Friday, November 30, 2007
Please select from the following stock plot fixes:
I. Destruction, Power Item
Problem: Indestructible item of unimaginable power corrupts characters, creates chaos and starts wars; cannot be disposed of.
A. Glub, Glub: Protagonist takes item on ship to deepest part of ocean and drops it overboard. Item sinks to bottom and cannot be recovered because no one has yet developed deep-sea exploration technology.
B. Houston, We Don't Have a Problem: Protagonist puts item on Titan-IV rocket and sends it to Mars, where it crashes somewhere near a polar ice cap and cannot be recovered because someone at NASA forgot to properly convert the metrics involved.
C. The Virgin Suicide: Protagonist consumes item of power and jumps into a volcano that is not located within the boundary's of the Evil Overlord's territory.
D. Total Tax Write-Off: Protagonist donates the item of power to the Smithsonian, where it is displayed next to the Hope Diamond.
II. Future Boom-Boom
Problem: The Really Cool TechnoThingie in your science fiction story is activated/discovered/lands on Earth and will wipe out the entire human race within 24 hours; nothing can stop it.
A. Galactic Visa: The finest minds on Earth are evacuated in a prototype intergalactic ship which does not crash into Mars but whisks them off to colonize the first inhabitable planet known to man. Several tentative romantic relationships and one murder plot are formed on the trip. The planet turns out to be identical to Earth and populated by small, fuzzy creatures of limited intelligence who just love humans.
B. Heavy Metal: All of humanity transfers their consciousness into indestructible robotic bodies which they use to kick the Really Cool TechnoThingie's ass. Humanity then becomes obsessed with pistons and lube jobs.
C. Penicillin, Stat: After the Really Cool TechnoThingie destroys most of the cities on the planet, it falls victim to a common bacteria and melts into a puddle of inert goo. A brave band of survivors set fire to the puddles before rebuilding civilization to be better than it was before.
D. We Have to Save the World, Guys: The President of the United States sends an adorable band of social misfits to combat the Really Cool TechnoThingie. After they screw up everything but mend their own strained personal relationships, their leader saves most of them then sacrifices his own life with ten seconds left on the End of the World clock.
III. Happily Ever After, They Lived
Problem: Romantically-involved hero and heroine have great sex together but wrestle with incompatible personalities, occupations and life goals; their love cannot be saved.
A. Do You Like Pina Coladas?: Hero and heroine stay together while they secretly post phony profiles and pics on an internet match-making site, are matched, arrange to meet each other, laugh over their lies and decide that their relationship was obviously meant to be anyway.
B. Marry Your Babies Daddy: Heroine takes fertility drugs that cause her to become pregnant with hero's identical quints, appears on Good Morning America in her last trimester to sign a multi-million-dollar contract with Pampers for the babies to model diapers. Hero quits job to be babies' business manager.
C. Mutual Sacrifice: Both hero and heroine quit jobs to become life coaches, eBay power sellers, real estate agents, reality show stars and/or pet psychics. Success solves all their other problems.
D. SEALed with a Kiss: The hero's military reserve unit is indefinitely posted to a dangerous spot in the Middle East for 11-1/2 months of each year; the heroine bravely writes to him every day, helps other military wives to send out touching care packages, and develops a close, personal relationship with an industrial duty-size vibrator.
This week only: NaNoWriMo'ers can take an additional 50% discount on any plot fix in stock, enter coupon code HELPMEENDTHISPLEASE.
We appreciate you shopping at Plot Fix Inc.com, where every story can find an ending. Have a nice day.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Problem #1: Evidently SF's best writers (aside from H.G Wells) are being neglected.
". . . I do see that a wall much like the Great Wall of China has been erected against SF — although H.G.Wells has escaped the general banishment." -- Brian Aldiss, SF writer, Why are science fiction's best writers so neglected?
Possbile Solution #1: Repackage their books and let the Sci-Fi Channel fans discover them.
"As I see it, there are currently two schools of thought – to package your SF/F novel to appeal to as wide a readership as possible, in the hope of enticing readers from other areas of the bookstore to pick it up on a whim; or to package your SF/F novel to appeal to the perceived core readership of the genre, or indeed, fans of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, people who want a book with a spaceship or a wizard on the front of it." -- Solaris editor, Marrying Authors to Their Market: A Genre Perspective.
My Idea: Put a nicely-built chick in white spandex on the cover. I still get avid fan mail from guys about the art for Endurance, and no, I still don't know who the model was.
Problem #2: No SF books on the NYT Notable List this year.
". . . our genre also no longer has a guaranteed five or six slots on the “Notable Books” list." -- Tor Editor, New York Times to science books: Drop dead.
Possible Solution #2: Remember that there are worse things than being stiffed by the Times.
". . . I started to wonder how I’d gotten so sidetracked in priorities over the last few years, placing higher and higher attention to the dayjob and less to things I truly loved. I felt like I’d fallen behind by three years, and lost a chunk of my life." -- Tobias Buckell, SF writer, Despair.
My Idea: Say out loud that "I accept the things that I cannot change . . . " prayer while using the Times as kitty box liner.
That takes care of romance and SF. Now if I could just get Storytellers Unplugged to dump the new format, which oddly enough is harder on my eyes than the old blue-on-blue one -- is anyone else having the same problem? Did they shrink the font, or what?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Final cover art for Twilight Fall:
The changes are very subtle, but this cover needed very little in the way of adjustments. Two out of three alterations I suggested were done. I think overall Val looks less alien-eyed than he did in the prototype. And while I'll always have a very different mental image of my character, Valentin v. 2.0 works for me.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
At the end of the writer's reins are any number of demons, but the lead pair are often Necessity and Creativity.
As demons go, Necessity is practical, methodical and level-headed, likes to color-code and alphabetize things, and isn't happy unless it's rearranging or streamlining something. It views idleness and apathy as horrors, and anyone prone to them a nightmare.
Despite its grim rep, Necessity has occasionally accomplished minor miracles, like finding in under ten minutes a cash receipt for a malfunctioning laptop bought Christmas Eve three years ago with an in-store warranty. Two days before the warranty expired, no less. It has walked the floors at night because the taxes didn't balance out to the penny, at least, not until Necessity runs a tape on the ledger five more times. Necessity harnesses itself to the chariot bright and early every morning, because it's done sleeping, and now it's time to work.
No one likes Necessity, so it is by nature silent and self-sufficient.
Its running partner, Creativity, is a flighty, self-absorbed, unreliable demon ruled by its emotional response to pretty much everything in existence. It can't remember the alphabet and thinks color codes are only useful as passwords secret agents might use to get mission assignments in a story, i.e. "Blue Danube. Seduce the North Korean ambassador's wife during Paris embassy party. Post video on YouTube. Gotcha."
Lazy as it is, Creativity has occasionally pulled off minor miracles, too, like writing three hundred thousand words in ninety days to create a series out of a trilogy that it ended a year earlier. Or that time it credibly wrote a biker and an elephant into the plot for a story in which bikers and elephants would never appear in a million years, all because the editor thought they would make "fun" story elements to add.
Everyone loves Creativity, so it spends a lot of time basking in admiration.
Necessity also dotes on Creativity, when it's not nagging it to stop slouching, get a haircut and find a pair of shoes that actually match, for God's sake. Creativity has a certain exasperated fondness for Necessity, although it thinks a weekend in Marseilles, a five-pound ganache with raspberry-chocolate glaze and a good schtupping in a feather bed would change Necessity's life for the better.
Once properly harnessed, Necessity usually leads while Creativity trots along for the ride. Necessity knows exactly where it is going, how long it will take to get there and what is required for the journey. It packed everything last night in color-coded travel bags and also brought extra toothbrushes, just in case.
Creativity packed nothing, doesn't know what time it is and could care less where it's going. It wants to stop to smell every flower, inspect every traveller and feed at every trough. It only gets its ass in gear when it spots, smells or hears something to chase, and then Necessity must keep pace or get trampled.
Necessity secretly appreciates Creativity's little sprints and all the very cool places they take them, although it would really appreciate a map next time and maybe a schedule of stops spaced at regular intervals so it doesn't miss lunch or burn dinner.
Creativity won't admit it, but it knows that if it wasn't for Necessity, it would never stop daydreaming long enough to complete a journey. Now if Necessity would simply leave those extra toothbrushes at home, and stop bypassing all those cool-looking side roads, every trip would be amazing.
Generally Creativity gets all the credit for the success of the journey -- something that would never have happened without Necessity's determination and endurance -- while Necessity takes all the criticism for every bump, pot hole and pitfall along the way -- something that it knows would smother Creativity if it had to deal with it.
They squabble, bicker and try to resist each other, but after a time they learn to travel together. They know that if we hitch only one of them to the chariot, we're not going anywhere interesting, or we're not going anywhere at all. Or Ego and Fear will take the lead, in which case there's going to be a huge pile-up down the road.
What's harnessed to your chariot?
Monday, November 26, 2007
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
1. Applejack is "a user friendly troubleshooting assistant for Mac OS X. With AppleJack you can troubleshoot a computer even if you can't load the GUI, or don't have a startup CD handy. AppleJack runs in Single User Mode and is menu-based for ease of use."
2. Butler is designed "to make it easier for you to perform different — potentially recurring — tasks. Butler lets you arrange these tasks in its fully customizable configuration."
3. iBackup is a backup/restore utility that "supports scheduled backups of files, folders and applications. Further, it uses plugins to backup your settings like the dock, deskop picture, time, firewall, bluetooth and other system preferences. It is also able to backup Application Settings. You can add, delete and edit these plugins."
4. Inkscape is "an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format."
5. Based on Open Office, NeoOffice is "a full-featured set of office applications (including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing programs) for Mac OS X."
6. Nvu is a "complete Web Authoring System for Linux desktop users as well as Microsoft Windows and Macintosh users to rival programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver."
7. Scrivener Gold freeware is "aimed at writers who want to manage and organise projects large or small" (Scroll down on page for download link; requires Mac OS X Tiger (10.4) - Universal for both Intel and PPC)
8. TextExpander is a neat little utility that "saves you countless keystrokes with customized abbreviations for your frequently-used text strings and images."
9. TextWrangler 2 is a "powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool."
10. XShelf "enhances drag and drop in MacOS X by letting you "pause" drag and drop operations, as well as have multiple drag and drop operations in flight at once."
Finally, from MacWorld, 63 Great Mac Programs That Won't Cost You a Bundle.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
(All prices listed are in US dollars)
1. Alibris.com: a reliable, fast and affordable source for used, rare, and OOP books, music and movies; I was impressed by the care the sellers use in packing and shipping some rare books I ordered from here. I don't see a gift card option anywhere so you might ask your writer to put up a wishlist.
2. AlphaSmart: the affordable alternative to laptops for writers; the Neo is $219, and the new wireless Palm-powered Dana starts at $350 (I've never used an AlphaSmart, but a lot of RWA writers swear by them.)
3. Barnes and Noble.com: No writer will ever turn down a bookstore gift card. If you'd also like to support writers who blog, consider buying one of their books. I'm pre-ordering Marjorie M. Liu's The Last Twilight and Rosina Lippi's The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square. I've also heard that this one is a pretty good read, but I'm supposed to be getting some free copies.
4. HisNibs.com: fine fountain pens and writing supplies; I've been a patron for years and Norman offers a great selection and the best customer service in the business.
5. Levenger: home of everything for the serious reader and writer -- often items you can't find anywhere else. If you can't decide, gift cards especially make us drool because then we have an excuse to look at everything. Check out the latest sales for good bargains.
6. Nuance.com: home of Dragon Naturally Speaking, the voice recognition software that I use to write just about everything. Read more about my experiences with the Dragon here.
7. Office Depot: where I buy all of my office supplies; great deals plus they have absolutely everything a working writer needs, and you can order online or locate a store near you. I recommend gift cards, that way your writer can get exactly what they need.
8. Palm Handheld Devices: I've owned three different Palm handhelds over ten years and I've never had a single problem with any of them (and I can't say that about any other data product I've owned.) During the 2004 hurricane season, when we were without power for more than a month, I wrote most of my novel Afterburn on my Palm handheld. I presently use a Tungsten E2 handheld, and my kids are using my older Palm models, which still work great.
9. The Writer magazine: great market listings, decent articles, subscribers get access to their online market database, and their columnists don't write up three-page-long tantrums about PBW. One year subscription $32.95.
10. Thinkmap's Visual Thesaurus: one of my favorite writing tools; must be seen to be appreciated. Buy the desktop edition for $39.95 or subscribe to the online service for $2.95/mo or $14.95/year. You can personally test drive the program at the Thinkmap site, too.
If you're still not sure where to shop for your writer, I recommend purchasing a gift card in any amount to any bookstore. Trust me, we love them.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
When you grab the code from this web site, they tack on a code for an ad for cash advances, so be warned -- I edited it out of mine before I blogged it. What did you score with your blog?
(Link for the test pinched from Jaquandor over at Byzantium's Shores.)
Friday, November 23, 2007
I really wasn't going to look at it this year. Honest. You know how painful reading the blurbs from the lists for years 2006 and 2005 were for me. But someone (You Know Who You Are) forwarded me the list, and it was right there in my inbox, and, well . . . it's become kind of a holiday tradition here at PBW, right?
So let's see what the boys at the Times did with the blurbs for 2007:
1. " . . . dark, worldly short stories linger in the mind long after they’re finished."
Like . . . acid indigestion. Alimony payments. Bath tub ring.
2. "The small-town regulars at Lucy’s Tavern carry their loneliness in 'rough and beautiful' ways."
There's country music and a drunk with a heart of gold in this book. I can smell it.
3. "A young woman searches for the truth about her parentage amid the snow and ice of Lapland in this bleakly comic yet sad tale of a child’s futile struggle to be loved."
The only way I see to save this is to have Geoffrey Holder do the book trailer: "Come to Lapland: it's cold, it's bleakly comic yet sad, and no one will love you."
4. "Poetry that conveys the invention, the wit and the force of mind that contests all assumptions."
Such as, this book would be any good, right?
5. "Consisting largely of a single sex scene played out on a couple’s wedding night, this seeming novel of manners is as much a horror story as any (the author) has written."
Where is Sasha White when I need her?
5a. I don't want to hear any more bitching about the amount of sex and erotica in my novels.
5b. Or in Sasha's.
5c. I mean, this dude makes us look like nuns.
5d. And yet the blurb is so bad I keep wanting to reword it, i.e. She's a virgin, he's overdosed on Viagra, and then . . .
5e. Uh, never mind.
6. "In this short yet spacious Norwegian novel, an Oslo professional hopes to cure his loneliness with a plunge into solitude."
Isn't short like the antonym of spacious? And exactly how do you cure loneliness by going off to be alone? I'm so confused.
7. "In this debut, a Londoner emerges from a coma and seeks to reassure himself of the genuineness of his existence."
And then when he touches people, he sees the past and future! Right. I think Stephen King would like his plot back.
8. "A craftily autobiographical novel about a band of literary guerrillas."
Gee, literary writers craftily writing about themselves . . . *yawn* . . . what an utterly fascinating . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
9. "American characters in this meticulously observed comic-book novella explicitly address the way in which they handle being in a minority."
I beg your pardon, but we call them graphic novel novellas now.
10. "These resonant tales encapsulate moments of hope and humiliation in a kind of shorthand of different lives lived."
They resonate, they encapsulate, and they're in shorthand. Uh-huh. Waiter? Check, please.
11. "Layoff notices fly in (this) acidly funny first novel, set in a white-collar office in the wake of the dot-com debacle."
I'm already laughing here, pal.
12. "The women here are smart and strong but drawn to losers."
Did they steal this blurb from This is not Chick-lit?
13. "In this debut collection, a crisp, blunt tone propels stories both surreal and realistic."
"Day Four Hundred: Shot up heroin with a dirty needle. Did a reverse cowgirl on Puff the Magic Dragon. Expresso machine ate my head."
14. "Dispensing with straight narrative, (the author) microscopically examines language and thought."
"Day Four Hundred and One: Shot up heroin with a dirty needle. Did a reverse cowgirl on my first edition of Strunk. Microscope ate my head."
15. "An unhappy young woman meets an even unhappier drifter."
So, not an RT top pick, I'm guessing.
16. "This history explores an underappreciated point: that this country was constructed to foster arguments, not to settle them."
Vote for John Kerry. Gotcha.
17. " . . . deeply personal memoir focuses on the engaged and lively Catholicism of her mother, a glamorous career woman who was also an alcoholic with a body afflicted by polio."
Because the glam of alcoholism, polio and being Catholic just don't stop, baby.
18. "Essays on 20th-century luminaries by one of Britain’s leading public intellectuals."
Lunesta finally gets decent competition.
19. "The former New Yorker editor details the sordid domestic drama that pitted the Princess of Wales against Britain’s royal family."
I can see why the New Yorker fired her.
20. "Updike’s first nonfiction collection in eight years displays breathtaking scope as well as the author’s seeming inability to write badly."
Updike's moonlighting as a blurb writer for his own books now?
All fun aside, content blurbs and copy are important, especially when you're trying to motivate more people to try a new-to-them author. For example, I actually did pick up a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera at the bookstore this past week. The back cover copy was so badly written that I put it right back down, too. I know I'm not being fair to the author, so I've made a vow to buy it -- just after the holidays, when I feel more up to the challenge of reading a book with a title and copy that instantly killed what little interest I had in it.
I didn't read a lot of highbrow fiction this year, so I have no suggestions on what was missed. The last good nonfic book I read was The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, but that came out in late 2006. What book(s) do you think should have made the Times list, and didn't?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
1. To help manage your home-based business, Microsoft is offering free downloads of Accounting Express 2008, and free trial downloads of the professional version; there's an extensive product overview here (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista)
2. Cheap as Free Color Picker freeware is "a standalone application which lets you generate HEX color codes for HTML. This is particularly useful if you use a software IDE or text editor for creating web pages." (OS: Win 98/ME/2000/XP)
3. Help4J freeware is "the largest, most comprehensive source of knowledge about the Java programming language with more than 25 000 code examples, thousands of utility functions, tips and links. It seamlessly integrates with the standard API documentation. A click on a method or class and up to 20 code examples are at your fingertips." (OS: Windows, Unix, Linux, Solaris; Requires JRE 1.4.2 or up, 70 MBytes of disk space)
4. MB Free Psychic Dictionary 1.25 is one of the many free guides and e-books provided by MysticBoard.com, a community of folks interested in the mystic world (OS: Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista)
5. Mosaizer freeware that allows you to create photo mosaics and photo libraries from large collections of bitmaps; appears to have some very cool special effects features, too (OS: Win 9x/ME/2000/XP/Vista)
6. Open Office 2.3.1 RC1 freeware is "an Open Source, community-developed, multiplatform office-productivity suite. It includes the key desktop applications, such as a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program, with a user interface and feature set similar to other office suites. Localizations of OpenOffice.org are available in 27 languages with more being constantly added by the community. (OS: Win NT/2000/XP; according to the web site OpenOffice "runs stably and natively on Solaris, Linux (including PPC Linux), and Windows. Additional ports, such as for FreeBSD, IRIX, and Mac OS X, are in various stages of completion.")
7. PCGen 5.13.4 Beta freeware is "a Java-based RPG character generator and maintenance program (d20 Systems mainly) for role-playing games. It currently is aimed at supporting as many RPGs as is humanly possible. The project´s current focus is on OGL games (OGL is Wizards of the Coast´s Open Gaming License). All datafiles are ASCII so they can be modified by users." (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3)
8. Mrjz.net's Personal Finance Manager freeware is "a simple tool for managing accounts and expenses. It was designed and written to be intuitive and easy to use for home and small business users not familiar with accounting principles like single or double entry accounting. Mjrz PFM is a basic implementation of double entry accounting principles." (OS: Win NT/2000/XP/Vista; MacOS and Linux.)
9. Roadkil.net's Unstoppable Copier freeware "recovers files from disks with physical damage. Allows you to copy files from disks with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or that just give errors when reading data. The program will attempt to recover every readable piece of a file and put the pieces together. Using this method most types of files can be made useable even if some parts were not recoverable in the end." (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3)
10. Jason Horman's WikidPad 1.9beta12 is "a wiki-like notebook for storing your thoughts, ideas, todo lists, contacts, or anything else you can think of to write down. What makes WikidPad different from other notepad applications is the ease with which you can cross-link your information." (OS: Windows: Use of a binary installer is recommended; users of Windows 98/ME should read the hint at the designer's site before downloading; Linux; MacOS)
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Before you chuckle at the idea, you should know that 25% of the books being sold in the U.S. are bought at grocery stores.
This is the kind of marketing that promotes literacy, puts books instead of cheap plastic toys in the hands of kids, and demonstrates thinking inside and outside the box (not to mention the tax write-off for General Mills.) Imagine being one of the five authors whose books were chosen for this campaign -- in addition to the great honor of being selected for this project, just envision a million copies of your story delivered to the exact people whom you want to buy your books.
It also made me wonder what cereal I'd lobby for to send free copies of my books to the grocery store. I usually have plain oatmeal for breakfast to help keep my cholesterol down, but the Quaker Oats guy would likely have some religious objections to my work. Sometimes I eat Grape Nuts® or Raisin Nut Bran®, and I'm sure some reviewer would probably interpret that as a slur on their character. My daughter loves Cinnamon Toast Crunch®, but she's in that teenage stage where everything I do is a homework conspiracy or simply wrong. She'd see my book and probably groan something like "Geez, Mom, did you HAVE to put a novel in my cereal? I told you, I already did my English homework."
And Shiloh, the witch, would probably grab the rights to Count Chocula® before I could get them. Hmmmmm. I'd rather pick a product that illustrates me the writer. Pop-Tarts®?
You writers out there, if you could convince a breakfast food manufacturer to distribute free copies of your latest story, who would you pick?
Monday, November 19, 2007
To see how hard it was to use, I made a demo slide show with the cover art from the Darkyn books. I uploaded my own .jpgs, made simple captions and picked a stock song to play in the background. It took about fifteen minutes altogether. You do have to register with the site to be able to edit your slide show, but that's also free (although it seems to work fine on Blogger, this widget is really designed for MySpace users, and if you've got one of those pages they give you precise instructions on how to add it to your page.)
Once you create the slide show, you can use a remote link folks can click on to go to see it over at the Slide.com site, like this, or get the embed code to put the slide show on your web site or weblog, as I did over on the fiction blog here (the background music may not play on some browsers.)
It's not exactly a substitute for a proper book trailer, but I bet some of the more inventive, creative minds out there can figure out a way to make it work just as well. If you decide to use this widget make your own slide show, post a link in comments so we can see what you do with it.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Perhaps enormous, dark and devastating were not the right words, but his author had to knock out this scene before it was time to pick up the kids from school. For now, they would serve.
Marcia came into the library, her lovely green eyes carefully averted from the infant vomitus-colored wallpaper. In her hands she carried a large, important-looking envelope addressed to her.
"John," she said, her voice trembling around his name, "we have to talk."
"I've been expecting you, darling." He waved a hand toward the chair in front of his desk. "Sit down, please."
"I'd rather stand." Marcia opened the envelope and took out an eight-by-ten glossy, which showed John as a young boy. In the photo he was holding a wing over the body of a one-winged, helpless butterfly. "How could you keep this from me?"
"I should have told you, but it was such a painful moment . . ." He sighed. "I tried to save it, but the damage was too extensive."
"I found that butterfly struggling on the ground," he said, nodding toward the photo. "Some horrible child had pulled off its wing. I found another, already deceased butterfly and respectfully removed one of its wings, which it no longer needed, and superglued it to the living butterfly in hopes of saving its life." He smiled sadly. "It only lived a few hours, but I like to think it had time to make peace with its creator."
Marcia eyed him as she put the photo down and removed another from the envelope. In this image, a teenaged John was holding an adorable little ball of fur by the tail over an enormous grinder. "I suppose you have an explanation for why you dropped this puppy into the hamburger-making machine at McDonald's."
"I remember that -- that was Bring Your Pet to Work day. I had to move fast to grab that little guy before he jumped in." He chuckled and shook his head. "Puppies are so gosh-darn curious about everything, aren't they?"
Marcia yanked out another photo, in which a twenty-something John was standing in an alley with his pants around his ankles and a young woman on her knees in front of him. "And I suppose this hooker was trying to help you find your navel lint?"
"Hooker?" He picked up the photo and studied it. "This is my urologist's nurse. Pity that poor girl wore so much make-up. You know how claustrophobic I am, darling. I always have my prostate exams performed in the alley behind the medical building."
"If she's a nurse, why is she dressed like a hooker?" Marcia demanded.
"It was Halloween, I think. Or Casual Friday." He shrugged. "I don't remember which."
Marcia's foot began tapping the floor as she tossed a photo of John at a bar surrounded by laughing men dressed in leather and spikes. One of the men had his hand in John's pocket. "And what did this guy want? To borrow your car keys?"
"He needed change for the jukebox." He smiled. "I had no idea when I stopped in that bar for a beer after work that I'd end up meeting so many nice guys. And the jokes? People with alternative lifestyles have such a great sense of humor."
She flipped another photo on top of the bar scene. "Tell me about you and this herd of sheep." She added another picture. "And this scene you appear butt-naked in during Paula Does Publishing." She slapped a third photo on the stack. "And isn't this you leading the insurgents into the capitol of this third world country?"
"Darling." John rose and came around the desk to take her fists into his hands. "I learned how to shear wool that summer when I stayed on my elderly uncle's farm to help him out. While I was in the police academy, I was part of a sting operation to expose the pornography industry's illegal use of minors in their films. I never knew when the Peace Corp sent me over to Ethiopia that those rebels would kidnap me and force me to spearhead their coup."
Marcia's lower lip trembled. "Are you really telling me the truth, John?"
He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes. "Sweetheart, it's not like Pat Gaffney is writing our novel."
"I don't understand."
"You're not supposed to, honey. Just remember, I'm the hero, not a real person. Any unquestionably horrible thing I do will make me seem like a bad boy, until it's justified by our author in order to redeem me in the eyes of the reader and leave my reputation wholly untarnished." John pulled her into his arms and tucked her head under his chin. "So whenever you're given irrefutable evidence of my past mistakes, depend on me coming up with a skimpy, ridiculous excuse for why I did them. All right?"
Marcia nodded, and then stepped away. "I brought in the rest of the mail." She took it out of her purse and handed it to him.
John sorted through it, and found another important-looking envelope addressed to him. He opened it and took out a stack of photos. In the first photo, a young Marcia, her hair in pigtails, was leaning over and staring at the answers being written on an Algebra pop quiz by the smart-looking boy sitting next to her.
"Darling." John swallowed hard and sank down into his desk chair. "We have to talk."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I promised you announcements and news, didn't I? First, the news: Omega Games, StarDoc book eight, has been accepted by my editor, so that's a done deal. I'm hoping to soon hear the same with Twilight Fall, as I've turned in the revisions for that one.
Speaking of Valentin:
My editor has requested some changes, and I'll probably suggest two minor tweaks, but this is basically what the cover will look like. I'm quite happy with it; they've altered some of the elements but it still carries on the originality of the series cover art theme.
Announcements: Over the next couple of weeks, PBW will be undergoing some blog renovation. Among the changes I'm making will be updated links and category indexes for the Friday 20 and the freeware and online tools for writers collection.
One of my policies here at PBW is that I've never allowed advertising, and that includes advertising from my own publishers. Due to the high cost of self-promotion, which most writers can't afford, and the ridiculous prices popular bloggers are charging for ad space, I'm going to amend that policy in 2008 and begin a new monthly feature.
PBW's Release Co-op will allow authors who blog to post on PBW weblog links, cover thumbnails, brief announcements and links to online bookseller sites where readers can purchase their new releases. This feature is not open to publishers, publicists, book buyers, editors or agents, but any author who blogs regardless of genre, content or publisher can make use of it with no strings and at no charge whatsoever. I'll post more on the particulars as I put it together.
On the current blog content, for the rest of 2007 I'll probably skip the usual feature schedule I've had over the last couple of years and just post whatever appeals to me on that day. I've never been much of a pantser blogger, but I think it will be good for me to break up the routine.
That's all for now. I hope you'll stop by again and see what other trouble I can stir up in the weeks ahead.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I'll start with mine:
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. -- Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Haven't found the exact fit yet, but here are a few sites I think might be useful to others who like to organize:
Backpack offers free accounts, and allows you to store to-do lists, notes, ideas, and your calendar online. This one looks like something you could use as an idea mapper and collaboration tool, too (recommended by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.)
Inbox.com is a web-based e-mail service that gives you a free 5GB account for registering; their free online organizer looks pretty nifty, and might work as a virtual whiteboard.
TiddlyWiki is a free service that provides a reusable non-linear personal web notebook (LJ Cohen did a terrific virtual workshop back in July on how to use TiddlyWiki to organize your novel.)
Does anyone out there use an online organizer service that is free or low cost and that you'd recommend? Leave a link in comments if you would, please.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Photoshopping your blog team is a cute/clever idea, especially if you can't get everyone together in person for an actual group shot. However, I'd try to make all the heads the same size, and refrain from using headshots with varying lighting to avoid that stalker-shrine-collage look.
I've been invited to join several group blogs since I started blogging. Aside from one secret junto and a few guest spots here and there, I never have. It's definitely me, not the groups. But there are writers out there who I'd like to see blog together. Here's one of my fantasy lists:
Linda Winstead Jones
L. (who must remain anonymous)
Now the why. All of these folks have very interesting minds and personalities, and while none of them are much alike, I think all of them would deal well with each other. I also have the feeling if they got together, they'd generate a lot of creativity and great discussions.
Who would write for your own fantasy group blog? Post your list in comments.
Monday, November 12, 2007
1. Amazing McTechnoThing: Your novel features a fantastic gadget, method of transportation or scientifical process which, if it actually existed, would make you the coolest, wealthiest, most admired, and most sexually active person on earth for inventing it (like Bill Gates with a harem of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.)
2. Brother McVampires: Your vampire fiction novel features a manly, aggressive, somewhat homoerotic group of male vampires controlled by a female deity who passes off torture and mind games as wisdom and guidance; your protagonist will defy the female deity at least once during the story. Bonus Mcpoints: you claim the novel is entirely your invention and has nothing to do with that other Brother McVampire series which you of course simply haven't had time to read yet.
3. Dark and Stormy McNight: Your novel opens with a description of the weather, night, day, the sky or the aftermath of the weather which, while very prettily written and engaging all five of the human senses, has zero to do with the story.
4. Dragon McQuest: Your novel features dragons who, despite being much smarter, stronger and longer-lived, will voluntarily do anything for humans beings, including going on long journeys of incredible hardship, fighting wars and dying magnificent deaths, usually for some mystic item that has no value to dragons whatsoever.
5. Fannish McKnockoff: Your novel is based on a novel written by a much better writer who has been dead for at least twenty years and who you once fanboyed/girled but now you secretly think was not as talented as you are.
6. Happily Ever McAfter: Your novel ends with the hero and heroine getting married and having kids (conservative or religious romance); deciding to live together with an option on kids (liberal, modern, or sequel-in-the-works romance); choosing to be monogamous to each other without bringing up the subject of kids (author is under thirty and probably very hot) or selling the herd of sheep but keeping the goats and the cute blonde chick for occasional orgies (why, you hussy.)
7. Inspirational McLecture: Your novel has no sex, violence, politics, other-than-hetero people or social situations that are more troubling than what to bring to the PotLuck at church; the characters continually quote Bible verses to each other (when they're not wrestling with gritty story issues like how to tell the minister that his dog is digging up poor Mrs. Sanderson's prize roses.)
8. Literary McMasterpiece: Your novel has a meaningless title, is deeply depressing, ends badly, uses the word chiaroscuro more than three times and is really understood, like your pain, by only you.
9. Pundit McSoapbox: If anyone wants to know what your politics are, all they have to do is read your novel. Or anything you write.
10. Whodun McIt: Your novel has a murder mystery solved by an ex-cop, ex-therapist or ex-Fed detective with a dangerous but heart-of-gold sidekick who is beaten up or killed; the villain will either be a beautiful dame, a fat man or a good friend of the detective.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
We are happy against the ground
All sinning within the mist
You breathe wanting delusions under the sky
God! The lust is over
Strangely damp above the sky
I taste arid tomb stones among the land
Word! The life is hard
We are happy against the ground
You bend red bones on the virgin
Awaken! The vision keeps going
unafraid fighting back
the next life waiting
At how many harbours
look for landmarks
and find road-signs.
If you scroll down to the bottom, you'll find links to other interesting writing gizmos on the site, like the Magnetic Poetry Kits you can play with online (the ee cummings one is neat) and the Text Collage Generator (which seemed to be collaging only four emotions -- happy, depressed, angry and calm -- while I fiddled with it.)
All I want to know is, if the lust is over, then why are we happy against the ground? Is it covered in M&Ms?
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
1. Characters: Novel I: Imagine -- my post about the three questions I use to create characters and conflicts; Holly Lisle's article How to Create a Character; and Kleimo's Random Name Generator, aka my favorite character name generator on the web.
2. Dialogue: Peder Hill's article on writing effective dialogue; Holly Lisle's Dialogue Workshop; John and Marcia tackle the problems with overly-polite dialogue in my post Protagonism.
3. Linkage: Freeware & Online Tools for Writers -- my lengthy link list of freeware, shareware and online tools; Margaret Fisk's massive and enormously helpful library of writing links; and Seventh Sanctum, my favorite online generator/writing tool site.
4. Miscellaneous: generate your own languages and a lot more with the scripts over at Chris Pound's Language Machines; break a writing block with The Bonsai Story Generator; get free writing software designed by a writer (science fiction author Simon Haynes) over at Spacejock Software; and for those moments when you've got a concept but no word for it, stop by Onelook's Reverse Dictionary.
5. Notebook: Another ten list for the Writer's Notebook; also my own Revised Novel Notebook -- a how-to project that still needs some revising and refinement, but that has my plot templates, character worksheets, example synopses, etc. To download directly in .pdf format, click here.
6. Outlining: Novel Outlining 101 -- a simple method I use to create a novel outline by timelining events as they will happen in the story.
7. Plotting: my virtual workshop Plotting with Purpose also has some links to other online articles, workshops and so forth on plotting; this ten list has plotting links and freeware.
8. Scenes: Scenes: The Building Blocks of Novels by Kim Kay; my post Scene Building 101 on how I compose novel scenes.
9. Setting: My post about online generators for Place Names; my post World Check on worldbuilding and how much I do.
10. Writing Inspiration: my post Courage; Creativity Portal's page of writing prompts.
Friday, November 09, 2007
One odd thing happened at the house -- something moved into the birdhouse and chewed away the side of the entrance to make it larger. From the soccerball-style nest it's built inside, I'm going to guess squirrel, but experience has taught me never to assume anything. I'll try to catch the new tenant on film this weekend.
I'd like to hear what you all have been up to lately. Writers, I know some of you are working into the second week of NaNoWriMo, how's that going? Authors, do you have any new or upcoming releases? Readers, what books are you enjoying? Let us know in comments.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Senior Editor Agatha Hartlace put her mah-jongg game on pause and finished crunching a mouthful of Skittles before she replied with, "Does he have an appointment, Jennifer?"
"No, ma'am, but--"
This is what she got for controlling her department overhead with dregs from the intern pool. "Is he John Grisham?"
"No ma'am but his business card says that he's T.V. Smythe senior vice president of the legal division of a company called VLAD." Jenny finally ran out of breath.
Agatha had never heard of VLAD, but boutique book packagers had been flooding the market lately. "All right, send him in." Her elbow bumped the half-empty bag of Skittles, spilling candy on the floor around her chair. As she bent over to grab a handful before the ten-second rule expired, she did not see the cloud of white smoke seep in under the door, or how it solidifed into a person.
"Ms. Hartlace?" a pleasant voice asked.
Agatha peeked over the edge of her desk at a tall, dark handsome man in an immaculate suit. Probably gay. "Yeah?"
"T.V. Smythe, here on behalf of VLAD." He set down his briefcase and offered her a black business card.
Agatha squinted at the blood-red printing. "'Vampire Lobby for Accurate Depictions?'"
"Exactly." Smythe displayed beautifully capped if somewhat pointed teeth as he sat down and opened his briefcase. "There are a large number of titles your imprint has published that have my organization deeply concerned."
Agatha frowned. "Are you that fundamentalist coalition that convinced Wal-Mart to put the modesty wrappers on romance novels?"
"That would be VAPID -- Virginal Angry Prudes In Denial," Smythe said. "VLAD is an organization devoted to realistic fictional portrayals of the hemoglobinally-challenged."
"I see." No, she didn't, but it was almost lunch time, and she sucked at mah-jongg anyway. "So what can I do for VLAD, Mr. Smythe?"
He put on some reading glasses and took out a list. "To begin with, we ask that you cease and desist depicting vampires in fiction as cursed, evil, undead, demonic, subhuman, lustful, anti-mortal, greedy, monstrous and unkind."
"I assure you, we are quite determined to set the record straight." He smiled politely. "Knowing someone is unable to digest solid food does not justify the use of such terms or labels. Also, your assumptions about how vampires feed are simply ridiculous. If I may cite from a recent publication?" When she nodded, Smythe removed a book from his briefcase, opened it to a bookmarked passage, and began to read. "Abernathy drove his razor-sharp fangs into Monique's throat, avariciously swallowing her life blood while she went limp. He lifted his head to kiss her with his blood-stained lips, and the twin scarlet pinholes in the alabaster flesh of her neck disappeared."
"That's The Vampire Who Bled Me," Agatha said, her eyelids drooping as she tried not to yawn. "One of our most popular titles."
"It's utter tripe," Smythe told her. "First, vampire fangs are not razor-sharp. Razors are razor-sharp. And then there are these pin hole-size wounds -- either this chap Abernathy has needles for teeth, or he missed when he tried to bite her. In either case, he wouldn't be swallowing anything from wounds of that size. No room for anything to come out, you see. As for the blood-stained lips, well, would you kiss a boyfriend with cheeseburger smeared all over your mouth?"
Agatha's eyes had glazed over at razor-sharp. "I'll send a note to the author."
"Would you tuck this list of additional complaints in the envelope?" Smythe offered her a copy of his list. "Also, please let your writers know that sunlight doesn't turn vampires to ash, we never sleep in coffins except at the occasional Halloween party when someone over-indulges, and we're actually very fond of garlic."
The guy thought he was a vampire. Great. "Anything else?"
He thought for a minute. "None of us speak a word of French, we never date humans, and we never turn you into vampires. Not that you aren't an attractive species, of course, but unless you're a hemophiliac, well . . . ." he made a helpless gesture. "To be brutally honest, it's your odor. You remind us of four-day-old tuna casserole. And it gets worse when you become immortal. Have you ever smelled food left in a refrigerator with the power turned off for three weeks?"
"No, but I'm sure one of my authors has." Agatha stood. "I hate to cut this short, Mr. Smythe, but I have a production meeting to attend." She held out her hand. "Nice meeting you."
Smythe took her hand in his, and fixed his dark, mesmerizing gaze on her face. "You will depict vampires in your books accurately in the future, Ms. Hartlace. You cannot resist. My blood calls to yours, and yours wishes to obey."
Agatha nodded slowly, and then watched as Smythe turned into a plume of white smoke that slowly drifted under the door crack until it was gone.
Jenny rushed into the office a moment later. "Ms. Hartlace, are you all right? Did he hurt you?"
"I'm fine, and no, he didn't." She glowered at her assistant. "What did I tell you that you have to have when you become an editor?"
"A better intern pool?"
"Ice water for blood." Agatha thumbed through her rolodex. "Where's that number for Van Helsing Publicity and Marketing?"
(dedicated to Tom, who recovered this from the lost archives.)
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
However, if I don't come up with a resounding title, I'll get stuck with something they think will sell more books, like Brother Hood. Since I really don't want my head to explode, maybe I should title it:
A. Rob Forever -- that's my working title. I originally saw it in a heart tattoo on a girl's shoulder at a RenFaire. I like the play on words: Rob as a noun, Rob as a verb. And the internal editor likes it, kinda sorta, except like always she thinks I can do better.
B. Enemy, Beloved -- words from a line in a great Emily Dickinson poem. I can already hear New York whining about the comma and how it doesn't sound paranormal enough, etc.
C. Prince of Outlaws -- hasn't been used for a vamp story, probably because it sounds like a western romance title.
C1. Same goes for Prince of Renegades.
C2. Would be cool to write Robin of Locksley in like a Silverado setting, though.
C3. "Take it from the rich ranchers, give it to the poor settlers, and bite a few saloon gals along the way. Yee-haw."
C4. And then we could like totally stage a Wild West Vampire Show at RT!
C5. All right, that was mean.
D. Thieves Magic -- has that whole apostrophe issue. Is it possessive? Is it like that thing you put a quarter in at cheap hotels and it shakes the bed? One S? Two S's? What?
E. Robin -- it seems presumptuous to use the one-word one-name title. I feel like Patricia Cornwell should write it instead of me, with a subtitle line of Case Closed.
F. Everlasting -- sounds too much like Evermore and then I think of that totally annoying Drew Barrymore film with the Picasso ball costume and they tear her wings off and hey, who wrote that screenplay? I still want to kick the guy.
G. Dark Thief -- there's an obituary title (i.e., over my dead body.)
H. She Came Back To The Blog Too Soon
J. Plague of Titles -- I wish.
K. Lady Rothchilds's Naughty Satin and Eyelet Lace Garter Belt, or How I Assume That This Long-Ass and Completely Irrelevant Title Will Make You Believe That I'm Artistic, Clever And Important -- too subtle.
L. My Author Has Title Block -- I could at least get the sympathy market with that one.
M. Stay the Night -- title of a lovely old Chicago song that sooooooo dates me.
N. Geez. This is hard. I should let them title it.
N1. I should clean out my ears with knitting needles, too.
O. Stealing Eternity -- a longer version of Rob Forever. Maybe a little shorter . . . Stolen Eternity. Steal Eternity. Steal Anything. Steal a Title, for God's Sake.
P. My Author Has Title Issues, but She's Working on Them.
Q. Stick with Rob Forever for now and stop obsessing before the facial twitch becomes permanent.
What do you guys think?
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I know you all were worried, but it really was a good thing I stayed away. As an author who keeps an industry blog, I know I shouldn't post anything when all my ideas either start or end with suggestions on how, precisely, that Publishing should have intercourse with itself. And pretty much? That's all I had to offer.
Plus it's NaNoWriMo, my favorite writing month of the year, and hell if I'm going to rain on their parade. Welcome to all the NaNo'ers who might stop by here. I'll try to put together some posts and links that are useful for you folks.
A few series updates: both Omega Games (StarDoc book #8) and Twilight Fall (Darkyn book #6) are finished and in the hands of their respective editors. I'm not sure of release dates yet. Evermore (Darkyn book #5) according to my publisher will be a Rhapsody Book Club selection (mailing 1/7), a Doubleday Book Club selection (mailing 1/17), and a Science Fiction Book Club selection (mailing 2/15). I'm putting together a proposal for Darkyn book #7, and if all goes well it will be Robin's story.
My thanks to everyone who e-mailed, prayed, wrote poems, worried and kept stopping in to check on me and see if I was coming back. You are the reason that I did.
Monday, November 05, 2007
"Did you try reading the Keats poem?" Duncan Reever asked. "The one she wants to tattoo on her hip?"
The Hsktskt nodded. "No change. She did not even tell me what I could do with it."
Juliana flopped down on the couch besides Shamaras. "Say bye-bye to story two and three."
Shamaras sighed. "Goodbye, trilogy, hello, idea file."
"Hey." Cherijo looked up from the datapad she was studying. "You're not even a novel. Wait until you appear in eight pubbed books before you bitch about her."
"Well, we can't let her stay locked in there forever." Marcia turned to John and thumped him on the arm. "Do something."
"Darling, we're simply bad examples," John reminded her. "All I can do is demonstrate for the others what not to do. Like this." John took out a grenade, pulled the pin and threw it at the locked door. Being a fictional grenade, it fell to the floor and rolled around a bit. One of the cats wandered over and sniffed it before casually batting it with a paw.
"Get out of my way," Lucan, Darkyn lord paramount and suzerain of the jardin she had still not named (much to his annoyance), said as he stripped off his black velvet gloves. "I will deal with this."
"If you harm her, vampire," TssVar said, gesturing to a dozen large, unhappy-looking blue-skinned humanoids, "I will throw you to the Jorenians."
"Wrong genre, lizard." Lucan strode down the hall and lifted his hand to hammer on the door. At the last moment, he gently rested his palm against it. "Sweetheart, it's me. It's time to come out of there now."
There was no response, except for the sound of slow tapping on a keyboard.
"I can listen no longer in silence," he continued. "I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach." He paused. "You pierce my soul."
The door opened, and belligerent eyes glared through a mop of silver hair at him. "You're plagiarizing Jane Austen."
Lucan smiled. "I could have amazing sex with Samantha instead. We are making that delightful cameo in Juliana's second story--" he caught the edge of the door as she tried to slam it in his face. "Darling, please. You know that I adore you almost as much as Samantha, but this eternal sulking has to stop."
"I'm not sulking." She pushed away his hand and eyed him. "I'm depressed."
"There's a difference?" He winced as the door slammed shut. "You missed Halloween, you know. It's NaNoWriMo, and all those poor first-time novelists are desperately in need of your wisdom. Selah is worried. So are Kate and Joely and all your friends." He punched the door, wishing he could shatter wood as easily as he did glass. "Damn it, woman, there are thirty-eight comments waiting to be moderated."
The only sound that came from the room inside was the slow tapping of the keyboard.
Lucan pressed his forehead against the door. "Come on, love. I know better than any of them what you're going through. My last dive into the abyss lasted two hundred years, not that I'm suggesting you do the same. Let us help." He looked over as Quadrant Intelligence officer Shon Valtas joined him. "We'll write the first blog post for you, won't we, wolf-boy?"
"We will, Lynn," Shon said, before baring his teeth at Lucan. "Don't call me wolf-boy, fang-face."
"And we'll make TssVar moderate the comments," Lucan added.
The door opened a crack. "They're going to want to know why I was gone for so long."
A blade dancer in full dimsilk appeared and tugged down her face mask before she leaned against the door frame. "So let them ask me," Jory said.
"All right." The door opened. "I'm back."