Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Crime and Punishment
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
The Master and Margarita
The Old Man and the Sea
The Prince and the Pauper
The Sound and the Fury
War and Peace

What do all these book titles have in common? They're titles that are made up of two nouns and a conjunction. We'll call them towofers. The two nouns can represent anything, but usually they describe something about two characters, or the protagonist and the conflict, or two central aspects of the plot.

Jane Austen was fond of twofers, as were many classic authors. J.K. Rowling has used them exclusively for her series, and you'd be hard-pressed to walk through a romance section at the bookstore and not see a twofer. Category romance publishers have gone a little overboard with their dramatic twofer titles, but I can't deny that when I see something titled The Stinkin' Rich Widowed Tycoon of Titillating Ethnic Origins and The Virginal Gorgeous Easily-Blackmailed Governess, I get the idea of what the story's about immediately.

I tend not to use twofers, as I like short (preferably one-word) titles, but they come in handy when I'm at a complete loss for a title to slap on the pitch. I'm putting together a proposal for Valentin's story, for example, and so far I haven't worked up a decent title. Right now it's called Sun and the Swan Prince; Sun for the name of my female protagonist, and the Swan Prince for Valentin, the Kyn lord who nearly lost an arm in Darkyn book two. It won't be the final title, but it's a good place holder and my editor will get it (I thought about going with Swan's Sun, but it sounds too much like a TV dinner.)

Your assignment today: if you had to create a twofer title for your WIP or your favorite novel, what would it be? Tell us in comments.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is That Your Self-Promo in my Face, Or....

Janet Elaine Smith had an interesting piece about her methods of self-marketing in the December issue of Writer's Journal, titled How Bold Are You, Really? I've been pondering it along with some other articles I've gathered on the topic. Janet's enthusiasm for self-promotion led a fellow writer to call her a "brazen hussy," which Janet then promptly turned around and used as a title for a Yahoo group she started on self-promotion.

I like that kind of attitude. It tempts me to rename this place. I can't remember which names that I'm not supposed to know about, though, so I'll save it for the industry expose. In any event, being the reserved, quiet soul that I am -- shut up, Jean -- I couldn't do what Janet does, but I admire her energy and enthusiasm. It takes a lot to get out there and do the self-promo dance. There was one tip she mentioned that bothered me, and I'll quote from the article:

"Don't be afraid to interrupt, politely -- even on the internet. If someone in a thread mentions something that pertains to your book, jump in with a bit of BSP (blatant self-promotion)."

I think interrupting a discussion thread solely for the purpose of self-promo is transparently rude. Working in a mention of your book when it's directly related to a topic of discussion, on the other hand, isn't. The line between the two? Very thin.

I'm not against self-promotion. I avoid it whenever possible. Seriously, writers who maintain blogs solely for the purpose of self-promotion, and never post about anything but themselves, their struggles, their work, their releases, their glowing reviews, their personal appearances, etc. are fine with me. If that's all you care about, or all you have to contribute to the publishing blogosphere, go for it. Your weblog will have huge appeal for your readers, and if it's all about you and your work, you'll be safe. With all the ire directed at the writer who dares express an opinion these days, it's probably the smart thing to do.

That said, when you visit another writer's blog or discussion board, you're a guest. If you went to a party at that writer's house in real life, would you jump in the middle of conversations or derail them to talk about yourself? How about walking away from someone who is talking to you the minute the subject is no longer about you, or you've finished pimping yourself to that group and have moved on to the next?

The internet may seem impersonal because we're not talking face-to-face, but that doesn't mean that it is. Insincerity has a very distinct smell to it, even on the web.

Given all the pressure publishers are putting on us to self-promote, what do we do? Maybe we should stop viewing other writer (or any type) weblogs as self-promo opportunities, and see them more as neighbors. Over the years we've become a very large, diverse online community. Do we really want to be reduced to filtered, programmed, self-absorbed Stepford Bloggers, air-kissing each other in comments? Don't we have enough of that going on already?

If you really get involved in a discussion versus playing your own publicist, chances are some of the other visitors will take an interest in you. People who like what you have to say track down your blog or site, stop in to participate in your blog discussions, and best of all, invest in your books. Or, to put it simply, be sincere, and be yourself, and keep your self-promo in your pocket until it's the right time to share.

What do you guys think?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Home Free Ten

Ten Things That Will Cost You Nothing

1. Celtx freeware is geared as pre-production software for screen projects, but can be used by writers with text for novel planning and outlining.

2. Explore characters and conflict with the interactive, artificial intelligence-based art/research experiment in electronic narrative freeware game, Facade.

3. Faces, the "Swiss Army Knife for Project Managers" freeware, may help you outline better.

4. Efficiently sort, store, map and fiddle with your notes via Idea Notes freeware.

5. LangMaker freeware helps you create your own language, evidently in minutes.

6. Create online photo galleries for your web site, or storyboard your novel ideas, with Limon Photo Album freeware.

7. Filter yourself with's Newspeak Translator freeware, which claims to edit your writing to make it a)old-fashioned and beautiful or b) fashionable and politically correct.

8. Podcasters and VRS users might want to check out the features of StoryHarp freeware.

9. Also from, a freeware called The Thinking Man's Thesaurus (woman, apparently, still can't think.)

10. Manage the non-writing aspects of being a writer with the trial/lite download of Write Again!

Of interest to all:'s Info Note freeware allows you to make quick notes with zero hassle.


I'm back, and first thing I have to do is thank my pal Tom for standing in for me. I called him from the highway, asked him to do this on a very bad mobile connection and the man didn't even bat an eyelash. All the upgrade work he did around here while I was out of town looks beautiful. Tommy, you're a prince and a genius, but you know that. I owe you big time.

Now for you guys: your messages, e-mails, comments, prayers and good thoughts went with me every time I drove to the hospital and waited in ICU. I felt them surrounding my dad like invisible body guards. They kept me company, too; I never felt alone, not once, even when I was by myself. For my dad, my mom, and for me, thank you all.

Dad is better and stronger. We should know this week exactly what needs to be done next, and when that will happen. I'll also be heading back to be with him and my mom when he goes in for the next surgery. The parents come before the blog, but I know you understand, and I appreciate it.

Monday Ten will be posted later on today, or as soon as I figure out where all my drafts are on this thing and how to publish them without accidentally ordering nineteen anchovy pizzas, realigning the Hubble, launching an ICBM....

Thursday, February 22, 2007


The latest news from Lynn: Her dad Tony is getting better, but his next surgery won't be until some time in March. She'll be back online soon.

Lynn's agent sold two new Darkyn novels to N.A.L., which is going to make my wife very happy. Lynn, if you want to make me happy, sell some more Stardoc books. An editor has made an offer to reprint the post Strange Fruit for a writing book. Lynn said she knew those mutant citrus would somehow make it into print.

- Tom

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Protag No-Nos

(This is Lynn's Monday Ten post for this week -Tom)

Ten Things I Hate About Your Protagonist

1. Abracadabra Erection Dude: Whenever your protag comes within the line of sight of the love interest, he raises a pole in his pants. Every time. So is this guy mainlining Cialis, or what? Also, the tenting-the-pants reference? Boring now. Please think up another boner euphemism.

2. Freckle Sprinkle Girl: For some reason the freckled protag only has a cute little collection of maybe six freckles on her nose. Real women with freckles generally have them all over: on the shoulders, chest, thighs, keister, everywhere. Personally the only place on my body that isn't freckled are the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet. Do the freckles right or lose them.

3. Inexplicably Stumped PI: The mystery PI protag who cannot figure out whodunit until the last page of the book when I got it by page 50? Kill him or her and make someone else the protag. Or I will in my next novel.

4. Love Scene Interruptus: If your protag has more than two love scenes interrupted before mutual cookies are had, he or she is pissing off your reader. Have them do what everyone who gets interrupted does: unplug the phones, lock the doors, turn off the cell phones, pagers and whatnot, put Rover in his kennel, leave the shotgun on the nightstand and keep a can of mace within reach.

5. Needle Teeth: If your vampire protag leaves "pinprick" holes in his blood donor's flesh, it means he or she has needle-thin teeth. Which makes him or her a pinhead. If you're writing vamp fiction but have never personally bitten anyone, take a standard #2 pencil and stab a piece of styrofoam. See the hole it leaves? That's about the size of a standard vamp bite wound. Double it and you've got the bite mark. And repeat after me: Puncture wounds are not pinprick-size unless THEY ARE MADE WITH A PIN.

6. Oncoming Betrayal Headlights: When to rethink the simplicity of your plot and your protag's brain: 1) if the protag cannot see the Major Screw-Over coming at them at warp ten until the anti-matter reactor blows, 2) it involves the protag's love interest and the protag's best friend having wild monkey sex on the protag's bed, desk, sofa or car backseat, or 3) your beta reader spends three chapters muttering, "Come ON, dumbass, wake UP."

7. Supermodel Family Girls: It's been my experience that stunningly beautiful women are devoted to their mirrors, their hairdressers, their mirrors, their botox treatments, their fasting regimes, their mirrors, and their mirrors. If your Heidi Klum-Klone protag was a real woman, she'd be too busy getting parts of herself waxed to have time to spend the afternoon with Stroke-Afflicted Mom at the Disneyworld version of a nursing home.

8. Too Sexy for His Shirt: If your protag spends more than half the novel wearing only cut-offs or pants, you are naked chest-obsessed and he's probably freezing. Put some clothes on him for God's sake.

9. Unconvincing Flaws: Forgetting to water the plants, giggling and dropping things are not character flaws. They're what my twelve year old does when she's not watching Animal Planet or playing The Sims. Give me the real deal.

10. Wolverine Wounds: (Majorie can skip this one) When your human protag is significantly wounded, and does not receive professional medical treatment, they should feel some pain, ooze, groan, experience weakness and dizziness, pass out or at least need to go lie down for a while. This is not the time they should take on the Evil Overlord and his minions, have a sex marathon with the love interest, climb a mountain, duel, run laps, work out, or all of the above. If the wound is open and they do all that stuff they will BLEED TO DEATH.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tech support

Hello, I'm Tom, Lynn's friend from LA. I'm stepping in to do a little tech support and post news for Lynn while she's down south. She sends her warmest thanks for the prayers and messages you left here. She says to tell you that they worked, because Tony is out of ICU and at home, resting for his next surgery.

You can see that I'm not a writer. But while Lynn is taking care of her family I'll be updating the blog and publishing some posts she had saved for it. Today I transferred it over to the new version of Blogger. Tomorrow I'll start reviewing her archives and tagging the posts to make them easier to search and navigate.

Lynn has given me some subject keywords to use (Monday 10, John & Marcia, Friday 20, worldbuilding, plotting, and so forth) but she told me to ask you for suggestions also. If you have some, leave them for me in comments.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Yesterday morning my dad, Tony, had a heart attack. He was airlifted to a regional hospital where the surgeons saved his life; but as soon as he's strong enough he will have to have more serious, open-heart surgery. We were able to see him last night in ICU and he's hanging in there.

A few of you know how close I am to my dad. He's been a constant, loving, positive force in my life for the last thirty years. He may not have brought me into the world, but he helped me find my place in it. He is and will always be the father of my heart.

I'll be offline for a few days so I can spend this time with him and my mom, help them get through this. I would be grateful for any prayers and good thoughts you can send his way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

One day in the desert a bedouin
looked up and saw a mirage shimmering
ahead. Not water, but the splendor
of a dazzling girl.

In the thirsty, burning desert
among dry thorns, under a shadowless sun
he tried to reach her but instead
of that marvelous love he found death.

In his immaterial, immortal sleep
he still saw the splendor of that girl shimmering ahead, an eternal mirage.
And in his endless dream he began to walk looking for her.

--The Mirage, Avetik Isahakian (1904)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stuff Happens

While transferring hard copy files from the dinky cabinet to the new, shiny monster occupying the corner of my office, I came across a draft pitch sheet with some old novel ideas, like this one:

Hell on Wheels

Paraplegic Mike Anderson becomes stranded during a vacation rafting expedition for the handicapped on the American River. His only help is a newly-blind woman, former neurosurgeon Rebecca Stark. [Stuff happens, they survive.] Back in Florida Keys, Mike helps Becca accept the disability that ended her career, while she secretly arranges for an operation that may restore the use of Mike's legs [twist: Becca's eyesight is restored, Mike remains in the chair.] ECD: mid-2002

In those days I always took a pitch sheet with me to any publisher event (something I made a habit of after being cornered by Gina Centrello at a national conference and going completely blank-headed.) At the bottom of this particular sheet I wrote: "Polish, keep in purse." That came in handy later, when my editor took me out to dinner and asked me what else I was thinking about writing next. I made her laugh when I took the polished version out of my purse and simply handed it to her.

Hell on Wheels was my favorite of the eight premises I pitched to her that night. I had wanted to do a book featuring Mike Anderson, a wheelchair-bound secondary character from my first romance, Paradise Island. I was advised by a RWA friend that the idea it would not fly because both of the main characters were not beautiful, perfect, abled people. I figured that was its strong point.

But my friend was right -- my editor didn't like handicapped heroes or heroines, or the idea that the ending was (in her view) less than happy for one of them. She nixed all seven of the other premises, too. Some were better (as in more mainstream, less risky) than Mike's story, so it puzzled me.

I found out why when the editor told me the publisher only wanted me to continue the storyline from the trilogy I'd just wrapped up that June. Wrapped up as in finished, done, over, no more stories. Being the cooperative soul that I am, I went home, filed away all my new ideas in my unwritten archives and wrote up what they wanted. Those books became the Jessica Hall novels, which made my publisher happy and added greatly to the savings account.

Stuff happens. You adapt, you compromise, you keep working. Or you don't. Those are the choices we sometimes have to make between creating art and making a living.

What's in your unwritten archives?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cover Me Ten

Ten Things to Do With Your Cover Art

Important Note: Cover art is copyright-protected. Unless you own the art, always obtain permission to use cover art images, especially for any items you intend to resell, like stuff from

1. If you've got a one-word or short novel or series title, have it embroidered on a baseball cap like this one: Vanity Wear Most major malls have a kiosk embroidery service who can do them for under $10 each; you might get them a bit cheaper if you order in bulk from a logo shop (various prices).

2. Blogger will let you add your cover art to your profile page, which also adds it as an icon whenever you make a signed-in comment and on your blog sidebar under "About Me" (free, max image file size 50K).

3. I know someone is going to want this: How to make bookmarks using tables in Word. For people like me, try How to Make a Duct Tape Bookmark (free).

4. Create digital stickers of your cover art in a variety of sizes at places like Stickers can be applied to anything (various prices).

5. Flickr has a neat a magazine cover generator that allows you to custom-design a magazine-style cover. Darkyn TimesUse your cover art as the image and do anything from producing a nifty newsletter cover to spoofing yourself (free; click on image to see larger version).

6. Also from Flicker, use your cover art or elements from it to create your own motivational poster (I went with more classic art for mine; free).

7. Office Depot will take your cover art and put it on coffee mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads, die-cut puzzles and more (my sister-in-law used them to make some cover-art gifts for me, and I was impressed by the quality of the end product, which is why I'm recommending them).

8. will create a sheet of customized postage stamps featuring your uploaded image Go postal(about $1.00 per stamp; a bit pricey but a nice collectible or gift for your favorite writer).

9. John Pollock's has some interesting web design articles, including one on Resizing Images and How to Promote Your Artwork Online.

10. BellaOnline's Yvonne Russell has an article here with a list of promotional widgets marketing sends out; she suggests authors make -- you guessed it -- bookmarks.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dictionary: Impossible

Let's play Dictionary: Impossible.

Writers, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take out your dictionary and flip through it, then stop on any page at random. Write down the first word you see. Repeat until you have a list of ten words.


Level 1: Create at least three novel titles using only the words on your list (a, an, the, and other simple words can be added for style.) You have five minutes to complete this level.

Borough Cemetery
An Underproof Cocktail
The Nag
Excessive Nonage
Steamroller Subculture

Level 2: Create a story premise for the titles you've created from your list. If you get caught on this level, PBW will disavow any knowledge of you.

Borough Cemetery: Citizens of a fortified medieval city discover the victims of a strange plague won't stay in their graves.

An Underproof Cocktail: Farmer Bubba's miracle cherries were supposed to soak up the alcohol from the youngsters' drinks, not turn the teens into killer zombies.

The Nag: She knew he loved her; all he needed was a little half-hourly reminder to show it.

Excessive Nonage: How many times could one demi-goddess cheerleader turn sweet sixteen?

Steamroller Subculture: Homeboy heavy equipment operators battle a demon road crew paving the way to hell.

Level 3: Write an opening line for the title/story premises you've created. Should you decide to continue on with the mission, you have exactly thirty minutes to complete this level.

Borough Cemetery

The Baron would have blamed it all on the gravediggers, but theirs were the first bodies left in pieces outside the city's gates.

An Underproof Cocktail

Seein' pictures of that college fella usin' clay teabags to soak up poison outta bad drinkin' water were what gave me the original idear.

The Nag

She'd left him her phone number, written on his bathroom mirror in red lipstick along with a kiss-print and CALL ME LATER.

Excessive Nonage

"Diana Hunter made the squad?" Heather, who had not, turned purple under her crystal rose blush. "She only moved to town like two minutes ago."

Steamroller Subculture

Bodeen climbed down from the barricade truck and walked over to inspect the surveyor's mangled, bloodstained tripod. "Somebody let Julio back up the dozer again?"

Level 4: Write the story to go with one of your opening lines, premises and titles. You may take as much time as you need, but remember that any idea may self-destruct in as little as ten seconds.

Level 5: Write the stories to go with all of them, and you win Dictionary: Impossible.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I am seriously rocked by the response to the Blood Bound giveaway; not only for everyone taking the time to join in, but also for your author and title recommendations. I'm already making a list for my next trip to the bookstore.

The winners of the giveaway are:

Kristopher Reisz

Maria, Lover of All Things Romance

Terri (whose comment started with: Here are a few authors that I'm really enjoy reading at the moment: L.A. Banks for her Vampire Huntress series.)


Martie (whose comment started with: J.R. Ward. Despite silly names and an off-putting glossary, she's unmatched at putting tension on every page.)

Winners, please e-mail me at with your full name, ship-to address, and if you'd also like a copy of Moon Called so I can get these books out to you. My thanks to everyone for your contributions to all our reading lists, and congratulations to Patricia Briggs, our newest New York Times bestselling author.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday 20

Many of you out there are series writers like me. Used to be that a series was like a marriage; the ones that were well-loved, realistically planned and carefully considered could be expected to last longer than the Vegas-wedding types. The writer decided when to call it quits and move on, too.

As competition for slots has increased, and bottom line expectations have escalated, writers are finding that having a series is more like being involved in an illicit affair. If the series performs poorly, the writer is shown the door without ceremony. Publishing doesn't need to mess around with a loser when there are so many other pretty series virgins out there. If the series does well, the writer is praised and immediately put on a very short leash. Publishing doesn't need the writer to mess around writing anything else; it might not perform as well.

Either way it's a creative choke-chain, and if we're not careful, it's going to strangle us.

Writers don't have job security -- we know we're only as good as our last sell-through -- but I think series writers have to readjust the way we think about our novels. Certainly structuring them has become a nightmare. It's almost as if every series has to be open-ended, so that we can continue writing it if it does well, but every series book has to also work as the last novel if we get canned.

Trilogies are the worst. Take it from me: if you're planning to write a trilogy, do your best to sell all three books; don't sign for two and assume they'll buy the third with the next contract. Also, consider what you might write if, after the third novel is published, they tell you that they want more of the same.

I really can't complain too much. As a pro I chose to diversify early on for other reasons, but it definitely helped me avoid the leash. Multi-genre writing isn't for everyone, but if you're up to the juggling act you have a shot at never being owned an/or controlled by one publisher. Writing in more than one genre also flexes your talent muscles, broadens your horizons, and ups the wattage on your resume. There is no better employment insurance than showing that you've got range.

There is no series insurance except success, which can become a trap. There are writers who are happy to keep churning out the series novels for as long as they get contracts, and a few who apparently can only write the same book over and over; these people do benefit from being tethered to a series. However much we series writers love our playgrounds, though, most of us don't want to spend our entire career chained there.

If you're only interested in writing in one genre, then I'd go for writing in different sub-genres and avoid signing away your option to any one publisher. A romance writer who can write historicals, contemporary suspense and paranormals can sell them to three different publishers. You may have to assume a few pseudonyms to keep the powers that be happy, but you'll have three times the playgrounds and three times the store real estate that the one-thing-only writer acquires.

That's all the shop talk I have for you this week. Any questions for me?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Editor No-Nos

Ten Things Editors Probably Shouldn't Do to Their Authors

1. Assign Them Nicknames: Only call your author "kid" if your author is actually younger than you. The older author doesn't take it as a compliment; they probably have purses, rejection letters and marriages that are older than you. Definitely avoid using derogatory nicknames for the author behind their back -- the author will hear about it (see #6.)

2. Drop in on Them: Only drop in on your author at their home after you have called 48 hours in advance to let them know you're in town. When you arrive, don't ask for a tour of their workspace, they probably use a corner of the dining room table. If your author's children are present, refrain from talking to them in baby talk unless they are 18 months old or younger. If you're allergic to pet dander, pet hair, Play-Doh or dust, best invite the author to your hotel or skip the visit altogether. And avoid asking the author to cook for you. You'll live longer.

3. Err on the Title: Try to use the correct title for your author's present manuscript when you talk about it with them. Never guess at it; you'll probably get it wrong and this freaks out your author.

4. Forget Their Calls: If your author is the type who only calls you once or twice a year, and you miss their call, try to return it. If you forget, they will imagine horrible things and never call you again.

5. Lie to Them: If you're going to lie to your author, make sure the author has no other sources of information (like your assistant, co-editor or boss) with whom they can quietly check out if what you said is true.

6. Make Public Complaints: It's best not to complain about your author at conferences. What you say will be repeated word-for-word to your author in an e-mail from someone present who doesn't like you.

6a. Attached to the e-mail will be a candid, unattractive photo of you, too.

6b. Taken while you were drunk and trying to give the conference guest of honor a lap dance.

6c. In front of his wife.

6d. Which your author will then e-mail to all your other authors.

7. Miss Payments: You like getting your weekly paycheck, right? It's nice to pay your author on time, too. If you can't, let them know. If you forget to pay your author for a year or more, don't make excuses. Don't make a cute little joke about it. Just: Mail. The. Check.

8. Object to Revision Questions: If your author questions something involved with the revisions you request, don't immediately assume the author is an ungrateful, egotistic snot trying to usurp your authority, or that the author hates you, or that the author wants to get you fired. It may be something simple, like they can't figure out how you want them to change something, or they can't read your handwriting.

9. Spouse Talking-tos: If you call the house when the author isn't home and speak to the author's spouse, partner or significant other, resist the urge to have a heart-to-heart talk with them about their inability to be supportive of the author's career. It will not make the author's spouse more supportive, and the author will come home to World War III.

10. Tactless Blurb Requests: If you ask your author for a quote for for a newly-signed rookie, avoid referring to the rookie's debut as "the best book I've read all year" if your author has turned in a book in the same year. For one thing, you won't get a quote.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Blood Bound

I've been nagging people for years to read Patricia Briggs, but I've been a particular pain about it ever since she published Moon Called. That's why I shrieked like a fangirl when I saw that her latest novel, Blood Bound, debuted this week at #35 on the USA Today BSL and #12 on the New York Times BSL. At last people are discovering, as I have, what a terrific writer Patricia is.

Blood Bound by Patricia BriggsThe second novel in Patricia Briggs's dark fantasy series continues the story of Mercy Thompson, a shape-shifting garage mechanic who tries to live a normal life while dealing with werewolves, vampires and other supernatural forces surrounding her. The novel does not suffer from the dreaded second book syndrome; in fact I think it's better than the first.

The satisfaction this book delivers really surprised me. After reading Moon Called, I wanted to know more about what it's like for Mercy in her other-than-human form. I was also curious about the hierarchy and culture of the vamps in her world, and just how dangerous they could be. I flat-out fell in love with Adam and Samuel, and couldn't wait to see how their involvement with Mercy was going to progress. Patricia Briggs delivers all that plus some in Blood Bound while somehow making it an excellent standalone novel as well.

As always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name an author who regularly surprises you (or, if you have not yet discovered such a story magician, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, February 9, 2007. I'll draw five names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs. Giveaway bonus: if any winner has not yet read Moon Called, I'll throw in an unsigned copy of that one, too. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

February: Database

This month's biz post is about creating a database of industry info for contact purposes. This is your index to everyone else in the business, something you need for queries, proposals and other types of submissions. It's also a great way to create your own who's who and get to know your colleagues.

What you put into this database can be custom-tailored to your needs, but you'll probably need to maintain contact lists for agents, editors, publishers, and other writers. Optional databases would be lists of who is approachable, whose marriage is in trouble, who's a quote slut, who could turn a chunk of coal into a diamond by sitting on it, etc.

Agents: There are all sorts of indexes and books you can buy on agents, but I find most of them are outdated within a year of publication. I recommend using The Association of Author's Representatives web site, because the agents are required to follow the AAR's canon of ethics, plus it's free. Here's a sample listing from their database:

Last Name: Anderson
First Name: Kathleen
Company: Anderson Literary Management, Inc.
Address 1: 12 W. 19th Street
Address 2:
City: New York
State: New York
Zip: 10011
Country: USA
Submission Guidlines: by mail: fiction: 50 pages plus bio and query
nonfiction: narrative proposal including overview and resume
by email: all email queries should be addressed to queries sent to other addresses will be forwarded there.

Email address for queries:
Literary: TRUE
Dramatic: TRUE
Adults: TRUE
Children: TRUE
Photo: Not Available
Accepting e-mail queries: yes
Genre: African American Studies, Americana/Regional, Anthropology, Archeology, Asian Studies, Behavioral Services, Biography, Children's Books, Essays, Fiction, Fiction/African-American, Fiction/Asian-American, Fiction/Gay & Lesbian, Fiction/International, Fiction/Latino or Hispanic, Fiction/Literary, Fiction/Short Stories, Fiction/Thrillers, Fiction/Women's, Geography/Geology, Government/Political Science, Health/Nutrition, Historical Fiction, History, Human Relations, Humor, Journalism, Memoir, Native American Studies, Natural History, Non-fiction (general), Non-Fiction/Narrative, Philosophy, Politics, Pop-Culture, Psychology/Psychiatry, Religion, Science (general), Social Sciences/Sociology, Travel, Women's Studies, Young Adult Fiction
Accepting New Clients: TRUE

A lot of good, specific information there for Ms. Anderson. You may also want to start tracking how quickly agents respond to queries, what sort of feedback you receive from them, who their other clients are. We'd all like to know if they're easily swayed by gifts of gourmet chocolate, dinners at French restaurants, begging and pleading, tears, threats of suicide and the like, so feel free to share that information.

Editors: You'll find a few sites out there like this one that provide free lists of editor contacts, but remember that editors move around (Jennifer Heddle, for example, is listed as Roc's editor; she's actually working over at Pocket now. Ace editor Anne Sowards is doing most of the editing for Roc these days.) I recommend going to the publisher's web site and checking to see if they have a contact info and/or submission guidelines page. For example, Kensington Books has an excellent contact page; scroll down to see their submission guidelines and editorial staff listed by name with their specialty and e-mail addy.

Do not keep databases of editors whom you have surreptitiously photographed while they were intoxicated and trying to hit on the GoH in front of his wife. What happens at the con, stays at the con. Plus we'd like to use the pics for the Editors Gone Wild newsletter.

Publishers: We've talked before about who the major publishers are, but they all have different divisions, lines, categories and imprints. There are also plenty of smaller publishers, houses and presses out there. Because we write by genre, the most logical way to classify publishers is by the genre they publish (and many will publish much more than one.)

Writer's Digest puts out a doorstop-size Writer's Market every year if you want to invest in a copy; the information becomes quickly outdated, though (why else would they print a new edition every year?) It's rather pricey, so I recommend getting it from the library. One of my old tricks was to go to the bookstore and write down the names of imprints on the spines of books that were shelved in the genre I was interested in, then come home and look up their web site.

Some writers have already compiled genre publisher list and made them available them online (like the Passionate Pen's list of romance publishers or's Crime Fiction publisher links.) Verify the contact info if you're not sure how up-to-date these lists are.

By the way, PBW's Database of Publisher Horror Stories As Told By Other Writers does not exist. It's an urban myth, like Bigfoot. Really.

Other writers: I think we all keep contact lists of writer friends, but you may want to create one for writers in your genre for things like making quote requests, meeting at cons, networking on promo, getting recommendations on specific editors/publishers and so forth. Most pro writers have a web site or weblog with an e-mail addy listed or a contact e-mail form you can fill out to request one. Don't feel snubbed if you don't get a response; some writers are a bit leery about giving out their contact info, or are so flooded with e-mail that they might not have the time/opportunity to respond.

Then there are writers whom you shouldn't contact because they're complete jackasses or raving maniacs, but you have to compile that list personally -- just like the rest of us did.

There are plenty of database, organizer and contact freewares out there, but I'd go with our blog pal Simon Haynes's Sonar submission tracking program to manage your agent, editor and publisher information. I also recommend regularly backing up your databases and, if you're as paranoid as I am, printing out a hard copy for your files at least once a year.

Other biz posts:
January: Plan

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cheap Date Ten

Ten Things That Won't Cost You a Dime

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

1. While hunting for a color picker freeware for the Mac users out there, I found one listed over at, aptly named: ColorFinder.

2. Need some accounting software for your home business but can't afford the pricey stuff? CompuEx's free version of Express Accounting "offers a comprehensive suite of integrated financial accounting and operations management modules covering Accounts, Bank, Inventory, Sales and Receivable, Purchase and Payable, Tax Management, and a comprehensive Financial and Management Reports via Crystal Reports."

3. FontPage freeware by Bluefive Software allows you to "view any typeface in bold, italic, underline and also 3D. In addition, you can also compare two selected fonts and preview fonts that are not yet installed on your system. FontPage can also print a sample page for selected fonts or print a list of all installed fonts."

4. Make your online book reading easier and more enjoyable with JimiSoft's JMReader freeware (note: it doesn't look like it supports .pdf formats.)

5. Get the reading level of any piece of text with ReadingRater (I thought this one might be helpful for YA and other age-specific fiction writers.)

6. AdSa's Responding Heads voice recognition freeware allows you to use voiced commands to control your computer.

7. Took me a while to track him down, but Richard Salsbury is still out there, with a new, 3.0 version of his excellent freeware for writers, Rough Draft.

8. Text Block Writer, the freeware version of virtual index card software Text Block Author, is available with new features and some bug fixes in version 1.17.

9. also offers a shareware free trial of The Writer's Organizer 5.6, which sounds like another virtual index card program with a few more features. According to the preview info, you can "create an unlimited number of pages, full of cards. Cards can be of ten different kinds including character cards, faith and cultures cards, market cards and languages. These cards may be linked to each other and to external files such as word processor documents." There's also a submission tracking system that "allows you to keep track of where you have submitted stories" and a financial utility that "lets you see how much you are earning and how much you are spending on writing."

10. Organize your ideas, notes and projects with xJournal freeware.

Finally, if you'd like to find freeware written in something other than English, you can search the available downloads by language over at Freeware World Team.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Back & Winners

I apologize for my temporary absence, folks. Aside from the power and communication issues, the aftermath of these tornadoes really upset my kids. They went through a lot during the 2004 hurricane season, but in some ways this was worse. I know you won't mind that I made being mom my priority today.

Also, thanks to everyone who sent their congratulations to Rob via the RGB in FLA giveaway. You can catch his reaction at the end of the comment thread. I drew the names of the winners, and they are:



Jess (whose comment began with *happy dance* YAY! Debuts are inspirational.)

Winners, please e-mail me at with your full name and ship-to address so I can get these books out to you.

I'll be answering the Friday 20 questions tonight and tomorrow, so keep an eye on the comment thread. I appreciate everyone's patience, and hopefully I'll be back on schedule by Monday.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday 20

In an introduction to a collection of poems I've been reading by Robert Browning, Horace Gregory complained of the poet's "heartiness", in that it "conceals the cold heart, the inarticulate loneliness -- the wish to be Oh, so friendly -- so homespun, so eager to call everyone by the first name -- and beneath it, a deadly chill." He also compared Browning's strength of personality to a will that would not give in, a wholesale insensibility to poetic art, and (shudder) the act of shaking hands with an American.

Robert, you bad man.

Horace Gregory continues to slam Browning through his intro for another ten pages before he finally shuts up and Browning's work begins. Gregory's venting is pretty mild stuff (circa 1956) compared to what's written about authors these days, but it's obvious that Gregory considered himself way above Browning.

I can't say I agree. Robert Browning was an interesting 19th century poet who wrote some kickass verse. One of them, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, inspired Stephen King's Dark Tower books. Browning is remembered more for being married to Elizabeth Barrett, as well as being the subject of many of her love poems. Of particular note, #43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese, which starts off with one of the most famous lines of poetry in history: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I know there's more, that's just what I can think of off the top of my head.

20th century intro-writer Horace Gregory, on the other hand, I'd have to look up. Never heard of the dude.

Someday we will all be gone. I know that when I buy the farm, I'm leaving behind a body of work that can speak for me. Whether it will or not is up to the readers of the future. Chances are very slim that mine will; only a few books have that marvelous ability to carry their authors's voices for decades or centuries. The cool thing is that writing always levels the field; everyone has the same shot at becoming a Browning.

That's all the writer philosophy I'll inflict on you for this week. Any questions out there for me?

Storm update: A band of storms and tornadoes that came through our area during the middle of the night knocked out our power here, but we're fine, and so are our families. Please keep the victims of the storms in your thoughts and prayers; one of the major retirement areas was hit pretty hard. I'll check in and answer questions today when possible.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Guess what I found at the bookstore today:

Kiss Her Goodbye, Robert Gregory Browne's debut novel

It's a beautiful book, with very cool cover art -- you've got to see it up close to get the full impact. It's very classy, too. Reminds me a lot of my first novel. Okay, there aren't any bioengineered surgeons, maroon preying mantis nurses, nectarine porcupine orderlies or unconscious reptilian slavers giving birth to killer quintuplets on Rob's. But aside from those little details, they could be identical.

I should take this opportunity to offer some wise old crone writer advice to the author now. Not that he needs it, but still. I think we've covered why one shouldn't get their first title tattooed in the bikini area (can't show it off to anyone at cons and booksignings) and how to properly accessorize a powder pink twin set (pearls, always go with pearls)...

I know: Rob, if your production team suggests putting any type of leaping, dolphin-like alien lifeform on the cover of the next book?
Say NO.

We absolutely must celebrate this debut, so in comments to this post, please pass along your congratulations to Rob by midnight EST on February 2, 2007. I'll draw three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Kiss Her Goodbye by Robert Gregory Browne. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.