Friday, July 29, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

Bit of a short one this week, but that just means you can fit them all in!

  • We've all seen our share of dingbat queries, but this one posted by agent Scott Eagan takes the cake. The writer is looking for an agent but doesn't have work to submit, and suggests the agent will come meet her in person in her city.
  • Kristen Lippert-Martin gives us strange(r) behavior and how it affects our later stories. Nothing new there. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lather, rinse, repeat

When I drive to my mother in law's house, there are a series of stop signs and turns. Like, an abnormal amount. It's a well-planned residential neighborhood. And I always use my turn signal at each stop and turn, except one.

Without fail, I never manage to use to turn signal on the final turn.

I don't know why this is. I have even planned ahead and tried to program myself into doing it, only to suddenly develop a crippling paralysis in my turn-signal lever fingers. No matter what I do, I simply cannot put on my turn signal on the final turn. It's like the Groundhog Day of street turns. I didn't even notice I was doing this until one day when I was playing the Turn Signal Game, in which you consciously try to use your turn signal at every opportunity. (I realize this isn't really a game, nor does it remotely hold any actual excitement or fun. But I like to play little games.)

It reminded me that I am a creature of habit, and clearly I do things over and over. I recently found a summary for an older novel I wrote--one that, sadly, has not seen the light of day because of its grievous plot issues. And while I think I've come far since that novel and learned much, I still think the idea of the story is good, and may revisit to rewrite it.

So imagine my surprise in finding that the summary mentions the character's inner problem as being the exact same one as in my current WIP. That is to say, I've gone and managed to write the same problem with different characters and different stories.

I once read Anne Tyler say that she keeps writing the same story over and over, just in different ways--and she always thinks readers will call her out on it, but they don't. That always stayed with me. I think I do that, too. I guess I want to keep exploring different aspects of character emotions.

Some of the themes I tend to return to over and over again are: character taking off and escaping whatever it is that hurt her to some other locale, betrayal, finding oneself, and character growing strong after being weak.

Do you do this? Do you find yourself exploring the same themes over and over? If you don't think you do, give it some thought. Do some of your favorite authors do this?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Will Clark and young adult writing

When I was 14 I was, shall we say, greatly enamored of a baseball player. I won't say which one. Okay, fine, it was Will Clark, who played for the San Francisco Giants from 1986-1993 and had a swing like a dream. I was not to blame for this. When I was 12, my dad took me to my first professional league baseball game--the Giants, of course, and I recall them winning against St. Louis with some outrageous score like 22-2. This kind of display made me into an instant baseball fan--how could it not? And at that game, Will Clark was on display in all his young glory. I, a pubescent tween, could hardly be helped for taking an instant liking to him. Probably, I was in between adoring actors or musicians. Will appeared at just the right time.

I did the best I could to sustain my adoration even though my mom and I moved to the east coast. I got Will's baseball cards, I had posters of him, I scoured the newspapers eagerly for reports. Because of my distance from the Bay Area, this took a certain amount of effort. (You Internet kids have all the fun nowadays.) When my mother suggested that I would grow out of this fixation, I insisted I would not--and probably spent a year or two more than necessary remaining devoted, just to prove a point. When my dad met Will and got his autograph for me, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw his real signature. I was in raptures.

I totally had this figure.

There was only one thing to be done. I had to write.

Writing, of course, is how I handled all my early emotions--pouring out hopes and dreams and fantasies and scenarios and possibilities into stories. When I was 14, I wrote stories of me and Will, and our married life together, and our eventual six children. At no point in my life have I actually wanted six children, but in these stories I was somehow unable to avoid making them with my fabulous husband Will. Will is eleven years older than me, but I never minded; in my stories I think I even mentioned how plenty of couples have such age gaps, and as age gaps go, that wasn't a bad one.

I filled reams of Mead notebooks with these stories, and, in a fit of madness, passed them to my friends to read. It was ridiculous, but my friends not only read them, but said they liked them. This was their undoing, because it only spurred me on more. At one point, a friend told her mother all about my stories and her mother asked me if I would like her to show them to her publishing friend. Cringing in horror, I said no. But perhaps I would think about it later.

Ah, were it that easy.

So there's this web site for young adults called Inkpop, run by HarperCollins. Fair disclosure: HarperCollins asked me to look at Inkpop. I did, and all I could think of was: I sure wish I had this when I was a kid. I could have uploaded my stories there, had them commented on, maybe grown as a writer. (Maybe Will would have seen them and known instantly that I was the one for him.) Instead, it took me years to see that those early stories about me and Will Clark were evidence of a writing bug that I could never shake. Maybe if I had let stories like that--if not about me and Will, but about anything else--take flight, I would have grown more as a writer earlier on. I might have learned more about the craft earlier. I could have grown my armadillo hide earlier on--you know the one that takes years to grow as a writer?

Inkpop follows in the steps of Authonomy in that every month, five of the top-voted projects are reviewed by HarperCollins editors. But while that's certainly a fantastic aim of the site, it's not what I see as the main benefit--I see the ability to read and comment on other work by young adults as a valuable learning tool. Forums for young writers also encourage a young community.

Sure, young writers can join sites like Authonomy, but as I was looking through Inkpop's bright, user-friendly interface, I found myself glad that there's a moderated site specifically for young people. And the quality is pretty dang good, jugding by the excerpts from the current top 5 fiction projects. The site also has poetry and short story sections, too. And of course, the banner ads running throughout the site are for young adult novels, so the whole thing caters to their world of reading and writing, and I have to say I love it.

So, what ever happened to my Will Clark paraphernalia and stories? I eventually destroyed the stories in a fit of embarrassment of what I'd written--and as I recall, that was quite a process considering I had to tear them out of spiral bound notebooks and then hand-shred the pages with scissors. None of those newfangled personal shredders back then, no.

Incidentally, Will left the Giants and finished his career with the evil Cardinals. He's now back with the Giants--working in their front office, which means he represents the club at various events. And, as you can see from his picture, he'

Yeah, these kids have it easy these days. All they need to do it hit the delete key when it comes to embarrassing material. But then again, maybe they'll upload it to Inkpop and find out that instead of people laughing, they're getting reviewed by big house editors.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

Bit of a short one for you this week-- because I was both working on a cool freelance writing gig and also doing some super mega trombone awesome edits in my WIP.
  • Via Travener comes The Price of Typos at the New Your Times. (Congrats Trav, first time in the Roundup I think.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Passes for Writer Humor

July 1, 2011
To: Sierra
From: "Money Gram"

Subject: We just sent you US$9000.00

Dear Beneficiary

Be informed that your part-payment of (US$300,000.00) from International Monetary Fund Unit (IMF) has been approved to transfer via our department of Money Gram, Meanwhile your urgent respond is highly needed with the re-confirmation of your details where and how to receive your funds in our office such as:
Your Name:.....
State and
Telephone Number............

Also the payment of US$9000.00 has already been made through Money Gram for you to pick it up, but due to the instruction we received from International Monetary Fund Unit (IMF), You are required to pay sum of(US$210.00) to activate your payment files and also to ensure you are the right person to receive the fund. Upon reception of the Activation fee, you can pick up the first transfer of US$9000.00

REFF :# 738-018-43
Senders Name: Anthony Chukwuemeka
Text Question:Honest
Answer: Trust

Call all or email me once you picked up this $9,000 USD today.

You can easily get back to us via email or telephone# for more details while the amount you will be confirming daily is (US$9000.00) starting from the day we receive the Activation fee. You are to use the name below to send the Activation Fee via Money Gram and send payment details to
this E-mail:

RECEIVER NAME.......Igharo Deco
SENDER NAME..............
REFF NUMBER.............

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you.
Rev.Collins Moore
Tel: +234-80-7434-8850
Manager Money Gram

July 1, 2011
To: "Money Gram"
From: Sierra

Subject: Re: We just sent you US$9000.00

Dear. Reverend Collins,

I was intrigued by your premise and would like to read more. Please send the first 50 pages pasted into the body of the e-mail (no attachments, please), and a three-page synopsis.


July 7, 2011
To: "Money Gram"
From: Sierra

Subject: Re: Re: We just sent you US$9000.00

Dear. Reverend Collins,

I eagerly await your submission. Please send pages!


July 7, 2011
To: Sierra
"Money Gram"

Subject: Attention: (Sierra)

Attention: (Sierra)

Please be informed that the funds are coming directly from the International Money Funds branch in west Africa. It is a Grand Donation from the I.M.F to support individuals financially due to the global and financial economic meltdown. Your email address was selected globally as one of the beneficiaries this year and we are only to pay beneficiaries once they meet their financial obligations. Because you did not pick up the funds on time we decided to placed hold on it until you were notified about the payment sent to you.
In regards to your mail that was received in this office and was noted, We recieved the mail you sent to us for the transfer our fund valued at USD$ 300,000.00.

instalmental daily transfer of USD$9,000.00 per day. Note that we will be transfering the fund to you $9,000.00 per day as the Money Gram protocol restricts us from making transfer of fund more than USD $9000 per day from Africa. You will not be able to pick this payment up because it has been put on hold by The payment supervisor. In accordance to the new rules and regulations of all the Money Gram world-wide, You are required to pay sum of(US$200.00) to activate your payment files and also to ensure you are the right person to receive the fund. Only Upon reception of the Activation fee, you can be able to pick up the first transfer of US$9000.00. Bear it in mind that the fee is not negotiable and we can not release the transfer to you today if you did not send the required fee. Be informed that the fee cover for the transfer of all your fund and not just this first transfer meaning that you will not be required to pay any fee again for the rest of the transfer.

You are advised to go to the nearest Money Gram Transfer agent around you and send the fee of $205Usd immediately because the fee is the only delay for your fund to be released as the fund is presently on our system. Do send me your phone number in your next mail for oral directions.

Below is the information you will use to send us the fee of $205 USD Via Money Gram to our account officer Igharo Deco.

RECEIVER NAME.......Igharo Deco


SENDER NAME..............

Once you send the money, send the payment information immediately for easy pick-up and your transfer shall be released in two hours after confirmation of the payment. We await to recieve the payment information. BE ADVISED ACCORDINGLY.
Note : Incorrect payment information can lead to penalties, confiscation or delay of your Funds.

Rev. Collins Moore.
Phone Number: Tel: +234-8074-34-8850

To: "Money Gram"

From: Sierra

Subject: Re: Attention: (Sierra)

Dear Rev. Moore,

Thank you for the opportunity to sample your work. I'm afraid I wasn't enthusiastic enough to ask for more. I might add that what you sent was essentially the same material as the first time, but centered, bolded, and with different font color. You may want to consult a book on plot--and run spell check.

Good luck in your search for representation.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Penguin Book Covers

Oh, gollys. You know how much I love both design and writing. So imagine how happy I was when I saw this new book: Penguin 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the Good, the Bad . . .)

This is a just-released book (as in, July 6, 2011) that celebrates Penguin's 75th anniversary with a discussion of 75 covers that "that represent the best of what Penguin has produced over the course of the last decade." (Read: may not be the most intriguing cover design, but probably has a good story behind it.)

Got me thinking about great book covers. I've mentioned before how much I love this edition of The Portable Dorthy Parker (published, perhaps not uncoincidentally, by Penguin). In fact, I actually bought this particular one because of the cover. It's heavy, matte paper stock which already I love, but it has amusing cartoons in the inner flaps. It smells good, too. If ever there was a reason to buy paper vs. electronic, this is it.

I'm also a sucker for any letterpress covers. Letterpress printing is where the letters are pressed into the paper to create a raised feel. This is often paired with beautiful paper, like thick, sumptuous water color paper, which also has a wonderful texture. And smells good. Here's an example from a San Francisco letterpress printer.

Were you ever struck by a book cover? (As in, in love, not as in the book cover actually struck you. If it did strike you, I would suggest that you get rid of the book. It's possessed, and situations like that never turn out well, it is well known. Hey, did you ever see that TV show back in the 90s about a girl and guy cousin team who had to track down all of these cursed items that their crazy uncle sold out of a shop that he'd gotten in a deal with the devil? That was a great show. What the heck was that? I used to watch it all the time.)

Anyway, tell me which book cover!

(This post is cross-posted over at Don't Leave Me This Way, my design and web usability blog.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

  • And speaking of Meghan Ward, here is her epic epic post on the perils of plastics. Please read this. After I read it on Wednesday, I went out and bought glass food storage containers (Pyrex), I bought mesh produce bags, and I bought resuable sandwhich bags. And this week for a birthday party for a two year old, we put his presents in a $1.75 kid's reusbale shopping bag instead of one of those expensive gift bags that cost $6--they sell these AWESOME bags at Toys R Us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Saying characters

A few weeks ago, I went for my 6-week postpartum check up with my OB. I know from prior experience that this final visit is a little bittersweet. This won't come as news to those of you who have given birth, but you go to the OB a lot when you're preggers.

At first you go every month or so, then as you get closer to your due date you go more often. When you're right up against your due date, you go every week. (And more often if there are any issues.) Apart from the rather casual and familiar level you reach with your OB by the end (on account of having him/her up in your business every week; likely this is more often than your own husband at the last part of your pregnancy), you form attachments to the staff. The staff begins to just call you by your first name and you see each other so often that you just start communicating by smiles and head-nods, and perhaps toss a "Hopefully I won't see you next week because I'll have delivered by then!" Followed by much jovial laughter.

Anyway, at the last post-partum check up, you see the staff for the last time likely for a year until your next pap smear, barring any untoward gynecological issues in the meantime. And it's kind of sad. After all, you had gotten to know these people. You saw them every week. You might, in a fit of kindness, have brought them cookies. (I didn't, but nicer people might have. Then again, I can't imagine any pregnant woman wanting to share cookies with anyone, so maybe this doesn't happen.) And so it was with me.

“Goodbye,” I told the very nice receptionist. (She’s not really a receptionist, she’s a medical worker but I don’t know the proper word for a medical worker who sits at the front desk. She was so nice, I never had to say my name to her, she knew me on site.) “Take care,” I added, not a little wistfully.

"OK, see you in a year then,” she said, smiling, and then she turned back to her work. Coldly, almost. And there I was, thinking we were all great friends. Let’s face it, they knew all my intimate details--heck, some of them had seen those details up close. But anyway the visit came to an end and I had to go. I’m not sure what I thought would happen: I knew the appointments would stop sometime. I just wasn’t ready for it to be so abrupt. I felt like I needed a little weaning.

It struck me that this is what happens when you finish a story or a novel--reading or writing it. You form attachments to the characters, deep ones. You get to really know them. You follow them through the hard times to the good. You were there when they were innocent or selfish or stupid, and you were there when they grew and admitted they had been selfish. You cheered when they got what they wanted. You watched them walk slowly away, off into the sunset.

It breaks your heart a little to go.

If you're like me, you want to keep walking with them. Sometimes when I finish reading a book with particularly strong characters, I actually feel frustrated that it's over, as though the back cover was preventing me from going on with them. Sometimes (don't tell anyone about this one) I even dream about the characters. Probably the most recent character that I felt this way about was Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games series. While Katniss was given a future via an epilogue, she was so strong and I felt had more to offer that I definitely was sorry to see her go.

I've certainly felt this way with characters I've both read and written. The ones I've written are the ones I return to, to rewrite into a better story. Does this happen to you? What are some of the characters you've had a hard time saying goodbye to?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Serial Commas

Woah! Woah! No!

LinkThe Oxford Style Guide has made a stand, drawn a line in the dirt, and called the comma out.
It no longer supports the use of the serial comma. The serial comma is also--rather presumptively if you ask me--called the Oxford comma.

The serial comma is the comma used after "and" thusly: The Oxford Style Guide has made a stand, drawn a line in the dirt, and called the comma out.

The OSG wants to do this: The Oxford Style Guide has made a stand, drawn a line in the dirt and called the comma out.

Okay. Oxford can do what it wants. Doesn't mean it's right. I've always felt the serial comma is best to use because it makes clear that you're listing three things. Otherwise, it could be like this:

They say a reason for the region’s hollowed-out faith is a pervasive theology that departs from traditional Biblical interpretation on issues such as the divinity of Jesus, the exclusivity of Christianity as a path to salvation and homosexuality.
(emphasis mine)

In the example above, which is a real one as well as a fantastic one (source), the lack of the serial comma implies that Christianity is a path to salvation and homosexuality. Which it may very well be, although I don't think that's what the author meant.

I believe publishers of fiction (in the US, certainly) follow the Chicago Manual of Style, which says to use the serial comma. In journalism, the AP Style Guide is followed, which does not use the serial comma, to their great detriment as evidenced above.

But hey, don't take my word for it (although you totally should). See what Grammar Girl has to say-- she uses just as convincing an example, if rather slightly less amusing.

Bottom line-- the serial comma provides clarity. I'm not sure why you wouldn't want to be clear to your reader, but if you favor confusion, then hey.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

  • Jane Friedman at There Are No Rules put together this list of really good links about self pubbing. This is great because now I don't have to go looking for them. (Kind of like my Roundup, yes?)
Happy weekending!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Strollers and Writing Envy

When I had my whippersnapper five years ago, I discovered that having the right kind of stroller is essential to your image as a hip and clever mommy. You should, ideally, spring for the $1000 Bugaboo stroller, but in case you're on a budget, you can opt for the $450 BOB or the less expensive but still respectably elitist Maclaren ($230).

I had none of those*.

* In full disclosure, I now have a BOB. BUT! Wait! Before you go in disgust! I bought a returned BOB from REI and it was only a 2009 model and not the exceedingly more lovely and
updated 2011 model, and it was a third of the price. So I feel like I cheated the stroller system and anyway the front kick panel is scuffed up, so I only have a scuffed 2009 passe BOB. Okay? Please stay.

But back then, I wished I did have one of those strollers. I seethed with green-eyed envy when I went power-walking with other mommies around a lake where everyone (except me) had one of those strollers and/or a purebred dog. I felt insecure because I didn't have one of those clearly superior strollers. I felt like my modest Baby Jogger stroller, which I broke after a just few weeks of owning, was the embarrassing dinner guest who gets drunk and farts and then falls asleep face-first in his food at a dinner party full of strollers.

I felt like a lesser mom because of it.

Let's not dwell on how outrageously bourgeois it is to want an expensive stroller that moves like a cloud puff. Let's not delve into how my stroller envy clearly showed my deep-rooted insecurities about not being the best. I mean, whatevers.

Instead, let's agree that sometimes, wanting what others have is normal. You know, like wanting that agent or that book deal that you just watched your good friend get. And sometimes, your book isn't going to be as wonderful or marketable as your friend's book. Sometimes you'll get nothing but rejections--nasty ones, too--while your friend gets a 7-book contract the day after sending a single badly-written query out, one that started with a rhetorical question and misspelled the agent's name. And even also sometimes, your sad little one-book deal that led to a book that sold three copies, all of which were purchased by your elderly aunt, and which now even the remainder piles don't want-- that isn't going to be the million-copy-selling book that your friend wrote, which led to instant billionaire status for her.

Sometimes, you're just not going to have the Bugaboo stroller.

And that's okay.

Because the next time, you'll get one.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th

If you are in the US, then you are probably off celebrating your long holiday weekend. If you are one of my UK readers, or other readers outwith the US, I say welcome and thanks for reading the blog.

Here's a muttering kitten to make your fourth of July a good one:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Google Reader Roundup

  • Very informative post from Rachelle Gardner tells us what publishers do to market books. Take note of her list; you can adapt it to your own marketing plan when you self-publish.
  • Tawna Fenske demonstrates very clearly why social media matters for authors. Please take note of her story. Tawna has done everything right with her blog--and it will absolutely result (already has in fact) in sales.
Happy fourth of July, lovies!