The Tweet Contest!

Friday, August 18th, 2017 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] janetreid_feed

Tweet by David Kedson is hilarious.

To celebrate publication, let's have a contest.
The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: lad/lady is ok, but lad/laid is not

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: 9am (EDT) Saturday 8/19/17

Contest closes: 9am (EDT) Sunday 8/20/17

Check the time carefully. Comments may be open before the contest is, or after it closes.
Those comments will be zapped and not considered entries.

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!

Hugo arrives from Finland

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 05:32 pm
[syndicated profile] lois_mcmaster_bujold_feed
We live in a remarkable world. Does anyone else notice...?


Out of the box.

Some assembly required. Delayed by a hunt for a socket wrench that fit, which at length proved to be the handle that holds the other socket wrenches.

Together! Am I an engineer's daughter or what.

The front plate.

United with its siblings.

Ta, L.

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on August, 17

More on how to make a story from a series of events

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] janetreid_feed
I recently posted about why I was saying no to some requested fulls. One point I made was about the difference between a series of events and a story.

Blog reader Adele made this comment:

I once worked as a clerk at a police station. One of my duties was to type the statements people made to the police. They weren't recalling serious crimes, it was things like car accidents or witnessing a crime. It wasn't like on TV - there was no formal recorded interview; the people would just be given a statement form, extra pages, and a pen and asked to write down what happened.

At least 75% of the people would go back as far as the last time they could think of when their life was not tinged by what happened. If they were in a car accident at 1 pm, they would start with when they were eating toast for breakfast and how they finished up and put away the dishes and got their purse and got into the car and set out to drive somewhere. Often we would get 10 pages or more, and the last 2 or 3 would be what was wanted or needed - the rest was just setup. My point - that's the natural way people tell stories; it takes training to learn to throw away all that good stuff about the toast. 

This is a brilliant insight.
I intend to use it forever more, and most likely will forget to attribute it to Adele cause I'm addlepated.

This is one of the many reasons I love this blog and the community here.
You guyz are really smart, and really good writers.

smalldeer has questions about apples

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 07:00 pm
lilysea: Serious (Default)
[personal profile] lilysea posting in [community profile] metaquotes
oh and a warm apple. like, a really warm apple. warmer than my teeth when i bit into it. no offense but. why. did they microwave this apple? did they store it in a dragon's mouth before allowing me to purchase it? did this apple recently return from a trip to the surface of the sun?

Context is the slings and arrows of working in the food service industry.

Setting as a Character

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] makeminemystery_feed

Posted by Linda Thorne

by Linda Thorne

I’ve been reading a lot about setting as a character and the subject has piqued my curiosity. Setting was extremely important to me in my debut novel, Just Another Termination, which is set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The reason I kept my timeline for my book in pre-Katrina time is because Hurricane Katrina hit prior to its publication and destroyed many of the places and landmarks I had described in detail. It was going to take a major overhaul to bring the book up to date. It would also be impossible to do for years because that’s how long it took to rebuild much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. My solution was to leave the timeframe of my book back in late 2004 through early 2005 and let my entire series run in the past. It starts prior to Katrina with Katrina hitting at the end of my second book (a work-in-progress) and then the third book will drop into post-Katrina time starting in late 2005. My entire planned Judy Kenagy mystery series will always run behind current time.

Then I started hearing the term, “Setting as a character” and thought, Hey, I’ve got tons of descriptions of settings in my book. Could I call my settings characters? The answer turned out to be no. Setting as a character is a lot deeper and more complex than just a good description of a place. I believe such settings would be found more often in literary books and not so much in commercial works like mine.

From what I’ve read, when setting becomes a character it also becomes some sort of metaphor, which I’m not sure I totally understand. What I do understand is how the setting felt when I watched the movie, The Shining with Jack Nicholson. A few years afterward, my family and I had lunch at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado where the movie was filmed. I could picture Jack Nicholson walking around each and every corner. I did not read the book, but something tells me Stephen King did just as good of a job transforming the inside of that hotel in the mountains just outside of Denver into the character that it was in the movie. Some other examples of books I’ve heard of where this technique is used are: On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, and the bayou in Athol Dickson’s River Rising.

Do any of you have a simple way to describe how you’d detect setting as a character in a book or do you have some examples you’ve found in your reading?

Comment on The Worst Possible Thing by LMB

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 10:46 pm
[syndicated profile] pcwrede_comments_feed

Posted by LMB

When I used that line (dratted interviews), the problem in later out-of-context quotations was that the italics dropped out. My version being, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to this character?” I was talking about matching characters to their quintessential plots. Standard thought experiment about which goes, “Imagine Hamlet dropped down in Othello’s plot, and Othello in Hamlet’s.” You’d get very different stories indeed from Shax’s.

So it wasn’t intended to be an exhortation to character torture, but rather, about finding the plots that would reveal the most interesting things about a particular character.

Ta, L.

Hugo's Progress

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 02:37 pm
[syndicated profile] lois_mcmaster_bujold_feed
Wow, my Hugo trophy is having a Grand Tour. Although I don't suppose it gets to see much from inside a cardboard box.

When it arrives, I'll post a picture.

Location Date Local Time Activity
Philadelphia, PA, United States 08/16/2017 12:43 P.M. Import Scan
08/16/2017 7:51 A.M. Arrival Scan
Roissy Charles de Gaulle, France 08/16/2017 5:40 A.M. Departure Scan
Koeln, Germany 08/16/2017 4:29 A.M. Departure Scan
Roissy Charles de Gaulle, France 08/16/2017 4:22 A.M. Arrival Scan
Koeln, Germany 08/16/2017 12:59 A.M. Arrival Scan
Malmo Sturup, Sweden 08/15/2017 11:43 P.M. Departure Scan
08/15/2017 10:29 P.M. Arrival Scan
Vantaa, Finland 08/15/2017 9:56 P.M. Departure Scan
Helsinki, Finland 08/15/2017 9:16 P.M. Departure Scan
08/15/2017 7:16 P.M. Export Scan
08/15/2017 6:21 P.M. Your package is at the clearing agency awaiting final release. / Your package was released by the clearing agency.
08/15/2017 6:13 P.M. Your package is at the clearing agency awaiting final release.
Finland 08/15/2017 1:06 A.M. (ET) Order Processed: Ready for UPS

My nephew flies internationally for UPS. It's amusing to imagine him transporting it for me, although he more commonly flies trans-Pacific.

Best (or at least most writerly) tale he told me: the week J.K. Rowling's last Harry Potter book was released, UPS had to lay on extra flights to get all the books to the bookstores.

Now, there's a benchmark for success...

Ta, L.

Thur. afternoon update -- It has been out joyriding around Minneapolis in a brown truck since 9:30 this morning. Surely not much longer now...?

posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on August, 17

Finding an Agent & Approaching Artist Residencies

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 08:30 pm
[syndicated profile] guide2literaryagents_feed

Posted by Guest Column

I’m determined. The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes will soon rest on the shelves of bookstores, libraries, and retail stores everywhere. Middle-grade fiction readers will delight in reading about a 12-year-old African-American superhero and his multi-cultural band of friends, along with their love of spy gadgets and science.

But first, I need an agent.

This guest post is by Lora Hyler . Hyler has completed the manuscript of her middle grade novel, The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes, and has begun the second in the series while actively seeking an agent. She founded her Wisconsin-based public relations and marketing company in 2001. She will join the faculty for fall 2017 conferences of both SCBWI Wisconsin and Wisconsin Writer’s Association. She holds a 2016 Jade Ring award from the Wisconsin Writers Association for an adult short story, several screenwriting and news awards, and has published hundreds of corporate articles. She was the recipient of a 2017 artist residency at Marnay sur Seine, France and two previous residencies at Noepe Center for the Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

My writing journey began a couple of decades ago with a career in radio news, public relations, and marketing. I started my own public relations firm in 2001 (, have represented a handful of authors, and look forward to marketing my own books. Short stories and screenplays were my first forays into the world of fiction. Encouraged by a few screenwriting awards, I began to exercise my fiction writing muscle through a middle grade manuscript.

After joining the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in 2015, I learned much about the business of children books. Many times, the wealth of information on the path to publication appears daunting. Yet, there are plenty of authors willing to share their stories about how they landed an agent, sometimes after 100 or more rejections. I’ve chosen to view each “no” as a step closer toward “YES!” After all, that’s how I’ve run my career.

My tally sheet reveals I’ve sent queries to nearly 30 agents. To date, I’ve received 17 no-thanks, a couple requests for full manuscripts, and several encouraging words. My advice to any budding author: Face these rejections with the view of a glass half-full. If you’re like me, your eyes race across the email the minute it pops into your in box. Yep, there it is … the dreaded, all too familiar sentence. You know the one. It’s always some version of: “Thank you for sending your manuscript. It’s not a good fit for my current list.”

I had a recent chat with my critique partner and shared my story of a lovely rejection email from an industry leader. I successfully queried her and was told to send the full manuscript. During the discussion, I had a revelation. This industry leader wrote, “Thanks for sending me your manuscript which I have so enjoyed looking at. It is such a great fun concept and the ideas you have for further titles makes it a more commercial project than we (pursue).”

Great news! I was worried my concept wasn’t commercial enough. This individual has successfully shepherded through a fantasy series that set global sales records, captured the imaginations of youth and adults, and gained fans from reluctant and avid readers alike.

Infographic. Vision board. Visualize your way to success.

On my journey toward publication, I’ve decided to harness all the positivity the Universe sends my way. I’ve created an infographic of written quotes from agents and editors who have reviewed my work. With this lovely visual encouragement greeting me each day, I expect to keep my spirits up and forge ahead until the day an agent says the ultimate, “I’d love to represent you.”

Do go back and carefully read any rejection notes you’ve received. Wait! You want me to revisit the source of so much pain? Yes, I do! Occasionally, amidst the gray clouds, the skies part and a beam of light peeks out. Mine these rejection notes for bits of wisdom and any encouraging words.

Find an agent who’s best for you.

Where do you go to meet these agents? In person at workshops and conferences, or on websites and webinars. I’ve found agents that I’ve met face-to-face to be accessible. It also pays to listen closely when authors are speaking at conferences. I attended my local SCBWI conference where an author choked up while thanking his agent, saying she believed in him when he had stopped believing in himself. High praise! Due to his accolades, I queried this agent noting how impressed I was with her. She replied within an hour asking me to send my manuscript.

Try Twitter and the laundry list of pitch sessions available to budding authors. Brenda Drake leads Pitch Wars.

Another interesting concept allows you to get a handle on select agents and what they are currently seeking for their list. It’s called the Manuscript Wish List. I’ve found that tracking this provides insights into the whims of a particular agent.

While I seek an agent, I also keep an eye out for nonfiction work for hire opportunities to capitalize on my journalism background. I also like to blog. A sure way to keep writing muscles in good order.

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

Discover your tribe through residencies.

Now, I’d like to share an exciting part of my journey that I like to think of as a blindingly bright light directing me to the finish line. Artist residencies. They are available worldwide; some are for artists of all kinds, others are specifically for writers.

The joy of being selected for a residency provides a high to keep any writer powering through rejections, and revising. In our harried daily lives, where we struggle sometimes to find quiet time, residencies provide space and time to create. Often in beautiful, one-of-a-kind settings. My last residency set me up in a writing studio with windows opening up to the Seine river running through a small French village. Cool breezes, swooping birds, and the occasional family swimming downstream accompanied my writing days.

It’s fantastic to begin a residency living among strangers, and as the days progress, to become supporters of each other’s work and lives. Critique groups form and friendships blossom. Many residencies encourage public readings, providing writers an opportunity to reveal their work in progress, or completed work, to an eager audience. I’ve received adrenaline highs when an audience member laughs at the right spots. The cherry on top is one-on-one feedback offered post-reading.

My residencies to date:

  • May 2017: Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre, (CAMAC), Marnay sur Seine, France. Month-long residency at a 17th century complex in a village of 240 residents. I was one of eight selected artists from around the globe.
  • Fall 2016 and Fall 2015: Noepe Center for the Literary Arts, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Noepe has since closed its doors.

As you read this, I am applying for additional residencies. Spain, Italy, Mexico, Washington state, and Illinois residencies are just a few that have caught my eye. I encourage you to pursue the thrill of a blinking cursor before you in a fresh space, in a new state or country. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded souls who, a door or two over, work on their own creations. And they’ll be happy to join you in a laugh and sips of wine when you need a break.

However, wherever you decide to write, just keep writing. Publication is just a few no’s away. Until then, mine your rejections. In the midst of it all, there may be gold.

If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at


The post Finding an Agent & Approaching Artist Residencies appeared first on

[syndicated profile] writerbeware_feed
Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

When the late, unlamented Tate Publishing & Enterprises went belly-up a few months ago, I started hearing from Tate authors who were being contacted by self-publishing companies and other for-profit enterprises looking to recruit new customers. Some of these were straightforward, reasonably reputable (if overpriced) businesses. Others...not so much.

Very active trying to snag Tate authors was Legaia Books.

Here's how Legaia describes itself (bolding and errors courtesy of the original):
Legaia is a book publishing company created to aid writers in seeing their works in prints. Whether you’re a beginner or a published author, and whatever is the genre of your work (memoirs, fiction, non-fiction, children’s book, or even poetry collection), it is always our pleasure to be working with you. Legaia has no reservations to anything in particular other than those that contradict what is in the terms and services. With the application of new technology and information, we are able to accommodate our clients and are maintaining this accessibility for a better relationship.
The whole website is written like this, which should be a gigantic clue that things aren't kosher. If that's not enough, consider the eye-poppingly expensive publishing packages (which don't offer anything that's not available elsewhere for much less money), the hugely overpriced "online media publicity campaign" (based largely on cheap-for-the-provider services that can be sold at an enormous markup), and the nebulously-described "Online Retail Visibility Booster", which costs $6,499 and wants you to believe that's a fair price for something called a Booster Tool that supposedly gets you more reviews on Amazon.

You can also buy advertising in Paperclips Magazine, which among other "opportunities" encourages authors to pay $1,999 for a book review or $4,999 for a "Paperclips Author Article." According to the Legaia website, Paperclips is "a social online magazine that showcases books and author experiences in the publishing industry"; according to email solicitations like the one above, it has "over 2 million subscribers worldwide" (a bit hard to believe, given the mix of terrible writing, puff pieces, and ads that make up most of its content).

What both website and solicitations fail to mention: Legaia and Paperclips are one and the same, a fact Legaia admits on its LinkedIn page. This is the kind of profitable closed loop that allows an author-exploiting enterprise to hit up its victims multiple times.

As for Paperclips Magazine, it's...interesting. Not just for the amount of money that must have been generated by all the author articles and ads. Not just for the insanely awful writing by the "Editorial Team" (screenshot at left).

No. For the plagiarism and the intellectual property theft.

The Paperclips website includes numerous short articles with the byline Chloe Smith. Much of this content actually belongs to other authors. For instance, a piece called 7 Active Reading for Students: here it is at Paperclips, under Chloe's name. Here's the original, attributed to the real author: Grace Fleming. How about 10 Keys to Writing a Brilliant Speech? Here it is at Paperclips. Here's the original, by Bill Cole. Ditto These Are the 8 Fundamental Principles of Great Writing. Here it is at Paperclips. Here's the original (with a different title), by Glenn Leibowitz.

I could go on. There are lots more examples. And that's just the Paperclips website. The magazine also includes stolen content. At least Why Print Books are Better than eBooks, and Ways to Improve eReaders bears the name of its true author, Greg Krehbiel...but Greg has confirmed to me that Paperclips published it without his permission. (It originally appeared here.) (I also reached out to two other authors included in the same issue, but as of this writing I haven't heard back.)

Any bets on whether Paperclips got permission to use images of Dr. Seuss characters on the cover of its latest issue? Or asked George R.R. Martin if it was okay to re-publish his August 2016 blog post--complete with original artwork from the illustrated anniversary edition of Game of Thrones?

A bunch of other things don't add up.  Legaia/Paperclips has a North Carolina address, but it's a virtual office. Legaia's LinkedIn page claims the company was founded in 2008, but its domain wasn't registered until late 2015. Similarly, Paperclips' LinkedIn page says it started up in 2012, but its domain wasn't created until November 2016 (I also couldn't find any issues of the magazine earlier than December 2016). I've been able to locate only two actual human staff members (neither website includes staff names, and the two names I've seen on Legaia's author solicitations, Emily Bryans and Serena Miles, appear to be wholly imaginary); both are based in the Philippines, and one formerly worked for Author Solutions.

Between these things, the English-as-a-second-language writing, the overpriced and exploitive "services", the plagiarism, and just the general sleazy feel of it all, I'm strongly reminded of LitFire Publishing, which has a very similar business model and M.O, and was established by Author Solutions call center alumni in the Philippines as a sort of low-rent Xlibris-AuthorHouse-iUniverse-Trafford clone. Are LitFire and Legaia the same operation? Probably not. But it wouldn't surprise me if Legaia has the same provenance.

"Emily Bryans" is currently soliciting authors for something called Paperclips Magazine's Author Circle, which is supposedly arriving this October and will feature "celebrity authors and multi-awarded literary contributors" (wonder how many of them know they're included?) No word on how much it will cost to join up, but I bet it's a bundle.

Writer beware.

Comment on The Worst Possible Thing by LizV

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 01:46 pm
[syndicated profile] pcwrede_comments_feed

Posted by LizV

I’ve always thought the “worst possible thing” advice implied a lack of imagination. Because, y’know, I can think of a host of really awful things that could happen to my characters… but most of them would make for a very short book. Whereas “What would really f’ up my character’s day” contains a world of possibilities, and “What does my character really not want to do, and how can I maneuver her into having to do it?” — well, come to think of it, that’s the plot of my first book.

Maybe it’s just that “worst possible thing” implies a lack of sadism. It’s so much more fun to play with your toys for extended periods than to break them right out of the box. 😉


Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 08:58 am
rj_anderson: (Nomad - Ivy)
[personal profile] rj_anderson
I don't know why it possessed me to check Catherine Fisher's website today, but I was curious to know what her next project would be and... and...

I am also thinking seriously about a third Incarceron novel, and have already drafted a synopsis. I once thought I had said all I needed to about this world, but there has been such a constant demand for more about Finn, Claudia, Keiro, Jared and Attia etc that I have been forced to think again. And yes, now that I'm working on it, it's a very exciting prospect. But it all depends on the publishers. As soon as I know anything definite, I will post news here.

I am SO EXCITED now. And also terrified, because I am about 99% sure Fisher doesn't care about Claudia/Jared nearly as much as I do (actually, Catherine Fisher does not appear to care about romances of any kind, period, even on those super-rare occasions when she seems to be trying to write one).

But still, more of these characters and this world would be AMAZING. *hyperventilates*

Soviet Army officer training, career paths, etc

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 08:04 am
[personal profile] penta posting in [community profile] factfinding
So, I have another character being drawn up (by another player) for the same game for which I posted highly detailed questions about Israel (admittedly probably too detailed) - only he's playing Russia, and he's trying to draw up a character who served in the Soviet Army as an officer semi-realistically. (It's *after* the character's military career that everything goes interesting.)

I want to write him a summary of the Soviet Army officer's career path, what service branches are available, etc., but nothing I can find tells me the basic stuff. It's all focused on generals and stuff. (Looked on Wiki, looked on Google, neither helped. I found a monograph on that was from 1975 and provided *some* detail, but expected me the reader to know more than I do to make sense of stuff.)

To quote his draft summary: "(1) Early life.  Born in 1959, he follows a similar course to Putin (joining the military instead, but attached as an "adviser" to one of the Soviet Bloc countries after a tour in Afghanistan which gave him a scar on his upper right arm from a Taliban attack).  He resigned with a TBD officer's rank in the middle of the 1991 coup attempt (a la Putin; he's simply younger) rather than join in the attempt (which he percieved as doomed)."

He's trying to figure it out in more detail than that, but the problem is that he (the player) and I (the GM, one of two, responsible for helping him draw up his character - he does the important work of figuring out policies and stuff, the meat of gameplay, himself) can't find anything much about anything re the company-grade and field-grade officers of the Soviet Army and how they were trained, or how their careers progressed, or anything.

In specific:

1. As the character was born in 1959, presume he enters officer training from civilian life sometime around 1977. How long is his officer training, and how is it decided whether he goes, say, infantry or airborne troops?

2. What's the career path like from initial officer training (including "what rank does he enter service at?" - the materials I can find state "Lieutenant", but the Soviet Army has 3 Lieutenant ranks!) to, say, battalion command?

3. What additional school-type training would he undergo during that career path, and at what times during his career? (I can help the player figure out good tour-of-duty mixes once I have that information.)

4. What service arms existed in the Soviet Army? I often hear of officers referred to as a "Colonel of Infantry", "Colonel of Air Defense", "Colonel of Strategic Rocket Forces" - but what are the possible options for the "of x" formula?

5. Were ordinary officers even assigned as "advisors" to Warsaw Pact forces, or only Political Officers?

I know these are really detailed questions in some regard. I'm trying to keep them general, but even the general stuff is hard to figure out. My objectives for this are:

A. Figure out what rank, highest, would have been plausible for what I'm currently thinking is a fairly obscure-ish Russian serving as a Soviet Army Officer from 1977-1991 - if the player wants lower, cool, but I as GM need to have a clue what's "too high".

B. Figure out what his career would have looked like - where would he have served, at what levels, doing what? (Especially key to figure out when he would have served in Afghanistan.)

C. Figure out if the early life posited is *plausible*.

I thus don't need to know deep details (at least not until a player requests a detailed bio of their Russian adversary from their intel people, at which point I may be back...), but only be able to work out a summary. I can do the hard part of the work myself and with the player, but I need help figuring out the foundational stuff before I begin that.

(Edited to add: Link to something Google *did* dredge up for me, and my note that what I was sent was a draft summary of the character, not a full bio. We'll be working on the full bio once we have the summary agreed to.)

First as a tragedy, then as a farce...

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 01:43 pm
selenak: (Kitty Winter)
[personal profile] selenak
RE: ongoing horror show, err, US national and foreign politics: this is yet another reason why I find the entire Hydra in Marvel comics & MCU concept so stupid, not just in the WWII era, where the sheer logistics (or lack of same) break my brain, but also in the present day. Super-secret organization, master assassins, gadget weapons? This just isn't how fascism works. This is how fascism works. It shouts its goals to the winds and gets itself voted into power.

There is not a single member of the Republican party, nor any other voter who either elected the Orange Menace or by not voting enabled it, who can claim this isn't EXACTLY what they voted for or allowed to happen. Because Agent Orange certainly hadn't kept his views a secret. Nor did his minions.

There Are Rights and Then There Are Rights...

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 06:35 am
[syndicated profile] makeminemystery_feed

Posted by Susan

by Janis Patterson

Early this year I was talking with a dear friend of mine, a very successful romance writer who is so successful that she has her own Kindle World. For those who don’t know what KW is, it’s sort of a legitimized fan fiction scheme. A world is based on a popular book/series. People who want to write in that world can – as long as they follow certain contractual restrictions. If accepted by a Kindle committee, the book will be published, with half the income going to the original author. A different concept, but so far, so good.

To a point.

As I said, I was talking with my friend and we agreed that it would be a fun thing for me to come play in her world. She’s a multi-NYT, USA bestseller, so it would have been good for me. I wrote a book – and had a marvelous time doing it, as her fictional world is set in one of my favorite places in the real world, so it was sort of like a mini-vacation. Then, while finishing the book, I thought I should take another look at the KW rules before submitting, as I had only glanced at them before.

What a shock. Copied from the KW ‘how it works’ page :

You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all of the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you grant Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all of the original elements you include in that story for the term of copyright. This means that your story and all of the new elements must stay within the applicable World, and you can use only this platform to write about them(Emphasis mine.)

Whaaaat? You own the copyright, but grant them exclusive license to the story and ALL original elements in your story for the life of the copyright? (That is 75 years after your death, in case you didn’t know.) And if you want to write more using those characters they not only have to be exclusive to Amazon, but to KW? Worse still, if Amazon decides to end KW, or pull your book from the canon, your characters and original elements are still under their control. They can vanish from public view forever and contractually you can’t do a thing about it.

Amazon goes on to say :  

We recommend that you do not incorporate an original character or elements unless you want them to become an exclusive part of that World. In short, Kindle Worlds is a place to be creative and explore a popular World, but anything you create will become part of that World. (Emphasis mine.)

And, to be fair, they do say :
If this is not right for you, Amazon has many platforms (including Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace) for writers who want to be creative with original ideas but do not want their work under this kind of license.

What I don’t understand is why would anyone give away their rights for what is pretty much perpetuity like this? Especially for just HALF of the royalties? Amazon even says bluntly that no rights will be reverted before the end of copyright. Period. I know there has been a trend lately among traditional publishers to hold on to (sometimes to the point of refusing to return them no matter what the contract says) or demand longer terms on rights, but I find this is incredible.

Needless to say, I called my friend and said that I would not be putting anything into her world, that I could not simply give away my rights like that. I do intend to publish the book, but I was very careful to scrub it of any reference to her world or her characters, except for the physical location, which actually exists and has been used in books for at least a century. I offered to send her a manuscript copy so that she could be sure that there was no overlap with her work, but she most graciously said it wasn’t necessary. (We have been friends for many years…)

So while I can only goggle at anyone who would simply hand over the rights to their characters and ideas as well as their right to publish anywhere they want, such a rights confiscation apparently is not illegal. The writer has to submit and sign of their own free will, which makes the contract (however unfair I regard it) valid. I don’t have the right to order anyone not to accept such an arrangement (not that they would listen to me) because it’s their business, not mine. All I can do is beg everyone to read the FAQs and the contracts very carefully and make sure they completely understand just what they are signing away and for how long. Then I would remind them that they should do the same with every contract offered them, no matter from whom it comes. If there is the slightest question, they should turn to their agent (if they have one) or talk with an intellectual property lawyer. Or both.

Unfortunately the publishing world – like the world of movies and TV – is just brimming with sharks waiting to gobble up the creativity of the naïve. You the writers are the only ones who can protect yourselves and your creations. Make sure that any choice you make is a good one.

You can quote me

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] janetreid_feed
New Leaf has an All Hands On Deck meeting once a week to plot world domination, and stalking of snacks.  We open the meeting with an invocation to the book deities, which generally takes the form of a quotation about books or publishing.

I was asked to provide the quote for today's meeting.

Well! That was a task I welcomed.  I immediately dove into my reading journal where I write down the sentences/phrases/paragraphs from books I'm reading that resonate with me.

Here were some of the things I found that I put on my short list for Quote Consideration.

"I tried to think of the things I'd be capable of doing while on fire and the list was fucking short "
Jeff Somers (manuscript pages)
 Nope, not quite the right tone for this meeting, but still, awesome.
"I'd spent half my life giving a clinic on how to fuck up in slow motion. I had slow motion fucking whiplash."
Jeff Somers (manuscript pages)
Again probably not quite right for the meeting, but this should be on my tombstone for sure.
"Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active form like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is now, right here and now."
Mr. Rogers
 Now we're getting closer. And it's impossible to go wrong with Mr. Rogers.

"When destiny wants to fuck with you, it can afford to be patient. Destiny has all the time in the world."
Laura Lippman

Again, not quite the right tone, but oh so apt for so many other meetings.

"The only law that applied to her was gravity, and some days she defied that too."
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Well, that describes a couple people here at New Leaf, so we're back in the ballpark.

"The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up."
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Probably a little too spiritual for a secular business meeting, but I love this quote, and I really love that book.
"Everytime we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is on the other side of it."
Pastrix by  Nadia Bolz-Weber

 Well, even though I love this quote and think about it often, it's clearly a non-starter at this secular meeting. 

And then I found this one.

Books are the carriers of civilization.
Without books, history is silent,
literature dumb,
science crippled,
thought and speculation at a standstill.

                                  --Barbara Tuchman

 And I think it's perfect.

Do you have a saying taped up in your office that reminds you of the big picture?

The Worst Possible Thing

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] patwrede_blog_feed

Posted by Patricia Wrede

“Ask yourself what the worst possible thing is that you can do to your characters” is an often-repeated piece of advice that is a lot less helpful than it looks. If you follow it literally, about 99% of the time the answer is going to be “torture the character to death after torturing all their loved ones to death in front of their eyes.” Since the number of novels that involve the death-by-torture of the protagonist is nowhere near 99%, not even if you limit yourself to the Horror genre, I think it is fair to say that the advice is not meant to be taken literally.

To most experienced writers, that seems obvious. One of my writer friends has pointed out that at the very least, there’s an implied “…that the character can survive and possible learn/grow from” tacked on to the end of that sentence. You can also make a good argument for making it “…the worst possible thing from this character’s point of view at the moment…” because having to eat seaweed and bugs to survive on a desert island might be especially awful for a gourmet, but having died in the shipwreck would really have been worse, wouldn’t it?

Too many writers, though, do take “do the worst possible thing to the character” literally, and then make it a requirement for writing a decent story. They don’t even look for smaller questions like “What would my character really hate to have happen right this minute?” or “What screw-up will cause this character the most inconvenience for the next hour or so?”

Any good novel, though, is a combination of both small and large moments, good and bad. And the classic stories that get told and retold seldom involve “the worst possible thing that could happen” by objective standards. It’s pretty easy to think of a lot worse things that tornado could have done besides dumping Dorothy in Oz. And was getting taken in by Fagin really the worst possible thing that could have happened to Oliver Twist as an unprotected and easily missed child in the slums of 19th century London?

From an objective standpoint, the answer is obviously “no,” but the alternative possibilities would lead to very different stories from the ones that Baum and Dickens wrote. Too often, though, writers are so focused on the “worst possible thing” that they lose sight of the character, the context, and the constraints of the story they set out to tell, and they don’t stop to consider small things. Objectively, the “worst possible thing” that could happen to a character might be to be hit by a car and crippled as he leaves the cafe to rush to his important business meeting, but in a story about a desperate attempt to get investors for a fledgling Silicon Valley business, a more believable and useful “worst thing” might be having the character spill ketchup on his shirt out of nerves.

In a similar vein, looking for the “biggest challenge” or “greatest obstacle” that a character can face is not useful, if one takes it literally. I’m a writer; for any given character who isn’t a totally invulnerable Superman, it is trivially easy to come up with a challenge or obstacle that is too much for them to plausibly overcome. It’s only slightly harder, in most cases, to come up with a challenge/obstacle that is impossible for any character to overcome. Which is fine, if you want to write a tragic story of a character overreaching and failing, but no help at all if you want a more successful ending.

Focusing on superlatives (the best option, the worst happening, the hardest choice) can be useful if one is the sort of writer who has to force oneself not to write about happy people happily being happy. (In my experience, such writers tend to present their characters with easy to solve “problems” like “My hair is too long and looks horrible and the wedding is tomorrow!” [Hint: call a hairdresser] and need to really push themselves to get to a “biggest challenge” like “Somebody in the parking lot put a huge dent in my car and my spouse is going to be really upset!”) For most writers, though, insisting on superlatives makes it difficult to present the results believably.

It’s hard (though doable) to get a reader to believe a totally-out-of-the-blue-coincidental-hit-and-run car accident that prevents the hero from making his/her meeting. It’s fairly easy to get a reader to believe that a nervous person would spill ketchup on themselves right before an important meeting, or even that somebody else in the restaurant would trip and cover the character in spaghetti at just the wrong moment. Using the smaller, more believable incident allows the writer to save extreme measures for things that are really plot-necessary but tough to get readers to buy.

To put it another way, Occam’s Razor applies to writing more often than you might think. You don’t need the worst possible biggest challenge or the best hardest choice; you need the smallest thing that will do the job you want done. If you want the character to miss the big meeting entirely, you don’t need to have him hit by a car and put into a coma for three days; you can have his car towed while he’s in the restaurant. But do think about the ketchup thing – it might actually work better for your plot if he shows up in his ketchup-stained shirt and therefore manages to make a thoroughly bad impression in person.

This works for defeating villains, too – find the smallest possible thing that, if it can be accomplished, will derail or completely foil the villain’s plan. If that makes it too easy, figure out the villain’s precautions that keep that small thing from working, and move to the next-smallest possible thing. If there’s an obvious worst-possible-thing, too, that’s fine; you then get to decide which of the options sends the book in a direction you’re interested in writing.




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