I write like
Jack London

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

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 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?