Wednesday, February 8, 2012

January Links & Things

I returned this past weekend from my trip to SoCal, only to have to schedule yet another trip in a couple weeks. My mother's house in Anaheim, California, will be on the market toward the end of this month. In my youth I used to walk to Disneyland from that house, but it was/is a long walk, though not for a teen -- and from the house you can watch, and hear, the D-land fireworks at night, with no interference from any structures. It really is a great house. When everything becomes official, I'll post some photos and more details.

If you have an interest in my recently published anthology Alien Contact (Night Shade Books), please consider clicking on the "Like" button (if you haven't already done so) in the Facebook widget in the right column of this blog. This will add the anthology's updates to your own news stream on your FB Home page. You won't be inundated with posts, probably on average a couple per week, I promise.

And I best get to January's Links & Things before I run out of time this month as well. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern; or Friending me on Facebook (FB). Note, however, that not all of my tweeted/FB links make it into these month-end posts. Once again there is a lot of content, so please return for a second visit if you need to to take full advantage of all the links. Previous month-end posts are accessible via the "Links and Things" tag in the right column.

  • Via author and friend Bruce McAllister's FB page, I learned of a new magazine with a very strange title: rFISHc. Bruce has a short-short story in the first issue. Submission guidelines, payment details, etc. at the link.
  • Do you write fantasy novels? -- HUGE fantasy novels? If so, then you need to consider taking David J. Parker's "The Fantasy Novelist's Exam." Here are the first 5 of 75 questions: 1) Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages? 2) Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage? 3) Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it? 4) Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme bad guy? 5) Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world? Let's just say that you don't want to be answering "yes" to very many of these questions. (via John Shirley's FB page, shared from David Brin)
  • Princeton Alumni Weekly -- "an editorially independent magazine by alumni for alumni since 1900" -- recently published a feature article on books entitled "What Princeton students are reading." You may be interested in learning what their "comfort food" reading actually entails. (via Gordon van Gelder's FB page)
  • From the UK's Guardian (@guardian): "YA novel readers clash with publishing establishment," and subtitled: "A row over the status of the bloggers who fuelled the success of young adult novels has been raging across the net." Apparently YA authors and their agents and publishers do not like negative reviews. I'm shocked, shocked I say.... So, among other things, they have been publicly discussing rigging the Amazon and Goodreads ratings to improve the visibility of good reviews, and thus "hide" the negative reviews. They've also been ganging up on the YA book reviewers/book review bloggers. The Guardian article concludes with a very special note to authors: "And if you can't stand the heat of the blogosphere – don't Google yourself." (also via Gordon van Gelder's FB page)
  • I write these month-end recaps on my computer, directly into a blog post, because I need access to the links/articles and often reference material, etc. But the drafts of most of my other blog posts are written in longhand; that's right, I take pencil to paper and actually write (well, more like scribble, since I'm the only one seeing the draft). I do this because I have a tendency to overedit when I compose online, and thus I never complete the text because I'm too occupied with editing. (Did I tell you that I'm an editor?) But writing on paper avoids a lot of this, and words actually do get written. Yes, I'll scratch out text, squeeze in changes, draw an arrow to the bottom of the page to something I want to add -- but the energy continues to flow, words continue to be written, and eventually the piece is completed. And then I edit as I type the text into a blog post. Evidently I'm not the only writer who works this way. Timmi Duchamp, of Aqueduct Press fame, also uses longhand, particularly when she needs to write additional material that will be inserted into an existing file. In a blog post entitled "The magic of writing longhand," Timmi says: "[In the past, before personal computers] whenever I wasn't sure where the story was going, I would retype the entirety of the scene I was working on, to give me a sort of running start. It never failed. I didn't feel I could do that when I switched to a word processor. So then I'd write out some of it longhand, and continue from there. Writing longhand has thus come to seem a sort of magic...." (via @charlesatan)
  • (@io9) lists "10 Writing 'Rules' We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break." Following are the first and last rules, I'll leave you to jump to the other 8; plus, as always on these io9 features, the article includes specific examples from the literature, cover art, movie stills, and other goodies. 1) No third-person omniscient; and 10) No "unsympathetic" characters.
  • Comic writer Cullen Bunn (@cullenbunn) takes the reader step by step through the comic writing process in a blog post entitled "Plot to Script: This Is How I Do It." An excellent, detailed blog post that covers such points as "Planning the Scenes," "Planning the Page Turns," and "Roughing the Script." With plenty of examples, including outlines, panels, and more. Be sure to read the tenth comment as well. (via @RickKlaw)
  • On Amazon's Omnivoracious blog, Susan J. Morris provides readers with some of the DOs and DON'Ts of "Total Reader Immersion: Writing Evocative Descriptions." Ms. Morris writes: "Have you ever read a book whose language was so lush, so vivid, so incredibly realistic that you felt, even just for a moment, that the characters, places, and events of the book must actually be real? That's total reader immersion, right there. The holy grail of writing...."
  • Gerard Jones shares his heartfelt story of "Why I Write...Today" -- the "Today" doesn't mean he won't be writing tomorrow, or the next day, or even next year, but rather that his reasons may change after "Today." Jones talks about his life's ups and downs, his marriage, his son's illness, and how all of this contributed to, or led up to, his life as a writer..."Today." Here's a brief excerpt: "Fortune just kept turning her wheel in my favor. Will [Jacobs] and I landed an agent and sold a humor book. It sold well and got us interviews and reviews all over the country. The editor of the National Lampoon called and asked us to write for him. I even quit my day job. Joy and love were rewarded. The trouble with Fortune is that she never knows when to stop the goddamn turning. Our second book tanked. We couldn't sell the third." (via Jason Ridler’s FB page)
[January had an abundance of links pertaining to editing and copyediting, though I've only included a few of them here. Did I miss something? Was January National Editing/Copyediting Month?]
  • Lynnette Labelle writes: "You have a critique group and the members love, love, love your work. They've been nagging at you for months to send it out. You finally got up enough courage to submit and even received requests for partials and fulls, but in the end, nobody liked the manuscript enough to take it on. What gives?" This paragraph opens Ms. Labelle's blog post entitled "Editors Passed on Same Book Critique Group Loved" -- in which she presents 6 reasons why... I'll leave you to read the details, but just always remember: Editors (and publishers) buy manuscripts, critique group members do not. (via @AndrewMackayBP)
  • At Self-Publishing Review (@selfpubreview), Boudica Foster complains about the quality of Kindle books: "Over the past few weeks I have been concentrating on reading Kindle book files. I say concentrating because the urge to take out a red pencil and slash all the grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization errors is overtaking my urge to read. My eyes hurt. The worst ones are, sadly, self-published books." The blog post is entitled "Their, There and They're: Dude (or Dudette) You Need A Proofreader." And yet...and yet, Ms. Foster admits in a comment response: "...I have a few flaws in my own works as well. I can't afford a proofreader and we do the best we can...." Sigh.... I wonder if she's been reading her own Kindle books?
  • John E. McIntyre (@johnemcintyre), editor of the Baltimore Sun, expresses his frustration over the current lack of copy editors on newspapers nationwide. His column, entitled "Gag me with a copy editor," includes a link to an editorial in the Columbus Dispatch in which editor Benjamin J. Marrison (@dispatcheditor) bluntly states: "Thursday's [January 5] front page made me want to vomit." Marrison was referring to the errors on the front page, including the misspelling of the president's name -- twice! But back to McIntyre who postulates the two assumptions newspaper owners (who fire the copy editors) are operating under: first, "readers, comfortable with the lack of editing standards on the Internet, would be fine with low-grade stuff in print"; and second, "reporters would pull up their socks and make greater efforts at accuracy, knowing that there would be fewer checks on their articles." McIntyre follows up this latter assumption with: "How’s that working out for you?" Some of the 20 comments are a hoot, too. (via @EditorMark)
  • "Are You Afraid of Editors?" is a post on the Working Writers blog in which the author admits to a fear of editors when she first began submitting magazine articles: "When I was new, I would turn in my (then, magazine) articles and then sweat it out while my editors would scratch out words on my typewritten pages. I fully expected that I’d never get hired for another assignment again." But after the first few assignments, Cherie "realized that editors were good for us. They helped our writing become polished and fit within the needs of the magazine or website we were writing for." Though this post deals primarily with nonfiction article writing, the author covers two important topics: "What If the Editor Is Wrong?" and "When to Fight for Your Words." (via @AuthorAnswers)
  • When I worked on the Alien Contact anthology, only one of the stories was by a deceased author: George Alec Effinger -- and his literary estate is handled by his ex-wife, author Barbara Hambly. Being an author herself, Barb understands the value of GAE's fiction and she also understands the importance of keeping his work -- and memory -- alive through the publication of his fiction. As an author, you want to make sure that your literary estate is in the right hands, and that that individual understands explicitly your instructions (which also need to be in writing) as to how you wish your literary estate to be handled. Too often I hear editors complain that a family member is managing an author's estate, a family member who thinks their loved one's short story should be worth thousands of dollars, which, typically, no editor/publisher can afford -- and thus over time that author simply becomes forgotten because their work is long out of print, and unread by later generations. Jeff VanderMeer recently wrote a blog post on this very subject entitled "Writers and Their Literary Estates: Story Reprints," which is a must-read for every author. Jeff also links to a Neil Gaiman post on "wills" and such, and provides a few additions to what Neil has to say. But don't just read their words, you, as an author, need to act on them as well. (@EllenDatlow via @jaymgates)
  • In an article in the Technology section of the Wall Street Journal online, we are informed that Barnes & Noble is considering "splitting off its growing Nook digital-book business from its aging bookstores." And though the Nook business has been hugely successful, it has all come at a cost: "Developing, manufacturing and promoting e-readers and tablets requires heavy upfront spending. Barnes & Noble's spending on advertising has more than tripled since 2009...." (via @thecreativepenn and @PYOEbooks)

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