Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Not surprising: Alison Kent snags a Quill Awards nom.

PBW says: Ha! Way better than a RITA.

Finally, it can be reposted: Our pal Tamara Siler Jones is back home from Balticon, where she kicked major rookie behinds to "officially" win the Compton Crook award.

PBW says: Scroll down to see one of Tam's extremely cool giveaway quilts for the Threads of Malice tour.

In the snail mail: Pretty silver foil package with beautiful lady on the cover, which reads "Congratulations! You qualify for an instantly slimming, beautifully shaping, supremely comfortable FREE SAMPLE pantyhose."

PBW mutters: Oh, bite me.

On a Lighter Note

Apparently I've been LiveJournaled.

I had no idea; spotted the link when I was over snitching another link from riemannia.

Whoever set it up, thanks.

Out of Business

Someone whose short-time presence on the internet has rocked a few writers' worlds (mine included) is about to retire their blog. No, I can't say who, but you'll figure it out soon enough. I know what a time sink weblogs are, (believe me, I know) and I respect that everyone has to do their thing. It's still painful to watch a potential powerhouse of ideas and information for writers close up shop.

There are plenty of non-writer publishing blogs out there, but few that are useful. Too many toss around claims to "like" and "love" various aspects of writerdom and publishing, but serve up nothing but hate and envy disguised as wit. Not even decent wit, most of the time; high school, snickering in the bathroom quality wit. While everyone is entitled to their fun, and I'm all for a good, cheap laugh now and then, if that's all you plop in front of me, it gets old fast.

There are writers who need help with handling the non-writing end of this gig, and I'm not ashamed to say I'm one of them. I was just over at Monica's brooding with her over to-market-or-not-to-market. Publishers have an entire building of smart people dedicated to selling the book. Who do we writers have? Ourselves, maybe a couple of pro friends, writing organizations and entities that are primarily interested in making money off us, what time and wisdom our editors can spare us, and the internet.

It's not enough.

And yeah, for months I've been telling you it's not enough, but you don't have to listen to me. Go read M.J.'s latest post and then come back and tell me what we have is enough to deal with this.

I don't have answers. If I did, I'd post them. I have some ideas, but they're not enough. So if you're reading this, my personal World Rocker, I hope you'll reconsider. We need you out here, not out of business.

Summer Job

The kids and I wanted to do something more meaningful than laze around by the pool all summer, so we volunteered to work two days a week at the local no-kill cat shelter. There are over 500 cats presently in residence, and it's kitten season, so they need all the help they can get.

Volunteering at an animal shelter, btw, is not playing with the kitties for hours. It's scrubbing out the floor-to-ceiling cages where the cats live, and cleaning their litter pans, food dishes, sleeping shelves and stands, etc. In heavy plastic gloves, working with bleach and hot water and plenty of soap. If you've ever cared for one cat, multiply that and the inevitable odor by 500.

My very first job at the shelter was to clean out the isolation cage for the cats with diarrhea. If that wasn't an initiation, I don't know what is.

If we're not too tired after we put in our work hours, then I take the kids out to the big outdoor playhouse that serves as a meet-and-greet area for visitors. About 100 of the healthiest, most promising adult cats are kept there.

You walk in, secure two doors (cats are great escape artists), sit on the floor or one of the chairs, and you instantly have six or seven cats all over you, purring and nudging for attention. Another twenty or more will circle around you, waiting their turn. The rest are lounging, snoozing or sitting aloof, unwilling to compete, but if you walk over to them, most will lift their heads and beg for a scratch around the ears.

There are only four or five volunteers who work at the shelter each day. They don't have time to pet 5 cats, much less 500. So while the cats are clean, well-fed and cared for, they are all starved for attention.

That's the hardest part for me. I can scrub up cat shit for four hours, no problem, but a scrawny, scraggly-furred calico with half an ear and one blue-blind eye climbs on my lap and looks up at me, and I'm destroyed.

I already know some of the more permanent residents by name. Valentino, a light orange marmalade cat who talks to me as I mop his cage. Shena, a mostly-black domestic short hair, likes to jump from the upper sitting shelves onto my shoulders (an acrobat-cat, she never sinks her claws in.) Mama, a silver tabby who watches me as closely as she does her six nursing kittens, and will bite if my glove strays too close.

There are so many kittens. Because people will not have their pets properly spayed or neutered, too many. The Humane Society sent over sixteen little ones this week, which the shelter accepted to save them from being euthanized. They're so tiny, and lovely, and the most likely to be adopted. Some won't be, and then it's almost a given that they will stay at the shelter. About 70% of the cats have lived there for more than nine years now, I'm told, and most of them will never leave.

It's understandable. People want to adopt cute kittens. They don't want to take home a full grown, half-eared, one-eyed stray with chewed-up-looking fur.

The kids were pretty quiet after our first day at work, but this is a lot different than the work we did down south, rescuing strays now and then. Here it's continuous smelly, nasty, sweaty physical effort. It is a big emotional thing for them to absorb, too, because you just can't see that many homeless animals and not have your heart broken. Still, they insist on going back with me every time (and worried mom here has tried to talk them out of it.)

There is nothing so humbling as when you realize how much love and courage your kids have, and how willing they are to act upon it.

Cat shelters of the kill and no-kill variety exist in almost every town in this country. They are almost always in desperate need of volunteers, but they are happy to accept donations of food, litter, supplies, and cash. If you have a spare afternoon this summer, visit yours and see what you can do to help out.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Relief Ten

Ten Things for the Bored

1. The Hero Machine -- create your very own superhero.

2. Hirshhorn's Art Interactive offer an online Create a Sculpture -- good for people who should not be trusted with sharp objects.

3. Philip Lenssen's The Blog-O-Matic -- when you can't think of what the heck to post.

4. Celeste Lim, Laura Tan, and Nicole Wee's Proppian Fairytale Generator -- your tuition dollars, hard at work.

5. Dave Mullen's Proverb Generator -- there's a message in this.

6. Ruder Finn Interactive's Mr. Picassohead -- you too can be Pablo. Kind of.

7. Scott Pakin's Automatic Complaint-Letter Generator -- length adjustable

8. Michael Smith's Cosmic Truth Generator -- if it's true, it's cosmic.

9. Also by Michael Smith, the Automatic Prose Generator -- when you can't face that blank screen another sec.

10. Lore Sjoberg's The Apathetic Online Journal Entry Generator -- express your boredom without ruining your ennui.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Hostility is so much easier to deal with than friendliness, for some reason. Me and non-familial hostility are old pals, dating back to the first time a drill instructor got close enough to kiss me and instead questioned my mother's past morality at the top of his lungs (it wasn't the shouting I minded as much as the bits of spit I couldn't wipe off my face. See the end of the courthouse scene in Blade Dancer for more emotional details.)

Hostility is always a stand-up guy, though. Pure, honest, right there whenever you need a kick in the pants. He makes you feel like a little girl in a stupid dress and too-tight white Mary Janes, made to dance the polka at a family wedding. Hostility is the older, flatulent boy cousin who hates you more than dog puke and will give you at least one Indian burn and a wedgie before the accordion player takes a break.

It's a dance you endure, because you know where to find dead bugs in the wedding hall, and at some point during the evening, Hostility will leave his soda and food unattended.

Friendliness is also at the wedding, but he's not a family member, or flatulent, or scowling at anything young and female. Someone you know makes vague introductions, and he smiles at you. You don't smile back because he might assume something horrible, such as you like boys.

You watch Friendliness, and note that he has good manners, doesn't fart recreationally and is polite to the grownups. He dances with girls, but none of them leave the floor rubbing their arms or pulling at the back of their dresses. You might think he's a suck-up until you see him quietly stop Hostility from pinching your little sister until she cries.

You realize that Friendliness does not know where the dead bugs are, or maybe he does and doesn't care. This causes you to admire Friendliness from a safe distance, and part of you wishes you could be like that -- if that's what he's really like. You don't know. Not like Friendliness is easy to read. Friendliness is too much like grownups, and you're still a little kid.

Then Friendliness does the Worst Thing Possible: he comes over and asks you to dance. Politely, without your mother or your older sister asking him to. He smiles again. He's got a nice smile. Why is he wasting it on you? Doesn't he see your stupid dress? Your too-tight shoes? Not like you can dance anyway.

Do you take a turn on the floor with Friendliness? Your answer depends on how many times you've been forced to dance with Hostility, and whether or not you made use of those dead bugs.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

My Numbers

So no one thinks I'm exempting myself from this project, here's one of my statements that came in today (warning, potentially offensive real financial disclosure follows):

Blade Dancer
Author Name/Publisher: S.L. Viehl, Roc
Mass Market Paperback, U.S., $6.99 cover price
Distribution: National
Publication Date: 07/01/04
Advance: $0 (this is a reprint from the hardcover; I get no up-front money for it)
Royalties: 6%
Current Released to date: 32,048
Reserved against returns: 3,000
Current returns: 6,221
Sell-through: 82.5%
Author earnings: $4,386.99

This is a five-month statement; the figures reflect sales from 7/01/04 through 12/31/04. SF has a much longer shelf life than most genres, so I've probably got another six months to a year to collect more sales.

Why has this book done well for me? I have some theories: it was my first not-StarDoc SF novel, and my first SF hardcover. A lot of my readers liked the novel and recommended it to friends. SFBC featured it as an alternative selection. The mass market edition hit the SF bestseller list. Timing was excellent, too; July has always been a good month for me.

Could it have done better? If I'd done some sort of promotion for it, probably. The personal timing unfortunately sucked; BD came out in the middle of a very bad career year. I had lost two editors and was so frustrated with the industry that I nearly quit writing. It took me another year to find my balance. By the time I came back out of the lair to see what was going on, the reprint had already hit the shelves.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Before anyone e-mails or comments:

Yes, I am revamping the sidebar weblog links list.
No, there's no agenda.
Yes, I'm doing it for my own amusement.
No, it's not done yet.
Yes, there are new folks all over it. Check them out.
No, you don't get to pick your song header.
Especially if your name is James or Stuart.
Yes, I should have done this a long time ago.
No, it's not a big deal.

See? Practically painless.


A couple of people have e-mailed to ask how to crank up the power in a proposal. I always try to hit a couple of things in mine (spoilers for If Angels Burn follow):

1. Offer a strong premise, one that can be easily described in ten words or less.

Plastic surgeon abducted by disfigured vampire.

2. Present a big idea.

The vampires aren't the monsters, the humans hunting them are.

3. Use conflict that is strong, has staying power, and isn't simple to resolve.

The compassionate surgeon despises the vampire for infecting and nearly killing her, and destroying her medical career. The billionaire immortal vampire who needs no one now needs the surgeon to treat other, tortured vampires. P.S., they're also falling in love with each other.

4. Throw secondary character gasoline into the story fire.

The surgeon's brother is recruited by the guys hunting the vampires. The vampire's king wants to use the surgeon's blood to create an army of new vampires.

5. Twist it, twist it, twist it. I usually have two minor and one major big twist in a novel. Too many will make it cluttered. Too few or too simple a twist leaves the story feeling flat.

The surgeon's brother thinks an ordeal he goes through is part of an initiation into the order of the humans hunting the vampires. In reality, they're torturing him to make him into their puppet to get at his sister and her vampire lover. The vampire lover is the one who tells the brother the truth.

Things that slog a proposal:

1. Too much backstory. We don't need that much life history, and we don't want to relive it through a thousand flash backs when you've run out of things for the character to do.

2. Too many pointless characters. This is a book, not a mall food court. If a character doesn't serve the story, kill them.

3. Romance-specific: heroes who are brainless beefcakes and heroines who couldn't think their way out of a paper bag. Stop living in the eighties, ladies. They're over.

4. Conflict that a five-year-old could resolve while watching cartoons and playing GameBoy.

5. Not enough passion for the story. Don't write anything just to write it. Write it because you love it. Because you can't stop thinking about it. Because you get a thrill every single time you open the .doc file. Because if you talk about it at the dinner table one more time, your family is going to stab you in the heart with their forks. That kind of passion.


**** THE PROOF THAT Paperback Writer IS EVIL ****

16 1 16 5 18 2 1 3 11 23 18 9 20 5 18
7 1 7 5 9 2 1 3 2 5 9 9 2 5 9

6 7 6 5 7

Thus, "Paperback Writer" is 67657.

Subtract 1970, the year IBM announced S/370. The result will be 65687.

Add 1977, the year Elvis left the planet - the result is 67664.

Add 661 to it - this is the year Roman Empire was devastated by a plague, written backwards - you will get 68325.

Turn the number backwards, and add 1865 - the year Lincoln was shot. The number is now 54251.

Turn the number backwards, subtract 38 - the symbol of slavery. The number is now 15207.

Write 1976 backwards. Translate it to octal - this will give you 15207. Thus, 15207 stands for 1976, the year George Harrison performed the lumberjack song with Monty Python - if you have seen it, you should understand.

You get the picture. QED.

(Want to know if you're evil, too? Check out Michal Zalewski's Evil Finder.)

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Remember when I was talking about trends and vampire paranormals, and I told you all the market is demanding better, stronger books to compete with what's already out there?

I rarely preview novels before they hit the market, but there's a vampire paranormal book coming out in a few months that is so strong and so beautifully competitive that it knocked me on my butt. Got a sizzling quote out of me, too (and you know PBW is no quote slut.)

I love this kind of book, because it keeps established writers from getting lazy and complacent, and raises the bar for all of us. Some advice to those of you who are thinking of pitching: crank up the power in those submissions.

I'll check with the editor to see if I can post the details, but dark fantasy lovers? You're about to get served.


First repeater entry for the Authors Behaving Badly file: Orson Scott Card, who's evidently miffed at George Lucas for being . . . more successful than he is? That's all I got out of it that made any sense. I especially like the hot pink ad in the middle of the first page: You could win a year's worth of Christian books for your book club, click here to enter. Yep, that's subtle.

I suppose as a SF writer I should say something about Star Wars. Okay, here goes: George Lucas, you've brought happiness to billions with your movies. They're inventive and fun, and I hope you make a thousand more. Thank you. P.S. My son loves Natalie Portman and you, in that order.

Orson first made the file when he made himself the Support Gay Bashing poster child.

Worth It

There is so much free writing software available out there in internet land that I rarely recommend anything writers have to buy. When you're trying to live on the average writing income, you're basically starving, so I'd rather endorse free stuff. Also, I don't want to get into that whole "Buy this because I'm a published author getting a nice kickback" thing.*

The other problem is that most of these writing software programs you have to buy seem to be designed by non-writers, because they tend to be very complicated. They've got fancy functions may look fabulous, to be sure, but using them means either memorizing the 4.9MB hey.stupid file or hiring an IT tech to come in and run them for you.

Once in a great while, however, someone comes up with something fabulous that actually works. Like JT Enterprises's WriteWay.

I bought WriteWay when it first hit the market because a) I was already looking for something easy and user-friendly; b) it was designed by romance author Tina St. John's** husband, John Haack and c) I had some writing students who were in desperate need of software to help get them organized and motivated.

I downloaded the free 30-day demo version and gave it a test drive. I had half a novel plotted out before I realized just how simple it was to use; even a technosloth like me could have fun with it. Also, it was writer-logical; everything I needed to use for working on the book in one place. I then bought the program, used it to finish plotting the novel, and began recommending it to my students and writer friends. They liked it as much as I did, which clinched it for me.

Right now you can get 20% off the $39.00 standard edition and the $79.00 pro edition of WriteWay, but you can go over any time and download the free demo and check it out before you buy. Go for it.

*PBW does not do kickbacks. PBW did cheesecake, but no one sent me that, and now I'm on a diet.

**The same Tina St. John who leaves comments here. I already gushed all over her via e-mail about WriteWay when I realized it was her.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Art Ten

Ten Things for the Art Lovers

1. The Art of Alan Pollack*

2. Ashes and Snow

3. Donato Arts*

4. Etch-a-sketch

5. Fractalism

6. Frank Frazetta

7. Gabrielle Swain

8. Hollis Chatelain

9. Nancy Crow

10. Vanderstelt Studio*

*Shameless plugs for three artists who have painted six of my covers. I own the two Pollacks. Jerry Vanderstelt created the art for Rebel Ice.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Renaissance Minds

Writers are Renaissance people, in the sense that most have at least one creative talent in addition to writing to keep us out of trouble. Moonlighting as something other than a writer recharges the batteries, and can translate back into writing.

I like being spontaneous. Tonight, for example, I went down to the lake to photograph what promised to be an amazing sunset. Now, I am not a terrific photographer, but that isn't the point. The point was getting away from the keyboard and communing with Nature. I had fun picking my shots, creeping up on exotic birds (blue herons are so twitchy) and hoping I wouldn't run out of film before the last turquoise and pink faded away.

How does being a lousy photographer translate back into writing? Charged batteries have more output than drained cells. Example #2: Last year I took a photo of a double rainbow that appeared over our home just after Hurricane Charley. The photograph was grainy and fuzzy, but it later prompted me to write a short devotional about that moment, and those rainbows. I sold the devotional, so in this case, that one picture = 240 words = $200.00 and publication.

This afternoon, a writer friend and I were talking about unconventional marketing methods, and how a few authors like Douglas Clegg are using their other-than-writing talents to draw attention to their novels. If we're already using our other creative talents to recharge our writing batteries, then why not divert a little of that power toward marketing the output?

Think about the range of individual talents. No danger of being lost in the herd when you're drawing on something that is unique to you. You can experiment with different ideas and see what attracts the most attention. The best part of using your creative talent in a marketing effort is that it will recharge your writer batteries versus draining them, because you'll be doing something you enjoy versus something you dread.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Fantasy Novel
Author Name/Publisher: Withheld by Request
Mass Market Paperback, U.S., $6.99 cover price
Distribution: National
Publication Year: 2004
Advance: $5,000.00
Royalties: 5-8%
First Print Run: 14,575
Current Released to date (marked as sold): 9,898*
Current Reserved against returns: 4,677*
Current returns: 363
Sell-through: 97.5%

Figures are actual, taken from royalty statement.

*Corrected by me -- I was working from a scan of the statement,and at 5:30 am, it's pretty easy to screw up and invert numbers. My error, sorry folks.


If you're not yet sick of Star Wars, here's Master Yoda's Blog.
(Link via Dream of the Dolphin)


Ten Things for the Fiction Blog Lovers

1. A Messy Affair at the Mara

2. Dracula Blogged

3. It is about the Bike (Tour de France diary, written by Lance Armstrong's bike)

4. My Blog (Postcards from Buster)

5. Pesky the Rat

6. The Day the Sun Rose Twice

7. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci -- (not fiction, but a cool idea)

8. The Vampire's Daughter

9. Ravenstone Castle

10. Transplanted Life

(80% of these links brought to you by Fictionblogs)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Quote Them

I can't find a couple of writer quotations that I want, and it's driving me nuts.

I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. — Ernest Hemingway

This is pretty close to one I was hunting down; one that had a huge impact on me as a writer. The original went something like "The writer should always know a hell of a lot more about the character than the reader ever will."

Nobody wants to see the village of the happy people. — Lew Hunter

Except my mom. She wants me to move there. You can immediately imagine a screaming mob brandishing torches and pitchforks and rushing up the driveway to my happy cottage, right?

Character gives us qualities, but it is in actions — what we do — that we are happy or the reverse. ... All human happiness and misery take the form of action. — Aristotle

The guy's been dead 2,327 years, but his words still grab you by the throat and shake you until your teeth chatter.

Characters must not brood too long. They must not waste time running up and down ladders in their own insides. — E.M. Forster

How many writers do you want to send this one to?

Look if you like, but you will have to leap. — W.H. Auden

P.S., there's no net. I'm beginning to believe there will never be a net.

What's your favorite writer/about writers quotation?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Alison Made Me

Total Number of Books I Own: This week, 6,093. They're catalogued by title and author and cross-referenced by subject and genre, too.

Go ahead, hate me.

Last Books I Bought:
In Search of Mary, The Woman and the Symbol by Sally Cuneen
Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison
The Sheep Book, A Handbook for the Modern Shepherd by Ron Parker

Le Sang du temps by Maxime Chattam
The Abandoned by Douglas Clegg
Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle (on order)

Last Books I Read:
The History of Warfare by John Keegan
How We Die : Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland
Lecture Notes on Radiology by P.R. Patel

Loving Mercy by Teresa Bodwell
Threads of Malice by Tamara Siler Jones

5 Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

The Bible

It's always been in my life, one way or another.

Diplomacy of Wolves and Talyn by Holly Lisle

Both are brilliant, beautiful, and haunt me.

An Unbreakable Bond by Robyn Donald

The most intense, heart-breaking romance I've ever read.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The first book that inspired me positively.

I am tagging everyone who reads this post and hasn't been tagged. How's that for lazy?

TY Tess

I didn't know Tess Gerritsen had a blog. Got a feather? You could knock me over with it. Her most recent post is a dazzler. She doesn't title them, so let's call it How to be Classy and Unapologetic about Writing Romance.

Simply Irresistible Ten

Ten Things With Titles that I Couldn't Resist

1. A Day in the Life of a Persuasion Architect

2. As I Said Before, I Never Repeat Myself

3. Beyond Bullets

4. Intergalactic Hussy

5. It's Ok to Show Bum Crack

6. Lip-Sticking

7. Redhanded

8. Scaryduck. Not scary. Not a duck.

9. Snark Hunting

10. Will Type For Food

Friday, May 20, 2005

End of the Day

I got up this morning at 3:45 am, and I've another 45 minutes of work to finish before I can hit the sack. Been a while since I pulled a 22 hour day. I might be nice and let myself sleep in until 5:00 am tomorrow.

My glamorous life.

Actually, my life is pretty glamorous, in little ways that are only important to me. Celestial Seasonings has a new white tea out; Perfectly Pear. Light taste of le fruit + a touch of vanilla. I switched to their Decaf White Tea about six hours ago. Highly recommend both to other exotic tea junkies.

Earlier I threw all the pots and pans back into the cabinet and made a sandwiches meal for dinner: Baguette with thinly-sliced roast beef and sharp cheddar (for the man) and croissants with chopped baked chicken (for me & the kiddies). I added low-fat Lorraine cheese, romaine, and horseradish-mustard dressing on mine. Rounded it off with Ba-Tampte garlic dill pickles and egg-potato salad. A bit heavy on the calories, but a good, fast summer meal when you don't feel like cooking or eating a lot.

Now I want some fresh peaches. Sun-warmed, the kind that always dribble juice down your chin the instant you take a bite; preferably picked right off the tree. I have no idea why. I just want them. But we have no peach trees. (Note to self: road trip to that great Farmer's Market in the next town over; asap.)

I also painted for thirty minutes today. It's tragic, what I can do to an innocent stretch of canvas with a mere brush and some primary acrylics. Still loved it.

It's quiet. Everyone bailed on me hours ago. I can hear crickets, a blue jay squawking now and then (stray cat out there, I'll bet) and the hum of the tower fan. These are my writer hours, the read-and-edit end of the day, when I'm tired but happy. Happy with the work and the place where I am. I skipped some chores to watch the kids swim for an hour at dusk. There will be laundry to pay tomorrow, but there's always laundry. Kids aren't always kids.

What sort of personal glamour shines in your life?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Self-Published Numbers

Lee Goldberg is going to get sick of me linking to him this week, but he's posted some stats on iUniverse's 2003-2004 sales and costs here that those writers considering self-publishing should look at closely.


Contemporary Romance Novel
Author Name/Publisher: Withheld by Request
Mass Market Paperback, U.S., $6.99 cover price
Distribution: National
Publication Year: 2004
Advance: $15,000.00*
Royalties: 6-8%
Current Released to date: 25,500
Current Reserved against returns: 9,000
Current returns: 18,800
Sell-through: 54%

Quoted from e-mail, with permission: I am an established midlist romance author whose books receive good to excellent reviews and four to four-and-one-half starred reviews in RT.

My comments: Even including the reserves in with the release figure, sell-through on this novel is actually closer to 45%.

*Actual advance. All other numbers have been rounded off by author to further protect the author's identity.

Ten the Hard Way

I went to my master links list, looking for the URL to The Generator Blog, which is cross-referenced by A Dictionary of Words for Masculine Women and Unusual Churches (don't ask), and came across a ten list I never finished compiling:

The Good, the Bad, and the Superficial

Cheating Husband
God Damn Hippies
Mr. Sun!
The Superficial

Put Up or Shut Up

The sixth book of 2005 was actually supposed to be the eighth on the schedule, but it's hitting the page early. My publishers have changed my delivery dates twice, and a third change is imminent. This time I'll be prepared if it does; if it doesn't, I turn the manuscript in a little early. Good for me either way.

This book is not going to be an easy one. For me it's that book, the one you think about writing for years but you wait, because you're not ready or the story hasn't percolated enough or you don't have a market for it or whatever. In my case, all of the above. I have been not-writing this book since the original proposal was rejected in 1999.

I wasn’t worried about it. With books like this, you make promises to yourself, most of which start with someday:

Someday, I’ll take a couple of months off and just write it.
Someday, I’ll have the experience to make it a great novel.
Someday, I’ll sell the proposal to a wonderful editor for the right money, and it will hit the market at precisely the right moment.
Someday, maybe, it will be the book of my career.

Someday showed up last spring. I reworked the old proposal and pitched it, mainly on a whim. They won't buy this, but what the hell. And sold it, much to my shock and dismay. It seemed that the time had come for it at last. Perfect editor. Money on the table. Receptive market.

Put up or shut up.

I will write the book. I don't live with a story in my head this long only to choke at the starting gate. It feels strong, clear, all the bugs worked out. We've got tone.

Still, there's a chunk of me, a six-year-old with a shiny toy no one knows about, and she never wanted someday for this book. She wanted it all for herself. She wanted to keep it shelved in the private library in my head, up there, out of reach where no one can see it and no one ever dog ears the pages. When I began formatting the manuscript document the other day, she had a screaming tantrum: No they can't have this one it's mine mine mine.

I'll ignore her and keep writing, because she's six and she doesn't pay the bills. That and let your inner artchild get the upper hand too often, and you end up not-writing everything.

Never wanting someday is not to say the book is too good for print, or I'm being snobby about what I let the public read and what I hold back. I do hold back things, or set them aside, but only because I don't think they're good enough or marketable in any practical sense.

This book is simply different. Maybe it's been with me so long that over time it's evolved into something else. What, you got me. Maybe I fell in love with it all those years ago when it first took shape. All I know is that it's shiny. It's wonderful. I never get tired of thinking about it, tinkering with the tiniest details, walking through every scene. If novels were houses, this one would be my mansion.

Once it hits the page, though, the story stops being a vision and becomes something real. I have to turn it loose on the big playground of publishing, another marble thumbed into the ring drawn in the dirt. It will never be just-mine again. I can't wait to write it. The six-year-old can. I know I will write it, and let it go like the others, and la-dee-dah along and hide the wrench, that god-awful two days after it's gone when I adjust to letting go and separating from it.

For now, I start to write. I already wrote three chapters when I pitched it. I'll re-read those; see what needs to be polished. Tomorrow I need to write a teaser to send to my editor so she can put it in the back of the novel that comes out before this one. Then I write new material.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Last Peep from the Coop

Sarah Weinman expresses her delight with the Lit-Blog Coop's inaugural Read This! selection of Case Histories by author Kate Atkinson, who despite being interviewed by Publishers Weekly, winning the Whitbread Prize, and being picked as one of Salon.com's best books of the year is evidently still being ignored by a flooded market.

I can't express the same delight. Problem is, I know many amazing, gifted writers who are struggling. None of the above is listed in their bios. I don't know Kate Atkinson, and I apologize in advance to her for having her and her book in the middle of my objection. I'm sure she's a fine writer and deserving of more recognition than she's had. Just not under the banner of struggling.

Someone at the LBC needs to take the word out of the equation, right now.

It has been suggested to me that as a genre writer, Yours Truly has no business criticizing the efforts of the lit elite to promote the struggling, the not struggling, or the doing pretty damn decent by all standards. You Who Shall Remain Nameless, be advised that you're right. I don't read the stuff, I'm not going to, and I'll make this my last post on the Coop. Shame it couldn't be otherwise.

Psssst. Hey, Lady.

Another reason to love Lee Goldberg's twisted sense of humor. Jeremiah probably was very nice to the lady. I saw him fend off a few after a panel we were on together a few years back.

Because I'm a writer-for-hire, a lot of misguided folks think that means they can buy me to write a book which they may then sell as their work. Pretty decent offers, considering, but sorry, I only hire out to publishers.

I don't think writers get as many idea-propositions as folks in the TV and movie industry, but I had a very persistent gentleman who bombarded me with e-mails one summer after reading one of my SF novels. You see, he had the exact same idea for his first SF novel and I'd pre-empted him, so that proved -- somehow -- we were meant to collaborate. He was also one of the most well-read SF experts in the world, so he could "fix" what was wrong with my SF writing and get me a Nebula or a Hugo.

I politely turned him down -- but no, that wasn't going to work for SF-Guy, who then sent me his two-sentence-long idea to tempt me. He offered to give the idea to me for 75/25 of the rights (he got the 75) and could I have it done in a month or two, seeing as I wrote so fast? He was also available to relocate and offered to move in with me so he could directly supervise my work on a day-to-day basis.

I sent a second, polite no-thanks, and after twenty more e-mails from him, a polite request for him to cease-and-desist or I'd notify his ISP, which finally convinced him that No meant No. His last e-mail informed me that I had better never publish any book even remotely resembling his idea, or he would sue me.

I don't think we'll be going to court.

Unique Marketing 101

Author Douglas Clegg does practice what he preaches -- check out this very cool auction on eBay.

Out of Touch

A couple of people have e-mailed asking about the point of the PAN post. It was pointless fun, but then, so is the subject matter.

I left RWA the same year they made Eloisa James the PAN liasion, This was before she came out of the closet; no, I didn't know her, and God, am I psychic? It was campaign time back then, and the gals running for office were talking about starting PRO, revitalizing the Grow the Market campaign, redoing the new PAN members handbook, providing financial advisors, and getting the established authors to mentor the newbies.

I'm sure many things have changed in the years since. Everyone has mentors now, yes? And the tax help? And PRO wasn't just a sop rag to shut up the e-book authors, right?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


PW keeps sending me freebie access links to the html version of PW Daily, their newsletter. I think it's because I tried their free trial thing, but the mag was of no use to me personally. Anyway, in case anyone's interested in having a peek, here's the link.


We're going to get vulgar for a minute and talk about numbers. Everyone that this might offend, you have been duly notified.

We were talking about where to gather data on trends the other day, and I mentioned how difficult it is to collect data on real numbers. But they are out there.

Over on Confessions of an Author, Amanda Mann posted actual numbers from two royalty statements. Now, these are from a UK publisher, obviously (pounds versus dollars) but she's not cleaning them up to make herself look good -- thus it's more likely that they're the real numbers.

I am not so happy with the general numbers being tossed out by the anonymous author of the Anatomy of a Career post over on BookAngst 101. Good on you, pal, but why did your career build? We want specifics.

If the author happens to be reading this, and would like to elaborate in the comments or e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com (I will keep your name confidential, Girl Scout's Honor) I'll post the data here on PBW. I'd also like to extend the use of this weblog for any author who would like to share their real numbers. Same confidentialty applies.

Why PAN was the God of Sheep

Once upon a time, all the sheep in the land wanted to join the flock of the Great God PAN. This was because PAN only herded sheep that produced lovely, much-coveted fleece, for which the biggest wool merchants spent much coin. Sheep that had never been sheared especially dreamt of belonging to PAN, for they loved their wool, and wished it to become much-coveted, too.

PAN was not interested in all the sheep in the land. They were always hanging around and baaing "Look at my fleece!" when their wool looked mostly rough or shabby. Some didn't even have a full fleece grown. PAN's flock already brought in much acclaim and coin, and there was plenty of wool on the market; why should he waste his time on a bunch of substandard, sad little wannabes?

Then one day PAN noticed there were like 8000 of them hanging around his pens, and a voice inside him whispered, There's gotta be more than one way to fleece a sheep.

PAN talked to his flock, and then appeared before the multitude. He announced that he would permit some of them to enter his pen. There were conditions, however: the qualifying sheep must first sell, on her own, a full fleece. The fleece had to be bought at market by an approved wool merchant. When proof of the sale was delivered, then, and only then, would the sheep be admitted to PAN's pen.

Many of the sheep swooned with delight. Many more rushed off to get their butts sheared and peddle some wool.

It was not easy for a naked, sheperdless sheep to sell a fleece at market, but at last a small group succeeded. These lucky fewe rushed back to PAN, who examined the paperwork closely before he opened the gate into his pen. An empty pen, as it happened, kept well away from his fine flock.

"Hold it," PAN said to a couple of black sheep. He separated them from the white sheep and pointed to a much smaller holding area separated even further from the herd. "You two get over in there in the AA pen."

After the black sheep trudged away, one of those left asked in a timid voice, "Great God PAN, we have sold our lovely fleeces. Have we not earned the right to join the lovely, much-coveted sheep over there?"

"No, I just said if you sold one you could come into my pen," PAN told her. "One lousy fleece that you sold for a few pennies does not get you preferential access." He looked into the sheep's teary eyes. "Tell you what. Every couple of months, I'll let you ladies go and stand by the fence, and listen to my fine sheep talk about their beautiful wool. Maybe you could learn something from them that will improve your fleeces. We could even call it a Fleece Conference. I will have to charge you for listening, of course."

"That would be wonderful!" all the little sheep said.

Over in the AA pen, the black sheep looked at her sister. "How much you wanna bet that white man comes over and tells us we only get to stand next to this fence right here and listen to them listening?"

"Shhh," her sister said. "I can't hear him."

One of the little sheep asked PAN, "But, Great God PAN, when will we be permitted to actually join the herd?"

"Not until you sell more fleeces," PAN warned. "A lot more."

"Will you help us?" the sheep pleaded. "Will you be our advocate, and help us find wool agents, and teach us how to keep our accounts and pay taxes and so forth?"

"Sure, but you know, you sold the first one all by yourselves, so I'm sure you can handle it." PAN gestured toward his flock. "By the way, while you're standing over there during the Fleece Conference, you're not to actually bother my fine sheep. Don't talk to them, don't touch them, and don't breathe on them. They're busy growing their far superior fleeces and you might disturb their artistic process."

"We won't," the sheep promised, terrified at the prospect of offending the lovely and much-coveted.

"Oh, and you should definitely buy as many of their fleeces as you can afford," PAN advised them. "As soon as they hit the market. Talk about them with your friends, start Fan Fleece sites on the Internet, that kind of thing. My fine flock works hard and they need your support. I'll ask them to sign the fleeces for you, but don't push any of your lousy wool on them, though. They have standards to maintain."

All the little sheep nodded.

"One more thing -- stay away from that lot." He nodded toward the AA pen. "Black sheep are always nothing but trouble."

"If we do all these things, and pay much coin, and obey your rules, and support your fine flock, will we be able to join them?" the sheep asked.

PAN thought about it. "No, but after I charge you the extra inner-pen dues, I'll allow you to say you're members of my flock. I'll also announce your name and that you sold a fleece during the flock's next lunch break. If you sell enough fleece and bring in enough coin, we'll talk again."

"That doesn't seem fair," one sheep cried.

"You're right," PAN said. "So I'll throw in a nice little pin to wear on your fleece. It will show all the other sheep that you belong to my flock."

"A real PAN pin!" the sheep squealed, her heart filled will joy. "Really and truly?"

"And if you're really good, I'll give you special award ribbons, too," PAN promised.

While the little sheep were swooning, overcome by the thought of award ribbons of their very own, PAN walked over to check on his fine flock, who were watching all this with much amusement.

"You're going to burn in Hades for this, PAN," one matron of the flock said.

"Only if I let in the sh/e-goats," PAN said. "So, Nora, how's the next fleece coming along?"

Monday, May 16, 2005


It only took forty days, and endless columns about themselves, but the powers that be over at the Lit-Blog Coop have offered up their first read-this book. (Drum roll, please.)

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.

Now, I'm a little slow, and kinda confused, so maybe one of you nice people will explain this to me. We're supposed to be getting the skinny on struggling writers, books and presses from the LBC, correct?

Um, how is Kate Atkinson struggling, exactly? Did she like blow all her Whitbread prize money?

Update: To be fair and balanced -- quit laughing -- and present the other side's perspective, one of the LBC folks has offered justification for the pick. Here are his top two reasons:

"1. Kate Atkinson has not received a smidgen of coverage in the New York Reveiw (sic) of Books. 2. While Salon selected CASE HISTORIES for its Best Books of 2004, it never thought to review the book separately."

Right. Please adjust your definition of "struggling" accordingly.

Dude, Where's My Craft?

Ten Things about Writing Craft

1. Ewritersplace.com

2. John Hewitt's Fifteen Craft Exercises for Writers

3. Amy Hillenburg's article 'Rough Writers' hone their craft, let off steam

4. Long Ridge Writers Group's Writing Craft

5. John Metcalf's Soaping a Meditative Foot: Notes for a Young Writer

6. Notable writers talk about their craft

7. NovelAdvice.com

8. Romanceeverafter.com's The Writing Craft -- Detailed links page

9. Vikk Simmons's The effect of blogging on the writing process and Zen in the Art of Writing

10. Tastynews.com's Craft links page

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Trends in the market are a hot topic among writers, but mostly in the negative. Over the last couple of weeks I've seen a lot of anti-trend rumors on paranormals, for example: no one is buying them, the market is flooded, don't even go there.

There will always be people lining up to tell you what not to write. Have you noticed that?

Before I get into this, trend watching should not make you a rumor slave. Rumors are not data, they're rumors. Also, if you've written an amazing book, no matter what subject/genre/trend it is, there is an editor out there who will buy it.

Trends in genre fiction are like fashion or fads. Most enjoy short-term popularity and fade out almost as soon as they show up. Others take a couple of years to wear out. A select few will hang around for a decade or more, and those are the ones most likely to create a new sub-genre. Trends very rarely stick around or change a genre permanently.

Judging the endurance of a trend is tough. Yesterday Michelle asked me as an example "...how long will erotica or paranormal 'boom' before they 'bust'? Are they established enough now that the genres will become cyclical with both downswings and upswings?"

Erotica (or romantica, as the romance genre version is now being called) is an old, sort of homeless genre presently disguised and packaged as a trend. Writers have been writing erotica since the first cave dude drew a picture of himself and his woman rolling around the furs. Until we lose our fascination with sex (hint: never), erotica in some form or another will always be around.

The trend of what's being packaged as romantica is snowballing, and because so many publishers are requesting it, it should have a very strong presence on the shelf for at least three to four more years.

Paranormal romance, especially the vampire sub-trend, seems to be following in the footsteps of romantic suspense. Five years ago, all editors wanted to see were romantic suspense proposals, with a decided preference for trilogies. We had a dozen authors become established reads within a two-year period. Now there are so many talented romantic suspense writers in print that editors currently aren't as eager to buy them as they were even two years ago.

This is the down cycle in a trend, and it's when the rumors start, but it's not that no one will buy vampire paranormals. It's that the market demands better, stronger books than most writers can write to compete with what's already out there.

Rumors are one thing, opinions are another. I like listening to what other writers think is happening within their genre. I went over to Jim Winter's weblog to bug him about the mystery genre and he offered some thoughtful insight on why thrillers are hot and cozies are not at the moment.

Friday, May 13, 2005

bringt uns in eine erstklassige Lage

In case you're wondering, Die Seuche translates to "epidemic plague."


Who do you get to be a guest blogger on your hip, now, tomorrow industry blog? On Friday the 13th?

Who else?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bock Bock Bock

"Here at the LBC, we're about celebrating books and writers we love..."

I'm still waiting for a struggling book, writer or press to actually be mentioned over at the Lit-Blog Coop. So far all the lit-hens are doing is cackling about themselves.

Wait, Gwenda mentioned Holly Black. Okay, Gwen, you're excused.

Shop Talk

Yesterday Monica wrote a top ten list on reasons writers are scared of their own blogs. That prodded me on something I've been avoiding around here.

When I'm not ranting, making ten lists, or bragging about my wonderful children who can do no wrong and I'll smack down anyone who says otherwise, I talk about work. That was the idea in going public with PBW, to talk about the reality of it, and to get other perspectives on the table. I rarely talk about my work, though, except from the technical/career perspective or in shorthand: Got the cover art, killed the deadline, sold this or that.

I'd rather joke about my work than talk serious about it. Part of that comes from my belief that you have to be able to laugh at yourself and this gig, or it'll kill you. Jokes are also good velvet ropes. They keep everyone from getting too close. Close enough to see what I'm really doing behind the joke ropes is close enough to hack, slash, throw acid, torch, or make me hand out bookmarks again. No, thank you.

Then there's talking the talk. You know those writers out there who are really good at that dignified, authorial work-speak? They write stuff like:

Today I explored the inner sanctum of despair, and added a final, top note of irony to bring home how the protagonist's magnificent love has been utterly squandered. I'm not entirely pleased with the outcome, but it's adequate for the first draft.

I can't do that. God did not give me that gene. Whenever I try to put how I honestly feel about my work into words, it sounds like this entry I wrote today in my on-paper journal:

He's holding back, making me wait until the tune he wants starts. Then we dance. I don't know the steps. Everything about him is stomping on my toes. He's smirking, loves it, the jerk. I get that. He hurts because it's the only way he thinks he can make others feel anything. Doesn't make me like him any better.

Sounds like a sixteen-year-old's diary, written in pink ink. All I need to do is dot my i's with little hearts and scrawl in the margin but he might call me tonite then omigod what do I say????

I hate being afraid of anything, so might as well face it head-on. I've got this book I'm about to start writing that I've been waiting a long time to put on paper. It's going to be a major book for me, writer-wise. I'll try talking about how it goes, and see if I can be honest without reliving my Stridex years.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Blog Shopping

In addition to some neat Feng Shui candles and Lemony Snicket on DVD, the crew gave me a generous BAM gift card for Mother's Day. I think I've got them trained to think no-clutter, no-calorie when they shop for me now.

After I picked up a few nonfic titles I've been waiting on, I decided to blog shop (buy books by authors you've not read but know via their weblogs.) Here's what landed on the checkout counter:

A Whole Lotta Love, stories by Donna Hill, Brenda Jackson, Monica Jackson, and Francis Ray. I've been wanting to read Donna Hill since her last post on RTB; Monica is just a bonus. I shouldn't have had a peek at Monica's story first, though. Now I want the recipe for Topaz's birthday cake.

Hush by Jo Leigh. Very hot cover art -- front and back -- and a killer first line on the copy: "A hotel for first-class sex?" Yep, I'll check in. I see Harlequin is still sticking those GET FREE BOOKS cardstock inserts in the middle of their books.

Loving Mercy by Teresa Bodwell -- Zebra did a beautiful job on Teresa's cover art; it's subtle, provocative, and classy all at the same time. I haven't read any Western romances since I wrote Sun Valley (the only romance I've written that could be loosely termed a Western) so I'm looking forward to it.

I couldn't grab everything I wanted to check out. Stuart MacBride's Cold Granite isn't here yet. (The clerk took a step back when I gave her the evil eye and demanded What do you mean, I have to wait until July? It's out in freaking Scotland. You're my supplier, get me a copy.) She made noise about US release dates; ticked me off. I added it to my order for Douglas Clegg's The Priest of Blood. Damn men writers.

I faced out all but one of the above titles (Teresa was already faced-out with four of her six titles in inventory gone) and went to see how mine were doing. They moved IAB out of romance and stuck it in SF (Viehl/Viehl logic, or someone complained, I guess.) My last JH title had been restocked; I do well with romance at this particular store. The writer-for-hire novel was on an inspirational endcap display. All seems well in bookland.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


For all the patient, loyal StarDoc readers out there, we've now got cover:

StarDoc returns to the shelves in January 2006.

A Message from Our Sponsor

A couple of years ago, the Italian jewelry firm Bulgari commissioned author novelist Fay Weldon to write a book featuring their products. At the time, everyone shared scandalized whispers to big chuckles over the idea of a corporation sponsoring a literary novelist.

Never mind that big corporations pay much dinero to have their products and product names featured on TV, in movies, on the garments, sneakers, hats and accessories worn by athletes, NASCAR drivers, and pretty much anything famous that will stand still long enough to be dressed. Evidently authors are supposed to be above all that.

Well, I'm not.

Okay, the idea of sticking a mention of Reese's Pieces or Nike shoes into my plot in return for money doesn't particularly appeal to me, but giving a couple of pages in my book for a product endorsement or advertisement does. Newspapers do it. Magazines do it. Why not novels?

Novels already advertise to a certain degree. When we have excerpts of future books or books by other authors in the back of our novels, that's advertising. Pick up any Harlequin or Silhouette romance and look at the back pages. One book ad after another, plus upcoming titles in that line are printed -- with a short blurb -- inside the front or back cover.

Stay with me, this is an idea still in protean form. Hypothetical situation: my publisher offers an upcoming spooky film producer ad or endorsement space in the back my next Darkyn novel. They buy it from the publisher for a fee. Publisher uses the fee to publicize the book, or underwrite a larger first print run. Film maker gets to reach a target audience. Win/win.

Bulgari had 750 special editions of Weldon's novel printed to give to their special customers. Let's say in return for an ad in the back of an erotica novel, Victoria's secret agrees to sell a small portion of the first print run in their stores. That would get the books out of the bookstores and into the hands of potential new readers. What erotica author wouldn't want his or her book shelved next to the bridal shower gift section at Victoria's Secret?

I know, it would require a lot of cooperation on everyone's part, plus matching up advertisers to the right books, but wouldn't it be worth the effort to give it a shot?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Star Ten

Today is supposed to be the launch of Arianna Huffington's celebrity ├╝ber-blog The Huffington Post, which is reported to be featuring big name bloggers (Norman Mailer, David Mamet, Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Walter Cronkite, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harold Evans and Tina Brown are name-dropped) who will "offer a round-the-clock commentary on our life and times."*

Walter, okay, Norman, eh, but Diane Keaton and Gwyneth Paltrow? Warren Beatty? Imagine the posts:

Which Diamonds Not to Wear to the Oscars.
I Did Not Sleep With Charlie Sheen
How to Make Harrison Ford Think You're a Starlet
Kate Winslet is a Skank.
My Five Year Reunion at Betty Ford.
I Did Not Sleep With Charlie Sheen.
Servants and How They Whine All Over You.
I Think My Mother Is Dating My Chauffeur, the Bitch.
How to String Along A Starlet Who Thinks You're Harrison Ford.
Smuggle In Your Nanny From Mexico, Save Huge $$$.
I Slept with Charlie Sheen, But I Was Drugged.

Anyway, while you're waiting for THP to crank up, here are:

Ten Things for the Celeb Weblog Lovers

1. Gillian Anderson

2. Dave Barry

3. Jeff Bridges

4. David Byrne

5. David Duchovny

6. Moby

7. Michael Moore

8. Al Roker

9. William Shatner

10. Darth Vader

*(story via The Guardian)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Friday, May 06, 2005


One thing I keep harping on is that authors need unique, targeted marketing for their novels. This is never more important than when you launch a novel series, because you're not just in it for one book, you're in for (hopefully) the long haul.

Over at Publishers Marketplace, author Douglas Clegg has been talking about his pre-publication strategies for his upcoming release The Priest of Blood, the first novel in his Vampyricon series.

Look at what he's doing: marketing the product versus the author, using the internet, creating and providing exclusive freebies and collectibles to hook potential readers, and doing it with the kind of finesse that crosses genre lines and pulls in readers from all over the place. I love the artistry involved in everything he's chosen to do for his novel; it's gorgeous and smart -- and it is light years beyond the old, tired bookmarks-and-widgets approach.

One Thing Leads to Another

Blog cruising this morning. Mad Max is posting more anonymous horror stories (I'm going to end up the only author who used a real name over there, I think); Alison is stomping on blackballers (isn't she beautiful when she's annoyed?); and M.J.'s asking publishers one of the big whys.

In my experience, publishers don't lie. They make promises that for whatever reason they later choose to break. Not unexpected, given the average one to two year space between signing an author and distributing their novel.

The first time a publisher broke a promise to me, I was shocked. Second time, I got pissed off. Third time, I almost quit the business. Now I get what I can from the publisher in writing and don't put faith in anything else. That's really all you can do.

Organized romance writers have an extremely complicated hierarchal system that runs on who's your buddy and nice-girl censorship, and often takes years of study to simply fathom, unless you apply this simple template: the romance community is high school. Remember all those bitches in high school, and what they did? Exactly.

M.J. asks Are we really that annoying/childish/ineffectual/spoiled that you can't bear to bring us in on the process? I think that sums up every pro writer's ultimate frustration with the industry, but as long as we're infighting, hiding behind anonymous handles and jostling for position, all the publishers really have to do is toss us a few fish now and then, sit back and enjoy the show.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Deadline, Eviscerated

My apologies. I was off being a writer. Emergency services is standing down and my family might actually speak to me again by June or so. Right now all I'm getting are those hurt puppy dog looks. How could you lock yourself in there for five days?

I think it was good for my loved ones to do without me for a time. They're now better acquainted with the extremely complicated operating procedures involved with the microwave, the washing machine, the dish washer, and the air conditioning thermostat. No one has touched the stove; I guess that was too tough. I also proudly note that my children have finally mastered the hugely intimidating task of replacing the roll of toilet paper on the spindle when there's only a cardboard tube left.

As for why I bailed on the world, well, it's all Valentin's fault. The little snot tried to take over my book. I swear, give a short Austrian man a few inches . . . he'd be grateful, right? Wrong. He tries to take over your book. Now he wants his own book. I keep telling him he's a secondary character. He won't listen.

I got him back, though. Big time. It's a mistake to get between me and my plans.

Anyway, Valentin, Thierry and the rest of the fourth book of the year is done, gone, out of here, and with a hot shower and ten hours of sleep I should be semi-back-to-normal, or at least stop interesting so many flies.

Thank you for all the nice e-mails. Checking things now to catch up. It's May? Damn. Who changed the month?

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Back in 2000, I was told to have a professional photo made for my books. I didn't want one (I am not photogenic) but I was overruled. Get one in color, they said, and no X-Files t-shirts or purple hair, and for God's sake wear some make-up. When I admitted I wasn't exactly skilled with primping -- I once lacerated a cornea with a mascara brush -- I was sent to have my makeup and hair done professionally before the shoot.

It took three people, a trowel, ten pounds of cosmetics, two hours, creative lighting and fervent prayer to turn me into that creature in my author photo. It took me like a week to chisel all that gunk off my face. When they said they were happy with the photo, I told them to treasure it, because I wasn't ever going through that again.

(The original photo with this post is lost, so here's one of me and my daughter from that time. Not as much makeup, but a stylist did do that to my hair.)