Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

(Taking a break from the Virtual Book Tour Primer to talk resolutions. More on virtual book tours Tuesday.)

One thing I've learned about resolutions is they don't work unless you have some concrete goals and plans. The more you know and commit to the steps of achieving your goal, the more likely you'll accomplish it.
However, 2007 looks like it'll be a year of change for us. Rob is up for command, so we'll be moving in the late summer/early fall. Infinite Space, Infinite God comes out in print around that time, too (although Lida is planning an early print run--yay!) We're also thinking about letting the kids try a year of public school. We feel they could use the experience and Mom can use the rest. The Miscria Trilogy has been at my dream publisher for 2 years now, but despite frequent calls to their wonderful editor, I still don't have their decision. In the meantime, a friend is working on a packaging deal with another publisher and may include another book of mine. Plus, Rob will be at a joint officers training school--now that he's had 2 years in the job, it's time to get him the training, after all--and will be gone during the time we need to get the house ready for sale. Thus, so much of this year is unknown or dependent on others, that it's hard to set concrete goals.
Nonetheless, here are my resolutions:

WRITING
1. Get a publisher and/or agent for the Miscria.
--Research and query agents and publishers until mid-Feb; send out queries every 6 weeks after that.
--Start with major traditional publishers and move to smaller presses.
2. Write 100,000 words of novel
--Write at least one paragraph a night until school ends; then up the word count.
--Finish Discovery.
--Write one or more of the following: Miscria III; Dragon Eye, PI: Magic, Mensa and Mayhem; Dragon Eye, PI: Migrants, Magic and Murder; or a time travel/romance I've had in mind. I may do the last for NaNoWriMo, but if I feel the call to finish one of the others, I may go for the NaNo goals without actually entering the competition.
3. Personally sell 100 copies of Infinite Space, Infinite God; have 500 sold via Twilight Times Books
--Virtual Book Tour in August
--Hold at least 4 early book signings in VA area
--Hold another 3 in new area
--Contact 3 or 4 Catholic universities about getting on their read lists for courses
--Do some form of PR every day--media release, contacting a potential customer, calling a book store, updating the website…
4. Write 4 more stories; send out a story a month of old or new; never let a story sit at home for more than a week.
5. Keep up with obligations: blog, Montana Catholic, Hereditas, MuseOnline Conference (October); Catholic Writers' Guild.
6. RESIST the temptation to do more until June or September, when I have time; then, keep it in perspective with the above goals!

HOMESCHOOLING
1. Have a more traditional school routine to prep kids for "real school."
2. Grade papers each night.
3. Make older kids do homework while I write--write in the same room with them.

SELL HOUSE
1. Cull everything--get rid of 25 percent of our stuff.
--Each day, tackle one drawer or closet.
2. Pack out about another 10-25 percent.
3. Hire someone to do minor repairs.
3. Mulch yard.
4. House goes on market in mid-March. Anybody moving to Northern VA?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Virtual Book Tour Primer V--leaving comments

Another way to conduct a book tour is to leave comments on folks' blogs. To tell you more about that, however, I'd like to share this article by Janet Elaine Smith. Janet is a novelist who also writes about useful tips for marketing your books. Check her out at http://www.janetelainesmith.com.)

Before you set off on a virtual book tour, remember that you are visiting various blogs as a guest. You don't run the show. Always leave a comment about something in the blog before you issuing an invitation to partake of something you have to offer, whether it is to purchase your book, to visit your blog or to hang out at your website. Sadly common courtesy is all too often in short supply.

The best way to find blogs that best fit your virtual tour is with this
search: www.blogsearch.google.com. Don't just look for the obvious; be creative. After all, we are all writers, and imagination is our forte. And look for something that you can tie your book into. Let me give you a couple of examples. You know, show; don't tell!

My book Par for the Course is a timetravel that takes a modern day golf pro and sends her back in time to golf with Mary, Queen of Scots, at St.
Andrews Golf Course in Scotland. Mary was the first woman golfer--true fact.

OK, so I did a search for Mary, Queen of Scots. History buffs who like to follow her are always looking for new info. Many of them do not know that she was the first known woman golfer. (I found that info in an old kids'
encyclopedia.) So, when I find a blog about Mary, I go to it and ask a simple question: "Do you know what sport Mary, Queen of Scots, was noted for? If you don't, you can find out in my time travel, Par for the Course.
If you do, or if you want to take a guess, come on over to my blog at www.janetelainesmith.blogspot.com and leave me a comment." Then I leave a comment about their blog, like "I was pleased to learn that Mary was the tallest woman in Scotland at the time she lived. I am a firm believer that I am never too old to learn something new."

Another one I did was for my book In St. Patrick's Custody. I did a lot of similar blog entries to the one above only tied to this book of when it was close to St. Patrick's Day. I then invited the blog visitors to go to Patrick and Grace's website, http://crumbycapers.tripod.com (a fictional website I set up especially for the protagonists of that book--another promotional idea, by the way!) and leave me a note in the guestbook. Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Another one I did for In St. Patrick's Custody was in connection with homelessness, because Grace ended up in a homeless shelter. That one got picked up and noticed by a few print newspapers and it led to a couple of actual print interviews about the issue of homelessness.

I don't always leave a bunch of signature lines in a blog, but I do give the info if it pertains to the book I'm blogging about at the time. For instance, with Par for the Course, I usually include "Named best timetravel of the year by Affaire de Coeur Magazine."

With In St. Patrick's Custody I might end with something like "Responsible for countless new volunteers in homeless shelters across the country."

Good luck! Janet

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Virtual Book Tour Primer IV

Here are two letters I sent to bloggers asking to be on their blogs. The first is an initial letter. I introduce myself, comment on the blog (how I came across it and something I liked about it), then ask the blogger if he'd host me. I always make sure I tie myself or my book to the blog, so he knows I'm not just picking him out blindly and that a post aobut me or my book adds to his blog. Then I offer more information. Here's where a website comes in handy! Finally, I offer an advance review copy of the book. This is especially important for any site that you're asking to host you specifically because they blog about something that your book applies to. Sometimes, they'll want to review the book as well as interview you.

Dear Mr. Akins,

My friend Ann Lewis recommended your blog to me and I’ve been enjoying it greatly. (It was refreshing to see someone else who held a similar opinion on the “genocide” of the Cylons. )

Since you are a SF fan, I was wondering if you’d be interested in reviewing my husband Rob’s and my anthology of Catholic SF, Infinite Space, Infinite God. It’s out in e-book right now from Twilight Times Books and will be out in print in August. I’m planning virtual book tours in December and August, so if you are willing, I’d love to have you host us on one or both of those months.

I’ve attached a short blurb about ISIG, and if you’d like more information, please check out the website at http://isigsf.tripod.com. Then, if you are interested, please e-mail me back and I’ll be glad to send you an electronic ARC.


This second letter is a follow-up. The blogger has expressed interest and wants to know more. Virtual book touring is still very new and many people don't know much about it. The thing I try to emphasize is that she is doing me a big favor and as such, I want to make it as easy on her as possible.

Dear Dustiam,

Thanks so much for agreeing to host rob and me on our virtual book tour to promote Infinite Space, Infinite God.

By hosting me (or Rob and me on your site), you’d devote a post to us and Infinite Space, Infinite God. We’re on a virtual book tour right now and are planning another for August, but any time that’s good for you is good for us. We can do this in several ways:

--You send us interview questions that we answer. You post the Q&A.
--You tell us what you’d like us to write about and we write an entry for you to post.
--We write our own interview and you post it.
--You just review the book.

We’ve done most of these, so whatever’s convenient for you is good for us. I’ve enclosed an electronic copy of the book. Let me know when you plan to post and I’ll put it a notice about it on our ISIG website (http://isigsf.tripod.com). You can also find more information on the website, including the other stops on our virtual book tour, where you can see what other bloggers have done in hosting us.


That's it until Saturday, when I'll post some other things I've learned about virtual book tours.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Virtual Book Tour Primer III

So now you've got or are creating a kickin' website about your book and you have a good idea who your book tour audience is. Now we can get into the meat of the tour itself: finding the Blogs!

Blogs are essentially on-line "journals" (usually by a person) about whatever interests them. As such, they cover the gamut of exposure, expertise and opinion. Some, like LiveJournal, are more like on-line diaries, while others may be specifically targeted toward news. Some are by people who simply want to express themselves (regardless of their knowledge or experience on a topic) while others are serious commentary by experts in their field. Some of these may only have a few faithful viewers, while others may get thousands of views a day. Thus, as you search, you'll also need to evaluate each blog to see if this blog is one on which you'd like to promote your book.

Here's where I went to find my blog stops:

1. Friends. Not only might they have a blog they can host you one, they may know of a blog that would be interested in you. I found several Catholic blogs through friends, some of which have large audience.

2. On-line groups. If you're on a Yahoo group or other forum, post a request asking if anyone blogs in your target area, or can recommend any blogs.

3. Google. Type in "blog" and your target area. Do more than one search. For example, for "Infinite Space, Infinite God," I searched under "Catholic science fiction blog," and "Catholic fiction blog." If your book has been out for awhile, Google the title name and see if anyone's already mentioned it. I found a blog that didn't show up on a general search when I typed in "Infinite Space, Infinite God."

4. Search host sites. Most host sites like Blogger or MySpace allow you to search just their websites. Sometimes you can find blogs that have a loyal following but don't show up on Google.

5. Check links on websites and blogs you visit.

Once you've found a site, look it over. Do the entries tie in with your book or your interests? Does the person seem sympathetic or potentially interested? Is there a counter--and if so, how many people have visited the site?

If you like the blog and would like to "visit" it on your tour, you now try to contact the blogger. A good way to start is to find one of his posts you like and leave a comment. If it applies to your book, so much the better, but at very least, leave your name and your book name and website. For example:

What an interesting post! I didn't realize Dr. Thinxalot has postulated
a "human percentage" for determining how much genetic tinkering our DNA
can take. Incidentally, that's a topic we've explored in our SF anthology
"Infinite Space, Infinite God." I'll have to look for more of Dr. T's
research.
--Karina Fabian, editor, Infinite Space, Infinite God
http://isigsf.tripod.com


If there's a contact site for the blogger, write her a note complimenting her on her blog and asking her if she'd be willing to host you on your virtual book tour. You may have to explain what that is and how it's done. (I'll post a sample e-mail Saturday.) If you cannot find contact information on the site, ask her via a comment.

On Saturday--inviting yourself to a blog, being interviewed, generating "buzz."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Virtual Book Tour II

I've got another interview coming up on my virtual book tour, and it's looking like the tour is going to run into January, with an e-zine interview and more blog guest appearances. That's the joy of a virtual book tour--you can extend it without compromising finances or worrying about leaving the kids. It just takes some of your writing time.

Today, we're going to talk about some preliminaries before launching a book tour. I've found these to be very helpful not just in the tour but translating that tour into real interest for my book:

#1 Preliminary materials. If you're developing a media kit, these should be in your bag of tricks. These are things you can offer your host to make his page stand out or his interview even better:
--A print-quality graphic (.jpg is good) of your book cover. Ask your publisher.
--A print-quality photo of yourself. (Get a friend to take a good digital photo.)
--50-, 150-, and 250-word blurbs about your book. Hosts can use these to advertise your upcoming tour, weave them into their introduction, or post them elsewhere on their site.
--A fact sheet. This is more for you than them. Just list some of the more vital pieces of info about your book--from website to the chapter names and pages in your manuscript, interesting topics, factoids (Infinite Space, Infinite God took 2 years to find a publisher, for example), and interesting stories. This is one thing I did not do and I'm constantly racking my brain or searching my manuscript in order to answer an interviewer's question. Learn from my mistake.
--Your own set of questions. (Optional) Some bloggers will ask you to write up your own interview. If you know what you want to talk about ahead of time, it's easier. Be sure to tailor the questions and answers to the blog's audience, however.

#2 Create your own website for your book! This has been the single most useful thing I've done. I created a website on tripod for Infinite Space, Infinite God before the tour and I constantly refer to it in the interviews and correspondence. It's only been up a month and has had over 400 hits. The website holds all the information you'd like to tell folks: summaries, your bio, a calendar of your book tour and other events, a media room, and most importantly, Purchasing Information!
There are a couple of places to create websites for free. I have sites on www.tripod.com and www.freewebs.com. Both have ready-made templates and easy to use editors that let you add text, photos, special effects, contact sites--all the basic website stuff. No programming experience is needed and they come out great! Check out http://isigsf.tripod.com for an example of a book promotion site. It took about 3 hours to build because of all the text to type in, and I add to it twice a week it seems. The editor is so easy, it only takes minutes.

#3 List who your target audience is for your book and who might be interested in you. You wrote the book--if people would find you interesting, chances are they or someone they know will find your book interesting as well.
For ISIG, I'm targeting science fiction fans, Catholics, Christians, people interested in technology and morals, and educators.
However, I am a homeschooler, military wife, writer, Mensan, former AF officer, current military wife, Colorado State University alumni… If I can find a magazine or paper that might be interested in me or my book, I can probably find a blog or e-zine that would be interested.

OK. You have your homework. Contact me if you have questions. Tuesday, I'll post how to find stops on your tour.

Friday, December 15, 2006

ISIG an EPPIE Award Finalist!

I'm so excited!

Infinite Space, Infinite God is a finalist for the EPPIE awards in Science Fiction. Rob's and my previous anthology, Leaps of Faith, was also a finalist back in 2004, but it was under the Anthology section. This time, ISIG competed with novels and anthologies, so it's even more thrilling.

I'm especially grateful to the terrific writers who contributed to the book. This honor is for all of us!

For more on the EPPIE awards (for electronically published books) check out http://www.epicauthors.com/eppies.html.

BTW--if anyone is interested in ordering a copy from me, TTB is planning an early run for April/May. I'm selling autographed copies for $16 (trade paperback) and $22 (hardback if they become available). E-mail me if you're interested.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yangtse River Dolphins extinct

Yangtse dolphin 'is extinct', a victim of economic explosion

Today, we mourn the loss of a species. The world has lost a little of its wonder.

My son, Alex, cried when he heard the news. He'd like everyone to pray for the breeding population of finless river porpoises at the Tian-e-zhou oxbow lake.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Virtual Book Tour Primer, Part 1

The virtual book tour for Infinite Space, Infinite God is going very well. I'm scheduled at seven different sites, and am working on a few more. Check out the schedule at http://isigsf.tripod.com. From there, you can follow the links to see my interviews.

I've had several people ask me how I arranged this tour. It was actually very easy, and I'll take you step by step over my next few posts.

What is a virtual book tour? Like a regular book tour, you go around talking about your book, yourself, and your writing. The ultimate goal, of course, is to generate sales, but mostly, you're creating a buzz in hopes that people who might otherwise never learn about your work have a chance to "discover" you. The beauty of a virtual book tour is it's on the Internet: no expense, no leaving home and most of it can be done at your leisure.

There are several ways to conduct a virtual tour appearance. The simplest is the book review--your host reads the book and reviews it on his site, or you write your own review for him. The next is the interview--again, your host can e-mail you questions you answer, or you can write your own interview for her to post. Then there's the guest chat--if your host has a chat room, you can talk to the audience. (Have a general topic in mind and a brief, prepared intro about yourself and your book.) Your host could have a contest for a copy of your book or hold a "reading" where you post a chapter or scene from your book. Use your imagination and ask your host--he or she may have a different idea.

Of course, you'll want to talk about your book, but don't limit yourself to that. Think about the things that affect your readers. For example, Infinite Space, Infinite God is Catholic SF; so at first glance, I should target blogs about Catholicism and science fiction. However, I tried to make this more than just a fun read; I wanted folks to use this book to discuss and learn. So I might reach high schoolers, homeschoolers, other writers, maybe even theology/philosophy-and-technology sites. I'm a writer working with a small press, so I can reach those people by talking about the experiences that led to the publishing of ISIG--and writers are terrific readers! I'm a busy mom, so I can talk about writing and raising kids--moms read or they may be looking for something for their SF-loving husbands.

Saturday, I'll post the steps I took to put together the book tour. See ya then!

If you have any specific questions, please drop a comment or contact me through my contact page and I'll answer it on a post.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thoughts on God, the Weather, and Intelligent Design

Saturday, it was a lovely warm day in Virginia. I think everyone was happy--except maybe the weathermen. They'd predicted temperatures in the thirties. Sometimes, I think the weather is God's way of reminding us that we don't know everything about His creation.

Along those lines, here's a great video someone directed my way about the design of the universe. It's a good one for kids and adults.

http://www.kids4truth.com/watchmaker/watch.html

My Book Tour Begins!

I'm going on a book tour--and I don't even have to leave my own home!

It's a virtual book tour. This month, I'll be visiting various blogs "talking" to folks about writing, writing while raising kids, and Rob's and my anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God.

Here's my schedule so far:

Dec 3: www.margaretfieland.com (balancing motherhood and writing)

Dec 4, 7: www.thewritingjungle.blogspot.com (Catholic SF and writing what you know)

Dec 11: www.spiritualwoman.blogspot.com (ISIG goals and audience)

Dec 14-18: www.sfgospel.com

Dec 28: http://www.kaleidosouls.info/Blog.html

Other blogs I'll be at but don't have dates for yet:
Ineffable Twaddle: http://annmargaretlewis.blogspot.com/
SF Gospel: http://sfgospel.com/
Jimmy Akin: http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/
Claw of the Conciliator: http://clawoftheconciliator.blogspot.com/ (Faith and Writing)

For more info and an updated schedule, check out http://isigsf.tripod.com.

If you have a blog and would like to host me, please e-mail me via the contact page.

Pretty Cool, huh? I promise that each interview I'll try to say something different, so please drop by and give them a peak. In fact, if you're looking for some good blogs on Catholicism, Christianity and/or writing, check them out anyway.

(FYI--blogger is not allowing me to post links. Figures on the day I need them most. I'll try again later, but if you see this before I can fix it, just cut and paste.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NaNo Won! Woo-hoo! More gems

I did it! With the kids watching while I typed the last three words, I crossed the 50,000-word NaNoWriMo finish line!

Here are more gems from my manuscript:

Good taste, however, seemed to be thoroughly lacking that week.
"Rita, Ann, will you come look at this?" Thomas called from the office.
The two sisters shrugged at each other, then picked up their cups of tea and wandered over to see what had made their friend so exasperated.
Ann gave a small shriek and Rita nearly dropped her at what they saw.
On Sr. Thomas' computer screen was a horrifying nasty skeletal creature with a huge oblong head snapping its jaws at a woman who, was cowering in absolute terror. Over the hissing and snarls came a voice that lilted like all salesmen of any age:
"Don't know what's waiting on that unexplored alien ship? Not willing to be caught by surprise? Well, neither are we. And, thanks to the cinematographers of old, we don't have to be."
The scene changed to space suited figures wandering in a dark cavernous room with large, leathery eggs.
"Every Monday night, we'll be analyzing the procedures and tactics of others who have gone the way we dare go now. After each full-length feature presentation in its extended form remastered exclusively for CruiseGalactic, we will have analysis and discussion."
The scene changed to the woman strapping herself into her seat and opening the ship door, blasting the alien into space.
"We don't have to operate in a vacuum. Come join us for these life and death discussion. Remember: they made the stupid mistakes so we don't have to!"
The last image--that of a man on a hospital bed with a pale yellow scorpion-like creature with long legs clamped over his face--froze. Over it appeared a small box that said in bright flashing letters, "First showing tonight: ALIEN, directed by Ridley Scott. Download a reminder into your calendar now! Avoid death by alien incubation!"


Rita and Sr. Thomas peeked inside the gym while Sr. Ann and the engineers from the Edwina Thomas and Rocky Flats waited anxiously. They had refused to let the sisters enter the room.
The gym walls, floor and ceiling were a crazy quilt of exercise mats of different sizes, shapes and colors. Various hand and foot holds stuck out everywhere. In one corner a container the size of a truck (sat?).
"All right, I see what you did with all the floor mats, but why?"
As if having waited for that very question, Sr. Ann reached between them and tossed a ball she'd been holding into the room. Rather than making the expected parabola, it continued on a straight path.
"A zero g room!"
"Isn't it wonderful?" Sr. Ann said gaily. "And in the box are things we can use to set up tunnels or obstacle courses or practice moving items--"
"How did you manage it?"
"We reversed the polarity of the gravitational field," Sr. Ann said casually, while the engineering team behind her fought to suppress their snickers. They'd obviously been planning the joke for a long time.
"Mmmm-Hmmm." Sr. Thomas turned her back to the room and gave the team her best "don't kid with me" look. "Which means…?"
At first, Sr. Ann gave them her usual wide-eyed, innocent look, then said, "Oh, we pulled all the gravity plating out of the floor somewhere else and attached it to the ceiling, powered up an RCH generator and set it for .978g, which is actually the acceleration force for the Edwina Thomas right now. The gravity generator provides counter-force for the acceleration force, and there you go! Zero g. But it's so much more fun to say we reversed the polarity!"
Sr. Thomas rolled her eyes. "All right--as long as you don't start padding your repair estimates."
"Oh, no, Sister!" Sr. Ann said with complete innocence, while the team behind her did their best to feign innocence.


(Set up: Sister Rita and James (a former almost-love interest and the reason she fled into space) are trapped on board an alien lifepod taht activated when they entered. They are running out of air and have no idea if they'll be rescued. Rita, BTW, has been struggling wtih doubts about her calling for a long time.)

She pulled out her sampling equipment, thoughtfully. As soon as the door had shut, systems had come on. They had light, heat, and gravity of a fashion. Could it be…?
She broke open the seal of a sample tube, breaking the vacuum within. In her mind, she heard the air rushing into the tube. She prayed her imagination was true.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking the air."
"Is there breathable air? Didn't you remind me repeatedly that this an alien ship?"
"Let's have a little faith," she snapped and he fell to sullen silence.
The timer on the screen ended and results appeared. She almost cried with relilef, but made herself repeat the experiment before saying anything. The results came up the same the second time.
"Oxygen/Nitrogen! Praise God! It's a little thinner, but no more so than say, Tibet."
"So how does that help-- What are you doing?!"
Rita had her hand on her helmet and was about to release the seal. Her hands, however, refused to carry out her commands. "Come here. We're going to do this one at a time," she told him firmly.
"Are you out of your mind? What if there's something the scanner didn't pick up?"
"Then I'll asphyxiate and you'd better be ready to slam this helmet back on me. Then we pray the skinsuit medpod can keep me alive until we're back on the Edwina Thomas. Listen to me, James. You are right. We should have been rescued by now. That means there's some kind of obstacle. We need to save the suit air in case we do have to force that door open to get to the Basilica.
"So, what we're going to do is this: I'm taking this helmet off--don't fight with me, James. I'm the expert--I'm taking this helmet off and testing the air. If I'm not sick or turning blue in five minutes, you take yours off, too. I'll hand the helmet to you. You'll be ready to put it back on. Got it?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she lied. "Ready?"
He shuffled over to her and held out his hands. "Ready."
He took a deep breath. Come on, girl. "You remember how to put the helmet on?"
"You trained me," he said, then added. "You want me to go first?"
"No. My idea. I'm first." She took some deep breaths as if steeling herself for a plunge into a cold deep lake. Then with a sudden yank, she twisted the seal and yanked her helmet off.
The cold thin air hit her like icy water and she gasped, then coughed.
"Rita!" his voice came loud through her earpiece.
"I'm OK! I'm OK! It's just cold!" her breath came out in little clouds and she could feel the sweat in her hair turn to ice. "It's about 8 degrees"--she stopped to cough as the sharp chill seared her lungs. The humidity's low, too. Brrr!" her teeth were chattering.
"Are you sure?" James was watching her with a new kind of fear.
"Look at my chest."
"What?"
"The monitors on my chest. How do they read?"
Grimacing at his foolishness, he looked at the monitors. "Everything's good. Heart rate's a little fast."
"Imagine that." She laughed then coughed. "Oh! I'd forgotten what it's like to breathe such cold air! It actually smells very clean, though. There's kind of a…raisin scent…"
"Should I?" he reached for his own helmet.
"Not yet. Start a timer. We'll wait five minutes. I'll bleed a little air from my tank to yours so we'll be even."
"No. keep all your air. If anything happened to you--"
"No heroic posturing, please! You know, I think it's getting warmer."
By the time James took off his helmet, the temperature had risen to 30 degreed Celcius. Soon, it had risen another six.
Rita activated her helmet long enough to graph the readings, then pulled it off. "It's tapering off but nowhere near stabilizing yet. We have to assume that the pod is programmed for the optimum temperature of the species. We'll have to pray that that's something we can handle, too. At the rate it's going, it'll be another hour before we have to depend on our suits to keep us from dying of heat. In the meantime, I am dying of heat." She reached behind her and flipped the suit catch. "Do an emergency evac from the suit and set it up for emergency donning in case we have to get back in them quickly."
"Are you sure?"
But Rita was already bent forward and sliding out of the suittop. "That's better!" she said with forced brightness. James gave an elaborate shrug and followed.
Suddenly, there was an earsplitting schieking and scratching that made both of them slam their hands over their ears.
"What is that?!" James shouted.
"How should I know! We must have triggered an alarm!"
"What? Why now?"
"I don't know! Maybe it picked up our life signs with the suits off--"
"Look!" James pointed to a hologram that appeared in a corner. "Quick! It's showing us what to do!"
Had he gone insane? "Great! Do you speak alien?"
"No."
"Well, neither do I!"
The screeching continued, loud and insistent, tearing at the few nerves she had left.
"But it's showing you what to do!"
Me? Showing me?! "James would you think for a minute! We don't know what it's showing us. We don't even know if they see in our visual spectrum! Even if they do, are these the instructions for a course change or a hibernation sequence? And even if we knew, they've got six arms!"
"Can't you--"
"No! I can't! I don't know what to do! I'm not a saint! I'm not even--" Suddenly the sobs ripped from her and she grabbed her stomach and her face screwed up with pain. "I'm not even a good nun!"
Suddenly, the holo disappeared and the shrieking ceased. There was no sound but her sobs.

That's it. The rest would give the ending away.

So, NaNo is won and now the real work begins. Time to fill up holes, clean up words, look up tech and truly forge this bunch of glorious fun into something that I hope will one day sit proudly on the bookshelves. Hope you enjoyed sharing my race with me. I'll let you know how the rest of the marathon goes.

Final NaNo Count:

Words written (per MS Word): 50,336
Words written (per NaNo counter): 50,010
Places I need better words: 96
Holes I need to fill: 22
Tech I need to write: 35
Characters, places that need names: 24

Saturday, November 25, 2006

NaNo--gems from Discovery manuscript

As promised, today I list a few gems from my NaNo project, Discovery.

(Set-up; Sr. Ann had a minor accident and her suit is damaged, but she didn't know it. She continues to rescue the miners stuck in the damaged station while Sr. Rita--also unaware of Ann's suit damage) attaches the miners in the emergency transport "bags" to the rover.)

Ten minutes later, Sr. Ann emerged with the last crewman in a bag. She attached herself to the cable, then disengaged the pulley from the door handle and let Rita pull them in. Then while Rita got the pulley gear stowed, she attached the last balloon to the rover.
"They're kind of pretty, aren't they? Silver balloons of life." Sr. Ann smiled dreamily.
"Sister?" Rita asked. "Are you all right? "
"Fine. Why?"
"What's your suit say?"
"Heads up," Rita heard her murmur, then: "Nominal. Nominal. Nominal,
nominal, nominal and all pretty shade of green."
Rita was not reassured. "You've had quite a time of it, sister. Why don't I drive?"
Hayden, too had been watching and listening. "Tell you what, Sister. I'll do the honors."
They headed back to the ship with Hayden at the wheel and another crewman beside him, two crew hanging onto the sides, and Rita and Ann in the back seats. Sr. Ann turned to look at the bags bobbing and sighed again. She murmured something Rita couldn’t catch against the other traffic on the line.
The miners were talking among themselves and didn't notice. Rita switched to a private channel. "Sister Ann?"
"Has anybody ever given you a balloon?"
"What? I suppose. They're rather common on Earth--"
"But you left Earth and balloons and… Disregard."
"Sister Ann?"
"I came as a wanderer/found You, Beloved, here/in a dead world poised/on the edge of eternity…" Sr. Ann paused, giggled, then said, "My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh/Which lies all night between my breasts./My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms/In the vineyards of Engedi."
"What? Sister what are you talking about?"
"Balloons and perfume and blossoms and--and rocks!" She suddenly pointed and as the gesture pulled her half out of the seat, Rita realized she hadn't strapped herself in properly. Rita reached out and grabbed her arm with one hand and started pulling her should strap tight with the other.
"But I want the pretty rock! Look how it's falling so gentle. My Beloved means it for me!" she pouted and started to struggle.
"Sister, suit status!"
"I want the rock!"
One of the miners, seeing her gesture, pushed off from the rover and letting her line out gently, snagged the rock then pulled himself back in. She handed it to Sr. Ann, who clapped with delight and clutched it to her breast. Rita hastened to strap her in as she again asked her partner for a suit check. Again, Sr. Ann reported everything green.
As Rita looked at the miner, she held up three fingers, and Rita switched channels.
"Sorry, Sister. We were all a little worried after the accident, so I've been listening. I thought the easiest thing was to just give her the stone."
"No, I thank you. We're almost to the ship. In another couple of minutes we can check her out ourselves and not rely on the suit."
Nonetheless, she switched to the common channel and told Hayden to accelerate to as fast as he felt safe, then contacted Sr. Thomas and told her to prep the EMT kit.
"I feel a little dizzy," Sr. Ann complained as the ship came into view. "And things are a little dark around the edges."
Sr. Rita breathed a quick prayer as she loosened Ann's straps enough to look at the gages on her chest display. Her suit insisted she was fine, but the O2 supply gage hadn't dropped below 75 percent. She called up her own supply: 65 (decide amount), and she'd exerted herself far less than Sr. Ann.
Please let the gages just be stuck... "Sister Ann, what does your skinsuit say?"
"What? Isn’t my rock pretty? Have you ever wanted someone to give you a pretty stone?"
"Annie, come on. Focus. What does your skinsuit say? What's the oxygen level in your blood? Give me the readings."
"The numbers are blurry... Um, it gave me a shot."
"Oxyboost?"
"Think so."
"Thank God. Hang on, Sister. We'll have you on the ship in a minute."
"Pretty rock from a barren land... I'm going to name you Peter."


(Set up: An evangelist on the research team has been bombarding a wicca on the team with religious tracts and she's fed up. She goes to paint a wicca symbol on his door (in ketchup) and they argue. Sister Rita stops them, tells them both to leave each other alone. Keli, the wicca agrees, but Merl follows Rita to argue some more.)

Merl, however, followed Rita, carrying on a one-sided diatribe and even entering the sisters' quarters uninvited
"I cannot believe you didn't side with me against a--"
Rita closed her eyes, said a silent prayer, then turned to her antagonizer. "Mr. Pritchard, can you lay hands upon that child and banish her demons?"
"No, but--"
"Neither can I. Do you think sending her religious tracts is going change her?"
"Well, I've made her angry--"
"As she has made you. Inciting anger is not evangelization, Merl."

(Set-Up: This is Suits 101 for the research team members who are not familiar with EVA activities. Sr. Rita is teaching the class. James is a former almost-love interest. (He left the Jesuits to be free to pursue her, even though she was still a nun, but before he returned from Rome, she had left her post and gone to space--to escape him. It's now 3 years later and things are a little tense between them.)

"...Let's start with the skinsuits."
"Do they have to be so tight?" one of the ladies complained.
Rita smiled sympathetically. "Unfortunately, yes. The material is a NaturaDyne nanoweave that reads and interacts with your skin to track your life signs. It contains its own power supply and is partly recharged by kinetic energy--but you don't need to worry about running laps; it doesn't use a lot of power. It can inject medicines and apply pressure to specific areas when necessary: for example, when in microgravity to help prevent your blood from pooling to your head. For that reason, it's important to make sure it isn't wrinkled. Please check that now."
Everyone did so, with varying degrees of shyness. James, Rita noticed, endeavored to check his suit while still keeping his hands modestly in front of him. It was kind of sweet. Still, something didn't look quite right. "James, move your hands."
He looked up as if caught at something. "What?"
Rita demonstrated by putting her hands over her head. "Raise your hands. James, where's your 'pod?"
"My What?!" his shriek, combined by the way he flushed, made Andy snort with mirth. Galen and some of the others started to follow, but Rita stopped them with a glare.
"Your medpod, James," she pointed to the small nonoweave-wrapped black box just in front of her hip, then addressed the class as a whole. "The Medpod contains various narcotics to regulate blood pressure and oxygen content, treat pain and handle other emergencies. It docks through the suit to your internal catheter to deliver... James, you do have an internal line?"
When he looked blank, she sighed. "Is there anyone else who does not have an internal line? You would have had a simple outpatient procedure...?"
Most people nodded; a few winced at the memory; but two--plus James--shook their heads.
"All right, then. After class, Galen will escort you to the ship's surgeon. She'll schedule the surgery and see you are excused from duties that day."
"Do we have to?" the same woman who'd complained that her suit was tight asked. "I mean, our space suits are supposed to protect us, right? If we get injured out there, it'll probably tear the suit and we're gonners anyway." She almost sounded as if she preferred that option to the thought ofa "simple outpatient procedure."
"Fortunately, no. These suits are not like those you see in the old holos. They don't tear easily. You can sustain broken bones and severe internal injuries--including concussion--without harming your suit. Having said that, the suit has been known to take other kinds of damage, which could affect its--your--life support system. Hence, the redundancy of the skinsuit. If sends you notices if it detects injury, illness, or other hazardous health conditions, and if you confirm the diagnosis or it determines you are incapable of responding rationally, it will automatically medicate you to keep you alive. You're welcome to ask Sister Ann about how the suit saved her life if you're skeptical."

That's enough for now. I actually have a lot of stuff I like in this mess of a manuscript, so I'll post more Tuesday.

NaNo Update: 49,000 words!
I've lost track of holes and such, but I'll give a final count on Tuesday--after I hit 50,000!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NaNo: Hole-y Manuscripts, Batman!

I've been listening to WriMoRadio, the official podcasts of NaNoWriMo. People are giving their advice for making that 50,000 word count. I'd record mine, but I have laryngitis from a sinus infection. (Curse you, mulching leaves of autumn!)

My advice is to pay homage to your inner editor. But of course, you all know I do that. It's on the bottom of my blog: my running tally of words I need but can't remember, TECH I have to look up or make up, holes in the plot I need to go back and fill. And, for those days when a read scene escapes me, the holes I do go back and fill.

Today, I thought I'd post a few hole-riddled scenes from my novel, Discovery, so you could see what I mean. (Bookmark this, so you can say "I remember when..." after Discovery becomes the NYT's surprise best seller!)

(TECH--get some protocol from shuttle locking onto station for this Mathcing speed with ET--need to dock in sideways to not interfere with the engines-- the sisters are all belted down in a gyroscope-type flight deck with their feet facing toward aft since they are accelerating at just past 1 g.)

While Sr. Thomas attended to the details of docking, Srs. Rita and Ann stared out the viwescreen at the behemoth where they would serve for the next ?? months.


"It’s almost as big as the convent," Rita whispered.

"(TECH ColeCorp Hulkhualer II VASIRM engines capable of 1.5g constant acceleration, with dual Kayfarer hydrogen fusion drives for deceleration and emergency boost, kind of comm. gross volume: ) Two docking bays capable of holding 5 Esprit-class private yachts, each equipped with a (somekind of net--Minnownet) to assist in docking."

Sr. Thomas snorted. Edwina Thomas had offered the use of the magnetic arm to dock Basilica. However whenthey found out the relative size of the OLR ship and she learned of the inexperience of he crew in handling the equipment, they mutually agreed on her docking manually.

"200 life pods holding up to 12 persons each situated on each hull at 5 degree interverals. ?? foot hydroponics over ?? decks provides fresh produce and O2 (reclamation). Waste recycling system--describe of just name it? Sickbay equipped to handle everything short of transplant surgery; three stasis chambers for emergencies. Central (waiting) room with Hawkins/Jacobs 7 Gravity generator. Three story grand lobby. Fore viewing room beneath the main bridge, with additional viewing rooms on port and starboard. (big canyon in mars) 25,000 square foot day spa contains Olympic sized pool with retractable floor to double the depth for scuba and complete fitness center. Amusement deck contains an ampitheater with 950 capacity; a zero-g fun deck, virtual sports, the Nova Casino, and a 2-level variable g disco. Four ballrooms, two bars, five dining facilities, four public Laundromats, a library with a complete set of the Library of Sol (as of last year), plus 6,000 hardback prints, shopping mall. Stateroom vary from 1500-foot suites to single-bed cabins and house up to 700 crew and 1800 passenger, with kennel facilities for 24 approved spacefaring animals and weight/volume for 2-month cruises of the inner system. And only one chapel--multidenominational." Sr. Ann, of course, had memorized the tech specs ColeCorp had sent. Nonetheless, her eyes flickered with excitement over the ET’s hull.

Got to love writing about a ship you can't picture in your mind yet...or know how long they're staying. Wish ColeCorp would send ME the mission specs.

"How am I supposed to find time to do that?!" (who) protested. "Radell already has us working 10 hours getting the (TECH) running and I have kitchen duty, forced exercise and these lessons--"

"If you want to go out, you pass with 95 percent or better. However, we are already talking to Doctors Thoren and Radell about the schedule. You have three months to get your lab in order, but you cannot train in the suit until you pass the test. For today, however, we're simply going to learn to put it on and to assist each other in putting it on. Under most circumstances, you should have an experienced buddy to help you; however, everyone needs to be proficient, just in case."

(How's the suit go on?)

Or space suits without operating instructions. Then there're the great scenes I don't want to waste time setting up this month:

(Exploring around the ship. James and rita teamed up. Build a little tension earlier. Now he's on a private channel trying to talk to her about their relationship, and she’s none too happy. In a spot with several different small doors and a central area with (what would a lifeboat center have?) She has her back to the door, maybe scanning the area to record. James looking at something. He turns to her (perhaps as he was saying something esp. intimate/suggestive) and she steps back. )

The door opened behind her. She hadn't been leaning on it, yet somehow, her body had taken it for granted it was there, and in its absence, she overbalanced and fell back into a small room.

So there are some of the many warts in my manuscript. Next time, I'll share what I consider some of the gems.

NaNo Update:
As of Tues 18 Nov
Holes:24
Tech: 35
Word/phrase:85
Fixed: 14
Characters needing names: 7

Saturday, November 18, 2006

NaNoWriMo: Careful of that word count!

Week 3 of NaNo finds me sick with a sinus infection and laryngitis. While this has made for a relaxing week for me and the kids (who are actually doing some of their schoolwork and taking care of each other), it has also affected my concentration. So, despite having hours of uninterrupted time, I've been fixing holes and managing about 1000 words a day. What a waste of quiet time!

Last night, I put my text into the NaNo official word counter. Their counter's result was over 300 words *fewer* than MS Word's counter. (31,900 to my 32,200.)

For those who think they may be cutting it close, you might want to go to 50,500 words or check you word count in their counter a few days before the end.

NaNo Update:
Words: 32,218
Holes: 22
Tech: 31
Word/phrase: 64
Fixed holes: 12

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

PARENTING: Playtime a necessity

The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that free play--not structured lessons, educational activities, or sports--is actually good for your child!

Click here to read about it.

This is something I think most parents already knew, but it's amazing how we've let the "experts," whether actual child psychologists or those that play one on TV (to sell the latest in educational, developmental, superior-al toys), convince us that we are cheating our children if they are not learning the piano at five, taking foreign language lessons after school by eight, and of course, involved in some form of managed exercise, whether ballet, little league (four nights a week plus games) or "open gym" at the local fitness center.

I'm not knocking those programs. The era of the neighborhood pick-up games has gone away (though we still see them in our nice quiet cul-de-sac.) I wonder, however, if the supervised activities evolved to fill the gap or did they cause the gap in the first place?

When I was growing up, I wanted lessons, but we couldn't afford them. I learned to dance from friends or watching others, sang in church, and got other activities (drama, debate, etc.) in school. As a parent, I first bought into the "structured lessons maximize your child's potential!" ideal and as a homeschooler, planned on lessons to fill out the curriculum. Nonetheless, we quickly learned that too many lessons, especially when you have to drive 30 minutes one-way for a 45 minute lesson, are hard on the family and the schedule.

Our compromise is to offer each one the chance at one kind of lesson at the beginning of September, January, and May. They try it and if they like it, commit to the lessons for 4 months, after which they can opt out. So far, Steven has tried football, art, guitar and fencing; and Alex and Liam, horseback riding and Tae Kwon Do. Amber has her black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, plays piano (no lessons in several years), has taken art, horseback riding and ballet; and is currently exploring drama. We've all had Japanese lessons in our home.

With homeschooling--which means less time needed for academics--the kids have a lot of free time. Sometimes, they are bored stiff. Other times, the place is a mess from their latest projects or escapades. Sometimes, their creativity seems more focused on finding ways to annoy each other. Overall, however, the house is far more relaxed than when we were heavy into the lessons routines.

It's lunchtime in our homeschooling house. Liam (6), Alex (8) and Amber (11) are building yet another Littlest Pet Shop City in the basement with everything from dollhouses to old boxes they've cut and taped together. Steven (13) is bounding about in his room, lost in an magical adventure featuring his best friends as warriors, healers, and wizards. Later, he may type these into the story he's composing--or maybe not. It's not an assignment for school. In an hour or so, I'll make sure they're fed and heard them back into school, but for now, their time is theirs.

I think the AAP would approve.

NaNo Update:
Holes: 28
Tech: 54
Word/phrase: 76
Fixed holes: 8

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Practical Tips for NaNo

One of the MuseOnlineConference members wrote this up for the conference, but I thought it applied to NaNo:


Five things you must do in order to prepare for NaNoWriMo (from the home office of Heather Grant, with thanks):

1. Write down the names of your children on a sticky note and post it somewhere visible where it will not get lost. Go in order of birth and add a characteristic or two so you can find the right name for the right child.

2. Check every once in awhile in closets, bedroom, refrigerator, any place you might find a clue that your spouse still lives with you. If you happen to find said spouse try to be polite and mumble a nice 'hello' or something to let them know you are still with them.

3. Stock up on peanut butter, jelly, t.v. dinners, microwave popcorn, anything even a four year old can pop in the microwave. I don't recommend peanut butter and jelly in the microwave…I do recommend a smoke alarm above the microwave. :) Have local food delivery on speed dial as well.

4. Stock up on mini candy bars, granola bars (you need some sort of nutrition), cookies, chips, etc. and hide them from said four year old.

5. Never, never forget where you put your eye glasses and always have a good supply of pens and paper within reach.

NaNo Update:
Words: 21722
Holes: 29
Tech: 46
Word/phrase: 61
Fixed holes: 6

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

WRITING Rules

A friend e-mailed this today. I got a laugh out of it, especially when I realized I've broken at least 20 of them--some on a regular basis--in my own writing. I thik the keys lie in knowing the difference between formal/academic writing and fiction/casual writing, as well as knowing the rules and when breaking them is effective.

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliche's like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
16. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
19. The passive voice is to be ignored.
20. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
22. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
23. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
24. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
25. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
26. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
27. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
28. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
29. Who needs rhetorical questions?
30. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
31. Proofreed carefully to see if you any words out.

Let's not forget:

32: Spell Check is their to help ewe.

NANO UPDATE:

Words written: 12,160
Holes in scene/plot: 12
Tech needed: 22
Correct word phrase needed: 23
People I've contacted for info, help: 6
Holes/tech/words fixed: 4

Saturday, November 04, 2006

NaNo Lessons

Thought some of you might like to see how one writer's work goes, so I've collected some stats on my first 3 days of NaNoWriMo.

TITLE: Discovery

TAG LINE: Can the discovery of an alien ship help a nun in crisis discover God's purpose for her?

PLOT: Sr. Rita is torn between her vows and her love for James Smith. To escape the need to make a decision, she flees the university where she teaches, her order, and even the Earth by joining the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue. Nonetheless, she cannot escape memories of James. When ColeCorp, an interplanetary conglomerate with interests in everything from education to asteroid mining, discovers a crashed alien ship in the Kuiper Belt, it assembles a team of researchers and miners to explore the ship and bring it back to Luna for further study. They hire the "Rescue Sisters" Sr. Rita and Sr. Ann, to oversee safety. But when they also hire archaeologist James Smith, Rita must face dangers of the soul as well as those of space.


WORDS WRITTEN: 6,700

"HOLES" IN STORY (where I write "describe," "need problems," "brilliant idea" because I can't think of anything at the moment): 12

TECH (need technical info): 5

WORDS (couldn't think of the right word, so I stuck in a substitute): 19

HELP: (Need technical advice, quotes, etc. from others): 6

ROOMS I'VE WRITTEN IN: 4--(schoolroom, kitchen, bedroom (in bed, ont he couch, and standing with the computer perched ont he ironing board), bathroom. The joy of laptops)

THINGS I'VE DONE WHILE WRITING: teach, cook, clean, exercise, chat with friends (Yahoo IM, both distraction and aid!), and tweaked my website for ISIG. And I've fallen asleep over the computer a few times.

The point? Writing is a messy process. Not every writer has their novel spring fully formed from their minds like some kind of Greek god. Nor does every writer thoroughly research their ideas beforehand. In this case, I had only a general idea what I needed until I started writing. Writers don't always have the correct words or phrases; some of the best writing comes after struggle and re-write.

While some people function best when in a place specially set aside for their craft, some of us squeeze it in wherever and whenever we can.

Nor do writers need to do it alone. I'm only on chapter 3, and already I need to find people to help me with zero g physics, distributive economics, hypoxia, and changing religious orders. I've already sent questions to the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Catholic Economic justice Society, a physicist friend, and my writers group. When Rob gets back from TDY, he's going to devote a few hours to my questions, holes, and words as well.

The important thing in all of this is that the words are getting written. Jumbled, messy, full of questions and ????, they nonetheless tell a story that, with time and editing, will flow as smoothly as if dictated by the Muses themselves.

(There's a great analogy for Catholic SF--maybe I'd better tag that "reword.")

Now, I've written way too many words that should be going to the novel. Until Tues!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Misc details before NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo begins in 45 minutes. Don't think I'll inaugurate it by some midnight writing like I'd planned. I had to take Rob (my wonderful loving, Air Force argument husband) to the airport at O-It's-Early this morning and I'm tuckered out. He's anticipating in Wargames in Hawaii for 2 weeks. Our anniversary is next week. He's spending our anniversary in HI. I told him to enjoy the irony.

I plan to be mostly incognito this month as I gamely try to squeeze 50,000 coherent words into one month full of homeschooling, four children, a house to keep, the Catholic Writers' Guild elections, three deadlines and no hubby to help for 2 weeks. St. Jude, pray for us!

If anyone knows anything about asteroid mining, the Kuiper belt, or interplanetary travel and would like to help me with the tech., please contact me!

I've got a new blog going: www.virtualbooktourdenet.blogspot.com. Come check it out for book reviews and synopses. If you have a book you'd like listed, please check out the site and follow the rules on the first post.

I've got a new website dedicated to our book Infinite Space, Infinite God. Check it out at http://isigsf.tripod.com. Leave me a note in the guest book.

King Kluck did not make it to mummification for Halloween. Dare we try Thanksgiving? That would certainly make a memorable holiday...

I'll continue to post this month, though it I may post links to other folks' blogs or articles I've seen lately. Or I may post snippets of what I've written.

I'll finish the links page when I come back from NaNoVille. If you have a link you'd like me to post, please contact me. I'd appreciate you posting my link in return.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Indiana Mom and the Temple of Kluck

(The title gives you an idea of the state of my house lately...)

It was a dark and stormy day...

Even worse, it was salt changing time in the Temple of Kluck. Looking at the weather outside, I decided to risk contagion and "Do the Kluck" in the house. That didn't last long.

"AARGH! Is that King Kluck?" my teenage son asked from down the hall. (For the full effect, say that sentence out loud while hoding your nose.)

I hadn't even opened the bag yet. While the boys prepared the salt mixture, I took our odiferous odyssey to the front porch.

"EW! What's that smell? Is that King Kluck?" demanded the neighbor's girl, who was at our driveway and could not see the pale salty corpse. As you can see, or more to the point, smell, our fetid fowl has achieved neighborhood fame. She decided to enter through the garage.

Jokes aside, the smell has faded, but it's still strong enough to make me wonder how the ancient Egyptian priests could put up with such a disgusting duty, especially for 40 days.

Once the salt was off, I checked the chicken for signs of mummification. Last time, I'd noticed how the decomposing muscle tissue and water loss had made the skin loose. Today, I discovered something new: Some of the meat, especially around the openings and lean areas, had become hard. However, the more fatty areas like the breast and thighs, were not the consistency of gel. The effect was a squishy layer you could form. It reminded me of one of those gross toys I refused to let the kids spend their allowance on.

Still, had I found a fringe benefit to mummification duty? "Hey, look, Ank-Atar! I can form a relief map of the valley of the Kings on his chest!" Or maybe they considered it meditative, like one of those squishy stress balls...

Whatever, the boys were not interested in the phenomenon. They patiently listened and watched as I showed them the discovery--this was their school project, after all--but at a distance and with their noses held firmly plugged.

Afterwards, I found I needed another long shower to excise the smell.

Still, it's been an interesting experience. Squish, squish, squish.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

WRITING: I Can't Get Code Satisfaction

I was up until 2 AM trying to fix fabianspace and start up a new website http://isigsf.tripod.com. (Go check it out. It's actually very nice now.)

This pretty much describes my day and night....
(To the Rolling Stone's "I Can't Get No Satisfaction.")

I can't get code satisfaction,
I can't get no website action.
'Cause I type and I try and I type and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.

When I'm sittin' at my desk
and that error comes up on my screen
and it's tellin' me "No, no, no!"
but it's just useless information
I've the wrong kind of imagination.
I can't get no, oh no code no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get code satisfaction,
I can't get no website action.
'Cause I type and I try and I type and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.

When I'm watchin' on my screen
My colors are wrong, universe page gone and
Links and Books look the same.
Plus it can't be a blog 'cause it's showing code
in the spot where the blog should be.
I can't get no, oh no code no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get code satisfaction,
I can't get no website action.
'Cause I type and I try and I type and I try..
I can't get no, I can't get no.

When I take webbuilding class
and I'm doin' this and I'm trying that
and I'm tryin' to make some site
that tells me baby better come back later next week
'cause I see you're on losing streak.
I can't get no, oh no code no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get code satisfaction,
I can't get no website action.
'Cause I type and I try and I type and I try.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Latest Peep on King Kluck

The saga continues...

Yep, we are continuing our chicken mummification project. Almost three weeks and four salt changes later, the...educational...aroma of our fetid fowl has abated somewhat. Now it's more prone to surprise attacks on the senses. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the bag...

The neighborhood kids know the King Kluck theme song. The favorite verse seems to be "Smells just like a diaper/makes the dog go hyper/King Kluck!" It's made for a few trying moments around the dinner table.

I heard from a homeschooling family in Australia who tried to mummify a duck. It was an impromptu decision, apparently: the duck attacked Dad, who blasted it with his shotgun. (Classic self defense. Can't be too careful with a murderous out-of-control duck.) her boys didn't want to pluck it, so they decided to "mummify" it by leaving it outside. Once it was--what? hard and dry?--they planned to make it into a hat. A Father's day gift, I'm sure. Apprarently a fox, no doubt interested in furthering its education, absconded with it. Sounds like a happy ending for fox, Dad and Mom to me.

Remember how the Pharaohs had slaves buried with them? We almost had chicken minions for King Kluck. In a laudable fit of domesticity, I decided to cook three dinners at once: chili, curry beef and crock-pot chicken. In a shameful episode of domestic apathy, I neglected to put the chicken in the refrigerator. The next morning it was pink. Yes, Pink! I was tempted to wrap them in linen and put them next to King Kluck. At least they didn't smell.

Thus the Saga of the Kluck King continues. We're pretty certain we can hang to the end--but I'm considering buying a solid air freshener to shove up his cavity.

Wonder if Anubis would weigh that instead of his heart?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

WRITING: Online writers' conference a blast!

This week, I attended on of the most busy, intense and informational writers conferences I'd ever seen. And I never my house.

The first-ever MuseOnline Writers' Conference featured a week of workshops and on-line chat presentations on everything from building suspense in your story to getting published to promoting your book. We even held an on-line party--and I had more fun than I have at a party in years!

The presenters were first-rate. Publishers like Lida Quillen from TwilightTimesBooks and Tom Burton from Wolfmont talked about the industry and what they look for in a manuscript while Dindy Robinson from Swimmingkangaroo hit the basics with what good authors do right. Writers like Christine Amsden, Marilyn Peake,Joyce Faulkner, and Christina Barber hit everything from the basics of plot to the details of ghosthunting (and ghostwriting.) And of course, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Colleen Drippe, Rose Dimond (fellow writers of Infinite Space, infinite God) and I gave a workshop on incorporating faith into fiction.

For me, the most useful workshops were book promotion. After hearing all of Carolyn Howard-Johnson's ideas, I'm ready to put ISIG on the best seller list! I've also been inspired to start a newsletter on faith in fiction. Contact me if you're interested. I'm also starting a new blog--Virtual book Tour de 'Net: a great place ton both peruse for books or promote your own.

The week is over, and I'm coming down from the conference high and trying to get the house back in order. King Kluck is waiting to have his salt changed, too...but that's another blog!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Virtual Book Tour

I'm at an on-line writing conference this week and Carolyn Howard-Johnson mentioned the concept of a virtual book tour, where you visit other folks' blogs and tell a little about your book.

I thought it'd be fun to host one. So, I've started a new blog: if you have a book you want to tell folks about, send me a 200-word summary at comment (at) fabianspace (dot) com. All I ask is that I'm invited to visit your blog in return.

I've got a conference and NaNoWriMo to keep me busy until November, so the site will have a December Grand Opening!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

King Kluck Filk

Changed out the salts on King Kluck today. The neighborhood kids all came to see. Watching from a distance, Alex felt moved to comment, "You're attracting flies, Mom."

One girl said wistfully, "Wish we could do projects like that."

The smell fills the garage and on occasion permeates the walls. I invited my mother-in-law to see their project and she said, "I've smelled it."

The kids wanted to know why he smelled so bad. Rob said because he's tearing up all his songs. After all, he's de-composing!

Anyway, there's just no better way to express my feelings about all of this than in a song. (Sung to--you guessed it--"King Tut.")

You know, one of the fowl-est homeschool projects ever to grace the Fabian garage is the Mummification of King Kluck!
(King Kluck)
(King Kluck)
When Bauer wrote her hist'ry,
She never thought she'd see,
(King Kluck)
A Momma's eyes a-burning,
While making a mummy.
(King Kluck)
How'd you get so funky?
(Funky Kluck)
You're really smelling skunky.
(One he was free-range; now, he just smells strange, King Kluck)
(King Kluck)
Now if I'd known,
The stench would fill my home,
(King Kluck)
I'd've bought de-odorizer,
To kill that foul arome.
(King Kluck)
Bathed in cheap merlot,
(Funky Kluck)
Covered in oregano.
(Smells like a diaper; makes the dogs go hyper, King Kluck)
Change his salt out in the yard,
(We're all gagging)
The local kids think he's a star.
(Gross Kluck)
Stinkin' for a mile,
(Stinkin' Kluck)
We just grit our teeth and smile.
The garage will never be the same...
(King Kluck)
(Kluck, Kluck, Kluck, Kluck...)
Soggy salt stuff!
He's an Ovarian!
(King Kluck)
Technically, trans-genderin'
(Female Kluck)
Now when I die,
Now don't think I'm a nut.
(King Kluck)
Don't want no fancy funeral,
Just don't treat me like King Kluck!
(King Kluck)
He might make it to a mummy,
(Mummy Kluck)
If he'd only smell less scummy.
(Kids won't smell him on a dare, but the cat don't seem to care, he's fetid and he's fowl)
But we've learned a lot--and how!
(From King Kluck)

Monday, October 02, 2006

HOMESCHOOLING: Mummification Most Foul

You do not know the meaning of "stench" until you've tried to mummify a chicken.

It looked like such a neat project in the book: mummify an actual chicken. Make your own King Cluck! How cool can that be? Well, my older two kids refused to try, but my younger boys were game.

The older ones were by far the smarter.

For weeks, the Alex and Liam bothered me about when we'd mummify our clucker, so on Thursday, they were bouncing with excitement when I pulled it out of the fridge to start the project...

Until I told them we had to pull out its guts first.

They're boys! How can they get so squeamish about some giblets in a bag?

Well, Mom came to the rescue and it was decided to trash the giblets since the book said they'd stink even after mummification. (Of course, I'm savoring the irony of that statement now.) In the grand tradition of Fabian First Aid supplies, the rubbing alcohol had disappeared, so we decided to do things the Egyptian way and bathed it in wine.

Merlot, actually. Napoleonic Egyptians.

The boys were more than happy to mix the salt, baking soda and baking powder, plus the herbs "to improve the smell." The instructions said to double-baggie it, but not what to do with it then, so it sat on the counter.

Friday, according to instructions, we (read Mom) went to brush off the salt, which had absorbed the moisture of the chicken. While the boys made a new batch of salt, I opened the baggie--filling the kitchen with an aroma that defies description.

Think baby diaper, open sewage plant, and the Rappahannock River on a really off day. With oregano.

But it's all part of the learning experience right? So I wiped down King Cluck--now King Cluck-Awk!-Oh, Man! in honor of his royal stink. We filled him again with salt and double-baggied. This time, he went into the garage. We have to open the garage door regularly to air it out, but it's bearable.

Today was change the salt day. I was alone in this endeavor.

I didn't get to it until late evening, and while the older kids did homework in the school room, I dragged the malodorous, foulodorous project out of the garage. It immediately announced its presence.

"What's that Stench?!" Rob exclaimed.

"King Cluck! Be done with him in a minute!"

Well, it was more like 10 minutes of tending the fetorous foul, followed by 20 minutes of sterilizing everything from counters to floors to gloves. I bumped it against our Pur water filter. It may never be Pur again. I found the rubbing alcohol and used about half of it. Afterward, I took a long shower. We've discovered new meaning for the word "foul."

And the smell? Well, it's crept all around the house. I've got the windows and doors open downstairs and all the vent fans on. Rob has the window fan putting positive pressure in our room to keep the reek out. The dog is hiding up there, but the cat's being nonchalant about it all.

Next phase is Saturday. It will definitely be done outside.

I'm not sure if we'll be able to go the distance in preparing Ol' King Cluck for the Egyptian afterlife, but I if we do, I have a pretty good idea what Anubis will say.

And it's not, "Is that oregano?"

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Now Here's a Good Use of Frequent Flyer Miles!

What amazes me is that VG let him stockpile so many! I wonder what special fees are involved? Mostly, though, I'm just envious.

Rob's already announced if we ever have $200,000 to spare, he wants to go. (Fat chance, but I wish I could give it to him.)

London man uses air miles for space trip

LONDON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A London man has become the first person to exchange his frequent flier miles for a trip into space with Virgin Galactic.

Electrician Alan Watts said he flew to and from the United States on Virgin Atlantic flights more than 40 times in the past six years, earning him enough miles to take the trip into space with Virgin's space wing, London's The Sun newspaper reported Friday. The trip cost 2 million frequent flier miles, compared to the 90,000 miles required for a first-class flight from London to New York.

Watts said his daughter convinced him to sign up for the trip, scheduled for 2009.

"My daughter said to me 'if nothing else think about the view you would get out of the window,'" he told The Sun.

"I'm glad I decided to do it -- I would be kicking myself if I didn't. It really is a once in a lifetime experience. The more I think about it the more I get excited."

Virgin Galactic, which expects to begin flights in 2008, has been building five spaceships and two aircraft for its planned voyages, which will last 2 1/2 hours and include five minutes in zero gravity. Tickets cost nearly $200,000 each.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

WRITING: Faith in Fiction Workshop

On October 11, I'll be giving (with three friends who are talented authors) a workshop on Faith in Fiction at the Muse Online Writers' Conference.

The whole concept of an online conference is truly cool. In this way, we're not bound by money or space or even physical ability. If you write and have a computer and Internet access, you're a go for the conference! In addition to live chat workshops, many of the folks giving workshops are providing their e-mail addresses to answer questions for those who can't make a 12:30 AM (their time zone) chat.

Even better, the conference is FREE!

The conference looks terrific! There are workshops on poetry, ghost writing, publishing, journaling, improving your writing and improving your marketing. There are authors, editors, publishers and instructors to meet. There's lots of free stuff, including an e-book interview of Piers Anthony!

The conference runs Oct 9-13. The registration ends Oct 1, so go sign up now. Hope to e-see you there!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Announcing "my" new book

Finally, it's out! Yay! The e-book comes out Sept 25. If you don't like reading off the computer, wait a few months and it'll be out in print!

Please pass the word to your friends!



Hey--is that religion in my science fiction or science fiction in my religion? The writers of the Catholic SF anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God (available at Twilight Times Books) have so seamlessly combined the two that it's hard to tell.

Infinite Space, Infinite God is an anthology of fifteen stories about the future Catholic Church: its struggles to evangelize aliens and lost human colonies and to determine the soul-status for genetically modified humans, genetically-designed chimeras, and clones made from the Martian sand; the adventures of religious orders devoted to protecting interstellar travelers or inner-city priests; and how technical advances allow monks to live in solitude on the Moon and help one criminal learn the true meaning of Confession.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NaNoWriMo and writing descriptions

(Got lots to do with a confernce and ISIG coming up, so it's nice to have friends with great advice...)

This is courtesy of my friend and writer Erik Van Asch, answering another person's question about worldbuilding and when to end a scene (or a book):

I'm starting a new fantasy writing project. I wanted to ensure I have
the depth and breadth to have a setting and history that can be
revealed over several books or can drive plotlines over several
books. Thus comes the world-building.

I stumbled upon some world-building exercises in last year's National
Novel Writing Month forums and am currently using it to organize my
thoughts.

You can find the exercises here:
http://www.web-writer.net/fantasy/30days.html

I use an excel spreadsheet and each tab is a different day.


Going back to your first question, I find it useful to end in the
middle of some action. Typically I know what is to come next, so
picking up the story at a later date becomes easier for me.

To answer your second question, what I'm hearing is that you have
three story threads going on and not sure how to bring it all
together. Correct? You may consider checking your local library
system for "The Marshall Plan of Novel Writing" by Evan Marshall. One
of the few books that I've read that actually tackles multiple story
lines and subplots. His "templates" may be all you need to re-arrange
your storylines so the characters and plot begin to merge into one.

To your other questions about feedback from others. . .everything
I've read says "finish the first draft!" You don't need people
critiqing your work till you've finished the story. Many of us want
validation during the process but what I've found in most cases is I
stop my forward momentum to try go back over previous chapters and
address said feedback.

Just write the first draft!

Then grab a book on editing your fiction such as "The Complete Guide
to Editing Your Fiction" by Michael Seidman. Once you've done your
second or third revision of the story then worry about finding a
local fiction writer's group or online writer's group to provide
critiques.

So. . .with all that said. . .spend the next several weeks working
through your world-building then get yourself ready to write the next
50,000 words of your story at warp speed on November 1st when the
next NANoWrMo starts (http://www.nanowrimo.org/)
Hope to see you there.

God bless,
Erik

Monday, September 04, 2006

Writing: If you give and editor...

Going on vacation for a week, but here's a great tale by a friend. You can find more of her stuff at http://heidihesssaxton.blogspot.com/

If You Send an Editor a Query Letter...

(With thanks to Laura Numeroff.)
(c) 2004 by ChristianWord.com, Inc.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the hundreds of query letters and proposals you have generated over the course of your writing career? Does some editorial assistant use it to line the bottom of her ferret cage? Do they cast shovels full of unsoliciteds onto the fire at the annual editorial weenie roast?

If you've ever wondered about this--or are just a fan of the full-circle themes of Laura Numeroff--keep reading. This piece, based loosely on the experiences of some editors I know (many of whom have exceptional assistants), offers a glimpse into the real world of editors everywhere. Enjoy.

If you send an editor a query letter, she'll want an SASE to go with it.

When she sees the SASE, it might remind her that she's almost out of stamps. She is also low on Diet Coke and Excedrin Migraine. So Ms. Editor loads up her 1993 Toyota Tercel with three large bags of cans--last week's soda supply--to take to the Piggly Wiggly on her lunch break.

On her way to lunch, Ms. Editor will pass the Fed Ex man, who is carrying a stack of boxes for her: three manuscripts (two of them late) and 260 proposals her cute-but-clueless new assistant requested while Ms. E. was out of the office last week. This reminds her to compose an ad to find Fabio's successor.

As she faxes ad copy, Ms. E's eagle-sharp editorial eyes will fall on her day planner: Meeting today at 3:00 with the publisher to discuss next year's fall lineup. Ms. E. digs production quotes and sales projections for her top six proposals (including your query, which she skimmed with enthusiasm as she guzzled her lunch) out of the mountain of paper in her inbox, getting a paper cut in the process.

The blood reminds her of the last editorial planning meeting, when some hapless editor (never mind who) suggested going to contract again with a talented but unknown writer, whose last book sold so poorly that the warehouse was using remainders as door stops. Ms. E. shudders and combs her pile of proposals for evidence of marketability, leaving frantic messages for you to e-mail her sales figures for your previous books and a copy of your speaking schedule for the following year. While Ms. E. is on the phone, one stressed-out graphics designer and three unhappy authors leave their own frantic messages, on a line to which no one but her mother is supposed to have the number.

Thoughts of her mother will remind Ms. Editor of a manuscript her mother's hairdresser's nephew sent for review "when she has a free moment." Ms. E's mother has been gently chiding her daughter about it for the past month. It doesn't seem to matter that the house Ms. E. works for doesn't publish science fiction, or that the young man couldn't write his way out of a paper bag. Ms. E. must convince her boss to publish it, or the hairdresser will make Mom look like she's backed into a weed-wacker for her fiftieth high school reunion. Ms. E. reaches for the Excedrin next to her office clock, and sees it is now 3:05.

Late for the meeting, Ms. E. carries your e-mail between her teeth, proposals in one hand and her Diet Coke in the other, and sprints for the conference room. Her ideas are met with unanimous enthusiasm. Giddy, Ms. E. proposes to give you a six-figure advance and a three-book deal. Someone asks Ms. E. if she's been sniffing glue.

The glue remark reminds her of the stamp on your SASE, which you so obligingly supplied. Ms. E. uses it to give you good news and bad news: They want to publish your book. But she doesn’t work there anymore. If you want the contract, Ms. E. adds, please send a full proposal and three sample chapters to her colleague, who was smart enough to keep her mouth shut during the previous editorial meeting.

A little surprised, you go ahead and submit the requested material, putting the new editor's name on the envelope. Four weeks later, you get a form letter from the new-and-even-more-clueless editorial assistant. "Sorry, but we don't accept unsolicited proposals. Next time you send a SASE... Be sure to send a query letter with it."

Heidi Hess Saxton is the editorial director of ChristianWord.com, a freelance writing and editing business. She has ten years experience as an in-house editor, most recently as senior editor of a medium-sized CBA publishing house. For permission to reprint, contact Heidi at hsaxton@christianword.com.

posted by Heidi Hess Saxton

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Writing: National Novel Writer's Month in Nov

This year, I'm doing it.

For several years now, I've read about the National Novel Writers' Month and the NaNoWriMo novel writing contest. For those of you who don't know, the rules are pretty simple: write a 50,000-word novel by midnight November 30th. You can do all the research, outlining, and "pre-writing" you want, but not a word of the novel can be written until 12:01 a.m. November 1. If you manage to hammer out 50,000 words, of whatever quality, you can turn it in for fabulous prizes: i.e., a certificate and a little icon for your website. Even if you don't meet that goal, you're still a winner: your prize is the X-many words of your novel.

I was a little disappointed to have heard about the "no words until Nov 1" rule, because I'd originally thought to use the opportunity to add 50,000 words to my Dragon Eye PI novel that's been on the back burner or work on Book 3 of the Miscria trilogy with some real dedication, but yesterday, I got some encouraging news from a friend that's turned my mind toward a Rescue Sisters novel. Last night, Rob and I started brainstorming a plot: alien encounters and interplanetary rescues, a sister in a crisis of faith, the temptation of an old flame, the interdiction of the saints... All the stuff of classic SF and Catholicity. I can already guess, though, that there will be several scenes that say "TECH HERE!" But again, you don't need a finished product--just 50,000 words.

Over the next couple of months--and probably in Nov, when I bring me head out of space--I'll be posting about the nuts and bolts of pressurized production, from preparation to keeping the house sane. If you have any suggestions or questions, please let me know!

Monday, August 28, 2006

ATTN: Mystery Writers!

If you like to write mysteries and would like to write one with a Catholic background, here's a place to submit it!

The Catholic mystery anthology with the working title "Luminous Mysteries" is seeking Catholic Church-centered short stories that show the Church in a positive/heroic vein. Length of the stories should peak at no more than 15K words, though if story is good we are flexible on that. If faith plays a positive (but non-preachy) role, it's a plus. Cross genre work acceptable. Pay scale will be determined once the publisher gives a thumbs up. Please send submissions to annlewis (at) joesystems (dot) com, subject line "Luminous Mysteries".
Double-spaced Word files are preferred. Deadline: November 1, though it may extended.

I already have a Vern mystery, "Greater Treasures" in, and there are two Sherlock Homes mysteries, but naturally, Ann is looking for more.

BTW--"Christmas Spirits" got rejected yesterday. WAAH! I kind of expected it: The had closed submissions early and there was just too much about the Faerie/Mundane universe to explain in 3500 words as well as the issue of eminent domain, the spirit of Christmas, Dickens' Christmas Carol and the mystery. I'll beef it up and send it elsewhere. Any ideas?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Queen of the Editorial Cut!

I can get blood from a turnip!

One of the things you read about from authors who've "made it" is the art of learning to cut your stuff. Spider Robinson wrote about how editor John Campbell would send his stuff back again and again with the instructions to "cut it by a third" or "almost there--take out 500 words." it was a painful process, but remarkably, each draft came out better than the first. Stephen King said in his book On Writing that after he's finished a draft, he goes back with the express goal of cutting 10 percent.

I'm a wordy person, as most folks can tell from my e-mails and blogs, so cutting is a way of life for me. My first real experience was when a friend and I wrote a Star Trek spoof that was 14 pages long. We had cut it to 8 for a contest. It took hours, and finally cheated by using 1.5 line spacing instead of double. I haven't had such a challenge as that since.

Until this week.

I was writing a Vern mystery for a Christmas anthology to benefit Toys for Tots. In it, Vern and Sister Grace must protect the nasty entrepreneur, Daniel Flint, who's being haunted by the Christmas Carol ghosts. Flint is trying to pressure the city to condemn Vern's neighborhood and sell him the land so he can build a mall. (It happens. Check out "Eminent Domain Being Abused?") Plus, it's Grace's first Christmas, and she's having culture shock. So, I have a lot of issues: eminent domain, materialism, the meaning of Christmas, Dickens' Christmas Carol, plus a homesick young woman, a heartsick old woman, a haunted theater, and let's not forget the mystery... I was feeling pretty good to write a first draft of 4100 words. Except that the max word count is 3500.

I cut it to 3750, then sent it around to friends. Those who aren't familiar with the Faerie/Mundane universe were confused, however. (Guess what I'd cut first?) So back in went an abbreviated explanation. 3950. I thought it was tight.

It needed to be tighter.

So back again, going backward, then forward. Can I exchange this three-word phrase with a single word? Is this emotional detail necessary or is it understood? This 50-word segue is great but doesn't advance the plot--cut it. This clue gets totally dropped later--drop it now. The manuscript bled black ink by the time I was done--but it was 3500 words. Even more, it's a sharper, cleaner story than the first, second, or fifth revision. And it was fun!

I accept my crown as queen of the editorial cut.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Communication: The Importance of Approach

Earlier this week, I was outside tossing the junk mail directly into the trash when one of those door-to-door magazine salesmen approached. Now, it's been a hot, sweaty, no-shower, clean-the-house, icky day, so perhaps it was the expression on my face; but from 10 yards away, he raises his hands and says, "Don't shoot me!"
Coming nearer, he sort-of croons, "Is your father or mother at home?"
I know I looked all of my 39 years and then some. "Funny," I said and went back to my mail.
"There must be a fountain of youth in this neighborhood, because everyone seems so young. I was talking to your neighbor Jason--"
So Jason's looking good to him? I decided to spare us both further embarrassment and didn't let him get past the "Sales training program to get kids like me off the streets"(he looked early 20s) and told him I wasn't interested.

What I really wanted to do was take him inside, offer him a cup of coffee and dissect his approach.
"Don't shoot me?" He was a young Black guy--I'm an old white woman. Was this racial humor of the poorest taste? OR did he decide I was giving him dirty looks? Sorry, my face froze that way as a child.
"Is your mother or father at home?" Twenty years ago, that would have been a good assumption. Ten years ago, looking my best, a half-hearted compliment. Now, especially in my grungy clothes and my dirty hair sticking out of its bun like a bruha's, it was stupidly false. Plastic used-car-salesman/closing-time pick-up line false.
I made it clear the line didn't fly, but instead of abandoning it and getting to business while he had a chance, he pushed it. (Incidentally, all the neighbors home at that time are about a decade younger (and 15 pounds lighter) than I. Of course they look younger.)

I assume that he was taught that such "compliments" will make a person feel good about herself and him; all it did for me was want to go in, get a shower and count my gray hairs. I have a hard time believing he got any sales except out of pity. Jason told me he bought a subscription because he felt sorry for him tramping around in the heat. Was it the heat or the training that made his approach so slimy?

I know I'm not a great communicator verbally--I think a lot of writers turn to the written word because spoken ones fail them. I'll never be a salesman. Still, I'm smart enough to know what doesn't work. Salesmen, especially the door-to-door kind, need to develop an immediate rapport and a sense of trust. Insincere, canned, pick-up lines like these destroy trust--at least for people who aren't gullible.

If this is the kind of training the "up-and-coming sales force of tomorrow" gets, I think they'd be better off getting training at McDonald's.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Humor: Pirate Style!

Last Saturday, Steven's best friend had a "Pirates of the Carribbean" birthday party. Everyone dressed as a pirate (except for Alex, who made the best parrot costume!)
My costume featured an oriental sword, varous medals from my JROTC days and a small penguin wearing a bandana who sat on my shoulder. Naturally, since I can never do these things halfway, I not only had the costume but a routine:

Arr! I be Karina of the Waves, and I've seen ye eyeballing my wee Penguinito. There's a story behind him, so sit ye down and listen well.
Twas the summer of '63--and if you don't know what century, you've had too much grog. It may have been mild and balmy where you were, but on the straights of Magellan, there was a fierce windter storm, the worst I'd ever seen in my life. Me dear parrot Polly flew overboard--and not the good kind of flying, let me tell you. His last words were "AWK! Polly Don't Wanna!" I never found out what poor Polly didn't wanna do, but I'd guess it was drowning. And there wasn't much I could do to help him because me timbers were shivering, if ye know what I mean.
The next morning, I found this wee little penguin on the deck of me ship and I thought,
"Hey, why not go formal?"

Ah, but he's been a good companion--a silent partner of sorts. We've had many a fine adventure. You can tell by these medals. No, I didn't earn them--I stole them of the bonny Brits I've defeated. Well, these two were from bonny Brits--this one... Nah, he wasn't so fine. Fat and ill tempered he was. Had a lovely ship, though. Had.

And my sword? I got this off a Chinaman. He'd decided to give up the sea and turn to an honest life. I figured that was just as well, since I'd taken his sword, I'd taken his ship, and I'd taken his catfor.

What's a catfor, ye ask? The cats for gettig rid of the rats on me ship, ye lilly-livered landlubber! That's what a catsfor!


(And they walked right into it, too!)

Here's a not-so-old "sea" chanty. It's a space pirate theme, but you can adapt it. (I'd rate it PG-13 at least.) "New Sins for Old" by Leslie Fish.