Saturday, November 28, 2009

Green Avenger is Back

One of my favorite webcomics is actually updating again! About two years ago, I was following the Green Avenger when the character disappeared, then the comic stopped updating.

Well, both the character and the series are back!

Three cheers for Superheroines who look like people! Hips and lips and everything!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What it Takes, What it Gives

Josh Vogt at the Examiner noted that NYT-best-selling author Lynn Viehl recently posted her royalty statement and information about what her costs and income were on that book. It's hard to make a living even on the best seller list.

I'd hat tip Vogt, but he posted three links to Viehl's blog (Paperback Writer) and none to the actual statement. Bad Josh, bad. No hat tip.

So, Hat tip Alley, NTSFW.

Noveller - Say What?

Oh, yes, the Onion.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Scott Carter, Warlord of the Internet

Okay, not.

I was poking around on Dean Wesley Smith's blog, and he pointed over to a Scott William Carter post on the subject of Internet Engagement.

He mentions famous folks like Scalzi and Gaiman, and where he thinks they might be relative to, say, himself.

After perusing the scale, I'd say I vibrate in the 3 to 5 zone, depending on the week. In a bad month, maybe a 2.

Hat tip, Dean Wesley Smith.

Neither Fish Nor Fowl, But Tasty...

Phil Rickman posted recently about his problems with developing branding for his unique writing combination - The Spiritual Procedural Genre. He writes novels that are non-cozy non-horror non-romance yes-paranormal yes-suspense fiction with a female vicar protagonist.

It's a fascinating stroll down a successful midlist career, trying to explain what your story isn't to people who desperately want to sell it as something else.

Aprilynne Pike on Firsts

Debut novelist Aprilynne Pike - and I can say that for another couple of months, since the sequel to the wonderful Wings hasn't hit the stores yet - has written an important post recently on the subject of first novels and the goals of a writer.

I had dinner with another friend the other night and about halfway through the conversation, I realized that her goals are not the same as mine were when I was in her position. She falls into the, I would like to see this book in stores, category. And the next realization struck me rather hard. It was that that's okay.

Sure, you can have any goal you want for your writing. Aprilynne lists quite a few she's heard recently. But she also suggests that maybe you want to plan your publication strategies based on that goal.

Most authors tend to spend their careers in the genre they first break out in, and at the level at which they break out at. Bestsellers tend to continue being bestsellers (whether or not it's justified), mid-listers often talk about how hard it is to break out of the mid-list range, and it is surprisingly difficult to move from a small publisher to a big one.

I'd point out those words I italicized above - the genre they first break out in, and at the level at which they break out at. Given the various definitions of "break out", that's almost a tautalogy. When you have built enough of a loyal following at one level, then produce a work so good that it gets them proselytizing on the street, then you break out to the next level.

Obviously, once you're at that level, if you change genres, you've abandoned your audience and have to earn your level again.

It's a great post. Go read it.

Hat tip, Editorial Ass.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Joe Konrath recently posted the utopian version of a kindle's future, complete with advertisements that don't bug anyone. A reader countered with the dystopian version from gnu.

While I was out of touch, Camille Cannon Eide over at Extreme Keyboarding was a finalist in the Mt Hermon/Zondervan First Novel Competition, and signed with a literary agent. Her novel is currently under Extreme Rewrite, which explains her absence from the blog. Get it done and get back, please!

Julie Weathers parades her perfectionism with a philosophy writers can all salute in her iChapters post. Do each chapter so well the readers would pay for that chapter and want the next. Okay, I also think you have to complete enough story arcs (ie novels) that the readers can get a chance to fall in love with you rather than just your beautiful stories. But that's my business background overpowering the artist. It's still an awesome sentiment.

But please remember to print out your "permission to write crap" certificate over at Absolute Write, or you may never finish anything you write.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vanity versus Vanity Smackdown

Okay, given the title, you can understand that I'm not sure whose side I'm on on this one.

Harlequin decides they want to set up a joint deal with a vanity publisher, and SFWA then declares that all of Harlequin's books are no longer SFWA-eligible.

Ummm, wow.

I'm sorry, but I cannot get behind SFWA on this. It's one thing to say that books published on a pay-to-play basis are ineligible, and it's another to denigrate every author published by any imprint under the Harlequin umbrella. It's the height of hubris. SFWA has clarified that their defenestration of all Harlequin imprints is not retroactive, and that it can be reversed anyway if Harlequin corrects its business model to what SFWA considers professional.

Against the other side, Harlequin is simultaneously using its brand to sell self-publishing, and then NOT branding the resulting slush as Harlequin. That's pretty clearly... well, I can't say fraudulent in the technical, legal sense... but it's kind of a triple bait and switch - first, encourage beginning authors to send their works to your traditional publishing house, second,use your cachet to switch them over to your self-publishing house, and third, don't let them even use the cachet you sold them. See Jackie Kessler's analysis here.

Oh, I did think up a great and truthful marketing slogan for the joint venture: "Horizon: the place where you never arrive".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What a Fun Study

Okay, so four female scientists walk into a bar. Later, they applied for a grant to find out why no one would buy them a drink...

Well, I don't know that it happened that way, but there are signs in this article in the Telegraph that the female scientists need to interview some males.

It turns out that combining 40% bareness, tight clothing and provocative dancing gets the most guys to approach you. Less clothes than that gets less attention from the guys.

The female scientists jumped to the conclusion that more than 40% bare is a signal for "general availability and future infidelity". I have to snicker at that, because it assumes that men approaching women at a dance club are looking for permanent monogamous relationships rather than "general availability" or - ahem - a dance? Not what I would call a "scientific assumption", given what I remember about club-hopping guys from my younger days.

I would put forward two other hypotheses to be tested - first, that women who cover 60% of their bodies with tight clothes are more selective about presenting their assets than those who let half or more hang out. Second, that the most powerfully attractive thing about a woman is often the part that the man imagines.

Racquel Welch was a sex star for decades without uncovering more than that 40% number. Okay, there were a few swimsuit scenes, but more often she was wearing full scuba gear and the guy only lowered her zipper four inches. She'll always have a perfect body to all her male audience.

This post also relates to writing... Ansen Dibell, in his excellent book Plot (in the Elements of Fiction Writing Series) noted that "[t]he monster you imagine, as a reader, is much more frightening than the monster you see."

Be sure to cover up that 60% or more and let the reader imagine the scariness of the monster, the sexiness of the hottie, the honor of the hero. Of course, make sure you understand and meet your audience's needs and expectations. If you're writing for midgrade, you need to spell things out a little more than for an adult audience.

If you're writing erotica, you spell out other things.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Firsts and Firsts and not being boring

Over at the Kill Zone, James Scott Bell has written an awesome post on first person writing and first chapters,

But what if you introduce yourself to the guy and he says, "Did you avoid the cops outside?"

You look confused.

"Because I got stopped by a cop right out there on the street. He tells me to hit the sidewalk, face down, and then proceeds to kick me in the ribs. I say, 'There's been a mistake.' He gets down in my face and says, 'You're the mistake. I'm the correction.'"

What are you thinking then? Either: Am I talking to a criminal? Or, What happened to this poor guy?

What your reaction isn't is bored.

Check it out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Okay, so different countries have different judicial systems, right.

So, in Canada six years ago, this guy takes some drugs and drinks a bunch, goes into a woman's room and has sex with her while she's asleep. She wakes up and says, "Who are you and what are you doing?"

He says, "Jan?" Ooops, wrong room.

The Canadian justice system says, well, he didn't know he was committing a crime, so no crime. Also, he's not crazy, so no psychiatric supervision.

The Globe and Mail reports that the victim read a statement to the Ontario Review Board overseeing the case, and that the board said she was brave for doing so, but the report doesn't say whether her statement was in favor or against the rapist's release.

Well, okay then.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Definitions of Well Written

Over on Mysterious Matters about a month ago, Agatho (?) has published a few great tips on what "Well Written" might mean. And he has them well in order, from the things that almost everyone will agree bother them, to the things that are nice-to-have. I can't say that number 8 (a sense that the author is an interesting person whom I would like to meet) has ever been high on my list for novels, unless you count first-person-viewpoint-characters as "the author".

Since one of Agatho's points was about sentence variety, here's a quick pointer back to Alex Moore's discussion of that subject.

For another definition of well written, Alicia Rasley at Editorrent has just posted a "Quick Turning Points Schema" which summarizes the reversal points in the standard three-act story (such as a screenplay). Call it classic or call it cookbook, but it's something to measure against, and it works.

Editorrent does miss a few beats in the standard screenplay. For example, where she puts the initiating event, there are often two points in a screenplay - the first "Inciting Event", where the person finds out *what* they need to do, and the second "Plot Point One" where they decide *how* they need to do that. The *how* is usually modified at the "Reversal Point" halfway through the story. Examples from Ehow, better fiction and Lost Zombies Film School.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Punk Dino Starts a Trend

Over at National Geographic, they are reporting on what appears to be the great uncle of a brontosaur. Aardonyx stood on two legs, but was adapted to walk on four.

Theres's also another sauropod (picture to the right) that wears a mohawk. The punk dino is Amargasaurus.

Update 14 Nov - Here's another article, this one from Canada's newspaper The Globe and Mail, about Aardonyx.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Random Use of Candles

Literal video version of Bonnie Tyler's version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart".

Watch out for the dancing ninjas, Eva Peron and the Arthur Fonzarelli clones. C'mon, you want to see it. It's like a surrealist emo version of "Village of the Damned"...

Hat tip, Jill Wheeler.

Amber Argyle can write

I've been meaning to point out a great post by Amber Argyle for a while. She goes over a few of her least favorite things that amateur writers do.

Amber Argyle also recently posted on synopses/summaries.

In essence, you are boiling down 80K words to a .5-1k summary, which means you have to focus on a single character and the major plot, and only include any subplots that are needed to make the story make sense. Another great tip, I believe from the reply posts, is to leave out names in the synopsis-- label people by their relationship to the protagonist or their profession.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Plot Driven Vs Character Driven

Interesting discussion over on edittorrent about Plot Driven vs Character Driven stories. I found their take on the "difference" between how the words are used in the literary world versus the romance world was fascinating.

Look at these definitions -

Character-driven: When something about the character's essential self leads to a particular action or event in the story.

Plot-driven: When a character takes a particular action so that the result is a particular plot point.

Honestly, even in an action movie, there is something internal about a character that makes him take whatever actions he takes. The failure, I believe, in edittorrent's way of looking at plot and character, is that it assumes something about the author's intentions, as opposed to the actual work produced. It also assumes that "plot" means there is a fixed endpoint the author is trying to get to, whereas "character" has some open vista of exploration of the characters.

Ummm. That ain't the way I write, or anybody I know.

In fact, if you go to Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction, it's more a process of narrowing the possible plot based upon "what's the worst thing I can do to this character?" and narrowing the character based upon "who's the worst person this could happen to?" Except that I can't find it in that book.

Aargh. Where is it???!

Perhaps Orson Scott Card's Characters & Viewpoint?

Yes! Page 23.

I only had to check nine books to find it. And in the process I ran across something relevant in Sol Stein's Stein on Writing. He points out the obvious truth that the key to a reader's interest is giving the character a strong need and then thwarting it. The need is the character-driven part, the single need, the thwarting and his attempts to overcome the thwarting are the plot part.

My take: if the need is something external, like stopping a terrorist from blowing up the next bomb, you end up with a plot-driven piece. If events cause other events, willy-nilly, without input from the characters, you have a plot-driven piece. If the need is getting Mom to stop ... doing something annoying ... then you have a character-driven piece. If the events have no real relationship to each other, except that they happen mostly in sequence to the same people, then you have a character-driven piece.

But in either type, you'd better have a lot of the other, or the middle third of your audience will get bored to tears.

Disturbing Animals

Okay, as long as I showed you the vaguely disturbing photos of a bear that seems to have started molting into either a kangaroo or an elephant, I might as well let you in for something else disturbing: a ray-gun packing shrimp.

No, I'm not kidding.

How Writers Write

The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal just printed an article by Alexandra Alter about how several award-winning literary writers write. Margaret Atwood, Richard Powers, Anne Rice -- and a lot of writers that Spec fiction readers won't have heard of -- are represented in sidebars. (Well, they're sidebars in the print version, they're inline in the online version.)

Hat tip, my lovely wife Gail, who handed me the print version!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can you Bear seeing a Bare Bear?

Over in Germany, some South American bears are having a little problem with their winter coats - they don't have any! It's a pretty punk look, with just a bit of fuzz on the head and bare wrinkles everywhere else.

The reporter quotes "some experts" as thinking it may be some kind of genetic condition, because, well, just because. More likely they have either a diet or pest/disease issue, since it's affecting only the female bears, and all of them.

But if you've ever wondered what a bare bear would look like, go there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Billy Steadman 2 On The Way

The saga of poor Billy Steadman and his dragon-western adventures began in "Billy Steadman, the Dragon and the Virgin Bride", which appeared in last years' Strange Worlds of Lunacy Anthology from Cyberaliens Press. The story begins when the stagecoach Billy is riding gets attacked by a pregnant dragon, and, well, it just goes on from there...

Now, the second installment, "Billy Steadman, the Dragon and the Fishing Hole" follows Billy starting a few months down the road, when he'd like to get out of the house and get some distance from his new bride, to do some thinking. That's not really something Billy's good at, but he's sure as heck going to try. But first, he needs to stop at the outhouse....

"Fishing Hole" was accepted a while back, has now received its final polish and is off to the editor for inclusion in Cyberaliens Press's upcoming Silly Western anthology. Because nothing western could be sillier than dragons and outhouses and smartass horses with leather shoes.