Star Lines
Saturday, October 04, 2003
  Wow:  Someone just offered me a nice chunk of money to show up somewhere.  I rate bribing now?  Holy Toledo, I'd better start putting together a price list for my bod.  Let's see . . .

S.L. Viehl Personal Appearance Scheduled Rates

Booksigning -- $1000 per hour plus travel expenses, two hours maximum.  Host to provide security, access to bathroom facilities, plexiglass spit-shield, bottled water and escort for Ms. Viehl to parking lot after the signing.  Overweight men on lithium and dressed in camoflauge fatigues, and mystery writers having marital problems are strictly prohibited.  Clerks will refrain from using the store intercom every three minutes to summon the store manager.

Reading -- $5000/session plus travel expenses, thirty minutes maximum per session, one session per event.  Ms. Viehl is not liable for any attendees demands for their money back.  Host to provide quick escape route.

Con Appearance -- $10,000/one day appearance plus travel expenses, one hour maximum.  Please note that Ms. Viehl does not participate in panels, masquerades, singalongs, awards presentations, business meetings, bar fights, drunken adulterous proposals, lynchings, burnings of Ms. Viehl (in effigy) etc. 

Interview -- $20,000/interview, maximum one interview per publication for life.  Interviewer should note that Ms. Viehl does not believe being published makes her superior over other human beings, or in writer bullshit, artistic angst, etc.  Ms. Viehl will not be photographed without her consent (this is to protect your camera equipment.)

Workshop for High School/Grade School Students -- Free in the south Florida area.

Online chat with High School/Grade School Students -- Free.

Live interview with High School/Grade School Student -- Free in south Florida area.  
  Consider This:  Everyone has heard of Project Gutenberg, right?  There's a way you can help get more free books on the web by volunteering to be a proofreader for PG here.

This is good for writers who want to practice their proofing skills and give the project a hand.  They won't stick you with a whole book; you can do as much or as little proofreading as you like, one page at a time.  I'm going to sign up next week, after I finish this book. 
  Coltrane II:  I never really liked jazz until I had to research it for the SD series.  I chose it at random to be Cherijo's favorite music (mainly because country music drives me right up the wall) and like a good writer, I bought some albums and started listening to it so I could describe it in the prose.  I started with John Coltrane and right now I'm working my way through Miles Davis.

I never knew music could sound the way blank verse poetry moves until I discovered jazz.  I'm still not sure if I really like it, the way I like classical music.  It's maddening music, often evasive one minute and then grabs you by the tonsils the next, only to drift away again.  It's not easy music to listen to, but closing your eyes helps.  If you invest in jazz for the first time, don't try to nail it to some prefab ideas you have about music, just let it take you for a ride.

I've got John Coltrane's Blues Trane on now.  Already my head is a thousand miles away, in a different time and place in my life, when I could sit in the French Quarter and let my cafe brulot and my feet get cold because listening to an old man play a trumpet was more important.  When you would see waiters stop in their tracks because it was more important than taking orders and picking up tips.  That didn't happen often, and never at all in the tourist places, but only here and there in those shadowy little bars that don't blast zydeco or serve beer in go-cups, where the patrons are every color but white, and the bartender switches from English to French without a hitch, and whoa, I'm starting to get poetic.  Definitely time to go to bed.  
Friday, October 03, 2003
  Wanted:  Right now?  A hot bath, something to make my left shoulder stop singing soprano, steamed blue crab with Old Bay and an ice-cold pitcher of raspberry tea, Scrabble with the kids, a few hours with Lars and Sven, a basket of strawberries, Coltrane on the stereo, rain tapping on the window, laughter, the after-the-beach kind of tired, peace.

What I have: hot shower, analgesics, vegan stir-fry, jasmine rice and plain tea, mango, alone, the cats piled around my chair, silent house, tapping keys as I write, wired/tired, content.

What are you doing right now? 
  Shades of LA:  People in Baltimore may think the murder rate is dropping, when in fact the med pros working at facilities like the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland are saving the lives of killers, drug dealers, and other classic contributors to homicide rates.

I never worked Baltimore, but east L.A. is pretty much the same.  Back in my day (she says, in her best old crone voice) the drug dealer described in the PopSci article might have had a 50-50 chance.  Now medical science can heal most victims of multiple gunshot wounds, stabbings and other trauma, and mayors and governors can take credit for lowering the homicide rates.

You can't pick and choose who you heal, but you're always aware of who you're healing.  We save drug dealers so they can go out and try to kill each other again over the right to sell their filth to kids on their way to school.  We save drunk drivers so they can hit the bar and wipe out another family with their deathcars on the way home.  We put casts on the hands of wife beaters, perform skin grafts on burned arsonists, and treat child molestors for STDs.

Then we go home and have nightmares for the next twenty years.  
Thursday, October 02, 2003
  Money Doesn't Have to Buy:  A new fuel pump for the car.  But I jump ahead of my tale.

I went down to start the car this morning and found I could crank it but the engine wouldn't turn over.  Went back upstairs, called Ford roadside assistance and my dealer.  Remember how I buy insurance and warranties like other women buy junk jewelry?  This is why.

The ex played chauffeur for the kids, and the tow truck came forty-five minutes later, so my total involvement was two phone calls and handing the nice tow truck driver my key.  My dealer called at 2 pm; they had to replace the fuel pump (under warranty) as was the tow, and I can go and pick up the car anytime before 7 pm.

I know everyone hates American cars but I love mine.  I love my dealer, too; thank you, Ford. :) 
  Money Can't Buy:  I've always preferred to make gifts versus buying them whenever possible.  I'm not cheap, I just like giving things I've made with my own hands.  If I didn't, this house would be stacked from floor to ceiling with quilts.

I'm working this theme in a story, so I'd like to bug you guys with another poll-type question: what is your favorite gift that someone gave you that was handmade versus store-bought, and why? 
  Only on eBay:  I've seen some strange listings on eBay but this one is priceless.  If you really believed that about something, why would you sell it to someone else?  I'd drop it off a cliff.  
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
  Never Dare Me:  I'm going to speak to my romance editor and see if I can get an excerpt from one of the newbie SF authors over at Ace put in the back of my next Jessica Hall romance novel.  AKA putting my money where my mouth is.

Also, I was reminded that I never told anyone the inside joke about the web site story for August, and that I should before I take it down.  It was a dare.  A friend bet me that I couldn't write a story about "Jorenians with great big purple polka dots on them."

I donated my winnings to Women in Distress. :)  
  So Here's The Deal:  I've been so deadline-locked that I haven't updated the website for more than a month now.  It will be at least another week before I get to it, maybe two.  60K of paying work has to come first.  My apologies to everyone who is waiting on Deimos, which I've got set aside for a final edit.  I promise it will be worth the wait. :) 
  No-Price Covers:  Borders would like publishers to take pricing off the covers of books, to allow them to set their own pricing.  I have no doubt that if the big three chains get together and make a united fuss over this, publishers will remove pricing.

This will not hurt publishing, as they sell to chains at set prices that are not on the book covers, or the chains, who will likely have lots of $1 book bin sales.  Writers like me will end up paying for it, because the only money we make is based on a tiny percentage of the finished cover price (in my case, 6% of a $6.99 mass market novel, or around .42 per book) -- unless publishers protect their writers from slide-scale pricing.  Publishers are not in the business of protecting writers, though. 
  In Lieu of Sleep:  I know how romance writers can save the science fiction genre.  No, seriously, I do.  I've known since I turned pro.

The problem with SF is no one wants to read it, and publishers can't sell it.  But, if you take an excerpt from a readable* SF book and stick it in the back of a bestselling romance author's novel, you'll sell a minimum of 10 to 20K of the SF right off the bat.  Romance readers are really cool about trying out new authors in other genres, as long as you give them a sample of what to expect.  They're also loyal as hell; if they love your work, they'll buy everything you write.

Of course I'm assuming the SF authors wouldn't throw up over the prospect, and that we romance writers would actually want to save the SF genre.

For those who are saying "it can't be done and it wouldn't work" -- it already has.  If you go look in the back of the "The Courtship" by Catherine Coulter (a historical romance, no less) you'll see an excerpt of StarDoc.  And I'm pretty sure I'm the only SF author up until that time to ever to have an excerpt in a bestselling historical romance.

*As in reader-friendly; a book that can be enjoyed by the average American housewife.  If you need a doctorate from MIT, a consulting team from NASA and a bottle of No-Doz to wade through it, then this won't work. 
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
  Neat:  Kath and I are working together tonight to excavate this quilt:

Nine Patch Variation circa 1940, and my kid

It's incredibly heavy, weighs about fifteen pounds, and has a couple of mildew patches but is otherwise fairly intact, with only two split seams.  The backing is made of old fertilizer sacking, first time I've ever seen a quilter use those.  We took apart one corner to have a look inside:

Hidden quilt inside, unknown age

The inside quilt looks pretty utilitarian and is also heavy and thick with primitive quilting.

Hidden quilt front view

The maker used a thin blue yarn, I think, or a fuzzy floss to quilt it instead of quilting thread.  The outside layers and binding were sewn on with heavy-duty button thread.  I can't get a handle on the pattern of the patchwork until I uncover more, but it might be a hired hand's quilt. 
  Authors Who Blog:  When I have a minute here and there, I've been cruising around other pro writers' weblogs.  I don't know any of these people personally, but since I'm always interested in what the other pros do I thought I'd see what exactly it is they're blogging.

I've gotten an immediate impression of many of them from their weblog writing.  And you know what?  A lot of these authors should not keep weblogs.  They totally suck at it.

I'm not claiming that I'm so wonderful, either.  I don't link very much, like you're supposed to.  I totally ignore politics, refuse to talk about Iraq and have an utterly PG rated life (well, except for the occasional mention of Lars and Sven, my Swedish exchange students.)

I like to think I come up with interesting stuff for aspiring writers and people following the industry now and then, but 90% of the time I blog about myself, my kids and my own interests.  Which is dull reading.  Oh, and I am incredibly self-absorbed, but then, most writers usually are.  Smug on occasion too, and yes, I flaunt it. :)

Which brings me to the point of this entry.  I came across the weblog of a respected author (who shall remain nameless) whose latest acclaimed novel I intended to buy.  I thought, "Oh, cool, I'll get like a preview."

Three minutes into reading this weblog, I hated the author.  As in hated with an intense, burning, devoted passion.  Acclaimed novels or not, the vicious snotty superior "I'm Perfect, You're Garbage" attitude that saturated every single entry completely turned me off.  After reading four entries, I wouldn't borrow this author's books from the damn library.

And yet said author could be a magnificent writer, for all I know.  Just not in the weblog department.

Let me emphasize one thing: I'm not setting myself above this nasty piece of work and saying I'm better.  Far from it.  No doubt I piss off an equal or greater number of readers here.  I just didn't realize how instantaneously that could happen.

Many pro writers keep a weblog merely as a self-promotional tool.  I try not to shill my books too much here, but I'm guilty of that as well.  These promo queens are easy to spot because the author talks about nothing else but their books, or lecture you on how to write, phrased as if they're giving it to you on stone tablets from a mountain top.  Which is also off-putting, and if I ever start talking like Moses of the Writers, somebody please make me turn the other cheek.

Then there are authors who are just dull people.  Dull, dull, dull.  Since I've admitted to being one, that's evidence.  But I will say that there is another much-acclaimed author out there whose weblog I read when I'm having trouble getting to sleep.  All I have to do is read one entry and I practically slide into a coma.

Conclusion: you can actually know too much about an author, so if you want to enjoy their books, you might want to wait until after you read them to check out their blogs. 
  Ashes to Ashes:  Deadline, finished, caput, goodbye, so long, farewell Auf wiedersen etc.

One more left to kill, and then I can take a teeny tiny breather. :) 
Monday, September 29, 2003
  Tres Cool Pen:  If you're a fountain pen collector like I am, you have to check out the new Diva pens over at  I preordered the Cloud Blue FP and it arrived today (with warp speed shipping, as always, thank you, Norman.)

This pen is really tiny when closed and capped; about the length of your pinky finger.  When you take off the cap, you turn the barrel to extend the pen and nib, just like you would a lipstick.  When you add the cap to the end, it's the length of a regular fountain pen.

This is just the neatest pen I have ever seen, and it's very lightweight and writes beautifully.  It also comes in a gorgeous round, fabric lined box.  If you have flash there's a link on the Diva page to see a demo of how it works.  Norman has sold out most of the colors but he tells me he has a restock order on the way.  I highly recommend this pen for collectors and fountain pen lovers. 
  Sancho, My Horse!  On this day in 1547, Miguel de Cervantes was born near Madrid.  The son of an apothecary, Miguel was destined to lead an adventurous life.

Cervantes enlisted in the Spanish navy and fought the Turks.  In 1571, he was shot three times and suffered permanent damage to his left hand.  Four years later, Barbary pirates captured Miguel and his brother, Roderigo, and kept them as slaves in Algiers.  It took five years for someone to ransom Miguel (I never did find out what happened to his brother) at which point he came back to Spain and began writing plays.  In 1585, he published a romance.

Yep, you heard me right, the author of Don Quixote wrote (gasp of horror) romance.

Miguel did a bunch of other things, like working as a navy supply chief and collecting taxes.  He also went to jail for his lousy accounting, and some scholars believe he got the idea for Don Quixote while locked up.

Don Quixote, one of the greatest stories of all time, was published in 1604.  The book was a big success and made the author famous, but didn't bring in much money.  Nevertheless Miguel worked as a writer for the rest of his life, and died in 1616 at age 69, one year after writing the sequel to Don Quixote.

I read a biography about Miguel after a second surgery to remove a tumor cost me the use of my left hand.  Although I've never fought the Turks or lived in slavery, his life and his work have influenced me every since.  And to wrap up today's history lesson, I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the book:

"For me alone Don Quixote was born and I for him.  His was the power of action, mine of writing." 
Sunday, September 28, 2003
  The Creative Cut:  I'm looking for the most creative insult you've ever heard or delivered that does not contain profanity.  Here's my personal favorite from my stuff:

"What's your problem? I mean, besides your face, your personality, and the way you smell?"

Not that I'm running short or anything, I'd just like to see to what degree an insult has to go minus outright profanity to be considered impressive.  So if you've got a good one you'd like to share, post it in comments. 
  NaNoWriMo:  If you've been thinking about writing a novel and want to do something about it, you can sign up this week for NaNoWriMo, the annual "write a book in a month" challenge, starting October 1st.

You don't have to write an entire book, either.  The basic goal is to write 50K words during the month of November.  You'll see a lot of the high brow writers look down their noses at this, but when you're full-time novelist, 50K is generally your minimum monthly quota.  Participating in the challenge will give you a taste of what it's like to write on demand, too, something we working hacks have to do if we don't have rich spouses or want to starve.

People will give you all kinds of reasons as to why you can't write a decent novel in a month.  Don't listen to them, they're scared.  If you have a novel inside you, waiting to be written, wanting to be written, go ahead and give it a shot. 
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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