Star Lines
Saturday, September 20, 2003
  Whoops:  Be careful who you parody (see #3 in comments.) 
  Virtual Signing:  Now this is interesting.  Terry Brooks is sticking to the UK and Europe to promo his newest Shannara book, but he's also having a virtual booksigning:

"...readers who purchase the book through the site will receive a signed or personalized copy in the mail."

Very nice, Terry, but imagine taking it to another level.  Set up a chat room on the site and have the author show up at a certain time to talk to loyal readers.  Archive vids or pics of the author signing books in the flesh:

The author and her kid

Play background sounds so it feels like you're at a bookstore (if you want to do B&N, be sure to have the sounds of people eating, drinking, burping, shouting to each other while children are running and screaming, and a nasally-voiced female saying, "Manager to the cash wrap, manager to the cash wrap please" every three minutes.)

There's more you could do with it, too.  Shy or nervous authors could practice and refine their public personas at a virtual booksigning training site.  Same way fighter pilots have those combat training cockpit simulators; only you'd give the author forty books, one pen, a vanishing bookseller assistant, and a line of ten disgruntled fans.

If you write the program for this, be sure to have one of the readers in line struggling with three toddlers, a leaking sippy cup and a stroller.  You should also plan to throw these archetypes at the signing author:

1. Touchers:  Readers who like to touch the author, usually on the hands or arms but sometimes the face.  On the way to a signing I have been grabbed and hugged by absolute strangers, too.

2. Spitters:  Fans who eject saliva into the author's face when they speak.  Ten point penalty for any author who says Euuwwww or runs away from the table.

3. Whiners:  A minimum of four, terribly earnest, completely unattractive, usually single white males who have odd friction marks on their palms and live with their mothers, to complain at length about the book while buying nothing. (Also see SF purist.)

4. Nutcases:  A three hundred pound reader dressed in authentic camoflauge fatigues, who speaks in a low, hoarse voice, buys ten copies of the author's book and mutters about foiling the government's evil plan to use the guy from Gilligan's Island to kill the author.

Give the author moral dilemmas, too:

PROBLEM #1:  Reader seems normal but obviously has not washed in a month, says he's homeless, and has visible grime under his nails and on his skin.  Do you A) scream for security, B) A plus openly spray Lysol and use hand sanitizer after they haul him away or C) give him a free book and your gratis coffee and danish coupon for the bookstore cafe?

PROBLEM#2:  The author who talked you into signing with her has sold none of her books, while nearly all of yours are gone.  Do you A) Gloat in her face, B) Advise her to sign all the leftover copies so the bookseller can't return them or C) Help her sell by talking to your fans about her book?

PROBLEM#3:  Your #1 fan has shown up -- again.  He waits for two hours so he can be first in line, holds up the line by gushing over your work for fifteen minutes, then stands to one side, breathes heavily and stares at your chest while you sign everyone else's books.  Do you A) ask him out for coffee, B) send him flirtacious glances every now and then so he gets a thrill or C) don't encourage him in any way, and have a bookstore employee walk you out to your car after the signing?

*Answers:  1. C.  Don't be an ass, dirt isn't contagious.  If he is not presenting an obvious threat, be as kind as possible.  2. C.  Never lord your popularity over another writer.  Someday she might be on the NYT BSL, and will remember what you did; make it a good memory.  3. C.  Never mess with a potential stalker.  
Friday, September 19, 2003
  Blooming Idiot:  I used to think Caleb Carr was the worst of the snobs, but this Yale guy Harold Bloom makes Cal look like a schmooze slut.  Here's a sterling quote from his temper tantrum over at the LATimes (registration required):

"Today, there are four living American novelists I know of who are still at work and who deserve our praise. Thomas Pynchon is still writing. My friend Philip Roth, who will now share this "distinguished contribution" award with Stephen King, is a great comedian and would no doubt find something funny to say about it. There's Cormac McCarthy, whose novel "Blood Meridian" is worthy of Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick," and Don DeLillo, whose "Underworld" is a great book."

Okay, so let me get this straight.  Out of all the novelists in America, there are only four who deserve to be praised.  And the rest of us should be, what?  Stoned on sight?  Drowned in the nearest rain barrel?  Burnt in effigy?  Hauled off to the hooskow?

Aside from the fact that he is calling the greatest writer of popular fiction in the twentieth century an idiot, can you imagine a world where Harold Bloom gets to decide what you'd read?  Not that there would be a real huge selection, you understand, given that there are only four novelists who get his gold seal.

Anyway, I think it's time to give Harold his meds and take him back to the nursing home now.  Nurse, oh, nurse? 
  How to Control A SF Author:  In their newest attempt to keep out the rabble, Science Fiction Writers of America has announced that 'pro' rates for membership purposes will be raised from .03 cents/word to .05 cents/word.

Since it is nearly impossible to sell a SF novel these days, most of SFWA's newest members have been qualifying for pro membership by selling short stories to magazines.  On the surface, it would seem the organization is trying to limit who gets in the doors, i.e. only the people who sell to the big three mags who do pay .05 cents/word are worthy.

[post modified]

I tried to look at it from another angle, but a party involved strongly objected and hinted at starting another hate campaign if I didn't back off.  I've removed the inflammatory portion mainly because I don't have time for a brawl.

Members of SFWA who still have intact backbones should challenge this decision.  It's wrong to do this to new writers and you guys know it.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
  Compact Blade:  The head editor over at SF book club was nice enough to send me three copies of their edition of Blade Dancer for my mom and kids, and it's cute.  The book is about 10% smaller than the publisher's first edition, the page paper is a bit thinner and the cover jacket is glossy versus matte.  If you're a club member and have ordered it, I think you'll be pretty happy with the end product. 
  Dancing with E-mail:  Just when you think it's safe to hit the read button . . .

Do you have a timeshare or vacation membership you never get to use?

Yeah, and please, rub my face in it some more.

I've found some records on the name [my great-grandmother's name] that I thought might be helpful.

Helpful, how?  I'm adopted.  Go away.

Do you have a few moments to answer the questions below?

Am I being charged with something?  Do I get a phone call?

Your book sucks.

I'll join a convent and never write again.  Happy now?

I understand you're of ethnic origin, are you a woman of color?

No, I'm transparent.  Goes with my shallow personality. 

I don't agree with the review.  You're no Huxley.

Good, I was worried about that.

Your diagnostic theories in Shockball do not suspend disbelief.

So don't believe them.  And get a life.

We are pleased to invite you to be our Guest Speaker.

You're that desperate, huh?

(Unsolicited) I am sending you my manuscript.  Please read it and respond by November 1st.

Just what dimension do you exist in, pal?

In regard to the replacement of Christine Valada as legal counsel to
SFWA . . .

(waving) Hello, not a member, like I care.

Eternity Row sucks.

I've already got a call into the convent, thanks. 
  Is that Greenspan, cloned?:  Three reasons to visit Jaquandor's weblog: great writing, no Britney Spears, and linkage like this. 
  Pulling a Houdini:  My thoughts and prayers are with all the folks riding the storm out in the Carolinas and Virginia.  God watch over you and keep you safe.

I'm in the midst of a quandry.  It's related to professional stuff and no, unfortunately, I can't give you the details.  I have to stay in the Bat Cave, and let Robin deal.  It's extremely stressful so I have to let Robin take over or I'll eff up my deadlines.  I love my agent, btw, have I said that lately?  She's an amazing, incredible, infinitely patient woman, no matter what I throw at her.

I'm also going to dive into deadline week a wee bit early so I can send some things out regular mail versus overnight.  I may be scarce here and in general as a result.  We won't talk about e-mail, it's getting pretty ugly.  Sorry, my fault. 
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
  Six and Still Counting:  Apparently my archives are being a little wonky; I've republished them a couple of times and folks are still having trouble accessing.  I've noticed other weblogs' archives have vanished, too, so I've e-mailed Blogger to whine about it.

To respond to a few requests, my novel release schedule for 2004 now looks like this:

Jan -- A Matter of Consultation (Flint's Ring of Fire antho) SLV
Feb -- Home for the Holidays RK
Mar -- Into the Fire JH
Jul -- No Room at the Inn RK
Aug -- Bio Rescue SLV
Sep -- Burned Twice JH

This is subject to change; I'll probably have at least two more titles to add to it. 
  Harry Ban:  J.K. Rowling has achieved another first; the Harry Potter series now ranks #1 on 2002's Most Challenged Books, a list issued annually by the American Library Association for Banned Books Week, Sept. 20-27.

Every year I try to buy at least one book on the banned list, as my way of thumbing my nose at censorship.  I've already got all the HP books, though, so maybe I'll invest in Captain Underpants (#6 on the list) for the kids. 
Tuesday, September 16, 2003


To NAL, contemp suspense romance, working title "Burned Twice,"* tentatively scheduled for release September '04.  This one is the sequel to "Into the Fire" which will be hitting the shelves in March '04.

*I just passed the big two-oh; this one will be my twenty-first book in print. 
  Looking Down the Barrel:  She's right out there, just a few hundred miles to the east of me now.  I'm actually out of the danger zone, but too many people I care about aren't.

Hurricane Isabel

More information on Hurricane Isabel can be found here.  If you live on the Atlantic coast, please pay close attention to your weather forecasts for the next couple of days, and prepare now.

  Mom Pays:  For those who don't think women who choose to have children have to pay for it, you should check out my current employment dilemma, how Jeneane Sessum paid for having a child, and wrap it up with a look at how all mothers pay via The Wage Penalty of Motherhood (.pdf file.)

And for those who think being self-employed and working from home is wonderful, please read what happened to me over the summer. 
Monday, September 15, 2003
  Share the Hate:  Evidently I and some of the StarLines regulars have gone and stomped on the toes of the literati, the con-goers and (oddly) childless women.  I've had to delete two fairly nasty attacks left in comments and ban the users who left them.

For the benefit of the new visitors stopping in to check out the working mom/childcare discussion, I'll restate House Policy: this is my space, I pay for it, you don't.  Opposing opinions are always welcome, flaming and personal attacks on me -- or anyone who leaves comments here -- are not.  If you can't be courteous, leave.  If you have a problem with me, leave.  If you don't like what you read, leave.  
  You Know It's Monday When:  You're in the shower and your agent calls and leaves a message on your answering machine:

"Sheila, great news, I talked with so-and-so editor today, and she said" A minute of incoherent bits of speech as the agent's car phone goes out of range "so it's a great offer, and plus now we know the books" two more minutes of unintelligible speech, same reason "me tomorrow at the office and we'll discuss it."

So anyway, someone wants to buy something, that's always good news. 
  Does The Working Mother Mother or Work?  KCramer responds to quite a bit of flack after she blogged on the downside of bringing kids to SF cons.

For those who think working women having children is a new thing, I give you the example of my great-great Irish grandmother, who had 21 children, and they all survived.  She lived on a farm, and family legend has it that she gave birth to a number of them while she was working out in the potato fields, as in she'd stopped picking potatoes long enough to deliver, put the baby in her bodice, then go back to work.

Was she important, and is the story true?  I don't know, but a few of her daughters came over to America.  One of them (mother of 12) worked at Ellis island as an interpreter and likely checked in your great-grandparents when they came over.  My own great-grandmother (mother of 4) was a nurse during the Civil War, and may have saved your great-grandfather's life.  My grandmother (mother of 1) was many things, including a poet and an artist, but she also helped get food for a lot of families during the Depression.  My mother (mother of 6) was a major in the Civil Air Patrol and rescued people from aircraft crash sites.

We are not the first generation of mothers to work.  We're simply the first generation to bitch about it. 
  Genre Writers, We're Not Just Hacks Anymore:  The National Book Awards will be awarding their annual medal for contribution to American Letters to horror writer Stephen King.  The article implies they selected Steve only due to pressure from publishers, but hey, I've read the first part of On Writing, and the guy can be literary enough for one of those snotty medals.

I just wish, wish, wish I could be there for the acceptance speech, don't you?

Harold Bloom, some important lit-head over at Yale, called King a writer of "penny dreadfuls" and had this to say about giving him the award: "That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy."

Penny dreadfuls, in case you're puzzled, is what they used to call pulp fiction back in the 19th century, I think*, in which Mr. Bloom apparently still lives.

Okay, so all of us genre writers should go to Yale and kick Harold Bloom's ass first -- or maybe, just stand outside his office, make faces while singing "Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye."

*This is such an archaic term I honestly didn't know, so I went ahead and did a search.  You can read about them here. 
  Rush Decides the Chenille Issue:

I'm softer and I was here first 
Sunday, September 14, 2003
  Isabel:  Anyone who lives on the Atlantic coast, particularly my friends in the Carolinas, should keep close watch on weather reports for the next couple of days.  If you haven't been following it, Hurricane Isabel, a category 5 storm packing 155 mph+ winds, is heading our way.

I went through my storm supplies this morning to make sure I've got everything, and found the kids have depleted my stock of batteries (which is why I check, batteries and peanut butter tend to disappear around here.)  Should the storm turn for south FL I would have to evacuate and take the kids and the boys up with me to my parents' house.

Isabel is coming in a little higher north on the tracking map than Hurricane Andrew did, but with a very similar path, which worries me.  After so many years of watching hurricanes you start to recognize which ones are most likely to follow the Gulfstream.  Isabel is one of those bad, powerful ones that could.  Unless the weather front to the west strengthens and drives this bitch back out into the Atlantic, I think she'll make landfall. 
Adventures at the KeyBoard

10/28/2001 - 11/04/2001 / 11/04/2001 - 11/11/2001 / 11/11/2001 - 11/18/2001 / 11/18/2001 - 11/25/2001 / 11/25/2001 - 12/02/2001 / 12/02/2001 - 12/09/2001 / 12/09/2001 - 12/16/2001 / 12/16/2001 - 12/23/2001 / 12/23/2001 - 12/30/2001 / 12/30/2001 - 01/06/2002 / 01/06/2002 - 01/13/2002 / 01/13/2002 - 01/20/2002 / 01/20/2002 - 01/27/2002 / 01/27/2002 - 02/03/2002 / 02/03/2002 - 02/10/2002 / 02/10/2002 - 02/17/2002 / 02/17/2002 - 02/24/2002 / 02/24/2002 - 03/03/2002 / 03/03/2002 - 03/10/2002 / 03/10/2002 - 03/17/2002 / 03/17/2002 - 03/24/2002 / 03/24/2002 - 03/31/2002 / 03/31/2002 - 04/07/2002 / 04/07/2002 - 04/14/2002 / 04/14/2002 - 04/21/2002 / 04/21/2002 - 04/28/2002 / 04/28/2002 - 05/05/2002 / 05/05/2002 - 05/12/2002 / 05/12/2002 - 05/19/2002 / 05/19/2002 - 05/26/2002 / 05/26/2002 - 06/02/2002 / 06/02/2002 - 06/09/2002 / 06/09/2002 - 06/16/2002 / 06/16/2002 - 06/23/2002 / 06/23/2002 - 06/30/2002 / 06/30/2002 - 07/07/2002 / 07/07/2002 - 07/14/2002 / 07/14/2002 - 07/21/2002 / 07/21/2002 - 07/28/2002 / 07/28/2002 - 08/04/2002 / 08/04/2002 - 08/11/2002 / 08/11/2002 - 08/18/2002 / 08/18/2002 - 08/25/2002 / 08/25/2002 - 09/01/2002 / 09/01/2002 - 09/08/2002 / 09/08/2002 - 09/15/2002 / 09/15/2002 - 09/22/2002 / 09/22/2002 - 09/29/2002 / 09/29/2002 - 10/06/2002 / 10/06/2002 - 10/13/2002 / 10/13/2002 - 10/20/2002 / 10/20/2002 - 10/27/2002 / 10/27/2002 - 11/03/2002 / 11/03/2002 - 11/10/2002 / 11/10/2002 - 11/17/2002 / 11/17/2002 - 11/24/2002 / 11/24/2002 - 12/01/2002 / 12/01/2002 - 12/08/2002 / 12/08/2002 - 12/15/2002 / 12/15/2002 - 12/22/2002 / 12/22/2002 - 12/29/2002 / 12/29/2002 - 01/05/2003 / 01/05/2003 - 01/12/2003 / 01/12/2003 - 01/19/2003 / 01/19/2003 - 01/26/2003 / 01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003 / 02/02/2003 - 02/09/2003 / 02/09/2003 - 02/16/2003 / 02/16/2003 - 02/23/2003 / 02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003 / 03/02/2003 - 03/09/2003 / 03/09/2003 - 03/16/2003 / 03/16/2003 - 03/23/2003 / 03/23/2003 - 03/30/2003 / 03/30/2003 - 04/06/2003 / 04/06/2003 - 04/13/2003 / 04/13/2003 - 04/20/2003 / 04/20/2003 - 04/27/2003 / 04/27/2003 - 05/04/2003 / 05/04/2003 - 05/11/2003 / 05/11/2003 - 05/18/2003 / 05/18/2003 - 05/25/2003 / 05/25/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 06/08/2003 / 06/08/2003 - 06/15/2003 / 06/15/2003 - 06/22/2003 / 06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003 / 06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003 / 07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003 / 07/13/2003 - 07/20/2003 / 07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003 / 07/27/2003 - 08/03/2003 / 08/03/2003 - 08/10/2003 / 08/10/2003 - 08/17/2003 / 08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003 / 08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003 / 08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003 / 09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003 / 09/14/2003 - 09/21/2003 / 09/21/2003 - 09/28/2003 / 09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003 / 10/05/2003 - 10/12/2003 / 10/12/2003 - 10/19/2003 / 10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003 / 10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 / 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 / 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 /

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