26 June 2007

As you can see

I am attempting to consolidate my posts back onto Blogspot. Since my old account has become useless, that means moving my posts. I've kept the writing-related posts but not the old promo posts and state of life/world posts. Grinning... Welcome back to the Lyons' Den.


REPOST 6/24/2007 Over the line? Are you kidding?

The Decision that started it all...

Now,let's look at this quote...

"Curtner [the attorney for the publisher] said Albert stepped over the line by signing contracts and obtaining copyrights under the phony name."

This guy is kidding, right? He's an attorney, dealing with the industry, and he's THAT clueless? Let's start at the beginning.

I see two sides to this story. On one hand, she wrote what was supposed to be autobiographical information that is obviously untrue. IN THAT MANNER, she did defraud the company that believed the male persona was real. However skillfully done, she perpetrated a lie. The court was right in its decision, on that point of law, IMO.

However, the attorney that stated she'd gone over the line by signing CONTRACTS and getting COPYRIGHTS in a pen name is clearly not versed in what the industry regularly supports, surprising considering the fact that he's representing an industry member.

If you read the copyright site, it is perfectly permissible to get copyrights in the pen name. In fact, more than a few authors out there do it...and for good reasons.

It's also permissible, if you have followed whatever guidelines your locality has for either a name change or legal alias...or if you have incorporated or made the pen name an LLC, to sign contracts AS the pen name. If she hadn't done any of that, you're on shaky ground, admittedly. My contracts tend to say, LEGAL NAME writing as PEN NAME, and that's the way I prefer it, but it's not illegal to use a pen name on contracts, if you've jumped through the right legal hoops.

Neither is it illegal to have a bank account that lists your pen name and to sign checks/money orders written to your pen name without ever affixing your legal name to it. I do it, because I've taken the proper steps to do so. I still get ROYALTY checks in my legal name, mainly because I choose to do so. I trust my publishers with my legal name.

In fact, even the USPS allows you to get a PO Box in a pen name.

In either case, USPS or bank, all you have to do is prove that you are both names. That's not hard to do. The USPS calls this sort of thing "a legal alias taken not for nefarious means." The bank calls it "a business name." Either way, you can receive mail addressed to the pen name at a PO Box and sign checks/money orders with the pen name and deposit them to your account, further protecting your legal identity.

Some people mistakenly believe that a pen name has no legal status, beause it doesn't have a SS#. That is not correct. You see, though you might choose to get an EIN for an incorporated or LLC pen name, and the bank will take that and give you a business account, even someone without that can list the pen name as a sole
proprietorship on a bank account, using their own SS#. Banks may be rigid in their dealings, but they are usually so only when you are withholding information from them. In the case of a pen name, as long as they have your legal name and SS#, they do not care what business names you attach to the account. They have all they need to track you, in the case you do perpetrate fraud.

It's not illegal to have impersonators of the opposite sex pen name, either. A gentleman I met at NCP related that he'd been published in NY for many years (in romance) and had been forced to take a female pen name there. When signings were arranged, he would accompany his wife, who would sign books in the guise of the pen name author. He'd be on hand to field questions, because he was in the guise of the supportive husband, author's biggest fan. You see how brilliant that was? Now, in indie/e, he has to decide whether to use the pen name he'd established in NY, because it has an audience, or to use his real name and "come out of the closet" about the fact that he's been the female pen name all these years. It's a thrilling time for him. The only difference? In his case, the publisher knew he was man, writing as a woman. It was their choice to hide it, not his.

I don't think this decision will limit the author's right to use a pen name, in the least, since the case was not about whether or not one can use a pen name but on the legality of fraudulently presenting autobiographical materials to a publisher. However, I do think authors should have their affairs in order, if they are going to sign a contract in a pen name. And, I don't think they should LIE to the publisher about the nature of the book.

I will note here that I'm not including James Frey and A Million Little Pieces here. From what I've heard, he told the publisher it was fictionalized on the truth, and they wanted to call it nonfiction. He might have been complicit and an idiot to allow them to do it, but he'd gone to THEM with the truth, from what I've heard, which at least means the publisher did this will full knowledge of what they were doing.

Happy pen naming!

REPOST 6/21/2007 When did IP rights cease to be rights?

By now, many of you have heard that Triskelion is closing doors and filing for bankruptcy. Even with the problems they've had over the last few years, I am sad to see them go. The company had a lot of potential, but sometimes things get in the way of that potential. Enough said about that.

What I do want to address is the deplorable state of law in the US today. This is one I wasn't aware of, until Triskelion filed for bankruptcy. It's looking like, no matter the needs of the company, bankruptcy could turn out to be a real shaft for the authors there at the time of filing...or even those released shortly before the filing.

Here's the deal, as I've been able to understand it so far.... Now, I do know people who will be talking to IP attys later today, so we'll see what information I get after that. I'll update as information comes in.

The Triskelion contract has, by my count, four separate clauses that would make the rights revert back to authors in case of closing and filing bankruptcy. Those would include: the bankruptcy clause (which says rights revert back to authors in case of bankruptcy, liquidation or reorganization), the promise to keep books up for sale (most of the books have been removed from the Triskelion site), the promise of royalties (at the point where they aren't paid, like the books not being available for sale, the contract is considered in breach) and the breach of contract release (which the previous two would trigger). Seems cut and dried, to me. Triskelion is closing doors on July 2, the books are coming down, and bankruptcy has been filed. The rights revert to the authors, right?

Possibly not, and this is where I think the US legal system falls on it's face. Bankruptcy law, a federal law just like the copyright laws that govern rights management, allows (according to some legal sources) the debtors to seize the contracts as assets of the business in bankruptcy. Now, this is where things get sticky.

I could understand this, if Triskelion were BUYING something. They aren't. They are RENTING it. They are renting the rights to distribute and reproduce these books, for a period of two to five years (depending on how old the contract you signed is), on the condition that they will pay rent in the form of royalties to the authors.

Here's another thing to consider... The similarities between the two systems (rental income and royalties/rights) are so close that income from the two sources are paid on the SAME tax form. I mean that. Look at your 1099 sometime. Rental income and royalty income are two of the income sources specifically named on it.

Now, if the debtors intended to take the place of the publisher, I would agree that they have the right to reproduce and distribute said books, as long as they paid the authors their agreed-upon royalties and, in all other ways, lived to the contract. That includes: having the books BACK out for sale within 30 days and releasing rights back to authors, when their contracts come to a close.

Since that isn't going to happen, here is my opinion of this highly questionable practice...

1) The contracts should not be considered assets of the business, since they haven't PURCHASED anything. They are renting it. If the publisher was renting a storage unit, they wouldn't be able to seize the storage unit as part of the business assets, though they could seize the physical property stored inside the unit. Being IP should not make it fair game for seizure.
2) The rights are not an asset, if they are not exercised. IOW, holding some poor author's rights gets them no money, unless they publish and distribute the books, acting as publisher instead of the bankrupt publisher that originally contracted.
3) The authors contracted in good faith and for a particular set of conditions to be met. If those conditions are not met, the contract is in breach, no matter who forced the contract to go into breach. At that time, legally, the contract is no more. If the debtors are going to exercise the contract, they should be forced to live to it fully.

At what point did the bankruptcy laws lose track of what businesses actually OWN? Publishers do not own IP rights on books. They rent them. Depending on what happens next, I'd say it might be time to make some noise.

REPOST 6/20/2007 What does length have to do with it?

The post that sparked mine...

Like Becka, I've had reviewers pan a story for what the reviewer wishes it was instead of what it is. It's very frustrating for an author, especially when the rating systems in place with the publishers will tell a reviewer, before he/she even chooses the book for review, what length, heat rating and genre a book is. You'd think a reviewer wouldn't choose to review something that doesn't appeal already, but that's an old blog post, to be sure.

Instead of rehashing that, I'll cover another subject, one that I don't THINK I've covered before. I could be wrong, though. If you've heard this discussion before, feel free to skip it. Grinning...

Many people don't understand the difference between writing novels, novellas and short stories. It IS very different. It's so different that some people can only do one or the other, no matter how hard they try to learn the other.

The novel is a journey, which the novella can be to a lesser extent. A short story is the moment. As Becka pointed out, there is increasingly less time to delve into character and world, as you move shorter and shorter.

That doesn't mean you should ever abandon that step, though. I once did two characters, both deep third with backstory, in 3500 words. It can be done!

The shorter you move, the more focused the story must be...on the character and on the situation. By the time you get to flash fiction, you are writing what I term "hit and run fiction." You set it up, hit the reader hard and then get out of Dodge. It's all you have time for, and it's the style of the story. You can punch the reader in a novel, but it's not the same sort of punch you deliver in a short story.

Becka questions whether there is any novella that wouldn't be improved by turning it into a novel. I answer 'yes.' There are undeniably novellas that wouldn't work better as a novel.

Why? If the readers like the characters, why can't there always be a full novel in the story? Because there can't. I could, conceivably, invent some new roadblocks for them. I could, possibly, draw it out. But, the problem is...it's going to feel slapped together that way. The pacing isn't going to mesh, and the situation isn't going to feel as real. Sometimes, a novella's-worth of story is all there is, without artificially inflating it to something it isn't.

If the readers are watching, you'll likely see those characters show up again elsewhere. I don't typically abandon characters.

At the same time, I don't want to weaken the story by tossing in artificial roadblocks that might not fit well with the action already happening.

REPOST 6/11/2007 NOBODY is for the birds?

NOBODY is an anthology I'm in (dark fiction from dark fantasy through horror, some with romance and some not...all safe for a PG-13 audience). The publisher, Dark Hart, has just adopted a new mascot. Solomon is a very literary-minded parrot, owned by a friend. Check him out. I expect the review any day. Hopefully, Solomon won't proclaim, "It's for the birds." Or, would that be a compliment, coming from him?


REPOST 6/9/2007 What does sensual/erotic/erotica mean?

It varies from person to person and company to company; there is not a standardized definition, in the publishing industry, for these terms, as much as readers and authors would like there to be one. A good portion of learning what fits a line...or which lines match your personal ideas about the terms...will come in the form of research/trial and error. When a company has a rating system, you might want to study it and start applying it to your own sensibilities.

Some companies are confusing the issue further by having lines that, for instance, state on the spine that they are erotic romance, state on their guidelines they are erotica and (in reality) accept both. This is not a good situation for readers, IMO...and there are plenty of blog posts complaining about it, as well. You see, it's not that the majority of readers of erotic romance would be offended by erotica, though some might be, since they prefer the HEA of a romance genre, which is not guaranteed in erotica. The problem is that they choose something that is REPRESENTED as what they are searching for, buy it and discover it's a bait and switch. Who would be happy about that? It is a disservice to the reader, the book and the author.

Back to the generally-accepted definitions, in most of the publishers I deal with. There are others, but we'll focus on the definitions from many indie/e-publishers. Independent press is where these genres first gained their popularity and audience. NY is the newcomer to the game, so their confusion of the issue and skewed definitions are not my primary concern. Since none of them can agree...and many are mislabeling by mixing genres under the same definition, addressing the NY companies would be, largely, like beating your head against a brick wall.

So, what is the difference? FOCUS is the important thing...and content to a lesser extent.

Sensual Romance- Take a traditional romance that doesn't fade to black. There is sexual tension between the characters, who definitely DO consummate the relationship, at some point in the book (unlike traditional romance, which may leave the characters, before that step occurs).
In a sensual romance BOOK, it is expected that consummation will occur. In a sensual romance short story, it may not. Just thought I'd make that distinction clear. Sensual books, by definition, engage the senses of the reader. You have a moderate amount of detail in the sex scene and not amorphous emotional responses to unknown stimuli, as you find in some romances. In addition, such books may contain a bit of mild BDSM/bondage play, toys, etc. Sensual romance may also include more than one sexual interest for the main character, sometimes both realized sexual partners at some point in the book, usually not consecutively in sensual books. (Think of the woman who leaves a bad relationship and enters another. Or...a woman who has two sexual interests and settles on one, but usually not sleeping with both, if it's sensual.) As stated before, the development of the romance is the central (or in the case of cross-genre, co-central) plotline. I disagree with the RWA (as per the Passionate Ink definitions) that the scenes can necessarily be removed and still have a strong book. Since all sex scenes should advance characterization and/or plot, deleting sex scenes should (theoretically) make the book weaker. HOWEVER, I do agree that the scenes in a sensual romance can often be toned down. I've recently done this, and I don't think I lost much of anything, in the bargain, because I lost detail...not emotion, not characterization, not plot. Sensual romance MUST include a HEA, unless you are writing a sensual dark romance.

Erotic Romance- Erotic romance MAY include (but does not necessarily include in any given book): more frequent sex scenes than a sensual romance, more detailed sex scenes, multiple sexual partners (in the book or even at the same time...in fact, poly relationships are perfectly fine in erotic romance), harsher language/coarser language, extreme sexual play/BDSM...as long as it's consensual (it MUST be safe, sane and consensual), a more intense sexual/sensual experience. (In an erotic romance BOOK, it is expected that consummation will occur. In an erotic romance short story, it may not. Just thought I'd make that distinction clear.) An erotic romance MUST include a HEA, unless you are writing erotic dark romance. Contrary to what the RWA says, an erotic romance certainly CAN explore the sexual journey/discoveries of the individual and how that affects the individual, which they reserve for erotica. It may also explore the sexual mores and how they affect sexuality or how sexuality challenges them. This is one of the MANY reasons I think the RWA definition falls short of the reality of the offerings out there already. They are too narrow, by my estimate.

Erotica- Erotica does not have the requirement of a HEA. It does not have the requirement of a romantic relationship. In fact, many erotica stories are about f**k-buddies, mistresses, BDSM trainers, one-night-stands...even complete strangers. Erotica is sex for the sake of sex and what the individuals learn/experience, not always with a mind to the repercussions of said acts. It might be about the sexual discovery, the sexual journey, the challenge of sexual mores and expectations... It might simply be someone with a need to experience, to break out, etc. It depends on the needs of the plot and characters. Again, the sex scenes should serve a purpose. They should advance characterization and/or plot. They should be safe, sane and consensual. A modicum of respect between the characters is my personal rule, but some "erotica publishers" don't expect it. I do.

Now, let me go back a moment. Erotica doesn't require a romance, but if it had one, some people would assume that would make it erotic romance. Wrong. Why? The proof is in the focus. Is the focus ON the relationship, as explored through sexuality? You have erotic romance. Is the focus on the sexual discovery, from which a romantic involvement evolves? You have erotica.

Porn- When you leave SSC behind...or respect...or sex scenes that serve a purpose and advance plot/characterization... When you sacrifice plot and characterization to "stroke fiction"... At that point, you delve into my personal definition of porn. You don't have to do all of them to accomplish that switch.

REPOST 6/9/2007 Tagged! Take two...

8 NEW random facts/habits about me...

1. I drive the speed limit in the city, but I love cutting loose on the interstate. I won't drive a car that doesn't have the torque to get up and go, though top end speed isn't important to me. I once blew away a friend's Camero Z28 at three consecutive lights...in a mini-van, to prove to him that I could...while I was pregnant with my first child, actually.

2. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 21. It wasn't that I couldn't drive. It was simply that I never had the time to do it, and I lived in a city with a huge public transportation system...and huge parking problems, so having a car wasn't important to me.

3. I have hearing problems in crowded/noisy spaces. Often, I lip-read in such a situation.

4. When I was a child, I spent three years in speech therapy, mainly to learn to say "s" and the "s" blends correctly. Maybe that's why I'm so good at working with children who are non-verbal or semi-verbal.

5. I attended Catholic schools for 16 years. I tutored in every subject, including religion, and I won the four-year award in high school for religion and theatre. I could state that I won the religion award for unconventional religious challenge, but people don't usually believe that one. I can't imagine why.

6. I spent the first year of my life in and out of hospitals. Whether or not I would survive was sometimes at issue.

7. When I do first draft of a book, I write on college-ruled paper, two lines of text to a printed line, IN INK. Second draft is me placing those scenes in order, adding and changing things between THOSE lines of text and in the margins. Few people can follow one of my second drafts.

8. I LOVE my books. Some authors never read their books again, once they publish. I do. I tend to pull out my old books and read them, over and over. It's amazing that I get anything new written sometimes.

REPOST 6/9/2007 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I'm going to leave "writing" as the category, since this crosses so many categories.

I've been thinking about this one, here and there, for more than a week. I've been talking to friends about it. In the end, I decided to blog about it.

The IRS considers authors to be "personalities," as it considers actors and singers. We're classed as showpeople, which means we have the same rules those folks have, though we often balk at it, since we aren't on stage; many of us are introverts. Among those rules for personalities, the IRS considers that we are showboats, that we will wear any outrageous thing, so we aren't allowed to write off a signing outfit or other clothing bought just for an event. They assume we'll wear it in public, just because we're personalities.

What does this have to do with the price of beer? The point is... The IRS is right, in some manner. I don't mean that every author is going to wear some outrageous costume purchased for an event out in public. Far from it.

Then what do I mean? I mean that the author is on stage, even if we think we aren't. The very nature of contacting readers means that we put ourselves out there for scrutiny. We make MySpaces and web pages that reflect "the author, we." We choose our public face. (In my case, mine is professional, approachable, and fun.)

Unfortunately, that means that every Tom, Dick and Harry on the web thinks they have the right to take pot shots at us. Hey, we have a public face, and they seem to think it's their right to do so. I won't get into rights vs. privileges, again. I think any consistent reader of mine has heard that one often enough, but I will get into a few other subjects.

First, the incident that sparked this response... I received an e-mail from a MySpace member, some stranger I've never corresponded with before. He started out by attempting to butter me up about how impressed he was with the volume of work I've created and the graphics I've made for my site. (I might note that 90% of these people try to butter you up before saying whatever they have to say.)

Then he showed his true colors and stated that:
A) If I was serious about my career, I wouldn't have the cleavage shot on my site, inferring it's unprofessional to have it. I might note, he calls it "having my boobs on display."
B) It ruins my image.
C) It's not sexy for a woman my size.

Let's start with A. This guy, for all that he claims he's a graphic artist and might well be one, for all I know... This guy obviously has no idea what is "normal" and "professional" for a sensual/erotic author to have on her site.

My site is professional. I have my affiliations prominently listed, my media page, my book covers, my awards and reviews, etc. Neither do I have links to sex shops, which some hard-core erotic writers choose to do. I don't have nude pictorials on my site. In short, my site (in comparison to many writers of my genre) is understated.

It's also not unusual for sensual and erotic authors to have some sensual shot of themselves on their sites. Mine is a tasteful cleavage shot. In fact, I'll paste it here.

I'm not in a bikini (not that I would be caught dead in one), but I am in something low-cut. If I'm not in a t-shirt, this is just the sort of shirt you're likely to find me in, on a daily basis.

A web presence (in fact, ALL communication with readers) is intended to give them a personal connection with you. I always caution authors not to put on a truly false face. If you do, you'll only get caught up in the lie later.

So, we'll move on to B. I am an erotic author with a fun and approachable personality matrix going. How does this photo ruin that image? It doesn't.

If this guy IS a graphic artist, he should know better than most that you change the presentation to the target audience. My target audience isn't looking for some stuffed shirt in a business suit, though I have photots like that on my site, as well. They are looking for the fun me that they talk to online. So, the pic of me hugging Sherrilyn Kenyon is fitting. The pic of me in my suede vest is. The cleavage shot is. THAT is me. That is the me my readers know and enjoy talking to, and I will NOT apologize for that.

Last point? It's not sexy for a woman my size. This is where my detractor goes over the top and shows his inner self. And, I'm going to do the same.

I am a woman of size. This fact obviously bothers him. I am not a Barbie doll, and were I, I wouldn't be able to stand erect without serious back pain.

I am a woman of size, and I am not ashamed of the fact that I am. A lot of people would like it if women "my size" wore clothes that looked like sacks and faded into the background. I am not such a shrinking violet.

Do I wish I was at the weight I was in high school? Of course, I do. Though it's unlikely I will ever wear a size 11 again (and that IS my ideal weight, since I have a linebacker's shoulders and have since age 7), I endeavor to bring my weight down. However, I can be happy at this weight, even while not accepting that this is my final weight.

I gave up self-image problems long ago. I do not and will not pander to the insecurities others try to foist upon me, because they feel they have the right to open their mouths and insert their own prejudices, placing me in their spotlight. Their perceptions are, to be blunt, their problems and not mine.

This young man may feel that the picture is not sexy, but that only shows out his prejudices and his preferences. I would imagine that he prefers women who are slinky. I have never been slinky and never will be. Neither would I kill myself to attempt it for someone who's perceptions of beauty are so limited.

The world is full of women that don't match that narrow view of beauty. The world is full of men that appreciate other body styles. My own husband adores the photo in question. In point of fact, he was the one who took it. For every man who would say something so biased, there are a dozen or more that appreciate a woman with meat on her bones.

My dear husband is one of them, but in all fairness, I asked several lists acquaintances (including other authors that aren't friends but I know) in passing for their opinions of the photo and whether they thought it was appropriate. WITHOUT EXCEPTION, I got positive responses. It's fitting to my image and it's an asset on my site. I also got several amusing responses from men, asking me to bare more. I won't be taking them up on it, but it did make me smile.

I might also note that not ONE other person thought I was "baring my boobs." I don't think anyone called it anything other than a "cleavage shot," and a tasteful one, at that. So, the photo will be staying...in all its glory.

BTW, for anyone who is interested in the truth about beauty in our media, you might want to click on
this link. I'd suggest showing this to all preteen, teen and young adult women.

Happy browsing.
Brenna Lyons
publishing professional

REPOST 6/2/2007 The industry today...

As usual, lists are prompting posts. This time, we've been discussing why the writing industry works as it does. This will probably be long and rambling, so bear with me. We've covered a lot of ground in the last few weeks (on at least three lists) on this subject.

First of all, in an ideal world, the publishers WOULD read the first chapter of everything that comes through the door. This is not an ideal world. The latest numbers I have say that the big publishers with popular lines are putting out 1 in 200 or less of submissions. For one LINE of Kensington alone...one out of 7 or so...that adds up to 10,000+ submissions per year. And, the editor in question is always hurting for assistants. So, they're swamped.

If the publisher says "agented only," you are only wasting your time and theirs to send something without an agent. They are likely going to open it and ditch it, because it didn't come from an agent.

A lot of NY publishers still accept unagented mss, though they may not accept unsolicited. Most indie/es accept unagented, as well. There are rare exceptions to each of these generalizations. Baen will accept (or did when I submitted to them) unsolicited mss. Some indie publishers will not accept unagented. Grant is a notable one. If your name isn't Stephen King, you might as well forget publishing with Grant. No, I'm not kidding. In fact, King IS publishing with Grant.

Keep in mind that "agented" and "solicited" are NOT the same thing. If a publisher says they don't take unsolicited mss, you can query them...JUST query. If they request it, it's not unsolicited. If they say no unagented, they mean that. Live to it. You don't make brownie points by ignoring guidelines for submission.

Actually, in general... If you send them something that doesn't meet their guidelines, you are wasting your time and theirs...and your money, in some cases. In addition, it will likely be trashed, the moment they realize it doesn't follow their guidelines. A couple little nits might pass, but a lot of them (enough to make it clear you disregarded what they asked for) will get you tossed.

Why an agent? Because that takes the first step for the publishers. They use the agents to vet the submissions coming in. The agent is out there to make money, so the agent SHOULD not be taking on something that doesn't have promise. In essence, they are using the agents as professional test readers. If an agent has spotty quality coming in or consistently poor quality, the publishers will stop accepting from that agent...or place them to the rear of the pile. For a group of people pressured for time to fill their slots, it makes sense to trust reliable agents to get the cream of the crop in for submission. Again...ideal? Maybe not, but it fits their needs. Right now, they aren't concerned with YOUR needs. They are concerned with theirs.

I'm not saying that what the agents have signed on is necessarily the best out there. There may be better mss that aren't submitted by an agent. What I am saying is that the agent is assumed to be showing the cream (by opinion...always opinion!) of what that agent has seen and signed.

In addition, I want to note that the agents are assumed to have intimate knowledge of what the publishers want/are seeking for their lines and what will mesh best. It's assumed that an agent (perhaps erroneously assumed, sometimes) will only submit things that won't be a poor fit for a particular line.

The bottom line is, NY is all about risk management, and agents are seen as a way to lessen the risk.

The bean counters are choosing the books published in NY instead of the editors. No offense to bean counters. I have my degrees in it. That doesn't mean I think the average bean counter necessarily has a creative bone in his/her body. But, we're back to risk management. At a loss for anything better to fall back on, they head to the numbers in NY, whether those numbers say to let someone else do the work to vet incoming submissions or to only sign what their formula indicates has worked before...or even to picking up indie/e genres and authors that have a proven sales record.

How do you find literary agents? There books that list them. There are web sites for them. You can ask around and see who others are using. What genre/s do you write in? Start there. The big agencies will take one of two routes... 1. Only take a couple of genres and hit them hard. 2. Take on a lot of agents and let them focus on a couple of genres each, spreading out what the agency as a whole covers.

A couple of things to note... Even if you go about submitting to NY without an agent, you may want one for the contract stage. Now, it's easier (or so I hear) to get an agent, when the contract is on the table than it is to get one to start with. It's also easier to get one once you have a writing resume going than it is as a newbie.

How much do you pay an agent? Some friends who have agents say they are paying 10%, and some say 15%. I'd say that's your ballpark for an agent, but I don't know every agent.

Remember to choose someone AAR, so you are sure there aren't hidden fees. It doesn't mean they are adept at what they do, but it does mean they agree not to charge hidden fees and such. They sign an agreement about how they will operate that means they agree to certain ethical practices. I did tell you about this earlier. AAR. http://www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do You can search for an agent via their site.

If you can find someone with an old copy of (or borrow a current copy of) the Guide to Literary Agents, take a look at it. They put out a new version every year, but even last year's version will give you a list of agents in your genre/s. Then you can go to the web and see what they are seeking currently, what sales they've made, what genres are up or down with them... MOST agents have web sites to refer to. I've met a few that don't, but they aren't on my short list, anyway.

I use Vivisimo for searches, but use whatever makes you comfortable.

Of course, by borrowing an old one, you miss the new entries for that year, but they aren't likely to be established agents, UNLESS it's someone formerly with a publisher or with another agency who has just struck out on his/her own. And, who can afford to buy the new year's book every year? What a waste!

Check out agents with P&E to make sure they aren't known scams, as well. The link you want to check is http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/pubagent.htm

The Writer Beware's List on the SFWA site is another good one to check:

There are a lot of ways to raise the numbers in search engines to get an agency to the top of that list. The fact that it's top does NOT mean it's the most people visit or that the agency is the best there is. They can pay to raise it...or they can have a lot of links to them, even negative links. Have you ever heard of a Google Bomb? If not, I can explain it.

Why would you need an agent to find you an agent? I heard about this one for the first time, the other day. I wouldn't bother. If the agent is established in a genre and making sales, the agent knows the publishers and what they want. What more do you need to know?

Well, you need to know whether or not you mesh...and whether or not your book meshes with that agent. That's much more important than many people take into account. Beyond that, you have what you need to know.

Many agents do allow e-query and e-first three chapters, one of the many things AAR lets you search for, actually. That's something you can check in their guidelines.

I think it's easier to find a good publisher than a good agent, but that's my own two cents.

Why would publishers sign on a book they don't intend to market, if they make money on it too? Well, they DO market, but it's not indiviualized marketing for all authors. They have catalogs they send to book buyers and such, but only the headliners...the A-list or perceived A-list get individualized attention beyond that.

It seems odd that NY invests so much marketing on someone like Nora Roberts, who will sell millions of copies without that investment in individualized promotion. That money would seem better spent building up NEW bestsellers, but the truth is... In this business, those that have get more and those that don't get the bare minimum a publisher does for everyone in their catalog.

If you've read the article that was posted a few weeks back, you'll see that publishers have no clue what is going to even earn back the advance, let alone hit the big times, so they focus on a few books and push them, good or bad, into bestsellerdom. The chosen books may STINK, but the focus on them nearly ensures they will succeed.

They cannot, however, afford to do that for every book. Nor can they expect that it would work as well, if every book got that sort of attention in the media. It would become white noise.

They feel they are taking enough of a chance with their investment in the book (just getting it out for sale and distributed). With the number of options out there for self-promotion and the fact that they can simply drop authors who don't sell well and pick up ten more in their place without breaking a sweat, the heat is largely off the publisher and on the author (except for the fact that the publisher has to answer to the investors every quarter, but that's always been a problem). If you want to stay in NY, you're going to make sure your book sells, personally. While they WANT someone who can self-promote to avoid building up too many new names in a row, and while they seek out authors who can prove a knowledge of the market, replacing a certain percentage of "non-performing" authors is expected.

Final one I'll touch on? The publisher does know one solid fact about marketing. NO ONE can promote your book as effectively as you can, if you take the time to do it right. Now, where this logic fails me is in the following... Okay, if the author is capable of writing her own blurbs, why not let her do it? Because some monkey with the company that's been writing carbon copy blurbs for ten years won't get his money for that one book? Tough. I'd rather let the author write something representative, original and memorable, if it would help the book sell.

Yes, some agents are asking for marketing/promotion plans from authors (though they don't have to be as detailed as you might believe). So are some editors...IN THE BIG HOUSES. Does every one do it? No, but please do not believe that you won't be expected to make one, because when you are asked for one, you will be that much further in the hole. It's better to know HOW to do it and not need it than to be asked and have no clue.

Marketing/promotion plans are more COMMONLY used by non-fiction authors than by fiction ones and by indie/e for fiction than by NY, but there are always those exceptions to the generalities, and an author should be prepared.

Why do they ask for a marketing/promotion plan? Because they have a glut of good books, and they need to capitalize on something else to make the final cuts. Because they can make the requirement and have a reasonable expectation that the person who submits what they will do will follow through on it, that the person is a team player and that the person knows the "product" and can present as a knowledgeable individual in the face of media and readers. Because they would rather not build up a new author and then have the author flop. Because they know the fact is...no one can promote you better than you.

They certainly don't have the time and money to promote every author they have on the lists. (I don't mean the catalogs...I'm not cutting that down, but it's not personalized selling...it's your name on a list.)

An article...two...maybe three years ago...stated that the agents and editors are looking at what you're already doing as a sign of what you will do in the future, even if they don't ask for a more detailed list from you. Are you proactive or retroactive...or non-responsive?

That's one of the reasons I tell people to have a site set up before querying. In fact, if possible, have a blog and/or MySpace set up as well. Just remember the rules of thumb about excerpting and professional appearance.

You don't have to make the marketing plan a blow-by-blow one. You don't have to say that you're going to place X number of ads in RT, for instance. You can say that you plan to place ads in review magazines like RT and Realms of Fantasy, that you plan to get a line-announcement of release in LOCUS, that you plan to do chats, contests, spotlights and banner ads on several genre-specific sites, send promo gear to conventions as the opportunity arises to do so, attend at least one convention per year (and that can be a local book fair, if you can't manage travel cons)... You see how general you can be? There is even a type of marketing/promotion plan in which ALL you tell them is what percentage of your advance you're willing to spend on promo. I prefer the former.

Ah...genres! Keep it simple. Where would you shelve it in a bookstore? But, remember that you CAN use one of the established cross-genres, though they aren't shelved separately in the bookstore. This is especially the case in romance and erotic cross-genres. It's perfectly acceptable for me to query with "This is a fantasy erotic romance." That gives them all the information they need and places it in a very hot cross-genre, at the moment.

If you have one of those books that just smashes genre lines, choose the strongest one and leave off the "elements" or go with Mainstream, if it will fit there.

REPOST 6/2/2007 What is history?

GOOD subject. I recently answered this on a list or two, so let me dust off the answer I gave there.

Part of the problem is that everyone sees what happens through the filter of their perceptions. So, eye-witness accounts often vary widely...and they are ALL primary sources. If you're reading source A, you will have a very different account than someone reading source B.

Many historical factoids or accounts are actually secondary sources, to begin with. Why? Well, unless you are going back and translating the primary sources personally...AND you have a comprehensive knowledge of the time period, the influences, etc.... Well, even then, it's secondary, because it's a primary source filtered through your secondary eyes, which is why even the secondary sources, working from the same primary sources, do not always agree. A single word changed can make such a difference in interpretation.

Then you add in the politics and religion of the time and their interference with the source matter we have available. The victors write the lion's share of the history, and prosecution, persecution and/or excommunication has gotten many a person's attention over the centuries. When ten accounts say A and one says B, you might have a false lead...or you might have the one person who recorded what could get him/her killed or imprisoned to write.

Worse, when it's within the lifetimes of those involved, some people will doggedly insist their version...the version the spin doctors fed them...is correct, despite what evidence exists to the contrary. (And, no...before someone launches a political debate in here, I am steering FAR away from current events. You can find examples of this in Viet Nam, WWII, and further back...)

So.... No matter what actually happened, there are going to be ten versions of it, at least, floating around, everyone making his/her own spin on the same events. The BEST you can hope for in answer to "What actually happened?" is an amalgam of reliable primary sources that take a middle ground between them.

The best you can do...if what you write must be historically correct, to the best of your ability...is either state that it's alternate history or name ONE source you are sticking to. I did the latter in Black Sail, which is out by Phaze (mythological rather than strictly historical in nature). I named my source as Edith Hamilton and left it at that. Anyone who wants to argue that it's wrong according to historian X has no battle with me, because I wasn't basing it on historian X.

REPOST 5/18/2007 What are the rules of dialog?

Again, a question on lists prompts a blog post from me. If one person asks, more need to know. So, here's the scoop, as best as I can give it. Grinning...

There are several generally-accepted rules about dialog.

One is that you should not mix the thoughts, movements or speech of character A with the speech of character B or vice versa. Character A sees, thinks, says is fine. If at any point character B comes into it, you probably need to switch paragraphs. The one exception to this is when character A sees, thinks/speaks, acts...to which character B reacts. In that case, you MIGHT get away with leaving character B there, IF the sentence where B reacts is a compound sentence that starts with A's action AND it fits with the flow of the paragraph.

In addition, you should split the paragraphs of even a single character, when the focus/subject switches. You do know the rule about leaving the end of a quote without a mark and starting anew, when you switch paragraphs in speech?

Josie moved as if to smack me upside the head, pulling up short but not before I'd ducked it.
"Honestly, John," she grumbled. "Where was your mind? You didn't really think that would work, did you? Now what are we going to do?
"Oh, crap. And here comes more trouble."
I looked around, following Josie's line of sight, wincing at the vision of Allison marching toward us. She was on the warpath all right. *What now, indeed?*

It doesn't go far enough to just shift the tags around: beginning, middle, end.

First of all, you don't use tags on every line. That is newbie error number 1,210...more or less. If you only have two people talking, you shouldn't need tags that often for a back and forth exchange. You KNOW that you're moving back and forth. Even with more than two, you can leave off some tags, simply because the characters should have unique enough voices to do so. Whether you have two or more than two, you can--and in the case of a rapid-fire exchange, you want to--leave some without tags.

In addition, you shouldn't rely too heavily on tags. You should intersperse as much movement, expression, and/or scene setting as the pace allows for. This allows you to IDENTIFY the speaker without using a tag. Tags get old really quickly. For instance, showing that character A is upset by showing her shoving books in her backpack while blinking back tears...then saying something takes the guesswork out of WHO is speaking while giving information that adds to the scene. After all, you don't want your characters talking in a vacuum.

Always keep your pace in mind. If the scene is an ambling sort of discussion, you can add in more around the dialog. If it's rapid fire, you want to keep it as sparing as you can...even foregoing tags. HOWEVER, like fight scenes, a rapid-fire exchange of words rarely lasts long. You have a spate of he yells, she yells, he yells, she yells...between one and six passes each, most likely. Then there is a break, a mental circling of each other, during which you have time for a broader look again. At that point, they may or may not launch back into another rapid-fire exchange.

Okay...italicizing thoughts. You WANT to do this. There is a subset of editors who say you italicize UNLESS you are using a tag, connected with a comma to the thought. If you say:

*You don't want to do that,* she mentally berated herself. *It would be the last mistake you ever made.*

Some editors will say to italicize everything but 'she mentally berated herself' as you do ALL internal thoughts. Some will say to italicize only the second part, because the first has a tag. I lean toward the former, personally. It's the way I submit all of mine.

Or, I should say... I submit it either italicized or underlined, depending on the guidelines I'm working to. When changing from italics to underlining, always look for imperfect underlines and correct them. For this reason, I find it easier to type a book in initially with underlines and then change to italics when necessary. That saves you that step in reformatting. You KNOW it's right from step one, if it's underlined to begin with.

As for the rest... Remember that dialog is ALLOWED to use poor grammar, if that's what the character would use in speech...or thought, but punctuate it correctly. Since punctuation is for the reader and not actually a part of speaking.

Remember that people don't always use the same SORT of speech when speaking aloud and when holding an internal dialog. The character may well be politically correct or be using office etiquette in the spoken words and be painting a blue streak of obscenity in internal dialog. Often, you have to censor what comes out of your mouth, but you don't have to censor what you think...unless you live in a world of telepaths.

Remember that answering machines are dialog too. Always have the time/date stamp on phone messages characters listen to. The devil is in the details. Don't mess that one up.

Caveat! I can't stress this one more, since I see it so often. This is newbie mistake number 235. (No, I don't really have numbers for these! It's a stress-reliever.) If you have a character on the phone, DO NOT show only one side of the conversation, unless the POV character is standing across the room and listening to a single side of the conversation. Think about it. The POV character is on the phone. When YOU are on the phone, do you hear only your own voice? Of course not! You have to hear the other person (or at least read it off of a screen, if it's--what is that called?--TDD?). The text phones... Anyway, you HEAR the other person, so make a two-sided conversation. Remember to use scene and motion for the side the POV character is on. You can even add some sound backdrop for the other side...tapping, background for wherever the caller is. Their voice is not the only thing you hear. And, what you can hear may be important, either for plotline or for characterization.

There are also some suggestions I can make for telepaths, if you really want/need them.

REPOST 5/17/2007 What is prolific?

Do you want MY definition of prolific or what people on lists I've frequented tend to call it? I'll start with mine...

A prolific writer is one for whom the words flow much faster than average. If they're publishing, you'd HOPE those stories are good, but there's no guarantee of that, as we all know. After all, the definition of prolific is "producing abundant results/fruit/works." It never says that those have to be "good works," and some of the more prolific authors in history haven't been believed to be all that "good." (Keep in mind that good is one of those terms that is always subjective, so there can be a lot of arguement there.)

I might note that you can be prolific without publishing, but then who would KNOW you were prolific? Grinning.

Your "word count" isn't dependent on genre or type you're doing. Someone that writes a romance novel, six fantasy novellas, a dozen assorted short stories and a handful of non-fiction articles in a single year is still prolific, though it's not all of a type.

Yes, that's an opinion of mine. If you want to know what people on lists say, the consensus seems to be that if you write more than 200K of publishable work per year, you're prolific, and if you write more than 400K per year, you're very prolific.

Nor is being prolific a sign that the work will be lousy, despite the comment I made about some of the most-prolific authors on record. Some people write slowly and well, some quickly and well, some quickly and poorly...and some poor sap out there agonizes over every word, and it still stinks.

Why people are abundant varies. Some push themselves to abundance. Some just write that way. Just my opinion... I tend to feel that people whose words just flow that way are the cleaner, more powerful writers. The words come for you the way they come for you. If you force a change to that flow, it usually results in less powerful results, IMO. I don't mean shaking things up. I mean forcing an artificial change to your natural, comfortable writing style.

How to decide if someone is prolific? Well, if they're published, that's easier to gauge than if they're not. As I said...how would you know without that gauge? I suppose, if you were an editor/agent, you might be able to see it by sampling some of the copious books someone claims to have finished, but... That's another issue, isn't it?

I've got a good list of prolific authors (the 20 most-prolific in literary history). I'd definitely put Asimov and King up there, to boot...and both of them are on my respected list. But, there are a lot of prolific ones today I could point to. Sherrilyn Kenyon is very prolific. No, she's not on the list, but she's written a lot more than she's published and she's still young. Who knows how much she'll publish by the time she leaves us? I'm hoping that doesn't happen for a long time.

People call me prolific. I won't argue it. I average 50K of new work every month, plus marketing, edits, etc. In my most prolific months, I was doing 80-100K per month, which I never want to repeat...really. One of those is scheduled to come out in the next two months, and my crit partners think it's the most powerful thing I've ever written.

REPOST 5/12/2007 What ARE the rules? And should I care?

This is a question that comes up often, especially from newbies...

"I have heard that you should NEVER use ly adverbs (or choose your poison...tags besides asked and said, flashbacks, dream scenes, mirrors...). Every time I think something works, someone tells me I shouldn't do it. Am I screwing up? Is my manuscript going to get laughed out of the slush pile?"

First of all, even clich
és work when they are the best fit for what you need to accomplish. If your gut instinct says it works, go for it. If one crit partner says it's not working, look at it again but follow your gut. If three say it, seriously consider that it might need changed.

Flashbacks should be used SPARINGLY, because they interrupt the forward flow of the novel. HOWEVER, sometimes...like in the case of Stephen King's IT, the novel is based on the intrusions of past memories into minds that don't recall what happened in the past but need the information to effectively fight in the current timeline. If you have a reason that flashbacks have to happen and can do it skillfully, do flashbacks more than sparingly. Many editors don't want to see more than a few flashbacks, otherwise.

If the descriptive tag or ly adverb does the job best, use it. If not, you are cheating yourself and your reader by either "telling" and not "showing" or by not using a descriptive and active verb when you might do so.

Saying they all suck isn't right. Saying you should never do it isn't right. Saying you're going to have a problem finding an editor/agent that will sign it, if you overdo it is correct. It doesn't mean you CAN'T do it and do it well. It means it's going to be harder to sell it. NOT impossible. Harder. There is no absolute in this business. Trust me.

Listen to that inner voice. Ninety percent of the time, when you hear someone say "NEVER do..." what they really mean is "Don't do too much..." No, don't change everything to fit those natty rules. I certainly don't, and people like my stuff, too. If it works, let it stand. If the editor doesn't like it, he'll/she'll tell you.

There are three unbreakable rules about writing, and no one knows what they are. The fact is, every editor has his/her own version of "the rules." The main thing is not to overdo any of the tricks in your bag, unless you do it well. Grinning... I love that part. For most writers, that means you really shouldn't overdo anything. Don't worry about breaking a few rules, as long as you do it well. Go ahead and submit; it's unlikely you're going to get laughed out of the slush pile for it, as long as it's done well.

ONE rule never to break is the one about following the individual guidelines for the editor/agent you're submitting to. If they say 12 pt Times New Roman, 1" around, double spaced, indent .5 for paragraphs, you do it! If they say 10pt Courier, 1.5" top and 1" around, 1.5 space, .3 for paragraphs, straight quotes, you do that.

If they say 80-100K, you can range up to ten percent out of that without querying to ask...IOW, as low as 72K and as high as 110K without asking. You
CAN ask to range further. NEVER apologize that you're not in the range, but ask them if they would consider longer/shorter. The worst they can say is 'no.'

The other rule never to break is to act professionally with the professionals out there. Grinning... Know what the terms mean and use them right. If they ask for cover letter, don't send a query letter. If they ask for outline, don't send synopsis. Don't use IM speak with them. Don't play the diva.

Beyond that, if it works, try it. You might have a longer road ahead of you selling it, but nothing is impossible, even if you aren't selling it to your first choice or your third.

There is a wives' tale among writers that being famous means you get to break all the rules with impunity.
That is not true, IMO.

The "master writer" is the one who can break the rules so successfully as to be allowed to break them with no repercussions. Example time? There are those who became "famous" but not masterful, who broke the rules in a way that was not masterful at that point, and who were stomped for it, because it was not done masterfully. In order to break the rules and have no repercussions, IMO, you must do so masterfully, and as such...you must be a master of the word, if not famous yet for your skill. Fame can come on either side of that equation...or perhaps never at all, though the artist/creator is still a master of the word. Make sense?

Others will state that you get to break all the rules, if you are a publisher. I disagree. You may be able to get it published, but that doesn't mean you won't get stomped by readers and reviewers for it. I maintain that not doing it masterfully means there are repercussions somewhere.

REPOST 5/9/2007 You try and try...grinning...

You know, you try and try to hide your true nature. You ditch your black clothes for working with the kiddies. You wear ponytails and cartoon characters, but try as you might to hide what you are...

Sometimes, it just keeps cropping up, no matter how hard you try...

Ever wonder WHY I write vampires?


REPOST 5/5/2007 I've been tagged!

8 random facts/habits about me ...

1. I rarely sleep more than 41-45 hours per week, which is how I write so much.

2. I was the world's biggest tomboy. I played both football and baseball as a child, and the National Organization of Women's case against the Little League was filed on my behalf. By the time the case was decided, I was too old for Little League.

3. I am most comfortable in black clothes and jeans (or my cover t-shirts and jeans), which means I sometimes have to search for appropriate clothing to teach in. You will typically find me either barefoot or wearing boots (hiking, elf or dress boots).

4. Though most people who've met me seem to have the mistaken impression that I am in my 20s, I am almost double that. In fact, I've been with my husband for 21 years now.

5. I come from a creative family. My younger sister plays guitar, and my younger brother is an artist and graphic artist. In fact, he was one of the artists on Baldur's Gate.

6. It's a rather large family, when you take the five marriages between them that my parents have indulged in into account. At last count, I have a brother, a half-sister, three step-sisters, two step-brothers and various tag-alongs that get added to the mix. You might have guessed that I'm the oldest of the lot.

7. I've worked at everything from running a cash register/being an assistant manager of a convenience store to teaching (everything from special needs preschoolers to SPED high schoolers AND college-level statistics), tutoring, working as a civilian for both the Air Force and the Navy, accounting, data entry, tracking fraud suspects for the Air Force exchange services and even as a journalist. My original college majors were a double major or accounting and journalism. I figured out that wouldn't mesh well and dropped the journalism in favor of a computer programming certificate. During my college years, several other departments tried to get me to change majors: comp sci, education, pre-med, and biology.

8. I once incited a mutiny...by accident, but that is a story for another time. Grinning...

REPOST 5/2/2007 Insanity knows no bounds!

Read the post entitled RT/Hyatt Author Targeted here!
If it's been a while, it's the May 1st post.

Let me start by saying that I wasn't at RT this year, but I know a lot of the people involved in this, including Laura Baumbach, Kate Douglas, Lucynda Storey and Stephanie Burke. Let me further say that I HAVE one of Laura's ManLoveRomance magnets on my fridge...in a house with three school-aged children.

Why? Because there isn't an offensive thing about it, IMO. It's a beautiful guy chest with the site information on it. Nothing more. Heck, the kids see worse in Disney films. Not to mention the fact that two of my best friends are a gay couple. As my oldest sometimes says, when she hears of gay bashing and other forms of intolerance: "What business is it of theirs?" I have to agree.

So, what do we have here?

It seems that we have Mr. Lance Barnes on a power trip. There's no other excuse for it. There was nothing offensive about Laura's promo. Having stuffed 300 bags for EPICon with her latest materials...both personal ones and ones for ManLoveRomance, there wasn't a single one I objected to putting in the bags, and we have a PG-rating at EPICon that doesn't exist at RT! At RT, you're GOING to see promo material that is NC-17, at least. Expect it.

You have RT, that absolutely refuses to take a stand on behalf of their conventioneers. This shouldn't be a huge surprise, considering the fact that they also accept ads for M/M romances (which RWA and EPIC both recognize as a genre) but will not review them, though they provide reviews for all other books placing paid ads, up to 5 books per ad page. And, when approached to host a panel on the GROWING genre of M/M, in various forms, RT absolutely would not hear about it. Hmmm... Seems like this is a trend with them.

Here's what I find really interesting. Some of the bestselling and most popular authors at RT2006 were M/M authors. What do they think Morgan Hawke had with her in 2006? It was, as memory serves, two Yaoi and one Manga.

Futher, not ALL M/M promo was removed and not all tasteless promo was removed. Considering how tasteful Laura's are, "targeted attack" sounds precisely right to me. It must have sounded right to others there, as well...considering the uproar I've been hearing about it for the last few days.

Well, it took RT years to accept e-books as viable, and this year, we had panels on them. A whole track, which was great. I'm glad to see it. Wonder how long it will take them to catch up on this one? Longer, I'm sure, even though...ironically...RWA is behind on recognizing e-books but has recognized M/M romance.

Still, I would love to hear RT's excuse for not supporting one of their paying attendee's rights to display her promo, promo which was more than comparable with other offerings at the convention.

REPOST 4/24/2007 You're FAMOUS! Not...

No, I'm not going to talk about what I consider famous to mean. I'll save that one for tomorrow or the next day. This is the subject that has me banging my head off the desk.

You know, I know that non-authors and non-publishers just don't get it. I know that a lot of people just don't understand why pirates irritate us. I know that they have the mistaken idea that, on some level, we should be thrilled that we're so popular, people will heist our books. I may have to adopt something of that mindset to avoid getting brain damage while banging my head off of a desk when I get e-mails like this one from dear friends of mine. Now, this woman KNOWS pirates irk me. She's tried to convince me that my books being pirated in the same post with Nora Roberts means something...besides the fact that a pirate is acting. Still, she sends me this.

"I saw another [Usenet] posting recently requesting any books by eXtasy, specifically a tarot series? And in reply there were about a dozen books posted, nearly half of which were yours. You're FAMOUS!!!! People like you, enough to bootleg."

Groaning. I suppose it's better than the other friend, who always asks me if I want bootleg copies of my own books, as a joke, probably to see the bland look I shoot him for it. While I don't doubt that he could probably produce them, I blow it off and remind him, "Honey, I HAVE copies of my own books...legal ones." Of course, considering the fact that his wife is a reader of mine, he could send me her copies, and I wouldn't know if they were legally-bought or not.

My husband said the same thing, "Hey, if they're bootlegging you, they're reading you, and you're getting admirers out of the deal." Doesn't make me feel better, but there's not much to be done about Usenet, unfortunately. Like many servers of their type, they are nearly useless in shutting down illegal trade. It's the sort of place where you could be screaming at them 24/7, because it enables what the pirates do. Not that no one TRIES, mind you, but making headway with them is...problematic.

REPOST 4/23/2007 The land of the free...

Amy Sorrell, an Indiana teacher, faces the possibility of losing her job on May 1. Why? She didn't abuse students. She didn't pose nude or have an affair with someone. She didn't do anything of the things you'd typically think of when you hear a teacher has been dismissed. Here is the story.

Ms. Sorrell allowed a middle school student to publish an article in the school paper, an article that asks tolerance for homosexuals. What? You heard that right. This woman faces losing her job, because she let a level-headed article, asking people to be TOLERANT, be pulished in the school paper.

The first slap came when the principal of the school, Ed Yoeder, filed a complaint stating: "Any article that controversial should have been cleared by me before appearing in the paper." Sorrell's answer was that she didn't consider "tolerance" to be a controversial issue. I have to agree.

The school board has since charged that the subject matter is not appropriate for middle school students. Are they serious? Apparently, but I want to know what sort of mental illness these people have.

As the mother of a middle school student, I can state with authority that an 11-year-old student is not to young to know that homosexuals exist. (In fact, many of the more crass and less educated call each other 'homo' or 'gay' with no concept of what the terms mean and no respect for those who actually are." Seems like a timely and appropriate issue to me.

Neither was the article an expose of what happens behind the closed doors of a gay or lesbian bedroom. It was a simple plea for tolerance. Seems to me that MORE children could do to learn tolerance these days, but this goes back to the idea of personal responsibility, which the press and government seem to want to abolish along with our first amendment rights.

Since the start of this, four major rights and legal groups (including a law school in VA and the ACLU) have expressed interest in defending Sorrell. The result of that was an accusation that Sorrell is in some sort of conspiracy to prove that the district and Yoeder are bigoted. Interesting... When all else fails, throw stones and cloud the issue.

Explain to me how a country that passed hate crime laws so long ago can sit back and watch while a school district is allowed to do something so bigoted, something that clearly enables and espouses a community founded on hate.

REPOST 4/23/2007 Rabid/avid readers

I tend to use rabid as a positive. If they're rabid, they are salivating for the next book...pouncing on it, when it does release. So, why would I talk about this today? This is a story you HAVE to hear!

Announcement first... Wicked Women is out!

Why is that germane? Well, the publisher (Under The Moon) hadn't even made the formal announcement that Wicked Women was out...until today. That didn't stop me from getting a phone call LAST NIGHT from a friend, telling me that her husband had just come home from RavenCon with a copy of WW...HIS copy that she wasn't allowed to touch, because he was reading it. Grinning... That meant I got the "How come I don't have MY copy yet?" pout.

The answer stunned her. Because, I don't have my copies yet either. It's not the publisher is laying down on the job. Far from it. The books made it to RavenCon before they made it to me.

Now, those are some avid fans. They have the book before me and are fighting over it. Is it wrong to be gleeful that the readers act this way?

REPOST 4/20/2007 When to stop? part 2

Back on Feb 17th, I wrote a blog entry on when to give up on trying to get published. I'd like to add to that now. Someone put a new swing on the question for me. It wasn't about giving up writing so much as her discouragement at having rejection after rejection and when to give up on that particular book. This was my answer to her... Hope someone finds this useful!

Don't. Someone once said that the only difference between a published and unpublished writer is determination/dedication. Okay... Maybe that first one needs to go in a drawer...for now...or forever. You MIGHT be able to sell it, once you have a few other books out there. You might have to rewrite it. It might get published posthumously, an author's first work that never published. It might never publish. But, never trash it and never dismiss it as completely unsaleable. Sometimes the market just needs to catch up with your vision.

And, don't let rejection make you quit, if it means something to you! Frank Baum was turned away from nearly every NY publisher, before he managed to publish the first Oz book. So was Dr. Suess. He didn't sell his first book, either...at least not at that time. It sold later.

In the meantime, keep writing. Some authors tell me that they didn't sell a book until they'd written 5 or 6 or even 7 or 10. They often sell those earlier books later in their careers.

If you've never heard Sherrilyn Keyon's story, you should. She made a few sales...then nothing for (if memory serves) 7 years. She decided on one last chance and stole a stamp out of her husband's wallet to send a final query out. When the request for full came in, she BORROWED the money to send the mss to NY from a friend, without telling her husband. They were a biscuit away from losing their house, but this was something she had to do, and she did...and it paid off. What would have happened if she'd given up before that last stamp?

I should also note that she kept writing the entire time she wasn't selling. She wrote book after book and kept going.

REPOST 4/16/2007 NEWS FLASH...Life isn't fair!

It's another case of that sick sort of amusement. Hold onto your seats. It's going to be fun, right?

A friend was telling me tonight about having to appeal to school (elementary school) administration, because a teacher wouldn't let her send invitations to her son's friends for his birthday party, because she wasn't inviting the whole class to the party. The administration DID side with my friend...but not before listening to the teacher rant that it wasn't "fair" to the other kids who weren't being invited. She didn't want anyone's feelings hurt.

Reality check? Life isn't fair.
They are training these kids to have an expectation that they will always get what they want, the concept of entitlement to a "fair life." That's half the problem with this world, that unrealistic expectation being fostered in children.

Life isn't fair. You won't be friends with everyone you meet. You can't expect everyone in the world to kowtow to your sorry little butt. You cherish what you do have and learn to dismiss those who aren't your friends.

I very rarely got invites to anything growing up. My own kids are the same. Do they obsess over it? No. Why should they?

Too many people are coddling too many kids and trying to make the world "fair" for them. What they are doing is raising kids who are ill prepared for the concept that nothing in life is a free ride and sometimes people don't do what you want them to. That's life.

You know, I can't mark the moment this started happening. It seems it must have been for a long time. Why do I say that? Because I see it a lot in supposed adults in business, sometimes in the publishing industry.

Let me make this clear. Life isn't fair. Yes, there are going to be people with money or connections who get NY contracts with books that aren't worth the paper they are printed on. That's life. No, you won't always get the cover you hope for, the advance you hope for, the media coverage you hope for... That's life.

Now, are you going to act like that spoiled eight-year-old and his family, the ones that think every child HAS to be invited to the party? Or, are you going to make professional choices that advance your career and conduct yourself like an adult and a professional author? Personally, I'd suggest the latter, but that's me.

REPOST 3/29/2007 Product Placement in books...

One of my writing partners, Gregory L. Norris, an ex-SCI FI Magazine correspondent and writer for Star Trek: Voyager, is currently working for a Sci Fi site called MeeVee. I check out his column there regularly, but this one had me laughing my behind off.

Greg's MeeVee

A Finish politician is running for office and looking for the younger vote in a whole new way...by making his entire site in Klingon. LOL! (Sorry...can't help that reaction.) He has an English version for those who aren't Trekkies, but...that got me thinking.

It caught my attention for the following reason....

Recently, when NASCAR and Harlequin made their deal, there was a lot of grumbling on a few author lists about how distasteful people found the "product placement" aspect of this agreement. But, why should it?

Politicians have never been shy about this, making public statements in this fashion. Remember Clinton and his McDonald's trips? Just a regular guy like you and me, right? Most public figures, from authors to actors to politicians make their statements by what they say they read, wear, eat... We are a culture that subdivides by product placement and identity.

Chick Lit is based on characterization through product identity, more or less. You can tell a lot about a character by what he/she wears, drives, where he/she shops and eats, what entertainment he/she engages in, books he/she reads, etc.

In fact, most genre books set on Earth-as-we-know-it, esepcially contemporary but also historical, use a certain amount of cultural identity in the form of music, TV/movies, and products. I've even used products in my futuristics...where they MIGHT be in 50 or 100 years. Stephen King once said that there were no brownie points for ignoring popular culture. He's right.

Now, there are rules for using trademarked items in your books, but most of the established authors know them.

1) Always capitalize a trademarked term. It's Kleenex, not kleenex, for instance.
2) Try not to dilute a trademarked term. Sometimes your character (especially one from the south) will CALL all soda "Coke" and sometimes a tech-field character will call his work radio BY the name of the company that makes it, usually "Nextel," but other than that sort of charater quirk, don't use trademarked terms to mean a generic item.
3) Use of a trademarked term in a postitive manner is fine. Use of it in a negative manner is not. If you have your heroine drinking Pepsi, that's fine. If the villain is going to poison a shipment of it, make up a brand name (and check it on Vivisimo, before you use it to be SURE it's not a real brand) or call it "cola" or "soda."

So, what...if anything...is actually wrong with product placement as a cultural backdrop in books...besides the fact that it MIGHT date the book, which some editors shy from? Nothing, as far as I can tell.

I have learned that some people consider NASCAR a negative image for a romance hero and not the positive one that NASCAR and Harlequin think it will be. That was interesting to me. I suppose NASCAR's survey didn't take non-NASCAR fans much into account on that one...though at least one person who told me this WAS a NASCAR fan.

No, I'm not insinuating the old redneck crap about NASCAR, because NASCAR fans come from all walks, I know. (Neither do I believe the "results" of their survey, as they reported them, having to do with reading habits of the NASCAR fan vs. the non-NASCAR fan, but that is another subject. In fact, it's one I covered a few weeks back.) Yes, a lot of these men are highly educated, but the travel, greasy hands, long hours, hardships... It's not seen as very romantic by some people who responded to my query about this on lists.

Just some thoughts on product placement in books. Stick to the rules...and consider that the association may NOT be the positive one you were hoping for.