Friday, November 19, 2010

UF: Endless Wars

Dear Diary,

Today I start a short series on unrealistic fantasy. The first point brought up was:

1. The endless war where everyone fights. If everyone is a soldier, how are soldiers being fed?

Endless wars come, unfortunately, straight out of our own history. One need only read the Old Testament to see that one conflict was constantly being traded for another, and that this went on for thousands of years. Egypt, a land rich in resources amid people who were less fortunate, kept a standing army to protect its borders. Rome's economic model was based on the constant growth of the Empire by military means, and funded by the plunder taken from conquored civilizations. The Middle Ages, the basic source for Fantasy, was a time when petty princes tended to enforce their policies on their neighbors violent means. The Vikings raided the coastal areas of Europe for more than a hundred years. Moving into later times, there was the 100 years war and the 30 years war, both in Europe, and frequent flareups of smaller wars in the meantime. And the formative years for modern fantasy took place during the last dredges of the Vietnam War, which wasn't all that long, comparatively, but seemed to drag on forever.

However, this constant state of war which is the backdrop for Medevial-based Sword and Sorcery fantasy was much different from our current concept of warfare. The strongest weapon of mass destruction was fire, which tended to leave the ground more fertile afterwards, not less. battles were fought hand to hand, mostly, with air support coming from arrows. Battles stayed local to the fields on which they were fought, and most of the surrounding fields and farms left untouched. and as far as manpower was concerned, most armies were raised at the time of conflict, not kept standing in readiness. Except for the knights, the warriors were also the farmers and tradesmen of the castle.

In addition, even if _Everyone_ went off to fight, a lot of people stayed behind. Women, children, older men. The typical workforce of the time.

The eternal war works if it is not global, if it's not destructive to the environment, and if the peasants are smart enough to plant potatoes. One good thing about potatoes is that they are not destroyed when the rest of the crops are burned or trampled by an invading army. Unfortunately, there is just one teensy little problem with potatoes in Sword and Sorcery Fantasy. Potatoes came from the Americas, and although some came to Europe in the century following Columbus's famous Renaisance-era, they weren't eaten for food for another hundred years. But that's not an insurmountable problem, for peasants ate the other white tuber -- turnips!

The trick for answering the criticism, I believe, is to acknowledge that even while a war is taking place, much of life is continuing as normal. Or as normal as life in the Fantasy Middle Ages could be, what with all those wizards and female warriors in brass bras running around...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unrealistic Fantasy

Dear Diary,

Today I'm going to send you on a linkquest:

Unrealistic Fantasy. This is a forum I found on where readers, and a few authors, post their gripes about unrealistic fantasy scenarios.

Enjoy, and I'll discuss some of those points in future posts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Car Repairs

Dear Diary,

Pluses and minuses of spending three and a half hours in the lobby of teh car dealership while waiting for a one and half hour service to finish (They had to wait for a part.):

Plus: nothing to do but work on the handwritten story, and no cat to eat my pen while I'm trying to write.

Minus: construction taking place very close to where I was sitting. The people walking about on the roof, and the few times they dropped things, was very disconcerting.

Plus: Guilt-free time for writing, thinking, and reading.

Minus: Five Guys and a Burger is not a good place for a fat-intolerant person to each lunch...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feminist Fiction

Dear Diary,

Sword and Sorceress 25 is coming out this week. It is an anthology of stories featuring strong female heroines. Feminist fantasy, some say. But what, pray tell, is feminist fantasy?

I don't have a scholarly answer. I only have what I observe from reading the stories, from coming of age in the Eighties, and from living life as a woman. So I will tell you what Feminist Fantasy means for me.

It means strong women who achieve. They are stong because they face opposition. Traditionally, in 1980's thinking, that opposition often wears a beard and sports testosterone. Not just men, but manly men, who make it their mission in life to subdue women and keep them pregnant. Whether these men are fathers, husbands, or brothers is moot. A woman's place is in the marriage bed, birthing heirs.

This makes for boring stories, by the way.

The opposition, however, can come from any number of things. Economic problems, war, the cold equations of survival -- a good heroine has to deal with all those things. And she must deal with those things herself. To me, that's the key. The heroine can't sit about whining for a prince, fate, or the sisterhood to rescue her. She might do that at first, but she has to understand that she can't win that way. She has to reach into her own strengths, buck up, and get the job done.

She's gotta show ovaries!

Yep, that's the main thing you need for Feminist Fantasy. Ovaries. And some magic, come to think of it. Can't have fantasy without magic.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing For The Love

This weekend I read about an interesting experiment. The researcher put two groups of people into rooms with a puzzle that they had to assemble as a team. One group was to be paid for each puzzle piece that had been corrected placed. The other group was not paid. After a set amount of time, the researcher called a halt, put some magazines in the room, and told the participants that he was going to go grade their efforts. Instead, he sat down and watched the people in the rooms.

Those that had been paid by the completed puzzle piece went to the magazines and began to read them. Those who had not been paid continued to try to solve the puzzle.

The results don't surprise me. After people have been paid to do something, its hard for them to do it without pay. I see that all the time in writing. Once a person has entertained the idea of writing for pay, the idea of writing for the love becomes objectionable. The work they do must be marketed and sold, must not be given away. No matter how much joy the writing may have brought them when it was just for fun, now it is serious. Now it is work.

Further, they tell Everybody that it is bad to write for free, until Everybody knows it. You don't put work on the web, if you are a serious author. You don't self-publish. You don't, under any circumstance, give it away for free.

I'm not sure I want the joy of creating for creation's sake taken away from me. Sure, I want to make money at this. Who doesn't want to make money? But I also want to keep part of it for fun. Maybe I'll head over to Smashwords, and put up some stories for free. For fun. For the love.

Right after I get this for-pay work done...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Dear Diary,

As a child growing up among my parent's collections of books, the short story collections were the first I took to reading. They were brief and varied, and each story could be consumed before important plot elements were forgotten. Many of the ideas were quirky and thought-provoking. Books dragged on a bit, a challenge to my elementary school mind. My parents had some magazines, also filled with interesting short stories.

Today, all we hear about is how the magazines are barely holding on and how anthologies really don't make money. This seems odd in our time-pressed culture. One would think that a book that could be consumed in small chunks would be more popular than a novel, not less. And magazines still cost less than a paperback when bought on the newstand. By subscription, they are a huge bargain.

It doesn't make sense. Unless -- is there a reason why people would rather put their money into books than into short stories?

Could it be that I'm not the only person disappointed in the state of short story publications today? I figured I was just being a snob, and that I was only imagining that short stories in magazines are very artsy --but not very thrilling. Not thought-provoking to the hurried mind. Not entertaining in the way that the old stories used to be.

But if it is just me, then why are the magazines getting harder and harder to sell? And themed anthologies -- they should be popular. I like variety, and so do many people I know. We go to buffets and sample all the different foods. An anthology of short stories should be likewise. Unfortunately, I all too often find that the stories in anthologues are monotonous. It's like going to the Chinese buffet and finding twenty different varieties of Fried Rice. I want to try different things, but the editor seems to be working on variations of a single theme.

I wonder if anthologies would sell better if they had more variety, more plots that were tangential to the theme? I wonder if it would excite people to read exciting, non-stylistic stories? I wonder if I'm just weird?

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm Sure I Had An Idea...

Dear Diary,

I'm sure I had an idea for a topic today. Where did I put it?

Maybe if I clean up this writing room I will find it...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Revise, Rinse, Repeat

Dear Diary,

Today I worked on revising some stuff I had completed and let sit for awhile. Writing is like making soup. The longer it sits, the better it gets. And that which was perfect last month is incomplete today.

One story needs an ending. I was trying to create something short, something flash. It may still stay as a short piece, but it's not going to be flash. In fact, I may only have the beginning.

That's always a disheartening feeling, for some reason. Finished, no. Barely started. Where do I go from here? How does it end? Other, of course, than some time in the future.

Just like housework...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Urban Fantasy

Dear Diary,

You may not know this, but right next to you, right in your own home town, where you take your kids to school and buy your supper, evil is lurking. And not just any evil. Those foul-mouthed punks, that seemingly random violence, and even the the tiny annoyances of the ever-red traffic lights are all part of a supernatural movement that will, quite soon, erupt in demonic flames and fractured reality. But you'll never know it because also sitting next to you, in the guise of a mild-mannered street bum, is a supernatural hero with a hard-boiled past, who will sacrifice almost everything to keep you ignorant.

Welcome to Urban Fantasy.

It takes place in the real world, generally in some troubled city like Detroit or Cleveland, and features the epic battles of good and evil while most everyone notices that nothing unusual is happening. The reason that no one ever seems to notice this varies from the conspiracy of the magical world to keep itself hidden from mundane eyes to the simple reality that most mundanes wouldn't know a dragon if it stepped on their car. They would probably just blame the wreckage on some drunk kids speeding down the street. But the main reason that no one ever knows about this magical world is that the hero almost always wins to keep the bad evil from changing the world. And if he or she fails, a cover story can always be quickly fabricated.

So, the first step in writing an urban fantasy novel is to comb the newspapers for unusual events and then ask yourself, "What supernatural force could have caused this?" And then, "What happens next?"

But whatever you do, don't forget that urban fantasy must also be gritty, dark, and moderately depressed. Why? That's the fashion. It's also the atmosphere of "urban," that land of slums, garbage strikes, graffiti, and the homeless. But urban is also the land of museums, river festivals, parades, and major league ballparks. There should be some fertile ideas in those!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Dear Diary,

In the wide world of writing, Novemeber has been set aside as a month when authors attempt the marathon of writing: an entire novel in thirty days or less. Of course, the novel is to be short, only 50,000 words. And crappy. Yes, the whole point is to write a crappy novel in as little time as possible -- for by telling your brain that it is supposed to be crappy, you short-circuit the internal editor who stands over your shoulder whimpering, "That sentence wasn't good enough. Go back and change it." And the idea is that if you write a short, crappy novel, you will at least have the basic frame down, and can go back and work on it at your leisure.

At the least, this is supposed to be a very fun experience. I don't go for full participation in the event because, even with my internal editor turned off, I wear out after a thousand words a day. That and my habit of not waiting until one particular month to embark on white fire writing. Last year I hit a spell that might have qualified, but it struck in the middle of August.

I have found, however, that not everyone supports the idea of NaNoWriMo. Most, like me, simply feel that the frantic pace is not for them. Not in November, with the holidays breathing down our necks. But there are some interesting alternative to the marathon.

There is, for example, NaQuaWriMo -- or National Quality Writing Month. You turn out a 100 words of highly polished prose every day for a month. I cann imagine that might be of more use to me, as I can write crappy just fine, but writing well is a challenge. Or there is NaPoWriMo -- National Poetry Writing Month. Produce a poem a day. There was even at one point WriSoEvDay -- write something every day.

What has worked best me, however, is a simple challenge. You set the word goal for each day, preferable something that makes you stretch a bit without guaranteering frustration, then report every day whether or not you made the goal. The other people who have picked up the challenge with you also report in the same place. It's not frantic, it's not a heart-pounding. But it's a steady pace that can easily become habit-forming.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vacuuming The Cat Is A Good Idea

Dear Diary,

I have come with the perfect excuse for why I cannot do NaNoWriMo this year: my cat won't let me.

I admit, freely and without reservation, that I am too slow a writer to achieve NaNoWriMo. I can approximate the experience, however, with something I call a Rough Write. It's hand written, it jumps off the board with no good goal in sight or even a way to get there, it plows ahead without revision, and it taps into a very creative part of my brain. After doing the Rough Write, I can then do the first typed draft. Followed by a serious revison or two, then a serious polish, then another polish, and so on. This November my need to do a Rough Write coincides with the challenge, so I am aiming to finish the section I am Rough Writing by the end of the month. I've got what, fourteen hand-written pages?

However, I have discovered that my opportunities to sit down with notebook and pen are limited. Today I had to flee to Starbucks to get some done. I really thought that I would have more time to sit and write once my children were out of the house, but I found that their place has been taken by the cat.

Pet me! Pet me! Love me! Pet me!

He comes begging for attention every time I install myself on the couch with pen and paper. And if I do not pet him, with my right hand no less, he starts reaching out with his paw and touching me. Pat. Pat. Pat the author. And if I do not respond, then he continues to pat.

With his claws out.

I have a request you can't ignore...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

They Saw What????

Dear Diary,

I am reading a book where the protag remembers going to visit Serpent Mound, in Ohio. She describes what she saw, as a young girl. And I said, "What?"

Now, the author had done her research, I give her that. In fact, I recognized her description from similar ones I had seen while researching the place myself. But I've also been to Serpent Mound, and what she describes the young girl seeing is impossible.

"Anya recalled walking around the edges of the mound with her mother. She hadn't been impressed at the time. The mound wasn't more than three feet high and it seemed to melt into the grass, like a sea serpent sleeping... Anya's mother pointed from the nose to the tail of the effigy. "This is the sleeping place of a great serpent. They all sleep underground."

What's wrong with this description is a small thing, but one which screams out to me. You can't see the entire serpent from the ground. You can't see much at all. To see the serpent, you have to get up in the air. A three-story metal platform was constructed at the turn of the century for just that purpose -- and one would think that climbing such a thing, an open air metal staircase, would itself have made an impression on the narrator. But even from the platform you can't see the head of the serpent very well.

It seems to me that the author has never been to the place her character traveled to. Not that this is a major fault, but it begs the question: If you can't afford to travel to all the places you describe, what's the best way to describe them? How afraid should you be of getting details wrong? If I had never been to Serpent Mound, I would not have caught the error. Still, it makes me more nervous about setting my stories in places I have never been.

Score one for Fantasy. At least the Fantasy lands are all I imagine them to be, and nothing more.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What E-reader are you?

Dear Diary,

You need an e-reader. Everyone needs an e-reader. E-books have taken off this year, due to both the proliferation of reading devices and the proliferation of apps for reading on other devices. You can buy a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony e-reader, and a Kobe e-reader for about the same price for equivalent features. You can read on your phone, your computer, or your Ipad. On your Ipod touch.

Even on your Nintendo DS. www.pocketgamer (But Mom, I am reading a book!)

E-books have gotten so prevalent that sales of them are rising even as physical copy sales are falling. And it is no wonder - e-books are cheaper, much more portable, and easier to store. They can be changed into large print books at a touch of a button. And, thanks to the Guttenburg Project, all the classics of yesteryear are available to us.

I suspect that e-books will play a larger role in the future. Is this good? E-books, having a lower price, bring less per copy to their authors, but the increased volume in sales may make up for this. On the other hand, their far less materials cost means greater money, per copy, to the publishers. And there is the benefit that used books won't make their way to the used book bins, depriving the publishers of the money they would make off of a sale of a new book. No more danger of stripped books being sold or read by a non-paying audience. The pluses pile up for the publishers.

I suspect that this will lead to new books being published only as e-books. This happened to mass-market paperbacks, which were originally low-cost versions of books which originally came out in hardback. Very convienant for soldiers to carry about in their pockets during the war. But as the lower cost books became more popular, publishers began putting out titles exclusively in that form. Hard back books became reserved for the people who could be depended upon to sell large numbers even at the hardback price.

I see publishers trying out new books in the e-book format first, and then if it sells well, bringing out a hardback version that people can keep despite hard-drive and other system failures.

So, even if you are resisting getting an e-reader application or device, you may have to within a few years -- or miss the bulk of the genre fiction being published. You might as well start thinking about it now, and perhaps trying out free versions. The future is coming.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Things We Do For Research

Dear Diary,

Today I am doing research for one of WIP's. I have a Gutter Rat, a low brow, who finds himself in the royal hot seat. This is never a good fit, but in search for some ideas, a friend suggessted I watch King Ralph. I considered getting a Netflix account and ordering the movie, but found it was at the local library.

Easy, cheap, and fast. Never forget how valuable a public library can be for doing research for a book. That way, you can save your money for the really important things -- like gas for a road trip so you can see actual places and things.

I've been meaning to set a novel on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea, you know...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Word vs. Wordperfect

Dear Diary,

I was just looking at Smashwords, a site for self-publication of electronic books, and I found that they accept uploads in the .doc format. Not .rtf, not .txt, and not .html. It's .doc or nothing. And .doc is a document created by Word. It can be created by other word processing programs which play well with Word, but my favorite, Wordperfect, does not.

Why do they only accept Word? The style guide explains that this is because Wordperfect gives authors headaches. Huh?

As you can tell by now, I am a fan of Wordperfect, because Word gives me headaches. Word does a lot of fancy tricks, yes, but I don't care for them. Word often tries to think for me, adding in features that I did not want to add, and it gives me no easy way to get rid of them. If I make a mistake while typing in Wordperfect, if I accidentally add a bit of formatting code that I don't want, I find it easy to remove. I just look at the revel codes pane, grab the offending code, and pull it out. With Word, I can only delete the whole section and retype it.

Worperfect creates cleaner HTML, as well. There is an option in Wordperfect to publish your text to HTML, and it's pretty clean. Easy to clean up if you are doing an eBook. Word, on the other hand, loves to hear itself talk. All those nice additions end up as long strings of code in the finished product which must be stripped out by hand.

A sore, aching hand, after a few chapters. With many more chapters to go.

On the other hand, Word is the "industry standard" for the publishing world, as seen with Smashwords. Most markets will take, or even prefer .rtf for their submissions, but I have to wonder if .rtf derived from Word files look different than .rtf from Wordperfect. I may have to become bilingual at some time.

I hope it won't be soon. I still have nightmares about Clippy...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Chapters?

Why do books have chapters? What is the best way to denote those chapters?

Most books have chapters. For non-fiction books, the chapters serve to group the information into topics. The title of the chapter decribes the information given in that chapter. If you pick up a book on knitting and turn to the table of contents(TOC), you can find the chapter on Fair Isle Knitting without having to go through all the chapters on basic knitting techniques. The TOC will tell you that the chapter starts on page 97, so you flip through to page 97. E-books don't have page numbers, but they do have TOCs, and the chapter listings are clickable links. Select and click on Fair Isle Knitting, and there you are.

Fiction books, on the other hand, are meant to be read from front to back -- yet they are usually still grouped into chapters. Not always, of course. Many of Terry Pratchett's books do not have chapters. Moll Flanders, by Danial Defoe, did not have chapters. Most books, however, greet the reader with a large 1 at the beginning of the story, and further numbers occur at regular intervals.

Chapters are an invitation to set down the book, to stop reading. To dissuade this, many authors end their chapters with cliff-hangers that encourage the reader to continue untill, at least, the current crises is solved. And then, of course, the reader thinks to continue to the end of the chapter, but there they find a new cliff-hanger.

So one use of a chapter is to give the reader a false sense that there are stopping places, when in reality there aren't. This is a bit like being told that a rest stop is coming up in 2 miles, only to be informed next that the rest stop is closed and you have to wait 36 miles for the next one. And you wait that 36 miles because you know that the rest stop is coming. When there are no chapter breaks and no assurance than a stopping point is coming, the reader feels welcome to set their bookmark, weel, anywhere.

Chapters have a deeper purpose, however, for the author. Chapters break a long manuscript into managable pieces. It's a lot easier to search 16 or 10 pages at a time for typos and errors, and you feel more compelled to get to the end of a chapter than a long novel. And if the chapters are short, then you can fool yourself with "Just one more," a concept that is making video game developers rich.

The next question, then, is how to name the chapters. Numerically is very common. Not only does this take much less imagination that proper titles, it also helps in the final assembly of the book. If each chapter is a separate computer file, a numerical name keeps them straight. And what reader needs a chapter title when they are busy reading from the last cliffhanger to a new one?

The eBook is about to change this. EBooks need to have TOCs to help the readers page through the books, but as was pointed out to me yesterday, when an eBook has a TOC that consists of only Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, etc., it looks odd. Boring.

Note to self -- in the future, all book chapters should have a number and a title. Just getting ready for the new world, that's all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Up?

Dear Diary,

It appears that my book, By Blade and Cloth, has successfully published to the Kindle.

Appears is the operative word, however. I should know, when the reviews roll in, if I've made some lethal mistakes with it. If the reviews roll in...

It went up quicker than expected. The process can take up to 48 hours. Or maybe it's not really up -- but it looks to me as if it can now be bought by interested parties.

Interested, anyone?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Creating an E-book

Dear Diary,

I have neglected you this past month, but it was all to a good cause. I have been preparing a book for kindle distribution, and I'm happy to report that I uploaded it today. Hours, even days, will pass before it appears on the virtual bookshelf of the store of virtual books. When it does, I'll name the book and post the link. Might even get a sale.

It should seem that preparing a book for e-book distribution should be as easy as slapping the manuscript into a submit box, but it isn't. E-book readers, whether they are apps you load onto a computer or other device, or a dedicated reading device, use HTML. And as you know, Bob, HTML is a tricky language. One wrong letter can change the entire format of your page. Finding that wrong letter can be a like searching for a needle in a hayfield.

Further, if you want your e-book to look right, you need to use specific commands.

So the entire process of creating an e-book starts with turning your document into an HTML file (easy, as most word processing programs will do that), cleaning up the HTML and changing the non-working commands to the proper commands (not so easy, but could be worse), formatting the special sections (aaargh!!!! I forgot to put href in all the anchor tags. All of them!), creating the PRC file with Mobipocket (easy, easy, hey -- what did I do wrong?), and uploading the finished file to the Kindle store (Where the heck is the upload page!!!!).

Nothing to it, really.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Grind work

Dear Diary,

Today I finished writing a synopsis for my book. If you are very good and if my friends say that it is okay, I will post it here for you.

Writing a synopsis is grind work. You take out everything that is funny, heart-stopping, pretty, or dramatic, and try to explain the rest. You need to keep people's attention throughout the whole thing and make it all fit together in the end.

And it has to be less than three pages.


Friday, September 24, 2010


A person who had tried to impress upon me his great and wondrous knowledge posted much verbage on a writing newsgroup that he had attended a seminar and learned how to "show, not tell." It was his great epiphany.


I can't wait until he learns to climax.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Dear Diary,

Today I spent the entire day staying off my feet and entering corrections into my best non-published book. This is the kind of work that prepares one to meet the Elder Gods in a proper state of mind.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SFWA Membership Guidelines

For years and years I was told that all one had to do to qualify for a SFWA (Sciend Fiction Writer's of America) membership was to sell a novel or three short stories at professional rates. Many people still believe this, and when I looked at the application process some years ago, that seemed to be the case. But times have changed. The new guidelines, found at are much more strict.

One cannot sell to just any professional market. One must sell to a market that has already been qualified by the membership committee, and only sales to those markets will count. To be qualified, a market must meet certain criteria and must meet the SFWA bylaws. The criteria for a market is:

"•Payment for all works of fiction (other than reprints or serializations), either in advance of publication or on publication, at the rate of either (a) at least $2000 for a single work or (b) at least 5c/word (3c/word before 1/1/2004); and
•Must have published consistently for a period of at least one year before the market will be considered qualifying; and
•Must have a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies, or the equivalent in other media (e.g., demonstrated downloads in electronic media); and
•Is not self-publication, vanity press, or other type of author-paid or fee-charging press, as demonstrated such as (1) by having published at least ten distinct works by different natural persons during the date range; and (2) by authors not having paid or been requested to pay fees or give consideration of any kind."

The first two points are common sense. The third and fourth are a bit more disturbing, in that they seem designed to shut out the small press and POD publishers. Yet these small presses are a rising force in the publishing world. They may put out only two to four titles a year. Their circulations may be in the hundreds, not the thousands, especially if they are selling to a niche market. And since they do not qualify for SFWA membership on their sales, there is no incentive for them to follow SFWA guidelines in any other regard. If these small presses were only a minor part of the publishing world,I wouldn't worry -- but they do appear to be changing the publishing industry. There are so many of them that collectively they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Another disturbing thing is seen in the book publisher's list. Night Shade Books was put on probabtion for violating book contracts. "In this case, “probation” means that although Night Shade Books remains on our official list of qualified SFWA markets, during the term of probation, acceptance for SFWA qualification of fiction contracted for publication by Night Shade is suspended." In other words, if your book was under consideration during the time these violations took place, and was accepted after the probation was set in place, then you get punished.

Just to add a little more anxiety to the publication process.

So what does this mean for me, personally? One, that I'm no nearer a SFWA membership than I was a few years ago, and my chances of ever qualifying are much slimmer than ever. That list of potential markets is quite short. Two, even if I do sell to a qualifying market, there is always the chance that it could suddenly become non-qualifying due to the way it treats someone else. Three, there are a lot of markets, both for short stories and for novels, which have little incentive to follow SFWA guidelines. Four, I know that if I self-publish my books, they will look good and be done right. Adding that up, self-publishing makes more sense than small press publishing.

I guess I better go publish some books!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Grammar, Miss Molly!

Dear Diary,

My WIP is stalled as I try to figure out the next section of the novel. This is mental work, not writing work. So while I do that, I shall work on a couple of other projects which have lain by the side too long. The first is a novel that is almost ready to submit somewhere -- I have one last pass of entering corrections to do -- plus the addition of some extra scenes. The other project is a self-published book that has a large number of errors, and these errors need to be corrected.

Many of these errors point up the difference between storytelling, which I am good at, and writing, which I am not good at. I tend to tell my stories in my speaking voice. Unfortunately, a speaking voice is not usually gramatically correct. We use inflection and facial expression to convey meaning in our speaking voice that is not there in the written word. Thus the written word needs to be more grammatically correct than the spoken word.

Thus stories must be combed over and over for gramatical mistakes.

I am working with two books which are as entertaining as they are useful. There is The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook For The Innocent, The Eager, and The Doomed. Both are by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.

Please do not take the errors in this blog as evidence of the worthlessness of these books. I'm writing this blog in my natural voice. Take it instead that if these handbooks can clean up my writing, and they do, then they can help anyone!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stopping for Gas

Dear Diary,

The novel has hit a point, most definately, where I need to stop for gas. I know that many people have the advice that if you reach a spot where things aren't going well, then you should just push ahead. Keep writing. Don't lose the momentum.

This makes about as much sense as deciding that just because the needle is on empty, we should push ahead at full speed. Sometimes you just gotta stop for gas. And a bathroom.

I can feel that this is such a place. A major point has just happened, resolving some of the tension of the story. If I don't get more tension going, and soon, the story will flatline. Readers will put it down. Therefore, even as I am working through the fallout of the previous situation, I need to start building the next situation. My main character has been busy making enemies. It's now time for these enemies to start plotting his downfall.

Not just wishing for it. Actually plotting for it.

Meanwhile, he still needs to fall out of that tree. Figuratively, that is. He thinks he's in a safe place, right? Now he needs to find that he has enemies here, too.

Cue the dramatic music...


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bleah Day

Dear Diary,

Today was not a good day to write. I feel achey and bleah, and my story needs some bumps smoothed out before I can continue. Instead of writing, I am making brownies.

I also learned that a Russian porn blog has now linked to my installment novel. Um, it's not _that_ explicit!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sex and the Single Character

Dear Diary,

Today my story is stumbling. I'm having trouble figuring out how this scene gets to that scene, and an awful lot of what comes next. So what do my characters do? They take the opportunity to climb a tree and get naked with each other. This is a real problem because if I get the action going again, they are going to be buck-naked in the middle of it, and a little too fuzzy-headed for a quick response. And lets face it -- if they have to jump out the window and land on a horse, doing it naked is not the way to go!

Dangly bits get caught.

Serves 'em right for not behaving, doesn't it?

I know the mantra is that sex sells. But sex -- normal, uncomplicated sex, is boring. It's when things don't go according to plan that things get fun.

So maybe that's what I should do about this section. Maybe it shouldn't go according to plan. Maybe they should fall out of the tree.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Editing and Revision

Dear Diary,

Today I entered revisions for a short story. I am not finished, but my poor brain has turned to jelly. This is not only hard work, this is boring work. There is none of the wild excitement that comes from creating a new draft, of sending a character on an adventure that may turn out differently from the way you envisioned it. At this point everything is known. At this point, all that matters is the prepositions that dangle and the inappropriate passive voice.

And spelling. That matters, too. Spellchecker will not save you, btw. Those homonyms will get you everytime. There and their, too and to and two. I remember once reading a horror story where the characters were terrified when they came across a scull. And don't forget, its and it's.

Plus you've got to watch out for which and that.

It's enough to drive any mad writer sane, I tell you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maybe Not Rejected?

Dear Diary,

Yesterday I mentioned that I had received a rejection. That rejection was firm, complete with form statement that said, "We reject many strong stories..." It implied that my story was strong without actually saying so. But it was a clear rejection.

Then I learned that I may not have been rejected from the first market I sent it to. I probably have been, but I don't know for sure.

I had sent the story first to an anthology which closed almost two months ago. On Wednesday I found a listing of the contributors, so I assumed that it was the final list. But -- is it? Another submitter pointed out to me that the editor had promised that everyone who submitted would receive a definite notice of acceptance or rejection. I haven't received it, but then, emails do get lost.

On the other hand (but not the gripping hand) two other contributors also have not received word one way or the other.

So, we twist in the wind, our possibility of being accepted dwindling by the day, but still not free to send our stories to other markets.

The anthology is supposed to be published next month. If it is, and our stories are not in it, my companion points out, we can definatively say that we were rejected. It seems awkward, but sometimes, that's all you get.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Dear Diary,

Today I received a rejection. This is very, very, well, normal.

My response was to send them another story. Seeing as I had another suitable story in hand, it seems rediculous not to. When a market has rejected a story, the best thing to do is consider that market now open for submissions.

Of course I could sit here and agonize over why this story was rejected, and so quickly, at that. Did I have a word out of place? Not likely. Stories sell with typos all the time. Was it the wrong type of story? hard to tell -- it's a new market, and I don't have a good feel for what they want to buy. Their guidelines are fuzzy as to what they like, so no help there. Maybe I'm not a good enough writer -- highly possible, but I won't get better if I don't keep writing and submitting.

Maybe I'm on some sort of secret blacklist that editors pass about privately? Possible, but not at all probable. No, the most likely explanation is...

The editor didn't like it.

So I've got two choices -- either send it somewhere else, or take the time to HTML it properly (wow, verbs come from everywhere these days!) and give it away for free on my website. Which is easier?

So, where do I send a horror flash fiction with a humorous punchline?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Story Finished!

Dear Diary,

Today I finished my short story. It's perfect, absolutely perfect, just the way it was written. Every word is perfect. Every sentence is crystalline clear. No writing has ever been as fresh as this writing. I coould not, even if I needed to, change a single syllable.

This is, of course, the honeymoon period. If I put the story away for a few months, I will see that it can be improved. Must be improved. No way is it going to leave the house looking like that!

But for now, it is perfect, and I cannot wait to show it to someone. Any victim, er, alpha reader or listener will do. I have my finished story and I'm not afraid to share it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Writing Time Flu Away

Dear Diary,

Today I managed 238 words on a short story. I sqooze it in after making a dish for the potluck tonight and going to the potluck. It's been that kind of a day, all eaten up with chores and essential things. Such as getting a flu shot.

Flu shots are important for writers. In the popular vision of a writer, she works along in a turret, eating only delivered take-out food. She's not at risk for getting the flu or any communicable disease, as you can't get a disease if you never see people.

This is complete and utter fantasy. Most writers work in their spare time, in stolen minutes between work and family obligations. If they are lucky enough to be a supported spouse, then they get all the spouse care, child care, and pet care duties. More plots have been worked out in traffic than in the silence of a room. And when a writer gets the flu, those duties don't stop coming.

If a writer gets the flu, writing time is what is sacrificed. And recovering from the flu takes days -- or several weeks, for us asthmatics.

I'd rather give up a day or two of productivity, in the hopes of not losing a month.

Thus, while the flu shot

Monday, September 6, 2010


Dear Diary,

Today I went over the galleys for "A Wall To Keep The World Out," the short story I sold to Sword and Sorceress 25. The anthology will on sale in October and is filled with really good stories, especially the one mentioned above, so hurry out and reserve your copy today!

Plug over. Hey, I have to earn my paycheck, you know.

Galleys are the writer's last chance to fix a story. It's the typeset book, with everything in place. The pages are all justified and prettied up. Everything's done but the printing. So the author(s) get one last chance to look through the story and discover, OMG, I have attributed Mike's sexual fantasy to Sue in chapter 26. So there's one last chance to do a quick name change on the sentence. This is also the last chance to discover the missing period and the unclosed quotation.

And that you mangled the name of the main character's home country in chapter three.

Going over galleys is time-consuming and more than a little boring. After all, you've been over this story half a dozen times before submission, and done a couple of readings of it in the weeks after submission. But they are _important._ Why? Because, one, there are Gremlins who get into typesetter's computers and change your text, ommiting letters and punctuation. Two, because you don't want older, more accomplished authors giggling at you. And three, most important -- you really don't want to see the fan fiction that will be sparked by Sue's strange fantasy. trust me on that.