Wednesday, August 31, 2005


What Writers Say, and What it Really Means

1. "I'm so honored -- and humbled -- by this Big Award nomination."

Well it's about freaking time I got something for the five hundred bucks I've spent this year on contest entry fees.

2. "I don't understand what the big deal is about that writer's novel. I read it four times and it wasn't so great."

I read it nineteen times and ground my teeth so much I need all new molar caps.

3. "My editor is a doll."

Voodoo, right here, in my desk. Want a pin?

4. "I'm considering a number of important offers."

I'm out of contracts, my agent won't return my calls and I can't afford to refill the Prozac.

5. "I work for one of the most respected publishers in the business."

If you say Who? one more time I'm going to punch you.

6. "Deadlines are not as important as the quality of the work."

I blew my deadline big time and I'm hiding from my editor.

7. "I don't mind getting rejected."

What I mind is you asking me if I mind, of course I mind, everyone minds, idiot.

8. "My CP and I have decided to try working with other people."

My CP just landed a huge deal and dumped me.

9. "I loved working with my CP, and wish him the best of luck."

I just landed a huge deal and dumped my CP.

10. "I don't mind losing the Big Award to Much More Successful Author. She's a talented writer."

She bought the judges before I could, the bitch.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

One Way to Help Now

I just posted a note about this over at Jo Leigh's blog, but I'll repeat it here for those who want to help out the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Donating blood is one of the most important things you can do in the aftermath of a disaster. There are likely to be a huge number of casualties from Katrina, and the first thing hospitals always run out of is blood.

Routine blood donation drives in the southern part of the U.S. will also be badly disrupted by this storm -- we saw this last year after the four hurricanes that hit our state -- and medical facilities outside the disaster areas who send their inventory to relief areas will need help replacing their stock.

A pint of blood costs nothing but maybe twenty minutes of your time to donate, and it can actually save someone's life. If you're willing and able to donate, please do.


When composing an author newsletter, consider the following:

1. Probably not a good idea to name your series with a word that unhappy readers will subsequently use to describe your writing.

2. Keep the predictions hopeful and minimal. May save you a lot of egg/face.

3. Refrain from begging.

4. Calling your unreleased novel ground-breaking is premature. Break the ground first, then take the credit.

5. Talking about your characters the same way you do real people can creep out the civilians.

6. Unless you're naturally funny, test all jokes on a real person first.

7. Gushing about yourself is like cheerleading in a church. A little goes a long way.

8. Whining about how busy you are does not create the illusion of glam.

9. False heartiness generally sounds false. If you can't be genuine without depressing the hell out of everyone, have the happiest person you know write the newsletter for you.

10. Quadruple-check the accuracy of the ISBN number, title, release date, and publisher of your novel. Also, check the spelling of your own name.

What bugs you guys about author newsletters?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina Check In Spot

So far our respective clans are checking in and okay, although many family members and friends had to go to shelters, or are without power.

For those of you who are concerned about author Poppy Z. Brite, according to the last post on her LJ she and her husband left New Orleans before the storm and are in Mississippi.

I know some regular visitors here have also had to evacuate or are in the path of the storm. When you folks have time/power, please let us know you're okay in comments.

Gen Ten

Ten Things to Generate Ten Things

1. The Cat Name Generator

2. Coldplay X & Y Album Art Generator

3. The Historic Tale Construction Generator

4. The Jennifer Aniston Consolation Letter Generator

5. The Manhattan Socialite Name Generator

6. Neon Sign Generator

7. Pattern Generator

8. Poem Generator

9. The Strip Generator

10. The UK Identity Card Generator

All of the above links found at The Generator Blog.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


The latest advisory on Hurricane Katrina puts the storm about 250 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Katrina has intensified to a category 5 storm, with winds of 160 mph. Hurricane force winds (75 mph or higher) extend 85 miles from the center of the storm. The hurricane still has time to strengthen and pick up speed as it moves north through the Gulf. Storm surge near the eye is expected at 25+ feet, with large, battering waves.

Only three category 5 hurricanes have hit the United States since we began to keep records on these storms:

1. 1935 -- Unnamed Labor Day Hurricane -- killed 600 people and wiped out the Florida Keys.

2. 1969 -- Hurricane Camille -- killed 500 to 1500 people along the Gulf Coast; caused $1 billion in damage

3. 1992 -- Hurricane Andrew -- killed 43 people; damages ran to $31 billion.

If you live within the projected path of this hurricane, please don't make the mistake of thinking you can ride this one out. Evacuate now.

Shelter locations, mandatory evacuation notices and other necessary information for Louisiana residents can be found at The Courier.

The latest information on the storm can be found at The National Hurricane Center

Keep safe, everyone. You can replace a house and belongings. We can't replace you.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


For those who need a little inspiration, Daily Guideposts has one of my devotionals up on their website today (thanks for the heads-up, Wendy.)


A writer walks into a bar, sits down, orders a drink, and on impulse, one for the guy sitting beside him/her.

The man thanks the writer and says, "I'm [insert name of a much sought-after literary agent or publishing editor]. What's your name?"

Now the writer happens to be you (and yes, I know for some of you [Stuart, John, James] this is not a big stretch) and after you're sure you're not going to choke on your choice of beverage, you introduce yourself . . . and casually mention you're a writer.

Much Sought-After nods. "Nice to meet you. So, what are you working on?"

Now, in twenty-five words or less, how do you answer him? Tell us in comments.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tess Who?

I've mentioned before how classy NYT bestselling author Tess Gerritsen is, but if you really want to fall in love with her, read her latest blog post Lessons in Humility from the Road.


The Guardian's Tim Clare throws down on the rampant idealism in the publishing industry:

The truth is a disproportionate number of publishers are wide-eyed idealists with a frightening propensity for chucking good money after bad. As much as agents and editors may feign a cool professional insouciance, most dream of stumbling across The Next Big Thing and securing their place in industry history.

Personally I think the Next Big Thing is Tim Clare. Check it out: he's not fooled by any of that annoying insouciance being peddled by the wide-eyed and stumbling -- obviously too cool for that -- and he's not going to leap at any of that good or bad money they're chucking about.

Not counting the money he was advanced for his first novel, of course.

Queuing is what made our nation great. If anything, the British publishing industry is too open to new writers at the expense of skilled stalwarts.

I do need some Transatlantic help interpreting this part: is this skilled stalwart with a whole one book under his belt actually saying that standing in line is what made Britain Great? I always thought forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta was more on the great side, but I'm distracted by nations granting silly things like basic rights and so forth.

Picking authors before they're ripe represents a bad deal for all concerned.

So we're . . . tomatoes? Bananas? Apples? What about those of us who have been irradiated?

Unless prospective authors are prepared to take a responsible approach to finding a readership and a stable place in the market, publishers would do well to move towards GP Taylor's vision of the industry as an exclusive club with clientele by invitation only and undesirables left to squabble among themselves in the street.

The responsible approach being standing in line and waiting until someone (Tim?) decides you're worthy of picking, I guess. If nothing else, it certainly eliminates all those idiotic writers' hopes and dreams. Whoever is left becomes, what, literary writers?


Thursday, August 25, 2005


Kate Rothwell reports that RWA has informed Medallion Press that, oops, their status as a publisher was revoked in error. Which is wonderful to hear, seeing that very hot author Beth Ciotta has just sold two books to MP, in addition to the three novels she just sold to Harlequin HQN.

Like Kate, I wouldn't stand behind a bike if RWA is riding it. Sincere congratulations to Beth Ciotta; this couldn't have happened to a nicer person. Unless Mary Stella sells five books next week, in which case we'll declare a tie.

Cynthia Harrison may call herself unkind names on occasion, but she has an excellent post about negative reviews here that speculates on the psyche behind the snark. Over at the Lipstick Chronicles, four women readers calling themselves DotMoms talk about how little reviews influence their book purchases.

Thoughts, opinions, anyone want to know what Beth's been eating for breakfast lately? Comments are enabled; let's see if the hate mongers have moved on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Synopsis Five

Five Ways to Improve Your Novel Synopsis

1. Eliminate excess adverbs and adjectives: write as spare and clean as you can. When you give someone directions, you don’t tell them what color all of the other houses on your block are.

2. Create catch-phrases and buzz words: present ideas in short form as much as possible. Example: "She was raised by nuns until she came of age to inherit her family fortune" can be converted into "convent-schooled heiress."

3. Read TV Guide and movie listings: this sounds funny, but it’s an excellent way to learn how to condense. Hollywood can reduce a two hour movie into a single ten-word sentence and still make it sound exciting.

4. Tell someone about your novel: "talking out" your book with someone else can help tremendously. See if they can follow your plotline as you describe your book, and listen to the questions they ask. What they want to know should probably be in your synopsis.

5. Practice using other writers’ books: if you’re too anxious about writing a synopsis for your novel, try writing one about someone else’s book. Make it one of your favorite books and you’ll be surprised by how much you know and how easy it is to write.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


The Guardian's Hester Lacey defends people who don't care to read, while Ed Gorman sees them as the saddest aspect of the current state of our industry.

I could write a long essay about my own opinion, which tends to be way out in left field on this issue, but I decided instead to go downstairs and box up books to send to people.

I am a tyrant about getting books into people's hands. On average, I give away between 50-100 books a month. About half go to my readers, friends, and family members, but the rest I send to libraries, schools, reading groups and charities. Only 20% are books I've written; the rest are books I've bought, read, and pass along, new books by authors I want to promote, or new books I buy to help out a school or library. Books are also my favorite birthday and holiday gifts, followed by bookstore gift cards. No matter who's on the list, I always find what I want for someone in a book store.

600 to 1200 books a year is a tiny raindrop in the big pail of publishing, but if one person begins reading more books as a result, that's one person we didn't have.

When was the last time you gave someone a book? Look around the house, are there books gathering dust and silverfish somewhere you could donate to a school or library? Are your author copies turning musty and yellow sitting in a box in the closet? If you love books, be a tyrant about it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Health Ten

Ten Things to Improve Writer Health

1. AAOS's illustrated guide to Back Pain Exercises.

2. Terry Burns' links page on Health Care and Benefits for Writers.

3. DVC's Stress Reduction Exercises.

4. Exercises to help with Strengthening the Lower Trapezius Muscle -- that's the one in your shoulders that keeps getting knotted up.

5. Fitter First's article Ten Tips for a Healthy and Active Work Environment.

6. Information on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be found here, along with excellent recommendations on prevention through exercise, work changes, and proper use of suitable equipment.

7. Patricia King's article Is Work Ruining Your Diet? Five Ways to Practice Healthful Eating from 9 to 5.

8.'s article Obesity May Begin at the Office points out the weight hazards to writers and other desk workers.

9. Dr. Joseph Mercola's How to Stay Healthy While Working in an Office--Six Important Tips.

10.'s Memory Improvement Tools.

Friday, August 19, 2005


BSL Neighbor: Majorie M. Liu's novel A Taste of Crimson hit the USA Today bestseller list, debuting at the #119 spot. She's also got pics from WorldCon and new cover art up over at her place, so go, admire.

Billionaire Neighbors: Donald Trump has started a weblog, as has Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Next thing you know Bill Gates will start one (and please let me know if he does, because I have a real problem with some of the crap Microsoft Word does to a manuscript with tracked changes.)

In the News Neighbors: Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who with her many supporters is presently camped outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, is blogging about her cause over at the Huffington Post. I haven't seen any links to Huffington out there since its much-hyped initiation (disclaimer: I don't read many political blogs; Arianna and her starry pals may be getting all kinds of linkage and traffic from the blues and reds.)

Random thoughts: Marjorie's X-Men cover is cool. Trump sure likes to talk about Trump. I don't know if celebrity blogs are worth it. They always get a great deal of attention at first, and then most of them seem to fade away. About the only celebrity blogger who seems to maintain a steady audience is Will Wheaton, but he's a decent writer, and doesn't use his film/TV fame as a blogcrutch. Sure, it gets you there, but you come back for the writing.

Maybe that's the reason. The blogworld is a Field of Dreams; if you're a star they will come, but if you can't play ball, off they will go.

Step Aside, Atwood

Authors, need some help getting that next book tour rolling? Funny lady Patricia Storms of Booklust has drawn up a brilliant collection of Inventions for Authors.

Thank you, Patricia -- and I'd like to order some of #42, as long as it's unscented. Not like you'd want to wear it with the natural scent . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jerk Appeal

Ed Gorman talks about stupidity as an advertising tool, and reminds us that while we can all appreciate the gambolings of fools now and then, the annoyance factor may be a consumer repellent.

I have to admit, I appreciate parody, satire, and gentle self-deprecation, particularly when it's done by intelligent men. Call me sexist, but smart humor from a fine male mind catches my attention like no muscle-bound HeDude ever could. Dennis Miller versus Arnold Schwarzenegger: who wins? No contest; Dennis, of course. Dennis makes me laugh and makes me think. Arnold only makes me renew my oath never to join a gym or live in California again.

On the screen, intelligent, funny actors from Will Rogers to Will Smith have always been irresistable to me. When I was a kid, my Sunday mornings were wrapped up in the wit of the cartoonists, whether they were gentle chiders like Charles M. Schulz, or razor-edged political dobermen like G.B. Trudeau (who evidently doesn't think too much of bloggers.)

Likewise I enriched many youthful hours by soaking up print by funny guy writers. My favorites were tales by O. Henry and verse by Ogden Nash. Today I tend to go more for nonfictioners like Peter Mayle and Bill Bryson, but every now and then I'll break out some Oscar Wilde or Ambrose Bierce.

On the flip side, I can't stand stupid men who have no sense of humor (I won't irritate your corneas by linking to a certain joyless repeat offender here.) The only thing worse is a man who thinks acting like a moron is a replacement for wit (remember the guy who claimed women are too stupid to write SF? Him and his Rush 24/7 member buddies.)

Still, if you really want to see me break out in hives, make me watch a Stupid Guy movie. These are the flicks where the lead actor is simply a wandering idiot who can do nothing right even when he's given instructions written in words of two syllables or less. In other words, pretty much everything Jim Carrey has done since The Mask. Or the Group of Stupid Guys movies, with pairs or trios or quartets of these brainless beauties, bumbling along, always on some sort of quest more absurd than they are. Two of the most memorably idiotic: Dude, Where's My Car?, a lame one-line joke that stopped being funny in the 90's, stretched out over eighty-three minutes and could not be saved, not even by Ashton Kutcher's pretty face,; and Kingpin, which I didn't actually see because just watching the trailer was enough to make me run for the epinephrine.

I don't see much jerk advertising in the publishing industry, but then again, I don't subscribe to the trades. That Twelve Hawks author with the whole secret identity thing came pretty close, and Ed Gorman's theory holds, as the hype evidently didn't sell as many books as the publisher had hoped. Didn't that seem really silly anyway? Like an idea cooked up by someone who watched the Matrix movies too many times and buys Neo clothes off eBay.

More reading: One of the finest satirists I've read on the web (but alas, no relation to Yours Truly) and author of the infamous internet parody, French Intellectuals in Afghanistan, Michael Kelly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Market Ops has a freebie market listing/links page here with very brief descriptions on type and payment. Absolute offers a much more extensive weekly e-mail market listing via their $15/yr premium subscription service.

Tin House, which pays fairly decent amounts for one-time anthology rights, is presently accepting unagented fiction, nonfiction and poetry for their "All Apologies" Winter 2006 issue:

"ALL APOLOGIES." Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, interviews, profiles, and food and drink writing relating to apologies, confessions, or regrets. Deadline: September 30, 2005. On stands January 1, through March 31, 2006.

Aside from this antho, Tin House's regular reading session for unagented material is September through May. There are a couple of other upcoming anthos listed, including one themed "Un-American" which will feature all non-U.S. writers.

Spicy Green Iguana maintains a good writers market page here, with a range of categories including prozine, semiprozine and small press listings that appear to be regularly updated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I first learned about writers' retreats when I discovered Henry, a guy who lived and wrote alone in a modest ten-foot square cabin he built out of pine and hickory in a forest near Concord, Massachusetts, next to a little pond called Walden.

Thoreau was not the first writer to seek eccentric solitude, and writers continue to create in remote, unusual places. According to Random House, fantasy author Philip Pullman writes " a shed at the bottom of his garden. The shed contains two comfortable chairs (one for writing in, one for sitting at the computer in), several hundred books, a six-foot-long stuffed rat which took a part in his play Sherlock Holmes and the Limehouse Horror, a guitar, a saxophone, as well as the computer, decorated with dozens of brightly coloured artificial flowers attached to it by Blu-Tack."

Pullman's retreat seems luxurious when you compare it to that of Roald Dahl, creator of Willy Wonka and author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl wrote his novels in a small shed hidden behind his greenhouse. A plastic curtain blocked the view from the shed's only window while he sat in an old armchair and wrote. For a footstool, he filled an old suitcase with wood and kept it kept tied to the legs of the chair so it was never out of position. Dahl wrote with six yellow pencils (always six, never more, never less) kept in a jar beside him, a legal pad, a Thermos of coffee, heaters to keep his hands warm and a pencil sharpener.

Today most writers keep their lawn and gardening equipment in their sheds and instead work in their homes. Full-time writers usually set up a home office, but it isn't a prerequisite. The take-along convenience of today's laptop, PDA and wireless technology make places like coffee shops and libraries into popular spots for writers who want a retreat away from home.

Do writers need a retreat? I think it depends on the writer. Some writers seem unable to function unless, like Pullman and Dahl, they write in complete isolation. Sitting in a crowded cafe with a hundred conversations buzzing around your head doesn't seem like a terrific work atmosphere, but I know a lot of writers who say they do their best work under just those conditions. I've watched others sign into writer chatrooms where they pop in and out while working, talk about writing and cheer each other on, and they seem equally productive.

If you're 100% happy with your writing environment, then you've already found the perfect retreat. If you're not, or you find you're not writing well, look around you. Is there something getting between you and the work? Pay attention to what you do as you write. What do you find yourself staring at and listening to when you're not writing? Is it keeping you from concentrating? What distractions can you can remove from your work space?

I'm not a shed lover, but I do write at a small desk that holds only my work computer. I'd estimate my total work area is about four feet square. Because colors, patterns, and movement distract me easily, over time I've uncluttered my visual field. When I write now, I face a blank white wall. I've been downsizing desks over the years as well, and my current work station is only big enough to hold my computer. It's also on wheels, so I can unplug and move my computer to another spot in the house without a lot of fuss.

Making your own writing retreat can be tough for a person with a day job, kids, a spouse, partner, pets, etc. Because space and time are usually a premium, you have to work harder to make some for yourself. The most important thing about creating your own retreat is first to ask for it. Those who share your life should always know when and where you write, and respect both.

Whether you write alone in an attic corner, or in the middle of the biggest coffee shop in town on Ladies' Free Latte Night, make sure your retreat is a comfortable fit for you -- even if you need a six-foot-long stuffed rat to make it that way.

More reading: Rich Turner's article In Defense of Solitude.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Online Ten

Ten Things for Writers Online

1. hosts an online version of Strunk's 1918 reference classic The Elements of Style -- the section on how to omit needless words is a good one.

2. Robert W. Bly's Daily Doses -- an article on how to "Land more writing clients by taking advantage of the latest (and easiest) marketing tool."

3. Jim Eccleston's mammoth writer link site, The Electric Eclectic.

4. Evelyn Farbman's online textbook Sentence Sense.

5. For cyber doodling, GE's Imagination Cubed.

6. Judith Moyer's Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History.

7. Grammar resources from

8. William Shunn's proper manuscript formatting for novels, short stories and poetry.

9. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics' Writers and Editors page -- of particular interest, the section on earnings.

10. The University of Richmond's Writer's Web.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Help a Writer

Over one hundred auctions to help author Marianne Mancusi recover from losing her home are available for bids now, with my own contributions here. Some of the newly-posted auctions include:

--Manuscript critiques by Literary Agent Steven Axelrod, bestselling romance author Suzanne Brockmann, The Ferguson Literary Agency and Literary Agent Miriam Kriss

--A tarot card reading by Stephanie Lynch

--Kelly St. John's goody basket, which includes books by fourteen different romance authors

Check out the entire list of auctions when you have a chance.


I am very grateful to those of you who have written to offer compassion, consolation, assistance, advice and prayers. Your kindness will not be forgotten.

What was always a private family matter for many years will continue to be that, at least for me and my family. The only difference is that I've now made you aware of it. There are extremely difficult days ahead for us. Everything I do or say will probably be criticized, but no matter how unpleasant things become, I have to go on.

I recently gave an interview during which I was asked "Has writing changed who you are or how you see the world?", and I answered Writing has allowed me to cope with who I am and the world around me. That's still true. No matter how drastically your life and the world changes, the work is always there, waiting. Writing through the worst times can be a release for emotions that have no other appropriate outlet, and that can turn self-destructive if you keep them bottled up.

I am removing comments from the weblog for the present, but you can respond to content here via the e-mail address at the top of the sidebar.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I have a couple of requests to make.

Families, loved ones and friends of the victims are suffering, and some of them are taking that out on me. If you come across something like this out there, don't attack these people. They don't know me or my family, or what we're going through. They are simply reacting to this nightmare. Offer condolence if you can, but otherwise let it go.

You all offered the understanding and support that I needed so desperately today, and I'm so grateful. A few others in the writing community have not been so kind, and I'm sure there will be more of that. What these people say about me may seem vicious, but ultimately it's meaningless. To them I'm not a person, but an opportunity. Don't defend me to them. If anything, pray as I do that they never experience this kind of pain.

I'll be offline for a couple of days. We need to get through the shock of it. We need to grieve, and we need to prepare for what is ahead of us. Keep us in your thoughts.

Update: The media has been directing people to my old web site so they can post on the guestbook. Threats against me and my family posted there today have now forced me to shut it down. I may have to do the same with Paperback Writer, Star Lines and my new web site, so if there is something you'd like to copy off these sites, you might want to get it now.

I apologize. I thought I could remain somewhat accessible during this, but apparently that's not going to be possible.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Anonymous wrote: You must be so proud! Yea, you know what I mean

I guess I'm a little slow this morning. Do enlighten us.

I would like to thank whoever posted this message in comments this morning. You may have meant it to be cruel, but in a small way you prepared me for the news I received this afternoon.

The press may or may not have a field day with this story. I don't know; I've never been in this position before. All I know is that you can't run from something like this.

My oldest son, Jeremy, has a long history of mental illness which evolved into criminal activity beginning at age eleven. I could tell you how many years my family and I have struggled to help him, how many doctors and therapies and programs we tried, and how dearly we have paid for it. All of it is spelled out in his many court case files, but none of that really matters now. We weren't able to stop him from pursuing the criminal life he desired.

I'd never been to criminal court before my son's choices forced me to go. I had no basis of comparison; the worst crime I've ever committed was getting a speeding ticket. I've never told anyone about this outside of my family, not even my best friend. I didn't know how to feel about it, either. I loved him. I hated his crimes. I felt helpless. Even after all the therapy and rehabilitation and interventions, I also still felt responsible. I was his mother. Why couldn't I turn this around? Why couldn't I save him?

When Jeremy became an adult, I still tried to do the right thing for him as a parent. I visited my son in prison. When he was out on parole, I found him places to live, jobs, and gave him money. I encouraged him to get therapy. I also took him in when he was homeless, fed him when he was hungry, and listened to his problems. None of that made a difference, either, except that perhaps I kept him from committing some crimes when he chose to live with me.

I'm not defending myself or making excuses. It's what I did to help my son. Maybe I did the wrong things. Maybe I did too much, or too little. Maybe I listened to the wrong advice, or the wrong therapist, or the wrong judge. I'll never know.

When Jeremy was twenty-one years old, his criminal activity began to escalate, and I felt threatened by his behavior. It forced me to make a terrible choice: us or him. I chose to break off almost all contact with my son. I did this to protect my two younger children, their father, and me.

I have suffered things that you will never understand, not only for this decision, but for my son and the tragic choices he's made. I loved him, but it wasn't enough. Nothing was.

Over the last several years I have kept track of Jeremy through his arrest records, but he moved around quite a bit. I wrote letters to him and sent them to his last known address. Some he answered by leaving short notes on my guestbook to let me know he was okay. I always believed that one day I would learn that he had been killed while committing a crime. That was my worst fear.

This afternoon I learned that my worst fear didn't quite cover it.

My son Jeremy has been arrested and charged with murder, and evidently he has confessed to it and a second murder. He is presently in prison under a suicide watch. Those are all the facts I have. Here are the links I've found so far:

The latest: NBC2

Suspect on suicide watch

Florida Man Suspected in Two Deaths

Like I said, I'm not going to run from this. I've made my choices, and my son has made his. I am praying for Jeremy, the victims, and their families, but that is all I can do for them.

I'm not shutting down my weblog, my career, or my life. If you want to talk about this, comments are staying open.*

*Update: Out of respect for the victims and their families, I've closed the comments on this post. If you wish to comment further, please e-mail me directly at Thank you.

Wasted Ten

Ten Things to Waste Time

1. Bash the Haggis -- the wild, bearded club-wielding guy reminds me of someone . . .

2. How to Build the Best Paper Airplane in the World -- I need this; my son's paper stealth fighters keep making my paper F-16s crash.

3. Bryan Berg, Cardstacker -- I thought this one was pretty neat, actually.

4. Come Clean -- make an online confession and then let Come Clean wash it all away. I wonder if they do Windows . . . all right, it was irresistible.

5. Who Died Today -- death dates and words of the famous and infamous. Good for those days when you really need to check that no one died and made you God.

6. Be fooled by the Upside-down Monas at the Exploratorium.

7. allows you to make an online Kaleidoscope -- there's a somewhat easier version here.

8. The Quote-O-Matic, and the Surreal version.

9. An online version of that annoying Simon game. Don't ever buy the real Barbie talking version of it for your daughter. If you're tempted, have the toy store clerk demo it for you.

10. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's Write Like An Egyptian -- see your name in ancient hieroglyphics.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Candy from a Baby

Won: my annual private wager on who would win the Hugos, fourth year in a row, with a special bonus for the one trophy-clutcher whom I correctly predicted would win it two years ago (everyone, wave to the Loser, who is at this moment writing out another check with a lot of zeroes.)

As always, 100% of the loot is donated to charity, this time Women in Distress of Broward County.

Next wager, if the Loser is still speaking to me: The Quill Awards.


Mark Terry has an interesting post about author envy, in which he notes a couple of different forms of it: success envy, skill envy, accomplishment envy.

I'll add on a couple more: online attention envy (why is his/her blog/site more popular than mine?), age envy (that NYT bestseller who is technically young enough to be your grandchild), and public appearance envy (the author who looks better than his/her gorgeous jacket photo.)

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, and for good reason. It's the opposite of love and admiration, and the spin-off of pride. If there is anything that humans know how to do very well, it's hate and pride. We're also very good at disguising it, justifying it, flaunting it and finding clever ways to say we're entitled to it.

I envy Lee Goldberg, but not for his job (close proximity to all those celebrities would give me another ulcer.) It's his family that makes me turn green. Imagine having a whole family of writers to hang with -- would that not be the coolest thing in the world? Two of my cousins write, but one is in the UK and the other lives in the Carolinas. Gran, who was a poet, passed away. I keep hoping one of my kids will end up being a writer, but you can't force that.

Envy doesn't go unnoticed. It took what I considered a great friendship, showed me what it really was, and broke my heart. Alison Kent has blogged about being on the receiving end as well, and snagged some interesting comments from other victims, including author Mary Janice Davidson (who as one of the finalists for a Quill Award will likely be seeing a lot more of it.)

Feeling envy doesn't make you a bad person. Congratulate yourself, you're human. Forgive yourself, too. But then you have to take one final step: let it go and do something else. I suggest doing something to show your love for your family, or to help out another person. That will shift your focus and soothe some of that bruised self-esteem.

What do you do if you're feeling envious?

More in print: Sandra Brown's Envy, a story that revolves around writer envy taken to the extreme. Nonfic about envy has been penned by Joseph Epstein and Harold Boris.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Amazon Strikes Twice

A couple of folks have written to tell me about this book on eBay, which is also for sale under my name on

I love moms, and I do write books under names that I can't publicize, but please be advised that I did not write this book. One of the authors is listed as Sheila M. Kelly, which is one letter off my own name, Sheila L. Kelly. likely screwed it up first, and the eBay seller, like so many, probably cut 'n paste the listing from the listing.

As for the e-mail about the reviewer who gave my novel Blade Dancer four stars without actually reading the book, I found it hilarious. Kid, you've got a very bright future in reviewing.

Auctions Rolling

The first ten eBay auctions to help out author Marianne Mancusi are up and running here, and there will be more added shortly (including Yours Truly's donation.)

One item that might be of particular interest to agent-hunting writers out there: a manuscript critique from the Knight Literary Agency.

RWA Speaks

Via Alison Kent, the letter in which RWA's board apologizes for the "disappointing direction" of the 2005 National Conference Awards ceremony in Rio Reno (is the sig list short one name?)

One could joke about the captain of Air France Flight 358 using the same phrase, but mainly I think it was decent of them to issue a public apology and address what was done to Nora Roberts.

Black Cat

"If a black cat walks in my path, I will immediately turn around and go home, even if I am on my way somewhere." -- hip-hop artist Missy Elliott

I love black cats, but I have to wear something green on the day I finish writing a novel; preferably the oldest and rattiest green t-shirt I own. I'm convinced old green shirts are very lucky for me.

My oldest and most enduring superstition is a little weird; it's looking directly at anyone after they say goodbye to me, and or watching them until they disappear from sight. I won't do either because I'm afraid I won't see them again.

One of my writer friends is a Triskaidekaphobic (someone who fears the number 13) and will not write on the 13th day of the month. He won't even sign a check. He also counts characters to make sure he has either more or less than 13 in his stories. He blames his Catholic upbringing and a mother who was obsessively terrified of the number.

What are some of your superstitions? Do you have any with writing? Do you accept superstitions, resent them, ignore them, and/or regard them as phobias? Let us know in comments.

Also, some links for the curious:

A-Z Superstitions
Silly Superstitions
Sports Superstitions
Superstitions from Europe

Friday, August 05, 2005


Via Stuart MacBride's web-surfing brother Christopher, check out The Brick Testament.

I've worked for three ministers in the past, and now I wonder what they were doing, all those hours spent with the office door
closed . . .

Quote Slutting

I've learned something interesting over the last six months: the number of quote requests increases in direct relation to one's authorial fame (or blog notoriety.)

I've never given out a lot of blurbs or quotes. Less than ten total in my career, I think, before this past year. Now the requests are coming at me from all directions, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle them.

I don't want to give quotes solely to authors I know. I'd have never discovered writers like J.R. Ward or Patricia Briggs if I'd stuck only to acquaintances or pals. I'd also like to help out other writers with quotes because it's the decent thing to do. If my rec on your cover can sell more books for you, terrific.

Unfortunately, I seriously don't want to become a quote slut. I've seen more than one popular author go this route and it's not where I want to follow. So I need to set annual limits, and I have no clue whatsoever on what would be an acceptable amount of quotes per year. Five? Ten? Twelve would be about the max I could swing, as I really need to read the book. But twelve sounds like too many to me -- or maybe I'm just not wanting to see my two cents on that many books.

My current method is to go with what I think I can swing and how I feel. I do need to read the work; I don't hand out generics. I think I've done five quotes already this year, and I feel almost quoted out. I've committed to do one two* more reads, and I've got another request sitting on my desk I have to decide on. I think that's going to be it -- for 2005, anyway.

How do you all think an author should handle quotes? Set amount, what he/she can handle, or another method?

*Blogging this, I just now remembered someone I promised who is patiently waiting for my new address. Smacking myself in the head as I write the e-mail . . .

No Bullshit

CNN has suspended journalist/political analyst Robert Novak for using the word bullshit and/or walking off the set during a live broadcast yesterday.

We have house rules about that kind of thing here, too. Robert, gimme a quarter.

An Interesting Day

I have to admit, I like seeing literary agents show up in my blog comments. Even when said agents don't agree with me and cite facts that contradict my opinion, or happen to work for the agency that represents RWA President Tara Taylor Quinn (broad wink.)

I also like hearing writers talk about their experiences with agents, especially when they don't jive with my own. Thanks to Tam, Stuart and Tobias for giving us their insight, and if you haven't been out hopping, check out Tobias's post on getting an agent first here.

Given that we have three authors and an agent disagreeing with me, I gave all this a lot of thought. I see no problem with submitting to agents and publishers simultaneously. However, from what I've seen happen to aspiring and established writers, as well as my own experiences with agents and publishers, I can't get behind the idea of pursuing an agent first. That's why I'm going to be stubborn and stand by my opinion.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bid on PBW

I'm donating a signed, unbound corrected galley copy of Private Demon by me writing as Lynn Viehl and Rebel Ice by me writing as S.L. Viehl* to the auction to benefit Marianne Mancusi. I'll post a link as soon as the Literary Chicks send me the info.

Authors, if you can donate a signed book, critique or galley, please do.

*This will be the only copy of Rebel Ice, the new StarDoc book due out in January 2006, that I give away before publication. Not to be mean, but to add a little extra value to the auction for it. :)

Books Needed

By now a lot of you have heard about author Marianne Mancusi, whose house was burned to the ground while she was at RWA National.

For those of you who haven't, here is more information from Barb Ferrer's LJ:

As fellow authors, we know how important a writer's library is, so the Literary Chicks have begun a book drive for Marianne, as well as posted an address to which to send the books and any gift certificates people might feel compelled to give.

Repeating the address here:

Marianne Mancusi
PO BOX 8003
Boston, MASS 02114

They're also organizing an ebay auction, so if you have critique services that you'd be willing to donate, please contact Lani Diane Rich at

What I'm asking everyone to do, is if you're sending Marianne books, could you PLEASE list what books you're sending in MY comments section for this entry so we can try to avoid duplicates as much as possible. I'll even start. :-)

Please, anyone who can help, time, books, gift cert., it would be much appreciated. Marianne is truly one of the good guys.

I know if we all pitch in we can do a lot to help rebuild Marianne's library. If you're able to help out with some books, an auction item, or a donation, please do.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Advice from an Agent

I know I'm reposting this to death, but I don't want anyone debating the agent/publisher pursuit problem to miss this contrasting view -- check out literary agent Miriam Kriss's thoughts on if you need an publisher offer before you get an agent, posted in comments here.

A Thought

Back when I was a member of RWA, there used to be a code of ethics that governed censuring any member for conduct which messed with another member's writing career. I'd say the personal agendas involved in the Rita awards presentation did that to every member of RWA.

So if you don't want to wait until October 31st to kick out your President, file a code of ethics complaint against her. Any active member can.


A new record: Aside from the Mighty Stupid Quinn, I have successfully resisted not one but three pompous asses begging for a major smackdown this week.

T'wasn't easy. I read, I fumed, I shut down and went and unpacked something, funneling that negative energy into productive physical labor. Then I jotted down positive stuff about other writers and their books and told my stray kitty story. Not as exciting, maybe, but almost as satisfying as pouring out my disdain for the Enormous Blogging Buttocks out there.

I must again chant my mantra: Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when:

--it's snotty, inaccurate, manipulative and should please God come back and bite them where it genuinely hurts someday when I can watch.

--they're trying to cram their big corny graceless hoofed untalented Ugly Stepmonster reviewer's foot into the writer's glass slipper.

--their perennially displayed and stroked ego has swelled to the size of Texas, to make up for other things that I guess? never will.

Before anyone assumes things, I'm not talking about any of you guys. Sometimes I'm lured away from the places I love to frequent while link-hunting and end up being choked by the pure pettiness of people that I wouldn't let near me in real life.

How are you handling blog-rage these days?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Painfully True

What RWA members didn't hear at the Big Awards Ceremony in Reno, thanks to RWA President Tara Taylor Quinn:

"Nora Roberts declines to host tonight's awards ceremony as she feels the content is inappropriate and believes the focus should be on the nominees and the organization."

I didn't fall for the phony Harry Potter fanfic thing, but I really thought people were kidding when I first heard about this nonsense. It couldn't be true. Surely no one would use the awards ceremony to grandstand their personal politics to the point of pissing off Nora Roberts, the bestselling romance writer on the freaking planet -- and then not read Nora's statement as to why she was backing out of the ceremony -- and then instead make fun of Nora for it. No one would be that stupid.

An editor friend who was there confirmed it all today over the phone to me. I have again underestimated the RWA President's capacity for idiocy. She is, evidently, that stupid.

Selah has a good post with all the details, as well as a link to the source of Nora Robert's unread statement -- Nora herself -- and the lady's thoughts on the matter.

The President's term expires at the end of October, ladies. I bet slithytove is still kidnapable.

Authors Behaving Badly

No name was provided for this pinhead, but evidently he's famous enough to rate a limo.

Even when you're not a writer, people want to color-code you so bad. Working in Miami and wearing my hair dark, I was sometimes mistaken for a Cuban-American (until someone heard me speaking my lame high school Spanish, anyway.) In LA when I had worked up a great tan people asked me if I was Mexican-American; in San Francisco when my tan faded back to my normal oddish skin tone others pegged me as half Chinese or half Korean.

I call myself human. How about you?


You all are going to have to put up with another pet story.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

This is Rushan, one of our rescued strays. As you can see, his favorite thing is to hang out by windows, doors, and any place that gives him a view of outside -- or a possible escape route. From the day we caught him and found a collar embedded in his neck, I could see that longing in his eyes: Let me out. I know I'll die out there and I don't care. Let me go.

I didn't grant his wish or, as the vet recommended after throat surgery, have him put to sleep.

He's learned to live with people, but he won't let go of his old street habits. He doesn't like to drink water out of the nice clean bowl, but will stick his paw in puddles, toilets and shower floors and lick the drops from it. He does not share food, and although his old throat injuries are long healed still vomits regularly from trying to eat too much too fast.

My kids are used to a house with a screened-in porch, and yesterday one of them left an outside door open. We have no screen here. I was coming down the stairs when I saw the door gaping, and Rushan standing in front of the threshold. I was too far away to stop him from taking off. Three feet, a leap off the deck, and he'd have the freedom he so desperately wanted.

He looked through the gap, sniffed the air a few times, and then turned and walked off to my daughter's room where he does his second favorite thing, watch the hamster and plot its death.

I don't think I've ever been paid a bigger or better compliment.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Marketing Moment

I have two SF novels hitting the shelf this month, and a confession to make: one of them is in hard cover. Yeah, I know, what's PBW doing in HC? Don't hold it against me. I am at the mercy of the Powers That Publish, and despite my arguments, bribes and pleading occasionally they do this.

The other novel is a paperback reprint, so that should redeem me a little.

I'm not doing any self-promo for them (well, this counts, I suppose.) No time and, as always, zero desire. After seeing what so many writers are going through, and listening to all the gloom and doomers, I'm kinda marketing-depressed. It's hard to do something you absolutely despise under good conditions, but with the way things have been lately? I'd rather give myself a manicure with a splintery 2X4.

I don't mean to be depressing or ungrateful. All kidding aside, I know exactly how fortunate I am. I also know marketing can work, I'm just not sure what will work for the publishing industry. That uncertainty makes it very difficult to overcome my natural inclination to do nothing but write books. That I know I can do okay.

Colleague Ten

Ten Things From Other Writer's Blogs

1. Michael Allan is aghast over the sale pricing of the latest Harry Potter novel. I'm simply puzzled; why would you discount the most wanted novel on the planet?

2. For you promo-toy lovers, Douglas Clegg has a whole post on some really wild widgets he's done for The Priest of Blood (scroll down to July 26th.) Great rubber ducky.

3. Lee Goldberg has been blog renovating and also has some new web sites about to go live. I like the blue, very cool header.

4. Donna Hill has gone and taken the big leap of faith and quit the day job.

5. The most unusual pet story I've ever read award goes to Douglas Hoffman, to whom I am going to be very nice forever.

6. The Knight Agency blog is running a pitch contest for regular blog visitors (not sure if they mean commenters or anyone who drops in to read); details can be found here.

7. Jo Leigh tied the knot on July 30th (I wasn't sure when it was going to happen, but Alison posted a nice announcement.) Congrats to the happy couple.

8. Holly Lisle's son just graduated Air Force basic training, plus she got a slamming new cover for Talyn.

9. M.J. Rose has more of the skinny on authors and sales ranking numbers.

10. Stephanie Tyler also got a new blog look -- more Ande's candy green to torment me....