Monday, October 31, 2005

Boo 2

We've got friends due here in an hour, one of the cats is making the incoming-hairball sound (or is that outgoing?) and my german chocolate donuts still need glazing; otherwise Halloween at Casa PBW is in full swing.

Some last minute hints:

-- Dill pickles offset the sweets like nothing else.
-- No pickles? Try nachos, salty chips, pretzels or, for you health food junkies, roasted soy nuts.
-- Pepto Bismol goes down easier chilled.

Happy Halloween. :)


Remember that pretentious garbage Margaret Atwood was spouting a while back about making a device that would allow her to sign books long distance without personally showing up for the signing?

Scary news: Apparently she actually went and invented the damn thing:

"...the "LongPen" which will be launched at the London Book Fair next March. This week, Pen Canada is auctioning off the right to receive the first official trans-Atlantic autograph at its “Lives of Girls and Women” fundraising event in Toronto. Bidding will start at $1,000. The package includes the signature and an original poster hand-drawn by Atwood. The hope is that it will sell for $2,500 to $5,000. The signing in March will be of Atwood’s next book, the short-story collection The Tent. Atwood will sign in London, and that signature will appear on the auction winner’s copy at a Toronto bookstore, yet to be named. Massive media coverage is expected for the signing. Atwood’s company will be leasing LongPen devices rather than selling them; leasing fees will depend on location and number of uses."

What amuses me is that for all the anticipated oohs and aahs over LongPen, this device still produces a mechanical reproduction of an original signature. Sure, there's lots of nuts and bolts and fun futuristic SF stuff, and the promise of a boatload of leasing fee royalties for Atwood, but it's still the same basic thing as stamping a sig with an ink pad and a rubber stamp.

**Add-on**: In comments Simon brought up the fact that another auto-sig device like this, Scriptwriter, has been out for years.

Ten Treats

Ten Things to Celebrate Halloween

1. Ice Cream Kings Ben & Jerry's Halloween Page offers online games, e-cards, the flavor graveyard (I still weep at the grave of Deep Dark Chocolate), creepy crafts and more.

2. Make a virtual jack-o-lantern at How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro (a treat I snitched from Larissa Ione's blog.)

3. All the Halloween linkage you could want over at the Halloween edition of Dark Echo's blog.

4. Get your Halloween Horrorscope from

5. Threads of Malice by Tamara Siler Jones -- Take my word for it: "A dark, fascinating web of a novel...Jones will keep you wide-eyed and terrified until the very last page."

6. Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle -- Holly's sizzling suspense thriller about a female cop who must work with a scarred psychic and face her own tragic past to stop a killer preying on exotic dancers.

7. For some true and not-so-true horror stories, check out's Urban Legends Horrors page. My personal favorite urban legend is The Vanishing Hitchhiker, the "Prom Girl" variation of which was popular when I was a teen.

8.'s spooky online stories for kids

9. Private Demon by Lynn Viehl -- not sure about this one. I mean, all that blue for a Halloween story? What was she thinking. Cute guy on the cover, though.

10. You get the treats: Tonight I'm giving away ten sets of the three books I've put on the ten list: Threads of Malice by Tamara Siler Jones, Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle, and Private Demon by Yours Truly.

For your chance to win one of the ten sets, list one of your favorite treats in comments to this post by midnight EST on October 31, 2005. I'll select the names of ten winners at random from those who participate and post them here on the weblog just after midnight EST on October 31, 2005. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet whether you've won something here before or not.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Finally, a couple of hardcore knitters I actually could hang with.

Be warned before you look, oh ye who knit with much sensitivity. No pattern is sacred. Not even the ones for kids. Or dogs.


Two authors in Britain are suing Random House for publishing author Dan Brown's mega bestseller The Da Vinci Code, which they claim contains ideas that were stolen from their 1982 nonfiction book.


You know, I haven't sued Dan Brown or his publisher yet, and I remember once in the seventies that I did think about the possibility of [major spoiler from The Da Vinci Code]. Dan could have stolen the idea from me by using his super secret psychic powers to read my mind. Or maybe it was those Brit guys who did. You know how into ESPionage the British are.

Anyway. Have you sued Dan Brown lately?

**Add-on:** To learn more about copyright law, check out The American Bar Association's Copyright Basics Page

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I'm trying to put together a list of scary writer stuff for a Halloween-related ten post, but my definition of scary and everyone else's might be different.

Here's my working list:

1. Ghost Story by Peter Straub, also his first collaboration with Stephen King, The Talisman.

2. To save typing all the titles, pretty much everything Stephen King writes (even On Writing, which raised a few of my neck hairs.)

3. Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. Very creepy (shuddering as I type it.)

4. The Abandoned by Douglas Clegg about burned off my hair ribbons.

5. Cold Granite by That Scottish Writer Whose Name I Can Never Remember.

The scariest book I've ever read? Midnight Rain by Holly Lisle.

What are some of your favorite scary, creepy, or hair-raising reads?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wilma Update

We rounded up the last of the missing clan via cell phone today, and that was a big relief. Every member of the family and the friends we were able to reach reported sustaining some damage to their homes and/or property.

The latest news from the family, who live everywhere from Boca Raton to Homestead:

Waiting for gas in lines takes 3 to 8 hours depending on the city and few people are commuting to work in order to conserve; good news is some gas is getting delivered now.

The sewer system is backing up in Boca Raton, and if they didn't get the plant pumps running today, city officials warned there might be flooding.

My son's best friend in Coral Springs will not be attending his private Christian school for three weeks as it sustained heavy damages, but some cities' public schools are slated to reopen as early as next week.

Broward County is now under an 11 pm to 6 am curfew. Police are stopping people and at times searching vehicles.

Most cities are expediting roof permits so repairs can begin. Many people are electing to make temporary repairs due to the slow response of insurance agencies.

The Sun-Sentinel hurricane blog reports on how the storm has affected some of the elderly.


Guideposts has one of my devotionals posted on their website today. I keep the teapot from the story displayed in my kitchen as a reminder to always be grateful for what I have, no matter how dismal that seems. (Thanks to EJ for the heads-up.)

Scene Comp

Writers are always talking about plot, themes, pacing, voice and so forth, but I rarely see anyone discuss scene composition. I have very little idea of how other writers compose scenes, either, other than the prep work they put into thinking about them and doing notes and outlines and other ways of getting ready to write them. Actually writing scenes seems to be the hard part.

I've talked about my before-writing prep for scenes, but here is what I do to write any scene in any book in any genre:

1. I open with action or dialogue (or as close to it as is possible.)

2. I write straight through the scene, layering action with dialogue and working in whatever else I need to match what I saw in my head when I visualized. The research and notes and particulars from the novel notebook pop up in my head whenever I need a detail, but mostly I'm a voyeur scribbling down what I see.

3. If I get stuck, and it's usually on setting, which I hate, loathe and despise above all other components of the book, I'll put a rewrite marker in brackets like this: [***description of Central Park in winter***] and move on.

4. I do not back track or re-read anything I write while I'm writing new material. Ever. No exceptions (this is a huge time-waster.)

5. When the scene is done, I take a break (usually a cup of tea or a walk around the house) and then move directly on to writing the next scene.

If I'm not writing with the voice recognition software, I'll sometimes recite dialogue lines out loud as I type it to get a feel for the flow of the words (yes, I'm told this seems as amusing and ridiculous as someone who sound out words while reading. Tough. It helps.)

I also don't worry about descriptive words or if I'm showing enough of the setting in the scene. What hits the page is usually enough, but if I think I need more I'll add it during editing. I think this might be a key problem for writers who get hung up while writing a scene -- they hit something they don't want to write, aren't ready to write, can't express correctly, etc. and sit there staring at the screen. I suggest putting in a rewrite marker (see #3) and moving on.

I've gotten into the habit of backing up the document after I finish a scene, even though Word does a auto-backup every couple of minutes. This is more like a nervous habit, from a lifetime of living in the lightning capital of the U.S., but it also helps me move on. I have no idea why, but it does.

More info: Holly Lisle's Scene-Creation Workshop -- Writing Scenes that Move Your Story Forward has some excellent ideas to help you out with scene composition.

Don't know what the elements of a scene are? Check out Writing Fiction: A Beginner's Guide Part 7: Scenes and Half-Scenes (this is creative writing for teenagers article series, but a good breakdown just the same) or Vicki Hinze's article Elements of a Scene.

Randy Ingermanson's Writing the Perfect Scene.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Father, forgive me, for I have blogged

A Roman Catholic high school in New Jersey worried about cyberpredators has ordered its students to remove their weblogs from the internet.

Cheetah II

I know everyone's sick to death of hurricanes, and believe me, I'm with you. I grew up in South Florida, though, and most of our clan is still down there, so this one really got me. I'll try not to be too annoying about it.

Getting back to Ways of the Cheetah, another thing you can do to boost your productivity is to be creative about writing time and writing tools. It's great to have a home office, but you can't spend your life in it. Think about times and ways you can write outside your writing space.

While Wilma roared through, I kept up with my daily schedule by writing on my PDA. Presently I have a PalmOne Tungsten E2 with a wireless folding keyboard, which is way fancy but I don't like it as much as my old reliable Palm m125, although the backlit screen is easier to read. 95% of the first draft of Afterburn was written on my old Palm during the 2004 hurricane season while the power was out (although I was scared to death I'd run out of batteries before I could archive my hundred or so memos on the computer.)

Writing on PDAs isn't for everyone, but there are alternatives for when you can't get to the computer at home:

1. AlphaSmart -- the portable word processor so beloved by RWA members really is a neat little machine. Lighter than a laptop, simple to operate, and the new Neo model runs up to 700 hours or more on 3 AA batteries. Also comes in a rechargeable battery model, and is still priced under $300.00.

2. Handheld voice recorders -- I carry mine in my purse and mostly use it in the car to tape ideas or notes to myself when I'm out driving around and running errands (also good for writers who give workshops and readings and want to practice.) There are all different brands, but you can find these at any electronics store. I recommend getting one that records on standard versus mini cassettes because standard cassettes are usually cheaper. My Panasonic RQ-131 cost me about $30.00 -- here's the newer model version.

3. Ye Olde School Notebook -- I have a million, I swear, but you can never have enough. Notebooks go where you go, and don't need batteries. They come in all sizes: little chubby 3" X 5" ones are the kind I carry in my glovebox. Mini legal-pads and note pads all over the house. Spiral notebooks are especially good because I can tuck a pen in the spirally wire.

4. Blank books or journals -- if you're not into keeping a three-ring binder for your WIP, one of these might work for your notes, research, or draft scenes. I like the ones with ruled and blank pages so I can sketch on one side and write on the other. They're also a bit more portable than a binder. Here are my all-time favorite journals from Victoriana Trading Co.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


A couple of clarifications:

22,000 square miles of Florida were affected by this storm, but the worst of Wilma went through one of the most heavily-populated areas of the state, the Dade/Broward/Palm Beach tri-county region.

I have lived in these regions for thirty-five years, until 2004, and I've talked to the people I can reach there all over the region today, but of course that's meaningless. So here are the fact links:

Two and a half million residents still have no power from FP&L, the power company that provides service to the South Florida area.

The estimated dates when power will be restored, also direct from FP&L. Note the date November 22nd -- that is a month from now. Even the people who stocked hurricane supplies in these areas will need relief in two to three weeks.

Damages, flooding, shortages and related problems I've heard about from friends are substantiated by Sun-Sentinel reporters in South Florida on their hurricane weblog.

The language statistics are pulled from articles in the Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, and a U.S. English Foundation newsletter; the latter uses U.S. Census data. I pulled these statistics back in 2003 when we were trying to get our private school in South Florida to hire a Spanish language teacher, so they are two years old.

My comments on the elderly and donations to the Red Cross are my opinions, and should be treated as such.


We're still in the process of counting clan and seeing who needs what, but we fared better than the Gulf coast residents who faced Katrina, for which we are grateful. Unfortunately, many people did not evacuate, and damages and casualties are still being assessed, so that may change. Here's what we know this morning:

3.2 million people in Florida do not have power. This includes 90% of Dade County residents (approximately 1 million people.) FP&L is predicting it will take a minimum of four weeks to restore service to the affected areas.

Our friends are describing the damage as "unbelievably bad." Most of the pictures the media are showing are of high-rise buildings in the Fort Lauderdale downtown area and the Brickell Avenue financial district. What you're not seeing are the low-lying areas and neighborhoods, where up to 100% of the homes lost roofs, were damaged by falling trees, or are swamped by two to three feet of standing flood water.

Some big grocery stores are open and running on generators, but most are closed/damaged. Convenience stores and little neighborhood food stops are popular, but friends tell us several are price gouging. Canned and nonperishable food is flying off the shelves wherever it's sold. Ice and water are the top two requested items. Home improvement stores that can open are, but most are out of plywood, tarps, and generators.

Immediate need: Hundreds of thousands of elderly, fixed-income folks live in South Florida condominiums, apartments, and assisted living communities, and have no transportation other than city or community buses and jitneys. Many just aren't physically able to stand for hours in line for ice and food. They will also need comprehensive help with repairs, cleanup and simple but vital things like having their medications refilled.

There are also the language barriers. 45% of South Floridians -- the majority Hispanics and Haitians -- speak a language other than English at home. It's estimated that only 10% of those residents understand English well enough to communicate. Multi-lingual sources of information are absolutely essential. FEMA and Red Cross workers, here's a tip from a lifelong resident: if you can't make yourself understood, find a Hispanic kid to be your interpreter. Unless they're newly-arrived, they're bilingual and often trilingual.

Despite Governor Bush's assurances that Florida has a ten day surplus supply of fuel, pump shortages in South Florida are already widespread and people are getting ugly about what's available. If you go to help, make sure you fill up your tank before you cross the Palm Beach county line.

So many areas are inaccessible due to downed power lines and trees that if you are heading down it's best to confirm a drivable route in before you go. Also, for those hitting the road to bring supplies or pick up people, Dade county is under an 8pm to 6am curfew until further notice, and the police are making a point of stopping people with out-of-town plates to prevent looting.

**Update** On the hurricane relief links: Because the American Red Cross has not properly handled the funds they were given for the victims of Katrina, I no longer recommend making donations to that organization. I will post links to any worthy effort I hear of, but in the meantime, check out the Sun-Sentinel's How to Help page.


We're okay here, minimal damage, minor flooding. Most of the power has been restored to our region and maybe south to Melbourne. South Florida is very bad to awful, with flooding, structural damage and power expected to be out for weeks in some areas.

Land lines are still a little wonky so I'm going to make this post extremely quick before the net dumps me again. Thanks for the good wishes and thoughts and prayers, and please keep the people of Mexico and Florida in them.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dressup Ten

Ten Things to Make Halloween Costumes
(Just pretend this is Monday. I've got a hurricane here.)

1.'s Halloween Costumes for Kids -- I'd make a variation of the chalkboard costume, ala "Graffiti Kid" -- put your kind in white sweats and a fanny pack packed with colored Sharpie markers. Then have everyone "sign" the kid (we used to do this with white Tshirts on the last day of school, too.)

2. Costumes for Halloween or Pretend Play -- make someone into a bunch of grapes with just 3 items.

3. Costume Idea Zone -- the attack dog trainer costume is priceless.

4. The Costume Page's Costuming Resources Online -- lots of links for the do-it-yourselfer.

5. Need some quirky celebs for your Halloween week TV show? The Duct Tape Guys Do Halloween Costumes

6.'s Halloween Costumes page -- what's sad is the description of the housewife's costume -- I don't have to change a thing I'm wearing.

7.'s Halloween Costume Ideas has a variation on the bunch of grapes -- a bag of jellybeans.

8. Be safe out there -- read tips on Halloween Costume Safety.

9. Homemade Halloweem Costume Ideas -- if you've got a kid into Pokemon cards, check out the Costumes from Boxes section and make him into one.

10. Christina Minor's article Felt, foam, papier-mâché for quick, easy costumes.


The first of the big storms from the outer bands of Hurricane Wilma are rolling through my neighborhood at the moment, and we've got lightning and rain, but not much wind (yet.) We've been on tornado watch most of the day, but it looks like Tampa and regions to the south are seeing the twisters. Schools are closed tomorrow and we're prepped for losing power, water, and access to town.

You'd know something was coming by how the animals are behaving. My mom reports that her dogs having been throwing up, and my three cats are following me around from room to room like they think I'm going to run out on them.

The thunder is promising to knock out the power soon, so I'm going to post tomorrow's ten list a little early, then shut down until the storm passes. To all the clan, friends, and neighbors here and in South Florida: Be smart, stay safe, and let us know you're okay when you can.


"One dreams of the goddess Fame, and winds up with the bitch Publicity." -- Peter de Vries

Lee Goldberg has posted an excerpt up from Elizabeth Royte's article Publish and Perish. According to the end of the article bio, Elizabeth is the author of two books with very long titles, and she writes for the NY Times, so we'll assume she's literati.

Personally I'm fascinated. I had no idea authors went through all this neurotic stuff. Wait, it's not a parody, is it?

And Dr. Sue, I'm telling you, a booth at the BEA is your road to riches.


PBW's Short Golden Writer Rules

1. Don't explain the book.
2. Don't defend the book.
3. If it sucks, trash it.
4. If it's solid, pitch it.
5. Focus.
6. Tell the truth.
7. Teach for free.
8. Kiss no ass.
9. Forgive and forget.
10. If you can't do #9, shut up.

These apply only to me; your rules may vary. If you've got some, post them in comments. (Golden rules idea filched from Rip Lips Off, found via Patricia's place.)

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Apparently I'm not charging enough: "The publisher is the pimp. The bookstore is the corner. The reader is the john. And the writer is the ho." -- Brian Keene

I've already heard that I might be a necrophiliac: "...there are other things for people to do, other ways for them to be occupied, other ways for them to be imaginatively engaged, that are I think probably far more compelling than the novel. So I think the novel's day has come and gone, really." -- Philip Roth

Possibly I live in the wrong country: "The British are reading -- and we're not." -- Kevin Nance and Mike Thomas

And I could be working for clueless morons: "And publishers! What do they know? They never find the really good stuff, do they? There must be an alternative." --Gerry McGovern

Well, at least I have this e-mail from a very unhappy reviewer informing me that I don't write science fiction.* Whew. After reading that one, I was worried.

I do read stuff like this every day, and it bothers me. No, I don't think we should be all starry-eyed about publishing, or act like cheerleaders when the home team is trailing four touchdowns and a field goal. I like facing that ultimate back-stabber, reality.

We'll all agree that this is not an industry for the faint of heart. Just the other day I told a bunch of eighth graders that the average professional novelist earns less than $4,000.00 a year. I completely floored them, too, but unless you're someone like La Nora you can't go around acting like this gig is nothing but non-stop two million dollar advances and instant number one spots on the NYT.

I also realize that things in the industry are so troubling right now that if Dr. Sue set up a booth at the BEA she'd probably rake in a few hundred thou. I get depressed, too, but I don't want to mope about it.

I love books. I love to write them, and I love to read them. I want to be a book tyrant. I want to make readers out of non-readers. I want to motivate and inspire. I want writers -- the backbone of this industry -- to sell and keep selling. I got this far by chasing down what I wanted, I know other writers can do the same.

I guess what I'm saying is yes, it's all true, but books are too important. Even if everyone else is ready to give up, we writers can't. We've got to fight for what we love.

*Maybe someone should tell these people.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ask Dr. Sue

M.J.'s gone and snagged us an online therapist for writers. She's taking questions via e-mail, too.

No, I won't be writing to her. God, I'm not that mean.


"You can construct the character of a man and his age not only from what he does and says, but from what he fails to say and do." -- Norman Douglas

With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, many of you will be writing stories with new characters. Some writers prefer to discover their characters as they write, but I always want to know as much as I can ahead of time. In addition to answering my three questions, I fill out profile sheets and sketch or paint characters. I don't do the crafty collage board thing, but I've heard that can help, too.

It's always good to know more about your character than the reader does, so in addition to the general info, you might want to take a peak inside your character's psyche and see what's going on in there by trying these things:

1. Roleplay your character and make him or her take all those fun online quizzes, and see what color/book/planet/flower/movie/whatever he or she turns out to be.

2. Go to the mall and window-shop clothes for your characters, or go to a car dealer and test drive a car your character would own.

3. Put together and burn a collection of music that your character would listen to, and play it in the car on the way to work or on the Walkman while you're cleaning house.

4. Unless you have bug-loving aliens in your novel, cook a meal that your character would enjoy and eat it.

5. Start a journal and write it as your character.

For moderately to severely dysfunctional characters, unless you're already a shrink, you're probably going to have to do some extra research. A couple of friendly spots to check out:

1. Abnormal Psychology's Online Case Book provides some case histories for such conditions such as OCD, histrionic Personality Disorder, and Anorexia, as well as brief analysis trouble-shooting and associated web links.

2. has some interesting content, including a good section on personality development and some pithy Online Self-Help Quizzes (another place to make your character take the tests.)

More help: Fiction Writer's character profile sheet is pretty thorough but general enough to work for most characters.

To avoid creating the Classic Dimit Antagonist, check out Peter Anspach's The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


My old FM pal Margaret Fisk tells the tale of her stalled WIP and my carrot. I'm touched and grateful, not only that she remembered, but that she didn't describe my artwork in too much detail. I assure you, that was the lamest drawing of a root vegetable in recorded history.

In the not-lame department, Neil Gaiman is said to draw neat things in some of the books he signs, but I think he's a pro graphic artist on the side, isn't he? I know for a fact that Stuart MacBride does excellent vampires, as well as cute little teddy bears carrying chainsaws and flame-throwers. Another reason to go to his signings, Europeople, you might be able to badger him into doing one for you. For you Talyn winners, Holly Lisle has already done some very cool things while signing the giveaway books.

I was never much of an ink artist, and you can't paint on book paper, otherwise everyone would be getting some of my watercolor Mutant Ninja Turkey-Swallows or The Dread Orchids of Doom in my signed copies. But now that the osteo doc and Humira have worked wonders, I can hold a pen for longer than three minutes. I'm tempted to break out my box of crow quills and rapidographs and get back into doing things like this:

Pen & Ink Note Card, 1996

Obviously I wasn't thinking much about planetary gravitational fields when I cooked up that one, but it was just for fun. What's the coolest thing you've ever seen an author add art-wise to a signed book?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Well, this sucks.

I got a little miffed at my son this morning after he told me Hurricane Wilma had intensified to a category 5 storm, the strongest Atlantic storm ever recorded. I told him to quit pulling my leg, it wasn't something to joke about and what did he want in his lunchbox.

I apologized to him this afternoon.

Hurricane Wilma's path presently puts her on a direct course with about half of clan PBW and 99% of our friends. In blog-geographical terms, if this bitch stays on course, she should roar across the state about halfway between my house and Mary Stella's.

We're ready. We're pretty much always ready. I hope you folks out there in the projected path are, too. If this thing jogs north and I disappear for a bit, remember I'm way out in the country. Power restoration usually takes anywhere from seven to twenty-one days.


I've been told by many other pros that you can buy your way onto the NY Times bestseller lists*, and sorta-kinda believed it, the way you do when your friends tell you there is no Santa Claus. You pretend like it's okay, and you're cool, but you don't really want to believe them because these are the same kids who told you that the stork didn't deliver you to Mom and Dad. Excuse me, but stork delivery was how babies showed up on Popeye, which in 1969 was the cartoon bastion of truth, justice, and the American Way.

Yes, my childhood hero was a short bald deformed tattooed chain-smoking vegetarian landlocked sailorman who had commitment and anger management issues. I make a lot more sense now, don't I?

Anyway, reading Tess Gerritsen's 10/08 post about writers buying their way onto the Times took me back to being a kid again and hearing my girlfriend Sandy say Sure your folks've been lying to you all this time, but my brother Joey says it's a trah-di-shun.

I probably should believe her, but I don't want to.

Btw, that lovely Santa Claus tradition? Did make Christmas magic for the darling children who never did anything wrong. You know, the Mary Sues we all hated. Kids with overactive imaginations and religion-induced guilt complexes (yo) didn't fare so well. Santa never hears Confession (not even when he's holding audience in the mall) so you can't do penance and avoid the lump of coal payback. How many holidays did we spend in silent fear, behaving like the angels we weren't because we believed that He Who Knows When You're Bad or Good was watching? How many times did we dread getting up on Christmas morning because we thought we hadn't been good enough?

Getting back to the Times BSL, I'm still in kinda-sorta-whatever territory. Yes, I suppose it can be done, but I don't believe all that many authors do. For one thing, the paper does list a cross next to the titles for which some stores receive bulk orders, so that's a flag. You can show up at whatever stores report to the Times for signing, as Tess hints, but that doesn't mean customers are going to buy your book.

I don't want to believe other authors are that desperate, or that manipulative. Disclaimer: I believed in Santa until I was thirteen, and pulled an all-night Christmas Eve stakeout so I could know once and for all. Thirty-one years later, I'm still pissed off -- do you know how many times I didn't defend myself in a playground fight because I thought Santa would coal-lump me?

I've never gotten anywhere close to the Times -- nor will I, evidently, unless a miracle happens -- but I'd be mortified if I could only get on by buying my way there. I hate that we live in the age of padding the resume, campaigning for awards and getting cheat codes for video games. But then, why work your way through all those difficult levels when you can skip right to the top and have everyone think you earned it fairly?

I'm sure it also makes good business sense. You only have so much time to establish yourself as a bestseller; why waste time competing with the herd and working to build a readership from scratch when you can get a bank loan, order a bunch of books from the right stores and make it appear as if you have one?

You can justify it a million ways, or write it off as meaningless industry posturing, only it's still wrong, and it's still cheating. What do you guys think? Feel free to call me a silly Popeyed idealist, too.

*Registration required

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I meant to write more Way of the Cheetah stuff, and do a giveaway today, but around Wednesday last week the residents of Casa PBW began infecting each other with a nasty upper respiratory infection. Apparently it's all over town and in the schools. Presently everyone is bed-bound and wanting chicken soup, Gatorade Slushies* and Jell-O wigglers? Gigglers? Whatever those shapey things are.**

Why did sickness strike my usually healthy bunch? My mother is coming to stay with us this weekend, that's why. The minute that woman plans a visit, my family develops hacking coughs and high temperatures, or we're hit torrential rains from an approaching tropical storm. Yes, I already know about Wilma. It's probably the only time this year I turned on The Weather Channel to catch the Tropical Update and began immediately laughing. It was that or shriek and wake up all the sick people.

Did I mention that I'm scheduled to go out of town tomorrow, too?

You know what I need? A backup domestic crisis manager. A take-charge guy. A stay-at-home-male who will supervise, clean, diagnose, dose and intimidate. Like a wife, only with muscle, hurricane shutters, and a medical degree. Someone who will say things to me like "It's all right dear, let me take care of this. You go and write." Someone who's like half Doug Hoffman, half Jim Cantore.

I'd probably have to marry him, though. There are just some things men won't do for money. Bummer.

Oh, well. While I'm waiting for my Dream HouseMan Who Only Wants to Be Good Pals to arrive, I'll do my best to get the clan back on their feet. Hopefully before the next hurricane or Mom make landfall. I'm not getting this bug, but I've gone mostly vegan with my diet again, and that tends to boost my immune system. I'm also using salad dressings I make myself with balsamic vinegar instead of the store-bought stuff, and I've had a lot more energy. Or balsamic vinegar has absolutely nothing to do with it and the placebo effect is kicking in. Either way.

And I promise I'll get back to Cheetahing and post the new book giveaway*** once I can spend more than fifteen minutes at the keyboard without hearing the words Maaaaaaahm, Shit. Honey! or Euwww, did all that come out of your nose?

*Another fever combat trick: rub the suffering one down lightly with baby powder. It makes them feel cooler and more comfortable when they have to lay in bed for hours and, unless they hate babies, the scent is soothing.

**I just remembered it: Jigglers.

***In the meantime, there are still free books to be won out there. Check out the "easiest contest you'll ever enter" that author Duane Swierczynski is having for his debut novel, The Wheelman.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I know there are some Orson Scott Card fans out there -- I've the hate e-mails to prove it -- so this heads-up is for you: The Intergalactic Medicine Show (via Tobias, who owes me an aspirin for making me look at it.)

Biz Ten

Ten Things Sean Rowe Says About the Book Biz + My Take

1. "You will go broke."

True, if you're foolish with money. Are you stupid?

2. "Total strangers will fuck you -- but not in the way you had hoped."

A few do. Most don't and some voluntarily help without any strings attached. As for the hope, I can't speak for other writers, but I didn't pursue publication to get laid. I pursued it to get published. If you're chasing publication for the potential anonymous sex, go to a con and hang out in the bar instead; it's way easier.

3. "Your friends will hope you fail."

Depends on the friends. Mine (the non-writers) are hoping I marry George Clooney someday so they can sponge off us. Publication also brought me one real writer friend who has kept me from failing, and quitting, for the last seven years. I thank God every day for her.

4. "Your own family may turn on you."

It scared mine. They viewed my writing as a spare-time, hobby thing, like needlepoint. You don't want to go to the airport on another city to catch a flight and see your sister's needlepoint for sale next to the Tic-Tacs in the snack shop.

5. "Your ex-girlfriend will sell your soul on eBay."

Other writers I've helped have tried to sell my correspondence and the free books I've sent them on eBay, as have a couple of reviewers and one editor, but all the exes have been remarkably unmercenary.

6. "There will be no groupies."

I had a few when I used to make public appearances, but they were a little more on the stalkerish side. (looks hopeful) Do I have groupies now?

7. "No one will tell you shit."

Another reason I started this weblog.

8. "You will become a whore."

Good Lord, what have they been doing to this poor man?

9. "Your second novel will suck."

Mine actually did better than the first, but one bit of advice: don't end it on a cliffhanger and take six months to get the third one out. Readers get pissed.

10. "Brad Pitt will not call you."

True. Damn that Angelina.

(Rowe article found over at Sarah Weinman's place.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I usually buy Details, a men's fashion magazine, just to look at the pretty pictures. Why yes, as it happens, I am that shallow. I blame Armani. They refuse to hire me as a show/stage tailor for their men's suit collection (#2 on my dream job list, right after Godiva Factory Quality Control Manager.)

Along with the bevy of drop-dead gorgeous male models in the October 05 issue of Details, there's also an interesting article in it by Jeff Gordinier. The unfortunate, Freudian-slip title of the piece is The Pussification of the American Man (begins on page 97) but don't let that turn you off. Even if the author is yahooing over the extinction of the alpha male (and, quite possibly, the Y chromosome) it's short and sharply written, and destined to be included in someone's alt-lit antho. I can even see the title: Check Your Package at the Door, Please. Running across the bottom of the article's pages is a timeline by Anna-Kaisa Walker with 95 new defining moments in masculinity that offers some parallel pop culture landmarks. Keep drinking that Perrier, Jeff.

Another small marvel (no pun intended) is Bart Blasengame's article on page 160 about penis size, Sticking Up for the Little Guy -- Bigger Doesn't Mean Better. He tries to combat a common stereotype with, what else, another stereotype. Big girls are always being told to move to Europe, where our zaftig dimensions are appreciated, right? Well, if you're hung like a Christmas light, Bart implies you should move to Asia, because that's all the little Asian women can handle -- which betrays how much Bart knows about Asians and women in general.

Appalling but amusing stuff. I may actually have to start reading this rag.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Big Ten

Ten Commandments for Writers

1. I am Publishing, thou shalt not praise Vanity Presses, POD and Self-Publishing before me.

So Lee Goldberg is definitely going to heaven.

2. Thou shalt not take the name of Publishing in vain.

While I, on the other hand . . .

3. Remember to keep holy the Deadline Day.

"The dog peed on my manuscript" excuse only works once, and only if you have a dog.

4. Honor thy agent and editor.

Because they have memories like elephants, and 2000 good writers waiting to take your place.

5. Thou shalt not trash another writer.

Unless you want to write for Salon.

6. Thou shalt not jump ship.

Unless thine is sinking, and thy backlist will not keep thy head above water. Man, how did Quakers keep all the thees and thys and thous straight?

7. Thou shalt not commit plagiarism.

Because we will find out about it, dimwit (and Jaci was a lot nicer than I'd have been.)

8. Thou shalt not be jealous of another writer's success.

Hell already has enough damned souls to run its UnderWorldCons for all eternity.

9. Thou shalt not covet another writer's readership.

Write great books and get one of your own.

10. Thou shalt not covet another writer's advance.

Yeah, well, nine out of ten....

Friday, October 14, 2005


If Mark Sarvas didn't really have a good reason to hate Steve Almond before, he does now (you have to watch an ad to read the entire article for free, but it's educational to see reviewers at their most professional. Link via Nick Mamatas.)


Sitting in the dark, writing blind -- you're not with me, but the words are. I chase and catch them like fireflies, to put in my story bottles and toss them into the millions of oceans between us.

Do they reach you, those shimmering bottles that I've made? Sometimes you call out to tell me that you've found them. Do they push back some of the night? Or do you smash them, or let them float away? I'll never know. Only you know if you gather up my bottles in your arms, or stand and watch the tide take them back. Only you see if the dark sands of your shorelines are brightened for a few hours, or littered with useless shards.

We strand ourselves on these islands deliberately, don't we? It's the only way to hunt the elusive light -- alone, silent, in the dark. All this effort for a Crusoe existence, one we often think we would happily trade for a boatload of pearls. Only without the light, pearls become stones, and the boat flounders.

Being here is simple and beautiful, the way life on an island almost always is. We are lonely, but we listen for the voices calling across the waves, and watch what the tide sweeps in. Sometimes we find worn bits of bottles long ago ruined and discarded, still glowing with a little of the color and light they once possessed. We collect those lost gems, worthless to everyone but us.

Storms come, unexpected and ferocious, from any and all directions, as if determined to put out all the light. We ride them out, afraid, hopeful, terrified, defiant. We promise ourselves that the light will return when the wind stops howling and the waves calm. If we're fortunate, another storm won't come until we've picked up and put ourselves back in order. If we're not, we ride the next one, and if enough keep rolling in, we learn to look through the eyes of the storm for the light.

Tomorrow is almost here. You won't be with us, but the words will. We will chase them and catch them in our story bottles, and throw that captured light into the dark unknown. Then we will listen for your voices, and watch the tides as we touch the long strands of sea glass that we wear, our only jewels, our precious talismans.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Talyn Winners

I've never had a more popular drawing on PBW than the Coveted/Talyn giveaway. This means a lot to me -- not only because I love this book so much -- but because you all took the time to post such interesting entries. I think it gave us all plenty to think about (and be grateful for what we do have, especially our loved ones and our health.)

To thank you, and to better the odds for everyone, I went out last night and bought another four copies of Talyn to add to the giveaway, and bullied the author into signing the extras. So instead of five names, we drew nine winners from the hat, and they are:

Shannon Stacey



Tina Kulesa

Heather Lynne

Rowan Wilson

Simon Haynes

Demented M


Congratulations to the winners, who should e-mail me at and give me your full name and where to send your book.

I sincerely thank everyone who participated, and if you get a chance stop in next week, when I'll be doing the first of my book giveaways to celebrate Halloween.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cheetah I

Last November, just after NaNoWriMo started, I did a Way of the Cheetah post where I talked about ten things I've done that helped me break the 10K-per-day barrier.

Before we dive into this, I'm not the world's fastest writer, nor am I the most prolific, nor do I write in the largest number of genres. There are plenty of authors out there who can write circles around me, and have a backlist that makes mine look pathetic, and who are going places with their work where I will never venture. It's the same for every writer. There is always someone better, just as there is always someone taller, prettier/more handsome, in better shape, thinner, richer, more popular, etc. Accept that and you're close to being perfect.

I'm not perfect, so when I feel jealous, I fall back on my envy eraser: The only writer I have to compete with is me. This works pretty well (although sometimes I need an M&M booster.)

Now let's get into writing speed, and how to improve yours to increase your productivity. There is a myth popularized by the literati that fast writers write nothing but shit, and should be regarded as writing sluts who only do it for money. If you buy into this mindset, you should probably skip the rest of this post.

This may also sound pretty basic and stupid on the screen, but it really works, and I'm proof of that.

Everyone has a speed at which they feel they can write comfortably. It may be writing a page in a week, a day, an hour, or ten minutes -- we'll call it your personal speed zone. Your zone probably fluctuates according to your mood, your work environment, your energy level and your current health situation. If any of these are in flux, so is your zone, but if you've established a set time and place to write, and you're in good physical and emotional shape, then you've already got a fairly stable zone.

If you're writing steadily while you're in the zone, and doing nothing else but writing, then you're probably at a good speed for you. The more books you write, the more confident you'll become, and that confidence will help you build your pace a bit more. On the other hand, if you're not writing steadily, then you haven't found your zone yet. There are other things getting between you and the page, and you need to get rid of them.

I found this out by accident. When I started writing novels every year back in '84, I produced about ten pages a week, or a book a year, which I think is about average for most writers (I used a typewriter; I didn't get my own computer until 1991.) I wasn't happy with what I was getting on the page, though, and it always took a lot of effort. Sometimes I avoided writing because I wasn't up to wrestling the words onto paper or the emotional drain involved. I also had a full time job, and a family to care for, so my writing time was limited to non-existent. When I could write, I think I did all the same things most writers do: I worried, I backtracked, I fought the words and I procrastinated at the keyboard. I was inefficient and I wasted my writing time.

Then something happened to change all that. I quit my job, and I had put aside enough money to have a six-week vacation before starting the next job. On a whim, I decided to try living the life of a full-time writer for six weeks and see what it would be like. I rented a computer (I couldn't afford to buy one) and I set up my spare bedroom as an office. It took me a couple of days to teach myself how to use the word processor, and then I quickly outlined and started a brand-new book.

I worked eight hours every day, and because I knew I didn't have time to mess around, I didn't play. I went in, sat down, cleared my mind of everything but the story, and wrote. I didn't think about if I was writing badly. I didn't wonder if I was writing as well as other writers whose books I'd read. I didn't re-read what I'd written, or go back and change it each day. While I was writing, I didn't think of anything but getting the words down. Always in the back of my mind was the image of a clock ticking, and I wanted to get as much done as I could before I had to return the rental computer.

This was important to me, because I'd invested my vacation money into this project when I could have been sunning myself on a beach in California. Hating the idea of it all being a waste -- money was really tight in those days -- was what made me use the time wisely. Four weeks later I typed the last sentence of the last chapter, and had a brand-new, 100K novel that was the best thing I'd written to date. A novel that should have taken me a year to write.

That one six-week experiment changed everything for me. I went back to work my day job, but I never forgot the lessons I'd learned during my first shot at being a full-time writer. No more procrastinating, idling at the keyboard, or fighting the words. I doubled my productivity, and then I tripled it. I didn't try to write a book in four weeks, but I got more out of my writing time than ever, and I found I could write a book in eight months. Then I wrote one in six months.

A few years later, when I became a stay-at-home-mom caring for three kids, two of whom were in diapers at the same time, I learned to pre-plan and concentrate even more so I could write productively during school hours, nap times and the few minutes I had to myself at night. I was already writing two books a year, and with the kids' training me to be even more focused, I bumped it up to three.

Focus is everything. The more I wrote, the faster I became. This year I've already written seven novels, and I'll have two, maybe three more written before Dec. 31st (I want one ten book year before I slow down.)

The next time you can devote a day or a weekend to writing, try what I did. It sounds so simple -- go in, sit down, and just write -- but you may surprise yourself at how much more you can produce. Keep doing this, and you will get faster. You'll produce more, and I believe that the more you write, the better a writer you become.

And what do you do with all that worrying, angsting, procrastinating and so forth? Save it, because you're going to use it when you edit what you wrote.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Author J.K. Rowling made the list of 25 people AOL & Fortune say we envy most, an article that touts personal income, sex appeal, business credentials and (strangely enough) hair as reasons of superiority.

And you guys have been snickering over my hair angst all these years. I knew hair counted.

I can't covet J.K.'s fairytale career, or the bank account in which she deposits six times as much money as The Queen. I love her story too much. Single mom, writes a great book, can't afford to make a copy of her manuscript so she retypes it, hello billions. She's the writer version of Cinderella. What's not to love?

J.K.'s hair? Eh. I've seen better.

Other writers go green over mega-popular authors who have fifteen hundred readers show up for their booksignings. I don't get that one. Fifteen hundred people show up looking for me, I'm out the back door and heading for Mexico. Then again, I get a facial twitch when I'm shopping and the Sunday toilet paper sale crowd floods K-Mart. There's also the physically daunting task of having to sign fifteen hundred books, which Mr. MacBride has already assured us is not a meander through the tulips.

Three things other authors have that I do covet --

1. More books than I have. I'm betting author Mark Kurlansky's personal library would be like Aladdin's Cave for me. If it is as good as my daydreams and his research, lock me in and leave me there for a few decades. I'll dust while I read.

2. Holly Lisle's talent. It makes you seriously consider burning everything you've ever written and moving your career into shoe sales. Greatly envied: Kait and Galweigh House from Diplomacy of Wolves. I will never get over this book, I guess.

There's also Holly Lisle's Talyn, which has the #1 spot on my keeper shelf. I'm not the only one who fell in love with this novel; go read what Holly's editor thinks of it. For my part, if my house was burning down, and I could only grab one book and take it out of here, it would be Talyn.

2a. Okay, I covet her hair, too. Holly has great hair.

3. J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood from Dark Lover. Don't make me pick, just give me all of them. They can help me dust Mark's books.

I believe in spreading the envy, so in comments to this post, name three things that you covet by midnight EST on Wednesday, 10/12/05. I'll draw five names at random from everyone who participates, and send the five winners a copy of Talyn. I've also talked the author into signing the books for the winners, whose names will be posted here before noon EST 10/13/05. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet (that includes everyone who has won something before now.)

Monday, October 10, 2005


Ten Things for the SF/Fanatics

1. Pushing a Snake Up a Hill -- SF author Jeffrey A. Carver's weblog. Also of some interest, his Advice to Aspiring Writers page (can we still call them that, or is it not allowed anymore? I got yelled at, so I've been going with unpublished.)

2. Geoff Eddy's On Creating an Earthlike Planet page, Conlanging and 3D Maps Toolkit.

3. Freelance's Contests page -- regularly updated, lots of different contests, awards, publishing ops, etc. (good for everyone, not just the SF/Fanatics.)

4. 37 Adventure/RPG freeware programs (enter a search for the words "science fiction" and you'll get five more free programs.)

5. Ronald Green and David Lloyd's Revelation page.

6. Browse 993 dictionaries at once with -- try the reverse dictionary feature, it'll blow your mind.

7. David J. Parker's Resources page.

8. Preditors & Editors A-Z Resource Listings page.

9.'s Writing Help -- home of the serial article How to Submit and Not be a Jerk.

10. Need a planet? Check out how to build your own over at John Walker's Home Planet page.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


I always get a grin out of articles by the literati, who are appalled at the idea of an author writing a book every year. As if writing novels was the same as having illicit sex; and the more you do it, the more of a slut you are. As with all sorts of talent, those who don't have it are always stumbling over themselves to tell those who do how they should use it.

And as the song goes, it's in the way that you use it, not how little or how often.

There is some weight to this argument for the writer; if not for the reasons the literati would wash our brains with. Most of the published authors I know would be overjoyed to slow down. Wouldn't we all like to live the life of Lethem, and have a half a million free bucks to blow on good equipment, research, promotion, and all the other expensive stuff? Not that such a thing ever happens to writers who actually need the money.

Thing is, without a bankroll, or a very patient family or partner willing to support you, a writer hoping to keep writing full-time can't afford to slow down. And then there's the competition, which is getting outrageous. The working writer has to put out his or her best at least once, preferably twice, yearly simply to stay in everyone's little black book.

If you want to do that, you should start making some time commitments.

Work up a writing schedule based on what you want to accomplish over the next twelve months. Let's say, for example, you want to write two books a year, and that means producing 200K. If you write five days a week, and do your research, outlining, editing and rewriting on the weekend, that requires writing about 770 words per day, or three pages. At an average of an hour a page, that's three hours of writing time. Double that, write six pages, and you can produce four books a year -- if you can devote six hours per day to writing (for those who want to pace me, you need to produce three to five pages per hour, or thirty to forty pages per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.)

This is not possible for everyone, and I wouldn't presume to say it is. For some writers, writing to a schedule is simply impossible because their lives are too erratic. Others can only write when mental/physical/spiritual conditions are perfect, and I understand those conditions can't be scheduled. You guys really have it tough, but I imagine all that chaos and spontaneity pays off in other ways for you all.

I'll be talking more about ways to increase your productivity this week, but in the meantime check out SF author William C. Dietz's article How to Write a Book A Year (.pdf file format) here. He has some good pointers on how to handle the work of writing one book per year while holding down a job, hanging with your family, having a life, not going insane, etc.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I just learned that goBCL is now PDF, a service that will convert virtually any file you upload into .pdf format and e-mail you the results, in about one minute, all for free (file size limit is 2 MG, output res is 100 dpi, suitable for online viewing.)

For years I've been recommending goBCL to people who need to make .pdf files for their web sites but can't afford the pricey software. I tested the new version last night, and it's the same as it was before, maybe a little faster. If you'd like to see the results, here's my test document, a .pdf version of my short story Red Branch.

Some freeware .pdf maker programs I've found online -- but have not personally tested out* -- that may also prove helpful:

PDF Factory (free trial version prints a small banner on each page.)
PDF Machine

*Always read the small print and test out freeware carefully. I always back up everything before I download freeware, just in case it comes with a bug that wants to eat my hard drive.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Help Us Obi Wan

Ladies, it seems that the Empire is Striking Back:

The Encyclopedia of Exes, stories written by all male authors

"She's Just Not That Into You" was taken already, I guess.

I'm amusing myself by imagining the individual story titles:

I. Slept With Her Sister Once, the Bitch Sells My SUV for $1

II. But That Dress Really Did Make Her Look Fat

III. I Still Don't Know What She Meant by Foreplay

IV. Her Water Broke, But It Was a PlayOff Game, Damn It!.

One comment made about the book that made me aspirate my Mandarin Orange Spice:

"And the ultra-girly-girl cover. Not that I dislike it or anything. But if you're going to publish a book of stories by men about bad relationships, you'd be better off illustrating it with say, a photo of a crushed beer can and a crumpled condom wrapper." -- Rick Kleffel (read the rest of Rick's take here; scroll all the way down to the bottom.)

So, what do we call this? Dick-lit?

Thursday, October 06, 2005


For The Priest of Blood giveaway, the names of the winners are:


Congratulations to the winners, who should e-mail me at and let me know your full name and where to send the book (as always, I keep your e-mail and address confidential, and don't use them for any purpose other than the giveaway.)

Thanks to everyone who participated, and stop by next week, when I'll be giving away more books by great authors.


Story Synopsis

Once upon a time a king of Persia would divorce his former wife by having her beheaded, and promptly married a new virgin. All this took exactly one day.

One woman wanted to live, so she told the king a long, dazzling story that ended with a cliffhanger, and promised to tell him more the next night if he would not kill her. The king allowed her to live another day to hear the rest of the story, which the next night she spun into a new cliffhanger.

She kept telling her husband such stories for 1001 nights, until at last the king fell in love with her, and decreed she would live for as long as he loved her, which was forever. The end.

[Editor's note: Divorce by beheading? Virgin bride? No one's reading Elizabethan stuff, you know. Gruesome start might work as a hook, but then what happens to the story? Goes completely flat. HEA just doesn't work for me -- better overhaul this one top to bottom. And hey, where's the hero?]

Revised Story Synopsis

Once upon a time a major publisher would get rid of a veteran author with poor numbers by axing all of said author's proposals, and then would promptly sign a new author. All this took exactly 18 months, seven weeks, four days, countless conference calls and at least two luncheons downtown with the new author's agent.

One author wanted to write for a living, and so sent the publisher a dazzling novel proposal that ended with a cliffhanger, and promised to keep writing more of the story if the publisher bought the rights. The publisher signed the author, who kept writing many more novels, each ending with a new cliffhanger.

The author kept writing, until at last the readers fell in love with the author's books, and publishing decreed the author would remain in print for as long as the sell-through didn't bottom out, and to please hurry up with the next book because production screwed up the printer schedule. (It doesn't end.)

[Editor's Note: Much, much better. Not for our historical romance imprint -- too modern now -- but if you can make the ending a little sadder (sudden tragic death of the author's lover, etc.) would be perfect for our lit division. Have your agent call us asap.]

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I'm presently involved in a demanding menage a trois; three books, three deadlines, all due yesterday, today and next week. Yes, a writer's menage, not the sex kind, but you're really awake now, right?

While I'm off doing my three-way, I thought I'd post some old stuff like all the other writers do when they're insanely busy. Here's a piece I wrote a few years back for

My Cats' New Year's Resolutions

1. I will not catch lizards. If I do, I will not eviscerate them on my human's bed pillow.

2. I will not cough up hair balls on my human's prized 1940 Dresden fan quilt.

3. When my human enters the kitchen, it is not always to get me Pounce treats. I will be understanding about this.

4. I will kiss my human before I wash my butt.

5. I will not grab my brother in a stranglehold and pretend to tear out his throat in front of my human's guests.

6. When I have gas, I will be polite and go fart in the other room.

7. I will not lie in the litter box pretending I am Simba Master of All He Surveys while my brothers are waiting to use it.

8. The flat cans with the smiling fish on them are not for me.

9. I will not knock over and rearrange the large stacks of paper my human produces to make a bed for myself.

10. I will not sit and stare at my human when she sits in the bathtub, no matter how weird I think she looks with those tea bags and that mayonnaise on her face.

11. I will stop plotting to get rid of the short humans.

12. I will stop trying to squeeze between the balcony railings to catch dragonflies. I will remember if I miss it's a three story drop into a canal.

13. Whatever my human drinks in those mugs is too hot and not for me.

14. I will not glare, hiss, or growl at the guests who smell like dog. I will understand some humans are simply not worthy of feline ownership.

and finally --

15. I will not sneak into the closet, climb into the big box and chew off the corners of my human's author copies.

Any resolutions that your cat(s) or pet(s) should make this year?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Vamp Icon

Douglas Clegg's first Vampyricon novel, The Priest of Blood, officially hits the shelves nationwide today. Few authors work as hard at marketing as this man has, or have as much creativity with promotion. Here are just some of the things Doug has done for his novel: a superb website, special edition art covers, sculptures, a promo video for the book, an e-book excerpt, newsletters, collectibles, promo items (the rubber devil ducky has to be, hands-down, the neatest widget of all time), auctions, banners, screensavers . . .

I know, I know. How does he do it? Just typing the list made me tired.

Then there's the work: expect some serious beauty on the page, because that's also what this man does (even better than the marketing.) Considering all his talents, I'm wondering if Doug Clegg could be an alien pretending to be human. Not that I want to alarm anyone, but maybe we should call those Project Blue people from the Air Force. You know, just to be on the safe side.

What? He could be. Anyone could be. Look at our new Chief Justice. He has LEGO hair.

Alien or not, Doug Clegg is one of the hardest-working writers in the business. If the early numbers for Priest are any indication, major payback is coming his way. But in the meantime, to help Doug celebrate the release, and to show my personal appreciation for all the marketing ideas and strategies he's shared with us over at his weblog, I bought five extra copies of The Priest of Blood to give away here at PBW (I've also wheedled the unsuspecting author into sending me signed bookplates. Aliens -- hard to spot, easy to fool.)

If you'd like to win a copy of The Priest of Blood along with a bookplate signed by the author, write your congrats for Douglas Clegg in comments to this post by midnight EST on Wednesday, October 5th (please do not e-mail your entry to me.) We'll put the names of all who participate* in a hat and draw five winners; names to be posted here at PBW around noon EST on Thursday, October 6th. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet.

And Doug? You're incredible. Way to go.

*Doug's friends on the mothership, however, will just have to beam down to Waldenbooks and buy their own damn copies. I mean it -- give a free book to an alien, next thing you know they're skulking around your house at 2 am trying abducting you. Ask Whitley Strieber if you don't believe me.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Coloring Ten

Ten Things About Colors

1. Over at, download Munsell Color Conversion Program software for free.

2. Also from, an Online Color Metric Converter.

3. Color Maker -- want to change the colors on your weblog or site and aren't sure how they'll look? Lab rat them here.

4. -- everything you wanted to know about colors but were afraid to ask.

5. Claudia Cortes's Color in Motion -- my daughter introduced me to this site, which is all about primary color symbolism and meaning. There's an interactive lab, and great flash movies (blue and purple are my favorites.) Perfect for you elementary teachers out there, and fun for the kid in all of us.

6. For the Mac users out there, download a free copy of HTML Colors.

7. For the fashion slaves, Pantone's Top Ten Fashion Colors for Fall 2005 -- all of which I look hideous in, thanks a lot, Pantone.

8.'s What Color Are You?quiz. I took it and was hoping to get my favorite color, green, but I came out a greeny-blue Teal: Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well. Your saturation level is very high - you are all about getting things done. The world may think you work too hard but you have a lot to show for it, and it keeps you going. You shouldn't be afraid to lead people, because if you're doing it, it'll be done right. Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.

(So this means I'm perfect, right?)

9. Do you see the color, or the word, or the color of the word? Test yourself against The Stroop Effect.

10. Through the 6X6X6 Color Cube -- 216 colors, one interactive voyage.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Release Me

You know the problem with trying to keep up with bloggers who write in different genres? I have to go to like ten thousand places to find out when their books are hitting the shelf.

Take releases in the month of October -- here's what I've got scribbled down:

Douglas Clegg -- The Priest of Blood

Lee Goldberg -- The Man With the Iron-on Badge

Tod Goldberg (Lee's bro) -- Simplify

Tamara Siler Jones -- Threads of Malice

Shannon Stacey -- Twice Upon a Roadtrip

Yes, I know I'm missing some writers and titles, but deadlines are taking over my life. Maybe you all can help: if you've got a book being released during the month of October, or you know a writer/blogger who does and isn't on my list, please post the info in comments. Genre, publisher and format doesn't matter.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Attention Mr. Greg Anderson, Salem Radio Network President: I know you're probably real busy, and I hate to bother you and all, but would you please take a couple of moments and shut down this racist jackass you have working for you?

Thanks so much.


According to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks sales from major booksellers, only 2 percent of the 1.2 million unique titles sold in 2004 had sales of more than 5,000 copies. -- New York Times

Depressing: 2% = 24,000 titles

Really depressing: 98% = 1,176,000 titles

5,000 copies isn't exactly a raging success, either. Let's do some more math. If a novel comes out in hardcover, and sells exactly 5,000 copies (and to keep things simple, has a 5,000 copy first print run and zero returns), sales would be:

5,000 copies X $22.95 cover price = $114,750.00

Let's say the author gets 8% royalties, which would = $9,180.00. Subtract the agent's 15% cut of $1,377.00, and the author is left with $7,803.00.

Hopefully the author didn't sign for a huge advance, or quit the day job.

If a novel comes out in paperback and sells exactly 5,000 copies, things are much worse:

5,000 copies X $6.99 cover price = $34,950.00

6% royalties = $2097.00, subtract the agent's cut of $314.55, and the author is left with $1,782.45 [and if this author also signed for a $5K advance: $1,782.45 - $5,000.00 advance = ($3,217.55).]

What's ominous is Bookscan telling us that 98% of the titles in 2004 didn't even make the 5K mark.

I need an aspirin.