I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Friday, December 31, 2010

It's Just Another New Year's Eve

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Here's what I'll be listening to when the clock strikes midnight.  My own little tradition over the decades.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recharging the Imagination, Part 2

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Back on February 1st, I did a little post on Recharging the Imagination.  Unfortunately, Monday's meltdown would not be solved by a quick Tullycraft fix.

I'm blessed to have good people in my life who can bluntly say, "Step away from the manuscript!"

So yesterday, between cleaning bathrooms and the Day Job, I watched The Craft and Speed.  Both movies have their flaws, but they're stories I love to watch over and over again.

Today started with thunderstorms.  (I swear--Houston cannot just have rain.  This city manages to turn any weather into an event.)  Since it's my day off from the Day Job, I'm going to curl up on the couch with a cup of green tea and finish Storm Front.  (Insert 'Baaaaa!' here for the sheep joke.)  Then tonight, I'm going to be totally lazy and order pizza.

I won't look at the current wip until Friday when I have my rare three-day weekend.  Think that will give the gray matter enough rest?

What do y'all do to recharge?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Over My Head

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Somehow, somewhere, I lost my fabled kernel of arrogance.  I don't know if I lost it down the drain when I showered, if it rolled under the couch, or if Wonder Dog buried it in the back yard.

The current wip just isn't congealing, and now I'm doubting my own abilities.  My poor crit group had to deal with my online mental breakdown last night.  For that, I'm truly sorry, ladies.

This is probably one of the suckiest things about writing.  The more you learn, the more you realize you don't have a fucking clue.  And with this wip, I'm definitely stretching myself.

When I've gotten stuck in the past, I've cleaned.  Or killed somebody.  Usually, a break-through happens while I'm scrubbing the toilets or taking a brush to the grout.  Or bleaching blood off the linoleum.

Time to go whiten the bathroom!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Times They are A-Changin'

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

I dumped today's original blog post in favor of a link to this story in the L.A. Times Business section from yesterday.  (Thanks to fellow RWA chapter member Chuck Emerson for bringing it to my attention.)

Surprisingly, instead of a "OMG, the sky is falling" piece, it's a decent analysis of where the publishing business is headed.  The e-readers are picking up steam as the latest must-have electronic gadget.  Heck, even my boss at the Day Job got a Nook for Christmas.  (And yes, I'm envious.  *sigh*)  The rapid changes are even making me rethink my five-year-business plan and my ultimate goal.

I spent yesterday evening (since the Eagles' game is delayed until Tuesday) after work reviewing the criteria for uploading a manuscript to Amazon.  Pretty effing simple even with my rudimentary HTML skills.  I know a graphic artist I would LOVE to hire as a cover artist.  That only leaves constructing a dedicated website (on my list of to-do things for 2011 anyway) and hiring a decent freelance editor.

Before I do anything, I must have a long, sit-down talk with my business partner, i.e. DH.  Becoming my own publisher will impact the family.  But the prospects are so damn exciting!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boom Boom Ba

Ever had one of those songs just adhere itself to a few neurons and not let go.  One of my favorite series, Dead Like Me, used this one in several episodes.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Making the Earth Safe for All Children

For those of you with tots, here's the link to the NORAD Santa Tracker Homepage.  From there, pick your language and enter the website.  Nice to know how the Defense Department spends our tax dollars, right?  Just joking.  The military and civilian personnel at the North American Aerospace Defense Command graciously volunteer their time every year on this project.

For my Russian readers (And there seems to be a lot of you.  Thank you for checking out my blog!), sorry, there's no Russian language option.  My guess is some clerk in the Pentagon still has a stick up his butt about the Cold War.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Zombie Quiz

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

A good friend has just revealed she's in her first trimester.  Is it too tacky to buy a onsie that says "Zombie Snack" for her baby?

Seriously, I need some opinions, folks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can Somebody Remove My Amygdala Please?

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Within the last week, the subject of fear has come up on my life.  A lot.

During my brainstorming lunch with Classy Christie Craig last Wednesday, I admitted that part of my problem with my current wip was my own fear.  For some reason, I've invested too much of myself in this project, and I'm scared it won't be perfect, won't meet the picture I envision in my mind, won't be accepted by the people I present it to.

Over the weekend, I read an article on the Forbes website about a woman whose amygdala was destroyed by disease.  Since the amygdala is the part of the brain that triggers fear, she has no experience with fright.  Unfortunately, as a result, she gets herself into situations most of us would avoid.  Dangerous situations.  Like guns and knives dangerous.  But scientists hope that by learning more about this woman, they will develop techniques and drugs to help people whose amygdalas are in overdrive, people that have anxiety disorders and PTSD.

Then today, when I picked up the latest copy of Witches & Pagans, publisher Anne Newkirk Niven's editorial concerning subtle effects of cultural fear hit me in the gut.  As Ms. Niven wrote, the "battle for Pagan civil rights begins at home."

We writers fear rejection.  Like the folks with PTSD, our amygdala goes into overdrive over a perceived threat to, not our physical well-being, but to the well-being of our all-too-fragile egos.  And to paraphrase Ms. Niven, the battle for validation of our work begins at home.  We must see ourselves as worthy of publication in order for it to happen.

As my mentor Colleen Thompson has repeatedly said, every writer needs a kernel of arrogance to make it in the publishing business.  And it's that kernel of arrogance that will cut the engines of our amygdalas back down to idle and allow us to write and submit our work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Yule!

Currently re-reading Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Today's Yule, aka the Winter Solstice, aka the first day of winter.

Was anyone able to see the lunar eclipse early this morning?  Normally, our backyard would have afforded a perfect view (North America had prime seats), but the #*$@ Houston cloud cover didn't cooperate. 

Wonder Dog and I checked several times between 1:30 AM and 2:35 AM.  Nope, nothing but city light pollution reflected off low, scudding cumuli. *sigh*  We finally gave up and crawled into our respective beds.

It's not often I wish for a cold front.  But if the last line of winter storms had drifted farther south than Huntsville on Sunday, last night would have had crystal clear skies.  Gotta love the funky orange color reflected light from Earth gives our favorite satellite.

Granted the coldest weather here in North America is yet to come, but on the plus side, our days will start getting longer again.  Enjoy the Yule spirit!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Big Thank You!

This is a HUGE shout-out to Angela Ross, Jill James, and Savannah Rose for recommending my blog.  Word-of-mouth does a lot for a writer, and I'm very thankful these ladies have found me interesting and/or entertaining enough to say something about Wild, Wicked & Wacky over the last few weeks.

Thanks bunches, ladies!  It's the best Solstice present a girl can get!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Express Yourself

Along the same lines of yesterday's post, here's a little song I listen to when those self-doubts creep in.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Just Say No

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jum Butcher

One thing that sucks about American culture is we raise our women to be people-pleasers, regardless of the cost to themselves.  I see this with actresses like Winona Ryder, who got hooked on uppers trying to keep up with demands.  I see this with customers when I ask if they have our store's frequent buyer card.  The customer then comes up with some convoluted story about how they used to have one, blah, blah, blah, in a weird attempt to spare my feelings when a simple "No" would suffice.

Folks, and especially the ladies reading this, it's perfectly okay to say, "No."  Tap into your inner two-year-old and practice.  "No."

"No, no, no!"

See?  Wasn't that easy?

So what does this have to do with writing?  You need to know when and how to say "No," to certain projects.

Take a writer named "Mildred" for example.  (Yes, names have been changed.)

Shortly after Mildred received her first book-deal, an editor from a small press called her.  The editor wanted Mildred to write a short story for an anthology she was putting together for charity.  The theme of the anthology was a cause near-and-dear to Mildred's heart, so her first inclination was to say yes.  Furthermore, the editor kept pressing how this would be terrific exposure for Mildred since she was such a new writer.

Luckily, Mildred said, "Let me talk to my agent."  Mildred's agent works in the vicinity of a major east coast city where "No" was generally replaced with "Fuck off!"  The agent had no problem getting to the nitty-gritty of the details of the deal which were:

a) No advance.  Not even a token $1.

b) No royalties.  Not even a token $0.01 per copy.

c) No flat fee.

The agent told Mildred (as gently as a New York agent can tell a client), "Honey, you told me your goal was to write for X Publishing House and to make Y money.  How the hell can I help you do that when you're giving your shit away for free to some pissant house no one's ever heard of?"

"But this is for charity!" Mildred wailed.

Agent sighed deeply.  "Wouldn't you be able to donate a lot more yourself if we sell your next project instead of screwing around with a freebie?"

So despite the tears and the anger at her agent, Mildred realized she was right.  Mildred gave the editor a polite, "No, thank you.  I must decline."  The editor then screamed invectives over the phone with dire predictions of Mildred's career tanking.  Mildred repeated herself with an extra helping of polite and hung up the phone.

These are the types of decisions we must all make as writers.  Not every decision we make may be the right one, but that's the chance we take.  And we definitely need to keep our eyes focused on our goals, or we will never reach them.  That sometimes means saying, "No."

So what happened with Mildred you ask?  She's still writing away years later.  She still has the same agent, though Mildred's learned to say "No" occasionally to her as well.  Her latest advance check had a lot of zeros after the five.  Her favorite charity is ecstatic when they receive her donations, also with lots of zeros.

The editor who called Mildred names even I won't repeat?  She lost her job when the small press closed six months after she threatened Mildred for saying "No."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Advice From a Contest Judge, Part 2

Currently re-reading - Storm Front by Jim Butcher  (Nothing like curling up on the loveseat with a blankie, hot tea, and a favorite book!)

When I volunteer to judge an RWA contest, it's usually paranormal, the area I know the best.  But lately, there's been  a rash of. . .  Well, I can't call them mistakes.  More like adherence to what's selling in the market.  Here's the problem--you've got to stand out from what's currently selling and you've got to do it well.

Five common things I've seen this year:

1) Vampires

Let's set the record straight--I LOVE VAMPIRES!  But even I get bored when it's the same ancient warrior/innocent virgin BS over and over and over.  No wonder agents and editors are bitching if they constantly see variations of the same thing.  If you're writing a vampire story, how are you making it different from Twilight, Dark-Hunters, Love at Stake series?

2) The Chosen One/Special Child/Annointed Hero

There's a reason Hermione whacked Harry with a book when he said, "I am the Chosen One," during Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  This story is as old as Horus seeking revenge on Set for stealing the throne of Egypt.  Except most of us can't write it with J. K. Rowling's charm.   Try the story from a different angle like Jim Butcher did.  His Harry is your average wizard.  He just happens to advertise in Chicago's Yellow Pages.

3) World Building in Classic Fantasy

Great world building seems so simple, doesn't it?  J.R.R.Tolkien made us believe the Shire really existed.  How?  He took a realistic rural England and populated with small people who didn't wear shoes.  That little twist drew readers into The Fellowship of the Ring.  The really spectacular stuff comes much later in the book.  Too many new writers throw too much, too fast at the reader, leaving them very confused.  A confused reader will lay your book down and move on to something else.  Repeat after me--"This is not a good thing."

4) Names

Can you pronounce your heroine's name without spraining your tongue?  Can your reader pronounce it without a glossary appendix attached to your book?  Was your hero's name in common usage when he was born/hatched?  Seriously, folks, there's nothing wrong with naming your vampire Bill.  Go ask Charlaine Harris.

5) Explore Other Cultures

As a former English colony, our culture has a tendency to repeat the myths of the British Isles ad nauseum.  But let's face it, not all of us trace our ancestry to just one country.  Talk to the older members of your family.  Were there stories passed down?  What about family that immigrated from Asia or Africa?  Polynesia or Australia?

Someone once said, "It's not your first idea that's unique.  Or the second.  Or third.  It's generally about the twentieth when you stop writing what everyone else is."**

So keep twisting that idea until something really cool is squeezed out of your brain.




**(And I can't place the quote, so if any one knows, please leave the source in Comments.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Headaches, Brainstorms & BIC

Currently reading - Poison Kisses by Stephanie Draven

I was MIA from the blog yesterday due to a lovely combination of exhaustion from working six days straight and weather headaches.  When the barometer jumps around like it does here in Houston, the pressure change sets off sinus headaches that rival migraines.  Not fun.  It's a wonder I don't have liver damage from the constant popping of acetaminophen the last couple of weeks.

My condition was marginally better than Classy Christie Craig's.  We'd planned to meet for a brainstorming session, but the poor girl broke a tooth Tuesday and had a grand old time at the dentist.  As she put it, she still suffered from an anesthetic hangover.

Despite our less-than-spectacular conditions, we met for Mexican and plot hashing.  Two hours later, we'd figured out my hero's inner conflict and layed out the mystery framework of Christie's wip.  The best part  is we both felt a lot better as we walked into the parking lot.

So when someone tells you that you have to work through the tough parts, it's not just a line of bullshit.  Keep your butt in the chair.  If you're still having trouble, switch to another chair.  And sometimes it helps to have someone in the chair on the other side of the table.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crazy Christian Season

Currently reading - Poison Kisses by Stephanie Draven

Yeah, I know the title isn't very PC.  But what else do you call it when 'Joy to the World' and 'Good Will To Men' go out the effing window this time of year?

The reason I'm in such a pissy mood?

"I'm really sorry I had to put you on hold when you called the store the Saturday before Christmas, but this is Texas, and I'm pretty sure at least three men and possibly two women out of the fifty people in line are carrying guns.  I choose my life over finding your precious little ornament.

"Speaking of ornaments, you're one of our gold freaking card members.  You've known since JULY that we've got the Selket-damned ornaments in the store.  It's not my fault you waited until ten days before Christmas Eve to try to buy them.  And it's also not my fault we sold out of the ornament you really wanted for favorite niece IN OCTOBER!

"No, ma'am, I cannot process a return for an ornament dated 1990.  See, the date's written right here?  Yes, I do understand your mother-in-law just gave it to you yesterday.  I still can't take it back.  Actually, I go by Ms. Bitch."

*sigh*

This is the only time I really hate the Day Job.  On the bright side, I haven't had to call mall security to break up a fist fight between customers this year.

At least, not yet.  There's still eleven shopping days to go.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Kid Ratted Me Out

Currently reading - Poison Kisses by Stephanie Draven

There's not too many people in my life who know I'm actively pursuing a writing career.  DH and GK know, of course, along with my writing groups and a handful of close friends outside of the publishing industry.

Right before the boys left for the In-Laws, DH asked if he could tell his parents.  I said no.  What followed was a quasi-argument/discussion on why I don't want people to know yet versus DH's pride that I'm pursuing my dream.

Why don't I want others outside of my immediate circle to know about my writing before I'm ready?

First of all, support is key.  Fiction writing isn't an easy field to break into--I'm under no illusions on that score.  But I have the backing of the handful of non-writing folks who know.  These are the folks that simply ask: "How's your progress on your latest wip? Have you heard back from that editor who requested your zombie romance?  If you need another beta reader, I volunteer!"

On the other side of the spectrum are the folks who pooh-pooh you as not a "real" writer if you don't beat Stephen King on the NYT List.  And it's not that I think MIL and FIL are in this group, but they will mention my writing pursuit to the rest of the family.  And I KNOW the SILs are in this category, and frankly, I don't need their negativity in my life right now.

So once we hashed out my reasoning, DH acceeded to my wishes.

But the first night in Ohio, DH managed to sidestep the question of "What's new with Suzan?" at dinner, only to have GK blurt out, "Mom's working on a new book.  It probably has zombies in it.  She's really into zombies."

For the record--no, the current wip does not have any zombies.

Demon possession, yes.  But no zombies.

So how do y'all handle the confession to the family?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

One of the Best Holiday Movies Ever. . .

My third favorite holiday movie next to It's a Wonderful Life and Lethal Weapon is Elf.  (Guess which movie is usually playing when I make sugar cookies?)

I couldn't embed the scene, but it shows off Zoe Deschanel and Will Ferrell's chemistry in the movie.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Miss Piggy Strikes Again

Why haven't any of the male guests of The Muppet Show filed a sexual harassment complaint against Miss Piggy?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Difference Between Lonely and Alone

Currently reading - Poison Kisses by Stephanie Draven

Since the boys left for the snowy North, I've been beseiged with offers for company.  Apparently my friends and neighbors feel I will wither and die without companionship.  Make that human companionship.  Wonder Dog rarely let's me out of his sight with the other male members of the pack currrently absent.

My house is quiet for the first time in years, and I thoroughly enjoy the lack of extraneous noise.  The blasts and booms of the Xbox, the constant ringing of DH's business line, the whining over schoolwork.  Nope, don't miss the noise at all.

Here's the thing--I like being alone.  I can live quietly in my own mind.  I think most writers can.  It's the rest of the world that can't.  They believe lack of noise means lack of existence.

I believe the opposite.  I'm most lonely when I'm in a room full of people.  Too many people with too many agendas, and if they can't use me to fulfill their agendas, then I don't exist to them.

So I'll putter in my house with my projects, living grand adventures and passionate romances in my head before committing them to the computer screen.  After I feed Wonder Dog.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Character Growth

Currently reading - Poison Kisses by Stephanie Draven

I have the house to myself for the month of December.  Well, except for Wonder Dog, the only male member who did not head to Nana and Papa's for the holidays.  Since I don't have either a ten-year-old or a husband's uncomfortable laughter to deal with, I've been enjoying a Sex and the City marathon.

Viewing all six seasons back-to-back, I can revel in the memories and the humor.  But what I loved most about these stories was never the dating fiascos or sex-capades.  It was watching the girls grow, and grow up, leaving behind their preconceived notions of Mr. Right.

Instead of the perfect WASP marriage with children, Charlotte found her bald Jewish attorney with puppies.  Miranda finally admitted she was passionately in love, not with a high-powered business man or a celebrity doctor, but with Steve, the nerdy, sweet bartender.  Samantha discovered her soul mate in Smith, her waiter/model/actor boytfriend who taught the really sick pleasure of. . .just holding hands.

And then there was Carrie and Big.

Maybe that's why I wasn't as pleased by the girls' first theatrical movie and haven't bothered to watch the second one.  It seemed like all four took major steps backwards in their character growth.

And that's the important thing in your stories as well.  Your characters need to be moving forward.  Without progress, all you have left is rehash after rehash of scenes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When an Idea Just Won't Go Away

Currently reading - Poisoned Kisses by Stephanie Draven

What does a writer do when an idea refuses to let go of the brain?  I understand not all stories are meant to be written.  There's enough detrius in my wake to show that not every germ of a plot can make a satisfying read.

There's the sweet erotica.  (Yeah, I'm not sure how that happened either).  There's the amnesiac heiress and the poor, but sexy, artist that rescues her from a boating accident.  (Can you say '70's soap plot?  Really bad '70's soap plot?)  There's the veteran helicopter pilot faced with her ex and his love child in Hawaii.  (After watching the first eleven episodes of the new Hawaii 5-O, I may dig that one out from under the bed.  *grin*)

But lately, there's this particular idea that just will not release its clutches on my gray matter.  I've made two starts on the novel.  One made it to sixty pages.  The second made it to one hundred.  I'm not happy with either version, so I laid aside all writing for the last three weeks trying to give the conscious mind a rest.  Well, all writing except for the blog.

Maybe the rest will do my creative side some good.  And maybe, just maybe, when I sit down to work on this idea the third time will be the charm, and not a strike.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When Fear Rules

Currently reading - Poisoned Kisses by Stephanie Draven

Skip on over and read Bruce Schneier's blog on terrorism and security.  I'll wait.
...

I agree with Bruce.  In my opinion, the terrorists have already won.  They've forced us to do things that are totally against our ideals.

So what does this have to do with writing?

We let other people's fears affect us.  "What makes you think you can write?"  "Do you know what the odds are of actually getting published?"  "Why are you wasting your time with that bullshit?  Get a real job!"

It takes a lot of courage to write down your ideas.  It takes even more courage to let other people read your words.  And you don't have to worry about swinging from the end of a rope for your writing like Thomas Jefferson did.  Remember that little thing he wrote?  The Declaration of Independence?

My greatest worry in today's current atmosphere of fear is that I will have to be concerned about the hangman's noose.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not to Leave Out Those Who Celebrate Hanukkah. . .

Yes, I do have a weird thing for Adam Sandler and his singing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Little Caribbean Holiday Music

Just don't tell Miss Piggy what's in real fig pudding. . .

Saturday, December 4, 2010

May John Denver and Jim Henson Rest in Peace

I still play this tape/CD/MP3 every holiday season.  Of course, Miss Piggy gets the five gold rings.  How could it happen otherwise?

Friday, December 3, 2010

The American Taliban

The United States was founded by a bunch of radical young men and woman (and Ben Franklin, an ornery old coot) over two hundred years ago.  They proposed some concepts that, if they'd lost the Revolutionary War, would have resulted  in them swinging from trees.  Ideas like democracy, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.

But today, there's folks who want to go back to Medieval times.  Several extremist Christian movements want to turn back the clock to when women are the property of their fathers or husbands and should not be educated.

Excuse me?  How is that any different than what the Taliban does in Afghanistan?  Where women are raped, tortured and killed for daring to open and read the Koran, much less the latest Nora Roberts?

This kind of stuff scares me more than fighting the actual denizens of Hell.


*** Thanks to Tobias Buckell for the link.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ignorance

Sophie Jordan (Firelight) mentioned this video courtesy of dwkazzie. I laughed so hard both DH and the Wonder Beagle gave me funny looks.

The really sad thing is I've been on both sides of some version of this conversation.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Advice from a Contest Judge

I've judged RWA contests for the last four years.  I see writers making the same mistakes over and over again.  And I often wince because I made the same ones.
So how can you increase your chances of getting a high score and subsequently the attention of an agent or editor?  Avoid these five common problems.

1)  Drop the tropes.  They're tropes for a reason; people are writing the same thing over and over.  Figure out a twist to the old trick.  Anne McCaffrey made her dragons the good guys.  Joss Whedon made his blonde cheerleader the one the monsters fear.  Stephenie Myer made her vampires sparkle.

2)  Infuse your story with your voice.  Voice is a reflection of your passion for the tale you're telling.  I can tell when you've committee'd your manuscript to death.  It's got to have a spark of life or it's boring as hell.

3)  Have someone proofread your manuscript before you send it in.  Otherwise, you may have your teen heroine pick up her boobs from the table and head for school.

4)  Watch out for point-of-view problems.  Your POV character cannot know anything that his/her normal five sense or special abilities haven't detected.  EXAMPLE:  The hero saw the bad guy on the other side of the door.  But the door is closed , there's no peephole, and the hero doesn't have x-ray vision.

5)  Read your dialogue aloud, have a friend read it, or download and use a text-to-speech program.  Do the words sound like a real person talking?

Anybody else have some tips they want to offer?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Was Your Cyber Monday?

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

First of all, yes, I know I'm taking a unusual amount of time to finish Saintcrow's latest.  Assuming I sleep, teach, and work, I'm usually done in thirty-six hours.

DH is bugging me since he graciously allowed first dibs, but now he wants to read it, dammit!  This is not a slam on Lilith.  Unfornutantely, my only fun reading time has been during my fifteen-minute break at work.  (We're not counting the two flat-on-my-ass sick days last week.)  So I'll have to finish it tomorrow because I've got a crit partner's proposal to review.

In the meantime. . .

I had to get holiday shopping done, and frankly I love doing it online!  No people, no parking, no poopy attitudes.  Just me, Isabella, and the credit card.  Of course, the one absolute, must-have for the youngest niece-who-must-be-corrupted was Computer Engineer Barbie.  And she's freakin' back-ordered!

WTF?  Are there that many Barbie geeks in the world?

Anybody else get their shopping done online yesterday?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Not the Holiday Season Until. . . Part 2

Still one of my favorite songs EVAH!

(And this guy had wa-a-ay too much time on his hands!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Currently Reading - Wonder Woman comics

There was a time when I loved Black Friday.  My sister and I would be up at 6AM, pick up our grandmother and head into town.  Of course, this was back in the day when a store opening at 7AM was highly unusual.  We'd get a majority of our holiday shopping done, then head to Bob Evans for breakfast.  (Which by the way, still serves cornmeal mush.  I love Bob's!)

This morning, you can't pay me enough to go out shopping, even if I wasn't coughing up a lung.  What started as a fun little tradition has turned into a free-for-all that puts Ultimate Fighting matches to shame.  Last year, a security guard was trampled to death when shoppers stormed the LOCKED DOORS of an East Coast Wal-Mart.  Turns out a riot is stronger than the bolts holding glass doors to a concrete frame.

What is it with the human race?  In the grand scheme of things, does it make a difference if little Johnny is the first kid on the block to get a Wii or whatever is this year's must-have item?

Any of you braving the hordes today?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a terrific Thanksgiving, but please remember TURKEY IS DANGEROUS!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's a Good Thing I'm Not Writing

Currently reading - Random X-Men and Wonder Woman comics

I woke up this morning with the most Goddess-awful head cold.  Thank Djehuti, I'm not doing NaNo.  I'd be lucky to hit one hundred words with the pressure behind my eyes.

What I'm doing instead is bagging and boxing a huge portion of my comic book collection.  There was a time when I'd properly store my comics as soon as I read them.

Then came law school.  I'd read maybe part of my monthly shipment from Mile High Comics.  Then I'd stack them in the office closet with the promise that I'd take care of them during summer break.  Except internships and DH's frequent international travel meant Wonder Woman and her friends stayed in the closet.

Then came the bar exams.  I'd already pre-registered for the Ohio Bar Exam before DH took the job in Texas, so it seemed like a waste of money not to take it along with the Texas Bar Exam.  And yes, I was insane enough to take them both the same year.  Other than walking the dogs and a week in Hawaii, my nose was glued to books and practice exams for months.  And Wolverine and his buds got stacked in the closet without even a passing glance.

Then I got pregnant, literally three days after the Columbus swearing-in ceremony.  Soon after GK was born, I had to admit to myself that I needed cancel my subscription.  I wasn't giving my comics the attention they deserved.  And Batman and his co-horts still sat in the closet by themselves.

But now we're trying to prepare the house for listing.  That means cleaning out the closets.  I'm ashamed that I let my friends languish in the dark.   They brought me so much joy during a very lonely childhood.

So I gently bag each one, reading the occasional book that has a beautiful cover of Storm or Troia.  700 down, another 1000 to go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's the Hardest Part?

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

So what is the hardest thing about writing?

Is it finding the right idea?  Is it the 'butt in chair?'  Is it the editng, the synopsis, the query letter?  What about finding the guts to submit, to make the personal pitch at a conference, to simply press the 'SEND' button?  What about that new proposal to your editor?  Getting swallowed by your promotional plan?  Accepting the critcism and the bad reviews?

The hardest thing is different for everybody.  You've got to tackle the fear that makes that one thing so freaking hard.  It's the only way to succeed.

My hardest thing is dealing with people.  I'd love nothing more than to hide in my office and not deal with the human race for days at a time.  That's the trouble with being an introvert to the Nth degree.  Dealing with people feels like I'm being eaten alive.  And in a way, I am.

But I've got to work on that fear, that energy drain.  Fans expect a lot more out of their favorite authors these days.  And dammit, I want to be someone's favorite author.

Monday, November 22, 2010

And the Point of All This Was . . .

Why am I pointing out music artists I love?  (And that's just a partial list.  Don't forget Sons of Maxwell, Metallica, Queen, Madonna, Beethoven, et. al.)

Because writers need to be reading a little bit of everything.  Don't focus only on the genre you're writing in.  Sample other books.  What elements attract you?  What things drive you crazy?  What disturbs you?  Use your emotions with other works ignite to fuel your creativity.  With the genre-mxing in today's publishing industry, you never know when you might create the hot new subgenre mash-up.

But a caveat--don't fish so broadly your vision becomes blurred.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Latest Obsession

When DH and I took GK to see Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, I couldn't get the tune from the casino scene out of my head. I was suprised to learn this was the infamous Lady Gaga.

(Hey, I work in a mall. The only teen discussions I overheard concerning her didn't involve her music.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I've seen this man in concert five times. Say what you will, but he writes beautiful songs and put on one hell of a show.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Range of Tastes

This weekend I'll give you a taste of the range of my music library. I like what I like, and most people are surprised by the number of different types of songs.

(P.S. Joan Jett is the artist GK downloads the most from my MP3 library. Go figure.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How-To Guide on Social Protesting

Jay Lake posted this article on alternative methods of social protest at his blog, via his friend, scarlettina.

WARNING:  Set aside any liquids well away from mouth or computer before clicking on the link!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fearless Writing v. Political Correctness

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to JENN! of Musetracks and Raven of Raven's Wing.  (Okay, actually I interrupted their conversation.  I was looking for the controls for the overhead fans.  It was freezing in the back of the clubhouse where our writer's group meets.)

JENN! had been asked by a third party of they could reprint one of her blog posts.  She had refused.  Which frankly isn't like JENN! at all because she's one of the most generous people I know.

Then she told me which post had been requested.  It was one she'd written back in April.  The actual post concerned how writers need to write fearlessly.  About how we can't be slaves to other people's opinions.

I totally understod where she was coming from because I'm often criticized for stuff that make other people uncomfortable.  Boys hitting girls (though my girls hit back just as hard), use of four-letter words (well, yeah, that's true), and excessive gore (it's zombies, for crying out loud).

Unfortunately, the comment thread of JENN's post did turn political.  I take part of the blame.  I made a snarky comment about how my sheer existence offends the Republican Party so I don't worry too much about their feelings concerning my writing.  Let's just say the thread got weird from there, so I can see where JENN! doesn't want to let her post take on more of a life than it already has.  In today's climate, intellectual discourse has given way to trollish behavior.

But JENN's inital point is still valid.  A writer needs to write fearlessly.  Sometimes it may result in crap like the pedophile's guide recently pulled from Amazon.  Other times, it may result  in a best seller like The Da Vinci Code.  You never know what's really going to happen with your book.

But I do know one thing as a reader.  I can tell when you're not writing from your gut, and I won't buy your book if you're not.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bob Mayer's Writer Warrior Weekend

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

Wow!  What a weekend!  WHRWA brought Bob Mayer to town for their annual super special day-long program.   If you have the chance to hear Bob, grab it!  His lectures are worth the money.

Using a lot of techniques he learned in special forces training, Bob forces you to take a good hard look at your own soul.  Then he asks some pretty serious questions of why you write and what you expect out of your writing.

Sounds serious, but he does it with such an amusing touch, it's not as painful as it seems.

I wish I had signed up for his intensive Sunday workshop, but I was originally scheduled to work yesterday (though it got changed at the last minute).  Oh well, I'll have to settle with picking my crit buddy Jody's brain later today.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Query Format That Works

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

If you're not getting requests on your queries and you haven't been reading Janet Reid's Query Shark, then get your butt over there.  Now.

I can honestly say I've used used Janet's query format.  It gets the basics down for your story, and from there, you can pretty up your your query and personalize it.

It's like the difference between showing a pig fresh out of the mud and showing a pig that has been bathed and had its hair trimmed.

And yes, I used to show pigs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

In Which I Join the 21st Century

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

Wednesday, I bought my first digital "album," Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster (Deluxe Version) as a reward for completing a novel synopsis.  I'd been eyeing it for a while at a certain department store when DH asked bluntly, "Don't you still have that $50 iTunes gift card from the Brenda Novak auction?"

He had a point.  So why was I reluctant to buy digital music?  I've bought e-books and digital TV episodes to take with me on business trips and vacations years before such downloads exploded in popularity.  Hell, I've written all of my novels on laptops because my typing can keep up with my thought better than my longhand.

Maybe the computer programmer still lives deep inside of me.  Over the years, I've converted everything myself.  (For my own personal use.  Get your hackles down, FBI!)  From records to magnetic tapes to CDs to MP3 files.  So even with an electronic version, I'm used to having a hard copy of everything somewhere in the house.

Maybe I'm reluctant to give up the artwork.  All those iconic images, from Paul McCartney without shoes to Madonna's BDSM Candyland, evoke moods and memories.

Or maybe I don't want to give up the liner notes.  Sometimes the songs make more sense when I actually know what the lyrics are.

And maybe all my worries are for naught.  The Fame Monster even included a .PDF or the CD's liners notes.  So yeah, I understand the folks digging in heels over the e-publishing tsunami a little better.  But I also know I can't stop the change.

Because now I've tasted the future.  "And I'm a free bitch, baby!"**

**Bad Romance - Lady Gaga

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Picking Your Battles

As a parent, you learn to pick your battles.  Unfortunately, yesterday was consumed by a battle I could not avoid.  There are times when GK digs his heels in where school is concerned.  He deliberately acts stupid in order to get out of doing something he doesn't want to do.  In this case, it was writing down each step of an algebra problem.  The scary thing is ninety-nine times out of a hundred he can do this crap in his head.  But that one time he's got the answer wrong, I have no idea where he messed up because no work has been written down.

And I. . . well, I had to be the mega-bitch.

No Xbox, no going over to his buddy's house because he did not get all his work done because he spent three hours fighting me over one stupid algebra problem.

So when you get that publishing contract, remember this one little question:  what's really important to you?  Is it the cover, the edits, the money?  Or is it something else?  Because I can guarantee you one thing--you won't get everything you want.  And if you fight too much over something relatively small, you may end up losing everything.

Welcome to real life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

As fast as new agents hang their shingles, others leave the profession for greener pastures.  Nathan Bransford notified his blog fans on Friday that he's leaving Curtis Brown for CNET, a tech news website.  He's keeping his blog going though to discuss books, monkeys and other interesting topics.

Nathan's done quite a bit for writers, helping the uninitiated traverse the sea of slush.  See?  Not all agents are evil incarnate.  Thanks, Nathan, and good luck!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Legal Waltzing

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

I posted a link to the Publisher's Weekly article on Wednesday on the trial court's decision concerning the lawsuit by Peter Lampack Agency Inc. against author Martha Grimes.  Yesterday, Scriveners Error has a rough translation from legalese to English on the matters pertaining to the lawsuit.

If you're a writer that's published or hoping to become published, I strongly suggest you follow Scrivenor's Error.  C.E. Petit does a great job of making author's legal rights and responsibilities understandable.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What George Said

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

I was trying to come up with something profound for today's blog, but George Takei's video is so. . .  Well, let's just say I'm so glad I had the chance to shake his hand once upon a time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We All Read the Same Language, Don't We?

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow 

I'm in the process of making the last pass through a manuscript before releasing it into the wild.  Yes, experience draws the line around how each of us perceives a particular word or phrase.  Yes, I have a tendency to put at  least one little homage to one of my artistic influences in each of my manuscripts.

But there are times though when it's a toss-up of questioning my sanity or a particular crit partner's.

EXAMPLE

Heroine:  I could have ripped your limbs off.

Hero:  You wouldn't hurt me.  Besides, you're not hairy enough for a Wookie.

Crit Partner:  Huh?

Where's my crickets when I need 'em?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Judge Says Greed Is NOT Good

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

Publisher's Weekly had an interesting piece yesterday on the judge's decision in Peter Lampack Agency Inc v. Martha Grimes, et.al.

I don't have a problem with agents getting their fair share for all the hard work they do, but trying to keep claws in a sale you didn't make two years after your client fired your ass?  To quote the fabulous Amy Poehler:  "REALLY?"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

Did you vote early?  If not, have you gone to the polls yet?

If you haven't voted yet, then why the hell are you sitting on your butt and reading this?  Go vote.

Go vote NOW!

Monday, November 1, 2010

No NaNoWriMo for Me

Currently reading - Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

I'd planned my little butt off for the 2010 National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo if you want to go even shorter).  Last year fell through the cracks between day job and homeschooling.  DH and GK were on board with the plan.  Hell, DH even offered to cook/ordered out every night for November.

But. . .

I swear every time I make a plan the gods laugh and plot.  We now have a time-sensitive family task that must be done before December 4th.  There goes my NaNo time.

I think I'll take some time off from work in January and do my own mini-NaNo

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween/Samhain/New Year!

Honor your dead and rejoice in the love they gave you. Honor your gods for the bounty you've been blessed with. And honor Danny Elfman for his wicked songwriting skills. I dare you not to sing along.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy 2010 Birthday to Me!

Currently reading - Small Jobs by Jim Butcher

As I was re-reading last year's birthday post, I had to laugh at the goal for this year.  Both the pies and the lasagna had been baked two days before because I knew I'd be working the day job the entire weekend.  Unfortunately, I paid for my forward thinking with a stomach bug yesterday.  Blech!

On the bright side, I did much better on my writing accomplishments since the last b-day.

-  One first draft completed
-  Another completed manuscript edited
-  Added 10+K to last year's aborted NaNo attempt
- Came up with too many ideas which are now sitting in various files
- Sent out 13 queries
- Personally pitched 3 agents (1 full & 2 partials requested)

Goal I'm hoping to accomplish for the next year?  Finding an agent!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bitch Stabbed Me in the Back!

Who is the bitch, you might ask?

My own fucking subconscious, that's who.

I sing her praises, tell others how often she gotten me out of plot scrapes, rely on her to flesh out my characters, and what does she do?

She throws all my insecurities in my face.

The other night I dreamed I'm in a store, perusing the magazine rack.  I'm thumbing through a dream version of Entertainment Weekly when I stumble across an article about two people I know.  There's matching full-page spreads about the movies coming out based on books written by these two.  The article goes on to describe their rise to the NYT list, and how their next book contracts are estimated to be the seven figure range.

[Now, I know these two people in real life.  They've both worked their asses off to get where they are and are very successful authors, but in reality, it's nowhere near the level described in my dream magazine.]

As I'm reading the article, Bruce Campbell, in his Coach Boomer persona, leaps into the room.  He aims the blade of his hand at me and yells, "Sidekick!"

Thanks, Subconscious.  Thanks a lot.

[If you don't get the movie reference, download, rent or buy Sky High.  A little formulaic, but funny as hell.]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

If You Missed Neil Gaiman on Arthur. . .

. . . the episode has been posted on PBS.  If you have school-age children, I suggest watching it with your kids.  The show has some wonderful pointers on creativity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And Now For Something You'll Really Like. . .

Since I'm on a Queen kick this week while meeting deadlines. . .

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Queen: Muppets Style

Why, oh, why didn't Jim Henson ever have Freddie and the boys on the Muppet Show?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Neil Gaimain Alert!

The magnificent and prolific Neil Gaiman will appear tomorrow on PBS's Arthur.

As a cat.

Check your local listings for channel and time.

For the Houston metro area, our local PBS station is KUHT-TV, Channel 8. Arthur airs at 2:30PM CDT.

(Image: ©2010 WGBH / Cookie Jar Entertainment Inc. )

For more info, check out Geekdad at Wired.com.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Old Spice Mockery with Grover

If Cthulu and Grover both wear Old Spice, will the guy from the commercial ever find his shirt?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Latest $h*! at Dorchester

If you haven't heard the latest about the Dorchester fiasco, go read Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  Publishers Weekly picked up the story and tweeted it yesterday.

All I can say is please, PLEASE do not buy Dorchester books or even download them for free.  I've got friends who've published with these pirates who will not see a dime you spend.

Piracy is a crime.  And yes, that is exactly what Time DeYoung is--a pirate. Not the cute Johnny Depp version, but the slit-your-throat and piss-on-you-body kind.  Don't add to the vicims' injury by buying books from him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Little Lies We Tell Ourselves

This post started out as a response to QueryFairy's comment on last week's post Publishing Subjectivity the Retail Way.  But then I read Neil Gaiman's blog, which led to his fiancee Amanda Palmer's blog, which led to . . .

Well, I'm not sure what.

Originally, I wanted to say to QueryFairy and to other writers not to sell yourself by doing art that makes you uncomfortable.  QueryFairy is a friend who writes erotica for a particular publisher.  The thing is she's fabulous at erotica, but writing erotica makes her uncomfortable with herself, which makes me sad.

Then Neil commented in an interview how Amanda was censoring herself (my words, not his) because of their different concepts of privacy, and it made him a little sad that she felt she needed to change.  Amanda answered in her blog about how different it was pre-Neil because her boyfriend was some anonymous person as far as the blogosphere was concerned, and she could say things and only she would suffer the ramifications.

Which takes me back to QueryFairy.  She wants a writing career and can make money writing erotica.  But she still wants to protect her family by not revealing this aspect of herself.  Amanda also curtails her writing in order to protect her fiance.

Here's the paradox.  True art means exposing ourselves to the world.  So what happens when we write (or draw or paint or play) something that makes us not truly ourselves?

Life's too fucking short doing crap that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable or something you're not.  I almost died learning that lesson the hard way, and I turned to writing in order to preserve my identity and sanity.  This does not mean I'm advocating that you expose your loved ones to something potentially dangerous or damaging.  But it's a very thin line.

Anybody out there have tips on staying on that tightrope?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Need to Move to Venus

A Venusian day lasts 243 Terran (Earth) days.

On the plus side, I could write a novel a day.

On the negative side, can you imagine the smell if you only took one shower a day?

(Image courtesy of NASA's Pioneer Venus Orbiter, 1979)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best Conference EVAH!!

Currently Reading - My own book, Amish, Vamps & Thieves, in preparation for sending to requesting agents

Three requests aren't the only reason the 2010 Lone Star was a fabulous conference.  Vice-President Stacey Purcell and her jolly crew of volunteers worked their asses off to provide an wonderful experience for everyone.

Festivities started Friday night.  Stacey and her husband Pete opened their lovely home to the attendees, speakers and agents.  Incredible food, good drinks and fascinating conversation quickly followed.  The reception broke up fairly early since registration started at the ungodly hour of 8AM.

That didn't stop a few of us meeting in the room of Party Goddess Ruth afterwards.  Seriously, Ruth Kenjura is noted for her informal wine-and-chocolate conference get-togethers. Everyone's invited, but she has just one rule--her room is a no-pitch zone.  The idea  is to provide a comfortable place for folks to get to know each other.  If you're going to RWA National in New York, find a NWHRWA member.  She'll show you the way to the party!

Of course, even after we left Ruth's for our room, Christie and I were up until the wee hours, gabbing away.

The next day, speaker Randy Ingermanson adressed a full house on story structure in the morning, then internet marketing in the afternoon.  All three agents had full pitch schedules.  The Luncheon Keynote speaker, Agent Christine Witthohn, gave a breakdown of where she sees the publishing industry heading in the Sea of Change.  You know e-books were mentioned more than once.  Christie Craig then announced the winners of the Lone Star Writing Contest.  Our hometown girl, JoAnn Robisheaux, won first prize in the Inspirational category.

I spent a lot of time with Bonnie Starling, who won second place in the YA category.  Can you believe this very lovely lady flew down from Ontario, Canada, to attend?  She wasn't the only long-distance traveler.  Marina Osipova, a finalist in the Single Title category, arrived from Russia by way of Staten Island.  These gals are a lot of fun.  It's too bad they both live so far away!

MAJOR COMPLIMENTS go to Chef Tony and Chef Scott of the Greenspoint Mariott!  Not only was the conference food delicious, these guys went out of their way to create some terrific dishes for my buddy Diane who suffers from severe food allergies.  The three berry ice cream they designed for her really needs to be added to their regular menu.  And let's just say their grilled asparagus is to die for!

Everyone who stayed at the hotel Saturday night, including the agents, ended up at Ruth's (of course).  Talk turned to industry news, and I loved getting the straight scoop from industry professionals.

The thing that surprised me the most was when Christine Witthohn said she only gets roughly 25% of the manuscripts she requests at conferences.  Amy Boggs and Naomi Hackenberg seconded Christine's experience, though Naomi said hers runs more to 30%.

[Insert all seven of George Carlin's Words You Can't Say on Radio or TV here.]

Folks, if you're going through the trauma of pitching, send the f***ing manuscript to them!  Seriously, that makes absolutely no sense to me, especially since these three ladies took time out of their insane schedules to come to the conference in the first place.  You've got their ear.  Make the most of the connection because your career may hinge on it.

Now, I'm off to follow my own advice. . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lone Star Conference

Hey Folks!

Wild, Wicked & Wacky will be dark until Monday, October 18th, while I attend the Lone Star Conference sponsored by the Northwest Houston Chapter of the Romance Writers of America.

Take care and get some pages done!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holy Walk-off, Batman!

One thing my grandmother taught me years ago was not to discuss religion or politics in polite company.  I'm going to break that rule by showing this clip from The View for a reason.  I'm not a big fan of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, nor do I agree with her political stance, but she earned my respect by calling out Bill O'Reilly after two of her co-hosts walked off the set.

Go Elisabeth!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Miracle

This week's rant is interrupted by some spectacular news--they've rescued 17 of the 33 trapped Chilean miners!

Maybe this hits a little close to home since one of my grandfathers and one of my uncles were coal miners back in Ohio.  I stayed up until 1AM watching NBC's live feed at the site.  The miners moved me by cheering and clapping each time one of their comrades disappeared up the shaft in the tiny little transport tube.  The strength of these guys to stay alive for two months underground amazes me.

Unfortunately, the harder road of adapting to a new normal lies ahead of the them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Managing Your Expectations

Let's assume you're a writer looking for an agent.  What talents/skills are you looking for?
The agent job description doesn't just include sales.  There's legal stuff, like contracts and foreign rights.  Some agents edit.  Some brainstorm with their clients.  Others like the marketing and promotional aspects of their chosen profession.  An agent can perform one or all or none of these roles.

The ones that perform none are the ones to watch out for.  One caveat to remember is there's no criteria for becoming an agent.  Anyone can hang out a shingle and say, "I'm an agent."  Hell, I could.  (I'd suck at it, but I could.)  Do your research.  Get recommendations and opinions.

And by recommendations and opinions, I mean ask someone published by Agent X about his/her experience.  Not "Gimme an introduction!"

Check out the agent's personality and reputation.  ALWAYS check Preditors & Editors!

Long before you get 'The Call' from an agent, you should have a list of questions for him/her.  This is a business relationship, folks.  Don't go in blind.  Ask published friends what they asked and what they wish they'd asked before signing the contract.

And don't fool yourself.  It is a legal, binding contract you are signing.  When I still practiced law, I had more than a few folks ask me, "How do I get out of this?"  As an attorney, I believe in preventative research.  As a writer, I still believe.

Part of that prevention is not only knowing what an agent can do for you.  It's knowing what he/she can't do.

- An offer of representation is not a guarantee the agent can sell your book.  What will the agent do if he/she can't get a publisher interested?  How many publishers will he/she approach?  Which publishers?

- An agent can't make your book marketable.  Just because she 'LOVES' the premise doesn't mean the publishers will.  Writers need to watch the market too.

- Your agent is not your best friend.  This is a business relationship, not a personal relationship.  If you need to vent about your dick of an ex, call your sister, your mom, your BFF.  Not your agent.  Sometimes a friendship develops, but  what do you think is going to happen if agent drops you or vice versa.  Yeah, you can see that trainwreck coming, can't you?

With the coming of our e-book overlords, a lot of the nitty, gritty stuff will change.  General business common sense won't.  There will be things a writer can manage on their own.  Your best bet is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, then hiring the appropriate person to cover the areas where you're lacking.

Anyone else out in the interwebs have suggestions on what to look for in an agent?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Know What You're Really Getting Out of an Agent

Currently reading - Legal statutes and CDC papers on chronic diseases.  Seriously.

When I first read Angie Benedetti's comment on the Publishing Subjectivity the Retail Way post, I got pissed.  Liked steam coming out of my ears pissed.  And I couldn't figure out why I was so mad.

I like Angie.  We have similar viewpoints on a lot of subjects.  Her comments usually get me to think outside of my safe zone and really analyze what I want as a writer and as a human being.  Besides, she has an adorable dog, so she has to be a good person in my book.

So why was I so freakin' pissed?

(You know you should never reply to any communications while pissed as hell, right?)

For once, I listened to my own advice, walked away from the computer and thought.  I knew I wasn't angry at Angie.  Also, I wasn't angry about her opinions, because, geez, I'd heard the same opinions from hundreds of other people and never gotten mad.  So what the hell was triggering this reaction?

I do my best thinking while walking, but between errands, the start of soccer season, and other miscellaneous crap, the only time I actually walked was through the mall on Saturday.  (Yeah, I know.  The one freakin' Saturday I have off and I go to the same mall where I work.)

Lo and  behold, the Revelation came while purchasing bleeding tapers at Yankee Candle.  The trigger was the last paragraph.  Take out "writer" and substitute "attorney", add a lot of obscenities and name-calling, and you've got a VERY similar conversation I had with a particular client when I still practiced law.

At time, this person had only been a client for literally four days.  I even came in to the office on a Saturday because she couldnt take time off from work.  Unfortunately, she expected me to immediately solve a problem that, in truth, was her own fault.  As she screamed at me over the phone on Wednesday, I couldn't help but think, If your opinion of me is so low, why did you hire me in the first place?  Needless to say, I told her she needed to find another attorney who could meet her needs.

Now I knew the emotional trigger, the next question was why I was bothered by the polarization of writer attitudes when it came to agents.

This led to Revelation #2 while I walked down to purchase the two new Twilight Barbies at Target.

The primary thing I hate about writers/agents bullshit is that few seem to truly understand the agent's role.  Roughly half the opinions of writers are that agents are the guardians to the gates of publishing heaven.  The other half believe an agent's only role is to suck out their souls.  (The only time either of these statements is true is if you let be true.)

Agents are not the boss of writers, but neither are they true employees. The best description I can come up with while on a football and Cincinnati chili overload is a professional partnership.  I would sign with an agent just like I would hire an accountant or a plumber--for their experience and professional expertise in the areas I'm totally lacking.  But I don't dictate exactly how they do their job.

For example, I can handle most basic toilet and sink repairs, but I call Dave, who's got twenty years of experience, for installing a new cold water shutoff valve in the kitchen.  On the other hand, my CPA Ed literally does everything for me when it comes to taxes.  Different professionals, different levels of reliance.

And if Dave pulls out the master bathroom tub when he's supposed to be replacing that shutoff, then yes, I have every right to raise holy hell because that's NOT the job he was hired to do.

Whether or not you hire an agent is your personal decision.  Hopefully you've made a career plan, and you know what your strengths and weaknesses are.  Some folks, like Angie and The Query Fairy, are business savvy ladies who don't want or need someone to tell them what they already know.  For others, like Classy Christie Craig, an agent has been a great help.  But the most important thing is knowing what YOU need.

One last tidbit to remember--with the rapid changes occurring in the publishing business, you want to make sure you get what you're paying for.

Tommorow:  Managing Your Expectations

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Football Trivia

Currently reading - Not a damn thing; I've got three deadlines.

DH broke down today and took the infamous Carly Phillips hot pink iPod with him to GK's soccer practice today in order to listen to the Texans game.  Unfortunately Schaub and the boys lost to Baby Manning and the Giants.

On a further note, go back and read the comments section for Publishing Subjectivity the Retail Way.  We'll talk some more about their observations this week.

I love it when fairies give ideas for blog posts!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Publishing Subjectivity the Retail Way

Currently reading - Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni P. L. Kelner

Today, Jessica Faust had an interesting post in the subject of subjectivity.  Go take a look.  I'll wait.

***

Now we can argue about salability versus "loving" the manuscript until we're blue.  Or I can point out the similarities to other retail goods.

I work as a sales clerk in a retail gift shop.  Our shop carries two brands of candles.  Brand Y uses petroleum-based paraffin wax with cotton-only wicks and natural oils for scent.  Brand Z uses soy wax with a cotton and metal wick and artificial scents.  Both products perform exactly as advertised.  And yes, we can debate renewability of resources, carbon footprints, etc.

But which brand of candle am I going to recommend to my customers?  The one that doesn't make me sneeze every two seconds!  Can I sell the other candle?  Yes, I can, but the first thing out of my mouth when a customer asks my opinion on the other candle is, "Do you have allergies?"

That's personal preference, folks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Currently reading - Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni P. L. Kelner

If you've still got some funds for writing business, you can be in the Houston metro area on October 16th, and you haven't already registered, I strongly recommend the Lone Star Conference sponsored by the Northwest Houston Chapter of the Romance Writers of America.  With three agents taking pitch appointments and Randy Ingermusson, creator of the Snowflake Methodology, as Saturday's speaker, there's education and networking galore.

Check out the NWHRWA Conference page for more information on this fabulous opportunity!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Many Times Must It Happen

Currently reading - Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni P. L. Kelner

A week ago, DH stomped down the stairs and into the kitchen where I was working on edits.  He bluntly stated that GK was never going to return to Cy-Fair.  His actual words were a lot more colorful than even my R-rated diatribes.  And I was shocked by the level of anger until he showed me the news article.

What set off DH was the suicide of Asher Brown, a thirteen-year-old CHILD.  A CHILD who blew out his brains because of the constant torment he suffered at the hands of bullies at Hamilton Middle School.  Hamilton is part of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, commonly referred to as Cy-Fair in the Houston Metro area.

We pulled GK out of Lee Elementary a year and a half ago because of similar problems.  The administration did little or nothing to stop the bullying, with the sole exception being Mr. Kenneth Henry.  One bus driver even tried to call the police to have GK arrested for DEFENDING HIMSELF on the bus.  Her reasoning--she was afraid of GK.

She was afraid of an eight-year-old, but not of the eleven-year-old beating my son?

And this is after a Cy-Fair counselor accused me of child abuse.  So I know the bullying tactics are used by certain administration personnel as well as by the students.

And now the same back-talking double-speak is being aimed at a family devestated by the loss of THEIR CHILD.

My heart goes out to Asher Brown's family.  They will have to live through the pain of losing their son for the rest of their lives.

I have to live with the weird guilt that it could have just as easily been my son.

Monday, October 4, 2010

They're Just Babies. . .

By now, most of you have heard about the tragic, senseless death of Rutgers' student, Tyler Clementi.  The following was written by C. B. Potts and is reprinted with her permission.

***

And so, it is said to me, you can't really bully someone to death. You can certainly make them miserable, but that choice, that ultimate final choice to end it all, to leap from the bridge, to borrow Daddy's gun, that's out of your hands. That's beyond your power, beyond your responsibility, beyond anything you could conceivably be held accountable for. The blame in suicide lays always upon the person who kills themselves, for they always have another choice.

A fatal reclamation of`personal power, as it were.

I read all these stories of freshly dead children and I say bullshit on that.

Around here, there are what are called (by me, at least) coy dogs. A mix of coyote and good dogs gone bad, feral creatures, they live on the fringes of society, not wholly wild, not nearly tame. No one cares for them. They are self-sufficient, or they die.

Coy dogs are generally small and scraggly. They stand perhaps two feet tall at the shoulder - a few bigger, some very few smaller. They're perpetually thin. On their own, they'll get by. There's garbage, there's house cats, there are slow bunnies and roadkill and dinner snatched secondhand from pampered pet's dishes.

When they work together, though, they can feast. A pack of coy dogs will go after larger prey - goats, sheep, llamas, calves, ponies, deer. It's here, in the hunt, that the coy dogs are at their most primal. You don't see even vague vestiges of the creatures that would once happily follow people around, begging for scraps. Here, it's speed and pursuit -- chasing, chasing, chasing. And coy dogs bark when they hunt -- not like wolves, who mostly keep silent. Coy dogs keep up a constant cacophony of death, announcing imminent demise with every stride. One coy dog will keep in close pursuit, the others hanging back and resting, preserving their strength until it's their turn to take point, to present some fresh new horror, to add another element of terror to the chase. They all take a turn.

They don't actually bite the prey all that much. A nip at the heels, a few ambitious leaps to worry shoulders, haunches, beefy necks. They don't have to. Once the blood starts running, all they have to do is keep the prey moving, moving, moving, until exhaustion and fear do their magic. It doesn't take long. The point will come where the prey doesn't have the strength to fight anymore. The hooves that should kick away, flinty hooves that can crush a skull, if the strength is there, do not have the strength. It's over, the coy dogs have won, and the end of the game is as much surrender as capture -- even fighting to the last, the prey's been run too hard, too long, to win.

That is what bullying is. Pure and simple, what we're seeing is humanity taking on that coy dog aspect. No one person has to do that much -- what's a comment? what's a shove? what's possessions trashed, families threatened, rumors started, video shared? It is the aggregate effect that kills, the preponderance of hate, delivered daily, hourly, inescapably. Animalistic behavior, the basics of human decency abandoned for the thrill of the chase, the toxic exhilaration of pursuit -- and above all, the embrace of the group, the knowledge that you have a place in the pack. You don't have to do so much, really. Take a turn in point position, if you've the stomach for it, but that's not even truly necessary. All you have to do is hiss little comments. Or laugh. Or look away and do nothing.

And at the end of it all, is there blood on your hands? You can look in the mirror, examine your muzzle, look for the flint-scented evidence that yours was the hate that mattered the most. Will you see it? I guess it depends on the light you choose to stand under.

But deer don't run themselves to death.

Funny thing, that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Today's Venn Diagram Is Brought to You by the Letter S

This Venn diagram is dedicated to mentor, friend and Jersey gal, Colleen Thompson.

funny graphs - Snooki
see more Funny Graphs

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pulp Muppets

OMG!  Kermit and Fozzie as Vincent and Julius.  'Nuff said.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Private Little War

Currently reading - Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni P. L. Kelner

Why does there have to be a battle between self-publishing and traditional publishing?  I see flame wars on several different sites.  Editors are out to get the writers.  Self-pub'd writers don't bother to use spell-check.  No advances being given by certain houses and lower percentages on sales.  Stack of books paid for with the money saved for the kids' college tuition moldering in the garage.

Does any of this matter?

Not really.  Not in the long run.  With all due respect to Bob Dylan, times they are a'changing, folks.  No one knows what the future will bring.

Except maybe Gene Roddenberry.

Today, I've got a communicator (cell phone), a med scanner (blood sugar monitor), and access to Memory Alpha (the Internet).  All things that Gene and his staff dreamed up nearly forty-five years ago.  Things no one back in the Sixties believed would ever exist.

But even Gene believed in the power of story.  Whether a troop specialized in classical Shakespeare or a certain captain pretended to be noir P.I. Dixon Hill, people will still need their stories.

What form will these stories take?  Now that's the interesting question, isn't it?