Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boomer – still hanging in there.

Boomer – still hanging in there.

I noted yesterday that Boomer was able to stand last night when I got home.

This morning she was flat on her back again. But she was cheerful and ate well.

This evening when I came home, she was standing. I noticed that she was close to the wall as if she were using it to support her right leg. The left wing is low, to steady her. When I look at the bedding, it looks walked on. Maybe she's been walking in circles? Leaning on the wall for support?

I figured it out. She injured her right leg. It looks like the hock can't lock. When she stands on it, the hock breaks forward like a knee. I can't tell if it's dislocated or what. Could be torn tendons, from being trampled.

I thought about it for a minute. I've already noted that she started perking up after the vitamins yesterday. So tonight I feed her some more. Didn't put them in her water, but fed them straight.

While I watched she walked a few steps, then she started to groom her self. It was really cool to see her not only standing with her tail up, but preening her feathers.

4/22/09
This morning she was standing when I came to see her.

She makes these contented little peeps, almost under her breath. The litter is flat, her food dish is empty. I think she's going to pull through.

Cool.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boomer - Update

Boomer is still alive, and still weak.

Yesterday she ate a great big breakfast, and was able to stand up. Last night when I can home she was on her back. But once I put her on her feet she was able to walk. This morning she was stuck on her back again, appears weak and can hardly stand.

This doesn't make much sense to me. If the problem was injuries from being trampled she would have been able to stand and walk this morning as well.

I put vitamins in her water. Maybe I should feed them to her?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Food for Thought - Flamefest Aftermath

I ran across a real gem today. I haven't been able to forget what Christian said here:

http://christianusera.blogspot.com/

"Recently it's come to my attention that most within the publishing community can't take criticism. They can sure dish it, but when you question even one small thing about their practices or procedures - WATCH OUT. They will send all the loyal fans they can muster to come to their defense and decry the person dissenting. They even have minions to personally spy on your profile too. It'd be cute if it wasn't creepy."

That is a huge block of truth.

As I look back on the Friday Flame-fest (See: http://maryww.wordpress.com ) I see the pattern repeated over 100 times. Posts are almost word for word - it is group-think on a mind-boggling scale. The polite condensed version: "You don't know what you're talking about."

I am a systems analyst. I troubleshoot, diagnose and solve problems - there is always another way to do things. The short PC version is - There is more than one way to skin a computer.

Everything we do is under a magnifying glass 24/7. The slightest hiccup and the world comes to a screeching halt. Every day is a quest to tweak the process because the industry changed last night while you were sleeping.

Criticism?

You bet your hard drive – it never ends. Why? Because we have to change every day to stay alive in our industry. There is always someone younger, smarter and better educated in the latest software breathing down your neck. We even joke about it:

Q: "What do you call an IT tech who doesn't change everything (about the way they do business) every two years?"

A: "Unemployed."

Look what happened in the Detroit auto industry - the parts coming in were crap, therefore the cars were crap - so people looked for cars somewhere else. Japan measured the market, found people wanted quality cars - Toyota built the Camry and Detroit is still dying a slow death.

One day, my snarky friends, you and your venom will be sitting at the unemployment office with the Detroit Auto Industry Managers who said: "Nobody wants to buy a Toyota when they can own a Buick. I mean - sure we have quality problems - but we are making the cars that everyone WANTS to buy."

Does that sound familiar?

Anybody ever heard of Pokemon, manga, or anima? How much of that is produced in the USA, my dear snarky agent groupie? Do you know who the readers of tomorrow really are? Are they reading books, listening to books, or looking at graphic novels? (And likely reading them in Japanese, too.)

To all those people who said "this is the way publishing was, this is the way it is, this is the way it shall be, forever, amen." I say: "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

The cut-throat world of technology is camped at your doorstep, kizaning your processes and about to rip the market out from under you.

Look at Amazon.com if you don't believe me. What do you think ABNA is? Market research. Authonomy.com? Market research.

We have a name for you people who dish out criticism by the buckets but can't take it: Bullies.

Take a big-girl pill and shut up.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fifteen Hours of Flame - The Militant Writer

"Scorched Earth Tactics" are they worth it?

What would you do to get 6,000 hits and 200 (flaming) messages in one day?

I'm not about to stick my neck out like Mary at the Militant Writer did. Not today. Though I think that a sufficiently clever approach could be useful one day. I think that Mary was far more clever than she realized.

Kinda like the kitten chasing a 'rope' and coming up with a great Dane's tail. Oops.

The rubbernecks (like me) come in to see what's going on. The trolls come to shed blood. A few interesting people show up. A couple of editors and a publisher (e-publisher Flying Pen Press) and of course the Agent Rock Stars Bransford and Reid. Maybe a few more.

What am I doing? I'm backtracking people to find out who they are. That's why I'm writing this. Because it is so interesting to see who is whom. They are gathering again, the blog-junkies of the publishing world. People who missed out yesterday are coming in to take a gander, some to take a swipe. More I think, because some twit 'tweeted' about it and brought the legions in to partake.

Yesterday was the second #queryfail day. The slush pile bees mourned the 'lack of snark' as being 'no fun.' All that sharpening gone to waste because the bosses were watching?

Pity.

No, wait, here's a target. (The stampede begins.)

Here's a deep thought for the day: Where does all the snark come from?

Hate of the writer - the lowly worm who dares aspire above their 'rightful' place. (After all a million people would kill for the position of slush pile bee.)

Is it an instinctive process to keep the pecking order? I think that is part of it. We know from psychology (and the school yard) that children will fanatically police 'gender roles' and social standing amongst themselves.

Whenever a writer DARES to step from the shadows, is there are part of the brain that fires off a command to attack?

I believe so. The step up in any society is running the gauntlet, a battle for place. The lowly store clerk who gets promoted must take a lot of crap from their peers until they have won their place. I've been on the wrong side of the pecking order myself.

Saw that yesterday when Mary stepped out of the shadows into that '15 minutes of fame' that (Worhol?) spoke of. Saw that during the StarCraft invasion of Authonomy.

I use that in my stories. Show the crap that my protagonist takes from her own family and from her employees when she takes charge.

That's what is so fun about writing, we get to make commentary on human behavior.

The story continues.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chicken Talk

I blogged about buying the little Dominque chicks in hopes of keeping the oldest American chicken breed alive. I purchased 12 pullets and a rooster.

Things went basically well - they went to the barn after a week in the house. Got a nice big trough for a home. But of course things went wrong.

One kept getting trampled by the rest. I would pick it up, dust her off and put her back on her feet. But the next time I looked, she would be down again.

I expected her to get over it, but the next morning she was down, and another chick was standing on her. She couldn't get up. I made sure she got water and came back in the morning.

She was breathing, bless her little heart. I picked her up, brought her back in the house and put her under a light. Then I made sure she got enough to drink (sugar water for energy). I gave her a strawberry then I left for work.

Let me state now that vets in Kentucky don't do chickens. They are very firm on this. The attitude is "get another one." Or my personal favorite: "Put it out of it's misery."

The pullet was alive last night when I came home. She couldn't stand up. But she drank more sugar water.

This morning she was sitting on her hocks, with help from me, to drink. She ate some chicken feed. When I left for work she was able to stagger to her feet for a few seconds.

I named her Boomer.

The Militant Writer

I've been following Mary Walters blog the Militant Writer.

Mary is a literary writer who has vented her frustration on the "Agent/Publisher" road block that so many of us 'wannabes' have mashed into again and again.

The replies include me "can I link to this?" to flames "grow up" and two "Rock Star Agent Bloggers" Blandsford and Reid.

My heart goes out to her, the trolls have smelled blood and they are coming in droves. Good God! I'm so glad I'm a nobody. I don't think I have the guts to do what she did.

I think of this as "The Absolution Method" (after a writer on Authonomy.com) in the tradition of 'there is no such thing as bad publicity," light the forest on fire and see who comes. It worked for Abs (as s/he is known) s/he is number 8 in the charts.

Hopefully no one will notice me.

This little exchange came from the blog. I see this as completely verifying Mary's point. This is her 'checkmate' moment:

“Nathan, have you or any other agents with whom you meet in those dark alleys, do you think, ever turned down a work of great literary merit JUST BECAUSE you knew it would not attract an advance?”

Nathan answers: "Of course I have. I have to do this all the time."

"But a question for you: what good would it do me or the author to take on books I can’t sell?"

The crux of the problem. The "chicken or the egg" paradox that we all want to know the answer to. Where did the literary mid-list market go?

Is it because no one reads it, or because no one publishes it?

I think that it is because no one publishes it. But that is just my opionion as a reader. After all, who am I? I give $200 or more of Barnes & Noble gift certificates every Christmas. I have $300 worth of Amazon.com charges on my Visa card.

What do I buy mostly? Mainstream novels. When I can't find those? I buy Romances.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Query Fail – The Backlash Continues

A number of agents participated in a twitter event called "query fail" where they made cracks about the queries they were reading as they read them. The snark ran deep and the blood gushed to the writers following the 'event' with bated breath.

Mind you, this was not an industry-wide event. There were a number of agents who declined the 'fun' on whatever grounds. (They had excellent survival instincts as it turns out.)

The backlash began immediately on writer's forums. I read about it on Createspace.com and being the internet rubberneck that I am I checked it out.

I got the impression of a hundred young women, PMSing their brains out, gleefully sharpening their claws on the poor shmucks who queried them. (Rather like the shower scene from Carrie – the queen bees pelting the unfortunate and ignorant Carrie with tampons and such.)

Just like the shower scene in Carrie – there has been a rumbling discontent from the writer's. Flame-ups on forums, snark from writers on the blogs, minor signs of disgust from canny agents covering their asses.

There was an 'agent fail' site that went up: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/04/agentfail-right-here.html
Then, today, I found this little gem by Mary W. Walters – The Talent Killers – How Literary Agents are Destroying Literature and What Publishers can do to Stop Them.

http://maryww.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/the-talent-killers-how-literary-agents-are-destroying-literature-and-what-publishers-can-do-to-stop-them

Mary is on Authonomy.com – she's written a lovely little gem of a novel "The Whole Clove Diet." I've not read it, though I've read a number of her posts on the forums. Enough that I respect her opinions – even though I'm a writer of genre fiction and could easily cop an attitude – this isn't what the essay is about.

Not really.

In my not so humble opinion – this is about the perception that agents have a strangle hold on the publishing industry. This is about the (sited and often repeated) report that the 'mid-list' is dead and along with it the writers who aren't 'blockbusters.'

This is about marketing fads like "VAMPIRE SEX SELLS BOOKS" or in the case of a certain YA romance "SEXLESS VAMPIRES SELL BOOKS." Where every frustrated writer turned agent (and equally guilty publishers) leap on the bandwagon to tout the latest fad. As if all writers should become SM and LKH clones over night. (As if all readers will buy that crap like lemmings leaping off the cliff. I didn't and I won't spend my money on that vampire crap.)

Is this the rumbling that proceeds the "Prom Night Slaughter" scene in Carrie? Will there be agent blood shed in the end? Will e-publishing become the refuge of the mid-list?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thrills & Chills

The second novel, "Moon" has been on the back burner for a few weeks while I'm tweaking "Lunch." I haven't read through the new 'cleaned up' version at all. But I have gotten a couple of really good ideas.

One thing the novel has always lacked is balance. The story has gone back and forth between being 'normal' and 'paranormal' with the 'normal' elements winning hands down.

The last couple of days have been different. There is a feeling of the stakes getting higher. There has also been Divine intervention that I didn't expect. Eric has been given a chance to achieve what he really want's in the deepest recesses of his brooding heart: Redemption.

I found this out as I was working with his alter ego Tag. (Tag has been brewing in the back of my mind as the word count of "Lunch" drops like a rock.) The two men aren't really alike. Tag has survived things that would kill Eric's spirit completely. And yet the two men are parallel – 'same shit, different sandbox' as Eric would say.

What I hadn't seen in "Moon" until this week was a sign that the 'good guys' were watching. Eric was sinking fast and didn't seem to give a damn. June fretted but didn't act on her desire to 'fix' things for Eric. We had a stalemate, but the good guys were slipping fast.

This time I got the message through loud and clear, Eric's been offered his redemption, but he wouldn't accept it.

That's Eric -- proud and stubborn. It took the embrace of an angel to get him bend his neck. Hmmm – don't get me wrong – it wasn't one of those blond girlie angels. This was a chewed up, spit out, Vietnam Vet of an angel. Yep, an old black, male former soldier angel came to Eric to help – and our boy didn't take the hint.

That's the Alpha male ego for you.

I posted that on Forward Motion today. I think it captures Eric very well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

By Hook or by Crook?

There are a couple of things that suck about being a romance writer. Writing highly charged emotional scenes is one of them (I sweat blood sometimes, hoping the right emotion comes across.) Trying to break into the commercial market is another. It means that I have to write for the market, or I can kiss any chance of being published goodbye.

I've sent "Lunch" out to a dozen or so agents, no one had asked for a partial. The ABNA reviewers told me straight out "not enough hook."

Somewhere I read "always start the story in the middle of a gun fight." I see a lot of stories that start with a flash back, a car crash, a fight, or a dead body. "Lunch" starts with Lindsey looking for her cell phone. (Wince)

What's a wannabe writer going to do, besides dig deep and come up with a hook?

I dug deep, asking the question: What was the underlying incident that set the events off? What is the one thing that every major character has in common?

The terrorist attack on the Pentagon is what really set Lindsey off. Until that day she was busy working her way up the corporate ladder in an insurance company call center. The stock market crash wiped her parents out. Her widowed sister hasn't been the same.

That one event brought them all together.

Damn, I hate having to use that. But it worked. There are still calls for a Chapter One rewrite, so I will have to go back, one more time, and take a stab at it. But for the most part, it will stay basically the same.

Meanwhile, "Let's Do Lunch" is sitting in the top 20 of the Authonomy.com Romance chart.

(Sell out anyone?)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Care for a Sandwich? The ABNA Reviews are in

They came in last night. I had nearly given up on seeing them. The crack about the egg-salad sandwich threw me for a loop. That was all I saw yesterday.

Then today I was able to pass this by a friend and now it all makes sense. They liked my writing, my characters, my story was good -- it just lacked the right hook.

Well -- yeah, I knew that. Silly me. I've spent the last month working on the first chapter, and ripped 6 pages out of it, and put in a good hook that should work for just about everyone.

ABNA Expert Reviewer I
'"Let's Do Lunch" is a small diner owned and run by Lindsey Bennett and her family. Fresh produce is grown on the family farm of fifteen prime acres and brought in each day for preparation. Old-timers and regulars are the bulk of her business and the lunch rush keeps Lindsey and the family busy, but profitable.

Amusing, teasing banter and detailed descriptions of the hybrid farm/restaurant help make this writing charming and appropriate for the subject. Each of the small, tightly-knit cast has their contribution such as the waitress Heather threatening a Big Mac for a teasingly mocking customer, Rose's hope that her grandson will stay in school and avoid drugs and gangs, and mother Eleanor whose demeanor is "as if she found life an amusing challenge."

Lindsey is hiring a new cook and a handsome applicant meets her for the interview. Brandon Pendleton, an army veteran and an experienced cook, has a brilliant smile and neither he nor Lindsey are very good at hiding their mutual attraction. Is this the beginning of a relationship or are Brandon's quick words and matching demeanor a sign of danger? What is Lindsey inviting into the safety of her steady security? Only the reader suspects.

"Let's Do Lunch" is attractively written. The homespun quality of the characters serve the writing well and the description is detailed -- perhaps too much so. Other than the introduction of Pendleton, there is little left to wonder; the direction the author might take the novel could be any. In fact the opening is so generic as to be of interest to organic gardeners and restaurateurs; I wished at least for more biting repartee or other text I might sink my teeth into. "Let's Do Lunch" is about as pleasant and innocuous as an egg salad sandwich.'

ABNA Expert Reviewer II

'The sample seems like a fine beginning to a straight-up romance. I can't imagine what the conflict in the story will be, though, aside from romantic entanglements. That makes it a little hard to judge the originality.

The conversations and dialog seem very well written. There are a couple of sentences where I thought it might have read better with more contractions to seem more natural, but overall the voices are good. Unfortunately, there are several spelling errors and grammatical mistakes that detract from my enjoyment. It's just easier to read an error-free story - you don't get pulled out of the plot and back to reality if the writing is pristine.

Some of the narrative seems just a little mundane, maybe including things step-by-step that bog the story down and could have been left out. I'd have to have more of a plot summary before deciding if I'd want to finish this. As it starts, the hook just isn't there to make me want to know more.'

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good reviews

"Let's Do Lunch" has gotten off to a good start with some nice reviews. It broke the top 100 in the 'general' chart today.

"This is a fun, light read and well written. It's extremely readable and I slipped into it very easily although I don't tend to read this genre much any more. I felt the personal descriptions were sometimes a little over-salted, but that's a moot point as the genre tends to require that anyway. I am struggling to see why Lindsey doesn't find Brandon repellant - he makes my teeth itch, lol., but then smarmy men do so perhaps others find him more attractive."

"However it's certainly worth a spin on my shelf - I'd be quite happy to while away a few hours with this when I wanted to de-stress after work. " Lallie – Authonomy.com

I'm happy with the progress the novel has made. I'm hoping the lack of 'nit-picks' means I've finally cleaned them out.

I finished uploading the last chapter this morning. I'm hoping for more feedback on the ending. Ten days isn't long to be on a site. Most of these books seem to have long slow journeys to anywhere near the top.

So here we have my experience on the Harper Collins slush-pile. Most interesting attempt at marketing yet.