Saturday, May 29, 2010


Now that Peter Dudley's contest is finished, I can show off my entry. The contest was to make up both a name and a label for the home-brew beer Peter intends to drink in his hot tub with his buddies as they watch the World Cup.

I felt pretty pleased with how this turned out. The beer name was a variation on "Winkle's Old Peculiar" from the Diskworld novels, but then Peter suggested adding "and" between "Old" and "Peculiar", and I really liked the additional ambiguity (i.e. is that " 's " possessive, or is it short for "Dudley is..."?)

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kung Fu Bear...

...needs no further introduction. The fun stuff starts at about 25 seconds into the video.

The bear's name is Cloud and s/he resides at the Hiroshima Zoo.

Link found via Geekologie.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Monday, May 17, 2010

"You are no chicken. You are an Eagle. One day you will soar."

Great post over on Ello's blog. Although it's titled "Random Funny Things My Mom Says", the advice is more heart-warming than humourous, and it's something I'm glad I heard:
From Random Funny Things My Mom Says--Part 7 by Ellen Oh

"Listen, don't be stuck on your book. Let it go and be happy. When you are happy, really happy, then go back to it. Nothing works when your brain is filled with stress." She rubs at the crease between my eyebrows. "Your brain is all filled with worry and stress and miserableness. Why you want to put that in your book? You put that in your book - who want to read it? Happiness makes you healthy. Healthy makes your brain happy. Then you write your book."

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

AH-HA-HA-HA-HA-H--wait, it's not serious, is it?

Image from Geekologie.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ethics and E-Publishing

Both Courtney Milan and Stacia Kane blogged this week about their disquiet over literary agents getting into the e-publishing game.

We're not talking about scam agents, by the way--this involves reputable literary agents/agencies with established track records of sales to large publishers.

Case A: Lori Perkins has a financial stake in the e-publisher Ravenous Romance.
Case B: The Waxman Agency is opening an e-publishing house called Diversion Books.

Neither Ms. Perkins nor The Waxman Agency belongs to the Association of Author's Representatives, which has a canon of ethics that states: "Members shall not represent both buyer and seller in the same transaction." That said, an agent doesn't need to belong to the AAR to be reputable; my former agent wasn't, and she was awesome-sauce with sprinkles on top.

However, most agencies that are reputable pretty much abide by that canon of ethics anyway. By getting into e-publishing, however, these two seem to have stepped outside those bounds.

Ms. Milan and Ms. Kane had some excellent points to make about this, and I recommend you click the links below and read both their posts:
From "On Self-Dealing" by Courtney Milan

Lori Perkins has explained that she doesn't take a commission on those sales to Ravenous from her clients--but all that this accomplishes is that now she truly has no financial interest in doing what is right for her clients. She has no interest in fighting for an extra 2% royalty rate, or a higher advance for her clients, because now she isn’t [...] getting paid for that.
From "It's Just Upsetting" by Stacia Kane

I honestly believe [Scott Waxman] thinks he's doing the absolute best for his clients. But why start up an epublishing imprint, thus creating a conflict of interest and a breach of AAR ethics? Why not submit your clients to an existing epublisher, or small press [...] if the project isn't right for NY? Isn’t an agent supposed to keep trying until the project sells, even if it's to a smaller house?
I would like to stress, for anyone who didn't read the full blog posts, that I excerpted some of the blunter statements made. Ms. Milan and Ms. Kane are both very respectful of Ms. Perkins and The Waxman Agency and state firmly that they believe this agent/agency is reputable. I believe that too.

If you did read the posts, however, you'll have noted there's a certain amount of tip-toeing going on, and I'm going to tip-toe also--and for the same reasons: I don't want to be black-listed by agents.

But that wariness is part of why I feel compelled to speak up. Because major publishing houses don't take un-agented submissions, literary agents are in a position of power over writers, and it's not an irrational fear for me to wonder if having a valid-but-unpopular opinion would hurt--or even abort--my writing career. The stakes are high if I open my mouth to complain about literary agents.

That imbalance of power is exactly why we need to scrutinize literary agents, however. Anywhere there is an imbalance of power, there is the possibility of abuse, and the number of scam agents already in operation is a testament to that. We writers do need to stay aware of what reputable agents doing, and get vocal when they do something that puts them on the slippery slope from reputable to disreputable.

However, I still don't want to shoot myself in the foot, so I'll say only the following, and I'll keep it general:

An agent takes a 15% commission on a writer's earnings. The only way this relationship is symbiotic is if
a) the agent only makes money from the writer's work when the writer themself does, and
b) the writer makes more money with the agent's help than they would have made without it.

The moment either of those conditions ceases to be met, the relationship changes from a symbiotic one to a parasitic one.

If the agent makes money off the writer regardless of whether the writer is making any money, then the agent can't be trusted to have the writer's best interests at heart any more. The agent has less incentive to do their job well if their paycheque is already assured.

The situation becomes even more problematic when the agent stands to make more money from the writer making less money. This is exactly the situation that exists when the agent owns or has a financial stake in a publisher. The agent stands to make more money (as a publisher) from the writer getting a less lucrative deal, and it's an obvious conflict of interest for the agent to have a monetary incentive to do their job (as an agent) poorly.


What do you think of this? Agents want to help great books get published, and I can see how an agent might aspire to move into publishing in order to see this happen. How do you think such an agent should handle doing so, if they want to make sure they stay within the boundaries of ethical business conduct with regard to their agenting?

Would you consider signing with a reputable agency that had an e-publishing arm? Just because the owner of the agency also owns an e-publishing house doesn't mean the other literary agents at that agency are getting a cut of the e-publisher's profits. As long as the boss isn't exerting undue influence on his or her agents, those agents don't have a conflict of interest.

Finally, what about agents who are also writers? It can be argued they have a conflict of interest too, if one of their clients writes a book that would compete with the agent's book. How do you think that situation should be handled? Do you have reservations about signing with an agent who is also an author?

Anonymous commenting is on, if you have an opinion-bomb you don't want to catch any shrapnel from. I would love to hear everyone's (especially agents') thoughts.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Proud To Share the DNA

Can I just take a moment to be a very proud sister? My siblings, Sarf and Heather, take some awfully gorgeous photos.

Here are a few shots of the unforeseen complications that came after my sister and her husband took in a stray cat:

Click this link to see the rest of the Kittehpile (also featuring my sister's awesome digital scrapbooking skills.)

Let me know when you're done melting into a warm puddle of goo and we'll continue. Okay, then? Okay.

Here are a few shots from my brother's trips to, respectively, the Icelandic volcano that hates England so much, and sunny, wonderful Mexico (which the volcano tolerates):

Click this link to see more Mexico shots. The volcano shots start here and you'll have to navigate thereafter.

Izzat gorgeous or what? They're both so incredibly talented!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Writing Advice from Dave Cullen, Author of "Columbine"

Many of you probably already follow the blog of Rachelle Gardner, literary agent, but I thought this post containing writing tips from Dave Cullen, author of Columbine, to be particular astute and useful.
Excerpt from Writing Wisdom from Dave Cullen

The book Columbine involves a large number of characters—students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, doctors—but the amazing thing to me is that I never once got confused about characters or lost track of who was who. Dave says the way to achieve this is to introduce each character in a memorable fashion. When they first appear in the book, they must be portrayed in a vivid, visual way that the reader cannot forget.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Open Wide...

I'm not sure if this is someone's idea of hell or of heaven. A cupcake cannon:

Link found via Geekologie.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Yes, I'm Close Enough.

This guy should be taking lessons from the fellow in the video below.

For the metrically-challenged, 3 centimetres equals 1.2 inches.

Thanks to QuirkyJessi and FairyHedgehog for the link!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I won a contest!

A small contest, featuring very small stories (200 words maximum) about small things (the theme was "micro"). You can read all the entries by following the "AE Micro" link on AE Science Fiction's website.

And, if you're feeling generous, you can help this new Canadian speculative fiction magazine get off the ground by clicking here and pledging them a few dollars. I donated back my payment for the story, and I wish AE a successful and illustrious future!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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