Friday, June 30, 2006
So: How many SF writers does it take to change a light bulb?*
To be serious for a split sec, I would like to say how much I appreciate everyone who regularly visits, comments, lurks, and otherwise stops in here. Your comments and links and everything you contribute keep the blog rolling, and make it fun and interesting for me and everyone else. Thanks.
Okay, mushy part over. Floor's open for questions. Ask!
*See Jim Winter's blog comments here for the answer.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Date: 2006-06-13, 4:43PM EDT
Publishers Weekly, the international news magazine of book publishing and bookselling, seeks book reviewers with expertise in the following categories of fiction:
African-American Commercial Fiction
Please send a short e-mail query that states qualifications and any relevant publications. Please paste your resume at the bottom of the message. The e-mail address is:
Do not attach anything. Messages with attachments will be deleted. Thank you.
By the way, please note that this was posted courteously and politely, without any smart-ass remarks from me like African-American what??? or excuse me, I have to go wash my blog out with soap now.
1. Are you such a dumbass that you can't remember what page you were on? Buy my book, you won't be able to put it down!
2. Hey, you slob wannabe unpublished losers: get this novel and see how a real writer does it.
3. I mailed this to you. I now know where you live. Post a five-star glowing review of this amazing book on Amazon.com by midnight tomorrow night, or I'm coming over and kicking your ass.
4. If you don't buy this novel, I'll kill myself. I mean it. I have Tylenol and wine, and I'm not afraid to mix them.
5. Sure, buy my book. I only get forty-two cents out of it, but no big deal. Not like I can afford a decent cup of coffee with that, but like you care. So I can't quit my horrible day job, and get caught up on my alimony payments, not with this big forty-two freaking cents you're handing me here. Not your problem, though. Yep, I'm probably gonna lose my job, and not be able to find another one, and then try to make it as a full-time writer, and eat canned beans, and then starve when they run out, and die alone at my keyboard, and be buried in Potter's Field while my publisher makes millions off memorial reprints. But no, don't you worry about me. You, you've got pages to mark, right?
6. This bookmark has been treated with an invisible, untraceable deadly poison that enters your system through the skin. Want the antidote? It's printed somewhere in my book.
7. Totally Rare, Awesome, Collectible bookmark!!!! Limited edition, numbered, certificate of authenticity on back!!!! Nominated for the Bookmark Hall of Fame!!!! Voted Best Bookmark of 2006 by the National Society of Widget Makers!!!![Decorative imitation gold-plated bookmark wall holder available for separate purchase on my website.]
8. Want to know how hot my book is? Rub yourself with this bookmark. You know where. Come on, baby.
9. You have to help me. I'm trapped in a lousy contract and the only way they'll let me go is if I pay back the advance they gave me. Which I used to pay for my poor dying mother's bunion operation. So please, I'm begging you, please buy this book. Only you can set me free!
10. You're too stupid to understand my novel -- everyone is -- but buy it anyway. It'll impress your girlfriend way more than you do.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Writers are definitely territorial about their work, some to the point of being unable to even collaborate with another writer. Whether it's overinflation of the ego or simply protecting the mojo, it's part of our nature to hang on to what's ours. Unfortunately, we can't take our work with us when we go, or most of us probably would.
I'm luckier than J.K., in that I don't have to worry about pissing off most of the civilized world with what I do with my characters. I seriously doubt any of my work will be profitable for long after I'm gone. Still, after observing just how much publishing and readers respect an author's wishes, I did take the precaution of destroying everything I didn't want published posthumously. You guys will just have to live without ever reading my sixth-grade rewrite of Romeo and Juliet.
That doesn't completely solve my problem. I have a hefty inventory of as-yet-unpublished novels, along with outlines and partials on more than thirty books yet to be written. Throw in 25+ years of hard copies and 10+ years of electronic copies of my notes, ideas, mind maps, novel notebooks, series journals and other secret writer junk that
I really don't want to take it with me, and I certainly do want my estate to benefit those who had better not squander it or I'll come back and haunt their asses big time. But there's a lot that I don't want grubbed through, artfully interpreted, or taken in the wrong direction, and I'm not going to apologize for that. I know I shouldn't worry, but then I think of all the lousy knockoffs and clumsy continuances and ghastly homages I've seen done and that place under my right eye starts twitching.
Do I save it all and hope my daughter picks writing over being a vet? Do I start shredding again? I don't know what the hell to do. Maybe I'll bury it all somewhere, along with my hoard of gold and jewels, and leave a cryptic poem or a map. Make whoever might want it work for it, at least.
What are you guys planning to do or are doing with work you don't want published, swiped or artfully interpreted after you buy the farm?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Diane nodded and rested her cheek against his chest. Or tried to, but Jack removed his hands and took a step back, breaking all physical contact with her. "What's wrong, darling?"
"I'm not sure about the nod," he admitted. "I need backup." He went to the phone and dialed 1-800-CONSENT. "Hi, Crisis Line? Yeah, sorry to call so late, but I'm in trouble. I told her I wanted to make love, asked her if that was okay, and she nodded." He listened for a moment. "Yes, we're married and in our bedroom. Lights are still on. She's not restrained, intoxicated, drugged, on the rebound from a bad previous marriage or screaming for her mother. Neither am I." He listened again. "I saw her head move. Immediately after I asked. Clearly a nod, not a shake."
Diane hugged herself with her arms as she admired the manly way Jack held the phone and listened so attentively to the crisis counselor. Just when she thought she knew her husband, he surprised her with another demonstration of his sensitivity to her feminine delicacy.
He glanced at her and covered the mouthpiece of the receiver with his hand. "Honey, the counselor wants to know if by nodding that you meant a) that you agree to make love with me, or b) that you know that I want to make love to you but are not consenting to any such intimacy, or c) that you want some Haagen-Dazs and I should sleep on the couch?"
Confused by the choices, she thought for a moment. "I meant A."
"A," Jack said into the phone. "Thanks, appreciate it. Yes, I plan to use a condom. Terrific. You, too." He hung up the phone and gave Diane a brilliant smile. "Sorry. I just had to be sure."
Overcome by his tenderness and concern, Diane rushed into his open arms and snuggled against him. "God, Jack, you're so wonderful."
"So are you." He hugged her close. "I'm going to kiss you and unbutton your blouse now. Okay?"
"Mmmmmm." Diane found herself at arm's length again. "What?"
"Hold on." Jack picked up the phone and dialed quickly. "Hi, it's me again, guy with the nodding wife. What's your stand on Mmmmmmm as a response? Does that mean Yes? No? Maybe?" He listened. "No, I'm not rubbing her feet or feeding her chocolate, and there aren't any Russell Crowe movies playing on the TV."
"I meant yes," Diane said, but Jack only gave her a be-quiet wave of his hand.
"Got it. How many times again?" He frowned. "Sure, if that's the way to do it. You're a doll. Thanks again. Bye." He hung up the phone and looked at Diane. "Honey, the crisis counselor says that you need to lay off the body language and making the sexy sounds and give me some definite verbal cues here. I also have to ask you at least ten more times if you want to make love before we get, you know, consensual. In case you change your mind and want to go fold laundry instead. Okay?"
Diane could not believe how lucky she was to have married Jack. He had to be the kindest, gentlest, sweetest, most considerate man on earth. "Of course."
"That's not definite enough," he told her. "I need a yes or no."
"Great. Let's try this again." Jack took her into his arms. "I'm gonna kiss you, and unbutton your blouse. Okay?"
Diane smiled up at him. "Yes."
Jack bent his head to hers, but then jerked it back. "Yes to both, or only one?"
[This community service post is brought to you by 1-800-CONSENT, the non-profit romantic crisis intervention service. 1-800-CONSENT is dedicated to supporting the right of all women to say yes, no, maybe, okay, later, I dunno, now? can we talk about this later for Heaven's sake and Mmmmm while meaning something completely different. Remember our motto, gentlemen: If you're not sure, that's what we're here for.]
Monday, June 26, 2006
1. Learn from a master by reading and trying the exercises from Holly Lisle's Dialogue Workshop.
2. 1ConfusedWriter's blog post, Eight Things I've Learned About Writing Dialogue.
3. If you're interested in dialogue software, the demo for Great Dialogue makes it look like a fairly helpful tutorial-style program (would be nicer if there was a free lite version or a demo download, but the program isn't all that expensive.)
4. Romance Writing Tips Group offers the article "Let’s Talk About Dialogue," He Pontificated.
5. Looking for something wise someone else said for your character to quote? Try Feath MacKirin's Quote Generator.
6. Robert J. Sawyer gabs on gabbing in his article Speaking of Dialogue.
7. One of my friends uses Tinderbox to arrange his scenes and dialogue; the home site offers a free demo download.
8. Writer Trick #4 from my old weblog discusses how to use dialogue as well as action to convey emotion versus -ly adverb tags.
9. Author Peder Hill makes some good points at his Writing Effective Dialogue page.
10. Another interesting article with two excellent examples of as-you-know-Bobisms, Writing Good Dialogue by Greg Garrett.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Are Taking Over Your Novel
1. Anyone in the novel who lies to, cheats on, divorces, or is prettier/skinnier/more popular than your protagonist dies a horrific and pointless death.
2. Best friends of your protagonist are limited to: a) an affectionate and beautiful dog with a funny name, b) an affectionate and quirky cat with a dignified name, or c) a short fat frumpy unemployed gopher friend of the same gender with a stupid nickname whose dialogue is limited to variations of They should never have messed with you, Wow, you look amazing, or Gosh darn it! Why can't I be as smart as you are?
3. Courageously your protagonist struggles to hide and control a terrifying secret or secret superpower that, if unleashed, will kill every living member of the opposite gender on the planet.
4. Every character in the novel wants to have sex with your protagonist, and/or tries to have sex with your protagonist.
4a. Female protagonist: Same as #4, but no one succeeds.
4b. Female protagonist in an LKH knockoff: Same as #4, but everyone succeeds.
5. No character in the story can begin to fathom the depth of your protagonist's inner pain. Ever ever ever.
6. The only comfort your protagonist finds is by going through enormous, painful effort and nearly dying six or seven times in order to save the world. This enables the rest of humanity to escape the shadow of evil and live happy, productive, completely oblivious lives. The ingrates.
7. There are no couples with successful, long-term relationships in the story. Any secondary relationships in the novel are brief and end badly. Any two characters who stand close to each other for longer than five minutes bicker nonstop.
8. You dedicate the book to your ex, who bears a striking resemblance to the slime-oozing, black-hearted antagonist who suffers enormously before dying a violent but well-deserved death in the end. You never actually give your ex a copy of the book.
9. Your parents don't want to read the book, but you throw a tantrum until they do. When they have, you flatly refuse to discuss the story.
10. Your protagonist is an identical twin version of you, minus the trifling little physical imperfections, but wealthier, stronger, and way more respected. Your protagonist also drives the cool car that Dad wouldn't buy you when you were in high school.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Plotting is one of my favorite things to do. I believe in it, I do it all the time, and it works for me. However, if you think plotting is unnecessary (or stupid, or pedestrian, or inartistic, etc. etc.), or if you worship writers who don't do it and resent the ones who do, or the thought of plotting your own novel makes you break out in hives, you should stop reading this post right now.
Yesterday Shiloh posed an interesting dilemma about plotting in comments here; specifically: any suggestions on how to actually get more into the habit of plotting something out?. I responded with some examples of plot-timeline and plot-summaryline methods I've used to teach writing students, but I really didn't answer her to my own satisfaction, and mulled over the question for a couple of hours.
This is what I ended up with: It's not how you plot as much as it's that you get into the habit of thinking about plot from the start of the novel concept. Doing that trains you to think in story versus detail.
Using the same premise I did in my response to Shiloh yesterday, let's say I have a wonderful idea for a character named John. He's a cop. He's also half-demon. But I'm going to forget about plot and concentrate on the details. John's cool. John has possibilities. For me, it's all about John.
(Several days later) Okay, so I've got John all figured out. What he looks like, how he talks, the clothes he wears, what sort of demonic powers he has, the type of ice cream he likes, his shoe size, etc. He's all dressed up and pretty and ready to make a novel with me. Now what do I do with him? What to do. What to do. I know, I could have him meet a nice human girl who doesn't know he's half-demon. Someone wants to kill them. They have to help each other. And then . . . what to do. What to do. (I've got to do something; I just don't want to think about plot yet. I'm too focused on remembering John's favorite ice cream and shoe size.)
Now, take the same wonderful idea for a character named John but let's limit the amount of detail via constructive character-building. Remember those three questions I keep harping on:
Who is John? He's a cop. He's also a half-demon.
What does John want? To be a good cop and live a normal human life.
What's the worst thing I can do to John? Make him use his demon side to be a good cop, and ruin his chances for a normal human life.
Those are all the details I need to know about John right now; it's time to make story.
I build my story around John and the answers to those three questions. John meets a nice human girl named Marcia at a Halloween party. She'd like to find a decent guy, settle down and live happily ever after. Only during the party she gets stuck with a stolen, cursed diamond and the thief who wants it back is sending demons from Hell after her.
Thinking through this scenario versus many tiny details allows me to sketch out the story in my head. It's progressive and the story is growing as I think about it, but my head's not cluttered up with details so I can still see the story.
Let's keep going: John saves Marcia's life and she's initially grateful; he's a decent guy and a cop -- the kind of guy she could fall head over heels for. But: Marcia discovers that John has a strange tattoo on his chest. And superhuman strength. And his eyes glow red in the dark. John is presently freaking out Marcia, but she doesn't have time to have hysterics, because now the thief is trying to kill both of them. (Note here: I'm still plotting, but John is also developing as a character via details from Marcia's POV. I've limited John's strangeness to three big things versus a thousand little things.)
Plotting from this point goes in all sorts of directions, as there are questions I have to answer, i.e.: How does the thief try to kill them? What sort of demons from hell are we talking about here? What's the deal with this cursed diamond? How does Marcia confront John about his oddities? How does John protect Marcia? Does he suspect that she stole the diamond? I need to work out these answers before I plot any further, but as with John's character I'm going to keep the answers simple so that again I don't get bogged down with a lot of detail. Just the facts, ma'am.
When you think in story versus detail, you're putting together a collage of ideas. Too much detail clutters the collage; it breeds and it obscures things and it ends up confusing you. Less is not only more, it's vital to get the novel sketched out in your head. You can always add more detail to the collage later; too much gets in your way and suffocates the story before it gets rolling.
I'm not sure I'm explaining it as well as I can, though, so does this help, or am I just confusing the issue more?
Friday, June 23, 2006
Problem is, how do you successfully make the leap from media magnet celebrity to bestselling author? Aren't there things like actual books involved? What if the only thing you've ever written was your name at the bottom of the check at The Ivy?
Never fear, PBW is here.
Ten Tips for New Celebrity Authors
1. Find out what a book is. A book is like a script or sheet music, only a whole lot longer. There's a picture on the front cover, it's single-spaced and there are some really big words in it. There are no camera directions or musical notes. Your reader will recognize some dialogue, but it's mixed up with paragraphs of things called action and exposition and setting. Books are things that smart but unattractive people read instead of going to the movies or watching television.
2. Learn how to read. You may have to read some of your book out loud at your public appearances. This is called a "reading" and they don't let someone else do it for you. I know it's a pain, but remember what happened to Milli Vanilli -- you don't want to get caught lip-synching at your first "reading" with your own book upside-down in your hands, right?
3. Go to bookstores. This is the place where they're going to be selling your book. It's a store filled with other books. No, yours can't be the only book they sell, but it will be placed in the very front on the nicest shelves where everyone who walks in can see it.
4. Practice signing your book. There are no cocktail napkins or 8 X 10 glossies at booksignings; you have to sign the actual product. Not on the front cover, either; that messes up the pretty picture on it. Open the book and go to the title page. That's the one that has "by (your name)" on it. Sign right under your name.
5. Know your new literary agent. This is the person who gets you those seven-figure book deals. Like Broadway actors, literary agents all hang out in New York. They're very nice people, but they probably won't bail you out of the drunk tank or admit you to detox; remember to call your Hollywood agent for those things.
6. Don't angst over size. In the book industry, it's who writes the best story, not how large and perky the book looks. Just because Hilary Clinton's book has more pages and more big words in it doesn't mean that it's better than yours.
7. Don't get hysterical over your cover art. Cover art is the pretty picture on the front of your book. Armani doesn't do them and you can't fly to Paris and buy something better. It's true that Jackie Collins got that nifty leopardskin on hers, but I bet they'll emboss and glitterize your title font to make yours even prettier.
8. Thank your ghost writer. This is a real writer whom some underling at your publisher pays a tiny amount of money to write your book for you. You don't have to meet, but it's nice to say thank you to this person. Or just have your literary agent take care of it for you.
9. Don't get upset if your book isn't nominated for the National Book Award. Of course Stephen King got one, and he's been in tons of movies, but that was sort of a one-time-only fluke. If it makes you feel better, the only authors who usually win the NBA are poor people who can't make a living writing books. Which is definitely NOT YOU, babe.
10. Write your next book. Sure, publishing is dreary, and your publisher is run by a lot of women with damp hands, severe cellulite problems and horrible wardrobes, but is there any easier way to make seven figures? Exactly. Get that ghost writer moving.
As for the rest of you, any questions for me this week?
Thursday, June 22, 2006
1. All I want to do is go to BEA for the experience.
All I want to do is go to BEA, meet Dan Brown, seduce him while I'm ovulating, have his love child and collect a big honking support check every month.
2. Don't come in here. I'm trying to concentrate.
Don't come in here, I'm writing a sex scene.
3. Excuse me, but I see my agent and I need to talk to him.
Excuse me, but your cologne is making my eyes swell shut and I need to get away from you right now.
4. I hope Ms. New Young Promising Thang does well with her debut novel; it sounds so interesting and she's such a nice girl.
I'm going to burn in hell for all the lies I tell.
5. I have just signed a new one-book contract.
Hello, I need a day job.
6. I'm happy to see that [name of big important trade rag] took the time to review my novel.
I'm happy to see that lousy writers with the IQs of root vegetables are finally getting paying work now.
7. I think your new cover art is very colorful.
Get that freaking thing away from me before it lacerates my corneas.
8. Publishing is a wonderful industry where you can work with terrific people and learn so much about the craft of writing.
I'm so much nicer since I've been taking Prozac, don't you think?
9. Writing is the best job I've ever had.
Working the fry machine at McDonald's is starting to look good.
10. Your constructive comments are truly appreciated.
Oh, blow me.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
What is best, anyway? Go to all the cons, do a hundred signings, buy these widgets, put an ad in this rag, charm this editor, get that reviewer to write you up, have a book video made, buy this sort of web site, get in with the right sort of group blog, do this kind of mailout, podcast an interview, buy your book in bulk at the right stores, hand out ARCs like cigars, generate as much buzz as you can and at the end of the publishing day you may be a huge bestseller, or you may utterly fail, or you may fall somewhere in between those extremes. Probably the third.
There are no guarantees. There are no proven shortcuts. There is no secret handshake.
I think everyone who is comfortable with the idea of self-promotion should try some of it to find out what they're good at and what they like doing. There is a lot you can do for free (blogs, signings) or at very low cost (web site, book giveaways.) As long as you don't get into financial trouble and it doesn't interfere with the work, give something a whirl. That something might work nicely for you.
But if you find that you don't like any of it, or it doesn't work for you, or you can't afford it, and you decide to stay home and simply write, that's okay. You're not a failure, and you're not cheating yourself of success. Publishers will not hate you because you're not out killing yourself to sell. I speak from experience.
So the next time someone is yelling at you that you need to do this or you have to do that, remember that all writers do not sell, promote, publicize or package. We are not all guest speakers, book signers or workshop teachers. We are not all buzz generators or hype-junkies.
The only thing all writers do is write. That's the entire job description. Everything else is optional.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I've never met Shannon, but after a year and a half of reading her blog I feel as if I have. She writes with a balance of wry practicality and wicked humor that keep me coming back to see what's up with her. Somehow she's able to make candid observations about the biz without being malicious -- something we could all work on -- but she's not into bragging, name-dropping or working her titles into every other sentence.
All of the above is why I bullied Shannon into an interview (note how I corner her about her latest release and make her talk about it):
Q: Shannon, I'm bored and I have nothing fun to read, but I really liked the excerpt from your new novel, 72 Hours. Make me spend money by telling me more about it.
Shan: It's fast-paced and action-packed—without a word count requirement, I was able to focus on the high points of emotion and adrenaline without padding. Usually, after all the drafts and edits are over, I don't reread my own books, but I reread this one. And my son was five minutes late to his last day of school.
Q: If DisneyWorld was going to make your new novel into a theme attraction, what kind of ride would it be?
Shan: A cross between a roller-coaster and Duck Hunt (remember that damn snickering dog?). As you scream your way through the coaster ride, you have to shoot the targets that pop out at you. The original prototype called for riders to check their children in at the gate, and you could only get them back by hitting enough targets. Park officials quickly began to suspect parents were purposely aiming high, however, leaving an excess of children in the lost and found. So in order to achieve the right amount of desperation, losers will be duct-taped to the "It's a Small World" boat ride and forced to gnaw their way free in a race against insanity.
Q: On a daily basis you juggle a busy home life, marriage, kids and a writing career. How do you manage all that without a maid, a governess, a personal assistant and lots of valium?
Shan: Several large iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts per day and VIP status at the video store helps. But the real answer is "not as well as I'd like". My house isn't as clean as it should be. I'm not as page-productive as I'd like to be. I'm also "office manager" for my husband's business, and the filing isn't as caught up as I'd like it to be. Fortunately, my kids are pretty self-sufficient and would both rather read or play than spend time with their mother. For me, the key to being able to write at all is that I don't have to have a block of time set aside. I can get up in the middle of a sentence, make lunch and read a story, then come back and finish a paragraph. Then I'll get up, settle an argument and find the DVD remote, then get another sentence and then make more lemonade before finishing a page. If I had to have quiet to keep my train of thought, I'd be toast.
Q: Let's say "72 Hours" will be made into a movie, and you're hired as a casting director. Which stars do you hire to play your hero and heroine, and why?
Shan: I actually have a behind-the-scenes page for each of my books, and in my head, Jennifer Esposito plays Grace Nolan. The photos from the set of "Don't Say a Word" really captured the character for me. I have a picture of Oded Fehr as Alex Rossi, but it's more about the mood/personality of the character. For some reason I can picture real actresses as my heroines, but find it much more difficult with my heroes.
Q: Your weblog is very down-to-earth, in that I never feel as if you're shaking promotional pom poms in my face whenever I read it. Do you deliberately write your blog that way, to get in touch with your readers, or is Shannon the Blogger the same as Shannon the Real Life Person? How has blogging helped you as a writer, and as an author?
ShanShan: Shannon the Blogger is the real Shannon, but only if I know you well. I'm very, very shy in a social situations, so if you saw me at a conference I'd be the hyperventilating person hiding in the corner wishing somebody would talk to me, but hoping they wouldn't because then I'd have to be interesting. But if you're a friend of mine, sitting on my front porch nursing iced coffees—that's Shannon the Blogger. Comfortable Shannon.
I wouldn't say the tone is deliberate. The only deliberate thing about my blog is my avoidance of most things political and religious. As a reader of blogs, it's a huge turn-off, so I don't do it. I also very rarely plan or draft my entries ahead of time—what you get is pretty much whatever's running through my head at the time. Plus, promo is very difficult for me. It goes against my nature to promote myself, and that extends to my books. But my blog allows me to have the information there without pushing it on people, and I can discuss my releases as casually as I would with a friend on my front porch.
Obviously, blogging allows me an avenue for networking and promotion, but the biggest benefit for me is touching base with Shannon the Writer every morning. No matter what else I run around doing during the day, the muse and I have said good morning, and that stays with me, helping to keep the subconscious working even while I'm handling business calls and cutting crusts off of sandwiches.
Q: You've just won a week-long, all-expense-paid writing retreat trip. Where would you go, and which writers would you invite to come with you?
Shan: Besides my dear writer friends who suffer my neuroses and the worst drafts of blurbs ever written, I would invite Stephen King (he inspires me) and JR Ward (to lock her in a room until she put me on her ARC list) and Dave Barry (I'd love to pick his brilliant comedic brain). And we'd go to the Stanley Hotel in Colorado (the inspiration for "The Shining"). What would be more fun than being in a haunted hotel with Stephen King and Dave Barry? (Plus JR would cough up the ARCs more quickly if her furniture keeps rearranging itself.) I'm sure at some point we'd write.
Q: We're going to open a time portal to June 2016, and look at what Future Shannon is up to. Tell us what you'll think we'll see.
Shan: Genetics says my butt will be bigger, but since I'll be standing in a dark corner at any conferences, maybe nobody will notice. My sons will be finishing up high school freshman and college junior years, so they might be cutting the crusts off their own sandwiches. Hopefully, you'll see the same Shannon—writing, putzing around the house, camping with the family. But I'd be lying if said I wasn't hoping you'll see my name on a bestsellers list or two.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
1. Use Angel Writer to create and edit text documents with graphics, tables, etc.
2. Need a decent insult but coming up empty? Generate one or more with AutoInsult.
3. Organize your book, music and movie collections with Robert Jan van der Waals' DataCrow.
4. Elfima can create PDF, HTML, XML, and SVG documents, and allows you to reimport and modify your PDF documents.
5. Need fast access to your frequently-used folders? Give Folder Guide a whirl.
6. Collaborators and co-authors might find Tom Dobrowolski's MoonEdit program helpful.
7. Paint Chips gives you the ability to generate and compare small swatches of color -- useful for web site design as well as colorizing any novel setting (if you'd rather not download, use the online version here.)
8. Print your own envelopes fast and hassle-free with Quick Envelopes.
9. Eric Nitzsche's Scrapbook text database program could become your new story idea repository.
10. Word Morph helps you coin your own strange and abstract words.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Go to a random name generator site, like Kleimo's, and generate a short list of names. At Kleimo, you can pick males, females, or a mix of both, as well as an obscurity factor of 1 (most common) to 99 (completely obscure.) Here's one, a mix with an obscurity factor of 20:
Step 1: Write a line or two of story for each name. This can be a bit of dialogue, physical description, occupation, current life situation, or whatever the name itself suggests to you about the person who owns it. Just write down the first thing you think up:
Earnestine Trower kept her sensible shoes tightly laced, her white starched blouses buttoned up to her chin, and her hair so lacquered that it doubled as a safety helmet.
I suspected Clayton Gamet had been carousing out in our pasture at midnight again. Boy never seemed to sleep. But why had he spray-painted them red hearts on Pa's cows?
"Don't you love it?" Taylor spun around in a froth of pink tulle and black satin. "I bought it at Katy Raggs' boutique. Who'd have thought that dull little mouse could design something like this?"
I knew Mathew Nakasone was carrying at least five weapons and as many fake passports, but did I want to arrest him in the middle of his sister's wedding, or wait until he tried to slip out during the reception?
"Mummy, must we have Nannie Schrum to sit with us? She drinks all of Daddy's gin and then puts on his stripey pants and your hoop earrings and makes us sing pirate songs."
Step 2: Look over your name/story associations and see if you can recognize what made you make that particular association:
Earnestine sounds old-fashioned and unattractive, the combo of which makes me think uptight, rigid, controlled.
Every Clay I've ever known was a carouser and a fool for love.
Raggs to riches as well as rags in the expensive, useless objects that feed the vanity sense of the word; I don't like it when people call my daughter Katy.
Mathew's name triggered a strong image of a lean, dark, felonious multiracial cat burglar.
Nannie Schrum made me think of a bargain basement Mary Poppins and the -rum part of the name kicked in the alcoholic image.
Step 3: Now that you have a fair idea of the assumptions you make based on a name, take the same names, flip the character you created in the first step 360 degrees, and write another line or two of story:
You wouldn't know by looking at Earnestine Trower's bountiful, beautiful rack that she also came with a nice-size pool cue.
My Aunt Ruth claimed Old Man Gamet's Christian name was Clayton, but we kids were convinced that the nasty geezer had been born long before Christ, or maybe had even killed him.
The smallest cardboard box in Bender Alley belonged to Katy Raggs, judging by the three shopping carts of old clothes parked outside it.
"Cardinal Mathew Nakasone," I read from the candidate list. "Japanese-American, born in an internment camp, parents killed there, adopted and raised by Jesuits. Now he might make an interesting Pope."
"Come in, my pretty darlings," the elderly woman crooned as she beckoned from the door of the gingerbread house. "Old Nannie Schrum loves children to visit!"
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Makes me wonder where the rest of us could go to hype ourselves on the unsuspecting shopper.
Romance: Get the girls while they're out shopping for the ingredients for a fabulous candlelight dinner at the grocery store. Set up a signing table right next to the rotisserie chicken bin, or maybe in front of the filet mignon section in the beef department. Men are more direct and practical about romance, so to grab their interest we should probably do a signing next to the prophylactic rack in the back of the local pharmacy.
Science Fiction: Circuit City's gadget counter would work. So would that aisle in the drugstore where they have the For Men only hair dye, that stuff you spray on a bald spot to make it look hairy, or the all-natural herbal alternatives to Viagra.
Mystery: Do all your signings at a gun shop, pawn shop, bail bondsman's office, jury duty waiting room, or in Scotland.
Westerns: Schedule your next signing at any redneck bar in Alabama, but only on the nights when ladies don't drink free and the mechanical bull is out of order (for speedy sales, tell the patrons that the books are actually props from the set of The Dukes of Hazzard, and Daisy Duke handled them.)
Erotica: Will sell like hotcakes on a Sunday at any fundamentalist church. Set up your table to intercept people on their way into services. Post a sign on the table that reads, See What They're Putting In The School Libraries?
Horror: Same as erotica, except change the sign on the table to read The New Series Based on The Book of Revelations and assure everyone who approaches the table that yes, we are living in The End Times.
Vampire Fiction: Bloodmobiles and blood banks. The patrons are already predisposed to like have the blood sucked out of their veins, right?
I'm sorry I missed any questions you had planned to ask yesterday -- got anything you've been hanging on to for today?
Friday, June 16, 2006
Steven Barnes reported that Baen Books publisher and editor Jim Baen has suffered a stroke and is hospitalized in serious condition. Prayers, hope and good thoughts are greatly needed now. Please send yours his way.
For those of you who preordered, ordered online or made the trip to the store this past week, my novel Dark Need is now a USA Today bestseller, #24 on Barnes & Nobles' mass market fiction list and #4 on their mass market romance list. Thank you for making that possible.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Two player game: each player goes to their or another author's book sale page at Amazon.com with at least 26 or more reviews. The reviews are the cards. Print them out, cut them up into slips, shuffle them, and place them face-down on your desk. The other player does the same with his reviews. Draw five reviews and start to play.
To determine the suit of each card:
1 star = Clubs
2 stars = Spades
3 stars = Diamonds
4 stars = Hearts
5 stars (or if you want a fast game, any review by Harriet Klausner) = Wildcard
To determine the rank number of your card, count the number of misspelled words in the review. If there are no misspelled words, then the review is a royal, as follows:
Jack = review 1 paragraph in length, or with no paragraph breaks
Queen = 2 paragraphs in length
King = 3 paragraphs in length
Ace = 4 or more paragraphs in length
The hands are the same as classic poker:
Straight flush (five cards of the same suit and sequence, Ace low or high)
Fours (four cards of the same rank, as J-J-J-J-2)
Full house (three of one rank and two of another, as K-K-K-6-6)
Flush (five cards of the same suit but not in sequence, as Q-10-7-5-2)
Straight (five cards in sequence but not of the same suit, as 9-8-7-6-5)
Three of a kind (three of the same rank plus two of two different ranks, as 4-4-4-3-9)
Two pair (as K-K-5-5-10)
One pair (as 2-2-J-4-9)
We play via e-mail, but you can do this in person, and with a larger group of players, too (in which case, put all the cards together to make a full deck as in traditional poker.) To make it fun (and keep it fair), you should not read the reviews or figure out in advance the rank/suit of your cards. As for stakes, I suggest page wagers (number of manuscript or galley pages to be proof-read by the loser.)
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
it is the age of Dispatches from Tanganyika, it is the age of the Squawk Radio,
it is the epoch of the National Book Award, it is the epoch of the RITA Award,
it is the season of the artfully written press release, it is the season of 404 Page Not Found,
it is the spring of Jamie, it is the winter of Ann,
we writers have everything before us, we have nothing before us,
we are all going direct to the Bestseller List, we are all going direct to the Remainder Table--
in short, the present period is so far like the past period, that some of its noisiest authorities insist on the numbers being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison to last year's numbers only, so that the chains might order to the net...
(skipping all the boring parts)
...There is a guard of righteous sundry (but not disgruntled) critics riding abreast of the Lifestyle Sunday supplement book review page, and faces are often turned up to some of their blogs, and they are asked some question. It would seem to be always the same question, for, it is always followed by a press of people to feast with relish upon clever disgust for the author's oft-slammed book.
The critics abreast of that release, frequently link to the author of it. The leading curiosity is, to know all the dirt on that damned idiot who wrote the awful piece of crap; yet the author blogs without mention of it, pausing to converse with a mere unpubbed writer who comments on his blog regularly about the biz. He has no curiosity or care for those eager to savage his book or bite off his head, but always speaks to the girl. Here and there in the endless electronic web of the internet cries of cowardice are raised against him. If they move him at all, it is only to a quiet smile. He cannot easily comment, his hands being tied by his publisher, who is busy promoting the possibly faux past of a fourteen-year-old multiracial trisexual SlimFast and Lunesta addict who just reported on Oprah that she is sure she is pregnant by her sixty-year-old lover who has herpes, you know, the bad kind.
At the front of the very unhappy spectatorship stands the ARC seller. He did not review the author's book -- he never reads ARCs -- but doctored his earnest hatchet job from one written earlier by another while he went off to auction that which is not for resale. He looks for the author in comments to one hatchet-job: not there. He looks at another: not there. He already asks himself, "Has he gone and deleted his blog?" when his conscience clears, as he looks at the author's blog and finds said fool there exchanging ideas with the mere girl.
"Yo, Moneybags," IMs the ARC seller's friend, Anon. Anon is an avid blogger who maintains three anonymous blogs, writing as a literary agent, a novel editor, and a paperback-reading housewife named Norma who daily wrestles with shingles, chronic fatigue syndrome, and romance novels written by women named Emma, the latter of which s/he believes are all penned by one fat, balding ghostwriter in Topeka named Chuck. "Where is Everywriter?"
"On his blog, talking to some unpubbed wannabe."
Anon types in the unhappy face, and "Are they talking about creative, artistic nonsense?"
Anon rushes over to the author's blog and immediately posts this comment: "Down, Everywriter! To the hatchet all who publish! Down, Everywriter! I say your book stinks! My friend, the ARC seller, says it stinks! That skank girlfriend of yours probably stinks, too!"
"Hush, hush!" the ARC seller IMs him, timidly.
"And why should I, citizen?" Anon wants to know. "I'm entitled to my opinion. So are you."
"He doesn't know I got $400 for his last book on eBay. Let him be at peace."
Anon takes one of his favorite things, offense. "Shut up or I'll write a hatchet job on you, you mercenary little bastard."
(skipping more boring parts)
They said of the author, about the night he quit publishing, that his was the peacefullest blog entry ever beheld. Many later belligerently added that he sounded a little sublime and prophetic in his post out of desperate self-defense, nothing more, because the weakling couldn't take any criticism, ya know, and what a pity it was that he could not write books as well as that blog entry, because his last book REALLY SUCKED (but noted that, if offered a muchly-deserved book deal, they personally and surely would not.)
Everywriter quietly exited this life of publishing without a word or a bit of fanfare, for while everyone was having fun at his expense he had invested his advance in biotech stock and earned enough money to pay off all his debts and put aside a nice little nest egg for retirement. He then secured a pleasant day job that had absolutely nothing to do with publishing, and lived under his real name, which no one knew. He met, fell in love with and eventually married the unpubbed writer, and together with her lived in unharassed bliss, during which they wrote only for each other and then burned the manuscripts, just to be safe.
(Available for purchase soon on Amazon.com: the Everywriter Goes Postal at BEA alternative ending!)
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The magic hat went back in action today for the third wish -- have I mentioned how much fun and torture being a Publishing Fairy is? -- and one artwish is granted to:
Little Lamb Lost (posting as Anonymous, inspired by Gustav Klimt's The Kiss)
Little Lamb (now, how often are you going to get to call a giveaway winner that?), please e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com and let me know your full name, an e-mail address to which I can send your Art.com gift certificate, and your ship-to address for the quilt and copy of Dark Need.
The Publishing Fairy has once more taken back his powers, but there's still some magical things going on out there. Stop by our pal Jean's blog before midnight CST on Wednesday, June 14th, 2006, because she's giving away to one of her readers a bookpack of Talyn by Holly Lisle, Muse by Lazette Gifford, your choice of one of Tamara Siler Jones' books, and Dark Need by Yours Truly.
Thanks to everyone for sharing your wishes with us.
Monday, June 12, 2006
The musicwishes you all made have greatly added to my albums-to-buy list. I had no idea you all were into such a diverse spectrum of music, either. Very cool to know. Anyway, we whipped out the magic hat again last night, and one musicwish is granted to:
Stephanie, please e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com, confirm the music you'd like to have, and where I can ship it, the Evans Blue CD, and a signed copy of Dark Need. My thanks to everyone who joined in, and remember, there's still one wish to go, so if you haven't yet, post an artwish here.
1. Make art with a mind of its own by trying Leonardo Solaas's Autopintador (Mr. Solaas is the genius behind my all-time favorite online random art generator, Dreamlines.)
2. Wjbgrafx has some very cool Java cyber toys and eye candy applets, including DrawBots.
3. Create your own personal art gallery over at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco My Gallery page.
4. Be an online Jackson Pollock (right click to change paint colors.)
5. Make your own music over at BBC's Making Tracks page.
6. Be Pablo with a longtime favorite online toy of mine, Mr. PicassoHead.
7. Make Your Own Art over at the Museum of Modern Art's site (for kids, but then, we've never grown up, right?)
8. Confuse the Matrix with Don Relyea's psychedelic Neo Futurist Art Generator.
9. The Online Etch-a-Sketch is just like the real thing (use your arrow keys to draw.)
10. Get mathematical with the Wacker Art Fractal Generator.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
It also looks very cool hanging in the livingroom.
I'm not a traditional artist by any means, but I can appreciate how much art focuses the inner dreamer. Before I began making quilts, and saving old ones, I felt very little personal connection to the past. Now I've become part of a long line of American women who expressed themselves while keeping their art functional and practical. It's the perfect art for me.
Wish #3: In comments to this post*, tell us about any art or artist who has particularly inspired you by midnight EST on Monday, June 12, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send you a $50.00 gift certificate to Art.com so you can go art shopping. I'll also send you a brand-new lap quilt made by me, and a signed copy of my novel Dark Need, that other thing I do when I'm not quilting. Wish open to everyone on the planet, even if you've had wishes fulfilled here at PBW before.
[*Note: Same problems with Blogger, so if you try to post a comment and find you can't, e-mail your artwish to me at LynnViehl@aol.com; same time cut-off as above.]
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Music is also a central source of writing inspiration for me. Every novel I write has a theme song(s) or album; often I'll rip and burn a collection of songs on CD so I can listen to it while I'm outlining or plotting. I regularly annoy close friends by giving them albums of music that remind me of their books, too.
Time for wish #2: there is a music album out there that you'd like to hear, own, or get again because you accidentally dropped your only copy on the side of a country road and some busybody snatched it up before you could drive back and recover it. Only you don't have the time, means or money to get it at the moment.
Here's your shot: In comments to this post*, list the name of the album and the performer or band you wish for (it can be any music album at all, just assure that it's available for purchase and the cover price is less than $50.00 U.S. Also, if you'd rather not have a CD, please specify format) by midnight EST on Sunday, June 11, 2006.
I'll draw one name from everyone who participates, buy the album, and ship it to you, no charge. I'll also throw in a brand-new, non-bootleg copy of Evans Blue's debut album (which I talked about finding here) and a signed copy of my novel Dark Need. Wish open to everyone on the planet, even if you've had wishes fulfilled here at PBW before.
[*Note: Same problems with Blogger, so if you try to post a comment and find you can't, e-mail your musicwish to me at LynnViehl@aol.com; same time cut-off as above.]
You're all terrific BookWishers. My only wish is that I could really be the Publishing Fairy and cover them all. I'd have to pass on the spangled fairywear, though. Sequins make me itch.
Anyway, we put everyone in the magic hat last night, and one bookwish is granted to:
Debbi, please e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com, confirm the book you'd like to have, and where I can ship it and a signed copy of Dark Need. My thanks to everyone who joined in (and hang around for a minute and refresh the page, I'm about to post the details on Wish #2, unless Blogger goes kaput again.)
Friday, June 09, 2006
I will be Q&Aing elsewhere on the internet, however. This weekend you can find me and some much more interesting writers over at Romance Divas for a three-day Q&A on Paranormal World Building. Here are the details:
World Building Q & A With Some of the Hottest Paranormal Authors in the Genre
June 9th, 10th & 11th at Romance Divas
Want to know how to create realistic vampire, alien, werewolf worlds? All you have to do is ask. Romance Divas is hosting a 3 day Q & A with some of the hottest names in the Paranormal Genre. It will take place at the Romance Diva Forum. All are welcome. To get access to the forum you will need to register (thanks to Shawn Monique for the official info.)
With that lineup, it should be interesting. Stop in if you get a chance.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
No, I'm not going to stop writing, go to hell, or drop dead. Quit wishing that, will you?
Wish #1: There is a book out there that you want to read. One that you haven't gotten around to ordering, or that's not in the budget this month, or that you've put off because you had to choose between it and something else and something else won. You just don't have it yet, and you'd like to.
Here's your chance to get it for free. In comments to this post*, list the title and author of that book you wish for (it can be any book at all, just assure that it's in print and the cover price is less than $50.00 U.S.) by midnight EST on Friday, June 9, 2006. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates, buy the book, and ship it to you, no charge. I'll also throw in a signed copy of my novel Dark Need, so don't wish for that. Wish open to everyone on the planet, even if you've had wishes fulfilled here at PBW before.
Also, stayed tuned for opportunities to make Wish #2 and #3, which will be for other cool things.
[*Note: Blogger has gone bonkers so often this week I'm going to post this a little early. Also, I haven't been able to get in to respond to comments a few times this week, so this could cause a problem, too. If you try to post a comment and find you can't, e-mail your bookwish to me at LynnViehl@aol.com; same time cut-off as above.]
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
As I'm a nosy person, and there was no one around to yell at me, I took the CD home, cleaned it up, scanned it and played it. I didn't recognize the band or any of the songs, but they were really good. A subsequent lyrics search helped me tag the songs, and it turned out that the CD is an out-of-sequence bootleg of Evans Blue's debut album.
Now I'm curious as to how this CD ended up on the side of the road. It had to be an accidental toss; the music is too good to throw away. The CD is one of those wild-patterned Maxells that looks as if a teenager might have made it. Yes, I know that's poor evidence, but we older music lovers tend to buy in bulk, and these babies are not cheap. Even the order of the songs is interesting -- he* obviously wanted to hear the song Cold (But I'm Still Here) first, and I do that myself when I make car copies of my albums.
I thought, briefly, about putting an ad in the paper. "FOUND: Excellent music on the side of two-lane country road. Case useless but CD rescued. Will return to owner if you tell me how/why it got there. Call and ID track list to claim."
What's the most interesting thing you've found in a strange place?
*I'm also assuming the owner was male; Evans Blue is definitely not a chick band.
Why does a lucky height mend? A pronounced wash proceeds after the alien girlfriend. The freedom forwards Publishing throughout a sitting cupboard. Writers appall Publishing. Writers expect Publishing. A declared discharge parades in another legend.
Wow. Amazingly accurate. I once knew lots of appalling authors who were short, had poor personal hygiene, and aspired to have sex in closets with people in alien costumes. But then I resigned from SFWA and RWA . . .
(Generate your own mildly freaky random paragraph with two nouns of your choosing here [link snatched from The Generator Blog].)
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
[There should have been dogs. Or a dog.]
It's this thing I found that set me off on the whole dog issue. Did you know that for $34.95 (plus shipping and handling) that you, your honey, your friends and even your beloved pet can star as characters in your very own 175-page, paperback, passion- and intrigue-packed vampire romance novel?
[I didn't. I'm doomed. $34.95 for a 50K book and the reader has to co-author it? Damn. I'm in the wrong end of the business.]
Other than the lame stock title (Vampire Kisses) it does sound like a great deal. I mean, how often do you get the chance to buy a book with your dog in the story?
[I don't know why I didn't think of a dog. Dean Koontz puts dogs in everything. So does Stephen King, only . . . euuuw. You know, I have a great dog. A beautiful dog. Smart. Loyal. And he's had all his rabies shots.]
Statistics tell us that in the U.S., an average of about 50 new books hit the shelves every day. 48 of them are probably vampire fiction, so Dark Need has quite a bit of competition.
[It would have freaked out Harry if I put Buddy in the book. But would Harry have bought the book? Probably not, he reads SF. God only knows how many of the other 49 books hitting the shelf today have dogs as well as vampires in them. This could be the next big thing. Vampires with Dogs fiction.]
By next week, another 300 new novels will land beside my latest. And the new novels will keep coming -- my book will then have to compete with 3,500 of them by the end of the summer and 88,000 by the end of the year. It's a bit like tossing a seashell onto Sanibel Island beach. Blink and it's gone.
[Not if there had been a dog in it, stupid.]
Don't be discouraged. I'm not. People pick up interesting shells all the time. If they like them, they come back for more. They display them, and tell their friends where they found them. Very often they treasure them.
[Like stories with dogs, you twit!]
Monday, June 05, 2006
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
1. AM-Notebook takes data for notes and spreadsheets.
2. The University of Victoria's Learning Skills Program page has a good section on organizing notes and mapping out concepts.
3. Store, organize and protect your notes daily with Memoirs2000 Lite.
4. Have only brief notes and short lists to manage? Try out Gregory Braun's Notebook 2000.
5. Test drive Notesbrowser's freeware version.
6. Printable Notebook organizes your info to print it out in notebook format.
7. Keep your to-do notes and lists organized and readily accessible with Quick2Do.
8. Take notes, encrypt them and store links without limits by using Shirusupad.
9. Snip-its offers a demo download so you can see if it can replace your sticky notes.
10. SQN.com has made SquareNotes Version 3.5 available as a free download.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
I went into the office to scan it for the weblog and then and only then it hit me. The art is for a WFH book. I can't show it to anyone. I can't tell anyone it's my work, or even that it's been released. My reaction: four letter word, four letter word, four letter word.
I consoled myself with a trip to BAM for some ref books. As I passed the remainder table, I saw one of my favorite author's novels stacked on it. Instant outrage and depression. Then I saw a bigger stack of trash by an author I can't stand and it didn't make me feel better. I hate the remainder table. The remainder table should be a four letter word.
Soothed my psyche wounds at the bargain supply bin, out of which I unearthed a nifty sketch diary and some swanky pens for my kid. Ignored the depressing amount of scratched/dented
Drove home and gave the pup a bath. Actually, the pup gave me a bath and I dripped some soapy water on him. We both ended up clean and shiny. Remembered to give him the monthly heartworm pill on time; was one week late on the flea-and-tick treatment. I covered his ears before I uttered the applicable four letter word for my stupidity in forgetting.
I updated calendars after that. I have a dog calendar, a cat calendar, a kid calendar, a my-guy calendar, a medications calendar, a therapy calendar, a doctor appt. calendar, a writing calendar, a production calendar, a bill calendar, an investment calendar, an online calendar, a low-fat alternative meal calendar and a monthly "Appreciate Your Life" calendar. No, I can't merge them. Gravitational fields are involved now.
I need calendars. There isn't a day in the month that doesn't involve me giving someone a shot, a pill, a treatment, a synopsis, a partial, a co-pay, a threat to kick them in the cajones if they bend my knee like that again, a phone call, copy approval, or something tasty that doesn't clog their arteries. Calendars are why I won't wear a watch. I couldn't have just one; I'd have twenty of them, all set to different times or something.
I do appreciate my life, though, as frustrating as it can be. Because life is a four letter word, too.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
I still firmly believe that nothing beats success, or more precisely, nothing makes a publisher squirm more than to know a writer they kicked out the door went on to make a whole pile of money for another house. Although my bestselling author/handcuffed editor/unpublished manuscript barbecue fantasy does run a close second.
What's your idea of the ultimate writer's revenge?
Friday, June 02, 2006
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." --Dorothy Parker
"If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you." --Henry Rollins
In lieu of captured nights, cures for curiosity and interesting male servants, any questions this week?
Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.
Too true. What we really need, though, is a SpeedPass.
Aside from self-esteem, motivation and time issues, stress is one of the things that regularly gets between a writer and the work. Stress is created by whatever bugs the hell out of us: the day job, finances, personal relationships, or the various demands of being a human being in our particular region, country, or moment in history.
Stress from external sources burrows into us like termites and starts eating away at that elusive stuff that makes us creative. Some writers like this and use it as motivation -- stress over deadlines has probably finished more books than we could ever count -- but most of us don't like it and don't thrive on its pressures.
Stress from internal sources is worse, because we cook it up on our own and feed ourselves to it. It's tied directly to our ambitions and sense of self-worth, so if those things are taking a hit we'll add to the misery by piling on a lot of feelings of failure and doubt.
Wherever the stress comes from, it generally doesn't serve us as writers. That's why it's so important to remove as much stress from your writing time as possible. I sometimes imagine my writing area to be like the Free Parking space on a Monopoly board. Great place to land, and I'm going to make money by being there. Whenever I'm working in that space, I'm a writer and nothing else.
Things that relax you can help ease stress before you start writing. This means engaging your senses in something that triggers a relaxation response in you. Chamomile tea is one of my favorite soothing beverages. The smell of eucalyptus works on me, too, and is often used in stress-relieving aromatherapy. Listening to tranquil music is very relaxing; holding and petting a cat or dog has been shown to actually lower blood pressure. If I'm somewhere and can't enjoy any of those things, I can pop a peppermint Lifesaver in my mouth (mint is also a natural soother.)
There are no SpeedPasses on the crazy roads of life, but we don't have to drive on them and try to write at the same time. Giving yourself permission to leave stress outside your writing space may be tough at first, but it's a good habit to acquire.
Prevention.com's article A Step Ahead of Stress
MindTools.com's Stress Management page
David Leonhardt's article Three Stress Relief Techniques
Thursday, June 01, 2006
The most common problems with posting excerpts are length, subject matter, and appeal factor. A long excerpt runs the risk of boring the casual visitor; a short one can be too brief to capture their attention. 500 to 1000 words seems to be a good length for a blog post; if you want to put up something longer you might consider posting it on a website page and linking to it (Alison Kent does a great page for each of her novels; see the one for Kiss and Make Up here.)
It's best to avoid story spoilers, but putting up something too enigmatic or dependent on the rest of the novel to be understood creates confusion. Add to this the need to select something with enough appeal to make the visitor curious about reading the rest of the novel, and you have a ready-made tension headache.
Some things I do:
1. Pick a scene with no more than two or three characters in it; preferably two. Suddenly dumping a scene with big cast on a casual reader requires them to try to sort out who's who; often something they can't do without the rest of the novel.
2. Look for something that shows interesting interaction between the characters. By interesting I don't mean a rehash-the-plot conversation in a room decorated by one of their mothers. Seek out moments that showcase your characters.
3. End with a bang, not a whimper. If you can work the snippet so that it ends on a cliffhanger, all the better. Remember, a tease arouses; it's not supposed to satisfy.
Now as I conveniently have a new release hitting the shelves this week, and would like to lure some of you into buying it by dangling a teaser, here's a working example:
An Excerpt from Dark Need by Lynn Viehl
Lucan checked the room's security monitor and saw Cyprien's sygkenis on the wide, comfortable bed before he released Kyn-proof bolts on the outer door. Inside her lavender scent perfumed the cool air, drawing him into the master bedroom to look down at her unconscious form. She wore a short negligee and a diaphanous robe in a shade of peach that complimented the sun-kissed golden bloom of her flawless skin. Rafael had taken the additional precaution of chaining her to the bed with copper, he noted, but had protected her wrists and ankles by lining the manacles with flannel padding.
"Sleeping Beauty, indeed," he murmured, using his finger to dislodge a curl of hair that had tangled with her long dark brown eyelashes. Fangs flashed, and Lucan barely had time to pull his hand away before Alexandra sank her sharp teeth into them. "Good morning, Doctor. I trust you slept well?"
"Bite my ass."
"I should be happy to." Ah, she was beautiful when she snarled. "Roll over."
Chains rattled as she strained against her bonds. "Let me out of these fucking things."
"I would like nothing better," he assured her, "but I must insist you stay as you are for the time being."
She stopped jerking on the chains and glared up at him. "This has got to be the stupidest thing you've ever done."
He thought of Samantha, naked and willing under his bare hands, and his smile faded. "Not quite."
"Cyprien will be back by now. Your walking light bulb didn't kill everyone. Phillipe saw him, and will tell Michael what happened, and he'll come for me. He'll bring the whole freaking vampire army with him, too. But that's what you want." She peered at him. "Can't you guys just kiss and make up?"
"Your master has taken everything from me that I ever wanted." He sat down on the side of the bed, keeping just out of her reach. "Now he will experience firsthand what that feels like."
"Another vampire pissing contest. Marvelous." She looked at the copper bars on the window. "So he comes here and you two battle it out until someone dies. Is that the plan?"
He ran his glove along her bare leg. She had very shapely legs, and arched, dainty feet. "You could choose to stay with me of your own volition."
"Oh, yeah, I'm going to do that." She laughed.
"Sacrificing yourself for the one you love is such a noble thing." He traced the spaces between her toes, admiring her pink-polished toenails. "I wouldn't kill him if you became my woman."
She jerked her leg away as far as the chains would allow. "Now? You're dreaming."
"I'm not the monster you think I am, Alexandra." Here was a solution to both of his problems. He could rid himself of his inconvenient longing for Samantha and strike a crippling blow to Cyprien at the same time. "Think of all the lives you would save."
"I'd rather screw a snake, thanks." She bit her lip as he climbed over her, and settled himself on top of her. "Lucan, wait. Wait."
"I have, my dear. Two hundred years and better."
Alexandra was smaller than Samantha, more delicately made. Her scent was softer, rather sweeter than he had expected, but it suited her. He could see why Cyprien had taken so many risks to take and keep her. She was the kind of woman a man would gladly gamble his life to have and to hold. In fact, he was counting on it.
"Don't do this," she said, turning her face away from his when he came closer. "You can't ever take it back."
"I should hope not." He pinned her manacled wrists on either side of her head, and bent to put his mouth to her throat.
This is one of my favorite moments from the novel, so I'll admit that influenced my decision to post it. I think for a 634 word partial scene that it illustrates both characters and their motivations well enough to interest someone who has never read the series and doesn't know Lucan or Alexandra from Adam. What's said is tied into both the main conflict and an important subplot, but not enough to spoil them. As interaction between characters goes, it's sexy, funny and scary. The ending doesn't tell you what happens next, but it makes you wonder about it.
Get creative with how you present your excerpt, too. Discuss why you wrote it, or something involved in the process of writing it, or get into what inspired it. Robert Gregory Browne and Holly Lisle are two authors who podcast regularly from their blogs; if you've got a good voice why not read your teaser for your visitors?
What sort of teasers do you all prefer to write, or read?