Wednesday, February 28, 2007

MySpace for Book Lovers

The big announcement for the day?  Amazon has invested over one million dollars in Shelfari, a social book cataloging site.  Social book cataloging is probably the best New Thing for authors trying to reach readers.

MySpace has proven to be an excellent tool for authors trying to get their name out there.  Alison Kent talk about its advantages, and JA Konrath talks about how he markets efficiently at MySpace.

The things I don’t like about MySpace are the design (it’s ugly), the blog subscriptions (clumsy and overwhelming) and the clutter.  It’s messy.  To top it off, I never quite know what to do on MySpace.  Sure, I’ve added friends, and then I check out their profile and leave a comment.  What else is there to do?  I like to send Happy Birthday emails, but if you look at the Upcoming Birthdays and click out, you don’t get to see them again!  Annoying.

Ah! The bulletins.  Right.  Do those work?  Receiving the bulletins is awkward, because they’re in this little box that I never see amidst the cluttery pages.  If I do see them, they’re a TON of JUNK.  Spam.  I don’t read spam.  I do see the email announcements, and I’ve heard they are MySpace shareware programs that make marketing and friending on MySpace easy.

I wouldn’t guess you’d get a much better return than the typical 2% advertising statistic, but it’s free.  (Not counting time invested.  It can be a lot for “doing nothing,” LOL.)

The next best thing for authors, I predict, will be the social book cataloging sites. 

Library Thing, I think, is by far the best.  Unfortunately, their design isn’t pretty like Shelfari’s, and Amazon could make Shelfari the Next Big Thing quicker than we could blink.

But Tim Spalding has invested a lot of time into Library Thing, made it the biggest, and also has worked his ass off.  You gotta admire that.  It’s only free up to 200 books, then it’s a low and reasonable price.  He is constantly improving his product: he’s been saying that they are working hard to make it pretty, as well as add more and more new features.

I believe I heard there are a lot more members there than anywhere else, but I can’t be sure.

And you know what?  You have to respect a guy who lists his competitors (scroll down to Message 2) and invites people to try them.  There’s only one reason he can do that; because his site is better and he’s constantly improving his deficiencies.

They also have a really cool thingamabob that will post your favorite ten books in the sidebar or your blog.  Very cool.  They also link to buy the book at not just Amazon, but about four or five other sites.

Here are more sites:

  • aNobii comes in an interesting third place.  I like their wish list, but they don’t have the pictures of many book covers there, and you have to upload them yourself.
  • BookTribes’s slogan is: “In between publishing hype and bookseller promotions, where is the voice of the reader?  Here, actually.” 
  • I like how you can publish and create lists on ConnectviaBooks
  • Here is a random profile from Chain Reading; I love the tabbed lists! 
  • On Gurulib.org (sample page), they let you create different “shelves” (lists) and lots of books fit on one page—nice! 
  • Bookswellread offers RSS feeds to hear about updates/reviews from your favorite fellow readers. 
  • Readers2 isn’t a list site, but they have an awesome way to categorize and recommend books.
  • iBookdb shows some potential, with their featured author (and here’s a sample shelf).

My wishlist:

  • Unlimited Lists (so I can create Favorite, Currently Reading, To Be Read, Wish List, Favorites, Whatever you Want, etc…)
  • Reviews (more in-depth than comments)
  • Pretty Design, of course. (Pretty shelves, neat and small book cover thumbnails, a way to tab lists, etc.)
  • A way to start Book Clubs on each book (like with “reading guide” questions to discuss).
  • A way for people to “group” according to favorite books, i.e. “Spy Lovers” or “Mystery Lovers,” etc. 
  • Lots of ways for authors to connect with readers, without being pushy.  Just ways to hang out.
  • Featured Authors, Featured Debuts, etc.

I guess I want it all, and I want it all in one place.

With about forty social cataloguing sites out there, who will win the race to be the next MySpace for books?  Who knows?  But I’m willing to bet that one of these book catalogues will become a Very Big Thing for the book community. 

For an author, that Very Big Thing will be even better than MySpace, because it’s a way to reach readers who already love books.  A targeted advertisement gets much better than a 2% effectiveness percentage.

“They” often suggest that you should register all possible web addresses before launching your career, just to be on the safe side.  I also went ahead and did the same with my handles at hotmail, gmail, and yahoo.  It’s not that I’ll use all those accounts; it’s just that I don’t really want anyone else using them.  (I had/have that problem with my main business handle.)

One never knows.  Why not do the same with social book cataloguing?

What do I know about marketing?  NOTHING, aside from what I learned from my business, which isn’t related to books.  And don’t think I know much from that, because I barely marketed my own business before it was stock full.  My pseudonym is only now venturing into marketing, but my royalties and market are so small, I invest only a small amount of time.

But here’s my gameplan:

What do you think?  What’d I leave out?

Read more...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a horrible spot? One that leaves you miserable, but without much way to make things better unless you do something completely radical and irreversibly life-altering? Something incredibly scary and risky?

Me? I'm a coward. I hate change. I'll stay in the same rut until I start noticing self-defeating upon self-defeating behaviors, forcing my cowardly self into changing.

I'm a bit of a coward. Others not so much, but I think, if we're to embark on a life-altering quest, there has to be some pretty big impetus to get us out of our comfort zone.

Of course, I always knew that. We all learned about inciting incidents and such.

It's not enough to just make things uncomfortable for a hero/ine. Our discomforts are so familiar that they are part of our comfort zone. That comfort zone is so strong, so sticky, so addictive, that it takes a HUGE event to compel us to leave it.

Have you ever stood at the brink of your comfort zone, trying to decide which way to go? Comfort and the familiar, or the scary unknown? What did you do? How did you find the courage?

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Monday, February 26, 2007

A Neverending Story

In 1984, Warner Brothers released a movie called The Neverending Story for children. Do you remember it? I can't say that it was as magical as Harry Potter, or as moralistic as The Chronicles of Narnia, but I will say one thing:

I think about the movie at least once a week, and it's been twenty years since I've last seen it.

It taught me that one must know one's own true worth in life, and that facing our true selves can be the hardest task of all.

The plot is a fairly straightforward journey story. The blurb:

Bastian is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprieter reveals an ancient story-book to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he "borrows" the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction.

But that says nothing about the scene that has stuck in my mind for over twenty years. In order to save the world Atreyu (sorta Bastien), must go to the Southern Oracle. To do this, he must pass two gates.

The stakes are instant death by zapping. (LOL ... in 1984, that actually looked scary.) The skills needed to pass the gates? Boy, they're deep. Really. And they're why this movie has stayed with me for so long.

Engywook:
It's the first of the 2 gates you must pass through before you reach the Southern Oracle... Of course, most people never get that far.

Atreyu:
Why?

Engywook:
The sphinx's eyes stay closed until someone who does not feel his own worth tries to pass by... The sphinxes can see straight into your heart.

Of course, we get to see several people fail and die. When Atreyu goes through, the sphinx's eyes open, and he barely makes it through.

Engywook:
You don't understand anything! The worst one is coming up. Next is the Magic Mirror gate. Atreyu has to face his true self.

Falkor:
So what? That won't be too hard for him.

Engywook:
Oh ! That's what everyone thinks. But kind people find that they are cruel, brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves most men run away screaming !

Go to this NeverEnding Story fansite to view the scene: Atreyu and the Mirror.

Nearly every week, I'm confronted with a truth about myself, my choices, and my life, that I'd rather not look at. I just finished a Career Check-Up Challenge at AuthorMBA. We looked at every aspect of ourselves and our career: goals, financials, visions, time, organization, priorities, reputation, skills, etc. Everything. A ton of people signed up.

But about 95% stopped doing the homework. They stopped looking at themselves in the mirror. It's just about the hardest thing to do. It hurts; it's uncomfortable. I procrastinated putting it off for a whole week!

Thanks to this movie, I finally said to myself: looking in the mirror is the hardest thing to do in this battle for a fulfilled life.

Read more...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Eye on Books

I can't believe that I've never heard of or stumbled across this website:

It's all audio (as far as I can tell), and it's "where the authors themselves tell you about their books." The authors talk about their craft, and they also talk about the endings of their books in the Spoiler Room!

And these aren't just a few random authors. Big names, midlist names, and some newbies. It's a great place!

Here's some quick links to:

I'm the only one who doesn't know about this site, aren't I? What else don't I know about? Are there more cool sites like this out there?

Just in case I'm missing a big one, will you leave a link to your favorite "cool" site?

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The Goracle on the Rug

The presidential announcements keep pouring in. Anyone else feel like these are coming in early?

To politicize, or not to politicize. That's the question.

My answer? If Al Gore runs, you'll probably hear me mention him a few times. Feel free to tell me your opposing view in the comments. If he doesn't? I doubt you'll hear me say much. I've been decidedly disgusted with politics lately. I've been so upset that my normal day-to-day research has fallen months behind.

Despite my political views, when it comes to the president, I'm big on character with my choices. If I have an instant dislike to a man, I just might vote for his opponent. (And live to regret it.)

I like Gore. He's smart and he's an idealist--enough of an idealist to be a good leader, and smart enough to not let idealism pull him into radicalism. He wasn't the best speaker or campaigner, but he's spent eight years practicing. He and his wife have everything lined up for a perfect bid on the White House. Their tactical approach over the past seven years is enough to gain my admiration.

And you gotta love a guy that says (bold is mine):

"I'm old enough to know that a red carpet is just a rug, so I've been able to enjoy that part of it without losing perspective."
But today's not about whether he's running for president (or will it be?).

Today's about the Oscars! Today we get to admire all the beautiful people, and watch the year's biggest popularity contest on national television. I love the dresses. You'd be amazed at how consistent I am with exercising the week after the Oscars. Not to mention my week-long addiction to salad. Can you imagine being able to wear those beautiful clothes???

I'm not wondering if Gore will announce his presidency. I'm not wondering whether or not he'll be wearing Ralph Lauren. I'm wondering: Can Angelina top the dress she wore to the Golden Globes this year?

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Writing Digs

Remember when you were a kid and you first entered an amusement park? When you gasped in complete delight at the magic around you?

Today I walked into a new bookstore. On the outside, it looked like another Borders, a little worse for the wear. On the inside? It was TWICE AS BIG! I had one of those grins I couldn't control, and I couldn't even help the gasp of "Wow!" when I walked in.

Be still my heart.

And then it has a FIREPLACE in the coffee shop! I've been struggling to write at "my" old Borders, because they've been setting the thermostat to 55 or something. I just can't stay there! This place has a FIREPLACE, plus ALL the books I've been wanting but aren't in my old Borders. The new place is warm!

But the new Borders is 45 minutes away.

I managed to convince the DH that it's worth the drive. Yes, I am spoiled. Not only does he go writing with me and keep me company, but he drives me there.

Anyway, I've been sprucing up my web design skills, particularly CSS. (As if I don't have enough to do, LOL.) I haven't done much designing in the last five years, which means everything I knew is either forgotten or outdated. You just might see some experimentation here in the next few weeks. Drop me a line if everything goes haywire. :-)

There's a special website I've been thinking about building, but ... it'd take up TONS of my time. I think it'd be worth it. If I can cut back on my day job a little this summer, then I'll do it.

Here's a funny little bookmarklet I stumbled across in my research. If you confuse its and it's, then go to Andy Wibbels' site and add a bookmarklet to your links. Every time you click it, a little box pops open telling you the difference.

Okay, most of us are writers, and we know the difference. But it's cute, isn't it?

I'm also going to experiment with Windows Live Writer, which evidently will make publishing to any blog easy. Anyone use it?

I'm on a little web kick. I just installed a feedburner feed, in case you want to subscribe. Anyone play with any cool web gadgets/widgets/thingamabobs lately? Do share! And what is all this hype about del.icio.us?

Read more...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Writers in the Zoo

One of our RWA group's newly-published writers, Rhonda Stapleton (who has a brand new website) gave a workshop on self-editing. EXCELLENT! She gave an online workshop, too, which I heard is awesome! I'm sure she'll do more; keep an eye out!

As the saying goes, real writers edit.

Er. I've always cringed when I heard that, because I've never done the whole editing thing the way I've heard people do it. (My small-press editors don't do much editing on my stuff.) Robert Gregory Browne's "I edit as I go" has made me feel a little better, but it still has given me pause. I do constantly re-read and tweak and edit. It's the first thing I do every day, and I'm often re-reading to check the overall rhythm and pacing of each sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, and overall story.

What I loved about the presentation is that Rhonda actually had us practice what she taught us. It was fascinating! We hardly ever watch someone else write. We sit at our tables and desks, clicking away at the keyboard, and we never really know what goes on when another author sits down and works.

In a five-minute exercise, we had to write a scene that showed a woman deciding to leave her husband. If I could find the handouts (I put them somewhere special where I wouldn't lose them ... yeah, right), I'd show you my exercise.

I, who fretted that I didn't know how to edit, scratch out one word for every three I write. My writing brain and the editing brain truly do work simultaneously. I'm constantly re-reading what I write, even at a pace of 500 - 1200 words an hour. (For example, while typing the last paragraph I sounded out each sentence in my head several times while my fingers were typing.) I truly do edit while I type.

My paper was a MESS of scratch-outs, arrows, and inserted words. A total mess! I had no idea how much I use that backspace key!

Meanwhile, a writer next to me wrote in pen, in cursive, and never stopped. She wrote the whole page and never once scratched a single word out. Not a single word! I was both stunned and awed. When she was done, she read it out loud. Her excerpt had complete sentences that flowed! I was so impressed.

I could never write the way so many writers write: longhand in a notebook. Cynthia Harrison does it, Susan Wiggs does it in her "low-tech laptop," and Alison Kent writes with a fountain pen. Wow! These Clairfontaine notebooks seem to be particularly popular among writers. (Why?)

I'm guessing that if you take the NANO method or the longhand method, you would need to go back through and extensively edit after the book is written. Many writers write better if they can get that internal editor to shut up.

I'm not saying it makes any difference when you do the edit (during or after or both). I'm just realizing that I do a lot more editing than I thought I didn't do, LOL. Thank God. I can call myself a real writer.

It's fascinating to see how other writers write. I kinda feel like when I was six and discovered that boys and girls were different, and a neighbor and I showed each other exactly how we were different. Up until then, I'd suspected we were different, but I never really believed it until I saw it. :-)

Read more...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Jack Bauer Jokes: Thursday Thirteen #5

Thirteen Funniest Jack Bauer Jokes Courtesy of NOT RLY
  • 1.) On Jack Bauer's Tax Returns, he has to claim the entire world as his dependents.
  • 2.) When a convicted terrorist was sentenced to face Jack Bauer, he appealed to have the sentence reduced to death.
  • 3.) When Jack Bauer ran out of ammo, he caught 3 bullets in his chest and used them to reload.
  • 4.) Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
  • 5.) If everyone on "24" would just follow Jack Bauer's instructions, it would be called "12".
  • 6.) Jack Bauer doesn't need to eat, sleep, or use the bathroom because his organs are afraid of making him angry.
  • 7.) When Jack Bauer used Herbal Essences, the shampoo had an orgasm.
  • 8.) If Jack Bauer's gun jams, it's because he wanted to beat you with it.
  • 9.) Jack Bauer sleeps with a pillow under his gun.
  • 10.) Jack Bauer is currently involved in a complex law suit with the California Department of Justice due to their attempt to ban Jack Bauer as an "Assault Weapon". Jack maintains he is primarily used for hunting and target shooting, and is quite safe to have around families.
  • 11.) Jack Bauer played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
  • 12.) When Christopher Henderson tried to shoot Jack, his gun was, in fact, loaded. The bullets were just too scared to come out.
  • 13.) Jack Bauer can break anyone and anything, but he will always break the protocol first.

Do you have a favorite?

I wonder. Why can't we continue Thursday Thirteen without the site? I hate to see it go; it's fun to get to know everyone!

Read more...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Some Happy Rambles

Rob left this link in the comments section about Jack Bauer jokes. Hilarious! Starvingwritenow, you'll really be able to torture your family now!

I want to write about something near and dear to my heart: Lucky Charms. Every time I buy a box of Lucky Charms, I SWEAR that I'm going to eat it like a normal person. Fill a bowl, throw in some (rice) milk, and then there will be a perfect proportion of marshmallows to brown stuff.

But then, before I close the box, I always reach in and dig out a few marshmallows. And then just another. Just one more. Here, a couple to take with me to the living room.

After two "regular bowls" of Lucky Charms, I decide to eat a bowl "dry." What really happens is I pour a bowl, pick out all the marshmallows, and throw the rest away. Then I abandon all pretense, and I grab the whole box and start picking through.

Why don't the just sell the marshmallows? By the time I'm halfway through the box, there's no marshmallows left!

Oreos and I have a similar relationship. (Double stuff only, of course.) Usually I never eat a whole oreo. I screw off the top, and then eat one cookie with all the creme. After about five this way, I just eat all the insides and leave the cookie portions uneaten.

Why waste the calories on the cookie, if you really want the creme?

Um, is the most boring post ever? LOL. Okay, fair's fair. Will you post a ramble in the comments? About anything, LOL. What are you up to? What are you writing?

Hey, one of our own, Kate Sterling, has a book out! She's headlining an anthology called Masquerade, and here's what Anne at Kwips and Kritiques said about her story:

Kate Sterling starts off this anthology with Unmasked. Morgan yearns for one more chance with her former lover, Derek. All she has to do according to Aphrodite is find him before midnight and convince him to fulfill her wishes. Instead, she meets Brianna and her husband Marcos. What sinfully delightful fantasies will this threesome uncover?

Unmasked is steaming hot! The attraction sizzling on these pages is guaranteed to singe as Kate Sterling has crafted a very potent tale. The attraction between Morgan, Brianna, and Marcos has sparks flying immediately. The sex scenes with this charming threesome are some of the hottest this reviewer has ever read. More importantly, Kate Sterling adds an emotional depth to the story which makes Unmasked a winner!

Read more...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Too Much or Too Little

I guess I'm on a tv kick. I didn't day job this past weekend, so it was like I only had one job. It was wonderful! It's back to the grind now.

Anyway, I loved the new 24 episode.

Except.

I just can't watch so many episodes in a short time frame. I suspect that I need a week between each episode to help me suspend disbelief. Otherwise, I start laughing in all the wrong places. (Excuse me, I'm bad at remembering names.) Like when what's-his-name agrees with what's-her-name to give M-something a chance to continue working, because she insists that he didn't metabolize the alcohol on his breath.

Sure, I'll give him a chance. With MILLIONS of lives at stake, we'll take a chance, no big deal. And that's IF you've gotten past the fact that a few hours ago, M-something was TORTURED and RESPONSIBLE for programming the suitcase bombs we're worrying about!

Of course, you may not have gotten that far. You may be struggling to suspend disbelief that Jack Bauer is on this case at all, considering HIS FAMILY is at fault. No one even QUESTIONS his loyalty or his ability to KILL them if he needs to. Or that he might not be the best man for the job, considering how well this enemy knows his buttons.

And Jack Bauer can "order up" a small team without explaining 'what for' to his superior??? Oh, right. If this is how the government work, please enlighten me. I can think of quite a few places this would make my plot MUCH easier.

I'm sorry. I sound awfully snarky. I actually LOVE 24. I just need to watch one episode per week. Anymore than that is too much.

Then I watched Nora's movies. I love her books, but ... the movies? Wow. They're like boring cardboard, or paper cut-outs of a story. If I saw her movies and hadn't read her books, I would NEVER pick up her books. Never.

Carolina Moon was the best, with the Fire one second best. (Mostly because the actresses truly carried the movie.) The other two ... er ... let's be nice and say they didn't work for me at all.

They make me want to read the books again, and find out WHY in the world I like Nora so much. I suspect the screen doesn't do justice to the characterization and internal stuff in the novel.

I don't know. Do you?

What've you been watching lately? I need another show to Tivo.

Read more...

Did you hear? Stephen King & J.J. Abrams

From Writer's Blog:

Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams and horrormeister Stephen King are in talks to bring King's epic Dark Tower book series to either the big or small screen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Abrams' Bad Robot company has a first-look deal at Paramount for film projects and a deal with Warner Brothers Television for TV projects; the project is not yet set up at either company.

Be still my heart. Stephen King and J.J. Abrams are two of the best contemporary storytellers. Now that pairing would be incredible!

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

24 on Tap

've held back from watching 24 for about six weeks, until the episodes built up. See, DH has never seen 24. He doesn't like it, and doesn't want to see it.

I, however, know DH quite well, and I know he'd love it. So I saved it until I could watch it when he was around. Last night he picked up a book and grumbled when I put it on. "I hate 24," he said.

I said, "Just watch the preview thing, so you don't have to ask me a lot of questions about what's going on." (We went through that with Alias, because he supposedly doesn't like that one, either.)

"I don't want to watch it. I don't like 24. I'm not going to ask you questions."

I pushed his buttons until he watched them. As soon as they were over, he picked up his book.

Except he didn't read it. Every commercial, he'd grumble and pick up his book again, pretending he hadn't meant to watch it. Halfway through our second episode, he stopped grumbling. He couldn't take his eyes away.

When we got to the third episode, he abandoned all pretense, turned off the lights, and started watching. Through three more episodes, he didn't fall asleep. (This happens rarely. DH watches TV to go to sleep, so when he stays awake for a whole episode, it's a REALLY good show. When he stays awake for five hours until two in the morning, it's a DAMN good show.)

You know, Jack Bauer has just about the shittiest life of any protagonist I've ever seen. Can you think of someone with a better life? I keep thinking someone should say, "Just take a 15 minute nap! You could use it! You've had a rough day, and you have to save the world in an hour!" Like from 3 - 4, I think he should be napping.

And why is it that those guys in that prison supposedly didn't know anything, but yet, five episodes ago, they were the only intel that proved there were "five visitors" and not just one. So when they proved that those guys knew nothing, why didn't they question that intel? If they weren't connected, then how did they get that intel in the first place?

I'm just curious.

Anyway, DH--bless his heart--is very stubborn. Even though he was glued to the set for six hours of 24 last night, he still says he doesn't like it. Hah!

Read more...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Endings

I read a book yesterday, and I'm sorry to tell you I forgot the title. I really did! I'm not sure I would share it with you if I remembered it. (The picture is about a movie I haven't seen, but the picture seemed to match my entry today.)

The book was on the front tables with a decidedly chick-lit title, but plastered with blurbs and author bio and cover and description that basically denied the claim. As I thumbed through it, I realized that it was, of course, chick lit. In the first chapter, the author really did write in a literary style, but then lapsed into (regular?) prose.

But the book really irked me. The story line promised one thing, and it delivered a non-happy ending. Non-happy endings are okay with me, but the unhappy ending has to be better than the happy ending would have been, and there has to be a reason for the unhappy ending.

As I skimmed (unfortunately, this book was a skimmer) to the end, all the pieces fell into place. The story could go one way, or the other. It took road C.

So I ask myself: why?

Not to make an emotional point, not to make a story point. No, the only reason I could come up with? The author wanted to say: this is not chick lit. I'm a literary writer, and see, I've written an unhappy ending just to prove it.

I was put out, really put out. I remembered the reader email I got not too long ago, claiming that she loved every minute of the story until the very last chapter, which felt too rushed.

I suspect she was right. I will never make that mistake again! I bet that one reader improved my next few stories a whole big bunch. Endings have been on my mind lately.

As I discovered last month, short stories are incredibly hard to end. (I wrote a short that was supposed to be one chapter in length. It didn't end. I wrote two chapters. Editor wrote back that it couldn't end there! I wrote another two chapters and ... I think, I hope ... that the ending is suitable. But I could've gone on another four chapters, really.) I'm terribly out of practice with short stories.

A lot of short stories don't dig deep into emotion. It's clever story, followed by "what a clever ending!" I prefer short stories that have an emotional arc, ending with a punch that really gets you in the gut.

I don't need a happy ending. I just need an ending that satisfies me. I need an ending that makes me happy, inspires me, makes me cry, or makes me think so deep I'm still gnawing on it for days afterwards.

Whose endings do you like the best?

I loved the ending of The Cleaner by Brett Battles--great twist! And Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Oh! And I just adore the endings of Jennifer Crusie novels. I always want to settle the book on my lap and just smile for awhile, basking in the satisfaction of the ending. She really does great endings.

Read more...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Static Computer

True story:

"Sony Tech."

I clear my throat. "Um, every time my cat sits next to the computer, it freezes."

A pause.

I gush on. "And if my arm brushes the side of the computer, it freezes."

"Are you ... what are ... uh--" he cuts off so abruptly, it sounds almost like he pressed the mute button.

"Sometimes, the screen goes black," I add. "When I try to raise the volume."

"May I put you on hold for a moment?"

I fidget while I wait. He comes back on the line. "Are you doing anything else when it freezes?"

"Sure, emails to a ton of people I owe emails to, trying to leave blog comments, trying to get work done. Look, I'm not inept. I've upgraded hard drives, memory, CD players, DVD players, soundcards. I even built my own computer once, from scratch."

Silence. Then, "so when your cat sits next to your computer, it freezes. Also when you touch the side of your computer?"

"Yes."

"Where is the power button located?"

"On the top!"

Another pause. "Okay, I'm going to send you a box."

"Should I include the power cord?"

"We won't need it." Another pause. "But can you send the cat?"

Read more...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day!

No matter how old you get, no matter if you never get snow days, that excitement when it snows never dies. Remember how thrilling it was when it snowed? And when you'd bounce out of bed in the morning, run to the tv, and watch the closings scroll through?

And then you'd play in the snow until your nose was red and the snot was running down your face? And then you'd get a big mug of hot chocolate with a HUGE spoonful of marshmallow creme on top!

Those were the days.

Today I had a snow day! I didn't know until I canceled work, how much I needed a day off. (Of course I worked at writing all day, then.) I am truly happiest when I'm writing.

To make matters better, my character showed a little more of herself. I am so thrilled with her! But I have to write three more short stories and a novella before I can back to her. What can you do?

I also had time to finish the ARC of The Cleaner, by Brett Battles. It doesn't come out until June, but ... buy it. I daren't say a word about it, because there's something REALLY COOL about it, and if I talk about it, I'm sure to spoil it! But gosh, I really want to tell you how cool something is, and tell you how well done it was!

Every Christmas, I am so excited about the gifts I bought for DH, that I try to get him to open one or two early. I just can't wait for it!

I only mention that because I want you to understand what restraint it's costing me to keep my mouth shut and not gush about what, exactly, I loved about The Cleaner.

Lips Sealed. Please give it a try. :-)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rage

Most of us try to be nice and decent and polite, but we're human. You never know what's going to set us off.

I have the cutest cat. She's been Daddy's Baby since Day One, and slept on his chest for at least half of the first year she joined our family. She rolls over on her back every time you go near her, purring to be petted. She crawls under the covers and sleeps with you. She's kind and gentle. Even though she's four, she carries around her toys like they're her teddy bears.

And then just yesterday, after four years of being the sweetest, most submissive cat, she snapped.

Our baby has spent the last two days terrorizing Moo-Boy, who is three times bigger than her. She has chased him all over the house, making the loudest sounds we've ever heard her make. Even when they're sitting around and relaxing, Daddy's Baby is staring at him and growling under her breath.

She is thoroughly PISSED. Livid. Beyond reason. I suspect, if she could pick up a knife, she would stab him to death. She SEEKS him out, just so she can growl at him and terrorize him.

The best guess we can make is that Moo-Boy (our cat that looks like a cow) slept in her spot. Or perhaps, as the veterinarian suggested, Moo-Boy did something that Daddy's Baby took the "wrong way."

Whatever, but to see her, you'd think Moo-Boy killed her first-born son.

(Here's where I pretend this is about writing. Oh! And about humans, too.)

I'm so touched when an author approaches characters with honesty, allowing them to be human and unlikable at times. I'm all for being positive and being nice, but the fact is, we all turn into raving lunatics at time, and often for the silliest of reasons.

What I wonder, is why reasonable, even-keeled people go nuts with rage? And I also wonder how an author makes a character real with human weaknesses, and still likable?

Sometimes I read authors allowing their characters un-PC or ugly habits, and their honesty truly touches me. I don't know why. Maybe it's just nice to know I'm not the only one in the world who is imperfect, LOL.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Mi Blogga, Su Blogga

Hey, all. Therese made a joke in the comments section, but it reminded me of something. I just wanted to say, Mi Blogga, Su Blogga. If you just had a book released or any other good news, then please feel free to tell me--repeatedly--in the comments section. :-) I am about as scatter-brained as they come.

That also goes for blog links. I'm under the impression that I read everyone's blog--every day--that pops by here. If I don't, and/or if you're not linked to the right, please feel free to drop me a note, because I want to. I like you guys. :-)

Someone, a few months back, yelled at a commenter for leaving a link to a post on her own blog, which she did because she thought her post elaborated on the current conversation. I forget the details, but it was considered a breach of proper etiquette or something.

I don't share that view.

If you want to elaborate on a conversation here on your own blog, feel free to drop your link in the comments. Or go on in the comments section. Feel free to write about any news you have or anything.

I really want to hear about it. Really. Comment as you please. Doesn't even have to pretend to be related to what I prattled about that day. :-)

Mi Blogga, Su Blogga.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is it all just bullshit?

There's a good discussion going around the blogosphere about all these writing blogs. Dave White is frustrated that they're too much about promotion and marketing, and not enough about writing. He says:

But at the same time, isn't one of the best ways to start promoting a book, writing a good one? Why can't we talk about different ways to get better and exchange thoughts about how to become BETTER WRITERS and better promoters? Isn't there a balance to that? Somehow, I feel like writing the book should be the MOST IMPORTANT THING, but when I read blogs, it isn't.

Mark Terry seems to be having a down day about all the promotion blogs, too.

... there's a part of me that wants very much to step aside from the marketing and promotion aspect of novels and say, "We're all pretty much wrong, you know. Nobody knows what makes books sell. N-O-B-O-D-Y." The more rational side of me suspects that this kind of success isn't planned, it just happens.

I suspect that a whole lot of it is bullshit. It sure sounds like BS sometimes, but you know what? It can be some pretty helpful BS at times.

Talking about writing has the same problem. Part of my "dig deeper" motto for the year is to study, analyze, and understand what makes a novel work and why. Most of what I come up with is NOT what the author had in mind when she/he wrote that phrase/scene/whatever. It begs the question: is all this study bullshit?

Even after all that study and analysis, I don't bring it (that often) to my keyboard. I pray that it's rooted somewhere in my subconscious, that it will just fizzle up and through my words.

Besides, someone always comes along and breaks all the rules, and writes an amazing novel that sells spectacularly.

I have a little theory that you've heard me share before. I've noticed that top pianists have impeccable rhythm. They never let the rhythm and pacing falter for an instant. Each of the top pianists also have their own sort of personal rhythm. My theory is that this applies to novels, too. I'm testing it out on Robert Gregory Browne. When he's a NYT bestselling author within the next decade, I'll be able to say, "I told you so."

Or, I could just be full of shit. :-)

Besides, I can name a few bestselling authors with horrid rhythm. Not many, but a few. There's always exceptions to every rule, which is the problem when you're studying something creative.

All the BS on writing and promoting, however, has lots of pros: 1) A lot of it helps. 2) Some of it works. 3) All of it makes us a little (or more) better.

Best of all?

It gives us hope and the illusion of control.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

My Latest Unputdownables

Today's Question: When you're writing, which would you choose: the precise word with the wrong rhythm, or the close enough word with the perfect rhythm? (No cheating and saying you'd find the right word with the right rhythm! We're pretending the above are the only two options possible.)

Okay, at Kate Sterling's request, here are some unputdownables, for those who're looking for one! These are making it through my scatter-brained futz lately, so they have to be pretty good. They're also eclectic, so one ought to work! If you want the official blurb, just click on the images. In no particular order:

1.) Joseph Finder, Paranoia: Read for the pacing and structure -- wow! (And the fact that you can't put it down!)

2.) Robert Gregory Browne, Kiss Her Goodbye (I couldn't put the excerpt down. The actual book hasn't been delivered, yet.) He's got awesome, impeccable rhythm, both in his sentences all the way up to his scenes. Read the excerpt at his site, and you'll agree!

3.) Diana Peterfreund, Secret Society Girl: I have nothing in common with a girl going to college. Nothing. And I couldn't put this book down. It may be chick lit, but it is SMART chick lit. This is the kind of chick lit that is going to bring the genre back into its own. Think Dan Brown meets Bridget Jones, but with better writing. AND think scatter-brained Spyscribbler read it in one day.

4.) Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys: (See the I, II, III posts I've made about this book so far, for why to read it. Read and drool at the story-telling craft.)

5.) Dean Koontz, The Husband: "We have your wife. You can get her back for 2 million--cash. The kidnapper doesn't care that Mitch runs a small two-man landscaping operation and has no way of raising such a vast sum. He's confident that Mitch will find a way. If he loves his wife enough. "He does love her enough. He loves her more than life itself. He's got sixty hours to prove it." Total education in Big Concept. And a fast-paced, emotional book to boot.

6.) Greg Rucka, Private Wars: (I'm eating my words here. I still can't get into A Gentlemen's Game, but Private Wars is a totally, totally different story. Great kick-ass heroine, and a spy to boot!)

7.) Stephen King, Rose Madder: Pick this up, read the first page, and you'll be totally sucked in. I dare you to start it and not finish it!

I'm leaving some good ones out, but I'm sleepy and my brain can't remember them. Besides, I want to go finish The Cleaner by Brett Battles.

What was the last unputdownable you read?

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #4

Thirteen Things I Learned This Week

Thanks to Allison Kent for her link to this Passionate post about mindfulness, I learned exactly what I most needed to learn most this week:

  • 10. "Practicing mindfulness is like adding more hours to your day. If you're mindful, time slows down. You ... feel less stress."
  • 11. "If you want to get more done, be mindful."
  • 12. "If you want to have more time, be mindful."
  • 13. "Mindful means one thing at a time."

What about you? Learn anything particularly (or even not particularly) interesting this week?

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just a question ...

What do you do when you've inadvertently started three books, and all three are unputdownables?

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Organizational Crisis

Broken by Megan Hart Erotic Fiction, coming May 2007 from Harlequin Spice.

I have no idea who Megan Hart is or what her book is about, but the instant I saw this cover, I wanted to read the book. So I'm passing along the picture. :-)

So just now, I looked at myself and realized I must have a problem. No kidding, no exaggeration here. I have Joseph Finder's Paranoia in one hand (which I put down every few seconds to take a bite of spaghetti), Brett Battle's ARC of The Cleaner in my other hand (which I put down now and then to move the mouse), an awards catalog for the day job in my lap, and my blog reader on the screen.

So that's FIVE things at once. My eyes were actually reading all things at once. Somehow, each of the stories stayed their own story.

It's no wonder I'm having trouble finishing the books I'm reading. No wonder I feel overwhelmed. No wonder I'm staying up until four in the morning installing and organizing all my email and feeds into a new program. (Mozilla Thunderbird: it's wonderful! All my emails accounts, all my blog reads, all in one place! I'm so loving it!)

I'm starting to think that writing at home is not going to work.

Well, anyway, this is my apology for not-so-great posts lately. Anyone ever go through something like this? Any advice?

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Anticipation & Endings

I love Tuesdays in the bookstore. Usually, carts are cluttered around the store and employees are busy stacking the shelves with the new releases. There's an energy on Tuesday that inspires me. All those newly-released books--what's not to love?

Except there were no carts today. Not only that, but my particular Borders seems to have a decidedly lax opinion on release dates. While I eagerly anticipate Tuesdays like movie-lovers anticipate Fridays, my Borders seems to think a release date is a suggestion date.

Of course, on one hand it is.

On the other hand, buzz builds anticipation. Anticipation builds as the release date nears. And when I walk in the store to NOT find my eagerly anticipated shiny new books that are lazily on their way, I feel like a lover denied her climax.

And next week, when it finally decides to find its way to the shelves, I'll have a nice little pop of surprise. It won't have the same power, though.

So while I understand that a bookstore might view Tuesdays as a day most booklovers don't know about, I can't help but wonder: if bookstores took part in that anticipation, if bookstores joined in that big release day, wouldn't THEY get more sales, too? Oh well. Go enter Robert Gregory Browne's contest before midnight on Wednesday, if the book hasn't hit your local store yet. Worth a shot, eh? Anticipation brings me to endings. Now, I DO know one can't please everyone. I DO know that reader mail should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it's clear that my endings need some work. Several hint that "it can't end yet!" or "but we're going to hear the rest of their story, right?" And yesterday, I got, "I treasured every single minute reading this, until the final chapter." The final chapter was rushed. I can't say she's wrong, and I feel badly that I let her down. Is this one of the things I'm supposed to not admit? Well, I do. I mean, I'm not in tears or anything, but I am determined to do better with my endings. Any advice? My latest love is Microsoft One Note 2007. It's this sort of notebook organizer thing that is AWESOME. I can put my outlines, characters, research, and even book, all in one place with sections on top, and different labels on the right. I can even have multiple notebooks for each novel, for reading, for blogging, for everything. There's a 60 day free trial (not exactly 60 days; two more months. So if you sign up today, you get to use it until April 30th, which is almost three months!) Play with it; it's fun! I have one file called "Bow Ties." As I'm writing my novel, I jot down a little note on every little thread that needs tied up at some point. I musn't disappoint my readers!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Mysteries and Thrillers

I've been having a problem. See, we all know that every characters serves a purpose. Lately, when I pick up a book, I tend to go through the mental checklist to figure out who is who and why a character is in the book.

The result?

As soon as a character enters, I seem to know exactly what purpose s/he's going to serve for the book. This means, I know that so and so is going to betray so and so at the end, I know who the killer is, I know who the author wants me to think is the killer.

What do you do?

I mean, in a typical mystery or thriller, you have: the killer, the one were supposed to think it is, so it's a surprise, and usually one to suspect that we know isn't the one.

So what do you do? Include five? To what purpose would the other characters serve, other than a distraction?

Tess Gerrittsen talked about her frustration on endings and readers today. I hear her frustration. It's impossible to please everyone.

I just need to know how to please enough people, LOL.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Totally Off Topic

I'm drowning in stuff to do. Since my brain can't handle a real post, I thought I'd ask a question.

Why do parents do their kids' homework?

About 20% of my students' parents do their kids' homework. I just want to understand why. There's an anonymous commenting feature here. Please explain, if you or someone you know, LOL ...

Please. I just don't understand.

Sorry for the off topic post. I should be back to normal tomorrow, Tuesday at the latest.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Fearing Cliches

The Big N has had a long past. Okay, not so long. It would have been written a year ago, had I not picked up Robert Doherty's Bodyguard of Lies. You see, he'd come up with the same premise I'd come up with: a spy trained without her knowledge.

Fine, fine. I re-vamped, threw out my plot. Came up with a new one, wrote a couple more chapters. (I kinda liked my old plot, though, darnitall.)

And then I discovered Ted Bell. Lord Alexander Hawke was awfully close to my character's name: Alyx Hawke.

(Kinda glad I lost that name.)

Honestly, I swear to dog and heaven, I had not remembered or known any of the above before I picked the exact same name/plot twist. So I sat stumped for two months, avidly reading everything I could get my hands on for fear I'd write something that had already been written.

As I bet you know, this made matters worse. Not only had every idea I'd come up with been done before, it'd been done better than I could do it!

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I picked up a book. Totally cliche plot. Totally! Get this:

Abused wife; abusive husband who's a cop so she can't file charges; wife runs away.

Erm, how many books have you read with that premise? With that opening? How many storylines based on that exact same situation?

Here's one: Stephen King's Rose Madder. (You probably thought of it right off the bat.) It's taken me awhile to get back to King. When I was young and read horror, I was in the Koontz camp. Sure, I read King now and then. The TV premiere of Carrie was a Big Deal when I was young, showing on one of the three channels we received. (Hah! Amazing how time changes the world so quickly!)

Anyway, I picked up Rose Madder and couldn't put the book down. Cliche opening through and through. Not a single surprise. And you know what? It was totally freaking awesome. Amazing!

How did he do it? First of all, he never settles for cliche. He's an author that digs deep into character, so deep that you can't take your eyes away. I mean, it's so good it's freakin' insane. I'd have to quote the whole opening to you, and when would I stop? I doubt Blogger would let me post the whole entire book in one post. And I think that would infringe on copyright, LOL!

Second, he crafts a story. Hook, mystery, and craft. No, make that Craft with a capital C, not to sound pretentious. The abused wife who's lost a baby (because he punched her in the stomach) and who's almost died several times, finally leaves over--get this!--one drop of blood. One drop! How perfect is that? I couldn't tear my eyes away!

I'm clamping my mouth shut. I'll ruin perfection if I talk about it. Geezuz, it's so damn good I want to cry. Seriously.

But what I've learned? Cliches don't mean a thing, if you dig deep and craft a story.

Especially if you're as good as Stephen King.

And I'd thought I'd almost talked myself out of fearing them ...

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #3: Agents

Agents and Authors alike have compared their relationship to a marriage. There's the courting, the (hopefully) long-term relationship, (but always with the "professional" caveat).

I found my wonderful DH after I figured out exactly what I wanted in a partner. And so, today I'll set the laws of the universe in motion and see if the same thing works for agents. (Okay, I'm not ready to query yet, but ... in a couple months.)

Below are 13 things I wish for in my dream agent. We're talking dream here. My dream DH didn't fart in his sleep and was a little more perfect, but I don't mind. He more than makes up for it. :-)

I'm curious. Did I forget anything? Did I put anything on the list that I *should* forget? What's your dream agent like? (Speaking of which, I have to nod to BookEnds blog for inspiring this post!) If you have an agent, what do you like most about him/her? What about the relationship was unexpected?

Thirteen Qualities in my Dream Agent
  • 1. Someone I click with.
  • 2. Someone who has my back, (or side, or front).
  • 3. Someone who wants to sell my career more than my book.
  • 4. Someone who loves making deals AND being a part of my book (whether it be editing, or problem-noticing, or whatever).
  • 5. Someone who is smart about what makes a book work (or not work).
  • 6. Someone who is willing to read everything before it goes out, forever and ever.
  • 7. Someone who would never be inclined to think anything was good 'enough.'
  • 8. Someone who is up front and clear about what they expect and want.
  • 9. Someone who is professional, yet can be friendly.
  • 10. Someone who is positive, and is a person I genuinely like and respect.
  • 11. Someone who likes and respects me, too.
  • 12. Someone honest, of course!
  • 13. Someone who doesn't mind weighing both sides, and explaining to me all the things I don't know or understand.

Is that a lot to ask? Too much? Unrealistic? What should I expect?

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