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Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Goals

I have a rough idea of what I need to do next year when it comes to writing. The problem is time. My full time job takes a big bite out of my day, so by the time I get home I'm rushing around answering emails, phone calls, doing assignments, critting, reading, and most importantly, writing.

I'm a regular list maker; been that way since I was a kid, but I don't wait until the first of the year to create my benchmarks. I make goals all year long.

For example: As soon as my goal for completing my last manuscript was reached, I immediately made two additional goals.
#1 I outlined the sequel while the first book was still fresh in my mind.
#2 I started a new book in a different world, but similar genre.

This accomplishes a couple of things. If the first book sells well, I can promise a sequel in short order. If the book gets a lukewarm reception, I can offer a different book and see how that's received. Either way I am keeping my options open. I'll be able to prospect with more than one project to a publisher or an agent.

Some people call that multitasking. --grin--

2008 has some formidable challenges in store for me. Not only will I need to continue writing and submitting, but I'll also need to concentrate on marketing and developing my brand. These are uncharted waters for me and for that reason I'm excited to see what develops.

What's on my plate for 2008?

• I'd like to complete three novels and one novella in 2008. (not so hard since one is nearly finished and the other two have been outlined.)
• Present a workshop at a conference
• Submit at least one article a month for publication.
• Continue my education by attending 3-4 classes in '08.

And my biggest challenge for 2008…
I am terribly shy. (Don't laugh! It's true.) So for 2008 I would like to be braver and comment more on people's blogs and writers' forums. If you'd like to help me out, keep commenting here and I will always answer you--and visit your blog. :o)

Now it's your turn. Tell me what your goals are for 2008. You can list them here or post your blog address in the comments area so I (and others) can go over and take a look.

What's on your plate for 2008?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Made my Friend Cry

I seem to be making a habit of making my friends cry lately.

I was finally able to deliver a Christmas present to one of my closest friends and she bawled like a baby.

Below is Princess, the little dog I babysit once in a while. I painted the little dog's picture for my friend as a Christmas present because Princess is the joy of her life.

It's a pretty good likeness of the little monster. But I have to admit, my deteriorating eyesight made it hard to get the details right. I'm still saving my pennies for that eye surgery. Maybe I can get my eyes fixed in 2008.


Monday: What's on your plate for 2008?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Good Editing Matters

My editor mentioned to me that she was very picky. I laughed out loud!

On many of the writing boards that I belong to there is always someone who will pipe up and announce that polishing his/her novel sucks all the passion out of the story. Their battle plan (spoken and/or implied) is to leave the picky stuff to their "future" editor.

I never comment on those posts because that kind of sideways planning signifies that the person isn't ready for publication. You have to get the mechanics perfect--or as perfect as you can get them, or it will never see an editor.

Oh I know what these people are thinking. "My story is so original, riveting, brilliant, yadda yadda, that the editor will want it and fix my bo-bos. Puleeeeeeeese! It doesn't work that way.

You want to get published? Here are the steps.

1. Write a great story.
2. Edit that story until it stops yanking readers out of the story.

I know excellent writers who are still not published. They do everything right, but for some reason they haven't gotten the call yet. What chance do you think a sloppy writer has?

Do the work. If your grammar sucks, take a class. If your story meanders, find some brutal crit partners and leave the cheerleaders at home.

TOUCH OF FIRE never lost its appeal to me, even when I slaved over the details at a sentence by sentence level. It's a great story and I think my love for it showed all the way through.

Grunt work matters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mini Movie Reviews

I wrote this a few days ago, but forgot to save it. And, well…you know the rest of that story. Let's try this again.

National Treasure 2: This was good as escapist fare goes. Our intrepid heroes spanned the globe tracking down clues that will vindicate Ben Gates' (Nicolas Cage) great-great-grandfather of masterminding Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

In this movie we went to London, Paris, Washington DC, Mount Vernon and Mount Rushmore. There wasn't a lot of original content, but it was fast paced and it was fun trying to figure out what their next moves would be.

I wasn't crazy about Ed Harris as the bad guy. Not that he did a bad job, but his role was bland and nonproductive. He was cast as a device to set the plot in motion. But I thought it was a little too contrived and weak as a catalyst.

The best scenes were with Jon Voight and Helen Mirren as Ben's parents. They were hilarious! And it was nice to see older people cast in a positive and meaningful way.

See this at the theater so you can get the full cinematic experience of the vistas, but this is fine as a rental.

PS: Page 42 in the Presidents' Book of Secrets sets the stage for the sequel. They do nothing more than mention it, which was a bummer. It would have been more delicious if they could have at least teased us a little more with some hints.


The Golden Compass: After all the hullabaloo about this movie, I expected some grand scheme in the works for subverting our minds and making us all atheists. I haven't read the book so I can't say how true the movie was to the book, but it felt as if the story was compressed in order to make it fit within the allotted time.

Did it cast the Catholic Church as the bad guy? I think it tried, but it was hardly worth the press it received. It was a tad preachy and manipulative, but no more than most commercial ventures. I went for the CGI, myself.

Ian McKellen was the voice of the polar bear, Iorek, and he did a very fine job. Loved the polar bear sequences and the short but memorable witches' scenes. Dakota Blue Richards as the little girl, Lyra was wonderful. A very tough little girl who takes matters into her own hands. I love protagonists that take charge.

Nicole Kidman oozed with wickedness and manipulation, but Daniel Craig was lukewarm. I expected more out of him. Sam Elliott was a hoot! I also loved his daemon, a jack rabbit. As a matter of fact, it was the daemons that gave each character so much color. They were just as important in the makeup of each character.

I liked The Golden Compass. It was a little predictable. (I am hoping the book wasn't quite so obvious.) The preaching was tolerable, offset by the killer special effects and the very colorful daemons, polar bears and witches.

It's fine as a rental, but you'll get more out of it on the big screen.

For fun, The Golden Compass movie site has a quiz that will pair you up with your daemon. Be honest with your answers. That's the whole point of having a daemon.

My profile says that I am modest, shy, assertive, responsible and solitary; therefore my daemon is the tiger. And his name is Araphon. (cool name!)

Go here to find out what your daemon is. (Click on Daemons)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shrimp and Spinach Quiche

There's a bumper sticker that reads: Real men don't eat quiche. Evidently they do.

Greg doesn't turn down any food if it rates to his standards--and I won't pass up any dish if I find out it's easy to make.

I was at a party the other night and someone made quiche. I thought I would turn my nose at it because I always thought it was nothing but a fancy omelet. But this was delicious. The hostess gave me her recipe. Now I'm passing it on to you.

Pie shell (make your own or do it my way and buy the pre-made deep dish pie shells.
16 oz. frozen Spinach
½ lb. Shrimp, get the good-sized kind, not the scrawny cocktail shrimp
3 eggs
8 oz. can Corn, drained
8 oz. Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Milk
1 Tbl. Corn starch

Salt to taste

Blend corn, milk, eggs, spinach, salt and corn starch. Add Spinach and cheese, mix with spoon. Pour entire mixture into a deep dish pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until batter is firm and baked throughout. Cover the fluted pie crust edge to prevent burning.

This is a delicious dish. Very filling and great for any meal. You can substitute ham or chicken for the shrimp. --Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!
May you be with the ones you love most.



Update on Bony, the dog

Everywhere we tried to call was closed for the holidays, so we've spent the last couple of days socializing Tank with Bony. It looks very promising. Everyone has gotten along famously.

There seems to be very little hope of finding his owners. Bony is old, deaf, arthritic and malnourished, but he has the sweetest disposition. He's like a favorite grandfather, kind and amiable.

If no one claims him before I have to go back to work, I guess he will stay with us. If we turned him over to a no-kill shelter or a rescue organization, they would be forced to keep him in a cage for lack of room. We really can't keep him, but you know…love finds a way. We'll do what we can to make room.

My special thanks to Andy in Canada who graciously offered money to help with vet bills. What a kind man, a virtual stranger to us, who happened to see our plea to find a home for Bony. Money isn't an issue, but I was so overwhelmed by his offer, I just wanted to say, thanks and God bless.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Fun

Happy birthday to my buddy, Mike. And a milestone too! I'd get snarky now and tell an age joke, but I was taught to respect my elders. ~grin~

*****

How about some holiday games?

I'm not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed, but I scored a perfect 100%. I am such a GEEK.

Test your SF movie knowledge.

*****
Sadder still is that I missed only one answer on the 70s song recollection. Sheesh! I can't remember where I left my keys, yet I can remember the words to music from nearly 40 years ago.

Test your 70's music knowledge.

*****
And in honor of the season--and since I couldn't make jokes at Mike's expense....Slingshot Santa Help the elves throw Santa over the crevasse.

Instructions: Click Start
Hit left mouse button to roll the catapult. Hit button again to pull the lever to the catapult back for the swing. Release the button when you're ready to fling Santa. Caution: Hold the button too long and you'll pull the lever too far. Fling Santa too late and you all fall into the crevasse.

Yes, more ways to waste your time. This is my job. LOL!

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bony Needs a Home

I think I'm being tested.

Yesterday, sitting on my front step was an old male rottweiler. He was thin as a bone and when he got up he staggered. I truly believe he was a few days from death.

The weather had turned for the worst that day. Winter had finally arrived in Texas and it was bitterly cold and windy. We brought the poor dog in and fed him. In the meantime I made flyers and visited the nearest vet to see if anyone was looking for him.

Here's my dilemma. I have a male rottie, Tank. And while the Tankster is a big sweetie, he's never been particularly fond of other male dogs. There haven't been any altercations because "Bony" as I call him now is too frail.

We will keep him over the holidays because there will always be someone here watching them, but if there is ANYONE who can take pity on a really sweet older dog, email me. I will gladly pay for his shots and a vet visit if someone would be willing to care for this grandfather in his last years.

Bony is a very nice dog. I think he is deaf and he has a limp. He's probably about 9-10 years old which means he still has 2-4 years left in him with the right people. All he wants is a little TLC. He's been a sweetheart since he's been here and doesn't ask for anything. His appetite is good and he appears to be housebroken because he waits to go out.

Bony is not aggressive at all. As a matter of fact, he's remarkably good tempered. He seems to like everyone, including pets. Here's a picture of him.

If you have any room for an older dog with a good heart, email me.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Samhain & MySpace

I'm over at Samhain's weblog at 9am CST. Be a pal and leave me a message over there --or here --or both. I'd love to hear from you!

And despite my better judgment, I signed up at MySpace. Slaps head. What was I thinking?

Oh yeah, networking, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous (know any?) and rampant frustration.

The frustration part always happens when I come upon an alien interactive website. MySpace is amazingly complex and simple at the same time. If you know html, you are in like Flynn. Otherwise, you are dependent on the kindness of friends.

My biggest gripe comes from all the ads. But the site is free, so I have no right to complain. I probably won't notice them in a few weeks, but right now it's aggravation on top of frustration.

So I am shedding my introvert's skin and going out there to press the virtual flesh. If you read this blog and belong to MySpace, we probably have the same interests. Please go over and add me to your Friend's list---cuz God knows I don't know what I'm doing. I was lucky to get the background picture in, anything more was sheer dumb luck.

I am not fully absorbed into the friend pyramid yet, but I took some time to study places like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I'd even add Live Journal to that study, even though it's only a blog community. MySpace seems to have the largest community by far, with an estimated 289 million. That's a lot of people. The authors I read tend to congregate at MySpace, so it seemed like the logical choice and it finally tipped the scales in their favor.

So here I am, at Samhain and MySpace. If you see me, say hi. I'm alone...so alone! LOL And I'm pretty much lost.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Say Something Nice Today

The most incredible thing happened yesterday and I'm not quite sure I can put it into words. I'll try.

I usually give small gifts to the custodian and the security guard at the building where I work. This year, I added the lady at the cafeteria. She's always been very kind and tries to make conversation with me despite her difficulty with English.

People who speak English as a second language have my utmost respect. In return I usually ask her to teach me a couple of words in Vietnamese.

When I gave her the Christmas present she hugged me as if she didn't want to let go, and there were tears in her eyes. I'd never seen her that way before. She regained her composure then thanked me and gave a little bow. I surprised myself because I bowed back. ~grin~

I walked away feeling good that I made her so happy. But here's where the incredible part comes in.

Yesterday, two of my friends found this lady sobbing in the women's bathroom and tried to comfort her. This poor soul had been in the pit of despair. She felt alone and friendless.

It brought back visions of Peter Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. We never know how we affect each other or what we mean to one another until that person is gone from our lives.

She thought no one cared about her when in actuality she's well liked in our workplace community. It was kismet that I happened to bring her a gift just when she needed it most. I'm sorry I wasn't there for her when she broke down, but I'm glad I was there for her on her way back up.

So today, I'd like to beseech you to call or write someone who's made a difference in your life. That difference doesn't have to be earth shattering. Sometimes the people who make the biggest difference in our lives are the ones who stay within our periphery.

Buy some gloves for the mailman. Write a letter to your sister. Call a friend who's listened to you whine without complaint. A kindness is never unappreciated and it doesn't need to be reciprocated. Tell someone they made a difference in your life. It could mean much more than you will ever know.

I've been giving and receiving gifts for the last two weeks. But that last gift---the hug from a lady overwhelmed with emotion was the best present of all.

Christmas is about sharing. And although this lady and I are from vastly different cultures, we shared the most precious thing of all. Human contact.

Life is so brief. Go out and tell someone you appreciate them today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cover Letters

Cover letters are different from query letters in that you use them mostly for short stories or requested manuscripts. It's more of an introduction letter; something to tell the editor/agent a little about yourself and your credentials.

My cover letters are very short and to the point. And I'm cautious with the information I impart. I don't load up on superlatives, academic credentials, contest wins or publishing jobs.

The last cover letter I wrote was for a short story. I did not mention the contest wins, education or the two newsletters I edit. I did bring up the novel because it was in the same general genre as the short story. I also brought up that I had been published many times before to let them know I've got professional credentials, but only listed the magazines that were relevent.

A cover letter is not a brag vehicle. It's a business tool. Don't burn your bridges by citing things that won't make a lick of difference to the publisher. It might be tempting to list every single accolade and publication, but if it doesn't relate to the publisher you could possibly shoot yourself in the foot by trying too hard.

The cover letters I've used for requested manuscripts usually included a little reminder that the manuscript was requested as well as the original pitch. Be sure to include all your contact information and use standard query protocols: white paper, black ink, readable size text, and traditional fonts. It's a business letter. Leave the perfume, the sparkles and the gushy notes for your spouse.

Getting personal: I think some people make the mistake of getting too chummy with agents when they've had a request for a full, and address the person by their first name. As a rule I don't use first names until the agent addresses me by my first name. Some call me Maria by the second email they send me. But one didn't call me by my first name until we were almost at the negotiating table. A lot depends on their age, your age and a lot of variables in between.

Use your instincts to guide you, but when in doubt, use common courtesy. Until you've been properly introduced it's always polite to use traditional titles and standard greetings.

Out of the Closet

It's been a week and a half of surprises and heartfelt displays of affection. My cup runneth over.

My staff got together and gave me a beautiful basket full of goodies, including a very generous gift card to Barnes & Nobles. (How did they know?) During our Christmas lunch, I finally told them I had a book coming out next year. You could have heard their jaws drop. LOL!

"You're a writer? OMG, a real writer!" Which is funny because most of us are artists and we usually get: "You're an artist? OMG, a real artist!"

I make it a point not to discuss my other life with people "not of the blood". I really didn't want to go through the twenty questions on what I'm writing and when it will be in print. But now that TOUCH OF FIRE is coming out, I don't have to feel so guilty. Plus, they promised to buy the book. ~grin~

It felt good to come out of the closet.

*****

It's a short week for me at work and then a well deserved vacation. Friday, I'll also be posting at Samhain's weblog. Yes, I'll remind you. :o)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Markets

Lantern Books Essay Contest

Fee: None

The aim of our essay competition is to allow new thinking to emerge on the key subjects of Lantern's publishing program and to encourage new voices to step forward to shape the debate of the future.

Three topics to choose from:
How far does personal responsibility extend when it comes to the environment or other issues affecting the planet? Where do you find peace, and how can that space be extended? What "bad" experience has turned out to be "good" for you?

Deadline: December 31, 2007. Limit 1,500 words.
$1,000 first prize $500 second prize $250 third prize

*****

SF Reader Short Story Contest

The contest opens to submissions on November 1st, 2007, and will remain open until December 31st, 2007 (last submission must be received no later than midnight, December 31st). Entries received before November 1st or after December 31st will not be considered!

Rules and Regs - READ AND HEED!

No submission fee
Story length is 1,000 to 5,000 words firm
No reprints
We will be purchasing first electronic rights only
No simultaneous submissions
Multiple submissions under separate covers are welcome, but please do not send multiple submissions in a single mailing
Email submission ONLY! Send all stories to contest2007@sfreader.com
Email all stories as attachments in Rich Text Format (.rtf)
Include a cover letter with the title of your story and your name
NO NAME ON THE STORY ITSELF

Fiction guidelines:
We are interested in works that feature well developed characters along with colorful settings and fast-moving plots. There are no restrictions on sub-genres, though all stories must be firmly within the realm of Speculative Fiction. Our interests include, but are not limited to: Hard Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Slipstream, and Alternate History, just to name a few. The speculative element must be integral to the story.

Prizes:
This year I've up the prizes!

1st Place: $300.00, publication, and an author's interview
2nd Place: $150.00 and publication
3nd Place: $75.00 and publication

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I AM LEGEND

Went to see "I Am Legend" with Will Smith. While I took issue with some of the plot logic and the "too incredible to be believed" mutants, I liked the movie.

This says a lot because I walked in with a prejudiced view. I did NOT want to see this movie because of what happens to the dog. Yes, I cried. But the scene I was dreading was probably the best one in the film.

You'll probably hear mixed reactions to this movie, but I thought it was the best of the three that've been made from the book. Will Smith was excellent. He really shows what he's made of.

This was part horror, part SF. The CGI monsters were a little rough, but the cinematography was well done and Smith's acting wrenched every shred of emotion to the forefront.

Go for the dog. Bring Kleenex.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Writer Montage

This was fun. Writers unite! We're all the same under the skin.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pitch and Polish

This past week I've had the chance to examine three pitches from friends and peers and it gave me a chance to solidify in my mind what a good pitch does.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds has been hosting an excellent (ongoing) pitch session where she analyzes a lot of different query pitches. What I like about the BookEnds pitch sessions is that she tells you why something did or didn't work. Really valuable feedback.

I think it would be a mistake to think of a query as formulaic, but it is to a point. You have to wow an agent within a few seconds. The sentences should be tight, powerful and set the stage for what should be an intriguing story. That's really not as hard as it seems.

You see it all the time in tv show blurbs and movie trailers. The pitch is rarely more than two or three sentences. You can get a lot of mileage out of three sentences if you use the right words.

Word choice is critical. Given the choice, always pick the word that delivers an emotional response. Dash rather than run. Harvest rather than gather. Bitter rather than harsh. Notice that you can see the first word of each pair more clearly than the second. A visceral word is more specific and tangible.

The second aspect of a pitch is the content. The conflict has to be established quickly. Save the back story for the synopsis if it's that important.

A query pitch (for a novel) shouldn't take more than one paragraph for best results. If you find yourself going on too long, you've not condensed the story to its key components yet.

Having read the pitches at BookEnds and other writing blogs, I can tell within the first two sentences whether the pitch sounds interesting enough. No doubt, agents probably have radar even keener than mine. I'm willing to bet they toss queries aside faster than I would.

So how do you pinpoint your conflict? My rule of thumb is to identify the catalyst and the result. For example, in TOUCH OF FIRE, the catalyst is: A dangerous book has been stolen. The result: Two alpha personalities are forced to work together to recover it. The conflict: Everyone wants this book, certain it will grant them unlimited power.

So the conflict would read something like: Grayhawke Tams would sooner stay in jail than help a fire mage. But when he discovers the thief who stole the grimoire might also control his future, he's forced into a prickly alliance with Leda that leads them to the truth about the Earth that was, and a thousand year old book that could reintroduce technology to a world that knows only magic.

In the actual query, I added a couple more sentences to set the story up and introduce the characters, but basically, this is the core of the conflict.

Don't give up if the conflict doesn't distinguish itself right away. What happens is that our heads are filled with every nuance, thread, and sub-conflict and it's hard to dig right down to the real point of the story.

Keep whittling at it until you get to the chewy middle. And don't worry about not being able to give more information to the agent. If the story has legs, you'll get your chance to tell more of it.

Next week: cover letters

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coming in for a Landing

Holy moley, the world is finally spinning at a normal speed. I've barely had time to check my mail, let alone offer a suitable blog post.

I had a mountain of things that needed to get done before December 20. I've whittled it down to two little items on the to-do list. Piece of cake.

For the life of me, I'm not sure how I got it all done. But I'm a very stable pony. There's not a lot that flusters me if left to my own devices.

*****

I am gearing up for another newsletter run. My counterpart for the OWW newsletter has been stupendous in forwarding me announcements. She's been a huge help and I have a little shrine set up with flowers and wine in her honor.

The other newsletter is entirely my own effort, but I do have a few trusty people I can rely on for articles and information. My network works surprisingly well and everyone plays nice. --Big sigh of relief.

*****

That WOW! article has brought me a lot of new visitors. Welcome! Hope you'll keep coming back.

WOW! was such a good experience, I might query them with something else. I like everything about that ezine. They are really very polished and professional.

*****

I've spent a considerable amount of time in the last couple of weeks working up a marketing plan for TOUCH OF FIRE, as well as future books too. I promise to do a few in depth posts on marketing and business plans in the future. I know several readers of this blog do have published books so maybe we can brainstorm some ideas.

Tomorrow, I will talk about query letters.

See you then!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Markets

I've been hesitant to post this one for the Writer's Eye. It pays well for spec fiction, .05 cents per word, but they insist that you also provide a piece of artwork to accompany your writing. This is an ezine that seeks writer-artists.

When I went over there I found a photograph, digital art, paintings and 3-dimensional art, so their expectation of artwork is broad. My concern is that you're only getting paid for the writing. To the author's benefit, The Writer's Eye only asks for first rights. Please read the guidelines carefully.


The Writer's Eye

FICTION: We are seeking high-quality literary fiction, including flash fiction, in all genres. You do not need to query prior to submitting.

Submit one story and one visual art attachment, using the following text format (no html please):

Subject Line: SUBMISSION - FICTION - Title

Body Heading: Author's Name, email address, mailing address, phone number, approximate word count of story, type of accompanying artwork submission (i.e., painting, photo, etc.)

Body: Story

Footer: Author's Bio (50 words or fewer)

Pay Rate: Varies. We use a general guideline of $.05 per word

Length: up to 1,000 words for flash fiction and up to 3,000 words for other stories.

*****

For Poets

Euphoria's Annual Poetry Contest

$100 for the Winning Entry.

No entry fee, and nothing that must be purchased if contest is won.

Poems may be of any genre, with no more than poems being entered, and with a 50 line maximum for each poem.

Send all entries in the body of an email (no html.) Include name, bio and a working email address. If you send more than one poem in the email, be sure that you separate each poem and be sure to add a copyright date for it also, to protect your rights.

The winner will retain all rights to their poem,with the exception of "Euphoria" printing and displaying the poem on the Web Page as the winning poem.

Winner announced Feb 1, 2008.

Email entries to: mailto:bowmanj8@aol.com,and type "Poetry Contest Submission"in the subject line of the email.

Deadline: Dec. 31, 1007

*****

Sniplets

At Sniplits, we're simply crazy about short stories. We think more of them should be published, and we've decided to do something about it. So, we're working furiously toward launching as a new short story publisher. Our goal is to make Sniplits the single best place to find wonderful, short tales for downloading to your MP3 player, cellphone or whatever. We're accepting and reviewing manuscripts now, and we welcome the work of new as well as established authors.
We're looking for: Stories between 50 and 10,000 words

Literary
Mainstream
Mystery/suspense/thriller
Humor
Romance
Science fiction/fantasy
Action/adventure
Historical
Horror
Western
Young adult
Some poetry

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guest Blogging

Wow! Stuff is happening so fast and the book hasn't even gone through edits yet.

I am scheduled to be a regular guest blogger at Samhain's weblog. My first appearance will be December 21. I guess I'll have to think of something clever to say. ~grin~

I've also been scheduled for a chat. My first! That should be just before TOUCH OF FIRE debuts this summer. Darn. That means I'll have to be clever at least twice.

One of my goals for 2008 is to expand my internet presence. I'm glad now that I've had time developing my blog voice. My first 'blog' was really a regular journal that I kept along with my website. When I redesigned the website, I wiped out all the journal entries except for the few that I thought were still interesting or helpful to writers. I haven't given them anchor links so you'll have to scroll through the whole list, but it's still over there under the archives if you're interested.

What I think is neat is that I reread some of them and remembered where I was at that point in my career and what I was trying to achieve. It's like a mini time capsule for me.

The website and blog have been an extraordinary training ground for me, and I've met a lot of new people through them. I was slow to get on the blog bandwagon, but I'm glad I took the plunge.

It taught me a lot about voice, business demeanor, appropriate topics and time management. Treating the blog as a responsibility made me aware and sensitive to the writing community as a whole.

Before I started blogging, I visited a lot of sites. It helped me decide what I wanted from my blog and also how to go about achieving it. I wasn't interested in sharing my daily life because…well, it's boring. So it left me with the quandary of pulling together a blog that served a useful purpose yet still be warm and inviting.

As I surfed the web, I noticed which blogs I visited the most. I liked bloggers who were informative, positive, yet folksy; people I'd like to chat with at the local coffeehouse. These are the blogs I used as my models.

The journal, and later the blog have been a work in progress. It's been a wonderful vehicle for me and I hope for others who stop by. My modus operandi is to post topics of interest to writers, links to good resources and markets. Occasionally, I'll tell a story from my wicked, wicked past just to mix it up.

Thank you to everyone who visits--even if you're like me and lurk most of the time. Feel free to comment or shoot me an email. If the latest is any indication, it should be an interesting 2008. I hope you'll stick with me. You never know. There might be cake involved.

Tomorrow: Markets have been few and far between, but I'll see what I can find for you.

See you then!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How 2 Shake Off the Heebie Jeebies

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My article, Networking: How 2 Shake Off the Heebee Jeebies is now up at WOW!

Go over and check it out.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Book Promotion on a Budget

It's a Hollywood fallacy that your publisher handles all the promotion for you. Unless you're Nora, Rowling or Clancy, you're pretty much on your own.

With that in mind, I have been mulling over several ideas to promote my upcoming book, TOUCH OF FIRE. With the help of my friends, I've come up with a few notions.

My mission has been to find unique and cost effective outlets to promote my book --outlets that will not suck the marrow out of my bones. It's not easy.

I know a couple of people who have hired professional PR people. I won't be going that route. Instead, I will depend on my inherent skills, be they what they may.

It helps that I'm a designer, so I have a good grasp of what constitutes a snappy looking layout. But I won't be shelling out big bucks for promo cards and bookmarks.

Samhain is supposed to be good about lining up reviewers, but I'll also be keeping an eye out for people who aren't on their radar.

Contests are another option. I had a nifty idea for a treasure hunt (thank you, Mike) since part of the story deals with a man who is a scavenger for ancient treasure. I'm on the fence about this one because it will require people to read the book. I'm not sure this will work, unless I can generate enough buzz for the prize. But it's on my list.

So what's on my list of possibilities?

• wrangle as many reviews as I can.
• stop lurking and participate more in writer/reader loops
• offer writer workshops in my particular field of expertise (design)
• create a contest with a very unique prize.
• blog tours
• excerpts
• a quarterly newsletter
• chats
• guest blogger on other blogs
~if you have a writing blog, invite me, please!
• attend one or two conferences if money and time allow

You'll notice I did not list bookmarks, pens, promo cards, candy, key fobs, calendars, seed packets or dog food lids.

I will have a few business cards printed if I'm at a conference, but for the most part my promotional efforts will take up my time rather than my wallet.

On a private writers' loop, I asked the group what they thought compelled them to buy a book. Reviews and excerpts seemed to head the list.

Hand-selling motivates me to buy. If the author takes the time to talk to me, I almost always buy the book. I was at a conference a year ago where a "name" author took me by the arm and shoved her promo card in my hand. She pitched the premise of her book by touting the things she thought I was interested in. I am sure she had watched me for a moment as I was browsing the advertising paraphenalia for the paranormal titles, so she pitched the paranormal angle of her book. I bought the book.

Another author also stopped to talk to me. (Evidently, I must be very easy to talk to.) I would have bought his books, but he gave me both of them as a gift. He felt that as long as his books were being read, he didn't care to make that immediate sale. His thinking is that if his first book appealed to the reader, she'll come back and read subsequent books. Makes sense, though I think if it were me, I might have offered the first book and encouraged the reader to buy the other one. Interesting note: I liked the writing of the free books better than the one I paid for. And he was right. I did buy his next book.

That's my strategy so far. I have a couple of other ideas that require big business sponsorship. The story has slim but important tethers to major commercial connections. I didn't write it that way. That's just the way it turned out. I didn't even notice it until one of my crit partners pointed out the commercial possibilities.


**Anybody out there know Robert Iger of Disney? Have I got a project unlike anything Disney has ever done before!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Elizabethan Fact Bites

I've been doing a lot of research for my current wip which is set in the early 1600s and I found this link about life in Elizabethan England called the Compendium of Common Knowledge. Maggie Pierce Secara has done an extraordinary job cobbling little fact bites that are easy to digest and fun to learn.

Go on other there and take a look for yourself. It's an addictive site that will have you clicking to its many links. Below are a few things that surprised and tickled me.

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The metric system has not been invented yet, so:
Land is measured in acres.
Beer is measured in gallons and pints.
Distance is measured in miles, feet, and inches.


I never realized the Brits used "miles" at one point in their history.

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Some servant wages for 1550, Ingatestone Hall, Essex, (the country manor of Privy Secretary Sir William Petre): By the quarter:

The laundress, cook, butler, and the children's nurse were paid 10s each. The youngest housemaid got 5s, as did a part-time brewer.


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Beer can be flavored with just about anything, including pepper, ivy, rosemary, and lupins. Beer in England is mostly made without hops, and is usually flat.

So is it still flat? Doesn't sound very appetizing. But what do I know of beer?

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The Pope published a writ (1570) absolving English Catholics from allegiance to the Queen, since she is (he says) a heretic. Anyone who kills her is pre-absolved from the sin of murder.

LOL! How terribly logical of the Pope.

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Children are the property of their parents, and give them the respect a servant gives his master. Or else.

Wives are the property of their husbands. See previous admonition.

You just know I would've been an insolent wench back then.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

E-book Futures

I am not the most tech-savvy person you'll ever meet. Heck, I've barely evolved from troglodyte. But I try to stay abreast of the latest innovations.

I've discovered that despite throwing temper tantrums every time technology took a leap forward, I have never been able to stop progress. I've learned to embrace the horror.

You should have seen me when cell phones entered the realm of man. Greg had to force me to buy a cell phone. But I still resist texting. That just seems dumb. If I have a phone, why should I type?

The thing I've learned about technology is that if you don't keep up, it pulls away from you so fast that you are utterly lost when the next gen tool takes its place. So I keep pace even when I don't want to.

Those of you who know me, know that I have a knack for spotting trends and patterns. And I hate to say it because I don't want to encourage any more progress than necessary, but I think these e-readers might become a way of life in the future.

I've been on the fence for a long time on how this was going to pan out, but the Writers' Strike is what convinced me the ebook was here to stay.

A major sticking point in talks was negotiating the royalties for mediums that weren't an issue the last time contracts were bargained. The written word was being digitized at an alarming rate, and writers weren't being compensated for it. Sure, they got their checks when shows went on tv, but what about podcasts, website content, and YouTube?

The writers' strike touched the tip of the iceberg. Digitized formats of their work were no longer isolated cases. Now when you write for a tv show, a newspaper, a magazine---and even a book, you must reconcile yourself to the fact that the publisher of these works might very well want it in digital format too.

The reason the writers' union has been so steadfast for protecting these rights and demanding royalties for digital media is because they believe it is the natural evolution for mass communication. I agree. Given what technology has done so far for music, communication, and the information highway, it is the only logical step. I'm not prescient; I'm merely extrapolating what must happen with book publishing in order to compete with other forms of communication.

I have reason to believe all the major players know that as well. Giant publishers, like Harlequin have announced that their complete catalog will now be available in ebook format. Kensington has teamed up with Samhain to foster its e-connection. The Kindle, Amazon's e-reader is gearing up to offer thousands of titles for download.

They know what's coming. And they are gearing up for it.

My prediction, for what it's worth, is that traditional publishing will have to share a bed with what it once considered its poorer cousin, the ebook. How that will manifest in terms of royalties and advances has yet to be seen. But it should be a pretty interesting turn of events. And it's something that all of us as authors should consider as a critical next step.

The world is changing once again. Get ready for another explosion.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Russians Are Coming

Live Journal was sold to the Russians! Weird. I have an LJ account I use to get into private group discussions, but I don't post at that blog. It's just a placeholder.

Earlier this year when I decided to start a blog I tested several models. It was a case of Goldilocks and the three blogs. The first one, WordPress, was too hard to get used to. The second, Live Journal, was too soft. (read: not business-y enough for my needs). But Blogger was just right. It had just the right amount of functionality and it was easy to learn.

I don't know which came first, but Live Journal follows the business model of outfits like MySpace and Facebook, which is great for networking if you want to go through all the trouble of friending. I had to ask one of my LJ friends to explain friending to me. Even after she friended me, I'm still not sure I understand its value. All I know is that I'm on some list.

Friending is a unique concept of the 21st century. I just finished reading an article in the RWA newsletter touting the benefits of MySpace. It too, uses the friending model. But I can't help thinking it feels like some benign pyramid scheme.

Vehicles like LJ and MySpace hit a goldmine with this concept. Membership grows by getting members to bring in their friends. Their friends bring other friends, and on and on. It's brilliant from a marketing standpoint.

When I was researching blogs, I once got stuck going from one LJ friend's blog to another. With the exception of a few, which I link to and love, most didn't talk about writing much. But then Live Journal specifically calls itself a "social" network, not a business one.

Since I have both LJ and Blogger, I've noticed that Live Journal seems to send out a lot more notices than Blogger. I don't know if that's a recent phenomenon or if they're always that chatty. It could be a sign of trouble though.

Years ago, Greg and I had some cash tied up with an investment firm. A few weeks before we pulled out our money, we started getting a lot of letters telling us what a fine job they were doing and all the perks they were adding. We never paid attention, thinking it was just PR.

Then we went in to take out our money. That agent begged us not to be hasty. Our decision wasn't subject to negotiation since we needed the money as a down payment for a new house. Within a couple of weeks after we withdrew our funds, the company went bankrupt. Many of our friends lost a bundle. It was horrible, and we were so lucky to pull out when we did.

So as long as Live Journal doesn't start showing other signs of ailing, it shouldn't be a big deal. They're just changing hands. And the Russians seem very friendly. *grin*

Just to be on the safe side....archive your posts if you use Live Journal.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Markets

Learning Through History

Fifty percent kill fee. Pays $75 for nonfiction. We are accepting submissions for the Italian Renaissance issue until December 15, 2007. Below are just a few of the many topics that would be of interest - we also encourage writers to submit manuscripts and queries on other possible topic(s) that are related to the issue theme:

Medici family
The Papacy
Papal States
Leonardo da Vinci
Sistine Chapel
Machiavelli
Botticelli
Donatello
Humanism
Lucrezia Borgia
Sack of Rome in 1527
Venice (the Doge)Florence
Italian City States

I wish I had time to query them. I'm rather well-versed in the Italian Renaissance. I hope one of my readers tries them.

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A new market. Launches January 2008

Serpentarius Magazine

Seeks unpublished speculative fiction. Maximum of 5,000 words, minimum of 1,500. Pays five cents/word and up. Be sure to read their guidelines FAQs page. They pay by the rule of six.


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Shroud Magazine

Shroud considers horror, dark mystery, dark fantasy and suspense short stories up to 5,000 words. In addition, we are interested in tightly woven flash fiction, and (in some cases) serialized novellas. Thriller and Suspense tales with a horror aspect are also welcome.

Pays two to five cents/word up to $250.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December OWW Newsletter

The December issue of the OWW newsletter is up. This month we have an interview with SC Butler, some great reviews from the OWW critique workshop and a link to the Robert Heinlein contest that's offering some very lucrative prizes. We also have many publication announcements, including from yours truly, to toast this holiday month.

If you write SF, fantasy or horror, OWW is a great place to find critique partners. That's where I found many of mine. They even offer a free one month trial so you can check it out.