Monday, March 30, 2009

More Chicken Tales

This time the toaster oven is off. (tee hee)

As I was saying last week – the baby chicks arrived at the feed store in Rineyville. I had ordered a dozen Dominique pullets to replace my aging flock of four hens. In the meantime, I'd lost Sampson the old rooster.

Therefore, I picked up a baby rooster while I was at it. Doms are the oldest breed of chicken in the US. They have also gotten rare. They are off the 'endangered' list but still under careful watch. I've noticed that they aren't broody, (which means they won't set and raise their own young.) The fertility rate isn't what it should be. Last year, out of some four dozen eggs in the incubator, we didn't get a single live chick.

Over the last few years I've raised a couple hundred ducklings. My luck with chickens hasn't been anywhere near a good. One reason is my dogs are chicken killers. The other is that I had no experience with chickens when we moved here. I thought they were as hardy as the ducks. NOT – not in the slightest.

Over the last three years I've gotten a bit more chicken savvy. I have some nice panels that will keep the chicks enclosed and safe from dogs and hawks while they have some outside time. The 8-foot panels worked great last year. Where I ran into trouble was when I thought they were big enough for the poultry fence.

This year I'm keeping the dogs in the electric poultry fence. It is easier for a chick to get out of electric poultry fencing than for a dog to get out. So we corral the predators, and the prey, to keep them apart.

In case of snafus I bought a dozen pullets when all I really need is a half dozen. We had more than enough eggs for us, and to sell when I had six hens. I think the ideal would be to have one hen raise a brood every year. Until I get a proven mother hen, we are buying chicks every two years.

Yesterday we moved the whole flock out to the tack room. I turned up the heat in the tack room, and put the babies in a nice big metal tub with a warming lamp. Today they were in good shape, eating, peeping and running around.

(Looking around the house cautiously.) Nothing on fire? Good, it's time to get ready for work.

Later.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring has Sprung

The babies are here!

I picked up our order of chicks from Rineyville Feed today. Twelve little Dominique pullets, a rooster, four Rhode Island Red pullets and a rooster for my parents.

Oh shit the toaster oven is on fire!

Now that I've proven myself to be a complete idiot....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Quotable Ms Kitty

So much for settling in gently, I inadvertently said something quotable while trying to make peace in my new "home."

This is a direct quote from Harper Collins Authonomy blog concerning the huge in rush of members thanks to a new author with a Starcraft following of thousands.

"Meanwhile, Authonomy has welcomed thousands of new members who have come from sites all across the Internet, places that would never have become aware of this endeavor before. We think that makes this place a little bit richer. "

"Newcomer KatJ270 exclaimed:
"Word of this has spread all over the Internet.
This site has been yanked out of obscurity into the spotlight.
The world is watching!"

"Watching and, we hope, reading."

I also said: "there is no such thing as bad publicity." Which mercifully was not quoted.

Now I get to eat those words.

Yum.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick Note: Authonomy Stablized

Someone took pity on the people at Authonomy and gave them new bandwidth. The site is stable and the agonized shrieks of jonesing site-junkies has quieted.

The culture shock continues, as members of the Starcraft Swarm flit in and out, erupting in little flames here and there. Other's (like myself) are settling in gently, cautiously testing the waters to see if it's truly safe to enter.

This is the complete message from Harper Collins:

We wanted to give you a quick update following the excitement that occurred over the weekend. (Yes, we followed it too.) (Trolls take that to heart. They were watching.)

48 hours ago none of us had heard of Starcraft. That was before Klazart posted his book on the site and started to invite support from the Starcraft community. His efforts were spectacularly successful and he has reaped the rewards of these newcomers’ support. We do not consider his actions to be breaching any site rules and his book will not be removed by us. Unfortunately the subsequent behaviour of a very small number of individuals – both his supporters and detractors – was considerably more questionable and in many cases was deeply offensive. This will not be tolerated: authonomy is for everyone. Please continue to use the ‘report abuse’ links to alert our moderators to any complaint.

(I distinctly hear a ruler rapping knuckles.)

Once again there has been much questioning of the book chart. We agree there is still room for improvement, but it is far from broken. We are willing to admit that the recent events have shown up real flaws in the algorithm behind the talent-spotter ranking. Some excellent suggestions have already been made and we’ll be considering these.

Finally, we need to apologise for the performance issues which are dogging the site at the moment. We appear to have a fault in our hosting infrastructure. It is not related to the activities at the weekend and we really should have more than enough capacity in the servers for the task at hand. We are investigating and service may be at erratic until this is resolved. Please bear with us on this one. We are making this a priority.

Posted: 23/03/2009 18:13:24

Being a techie, as well as a writer, I must say this is an elegant message. They admit there was an infrastructure issue. (Take any bets on what it was??) Spanked the trolls, said "48 hours ago we had never heard of Starcraft," AND defended the man's right to keep his novel in place.

I, as a new user, find it very soothing to my rattled nerves. I'm five chapters deep into the novel, have had a few comments, made 2 watch-lists and hope for the best.

If you happen to be curious about what I've posted -- "Besieged" has offically been retitled "Let's Do Lunch" it was posted in the Romance catagory and is about 2000 books down the list.

Here is the link: http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=7657

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Brave New World - Authonomy.com

The other day I went over to Authonomy to check out the site. I read a book excerpt that knocked my socks off. I'll not pitch the book just yet. I've got a few words about Authonomy first.

The principle of the site is simple and elegant. Get a group of writers, throw them together and find out which books rise to the top of the slush pile. Review the best five, if something is salable buy if, if nothing looks good, wait a month and repeat.

For the writers: get all your friends to join up to promote your book. Otherwise, get enough writers (already members) to 'shelf' your book and you can rise to the top. Best five every month are reviewed by Harper Collins Editors. Occasionally a book is purchased, but getting the review is a one-shot deal.

The idea for writers is that 'agents and editors' cruise the site (cue 'Jaws' music) for new talent that didn't make the HC cut. My impression is that the site was obscure except for a handful of writers slowly passing the word around.

That appears to be the catch: The site is small, the users less than 1000. All was well until - Kaboom - someone from a "Mainstream" site (YouTube) with a big backing hit the site and blew it all to hell and back. The servers crashed and crashed and crashed, making it impossible for the site-junkies to get online. (I'll bet the server-elves have been jacked up on coffee, babysitting the thrashing servers and (rightfully)screaming for more bandwidth.)

With hundreds of new users pounding the site the old way of doing business was completely trashed. The writer's went absolutely nuts when the status quo changed. (Thanks to a faulty algorithm.) The poor writers started screaming bloody murder when this guy shot up the ranks. They took their frustration out on the newbies, who snapped back, the flame wars started making otherwise perfectly nice people morph into trolls.

The site is now having its "15 minutes of fame." as the writer's agonized screaming spilled from Authonomy to Amazon/ABNA, word spread to YouTube, TeamLiquid and some Starcraft gaming sites, so more and more people (like me) have gone to rubber neck.

Harper Collins has done the right thing, as of this afternoon, the site had a "updating to better serve you" sign up. Last I looked the updated bandwidth appeared to be handling the traffic like a charm.

I'm more than a bit freaked out by the messages I've gotten offering me everything from read/review swaps to low-level bribes for shelf space. It is all very interesting, frankly in a 'bug watching' way. I will watch to see if any of the "Swarm" stay and how all the dynamics change.

Stay tuned.

Human nature is really fascinating.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Heading Down the Stretch

Now that I can stop obsessing over ABNA, I'm back to adding scenes to "Swallow the Moon." I'm at a really interesting place.

Eric and June are on the back of his motorcycle traveling down the Rt 11, at about 110 mph; in a fog bank, on the wrong side of the road.

Being chased by 4 guys in a souped up SUV.

I know, I'm bordering on Overkill here. Honestly, as I wrote it, it made perfect sense. In fact, it doesn't quite go over the top, though the next couple of scenes need work. I remember getting to this point with "Besieged" how jittery I was to have the book in fragments that need rearranging and filling in.

It took me 8 years to get to first rough draft with "Besieged" and only 5 months to get to first rough draft with "Moon." Where does "Besieged" go from here? I'm done at ABNA, "Beseiged" needs the first Chapter rewritten. Agents haven't responded to my queries.

Now what?

I need to make some choices; study up and make a plan, set goals. The economy is going to pick up later this year (4th quarter). So where do I take this novel that I've worked with for so long?

Market to publishers, or self-publish?

Createspace is an option. Authonomy is an option. Harlequin is an option that pays good money. The other two are big risks. There are publishers out there. I need to find my niche.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quarter Finals - Ouch!

I was up until 11 pm yesterday, biting my nails wondering what the results would be. I've been obsessed with ABNA from the first email I got about the contest.

This morning, low and behold, the results were in. The 'web elves' must have stayed up all night to get the pages put together and tested. I know what a pain in the tush it must have been to get all the files d/l'd, linked and tested.

Crikey, what a chore this must be.

So how did I do?

I got through the first cut to the 2000 entries that had their excerpts read. My excerpt got two 'Vine' reviews. I haven't seen them yet. I've got my work cut out for me. Need to take that First Chapter apart, paragraph by paragraph and rework it.

In the meantime -- "Swallow the Moon" is shaping up (which means I cut about 10k out of it.) I will need to go back in to work out some kinks and fill in some holes, but this one has 'matured' fast; five months, when "Besieged" took 8 years and 13 months of concerted effort.

Meanwhile, I have yet another novel cooking in the back of my mind: "Tempest in a Teapot." About a woman who opens a tea-house in Vine Grove, and the lengths she must go to keep her shop open while the economy falls around her. I don't have a hero yet, but I've got a plot, a protagonist and an antagonist. That's a great start.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What’s Wrong with First Person? – A Reader Writes

Yesterday on the ABNA forums there was quite an outcry when our ‘insider’ posted that the reviewers were not happy with the plethora of excerpts written in first person Point of View.
Here are the Reviewers comments on First Person, quoted on Amazon.com:

~”Has anyone noticed that the vast majority of the excerpts have been written in the first person?”

~”The most egregious hazard? Submitting excerpts which were written in first person...The bulk of these "authors" quickly lost control of their writing.”

~”…had a very large number of first person narrative style. This is DEFINITELY not my favorite form of story to read.”

~...thinking "Please don't le t this be another...1st person story".

~”...when you don't set the stage properly, you're basically putting a blindfold on the reader. Just really starting to bug me after about 7 excerpts in a row that all have had that problem...” (in reference to use of 1st person)

Well, why is 1st person POV undesirable?

The first problem with 1st person PoV is that it appears both easy and personal, so ‘newbie’ writers are attracted to it. This is an issue in itself, as first person is often synonymous with ‘amateur writer.’ While there are many ‘popular’ writers who use first person, the bad tends to out-weight the good.

Second, it is a whole lot harder to write in first person than most people realize. It is harder to ‘see’ the character, unless they spend a whole lot of time looking into mirrors. It is easy to get carried away – remember Overkill? – give ‘too much information’ about the character, so they appear whiny, petty, bitter, stupid or just plain obnoxious. Setting the stage is much trickier, if not done right, as one reviewer c! ommented: “it is like putting a blindfold on the reader.”

Third, the “I” becomes monotonous, often monotone, like too many ‘he said, she said” passages. The reader becomes indifferent or hostile to the character, so the book goes back on the shelf, or in the ‘donate’ pile. Or in the online world, the story is deleted before it is read.

Fourth the breezy chic-lit “I” voice is prone to petty snarking; which is not engaging to an emotionally mature reader. After a few pages it starts to sound like the prattling of an empty-headed, vain, child, not an adult female. (Chic-lit has become a publishing leper, which also contributes to the problem.)

On ABNA I read far too many stories that would have been gems but the writer didn’t know when to make the main character shut up. Some characters had voices that didn’t fit. Many sounded far, far too young to be the voice of the character as presented. Some, well the character wasn’t likeable, I did not want to BE in that character’s head, not for one second.

The only good thing that I can say about First Person PoV is that – tada – the writer can’t head hop.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ABNA Update

The quarter finals are only six days away. There are thousands of entrants holding their breath, waiting to find out just how far they got before being cut.

A couple of stupid grammatical errors have been found in my excerpt, so I'm writing the contest off as a lesson learned. I did a panic edit, cut the first half of the first chapter, in the middle of an ice storm with only 20 minutes to edit before the laptop went dead. Not the brightest idea, I admit.

However, after not getting any response from the 'query holiday' agent website, I have to say that the old opening didn't work. But I was afraid of that from the beginning.

The raw stats are as follows: Rates out at 4 stars out of 9 reviews, 94 views.

My favorite review:

4/5 stars Anonymous February 19, 2009 Please rate this excerpt. 4/5 stars Do you have any comments for the author?

One of the best excerpts I've read on here. You do a good job establishing characters while mixing exposition and dialogue. Watch the overuse of adjectives,
ie twinkling...my personal suggestion, if it occurs more than once in the book, replace it! Also, avoid contractions in the narrative, again a personal preference but the use of contractions detracts from the narrative voice while fine for character dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, if there are only two characters you don't need the "he said, she said". Good job using the active voice and third person POV...way too many people on here are using passive voice and first person yet if you go pull books from your shelf only a tiny fraction of them (excluding the Twilight Series, of course) are first person. Good luck with your entry, I think you will make it through a few cuts!

Ah, the sweet scent of praise! Well, the beginning of story has been read a almost a hundred times. I don't suppose there are many agents or editors wandering through this particular slush-pile looking for gems. (sigh)

However, I will continue to update, and should there be an 'offical' rating or review, I will post it here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Over Kill

We sit at the keyboard, contemplating the story in front of us. It needs a hook. Something that will really reach out and grab the reader/publisher/agent by the throat. So we start typing.

Thus the most horrendous of all evil doers is born.

Overkill.

There are many ways to destroy a story. Take the villain mentioned last time. S/he/it eats babies for breakfast. That's over kill in characterization. What is scarier – a raving madman or an intelligent, soft spoken antagonist who is perfectly sane?

For example, I see people on TV all the time that scare the hell out of me. Turn on CNN any day, if you can't find the perfect antagonist, you aren't paying attention. They are in politics. Most of them have their own "News" programs. Their opinions are as twisted as a bag of snakes, broadcast for the world to see. Don't listen to whatever/whomever they are bashing; look at the person doing the bashing. I shudder when I think that the world knows "us" by these vultures.

Granted, no one would take a villain based on Rush Lumbaugh seriously, except in a story of the most over-the-top the horror genre. But there are others, who look and act saner that illustrate the point.

Overkill isn't limited to 'the world's most villainous villain' either. Purple prose will turn off a reader, no matter how well intentioned. If a 'hard-bitten hero' (already treading the line with this guy) does a sudden about face – say starts spouting poetic gibberish to the heroine he hated two seconds before… Well that does it, overkill strikes again.

The root cause of most blatant overkill is writer insecurity. "Will they get that?" The writer wonders, chewing fingernails, then decides to play the situation up even more. The result is a massive overkill that stops the story in its tracks. The hero is heroic to the point of suicide, the heroine too helpless/pretty/angry. The villain – well – eating babies for breakfast is the warm up, the start of her/his/its day.

Your villain does not need a boat load of torture equipment to be scary. Your heroine does not need to have sex four times a day with multiple partners to be sexy (or slutty.) Your characters do not have to escape every battle unscathed.

You don't have to underestimate the power of the written word.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Argument Against Multiple Points of View

I can't afford to buy many new books, so I'm picky.

I'll flip through a book to see how it is written. If I find more than 2, that's right 2 Point of View characters, I won't buy the book. I don't care who wrote it.

Just as too many cooks spoil a broth, too many characters spoil the story.

This goes for novels of the 'suspense' variety that show the villain's (always uber-twisted) point of view as well. I don't want to hear or see the sick, twisted things this creep does for kicks. The story isn't about him/her anyway. So many authors give away their plot, instead of building the suspense, with a poorly timed - often poorly executed - PoV switch.

Blame my revulsion on over-populated works of fantasy & sci-fi. I read the first three of the "Wheel of Time" -er - mega epic. The flat one-dimensional characters blurred together from the beginning. I never finished the "Left Behind" series for the same reason. I gave up hope the writers would either develop or drop some characters, but no. Each book had a couple new, poorly developed, characters to track. I needed a database to keep track of them, and frankly it wasn't worth the effort.

(Yes, "Left Behind" is classified as Sci-fi. The series is shelved with the Fantasy novels in the local library. You cannot fool a librarian. But I digress.)

One of the joys of reading is finding a character with whom one can relate. That's how I got hooked on Nora Roberts romances, I feel like I know the characters. I want to know what happens next. I can forgive some serious head hopping, as long as there are only two heads to hop. (G)

It is more difficult to tell the story from a single PoV than it is to hop gleefully from head to head. It is as if the writer was a child on a trampoline, using PoV to advance the story. As a result, these books are choppy, even disjointed.

"Wee! There is my villain. Watch him eat babies for breakfast! Is he not the most villainous villain ever ?"

"Wee! Here's my hero. Is he not heroic?"

"Wee! She's the Designated Love Interest. Isn't she smitten? Doesn't she just hate the Hero?"

"Lookie, they all hate each other! We have conflict!"

That is hardly the way to write a good story. The purpose of the novel is character development. There are accepted schools of writing that talk about the 'hero's journey' of self discovery. Take note: Hero is singular. It is followed by: Self-discovery.

Not planet-wide discovery. Self!

I'll quote the back of "45 Master Characters" to illustrate the point. "The mythic journeys of heroes and heroines - the progression of events upon which each character arc develops - are also examined. Building such a 'journey' into your character's story will enable you to stop worrying about what comes next and get on with telling your tale."

Whenever I write a review,
I always check the Point of View.
If it sucks, the story does too.

Adue~.