Monday, January 31, 2005


PBW is off to have the next round of oral surgery. PBW would like to be abducted by aliens en route, if that can be arranged. Maps will be provided to any interested extraterrestrials. Look for the short, chubby, middle-aged brunette with the belligerant look who is surreptitiously clutching a wubbie.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Remember Me

Memory 101 this morning, in response to some questions asked about my private research into child prodigies. Take notes, there will be a pop quiz on Monday.

I am an eidetiker, or a person with what is commonly but incorrectly referred to as a "photographic" memory. So is my daughter, so it is a genetic condition. Eidetikers are able to retain the image of something so vividly that, when recalled, it appears to be real to us (our eyes physically react to it as if the memory were reality.) We're not all that special; the ability pops up regularly in the population -- one study showed that it may be as common as one in one thousand -- but the ability is generally limited and usually fades with age. If you're not me, anyway.

Mnemonists, the rock stars of neurological freaks, use images in mental constructions (loci) for memory storage and recall purposes. Thomas Harris's character Hannibal Lecter was a mnemonist. Lecter was also highly idealized; gifted mnemonists are plagued with associative problems and end up locked inside their "memory palaces."

Autistic savants, formerly known as idiot savants, are individuals suffering from autism who nevertheless display prodigious mental ability. The ability to perform complex calculation is common among autistic savants. So is "calendar memory" with which an autistic savant appears to calculate time, i.e. what day of the week any date in known history will fall on. Scientists have linked these extraordinary splinter skills which autistic savants and other mentally impaired individuals display to abnormalities with chromosome 15 (and while this disorder is directly linked to autistism, nine out of ten autistics have no unusual mental abilities.) Raymond, Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Rain Man was a prodigious autistic savant. My oldest son suffered from a mild form of autism.

No one knows why eidetikers, mnemonists and autistic savants happen, but our respective dysfunctions (and trust me, that's what it is) are so similar as to suggest a common bond.

Back in the 80's, neurologists Norman Geschwind and Albert Galaburda theorized that left-hemisphere dysfunction caused by testosterone impairment of neurons during fetal development was the culprit in autistic savants. They based this theory on the fact that the ration of male to female autistic savants is 5 to 1.

Another study showed that persons with unusual memory capacity have physically larger brains than the "normals" out there, and that introduction of toxins or unusual levels of hormone while in utero may contribute to abnormal cerebral development. This one I have a little more faith in; it applies to both genders.

Aside from being poked and prodded to death to flesh out someone's moronic thesis, or being trotted out on stage to do the Elephant Man thing, there is very little practical use for memory whizzes. Autistics already face an incredible amount of problems simply learning to function in the every day world; as would anyone who can recite pi but can't use a spoon. True mnemonists are pretty rare, but from the histories I've studied it looks like most end up going insane. Eidetikers seem to integrate a little better, and once you know how to slap the mental lens cap on and stay away from the academics, it's not bad.

The scientists and academics who study us are for the most part not interested in helping us. There is no cure for our conditions, although we can be trained, like monkeys, so maybe the freak show attitude is justified. I can't say, as I was a child and on the receiving end of it. I still want most of those people dead.

One thing I've been able to do is help my daughter to deal with the associative problems. Progressive paranoia, the inability to forgive, and hyperlexia are just some of the delights that she faces, but she's coping well. The real fun starts in puberty, which by my calculations should arrive sometime in 2007.

Want to know how your memory rates? Try these online tests:

Short Term Memory Test

BBC's Memory Test

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Our recooperating pal Tamara Siler Jones comes in at #4 on the Locus Recommended 2004 First Novels Reading List.

I use all Locus Recommends This Stuff as reverse shopping lists -- I won't read anything that's on them -- and as a result have saved myself a fortune in analgesics (I do the same with the Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell winners.) At the same time, two friends whose reading opinions I trust implicitly have already recommended I read Tambo's novel Ghosts in the Snow.

Therein lies the dilemma: I want to read the book; I refuse to purchase anything* Locus endorses. I'm not going to do that thing where I say I never read it but the spouse did, either. It never sounds convincing when you guys say that to me.

Anyway, I like Tam. I've been meaning to link to her weblog all month. And it's not like she deliberately tried to write one of the best novels of 2004, right? There's a very slim chance she might not win the Campbell.

Okay, so if I swear you guys to secrecy . . .

*The Susanna Clark doesn't count; I didn't get past page 84. No one else wanted it, so her book is holding the laundry room door open now.

Bitch On, Bitch Off

There's always a lot of industry-bashing going on out there. Writers get the worst of it (get your red hot bias, right here) but are ever ready to turn around and use the same club on their editors or publishers. Agents, those brave diplomats of the publishing industry, can't afford to do it in public -- they see us all as The Possible Future Deal -- but since Mad Max made anonymous whining trendy, they've now got other places besides bars where they can bitch.

M.J. Rose recently asked writers to confess "What Won't You Do?" to be an author (still no links, see 1/25 post.) Rose has become the new Mecca of Complainers, it seems. Think Max might have sent some over? Anyway. While I think it's healthy to whine, to a certain degree, the industry does not revolve around any one of us pros, nor will it ever, no matter how much gravitation pull our enormous egos attempt to generate.

Not that we care. Someone who kicks ass is much more admired and popular than someone who kisses it. We're almost convinced that there is some publishing conspiracy, ala the Kennedy assassination, just waiting to be exposed. Plus it is a fact that anyone who says nothing negative about the publishing industry has either a) just had their first book published, b) is up for an important industry award, c) sells so well that nothing bad actually happens to them, or they've magnanimously forgotten all the early shit, or d) a & b. In any case, we should always protect our new pros. The industry's micro-thin gilt wears off fast enough, and the rookies already have to cope with that special season in hell, the first book being published.

Certainly I like to bitch here, and I had a nice rant written for this morning. A cautionary tale of two editors, which if I may say so was riotously funny. But as I was lacing the whole thing with an even, final drizzle of PBW's patented All Purpose Sarcasm, suddenly I got very tired of it.

I'll tell you about the two editors straight, then: Yesterday I had to deal with two editors. The first editor did a great thing for me. She didn't have to; she had every right to rip my head off instead of doing the great thing. I don't know her very well but experience with other editors led me to believe that she would stomp me into the dust. Instead the editor was kind, and considerate, and generous. She was the editor we all want to have.

Under other circumstances, and with no justification, the second editor wasn't.

Not as funny as one of my rants, but it wasn't funny when it happened. It was real. It was very difficult to handle. I had to make some tough choices. As a result, I hardly slept last night. That's it. That's what really happened.

So What I Won't Do -- today, anyway -- is bash editors.

Don't worry. I'm sure it's just a temporary straight thing I'm going through. Something will set me off next week, and everything will go back to normal.

Friday, January 28, 2005


The screen went black a few seconds after I turned it on this morning, and this popped up. Make your own version here. (found over at Letters to Myself)

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Green Light: Pitched my idea to my agent, who returned with some fine-tuning on the presentation, and looks like we're good to go. Bye, weekend off.

Yellow Light: Still need to hash out some details on the next writer-for-hire gig, look at the contract, write up that proposal on Monday or Tuesday.

Red Light: Novel I was going to finish today, not finished. I know, I know, I was going to give it cab fare and shove it out the door, but didn't happen. You know, I've had spouses that were easier to divorce from myself than this book.

To those recipients of the few discombobulated e-mails I wrote today, I plead a visiting brother-in-law, math homework (whoever divided the first fraction should have been strangled immediately afterward) and some new and hopefully temporary form of writer insanity.

I have to go obsess some more now. Night.


Today I'll be finishing another novel. Tomorrow I won't have to get up at 4:30 am; I'll be able to sleep in until 5:30 am. After I talk with my agent later this morning, I'll know if I can or can't take off the weekend. Probably can't; this idea is burning a hole through my skull and I'm anxious to get it down on paper. I also have another novel in progress that is due in five weeks and a new writer-for-hire gig on the horizon.

Problem is, I don't want to finish this novel. I want to rewrite and edit a little more. I'd like to change the POV of the scene in chapter fourteen. I'd like to fine-tune this one character who is almost, but not quite, perfect. This is not the usual mindset for me as I'm approaching the finish line, either. I am always ready to move on to the next thing.

I think I've gone and fallen in love with this damn book.

I do not have lengthy relationships with my work anymore. Synopses are strictly one-night stands. Series proposal packages might rate a weekend fling. It's true that I do become very intensely involved with my novels, but each only has me for six to eight weeks, and it always has to share me with at least two other novels. When I finish, it goes, and I am done with it.

I think the novel knows it's over, too. Oh, we'll get back together for the copy-edit and the galley proof, but it must know all I'm going to do then is nag and bitch at it. When it's in print, I'll stick it up like a trophy on the brag shelf and forget about it. Lately they've all been getting very sneaky and clinging to me on these finish line days, whispering I can be a few days late, no one will mind. C'mon, one last weekend together. Remember what a great time we had together in chapter ten?

I can't tell you why I love this book so much, and I probably shouldn't admit I have feelings for it all. That's like plunging a bleeding arm into a blind shark tank. They can't swim their way out of a paper bag, but they're always sniffing around for something to chew on. Even talking about it vaguely is something of a risk. Oh? She doesn't have ice for blood? What fun. Let's rip it to pieces.

Even now, I'm stalling. I'm writing this while I could be finishing the last type-in of the last chapter.

So, novel, it's time to wrap up this relationship. No, you can't stay the weekend. Yes, I remember the great time we had in chapter ten. I am glad we had this month and a half together. You're all special to me, but you and I went above and beyond that. I know you'll go out there and make me proud. Yes, I will miss you.

All right, I'll think about a sequel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I know you. You think I don't, but I do.

I know what you'll do today. You'll get on the computer, and see your homepage screaming BRAD AND JEN SPLIT while a tiny, 8 pt. link under it tells you that the tsunami death toll is still rising. You'll try not to let it numb you. You'll cruise some news pages, some industry sites, a couple of discussion boards. You'll snag a link or maybe the latest meme, and you'll go to post something on your weblog, because something is better than nothing. Nothing, you tell everyone, is not part of your vocabulary.

I will bet serious money that there's at least one rejection letter sitting somewhere on your desk, maybe next to the latest copy of Writer's Digest or Publishers Weekly.

Once you've burned up enough time on the net to feel guilty, you crank up Word and open the WIP file, right? You do a word count and discover you wrote a not-so-whopping total of 207 words yesterday, but today you'll hit a thousand, two thousand, ten thousand. Today you will be the best damn writer in the world, and write something amazing that will sell. Doesn't have to be a breakout bestseller, doesn't have to win awards. Your name on a publishing contract from a decent house, that's enough. That's a foot in the door. That's all you're asking.

You also know there are 200,000 others out there in As of Yet Unpublished Land, trying to pry open that bitch of a door. You're pretty sure at least half of them are better writers than you.

Never mind that. You scroll down to where you left off, refusing to back read. Although it's as tempting as an unopened 2 lb. box of Godiva, you know that back reading will ruin your momentum, which will kill your wordcount. So you stick the cursor on the page with one or two lines typed at the top, and maybe check your notes, and then start filling up that page.

Five lines. Ten. Fifteen. Some dialogue, a little color for the setting. You're using too many eye references, but you'll change them later. You have to keep moving. You have to keep writing. You are writing, and it gives the pride a mild case of edema.

See? I'm a writer. I can write.

You're on a new page now. That's 250 new words, at least. You check your wordcount and it's 195. Close enough. Time to end this scene. You want to end it with a bang, but all you get is a little fizzle. That's okay. You can toss some kerosene on the fizzle later, when you edit. Have to get a good ten pages done today. Maybe make it to the end of the chapter.

The end of the chapter isn't so far away. Right around the corner. Almost there. Just this scene.

You hit a snag, like a tire blows out while you're driving over the speed limit on the highway, right in the middle of the second page. Third paragraph of the new scene, and suddenly the cursor refuses to budge. Will. Not. Move. Most of the muscles in your neck tense as you see your characters have inexplicably been transformed from meaningful people into total baboons. You start back reading, and it's worse. It is now, in fact, so lame that Christ couldn't fix it.

The screen glares. The little fan in the tower hums. You're not writing. You're screwing it up. You're screwing it up.

You don't run from the computer, but rather that chilling, contemptuous voice inside. You drown it out with coffee or lunch or chocolate or TV. Time ticks by. This is your writing time, and you're blowing it, the clock says, but what does the clock know? The clock didn't just write a scene that would make an editor blow chunks and immediately, vengefully circulate the clock's name to have it blackballed from the industry, thereby forever ruining its chances of seeing a book with its name on the cover, did it?

The clock can go chime itself, is what the clock can do.

More guilt, the battle-weary kind, and something else, something that cannot be so easily or neatly defined, eventually drags you back to the computer. You check your homepage, and now it's shrieking BRAD AND ANGELINA PICS while the tiny link says there's another video of an American hostage, pleading for his life. You don't get numb; you are numb. But you are also valiant. You shut off the net and get back into Word. You back read, but you're hurt and valiant, and the combo allows you to be a little fairer to yourself this time.

Yes, some of it is lame, but some of it isn't.

You rewrite a little, weed out those eye references. Eviscerate the bad stuff, chammy the good stuff. It's a skimpy bandaid over the numbness and the hurt, but it holds. You write a few more lines and don't let yourself read them. The clock tells you that your writing time is almost over, so you do your backups. Before you do the last save, you check your wordcount. 243 new words. Hell with that. You type one more line that makes no sense whatsoever to round it out to 250, like forcing a gas pump handle after it auto-shuts off. You turn off the computer and go make dinner, or go to work, or go to bed.

Whenever you do get to bed, you don't go to sleep. You stare at the ceiling. You imagine the cover of your first book. How it will look, as it's going to be painted by Big Important Cover Artist. How Publishers Weekly will give you starred after starred review. How your literary agent will call to gravely inform you that your next book brought in 1.2 million at auction, and there is talk of a movie deal on the table. A Steven Spielberg deal. Oh, and John Grisham wants to do lunch.

Maybe you get up, find that rejection letter, and tear it to pieces. Maybe you read it again.

Maybe you just stay there in bed and stare at the ceiling a little longer, because in your heart you really don't want the best cover, or the starred reviews, or even Steven Spielberg directing or John Grisham sharing his risotto with you. The 1.2 mil, yeah, because you haven't had a lobotomy -- yet -- but the rest, no. What you want is to get the book published. That's all. Because if that doesn't happen, then the writing you've done daily for the last three or five or ten years of your life was for nothing.

No one knows that Nothing is the scariest word in your vocabulary.

You won't think about this tomorrow. Much. Tomorrow you'll get up, and you'll turn on the computer, and your homepage will yell something about BRAD'S ALONE TIME while the tiny print link offers info on a real tragedy. And you'll resist the numbness, and you'll look around, and you'll post to your weblog, and you'll open Word, and you'll do it all over again. Because tomorrow it may be different.

I know you're going back tomorrow and working on that manuscript. You'll go back every day. Get rejection letter after rejection letter, and still go back, every single day. I know because I did that. In my case, a paper journal instead of a weblog, newspapers instead of the internet, two kids in diapers, an IBM PS/1 with WordPerfect 2.0 and a subscription to Writer's Digest.

I know you because I was there for ten years.

I can tell you one possible future for you. That 243 words you wrote? May turn into 486 after a time. And then 972. And then 1944. The words come easier, better, faster. You'll have days when you hit three thousand. You'll have rush weeks when you never write under four thousand a day. You'll get better. Then you'll get really good. And just when you think you can't face that screen one more time, you'll get the letter, or the phone call.

Having the courage to do all of the above is what makes a writer. It made me the writer I am. It will make you the writer you will become. No one but a writer can understand this. No one but a writer can do this.

Hold onto that courage. Keep writing. Be valiant.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Mary Bly (aka Eloisa James) responds to recent criticism over on Alison Kent's blog.

I could comment on the response. I could also hit myself in the forehead with a hammer a few times, which would be about as constructive. So I'll take a note from Ms. Bly and wish her the best, and keep the applicable nouns to myself.


Prayers/Mojo/Good Thoughts Requested: Those of you who talk to the Guy Upstairs, or light candles, or do other in times of crisis, please do some today for Tamara Siler Jones. I don't know what's up but it doesn't sound minor so I'm putting her on the prayer chain here.

Weather: This morning my daughter bolted into the kitchen shrieking Mom Mom there's ice all over your car the same way she might yell Mom Mom there's a serial killer in the living room. Freak-out was understandable; my kids were born in South Florida and have only left the state during the summer. The only ice they've ever seen comes out of the door of the fridge. I de-iced the windows with a pitcher of hot salt water (old military trick) but I would like to have my nice warm Florida weather back now, please.

Trivial: The name Reever is phoentically identical to the Norwegian verb that means, not surprisingly, to tear apart.

Work-related: Marathon two days ahead as I rewrite some stuff I ripped out of the latest book and kill this deadline. If I can write 40K in 48 hours, that is.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Plot Talk

Author Alison Kent breaks down her plotting method (including neat image) on her discussion board.*

Now I have to go over and harass her about it.

*Registration required to post


Southerners have kind of a twisted sense of humor. Like the funniest man in the south, Jeff Foxworthy, who gave us the immortal "You might be a redneck if..." routine. Between him and Celia Rivenbark, the funniest woman in the south, I should be in Depends. I was thinking of both of them as I put together this ten list.

Ten Things That Indicate Your Plot Might Need Some Work

1. It would make an excellent episode of Scooby-do.*

2. The body count exceeds the manuscript page count.

3. Goes, looks, and talks are the only verbs you use in the synopsis.

4. It takes 85 single-spaced pages to describe the protagonist's motivation, and 1 sentence to describe the villain's.

5. Your character list contains 150 men and 1 woman (or 150 women and 1 man.)

6. Everyone in the novel wants to have sex with your heroine.

7. Cliff Notes calls to ask if you want them to handle the premise.

8. You can't verbally describe it in under two hours.

9. The romantic arc has become the romantic icosahedron.

10. Everone in the novel has sex with your heroine.

*I stole this one from my romance editor

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ten Things to Help With Novel Plotting

Every writer has different plotting methods. I use templates. Holly Lisle uses notecards. Not every writer plots, either -- John Grisham does, Stephen King doesn't. Strangest plotting method I've ever heard: One of my former students used an erasable marker on the tile wall in his bathroom.

There is no single right way to plot, so it's best to research different methods, try them out, and keep what works for you. To get you started, here are

Ten Things to Help With Novel Plotting

1. James Scott Bell's Structure Secrets.

2. Stella Cameron's Plotting Your Novel.

3. C.J. Hannah's Four Point Plot Line. (Site no longer exists)

4. Jeff Heisler's Plotting.

5. Randall Ingermanson's Snowflake Process.

6. Holly Lisle's Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure.

7. Lee Masterson's Plotting Your Novel.

8. M. Mulgrew's Plot Outline Diagram.

9. David Sheppard's Plotting.

10. S.L. Viehl's Single Novel Plotting Template.*

*I haven't updated the copyright note at the bottom of this, but my plotting templates are free for anyone's personal use or non-profit distribution. If you do post or reproduce the template, just remember to give me the byline credit.

(Links updated 2/14/09)

Saturday, January 22, 2005


PublishAmerica, not to be confused with any of those grubby vanity publishers out there, proudly bills itself a "traditional publisher." Except that PublishAmerica uses POD versus printing and warehousing books. Okay, those warehouse and printing costs are pretty steep; it could be a cost-efficiency thing.

PublishAmerica is also an "advance-paying book publisher" with a company banner motto that reads We treat our authors the old-fashioned way -- we pay them. Except that the old-fashioned way it pays authors an advance is -- hold onto your hat -- a whopping total of $1. Now, I made twenty-five thousand times that as the advance for the last book I wrote, but hey, maybe I'm just ridiculously overpaid.

PublishAmerica states on its web site that its titles "are available through most major bookstores." Except for this one little thing: "Availability is not necessarily the same as bookstore shelf display." Translation: you can't get them in the store, but you can order them through the store's computer. Assuming you have psychic power and can envision the titles, because they're not on the shelf. Have I got this right?

PublishAmerica authors have applied to join the Authors Guild. But, oops, the AG says PublishAmerica titles don't meet membership criteria. Well, who wants to pay all those AG dues anyway.

So, who's going to be the first author to dump their contracts with NAL or Harlequin or Tor or Ballantine and rush over to sign up with PublishAmerica? Anyone? Why am I hearing crickets?

Paula Span has the rest of the lowdown on PublishAmerica in her excellent article about the company for the Washington Post online, and I picked up the link from Nick Mamatas' Journal. If you would, as Nick requests, spread the word.


A lot of romance writers are presently voicing their opinions on Mary Bly, the academic novelist who outed herself as romance writer Eloisa James, and earned a spot in my Authors Behaving Badly file.

For the record, I don't have a problem with Mary Bly, or Eloisa James, for that matter. I don't care whether she came out, stayed in, or furnished her little closet. Live and let live, ladies. There are plenty more out there like her.

What I have a problem with is being told, by her, that writing romance is shameful. She defined it as shameful, she behaved as though she felt it was shameful, and she gave us all her stately reasons and adorable family anecdotes as to why it's shameful.

Writing romance isn't shameful. My post, while funny, tells you precisely why.

You may not agree with me. So let me tell you about this fantasy I have. All the romance writers in the world get together, and stop writing. Every aspiring romance writer does the same. Every romance reader in the world stops buying books. Like a union thing, for a year or two.

You know what would happen? Can you imagine how many publishers would shut down? How many hundreds of thousands of people would be out of work? What an impact it would have, economically speaking?

You really should watch who you call shameful. One day we might get pissed off enough to do it.

Renting PBW

Couple of people have asked me to talk more about the writer-for-hire work I do. I can't get into a bunch of details, because then the people who rent me could sue me for violating the terms of my contract, but most of it is fine. I like the work, and I don't get too attached to it. Money comes fast. Often writer-for-hire jobs pay pretty decent wages.

As a writer-for-hire, you are expected to do as you're told. None of this "STET" business. No, you do have to do what they want, when they want, whatever they want. No matter how they want it, or how often they want to change that.

Let me give you a rundown on an (entirely hypothetical, of course) writer-for-hire gig:

Act 1: The First Proposal, or Editor Has A Great Idea and Hires PBW to Write It

Editor: We'd like this Big Nasty character in the book. Important. Comes into the story to blah blah blah. We want it in there because we think it's a good idea. Not that it works with anything else in the story, and we don't have a plot, but we heard you were really good at fixing things like that. So. [Big Teamplayer Smile] Can you handle it, PBW?

PBW: (What's with this We shit?) Sure. (writes Big Nasty character and blah blah blah into proposal. Works a plot. Makes Big Nasty character fit into the plot.) There you go.

Act 2: The Second Proposal, or Editor Panicks A Bit

Editor: We loved your proposal. Great how you managed to find a plot in that mess, heh heh heh. Only we don't think this Big Nasty character should be really big. Or nasty. Or blah blah. Would you mind changing that?

PBW: Okay. (changes to average, not-so-bad character in second proposal, minus blah blah) Here are your changes.

Act 3: Proposal Approved, Sort of, or Editor Makes a Decision. Kinda.

Editor: We really loved your second proposal. A couple of minor changes, though. Like this average, not-so-bad character. We now see this character as more kindly, wise, well-adjusted, that sort of thing. And the blah? Should really be hooey. No need to send in another proposal, hon. Just write the book that way, huh?

PBW (through gritted teeth): Right. (Writes book with kindly, wise, well-adjusted character, cuts out blah, adds in hooey. Already knows she's going to regret it, but turns in manuscript) Here. All yours.

Act 4: Revisions, in Which Editor Demonstrates Stunning Power of Recollection

Editor: Nice work. I'll say that several times, by the way, in between making snide comments versus giving you clear instructions on what I want revised. And about this kindly, wise, well-adjusted character; what's with him? And why all the hooey? Change that to something else, will you? Doesn't work for me.

PBW: (Smashes head into monitor repeatedly.) Sorry. (Considers buying back the contract. Removes gloves. Changes kindly, wise, well-adjusted character to thinly-disguised parody of editor. Makes the hooey back into blah blah blah with an emphasis on the blah. Encrypts a flaming personal metaphor that, if ever discovered, will get PBW's ass so fired.) Here you go.

Act 5: In Which We All Live Happily Ever After

Editor: Fabulous job! Had us worried there for a bit, what with that character and the hooey, but we pulled you out of that nose dive, eh? No need to thank us.

PBW: (waves at Accounting Department) Check, please.

Friday, January 21, 2005

No Shame

I tried to resist this. I did.

New entry in the Authors Behaving Badly file: Novelist Mary Bly, during her interview with New York as she explained why she has concealed the terrible secret that she has been writing romance as Eloisa James for the past five years:

"The main reason I kept [my romance-writing career] separate in the beginning had to do with the sense of shame that American culture deals out to romance, to readers of romance."


Wait, now, before anyone gets pissed off, I can see her point. I mean, romance writers only own a piddly 55% of the adult fiction market in this country, right? Small potatoes. And those truckloads of money that we make for our publishers each and every year are so very vulgar, aren't they? Not to mention all the inappropriate happiness that we give our readers, who obviously should be locked in a dark room for having the gall to buy a novel that might actually have SEX in it, for God's sake.

What were we thinking, going around flaunting our tawdry little genre when we could have been on CNN, apologizing for our subversive activities while wearing our glasses and mentioning Shakespeare? Shame on us.

(Note to self:    file James, Eloisa Bly, Mary
under ABB subsection Twit.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Publishers Marketplace columnist M.J. Rose tries to referee a difference of opinion between a disappointed author (no link; start reading at the M.J.'s 1/18 entry) and Max Max Perkins over the fate of any book.

Neither side in this squabble exactly qualifies for my Author/Editor Behaving Badly file, but there's a large order of blame being served with the whine here. Which brings up the ever-popular question: who gets blamed when a book tanks?

Not I, said the author. Not I, said the editor. Not I, said the publisher. So the Little Red Hen took the book and . . . oh, sorry, flashed back to elementary school there for a sec.*

We all have bad experiences and suffer disappointments. I could tell you a few stories that would give you an instant perm, and so could every other author, editor and publisher out there. When it happens to you, you can dwell on the bad stuff, and wring your hands, and wail, and point fingers, and eventually suspect everyone else is conspiring to keep you from success. At which point you'll talk yourself out of a career, begin qualifying for something with twelve steps, or get into wearing tin foil chapeau.

Or you could adjust your expectations. Consider that in the time it took me to write this post, about eight new books were published in the U.S. By the end of today, over four hundred new books will hit the shelves. Be great if they were all bestsellers, wouldn't it? 99.9% of them they won't be. So who do we blame for that? Beats me.

Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing, where not everyone gets to be a superstar. Or even a dwarf star.

What you do when bad stuff like this happens -- any pro with a solid career will tell you: you deal with it. Yes, be upset, cry on your best friend's shoulder, rant a little, take steps to make career changes if you must, but don't stay there. Move on. Do the next thing. Hit those shelves again, because the next book may be the one.

(Links blatantly filched from Tamboblog)

*All I know is, it wasn't my fault.


Some years back, I and a group of romance writers took author Mary Balogh, the guest speaker at our conference, to a restaurant called Casablanca's on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Mary is a lovely, soft-spoken Welsh lady who is to Regency romance what Stephen King is to horror.

Now I've been a fan of Mary's work for, oh, I don't know. Most of my adult life? So I was really revved about the dinner. How often do you get to talk to the woman who's written half the books on your keeper shelf?

No, being the shy, retiring flower that I am, I plopped into the chair next to Mary, talked to her all through dinner, and even convinced her to share a plate of steamed mussels with me (right now all my pals are groaning, covering their eyes and telling their monitors, "Christ, not the Feeding Mary Mussels story again." Yeah, yeah. Like I haven't listened to your Neil Gaiman Smiled at Me anecdotes a million times.)

This would be a happy memory, except on the morning after the dinner, one of the other writers who had been there took me aside and told me I had no business being so casual with such an important author. Famous people expected to be treated with respect and deference, and if I wanted to get anywhere in this business, I'd better learn to how to behave. Like the newbie moron I was, I believed this, and spent the rest of the week feeling like the world's largest posterior and dodging Mary.

Fast forward to last night, me reading e-mail, and politely turning down offers to profit from my growing PBW fame. There is no such thing as having too much money, in my opinion, but sometimes you have to do things for reasons other than making the Almighty Buck. If you don't, ghosts with poor dental plans and chain fetishes show up to deliver free three-night guilt trip tickets, am I right?

One reply appeared to bounce back, but it was actually a reply to my reply. The sender was disappointed, but only because I'm obviously not serious about my career. If I want my current fame to last longer than fifteen minutes, I am told, I'd better stop fooling around. The wording wasn't the same, but the tone was identical to the one used years ago to deliver the Mary reprimand.

Alas, I am older and a bit wiser now. I've also written to Mary a few times since that dinner, and her replies have never once started with, "Dear Disrepectful Ninny." My friends will agree that I will never learn how to behave myself, and fame, while nice, can race on out of here any time it wants.

Steamed mussels are fabulous, though, if you get the good ones without too much grit. Ever tried them?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


About three-quarters of the way to today's finish line; if I don't lock my keys in my car again I just might make it. I'm taking some time off to make shrimp with linguine, Caesar salad and a big loaf of Italian garlic-herb bread for dinner tonight, though. I need garlic. No, I'm not pregnant, and whoever thought that, you're grounded for a week. Now go to your room.

Can you tell it's homework hour?

Author Alison Kent has been following discussions about author blogs, and posted a link to the latest article on the subject here. I especially like the "I'm too busy" excuse. Babe, you want to see busy? Spend a week in my moccasins.

11:59 pm, update: Final total, 23,923 for the day. Close, no cigar.


On wordcounts -- I do track them. I check my totals a couple times a day and keep a running total posted on my calculator.

This morning I started writing at 4:30 am, and not counting what I wrote here, so far I've gotten about 4K down. Time to make a school run, then I'll be back to work around 8:45 am. I'll work straight through until 2:30 pm, then take my afternoon/evening break. I start again at 6:30 pm and work until 11:00 pm to midnight.

I'm hoping to hit at least 25K for today's total so I can buy a little time off tomorrow to work on a copy-edit. Wish me luck.


Unless you're channeling William Faulkner* or, God forbid, James Joyce**, writing a novel means composing a series of scenes.

I don't plot individual scenes when I outline a novel, although I do think about scenes and mentally choreograph some of the important ones before I start to write. Others I flash on, as in I see snapshots or cells from the scene that pop up like posters in my head. Listening to whatever music I've chosen for the novel helps me imagine important scenes and bring on the flashes.

I probably write between six to twelve scenes a day, but my method is always the same. I read from my notes and the novel outline to see what I'm doing, i.e.:

Reever and Aledver leave Skjonn and fly to the surface. Aledver talks about Toskald body worship, reveals contempt for the Kangal, becomes suspicious of Reever's piloting, tries to take over the launch. Aledver's hijacking causes the helm to shut down and the launch crash-lands on the surface. The injured Aledver reveals to Reever that he was sent to assassinate him, but won't tell him why or who gave the order. Reever kills Aledver in self-defense, switches clothing with him, and crawls out of the crashed launch. He sees a rebel scouting party approaching the crash site. -- from Rebel Ice by S.L. Viehl

I check my notebook to see if there are any special research notes in weaponry, piloting and character description that I need for this scene. Once I've reviewed those, I start visualizing the scene:

Scene setting is the interior of the launch as it leaves Skjonn. I see Reever and Aledver, the contrasts, the similarities. The trader's shown reaction to Reever, what he says to him (start scene with a line of dialogue, Aledver speaking to Reever.)

I imagine the conversation between the two men. As Reever speaks, he's piloting the launch, and setting it up to make a controlled crash landing.

I plan the moment when Aledver hijacks the launch, what happens when he takes over the helm, how and why Reever still manages the crash landing.

Go through impact, damage to the ship, smoke, sparking equipment, crumpled hull panels, leaking atmosphere, dropping temperature.

I imagine Aledver's terminal injuries, what sort of weapon he produces, how he bleeds while he ignores Reever's questions.

I choreograph the brief fight and determine how Reever kills the trader.

I move into Reever's head as he strips the body and prepares to leave the launch.

I shift outside, imagine how cold it will feel to Reever, who is leaving a banged-up but otherwise nice warm ship that contains the corpse of a man he's just killed and stripped of his clothing.

I imagine what Reever feels about being back on this world, about his desperate mission, and now facing capture by rebels before he even gets started.

Once I've thought through all of the above -- and this doesn't take as long as it might sound -- I sit down to write the scene.

The actual writing part is pretty simple. I replay a loop of all of the above in my head, and write what happens. At this point in my process there is very little of me the person involved; this is where I become the typist versus the writer. I write straight through the scene, start to finish. I don't think about voice, style, word usage, pacing, or any of that stuff as I go along; most of it is unconscious now and if there are errors, I'll fix them later, when I edit. I try not to stop writing until I've finished the scene.

As I write, I don't think about how I'm writing. I don't wonder if it's any good, or how many words I'll get out of it. I don't backtrack or re-read. There aren't a lot of emotions pinging around in my heart or my head. If I feel anything, it's the pleasure that always comes from writing; being in the zone, burning up the keys, practicing my craft.

*If you are, then tell Will I apologize for the I Love Lucy parody of The Sound and the Fury I wrote back in the tenth grade.

**Come over to the house so I can kick you. He'll get the message.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blind write

I've been experimenting with different methods of writing while I can't see what I'm writing. Usually on my PDA, which has a screen too small for me to read comfortably unless my nose is an inch away from it, but yesterday I wrote with my monitor turned off.

Why, you ask, would I want to write blind? I'm very easily distracted by colors, shapes and patterns, for one thing, and I was curious to find out if I could speed up the process by removing everything that might otherwise be slowing me down.

It's a very odd thing. Once you lose all visual association with the words you write, you become much more internally focused. Your direct relationship to the words you write grows intense. Concetration sharpens (there is nothing to tell you where you are but your head.) The keyboard suddenly feels different, bigger, louder. There is a terrible urge to turn on the monitor and see the words, almost a panicky urge, but it passes.

I timed myself, and I don't write any faster when I'm writing blind. I do prefer writing on the PDA versus a computer with a switched-off monitor, because even if I can't read the words on the PDA, I still can see they're there. Writing while facing a dark screen is a little creepy, as if you're staring into the abyss. Too much of that and I might start writing literary novels.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Ten Things Writers Say, Translated

1. "I am submitting my story for your consideration."

My husband finally pried this out of my white-knuckled hands and mailed it.

2. "My novel is progressing nicely."

I'm sitting here, covered in sweat and staring at a blank page one, would you get the hell away from me?

3. "Oh, I don't mind getting bad reviews."

That reviewer? Is so going to die a horrible death in my next novel.

4. "I'm satisfied with the advance offer."

I thought Lincoln freed the slaves.

5. "I've never read (insert more famous writer's name) but my (wife, husband, dog) loves her books."

I've read every damn word she's written and my molars are gone.

6. "I attended Famous Snotty Writing workshop."

I paid several thousand dollars to listen to some has-been jackass tell me why I can't write. Now I have to act like it was worth it.

7. "Although I did not win Big Important Industry Award, I am glad to see Jane Doe did."

Jane Doe better never step out in front of my car.

8. "Copies of my book are getting hard to find."

Shit, they've remaindering them already?

9. "I love my editor."

Yeah, right. Bitch.

10. "I look forward to hearing from you."

My car needs a new transmission, my hot water heater just blew and the cat is pregnant. Again. And the ink on these pages? Might as well be my blood. Look, pal, I know I'm not your problem. I'm not asking for the world, just a chance. How about giving me one?

Sunday, January 16, 2005


I realize I have no control over resale of my novels, and I think selling used books is a kind of free publicity, so I have no problem with it.

I don't do booksignings anymore, but I do give away a lot of signed books, which I also ship to the recipients for free. Occasionally I'll include a personal note, especially when I think someone needs encouragement.

Sometimes people sell those signed books, and while I don't care for it, I ignore it. But when my readers tell me about stuff like this, it makes me seriously contemplate never signing another book or writing another letter again.

I know, anything I write is potentially a money maker for someone, but selling my personal correspondence is tacky. Please don't do it.

Update: I checked my records (yes, I keep records on this kind of thing) and this item was a book I sent to the son of one of my editors, at the editor's request. I was told this individual was feeling discouraged and was asked to send him an entire set of my SF books. Which I did, stupid me, so more of those books may be showing up on eBay.

What truly burns about this situation is that I assumed this person was trustworthy and put my personal contact information, including my address, on that particular letter. None of the info is correct anymore, in case it comes up for sale again and you stalkers out there are tempted, but still. Last time I do something like that for an editor.

Got Cookies?

Excerpt from "Life is a Three-Ring Circus"
by Rebecca Kelly

“Auntie wanted a high tea served,” Jane said as she took a pan of miniature muffins out of the oven and set them on a rack to cool. “Do you think that means everyone will show up in Easter dresses and big floppy hats?”

“I hope not,” Louise said, thinking of Florence’s love of themed events. “They’d look terrible on the men.” She reached for the cookie jar, which Jane kept stocked with fresh-baked treats, and frowned. “Where are the cookies?”

“They’re right . . .” Jane paused and frowned. “There. Or they were.” A sudden, thunderous look came over her face. “Alice.”


“She must have taken the whole jar up to her room last night after I went to bed. That does it.” She stripped her oven mitts off, yanked open the garden door and stalked outside.

Louise followed her sister out to where Alice was setting up the tables for the meeting. “Jane,” she urged, “calm down.”

“I’m calm. Perfectly calm. Totally calm. There isn’t a calmer person than me in the entire state of Pennsylvania.” Jane marched up to Alice and planted her hands on her hips. “Okay, you diet wrecker, where are they?”

Alice put down the table cloths she was holding. “Where are what?”

“Don’t pretend. No, don’t tell me.” Jane shook her head violently when Alice tried to speak. “Let me guess. The caramel apples at the circus were too much for you. You couldn’t stand it anymore. It wasn’t your fault. The chocolate chips were whispering your name.”

The phone inside the inn began to ring.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Alice said, giving Jane a skeptical look before she walked inside.

Louise blocked Jane’s path as she went to follow their sister. “I believe you and I have a different concept of what calm is. Jane, it’s just a diet.”

“She broke a promise,” Jane snapped. “She swore to me that she wouldn’t cheat. Now she’s gone and gobbled up two dozen double chocolate chip cookies.”

“Alice wouldn’t do that.” Louise hoped.

Jane was too angry to listen. “The kind I make with the extra big chocolate chips. Do you have any idea how many calories there are in just one of those things?”

Louise frankly was so weary of Alice’s diet, and Jane obsessing over it, that she thought she might have trouble with staying calm. “I know you’re disappointed, but shouting at Alice isn’t going to help matters.”

“No, but it’ll make me feel a lot better.” Jane went around her and back inside.

Louise and Jane found Alice on the phone at the front reception desk.

“That’s all right, Pauline. I know you’re busy. I’ll give them the sheets next week. Wednesday, not Tuesday. Yes, I’m sure. You, too. Bye now.” Alice hung up the phone and glanced at her sisters. “That was Pauline Sherman. Her daughters didn’t make the ANGELs meeting last night because she thought it was held on Thursdays.”

“The ANGELs meetings have always been held on Wednesdays,” Louise said, puzzled by this. “Since you first began your youth ministry.”

“Pauline knows that; she’s been bringing her girls to ANGELs meetings for well over a year now.” Alice looked troubled. “She sounded really upset about it. I could hear one of her daughters complaining about missing the meeting, too.” She turned to face Jane. “Now, what’s put the bee in your bonnet?”

Jane gave her an ironic look. “I know about the cookies, Alice.”

“Oh, right, I meant to say something to you about that last night. The temptation was really starting to get to me.” Alice smiled. “Is it okay with you?”

“Okay? Okay?” Jane stomped her foot on the floor. “What about all our hard work? Weeks of watching every portion and counting every calorie? All those bike rides you’ve been taking?”

“What about them?” Alice asked, looking bewildered.

“They’re all for nothing, that’s what!” Jane threw up her hands. “You ate two dozen cookies, Alice, how could you?”

“Oh, did I?” Incredibly, Alice grinned.

Louise decided to go and visit Cynthia the next time someone went on a diet. “Alice, please, don’t provoke your sister.”

“I would never do such a thing, Louise. Come in here with me, both of you, and I’ll show you what I did.” Alice led Jane and Louise back into the kitchen, where she opened a cabinet, revealing the cookie jar. “Here it is,” she said to Jane.

“Oh, Lord.” Jane covered her eyes. “She’s showing me where she hid the evidence. Make her stop, Louise. Make her stop.”

Alice made a decidedly unladylike sound, took down the jar and opened it. “Look inside. Count them, if you like. All two dozen are still in there, and not a single chip missing.”

Jane’s expression turned comical. “But – but–”

“I put the cookie jar in the cabinet last night so I wouldn’t see it every time I walked into the kitchen.” Alice cradled the jar in her arms. “Like I said, the temptation was killing me.”

“Well done, Alice.” Louise folded her arms and looked at Jane.

“Thank you, Louise.” Alice handed the jar to Jane. “Now, say, ‘I’m sorry that I doubted you, Alice.’”

Jane sighed. “I’m sorry that I doubted you, Alice.”

Alice patted her arm. “‘I will trust you to keep the promises you make, Alice.’”

“I will trust you to keep the promises you make, Alice,” Jane repeated, rolling her eyes at Louise.

Louise saw Alice’s eyes gleam just before she said, “‘You may have all the cookies in the cookie jar, Alice.’”

“You may have – wait a minute!” Jane gave her a furious look.

Alice laughed. “It was worth a try.”

Saturday, January 15, 2005


E-mail has arrived that has me a little puzzled. The sender chose to use an anonymous service, so I don't know who wrote it. He or she is "the author of several novels" but didn't mention titles or publishers.

Sender tells me that I should be aware that other writers are ripping off my weblog, and gives URLs. I go look at one. The blog has a tag line very similar to mine. I check the next one. The blog has a couple of ten lists, again similar to my ten things lists.

The e-mail winds up asking me to post the URLs here as examples of plagiarism, and warns me that I should remove the link to my example character outline sheet before someone steals that.

I'm assuming this sender is in earnest, so let me answer seriously: Imitation is not plagiarism. Imitation is when someone models their work after yours. Same goes for weblogs. Plagiarism is when someone copies your work and publishes it under their name. If you're an author, you need to know the difference.

There are familiar phrases and concepts that anyone can use. Remember all the bruha about Al Franken using the phrase "fair and balanced" in the title of his book, and Fox News was going to sue him? Same thing. I certainly don't own the phrase "Writing Pro Since 1998." It's like putting "established 1886" on a landmark; anyone can do it. If you want to use it as a tag line for your weblog with the year you got published, no problem. Same goes for my ten things lists. I have seen lists like mine in more places than I can count. You can't own the number 10.

The character outline sheet, along with all the rest of the content here, is free to anyone for personal use. If you have a friend you'd like to pass it along to, go right ahead. If you'd like to use it for a class or seminar, please do. Remember when you make lots of copies or post it online to give me a link or byline credit. If anything here gives you an idea to do something similar on your weblog, be my guest, and thank you, I'm flattered.

I'd also like to thank the anonymous sender of this e-mail for the concern, but I've got no reply-to, thus this post.

Novel I: Imagine

For me, an idea for a novel always begins with a character. Some of my characters are carefully planned, others just seem to show up out of nowhere. When I do writer-for-hire work, characters created by someone else are assigned to me. However they get here, the characters are the catalyst for any story I write.

There are any number of character outline sheets writers use*, but every character I imagine takes form by answering three basic questions: Who are you? What do you want? What's the worst thing that I can do to you?

StarDoc: I'm a doctor, I want to do no harm, start a war over me.
Heat of the Moment: I'm a cop, I want justice, make the man I love a criminal.
Blade Dancer: I'm an orphan, I want a family, make me a pariah.

When I have those three answers, I've got my protagonist, and the foundation for his or her novel. This is also known as the novel premise.

Now I start to get the details that become the framework for the novel, i.e. my character became a doctor or a cop or an orphan because (fill in the blanks.) What goes in the blanks becomes my character outline and my backstory.

Finding out why the character wants to do no harm or justice or a family is strongly related to backstory, even if it represents a complete departure for the character, because what drives us now is always related to the past. Knowing what the character wants also brings me to the present, and what the characters is doing to pursue that desire, aka the central plot and setting.

The worst thing that can happen is simply the keystone of the novel's main conflict.

I can almost hear grumbling out there, but hang on. Your questions may be different from mine, depending on the writer you are and what interests you about your characters. Thus Who are you? might become Who were you? or How were you damaged? or What do you symbolize?

Your plot and setting may not revolve around what your characters wants, but are driven by other sources. Not a problem. Whatever the case, you still have to define them.

Same goes for your conflict: it doesn't have to be the worst thing that can happen to your character. It can be the best thing. It can happen to someone else. Whatever it is, however, it should affect your character in some fashion.

To give you a more visual sense of how I plan, I was once taught a meditation technique for when I was upset, in which I visualized myself as a lotus flower (no snickering, I'm serious.) I was the center of the flower, and everything I cared about or was upset over were the petals; least important on the outside, vital stuff at the heart of the flower. In my head, I took my flower-self apart, examining each petal, seeing the beauty and the flaws, and accepting what I saw. By the time I got to the center, I was calm (this really works well for me, btw, if anyone wants to give it a whirl.)

When I plan a novel, it's a little like doing the lotus meditation in reverse. The character is the center. The answers to those three questions are the first petals around the center. Everything else grows from them and becomes the flower, which is the novel.

*I do use character outline sheets to work out facts and backstory. One that I wrote for Jory Rask, the protagonist of Blade Dancer, starts on page 27 of my revised Novel Notebook (.pdf format; warning, contains major spoilers about the novel.)

Friday, January 14, 2005


Reason #999 to love your readers:

You get an RSS feed for free with Blogspot. That's how I read your blog. Just tell people to point their RSS reader to:

All you RSS question people, do this, and Darren, thank you.


A bunch of pros have stopped in here, thanks to Max over at Book Angst 101. Many have written to tell me that they like what they read and they'll be regulars. I'm not very good at handling compliments -- hostility being more familiar territory -- but I do thank you for the kind words. My e-mail runneth over, but I will get back to those of you who sent questions.

I also appreciate the suggestions made about the PBW weblog (flipping through e-mails here):

Improve the look -- Honestly, I like it the way it is. The design appeals to the minimalist technosloth in me.

Buy-this buttons and ads -- I'm not interested in making money off the weblog; it's not about that. Ads are annoying, and I talk enough about my books.

Comments -- I don't have the time or inclination to deal with comments every day, and it's been a nice whacko-repellent. My apologies to all the non-whackos.

Technical -- I don't know what RSS feed is, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Substitute PBW -- To me, having a guest blogger is like having a cleaning service. I scrub my own floors; I'll write my own weblog.

In the Flesh -- I don't do cons or book signings, and only very rarely do I take a guest speaker gig (and you don't want to see me right now. Rocky looked more attractive after the fight with Apollo.) I do teach classes at area schools for kids, but presently I'm booked through next year.

I think that pretty much covers it. Again, thanks.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Rights to my RK novel, Home for the Holidays to Thorndike Press. This will be my first GCI novel to be available in book stores.


When I write in the zone -- that wonderful place where there is nothing but writing, and it all comes out onto the page without a hitch -- I generally produce between three to four thousand words per hour. I spend a lot of time in the zone, too. Earlier in the week I finished out the day with 26K in new words.

I've been pondering writing speed because I mentioned that total to my best friend, who asked me how I'm able to write so fast. I don't think I'm all that fast. 26K sounds hefty, until you consider that I type 90 wpm. Working at top speed, I should be able to write 5400 words per hour, or 64,800 words per 12 hour work session. Not happening. 26K in 12 hours = 2.16K per hour, or about 36 wpm. On my best days, I'm producing roughly one-third of what I'm physically capable of writing.

Obviously writing is more than typing. I also have this thing called a life that regularly gets between me and the keyboard. Even I have to be (cough) realistic, beat back the inner beast who doesn't think I work fast enough (free to a good home, or even a lousy one; anybody want her?) and be content with what I can do.

I can be content. If I work at it. Quit laughing.

Evidently I don't go through what many other writers do in the act of writing. I've seen them write, and my forehead never ties itself into a knot like that. I also never knew all the rules that most writers follow. Example: early on in my career, a romance writer friend asked me, "So what's your goal, motivation and conflict in this novel?" My answer was "Huh?"

The novel-writing process for me is very simple and straight forward: imagine, research, outline, pitch, visualize, write, edit, revise, submit.

I know people are interested in more details, and I love to talk shop, so I'll get more into my process in future posts. Just keep in mind that ours is a highly individual craft. What works for me may strangle or burnout another writer. In all things writing, take a test drive, keep what works for you and ditch the rest.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

HB1677 Update

Maura from Democracy for Virginia reports that Representative Cosgrove has withdrawn HB1677 from consideration and, for the time being, the bill is dead.

I wrote to Representative Cosgrove the minute I heard about this thing, as did thousands of others. Spreading the word about this horrific legislation, and writing to protest it, is what I believe stopped it. To everyone who helped out, a huge thank you.

Open Wide

Ten Things Said During Oral Surgery

1. "Open up a little more."

If I open any more, the hinges are going to reverse and my face will turn inside out. Second, more interested thought: I could use that in a novel . . .

2. "This will probably take four to seven hours."

Why? It didn't take God that long to divide the firmament.

3. "Not to worry. If you get testy, I'll slap you around."

For a man whose testicles are four inches from my fingernails, you're brave.

4. "It's like labor and delivery, huh?"

Nobody better hand me a baby when we're done.

5. "This is going to burn a little."

(many words I don't let the children hear.) Oh, you think?

6. "I'll get you a little more anesthesia."

Whoa, lady, six shots aren't enough? Ten seconds later: Six shots aren't enough.

7. "You haven't complained once."

Kind of hard to talk around four hands, two drills and a suction tube.

8. "You're doing fine."

Why can't I pay someone to do this for me?

9. (Doctor to assistant, who is hilarious) "Will you stop making my patient laugh?"

Wait a minute, where did all that gauze that was just in my mouth go?

10. "See you in two weeks."


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Absentee Note

Dear Weblog Reader:

Please excuse PBW from posting new entries. After stomping her latest deadline, finishing her first novel of 2005 and undergoing five hours of (successful) oral surgery, she was obliged to take some painkillers* and has been sent to bed.

Thank you,

*P.S. I promise not to let her near the keyboard until they wear off.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


The women of Virginia are presently being threatened with what has to be the most appalling and inappropriate invasion of privacy I have ever heard of in my entire life.

Representative John A. Cosgrove [(R) House District-78] has introduced Bill HB1677, under which innocent women who suffer a miscarriage at any stage in their pregnancy will be required to report said miscarriage, along with a list of personal information, to police within 24 hours of the event. If they do not, they face prosecution on misdemeanor charges.

I am enraged, but I have lost a child through miscarriage. How Representative Cosgrove could propose to do such things to a woman who has just lost a baby, I have no idea. Obviously he is unbalanced and unfit to hold office. I do urge the residents of Virginia to take legal action, if possible, to remove this man from office.

If you live in the state of Virginia, please read this weblog entry for instructions on how you can help stop this bill.

If you are interested in expressing your opinions directly to the man responsible for this bill, here is his contact information:

Delegate John A. Cosgrove


Mailing addresses:

General Assembly Building, Room 416
Capitol Square
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 698-1078

P.O. Box 15483
Chesapeake, Virginia 23328
(757) 547-3422

If you live outside Virginia, please pass along this information (if you have a weblog, please link to the specific information on Democracy for Virgina) so that we can reach other women and make them aware of this legislation.

Self-Importance 101

For my romance writer pals who fret over those readers trashing their weblogs as self-important and obnoxious: remember when we were in high school, and there was that group of girls who built their little ranch houses of esteem by tormenting other girls? You know, the ones Carrie killed in horrible ways in the Stephen King book?

This is who you're caring about, guys. People who will dump pig blood on your tiara just because they can't have what you've got.

If you're going to be a pro writer, one of your first tasks is to stop worrying about what other people (critics, writers, reviewers, board posters) think of you. Readers who trash your books or your weblog on a public discussion board have every right to do so -- remember the double standard, you have to respect whatever they write at all times -- but don't waste valuable time by responding to them. These are not your readers, and you don't want them as your readers.

Your readers write to you directly, and the really great ones often end up helping to steer your career by saying things like, "Would you make those vampire stories into a novel?" or "I would kill to read the next StarDoc book, can I write to your publisher?"

Your readers will complain, but it's a different kind of complaining. It's real, and it's about the books, not you. Sometimes it's reasonable and occasionally insightful. Sometimes it's useless. Thing is, they're communicating because they care about your characters (like everyone who has written to me begging me to kill Reever off, immediately, in some spectacularly gruesome way.)

You have an impact on their lives, too. Often books are the only pleasure your reader gets out of life. Think about that. They collect your novels and display them with pride. They really do tell all their friends to buy your books. They harass book store clerks three days before a laydown date to get cartons opened so they can have the first copy of your latest release. They send you holiday and birthday cards (that's my definition of a truly devoted reader -- when they care about your birthday.)

Readers tell you when they've had a baby, found a job, or lost a spouse. They name their kids after your characters (want to know how many little girls out there are named Cherijo now?) They tell you when they're sick, and when the hope dwindles. Once in awhile you get a note from a family member to tell you how much the letters you wrote and books you sent meant, and how you gave that reader a little pleasure all the way until the end.

Compare these readers to the ones who bitch about your weblog or trash your work. Who really deserves your time and attention? It's a no-brainer, ladies.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


My daughter, who worries about everyone's self-esteem, frequently tells me that I am the Best Mom in the World. Except on those occasions when I am the Meanest Mom in the World, usually when homework or brushing teeth is involved. Note to God: the next time you have a bright idea to do something like this, don't create long division or the cavity, all right?

My son, the Zen center of the family, doesn't say much about my momness. He does things instead, like wear my FM writing tshirt instead of his father's company-logo'ed work shirt to school on Dress Like Your Parents' Career day. When another boy asked Mike why he wants to be a (insert sneer) writer, my son was reported to have said, "Cause my mom makes more money than my dad." (See? That's my DNA.)

Recently I was invited to hang with a bunch of working moms and talk career versus raising the little ones. Bad coffee, low-fat muffins and women in pantyhose and full make-up at eight-thirty a.m. aren't my idea of fun, but if I don't get out of the Cave once in awhile Alfred starts to complain.

They sat me with the full-time working moms, all of whom were fifteen to twenty years younger than me, and way better dressed (and my shoes actually matched.) The big topics at our table were maternity leave, scrapbooking and reliable babysitters. I worked through every pregnancy, I got over crafts twenty years ago and my mom is the only babysitter we use, so I couldn't contribute much.

Talk then turned to careers. I've been out of the corporate game since 1992, but I was amazed at what females are willing to do these days for fifty thousand dollars a year. Sixty, seventy hour weeks, commuting to the city in the family's crappy second car, dodging supervisors bored with their wives while trying to figure out the latest version of what used to be called Lotus in my day (she says, in her best, old business crone voice) and cracking their skulls against those glass ceilings, only to come home and try to be a Good Mom. P.S., their kids hate them, they haven't had fun sex since Ronnie was in office, and their last vacation was a working one, while their letch boss who drinks his lunch gets the expense account, the secretary, the company car and the Quarterly Sales Meeting trip to Vegas.

One mom, though -- there's always one -- was happy, happy, happy. She loved her great job (which was important.) She adored her beautiful children (future Presidents.) Her marriage was perfect, her husband was perfect, her home was professionally decorated, yada yada yada. She couldn't imagine why other women couldn't emulate her success, if only they'd work a little harder at Finding Creative Solutions and Giving of Themselves.

After ten minutes of this, pretty much everyone at the table wanted her dead, but they brought around more lemon poppyseed muffins and the other ladies took consolation in low-fat consumption. Happy Mom eyed me, maybe because I'd been pretty quiet. "I didn't hear what it is that you do, dear," Happy Mom said as she stared at my tshirt, which read "Still Plays With Dirt."

"I'm self-employed." That's the standard answer I give everyone.

"At what?"

"I'm a writer."

"Really? My sister-in-law wrote a children's book, you know. It did very well, so she's going to write another this summer." Happy Mom gave me the patronizing, I've-got-relatives-more-important-than-you smile. "And what do you write?"

"Grownup books."

She hmmmmed a little fake interest. "Anything published?" Of course not, this tone implies. You're wearing a Still Plays With Dirt tshirt.

"A few things."

"Well, we're having a famous author as our guest speaker today. You might want to talk to her after the meeting." Happy Mom gives me a superior smile. "That's what this is about, sharing and learning from one another."

The lady who invited me gets up and announces that it's time for the guest speaker, a famous author who just moved into the area. A list of novels and genres are read, along with hits on the bestseller lists. Happy Mom gives her full attention to the podium.

Me? I walk up to it.

Happy Mom's face turns red, and stays that color for most of my speech.

Friday, January 07, 2005


Couple of people have expressed concern over my big mouth and bad attitude, as in "Aren't you afraid of what the publishers will say?"

Short answer: No.

For those of you who worry that publisher displeasure will kill your shot at immortality, I've got a true story for you:

King Henry VIII of England (the fat guy with the wife fetish) got pissed off at a Catholic priest and translator named William Tyndale, who among other things was the first person to translate the Bible into English. For those of you who know what the Coverdale and Matthew's editions of the Bible are, those came from Tyndale's translations, too.

Henry didn't like this. He had Tyndale hunted down, thrown in prison, and then burnt at the stake in 1536. Tyndale's last words were supposed to have been, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."

Fast forward a few years after Tyndale's execution. King Henry, probably remarried, issued a decree which ordered that a copy of the English-translated Bible be kept in every church in England.

Moral of the story: use a pseudonym.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


PBW interview is now up at Book Angst 101.

Everyone, wave to the new visitors.

Also, Mad Max has been nominated for a BOB award. If you like what you see at Book Angst 101, you can vote for him here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Book offer came in yesterday for my next inspirational novel. Unless my agent thinks otherwise I'm going to accept it, so this one will likely be the first sale of the year. If the editors are still okay with the idea I pitched last year, it'll be the Canterbury Tales book I've mentioned to some of you.

I'm 20K away from finishing the first draft of my first book of 2005 (some of which I wrote in 2004; I'm not that fast.) I expect to polish it off today. I have two more books in progress and hope to finish both of them by the first of Feburary.

A couple of authors have inquired as to whether I was talking about their book in yesterday's book review rant. Rest assured that I was not. I seriously doubt that particular author even knows who the hell I am, much less hangs around here (PBW is still read mostly by my friends and readers.) Also, sorry to everyone for not answering your e-mails; I've got to get this book done and out of here.

To the confused author (who asked to remain nameless and genderless) who would like to know why I make more money, publish so often, and write books that outsell his/her own books:

Without getting into quality of writing, because I don't critique other authors, I know you do a large amount of self-promotion, belong to all the organizations, post in all the right newsgroups, chase all the industry awards, do the con circuit, etc. But while you're promoting your one or two books a year, I'm home writing eight or nine contracted novels and pitching at least twice that many to editors for future work. Just do the math.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


I read a book review -- God only knows why -- on a popular but snotty genre review site. Okay, I read it because I've been yelled at many times for not expanding my reading horizons, and I liked the title of the book. I was curious. Sue me.

Reviewer is highly respected; the book is a debut. Those are all the details I'm going to post so don't ask. Here's how just reading the review went for me (paraphrased by me; no quotes from the actual review.)

Reviewer starts off by telling me how I will feel about the book.

Yes, please, form my opinions for me.

Reviewer uses a word I have never heard or seen used since literature from the nineteenth century. Reviewer evidently jazzes on big, obscure, important-sounding words and will use them frequently throughout the review.

I guess objects in his mirror need to appear larger than they are.

Reviewer praises the author, mentions a huge problem with the work that automatically classifies it as lousy for me, dimisses this as unimportant, and then praises the author again.

I take it you two are pals.

Reviewer gets excited and describes, with enough sugary rapture to require an insulin shot for the reader, the beauty of the lousy work. I imagine how lousy this book is. Reviewer posts an excerpt. The excerpt is worse than I imagined.

Why am I reading this again?

Reviewer states that there is a story in this book. Maybe. And a couple of characters. Sort of.

Because I'm a damn masochist, that's why.

Reviewer assures me that I probably won't be able to tell what's going on in the story --

There's a red-hot selling point.

-- and the characters -- assuming I can find them -- aren't really characters.

What? What?

Reviewer assures me that all of this is not a bad thing.

I need an aspirin.

Reviewer abruptly segues into personal and largely incomprehensible weirdness.

I need two aspirins.

Reviewer predicts that many people won't like the book, but those who slam it -- or disagree with him, kind of muddled again here -- are intellectually constipated.

I've certainly never seen anyone more qualified to judge.

Reviewer wraps up by quoting another reviewer to justify these views.

Yes, yes, I'm thoroughly convinced I should not buy this book. Congrats on killing a sale.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Would You Ten

Ten Things Total Strangers Have Asked Me to Do Since I Became an Author:

1. Have sex with them. Mostly requested via e-mail, but sometimes at cons, too; even some of the all-girl ones.

I'm just not that into you. Sorry.

2. Sell them one of my unpublished manuscripts. The scheme is generally this: I sell them the novel, they put their name on it, pretend it's their work and submit it.

No. If you're already published, no, and shame on you.

3. Marry them. Majority of the proposals came flooding in after my last divorce. I average about three or four a year now.

Flattering, but I have enough ex-spouses, thanks.

4. Give them money.

Sorry, but I had to smuggle my millions out of the country when my consort, Prince Lars, was deposed by a coup. Didn't you read my last e-mail?

5. Blurb their book. Lots of these whenever I hit a bestseller list.

Did this twice in the past, was made to regret it, so no.

6. Let them co-Author my books.

I don't play that well with others.

7. Rec them for industry awards.

Why do you think I resigned from all those writer organizations?

8. Drop Dead. Next to having sex, the most frequently requested.

Take comfort in this: I will, eventually.

9. Be Their Guest Speaker. More often than you might think, and sometimes for pretty decent money.

You don't want me talking to your group. Trust me on this one.

10. Tell them who I really am.

When I figure that out, I'll let you know.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Do Over

Let's kick off the new year with something other than death and me yelling at everyone, shall we? Right.

Despite what you think you see on the cover of certain industry trade magazines, Jason Alexander and Drew Carey are not science fiction writers. But now I have to go and change the order of my Ten Authors Who Should Not Be Photographed list again.

I think this latest entry to the Authors Behaving Badly file is actually educational about the reality of writing for small presses. If you care to wade through the profanity, that is. (Thanks to M for the link.)

Rick Kleffel has posted an interesting article on graphic novels. He's got a book giveaway contest as well (see bottom of the article.) Alas, I still haven't caved, but occasionally I'll look through Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon GNs before letting my kid buy them. Yes, I am the Meanest Mother in the Universe. The backwards order, btw, is truly annoying.

Mad Max has finally posted his survey results over on Book Angst 101.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


I was a bit harsh in my previous post, but I was hating every drinker in the world at that moment.

I found out this morning that a friend of mine (not a writer, ex-military) was recently killed coming home from work. The other driver, who was drunk and caused the accident, is looking at charges of DUI, resisting arrest, and manslaughter.

Not really an excuse, right? So: I apologize to all the alcohol users out there who moderate your intake and do not get behind the wheel when you're smashed. I won't ever say I like what you do to yourselves, but you're not all morons, and it was wrong of me to call you that. Please do keep it under control, so you don't kill yourself or anyone else.

Happy New Year.


There is no cure for the hangover, according to British anesthesiologist Dr. Ian Calder, who blames cogeners for the unhappy morning after that alcohol users regularly experience.

Right now I'm simply trying to imagine wanting to put something in my body which metabolizes into formaldehyde and formic acid. Nope, sorry.

I don't use alcohol for several reasons, but the primary one is that I am the child of an alcoholic. Also, I have a functioning brain. And then there's the disgust unrelated to my childhood or my intelligence; as in I've scraped too many drunks -- or what was left of them -- out of wrecked cars.

If this offends you? Good. Because anyone who uses alcohol is a moron. Stick that in your wine glass and sniff it.

Stupid people can be saved, however. If you are having a problem with your alcohol intake, I strongly recommend you attend an A.A. meeting. How about today? Start the New Year off right and stop making everyone who loves you suffer.

If you have a parent, spouse, or family member who can't control their alcohol use, try Al-anon/Alateen. I used to attend Alateen meetings when I was a kid and they helped.