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Showing posts from February, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Oktapodi (an Oscar nominated lesson in fighting for what you love)

Authors Guild v. Google (kinda dry for Friday, but possibly worth looking into)

Somewhat in keeping with Colleen's post about intellectual property theft yesterday, I thought I'd pass along this notice from the Authors Guild regarding the $125 million settlement with Google:
"The settlement strengthens authors' rights and will, if approved by the court, result in millions of dollars of payments to authors. At least $45 million will be paid to authors and publishers to release claims for books that are scanned by Google by May 5th of this year. But that's not the most significant part of the settlement, in our view. We expect the licensing that this settlement would enable, particularly of out-of-print books, will result in far more revenues for authors over the coming years.

The settlement covers essentially all in-copyright books that were published by January 5, 2009. (Some authors have told us that they think of the settlement as covering only books for adults or nonfiction books. This is incorrect. Books of all types are covered by …

The Cost of Free: How File-Sharing Hurts Us

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This morning on the Today Show, I watched a story about identity theft through file-sharing sites such as Limewire. While users (an alarming number of them children) use such sites to steal copyrighted material, such as music, movies, and more and more frequently, novels, identity thieves are reaching into their computers (as often as not their parents' computers) and downloading personal information. Then, before you can say Chapter 11, the victims' tax returns, college financial aid applications, and banking information are out there in cyberspace, where anyone can steal them... and wreak absolute havoc in your life. Apparently, this problem is nothing new and extends to plenty of other file-sharing sites as well.

I heard a couple of stunned parents find out their tax return had been fraudulently filed before they had the chance to do it, with their $2000 refund wired into some thief's bank account. They seemed stunned because they had no clue that their daughters' fi…

Fat Nude Writers rock (with congrats to Patty, our Fat Nude winner!)

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A thoroughly enjoyable flurry came in response to our Fat Nude Writing challenge. Sarah talked about an Indigo Girls song that asks “How long till my soul gets it right?” provoking questions about the possible consequences of expressing herself as an artist:
…Truly, I have never felt right. Something feels out of place, and I have never been able to put my finger on it. Maybe it is the mistakes of the long lost past haunting me. Is it strange that the lines of a song could affect me so? Maybe the voices of the Indigo Girls is speaking to my soul, reminding me that there is more to what I see in me…
Colleen’s fat, nude moment came when she graduated college and accepted a teaching job 2,500 miles away from her close-knit family in New Jersey:
Without knowing a soul or much of anything about the southwest corner of Arizona (except that it didn't snow, which was a big plus at the moment) I packed my belongings in a car that wasn't long for the world and did the whole "Go West, …

What's Keeping You Tethered?

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"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."
--Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

We allow all sorts of things to keep us "safely" in port. Fear of failure. Fear of success. The pain of some childhood rejection still telling us we don't deserve better.

What's keeping you tethered? And what's your plan for casting off and doing what you must to hoist the sails? For without a plan, the the courage to act on it, the one certainly in this life is that you're staying where you are.

Fat, Nude Writing Contest

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Just a quick note to let out fabulous entrants know we're delaying the post on the winners for a few days, as Joni was called out of town on business. (See her post below!)

Stay tuned for a winner early this coming week!

Today's image is Rubens' The Three Graces. Lovely!

Joni says:
Thanks, Colleen. And sorry about that, gals. One too many subdivisions in the mental real estate combined with chock-full-o-nuts schedule and iffy internet at the hotel. Back in my office tomorrow with the winning results!

Feel free to dive in there with a last minute entry!

The view from here

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Hope everyone's had a wonderfully productive week. I'm in New York working on a bombastically fun project. Rue McClanahan's book is being adapted for Broadway, and as her memoir guru, I've been brought in to collaborate on the script. Suddenly, everything I've learned in my script/screenwriting studies over the last year is coming into play (ba-dum-bum CHHH!). I had no idea where, when, how, or if I was ever going to use any of that, but now here I am.

The last few times I've been in the city, I've stayed at the pleasant Park Central Hotel on 7th Ave betwixt 56th & 57th. Close to the publishing and theater neighborhoods, an easy hop to anywhere on the subway. This week, I'm on the 11th floor. From up here, the people on the street look busy but not as intimidating as they seemed to me the first few times I came to New York. What looks like a tangle of traffic from street level -- dodging taxis, rumbling buses, daring pedestrians -- from up here, it a…

Saturday morning video: Happy Birthday, Rue!

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Below is a little blast from the past in celebration of my dear friend Rue McClanahan's 75th birthday. Rue is one of the dearest most delightful people I know and still every bit the comedic genius she was when Maude was the first feminist on TV. Shortly before she joined the cast of Maude, Rue (who was classically trained in dance at Jacob's Pillow and in acting by the legendary Uta Hagen) did the play Dylan in New York, and Tennessee Williams attended a performance.

"Your work has that rare combination of earthiness and lapidary polish," Williams wrote to Rue, "that quality of being utterly common and utterly noble. Frippery combined with fierceness."

From Rue's memoir My First Five Husbands...and the Ones Who Got Away (which is currently being adapted for Broadway): "Even as a child I had the strong feeling that life is good. I had passion for work, an openness to love, and a penchant for joy. In a word, I had hope. I still have it."

Beneath Bone Lake Trailer

I started playing this afternoon with Windows Movie Maker, and before I knew it, I'd blazed through several hours. Here's me first attempt at making a video book trailer. If nothing else, I kept it short and to the point, which to me is all you want to capture a potential reader's interest. (Fingers crossed on that.)

If this actually works, let me know what you think. I'm a total novice, so your suggestions are welcome. Just don't suggest anything too complicated!

Salvage Operations: Taking the Best from Your Worst

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Sometimes, an idea doesn't quite fly. Maybe because the author had the bad luck to mis-time the market, or perhaps because she's struck at the story from the wrong angle. Or it could be, it's not ripe yet -- or it just plain stinks like Limburger cheese. (Happens to the best of us!)

In some cases, the author may recognize that something's off and not bother submitting. (You get better at recognizing this with experience.) A lot of other times, submissions will be sent out and rejected. Editors may compliment the author on the writing or the characters or some aspect of the plot, but in the end, the project isn't picked up, for one reason or another.

At some point, the author (or her agent) will come to the sad conclusion that this manuscript or proposal's had its shot. It's always a tough moment, and a little grieving's certainly in order.

But whatever you do, don't go burying the body. Do not toss, shred, or delete your work unless you've carefull…

Swamped Thing

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It is a truism that while waiting for an answer about a proposal or book manuscript, time slows to a snail's pace, and the endless silence screams.

It is also a truism that when things finally start popping, there's nothing slow about it. Manuscript deadlines collide with galley deadlines that come smack up against (guess what) still more deadlines. For promotional responsibilities, a synopsis due to another editor, a proposal that your agent is expecting... possibly last week.

These competing pressures are enough to make a writer feel like a Swamped Thing... and quite literally turn into a monster (ask my family) under the stress.

Over time, however, I've gotten far better at handling things. I've learned to block out my upcoming schedule and compartmentalize rather than stressing over all of it at once. (You'll often hear my wandering around muttering, "One page at a time.")I've learned to schedule in some extra time for "oopsies," those unpr…

The etiquette of connection

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Yesterday I promised to post a few thoughts about connection etiquette, and I was initially envisioning a few simple rules of engagement, but I think I can best illustrate the big picture by offering an example of the best and worst ways to get the most from networking opportunities. Long story short:

Wrong
A while back I found myself at a party with someone I'm absolutely gaga over -- I try not to drop names but -- oh, hell, it was Nathan Lane. (I was a theatre major, people. Nathan Lane is every theatre major's demigod.) After agonizing over my cocktail for forty minutes, I decided that it was very important for Nathan Lane to know that I am the only person on this earth who could, who should -- who must -- ghost his memoir. How many times in this incarnation was I going to be in the same room with Nathan Lane? What kind of limp biznaz woman am I if I can't go in for the networking op? Okay. On three. I'm goin' in.

"Hi, Nathan..."

A bevy of admirers hovered…

Who do you think you are?

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A few months prior to the release of my second novel, I filled out the standard Author Questionnaire listing any and all media connections who might pay attention and notable authors who might possibly deign to lend a blurb. On my author list, I included -- well, let's call her Hyanna Pedestal. I'd loved loved loved Hyanna's first novel, which had not been a NYT bestseller but had gotten rave reviews and made many regional lists, which led to a deal with a prestigious literary house for her second book, which had just been released and was getting a lot of buzz. My publisher's PR Hilde was thrilled to hear that I had a tenuous six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon sort of connection to Hyanna, who could in theory be listed as "bestselling author of Hungaunga Hungadunga" on the back of my forthcoming tome if she was willing to blurb it. I'd even chatted with her at a Book Expo party, though I was certain she wouldn't remember. An email was sent, reminding Hyanna …

Hatching a Dream

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This morning, I'm blogging over at To Be Read -- So Many Authors, So Little Time and chatting about first times, particularly the first time I (quivering with terror) met and actually spoke to what I thought of as a "real, live published author," which happened to be at the first writer's group meeting I attended.

So pop on over if you would and tell us about coming out of the closet on your writing dreams or finding a mentor who's helped you along the way.

I'd love to hear from you!

Fat Nude Writing contest (Show us your stuff!)

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the West Houston RWA Emily Meeting -- a full day of writerly camaraderie, awards, and way too much food. In the afternoon, Colleen and I did a Boxing the Octopus session on challenges of the writing life. The AM session was my workshop on "Fat Nude Writing", which was actually Colleen's idea, inspired by a post I did about a year ago.

The gist of Fat Nude Writing or “The Lord never gives us more than we can bare.”:
One of the few genuine regrets I have about my youth is that I turned down a role in the musical Hair, singing “My Body is Walking in Space”, one of my all-time favorite songs, in the nude. I didn’t turn it down out of modesty; I turned it down out of shame, which was stupid. I thought my body was just too, too mortifyingly awful. I was young, six feet tall, a size nine! I had an awesome body! The director tried to tell me that it was my vocal and physical uniqueness that made him want to cast me. But my tall, fla…

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Since both Joni and I are going to be out of pocket on Saturday, Feb. 14th, presenting a workshop to the West Houston Romance Writers of America, I thought I'd post a link to my recent interview with romantic suspense author extraordinaire Teri Thackston of the Houston Examiner. Teri's been doing a great series over there spotlighting the Houston area's many romance authors.


Check it out!

More good news for me! According to the bone doc, my elbow fracture's healed, so I'm out of my sling (have been out of the splint for a couple of weeks, too) and back to typing up a storm instead of dictating! Woo, hoo!

May your Valentine's Day be full of hugs and kisses! And if you don't have a significant other, I'll be glad to loan you my dog, Jewel "Smooch Pooch" Kissinger, who will gladly make you feel the sun rises and sets upon you. (If she were human, she'd probably become a stalker. But in her current incarnation, she's safe... if slobbery.)

Mining Hard Stone

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As I was reading Stephen King's Duma Key last night, I was blown away by King's depiction of the main character, Edgar Freemantle, survivor of a deadly pickup vs. crane accident on a construction worksite. Freemantle's severely injured, losing an arm, breaking ribs, his hip, and sustaining a brain injury that leaves him feeling that "behind my forehead it was alway midnight in the world's biggest clock shop."

Having suffered a viral infection that left me with several unbroken weeks' worth of the worst headache I've ever experienced, I shuddered at the description because it was so dead on. Which reminded me, of course, of the terrible accident that nearly killed Mr. King some years back and his painful, longterm recovery, which he chronicles in his excellent book, On Writing. (If you haven't read it, do. Whether or not you're a fan of King's fiction, it's extremely worthwhile for anyone interested in crafting novels.)

Getting back to my…

The Art of Eliciting Emotion

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Because I'm a complete sucker for dog stories, the other night, I picked up Garth Stein's thoroughly-engaging novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain and started reading. And reading. And reading. Before I knew it, it was well after midnight and I was sitting in the crumpled forest of damp tissues. Yep, I'd read it straight through, and like just about every dog book since Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller, I ended up bawling my eyes out. What is it about dog books and their gut-wrenching endings? Even The Story of Edgar Sawtelle left me with the sniffles.

But that's not all bad, is it? When a story tethers itself to our hearts and elicits genuine emotion, it's succeeded on a primal level, whatever its other flaws may be. And surprising as it seems, it's the genuineness of the emotion, rather than the pleasantness, that really sucks in readers. As much as I love to laugh, a good cry is not only cathartic, it makes me feel more connected to my humanity. (Prett…

Octopulp (because it is Wednesday and because it is my heart)

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I have tried and been interrupted mid-post half a dozen times now, so I'm just going to share something quick and fun from my "bloggo" file -- a storage locker of interesting things I stumble upon (no, not Stumbled Upon, and gimme back my idiom, Internet) whilst doing research on other stuff.

"Poulpe Pulps: a silly web site" is dedicated to images of giant squids in pulp fiction and comics.

You are allowed to enjoy this for twenty minutes in lieu of playing Word Mojo, then it's back to the salt mine for all us flat-nosed grindstoners! In the words of Sir John Buchan, first Barron of Tweedsmuir (seriously) and author of The Thirty-Nine Steps: "It's a great life if you don't weaken!"

Kindling Desire

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Amazon has just announced the release of the Kindle 2, an electronic reading device that has taken aim at the intersection of booklust and gadget-philia in my avaricious little heart.

Three hundred fifty-nice bucks or not, I want one. I want to be able to buy books and have them appear, as if by magic, at the touch of a button. I want to be able to store as many of them as I want without having them pile up all over my house. I want to have the cool new tool and take it for a test drive.

I want...
I want...
I want... (Wiping away drool)

Or do I? Because I love the tactile pleasure of the page, the smell of the new ink and paper, the craft and thought that went into the embossing of the title's letters, the font and the layout and artwork and all the little details. I love the feeling of reading books as prior generations read them, of pulling myself out of technology's slipstream and reverting to a slower-paced world.

Also, to me, the joy of discovering a great book isn&#…

Leaning Toward the Light

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Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

-Albert Schweitzer

I love this quote, but I think writers too often misinterpret this sort of thing as meaning if you love it, then money and fame and perhaps a National Book Award or two will definitely come. Not so, of course, there are too many other factors (from talent to timing to the mood of the market to luck itself) to guarantee anything of the sort, but I think that living a life you love is the definition of success.

Besides, joy shines through art, whether it's writing, music, dance, teaching, or what have you. And people respond to that joy, leaning toward the light.

Maybe it won't necessarily bring you world domination, but satisfying, meaningful work is a reward unto itself.

Introducing the Fabulous Lonnquist Sisters

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My sisters are the authors of me in more ways than they will ever know. When I was little, I toddled after them, longing to be included in the secret, fabulous lives I was convinced they must live while I was sleeping, and that hasn't really changed. Linda is the crusader, Diana the adventurer, Jas the procedural genius. Their style, grace, wit, and creative genius with everything from computers to Campbell's cream of mushroom soup still intimidates and inspires me. The books they've shared with me have influenced me as both a reader and a writer, so I wanted to share a few of their favorites.

A problem solver by nature, Linda loves a good mystery. She cut her teeth on Trixie Belden books and graduated to Agatha Christie. A strong conservative Christian, she says the Bible is the book that has most influenced her, of course, specifically the writings of Paul. She loves the boldness of his stories and identifies with his driven nature. Having home-schooled her four children …

Booya! TJ Bennett's The Legacy is a "Desert Island Keeper"

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Congrats to our critique bud TJ Bennett whose debut novel The Legacy made the AAR Buried Treasure list, scoring a rave review and "Desert Island Keeper" status.

Anyone familiar with All About Romance knows that these reader/reviewers are extremely difficult to please, so you know you've got something going on when the reviewer is "overwhelmed by the quality of the writing, by the fascinating characters, and by the authors’ happy disregard of the usual formulas of historical romance writing."

The glowing review goes on to say:
"I loved the way the historic background got subtly woven into the tale without overpowering it. That includes the issue of religion. Sabina is a former nun, and religion is an integral part of the characters’ lives without any trace of preachiness. The secondary characters were delightful...and I can’t wait to read about Wolf’s delicious brothers G√ľnter and Peter."
(Coming later this spring: The Promise. Visit TJ's web site fo…

Stephen King Calls 'Em As He Sees 'Em

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There's been a lot of hoopla on the 'net over reports that in an upcoming interview for USA Weekend, Stephen King spoke his mind (gasp!) to writer Lorrie Lynch in her "Who's News" celeb column. And by speaking his mind, I mean saying that he thinks certain popular writers, chief among them Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame and James Patterson are lousy writers. Very popular, but crummy in the craft department.

So which popular authors does King think are terrific? Jodi Piccoult was mentioned, along with J.K. Rowling, and King feels Dean Koontz "can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies."

A lot of people on the 'net are frothing at the mouth that Mr. Stephen has broken some sort of unwritten "code of silence," where authors don't indulge in public put-downs of other authors. What do I think about this interview and the resulting controversy?

I think it's great because it gets people talking about authors, writin…

Last Night in Montreal (a strangely beautiful story of love and forgetting)

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Up to my eyes in research, rough writing, and revisions on a work in progress, I have absolutely no time for pleasure reading right now. So it was a huge mistake to allow even a passing glance at an advance copy of Emily St. John Mandel's lovely debut novel, Last Night in Montreal. I can't help it; I am about to utter the hacky cliche of all book recommendations: I couldn't put it down. The words "pleasure reading" hardly begin to describe it. This was somewhere between a spa treatment and mid-day lovemaking. It's a mystery and a love story, a twisting path through the heart and mind of a richly drawn character.

From the flap:
Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind for her entire life. She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities. In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop. Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along with way, possibly s…

"The Impotence of Proofreading" by Taylor Mali

Typos are my curse...

So I had too laugh at this piece. Thought I'd share it again for those of you who share my frustration and might have missed it in the past.

Kat Von D's High Voltage Tattoo (plugged in to the culture of ink)

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The incomparable Kat Von D will be at B&N on Westheimer, signing her new book, High Voltage Tattoo. From the flap: "High Voltage Tattoo is a graphic perspective on today's global tattoo culture by Kat Von D, star of The Learning Channel's L.A. Ink and one of the most talented and popular artists working today. Designed in a style that is reminiscent of a handmade Gothic journal with its red padded cover, ornate typography, and parchmentlike pages, it throws the door wide open to tattooing culture in the way only an insider like Kat can. High Voltage Tattoo traces Kat's career as an artist, from early childhood influences to recent work, along with examples of what inspires her, information about the show and her shop, her sketches, and personal tattoos. The book goes deep into tattoo process and culture: readers can see up close the pigments, the tools, and the making of complex, even collaborative, tattoos."

My daughter Jerusha's been a huge admirer of Ka…

The Rituals of Writing

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Lately, I've gotten hopelessly hooked, via the series DVDs, on Showtime's fabulous Dexter series, which was based on Jeff Lindsay's novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter. In case you're unfamiliar with it, Dexter is a friendly, wryly-funny serial killer -- a forensic blood spatter expert who only kills other serial killers. I love how the author/series writers get the reader/viewer rooting for this antihero. (Michael C. Hall's brilliant portrayal -- and handsomeness -- don't hurt a bit, either!)

When he goes about his grisly business, Dexter Morgan has his rituals, patterns of behavior that make the act "feel right" and help him get into the zone. Which got me thinking about my own evolving rituals to help me fall down the rabbit hole of writing and achieve a state some psychologists call "flow." This is where the effort (be it writing, art, or serial kills, I suppose) shifts into that effortless overtime where the doer loses track of time. Flow is a …

David Denby on the destructive creep of snark

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David L. Ulin posts an excellent, thought-provoking review in today's Houston Chronicle, commenting on Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation by David Denby (author of one of my favorite tomes, Great Books.)

Quoth Ulin:
God save us from Gawker’s world.

The New York-based media gossip Web site, which launched in 2002 and has distinguished itself by, among other things, attacking writer Neal Pollack’s young son, Elijah, is generally regarded as the prototype of a new style of cultural discourse: dismissive, superior, jaded, marked by what David Denby, in Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation, calls “false knowingness,” a way of pretending to be more clued-in than it is.

Denby quotes Gawker founder Nick Denton: “The ideal Gawker item is something triggered by a quote at a party, or an incident, or a story somewhere else and serves to expose hypocrisy, or turn conventional wisdom on its head, and it’s 100 words long, 20…