Thursday, August 31, 2006

Off to Write

On the up side of things, Ernesto has mostly moved on, a steady drizzle trailing behind. There were no outtages or damage here that I know of except some fender benders due to wet road conditions. It really felt more like a storm drill than a real storm. May those of you in Ernesto's path to the north have the same great luck.

On the down side, storm prep and sundry put a ding in my schedule that it really didn't need, and then an editor dropped an emergency job in my lap. I have to unplug for a couple of days to catch up. There will not be a Friday 20 this week, but I'll be back next week to update the blog for September, talk shop and give away some new releases.

You all have a great Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Say Hello

Tropical Storm Ernesto is just now rolling into town.

Sky from my house

So far, a little bit of wind and a tiny sprinkling of rain is all we've had here. More rain is on the way, but my friends down south say they've had worse thunderstorms. About our biggest worry today will be storm-generated tornadoes, but as Jim Cantore put it, this one is a dud.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I'm going to post this now because it seems like Tropical Storm Ernesto is headed our way. Out here in the country we usually lose power for a day or more after storms like this, so if I'm not around for a time don't worry. We've got plenty of supplies and are in a good location.

An update on my e-book challenge: I've put together a rough outline for Midnight Blues, my Darkyn novella and have assembled a character list. It's set in South Florida, and Rafael Suarez from Dark Need will be one of the protagonists. Lucan and Samantha will be the secondary characters (this will be a continuation of their story, too, for everyone who wrote about wanting more of them.)

Folks in Florida and the immediate vicinity of Ernesto's track (storm winds currently extend out 85 miles from the storm's center), now is the time to get out your hurricane plan and make sure you have enough water, nonperishable foods, batteries and gas tank filled as soon as possible, and stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center or your favorite news source for updates on the situation.

Now We're Cooking

My daughter and I have been talking about someday writing a cookbook together. I've already published some of my own recipes in my GCI books, and I have a lot of things I've invented or recombined that people might like. My kid is like Improv Chef in the Kitchen, so she would spice things up. I just have to hide the hot sauce, salsa and cayenne pepper; she inherited her uncle's asbestos-lined palate.

I'm also currently in month five of The Bark and Twigs Heart-Healthy Diet From Hell. I'd like to put together a reasonable cookbook for other people on this diet, too, because it drives you crazy trying to stick to it and not eat like a myopic squirrel. Honestly, if I see one more whole-grain English muffin, I'm going to develop a facial twitch.

I have tried all the heart-healthy products and know which ones are decent and which taste like cardboard (i.e. whole grain angel hair pasta is okay if you use a thick marinara sauce to drown out the damn "nutty" flavor, but whole grain lasagna noodles are made from strips of cardboard.) And oh, dear Lord, the Smart Balance Products. Don't get me started. How does that company manage to turn something as simple as peanut butter into crunchy fish oil-flavored spackling paste? And their fish oil-flavored margarine substitute? Doesn't melt. Ever. I swear to God, not even in a cast iron skillet on high heat. It just sits there, spreads a tiny bit on the bottom, and then leers at you like Jabba the Hut.

Anyway, thinking about titles for my future cookbooks got me to wondering about other writers, and what we'd see in the cooking section . . .

If Cookbooks Were Written by Fiction Novelists

1. Cool Granola: Make-it-Yourself Breakfast Cereals by Stuart MacBride

2. Hot Chile in the City: Sexy Tex-Mex Recipes by Alison Kent

3. If You Like That Nose Job, Don't Insult My Thai: Gourmet Cuisine by Dr. Douglas Hoffman

4. Kiss Hershey's Goodbye: Handmade Chocolates by Robert Gregory Browne (introduction by Bill Peschel)

5. Love Portions: Romantic Dinners for Two by Monica Jackson

6. Midnight Rapini: Salads and Other Vegan Delights by Holly Lisle

7. Pop Goes the Bundt Cake: Cooking with Coca-Cola by Rosina Lippi

8. Rocky Road Rules: Frozen Desserts by James R. Winter

9. The Next Person Who Offers Me Cheesecake Gets Slapped: Living on a Low-fat, Low-cholesterol Diet by PBW

10. You Cook When I Call You: Last-minute Meals for Unexpected Guests by Douglas Clegg

If you (or your favorite author) were going to write a cookbook, what would be the title, and what sort of cuisine or food would it feature?

Monday, August 28, 2006

More Than Ten

Ten Things That Pull Extra Duty

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

1. Best Privacy Pack freeware offers a password and sensitive info cache plus a folder hider.

2. Flipbook Printer uses sheets of blank business cards to print out stills which can then be bound and made into flipbooks; could also be used to make business card-sized versions of cover art for magnets, double-sided business cards, etc.

3. Pindersoft's Floating Clock freeware includes a calendar (requires .Net Framework 1.1.)

4. Identify the color for any pixel on the screen and paste that color onto the clipboard with Instant Eyedropper.

5. Need an alternative start menu that starts up your apps, open files and folders and, web links, sends e-mail and more? Give LaunchOnFly freeware a whirl.

6. Serious music lovers can catalog, arrange, label, burn and synch music in a variety of ways and formats with the free trial of MediaMonkey.

7. Nestersoft's TimeLeft freeware gives you a virtual stopwatch, reminder scheduler, sticky notes, trayclock and more.

8. Looking for a Screen Capture, Sticky Notes, Color Picker, Magnifier and Virtual Ruler? Get them all-in-one with VMN Toolbox.

9. Weather Watcher will provide weather conditions around the globe as well as keep you updated on current conditions in your corner.

10. In search of a multi-format, multi-lang graphics browser, viewer, and converter? Test drive XnView freeware.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

World Check

On Friday Tamith asked some interesting questions about world building:

I don't know if this has been asked before, but how much world-building do you recommend someone do before they get into a novel? I'm fleshing out a YA Fantasy, and I'm not sure if I should have all the details in place beforehand, or make things up on an as-need basis. Or should just being aware of character motivation be my main concern? What do you usually do?

What I usually do is fast but thorough. My writing schedule doesn't allow me the luxury of spending years in the construction phase of world building, so I build rapidly. I also like to know more about my world than the reader ever will, so I always build more than I spell out in the novel.

I make the time constraint and my need-to-know work together by taking only what I need from essential research sources and convert it into a cohesive, precise outline versus detail mapping or writing out tons and tons of research notes from nine hundred different sources that I then have to reread and condense in my head before I write. Think fast, bold strokes (and this approach will probably not work for all world builders, especially indecisive or organic writers.)

Here's my checklist for any world building, regardless of genre:

I. Define your world

a. Name the present age or time period
b. Review or invent the history for your world
b. Review or create the major sentient players, their origins, history, cultures and language
c. Work out the major players' habitats and socio-political status
d. Review or invent this time period's major conflict(s), encumbrance(s) and achievement(s) as they relate to your major players
e. Review or invent a biosphere and name your major flora, fauna and climate conditions as they relate to your major players
f. Define what technologies (real or magic) are available and who uses them
g. Chart the timeline of the your story plot in how it affects this world

II. Define your protagonist

a. Create a personal profile: name, description, personal history, relatives, current life situation, strengths, flaws, etc.
b. Outline how your protagonist relates to his world as relevant to the story
c. Outline how your protagonist relates to the other characters in the story
d. Outline how your protagonist reacts and responds to the conflict in the story

III. Define your antagonist

(same as the protag)

IV. Define your support cast

a. Create a simple profile for each of the secondary characters
b. Define your cast as to how they relate to your protagonist and antagonist and their own corner of this world.
c. Outline a simply timeline of what each secondary character does in the story

V. Detailing

a. Select and develop a reasonable number of the major players' most interesting cultural aspects to highlight in the story
b. List the most obvious similarities and contrasts between this world and ours to highlight in the story
c. Define your characters' most unique personal quality/qualities to highlight in your characterizations

How much is enough?

How detailed you want to get with your world building is really up to you, but try to make your building fit naturally. The authors who build the best worlds are the ones you never notice doing it (and I've got a list of books below of writers who are masters at this.) Don't feel compelled to give up world building aspects that you love just because they're not on my checklist, either. If you're able to relate your vision of your world to the reader without drowning them in floods of infodumps, go for it.

As for me, probably the most reliable resource I've used is my own knowledge of history and biology through reading nonfiction. Once you've studied enough real civilizations, cultures and species you get a feel for what you need to make the ones that inhabit your worlds more believable.

Books I recommend as superlative examples of world building:

Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
The Ice People by René Barjavel, translated by Charles Lam Markmann (in French, La Nuit des Temps)
Mordred, Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg
Talyn and Diplomacy of Wolves by Holly Lisle
Kingdom of the Wall and Man in the Maze by Robert Silverberg

Related Links:

Astrofantasy's step-by-step online tutorial Create a Fantasy World.

Tina Morgan's article The Ethics of Worldbuilding

Holly Lisle's Questions about World Building page and How Much of My World Do I Build workshop (Tamith, if my checklist doesn't work for you, Holly's workshop may be just the thing you need.)

SpecFicWorld's World Building Resource Links page

A transcription of a World Building 101 panel with Robert R. McCammon and Jennifer Roberson

Steven Swiniarski's WorldBuilding: Constructing a SF Universe

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Good Grief

I'm not a shrink like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, but a while back I did a riff on her five stage grief theory. Mine was about defining writers' common experiences during the first years of their career. Here's how my theory of the five stages of publishing grief goes:

First stage: Who Let the Dogs Out?

If I could do one thing for the next generation of writers, it would be to chase off everyone who tries to mess with them during their first pro year. Preferably with a baseball bat. It's not completely horrible for everyone; a few authors have charmed first book experiences or great mentors who shield them from most of the crap. The rest of us? Are thrown to the Dobermans.

The season in hell is a rite of passage. If you're lucky, you'll develop selective amnesia and stay away from the people who messed with you. Forgive, and if you can't, forget.

Second stage: Play It Again Sam

A lot of writers face the second stage as the dreaded second book syndrome. It can be a concern if you sell the very first novel-length work you write; you don't know if you can do it again. Another variation happens when your first novel does super well, and your second book is very different from your first; there are going to be plenty of unfavorable and unfair comparisons.

I think writers often overthink the second book too much and overwrite it, or spend too much time promoting the first book and not enough writing the second. I seemed to skip this stage because I had finished both of my first two novels and sold them as complete manuscripts when I signed up for this cruise. When my book two hit the shelves, I was already working on what would be my fifth, sixth and seventh published novels. The wisest course is to focus on the work. Don't let a season in hell hangover or your insecurities short-change your second novel.

Third stage: The Gilt Flakes Off

I asked some other career writers if they have any problems after their rookie year and second book syndrome, and they all came back with basically the same reaction I had: by this time, publishing loses a lot of its glam. What seemed so wonderful and glittering and gorgeous loses its sequins and feathered mask; people you admired or thought were genuine whip out their true colors. The financial reality hits around now, too. While other new writers are getting dream deals, you're getting paid-upon-publication advance clauses.

I hated this stage, but I was to blame for the disillusionment. Having zero contact with the industry allowed me to build up authors and editors and publishers into demi-gods and fantasy creatures who Could Do No Wrong. Turns out that they're just people, like the people you work with at any job, and the business is like any other business: good, bad, and everything in between. Once you accept this, you're okay.

Fourth stage: Last Straws

The combination of what happens during your first, second and third stages all contribute to the eruption of the fourth stage: unreasonable anger. You find yourself getting pissed off over the most minor things. Everything becomes intense, magnified and overwhelming. You see into things too much. Nothing is fair.

Publication wasn't supposed to be like stage one, two or three, so stage four is really just an aftershock. Batten down the hatches by reminding yourself that most of what happens to you during your writing career is beyond your control. You can't change it, and letting it piss you off is counterproductive. Let it go and move on.

Fifth stage: The Longest Yard

The last stage a career writer goes through feels a bit like a perpetual marathon. At this point, a big chunk of the writers who started the same time you did are now writing something else or have quit. You have a pretty good idea of where your career is headed, and you've got a ballpark on what your maximum annual income is going to be. Writing has become work rather than fun, and with all you've learned in the four previous stages you're suddenly not so sure that you want to go the distance.

This is the killer stage, and guess what? It never ends. You have to accept that career writing is a job and it requires a lot of personal commitment and effort. Even if you give it 200%, there are no guarantees. For most of us, it's compete or die. You do this stage every single day until you stop writing professionally.

Have you got what it takes to survive the five stages of publishing grief? Only you and time can answer that question. In any stage, remember that publishing is not about you but your work. Let the work always be your center and your navigator, and however your writing career goes, it won't be riddled with regrets.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday 20

First up: the winners of the Tied to the Tracks giveaway are:



Joy (who picked Talyn by Holly Lisle, as the comment profile link doesn't want to work for me.)

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to me at so I can get these books out to you, and my thanks to everyone who joined in sharing the people and books that teach, wow and comfort them.

A couple of new visitors have e-mailed asking what's the deal about Fridays here at the blog. This is a weekly feature we started doing here a few months back; each Friday you can post writing- or publishing-related questions for me in comments. I'll answer them to the best of my ability, or at least give you an opinion or refer you to a better source if I don't have an answer. I don't enforce the 20 questions limit unless I'm swamped or in the midst of a hurricane.

Debby's still out in the Atlantic, so any questions for me this week?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Madonna got me interested in the creative application of personal ads in her very funny film Desperately Seeking Susan. I loved how the screenwriter used the personals as a characterization device and an ongoing thread in the story. Now there's even a book about the best and worst personal ads of all time: Laura Schaefer's Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor (my own favorite personal ad to date is Michael Kelly's hilarious Free Competition: Win My Hand in Marriage.)

Writing a personal ad for yourself might be authentic torture, but creating one for your protagonist can help you get in touch with who they are and what they want, aka that stuff you need for outlines, proposals and pitches. To borrow and paraphrase some tips from Linnea Sheldon's excellent article on how to write an online personal ad:

-- Know what your protagonist is looking for
-- Know what qualities your protagonist brings to a relationship
-- Think about what makes your protagonist unique and appealing.
-- Know what hobby, passion or activity occupies a large amount of your protagonist's time.
-- Be honest about who your protagonist is and what they want.

and, oh, if only I could tattoo this on a few inner eyelids:

-- Write in a style that naturally resembles your spoken word, not in a style in which you think you should write.

Here's one of mine:

Old but rich Frenchman with great personality seeks nimble plastic surgeon who is not hung up on looks. If you don't find me, I'll abduct you. R.S.V.P. M. Cyprien, La Fontaine, New Orleans.

Protagonist personal ads don't have to be about finding romantic partners, either:

Short shire boy seeks hot, deep type to accept his ring and complete the quest of a lifetime. Must be okay with fairies, elves, dwarves, and excessively hairy feet. Reply with directions to J.R.R. Tolkien. No orcs, please.

Southern tomboy wishes to meet recluse or shut-in. Should like overalls, boys, scuppernogs and small town crackshot lawyers. Platonist philosophies a big plus. Respond soonest to Scout c/o Harper Lee (use tree hollow if convenient.)

Young British schoolboy, robust, glasses, minor breathing problem, looking for someone to rescue me before things turn savage. Shelter-building and food-gathering skills appreciated. Send message in a bottle to W. Golding. Rule breakers need not apply.

How would your protagonist's personal ad go? (if you're not sure, try to write up one for the protagonist of your favorite keeper novel.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back Climbers

A deadline kept me from commenting on the recent kerfluffle of lit-chick writers messing with the chick-lit writers (say it real fast six times without stuttering and I'll give you a cookie.) If you want the details, Monica Jackson presided over it with an excellent post, links and comments here.

As marketing strategies go, this one was not very imaginative. The lit-chick who started the whole thing claimed that chick-lit writers own too much of the market and are ruining things for "America's Best Women Writers" (this would be her and modest her lit-chick pals.) That evolved into a title and marketing angle for her anthology. As industry suck-ups go, you can't do better for critics than to slam a genre they almost universally condemn. It's also a terrific way to get some free if negative advertising via the reactions of every chick-lit writer with a backbone. Which is pretty much, hello, All Of Them.

Climbing up and standing on the backs of better performers has always been a time-honored marketing device. Politicians have been doing it for so long they don't remember what it's like to stand on the ground. In publishing, Dan Brown's been used like a footstool by so many other writers that all of his jackets should have shoeprints on them. On the internet, negativity spreads like flesh-eating bacteria, so slamming someone else to promote your stuff is especially good for online buzz.

Take the chick-lit out of this particular equation, however, and even with Huffy Post backing I seriously doubt this work of great lit-chick genius would have sold two thousand copies. Why? Literary fiction rarely sells these days; ask any NBA nominee. Also, there's not an established Name author among the anthology's contributors.

With anthos, you need a Name author to draw readers. Thing is, unlike genre Names, lit-chick Names seldom jump in on anthos. Had Anita Diamant been the headliner, the book would have been an instant bestseller, but there are no Diamants or Proulxes in this one. Best American writer anthos are also a dime a dozen. God Almighty, everyone is the best, aren't they? The Dead Best, the NYT Best, the NBA Best, the year's Best, the Bestest Best, the Best above the rest of the Best and, least we forget, the New Best. Publish a Worst American Writers antho; now that might actually make some money.

Without a Name, all the besty best lit-chick writers in the world couldn't grab an eyelash flick of attention, hence the chick-lit slam. Now they've tapped into that whole publishing conspiracy to destroy civilization as we know it literary paranoia: Omigod! America's BEST women writers are being overshadowed by LOUSY CHICK-LIT HACKS! Hurry! Buy this book and SAVE THEM!

Bad, bad chick-lit writers. No cookies for you.

Personally I'm very offended for being left out. See, I think it's the vamp writers who are stealing the lit-chick writers' sales. You know how much we've flooded the market lately. We're into all that dark and evil stuff. Or could be the Christian writers -- we have just as many tables as the vamp writers, and we're into all that goodness and light stuff. We might even be in on it together. Who would ever suspect us joining forces, eh? I'd make the perfect ringleader; I write both. I know I've always wanted to conspire with Jan Karon and Doug Clegg to overthrow our literary betters. Or just have lunch somewhere nice with them.

There was a point to this post . . . oh, yeah. Should you use back-climbing as a marketing device? Undignified and mean-spirited as it is, I can't deny that it's effective. Negative PR absolutely attracts more attention than positive PR. If you think nothing of standing on top of someone else's accomplishments to trumpet accolades about your own, then this strategy is right up your alley.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tied to the Tracks

Like any reader, I have a keeper shelf. I also have author shelves, genre shelves, and best ref shelves. They're filled to capacity and then some (my best ref section is soon to become three floor-to-ceiling bookcases.)

One shelf I haven't yet filled is my writer's writer shelf. Few authors get on this one. To me, a writer's writer is someone who teaches, wows and comforts all at the same time. I learn from these intensely talented folks (the teaching.) I am also knocked on my ass by them (the wowing.) And in a strange way, I reconnect to my own writing through them (which is comforting, and maddening, and a few other things.) That's likely a lame way to describe it, but it's as close as I'm going to get without using a French bakery analogy.

One more disclaimer before I talk about the latest addition to my writer's writer shelf. Books set in or written about the southern United States are not my favs. Harper Lee may have written the greatest novel of the twentieth century, but she also instigated a literary attitude toward writing about the people of the south that is now about as applicable as calling someone from New York City a seersucker-suited carpetbagging Yankee.

Author Rosina Lippi's Latest Novel You will not find any outdated stereotypes in Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks. Instead, you'll discover Ogilvie, Georgia, a Monet of a small college town, populated by all manner of southern kin and kind. John Grant, son of Ogilvie's equivalent of gentry, is about to marry a much-loved local beauty; Miss Zula Bragg, the town's fearsome literary giant, has at long last decided to permit a film to be made about her long and colorful life, and Angie Mangiamele, Jersey girl and owner of Tied to the Tracks film productions, is coming to town to make the documentary about Miss Zula. Angie also happens to be John's ex-lover. When Angie and her crew arrive in Ogilvie, the real fun begins.

This novel has so much in store for the reader: romance, intrigue, humor, new lovers and old secrets, old lovers and new secrets. There are characters you love and characters you'd love to run down in the street and back over a few times. John and Angie and Miss Zula are the heart of the story, but the town of Ogilvie and its fascinating residents as well as Angie's crew are right there, too. That's what makes this such a marvelous work: nothing is forced, nothing is faked, and yet nothing is left unattended. That is the southern way, folks.

I generally read books quickly, but the writing of Tied to the Tracks made me ride my brakes from start to finish. My deference to the novel's many charms, surprises and pure delights, but also to the storytelling itself, so splendid that you slow down simply to enjoy it. I also admire the great care the author took with crafting this novel, because while you can't see that on the page (it reads smooth as peach skin) it shines through between the lines.

You all don't have to take my word for it, of course. In comments to this post, name someone or something that teaches, wows and/or comforts you by midnight EST on August 24, 2006. I'll pick three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Utility Ten

Ten Things for the Utility Lovers

1. Need a small, fast editor for plain text? Try out AkelPad.

2. Voxelsoft's Alert is a utility that flashes the keyboard's LEDs like an alarm; does sound nifty. Another note: the original link for this one has up and vanished; my apologies to Katherine -- I was getting a cookie every time I clicked. And yes, it's definitely Monday.

3. Create protected CDs with Alternate CD Lock.

4. ArtPlus is offering a lite version of EasyNoter as freeware.

5. Poromenos has an entire page of freeware downloads; people who are disabled or risking CTS should check out Clicker (scroll down), which saves some repetitive movements by clicking the mouse for you. Note: I'm removing this one from the list per Katherine's comments to the post.

6. Jordi's Handwriting Fonts allow you to add a more personal touch to your e-docs.

7. Duomart offers a cool free utility, Laptop Battery Power Monitor (scroll down) which displays a very small battery icon to show you how much power you've got left on your laptop and other status info.

8. ThinkerSoftware's Photo to Sketch is a neat little tool that converts your favorite pics into different types of sketches.

9. Clean up your desktop and organize your icons with Squal and Boerbull's SpeedMenus.

10. Jan Verhoeven offers over 100 different freewares, including a nice collection of various utility programs (click on categories in left sidebar to view details.)

Elsewhere: Tech Support Alert's links list to the 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Link Worthy

I've found some generators while out link-hunting this week that didn't fit in with my lists but that I still wanted to post.

We've seen character generators a-plenty, but here's a site that creates three personality traits and a personal motto for your characters: 101 Quick NPC Personalities. The same site offers an adventure idea generator that covers just about every story element you'd need. Both are geared toward RPGers but could be very useful to spark and inspire some new ideas.

This is brilliant and useful: Aabashenya came up with a custom-design title maker that allows you to enter words you'd like to use in your title, then generates ten possibilities using them. Excellent if you have some key words or words from the story that you'd like to use in a title but are stumped on how to combine them.

Another gem, Maygra's Random Title Generator, produces six titles at a time, and comes up with some very interesting combinations of words.

Jellyn, who designed Maygra's generator, also has one for random fantasy titles.

And just for laughs: want a new job label for your character or yourself? Try's New Title Generator. Now to try to talk people into calling me the Virtual Resource Czar . . .

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Haiku Day

Ten Things Created with Online Haiku Generators

the sable, silent mountain -
the storm is dreaming
of the spring world

-- Crow City Haiku Generator

afterlives fall, mean
frostbitten ripples destroy
dryly, flat passive

--The Genuine Haiku Generator

Near the chateau I confine
The rose is lost.

--Haiku Generator

Hello tiny elf
Bringing Christmas Joy to us all
I hate you a lot.

-- Haiku-O-Matic

The clear hidden sea
in a flowing storm
a waterfall struggles

-- Haiku to You!

Sink, stray. With thin hills
Rebel, wither. With white barks
Write, glow: descending.

--Haiku Writer

A temple responds.
Earth skips but summer whirls hands.
Trinkets cover leaves.

-- Peter's Haiku Generator

consider fading systems
imagine the piece

--Random Haiku Machine

Collie vanadate,
welcome gonopore waterleaf,

-- Random Word Haiku

Ugly is she who
must ridicule difference
to feel more special

-- Work Haiku

I feel all Zen now, don't you? For more fun, post your original or generated haiku in comments.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday 20

The Rules of Write Club

1st Rule: You do not talk about Write Club.

2nd Rule: You DO NOT talk about Write Club.

3rd Rule: If the muse says "over the top", calls your protagonist a wimp, or wants cheesecake, the writing is over.

4th Rule: Only one coincidence per novel.

5th Rule: One plot twist at a time. Okay, maybe two. But that's all.

6th Rule: No shoes. Bunny slippers.

7th Rule: Writing will go on as long as it has to, or until it's six hours before you punch in, or someone wants their dinner, whichever comes first.

8th Rule: If this is your first shot at Write Club, you HAVE to write.

Man, I see in write club the strongest and smartest writers who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. Gosh darn it, an entire generation sick with con crud, waiting for the PW starred review; slaves with pay-upon-publication collars. Working day jobs we hate so we can buy widgets we don't need. We've all been brainwashed by People magazine to believe that one day we'd all be millionaire bestsellers, and vidlit gods, and Book-TV rock stars.

But we won't.

And we're slowly learning that reality (now everyone, wave to your editors.)

And we're really, really pissed off.

Which is why we need the bunny slippers.

Any rules you want to add, or any questions for me?

Thursday, August 17, 2006


"John," Marcia uttered as she promenaded into the illuminated dawn chamber of his domestic residence, her scarletine frock contrasting unfavorably against the embossed verdant wall coverings as might an exceedingly vexatious digit. "I am obliged to converse with you directly."

Ah, the female for whom he sustained strong emotions, John contemplated. Ostensibly Marcia was manifest to expound on that which he could not readily diagnosticate, yet nevertheless accepted in the bowels of his cardiac region would be a theorem of vital consequence to her. "Do specify whatever currently seizes you with such macroscopic anxiety, much beloved desideratum of my concupiscence."

"I have discovered it to be virtually impossible to discern the definition of the majority of the statements issued from your oral cavity," Marcia declared with her customary forthright emphasis as she arranged her lithesome frame on the brink of the alabaster brocade-upholstered divan. "Even during those tension-wrought episodes of debate which customarily result in illicit yet satisfying coition, my comprehension of your utterances is nil."

John's eyelids met and parted in a solitary displacement. "I entreat your forbearance?"

Marcia crimped the cosmetic-coated labium camouflaging her maxillary and mandibular arcades prior to offering verbally, "Our exchanges have set me adrift on the oceans of ignorance. Cognizance eludes me during those occurrences when we confer. Misinterpretation has evolved into the bete noire of my perseity."

A crease made itself recognizable in the juncture between the strips of hair above John's ocular organs. "Please, expand on these articulations."

"I can't stand saying another freaking word of this dialogue."

John caprioled to an erect stance. "Discontinue your tirade forthwith."

"No, I will not shut up." Tired of parking her appendages on the bony parentheses flanking her nether regions, Marcia planted her hands on her hips. "I don't care how big and important the words are, these are the stupidest lines I've ever been written to recite. I mean, say. Yours are even dumber. You may have a yummy body and smell great, but every time you open your mouth I want duct tape, ear plugs and amphetamines. By the way, the wallpaper in here looks like cat puke."

"Oh, sure. Like I want to keep pretending to be interested while you're heretoforing and postliminarying every five seconds. I had nuns in Catholic school who talked sexier. And I didn't pick out the damn wallpaper." John skipped sensing the rosiness of rage altering the coloration of his facial features and simply turned red. "Anyway, the author initiated . . . started it."

Marcia began to contemplate the dilemma, caught herself in mid-ponder, and grabbed John by the front of the shirt. "Look. I like you. I want to do something else besides resemble a sore thumb and recite Roget chapter and verse. What do you say?"

"I say let's go have relations."

"For dinner?" Marcia tapped her finger against the part of her body she never wanted to hear anyone call labium again. "Oh, coition, riiiiiiight. Do we have enough time?"

"The author's busy looking up a four-syllable synonym for argument. She'll be a while," John said, chucking all the non-said dialogue tags under the sofa cushions. "We can change the page numbers while she's gone. She never back reads."

"We'll still have to make it look good," Marcia warned. "You know, struggle with some post-coital feminist-related depression issues, endure a bit of non-fatal substance abuse and obliquely sneer at some chick-lit author who makes more money than ours does. May have to set fire to your Beamer, too, in order to free you from the capitalist enslavement preventing you from truly experiencing life, or something equally nonsensical yet intensely symbolic."

"I'm insured," John pointed out. "So, can we make like bunnies?"

"Works for me." She dragged him out of the parlor.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Got Cover

I put together the first version of my e-book challenge cover. It needs some fine tuning, but I think I nailed the title:

Midnight Blues:  A Darkyn Novella

Once I have a final version, I'll add it to the sidebar along with a link to the challenge post. I will also be posting regular updates on my progress, and nagging everyone regularly to get going on their stories. I know the challenge deadline is right before NaNoWriMo, but think of it as a warmup.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Driveby moments in a story -- when two characters come together for a very short time -- usually last no more than a manuscript page. These mini-scenes are where I see housekeeping dialogue used most often, i.e.:

"Hi," Nick said to the innkeeper. "How are you?"

"Very well, thank you," he replied. "How may I help you, mademoiselle?"

"Is your wife here?" Nick asked. "I'd like to speak to her."

He gestured toward the kitchen. "She is cooking dinner."

That's a standard driveby -- it's very quick, exchanges the necessary information, and thanks to the housekeeping dialogue, reads totally flat and boring. You could delete the entire conversation and replace it with a single line:

The innkeeper told Nick that his wife was in the kitchen.

It's tempting to skip drivebys, as it can be a real challenge to make them useful and interesting to the reader. I like them, though, because you can turn them into quick sketches to better illustrate your characters:

Excerpt from Night Lost by Lynn Viehl

When Nick approached the innkeeper, she saw that he was sorting through receipts and adding up figures.

She stooped to pick up a receipt out of the small trash can next to the desk. "You dropped this one, M. Laguerre."

"What?" He took it from her and examined it. "Mon Dieu, the laundry invoice. How did I . . . " His dark gaze went from the trash bin to her face. "Thank you, mademoiselle."

Nick was grateful he spoke flawless English. She usually embarrassed herself trying to speak French to the natives. "May I ask you something?"

"Of course." He scanned a yellow delivery slip while his fingers tapped the keys of an old adding machine.

"Is your wife here?" Nick kept her tone casual. "I'd like to ask her about one of the old houses around town."

"Adelie is in the kitchen." He nodded toward the back of the inn. "If you go in there, she will ask you to sample her fish stock. It tastes like dish water and smells worse."


He leveled a stern eye on her. "If you sample it, you will tell her it is ambrosia, or she will fret and burn my dinner for the next two weeks."

Nick cleared her throat, mostly to stop a rising chuckle. "I'm allergic to fish."

"I wish that I were." He flipped over the receipt and began adding in figures from another.

The driveby performed its main function -- Nick finding out where the innkeeper's wife was -- but among other things it fleshed out the characters of Jean and Adelie without a lot of exposition or fuss. It also delivered a little humor, something I try to do in unexpected places in the story.

How do you take advantage of drivebys in your stories?

Related Link:

No one else calls them drivebys, I guess, but I found a good article I think might prove helpful to those who want to ditch the housekeeping dialogue -- Glenn Patterson's Writing Believable Dialogue.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blast You Ten

Ten Things that Make Research a Blast

1. Three cheers for the Brits: Ancient Civilizations over at The British Museum's web site explores the most significant achievements of many long-gone civilizations.

2. All art all the time: Professor Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe's Art History Resources on the Web offers links to sites covering art from prehistory to present day.

3. Loving-Kindness: is a huge, gorgeous resource site for anyone interested in learning about the many aspects of Buddhism.

4. Thumbs Up: The Illustrated History of the Roman Empire claims to be the leading web resource on Rome.

5. Playing for keeps 3,500 years ago: The multi-award-winning MesoAmerican Ball Game, a companion web site to a traveling exhibit of the same name, is just too cool for words (Flash required.)

6. Medieval Megapage: The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies not only hooks up to places like The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, but publishes actual translated medieval texts as e-books as well as textbooks about medieval subjects.

7. No velvet ropes: Take a virtual tour through the fascinating exhibits over at The Oriental Institute Museum.

8. Original artists: The British Library's Turning the Pages website (requires Shockwave) allows you to leaf through the actual pages of Leonardo Da Vinci's sketchbook, Jane Austen's early work, the oldest printed book in the world, and many other priceless manuscripts.

9. Who Painted the Mona Lisa Again?: The Web Gallery of Art is a "searchable database of European painting and sculpture of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods (1100-1850), currently containing over 15,400 reproductions."

10. Beyond Safaris: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. guides you through a treasurehouse of African history and culture at Wonders of the African World.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Writing is not an easy job. Getting your work published, even more difficult. But with all the conveniences of this techno-age, we're starting to forget that there are reasons things are difficult.

It's natural to want things to be easy, because there are so many other things we have to do. The wealthiest and most important man in the world could come to you and say "Hey. I need you to do something for me. It's going to take you years, you have to work very fast, you'll be stuck inside most of the time in very uncomfortable positions, and you'll have to nag me to pay you. P.S., it has to be magnificent and I'm not going to let you say no." You might be polite and not laugh in his face, but would you take the job?

Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo Pope Julius II said that to this arrogant, crooked-nosed sculptor from Florence who didn't even consider himself a painter. And it worked; between 1508 and 1512, the sculptor covered more than 3,200 square feet with over three hundred figures, nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, all while painting very quickly on wet plaster, often in odd positions and tight spots. The results changed the way art would be painted for centuries and ultimately became one of the most recognized artworks in human history.

What would Michelangelo have painted if the Sistine Chapel had been an easy job?

Every time being a writer is tough for you, it's teaching you something. It's testing you, too. This gig is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash. As you jog down the writing career road, you'll notice a lot of abandoned partial manuscripts tossed in the ditches. Those were written by everyone for whom the job got too difficult. They packed it in and went home to watch TV.

Right now I'm arm-wrestling a proposal that wants to grow seven heads and become a three-tiered series. I will tame it into a manageable pitch that doesn't scare the hell out of the editor. I have fantasized about taking a baseball bat to this machine at least five times today. Dell needs to have a warranty option to cover work-related temper tantrums.

But that's my Sistine Chapel of the moment. What's yours?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Free with Every Novel

I've been seeing advertising all over the place for Chocolate, the new Verizon phone/MP3 player. I don't need another phone -- I don't use the ones I already own -- but if it were an MP3 player and, say, an M&M dispenser or mini s'mores maker, I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

Interesting trademark move, too. Whoever thought up the slogan "Everybody loves chocolate" ignored the fact that lots of people including my daughter loathe chocolate, but as an easily-remembered tag line it works well. Now I wonder, does this mean I have to ask permission of Verizon every time I want to use the word chocolate? That's going to be a bit of a pain. Doesn't Hershey's already own it? (Where is Bill Peschel when I need him?)

I'm not a phone person, but I do like items that serve more than one purpose, because they save space and time. I love my handheld organizer, which doubles as an MP3 player and does just about everything else but shop for groceries for me. My DVD player, which also plays my old VHS tapes and records them on DVDs and downloads stuff from my digital and video cameras, is probably secretly realigning the Hubble telescope right now.

I like bonuses and extras, too -- I recently gushed about Paste magazine because they send me free music CDs and sometimes video DVDs in every issue. We need some of that in publishing.

Nonfiction books often include CDs, especially any computer or techno ref books, but an excerpt or preview of the author's next book is about the best freebie that most fiction books offer now. Yet if Elle can put eye-watering perfume sample strips and little packets of liquid pancake makeup in every issue, then why can't we figure out a way to add a little extra bonus for our readers?

Harlequin has been great about giving their subscription service readers something extra over the years; everything from wineglasses to crystal pendants. They're currently offering three free books if you buy six (see ad in the back of Harlequin Presents novels out this month) or one free book online with Free Book Fridays on their shopping page (if you buy two books on Friday, you get their weekly featured title free.)

If the Publishing Fairy gave me carte blanche to add something free to my novels, I'd include a CD of the music that inspired me, or an e-book set in the same universe, or a poster of a painting or other artwork I love (the fold lines of the print would, of course, magically disappear the minute the reader unfolded it.) If I could get a bag of M&Ms or a Hershey you-know-what bar in there without it melting on the pages, that would be cool, too. Or a quilt, magically packed into one of those tiny sponge-animal capsules you drop into hot water for one minute. A queen size wedding ring quilt beats a green sponge T-Rex or blue sponge Raptor every time, right? You might want to drop the magic quilt capsule in the bathtub instead of a glass of water, though . . .

How about you -- if you could get freebies with any novel, or add one or more to your own, what would you like to give or receive?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday 20

Just an FYI -- I finished up going through the comment threads from the Virtual Workshops and posted answers to all the questions I left hanging. I've also added permanent links to them on the sidebar (scroll down.) If I missed any questions, do yell at me.

Someone (you know who you are) sent me an interesting e-mail asking for advice on how to approach authors you don't know to ask for a cover quote. I'd like to flip that around for a minute and talk to you published authors out there about it.

Having someone you don't know ask you to consider their work for a quote is a big compliment. It also takes a huge amount of courage to approach someone you don't know and ask. You know from your own experiences how lousy it feels when someone you admire from afar turns you down, too.

How we respond to these requests can do anything from delight to devastate the recipient. One industry professional I asked to consider looking at something for me responded with "Okay, but it had better be good." I almost didn't send it, I was so intimidated, and then received no response after I did. I drove myself crazy wondering what I'd done wrong until I almost wished I'd gotten a "This Sucks!" response versus none at all.

Yes, it's work to read someone else's manuscript, and it's truly terrible when for whatever reason the ms. doesn't merit a quote. That's where we have to be the courageous ones. But now and then a great new writer does come along and produces something that deserves a great rec from an established author. The new writer doesn't have to be your con buddy to deserve it. Great writing always deserves it.

Popular published authors are insanely busy people. If you're like me, you want your quotes to have some weight, so you may be very choosy about how often you give quotes, and the quality of work you will give a quote. It's perfectly fine to be selective. You can get burned out on quoting, too. I took a hiatus a few months ago and I'm glad I did. Some folks were beginning to treat me like The Oracle of Paranormal Fiction and quite frankly, I'm not.

But when you say no, keep in mind that it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do so politely. Treat that writer the way you would wish to be treated by someone you admire, and you've probably made a friend for life. Treat them offhand, impolitely or with any amount of contempt and congratulations, you've just made yourself a jerk.

Now onto this week's questions: you all got any for me?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Project Publication

If you ever want to give a teenage European girl a gift, record season two or whatever you can get of season three of Bravo's television reality show Project Runway on DVD and smuggle it into her country. She will scream, weep, call you Goddess and then lock herself in her room with her best friends to watch it for two or three days.

So my European teenager's father wouldn't throttle me, I sat down and watched two episodes of the show. The premise is the usual reality TV schtick: assemble a group, offer a fabulous prize, throw them in an impossibly stressful situation, see how well they perform, and insult and eliminate them one by one until you whittle down to the final survivor.

You may think, eh, fashion, how hard could it be? But it's brutal stuff on a number of levels. As a pretty decent seamstress myself, I got caught up in the challenges and the constructions -- do you know how incredibly good you have to be to design, choose material for, piece, sew, fit and alter a high fashion garment in two days on a hundred dollar budget? -- but the contestant infighting got annoying and the elimination process broke my heart. The thrill of seeing someone fail and get kicked off is the big draw of these shows, but oy. I couldn't take it after the second episode. I'm now also convinced that PR judge Nina Garcia is the secret inspiration for the boss from hell in The Devil Wears Prada.

Watching Project Runway made me think about a reality novelists show (not the fake Book Millionaire thing, but the real deal.) When you pursue getting your work into print, it's like auditioning for Project Publication. Editors and publishers are the judges, and you're competing against a nation of other writers who range from God Awful Knockoff Artists to Future Pulitzer Prize Winners. Signing that first contract is being accepted into a very large group of first-round contestants.

As with the designers on Project Runway, a lot of writers get into the game for that fabulous prize, only to choke, change their minds, squander their materials and time or otherwise fail to deliver. To be fair, the stress, raw nerves and intimidation factors in publishing can be just as brutal as marching a model in a magenta leather/chiffon evening gown out on a runway in front of Mean Nina. Writers who go with safe instead of innovative, cautious instead of daring, or try to suck up to the judges by coping attitude or cloning other, more successful writers generally don't last more than one or two rounds. Experience and longevity don't protect you either. Every time you put a book on the market, you're back to square one.

In publishing, like high fashion, everything has been done. And everything can be done again, updated, given a fresh look, taken to a whole new level or turned inside out. The possibilities are endless. Whatever reality show you audition for, what matters is what you produce. It's got to impress judges who make it their business and really have seen it all. The only thing they haven't seen is what you can do with it. Make every walk in front of them count.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Delete Your Blog

I left the country while you guys weren't looking. But hey, I came back, right?

Good thing about leaving the USA: Bread. Friends who try very hard to speak English because you can't speak their language without slaughtering it. Chocolate. Tea, bread, chocolate and more chocolate. And if you pretend to be Canadian, no one will spit in your food, or your face, or accidentally on purpose bump you off the platform in front of an oncoming train.

Bad thing about leaving the USA: having to pretend to be Canadian so no one will spit in your food, or your face, or . . .

Yesterday I was going to post an anecdote from back when I escaped the Borg resigned from SFWA, but it was a defensive bit of humor to combat some petty unpleasantness from a source better left unnamed. I felt tired, and not quite over the jet lag, and for a minute I went over to Settings and sat staring at that Delete Your Blog option. It's the virtual cyanide pill that ends all blog pains, the instant daily mini-vacation that never ends, and the harassed blogger's ultimate fuck you, pal.

And then I figured I really was tired, and still not over the jet lag, and stayed away from the blog for my requisite 24 hours of cool-down time. I went to the book store to see my new book that I can't tell anyone about, with the great cover that I can't show anyone, and bought an unsigned copy of Joe Konrath's Rusty Nail (rare find, let me tell you; the man has been to like nine thousand bookstores in the last three weeks) and felt better.

Going to the bookstore is like going to church. I'm surrounded by the people who share my convictions, and touch base with what it's all about for me personally. I miss being a bookseller so much sometimes. Man, I lived to work the floor and talk books. I tried to bring some of that here when I started blogging again, to talk books instead of book bullshit, you know? But I can't look into your eyes, and see if they're gleaming with excitement or glazing over, and I piss off the sacred cow people, and the no sense of humor people, and the let's pick a fight with PBW people, and so on.

Anyway. I'm sticking around. I just thought I should provide an excuse for my absence, and I didn't think you were going to go for the dog ate my blog entry.

So what's up with you guys? Anything exciting?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Not Publishing Ten

Ten Things to Broaden Your Blog-Reading Horizons

1. Get the latest on advertising, new media marketing, and the latest advergames over at the Adverblog.

2. Issues that concern animal-friendly folks: Eric Prescott's An Animal-Friendly Life.

3. Food and life in a Paris Suburb: Melissa's Banlieue Blog.

4. Not just another gadget blog: Gadget Bloggers.

5. Ramblings of a Texas ER physician: Grunt Doc.

6. Learning, e-learning, knowledge management and weblogs: Lilia Efimova's Mathemagenic.

7. Art, Music, and looking a bit like John Cusack: Christopher Lynn's Movable Walls.

8. One man's photographs are another's digitally altered art: Photocollabs.

9. Digital artist and art generator Kahuna, Don Relyea, has a terrific blog right here.

10. "Like a colostomy bag of song": Julie Dill's Vowel Movements.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Net Zero Ten

Ten Things for Free off the Net

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

1. The Print Screen button works fine for me, but if you'd rather have options on what you capture, check out the freeware Capture-A-Screenshot.

2. Cheat codes for Sudoku? Until there are, here's a program to solve the puzzles you can't: Crazy Sudoku Solver.

3. One for the kids -- or the kid in you -- FreeTrix (like Tetris, only cuter.)

4. Can't browse and spell at the same time? IeSpell has a freeware spell checker add-on for Internet Explorer here.

5. No mess, no fuss: Light Affected Painting freeware helps you paint with beautiful beams of light.

6. Post-It Pizazz: Veign's Note-It supercharges the desktop/virtual sticky note.

7. Dirk Paehl offers much for free on his interesting web site, including a page of PDF-related freeware downloads.

8. Delete stuff on the clipboard by accident too often? Forget what's on it? Dude, you have no idea. Anyway, like me, you might give Smart Cut-n-paste a test drive.

9. For the technofolks out there: Textplorer freeware is a quick, clean editor for text, binary and structured data files in text format.

10. Notepad on crack: The personal Wiki notepad ZuluPad.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tupperware Ten

Ten Things Leftover from Other Link Hunts

1. An eye-popper of a web site: Eye4U Active Media.

2. Create a caricature of your favorite (or least favorite) person online here.

3. Fractal Draw, a fast, real time fractal generator that allows you to click, drag and create fractal images and animations, offers a free trial.

4. Home of news items like the man who plans to shoot himself twenty miles into the atmosphere from the world's largest crossbow: Improbable Research.

5. I've linked to the Jackson Pollock Painting Generator before, but here's another one: Jackson Pollock Painting Generator V 1.0.

6. "Tired of racking your brain trying to squeeze out yet another artist's statement extolling the unique virtues of your latest joint?" Try the virtually effortless The Market-O-Matic.

7. One of my favorite hometown comedians, Monique Marvez, has some short MP3 files here (if you ever get a chance to see her perform live, GO.)

8. This one is for the historical romance writers: The Pseudo-Elizabethan Place Name Generator.

9. Joey Green's Wacky Uses of Common Products.

10. Because we all need one: Zen Toy.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Since I'm traveling today, my internet access is dicey, and I'm still behind on answering questions from the Virtual workshops, I'm going to cancel the usual Friday 20.

So your trip here was not a total waste:

Jon Hansen's new baby son Ian meets John Hansen's gorgeous cat June (this one is for the baby and kitty lovers.)

Alison Kent is conducting another viral marketing experiment for her upcoming CI Guide to Writing Erotic Romance.

Nancy Martin ponders the ancillary tail.

John Rickards has a new blog look and addy.

Kate Rothwell again takes on the RWA intolerant and refuses to go down without a fight.

See you all when I get back to my own time zone.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Market Info

The ever-generous and lovely Jordan Summers shared a lot of great market and submission info in this excellent post over at her place (and click home to go back to the main blog so you can see her new cover art. Don't look at it while wearing flammable clothing, though; you might spontaneously combust.)

PBW's E-book Challenge

However you feel about e-books, I think they can be great marketing tools for writers. I discovered that writing and self-publishing original stories, novellas and novels on my old web site was an effective way to give something back to my loyal readers. It also allowed the curious but unconvinced to sample my work without having to plunk down $6.99 or $22.95 upfront.

I haven't put together a freebie e-book in a couple of years, and tinkering and reformatting all the old ones has me itching to write another. Since Night Lost won't be hitting the shelves until May '07, I've decided to write a Darkyn novella and give it away as a free e-book here at the weblog on Halloween this year.

I'm also challenging all you writers out there to do the same: write and publish a new short story, novellette, novella, or novel of your own in e-book form* and post it for download on your weblog, web site, or any host site on October 31, 2006. I'm using Adobe .pdf format because that's what I've always used. You're free to use alternate formats, but I'd go with something that allows everyone to read it. Your e-book can also be any length and any genre; the only requirement is that you provide free access to it (it doesn't have to be a permanent addition to your weblog; if you have file storage issues I suggest leaving it up for a week or two.)

What you get in return: When Halloween arrives I will post a list of links here on PBW to the e-books of everyone who completes the challenge. I will also pick twenty e-books at random from all those who participate in the challenge and give the authors a private critique of their work via e-mail (so if you ever wanted me to read something of yours, this would be a definite shot.)

Some things to help you make your e-book:

My post on .pdf maker services free online or for free download (with great suggestions in the comments section, too.)

No way to read .pdf files? Download the latest version of Adobe Reader.

Make Your Own Art ten list.

The Romance Novel Cover Art Generator.

The best collection of story, art, blog, and other fun generators on the internet, The Generator Blog.

*Added: If it's easier to put your challenge story as a post on your weblog or web site versus making an e-book for download, that's fine (it's still a form of e-publishing, which is the whole point of the challenge.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Persuasion 101

We're pretty strict about the kids using the internet, and have one safeguarded terminal and account for both to share. I use a timer and allow them one hour intervals. I monitor their online activities with spot checks and have regular talks with them about what they're doing, what are appropriate activities and what aren't.

My eleven-year-old daughter has been asking to have the internet enabled on her own computer in her bedroom for a couple of months now, and decided to put her arguments on paper. Thus I was recently served with this masterpiece (verbatim, 100% her spelling and wording):

101 Reasons why I should have the internet on my computer
by Kathy

1. I need it for school projects.
2. I'm old enough to have the internet.
3. I'm a responsible kid, aren't I?
4. All of my peers have it on their own computer.
5. [Her favorite web site] is a good place to learn.
6. It's only fair.
7. It's the only thing on my wish list.
8. I promise I won't spend too long on it every day.
9. I will not abuse it.
10. I know HTML and I can do really good things on the internet.
11. I promise not to go on e-bay or any selling site.
12. Pretty please! With 1000 cherries on top of vanilla fudge swirl ice cream!?
13. Man I'm running out of ideas!
14. It's fast and reliable!
15. Cause you love me.
16. You know you want to.
17. I will pay for it.
18. I'll be good for a year.
19. I'll do anything!
20. I can't believe I made it to 20! Oh well 81 things to go!....I think.
21. Why can't I have it?
22. It's better and cheaper than a snake, the only other thing on my list and the internet won't eat you!
23. I'll take my shots like a big girl! [Mom note: by shots she means her immunizations at the pediatrician's, which she hates]
24. I'll kiss your feet! (No I won't)
25. I'll brush my teeth every day 3 times a day.
26. I'll give you a piece of hard candy.
27. Because it's the only thing my computer is missing.
28. I love [her favorite web site] and I really need to [activity on her favorite web site] without my brother bothering me.
29. You won't have to listen to us complain about who has to go on the internet first.
30. 1 word: Silence.
31. I have nothing else to do.
32. I have a graphics site that needs me to make layouts and tend to it every day.
33. 2 words: pretty-please.
34. I also need paint shop pro.
35. Ok, I'm out of ideas, time to go to begging.
36. PLEASE!!!!!!! I NEED IT BAD!!!!!!!
37. Ok I'm done begging.
38. What to write! What to write!!
39. I'll do my homework 5 times in a row for five days, hey! It's the 555 deal at pizza hut!!!
40. What should I write....*falls asleep*...yhtuhhhhhffhffffhhhhgffgfgfhhg...*Huh!*
41. I'll bake you a cake! Hey! I rhyme! Bake-cake? You don't get it do you....
42. Ok back to begging.
43. Can I have it.
44. Can I have it.
45. Can I have it.
46. Can I have it.
47. Can I have it.
48. Can I have it.
49. Can I have it.
50. Can I have it.
51. Can I have it.
52. Can I have it.
53. Can I have it.
54. Can I have it.
55. Ok done begging, wow 2nd page already!
56. Goooo 2nd page!
57. Woo Hoo!
58. Think Me think!!
59. Hmmmmm....Ah,, not that.....hmmmm....
60. I love it when I run out of ideas.
61. I question: to beg or to sit here babbling like an idiot, I chose sit here babbling like an idiot.
62. Did you know I love to talk about nothing?
63. I do it all the time.
64. It's fun.
65. Can I go to bed now?
66. Ah ha! Got something.
67. I'll do the laundry.
68. I'll do the dishes.
69. I'll pick up cat poop.
70. I'll walk the dog.
71. I'll walk the cat.
72. I'll take care of my hamster.
73. I'll teach the dog to say: "Ruy Rathy rhe rinternet"
74. I'll raise money for charity.
75. I will love you.
76. I'll even walk my hamster.
77. I'll buy breakfast.
78. I'll cook breakfast.
79. I'll buy lunch.
80. I'll make lunch.
81. I'll buy dinner.
82. I'll make dinner.
83. Coffee anyone? Not until I see [her favorite web site] on my computer!
86. I'll give you a dollar.
87. I'll give you 20 dollars.
88. Hmmmm....
89. Dad will not let me use his e-mail so I cannot give my friends the [activity on her favorite web site.]
90. WOW I made it to 90!!! next page!
91. I will not bother you.
92. I will not fight with my brother.
93. I promise I will be respectful.
94. I will do my best in school.
95. I won't spent all of my time on the internet.
96. I will put away my clothes when you tell me to.
97. I'll get off when you tell me to, without me fearing that my brother will get on without telling.
98. I'll do the dishes and laundry for 2 years.
99. I'll help you out a lot.
100. I'll cook with you.
101. And most importantly, it's because I really want to have my own privacy, on my own internet, without having to fear of my brother ruining my [favorite web site] account, or doing something to my account that is in reversible to it, ruining it forever, and that is 101 reasons why I should have my own internet. Thank you for understanding.

It's funny and a bit eerie (she's managed to counter every single objection I had against giving her independent internet access.) All chuckles aside, it took my daughter two days to compose this and type it up.

On her own she's taught herself how to type, and how to code with HTML from internet tutorial sites, and now volunteers to design web pages for other kids she knows. She's not just playing. She's interacting, learning, and growing. I want to encourage that as much as possible -- but I have to keep her safe, too.

Much to think about.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The winner for the VW#4 Mega Left Behind Goody Bag is Zillin, who should e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to address.

As for the argh, no, it's not talk like a pirate day or anything. In the last three days:

--Two of my cats, Jak and Jeri, have the uber-hairball blues and both are completely silent when they leave a deposit for me. Usually in a high-traffic area where I step on it first. Neither will swallow the treatment stuff the vet prescribed without use of claws. My forearms look like I've gone ten rounds with a Cuisinart.

--My car A/C went bye-bye and nearly took out the compressor (thank you, Ford, for putting that florescent dye in the freon charge at the factory, but next time do you think you could make it a color that doesn't look exactly like antifreeze?)

--My dryer has stopped drying clothes. It makes a new, kinda catchy thumping sound, though. The dead garage door opener makes a nice clothesline anchor. The appliance repair service may or may not get here before we run out of clean towels.

--The garage door opener died because it blew out a coupling that takes a week to get from the only parts place in town. Which must be changed out while I stand on a ten-foot ladder and hold a flashlight in my teeth, because the appliance repair service doesn't do garage door openers.

--I have one week to finish school shopping, no school supply lists yet, and two kids who are between sizes, have my duck feet and must wear wide-toed shoes of a very specific color and style or "everyone will think I'm a dork, Mom." P.S., they both utterly loathe trying on things.

I don't mind managing a crisis or two. Even three. But five? Calgon better take me away tonight or else.

I will catch up with the VW questions this week and add links to them to the sidebar. In the meantime:

Required reading for all submitting writers: How Not to Piss Off An Editor.

ABA, BookSense and booksellers: The Written Nerd's guest bloggers have some cons and pros. rank watchers can now go seriously nuts while comparing the 2% of their sales to someone else's 2.1% with Title Z.

And one for Scott Oden and the other ancient history lovers out there: Michael (no relation) Kelly's Alexander the Grate.