Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Monsters

Dragons, right? Well, perhaps with a
little interpretation.

When I think of water dragons, the mental image I have is based off koi.

Western land dragons are more iguana-based.
Doggy beds are much nicer than bridges.

Mermaids legends are thought to trace back to sea mammals such as manatees, especially those getting caught in seaweed, yet these days they're more fish-and-girl like than manatee-like. And unicorns are usually horse-like.

Want a troll? I've got a dog for that. And that sea-serpent the sailors were talking about was probably an oarfish.

The last of the thylacines (public domain image)

Even non-living animals have contributed to legends. Many believe dinosaur skeletons led to legends of dragons today, and ancient whale bones to sea monsters. The tragic extinct Tasmanian Tiger (warning, the link shows the last of them in captivity, not pretty) was my original mental inspiration for the frightening Hunters in my book, who I see as larger, bigger-fanged, solid-colored thylacines. (Although, since most people won't know what they are, I ended up describing them as something closer to a very large and muscular greyhound-wildcat mix...)

If you were going to create a non-humanoid monster, what animals would you base it off? Living or extinct, anything's open.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Heart of the Matter Anthology

Are you a writer with questions about publishing?

Our local chapter of the Romance Writers of America, the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, has put together an anthology, with contributions from New York Times best-selling authors as well as from authors in various stages of their careers.

It's called Heart of the Matter. It's priced at $2.99. You can buy it here:
Amazon buy link
Smashwords buy link
Barnes & Noble buy link

The book blurb from Amazon explains it well:

"Who do you go to for answers to your most pressing writing and publishing questions?

It’s an exciting time to dive into publishing. But writing can still be a confusing and even a lonely job. What if you had an experienced published author friend that you could call on at a moment’s notice with questions from “How do I get my characters to sound different from each other?” to “Can I expect my publisher to do that for me?”

Written by authors for authors, Heart of the Matter includes advice, anecdotes and information gathered through the hard-won experience of members of the Heart of Carolina chapter of Romance Writers of America. From the exciting beginning of your writing project to its triumphant end, this collection covers everything from the tricky creative challenges that can arise in your work-in-progress to the toughest decisions a published author has to make. Top names in the industry—including Sabrina Jefferies, Bob Meyer, Katharine Ashe, Deb Marlow, Ava Stone, Virginia Kantra and many more—share with you their secrets for smoothing out the rough spots and taking your writing career on the path to success.

Heart of the Matter is a great resource for ideas, inspiration, and practical advice. A must-have for your craft shelf.

For authors in all stages of their careers, HEART of the MATTER offers 40 articles of instruction, guidance, and encouragement from the multi-published and talented authors from HEART OF CAROLINA ROMANCE WRITERS.

With contributions by: Katharine Ashe, Nancy Lee Badger, Lisa Creech Bledsoe, Melinda Collins, Caren Crane, Andrea Dalling, Jennifer Delamere, Sonja Foust, Mari Freeman, Lilly Gayle, Sherri Hollister, Constance Hussey, KD James, Sabrina Jeffries, Samantha Kane, Virginia Kantra, Summer Kinard, Erin Knightley, Gina Lamm, Jennifer Lohmann, Elizabeth Martal, Bob Mayer, Heather McCollum, Hannah Meredith, Rebekkah Niles, Kate Parker, Lena Pierce, Emilie Rose, Reese Ryan, Laura Simcox, Ava Stone,Carol A. Strickland, Judy Teel, Andrea J. Wenger, and Sarah Winn."

Right now it's up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. It's just over 60K words, in 40 articles.

If you're a writer and looking for a book on writing, check it out!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ask a silly question, get security squirrels

When I worked at a bank as a teller (years ago), sometimes people would ask me to point out the security cameras, with a barely concealed grin.

(image by Chiswick Chap)
Off duty squirrel. They'll watch you for fun, anyway.
Of course the official answer to this was a polite smile and a laugh, because customer service, and you'd be surprised how often men seemed to think that counted as flirting (hint: if you ask a teller that question, she'll think you're an idiot).

There's an old saying among teachers: "There's no such thing as a stupid question." But what we didn't say was that there is such thing as an I'm just being silly and trying to get a laugh question, and an I'm about to cause trouble question.

They're surprisingly easy to tell apart. The former is usually said with a straight face, often far-too-serious, or else a barely-suppressed, trying-to-look-serious grin. The latter is usually asked with a big, disarming grin.

I almost always got the "joking" faces. I had to give them the customer-service answer no matter what the face (it's actually surprisingly effective at deterring more such questions--I never had anyone try to insist, not even the I'm-so-honest-big-grin guys whose grins disappeared after they realized they wouldn't get answers), but that didn't stop me from forming an entirely different answer in my head. Sometimes we tellers would share our wannabe answers in the break room.

"Oh, we don't have stationary cameras," I'd say. "We mounted the cameras on the backs of invisible squirrels, who patrol the lot. Very clever little security squirrels, they are. Always watching."

Of course we couldn't give that to customers, any more than we could talk about the bank security features. But really, that's the sort of question just asking for a sarcastic answer.

What's the most obvious "trouble" question you've heard? And how did you respond (or how did you want to respond, if you had to customer-service instead)?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


We are now, after two weeks of cute and stinky, officially puppy-free! Now that they're old enough to be moved and there is finally space for them there, they've gone to their official foster home until they're old enough for adoption.

So here's some just-born and two-week old pictures, to show how much they grew while we had them.


Sherlock: Newborn
Sherlock: Two weeks

Salem: Newborn
At two weeks, still nearly the same size:
Salem's the runt of the litter, poor thing!

Spook: Newborn

Spook: Two weeks

Autumn: Newborn

Autumn: Two weeks

Willow: newborn

Willow: Two weeks

Khan: two weeks
Khan: newborn

Boy, have they grown. And no, those aren't all the same hands, in case you noticed!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Women in (Semi-) Reasonable Armor

I love fantasy art.
A picture from the Tumblr--
"Jamie Chung as Mulan from the
2nd season of Once Upon A Time"

But I have a pet peeve, and it's warriors in armored societies going into battle while scantily clad.

I found this tumblr, which is just awesome: Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor.

Since I dislike the thought of being stabbed in the kidneys, I believe in supporting artists who draw women warriors in real armor, getting the word out and sharing their names. While I don't mind the occasional warrior in impractical armor (it is fantasy art), I greatly prefer armors to look protective. It's sort of a niche right now; compared to pieces where women warriors go into battle scantily clad (and easily gutted), it's much less common. I'll be happy when real armor is the norm, and bikinis are the niche.

The armor on the tumblr isn't all perfect. Some of it definitely needs work, still using the highly-impractical "boob plate" look.

Still, at least those ladies don't have to worry about an arrow in the stomach.

What excellent artists do you know who draw female warriors in functional armor?

Friday, October 18, 2013

This week's publishing news and industry blogs covers 10/5-10/18. Not a wide variety of news, but maybe that's because everyone's talking about the same things...

Publishing News

WH Smith, a UK bookseller, shut down its website to remove all self-published e-books, of all genres, after a UK publication announced they found self-published erotica containing taboo pornographic subjects such as rape and incest for sale through the site (supposedly with the plan of putting all books back eventually after individually verifying each one doesn't violate terms & conditions). Amazon and Barnes & Noble are also removing self-published books containing certain tags, descriptions, and cover motifs. Unfortunately the removals aren't limited to books that actually violated terms, but have been rather sporadic, even affecting nonfiction and other genres of fiction, due to the methods of removal. Meanwhile Kobo seems to have eliminated all self-pub books, but only in UK ebookstore (er, and Australia and New Zealand).  Self-pub writers are understandably upset, and some have launched a petition protesting this treatment. Traditionally published books are untouched.

Joan Rivers was in trouble with the Writes Guild of America after writing material for her show while the show's writers were on strike--her being a member of the guild and therefore supposed to be on strike as well. But she's agreed to a settlement instead, thus avoiding the trial and potentially being the first WGA member to be forcibly expelled.

Macmillan offers its entire backlist to library lending.

And self-publishing has brought us over 391,000 titles... mostly distributed through 8 major retailers.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 10/11 and 10/18.

On QueryTracker, Sarah Pinneo reminds us that reaching a single reader does in fact matter, sometimes more than we know. And Stina Lindenblatt wants writers to be sure they do their research before submitting to agents.

A self-publishing service list, that helps you match your needs with the perfect self-pub service? Sounds great. Except when the results aren't really that great for authors. Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware checks out the offerings and is less than impressed. She also reminds authors of the dangers of signing contracts with "early termination" clauses--especially those that still apply even if it's the publisher backing out, not the author. And she weighs in on the Erotica/self-published book removal (worth reading at least for the wide variety of links she provides). Among other points, she notes that the "scandal" is a reminder that self-published authors are at the mercy of businesses who distribute their books, businesses who have their own interests at heart, not those of the authors who use the services. And that there are deeper topics at hand, from how to draw lines on "obscene" to book banning.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions. Should a young author mention age? (No.) Do bookmarks work for promo? (It's complicated.) When is an agent too new? (Depends on other things.) What is her preferred format for submitted manuscripts? Does a badly written blog post count against you with agents? (Hint: don't be crazy.) If I'm no longer sure what genre my story is after edits, what do I do? (Get your beta readers to help you identify it.) When and how much information should you hear from your agent? (Talk with them; it's up to you.)

On the Editor's Blog, a post about the importance of choosing the right verbs and how they can develop your character and yours story.

Wish you could keep track of your ebook sales (something I know bothers a lot of writers)? With AppAnnie, you can.

GalleyCat offers an online directory for finding a writers group. Also, 5 ways to sell your book through local! It also shares a handy list of famous writers' rules, a "Writing Cheat Sheet," that some writers like and others don't (I suggest, if you don't like it, don't use it.) And a free guide to marketing your book during the holidays. Also, do you want to add a digital soundtrack to your story?

What publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Scents of Autumn

(Image by Dan Parsons, Wikimedia Commons)
One of my favorite things about autumn is how it smells.

It's apple pie and apple cider; it's spicy chai and craft store. It's a touch of evergreen and the crisp scent of falling leaves, and it's the heady scent of fireplace smoke as people pull out the blocks of wood for the first time since winter.

It's butternut squash ravioli in restaurants, and fresh apples at the farmers' market. It's the dust of the State Fair and the sticky sweetness of Halloween, the savory roast turkey of Thanksgiving and peppermint of early winter.

I'm no fan of the cold--I wave goodbye to summer with tears in  my eyes--but fall does smell good.

What do you like (or hate) about fall? What do your characters like (or hate) about fall?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Doctor Who Regenerations

The new season of Doctor Who is almost here. (Squee!) We know our new Doctor, but there's something else we're all wondering.

The first eleven Doctors, courtesy of BBC One.
(Click on link to go to BBC's official characters page.)
How will Moffat get around the regeneration limit?

He's come out and said Timelords can only regenerate 12 times. It's pretty well-established fan canon. But of course general fan speculation is that the writers will find a way around the limit--ask any fan, they'll give you two to six different ways to dodge the limit. (River's "donation," do like the Master and start over, already used his twelve throughout the time war and forced into a new cycle long before anyway...)

According to Radio Times, Moffat may be playing with numbers, letting us think there have been more regenerations than there actually have been. Body switching? Imposters? But there's also the possibility that there have been regenerations spent in the same body. Apparently the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, thinks Moffat's got a plan up his sleeve.

Here's a list of all the Doctor's known regenerations, in case you want a brush-up. Or the Wikipedia entry, if you prefer.

What are your thoughts? Will Moffat get around the limit? Will he push the limit? Will he leave the next writer in a crunch? Or will--heaven forbid!--Doctor Who come to an all-time end?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Copyright FAQ

If you're self-publishing, or if you're publishing with certain traditional publishers, you'll probably want to register the copyright on your work.

Good news for American writers: You can still file an electronic copyright request during the government shutdown!

Do you have questions about what can and cannot be used in a book, such as song titles, how much of a song lyric, titles of other books, etc?

Here's a Copyright FAQ published by the US Copyright Office. And below I've put together a table of contents so you can find the answers to your questions more quickly.

Page 1:

  • What is Copyright?

Page 2:

  • Who can claim copyright?
  • Copyright and national origin of the work
Page 3: 
  • What works are protected?
  • What is not protected (what you can use, such as titles, etc)
  • How to secure a copyright
  • Definition of Publication
Page 4
  • Notice of copyright (Do you need to add one? Where should you put it if you add one? etc)
  • How long copyright protection endures 
Page 5
  • Transfer of copyright
  • International copyright protection
Page 6
  • Copyright registration
  • Registration procedures
Page 10
  • Effective date of registration
  • Corrections and amplifications of existing registrations
  • Mandatory deposit for works published in the United States (copies for the Library of Congress, not fees)
Page 11
  • Use of mandatory deposit to satisfy registration requirements
  • Who may file an application form?
  • Fees (rates not actually included as they may change--describes how to pay)
Page 12
  • Search of copyright office records
  • For further information (includes contact info)

If you're e-filing, the current rate for manuscripts is $35. You can e-file at the US Copyright Office site. (There are tutorials. To actually file, click on the icon with text saying "Electronic Copyright Office")

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Only human

"How do you do it all?"

Carefully staged so as to take advantage
of the 6 inches of clean counter space.
I hear people ask each other that all the time. "How do you balance being a writer and having a full-time job and having a social life and keeping the house together and..."

Sadly, they expect the answer is "I do it all perfectly and have no trouble. There's something wrong with you, that you can't, but if you figure out how to fix it you too can be perfect."

The truth is, nobody can do everything. Me? I'm not a parent, my house (okay, duplex) is usually messy, and I can probably get one solid book out a year, max, with the day job. My roommate even does half the cleaning and it's still usually messy.

Vacuuming happens when there are visitors. That's about the only time. Sorry, folks, I'm a-gonna pop that bubble o' delusion.

I admit to this because I see lots of people who half kill themselves trying to accomplish everything and then some. Me? I've come to terms with a lack of perfection. If the house isn't a health safety violation, and nobody's coming over, we're good. I prioritize the day job (gotta pay the rent), write after work, and yes, maintain a social life--but my friends know I don't go out every night of the week, and sometimes I'll just stay home to recuperate, or to write.

We don't love people for being perfect; we love them despite their perfections. It's their flaws we are drawn to, and the aspects of themselves that they hate the most are the ones we most identify with.

That doesn't mean it's okay ignore all your flaws and cavort in jerkishness. But it does mean that being human isn't a bad thing.

Do you beat yourself up for not being able to do everything? What do you prioritize to always get done, and what gets laid by the wayside?

Monday, October 7, 2013


My roommate fosters animals. Our most recent foster arrived looking like this:

Not long after, she exploded into puppies, and now looks like this:

The cast--
Sherlock again!



Yup, so, we have puppies. Puppies, puppies, as far as the eye can see.

Khan was named, by the way, because he came out screaming, and it sort of sounded like he was crying "Khaaaaaaan!" So while we could have sensibly named him Kirk or even Spock, we went with Khan, as a reminder of the enemy whom he should be on the lookout for later in life. Hopefully he'll remember and not ally with his destined enemy because they have the same name, or something.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry blogs for 9/19-10/4.

Publishing News

Author Solutions Incorporated received a lawsuit against it and parent company Penguin Group. Now they're trying to get the suit dismissed, or at least all but two suits of breach of contract.

GoodReads changed their comment and shelving policies.

The Google Books case is close to a ruling.

A new global e-book study is free for the month of October, for a look at how e-books are doing worldwide.

Penguin e-books are back in libraries through both Overdrive and Baker & Taylor.

Judge Judy Cote sets limits on the penalties states can apply to Apple over the price-fixing case.

Hey, guess what's federal? The Library of Congress! Nope, sorry, can't get in until the government starts up again.

What do you think about crowdsourcing to figure out which writer will get a publishing contract? That's the idea behind Macmillan's SwoonReads. The entire manuscripts are posted online, and then members of the community vote on their favorites (note: only members can read the manuscripts).

An author copying Twilight fan fiction? Yep, it's happened. And no, I'm not talking about 50 Shades of Grey. In this case, the published e-book is suspected of being a case of plagiarism against the fan fiction.

But hey, at least that's a better deal than the guy publishing a review of a book and having the review mistaken as the book itself.

Meanwhile, Scribd launches a book subscription service, all the books you can read for $8.99 a month. They're teaming up with HarperCollins (and courting other publishers) for this move. You won't be able to get new releases or best sellers through the subscription, but those will still be available for individual purchase.

*Edit: added later Friday: If you've seen something about a new study on self-publishing with numbers in the $52 billion range, see if you can also find the sources and methodology behind the study. Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware can't (doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong, just that you can't prove or disprove it--a big no-no in the science and survey communities).

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker for 9/20, 9/27, and 10/4.

QueryTracker explains the new GoodReads policies.Comments and shelves must be about books and not the authors or the authors' actions. Also, no harassing other users allowed. And authors shouldn't respond to reviews. On Gigaom, a look at users' reactions, reflections, and speculations about the future.

Guess what's not stopped during the federal shut down? The Affordable Care Act is still going strong, so all self-employed writers looking for insurance, you now have a hope of finding affordable insurance. GalleyCat gives you a guide of what writers need know about the ACA.

The Man Booker Prize may now be awarded to anyone of any country, instead of just England, so long as the story is written in English.

Agent Nephele Tempest explains why she rejects manuscripts.

Already published? Agent or publisher offered you an addendum to your contract... or showed you an addendum and implied you had to sign it? You don't. And if the terms aren't in your favor, then don't. Kristin Kathryn Rusch explains. She also reminds us that the mindset for indie publishing is very different than in traditional publishing--needing a long-term view instead of a short-term view of sales, for one. And she talks about who does and who does not need pen names.

Ever have something just not work out? Rachelle Gardner tells us not to let the non-successes get us down. Learn from it and keep going, and don't call a non-success a failure. And no, there is no formula for instant success; you don't have to check off everything on a list to get published. But do your best to minimize obstacles that stand between you and publishing, such as keeping in the genre-standard word count.

Got backstory? Shelley Martin on the FF&P blog talks about ways to work it in.

Agent Janet Reid hits the Question Emporium again. If a book has two protagonists, should both be in the query? If you get an offer from a small publishing house but still have a query out with an agent, how should you address the issue? What sells? (There is no One True Answer to that one, btw). If you write more than one genre, should you even consider agents who don't rep all of them? Is it even kosher to submit to agents in different genres at once? (Reid asks why you're writing more than one genre when you're just getting started.)

Print books and e-books coexist. The traditional publishers are coming to embrace this reality.

Need an editor? Getting into the editing business? GalleyCat is putting together a dictionary of editors.

Want to see if your story idea has merit? Run it by the StoryArena, where you can find out if people would be interested in it.

Free writing software will help you pace yourself. And not just in NaNoWriMo, either.

Depressed at your latest rejection letter? Well hey, it probably wasn't as harsh as this letter for (classical best-selling fantasy author) Ursula K Le Guin's first novel.

What publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beware: Giant heads over London

You may have heard about it on international news.

Everyone's been talking about the issue, and it's caused quite a bit of consternation.

Ever since a giant head appeared over London and stared at a mysterious flying object in the corner of the screen...

No? You didn't hear about that?

As you can see, it was horrible.

Er, maybe I dug through the pictures of me trying out my webcam again. That's also a possibility.

What do you mean, I should plan my posts further ahead of time, so I don't have to scramble the night before for a post?

Well, uh... My only defense is that I'm planning my author website (which will, yes, be linked to this blog when it's up an running).

Wish me luck!

Until then, try not to get squished by giant heads.