, and shoved it in a file. I'll
keep doing that until I write better setting, I'm kicked out of the
group, the filing cabinet collapses or my head explodes.

5. Way of the Cheetah -- I have an announcement to make about WotC, but I have to hold off on it until next week. For reasons which I will explain next week.

Floor's open -- any questions?

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Author and memoir embellisher James Frey's publisher announced that Mr. Honesty will be adding a note to future editions of his partially fictional work A Million Little Pieces.

Probably too much to hope that Frey's author note will say something like "Hey, in this book? Sometimes I'm lying to you", right?

While Frey was admitting to his latest wrongdoings on Larry King's TV show, Oprah Winfrey called in to tell Frey that she still supports him and his novel, and evidently blames the publisher for bad categorization. It's always those pesky meddling publishers. But now I'm wondering, how would one correctly categorize Frey's novel? As alternative history?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


While I'm tinkering with the blog, and we're getting bombarded by stories of liars in print, here's something vaguely related the latter that I've been pondering:

Shrinks tell us that when you're face-to-face with someone, changes in the other person's body language, eye movements, vocal intonations and even skin color and dampness are all signs that the other person is lying to you.

You can't see anything of these things in cyberspace, of course, unless you're into that whole webcam business. Assuming you're not, how can you tell when someone on the internet is lying to you?


Over the next week or so PBW will be undergoing renovations to implement my ideas and some of the excellent suggestions you all made here. Barring bad luck, the new weekly feature will debut on January 13th and return every Friday thereafter. I'll also be adding some fresh links, recs, freebies and other neat stuff.

This is only if I can get it all to work, of course. Keep in mind that I'm severely HTML challenged. My daughter has kindly offered to help me out, as in Let me do the hard parts Mommy, but her bedtime is 9:30 p.m. on school nights, at which point, I'm on my own.

Thanks again to all for your input.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I've never found two new entries for the Authors Behaving Badly file in one day, especially writers with the names Vice and Frey (and wouldn't that make a good cop show title?)

Anyway, Oprah, I think you've been hustled.

Authors Behaving Badly

(back by popular demand)

Evidently it's tough for many writers to think up their own stories, so it would stand to follow that it is much, much easier to steal someone else's work and pass it off as your own.

We call this plagiarism. It's illegal, but don't let that stop you.

Here's how it could work in your favor: all you have to do is go back a century or two and pick someone who was a damn good writer, but obscure and not widely read. There are so many authors like that whose fine, award-worthy work has not seen the light of day in God knows how many decades. And in this age of Nintendo DS and PSWhichever, it's not like anyone will ever read that tired old stuff again, except maybe the occasional old lady librarian.

So if you're a young writer of promise, you might steal a big chunk of another, dead writer's work for something like, say, your Ph.D. dissertation, or your big literary award-winning story collection, and probably no one will ever notice, and you can go on to teach at a big university and be awarded fellowships and win things like the Flannery O'Connor Award and you'll never get busted.

Unless you're Brad Vice.

His defense? Let me quote from the article: "I made a mistake concerning the parameters of copyright and fair use."

Well, duh.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Content Ten

Ten Things for Your Weblog Content

1. Active Web Reader is a free web feed reader that allows you to add all your favorite RSS feeds, bookmark web pages and be notified of changes (it will also highlight the changes since your last visit for you.)

2. ArticleCity.com offers free articles for reprint on your web site (78 writing-related articles are here; also as with any free-reprint material, remember to read and comply with the terms and conditions.)

3. Got free content but not sure how to use it? Check out BlogHerald.com's post A Quick Guide to Free Content.

4. You can download a free thirty-day trial of EgoClip, an RSS aggregator that automatically sorts and prioritizes your news according to what it thinks will interest you.

5. Free content and Creative Commons advocates may want to link to Lawrence Lessig's book, Free Culture, How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity which he's posted for free download on the internet here.

6. MobilePlay provides free PDA and other mobile device access to news, games, weather information, weblogs and more.

7. PodOmatic, the easiest place to create, find and send podcasts and videocasts, offers free services.

8. The whole blogging world can interview, podcast and vlog for free with Skype.

9. Stickam is a free, all-in-one multimedia tool.

10. Traffic Genius has assembled a monster link list of public domain content sources.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Adding Machine, Stat

Bookwire has put up its finalized U.S. Book Production Stats for hardcover and paperback books from 1993 through 2004.

Problem*: based on the figures from this earlier report, as well as this PR, did Bowker's stat guy forget to carry over some ones? Or am I reading this new report wrong?

*Problem solved: Sharp-eyed PBW reader Terry pointed out via e-mail that the new stats are probably for industry trade (how-to, professional pubs, etc.) production versus all book production shown in the earlier report (which does not have "trade" in the title. PBW doesn't need an adding machine, she needs new glasses.)

Observation: that would mean we published 5,125 trade books on fiction (how to write it, perhaps?) in 2004. Seems like a lot more how-to's than I'm seeing in the book store. I wonder how many are sold exclusively online?

More Than Words

E-mail to the business account, posted without permission (you SPAM me, you take your chances):

Writing. Make it more than just words.

With what? Pictographs? Sound buttons? Scratch-n-sniff patches? John, ignore that last idea.

When I was ten I used to illustrate my stories by tracing pictures of kissing couples out of love comics. That was fun, mainly because I never had to draw their noses (noses are hard), just a squiggly seam between their faces.

Or maybe you mean that old Extreme song, More Than Words. Nuno Bettencourt was very hot guy. Now I'm going to hear it in my head for the rest of the day.

Or . . . maybe I had a little too much Red Zinger this afternoon.

Written a book? Need a publisher?

Yes and not at the moment. (singing) What would you say if I took those words away?

Print your book with Authorhouse.

(watching dazed birds collide in mid-air outside office window, stops singing) I think Writershouse might have a problem with that.

Our clients have become bestsellers.

So have theirs and, oddly enough, they didn't ask any of us to take out a mortgage. (goes to window) You dogs quit that howling this instant.

When you have the right tools, you're more likely to get read.

Ingrates. (shuts window) Didn't you guys just send me a penis-size enhancement SPAM? You know, the one that starts off When you have the right sized tool, you're more likely to get...?

Get on radio and TV.

With who, Howard Stern? Wait, now I'm confused.

We have the resources to help you

What about my anxiety over penis size? Not that I have a penis, but still. I can't sing. I don't have the right tools. I'm not on radio or TV. Nuno Bettencourt cut off all that gorgeous hair and wouldn't do an Extreme reunion for VH-1. God, my career, my musical history and my sexuality are completely messed up here.

Click here.

(sniff) No, no, I'll stumble along on my own. Unknown to Nuno. Still stupidly being paid by publishers to get into print. And tool-less.

Click here.

I don't need your mercy links. All I ask is that you remember the love comic moment we shared. Whatever act you put on in front of the others, I know that it was special for you. Much, much more than words.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Don't Feed the Writer

I was fairly disciplined about food through the holidays, and as a result gained only three pounds instead of the usual ten to fifteen. Those three have got to go, though, so the pup and I will be taking some extra walks this month.

My diet is gradually meandering back to vegetarian, so I'm experimenting with salads, looking through old cookbooks and trying to find new ways to liven up steamed and raw veggies, along with hunting down new online recipe resources and trying to balance out my cockeyed food pyramid.

My biggest problem with balancing my diet is the milk/dairy requirement. I'm supposed to have two cups of milk or something dairy per day. I can't stand milk or milk substitutes; they make me throw up and have since I was a kid. All other dairy products including ice cream and cheese just don't appeal to me much anymore (I'm also mildly to moderately lactose intolerant.) I take my calcium supplement every day, like every good middle-aged girl should, but the doc says it's not enough. I have to find two cups of some sort of natural dairy product that I can handle daily. If I just didn't have to smell or taste it, that would work (someone please invent cottage cheese gel caps for me.)

More info:

Marcia Golub has a cute article, The Writer's Diet, or How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind" here.

World builders with primitive cultures might find this article on modern vs. primitive diets interesting.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Thanks to everyone who commented on the Q&A inquiries (your suggestions are also of value to other authors who blog and stop by here.) I will have to let the swelling in my head go down while all this percolates over the weekend.

JAK and Friends

We know blogs are hot. We love the whole idea of doing blogs. We view blogs as a Great Leap Forward in the world of author-reader communication. But we won't kid you, the sad truth is that none of us has the time and energy to keep our own individual blogs going. However, in a burst of absolute desperation, we have banded together in the hope that we can inspire (read: nag and harass) each other into maintaining a group blog. We shall see how it goes. Meanwhile, offered below are some glimpses into the writing life.

Welcome to the time-consuming, energy-siphoning blogosphere, ladies.

(Doug, have you seen my kindness duct tape? I think I left it over at your blog last time I used it.)


I have only one regular feature, the Monday Ten List, here at PBW, but I'm thinking of adding another. Before I do, I have some questions for you regulars, new visitors and lurkers out there:

1. How often do you like to read posts about an author's past, present, or future novel releases on the author's weblog?

2. How often do you like to read posts about books by other writers that the author recommends (or liked, loved, quoted for, etc.) on the author's weblog?

3. Is there any regular feature (like the Monday Ten List) you'd like to see on PBW?

Answer as many as you like in comments. If you're uncomfortable posting under your handle, feel free to comment anonymously. There are no wrong answers.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Little More Richard

Just when a girl thinks Richard Chizmar is out of her novel listings, they pull him back in.

Maybe I should snitch Joe Konrath's idea and pitch the guy. I mean, imagine the great cover letter:

Dear Richard,

As you are already editing one of my novels in name only, perhaps you might consider reviewing my latest horror short story, Chizmarred. It's the tale of a multi-genre writer who no matter what she does cannot escape a nameless, determined force that is slyly altering her work. Will our heroine discover how to destroy the Byline Demon before it drives her mad and erases her identity from publishing altogether?

I would appreciate the chance to send the story along for your review. An acceptance would be wonderful, of course, plus it might also hold off the IRS from auditing you for unreported editing income. We all win!


Pay Nothing Ten

Ten Things for Freeware Lovers

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

1. BookFormat takes any text and formats it to print out in book form (this would be a good one for writers who make their own chapbooks.)

2. BookReader is a comfortable, customizable e-book viewer.

3. Unzip your zip files with CoffeeCup Free Zip Wizard.

4. Need a thesaurus? Try Mobysaurus.

5. Store and retrieve your most frequently-used text phrases with PhaseExpress.

6. Edit and manage your word, e-mail and site lists with SlimList.

7. Learn to read faster with Speed Reading is not magic.

8. StickIt allows you to tack virtual sticky notes anywhere on your desktop.

9. Vizual Einstein ME sounds like a pretty decent outlining/organizing program, that "allows you to visually develop a project document with notes, headings, subheadings, and hyperlinks. Vizual Einstein is also Web-enabled and has full database search functionality. There are many other features, including bibliography and formatted essay report output." The same site offers more research/organizing freeware here.

10. WordWiseLookUp reads a word you click on your screen and opens a window to www.wordwiselookup.com, where you can pick one of the free web glossaries or dictionaries of your choice. With one more click, you get a definition.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Lee Goldberg put up a shot of his office and asked everyone to post photos of their workspace. Jennifer Crusie's office would drive me insane. I'd need a bulldozer to deal with that.

This was my workspace at the old house. The only things that have changed are that the window and the painting are gone, and the wall behind Mrs. Peel and the workstation is ivory white instead of ecru white. Yep, I'm that boring.

The nice thing about my workspace is that it is portable (all I need is a four-foot square space or corner, a computer, a chair, my workstation, the electrical/telephone connections, and I'm good to go) and very, very easy to dust.

New Pal

I wasn't able to fill all of my daughter's Christmas wishes, but I did give her new bunny slippers for Christmas, and a remote-controlled mechanical snake for her birthday. After her birthday she told me she wasn't disappointed, because she really wanted a little Sheltie pup, and was prepared to wait until we could find the right one.

Little did my kid know that I went to see Skye and Jessie's breeder, and met an eight-week-old sable Sheltie pup with blackish-grayish markings.

The newest member of the family:

All together now:  Awwwwww

The kids have named him Buddy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Got copy?

I have great respect for good cover copy. Even if the cover art is less than appealing, one or two well-written paragraphs on the back can induce me to buy your novel. Naturally good copy is a bitch to write well.

Novel copy needs to snag the reader's attention, develop his or her interest in the story, and give compelling reason(s) to invest in the book. I prefer brief, simply worded copy because it appeals to anyone versus the kind of copy you have to acquire a PhD to fathom. The most common problems I see with novel copy are that it's too long, too busy with info dumpage, too hard-sell, or doesn't provide any information about the story.

Take this example: "From [previous title] to [previous title] to [previoustitle], [author] has written one explosive thriller after another featuring [previous title's protagonist]. Now, in an electrifying departure, [author] presents a novel that breaks all the rules and will keep your heart racing and your mind guessing until the very last page."

Title dropping is a waste of copy space, particularly if the new novel has absolutely no connection with previous work, which this one evidently hasn't. What would an electrifying depature from explosive thrillers be, exactly? A dull thriller? A silly one? A chick-lit thriller? I need some details here. Predicting my stupidity and upcoming cardiac episode is a nice psychic trick, but mind telling me what this story is about?

And this little gem: "The master's first novel in 10 years is an erotic tale about a 90-year-old who discovers the transforming power of uncorrupted love."

This tells me that the master is lazy, ninety year olds are erotic? and I can expect uncorrupted love from the book, which btw has the word whores in the title. So did someone drink their lunch before they wrote this?

We are none of us safe from lame copy. My first published novel had a spelling error on the cover copy (I was not allowed to see it until it was too late to correct.) Flats for one of my 2005 novels went out with the wrong name for the heroine (I caught it in time to correct the final edition.) Another of my books starts off with "The circus is in town, and all the citizens are eager to attend the show" and, trust me, just gets worse from there.

Other than composition, I think the most common problems with copy for authors are spelling, name, place, and other errors. I find an error with copy about every three to four novels. If you get a chance to proof yours, read it carefully. On one of my novels, the copy included the hero's name, the heroine's name, and a different hero's name. Turned out that the copy writer had arbitrarily renamed my hero in mid-copy.

There is great copy out there, though. This has to be the funniest and most fetching paranormal romance copy I've read in a while:

IF YOU THINK LIFE IS COMPLICATED, TRY IMMORTALITY. Justine Bennett is cursing her life. She’s the Guardian of the Goblet of Eternal Youth, she hasn’t left the house in ages, and it’s been over 200 years since she’s had sex. Oh, and the Goblet has shape-shifted into an espresso machine named Mona. Not exactly the stuff grand destiny is made of... Derek LaValle is worried. Due to a family curse, he’ll be dead in the space of a week unless he finds the Guardian of the Goblet of Eternal Youth and beheads her. Which wouldn’t be a problem if she weren’t so sexy, smart... and ready to behead him right back.

The novel it belongs to: Date Me Baby, One More Time by Stephanie Rowe*, coming in May 2006 from Warner Forever. And God, I hope they put this on the back cover, because it's hilarious.

Effective copy hooks your interest immediately, and the first line of Stephanie's copy does that in a wry tone without the usual hard-sell push that sounds so fake. Investing the body of the copy with humor (or drama, angst, mystery, etc. as applicable to the story) draws the reader along (I love the goblet shape-shifting into an expresso machine.) The copy delivers a lot of information about the story with just 111 words. Stephanie's also got a beautiful wrap-up with delivering conflict as a punchline -- that's a neat teaser.

As with cover art, most authors are not consulted about copy for their novels, so how yours is written may be beyond your control. Always offer to help out writing and/or proofing copy whenever possible, though, and you just might be able to head off a minor to major copy nightmare.

*(Stephanie & book discovered via me link-hopping over at Vanessa's place)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Gadgety Ten

Ten Things for the Gadget Lovers

1. ClockLink.com offers a bunch of free clocks for your site.

2. Keep up with the latest gadgets over at Engadget.com.

3. Hypergurl.com has a whole page of free flash and graphics gadgets/downloads here.

4. Aside from being a gorgeous blonde with a cartoony name, "America's Digital Goddess," Kim Komando, keeps an archive of some gadgety shareware here for Macs and Windows PCs.

5. PhotoGadget is a free tool dowload for easy resizing of images.

6. ProBoards.com provides free forums and hosting for them.

7. SiteGadgets.com has 23 free gadgets to spruce up your web site.

8. Find more gadget linkage over at Dvshop.ca's Website extras page.

9. Some of your free web site tools and gadget needs might be fulfilled at Widgetchuck.com.

10. YabbForum.com has free open source forum software for site builders looking to host forums on their own servers.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Last Book Read: Microcosmos by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (work); Goes Down Easy by Alison Kent (pleasure)

Last Live Music Show Seen: Bela Fleck, I think

Last CD Purchased: The State (Nickelback)

Last Thing Cooked: ziti with sausage and peppers

Last New Thing Eaten: Jamaican escabeche-style chicken. Spicy but delicious.

Last Thing Bought: clothespins for a birthday party game. In this day and age of dryers, unbelievably hard to find.

Last Gift Received: a pressed flower in a letter from an old friend in France

Last Piece of Clothing Bought or Received as a Gift: fuzzy slipper socks from my daughter

Last Embarrassing Experience: more painful than embarrassing; spilling half a cup of hot tea down the front of my blouse at a restaurant dinner with my parents.

Last Totally New Experience: learning to inject myself with my new RA meds

Last Foreign Country Visited, if any: Mexico -- not in 2005, though

Last New Bird Seen (substitute an enthusiasm of your own if not a birder): a small and beautiful spotted hawk (might have been a Cooper's Hawk) down by the lake

Last Big Achievement: throwing an 11th birthday party for my kid

I'm not tagging anyone, but if you want to post a link to your blog or put your answers in comments, inquiring minds would love to know.

(meme courtesy of Dispatches from Tanganyika.)

Wishing You

Happy 2006 from PBW