Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Feeling and Writing

I slept in today. It doesn't happen often. I usually wake up before the alarm-clock dares to screech, but it happened today. Each time it happens I wonder why. Usually it has to do with my mental state. Watching too much about Katrina -- or maybe there isn't too much -- left me, in one word, sad. I escaped into my bed knowing so many were left without one. Yes, I feel guilty. I wasn't responsible for Katrina, and yet I feel like there should have been something I could do. But I'm no super hero...

My writing, or should I say, my ability to write is directly related to my state of mind. I know that for many, writing is a form of escape. ME Strauss, for example, explains why she writes. It's a great post, but it doesn't work for me because before blogging (a new thing in my life) I had never had a journal and didn't use to write my own feelings down. Before blogging I wrote only fiction and the occasional article. One could argue that writing fiction is expressing feelings and resolving issues. Perhaps, but I'm not certain I would agree with that because I actually find it hard to write (fiction) when I'm down, just like I find it hard to function at work when I'm down. And I mean really down. Like divorce/break-up down, or family member sick down, or death down. I'm usually a happy person other than these exceptional occasions so not writing doesn't happen often.

But it happened yesterday. The events affected me too much and I couldn't write worth a damn. Yes, I wrote a personal post about my feelings (something I've started doing in the past couple of weeks but I'm not sure I like), but I didn't write write.

Today will be different I promise. I will tell you the results tonight.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I sat today and tried to carry on with my normal daily routine but found it extremely hard. Everything just seemed so trivial compared to the devastation Katrina left behind:
People have lost everything. Destruction, floods and the future of New Orleans unknown. The despair.
Desperate, people are losing their heads. The looting, the shooting, a prison riot. It's insane.
People are still trapped in attics, on rooftops. Shelters and even hospitals are being evacuated.
Those people who didn't make it.

This is just the beginning. Refugees, rebuilding of cities, highways, streets, homes. No water, electricity, gas. No food. No water. Diseases.

The destruction almost seems unmanageable.

So everything else seems so insignificant.

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A Few Goodies (or not) From National Geographic

  • Urine Battery Turns Pee Into Power - Apparently it's not just urine but many of our body fluids that can power these little batteries. Now the scientists are working on enlarging the size of the batteries so that they could charge cell phones, MP3s or laptops.
    Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology created the credit card-size battery as a disposable power source for medical test kits.
    Urine contains many ions (electrically charged atoms), which allows the electricity-producing chemical reaction to take place in the urine battery, said UC Berkeley's Kammen. Other bodily fluids, such as tears, blood, and semen, would work easily as well to activate the battery.
  • And what movie was it in? The 6th Day I think, where Arnold (yes, the governor) clones the family dog after the dog died. Now it's a reality - Dog Cloned by South Korean Scientists. These kind of news items always excite me yet give me the shivers at the same time. Notwithstanding stem cell research (I still hope scientists to find a different way of doing that), it's just plain that this is playing with fire. The dog is cute though - Photogallery. So was Dolly.

  • Categories:

    Coca-Cola Contest

    I've been neglecting the freelance writers out there, I know. So here is something exciting: Coca-Cola Big Idea Contest.

    Before you get too enthusiastic, the contest isn't actually sponsored by Coca-Cola. The contest, run by AdCandy, does seek marketing and promotion ideas for Coca-Cola in the hopes of being able to submit the ideas to the big soda company:
    We're going to let the creativity fly here. You can submit ANYTHING that you think can improve or extend Coke’s marketing efforts: Concepts, sponsorships, product improvement ideas, marketing ideas, slogans, new product ideas, licensing ideas etc. We've extended the character limit so you submit more developed ideas.

    Another contest AdCandy has with a fast approaching September 1st deadline is: The Da Vinci Code Movie Tagline Contest

    The site has numerous other contests for those interested in this side of the business. Make sure to read the rules, FAQ and all the legal stuff.

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    Monday, August 29, 2005


    It was devastating to watch Katrina storming its way through Louisiana and Mississippi.
    It was even more amazing as the real-time media coverage, which is increasing with each new disaster (just as it does with each new war) did not stay confined to the TV, but could be found on the internet as well:

    The traffic cams from New Orleans stopped working early on but supplied pictures until then.
    The cameras normally showing images on are also not functioning now, but did earlier on.

    Storm Digest Blog has been keeping up to the moment posts about the new developments.
    New Orleans Metroblogs has also had heavy traffic today as frequent posts updated fleeing residents about the situation in their city.

    The official sites National Hurricane Center and Central Florida Hurricane Center were good sources too with frequent updates.

    Someone managed to put most satellite maps together: tropicwx
    Then there is Google Map Plot of Katrina

    And lest we forget Flickr with already hundreds of hurricane pics.

    This nearly immediate pictures and updates helped me understand the magnitude of the storm and its effects. Katrina affected millions of people in a variety of ways. The luckiest are those who only had to leave and will be inconvenienced by having to stay away from their homes for a while. And those are the lucky ones. Many would have no home to return to as they lost their homes or their livelihoods or both. Some lost their lives.

    Our thoughts are with all who were affected. Stay safe.


    Dare Call Me a Nerd!

    First found this Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test at The Slush God Speaketh. It's been a long time suspicion of mine that I am a wee bit nerdy. Turns out, it's not so "wee bit":

    Pure Nerd
    52 % Nerd, 17% Geek, 30% Dork

    For The Record:

    A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
    A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
    A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
    You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

    The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendencies associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


    My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
    You scored higher than 33% on nerdiness
    You scored higher than 13% on geekosity
    You scored higher than 45% on dork points

    Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating
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    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Ralan's Writing Contest - August 31st Deadline

    I know that in the past I've voiced my opinion regarding contests in which an entry fee is involved. In general I dislike the idea of paying any fee.

    However, and this is a very big however, Ralan's short story contest is different. Ralan, the guy responsible for one of the best resource sites for writers on the internet,, is having a short story contest. The entry fee is $20 US and I think it's worth every penny. Forget about the fact that Sheila Williams and Stanley Schmidt (from Asimov's Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction & Fact respectively) will be the final judges, the simple truth is that we've all been benefiting from Ralan's excellent site for years. If a subscription to a good site is worth this much (a year), then surely a contest is worth that too.

    From Ralan's newsletter:

    The contest is the main source of funding for For six years, before I started the contests, I paid everything out of my own pocket, but the cost of maintaining a viable, fast web site is far greater than it used to be.

    I also had plans to introduce a new web design and a searchable database (in addition to the lists) in the next year, but that will be tabled if the contest is called off. Many of those who have entered have expressed to me that they are entering not to win, but to support What about you -- is the Webstravaganza worth $20.00 a year?

    The contest - Ralan's 500-Word Clincher Contest - is now open.
    I'm certain that most of us have a 2000-6000 word short story lying around. Take the last 500 words and sent it out.
    Remember, other than the fact that this is a speculative fiction contest, also that Ralan is a stickler for guidelines and rules so make sure you read them carefully.

    What are you waiting for? Go to and find out about the contest.

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    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    Magic In My Writing Process? or simply - Organizing My Thoughts

    I can't believe I did this. Yesterday (Thursday the 25th) I wrote the post you're about to read (or not :), and then instead of publishing it I chose the 'Save as Draft' option. Since I had to run out (a five (5!) hour drive awaited me) I didn't notice. Only now (after a five (5!) hour drive back) I did. So here is Thursday's post (remember that all date references are a day old):

    Yesterday I took a break from the computer for a few hours. I needed a change of scenery so that I could organize my thoughts.
    I've been working on my novel the past few months now, but I felt like it's lost its direction, or maybe I felt like I lost my direction.
    You see, I had such a clear idea in my mind when I first started writing it, but somehow it became a jumbled mess of choppy and disjointed parts. I'm probably too harsh with myself, but regardless it was time for a regroup.

    So I went to Ashbridge's Bay Park. It was a beautiful day, something like 28c (I have no clue what it means in Fahrenheit for the Americans out there, but 28 is nice). The sun was out and the lake was blue (polluted blue, but blue nonetheless). I went there with my black hard cover journal, the one I take out only in emergencies.

    An hour walk, then an hour sitting at a picnic table writing things down and I felt better, hoping it would get me back on track again.

    That was yesterday and then today I read Carter's Good Work Day post about his magical writing process using meditation and tarot cards and I thought to myself, is going to a place where I can feel at peace in order to organize my thoughts (i.e. get inspired) counts as magic?

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    Wednesday, August 24, 2005


    • Gotta love this:
      Porn makes you blind - Gory and erotic images can affect your vision
      IT'S true. Pornography can make you blind. Look at a smutty picture and, according to research by Steven Most, of Yale University, and his colleagues, you will suffer from a temporary condition known as emotion-induced blindness.

    • And to those of you who didn't know about the Canadian/Danish dispute over a tiny island in the arctic, here's the latest update:
      Canada Sends Navy To Disputed Arctic Island

      The visit by two warships to the area is the latest move to challenge rival claims in the Arctic triggered by the threat of melting ice.

      The move follows a spat between Canada and Denmark, over an uninhabited rock called Hans Island in the eastern Arctic region. A visit there by Canada's defense minister last month angered the Danes.

      Who said nothing interesting ever happens in Canada?
      Wait, it was me...

    • And to more serious things (do I even want to go there?):
      Fetuses May Not Feel Pain in Early Months
      A review of medical evidence has found that fetuses likely don't feel pain until the final months of pregnancy, a powerful challenge to abortion opponents who hope that discussions about fetal pain will make women think twice about ending pregnancies.

    • Science fiction? No, just science:
      Scientists Mess with the Speed of Light
      Using a technique called Stimulated Brillouin Scattering, the researchers were able to slow down or ratchet up the speed of light like the gas pedal on a car. They succeeded in reducing the speed of light by almost a factor of 4 (although thatÂ’s still plenty fast at 46,500 miles per second), but even more dramatically, the team was also able to speed up the speed of light.

    • And finally some spacey stuff:
      Black Hole Surprise: Multiple Eruptions Seconds After Birth
      Black hole creation is crazier than previously thought, new observations reveal. Over the course of just a few minutes, as a massive star dies and a black hole is born, multiple explosions cause the black hole to powerfully eject matter as well as greedily consume it.

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    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Writing the First Chapter

    First chapters are little buggers, aren't they?
    The whole novel can be written, and well I might add, and yet that first chapter can still be illusive. Darn annoying. How to write a first chapter that compels the reader to continue reading? Where to start the story? How to start it?

    Maybe, before starting, it's good to pause and think about the premise of the novel. A really good first sentence can show the entire premise right there in the beginning. Austen's first sentence might not be the exact Pride and Prejudice premise, but it sure tells you what the book is about.
    IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

    I remember a few years back I decided to figure out how authors write their first chapters. From now on, I decided, when I read a novel I will pay attention to how they did it. Problem was, if it was a good book, I forgot all about the paying attention. And if it wasn't a good book, I rarely got past the first few pages. So if there was (still is) a secret formula, some code these really good authors were using, I didn't have it because I got too involved. I was too deep into the story.

    Eureka! Can this be the secret? But of course - get the readers hooked from the first few sentences. How, though, I scream. How??? I mean, think about it - such a grave task the first chapter has. The ultimate goal of a first chapter is obviously to get the reader to turn the pages, but what else is it supposed to do - should it introduce the protagonist? Most likely. Should it introduce the conflict in some way? Probably. Establish time and place to a certain extent? Possibly.

    So the first chapter has to do all that and keep the reader turning those page. The readers are investing their time and the first chapter must convince the readers it's worth their while.

    How to draw the readers in? What does 'introducing' mean? Hi everybody, meet Andrea here. She's tall, pretty and smart. Is that it? Of course not. Where's the intrigue? Well, Andrea might be tall, pretty and smart, but she's not just that. When Andrea walks in a mall, she always walks along the stores on her right side. Why? Aha! Here's the hook. The reader is thinking, interacting. That's good. (Maybe my example sucks but I think the point is clear).

    What about plot? Same thing. Must be interesting first of all. For some reason some writers start from a passive point and only bring in the action later. Even JK does it with each HP book. Harry always starts his summer at his uncle's house bored out of his mind, and I can't wait till we (me and Harry) get to the Weasley's house or to Hogwarts. So if the action comes in quickly, that's fine, but if the protagonist is bored or in bed, so would the reader be - bored or fallen asleep.

    One way of starting is by putting the protagonist in a scene where conflict occurs. The conflict doesn't have to be action, but can be something in the protagonist head, some emotional problem, moral dilemma, or any other thought provoking on the part of the reader. What's the dilemma? What is the emotional crisis?

    So we said interesting. We also said to get the readers involved. Getting the readers to ask the questions and wanting to know the answers is getting them involved. Just think of any great novel and you'll see that already with the first sentence the reader can feel intrigued and has questions, about the action, about the characters, about the conflict etc.

    And yet, the author never gives the reader too much information. Some curiosity must remain. The reader needs to want to know what is going to happen next. (Sometimes the reader might want to know what had happened before.)

    Big No-No's
    Reliability - readers must feel they can trust the author. They will stop reading immediately if things don't make sense to them (and not in the 'there are no aliens' way, but in the 'it's inconsistent' way).
    Investment - again. This time I'm talking about emotional investment. The readers must feel that their emotional investment will pay off. They must care about the characters, not like, but care.

    Biggest No-No
    To get bogged down with the first chapter. Especially not at the beginning. Easier said than done sometimes, but forget about the first chapter and simply write your novel and let the creativity flow. You can always come back to the first chapter later, or maybe just start with the second chapter - he he.

    And finally a link Unfolding a Story from a First Sentence

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    Blog Spam

    I think that I got spammed the other day. Here in this blog and in another. And it annoyed me. Not too much because it wasn't a lot, but it still got to me a bit. 'Cause the thing with spammers is that you just know that once they start with you they're never going to leave you alone.

    And just like that I saw this post on McVane's blog: & Spam.
    She recommends not to reply Yes (that is, to reply No) when asked in the Blogger setting whether or not to add the blog to their listing.

    I'm holding off on that for now but I'm going to remember this advice.

    Just thought I'd share in case blog spam is getting too much for some bloggers.



    Do you know those people who leech on to you and suck the life out of you?

    You know, those people who refuse to see cause and effect. Those people who won't take responsibility for their own action. Those people who believe the whole world owes them something.

    And when those people are around, they're not just with you, they somehow enter your blood circulation and are inside you all the time, inside your mind. You just can't stop thinking about them and not in that great, happy kind of way, but in that 'I wish I never met that person' kind of way, and in that 'why can't that person solve his own problems without involving me each time?' and 'how come that person has all these problems? Can't he see he's the one creating them?'

    And so those people sit there for a while, on a vein, sucking the life blood out of you and everyone around.

    And it's not like everybody wasn't sympathetic at first, or understanding, or helpful. But it just never ends...

    And you sit there, seeing the blood coming out of that vein the leech is sitting on and you just let it happen. You try to resist, you try to push it away. Not a lot, not completely out of your life, but just enough so he won't sit there on that vein. He is family after all. But you can't. And it seems that with each new cycle of 'problems' he masters the art of sucking your blood even more. He now swims in your veins. And you want him out. He's poisoning your blood, the other relationships you have with other family members. Oh, he swims in their blood too. They suffer just as much as you, they're just as poisoned.

    So you go away on camping trips where no one can reach you by phone or mail. But then you return and the situation is even worse. You recognize that he actually sits very near the heart of people you care greatly about and pulling him away would tear their heart apart. And you promise yourself, this time I'll take drastic measures and make him see what he does. And you hope.

    So you make an action plan. If you could just get him to flow back in the blood stream rather than sit near that heart, you could maybe fish him out later. But one step at a time. First the action plan.

    It is now in place. It's going to cost. Blood and sweat (not to mention a great deal of money). But you want, you need, to give everybody their life back, and surely that's worth something.

    And you hope.

    And then you get a rejection letter to boot.


    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    It's All About Reading - Reading Your Baby's Mind That Is

    When I started blogging I wanted to have two blogs: one about writing and one that is more personal and that would be about anything I feel like. The more personal one I was going to share with another person so that the strain of maintaining two blogs wouldn't be that hard. Alas, the other person was a no show and my more "personal" blog never really shaped itself into anything and with time I posted there less and less.

    Why am I telling you all this? Well, because a few days ago someone sent me this wonderful article and I was about to post about it in my other blog only I didn't feel like it. So how about I post it here and see how it goes? Maybe you wouldn't mind so much if I occasionally talk about other things. Usually those other things tend to be in the realm of science.

    So to all the parents out there, future parents or anybody who is interested, this Newsweek article is amazing:
    Reading Your Baby's Mind
    New research on infants finally begins to answer the question: what's going on in there?

    It was a notion that held for nearly a century: infants were simple-minded creatures who merely mimicked those around them and grasped only the most basic emotions—happy, sad, angry. Science is now giving us a much different picture of what goes on inside their hearts and heads. Long before they form their first words or attempt the feat of sitting up, they are already mastering complex emotions—jealousy, empathy, frustration—that were once thought to be learned much later in toddlerhood.

    They are also far more sophisticated intellectually than we once believed. Babies as young as 4 months have advanced powers of deduction and an ability to decipher intricate patterns. They have a strikingly nuanced visual palette, which enables them to notice small differences, especially in faces, that adults and older children lose the ability to see.


    Amazon Shorts

    Even though it's been up and running for about a month, I found the following post in Writer's Blog. It is now finally official - to Sell Short Stories.

    Amazon's official announcement through Business Wire: Innovation Aims to Revive Short-Form Literature -- Offers Exclusive Digital "Shorts" from Renowned Authors; "Amazon Shorts" Gives Readers Instant Access to Short Works for 49 Cents Each

    Naturally I went to check it for myself at Amazon Shortsand what did I happen to come across if not an Author FAQ. (It is, of course, for well established and published authors but it doesn't hurt to bookmark it.)

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    Getting Back Into The Groove

    Oh gees, where to begin?

    I feel like I've been away for so long even though it hasn't been that long at all. I've only been away for ten days and yet I find it so hard to get back into "normal" life again.

    I've had such adventures on my trip and was so far away from civilization that any thought of the mundane was as far away from me as the next pay phone.

    I don't know, maybe after a couple of weeks of seeing beauty and being engulfed by nature my mind switched into such a gear that it's hard for it to switch back.

    It is truly the first time I feel this way after returning from a vacation, but then again, I never had a vacation in which I feared for my life. And as I found out a few days later, I had good reason to. The big thunder and lighting storm that caught me canoeing on a remote lake was actually classified as a tornado. A camper died in that storm.

    So maybe it was the few life-threatening moments that changed my attitude.

    Whatever the reason, I haven't been able to write a single word ever since my return. Even writing this post is taxing for some reason.

    And it's not like my mind isn't teeming with ideas, quite the contrary. Still, the words won't come out.

    But then I read this interview with J.K. Rowling and it inspired me. At least it helped me write this post. Perhaps tomorrow I'll write write.
    I hope.
    Before my brain turns into mush.

    J.K. Rowling and the Extraordinary Life

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    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    It's Good To Be Back

    I came back home to noise and pollution and far too many people around. I came back to phone calls I don't want to get and emails I don't want to read and snail mail that is mostly bills. There is a bank account to take care of, and eaves trough to clean and all the other mundane things.

    And yet, there's running water and a shower, a bathroom and a bed. There's internet and phone and TV. There's enough light to read at night and heat in case it gets cold. There's fresh clothes and laundry and soap. There's a fridge and a stove and actual walls and doors.

    There's family and friends.

    I'm so happy to be home again.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    In and Out

    Just resting in the wonderful USA after camping in the beautiful lakes of Ontario but getting caught in a life threatening storm - no kidding.
    Tomorrow I'm continuing my camping trip with hopefully less survivor moments.

    I'm grateful to all those who come to visit even when I'm not here and hope to return by the end of next week.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Going Away - Again

    Thanks for coming to visit me and I'm sorry I'm not here.
    I'll be back in ten days or so and visit all of you.
    I've posted a bunch of stuff in the past few days, so you can take a look at that.

    Later... Bestseller List - For The Last Time I Hope

    John Kremer from Promoting Your Books who was partly the target of wrath about the bestseller list manipulation scheme/scam left a comment in my previous post about the subject Bestseller List - Again (the original post was Your Book Can Be Bestseller Too).

    I never took the whole thing too seriously, and the last thing I wanted was to be part of the debate. I put the stuff on my blog for people to read and make whatever they want out of it. But then John left me this comment and when I started answering, I saw that there was no choice and that more than opinions should be said here, some facts were missing from this debate.

    First off let me start by saying that I come from the business world and I too know marketing. One can tweak anything to his/her advantage in marketing and the question is how far one would go in doing that. When it comes to big corporations that have very dubious commercials and ad campaigns, there's not much we can do about it.

    But writers are different. The marketing campaign promotes them, an individual, after all. And if they feel dishonest about it, how could they do it?
    So while from a pure marketing point of view, the bestseller tweaking promotion would make sense to a business person promoting a company, it wouldn't to a writer. A writer would not (or most writers would not) be able to have a whiff of dishonesty about them. And if people don't feel the whiff of dishonesty, then they've been in the marketing world far too long. I know using the list is using facts, but the question is how.

    The word bestseller implies that the book has sold more copies than other books, usually over a period of time such as a week/month/year, and not over an hour. The fact that Amazon is computerized and is able to calculate bestsellers on an hourly basis, means squat to those who read "Amazon bestseller" to simply mean bestseller. One can claim then that it is Amazon who gets it "wrong" in the first place, and we are left with the option of using that fact or not. And why shouldn't we, one might ask - we are trying to market our books after all. But when we start using the word 'bestseller' in other meanings, then the original meaning loses its meaning. If you know what I mean.

    So then I went and did some research and found this most comprehensive and fine article from The Washington Post - Making Books - The Bestseller Lists: Totting up book sales is not as simple as one, two, three.
    The article focuses on major bestseller lists: Publishers Weekly, the N.Y. Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and Nielsen BookScan. The latter being a point-of-sale data compilation with more sources than any other mentioned list.

    Periodicals that create their own national lists, [...] typically collect data from only a sample of stores that they believe represent all domestic booksellers, and each tries to infer total sales rankings from its own sample.
    Steve Wasserman, the Book Review editor at the Los Angeles Times, doesn't even pretend that his staff's process yields reliable results. "It's a deeply unscientific -- one is almost tempted to call it whimsical -- compilation, which has a veneer of a certain kind of science," he says.
    If incomplete information is a fact of life, what's more troubling is that some of the listmakers could be working with a biased sample, one that systematically omits certain types of sources and gives inordinate weight to others.
    To varying degrees, all the publications refuse to "show their work," especially specifics about weighting schemes and data sources.

    The article is most interesting and recommended, but once again it boils down to the following:
    Some secrecy makes sense, of course. If readers knew which independent bookstores were sampled -- particularly if these smaller stores receive extra weight in a calculation of rankings -- authors or publishers might be tempted to buy up books from those sources in an attempt to boost their rankings on an influential list. It's been tried before and, says Greco, may be why the N.Y. Times is particularly wary of bulk orders, marking such bestselling titles with a dagger symbol.
    Publishers, who get much more than a list, find the service invaluable. "We've found many fabulous uses for it," says Simon & Schuster's Reidy. When signing an author from another publishing house, acquisitions editors can see the author's actual sales track record, whereas before BookScan the publisher had little more than the agent's word to go by.

    So there you go - no one wants their lists tweaked with and at the end of the day, after one book has been marketed with " bestseller" statement, the author still has to live with it and deal with it when trying to sign the next book deal.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    How To Write A Character You Don't Understand?

    The simple answer - don't.
    If you don't know your own character and can't get into its head, heart and soul, I doubt you should bother.

    Booksquare posted this most hilarious article from The Onion: First-Time Novelist Constantly Asking Wife What's It Like To Be A Woman.

    Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and literary critic John Updike agrees.
    "Someone should have thought of asking these questions earlier," Updike said. "If only Tolstoy had thought of this, Anna Karenina might have been a more memorable novel."

    Despite the hilarity of the piece, it is a problem many beginning writers struggle with. They wonder if their portrayal of a character from the opposite gender, a different religion, different cultural background etc. is accurate or realistic. To that I say that authors must trust their own individual understanding of humanity. Just like humanity is diverse, so are writers and their writing.
    Of course , it's always beneficial for writers to be able to see, hear and feel the people around them. Writers should be as sensitive to people as they are to their surroundings. And sometimes, especially when it comes to cultures and religions, some research can be most beneficial.

    Categories: Bestseller List - Again

    A few posts ago I mentioned an article from that exposes a scam. The scam - people buy into a program that teaches them how put their book in the bestseller list, and it works. Well, that article stirred up quite a controversy.

    Here is the full article from Best Seller? Ha! - Part II

    Here is the original post in John Kremer's blog (read some of the comments too): Bestseller Campaigns: Why They Work and Why They Fail

    And here are his comments on the comments plus more comments:
    Amazon Bestsellers: Comments on Comments

    Personally, I think that there is much too much talk about this subject. There have been far worse scams in the writing industry and I'm sure there will still be far worse scams in the future. The bottom line is, as Angela writes in her article:
    Real bestselling author MJ Rose emailed me last week, stating, "Four publishing companies were asked if being an Amazon bestseller qualified the words 'bestseller' to appear in an ad for a book, or on a book cover, and they said definitely not. You can become a bestseller at Amazon for selling as few as 100 copies in a specific concentrated period of time. And those are not bestseller numbers."

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    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    A Short Film

    The film features five guys who are doing movie trailers voice over. It's hilarious.

    Five Men And A Limo
    (Probably not recommended for those without a high speed connection).

    Via Yankee Fog


    Scientist to Write Scripts for Hollywood to Help in a Looming Security Crisis

    From The New York Times:
    Pentagon's New Goal: Put Science Into Scripts

    You might need to register first to read the full article, but here's the gist of it:

    A group of 15 scientists from a slew of disciplines are staying in Hollywood and are leaning how to write and sell screenplays. The group is, believe or not, financed by the Air Force and the Army.

    Why would the Army and Air Force finance such a project, you might ask?
    Well... because -

    Fewer and fewer students are pursuing science and engineering. While immigrants are taking up the slack in many areas, defense laboratories and industries generally require American citizenship or permanent residency. So a crisis is looming, unless careers in science and engineering suddenly become hugely popular, said Robert J. Barker, an Air Force program manager who approved the grant. And what better way to get a lot of young people interested in science than by producing movies and television shows that depict scientists in flattering ways?
    And to that I say - most of my protagonists are scientists, so can I get a defense contract as well???

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    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    More About Writers' Responsibility - Or How to Submit Properly

    In Ralan's newsletter from last month (July 5), he explained how few publishers asked him to remove their listing in his web page. The reason, you ask?
    Now I'm going to sound like a broken record.
    The reason is that many of the submissions they received were either not ready for publication or didn't follow the guidelines.

    So what does "ready for publication" mean? Basically it's a manuscript that is nearly free of misspellings, grammatical faux paws, formatting mistakes, and blatant contradictions in style and plot. In other words, it's a manuscript that has been carefully edited, usually several times, and hopefully at least once by someone qualified as an editor, or a good first reader.

    Editors prefer to polish a manuscript rather than go over it line by line, so it's up to the author to make it as ready as possible for publication, and if it looks like a first draft, it will get rejected.
    IF YOU DON'T READ AND FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES CAREFULLY, YOU ARE REJECTING YOURSELF. No two publications want the same thing, or want it presented to them in the same way. There is no standard. You must read the guidelines of every market you are thinking of submitting to and comply. I know some of them are long, rambling tirades that bore you silly. Read them anyway!

    Why is this important? Because, if publishers keep receiving unfitting manuscripts, it hurts us all. The markets will be closed to us or they would be hard to find.

    This is directly related to one of my previous posts about how to weasel your book into the Amazon.combestseller list.

    Ralan's newsletter from yesterday had interesting comments from more publishers on the subjects, all pretty much reaffirming what he said.

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    Sometimes we use facts in our writing. I found these Little Known Facts in this very original blog Give Me Five.

    And if we're on the subject, then here's some more:

    Out of all these facts I like these two the most:

    111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

    TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA is the unnatural fear of the number "13"

    SF Reading Habits Questionnaire

    EnglishSpace is asking for help with a friend's research about children's SF.

    It's just a questionnaire that you can find here and fill out.

    The purpose of this questionnaire is to provide material for a book called (provisionally), The Inter-Galactic Playground of Children's Science Fiction to be published by McFarland Press. The research is supported by the Eileen Wallace Children's Library (University of New Brunswick), Middlesex University (London) and the British Academy.

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    Anthology Submission Guidelines - Just as I Promised

    Very briefly:

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    Your Book Can Be a Bestseller Too

    It's amazing to what length people would go to when thinking of marketing strategies. Here I thought that large corporations with their advertisers and marketers are one of the biggest evils of our times only to find this.

    It all started with Richard and Angela Hoy's answer to a question they received about a teleseminar claiming to be able to make any author an amazon bestseller.

    Apparently, even John Kremer himself, a known author and book marketer, promoted this seminar in his blog.

    But Richard and Angela quickly reveal how the scam works:
    You find several dozen email newsletter lists with large subscription bases. You convince the list owners to run an ad at no cost for your book. You get them to do it at the same exact time and direct all the buyers to to purchase the book.
    Now, if you are successful in getting all these people to buy the book at roughly the same time, the book will pop up at the top of one of the bestsellers lists. Then you can claim from that time forward that your book is an " Bestseller".

    In addition to getting the book on the bestseller list, the author also gets the email information of all the buyers somehow. I stopped reading after a while; it was right after dinner.

    The article explains exactly how the scam works. For those interested in the details and how scummy this scam is, please go to the Writers Weekly site. Or here is the direct link to the actual seminar.

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    I Would Have Resisted - the test claims

    I found this most interesting quiz in Patricia Kirby's blog Rambling From The Desert. I'm not really sure what to make of this quiz, especially since it comes from a really cheesy site, but it is interesting if nothing else. The name of the quiz - The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test - makes me slightly queasy and uncomfortable. I wish they'd choose a different one.

    Der Resistance
    Achtung! You are 30% brainwashworthy, 18% antitolerant, and 42% blindly patriotic

    Welcome to the Resistance (Der Widerstand)! You believe in freedom, justice, equality, and your country, and you can't be converted to the the dark side.

    Breakdown: Your Blind Patriotism levels are borderline unhealthy, but you show such a love of people from everywhere and a natural resistance to brainwashing, you would probably focus your energy to fight Fuehrer with furor, so to speak.

    Conclusion: Born and raised in Germany in the early 1930's, you would have taken up ARMS against the oppressors. Or even your friends' oppressors. Congratulations!

    Less than 5% of all test takers earn a spot in Der Resistance!

    My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
    You scored higher than 99% on brainwashworthy
    You scored higher than 99% on antitolerant
    You scored higher than 99% on patriotic

    Link: The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test
    written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid

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