Sunday, January 31, 2010

Closing Virtual Book Tour de Net

Many of you know that I have had a regular blog, Virtual Book Tour de 'Net, where I posted information about people's books, interviews with the authors and the occasional review. I started it a couple of yeras ago after the first MuseOnline conference. My original idea what I post about a book, and the author in turn would post about one of the books on the blog or about one of mine. However, very few people followed-up on that, and I quickly gave it up as a bad idea and started posting as a service to others.

Over the past two years, however, I've found that not only has my blog not garnered a lot of attention, but so many others are doing what I'm doing--and more effectively--that authors aren't getting much from it, so it's not worth the time I spend. In the meantime, two of my kids have entered high school and need more of my attention again. Time to re-prioritize my time.

As a result, I've closed that blog as of yesterday. I really enjoyed doing it, and learning about others' books, but it's time to move on.

I may at times review a book on this website, but it'll be ones I've chosen to read just because rather than by request.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

W000t! Magic, Mensa and Mayhem Places 4th!


Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, the first DragonEye, PI novel, placed 4th in the Preditor and Editor Polls for best sci-fi/fantasy novel. W00t! Thanks, everyone!

Surely you know about DragonEye, PI, but if not, learn more here. Be sure to register before Valentines' Day--I have a present for DragonEye fans!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catholic Writers Conference Online Feb 26-Mar 5


CONTACT:
Karina Fabian Ann Margaret Lewis
E-mail: karina@fabianspace.com e-mail: annlewis@joesystems.com

For Immediate Release

Registration for Free Catholic Writers Conference Online Ends Feb 15

World Wide Web—Are you a Catholic writer? Looking for an opportunity to learn more about writing and marketing, a chance to meet like-minded authors, and get an opportunity to pitch your work? Want it all for free—and without leaving your home? The Catholic Writers’ Conference Online, which will be held February 26-March 5, 2010, is for you. Hurry, though—registration ends Feb 15.

The conference is held via chats and forums at http://www.catholicwritersconference.com. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer’s Guild, the online conference is free of charge and open to writers of all levels who register before February 15, 2010.

"Each year, we have about 300 writers and around 50 presenters participate," said organizer Karina Fabian. “This year, we’re thrilled to have added small-group critique sessions with well-established authors and editors, plus more pitch sessions than ever before!”

Publishers hearing pitches include well known Catholic publishers like Pauline Books and Media, large Christian publishers like Thomas Nelson, and small secular presses like White Rose. Thus far, eleven pitch sessions are scheduled, running the gamut from Christian romance to Catholic theology.

In a new program, dozens of attendees will have the opportunity to have pieces of their work critiqued by successful editors and writers. In addition, there will be forum-based workshops and chat room presentations covering topics from dialogue to freelancing to how Catholic fiction differs from Christian fiction.

"Even in good economic times, it's hard for writers to attend live conferences," said Fabian, "but this year, we think it's even more important to help careers by utilizing an online format. We're so grateful that our presenters are willing to share their time and talent."

Although the conference is offered free of charge, donations are accepted; proceeds will go toward future conferences. For a $10 donation, one receives a copy of the conference e-book containing chat transcripts, forum workshop posts, handouts or informational materials from the conference. Non-Catholics may attend, as long as they respect Catholic beliefs and the conference's Catholic focus.

To register or for more information, go to http://www.catholicwritersconference.com.
# # #
Graphics, interviews and further information available upon request.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Zombie Defense no Laughing Matter--or is it?




Truer words have never been spoken.

Incidentally, I am about 20,000 words into my latest novel, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. This was actually a suggestion/request from Kim Richards of Damnation Books. I wrote "Wokking Dead" for DB's The Zombie Cookbook, and readers liked Neeta so much, they asked if she would get a novel. (Neeta exterminates zombies for a living. She'd rather do roaches, but no one calls her for that, anymore. Must be the chain saw.)

There's no guarantee it'll get accepted, but it's a lot of fun to write. I'll tell you more later.

Friday, January 22, 2010

March for life!

WHERE'S MY HEALTH CARE?




I'm joining the virtual March For Life. God bless those who are there marching today. God bless those taking a stand against the murder of innocents. And God bless mothers-to-be who are being told this is a "choice." Guide them to right decisions.

The picture above is a fetus at EIGHT WEEKS. Still don't think it's human? Then consider what my husband says: "If you leave it alone, will it become a human?" Then it's a baby, and killing it is murder.



Join the Virtual March for Life: http://www.virtualmarchforlife.com/join/

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Small Steps Making Big Progress

Some of the things I decided I wanted to do this year was walk away from my computer when the kids come home from school, keep a cleaner house, and pay more attention to my kids. We're three weeks into 2010, and I've not had a perfect record, but I'm really amazed at the progress I've made.

First, I changed a couple of habits. For one, I cut out a lot of stuff. In a way, losing my old computer helped; I didn't have a lot of garbage calling to me and I was able to start anew on my schedule. So for my writing day, I've set aside the morning two hours for writing--then walk the dog and check e-mail at lunch, then the afternoon hours for projects--a specific one per day, rather than bunches of small ones throughout the week.

Next, I thought small. I broke down big projects into small steps and will allow myself to make as much progress as I can instead of pressuring myself to get it all done. This is especially true of housework, which comes to my next point:

I looked for outside help. In the case of the house, I enrolled in flylady.com. She helps homemakers break down the upkeep of their house into small steps. Now she has a lot of stuff you can do, including control journals and other things. Me, I just wanted the daily routine and the "Kelly's Missions" that break deep cleaning into 15-minute daily chores. Two things in the routine have made an amazing difference:

Daily Laundry: Usually, I saved my laundry--six loads--for the weekend. With six in the family, I dealt with huge piles and had full baskets for the kids which often didn't get put away or were shoved haphazardly into drawers. With a load a day, I'm doing a few more loads, but things get put away more regularly because it doesn't look as intimidating. Also Rob had clean pants every day without worry!

"Swish and Swipe": Each day, I take a rag and wipe down the bathroom sink and then the toilet and run a brush over the inside. Takes two minutes, but it makes a difference. I knew I got annoyed at the toothpaste buildup, but never realized how much of a difference it made to not see it each day.

I talked to the family, and we all agreed to do 5- to 10-minute chores instead of fussing for a couple of hours on the weekend over the chores. Each day, I give them a short chore--wipe the light switches, vacuum just one room. Weekends, they clean their room. And they each have a "swish and swipe" duty--the older have their bathrooms, the little ones straighten up the living room. The house is a lot cleaner and we're a lot less stressed.

Even if this is as far as I get this year toward my goals, I'm proud of the progress I've made with just a few changes and some determination.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Gots a New Computer, "Courtesy" of Best Buy



It was the last straw.

Dec 17, I took my computer to Best Buy because the touch pad wasn't working. After being reassured it was probably a hardware problem and knowing I'd backed up everything that morning, I turned it in for service.

Dec 25, I got a net book. I hooked it up to my external drive and discovered the backup--which both I and Rob double-checked, did not back my files up. All we can guess is that when we double checked the D drive (back-up), the computer pointed right back to its own hard drive.

Dec 26, I called Geek Squad and told them to get my computer back and back it up. They told me "Oh, they just changed the motherboard. No need to worry about the hard drive." I asked them to tell the service center if they had to do anything with the hard drive to send it back first. They agreed.

Jan 10, I was told it was ready for pick up. That's when I discovered they had replaced the hard drive without backing up my data. To add insult to injury, the new hard drive failed in the store--and the only reason we knew was because I asked them to check it. (I was hoping against hope the ticket was wrong.) They said they'd fix it in store and get it to me the next day.

Jan 13, they're still running checks. They'll call me.

Jan 15, I called them. They said it was ready. I said, "Are you sure? Are you really sure?" They agreed to double check and call me back in half an hour.

An hour later, I called and find out they were going to return it to the service center because "there's a crack in the palm pad that's affecting the touch pad."

At this point, I asked to speak to the manager. The gentleman said, "I'm the supervisor; you can talk to me." I demanded a new computer. He said they couldn't. I said they would. I outlined again the whole FUBAR story. He said he was sorry and they were going to fix my computer. I said it was too late for that--I lost 6 weeks of work and the tool I need to do it and the work of the month in the next 2 weeks is the one they want to send back tot he shop. I didn't have time to wait or confidence that they'd get it right this time. He offered a loaner. I refused. I needed one I can put my data on. He said, "Let me get a manager."

At this point, I laughed.

Fortunately, the manager was not only nice and apologetic--as everyone I'd talked to had been--but he also authorized me to get a new computer.

Icing on the cake: the supervisor warned me that if I got a replacement, my warranty on my old computer would be void.

I found the people at Best Buy/Geek Squad invariably polite, friendly and sympathetic. I found their working relationship and communications with their service center stinks. I think their service center stinks in general, frankly, and got the impression the manager agreed. I am glad thankful that the manager finally agreed to put an end to this fiasco and was very gracious about it. I'm grieving the loss of my data, and am very stressed out at the amount of work ahead of me in the next six weeks, but at least I can accomplish that work on a new computer.

(Incidentally, I have a new Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802. It's got 500GB memory and 4GB of RAM and a backlit keyboard which will come in handy at night when inspiration strikes. We're still putting software on it, but I'll let you know how it works. I intend to put it through its paces in the next 30 days!)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Rejection



This is one of those days when it stinks to be a writer. Got one rejection; got another who said the story I sent wasn't contemporary enough for their anthology, but could they have it for their e-zine? Payment: a copy of a future magazine.

I want to cry. I want to rant, but would just be self-pitying and accomplish nothing--and isn't fair to the agent or editor who wrote me. I'm not mad at them; they're doing their jobs to the best of their ability, and are very kind besides. I just want to know what secret ingredient I'm missing that will get my work in paying magazines and on the shelves of B&N. I am arrogant to think I'm good enough--but am I really so wrong?

I'll keep at it. Write. Polish. Submit. Repeat. I love what I'm doing, and I love my characters. In the meantime, I'll keep hoping the secret--or the bit of luck--will come my way.

But now, I'm going to walk the dog then come home and write about zombies. That should cheer me up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A chance to start clean




Most of you may already know this but the service center ended up replacing everything on my computer. Here's the long story short:
--touchpad was not working
--I backed up the files, checked to make sure the backup was successful
--turned it in to Best Buy, where I have a warranty. They sent it to the service center.
--discovered that for whatever reason the files that were backed up no longer showed on the external hard drive
--called service center in a panic, was told they did not need to mess with the hard drive; told them if they did, back things up and I'd pay
--they replaced the hard drive and did not back up
--I can do nothing about it. I suggested several avenues and they tried a few themselves. The data past Oct 26 (my last successful back-up) is gone.
--I am establishing a triple-redundancy back up plan for the future.


Please do not give me any well-meaning advice. I double checked my back-up and did everything I could. Someone in service did an idiot move, probably out of ignorance of my request. Now, it's time to move on and consider this an opportunity instead of a tragedy.

Last year, I had determined that I was going to simplify my writing and marketing life, cutting out things that weren't effective but that I was doing out of habit, reducing my on-line work time, and focusing on the things that matter. This tragedy had enabled me to get a clean start. Since I no longer have the clutter of bookmarks, I can begin again, this time better organizing them. Ditto for my files--I can pull off the external hard drive the ones I really need on a daily basis and leave the rest in storage (although I plan to back those up on a second source.)

My e-mail list was full of people I barely spoke to, but who had written me once and thus got into my contacts list. Now I can begin again with that, organizing them into groups so that if I want to write all my friends, I have one group; all my business contacts, another, etc.

I had a task list that numbered past 500. Now I don't have that pressure. Instead, I can port over the ones that really matter and ignore the rest without guilt.

The irony is that I lost 6 weeks of data, but it will take me several months to rebuild. I lost a year's worth of newsletters for 30-Mintue Marketer. Those I need to rebuild as a group, as I have a plan I'm following--and thank you, God, that I didn't throw the handwritten plan away. I've lost the most brilliant changes to Discovery, but I'll just have to trust that God will help me recapture that brilliance and maybe even take it to another level. Gapman is also lost, but, thankfully, I wasn't too far ahead and I should have all the fun scenes I developed during MuseCon. The worst is the loss of the data for the Catholic Writers Conference, but I can get that back from the original sources--and I think the e-mail files (which were backed up a different way) might be saved.

Believe me, I cried bitter, anguished tears over this, and I may cry again, but I also know that in the scheme of life, this is minor. I have a loving, supportive husband. My children are smart, intelligent and happy. Yesterday, my teenage daughter announced that her friends think we're the geekiest cool parents they know. I live in a lovely house, have plenty to eat, have great friends, and am blessed with an overactive imagination. Now, I have a chance to do something I've wanted to do--start fresh.

Time to get to work.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hey! I belong in Hitchhikers

Still waiting on my main computer to come back with all my files--and biting nails that they didn't get corrupted or lost in the repair process. I hate when back-ups fail!

Anyway, I took this quiz for fun, and wouldn't you know--I'm on the Heart of Gold!








You Scored as Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

You are a light and humorous person. No one can help but to smile to your wit. Now if only the improbability

drive would stop turning you into weird stuff.








Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)


75%






SG-1 (Stargate)


75%






Enterprise D (Star Trek)


69%






Moya (Farscape)


63%






Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


63%






Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


56%






Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


56%






Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


56%






Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


56%






Serenity (Firefly)


50%






Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


44%






FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


38%






Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


38%



Thursday, January 07, 2010

On Writing Short Stories


I’m hoping by the end of this week that I’ll have my computer back and I can work on my big projects: editing Discovery and writing Gapman. In the meantime, however, I thought I’d share with you some thoughts about smaller writing projects.

Most of you know that I've had worlds develop from short stories. My DragonEye, PI universe grew from a short story “DragonEye, PI” in Firestorm of Dragons, and my first novel, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem came from a story series I wrote as a lark for a Mensa newsletter. The publisher for Damnation Books asked me if I would consider writing a novel based on the characters in my short story “Wokking Dead” in The Zombie Cookbook. Short stories are a fun and fast way to explore new characters and worlds.

Short stories also help me expand the worlds I already write in. A lot of writing classes and books often suggest you ask questions, fill out forms or do research to build your worlds. I teach that myself in my worldbuilding class. However, I often find that some of my best insights into my worlds come when the characters are telling me their stories. In December, I wrote a story where Vern encountered an old dragon friend who has been bespelled into human form. I intended “Giselle” to be a straightforward mystery of about 3000 words as Vern tried to figure out who had cursed his friend. However, Vern began remembering his life as a dragon before St. George’s spell. In following his memories, I learned how the dragons of Faerie gathered, hunted and danced. I discovered what they think of the human race and how their attitudes changes as they grew. I also discovered a secret nemesis for Vern. Even he doesn’t realize it yet, and it may be a couple more books before this nemesis shows up, but I know it and its motivations.

Short stories can also give you insight into larger projects you’re working on. As many of you know, I’m still exploring an overall evil scheme for Gapman. In part, I’m discovering that superhero stories are thin on this, so I’m not getting a lot of ideas in my research. However, I just wrote a short mystery concerning Police Captain Santry. I’d promised my readers a romance for Valentine’s Day, but the crusty police chief told me one about his ex wife instead. I guess he needed closure, so that’s what he gets, literally and literarily. In the process, I learned that his ex, an actress in her 40s, played a supporting role in a scandalous anti-Faerie movie called Full Exposure. This morning, it occurred to me that my villain is the author of the novel! Now I need to decide exactly how this fits in, but I think we’ll be seeing prejudice, religious intolerance and fear on both sides of the Gap.

Even more, I not only ended up with a very interesting story, but I have valuable background for Santry’s real love story, which I will tell in Damsels and Knights, the book after Gapman. Lesson here: Don’t fight with your characters! If you’re interested in reading the story, go register on the DragonEye, PI website: www.dragoneyepi.net. “Closure” is a Valentine’s Day gift to my faithful followers.

Which brings me to the last reason for writing short stories: building a readership. I have stories in anthologies and magazines, and if people like the story, they can see my website on the bio, go there, see the stories and books for sale, and register for the newsletter. Those that already follow get a more steady diet of DragonEye because the stories come much faster than the books. They get entertainment; I keep my world in their mind; everybody wins.

I enjoy writing short stories. They give me a chance to learn about my characters in ways a longer work can’t accommodate, I get the thrill of accomplishment a little faster, and I always come away with something valuable both for me and for my readers. The next time one of your characters wants to give you a side-story, or you come up with an idea that isn’t big enough for a novel, try writing a short. I think you’ll find it worth your time.

Monday, January 04, 2010

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS A LOT OF POST-CONSUMER ELOQUENCE

I came across this article, which I wrote in 1994, and thought it's still a lot of fun, so I'm sharing it with you!


Are you vertically enhanced? Visually challenged? Vocationally displaced? If you even
understand these questions, you must be politically correct.

The language of political correctness--oops, cultural sensitivity--is a rich and varied one. In fact, there's even a Politically Correct Dictionary. My husband bought this as a joke for a friend, but boy--oops, youth--I wish we had kept it. I could write a whole series of articles with words from it. Of course, that would be plagiarism. Well, not in the 90s--what's PC/CS for "plagiarism?" Surely Congress has come up with one. Man--oops, Humyn--I really need that dictionary...

Why PC/CS? Well, "cultural sensitivity" might imply an allergy to yogurt and I wouldn't want to alienate any yogurt lovers; plus being correct is usually a good thing. However, being political often isn't good, but sensitivity is... I'm just covering all bases. "CYA" is always good PC/CS.

Here in the United States (Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Place of Really Good Mexican Food--oops!), we've come across some great examples of PC/CS vocabulary. It started on our flight home. Remember the "Airsickness bags" of old? Now, they are "for your travel discomfort." (Actually, larger seats and more legroom would do a lot more for my travel discomfort.) Can you imagine this scenario between the flight attendant and a passenger?

(Wait! What's PC/CS for "flight attendant?" "Airborne Services Coordinator" comes to mind, but that may be the company clerk for the Screaming Eagles. How about In-Flight Quality Assurance Executive? Further, we can't call the passenger "Sir" or "Ma'am" or "Miss." Too gender-insensitive. Comrade? Or is that too Former-Soviet? Let's just omit it.)

IN-FLIGHT QUALITY ASSURANCE EXECUTIVE (IFQAE): May I help you?
PASSENGER: Yes, I seem to have experienced some travel discomfort. Could you deal
with this? (Hands her a bag.)
IFQAE: (Nose turned up.) I am an executive. I don't "deal;" I manage.
PASSENGER: Oh, good. Manage this bag, too.


We encountered our favorite PC/CS word in Seattle on National Public Radio in a story about a recycling convention, all quite fitting, somehow. The story featured a woman--oops, Fellow Earth Inhabitant--who made belts and purses out of post consumer products. (Does this include bags of travel discomfort as well?)

Post-consumer products. Isn't it nice to know Americans no longer generate millions of tons of trash? Now, we "reallocate post-consumer products." Trashmen are a thing of the past; we have Post-Consumer Product Reallocation Technicians. Remember the phrase "talking trash?" Now, it's just post-consumer eloquence.

PC/CS has invaded our homes. The change from "housewife" to "homemaker" is welcome; I'd never marry a house (though none has ever asked), though "homemaker" makes me feel like I'm in construction. Now, however, this new vocabulary is invading our appliances! One game show prize offered for second place contestants --i.e., the victory challenged--was a Home Nutrition Preparation System. A title like that, and I expected the Frugal Gourmet artificial intelligence kitchen, or at least a food processor. No such luck. The Home Nutrition Preparation System was pots and pans. Now, you, too, own a Home Nutrition Preparation System. Amaze your friends!

A lot of the old--oops, temporally challenged--sayings have changed. No one "does a good deed" anymore; that's too passe', too square--oops, rectangularly inclined. (No, wait. That's a trapezoid, and since zoids are on the endangered species--when's the last time you saw wild zoid running free through your neighborhood?--it'd be politically incorrect to encourage trapping one. Rectangularly oriented--that's it!) Now, we "commit random acts of senseless kindness." Sounds RASKy to me.

Can you imagine when PC/CS really hits the military? No longer called anything as violent or archaic as "military" or "armed forces," it will take on the title "Cooperative of Conflict Resolution Specialists (CRSs)." How does this affect the individual services? In the Navy, seamen (A title which probably ought to be changed, anyway. Why, if we have seamen and airmen, don't we have groundmen and beachmen?) would be known as "Aquatically-Oriented CRSs," and marines "Post-Aquatic CRSs." (In Navy-ese, one would say "AqOrConResSpec" and "PosAqConResSpec." Don't bite your tongue on that.) Airmen, of course, take the title, "Altitudinally-Inclined CRSs." (Or is "altitudinally-inclined" another PC/CS for tall? Nah,that's "vertically inclined;" unless you're lying down, in which case, it's "horizontally inclined," or does that mean...? Ah, never mind.) Soldiers would take the official name of "Ground-Related CRSs," although in informal circles, they'd be called "Ground-Related Undesirables Negation Technicians," or the applicable acronym.

Don't know about you, but all this PC/CS post-consumer eloquence is making me want to fill my travel discomfort bag with post-consumer products. Where's the In-Flight Quality Assurance Executive to commit a random act of senseless kindness and reallocate it?