Showing posts from April, 2009


In the show Babylon 5, there was an order of technomages, who used technology to simulate magic. Not surprisingly, there really are technomagicians like this one. His tricks in this video, according to my friend, were "done in real-time, no post-production graphics."

Edits Continue

I continue revivsions. I'm trying to follow Maass's suggestion of making certain each scene has microtension -- mini-mysteries and conflicts embedded at the sentence and paragraph level. Also, I was stunned to discover Dindi Book 1 lacked cannibals. I've rectified that.

Blog Lite and Notebook Computer

It's not a notebook computer, it's a notebook which thinks it's a computer. Blog Lite continues, I'm afraid, as I focus intensively on using the Maass book to strengthen The Corn Maiden. I'm finding book books to be extremely useful at this stage of my editing. I hope the changes I'm making will really help the book.

The Fire in Fiction

I'm on a Maass kick. I'm now reading The Fire in Fiction. The priciples reprise Writing a Breakout Novel and the Workbook -- this one also has "homework" at the end of each chapter -- but the examples he uses to illustrate the point are all new, so it's worth reading. You can never read too many samples of something done right.

Submissions Hollywood Style

All creative people eventually have to sell their work, usually through intermediaries. For writers its agents and editors, for actors its agents and casting directors. For your consideration, here's a peek into the submission process for actors and actresses. Ivy Isenberg is a Casting Director with a cool webshow which views actors' demo tapes and then critques them, sort of the Hollywood equivilant of Query Shark.

Writing the Breakout Novel

I'm going light on blogging while I: A) Catch up on beta reading -- which is in itself quite illuminating. So often I'll catch some problem, say, overwriting, and realize, damn, I do this too. B) At the same time, I'm using responses from my beta readers and the Donald Maass Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook to edit my Dindi story. (Yes, again. It still has not compelled five agents to scramble over themselves to represent it, so clearly it still needs work.) I've read the Maass book by the same name, but never read the workbook before. Has anyone else gone through it? C) Beyond mere editing, I'm still brainstorming like mad to figure out how to fig-leaf the ginormous plot hole in the middle of my series. This is not even something caught by my beta readers, because they wouldn't be able to see it until a few more books into the series. But I believe that through the mystical power of the Great Unconscious, they can already sense the Black Plothole sucking al

New York Times Bestseller Bares All

Lynn Viehl reached covetted New York Bestseller list with her latest book Twilight Fall. And she's kind enough to give us the down and dirty on what this means to one's pocketbook. My advance for Twilight Fall was $50,000.00, a third of which I did not get paid until the book physically hit the shelf — this is now a common practice by publishers, to withhold a portion of the advance until date of publication. Of that $50K, my agent received $7,500.00 as her 15% (which she earns, believe me) the goverment received roughly $15,000.00, and $1594.27 went to cover my expenses (office supplies, blog giveaways, shipping, promotion, etc.) After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t. She also recieved her first royalty statment (link

Two Minds

A quote from a book I'm beta reading struck me with particular force. "Of all the conflicts of the world, nothing can surpass the conflict between two minds wanting sole possession of the same body." Lady Glamis, struggling with some of the same issues I am in rewrites, said, "I have a feeling that the fabric full of holes might be heavier than I think." "Write what you know," we are told, as writers. "I'm sick of that phrase," she said. Me too. As if we need only to know a thing, and then expressing it will be easy. Ha. We don't write to express ourselves. We write to know ourselves. (Art by thadeoradicarlous. )

Are You Dancing Or Just Swaying Back and Forth?

Some of you may have already seen one of these links on Janet Reid's blog. More inspiration from Britain's Got Talent. It made wonder. How can you tell if you should keep holding onto a creative dream? Here are two people who are well into their lives -- one 49 one 60 -- who haven't given up. But how do you know if the world is crazy for overlooking you or if you are crazy to keep trying? How do you know if you're dancing or just swaying back and forth? * * * Here's what Paul Potts , another Britain's Got Talent discovery had to say: “I feel like I’m living on gifted time as an artist. You don’t own the time, it is given to you by your fans and public who buy your music and support you. For that I will never stop being grateful and I appreciate the journey I am on even more. In life you sometimes take a turn you weren’t expecting, you don’t know where it leads but you have to take that path. This is what happened with me and Britain’s Got Talent. I still don’t

Show Me the Money

I always find it interesting to see how much money authors actually make. We all know that J.K. Rowlings is the exception, not the rule; but real dollars-and-cents figures are guarded more closely than goblin's gold. I found this breakdown from one helpful e-publisher, New Concepts Publishing, about the average payout over three years for various Romance sub-genres: Average payout over three years (contract period) $450.00 Science Fiction/Futuristic range: $127.89--$8455.46 Paranormal range: $78.00--$5673.50 Contemporary range: $55.18--$7913.78 Historical range: $75.16--$3863.12 Romantic Suspense range: $124.24--$1977.20 Fantasy range: $44.00--$4774.80 Remember, all of these are actually in the Romance genre, so you sf freaks, contain your jubliation unless your aliens have their sexy on. I suspect mainstream fantasy and sf sell in much lower numbers. If anyone has any real figures, ballpark or specific, I'd be interested. * * * Small e-presses are probably the first step abo

twitter odyssey

So the skeptics were right!

First Person Retrospective

Since I decided to write my Secret Novel in first person, I've been rereading some of my favorite first person novels. There are two major approaches to first person: Immediate First Person: Sometimes this means first person present tense, which is as intimate and immediate as it gets. However, even first person past tense can feel very much "in the now"; the narrator tells what she felt at the moment she is describing, nothing more. She doesn't "cheat" by implying she knows more about what happens next any more than the reader. If she misjudges someone, this is revealed only when she herself discovers it. I turned around when I heard the shot, crying, "Edwin, don't!" My eyes fell on the smoking gun first, then the body, and in my shock it took me a dozen heartbeats to make sense of the French manicure on the hand holding the gun, or the fedora hat soaking in a pool of blood. Gloria met my eyes. "That's right. I was the one who went t

Death's Gift

My adored beta readers are starting to return crits to me on my extremely long manuscript for the story formerly known as The Corn Maiden. At first, the discovery of fatal flaws in my baby drove me to despair. I planned to hack the whole thing in pieces and start all over. Further thought -- and sobriety -- offered an alternative solution, involving changes to key scenes. Hopefully this will save the whole thing from the scrape heap. I'm impatient to gnaw on to fresh meat, so I want to get this book cooked and out of the oven. In honor of the revisions, I toyed with a new title -- which, of course, required new cover art. Whatdaya all think of the latest title? Is it intriguing? Think it stinks? Prefer the other one? Like the title in theory, but for some completely other book besides the one I've written? I have two variations: Death's Gift Lady Death's Gift I like the starkness of the first one, but the second sounds more like a fantasy to me. Any thoughts? * * * P.S

The Secret Nature of Things

Everything looked beautiful, in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely unhappy than ever. “I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.” Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings. “Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death. But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To

The Rise and Fall of Literate Civilization

Another typical screed bemoaning the loss of literary refinement in human civilization. The odd thing about this decline in general literacy is that people are probably reading more than ever. Beyond the obvious ramifications of a much more highly educated populace, the rise of the Internet has upped the amount of time a person spends reading every day. But they’re not reading Sophocles, to be sure: it’s likely that blog posts and Wikipedia, despite the fact that they put more text before more eyes, have actually hurt our cultural sensibilities. Readers accustomed to short Perez Hilton paragraphs have difficulty turning to, say, the long-winded eloquence of Faulkner, and so the good stuff gets pushed aside. It’s not even that books have been abandoned altogether. In fact, there have been some astonishing literary phenomena in recent years that probably represent the largest shared experiences of reading in history. The obvious example is the Harry Potter series, which has sold over 40

Amazon Sales Rankings

Dave Fortier provided some links to explain the Mystery That Is Amazon Sales Ranking. Amazon's algorithm for sales ranking is complicated and some recent attempts to extrapolate the data have yielded some basic guidelines. Discusses approximate sales from sales ranking. Here he mentions that a book needs to sell a copy a year on Amazon, through Amazon direct or a marketplace merchant, to have an approximate sales rank of 2,000,000. Less than a sale a year results in a larger number, or a worse ranking. A book without a sales ranking has yet to make a sale. Similarly, Brent Sampson yields this list: 2,000,000+ Perhaps a single inventory/consignment copy has been ordered 1,000,000+ Current trends indicate total sales will most likely be under 40 100,000+ Current trends indicate total sales will most likely be under 200 10,000+ Estimate between 1 - 10 copies being sold per week. 1,000+ Estimate between 10 - 100 copies being sold per week. 100+ Estimate between 100 - 200 copies be

Internal vs External Motivation

As I struggle with finding the beginning, ending, voice and person, for my Secret Novel, I return each time to the characters themselves. Many of you have given me the advice, "Listen to what the characters tell you." I pondered this wisdom deeply and realized something profound. I have no frickin' idea what my characters are telling me. Here's the problem. I know the shape of my story well... but only from the outside. I know what happens to my characters. But I don't know what happens within my characters. I realize this is odd. Usually, I know what my characters want before I know what will stop them from getting it. For various reasons, mostly because my secret novel is inspired by real events, I know all the obstacles but none of the aspirations. My characters have external motivation. Bad things happen to them. But what is their internal motivation? What keeps them going despite the bad things? This is what I have to discover. I usually write ch

Blind Picket Author's Guild

Here's another view of the Author's Guild dispute with the Kindle. The National Federation of the Blind's Imbroglio with the Author's Guild and their distaste for the Kindle 2's text-to-speech function is heating up. Today they took it to the Guild's own doorstep here in NYC. Basically the story is this: the Author's Guild raised issue with the Kindle 2's new robotic text-to-speech feature, which can read any Kindle book aloud in a synthesized voice—naturally, a feature that would be an absolute delight for the vision impaired. The Author's Guild, however, saw things differently, stating that eBooks are not sold with "performance" rights and that the Kindle's read-aloud feature would cut into the sales of audio books. And last month, Amazon caved to the Guild, giving individual publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech reader for specific books. ...We're all about getting people paid for their work, but to cite lost roya

Ending - Twist or Plunge

The End. I always type those words at the end of my first draft. (Sometimes, if I'm trying to be sophisticated, I type "Fin" instead.) Fins are considered fishy these days, but I still like the taste of them. There's a lot to say about endings, and Natalie the Ninja has some good advice on writing endings, especially for those who are nearing the completion of a manuscript right now. My concern at the moment is a little different. My Secret Novel is not yet begun, never mind near complete. As I've mentioned before, I seldom begin a book without knowing how things will end. So, in a sense, this post is actually the counterpart of my discussion of beginnings. Just as beginnings can be marathons or relays, so endings can be likened to the final run on a roller coaster: the Plunge or the Twist. The plot of a book is like a roller coaster, full of of ups and downs, twists and curves. At the climax of the ride, you have to decide -- how will the ride end? Some roller

First Person

A friend of mine in a writing group said this about writing in First Person: In general, I think the key to writing effectively in first is about not treating it like third person with a find-and-replace button, he or she swapped out for I in the same sentences, structures, and techniques. For first person present to be truly sustainable at novel length -- and, well, more readable in shorter lengths -- it has to be more experiential. If I'm telling a story, "No shit, there I was," I'm telling you about what I saw, how I felt, what my emotional reactions were; how I tell you and even what I tell you will be coloured by what I think of the whole thing. So the major thing I'd put out there for writing effectively in first would be this: Think about how people actually do tell stories about themselves. What kind of language they use, how casual or formal they are, how they get across their personalities in the style and what they omit and what kinds of things they me

Another Perfect Example of Human Strangeness

"It was such a perfect example of human strangeness that I cried." So said the friend who emailed me this. Me too. Furthermore, I've actually been to the Central Station in Antwerp, Belguim.

Bad Query Contest

I entered a fabulous Bad Query Contest and my query was awful enough to warrant "highly recommended." Check out the winner and also the list of things which can go terribly awry in a query letter. Here was mine: Dear To Whom It May Concern, What is the most allusive dream which is what Elenor Paige wants? But her husband has missing for forty years. Little does she know her sister knows where he is but is dead. When her sister is a ghost, the other ghosts are tyring to stop her. This is the point in the story where the villain reveals his ability to control all the governments of the world, including the Pope. And this is a conspiracy. This is is not a stupid book like all of the crap on the shelves. This fiction novel will transforming your sole and make you glad to be life. This is a novel of the triumph of love and beauty and hope and goodness and the importance of freindship over an evil appliance of governments, religions and coroporations to control your brain and mak

Blog Notes

Urm, I have some stuff I need to do for my blog. My blog won an award -- squee! -- but I haven't nailed it to the wall yet. I want to catch up on a bunch of blogs I'm following, and I still want to post my thoughts on Endings, which is about half written. (My post on Endings has no ending. O, Irony, you kill me.) Kids are off on Spring Break, I have a few art projects I'm going to bid on and Revenge of the Vomitous Stomach Flu has struck members of my clan again. However, I will brush up my blog eventually, and I apologize for the delay.

The Secret to Overnight Success

This interview with Arthur Golden, the author of Memoirs of a Geisha is ten years old, but new to me. A friend in a writing group passed the link to me, and I pass it on to you, with these thoughts: 1. This" overnight night success" took fifteen years to research, write, rewrite and sell. 2. Golden wrote a complete draft before he was able to interview a real geisha. "But I wrote a draft based on a lot of book-learning. And I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the world of a geisha was like, and wrote a draft. Then a chance came along to meet a geisha, which, of course, I couldn't turn down. And she was so helpful to me that I realized I'd gotten everything wrong, and I ended up throwing out that entire first draft and doing the whole thing over again." 3. He then rewrote the entire book again, this time changing from third person to first person. And I also found this insight to the point: O'BRIEN: What's it like, sitting there at the comput

Saving Money as a Writer

SunTiger tagged me with coming up with 3 ways to save money. Um. I'm really the last person to ask about how to save money. Now, if y'all wanted tips on how to waste money, I'm your gal. Plus, this is supposed to be a blog about writing. Anyway, here goes. 1. Write in the dark. Your computer screen should give you enough light anyway, right? Turn off the lights and conserve power! Oh, wait, some of you write longhand. Well, you probably don't have electricity anyway, so you're fine. 2. Query only by email. Why waste trees and spend all that money on stamps? Do you really even want an agent who doesn't know how to use email? 3. Drink less beer. Buy a keg instead. Yeah, I know. There's a reason I lost the election for Highschool Treasurer.


My next post was going to be on Endings. However, the thoughtful comments to my post on Beginnings made me want to linger a bit longer on the subject of Hooks. We are told all the time, "You must hook your reader!" But what about the quiet set-up, the story which opens like a wide-shot of the landscape which shapes the story, or a close-up on a character? Must every story start with action and danger? In short, must every book begin with a sentence as dark and striking the first sentence in  Neil Gaiman's   The Graveyard Book : "There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife." In a word -- no. Not every book has to begin with darkness, knives, or the slaughter of the protagonist's family. Every story needs a hook. But not every hook involves action or physical threats.  A hook which is understated, subdued, focused on character, is perfectly acceptable in a book which is focused on character. Take the first two lines of The Kite Runner : I became wha

Beginning - Relay Race or Marathon?

We all know, I presume, the importance of a good hook. Many of my friends who read this blog are familiar with Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contests, in which one has only 250 words to dangle that hook in front of an agent. She is presently running a first sentence contest, in which your hook must be in the very first sentence of your novel. All well and good, but as I contemplate the best place to begin my Secret Novel, I would like to go beyond the obvious need for a hook and ask, "Yes, but what kind of hook?" It isn't enough to hook the readers in Chapter One and then throw them back into the lake of lukewarm plot tension for the rest of the book. The hook has to lead into the rest of the book. It seems to me there are two ways the hook can do this: the Relay Race method or the Marathon Race Method. * * * In the Relay Race Method, the hook in the first chapter is not itself the main problem of the book. It is merely the first of a cascade of pro

My Vampire Story

I've now got the goth font and the black background... what am I really saying with my blog look? Perhaps I should be writing a vampire story.  Well, actually.... I, too, have a vampire story. Yes. Really. April Fool's is over, and I'm not a ninja of humor, so you can trust me on this. According to Nathan's poll, they aren't passe yet. Don't worry, this isn't the topic of my Secret Novel. I haven't had a full idea yet, only an inkling of one -- the core of the story, the unique twist. It definitely has a unique twist. Not sparkles. It's never been done before.  Unfortunately, there may have been a good reason for that. My vampires are unlikely to make tweenyboppers swoon. I wanted to address Lady Glamis' question about what is the obsession with zombies and vampires and other ghoulies. (Actually, ghouls are much under used.) How much of a twist do you need to justify revisiting a much-used trope like vampires (or zombies or werewolves or American

New Blog Header, Take Two

The other header, alas, really didn't work, so I've set it aside and tried something simpler. The previous entry was, of course, in honor of the spring tradition of poking fun at ourselves. Happy April Fool's Day!

Writing News

I don't have time for much blogging today, but here's a few writing-related news tidbits. Some of you already know that Romance writer Nora Roberts also writes as J.D. Robb. Well, apparently, she's not the only famous writer who goes slumming under other pen names. Famed horror writer Stephen King just revealed that he is actually the author behind the pen name Stephanie Meyer. That's right. The whole bro-ha-ha where Stephen King supposedly dissed the writing quality of Twilight was just an elaborate inside joke. Boarders has been  in trouble for quite some time,  but the mega-book store chain has a new lease on life now that they've been acquired by  Publish America. Finally, J.K. Rowlings, who had earlier  shocked fans by outting Dumbledore as gay, delivered another surprise today when she explained that after attending several reparative therapy sessions, the wizard had successfully reversed his homosexuality. She did not say whether magic was involved in th