Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Iron Council Man

China Mieville talks about being China Mieville. He's nice, isn't he? I'd kneecap the first jerk who yanked on my earrings.

I'm also tempted to do another China parody, but probably not a good idea to push my luck twice.

China's latest novel, Iron Council, is now available pretty much all over the planet.


"Religious books now represent 11 percent of trade sales, or $1.9 billion out of a $13.7 billion market, according to Book Industry Trends, an annual report."*

I think the "Religious" genre label is amusing. Like the rest of the genres are written for/by/about heathens, right? Spiritual or inspirational would be more appropriate, not to mention more accurate.

Deliver Us From Evil by Dr. Tom Dooley (1927-1961)was one of the first non-fiction "religious books" I read as a kid (This is not a book you should let an eight-year-old read, btw.) My mother has always believed that Dr. Dooley, who had died the same year I was born, should be made a saint, and still prays to him. Likewise StarDoc was influenced by my early exposure to Tom Dooley's experiences as a jungle doctor.

People accuse Tom Dooley of starting the Vietnam War, influencing Kennedy to initiate the Peace Corp and, that dreaded of all things, being a gay man. The latter is also the reason he will never be made a saint. Yet ultimately all I see Tom guilty of was devoting his brief life to giving medical treatment to those who badly needed it. That qualifies him as a saint for me.

*from this NY Times article, registration may be required to view

Monday, November 29, 2004


An author interview I'd like to see:

Q: So, you're now writing romance?

A: No. I write fantasy. I don't write or read romance. (sneers on last word)

Q: But you sold this book to the largest romance publisher in the world.

A: Yes, but the (insert imprint) is strictly fantasy. No romance. It is not a romance.

Q: But it's being marketed as romance, and shelved in romance, and the spine says romance.

A: That's merely marketing ploys. (sniffs) My novel is not a romance, it's a fantasy.

Q: But your plot follows the relationship arc between a male and female character.

A: That's just part of the plot. (makes dismissive gesture) Not the whole plot. Not even half of the plot.

Q: Characters who fall in love. And live happily ever after. How about that part?

A: (face reddens)Didn't you read my book? I have magic! I have unnatural creatures! I have authentic Celtic spells! It's a fantasy!

Q: You really have a problem with romance, don't you?

A: (glaring)I told you, I don't read romance. Or write it.

Q: So, okay. Um, did you read the review Romantic Times wrote about your book?

A: (leaves the room.)

Monday Ten

Ten Things Said About Authors and What They Really Mean

1. I have never read any of the author's books.

The author writes better than I do.

2. I recommend this author to any fan of science fiction and fantasy.

The author and I are buds, as well as members of (fill in writer organization.)

3. The author creates great literature for the ages to come.

The author will put you to sleep faster than a sledgehammer to the back of the skull.

4. I can't remember the last time I saw a book by this author.

The author sells better than I do.

5. The author lays a strong foundation for a sequel.

Oops, the author forgot to end the book.

6. The author writes an evocative mood piece.

The author was plastered when she wrote this.

7. Author John Doe is the greatest (fill in country) novelist alive.

Author John Doe is pretty close to dropping dead.

8. The author hasn't lost his touch.

Oh, look, the author's meds finally kicked in.

9. The author writes as if in a delirious dream.

The author was plastered when he wrote this.

10. I envy this author.

I hate this author.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Love them anyway.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

-- from a sign on the wall of Shisu Bhavan, a Calcutta children's home supported by the efforts of Mother Teresa

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Editor Stanley Schmidt posted an old editorial he wrote about accepting and rejecting serial novels for Analog magazine.

I found this interesting, but it would have been more help to me back in 2002. Back then, my publisher put the StarDoc series on hold and instead had me write SF standalones for hardcover. My editor at that time suggested I submit StarDoc book six to Mr. Schmidt for serialization in his magazine.

I queried Analog and received a form letter approving a synopsis submission. I submitted the synopsis, and received a form letter rejection (I stress the form letters because a lot of aspiring writers think published authors don't get them. We do.)

This past spring I sold StarDoc book six, Rebel Ice, plus book seven, ClanSon to a different editor at Roc. This was nice as I signed for a lot more money than Analog would have paid me.

Another example: Gordon Van Gelder has rejected every short story I've submitted to F&SF (just FYI, he did brief but personal rejections as opposed to the form letter.) I later developed two of those stories into the Darkyn novels, three of which I also sold this past spring to Signet Eclipse. Also made a great deal more $$$ with the book sales than the short stories would have brought in.

Moral of the stories: A rejection doesn't mean your work can't sell. It only means it won't sell to that particular editor. Sometimes, they may even be doing you a favor.

D-Day 2029

Author and NBA passover Philip Roth predicts that in 25 years no one will be reading novels in this PBS interview.

Literary writers love to intone this kind of apocalyptic stuff, and it always tickles me. I can just hear Oscar Wilde snickering from his grave. Really should be done more toward the end of a millenium, though, not three years into the new. I mean, if you want to get that authentic, end-of-an-era lamentation tone just right. And timing is everything, otherwise you might confuse the lemmings critics. Always best get at the literati when they're building their latest postmodern wickerman, not hiding in the cinders.

Anyway, I think my job is safe. Sorry, Phil. (interview link via Golden Rule Jones.)


The Language Construction Kit.

Excellent resource for anyone inventing a language from scratch.

The Fantasy Name Generator, The Village Generator, and The NPC Generator.

Generate up to 50 fantasy names at once, build them a village, and create a motley crew to pester them, all at one site. Note, all of the above are provided for personal use only so respect the copyright.

Cyberbuddy will read just about everything on the computer to you, while the Abuse-a-tron will simply call you bad names.

I think I got these both from Holly.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Planet Zn+1 = Zn + C

Using fractals to generate planetary imagery can aid worldbuilder writers who, like me, have to create whole worlds from the core out. Ed Hynan's Fractal Planet Generator is my personal favorite, but Felix Golubov has come up with a pretty neat little program for planets and one for landscapes, too.

Other generators:

John Olsson's Fractal WorldMap Generator is another one I use frequently, and presents the image in a number of formats, including mercator and spherical.

Jim Burrows has one for Mac users here. (I can't test drive this one, don't have a Mac.)

Not enough? Try one of the many fractal programs listed over at Paul N. Lee's Fractal Software Links Page.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Gone Feasting

I give thanks for my blessings every day, but I try to make a special effort on Thanksgiving. In addition to cooking up a storm, I tell those I love how much I appreciate them being in my life.

This year the gratitude is a little different. We relocated and uprooted our kids from the only home they've ever known, survived an entire summer of brutal storms while surrounded by total strangers, and faced cancer, major surgery and broken bones. I don't think anyone could say that we were particularly blessed by these events, but we stayed together through them. We lent each other the strength to get through them.

We are a family, so we coped with everything as a family should: together.

My daughter made a "tree of thanks" at school. It's covered with autumn leaf-shaped cutouts, on which she wrote what she is grateful for, and says exactly how I feel, far better than I can:

Fun toys
My teacher
A bike to ride
A house to live in
Food to eat
Good Friends
My family

Happy Thanksgiving.


One of my ongoing side projects involves modern and historic child prodigies, and how we're wired differently from the rest of the species. As I was part of one of the first experimental CP programs in the state of Florida, and my daughter now has to cope with virtually the same problems, I'm hoping the study will provide some answers.

Chess and math prodigies always attract most of the media's attention, but they're not the only type of prodigy out there. Abstract painter Marla Olmstead has made over $100K from her paintings, shown at Anthony Brunelli's gallery in Binghampton, NY. Marla is four years old.

Advanced thought processing also plays an important part in the life of a child prodigy, particularly those of us with unusual memory capacities. One example of this is Arran Fernandez, who passed the GCSE and became the youngest person in the world to do so, at the grand old age of five.

Although child actors are seldom considered prodigies, it's good to remember that Macaulay Culkin's talents earned him more money in the first thirteen years of his life than two dozen actors see in a lifetime.

BVM $71

Although bidding went as high as $28K, the Virgin Mary in Grilled Chesse offered on eBay only sold for $71.00*.

The sandwich's owner claimed that she saw the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the toasted bread and although kicked off eBay once, was reinstated and permitted to continue the auction.

*$80.95, if you add in the shipping.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

As Expected

Things went extremely well with the site launch, and I am grateful to everyone who dropped by to have a look. We're starting some interesting discussions over on the message board, and that's also where I'm posting the dates/times I'll be in the chat rooms. Stop in anytime, we're open 24/7.

Self-promotion isn't my favorite thing, and I haven't done any for years, but it can be very educational. Certain theories I've always had about the industry were confirmed, to my intense satisfaction, and that will help me a great deal in navigating through the busy months ahead.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The New Site

Click here.

Press Release


StarDoc Author Lynn Viehl Launches Dark Fantasy Web Site

Orlando, FL November 22, 2004 – Multi-genre author Lynn Viehl launches Darkyn.com, the official web site for her debut dark fantasy novel series published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library.

Darkyn.com combines the latest innovations in web site design with user-friendly navigation to showcase Viehl’s newest novel series and create a gathering place for her readers. The site was designed by Metro DMA, the prestigious firm that has created web sites for Stephen King and La Boheme on Broadway.

“Everything about the Darkyn site revolves around the two things most important to me: the books and the readers,” Viehl said in an interview about the site launch. “That’s what I wanted.” Readers will be able to connect with Viehl via the site’s chat room and discussion boards, where she plans to stop in frequently.

In addition to writing eight novels in 2004, Viehl spent months researching and developing the Darkyn.com project. “The three hurricanes that hit us this summer didn’t help much,” said Viehl. “I lost two computers and did most of my work on a battery-operated PDA.”

Viehl’s readers never wait long for her books. Since her professional debut in January 2000 with the bestselling SF novel “StarDoc,” Viehl has published twenty-five novels in five different genres. The Darkyn novels “If Angels Burn” and “Private Demon” represent only two of the seven titles Viehl will publish in 2005.

More information about Viehl and the Darkyn series can be found by visiting http://www.darkyn.com

Author Lynn Viehl

Metro Digital Media Artists
Project Manager: Judy Hahn
(212) 213-6008

New American Library
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-2000


Saturday, November 20, 2004


I have about ten thousand things to do in the next twenty-eight hours, so I'm outta here. I'll stop in to post a copy of the PR and the interview link here when the site goes live, but it will likely be a few days before I can journal with any frequency or coherency.

Then it's, uh, Thanksgiving? Yep, Thursday. (note to self: Add shopping to the list for tomorrow.) Seems every time I blink the calendar flips.

Nervous, a bit. I just wish I knew if this is going to work the way I think it will. The unknown and I are not on speaking terms. Determined, as always. One does not attempt to climb a cliff this size only to stop in the middle and whine, It's too hard I'm tired I want to go home. Tired, yeah. Tea, bath, bed.

Talk to you when the dust settles and the smoke clears.


In business, when you want to sell a concept, you need a word or phrase to communicate your idea to potential buyers. Often you can cook up this brand name by raiding the description of your product, as Microsoft did (microcomputer software.)

Writers do basically the same thing when they create novel and series titles. We try to hit the perfect word or words that will capture the browsing reader's attention. Personally I prefer one-word titles like StarDoc and concepts like Darkyn, but I also like hitting the poetry books and listening to music to get ideas. If Angels Burn came from a rather terrifying poem by Pushkin. My JH novel Into the Fire was originally titled Dance Into the Fire, a line from the theme song of View to a Kill.

Darkyn is a splice of two words, dark and kyn, the latter being a medieval spelling of kin. Unlike StarDoc, which hit me out of the blue while I was taking a shower, I spent an entire week scribbling on a pad and trying different combinations of words before I hit on Darkyn as the brand for the series.

Coming up with a new, memorable catch phrase for a title or series concept is simply a matter of playing with words. Keeping it simple is really the trick. Writers love to be wordy, which is why many have titles that read like bad bumper stickers. If you want your concept to jump out at people, don't load it up with a lot of artistic baggage. Make a list of single words that fit your novel's time period, setting, protagonist, theme, conflict and plot, i.e.:

Dark Ages
garden district
New Orleans

Once you have your basic list, take each word and play word association. You don't have to keep making lists, if you're not a list person, but do try combining and recombining different words. If you're stuck for words, head over to a site like Vocabulary Helper. My personal favorite is the Visual Thesaurus, because it presents the information the way writers and other creative people tend to think.

Remember to have fun with it, too. Make a game of it with friends. Approaching it with a sense of humor will relax you and often turn up ideas you might otherwise have been too uptight to recognize.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Up Creek

The point of no return whizzed past about an hour ago, when I approved the final copy of the site launch press release. It's now queued and ready for transmission on Monday 7 am EST. (I could mess with this if I really wanted to, but it will only wreck things on the PR distributor's end, so I won't.)

Nicole, if you happen to find your way here, thank you again.

The cover flats for If Angels Burn arrived tonight and art-wise, they are gorgeous. The cover is metallic and has embossed title, byline, and flames along the front bottom edge. Brooding and spooky. Best cover I've ever had. Possibly the best I will ever have.

Matches the editor. Bless you, Laura.

I owe Rick Kleffel for putting up with me to do the site launch interview and not snickering a single time. It was probably hard not to. It was rather wonderful to meet such a gentleman. Not sure if he will stop in here either, but if he does, Rick, I'm very grateful.

Judy, Brian and Jordan, my designers (the geniuses behind all this); Lord, what can I say? There simply aren't words. You guys get a page in the book and your pick of any limb you'd like. I really don't recommend the right leg.

Throught this entire experience one person stood by me. She cheered me on, picked me up when I went whomp and kept me from doing dumb things. Wise and wonderful, patient, always there when I need. Thank you, Holly.

Book Bash

I was hunting around for some industry-related news to link to this morning, but after reading what's out there, I'm a little depressed. Lots of articles bashing the authors of The Nanny Diaries for their second book, and sneering at Lily Tuck for winning the NBA, but not much else.

I feel like giving the entire industry a time out. Where are your manners? I don't care how much you want to play your GameBoy, you go over there and apologize to Lily and those Nanny women and then march straight into your room, buster.

Anyway, some overlooked news: Kevin Boyle also won the NBA for his nonfiction book, Arc of Justice, which examines race and urban conflicts in Jazz-age Detroit. Now this one is a brilliant book which I highly recommend. There is a decent review of it here. Alas, Kevin isn't a woman and he doesn't live in Manhattan, but he is one hell of a historian. Read!

Nathaniel Philbrick, whom I have also been yelling at everyone to read, has a nice $16 trade edition of Sea of Glory out in the book stores. If you have not read In the Heart of the Sea I am simply going to come over to your house and smack you. I've just started Sea of Glory but it is promising to be as good if not better than his NBA winner.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Where I work, everyday and night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


There are moments when I see something and have to hold my head to keep it from exploding. This one has to be be shared to be believed. (via Silent Bounce)


Wal-Mart has no the same problem spelling my name. Interesting, that. [edit note: I looked at it this morning and thought it was right. Of course, a lot looks right at 5:24 am.]

I'm preparing the mailing list for the Darkyn.com launch press release, to be mailed out on 11/22. If you'd like a copy, send an e-mail to LynnViehl AT aol.com and I'll add you to the list. My interview with Rick Kleffel of the Agony Column should also go live on Monday.

Reviewers who are interested in receiving an ARC of "If Angels Burn" should e-mail me with a request. Same addy as the PR. I will forward all of these to my publisher's ARC person.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Furthest from the shore, embracing all beyond.

(I'm going to get poetic for a sec. Indulge me.)

Last night I wrote a letter to a friend. In the letter I described some, not all, of what was running around in my skull. You remember that dock scene from The Matrix Revolutions when the sentinels are flying like one massive squid all around the inside of the dome? Multiply it by ten or so, and that's my thought process on a slow day. In my situation severe self-editing is always mandatory; you don't want to flash-fry the few people who get you.

Hardest part of the letter was wrestling with a description of what it's like to go so far out into the realm of what could be that you won't let yourself be aware of the effort involved or (except in the vaguest sense) the reason you tried this little bright idea in the first place. You can't. Courage -- or ego -- only extends so far, adrenalin runs out, nerves grow numb. Even fear and depression eventually collapse, unless you feed them parts of yourself.

The box slowly empties, and all that's left in the bottom is faith. And faith is smart and stays in the damn box.

I have to conclude then that it's will power. If your will is tempered and fired and accustomed to your usual bullshit, then it makes the trip with you, furthest from the shore, embracing all beyond. Will power is the only thing that can keep up and keep you going.

Have I lost you? That's okay. Write it off as a poetic burp in an otherwise pragmatic life.


I never knew how many freeware (software for free, shareware) sites there are out there. I went looking around for a data manager program someone mentioned to me and look what writer stuff I found: The Literary Machine, RQ Words, Book Format, Text Arranger, Keynote, Name Gen 2, Rough Draft, Personal Info Managers, StarStrider, VRML Beans.

Still didn't find the one I was looking for, through.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Quote Me

"I think it's time to rescue vampires from the boudoir of immortality and let them have a life. That's why I'm writing the Darkyn series." -- Lynn Viehl

Hmmmm. I should have mentioned the money.

Such a Deal

If you belong to The Romance Book Club, you'll get one of these in your monthly mailing:

(Removed due to copyright issue)

This is one of many ads that I never see for my books. Luckily Mom subscribes or I wouldn't have seen this one. The fact that they packaged me and Holly together was a bit of a jolt, too. Neither of us knew about it.

Except After V

Spelling rule branded into all our heads: "i" before "e" except after "c." Unless your name happens to be Sheila Viehl. Then people get confused. After twelve years of e-before-i then i-before-e, it was a relief to change my business surname to Kelly. No one screws that up.

Now, I have seven books in print under the surname Viehl. I believe I am as yet still the only Viehl in print. The cover of IAB actually reads Lynn Viehl. Yet online booksellers still can't spell it.

Oh, well. Half the people I know spell my name Shiela. I can answer to Veihl.

Monday Ten

It's the NaNoWriMo midway mark, and no doubt some of you are feeling it. I get that way on the second-to-last day before deadline, the next of which will be on December 1st. The best way to handle it is to write through it.

Still need a carrot? Okay, here are

Ten Things You Can Do After You're Published

1. Track down your nasty ninth grade English teacher and give her a copy of your novel, signed with the words, "Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah."

Do this early in your career. The truly nasty ones tend to drop dead as soon as they retire.

2. Scare the shit out of bookstore clerks.

Ask them if they like the picture of you on the back of the book. Be sure to wear the same outfit you're wearing in the jacket photo. To really mess with their heads, do this, then deny you're you.

3. Piss off everyone in your crit group who said you write nothing garbage.

Don't waste signed copies on them. A sweet smile and a simple "Guess you were wrong" does way more damage.

4. Use reviewers who trash your book as inspiration for certain characters.

The only thing more satisfying than revenge is turning a pseudo-intellectual critic into a blonde bimbo stripper who dresses like Slut Barbie and whose blood oxygen supply goes mainly to support her tits.

5. Issue press releases.

This is just too cool for words. All you need is Jimmy Olsen bobbing around your desk saying, "Want cream and sugar in that, Clark?"

6. Put the word "author" on your business cards.

Looks so official. Open the new box in private; you'll giggle a few times.

7. Have people ask you for your autograph.

Don't write "Buy More Copies" above your sig, though. Kind of tacky.

8. Meet your favorite author in the flesh.

When you do this the first time, do not carry a Coke in your hand. You will spill it on him/her.

9. Start a brag shelf and fill it with your own books.

Only thing better than a brag shelf? Two brag shelves.

10. Become a multi-millionaire bestselling author, invite all your publishers over to the house for a barbecue, handcuff them to the picnic table and make them watch as you burn all your unpublished work.

This is why success is the best revenge.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Art Cop

Edited at 3:20 pm to clarify

I said I wouldn't play Publishing Cop anymore, and I won't.* Today I'm going to be Art Cop, because I'm tired of reading about writers who think killing themselves is the answer to depression and/or failure.

A lot of people see artists as super-educated, sensitive souls who endure exquisite torture for the good of a squabbling, ungrateful proletariat which should pay attention but doesn't. This literati view is universally accepted and considered quite noble, enlightening, and artistic.

This is also a truckload of horseshit.

If you want to create great art, I'm all for it. I love great art. If you're a tortured artist, please, by all means, stick yourself in a garret and create. Only hang on to your day job, because if you try to make a living at selling your great art, you'll probably starve (best case scenario) or end up cleaning out your sinus with a bullet (worst case.)

If you're an artistic writer who wants to make a living selling your art, then you should know, going in: Publishers are going to use your tears to make their martinis.

I know how hard it is to accept that. I was a poet long before I was a writer. I actually went through all this artistic angst back in high school, when I thought it would be wonderful to die for your art. And despite the fact that I've grown up to be a cold-blooded mercenary bitch who will write anything as long as you give me a nice big check, I won't seek publication for the bulk of the poetry that I write. That's because writing novels is my job. Writing poetry is my art.

Just check all the trunks in the attic after I'm dead, okay?

*This applies to more than just the publishing industry.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I love this man

A 1994 interview with military historian Shelby Foote will be aired on C-Span on Saturday, November 27 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, November 28 at 11:00 am.

Unless you're a hardcore historian or a Ken Burns junkie, you've probably never read Shelby Foote. That's a crying shame, in my opinion. Anyway, Shelby never gives a bad interview, so go, watch.

NBA Redux

One dubious book award, five unknown finalists, and everyone's pissed off because . . .

Possibility #1: The authors are all women.

Sorry, after you gave us the vote we just naturally got uppity.

#2: The authors all live in Manhattan.

Which became a literary black hole when, precisely?

#3: The authors have not sold more 2,800 copies of their books respectively.

And yet if they sold two million copies, they'd be labeled vulgar penny-dreadful writers, right? So what is the genteel range in sales numbers?

#4: The authors' books are all similar.

Maybe they hang out together. Maybe it's some NOW conspiracy to have female authors paid the same as comparably successful male authors. There could be alien mind control involved. Hey, let's call Mulder and Scully.

#5: None of the authors are Philip Roth.

I'm sure Phil will endure the humiliation of it all like the gentleman he is.


I did the second e-interview last night. Hard one. The guy's questions had all the soft and fuzzy quality of oncoming highbeams. I was probably a little terse in places when I was biting the inside of my lip and mentally reciting my Be-Water mantra, but I got fairly wordy in others. Answers longer than two words, anyway.

I still can't discuss my books without feeling like a complete jackass, but this time I think I avoided sounding like one.

I was honest without trashing anyone, which was important to me. Once I thought you had to call out "The Emperor is naked!" because the truth outranks hurt feelings. It's actually better to move out of the Kingdom and go live alone in the forest, because one day someone bigger and meaner than you is going to realize what a vain idiot the Emperor is, and will march in, overrun the kingdom and slaughter everyone.

Whoa. I think I just analogized myself into Shrek's best friend.

Friday, November 12, 2004

T-Minus Ten Days

I've got a web site about to be launched, and today I saw the demo.

People have tried to talk me out of doing this. Everything has been said, from It's too expensive to It won't do anything for the books. The fact that I went and hired the best people in the web design business to create the website didn't go over in some quarters too well. Nothing said to my face, but a general feeling of How dare she do this was clearly conveyed.

You know how well I take direction and follow the rules, right? Yeah. Exactly.

I've never settled for second-rate with my books; I go straight to the top and sell to major publishers or not at all. I wanted to do it once with self-promotion, to see what would happen. And you know what? While I was working on this project, I thought about all the money involved, all the risk, all the potential flack it might generate, and decided it didn't matter. What mattered was doing it right.

It paid off.

The website goes live in ten days, and I can tell you right now: it's going to blow you away.


Riddick, the character portrayed by actor Vin Diesel in the movie Pitch Black gets a small amount of redemption in The Chronicles of Riddick which is now available on DVD. [Warning: Spoilers on the latter follow.]

I seem to remember most of the SF critics panning TCoR, which is always a signal to me to definitely see it, as I never agree with those people. And I'm not sorry I did; Vin Diesel is one of my favorite actors and he did not disappoint. Also, the visuals from the movie are unusual and pretty awesome.

I guess what bothers me on the morning after seeing it is the redemption aspect. Riddick as an unrepentant murderer worked. Riddick being given a secret history and a Christ-like role in saving the universe simply didn't. I didn't need excuses for Riddick. I didn't need him sanitized. I accepted him as a murderer, because what he did in Pitch Black was realistic and yet balanced the ugliness and violence of his crimes without excusing them. If he truly needed some sort of redemption, I felt he found it in the first movie.

I took a deep interest in Riddick due to a character I've been wrestling with for six years, whose book I sold this spring and will likely be the third Darkyn novel, Darkness Has No Need. My character is a murderer. He is completely unrepentant. I have no plans to redeem him, as redemption does not apply to him. Neither do nearly all of the other rules by which we live. Thus seeing TCoR was good for me, not only for the enjoyment factor, but to see where I don't want to go.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Baltimore City Circuit Judge I. H. Hammerman doesn't think The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is an educational organization and as a result, doesn't merit tax exemption.

Cast Off Day

My son, who broke his arm playing basketball two days after Hurricane Jeanne hit us (yeah, it's been that kind of year) is having his cast removed today.

Prior to this, none of my children, including the grown up one, have ever suffered a fractured bone of any kind. I was weirdly proud of this, for some reason, i.e. My kids are too careful and/or too smart to break anything. I raised 'em right. Their father and I have about 175 broken bones between us, and are suffering with different forms of arthritis that have affected formerly broken bones. In my case, my right leg sings all the parts of the Ave Maria every morning as I hobble around.

The nature of my son's break isn't all that serious; if you are going to break your arm, definitely go for a distal fracture of the radius. Still, I'm anxious to see the new x-ray the doc will take, and observe his range of motion, and get started on the physical therapy. I want him back to himself, because he should be able to be a regular kid, play basketball, dress out for PE and not worry if he's going to smash his cast or get it wet.

At the same time, some part of me wants to fuss and fret and lock him up in his room for thirty years, so he doesn't break anything else. Got to get over that.

Gov Info

Government websites are often ignored, but many can provide excellent data for the writer/researcher.

111 fire fighters died in the line of duty in 2003. The youngest was 16 years old, and the oldest 81. FEMA's report for the year can be downloaded here, and while there are some homeland security screens you have to get through, it's free.

USDA Forest Service can be an important resource for anyone living in a heavily wooded or fire-prone area (like me) with good links to places like the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho and Six Minutes for Safety.

The CDC is huge resource for anyone researching pandemics, infectious disease and global health concerns.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Calm Prevails

I've done what I can to try and fix the mess. It's now in the hands of the powers that be, and what happens from here is up to them. Outlook: not so good, but all hope has not yet been abandoned.

This is not my first publication disaster, and I kinda doubt it will be my last.

You have to let go of so much when you sell your work. You must trust the people publishing it to turn out a quality product. You can help along the way but once the book is copy-edited, it's basically out of the author's hands. Most of the time, I think the publishers do a good job.

No matter what quality of work they do, however, the reader doesn't think about them. The reader doesn't know them. The author is held solely accountable for the end product, because the author's name is the only one on the cover. When the reader wants to point a finger, it's always at the author.

True story: A colleague of mine in the romance genre once had a cover that depicted the hero of her story as an identical twin of the Pillsbury DoughBoy. Seriously. Her cover was the most hideous I've ever seen in the genre (and this includes the infamous three-armed heroine from that Christina Dodd historical.)

My colleague, a consummate professional, ordered several hundred bright yellow smiley face stickers. She then passed them out at every convention with instructions to stick them over the hero's head on the offending cover. The readers absolutely loved the idea.

I'm calm. You can weep and tear your hair out, or you can move on; I'd rather move on. But if anyone knows where I can get several thousand 3" X 5" smiley face stickers . . .

So What Do You Do?

I think I should share this experience, as well as the laughter involved, because getting terribly inappropriate cover art isn't the end of the world.

My first reaction was "It's Flipper! On my damn book!" and then about ten minutes of walking around the house and laughing helplessly. You need to do this, because it keeps you from calling the editor, which is not advisable at this moment. Trust me on this.

The next thing you do is tell your best friend and show it to her. Mine said, "Oh, god" and then prompted me to go directly to step #3, do not pass go, do not collect $200. She also reminded me that she has had two covers that are worse. This is why I love her.

Step #3: You call your agent, and have the agent handle it. That's why you pay them the 15%.

I'll probably know today if there is anything I can do about it. 95% chance is, probably not. Then my fairly serious SF adventure novel will forever be bound in a dust jacket with Flipper in drag on it, and I'll have to live with it. And you live with it, boys and girls, because that's the publishing industry.

There is no great loss without some small gain. I can stop pointing to the Down's Syndrome, Nickelodeon-slimed girl on another cover of mine, the one I refer to as "The Stupidest-Looking Cover of All Time." For sheer idiocy, I think this actually surpasses it, something I had not thought possible.

Just When You Think

You've seen everything in this business . . .

Yep. I think it's Flipper. In drag.

Click here for a closer look, if you think your retinas can stand the burn.

Be Nice

At times, trying to write an authorial e-mail to someone who is deliberately trying to get a rise out of you is like trying to speak French through gritted teeth (try saying je suis épuisée with your molars clenched. Go on, I dare you.)

Like this guy who queries me about possibly publishing something on his web site. It sounds like a semi-pro offer from the subject line, so I open it, and it turns out to be another damn reviewer "informing" me that he's publishing this hatchet job, and here's a copy of it, cut and pasted in the body of the e-mail 'cause by now he's figured out I don't open attachments.

Here's how the first draft of my response goes:

Dear Moron Mr. Smith,

I don't know who the hell you think you are you, or why you decided to send me yet another pompous overwritten toddler tantrum-level detriabe your review of my novel you know, unlike those fifty pages you've been re-writing since high school, in the drawer to your left. I appreciate your invitation desperate cry for attention to respond with a good kick to your posterior rebuttal, but I never read trashreviews. I wish you would crawl back into your hole and leave me alone the best of luck and you'll need it with your future endeavors. Jerk.

Authors aren't supposed to be candid; we're supposed to be nice. And I think most of us try. There are a few notable authors who go berserk and start threatening lawsuits if you say anything negative about them on the internet, probably because (and someone had to explain this to me) they spend half the night googling their own names.

I don't do that, so I guess that's the attraction.

Reads note

In Antiquities, one of my monthly reads, Norman F. Cantor disassembles philosophers via a short and brutal sociological analysis of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. It's done with such surgical precision that it will leave you breathless (and suddenly understanding certain wailing liberals a lot better.) Cantor is not a lit-snob, though; he does the same thing to religion and other foundations of civilization. No malice involved, no emotional garbage through which you must wade; clean and dry and laser-precise.

Highly recommend this one, but only if you're prepared to have most of what you believe in presented to you in a very different light.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Best Policy

I have definitely one, maybe two e-interviews to do this week. An e-interview is when an interviewer e-mails you questions, which gives you time to think up clever responses, so you look like you actually deserve this job.

You can't be completely honest, either. Take the first question nearly every interviewer asks a novelist: What inspired you to write this book?

Dishonest novelist: First, all of the planets aligned with Scorpio, which of course took place during the summer solstice, and flooded my soul with the most amazing creative reincarnation energy -- did I tell you I was once a French King's courtesan? -- and brought me back to Christ, only not in a Bible-thumpy way, but in an awesome non-denominational thing that doesn't mean I have to go to church or anything. At the time I was in the last stages of closure with my former spouse and best friend for life, who is making such wonderful progress through detox and preliminary sex-change hormone therapy, and after I sold his Porsche for $1 I felt I was open to all the possibilities, and recalled that the same exact thing had happened to Herman Melville just before he wrote Moby Dick, only probably not with a crack addict/gender-confused spouse, so I allowed my muse to express this by exploring the delicate relationship between a rebellious artistic androgynous teen shoplifter and her murderous ex-prostitute parent figure, but not like the one in White Oleander, I assure you, with a setting in the same Deep South tableau in which I grew to maturity as the child of alcoholic parents who may or may not have been blood related, naturally, and then....(500 more lines of the same babble.)

What's the honest answer to that question? If you're an aspiring writer, you already know it. If you're not, then send us an e-mail. We'll get back to you.

Picking Your Battles

Editors like to edit, and while I'm doing pretty well with the final product, there are still occasions when an editor steps in and say Whoa, can't do that. With me, it's almost always tagged with That will offend the reader or That will burn the reader's face off.

Behind this is the ghostly echo of my mother wailing, Can't you write something nice?

I don't mind the editorial jerk on the writer-bit. I'm well aware that, left to run around unchecked, my powers could quickly be turned to the Dark Side. Then a little teeny hologram of my mother with two bagels bobby-pinned to her hair will have to pop up in Episode 19 and plead, Save us, Obi-Luke . . .

Seriously, editing can be a good thing, because you've got to justify how what you've written serves the story. If you can do this to your satisfaction -- and the editors -- then you can usually win the battle.

It's when the editor says, Sorry, still doesn't work for me that you have to decide whether to go with the edit, or stick to your guns. And you should make sure it's that important to you.

I'm pretty flexible, so I generally come up with a compromise that works for me and the editor. In the 26 books I've had published, I've only insisted on not changing something an editor didn't like twice -- the ending of StarDoc, and a single line said by the minister in Midsummer Melody.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Monday Ten Things

Links to inspire and delight those who write:

1. Name Generators that not even I would have thought up. Love the header line.

2. My pagan friends will chuckle at this one.

3. New Novelist Software is, evidently, an outline-writing program -- you have to write the actual novel -- but this could be helpful to the outline haters.

4. Wordcounter will help you find the word you've used too often in any given text. Just cut and paste in the box (not a download.)

5. WriteThis is pretty neat and free.

6. The Textalyser is, too.

7. So is Rough Draft.

8. You have to pay $29.95 to get this one, or $49.95 for the multi-pack fantastic offer, but the sidebar has some freebie lists you can access at no charge.

9. Tons more freeware.

10. And this story generator is funny in ways only a romance writer can truly appreciate.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


One of the subplots I played with in Afterburn, the SF novel that follows Bio Rescue, involves Jadaira's Terran stepmother, Teresa Selmar, and Captain Noel Argate, a marine biologist working for the League. This scene helps establish their backstory almost entirely through dialogue, which I prefer.

The danger of doing backstory in dialogue is that it can sound like a classic As-you-know-Bob info dump. Unless you have some fun with it. . .

Excerpt from Afterburn by S.L. Viehl
Scheduled Publication Date: September 2005

“The one who got away.”

Teresa turned to see Noel Argate watching her from the edge of the moon pool deck. She already knew what she would say before she removed her regulator and mask, but she took her time doing so. “The one who said he didn’t need an alien-lover girlfriend wrecking his career.”

“Teresa. You remembered. I’m touched.”

“It isn’t every day you find yourself dumped by your lover and expelled from your master’s program for cheating on a test you studied six months to pass.” She stayed in the water. “That program you planted on my computer was inspired, by the way. Everyone thought I had used it to hack into the university’s database and get those test answers. No BioTech on the planet would even glance at my enrollment application after you railroaded me.”

He held up one finger. “Don’t forget, I drove you off the planet as well.”

“That, too.” How like Noel to admit it so baldly, and right to the face of the former victim.

“Fortunately for me, you’re not a vindictive person.”

“You have always pegged me so well.” She removed the long blade from her shoulder harness and let the light gleam along its honed edge before replacing it. “Feel like going for a swim?”

“Maybe later, when there isn’t any steam pouring out of your ear canals.” Noel chuckled and dropped down to sit on the deck step, seemingly indifferent to the fact that seawater instantly soaked his immaculate trousers to the knees. “Your prediction was dead on, you know. I wrecked my career quite adequately on my own.”

She arched her brows. “Really. What brought you down? Sleeping with the wrong professor’s wife, or pissing on the wrong colleague?”

“Terran marine biology has become choked with the young and the restless these past few years.” Mild annoyance made faint lines appear across his forehead. “A promising experiment went bad, and someone with slightly more ambition than me took advantage of it.”

“Exposed you before you could clean up the mess and cover your ass, did he?” She let her grin spread wide. “Lord, Noel, as justice goes, that’s almost poetic.”

He looked down at the rippling surface of the pool. “It ruined my marriage and my career.”

Finding out he’d married someone else sent a small shockwave through her. “It obviously did nothing to block your dive into the exciting field of intergalactic military science.”

“I wasn’t thinking when I enlisted. I just had to get away from it; get off Terra and start over.” He tugged at the front seam of his shirt. “The uniform takes some getting used to, but the rest of it isn’t much different than teaching at BioTech was. I travel more. My colleagues aren’t Terran, of course, but one gets used to that offplanet.”

“How enormously courageous of you.” She swam to the edge of the pool. “Do go on. I should start weeping, oh, any year now.”

“I think you’ve cried enough over me.” He reached out to help her out.

“I hate to deflate your self-opinion, Noel, but it was only that one time, when I found all my belongings in the yard in front of our apartment.” Teresa ignored his hand and climbed out of the pool. “Mostly it was for the clothes. The rain and mud had ruined half of them, and I couldn’t afford to replace them.”

“The housekeeping drone wasn’t programmed to do that. I guess it got its wires crossed.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “God, you really must hate my guts.”

“Long time ago.” She began peeling off her wetsuit, and hesitated. It had been decades since she had lived on Terra, where public nudity was only one of the many social taboos. “I’m naked under this. If that’s a problem for you and your delicate homeworld sensibilities, best turn your back.”

He shrugged. “Seeing you naked was always a pleasure, but I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”

“I haven’t been a pretty young co-ed for twenty years, Noel,” she said wryly as she continued to strip. “These days my body fights gravity, and gravity is starting to win.”

“Nonsense. Mature women have their own appeal.” He studied her. “You’ve grown up beautifully, Terri.”

“Thank you. I think I can die happy now.” She stowed her suit and rig in her locker and pulled on a dry tunic and trousers. Get this over with, now. She faced him. “What are you doing here, Noel, and what do you want?”

He stroked his chin. “Friendship being out of the question, I suppose.”

“I’d rather tongue-kiss a man-o-war.”

Copyright 2004 by S.L. Viehl
All Rights Reserved.


Now that I'm disgusted with the entire country, it's easy to submerge back into the career. One thing to love about my job: I work alone, at home, and the only people who get in my face are those I adore.

My excellent web designers have put up the launch page for the new Darkyn website. Keep an eye on that page, there will be much more added very soon.

One Final, Election-Related Request

There are people like me with ancestors who served our country during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It doesn’t end there. My brother served in the Persian Gulf War, and I will have at least two family members serve during the Iraq War; perhaps more. I have absolutely no doubt a member of my family will serve in the next war.

I am also a veteran of the armed forces. I have worn the uniform, and served my country. I was fortunate that I served during a time of relative peace, so I never went to war.

I’ve seen the term “New Confederacy” being used by angry Kerry supporters. I’ve seen the term “Intellectual Nazis” being used by angry Bush supporters. My family served the Old Confederacy, and also fought the German Nazis. I don’t appreciate seeing those terms used as weapons by people who cannot respect the rights of the American people to vote for the candidate they freely choose.

Which is, apparently, half the damn country.

Honestly? I really don’t care who you voted for, and I wouldn’t judge you for your choice. Here’s a shocker: I respect you and your rights. If you voted for who you thought should be President, then you exercised those rights. Congratulations. Good for you. Great that you live in a country where you can do that, isn’t it?

What I care about is my history, and it is mine, because my people were there. History which you’re now dunking in your respective political toilets. Please understand that I totally respect your right to immerse yourself in such waste. Just don’t drag my history down the drain with you.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


I love Daniel Merriam's watercolors, which are being exhibited tonight in San Francisco at the Louis Aronow Gallery. This one isn't part of the print gallery on the internet, but it might be at the Aronow show. It's also my favorite of his work:

Smithsonian Magazine October 2004 issue has a great article by Paul Trachtman on NY Museum of Modern Art's conservator Michael Duffy, and the work he put into the restoration of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Way of the Cheetah

Getting up at 4 am when I don't have to may seem masochistic, but it will do great things for my daily quota and maybe buy me an extra week off during the holidays. Very early AM is also a good writing time for me, and I barely noticed the difference this morning when the alarm went off.

It's day six of NaNoWriMo, everyone still chugging merrily along? Hope so. I do enjoy seeing all the fun my friends are having with it. The 175,000 words or so that I'm writing this month = two books already sold, with deadlines attached to them, so this is not a game for me. This is my job. Here, every month is NaNoWriMo, and pretty much has been for the last six years.

If you'd like to boost your speed and productivity, this is what I've found helped me break the 10K per day barrier:

1. Write at your most creative hour. To find it, try writing at different times of the day and night, and see which one is most comfortable for you as a writer. I like early mornings because the house is quiet, everyone is asleep, and I get to see the sunrise on my break.

2. See the scene before you write. Try to imagine it in your head before you write it, like a movie clip. Envision as many details as you can, and don't forget to use all of your senses.

3. Make your writing area comfortable for you. Mine is a computer on a compact wheeled desk with nothing in, on, or around it. I'm like a three year old when it comes to being visually distracted by colors, shapes and patterns. Also, if things get loud, the wheeled desk is nice because I can push the computer into another room.

4. Write straight through without stopping. This is writing minus the back-pedaling, re-reading and rewriting. Start to finish, no editing. Don't question yourself, don't worry about whether you're writing well or not. Trust yourself and keep going.

5. Get up and stretch now and then. Walk around for a minute at least once every hour. Don't dehydrate yourself and eat something nutritious every six to eight hours. Your body will thank you.

6. When you're finished, save your work, print it out if you want a hard copy, and then shut it down and walk away. Give yourself a good break before you start editing what you wrote. I always take about four to six hours off before I look at what I wrote.

7. After you edit once, put the work away and don't touch it again. Moving on to the next section that needs to be written is probably the hardest thing for writers to do besides the actual writing. You'll have a chance to go back and fix things when the book is done, and this is good practice for streamlining your editing process.

8. Reward yourself for making your quota. When you reach a goal, give yourself a pat on the back and do something you enjoy. Have lunch out, take a long walk with the dog, watch a TV show or movie, buy yourself a book, listen to a CD. This is really important, because even when you sell your work the way I do, you still need to pay the muse, renew the spirit, replenish the creativity well or whatever you want to call it. I hand write letters, knit, quilt, paint, read poetry or listen to music. Sometimes I just go for a drive through the country.

9. Don't grade yourself. This is not a test. This is training. Test comes later, when they pay you for what you write.

10. Don't stop writing. The reason I'm in print? Is because nothing stops me. Three hurricanes tried this summer, and I wrote by candlelight on a PDA for a total of twenty-one days without power or water. You can always find a way to write. Keep it up.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Wordcount: 20,015


The wordcount at present, minus the two hours I spent answering business e-mails and researching the research. But as of today, I am about finished honing the fine plot points for my next GCI book, the owner of www.darykn.com (don't bother to go there just now; nothing's up yet) and ready to draw a scale model of my vision of Jericho, circa 1400 BC.

All the exhaustion of yesterday seems to have evaporated, so I'm good for another couple of hours of writing. If the words keep flowing, I think I might hit 20K tonight and take tomorrow morning off to do something fun with the kids. Cooking, maybe. We haven't made crepes since we moved here. Crepes and strawberries and cinnamon tea sounds like a neat breakfast.

Off to earn them.

Digging Into Jericho

Trying to map out an Iron Age biblical city scholars can't agree even existed at the time makes me wish I could go back to 1952 and kick Dame Kathleen Kenyon (universally acknowledged Jericho authority) in the shin, really hard. I can't rely on Garstang or Warren, and there were so many things she could have written about Jericho to settle this stuff. She was there, she dug it up. Instead, she chose not to organize her notes and write about her discoveries while dumping Iron Age pottery in her estate's pond to make a nice island for her ducks and smoking and drinking herself to death.

There are a lot of private, religion-related agendas among the academics, so you have to wade through them to get hard data, too. Some are devout Christians and Jews intent on proving the story of the Exodus; others want to discredit the Exodus and call the Hebrews a lot of displaced wandering goat herders who got uppity. You almost have to read a biography of the author writing the research book before you can trust what's in it -- and what isn't.

Kenyon seemed to be the most unbiased, scientific mind of the bunch, but she was criminally negligent with her findings, wrote next to nothing about them, and died before straightening out the whole mess. The time, circumstances and actuality of the fall of Jericho remains a big question mark.

Me, all I want is a map. I'll use my best guess and make up the rest.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Wordcount: 8029

Day at the OSC

Today I went as a field trip chaperon for my daughter and her fourth grade class to The Orlando Science Center. Six stories of some of the best kid-oriented/hands-on/totally cool science exhibits you can imagine. I touched a tornado made out of mist and watched a demonstrator throw a beaker of liquid nitrogen on a stage floor. Fort Lauderdale never had shows with liquid nitro. OSC offers reasonable ticket prices, too. If you're ever in town, and have kids, go.

Tonight I am a tired old woman with burning eyes, throbbing temples and aching joints who has been rudely reminded of how much energy nine and ten year olds have. Which is to say, an amount approaching infinity. All right, we played and laughed and had a wonderful time, but now I'm paying for it. Please note that on my tombstone, which should be commissioned by Friday at the latest, I would like engraved the following phrase: She Kept Up, The Fool.

This stuff is important, though. You need to talk to fourth graders about the nature of vortexes, how cold absolute zero is, and why NASA keeps crashing all those expensive things; it's an investment in the future. And know what? They love you for it. For taking the time, for listening, for being there. For understanding their insatiable curiosity. For some of them will be like me, and never outgrow it.


Roborats, TNG: John Horgan has an excellent article, The Myth of Mind Control in Discover magazine's October issue. Personally I'd love to see someone decode the human brain; I'm assuming, of course, we still have them. Also snagged a link to Puzzle Master Scott Kim's excellent website from this issue.

All in the Family: My granddad, a constable for Ann Arundle County, MD, was also a volunteer fire fighter in Riviera Beach for more than twenty years. On December 19, 1944, he was visiting someone at University of Maryland's University Hospital and personally put out a fire while in the building. I was not aware of any of this until last week. After I mentioned my admiration for the real fire fighters who inspired my last two JH books, Mom told me sent me copies of letters about all this that she's saved since his death in 1968.

Oh, That Landmark: Having a million books in print is a big landmark, according to all the other kids on my playground, and evidently, I'm very close. Unless the universe unexpectedly collapses, I should hit it sometime in March 2005. Go ahead, hate me. Thousands do. :)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Wordcount: 5672

Don't Mess with the Vagus

On the medical front, we went to the doc, got all the hardware removed, and did the post-op followup. My man was fine on the way. He was fine on the table. He was fine and brave during the icky parts. Had a good conversation with the doc, snagged a copy of the pathology report and loaded my man in his truck to drive him home. We were driving, he was fine, he was fine -- and then he wasn't.

Ten minutes from the doc's office, my man starts to have a vasovagal attack.

Dealing with a person who is fainting while you're driving in high speed traffic is not fun, but I managed. Took another twenty minutes to get him home, warmed up and rehydrated. After a good long nap and more fluids, he was fine.

I, on the other hand, am now *officially* stressed out. Because a vasovagal attack sometimes also looks like a heart attack, especially when it's the guy you love, who had major surgery fourteen days ago, and you're on an interstate and driving a ton and a half truck 65 mph and holding his wrist counting his pulse rate under your breath while remembering the last guy who had a heart attack while he was alone with you didn't make it.

I don't want to have a heart attack, so after the scare was over I shifted into recoup mode. I prayed, drank my calming herbal tea, spent some time hanging with the man and our kids and did a little knitting. Now I'm going to soak in a tub for awhile, and then I'll write, and work out the rest of it on the page, where all that fear belongs.


Guess I was wrong about it dragging out -- Kerry has conceded to Bush. And everywhere you go, it's whine, gloat, whine, gloat, right? I feel bad. So many people in the publishing industry are going to have to keep that vow to move to Canada. Could be good for Canadian publishing . . .

Anyway. Enough politics. Let's talk some real history here.

The first chapter of Wanderings, Chaim Potok's History of the Jews, ISBN 0-449-21582-2, starts with this line: "When I turn to the Bible, I discover that my ancestor's name was Abraham." I bought the book for that lovely, simple line, and will probably throw aside everything else I'm reading so I can enjoy what follows. $7.99 from Ballantine.

Norman F. Cantor goes back about two and a half million years more than Potok as he opens Antiquity, ISBN 0-06-093098-5, and covers civilization from the time it was born in Sumer until it fell with Rome. Less personal, more scholarly, but worth the $13.95 you have to shell out to HarperCollins for the trade pb.

Barbara Tuchman, whose A Distant Mirror got me hooked on historical narratives way back in '79, offers views of England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour with Bible and Sword, ISBN 0-345-31427-1. Ballantine's 2003 edition is $16.00.


As of this hour, President Bush stands with 254 electoral college votes; Senator Kerry with 252. In keeping with the vicious pettiness of this Presidential campaign, I don't think this is going to be bloodless or over any time soon.

This is a reminder, however, that we are a nation of states. Very different states which all have their own way of doing things and will defend that way if they have to take it to the Supreme Court. The fact that the state of Ohio may be what decides this thing seems an appropriate kick in the backside for both candidates.

I have watched this campaign endanger free speech, independent thought, personal liberty, and the right to freely vote one's conscience. I've observed it turning a lot of allegedly intelligent, gifted people into programmed thugs. I've witnessed a division of Americans by rank and privilege more chilling than any in my life experience.

I've seen aspects from my own science fiction -- intended strictly to be a tongue-in-cheek parody -- becoming reality.

If my grandmother were still alive, she wouldn't be surprised by any of this. She would sit me down, remind me of our history and the fact that our greed will outweigh everything and keep us from destroying ourselves. She'd also smack me for what I call the American people and tell me not to insult the Good Lord's sheep.

Gran, today, I miss you.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Final wordcount for the day. Bought myself a morning off.

Ten Things

You Should Not Do When You're a Published Author:

1. Have your cover photo shot taken at that photo chain in all the malls.

Soft focus and off-the-shoulder caribou collars don't make you look prettier. They make you look fuzzier and stupid. Get a real photographer.

2. Wear a pink business suit.

Pink is cute on ten year olds. You're thirty-eight. Buy some grownup clothes.

3. Talk about your hero like you've actually had sex with him.

Unless you're being truly creative with your author copies . . .

4. Refer publicly to your editor as "that bitch" or "that bastard."

Repeat after me: "My editor is my friend. My editor can forget to request my advance checks from accounting for the next eight months. My editor can request Heather, the nineteen-year-old copy editor/college intern who chews Bubble Tape, starts every sentence with "Like," and wears temporary Celtic tattoos, to edit my book.

5. Respond to a hatchet-job review.

The person who wrote that review? Is forty pounds overweight, has had two or three lousy marriages, hates men, hates women, is balding unattractively, is addicted to painkillers, or has a stack of rejection slips for their little literary masterpiece dating back to 1981.

Or, if they've trashed one of my books, all of the above.

6. Write a review for your own book on Amazon.com and give yourself 5 stars.

The exclamation points and calling it the best book of the year are a dead giveaway.

7. Post messages on Internet discussion boards where you pretend to answer a writing question while pimping your books. Every single time you post.

The first five hundred times covered them beautifully, thanks.

8. Refer to aspiring writers as "young" writers.

Christ, that's just annoying as hell.

9. Invite other published authors you don't know to 1) join a reader discussion group about your books; 2) tell them they don't have to read your book but you'll welcome a cover blurb anyway or 3) try to disrupt one of their online chats to pimp your books.

Kind of a warning to those who haven't done this. If you have, I think you're beyond help.

10. Write a "Ten Things" list that could embarrass your colleagues.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.

Polls Report

I voted. How about you?

Only one small incident at the polls: a rabid supporter of one candidate was sneaking up and down the line, handing out homemade pamphlets smearing the other candidate. One of the volunteers at the registration table finally chased him off. Jerk.

While we were waiting our turn, we heard a glitch wiped out all of Volusia County's votes, which will now have to be recounted. Here we go again.


A friend sent me a link as a supplement for my ever-growing collection of Authors Behaving Badly. Now this one is so pathetic I don't have the heart to link to it. So just a suggestion, then: if you aren't awarded a major industry award, don't publish what would have been your acceptance speech on your weblog.

I mean, dude, you lost.

Buying Time

My man goes to get the staples and other assorted gear removed tomorrow at the doctor's, and I'm driving, so I need to get tomorrow's quota done with today's: Minimum 12K on the books, and finalize the proposal to send out.

Thursday I'm spending the morning on a field trip with my daughter, but I can make up the time & quota by working late that night or increasing the wordcount quota for the next day.

Organization and self discipline are largely regarded by many aspiring writers and more than a few professionals as being unnecessary and even the antithesis of the artistic way. Which is really good for me, because while they're not writing so they can talk about suffering for their art, I'm finishing another book.

If you're interesting in becoming more disciplined, I'd recommend you first try to commit to writing time, as in writing every day at a pre-determined hour. Doesn't matter if it's only ten minutes before breakfast, hit the keyboard, and write for that ten minutes. Keep using that time to write, and when you feel comfortable with it, either extend it, or set another chunk of time for writing.

Other time purchase: Received eight minutes of If Angels Burn on audio, read by the voice actor I hired. Beautiful job.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Wrapping it Up

Plotted and wrote two synopses today; sent one off to the respective editor and will sleep on the other for the night. Not quite satisfied with the twist yet.

Wrote a new chapter for Rebel Ice, edited it tonight. I've got a decent flow rolling with this one so it pours out onto the page.

Worked on the next chapter for my second biblical historical novel. Much tougher and slower-going, not quite comfortable with the new voice yet. Also still waiting for some dig/research books to arrive so I can complete my layout map and get more details on the field irrigation systems that were used, which are turnkey to the plot.

Wrote two devotionals for the 2006 Anthology. Stayed under my 250 wordcount max limit for those, but it's never easy. I have to edit these as I write to stay in guidelines.

Synopses = 7,277 words; RI Chapter = 8,403 words; BH Chapter = 1,525 words; and Antho = 462 words. Day's wordcount total: 17,667.

Midnight Rain

Ask me what the best book of the year is going to be, and there's absolutely no contest: Midnight Rain by Holly Lisle.

I first began reading Midnight Rain in its original incarnation six years ago, when Holly and I met. When she finished the first draft, I could say in all honesty that it was the scariest damn book I'd ever read. I've since watched this book evolve and change and drag its author through the nine levels of hell to bring it to publication. Holly Lisle talks about that, and my minor meddling, in this interview.

If you only buy one more book this year, make it Midnight Rain.

P.S. -- If you're still not convinced, or think I'm BSing you? Read the first three chapters of Midnight Rain online here.


I don't think I write all that much faster than other writers, but I do write for much longer hours. On any given day, I write for six to eight hours straight, and edit for two to four at night. I rarely give myself days off, but I will "buy" time off by writing extra the day before. These are minimums, too -- I have a couple of days every week when I work sixteen to eighteen hours, especially when I'm trying the kill a deadline.

Daylight Savings Time usually confuses my internal clock for a good week, but this morning I woke without the alarm at 5:13 a.m. My goal is to get started by 5:30 a.m. and finish an hour of writing before the kids wake up for breakfast. It's a good hour, too: I don't have to look at anyone but the screen for an hour, and I have that lovely sixty minutes to be silent, surly and chug down my tea while I write. Works well for me; today I've already written 1055 words.

If you're interested in increasing your daily output and haven't tried getting up a little earlier to write, give it a shot. You may surprise yourself and find it helps.