Monthly Archives: February 2012

Going way too far

Will Smith doesn’t have to cuss in his raps to sell records. Well I do.

–Eminem, The Real Slim Shady

Lately, a lot of people have been telling me that they’re going to buy my book.

Imagining the impending release of Minion of Evil, a story of violent acts, swearing, awkward bathroom situations, over-sized condom humor, rough sex, and other utterly gross things, I can’t help but think, “OMG, my mother is going to read this.”

My mother has often stated that she does not appreciate bathroom humor.

But not only my mother, there’s also my favorite barista, a wonderful woman who is put off by mild swear words, coworkers, and other people that I have not let in on the secret of my filthy mind.

Even more than the worry about the reaction of all the filth in my books, I’m concerned that people won’t like it.

I’ve always  gone for entertainment over good taste, and in my critique group, it seems like the further I push the envelope, the more people like my stories, like gawkers, drawn to a car accident. I have to wonder if I’m just so delicate in my sensibilities that I am overestimating the eww factor, or if I really have crossed some unforgivable line, from which I can never return.

Pardon the dust

I recently moved my account to DreamHost. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this switch, but overall, I think it’s going to be a good move.

Personally, I found restraining, but it is still a great service which I would recommend to anyone who didn’t want to tweak their site, install custom plugins, or pay monthly hosting fees.

I eventually went to Dreamhost because Dylan Moonfire recommended them. I have used three different hosts over the years, and so far, Dreamhost beats them all. I especially like their custom control panel It is much easier to use than cPanel.

Fan Death

This is a short piece I did for my writing group. Here was the promt:

An elderly man, frail but mentally sharp, who seems to be in unfamiliar territory, is sitting at a bar near a young loudmouth who is bragging about how he is not afraid of something that has the neighborhood scared. The bartender is a good-natured and middle-aged woman who would rather the loudmouth didn’t start anything.

And this is what I wrote:

A young man sat on the bar stool next to Daniel and announced, “Koreans are idiots.”

In any social situation, this would be an awkward phrase, but in a bar at the edge of a bustling Koreatown, the statement nearly constituted a call to action. Daniel glanced around to see if anyone had heard, but other than the bartender, there were only a couple disinterested old men, about his own age, playing mahjong in the corner.

The middle-aged Korean woman working behind the bar gave them both a nasty look.

Trying to indicate to the woman that he did not know the man making the offensive statement, Daniel went back to his crossword.

“They’re afraid of fans,” said the young man. “They believe that if you fall asleep with a fan running in your room, you’ll suffocate before morning. Fan Death, they call it.” He turned to Daniel, “Have you ever known of a person killed by a fan?”

“I suppose anything’s possible,” Daniel said, trying to be judicious.

The bartender slapped the bar and let go a torrent of her native language with enough force to push Daniel back an inch on his bar stool. She slapped the bar again for emphasis.

“Well,” said, the young man, “nice talking to you, but mom says I have to get back to work.”


I’ve been drafting this particular post for a long time. It still seems too touchy-feely.

Writers have BIG egos.

Even more than that, writers need big egos. Without a bit of ego, a writer is someone looking at a blank page, thinking, Why would anyone read something I wrote. I wonder what’s on TV.

However, these big egos can make it difficult for writers to work with other writers, to allow others to critique their work, to not feel like they’re in a competition. Sadly, this kind of negative ego will only turn back on those who put it out. I’ve seen promising writers learn bad habits as they refused to listen to good advice, “knowing” that they were the better writer.

Don’t let it happen to you.

It’s important to weigh the advice of others and not take it as gospel, but it is also important to listen to other people, to allow yourself to be taught. Sometimes, all it means is keeping your mouth shut and taking time to think about something.

A Cautionary Tale

LJ Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries, wrote the books as a “work for hire.” They are wholly owned by the company which commissioned them from her.

Upon the delivery of her last manuscript, the company that commissioned her work fired her from writing the series. They are going with another writer.

Here is what she has to say:

It probably sounds completely impossible to say that I am fired from writing my own books. But the truth is that they’re not mine, even though I write every word. When I was called by an agent and asked to write the vampire trilogy, that agent wasn’t from a publisher, but from what is now Alloy Entertainment, Ltd. And they are a book packager. A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces. Although I didn’t even understand what “for hire” meant back in 1990, when I agreed to write books for them, I found out eventually, to my horror and dismay. It means that even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries. And from now on, the books will be written by an anonymous ghostwriter.


Today’s work

I have, in my hands, the final draft of my novel back from the editors. They have given me a chance to go through one more time. I’m trying not to over-edit myself, but I do find something to look at every few pages.

Maybe no manuscript is ever perfect. All I can do is put forth my best effort and let it go when it’s done.

Scrivener: Take Two

Back when I wrote my first impressions of Scrivener, I have to admit, I wasn’t overjoyed with the program. I found a couple bugs, and the environment does have a learning curve. However, as a more thorough test, I wrote a 1700 word periodical article in Scrivener. When that went okay, I started a re-write of a work-in-progress.

There will be a Binder

The Binder is center of Scrivener. It allows you to keep scenes and chapters separated into logical units, which can later be compiled into a single document.

In addition to chapters and scenes, you can keep notes outside the manuscript. The Novel Format sets up folders for Characters, Places, Research, and whatever other custom folders you want to add. You can have this as a persistant left column to the program, or you can hide it by clicking on the picture of the binder above it.

Memory Issues

One of the biggest problems I have when writing a novel is remembering what I was doing 20 days ago. The names of minor characters or even the full names on major characters sometimes alludes me. I frantically try to search old files for the scene where–I think–I used their name. To alleviate this problem, I had started awkwardly taking some notes in an excel file, but that meant switching to a different document and I’d sometimes forget to do it.

Scrivener makes this much easier. By letting me keep a folder of character information at the bottom of the binder. Also, when it’s right where I can see it, I actually remember to make a note of things.

What time is it?

Another thing I have trouble doing is remembering what day it is. Scrivener helps with this too, but allowing me to take notes on every scene.

How long is it?

That’s a rather personal question, don’t you think?

No, the novel, how long is the novel?

This might seem rather trivial, but I never really knew how long my novels used to be. I had an estimate based on the general length of my chapters and the number of chapters I’d completed, but if I wanted the real number, I had to open up each chapter, put the wordcount into excel and total them.

And done: 

It’s not all coming up roses.

Not everything is coming up roses. For instance, I want to export chapters six and seven for editing or critique. I can “compile” these into a word document to distribute, but they will always come up as “Chapter One” and “Chapter Two.” Because they are the first two chapters in a compile.

The Conclusion:

After getting over my initial bumps, my conversion to Scrivener has been a positive experience. If nothing else, I believe it is worth the $40 to find out if it fits your work flows.

Breaking Your Brand

One of the following books is a work of plagiarism.

If you want to read the whole story, you can go to Robert Smartwood’s blog entry about it.

Smartwood calls this kind of plagiarism “Worse Than Pirating,” and in my opinion, he is right. Piracy takes away a sale that might not have happened, while this type of plagiarism hurts your personal brand. Of course, this is just an illustration of my opinions.

Follow these two scenarios:

Bubba goes to his friendly neighborhood torrent tracker, he downloads your book. At this point, you have (maybe*) lost a sale.

Bubba reads your book and loves it. He recommends it to his friends. He finds out you have a new book out and he buys it. He is a lifelong fan worth more than a single sale.

Or he thinks it sucks, and he does nothing. in which case, you (maybe*) lost a sale.

Scenario 2

Bubba takes a copy of your book, makes his own cover, and starts selling it on KDP.

Karl buys a copy of the knockoff book and loves it. Karl recommends it to his friends. He downloads other books by Bubba, but stops reading him because his new book “The Leonardo Code” is nothing like his earlier offerings.

Karl never finds your books, which he would have loved. Karl commits suicide.

* There is a lot of debate on whether, given no other choice or a crisis of conscience, pirates would actually buy as much media as they pirate.