Sunday, May 2, 2010

April Links & Things

I attempted to watch the live streaming video of the launch of the Air Force's "mystery" unmanned X-37B space plane on Thursday, April 22, on the United Launch Alliance website, but that was a bust: the site initially loaded, but then there was only audio, no video, and when I tried to refresh the browser, the site crashed -- numerous times. Earlier in the month I found a link on tips for proofing one's writing, but the blog post itself had a number of errors, and I disagreed with some of the content. Maybe I've just become more jaded.... Anyhow, this month's Links & Things entries seem to favor numbers -- 4 Danger Signs, 5 Things and yet another 5 Things, 5 Ways, 10 Easy Steps, 10 Ways, and 10 Questions.

Here are my links and such for the month of April. I've listed them here, with additional detail and comment (though no rants this time). You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • In my first post this year -- December's Links and Things -- I wrote at length about the border incident in which author Peter Watts was involved. If you are unfamiliar with this particular situation, I strongly urge you to access the link and read up on this. Included in that blog post is a link to a free download of Peter's Hugo Award-nominated novel Blindsight; and links, too, to donate to his cause. Well, Peter has gone to trial, and the case has been resolved; of course, Peter was found guilty but in the infinite wisdom of the judge, Peter was fined, but with NO jail time. Sadly, he still bears a felony conviction and therefore will never be allowed to legally enter the United States. On, Madeline Ashby has posted a lovely, heartfelt account -- "Sometimes, we win" -- of Peter's sentencing; and David Nickle, on his own blog -- appropriately titled The Devil's Exercise Yard -- goes into a bit more detail of the actual sentencing. Between the two blog posts, there are more than 95 Comments. I'm saddened that I won't get to see Peter at another ReaderCon in Boston, that, in fact, he will never be able to visit the United States again; but hopefully he can now get back to living his own life.

  • The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review (@MadHatterReview) has a guest post by author Mark Teppo (@MarkTeppo) entitled "On the Spectacle of Magic." Those who read my blog regularly know that I edited Mark's first two titles -- Lightbreaker and Heartland (Night Shade Books, 2009 and 2010 respectively) -- in his Codex of Souls series, which I wrote about extensively here. In this guest post, Mark writes: "We've spent too many years in front row seats, rapt and wide-eyed, at the Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer Theater of Explosive Spectacle. Our entertainment must be thrown up on thirty-foot-tall screens, blasted at us through a bowel-liquefying, discretely separated speaker stack, and filled with the dizzying hyperkineticism of rats on meth. Our sense of wonder is so moribund that it must first be shocked and pummeled back to life before it can be suspended. It's the First Rule of Modern Adventure Entertainment: shit must blow up." If that diatribe from Mark intrigues you, you'll want to read the entire blog post.

  • This past month, the Large Hadron Collider went back online, and lists "5 Things You Didn't Know" about the LHC: a "$10 billion tunnel that runs for 17 circular miles deep underneath the Franco-Swiss border.... that will accelerate two beams of protons in opposite directions, then smash them into each other in the hopes that the results will give [the scientists] a glimpse of the universe less than a billionth of one second after the Big Bang." And those 5 things you didn't know? 1. The LHC is kept colder than outer space; 2. The LHC may be trying to sabotage itself; 3. The LHC could win Stephen Hawking his Nobel Prize; 4. The LHC contained the hottest spot in the solar system; 5. The LHC relies on Einstein's famous equation. For the details behind each of those points, check the link above.

  • According to, Publishers Weekly magazine has been purchased by a newly formed company, PWxyz, LLC, headed by one-time former PW publisher George Slowik. The acquisition includes the website as well as PW Show Daily. "The new company will retain all of PW's editorial, art, and advertising employees and the magazine will remain headquartered in New York City." (via's GalleyCat)

    In a related New York Times article: "In an interview, Mr. Slowik said he planned to digitize Publishers Weekly's archives, combine its print and digital databases to get a more unified view of its readers.... He also plans to use Google's translation tool to begin creating international editions, with humans finessing the machine-translated text." (via @calreid)

  • (@io9) has a lengthy, detailed piece entitled "5 Ways the Google Book Settlement Will Change the Future of Reading," which includes input from author Ursula K. Le Guin, law professor Pam Samuelson, and Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Fred Von Lohmann. The article provides the necessary history on the Google Book Settlement if you are not already familiar with the subject. Here are those 5 ways the future of reading will be changed: 1. It may become harder to get information online about books from writers you love; 2. You will find yourself reading free books online, by authors who have disappeared. And Google will make money when you do; 3. Google will be competing with Apple and Amazon and everybody else to be your favorite online bookseller; 4. Libraries and bookstores will be the same thing; 5. Pulp science fiction will make a comeback in ways you might not expect. You know where to go for the details. (via @malindalo)

  • A new resource that has just come to my attention: Purdue OWL -- the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University -- "houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service.... In addition, we invite users to submit brief, writing-related questions to our OWL Mail Tutors. You may also find our new grammar blog useful." The site contains links to the MLA and APA Style Guides, and lots of other good stuff. If you have a more technical writing question, this should be your first stop.

  • Author K. M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) recently introduced me to a website entitled My Writers Circle. The Welcome message on the site reads in part: "Many members join MWC with a view to getting feedback on their writing. That's fine, and we have various boards dedicated to this purpose: Review My Work for Prose, Review My Poetry and Poetry Workshop for poems, and Review My Script for TV, film, radio and stage scripts. We do, however, suggest that before you post your work for review, you take the time to read and comment on at least three items submitted by other members. This is partly a simple courtesy; but, in addition, seeing how other people present their work can be very helpful in deciding how to post your own writing when the time comes." If you don't have access to local writing groups, finding writing assistance online may be your only option. [Note: you must register to access this site.]

  • If you are a book blogger, then you blog about books and reviews and such; but once in a while you have a need to talk about some technical aspect of your blog, or some blogging technique, or.... And you don't want to bore your readers who come to your site to read about books. Well, there's a place for that: The Bookblogging Forum, hosted by Gav (@nextread): "There is a lot of interest in blogging about books and lots of blogs about books so I thought it was about time to give us a place where we can chat amongst ourselves. Every topic on blogging about books is welcome. From what books are being talked about to what else a blog can do to more controversial subjects like 'free books' to why book blogs have a 'front-list' fetish."

  • Website DeepGenre has a post by author David Louis Edelman on "Line Editing in 10 Easy Steps." My immediate response to the title is that listing the 10 steps may be the only easy part; line editing is not so easy. As writers, we tend to be far too familiar with our own writing, and we need the assistance of readers -- critical readers who do not have a stake in our work. And here are line editing's 10 easy steps: 1. Eliminate unnecessary modifiers; 2. Eliminate clichés; 3. Eliminate repeated words and phrases; 4. Search for extraneous thats and hads; 5. Straighten out your mixed metaphors; 6. Look up any word you're not positive you know; 7. Use that thesaurus; 8. When in doubt, try the Delete key; 9. Try changing tenses; 10. Rewrite, rephrase, reconfigure. If you are a beginning writer (i.e. you haven't yet published your first novel) and/or you are getting ready to submit your novel, then you had best read the detail behind these 10 points. (via @AdviceToWriters)

    But back to Edelman: I'm familiar with his blog posts from December 2006, when he was writing about tips on promoting an author blog. When I participate in convention panel discussions on self-promotion, I still refer to Edelman's blogs. A Google search should give you access to these older posts.

  • And speaking of line editing, and submitting your novel, here's a similar post, again on (definitely a website RSS feed and/or Twitter account you should subscribe to), entitled "4 Danger Signs To Search For, Before Sending Off Your Novel." And the 4 danger signs are: "1. Adverbs; 2. Sentences beginning with "it"; 3. There was, or there were; 4. Was being, or were being. io9 complements these types of posts with specific writing examples, not to mention some very cool pulp book and magazine covers. Charlie Jane Anders handles the majority of the io9 writing tips blog posts, and you can follower her on twitter as well: @charliejane.

  • Now here's an interesting subject for a blog post: Do book editors deserve a cut of the profits (aka royalties)? [As for me? I'd just like to be paid, period! Who's got time to worry about royalties? But I digress....] The question is posed by Ann Patty, the youngest editor ever to be given her own imprint (Poseidon Press/Simon & Schuster), a former editorial director at Crown, and finally an executive editor at Harcourt. Ms. Patty writes: "A book editor should participate in such a bonanza along with the publisher, agent and writer. When a book editor's work is extensive (re-structuring, re-plotting, re-writing) and substantially contributes to the final book, a one or two or three percent royalty is not too much to ask." But there is some potential controversy in this: Do I, as a book editor, create unnecessary re-structuring, re-plotting, and/or re-writing to ensure my share of the profits? And do we also include the cover artist? Because, as we all know, we do judge a book by its cover. Ann Patty concludes her blog post with this very intriguing look at the future: "I wonder if there will still be book editors at major publishing houses in five to ten years, or if all extensive editing will be done by freelancers. Will freelancers team up with agents? Or will we team up with author's who become internet publishers of their own work? Perhaps we'll simply go on as we do now, anonymously serving the cause of good reading and good writing. The pasture is greening." (via's GalleyCat)

  • Of course, before you submit your manuscript, you may want to consider these "10 Questions to Ask an Agent Before You Sign," which was posted on the Guide to Literary Agents editor's blog (though some of the questions have multiple points): "1. How long have you been an agent? Tell me about your path to becoming an agent; Are you a writer yourself? 3. How many other clients do you represent? Will this stay approximately the same? 4. Will you be handling my work, or will there be someone else on your staff with whom I will work? 5. Can you tell me about a few recent sales you've made? 6. What publishers do you have in mind for my project? 7. How frequently do you update authors? Do you have a preference for our communication? Will you keep me abreast of where and when my work was submitted—and the outcome? 8. How close is my book to being ready for submission? Do you foresee much editing and rewriting before it's submitted? Will you be working with me on this? 9. What co-agents do you work with for foreign rights, film rights and other subrights? Is there someone in-house who specializes in this? Can you tell me about some recent successes selling subrights of a project? And finally: 10. Why do you want to represent me?" There isn't a whole lot of detail behind these "10 Questions," but there are some clarifying comments you'll want to check out if acquiring an agent is your next step. (via @thecreativepenn @ChuckSambuchino)

  • For all you readers and writers of thrillers and crime fiction: The Zodiac letters and ciphers website: "Between 1966 and 1974, the Zodiac killer provided more than 20 written communications to police officials, some including ciphers that have not been cracked to this day. This is the most complete collection of Zodiac's writings available anywhere in the world." This site includes high-resolution scans of select letters, as well as audio and video. A great site for constructively wasting a lot of time! (via @ubuweb @harikunzru @maudnewton)

  • The Book Designer website (subtitled: practical advice to help build better books) treats us to "5 Things That Shouldn't Surprise You about Self-Publishing": 1. Self-publishing is not a get-rich-quick scheme; 2. You will meet many wonderful -- and a few not so wonderful -- people in indie publishing; 3. You cannot imagine the variety of niches into which people are publishing; 4. Nonfiction publishing almost always pays -- over time; and lastly 5. The single most important thing is to "Be the Market." There is plenty of detail supporting each point, if you are considering proceeding forward as a self-publisher. (via @JFBookman @thecreativepenn)

  • The New York Times has announced that Philip K. Dick's "Exegesis" -- his multi-volume diary, if you will, which delves into his beliefs on the secrets of the universe -- will soon be published. PKD insisted that he was struck by a pink beam of light; that aliens, the cosmos, was communicating with him. All of his later works -- The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, Radio Free Albemuth, and Valis -- were somewhat autobiographical, and an attempt to explain this experience. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish the "Exegesis" in two consolidated volumes, edited by Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson, a PKD scholar. The first volume will be published in 2011. (via @mattstaggs)

  • Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross tackles that age-old question about the writing life: "Lifestyle or Job?" Charlie writes: "So here's the truth about the writing lifestyle: it sucks. It is an unstable occupation for self-employed middle-aged entrepreneurs. Average age on entry is around 34, but you can't get health insurance (if you're American). You don't have to be a complete loner, but it helps to have a solitary streak (or a bad talking-to-cats habit). It also helps to be an inveterate optimist, because you'll probably need to supplement your income (about 70% of the mean for someone in a skilled trade, never mind a professional job) by taking on other work such as teaching, journalism, or consultancy.... And then, finally, when you go out in public and people ask you what you do for a living and you tell them, they look at you as if you've just sprouted a second head because they know that real authors are millionaires with country estates and private jets who work an hour a day, languidly dictating their next bestseller to their secretary..." As of this posting, there are more than 85 Comments.

  • If you've been reading my Links and Things blog posts each month, then you have hopefully noted -- as in this post -- that many of the entries are followed by a Twitter ID, preceded by the word "via," in parens. These are the folks, or resources, from whom I have learned about the particular entry. I find many of these links myself, but there are simply too many resources for me to search and read everything on my own, so I rely on the literary network that abounds in Twitter. has pulled together a list of editors and editing resources in the Twitterverse; and they are now working on a list of literary and publishing resources. In fact, the UK Telegraph had this recent headline: "Twitter: a Book Addict's Paradise." Though this article focuses on authors and readers, it actually applies to the full spectrum of the literary word, you just need to extrapolate: "If you 'follow' the right people you soon discover that Twitter brings you compelling snippets from publicists, book fanatics, bloggers and authors themselves. With reading recommendations galore, it is the book addict’s paradise. And it’s not just for narcissists: lots of bookworms set up accounts, rarely tweet themselves and just follow the writers they love." (via @GirlsSentAway @IrisBlasi)

And finally, in honor of April's Tax Day, the New York Times once again provides us with a first-hand look at the new Federal tax form Schedule BFaS -- Special Deductions for Freelancers. You may use Schedule BFaS instead of Schedule C if you meet any one (1) of the following criteria:
  • You spend more than 8 hours of daylight in your pajamas;
  • You are known by name at more than 4 public Wi-Fi hot spots;
  • Your wallet has alphabetical category dividers for receipt filing;
  • You ghostwrote a book for Sarah Palin, Rod Blagojevich, or Berdard Madoff's mistress.
(via @carmenhill @johntmarohn)

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