Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Writing: How-To

Okay, so the title is sort of misleading. I have no idea how to write; I'm learning as I go along. There is a pair of writers, however, who do seem to know how to write and are in the process of writing tutorials for other writers: Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer. They are hosting an online writing workshop for the rest of us knuckle-dragging, arse-scratching hominids who are barely able to speak in comprehensible grunts much less write. Hey, don't get insulted, I'm referring to myself. I have no idea what you look like.

Anyway, Crusie and Mayer are doing a much better and more expert job at dispensing advice to writers than I ever could and I really, really encourage you to drop me like a slimy, rotten potato and rush on over to You don't even have to sign up, and if you're into RSS feeds, you can get their material force-fed to you that way. If you're puzzled about any aspect of the current lesson, you can e-mail them and perhaps get an answer posted to the site.

You can't say I never gave you anything. If you don't take this opportunity to learn something from two people who are undoubtedly experts in the field of writing, than shame on you.

The Crusie/Mayer workshop is also very interesting from a "how to go about starting" this writing gig. I've been struggling with trying to write more quickly and yet more better. (You see what I mean? More better?) Sorry. Anyway, I've worked with some writers--and have done this myself--who outline and then write. As they write, they are constantly going back to earlier chapters and smoothing them out. By the time they finish, their first draft is what for others might be the third or fourth draft.

On the other side of the fence are those who may or may not do a lot of up-front outlining and who rip through their first draft, just writing until it's done. Then they go back and smooth it out, juggle chapters around, and fix everything.

To use Mayer's summary: the first bunch frontloads the work and the second bunch backloads it. If you frontload, you work a lot of stuff out in the beginning and edit as you write so that by the end of the "draft" you have very little editing or rewriting to do. Most of the work is done in the beginning: up front. If you backload, you do very little work in the beginning and work on getting the story down on paper (or rather, into the computer). Then comes the massive editing, rewrites, etc, so most of the work is done on the back end of the process, after the first draft is done.

I've been trying to decide which technique results in the fastest production. After trying both, well, I think they both take just about the same amount of time. But there are pitfalls to each approach. Mayer didn't really go into the pitfalls, but I can tell you the following based upon my own experiences. Hopefully, this will "add value" to what you can learn from the Crusie and Mayer workshop.

Frontloading Your Work
  • For folks who are "pantsters" and like to write and discover their story along the way, trying to develop the outline, do all the research, etc, may kill the story for them. They may find by the time they finish the outline, they are no longer interested in actually writing it. For these folks, backloading may be the better solution.
  • If you are given to extreme fits of anal behavior, frontloading can be the La Brea Tar Pit of writing techniques. Consider:

    * You may spend far too much time on perfecting the outline, instead of just finishing the outline (which no one is going to see but you, anyway, so it doesn't have to be freakin' perfect) and actually starting to write the story itself.

    * You may spend far too much doing research because it's fun. Do only what is necessary for the book. Don't dive down rabbit holes just because they're there.

    * Even worse, when you do start writing and polishing as you're writing, remember that you actually do need to move on to page 2. Do not get caught in the trap of endlessly nit-picking and editing what you previously wrote so that you never write the next bit or finish the book. You do want to actually finish a first draft, and remember that this is a first draft and does not have to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t because you actually can edit it again when you are done with the first draft. No one is going to force you to immediately send it out to an agent/publisher (unless you have a contract and the manuscript is due tomorrow--in which case I wonder what you are doing here, reading this, when you should be working...).

There are probably many other cautions, but by now you ought to see the point. If you're inclined toward perfectionism, frontloading can be seductive and yet infected with all sorts of little hard-to-cure, easily transmitted nasties.

And yet, least you think backloading is a dream come true, let me enlighten you.

Backloading Your Work

  • For a "pantster" who wants the story to unfold from the mysterious depths of their mind, constantly delighting them with the brilliantly unexpected twists and turns, backloading may seem like The Answer. Sort of. It can also be the best way there is to write crap. Because if you're the sort of person who is over-taxed and in a hurry, you'll finish that draft and may be tempted to just do a few passes through to edit it, get tired of reading the blasted thing, and then send it out.
  • Because you've backloaded, you may not have thought out the plot and you may find there are major temporal holes in the thing or that you need to move chapters or chunks around or, gulp, delete entire sections. Some people cannot be ruthless with their own writing. Think about it. If you've written this absolutely amazing scene, but it actually is not needed by the story, are you able to cut it out? Even knowing that you'll never, ever be able to use it? Because let's face it, that scene was written for those two characters in this specific book, and it would never work with any other characters in any other book. So it's gone. Dust. History. Fried with Round-Up. Can you do that? Really?
  • In a similar vein, are you going to get bored with all the editing and end that phase too soon? Because remember, you were the one who got bored if you wrote an outline before you wrote the book. How many times can you go through the book to fix it, now that it's written? And now that your prose is down there on the paper (or computer screen) is it deathless or does it just seem that way? Are you able to overhaul it if it needs it?

I've outlined and then written stuff slowly, editing as I went and almost didn't finish the story because I kept going down rabbit-holes, so I know how that goes. In an effort to cure that, I've written from the seat of my pants, just blasting it out, and then faced the horrors of massive edits including cutting out my favorite scenes, and getting so tired of editing, editing, editing because of all the flaws in the first draft that I have been known to (gulp) send things to my agent prematurely just to get them out of my face.

I've been on both sides now. Neither is pretty or easy.

However. I have to agree with old Bob (sorry, Bob, I think I'm actually older than you are, so my apologies, old boy) that frontloading may actually, in the long run, be the most effective. Because it means less wasted effort, editing while material is fresh (as you write it) and if you can control yourself, you may actually finish. And what you end up with is pretty darn good so there are fewer rewrites at this point. There will, of course, be rewrites when your agent and editor get a-hold of it, but that's to be expected.

So, on the whole, I think frontloading may be marginally better. Maybe. The jury is sort of still out on that, though, and a lot depends upon you and what sort of weaknesses you have.

Now, the question is, what is your process going to look like?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Intelligence, Hope, and Writing

Recently, I read an article by a very famous author who mentioned how important hope and perseverance is to any writer. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, she used a scientific study to illustrate her point, and I was suddenly reminded of my days as a biology student and how easy it is to think you are testing one thing, when you are in fact testing something else entirely. The study she mentioned in her article was fundamentally flawed.

Of course, the problem could have been in how the study was described, or in the author’s interpretation of it, rather than a flaw in the design itself. I have no idea what the actual thesis was under evaluation or how the test was framed. All I know is how this author described it and her conclusion.

What was the study? Two groups of rats were thrown into tubs of water. Group A was thrown into a tub of water that contained nothing but a lot of water. Group B was thrown into a tub of water that contained a small, submerged island. If Group B swam around enough, they could find the island and stand on it, thereby being able to rest and breathe.

When the two groups of rats were thrown into another vat of water without an island, low-and-behold, Group B kept valiantly swimming around, looking for that darn island. Group A pretty much just gave up.

Now the conclusion this author came to was that if you have hope and start from a positive place, you’ll keep going long after the others have given up. This is really critical for a writer because sometimes it takes a lot of rejections over long years before you finally get find the right editor and get published. And you’ll go longer if you can find and treasure any encouragement along the way—sort of like those submerged islands.

However, what this test really showed had nothing to do with hope or even the beneficial effects of positive thinking upon perseverance. It was really more about learning. Maybe even intelligence.

Group A learned very quickly that the faster they gave up, i.e. stopped swimming, the sooner they’d be rescued and put back into their nice, warm cage with food and water (assuming they wanted water after this). Who the heck wants to stand tip-toed on a submerged island in a bucket of water, gasping for air, when they can be removed and put back in their nice cage? Group B never learned this because they were given a crutch to lean on, er, an island. They never learned that if they just pretended to drown, they’d be taken out of the cold, nasty water and put back in their nice habitat.

In effect, what this proved was that you’re stupid to persevere. The faster you give up all efforts and hope, the sooner you’ll be back in your nice, old rut where you can grow fat, dumb and happy until the end of your days.

So is it better to be smart or is it better to be hopeful?

If you’re a writer, it’s definitely better to forget about being smart, because being smart just means giving up before you waste all that time, effort, tears, blood and sweat over something which may never pan out and which will probably not grant you the luxurious living you know you deserve, anyway. And even if you do succeed, do you really need all those reviewers hacking your work apart with snide comments about how your work has degenerated lately?

Mankind did not get where it is, however, by just giving up. Stupid or not, all of our great strides forward and all of our works of art, including literary, were made by people who, like Group B, never learned any better. Or if they did understand how futile their efforts might be, they decided to just keep on swimming anyway and hope to find that little island. And they were willing to drown to do it.

While the test itself was flawed (at least how it was described by this author) and did not support the author’s argument, the author was still right. If we are going to accomplish anything at all, we have to keep working at it despite all the naysayers and evidence that says we are idiots just wasting our time. Is writing really more a waste of time than, say, watching television each night?

Every one of us has a dream, something we’d like to accomplish in our very short lifetime. While striving to attain that dream may not be the intelligent or sensible thing to do, it is the important and hopeful thing to do and it brings out the best in us. We would attain nothing, be nothing, create nothing if we did not continue in the face of adversity to go for the gold.

So, strangely enough, even though that famous author used the wrong example, she was still…right. Maybe not so intelligent, but certainly hopeful.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ultramobile Gadgets and e-Book Reading

It occurred to me that as an extension of my previous post about progress, e-books, and Sony's new e-book reader, that folks might like to actually SEE what I'm babbling about, without having to search the web.

It is my belief that no one wants to carry around a backpack full of gadgets that only do one thing. You can get a cell phone that also lets you read your mail (awkwardly, but you can) and listen to MP3s. Or you can get a good MP3 player like an iPod, but now you're carrying a cell phone AND an MP3 player. Then there are e-books. Are you going to carry around a third device just to read books?


What if you could carry around a cell phone and a second device that was like an itty-bitty computer that would let you: read your email; play mp3s; watch videos; do your homework/office work on standard applications; and read e-books. And it's in color.

Hmmm. No brainer?
Well, everything is a tradeoff.

Sony's e-Book reader is not sexy, is locked into their store, is B&W although it can--in a clunky way--play MP3s and display B&W jpgs. On the other hand, the battery has good life--it could probably exceed my 10 hour mark, and you can--with some messing around--download PDFs and read those, as well as html. It's also under $400. Oh, and let's not forget that the screen and text resolution are amazing, so it is a pleasure to read on the device. A picture of it is at the left.

But, isn't there anything else available?

What else is is there? Ultramobile PCs. Two of the sexiest are the OQO model 2 and Sony's VAIO Ultramobile. Both are basically very small PCs. Sony's also includes two cameras (yes, two). Both the OQO and Sony UMPCs have optional high capacity batteries which will bring the battery life up to 8 hours for the OQO and 6 hours (or more) for the Sony. They run a regular operating system with regular applications. You can use a full-sized bluetooth keyboard and mouse with either one, to basically give you a computer--and there are super-cool foldup bluetooth keyboards you can take along with you, if you want. However, both also include a very tiny, thumb keyboard if you don't want to carry the extra piece.

Both have large hard drives and a decent amount of memory (RAM). They can run MS Vista if you're inclined toward Microsoft's latest OS release. But they are much more expensive than a regular e-book reader...however...if you could buy one of these and NOT buy an MP3 player, portable DVD player, laptop, and e-book reader, wouldn't you come out ahead, anyway?
Well, whatever. The downside is that they both cost over $1,200. But they will do everything your laptop can do--and if you are into IP telephony--you can use it for that, as well. So you could very well get away with one device, or at least your cell phone and this device to: play mp3, watch videos, read e-books, do your work/homework, do emails, surf the web, or anything else you want to do.
Plus, they are really, really cool.
(Quit laughing.)

In case you doubt me, here are some pictures...

First, Sony's Vaio UMPC. It's got two cameras and 4.5" display. It weighs 1.2 lbs, and is 5.91" x 3.74" x 1.50". It has 512Mb RAM (there may be a 1GB version soon) and a 30GB hard drive, which means lots of room for books. Builtin wireless networking and of course bluetooth for big keyboards and mice.

If you don't like the Sony, there is the OQO Model 2. The model 2 weighs 1 lb and includes a 5" display, a 60GB hard drive and 1GB RAM (memory). Okay, it doesn't have cameras (much less TWO cameras like the Sony Vaio) but it has a much larger hard drive and more RAM, which means better performance. The Vaio is reported to be a little less snappy, but I haven't played with one so I can't confirm that.

Of course, you get all the standard jazz of wireless connectivity, a ethernet connection, bluetooth for external keyboards/mouse, and you can run all your standard software.

With both UMPC, you can download and read e-books from any source you choose (they don't lock you down to one e-book store). You basically have a computer in your pocket.

While these devices might not be the ultimate--they are certainly worth looking at, because they mean you *might* be able to reduce the number of things you have to carry around with you. And you know what? I might just give up my MP3 player in exchange for one of these beasties because I would have the power to do it all--almost.

Ah, power.

Is this the future, or at least a step in the right direction? Maybe.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why e-books and Sony's new e-book reader missed the point...

Since I'm about to be published first as an e-book and then as a trade-sized paperback, I've been doing a lot of research into e-books, marketing and promotion. I've also been looking at e-book readers.

I've come to the conclusion that everyone has missed the boat. That's why the e-book market--with the exception of erotica--just hasn't performed up to everyone's expectations, and why it is so difficult for an author to make a living writing for that market. Which is really too bad, because if you could make a decent living at it (instead of around $300-$600 a year if you publish 2 e-books in a year...which is another topic).

There are a lot of reasons so I'll just go over the obvious ones.

First, a little background. Although it seems like everyone is getting into the e-book market these days, it is not taking off the way anticipated and the additional e-publishers are just fragmenting an already very small and very fragmented market.

The e-book thing started valiantly enough with erotica and boomed, but when you think about it, it was because it was aimed at a tightly focused audience and offered several advantages specific to that audience:
  1. You could get the material anonymously and read it without people knowing you were reading erotica. That's probably the biggest factor.
  2. The Internet had already exploded with sites catering to the clientele who would also be interested in erotica, so they were already using the Internet.
  3. The audience was into instant gratification when they were in the mood.

So, erotica and the Internet seemed made for each other and it continues to perform well. (Uh, pun intended.)

However, book publishers and the computer industry kept looking for the next "killer app" which could net them a lot of money. They looked at the erotica market and thought...hey, maybe the kids growing up today carrying around computers will want to read e-books--maybe if we get in on the ground floor, we'll make a lot of money.

This never materialized the way folks thought it would, and in fact, the computer industry no longer talks big about the anticipated explosion in the e-book market. The devices kids are carrying around do not lend themselves to reading e-books, even if the kids wanted to read them. There are no convienant, cool, devices kids or adults can carry around (like the iPod) that make reading fun.

I don't think things are totally bad, but I do think there have been major mistakes made and until they are corrected, things are not going to improve very much. Let's face it, everyone is trying to get into the e-book market these days, and for most authors, you're going to be a total success if you manage to earn $300 on an e-book. That's a far cry from being published by a traditional publisher. Even the smallest publishers who offer advances generally start with an advance at least around $1,000--and that's a very tiny advance. You'll probably earn $3,000 all told, which is 10 times as much as you'd earn with one e-book, and that's if you publish with a teeny-tiny traditional publisher and do no promotional work, and no extra stuff at all. In other words, you're better off with a teeny-tiny traditional publisher than an e-publisher--unless you're writing erotica.

Let's look at this more closely. I'm going to take myself as "typical of a reader" because on the whole, I think I am.

Mistakes the Industry Has Made

  1. The reader wants the same experience reading an e-book as they do reading a regular book. This is Sony's biggest mistake with their new e-book reader. The fact is that if a reader wants the same experience as reading a paperback, they'll get a paperback. Well, duh. Why buy a very, very expensive black&white device (that costs as much as 60 paperbacks) that only supports one "store" which has a very poor selection of books? You're totally locked in (what else would you expect from Sony, anyway--since they are famous for trying to shackle their customers.) I'd rather buy 60 paperbacks--reading all of them will take me about 3 years, which is probably longer than the Sony e-book reader will last--and I can get my books from any sources.
  2. Until an e-book reader has a batter life of at least 8 hours, forget it. You don't need batteries to read a regular book. I read a lot on planes--in fact--that and the beach are two places where probably more books are read than any other place. And both locations are e-book unfriendly. Most flights I take are at least 1 hour, but more like 2 hours. You add in the time waiting at the airport, and you're already talking 3 or 4 hours. Trying to find an electrical outlet in an airport is not easy. So my laptop and most e-book readers are going to run out of juice and leave me...yep, leave me to waltz into the airport bookstore a paperback. And at the beach? I've yet to find a beach with electrical outlets. A day or afternoon at the beach is more than just a couple of hours. So again...if I carry an e-book reader, I'm going to be left with nothing to read after the batteries die. So why bother?
  3. You can read a paperback while your plane is getting ready to take off. You can't turn on either a laptop or an e-book reader until they let you use electronic devices. This is dumb, but there's nothing I can do about it. (There has never been any evidence to suggest that our consumer electronics wreck havoc with the airplane's electronics--so not being able to use our stuff is just silly...but that's a topic for another blog.)
  4. I already spend too much time at the computer. I work on a computer all day, then I'm on the computer at night writing fiction. I'm generally on the computer about 12 hours a day. When I take time off, I actually don't want to be sitting at the computer. A book gets me away from that, although I only read about 15 minutes each night in bed before I go to sleep, since when I'm not on the computer, I have chores and exercising to do.

Those are just a few of the drawbacks. But, the thing is, there are some bright spots. Everyone is getting into book trailers these days. Someone a lot smarter than me must have noticed this. There are some things that e-books and e-book readers could do that traditional books could not deliver. I'm not sure how this would play out, but I definitely think that we need to think about the e-book strengths if we want that industry to really take off.

What could be done to seduce people into buying e-books?

  1. Offer content and experiences you can't get in a traditional paperback. For me, it occurred to me when I was working on a trailer for my upcoming book, Smuggled Rose, that my heroine--Margaret Lane--plays Beethoven in several scenes. Why couldn't the music she plays be part of the e-book? Make it multimedia. Include pictures (if appropriate) and music. Not quite a movie, but a little more than a traditional book. A few extras. The nice thing is that since I write mostly historical fiction, it opens up the whole idea of giving the reader more information about the era, including popular music, (introduce kids to classical music painlessly!) art, interesting historical snippets, architecture...even with modern fiction, the possibilities are enormous. Even just including links that the reader could click on that would take them to interesting and related sites (assuming wireless connectivity is available). That might even make reading an e-book on a computer a more interesting experience, too.

    I'm actually not sure how that would work out, because I still want the book to be a book and you don't want to turn it into a video, but creative folks a lot smarter than I am should be thinking about this. I see it more as "options" readers could indulge in--e.g. a link on the page where Margaret is playing Beethoven--that would let the reader click and hear the music, if they wished. If not, they could simply continue reading.
  2. Create an e-book reader that is usable. That means it must have at least the following features:
  • Color. Why even create a device without color these days? At a minimum, you want to be able to see the pretty cover of the book...
  • Good Battery Life. 8 hours minimum. Make it 10.
  • Flexible. I should be able to download content from anywhere, any bookstore on the Internet and my computer, as well. I should be able to read everything: html, pdf, lit, and all those goofy e-book reader formats.
  • Lots of Room. It must hold 100 books, minimum. I mean, why not? Storage is cheap.
  • Multimedia support. That's right. I want to be able to play mp3 and some videos, as well as read. I will NOT carry multiple devices, including iPods, etc so I can listen to an MP3 and then read. In fact, I want to be able to listen to my MP3s while I read.
  • Wireless and USB support. Yeah. How else am I going to download content?
  • Browser. Again, I want to be able to browse the Internet and download content. Duh.

Which brings me to UMPCs. Ultramobile PCs. Those tiny little full function PCs which are about the size of...Sony's e-book reader, except a lot more functional. You can read whatever you want on them because they run a regular operating system. You can even get bluetooth keyboards and a mouse if you want to do e-mail or write your great American novel on it, when you're done reading. I'm particularly fond of the OQO model 2 at the moment.

The only big problem is battery life is still not that great, but they are a computer. In fact, as soon as the OQO 02 comes out with the Vista operating system on it, I'm buying one. I travel a lot and I'm soon to have a published e-book. I want one device I can use to read my book, get my email, update my website, and write while I'm traveling. I can't do personal stuff on my laptop given to me by my office, so I don't want to carry two full-sized computers around with me (plus my work Blackberry, and my personal cell phone). But I could live with my Blackberry, my personal cell phone, my work laptop, and the OQO 02.

In the meantime, e-books will continue to be the red-haired stepchild of the publishing industry...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Choices, Choices, Choices

While I'm trying to learn about promotion so that I could do a decent job attracting readers to Smuggled Rose, I'm also attempting not to be irritated that authors who sell to larger publishers have a bigger team to rely on to help them with promotion, etc. Here I am, wracking my brain to think of ways to get ten or twenty more readers, knowing that my book will be a huge success if I can attract even 1,000 readers, while a traditionally published book starts with a print run around 20,000 or more. Which is why, of course, the traditional publishers are so picky about trying different sorts of books. They can't really afford to only sell 1,000 copies.

But it's a two-edged sword. While the big guys are looking at 10-20-30 thousand or even 100,000 units sold, they are also unable to offer smaller audiences variety because the audiences are too small to be profitable. Which is where the small presses come into play. They only need to sell 1,000 units to have a "run-away hit" on their hands, not 100,000.

The situation abounds with ironies.
  • Many small presses started out publishing erotica. There wasn't a "traditonal" market for erotica, except perhaps the "literary erotica" like Anais Nin. Once folks could get erotica via the anonymous and very convenient Internet, these stories exploded and suddenly, small Internet presses abounded, all trying to get into the "hot, Hot, HOT" game.
  • The big presses noticed and started pushing authors to make their books hotter and hotter. New erotica lines started. Now, you can't sell a book to a traditonal publisher that isn't hot. Lines, such as traditional Regency, that focused on other romantic elements than the bedroom action, were eliminated. If you aren't hot--you aren't hip--and you sure aren't going to be published.
  • Back to the small, Internet presses. Bouyed up by their success with erotica, small presses realized that there are "niche" audiences for other types of stories, too. They branched out into mainstream. After all, they only needed to sell 1,000 units. They opened new lines and included traditional Regencies and other mainstream books that the traditional publishers were eliminating, figuring there were still audiences out there--after all, there are a LOT of readers who skip over the sex scenes or simply don't care about them. There actually can be an enthralling story written which isn't all about physical dexterity and condoms.

Now, the small presses are eating away small clusters of audiences who can't get what they want any more from the big presses, and the big guys, in an effort to keep their audiences from straying, are focusing more and more upon the sensual elements--figuring, I suppose, that that is all anyone wants to read, anyway. (I keep wondering if they are right and I'm living in some sort of Father Knows Best fantasy, or if there are still readers out there for whom the storyline is more important than how many sex scenes can be inserted between page 1 and The End.)

Bottom line: I'm not sure the big guys are right, despite "the sales numbers". What I think is happening is people are realizing they have choices. If someone wants to read vampire stories which are not thinly disguised erotica, they can probably find them--somewhere. Readers may still go to their local bookstore first, because there really is something seductive about walking through those aisles, picking up tangible books, reading covers, first pages, and just...looking, but if they don't find what they want, they can always go home and search through the Internet. And small press is waking up to the idea that they really can offer choices to their readers and develop audiences simply by publishing things which bigger houses determined could not find a wide enough readership to be profitable.

So, while I'm still a bit peeved that not only do I have to write the darn novels, but I also have to work much harder to promote them than my friends with big publishers, I also realize that what I'm getting and receiving in return is much, much more interesting. It is a choice and freedom. I'm free to write the kinds of stories I like to read and write, with the sensuality level which is appropriate for my specific characters, rather than bludgeoning my story and characters into something they are not.

I firmly believe we are on the cusp of larger changes here. If the big publishers are to keep up with the action, I don't think increasing the number and weirdness of the sex scenes in a book is going to do it. I think the real answer is: CHOICES. With the technology exploding, the big guys, including bookstores, need to think about the following:

  • Offer more variety--offer books that may not fit mainstream/large audience lines by offering them first as e-books with the option to have them printed on demand in the actual bookstore if the reader wishes! There is technology that would allow bookstores to have a print-on-demand (POD) system in their back room. Instead of boxes of books they may have to strip and send back to the publisher, they can simply shelve "sample books" and when a reader wants to buy something, they take the book to the counter and while it is being rung up, the actual purchased copy is printed out for the reader at that point in time, and the sample is reshelved. Or, the reader can buy the one copy on the shelf and the transaction at the cash register can automatically send a job to the POD system to have a fresh copy printed out so it can be placed on the shelf to replace the one sold.

    Either way, the point is that this would mean publishers could offer more variety at less cost, because huge print runs in advance would no longer be required. No more stripped books being sent back to publishers. No books sent back, period.
  • Because what I see now happening on the Internet is the emergence of individual tastes. Music, video, everything is diverging, taking away audiences from traditional forms by allowing folks to basically find and consume the artistic efforts they prefer. Companies willing to move fast enough to accommodate this divergence of taste will profit. Companies which insist that one-size-fits-all will find that this was, in fact, never true, despite all the advertising in the world.

I, personally, am dying to see how this progresses because over the last few years, I've been increasingly depressed as the historical market dwindled down to just hot, sensual historicals that I simply did not like. As a reader, I felt snubbed and left to forage on my own in used bookstores for the types of Regencies, mysteries, and 50's style Science Fiction I prefer. Now, I have hope both as a writer and a reader.

So, being a little author with a little press maybe ain't so bad even if it is more work, because it's my choice and it gives my readers a choice, too.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I've got a cover!

I've got a cover! I've got an absolutely, positively, gloriously gorgeous cover! I can't believe what a fabulous job they have done on my cover at Cerridwen Press. In fact, of all the covers they have done, I think my cover is by far the very best.

To go even further, although Cerridwen is a small press, I think this cover outshines a lot of the ones I see from the bigger publishing houses, too! I'm just so thrilled I can't stand it. (By now, you probably can't stand it, either!) So, here it is! I'm sorry the resolution isn't better--my fault. Anyway, I'm just!

I love the cover guy at Cerridwen Press. :-)
My editor also just sent me the ISBN number for the book, so it's almost like this is actually real and not just some figment of my overheated imagination. Hard to believe after all this time that I will finally see a real, honest-to-goodness book on my shelf. Okay, that will happen a few months after the e-book is released in May, but heck, it's almost here. It's coming. Soon.
I'm afraid I'm not much good tonight because I'm so thrilled. I'm just sitting here with a big sh!t-eating grin on my face, staring at the cover I printed out on PREMIUM photo paper, thinking about bookmarks, posters, T-shirts, and other promotional goodies. Mostly for me, because heck, this is a small press and all, and I'm not sure how big an audience I'll ever get, but I'm enjoying myself. Writing is a creative outlet for me after years of working with computers and massively logical thinking, so even if I never saw that book on the shelf (but I will in just a few months!!! *Grin*) I'd still write. I've been writing off and on for 25 years without seeing a book on the shelf, so it's pretty well ingrained now.
Now that I look back, I realize I never got out of that, "I've got to go do my homework, now" phase. After dinner, I always feel this need to sit down at the computer and start my "homework" i.e. write. If I don't, I have this feeling that there is something I should be doing and I get really antsy.
Anyway, I'm too scatter-brained to write anything coherant tonight!
Happy Days and Exciting Nights!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Who are You?

Let's have some fun. If some mad scientist created you by gene splicing anyone, alive or dead, into a baby that grew up to be you, who would have contributed the genetic material?

This is actually a two-parter.
The first part is who you are, or like to think you are today.
The second part is who you would like to be and what are the qualities they have that you want?

I'll go first.

Part 1
I like to think I can write. I want to be a writer. My first book is coming out in May, so who do I think I am now?

If someone dug up H.H. Munroe (who wrote under the psuedonym of Saki) and took a cell, and then dug up P.G. Wodehouse, and took another cell, and then shoved in a few strands of DNA from, say, Elizabeth Eyre, and the result wasn't a man, that's who I think I might be. I love the cynical, insouciance of H.H. Munroe, especially combined with his mythical, panthesistic elements. When I write, I have to fight my characters from saying the biting things they really want to say. I've had to tone down their cynical, mordant wit because people think my characters are mean. They are mean. That's why I like them.

But I also like the sheer brainless silliness of P.G. Wodehouse's characters, and I've got a few of them to contrast the cynics in my stories. There's nothing like the brain-dead to make your story really come alive.

And I love, love, love Elizabeth Eyre for her character Sigismondo and her brilliant descriptions. I'd like to think I write okay descriptions--when I write them. I don't do a lot of descriptions, though. I'm more of a dialog writer with action tags thrown in so you can see when characters reach over and smack someone on the head.

Of course, this is how I view my own work. Needless to say, I doubt readers would agree, except for the part where they don't like my characters because they are mean.

Part 2
Who would I be if I could add the genes of my choice to my own rapidly disintegrating DNA?
  • I'd want the beauty of Grace Kelly. That's a no-brainer. I've never seen a more classically beautiful woman, before or since, especially in her early years (Dial 'M' for Murder).
  • I'd like the writing success (and talent) of Jennifer Crusie--but I don't know if that's actually a gene you can glom on to.
  • I'd like brains. I'm just not sure whose. Someone really, really smart, though, with a good memory. I'd like--just once--to have a good memory. Maybe even a photographic memory.

That's all. I don't think it's asking too much, do you? I mean, if they can clone a sheep like Dolly, then the above should be absolutely no problem.


Who are you?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy 2007!

This is a little late, but like everyone else, I have New Year resolutions. Of course, I've already broken the first one, which was to post to my blog every Tuesday. Here it is Wednesday and I'm just now posting. Sigh. Where does the time go?

This blog may be going through a bit of a metamorphosis over the next few months. Now that I'm being published, I'm thinking my blog readership may change over time. Right now, it's weighted more toward things that interest writers, since most of the folks who read my blog are writers. But now that I may be getting some actual readers, it may begin to tilt in that direction. We shall see if I find a change in what folks are interested in. A lot of people are interested in writing even if they never become a professional writer, so I plan to continue including various articles and "A-Ha!" moments, anyway.

So, what are my resolutions for this year?
You already know the one that lays broken, face-down in the dust: to post a blog every Tuesday. What remains?

  1. To continue writing like a mad-woman. I spoke to my agent to set our goals for the new year and I was pleased when she said, basically, to just keep doing what I'm going. Continue to write my Regency mysteries. As we build that up, the big guys in NY are sure to take notice... (This is actually very easy for me since I already have a fabulous inventory of Regency stories I just need to do final edits on, so--piece of cake.)
  2. Learn to be a better writer. Take classes. Continue to read really first class authors and see how they do it. I'm particularly enamored of the Hard Case Crime books at the moment--so I'll probably get a few more of those and read them--for the purposes of research, of course!
  3. Learn how to promote. I'm taking an online class right now on promoting your books, and I need to really get into this, big time. I want my books to sell! Because they do not contain explicit love scenes, I'm trying to figure out how to woo the librarians and get them to carry my books because they are more "family friendly" than other historicals at the moment. For some reason, historicals have become very risque as a genre, but the ones for the line I write for are still what is considered "sweet". There has to be a market for them...somewhere. We just need to tap into it and make sure they know about the Cotillion line. Unfortunately, this is one disadvantage to being published by a small press--you pretty much have to stir your stumps and do your own promotion. The big guys do some promotion for their folks (they also sell upwards of 40,000 copies versus the average 100-300 copies for small press, so the big guys can afford to promote) and they are carried in all the bookstores--so readers browsing the shelves can find them. Not so easy for us smaller guys who won't be sitting on the shelf in Wal-Mart to attract the impulse buyer.
  4. Exercise. I mean it. I'm going to start exercising. Really.
  5. Get the garden under control. It went wild last year. I'm going to try to regain control of at least 3 acres of it. We'll see who wins, me or Mother Nature. At least I've got Round-Up on my side. :-)
  6. Learn everything there is to know about Microsoft Vista. Okay, that's for my day job, but I've got to do it so I'm making it a resolution.
  7. Do housework. Yeah. Right.
  8. Don't forget to keep in contact with your friends and enjoy yourself once in a while. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's not as easy as you might think when you live miles away from anyone...but there *is* the Internet and failing that, the post office, excuses.
  9. Be Happy.

I'm going to stop at 9. I refuse to go to 10.

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful New Year and are starting off 2007 with good cheer and a ton of extravagent resolutions they have every intention of breaking.