Thursday, April 22, 2010


After a lot of thought, I've decided to change my whole blogging focus and location.  My new blog, Holy Terrors, will address topics about genre fiction and religion.

I hope you all will consider paying me a visit!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review B-I-N-G-O!

Have you had your fill of cliched book reviews?  Then give this a try...

The brain child of Book Examiner, Michelle Kerns, Book Review Bingo is an game every bibliophile ought to try.  Here's how to play:

- Print off the Bingo cards (below)
- Mark off a square every time you run across one in book review

So why is Kerns promoting this new game?  She sees it as kind of a wake-up call.  "...unless book reviewers quit with the knee-jerk reviewerspeak, we will lose the hearts and minds of everyone who is even remotely partial to the Great Literary Discussion"


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WonderCon, The National Enquirer and Jonestown

It's a Wonder

Comic book enthusiasts who flock to Comic-Con International in San Diego might want to consider going north to WonderCon in San Francisco.  Last year's attendance at Wondercon topped out at 34,000, and this year is expected to met or exceed that number.  Many attendees appreciate the smaller convention and think that the San Fran convention hasn't been overrun by Hollywood.  (Publisher's Weekly).

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Truth is Stranger than the National Enquirer

In a story so outlandish that even the National Enquirer might not have printed it, the grocery store tabloid was nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize earlier this year for uncovering the John Edwards sex scandal.  But, according to an article by Shelley Ross, a one-time editor for the paper, this isn't the first time the tabloid has had a shot at the coveted prize.  Back in 1978, a reporter came to the paper eager to write a story on, "a cult of Americans in Central America, many brainwashed, being put through mass suicide drills."  Yes, it was Jonestown.  And, no, the Enquirer didn't carry the story.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Welch, Salinger in the Limelight

Raquel Welch Tells It Like It Was

Rebecca Dana, blogging for the Daily Beast, reports that at age 69, former sex symbol Raquel Welch is telling her story in her new autobiography Beyond the Clevage.  Among other things, the actress's book uncovers is Ms. Welch's feelings against feminism.  Says Welch, "We are not like men. We don't want to be like men, not really."

J.D. Salinger Okay by FBI

Although many famous writers of the 20th century including Hemingway and Alan Gingsberg attracted the attention of the FBI, Catcher and the Rye author, J. D. Salinger did not.  Though that may not be the final word on the matter since the request to cross-reference is still pending.  (The Huffington Post)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vook, The Girl, and Preppies Run Amok

This is a new look and format for my blog.  I hope that all of you find the publishing news interesting and informative!

* * * *
Watch Out for New-style e-readers

First there was Kindle, then Nook, now meet Vook.  According to Publisher's Weekly, book publisher Vook is releasing a unique line of media  (Think Video + Book = Vook).  According to the publisher, their new blend of words and video is a perfect match for Apple's new toy - the iPad.

* * * *
Waiting for The Girl?  Well, keep waiting

National Public Radio reports that fans the final book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium popular trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Girl who Played with Fire) may have to wait a little longer to read The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  Even buying the book online may be problematic because any US sales violates the publishing agreement, says The Girl series publisher, Knopf.

* * * *
Gag Me with a Spoon...Again

Remember that old classic from the 1980's - The Official Preppy Handbook?  Well, it's about to get a face lift.    The New York Times reports that True Prep is hoping to gain a whole new audience of preppy aficionados.  While some things remain the same, True Prep is going multi-cultural by adding a section on African-American preppies and adding information on what technology defines a prep.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review - "How to Train Your Dragon"

Once again, my good friend the FilmNut let me blog on his site. Today's review is How to Train Your Dragon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Under the Dome

Under the Dome Under the Dome by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One fine day in early October, the little New England town of Chester's Mill is suddenly encapsulated in a mysterious dome. For the next fives days, the residents struggle to survive an ever-deteriorating environment as the outside world looks helplessly on.

For the past several years, Stephen King has been offering his readers tepid versions of his earlier, far more frightening stories. The plots have been full of holes, the scares have been weak, and the books have been, well, boring.

But no more.

At 1,1000 pages, 'The Dome' can be an arduous read (the cast of characters tops out at about thirty), but it is well worth the trouble. Classic King, this novel is full of those wonderfully, horrible moments that will give nearly any reader nightmares. Or at least the heebie-jeebies.

Additionally, the book is a marvelous allegory of our time. It reflects the reality of our blame-happy society, letting us know that we all play a part in our demise.

Read this book!

If you dare.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Originally uploaded by Moochin Photoman
A number of years ago, before I'd published any of my work, I formed an Internet 'friendship' with another speculative fiction writer. Not only was she a wonderful author, she was a terrific editor who gave me many insights and useful suggestions. A few months after we'd begun exchanging e-mails, my friend sold her first short story to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.

I was devastated.

Don't get me wrong. I was very happy for my friend. Her story was , and she deserved to have it sell. But, like I said, at that time, I had not yet published anything. And it wasn't for a lack of trying. So seeing her story printed in one of the best fantasy magazines of its time was a terrible blow to my ego.

Because publishing is such a competitive field, professional jealousy is an occupational hazard. Sometimes it's due to frustration; having other people succeed where we've failed is irritating! At other times, the cause might be what we perceive as limited resources. That is, we tell ourselves that because our friend has published a story (gotten an agent, won an award), there is now one less slice of the pie for us. Or it just may be that when we look at another's success, we see ourselves as failures.

Jealousy terrible thing. It can not only break apart our friendships, it can also destroy us as well. If you are faced with a situation in which you are envying another person's success, take a few minutes and ask yourself:

- Is my friendship more important that my feelings of jealousy?
- Is my jealousy blinding me to my own successes?
- How would I want my friend to treat me if I were successful?
- How much success is enough? Will I ever be satisfied with my accomplishments?

Best selling author, Jennifer Cruise, has a self-test about professional jealousy along with a few great suggestions on how to beat it.

In the case of my friend and me, things didn't turn out the way I expected. Not long after my friend sold her story, I sold one as well. And then I sold another. And another. But my friend, who had been dealing a lot of stress in her family and personal life, stopped writing. After a while, she dropped out of the writing scene altogether.

And that's a shame because she really was a terrific writer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


How good are you at following instructions?

Before beginning this quiz, find a piece of paper, a pencil, and a yellow marker. Then read all of the instructions.

- Write your name in the upper, right-hand corner of the paper
- In the middle of the page, draw a horizontal line

- Draw a shorter, vertical line that intersects the horizontal line (you should have a cross or 'T' shape now)

- In the upper, left-hand quadrant, draw a square

- Draw a circle inside of the square

- Color the circle yellow

- In the upper, right-hand quadrant, write the name of your best friend

- Circle the name of your best friend

- In the lower, left-hand quadrant, draw a smiley face

- In the lower right-hand quadrant make a check mark

- Do not write anything on your paper, and next time read and follow all of the instructions before beginning!

It's a silly quiz, I know! But the point is that reading and following directions is an important skill.

When it comes to sending out queries, reading the instructions is crucial. It's no fun for us writers! But, as literary agent Rachel Gardner points out in her blog, there are reasons for these guidelines. Queries that don't follow the guidelines often end up in the trash.

Writers who can read and follow directions will put themselves way ahead of those who don't!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Creative Byline

Like any author eager to get her work published, I'm always open to exploring new avenues that might give me more exposure. The other day, I was introduced to a new one of those new avenues. It's a website called Creative Byline.

According to the website, Creative Byline purports to, "[provide] online submission management services for publisher and writing contests." That is, they work like a writing version of - hooking up writers like me with editors who will love my manuscripts.

H-m-m...color me skeptical.

But, what the hay, Like I said, I'm always up for a new way to knock on those publishers' doors. So I thought I'd give Creative Byline a try.

The nice thing about Creative Byline is that it does offer some of its services for free. You can, for example, create a profile of yourself (one that highlights your published work, if you have any) and then submit up to ten projects for editors to look at.

So far, I've uploaded two. It is a lot of work (not because the website is difficult, but because writing a query and an outline and a synopsis is always a real pain in the fanny), but since I'd be doing this very same work anyway if I were querying the old-fashioned way, it really is no extra effort.

Now that I've uploaded my professional information and my two projects, all I need to do is sit back and wait for a flood e-mails from editors eager to see my work.

Yeah, right. Again, color me skeptical.

In addition to Creative Byline's few free services, it also offers some paid ones as well. If you are willing to shell out roughly $100 a year, you can contact editors instead of waiting for them to find you. Also, C.B. offers some kind of service in which they provide feedback to authors about their writing.

I'm not paying the extra money for those services, but because I will be attending the
Calvin College 2010 Festival of Faith and Writing this spring, I was given a special promotional deal with Creative Byline which allows me to link directly to editors and publishers who will be at this same conference. I'm curious to see if I'll get any interest.

When it comes to publishing, I don't believe in shortcuts. Nor do I think there's a quick or easy way method to get a contract with a six-figure advance (if there was, I would have found it by now!) So I admit that I am very skeptical that paying Create Byline a hundred dollars will do anything but make me 100$ poorer.

But on the other hand, I'm practical. Not to mention a little desperate. And since some of the services offered by Creative Byline are free, then I'm willing to at least give it a try.

I don't expect to have an in-box overflowing with offers. But I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.

Just in case.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Michigan Author

Usually, I feel like a poser. That is, I feel like a person who is pretending to be a writer. Yes, I have an office and a laptop. On my shelves is a copy of my novel and magazines that have printed my stories.

But, in my heart, I don't feel like a writer. Probably this is because there are so many things I don't have: an agent, a New York city publisher, a monthly royalty check that covers my bills.

Yet sometimes, I brush up against the feeling that, yes, I guess I am a writer. Today is one of those days. I'm now listed on the State of Michigan's official 'Authors and Illustrators' web page.

I may not have enormous royalty checks, but - by golly - I am government approved.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Versatile Semicolon

Originally uploaded by Adrasteia9
Recently, I took one of those silly FaceBook quizzes entitled, "What Punctuation Mark Are You?" I, apparently, am a semicolon.

I actually took that as a compliment because semicolons are wonderful, versatile little things. Kind of like shelled edamame (which are my current favorite veggies). But, like shelled edamame, if you aren't accustomed to using them, they can seem strange. Sure, we writers are used to periods and exclamation points. But semicolons? How do you use these strange, little things?

A semicolon works much like a period does. That is, it separates two independent clauses. So, for example, below are two independent clauses (clauses that contain a subject and a verb and can stand on their own):

- yesterday, my dog stole my lunch
- today, the cat did the same thing

If you wanted to put these two independent clauses into a single sentence, you could simply add a conjunction:

- Yesterday, my dog stole my lunch, and today the cat did the same thing.

However, you could also use a semicolon.

- Yesterday, my dog stole my lunch; today, the cat did the same thing.

I like semicolons because I think of them as kind of a setup for a punchline. It's as if they are saying, "Here's a sentence...but wait! There's something more." Semicolons just seem to add that extra bit of (very) dry humor to the sentence:

- My kids ate birthday cake for dinner; I nibbled lettuce.
- He couldn't figure out why he'd gotten a speeding ticket; he'd only been going 100 mph.
- Susan didn't mean to hit the neighbor with the rotten tomato; she was aiming for her ex-husband.

One thing to remember: a semicolon links two clauses that somehow relate to each other or build on the same message. Therefore, this is okay:

- The student didn't want to do his homework; he was too tired.

But this sentence is not:

- The student didn't want to do his homework; the woman went to the grocery store and bought soap.

Semicolons are cool! If you don't believe me, check out The Oatmeal.

Friday, January 29, 2010

An Open Letter to J. K. Rowling

Dear Ms. Rowling,

As a child, I devoured books eagerly. Every plot line seemed fresh and exciting. I bonded with every character. By the time I reached my forties, however, I'd become jaded. It seemed that I would never recapture that sense of wonder. But then you came along and opened a door to a whole new world. And while I appreciate everything about Harry Potter and Hogwarts, there is one character in particular whom I love.

Ms. Rowling, thank-you for Molly Weasley.

I'm the kind of person who still, even in my mid-forties, needs a good role model. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of middle-aged female characters to look up to. I'm definitely not Desperate Housewife material. Nor - God help me - a housewife like the ones in Orange County. No, I'm a suburban mom who wears her sweats to the grocery store and who drive a minivan. I knit. I garden. I do many uncool things. I hate to shop and don't particularly like to get my hair done. I don't wear make-up.

That's why I love Molly. She's a mom. A real mom. Someone you could invite over for coffee without having to clean the house first. Someone who you would trust to give you advice on how to cure a cough. Someone who understands that kids will be kids. Someone who doesn't care about hair and makeup and moving into a better neighborhood.

Molly loves her brood, but she's no pushover. If ever there was a mom who doled out tough love, it's she. Yet, she's forgiving as well. Who but a loving mother would be willing to welcome back a son like Percy who had so terribly betrayed her?

When my own daughter brought home a friend who looked like she could use a hot meal and a hug, I thought of Molly and how she willingly accepted Harry as one of her own. It gave me the push I needed to let my daughter's friend 'live' at our house for the next eight years and make her part of our family.

Molly is brave. She fights for a cause she believes in, even though it's risky. And she defends her children with the savage ferocity of a mother Kodiak bear. I and all my friends cheered aloud when she put herself between Ginny and Bella LeStrange.

Yes, Molly is my role model, my hero and my favorite literary character of all time.

So, thanks.

An Avid Fan

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Lovely Bones

Once again, my friend the Film Nut has let me post on his blog. This time, I've reviewed The Lovely Bones.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My New Spot on the Web

I finally got my website up and running. I feel so writerly. Sometimes, even if the writing is going poorly and the mailbox is stuff with rejections, little victories like getting the website up and running make me feel oh-so-much better!

My next hurdle is to create a simple-yet-elegant stationary template. I don't send snail mail queries very often any more, but the next time I do, I'd like to have some nice looking stationary.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some Favorite Movies about Writers

Movie night
Originally uploaded by Andrei Z
Lest people get the wrong idea from my post, The Mythical Writer, I do like some movies about writers. In fact, I thought I'd list a few of my favorites.

1. Sideways. One thing I love to do is laugh at myself, and the character Miles Raymond is the perfect foil. A frustrated, middle-aged writer, Miles takes a road trip with his quasi-famous TV star friend, Jack, and along the way, tries to come to terms with his own lack of success. I'm convinced this is the ultimate writer movie because there is so much humor that only writers will get. For example, when Miles tries to explain his novel to the girl he's falling in love with, he says, "[The plot] shifts around a lot. Like you also start to see everything from the point of view of the father. And some other stuff happens, some parallel narrative, and then it evolves - or devolves - into a kind of a Robbe-Grillet mystery - with no real resolution." Gotta love that.

2. Barton Fink. You take one neurotic writer, stick him in a ghastly hotel with an insane serial killer, add an insincere Hollywood movie producer and you get... well, a majorly creepy, sometimes funny, ultimately bizarre movie by the Coen brothers (writers and directors of such films as No Country for Old Men and Fargo.)

3. The Shining. Okay, I had to go there. 'Scary' and 'creepy' don't even begin to describe what this movie is like. Watching Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) is like staring deep into a nightmare and not being sure if you'll ever get out of it alive. Stephen King claims that he never liked the movie, but it remains one of my very favorites.

4. Stranger than Fiction. True, the main character Karen Eiffel represents every myth I hate about writers (she's a depressed alcoholic who is pampered by her publisher), but I love this movie all the same. The genius of this movie, in my opinion, is that it looks at fiction from the character's point of view. It's a wonderful film, full of fun and whimsy and has a lot to say about writing and the writer's relationship to her characters.

5. Shakespeare in Love. What would have happened if William Shakespeare had written 'Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter' instead of his more famous love story? I'm not a huge fan of romantic movies, but I fell in love with this one. Not only is the story fun, but the Elizabethan costumes and dialogue are wonderful as well.

Here are some more movies that offer a unique perspective on the writer's life:
- Naked Lunch
- Synecdoche
- Adaptation
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Have any favorites to add? I'd love to know!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Writer's Earnings

Posted on the bulletin board above my desk is my favorite Peanuts cartoon. I keep it there to make me smile whenever I get a letter of rejection. In the cartoon, Snoopy is on top of his doghouse typing a letter to the publishing house that has just rejected his novel. Snoopy writes: "Dear Sirs: Regarding your recent rejection. What I really wanted is for you to publish my story and send me fifty-thousand dollars. Didn't you realize that?"

Ah, yes.

Besides the obvious topic of rejection, this cartoon illustrates another myth regarding writing: money. I'm always amazed by the amount of misinformation on how much writers earn. For some reason, people seem to think that writers who don't make at least a six-figure income are doing something wrong.

Recently, I've come across a few authors who have graciously made the information about their earnings public. Jim Hines, a fantasy author with DAW, earned about $28,000 last year. YA author Kimberly Pauley reports about the same. Although this is not a bad chunk of change, it certainly is not enough to live on. Self-publishing authors, of course, make much less. SmashWords author V. J. Chambers reported that her yearly sales were a dismal $180.00.

Even a NYT best selling author has spoken out. Twilight Falls author, Lynn Viehl, blogged last April about how much she made on her book. Even I was shocked to hear that she netted only $26,000 from her first royalty statement.

So what about yours truly? I've not published with a major house (yet), nor do I self publish. My publisher, Mundania LLC, offers the same percentages as a large house, but - of course - the volume of sales is much less. Right now, I have only one book with them (thought I've signed contracts for two more.) While I'm not entirely comfortable giving the exact dollar figure for my earnings, I can safely say that it falls between the self-publishing Chambers and the DAW author, Jim Hines.

But, as I so often remind myself, I am in this business for love, not money. And I'll happily celebrate every victory - no matter how small.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Mythical Writer

Recently, I watched a few episodes of the Showtime television series, Californication. If you've never heard of it, the show revolves around the life of Hank Moody, a writer, philanderer and all-around basket case.

I'll say flat out that I wasn't impressed (and I apologize to anyone who may enjoy the series - taste is so subjective, isn't it?) But it wasn't the strong language that turned me off. Or the depiction of drug use. Or even the nudie scenes. No, my beef with the show was that Hank Moody was such a stereotypical writer.

For some reason, there seems to be a kind of mystique surrounding the persona of writer..the brooding, lonely, morbidly-self obsessed lout who keeps himself locked away from humanity and longs so desperately for just the right soul mate to understand his angst....


Writers aren't a special breed. Certainly no more special than anyone else. We're just regular people. And just like any other group (clergy, pre-teen girls, lawyers, people who live in Ohio), writers are made up of people many different backgrounds, lifestyles, and personality types.

Just so that everyone knows what I'm talking about, I've listed a few of the typical writer stereotypes here:

1) All writers are hostile, arrogant, ego-centric people.
Sure, there are some writers who think they are God's gift to humanity, but the vast majority are very nice people. Writers love their families and friends and enjoy getting out. Some are religious; many do charity work. Writers drive their kids to soccer practice and go to coffee with their friends where they listen patiently to stories about financial worries or love interests or whatever. Generally, writers don't throw tantrums in public or go around alienating every one who crosses their paths.

2) All writers are drug (alcohol, sex, whatever) addicts.
The lives of writers like Egdar Allen Poe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Hunter S. Thompson stand out because, let's face it, bad behavior is always more interesting than good behavior. But not every writer is a drug addict. One prime example would be Stephanie Meyer (author of the Twilight Series) who is a Mormon. As far as I understand Mormonism, this means Ms. Meyer would not so much as drink a cup of caffeinated coffee. Yes, many writers have struggled with addiction, but it is certainly not a prerequisite.

3) All writers are best friends with their agents/editors/publishers.
In case that wasn't clear, let me say that again: NO!
When it comes to agents/editors/publishers, writers are not friends; they're clients. And as such, the writer and her agent/editor/publisher have a business relationship.

4) All writers have terrible family lives.
Personally, if it weren't for my terrific family, I'd never have the courage and determination to keep writing. My family is my own little cheering squad, and I can't thank them enough for their support. Sure, writers have painful childhoods or horrible ex-husbands or friends who betray them. But so does everyone else. The only difference is that writers use that material to fuel their writing.

I understand that a hard-drinking, womanizing, misanthrope like Hank Moody might make for a much more interesting character to watch on television than say, someone like me (boring suburban soccer mom). However, I just want to set the record straight...

...not all writers are alike.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year; New Resolutions

Originally uploaded by fuzuoko
Now that the new year has arrived, I find that I must do something about the resolutions I made on December 31 (after a few too many glasses of champagne, I might add.) One of those resolutions - maybe the hardest one - was do something with this blog.


Looking back, I see that I made a huge mistake when tackling the blog thing. That is, the name. The very sight of it makes me cringe: Writing Advice for the Absolute Newbie... What was I thinking? After all, I'm the newbie!

Because of the obnoxious title, I beat my head against the wall every time I want to create a post. I feel a great deal of pressure to give all of this wonderful advice when, the truth is, I don't have a clue about what it takes to be a highly successful writer. After all, if I did, I'd be on the NYT best seller list.

But beyond all of that, I do enjoy blogging. Mostly because I like writing in any form. But there's also the added bonus of seeing that I have 'followers' (which is a strange word to use since it makes me feel like a cult leader or something.) I also love the comments people leave (the nice ones anyhow). And I love reading your blogs as well!

So the blog - despite it's wickedly pretentious name - continues on. More than likely without much advice.

Unless I drink too much champagne, that is.