Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Writer's Gift List

It's the gift-giving time of the year and I believe you should include yourself on the shopping list especially if you live with people who don't quite "get" the whole writing thing. Being good to yourself during this stressful season is important! Up there with frequently washing your hands, drinking plenty of fluids and giving yourself permission to actually enjoy the season.

So, here are some of my favorite sites for stuff (in no particular order) to indulge the writer in you:
1. http://www.waterman.com/ - What can I say? I'm a sucker for a well-crafted crafting instrument and these pens fit the bill. Art meets function. You can check out the website for the high-end models or visit your local Staples for a more affordable glide. On days when I am feeling particularly blocked, I whip out my green Phileas Waterman and start scribbling away. It works!
2. http://www.ninthmoon.com/ - A site devoted to the writer in you. I love visiting here. My favorites include the "Literary Slut" nightshirt (goes to bed with any book), the writer's Permission Slip (it's okay to pen the first draft strictly for yourself), and an amazing tool if you're a plotter like me: big block scene cards! Tracks aspects of your plot like POV characters, emotional charge, beats and action/reaction. Totally awesome for focus. These cards rock!
3. http://www.writeruniv.com/ - Thinking about brushing up your prose by taking an online course? Writer U. offers great courses with some of the best authors in the business, from Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors to master classes with Katie MacAlister, WriterU. has something for every writer.
4. http://www.basbleu.com/ - A great site for the reader and writer in you. Offering and eclectic selection of books as well as gifts, games and stationery, bas bleu (french for bluestocking) there's something for every writer on your list. Among my favorites are Thumb Things (for holding those paperbacks open without straining your fingers), Training People: How to Bring Out the Best in Your Human, and Common Errors in English Usage book and calendar.
5. http://www.shakespearesden.com/ - Fun for the poet and the playwrite. Don't miss the Mixed Up Romance Novel Magnetic Poetry Kit.
6. http://www.amazon.com/ - Need I say more? I thought not.
Happy holidays everyone! And blessings of health and happiness to all in the new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Joyous Yule or Happy Midwinter

Today, December 21 is Winter Solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year. This day opens the winter season...officially because it is the first day of winter. The earth is actually closer to the sun now than at any time in its orbit but the sun is also (in the Northern Hemisphere) at it's southernmost point in relation to the earth. Because of this, it make a brief trip above the horizon and then dips down again, giving us our long winter night.

Visit the U.S. Naval Observatory's Web site here to find out a more complete scientific explanation.

This is the night our northern ancestors would bundle up, and light the Yule log to ward off the coming dark days of winter. Yule celebrations lasted as long as the Yule log burned - anywhere from three to twelve days - a definite incentive for a BIG log. The Germanic peoples celebrated Yule with feasting and gift giving. In pagan traditions this holiday is celebrated as the rebirth of the Great God, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. Of course this tied in nicely to Christian traditions for December 25 in order to convert the pagan peoples to Christianity in the Middle Ages.

In fact, most cultures throughout history have some traditions in honor of this day. So tonight as the sun dips below the horizon, burn a Yule log to stave off the darkness. Light candles to welcome the sun's rebirth, for from this day forward the days grow longer again.

Joyous Yule and Happy Midwinter to one and all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December: Month of Holidays

Are you looking forward to winter break? I am.
And what better month than December?

In anticipation of my own vacation from the diner, I’m going to list a sampling of the holidays that take place in December and some tidbits I've learned about them.

December: Month of Holidays

1. Rosa Park’s Day, December 1. You may have missed it, but it’s a significant date. Despite the tradition at the time, Rosa Louise Parks refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery (Ala.) bus. It happened Dec. 1, 1955, and her bold move jump-started the long overdue civil rights movement in America.

2. St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Did you and your family observe it? Saint Nicholas actually was a real person who lived in Myra in what is now Turkey. He loved giving secret gifts. December 6 is the day of his death. There are many different traditions for celebrating St. Nicholas, but I’m most familiar with filling children’s stockings with candy and small gifts.

3. Eid’ul Adha, December 8. Also called “The Festival of Sacrifice,” it commemorates Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son, Isaac. (Remember the Biblical story?)

4. Poinsettia Day, December 12. This is the date of Joel Roberts Poinsett’s death. He’s the person credited with introducing the poinsettia to the United States, from Mexico.

5. Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also December 12.
It’s one of the most important holidays in Mexico and it celebrates Mother Mary’s (the Virgin of Guadalupe) visitation to a man named Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin asked to have a church built on the nearby hill so she could be closer to her people.

6. St. Lucia’s Day, December 13. St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in many parts of Scandinavia to remember an Italian woman who became the patron saint of light. Usually a daughter in the celebrating household dresses in white robes and wears a crown of candles on her head. She serves her family either breakfast or sweets. Bet you didn’t know about this holiday.

7. Beethoven’s Birthday, December 16. This great German composer was born in Bonn in 1770.

8. Hanukkah, December 21st to December 29th.
Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” Hanukkah recalls the miracle God granted in keeping the temple candles burning after the Maccabees freed and re-dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. (The Maccabees had only enough oil to keep the candles lit for a day, yet the candles burned for eight long days.)

9. Winter Solstice, Dec. 21. Well, it isn’t exactly a holiday, but it gets plenty of attention. The solstice takes place on the shortest day of the year, when there’s more night than day in the Northern Hemisphere. There are many different ways of observing the solstice, but most involve a bit of time spent in reflection.

10. Christmas, December 25. As we all know, this is the world’s celebration of the birth of Jesus -- by non-orthodox Christians. (Orthodox Christians believe Jesus’ birthday falls on a different date.) Christmas, of course, also is the long-awaited day that children await a visit from Santa Claus.

11. Boxing Day, December 16. This is a holiday where people visit friends and give gifts to those who work with and or for them.

12. Kwanzaa, December 26 to Jan. 1.This holiday honors African heritage and is marked by participants lighting a Kinara (candle holder) every day. Ron Karenga started Kwanzaa in 1966.

13. New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31. Are you ready to celebrate? With the economy is such tough shape, maybe we ought to resist kicking up our heels! As you’re well aware, New Year’s Eve celebrates both the ending of the old year and the start of the new one. Who knows what’s ahead in 2009. …

I’m just learning about many of these December events. Have I missed any key holidays or special occasions? And have I overlooked an important element of any of these celebrations? Feel free to enlighten me. I’m eager to learn.
Thanks – and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Writer as Crafter

I’ve been crafting like mad for the holidays this year, crocheting and sewing and gluing and embroidering. It’s not particularly a money-saving venture, since the supplies to craft the desired items cost as much as, if not more, than purchasing the item in question ready-made. Most of my projects this season are not as easy as crocheting gnomes, and every time I finish one project, another one springs to mind.

Why do I do it? Yes, the recipient gets the gift of my (hygienic) blood, sweat and tears, which is special, but my time is limited. Every moment I put hook to yarn is another moment I’m neither writing nor reading nor conversing with the family. I can’t really talk when I’m crafting, and I certainly can’t catch up on our backlog of Heroes episodes. The children bug me incessantly (captive audience), which makes me lose count of my stitches. My husband is feeling ignored in general. Like being the husband of a writer wasn’t bad enough; now he’s the husband of an obsessive seasonal crafter.

However, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if crafting is a natural outgrowth of the writer personality. The fact is, crafting and writing are related. An individual conceives of an item that doesn’t exist -- a pink and orange princess gown with yellow spots, a novel about evil gnomes -- and realizes there is a demand for that item. Sure, you can get a princess gown or a fantasy novel at the store, but it’s not the exact one the artist has dreamed up. So he or she decides the demand is great enough that it’s worth it to commit the time, energy and even money to make this dream a reality.

It might be that the desired item is beyond the artist’s current capability and research must be done, classes must be taken, books must be purchased. The artist might find herself wandering around the craft store...or the Barnes & Noble...fondling similar items to the one she’s in the process of creating or items she can use in its creation. The artist mind find herself cranky when the creation process is interrupted, skipping meals or family time in order to vanquish the next phase. There may be snags en route to completion, where rows of crocheting have to be taken out and redone or chapters have to be cut and rewritten. A pattern or outline for the project is invaluable at many points, but at others, the artist may find herself forging a new path and veering from what has gone before.

And once the project is complete, once the finishing touches have been added, the artist may find that the end result is...simply unsalvageable!

But the knowledge gained is invaluable, because the artist will know to never, ever work with certain ravel-happy fabrics or subgenres again, for that way lies madness. And the next project she picks up will be completed in half the time with twice the skill.
Or so I'm hoping!

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--In Paper, Samhain Publishing
LIAM'S GOLD--In Electrons, Samhain Publishing

PS: One of the things I have learned to craft are handmade, reusable gifts bags, and you can win one of these for your very own over at the Samhain Paranormal Authors blog during our Cool Yule Giveaway...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let It Go

"Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know the hardest part is over
Let it in,
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels..."
I suspect Rob Thomas did NOT have me in mind when he wrote those particular lyrics but as we bulldoze through the holidays and barrel into a new year, I find myself reflecting. A lot. I'm not one of those "go with the flow" kinda gals who can take things in stride and never break a sweat. I worry (sometimes to the point of nuttiness) about many things so far beyond my control that they fall into the realm of the divine. I'm not God, but that doesn't mean I haven't tried walking on water a few times this past year.

BTW, I sank. Again.
2008 has been the year of learning to let go. A tough lesson for a control freak like me. I've had to watch my child get behind the wheel of real motor vehicle (not a big wheel) and drive off into the night without me. I've had to let go of the feelings of disappointment and anger when a great job disappeared from under me. I've said goodbye to my father, knowing I will never again hear his voice in this life.

Bigger things were definitely sending me a message this year: Learn to let go.

So I finally got the memo. I entered the GH to let go of my story as much as to see how it stacks up against competitors. I performed first reader duty for a vampire book in order to overcome my prejudice against vampire novels as much as to help a wonderful author and friend (and okay, I admit, get my name in the acknowledgements.)

Now, I'm finishing up the last (and I do mean the last) read through of my story before sending it back to an agent and I refuse to count the days, weeeks or months until at least six have passed. Why? Because I have to let go and by letting go I can hold other moments closer.

Like when my child comes home safe after her first fender bender...

Or when I get the email telling me RWA has received my contest submission...

Or remembering my Dad's smile when told me how he reffed games when Vince Lombardi coached back in Jersey...

"Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain."
Rob got it absolutely right.

Learn to let go...and embrace the small hours.
That's where they real stories of your life are written.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Hat of the Day

Most of us wear many hats. At any given time I wear the Writer Hat, the Web Designer Hat, the Artist Hat, the Wife Hat…the list goes on. After paying my dues wearing the Mommy Hat for 9 years as a stay-at-home mom, I feel like I’ve earned the right to don the Writer Hat from 9-4, Monday thru Friday. Not today. Today I’m wearing the Mommy Hat. I should be wearing the Writer Hat (picture a sparkly rhinestone tiara ala Miss America) because this has been a good week for the author side of me. I just learned my latest manuscript finaled in another contest and it’s on its way to a Berkley editor and I received a request from a top notch agent. Woo hoo! Things like that get my writer juices flowing and I’d love nothing more that to dive into the rough draft of book 2 in the series and knock out a good chuck of pages. But I can’t. I’m wearing the Mommy Hat today. Child #2 is home sick with a nasty stomach bug. He was couch-bound on Saturday, perked up yesterday, but today—Monday, which should be a full writing day for me—he’s relapsed. I can’t really get into anything because at any moment I’ll hear “Mommmie” and have to hold his poor little head over the puke bucket. I’m not frustrated though. It’s just one of those life moments that happen and ya gotta roll with it. So the tiara has to go back on the hat rack for the day and out comes the Mommie Hat (today it’s a baseball cap because my hair looks like a family of squirrels are living in it and I can’t take a shower for fear I’ll miss the pitiful cry for help from my sickly 7 year old). Maybe tomorrow I can be a writer again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Putting Your Best Face Forward...

Hello all,

Well, I bit the bullet and hired a photographer and had a sitting for an official author portrait. How did I make this ultra-important decision? A co-worker recommended someone. Her son is a senior in high school and one of his classmates used a photographer for her senior shots that my co-worker thought were really interesting and unique.
I went to Kelly's Web site to review her online portfolio and I really liked it. She did really cool things with color and light so I decided I'd contact her to do my photos. I'm really glad I did, so if you're in the Des Moines Iowa area, check out Kesling Photography!
As I drove to her place, I thought back to the last time I had a formal portrait taken. Except for the time I had shots taken with my mom in 2002 or 2003, the last time was when I was a senior in high school, which was a VERY long time ago.
I admit to being kind of nervous, but Kelly put me at ease and offered suggestions for which shirts and jewelry I should wear (I brought a bunch of stuff). The really cool thing was that she had worked at Glamour Shots® in the past, so she knew exactly what I needed. We did some moody shots with interesting lighting and everything. Ya know, I might actually look pretty good in these pictures. I'm no Tyra Banks, but I think these will turn out all right.
Speaking of Tyra, I kept hearing her in my head. You know...the "smile with your eyes" comments she always makes no matter what cycle of America's Next Top Model is on. LOL It was great. So thanks Tyra! It helped.
I'll let you all know the outcome when I get the proofs. Keep you fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Body Speaks. And You Can Learn Its Language!

Every writer has heard the adage “Show don’t tell.” But how do you do that? Ever wonder how to describe a villain’s glower? The heroine’s anguish?

Some helpful tips come in “What Every Body Is Saying,” written by: Joe Navarro, an ex-FBI agent who specialized in non-verbal intelligence. Joe offers some answers for your next writing projects.

His book will have you “speed-reading” people with just a bit of practice. Sentences in your manuscript such as, “He was angry,” will be transformed to “He squinted. His forehead furrowed, his jaw tightened and lips drew together, almost vanishing.”

Joe tells writers what to look for when studying the person’s feet, legs, torso, arms, hands and face. He offers insights into what that behavior means and shares anecdotes of how he has used non-verbal clues to negotiate situations in his personal and professional life.

OK, to whet your appetite, here are 13 tips on non-verbal communication from this intriguing book.

1. You’ve heard about the “flight or fight” response when people are confronted with danger, but did you know that before they make their choice, they freeze?

2. The freeze reaction, the author says, helps people to “hide” from predators and take a moment to process the situation and its options.

3. They sometimes signal discomfort by rubbing their foreheads.

4. When people are nervous, they often engage in pacifying or comforting behaviors. Such as hair twirling, face touching or even gum chewing and cigarette smoking.

5. A person rubbing his or her neck may be saying that you or the topic you’re discussing are a pain in the neck.

6. In a tense business meeting, a man may pause to adjust his tie.

7. After a near accident, a man may exhale with puffed-out cheeks.

8. Want to know if a couple is getting along? Look at their legs and feet. Are their bodies turned toward each other? Are their feet close to each other? Generally, people position their body to lean TOWARD someone they like.

9. We lean AWAY from people we disagree with.

10. When we can move away from unpleasant situations or people, we often use our arms as barriers. We cross them over our chests.

11. We also can use our clothes as barriers. In an uncomfortable situation, we may pull a sweater closed or button a jacket.

12. Ever seen someone “steeple” their hands, placing fingertips to fingertips. That signals confidence.

13. Lowering your chin and tucking your hand between raised shoulders signals the opposite -- a lack of confidence.

To sum up, “What Every Body is Saying” is packed full of nonverbal behaviors you can interpret and use to add richness to your writing. If you want to dramatically SHOW your characters’ emotions – not just put a one-word label on them -- I highly recommend this book. You can bet it’ll be on my holiday list.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Have Yourself a Scary Christmas

We’re all paranormal writers here, so you’d think Halloween would be our big holiday. But you know what? Christmas can be pretty darn scary too.

Things that scare Lori:

Black Friday
For someone who hates shopping with a passion (I think it's a birth defect and I'm missing the shopping gene -- along with the cleaning gene, the organizing gene, and the sense of direction gene), the Friday after Thanksgiving is a living nightmare. You won’t catch me stepping foot out of the house on that day.

A Christmas Carol
Now here's some Christmas spooks for you. Talk about scary. Hearing Jacob Marley’s chains rattling as he shuffled down the hall to Scrooge’s door freaked me out as a kid. But it was the Ghost of Christmas Future that kept me awake many a night. What the heck is Death doing in a Christmas story anyway?

Tacky Light Houses
Want to know what’s scarier than witnessing the use of enough electricity in one night to light a small town for a week? How about being on a bus full of parents and their kids as it tries to turn around in a cul-de-sac packed with other voyeurs of the exterior light-bright competition. (That would be me last night.)

Tim Burton
The Nightmare Before Christmas. Just look at the faces on those characters. You just know he mutilated his sister's Barbies as a small child. Makes you wonder what goes on in that man’s head.

A Christmas Story
A timeless classic that must be watched every Christmas season in my house. While the leg lamp is enough to send anyone with even an ounce of decorative taste screaming, the pink bunny suit and the tongue stuck to the metal pole has made many a child cringe in sympathy. Poor Ralphie.

The Winter Warlock
From "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." What kind of screen writer puts something so scary into a children's holiday show? Check out the piranha teeth. He was enough to send me crawling into my mom's lap every season until I hit my tweener years.

The Abominable Snow Man
Another creature to keep kids awake at night (and not dreaming of sugarplums, I'll tell ya.) How many little tots cried when they thought he was going to bite Clarice the reindeer’s head off? I know I did.

The Grinch
Jim Carrey in pea green stage makeup and a rubber suit aside (don't even get me started on the visual image of him with no pants on), any ugly green guy who breaks into my house to steal my toys scares the bejeebers out of me. But what scared me the most was worrying that that poor little dog was going to get dragged to his death by the sleigh full of toys as it fell over the cliff. Where was PETA when Dr. Suess was around?

Fruit Cake
Okay, call me insane but I actually like the stuff so it doesn’t scare me but I know a lot of people who turn white as a sheet should they be gifted (or re-gifted) with this holiday delicacy. My family loves it and the Jane Parker fruit cake has been a long standing family tradition with all my relatives. Picture me as a college student carting 8 of those suckers home every holiday because you could no longer find them in any store in my home town. Now you can only get them from grocery stores up north. At least we can mail order them. (I just did.)

So, what scares you at Christmas? (besides the credit card bills that come in January.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Second Take on Markets

I know I'm posting twice, but I've run across enough markets, it needed two posts for ease of reading. This one is specifically for paranormal writers!

The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal—See E-mail address. Co-Editor: Kim Richards. "I'm co-editing a book on writing paranormal stories. It's going to be published by Dragon Moon Press."
"The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal is officially accepting submissions. The book will be broken down into three basic sections: background and research (elements of paranormal: vampires, ghosts, spirits, etc.), the art of writing (character creation, plotting, editing, etc.), and publishing (submitting, promoting, market resources)."
"Your proposal should include a brief outline for the chapter, and a brief bio. Multiple proposals are permitted but authors will be limited to no more than two chapters per author."
"Chapters should be between 4000 and 10,000 words."
"Deadline for chapter proposals is December 20. Acceptances will be sent by the 31st of December and final drafts of chapters are due by February 28."
"The following chapters have been assigned so please do not query about these: Paranormal mysteries, writing believable ghosts, creating vampires, angels and fairies, paranormal romance, and lesser creatures of the paranormal: Trolls, Goblins and Things That Go ‘bump’ in the Dark."
"Please send Chapter proposals to [E-mail address below]. To avoid your proposal being lost in the ocean of spam that flows through our inbox, please use ‘Paranormal Guide Proposal’ as your subject header." [E-mail: paranormalguide@yahoogroups.com]. Deadline: Chapter Proposals: December 20, 2008; First Drafts of Chapters: February 28, 2009.

Sunday musings and market news

When I run across market info that might be of interest to sci-fi/fantasy writers, I try to pass it along. I think we fall into that category, so here's something that might fit you!

Clarksworld Magazine—PO Box 172, Stirling NJ 07980. Editor: Neil Clarke. "Clarkesworld Magazine is an online venue and chapbook series for short works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Each month, Clarkesworld will publish two pieces of fiction, one solicited from an author with one or more books published, and one chosen from the rolling open call for submissions below."
"There have been some changes in our submissions process, so please read our guidelines carefully before submitting something a story to us."
"Clarkesworld is also accepting queries for nonfiction and art."
Fiction Guidelines: 1000–4000 words; pays 10¢/word. "We have a firm word limit of 4000 words. Please do not query about word lengths. We will not consider stories longer than 4000 words or shorter than 1000 words. We claim first world electronic rights, first print rights for the production of signed/numbered limited edition chapbooks (author must be willing to sign 100+ chapbooks), and non-exclusive anthology rights."
"Stories must be:"
1. "Well-written. Language is important. If your story is only a story because you didn't have the funds to produce and direct a short film or a sufficiently large live audience for the telling of a fanciful anecdote, then I don't want to see it. There is no distinction between ‘style’ and ‘substance’ or ‘story’ and ‘writing’—stories are made out of words. If your story isn't worth reading as a collection of words, sentences, and paragraphs, it isn't worth experiencing in story form."
2. "Convenient for on-screen reading. Very long paragraphs or typographical trickery may work against you."
"Science fiction need not be ‘hard’ SF, but rigor is appreciated. Fantasy can be folkloric, medieval, contemporary, surreal, etc. Horror can be supernatural or psychological, so long as it is frightening. There are no barriers as to levels of profanity, gore, or sexuality allowed, but high amounts of profanity, gore, and sexuality are generally used poorly. Be sure to use them well if you do use them."
"Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:"
a. "stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory"
b. "stories in which the words ‘thou’ or ‘thine’ appear"
c. "talking cats"
d. "talking swords"
e. "stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines"
f. "stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies"
g. "time travel too"
h. "stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a' comin', Communion wine turns to Christ's literal blood and it's HIV positive, Satan's gonna getcha, etc.)"
i. "stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals"
j. "stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING)."
k. "stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago"
l. "stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it"
m. "your AD&D game"
n. "‘funny’ stories that depend on, or even include, puns"
o. "sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates"
p. "stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange"
q. "stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one"
r. "your trunk stories"
Fiction Submissions Process Guidelines - NEW: "Clarkesworld has adopted an online submissions system to help streamline our process and improve communication with authors. As a result, we will no longer accept E-mail submissions. Go [to the Web site] to submit your stories."
"Our online submissions form is designed to be simple. All fields (author, E-mail, title, cover letter, and story) are mandatory. Your cover letter should contain your publishing history and any other relevant information (e.g., if you send us a lusty pirate story and happen to BE a lusty pirate, mention that). Stories must be in standard manuscript format and can be submitted in either .RTF or .DOC format. No simultaneous submissions. If you have questions, concerns or technical issues, please contact Neil Clarke [at E-mail address below]."
"After completing the online submission form, you will receive an E-mail confirmation with a tracking number. This number can be used at any time to check the status of your submission. If you do not receive this E-mail, please contact Neil."
"Our goal is to respond to submissions within two weeks. We do ask that you:"
a. "Please do not send queries until after a three-week period has passed. Please check our forum or Neil's blog or our forum for any important announcements first."
b. "Do not send revisions to a submission at any time."
c. "Writers may not submit another story for a period of seven days after receiving a rejection."
d. "Please do not re-submit stories that have been rejected. Do not query for permission."
e. "Writers whose work is accepted may not submit again until six months after their story is published."
f. "Please do not argue with rejection slips."
"If you are uncertain about anything above, we recommend following the most conservative interpretation."
[E-mail: Questions: clarkesfiction@gmail.com; http://www.clarkesworldmagazine.com].

The Edge of Propinquity—See Web site. Editor: Jennifer Brozek. "NOTE: These stories are intended for a mature audience."
"The Edge of Propinquity is a series of short stories exploring the world around us that lurks just beneath the surface. It is the world of the unexplained, supernatural, magic, horror, duty, responsibility, black humor, conspiracy, unknown heritage, and power."
Theme for 2009: "The theme for the 2009 year of TEoP is ‘Compromise.’ The theme for the first year of The Edge of Propinquity was ‘Revelations.’ The theme for the second year was ‘Consequences.’ The theme for the third year was ‘Retaliation.’ Your story may encompass and expand on the previous themes."
"In order to be accepted for publication, stories must fit the Webzine's theme and setting. The setting is a modern day story focusing on a character deep within the hidden world that surrounds mundane society. All guest author stories must include an active compromise from one character to another (i.e., The giving up of one thing to get something else). This can be mundane to supernatural (i.e., man allows monster to live in return for treasure), supernatural to mundane (i.e., werewolf allows kid to live after promised secrecy), supernatural to supernatural (i.e., mage versus mage compromising over a stolen artifact) or mundane versus mundane via supernatural means (i.e., murder covered up if allowed on the cheerleading squad)."
"The hidden world does not have to be supernatural. It could be conspiracy based. No far future, medieval, Heaven/Hell, or alternate dimension stories, please."
2000–6000 words; pays $50/story. "This flat rate fee is payable through PayPal within seven days of the story's publication."
Submission Guidelines:
1. "Your story must be an original, unpublished, stand-alone short story not based in any of the other Edge of Propinquity story worlds."
2. "Send submissions to [E-mail address below] with the subject line ‘TEoP SUBMISSION: [Title Name].’"
3. "All submissions must be sent in plain text in the body of the E-mail. E-mails with attachments will be deleted without being read. If your story requires specific formatting, use standard plain text formatting techniques."
4. "If your story is selected, you will need to provide a 100x100 pixel black and white headshot as well as a 100–150 word biography to be published with your story. Please see the Guest Quarters section of the site for examples."
5. "No simultaneous submissions."
6. "Note: You should recent a confirmation of receipt of your story within 48 hours of submission. If you do not receive acknowledgment, please query. After that, you should receive an answer within eight weeks of submission. If you do not receive an answer as to whether or not The Edge of Propinquity will retain your story after eight weeks, please query."
Usage & Terms: "By submitting your short fiction to The Edge of Propinquity, you are agreeing to the following usage and terms for your story."
1. "Exclusive first digital publication rights for a period of one month, and non-exclusive digital publication rights through the end of 2010. The story will be linked from The Edge of Propinquity front page for one month. After that month, you may submit your story to any other market so long as you inform the editor/publisher of the story's prior publication in The Edge of Propinquity."
a. "During and after the month your story appears on the front page, it will be located in the Guest Quarters section of The Edge of Propinquity Web site until January 1, 2010."
b. "After January 1, 2010, all guest author stories will be archived in The Edge of Propinquity: Compromise archive for one year (2009)."
2. "Non-exclusive print publication rights. Our goal is to publish a hard copy anthology of The Edge of Propinquity. As such, authors must agree to give non-exclusive print publication rights to The Edge of Propinquity. If, on submitting your story to another publisher you enter into an agreement that requires exclusive print publication rights, it is your responsibility to contact the editor of The Edge of Propinquity immediately. If The Edge of Propinquity becomes a hard-copy anthology, all guest author stories will be included and the author will receive one complimentary contributor copy of the anthology."
3. "You retain copyright to the work."
[E-mail: gaaneden@gmail.com; http://www.edgeofpropinquity.net/].


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thirteen Winter Musings

What do you think of winter? Do you relish the cold? Are you the first one out the door to catch snowflakes on your tongue? Are you a skier?

Or do you hate the chilly weather? Do you flee from frosty air and console yourself with hot chocolate by the fire?

It’s December and I’ve already had to shovel the driveway three times. In celebration or to psych ourselves up for winter’s arrival, I’d like to share some seasonal quotes.

Thirteen Winter Musings

1. In a drear-nighted December, Too happy, happy brook, Thy bubblings ne'er remember Apollo's summer look; But with a sweet forgetting, They stay their crystal fretting, Never, never petting About the frozen time. John Keats

2. In cold December fragrant chaplets blow, And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow. Alexander Pope

3. Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

4. December fog – among the yellow leaves a dead frog.
Michael P. Garofalo

5. Winter dies into the spring, to be born again in the autumn.

Marche Blumenberg

6. Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together.
Verna M. Kelly

7. Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
Victor Hugo

8. In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.

Christina Rossetti

9. You can’t get too much winter in the winter.
Robert Frost

10. Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.

Sinclair Lewis

11. God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.
James Matthew Barrie

12. In the depth of winter I finally learned that there within me lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

13. Before the end of December, generally, they experience their first thawing. Those which a month ago were sour, crabbed, and quite unpalatable to the civilized taste, such at least as were frozen while sound, let a warmer sun come to thaw them, for they are extremely sensitive to its rays, are found to be filled with a rich, sweet cider, better than any bottled cider that I know of, and with which I am better acquainted than with wine. All apples are good in this state, and your jaws are the cider-press.

Henry David Thoreau

What do you think of winter? Perhaps you share one of these famous individuals’ opinions. Or maybe you have another insight. Please share.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Don't Be A Turkey!

The Turkey City Lexicon is a collection of tips, tricks, terms and writing pratfalls that has little to do with our fine and tasty feathered friends. It got its name from an Austin, Texas, science fiction writers’ workshop. Developed by and for science fiction writers, there is much to admire in the TCL, no matter your favored genre. Additionally, writing groups like Critters.org and the Otherworlds Writer’s Workshop added their own items to the uncopyrighted mix.

As far as romance authors are concerned, the Lexicon can be of great use, whether you use it in your critique group to streamline explanations or in your personal editing to recognize naughty writing habits that don’t involve whipped cream or shape-changing heroes. The Lexicon makes no attempt to be “nice” about amateur writing, and you might find yourself flinching if you recognize some of the things you might have done in your own stories. Several entries in the Lexicon jumped out at me as issues I hear discussed in the romance industry, and I have elaborated on them below. Please note that my selections from the TCL have been edited for content, and if you want to see the whole shebang, visit one of the many websites that features it.

1) “Said” Bookism — An artificial verb used to avoid the word “said.” The term “said-book” comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of purpleprose synonyms for the word “said,” which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in American magazines of the pre-WWII era.

Ex: “Derek, what are you doing rifling through my lingerie drawer?” Shana ejaculated. [I don't know about you but if the female character in my story is the one ejaculating, I'm not writing in the genre I thought I was!]

2) Tom Swifty — An unseemly compulsion to follow the word “said” with a colorful adverb, as in “‘We’d better hurry,’ Tom said swiftly.” This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without a clutter of adverbial props.

Ex: “Shana, what are you doing home so soon?” Derek said angrily. [I thought about having Derek say this startledly, but that was too much even for an example of bad prose!]

3) Fuzz — An element of motivation the author was too lazy to supply. The word “somehow” is a useful tip-off to fuzzy areas of a story.

Ex: Derek had meant to hide his pilfering from Shana, but somehow he had forgotten what time she came home from work and somehow he had forgotten to lock the front door of the house. [Somehow, I think Derek is probably a tool, don't you?]

4) Show, Not Tell — A cardinal principle of effective writing. The reader should be allowed to react naturally to the evidence presented in the story, not instructed in how to react by the author. Specific incidents and carefully observed details will render authorial lectures unnecessary.

Ex: Shana’s very painful childhood and broken marriage with Derek’s kleptomaniac twin brother left her unable to trust Derek and suspicious when she found him in her lingerie drawer. [You'd think Shana would have learned her lesson with the first twin...]

5) Idiot Plot — A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author’s convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own.

Ex: Derek grew angry with Shana when she forbid him from her lingerie drawer because he knew she had bras to spare. In turn, she accused him of going through her lingerie to fantasize about his ex-girlfriend who had happened to call three days ago. They had a passionate battle which prevented them from admitting their true feelings. [Considering the ex-girlfriend called to invite Derek for a "repeat of last Friday", perhaps Shana wasn't such an idiot.]

6) Infodump — Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. Infodumps can be covert, as in fake newspaper or “Encyclopedia Galactica” articles, or overt, in which all action stops as the author assumes center stage and lectures.

Ex: When they went out to dinner after make-up sex, Derek secretly wore her scarlet bra and panties under his Armani suit. Derek had made a habit of wearing his girlfriends’ undergarments for years, ever since his mother used to dress him in girl’s clothing and make him tap dance upon the kitchen counter to the delight of the rest of the family. Derek had been a very attractive boy with long black curls and luxurious eyelashes. [The black of his curls matched the black of the blade of the knife with which he... Ok, no, he's the hero of this 'romance'!]

7) “As You Know Bob” — A pernicious form of infodump through dialogue, in which characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up-to-speed. This very common technique is also known as “maid and butler dialogue.”

Ex: “As you know, Derek, I caught you in my lingerie drawer just yesterday,” said Shana. “So this makes the tenth time in a month you have gotten in my panties.” [Derek laughed inwardly because she didn't know about the other times.]

8) Frontloading — Piling too much exposition into the beginning of the story, so that it becomes so dense and dry that it is almost impossible to read.

Ex: Shana takes pity on the readers of the OtherWorld Diner and does not give a frontloading example.

9) “I’ve suffered for my Art” (and now it’s your turn) — A form of infodump in which the author inflicts upon the reader hard-won but irrelevant bits of data acquired while researching the story.

Ex: The next day, Derek resisted the urge to wear panties under his Armani suit. Cross-dressing is a growing but furtive American phenomenon that affects both males and females. It had been scientifically proven that not just homosexual men wear female undergarments but also heterosexual men. [And all sorts of women wear trousers. What is this world coming to??]

10) Used Furniture — Use of a background out of Central Casting. Rather than invent a background and have to explain it, or risk re-inventing the wheel, let’s just steal one. We’ll set it in the Star Trek Universe, only we’ll call it the Empire instead of the Federation.

Ex: Derek could stand it no longer, so he drove home at lunch to put on a bra. Their nosy next-door neighbor Mrs. Busybottoms walked around to peer in the bedroom window with her yappy lap dog when no one answered the doorbell. “Well, I never!” she exclaimed when she saw Derek in Shana’s underwear. “Wait until the ladies at church hear about this!” [They'll be lining up at the window for their own sneak peek!]

11) Viewpoint glitch -- The author loses track of point of view, switches point of view for no good reason, or relates something that the viewpoint character could not possibly know.

Ex: “Derek!” cried Shana. She was broken-hearted to notice the wisp of lace poking out of the back of his pants. He had figured his Armani suit coat would cover it. “You’re wearing my red underwear and my favorite black bra!” [Once again, Derek cursed Shana's X-ray vision for spoiling all his fun.]

12) “Burly Detective” Syndrome — This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detectivepulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.”

Ex: Tears streamed down Shana’s face as she padlocked her underwear drawer. The voluptuous blonde felt her world would never be the same. It would take her longer to get dressed, longer to put the laundry away, and she shuddered to think what would happen if she lost the key. Would the voluptuous blonde ever feel free and easy about her panties again? [And then it occurred to her if she switched to thongs, Derek would quit wearing them because they were so blasted uncomfortable]

13) The Grubby Apartment Story — Writing too much about what you know. The kind of story where the starving writer living in the grubby apartment writes a story about a starving writer in a grubby apartment. Stars all his [or her] friends. Also known as "chick" or "women's" lit (kidding!).

Ex: Shana went to the lingerie store. The voluptuous blonde bought some 36C bras. She paid with her only moderately overdrawn credit card. She walked through the mall and out the entryway. She scratched her nose. [She couldn't think of a blog post. She remembered how funny the Turkey City Lexicon was. She...]

From the Critters.org additions:

14) Infohiding — Withholding crucial information from the reader that the POV knows. Used to create cheap tension without having a necessarily tense plot. If you need to keep something hidden, present it from a POV who can’t find out [the information] either (though the hidden thing itself should still be interesting and worthy of being hidden).

Ex: What Shana had not realized by Chapter 17 was that Derek was actually a male stripper, who would take off his Armani suit for bachelorette parties all over the city, and the jaded society women tipped better if he wore women’s undergarments. Though half the book was in his POV, he never mentioned his job or why he was really wearing the panties. [But he did have an unidentified source of one dollar bills...]

www.sfwa.org/writing/turkeycity.html (original version)

www.critters.org/turkeycity.html (Critters.org version with extra entries)

www.otherworlds.net/turkey.htm (annotated version)


Jody W.

http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.meankitty.com/

Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Tool for Agent Hunting

OK, so now that my monster manuscript has been trimmed down to a more marketable 403 pages, every chapter edited to the best of my grammatical ability, and the synopsis polished ‘til it shines, it’s time to send my baby out into the world. First step, the great agent hunt.

Typically when I’m querying agents, I keep track of who I’ve submitted to, their contact info, when I submitted and with what (e-query, snail mail query, partial, full), what their response was, etc. in an Excel spreadsheet. Well, while updating my list of potential agents I stumbled across a site anyone on the agent hunt might be interested in. It’s called LitMatch.net.

Disclaimer: this is not an endorsement, I just thought it was a cool site for writers

LitMatch is a free, on-line database of literary agents. You can select the criteria you want to sort by--if they’re an AAR member or not, if they’re currently accepting queries, if they’re based in New York or somewhere else, what genres they represent, if they have a blog--you name it. Or you can just browse through the listings of all 800 agencies and 1722 agents. See an agent you like? Click on their name and it gives you the genres they represent, submission guidelines, professional history, email and mailing address. In addition to that, you also get the number of the offers, requests, and rejections made by that agent (this part can only be so accurate because I’m sure not every member of LitMatch enters their submission info or keeps it up-to-date, but it gives you a basic idea). Some agents have rejected everything that came their way from LitMatch members while others have made requests. Haven’t run across any that made actual offers, but I’m sure there are a few. It also lists their response times and how they responded. You can also click on a tab that lists some of their clients while another tab contains comments from LitMatch users on their interactions with the agent.

Another neat thing about the site is if you register (it’s free) you can log in your manuscript (title only) and keep track of who you’ve submitted to, when, how, and what their response is/was (this is where the above mentioned data of requests/rejections and response times comes from).

I think this site is pretty cool but it isn’t the end-all, be-all of agent hunting. As any good author knows, you need to do your research. While each agent/agency page has a notation of the last time it was updated (and noted if the agent herself reviewed and updated the info), it’s not 100% reliable. I noticed one agent listed who I know is no longer in the business and another I have doubts about (she’s no longer listed on the agency’s website). Always double check the agent’s contact info and their submission guidelines on their agency website if they have one (and if they do, there will be a handy-dandy link from LitMatch to it).

So that’s it in a nutshell. Now that I’m armed with a list of some 40 prospective agents, I’m off on the great agent hunt once again.