Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Three Word Wednesday

(The following stanzas should be read as one poem. Caveat: If you don't know anything about quantum mechanics, this will probably be impenetrable. Sorry!)

Quantum particle
The universe's smart-ass
Always both, not one

Callous scatterbrain
Don't interfere with yourself!
Stop waving so much

A persistent ditz
Famous for uncertainty
And reality

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Rambly Sorta Post

My WIP is closing in on 38,000 words, and I'm horrified.

You see, the story's barely begun, and yet that word count is creeping toward half a novel already. No wonder it feels like this book is taking forever to write; it's taking forever to get started. Wow, I hope I find things to cut later.

Part of the problem is my internal editor has been sternly sent to her room so I can get the first draft done. I'm a devil for polishing things instead of ploughing onward, so I'm refraining from reading what I've written except for fact-checking. I plan to stick to that, even though my word count is ballooning to little effect.

Corpulent beastie
I fear your creeping bloat-ass
Stop stuffing your face


Yesterday, El Husbando and I bought our third countertop dishwasher of the past seven years. You see, I'm kinda allergic to washing dishes and El Husbando is kinda allergic to never having a clean dish when he needs one, so when a dishwasher suitable for lazy people living in teeny apartments small households came on the market, we snapped one up.

Three years later, it broke and began leaking everywhere, so we bought a new one.

Three years after that, the replacement's pump died. We kept the machine going for a while with ingenuity, a length of surgical tubing, and a complete lack of shame when it comes to avoiding work. When the machine started emitting smoke on Friday, however, I called Time of Death and we buried it.

Yeah. These aren't the most robust critters, these countertop dishwashers.

Still, with a three year lifecycle, it works out to costing less than $10 per month to have something other than us doing the dishes, which is great. I just wish the cost to the environment was less grievous.

If we bought Maytag
instead of mayfly, we'd have
time to know you well

Farewell, dishwasher
May you reincarnate as
a Hummer next time


In related news, El Husbando and I are seriously considering buying a place instead of continuing to rent--which means we could get a dishwasher whose quality doesn't suck like a starving lamprey on a rhino's butt.

We would have liked to buy several years ago, but real estate in our city was nuts. You know things are overpriced when two professionals with no kids can't afford to buy a place.

Now, however? I hate to say there's an up-side to having the economy bobbing in the toilet bowl, but it looks like we might get to take another step on the road to being a reasonable facsimile of respectable--and about two more steps, on average, before walking into the wall of the house. Yay for the prospect of having more living space!

Feed upon the flesh
of subprime mortgage corpses
We're proud to be ghouls

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pimping S.B. Sarah Wendell

Excellent writing advice from Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Who Read Trashy Books, as reported on Deadline Dames:

"Write every day: keep your pimp hand strong."

And if you need help keeping your Pimp Hand™ strong? Try joining McKoala's Public Humiliation Challenge and/or Aerin's Random Complexity Writing Challenge.

Three Word Wednesday!

Three Word Wednesday's prompts are: candid, impulse, risk

The fear was too strong
Candid moments were a risk
Planned, not on impulse

Monday, February 16, 2009

'Ware the Facebook

If you use Facebook, please never post anything there which you care about owning (like writing samples, or especially nice photos.)

The Consumerist reports Facebook has changed their Terms of Service so that ALL RIGHTS to EVERYTHING you post there belongs to them FOREVER, even if you quit their site.

That means if you post a photo of your kid, Facebook can use or resell that photo, and there's nothing you can do about it. If you post a poem, they own all rights to it; you don't anymore. Et cetera.

Be careful of the big baddie.

Feb 18, 2009 Update: Due to widespread outrage, Facebook has back down and reverted to their original TOS. However, I would still refrain from trusting them to have your best interests in mind. I would also suggest you never post anything you care about owning (original writing, professional-quality photos) on the internet. It's hard to sell something that's available for free! :-)

High Concept and High Voltage

Say you have a nifty invention. It's useful; it's elegantly-designed; there's a need for it. You put it on the market and of course it sells well.

However, you start getting complaints about poor quality; your customers find the product breaks after an unfairly short period of time.

A little research shows you the problem isn't the device's construction; it's how people are using it. Something about human nature is causing your customers to handle the device in a way that damages it.

Here's an example: Consider a standard electrical plug. You know yanking a plug out of the wall by its cord will damage the wires, and yet it's easier to do that than to pinch the plug and waggle it out the way you're supposed to. Human nature prompts us to do what's easiest, which in this case damages wires.

So when human nature is the problem, how do you solve that problem?

I think everyone's default solution is to try to educate people on how to behave. That's certainly how the matter of electrical plugs was handled; we got taught as wee sprouts not to yank them out of the wall by the cord.

There's a second way to solve these kinds of problems, however. It costs more, but it works better. Instead of trying to change human nature, you can change the product.

Here's the electrical plug attached to El Husbando's Margarita Pimp blender.

I think this is brilliant! They made it easier to pull the plug out the correct way than to yank on its cord. Human nature now works in the appliance's favour.

It's been said that genius is being able to look at something everyone has seen, and see that which no one has seen. I think somebody showed a bit of genius in coming up with this plug design.

McKoala (what's that clicking noise...?) recently said the idea for my WIP was "high concept", which is probably much higher praise than it deserves, especially in its current condition. (No really, do you hear claws?) To me, high concept novels are ones where the author looked at stories that were already popular, then came up with a perfect, brilliant twist to make their book fresh without making it inaccessible.

In other words, "high concept" means building a better mousetrap (or plug). It's the thing that prompts people to say, "Why didn't I think of that?" because it's so obvious in hindsight.

The person who designed that plug probably didn't need to work very hard at it. Once the question was framed ("How do I change things so the wires don't break?"), the solution was obvious.

For writers, the question is, "How do I write a story that resonates with people?"

Before you can answer that, I think you need to look at a category of stories that are enduringly popular and really analyze why they are appealing. Once you understand that, coming up with a fresh twist on what already works becomes a heck of a lot easier.

And who says being a genius is all that tough, anyway?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lame Goblin is Lame

My weekly blog post is going to be a leeeeetle bit later than usual this week. I was up at 5 AM this morning getting some productive writing done (yay!), which means I'm far too st00pid to write anything coherent tonight. I shall try to have something up sometime Monday. Cheers and good night!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dammerung vs. The King

There is a (rare) misconception among would-like-to-be-published writers that you don't need to sweat spelling, grammar and punctuation because that's what editors are for. These days, it just isn't true. Copy-editors catch the typos, but you don't get one of those unless your work has already impressed an agent and at least one (acquiring) editor. If you want to be a professional writer, you're expected to be in control of your craft. That means your manuscript should be relatively clean of errors.

This week provided a fun illustration of why presentation matters, and why you're unlikely to be taken seriously if you don't show a grasp of your craft.

First, an explanation: The weird symbols you see in the following post are meant to befuddle Google's dreaded web spiders so my hit counter doesn't go berserk again.

Second, I admit I'm endlessly amused by the Tw!l!ght books by St*ephenie Meyer. They seem so over-the-top (vegetarian vampires who sparkle in the sun? Yay!), and the fans of the books--mostly teenage girls--are so wrenchingly passionate about the story.

St*ephen King caused an internet stir this week by saying St*ephenie Meyer "can’t write worth a darn." If you read the whole article, you'll note that's the harshest thing he says about her abilities, and the context of that phrase softens its criticism considerably. He also has some balanced and complimentary things to say about Meyer's books, and he dings the writing of heavy hitters like Dean K00ntz and James Patters0n also, so Meyer is in good company.

Now. Remember I said the fans were passionate? Here's a sampling of some amusingly-extreme reactions.


TNMEBDmelony17&lovless wrote:
(Note: Yes, the commenter is unclear both on who insulted Ms. Me*yer (Ste*phen King, not J. K. Ro*wling) as well as J. K. Ro*wling's gender.)

Sarahh. :) wrote:
personally, i think everyone is entitled to there own opinions…
but i do not agree with Ste*phen King.
it takes a lot for me to like a book, and i havent quite liked the books he wrote(at least the ones that i have read), but he is a good writer.
J.K. Ro*wling is also a good writer, im not a fan of harry potter at all, but she writes well.
I think Ste*phenie is a pretty amazing writer if i do say so myself, but thats just my opnion. but i sorta think Ste*phen King is crazy…
come on, have you read his books?
kerri wrote:
wow, has he got it wrong. Im 32 years old and the whole thing about twil*ight is that edwards cersion of intimact is so sexual it’s heart pounding. Thats what makes it hot for us females. Not all of us have to jump in the sack, get it over with, and bam…their done. No, i perfer edwards intimacy…and ste*phen king, im a mom of three boys, so im plenty practiced in the sexual stuff.
kezzerz wrote:
i LOVE Twi*light and i think the guy was jst a bit jealous. i think that the scenes with the touching and more were really cute!! i think Edward and Bella r cute full stop!! im such a fan of Harry Po*tter bt now its like Twi*light all the way!!! ive read all the books twice. as soon as i was finished the last one i began the first again!!thats how much i love it!! i agree with Juliee that because twi*light is a big part of our lives, it hurts when somebody who does NOT understand this feeling comes here to tell that stuff. we protect what is ours, and twi*light its part of us. and its almost as if people are insulting us for saying crap things about the books.
As an aside, I think all this is adorable. I would love to be able to write books that trigger so much fervour with readers! I also think the reaction is hilariously misguided, but that's another story.

Now about presentation...

When someone with almost no ability to spell, punctuate, use the shift key or proper grammar tries to convince you they know better than St*ephen King what constitutes a well-written book, how seriously do you take them?

Exactly. So it's not surprising an agent or editor who sees a manuscript riddled with errors reaches for the form rejection letter. Just as there may be a valid point buried in a misspelled internet post, there may be a great story buried in the typo-dripping manuscript, but the agent/editor assumes if you're not able to write a competent sentence, you're not able to write a competent story.

That isn't fair to people who speak English as a second language or have a reading disability, but I would hope such people are already aware they need to work extra hard to produce a clean manuscript and query letter.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Piracy and Fair Play

Humans are illogical creatures. We seem to have an in-built urge to enforce behaviour that creates a healthy society.

Researchers invented a game that demonstrates this: Person A is given a dollar, and they must offer some portion of it to Person B. Person B can accept the offer or decline it. If Person B accepts, both people come out of the deal with money. If Person B declines, the dollar is taken away and neither person gets any money.

Logically, Person B should always accept what is offered; some money is better than no money.

But humans are not logical. The researchers found if Person A demonstrated greed by offering too small a portion of the dollar to Person B, then Person B usually got offended and refused the offer. Punishing Person A became more important to them than the money.

This is society-preserving behaviour. We exert peer pressure on each other to encourage fair play.

I believe part of the reason why music piracy got out of hand was because people knew the music industry was ripping them off. Blank CDs cost 10 cents each if you buy them in bulk, and once you have the hardware, you can burn a lot of them easily and cheaply. So why did CDs cost twice as much as cassette tapes of the same music?

When people see obvious greed and injustice, they get the urge to punish the perpetrator. Thus, people didn't feel guilty breaking the law by pirating music because they believed they were punishing the truly guilty party. Humans are not logical.

The Consumerist recently had an article noting that ebooks for the Kindle are creeping up over $10 a book. In some cases, this is more than the cost of a hardcopy of the same book.

The Smart Bitches Who Read Trashy Books are living up to their name with a great discussion of that article in the comments of this post, where they consider the real costs of producing an ebook.

It's an important consideration; the publishing house employs the same number of editors, artists and publicity staff to create an ebook. The only element missing is paper, and people's time generally costs much more than even large quantities of paper.

However, the publishing industry also keeps crying that the returns system is killing them, and ebooks aren't subject to returns. Ebooks don't have shipping costs, or storage costs, or pulping costs. There is no such thing as printing too many ebooks.

That's a concrete savings for the company, just as CDs were a concrete savings for the music industry. So why do ebooks cost the same as hardcopies? If the company provides me with less product (I can't resell an ebook to a second-hand shop), then it isn't fair for them to charge me the same price.

We're only human--which means we're capable of breath-taking malevolence when we decide someone's acting like a scumbag. If the publishing industry doesn't play fair with its customers, I think that can only come back to hurt them. I would argue the music industry already demonstrated this.


What do you think? Should ebooks be cheaper than hardcopy books because a file has less value than an object?

Should they be the same price because the content of the book is what really has value, not the paper?

Or is it fine for ebooks to cost more than hardcopy books, because people who can afford a Kindle are affluent enough to afford more expensive books, and a company should charge what the market will bear?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: