Archive for June, 2011

I can SO not function when I have a bad head cold.

That includes not being able to write more than a few words for this blog.

I could tell that my body was heaving itself downhill this last Saturday when I donated blood. I hadn’t done that for a couple years and I’ve never had a problem before.  But a few hours after being a pint low, I was sprawled out on my sofa.  By Sunday my throat was going raw.  I think I’m past the worst of it now, but I’m still a whiny, sneezing mess.  So please forgive me if I’m absent for yet another couple days.

On the bright side, I’m halfway through proofing The Compass Master.  But damn!  There are more mistakes than I’d hoped for, so I’ll be paying CreateSpace more to include all my corrections.  But then they’ve made mistakes too:  the number of lines per page is off on about 15% of the pages.

Next week I’ll be seeing the semi-finished cover (wrap-around) for my book.  Because the artist I hired went WAY overboard in his enthusiasm and designed more of it than I anticipated (he’s friend of my sister in Santa Fe and a nice guy), CreateSpace is giving me a partial refund on their cover service and pretty much just adding the title, blurb, etc.  But I’m still excited about seeing it.

Take care, ya’ll.  And stay healthy.

I just got the electronic proofs (which I gotta proof) for the interior of The Compass Master.


I mean, I knew my book was long, but it’s something else to find out that this baby is clocking in at 526 pages.  And that ain’t with a large font, folks.

I should add that I wrote this thriller in short chapters, the better to keep the pacing going, so there are 100 chapters plus an epilogue, which means white space at the end of most chapters.  But still… 526 pages?  Really?

One of the first things I did after seeing the proofs was to head for a bookstore over my lunch hour (I was at work) and look through just about every large-ish trade paperback I could find.  Happily big honkin’ historical sagas sag in at around 700 pages.  And The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series was certainly up around 500 in thickish tomes.  Then there are thriller writers like Daniel Silva and James Rollins who write solidly long novels.

Best of all, there’s the “epic fantasy” writer George R. Martin, who I guess is a big name in the genre.  His new hardcover A Dance with Dragons is… wait for it…1050 freaking pages!

And when TCM was in the hands of an agent and being read by a dozen editors (and all the way up to the editor-in-chief at one pub house), I never heard a single complaint about the length of my manuscript.

So I’m starting to feel better about The Compass Master‘s length.  I remind myself that in my last couple read-throughs I edited that baby down by almost a couple thousand words.   It’s a pretty tightly-written story, if I do say so myself, with no scene that can be cut without hurting the plotting.  But I always, always feel as if I can cut a word here, a phrase there.  I’m never content with anything I write because by nature I’m an insecure compulsive rewriter.

Anyway, you know what I’ll be doing for much of this weekend and for the next week or two:  slowly, carefully reading every word of TCM and checking out every one of about a million punctuation marks.  Oh joy.

Also next week I’ll have my first phone consultation with a CreateSpace graphics person about the cover for my book and the art I sent her/him for it.  I’m pretty excited about that.  Will keep you posted.

Have a gorgeous summer weekend, y’all.

An Utterly Useless Gift

on June 21, 2011 in Misc Comments Off on An Utterly Useless Gift

So Sunday night I did it again.  I picked the winner without even trying.

It didn’t take a molecule of brain power.  It didn’t take effort, analyzing, or number-crunching.  I didn’t even watch the silly show and when I flipped to it a couple times I kept the sound on mute and watched the screen for no more than a few minutes.  But I still did it with my usual ease.

I picked the winner of the Miss USA pageant.

Pause here to confess how EXTREMELY HUMILIATING it is to acknowledge this sad fact.

And pause again to save my dignity by publicly insisting I DON’T WATCH ABSURD, ANACHRONISTIC, SEXIST, ARTIFICE-DRIPPING, MAD MEN-STYLE SEUQINED CRAPOLA otherwise known as beauty pageants.

But the fact remains that if there were any justice in the world I would have made a fortune by now picking the winners of those dumb pageants.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so embarrassed.  After all, James Bond is a crackerjack poker player who can win millions.  And a lotta action heroes have a quirky little talent or two.  But none of them can pick a pageant winner like I can.

I first noticed this useless gift a few years ago.  As a compulsive remote flipper, I changed the channel during the commercial break and happened upon the Miss World or Miss Universe pageant or some other drivel.  Across the screen paraded a whole lotta women in glittery Las Vegas versions of native costumes.  And yes, they really did all look alike.  Yet for some odd reason my attention focused on a couple of those women.  I flipped back to the pageant a couple more times, all the while leaving the sound on mute because I DESPISE mindless fake happy chatter.  And in those minutes I focused on one particular woman for no logical reason.  I just knew she’d be it.  Finally I caught the tail end of the pageant…

That woman was crying and wearing a godawful tiara the size of a football helmet.

Ever since that night, my gift has gotten stronger.  I find myself deliberately catching a few minutes of those shows because it’s fun to be right in advance about SOMETHING in life.  Now, less than halfway through any pageant of which I’ll watch no more than five or ten muted minutes, I can pick the winner.  On Sunday the cut included a buncha blondes, a few brunettes, and one redhead.  I didn’t even bother to see what states they were from.  I simply knew right away that no blonde would win.  It would be the redhead.  And I was right.

Why does this matter?

Because yesterday morning I learned that a Las Vegas oddsmaker had given that redhead 8 to 1 odds.  EIGHT TO ONE, people!  I could’ve made some decent money if only I had known some bookie who takes bets on pageants!

Seriously, I’m gonna find out if such a creature exists.  Or at the very least try to hone my odd gift to include football games with lucrative pools.  I really do need the money.


on June 17, 2011 in Misc 4 Comments »

Okay, so all you writers out there will want to read the piece in the New York Times today about Amanda Hocking.

If you know anything about publishing then you know who I’m talking about:  Hocking is the über-wonder 26-year-old who turned herself into a hugely successful self-published e-book writer.  Her genre is paranormal, and her seven (so far) e-books have together racked up an estimated $2 million.  (Here I pause to stagger.)

Read all about it here…

To top this off, Hocking became so successful so quickly all on her lonesome that of course publishers fell over themselves courting her.  Thus she now has a $2 million contract for four books at St. Martin’s Press.  And we ain’t even talking about money from movie options.

I really like the title of the article:  “Storyteller.”  Just “Storyteller” and not Artist, Novelist, Great Writer.  No pretenses or silly posturing on Hocking’s part (to her credit) because what she does is simply tell stories that are “literature as candy, a mash-up of creativity and commerce.”  She points out that “my books are about people” and not about profound ideas.

Her e-books are selling at the rate of 9,000 a day.

And here I’ll think myself lucky if I sell a couple hundred copies of The Compass Master all on my lonesome.

Like so many of us, Hocking tried the traditional publishing route and got nowhere, and only then did she turn to self-publishing in the form of e-books.  But from everything I’ve read about her, and that includes facts not covered in this particular article, she has always maintained high professional standards for herself and a practical, non-romantic, hard-headed attitude toward publishing.  She has also become a whiz at online networking and promoting her books.

The NY Times article makes a great point about her.   It  says that Hocking became  the first literary phenomenon for her generation by first reaching  readers through the Internet and only after establishing herself there did she break into the traditional book industry.

Welcome to the brave new world of Internet for Writers.

Technically No Action Hero

on June 14, 2011 in Misc Comments Off on Technically No Action Hero

There’s a scene in Casino Royale that brings out all my techie insecurities.

It’s the one where James Bond (Daniel Craig) gets into the security room of an exclusive resort, instantly figures out all the monitors, singles out the onsite security camera he wants, sees (apparently with X-ray vision) where the discs of those cameras are kept, finds and inserts just the right one, fast forwards/rewinds that disc with its record from a couple days earlier that shows the bad guy arriving at the resort.  Gets all the info he needs from that shot.

I would need a half hour orientation to do what Bond does in one minute.

It’s funny what can intimidate us, action hero-wise.  Martial arts?  Done ‘em — kinda.  Parkour?  Done it – badly.  Learn how to handle guns?  Yup.  Learning languages, how to climb anything, how to tail targets, etc. etc.?  Ongoing process.

You get the idea.  These challenges I can handle.  But make me face a battery of snazzy new computers and the latest in technical security devices and hotshot gizmos, and my nerves give out.  I have to put on my reading glasses (so unglamorous) and tell myself, “Don’t panic, kid – you can do it!”

I am so not like Nikita.

There she is in every episode, not only looking sleek and confident and in deadly perfect physical shape, but hacking her way into any sophisticated high security computer system that dares to stand in her way.  On the good side, she and Bond and their breed make tech savvy geekiness ultra cool and desirable.  On the bad side, they make me feel like a dim kindergartner.  Yes, there are books out there like Hacking for Dummies, which maybe I’ll look into.  Except that for people like me reading Arabic would be easier.

In the meantime, I’ve gotta figure out simply how to access the zipped artwork someone has sent me for my book cover.  And here I will pause to CHEER MIGHTILY THAT I’VE GOT SOME GREAT ART FOR THE COVER OF THE COMPASS MASTER!

Now back to feeling technically incompetent as I try to open the file folder (can’t at home ‘cause my computer software is too old/incompatible/whatever), then at work (turns out my company’s security system has blackballed this procedure), and next at Kinko’s, my last hope.

Here’s something you never hear Bond or Nikita say…


Warning:  today I’m gonna talk about a small muscle deep in the butt, including my butt (or as Henri in fencing calls it, my nice derriere).  And this is relevant to a lot of you writers because like me you sit for hours while writing and/or at your jobs, and all that sedentary stuff really shortens this muscle and makes it go hard in the wrong ways and that’s not good.

It’s called the piriformis muscle.  Yesterday I got a lesson about it because my chiropractor told me how, despite my generally limber condition, that little booger beneath my gluteal muscles is really tight and has to get loosened ‘cause it’s pulling other tissue and stuff out of whack.  Well, he used more scientific words, but you get my drift.

See, for most of my life I’ve kept pretty limber.  I could always put my palms on the floor, do splits (but not the front/Russian splits), and so on.  Still, I’ve been learning lately how over the years I’ve been doing the same old exercises, and none of them address parts of me like the dang little piriformis.  And that tight piri muscle is one reason my front splits are so tight and limited.

Anyway, my chiro doc gave me a couple of stretching exercises that I’ve already tried out and I can tell you that right away my hips and upper thighs felt warm and more open.   (Oh, how friendly and sexy that sounds!)

The first one I knew about already:  sit in a CUSHIONED chair (hard services are bad for the coccyx) and cross one leg over the other with my foot resting on my knee.  Then straighten my back and lean forward as much as possible.  Where I’ve been wrong about this exercise in the past is a) I’ve done it only once in a while when I should do it twice a day in sets of 5 for each leg; b) I haven’t been leaning in deeper and deeper until it hurts; and c) I have to hold the position for at least a minute.  According to the doc, anything less than a minute is worthless.

He then showed me a handy variation:  lie on the floor with my butt almost up against the wall, cross my foot onto my knee, then walk my supporting leg up the wall until I really, really feel the pain/stretch.  Hold it for a full minute.   Repeat and repeat.

You know what appeals to me about these exercises?  I can SIT there and stretch for several minutes, or I can LIE there and stretch away.  It’s a lazy woman’s dream.

Finally, there’s also the pigeon pose, and any of you who’ve had yoga know that one.  I’ve included a picture here along with a link to a website that describes these exercises.  You may be interested because a lot of you are writers, which means you sit a lot, which shortens the piri muscle, and that means you might get kinda, well … tightassed like me.

Here are a couple facts:  I’m trying to get back into studying French, and I love love LOVE the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies.  I was weaned on them.  Grew up on them.  Fantasized about living in the jungle in a treehouse just like him, only as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

So anyway it’s only logical that a few weeks ago I at long last used an Amazon gift certificate I received at Christmas and bought the brand-spanking new double TCM sets of all eight Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies.

Talk about being a happy kid again.

Who knew that these DVDs could be educational?  I mean, these babies have French and Spanish subtitle options!  So of course I just had to check out Tarzan Escapes with the Frenchie part turned on.   And you know what?  My French is plenty good enough to know that 1) half of what’s being said ain’t being translated, which is typical for a lotta dubbed movies, and 2) punchy, colorful, slang-filled Tarzan movies just don’t translate so well.  You might say in another language they lack a certain je ne sais quoi.

Here’s a sampling:

Miss Parker:  “Before we accept your very kind offer.”  (Avant de partir… “Before leaving…”)

Tarzan:  Jane sorry?  (Jane triste?)

Jane:  I’ve never been so happy in my whole life (Au contraire.  Très très heureuse.)

Great white hunter:  Come on, speak up, man!  (Parlez!)

Or:  Get the men ready to move! (Il faut partir, i.e., “One must go.”)

What really doesn’t work for me is Tarzan saying stuff like “Jane partir?  Jane pas heureuse?”

At least there are a couple of bright spots in the translation.   It being a 1936 movie, there’s the inevitable and embarrassing racism.  A couple times the Great White Hunter refers to the native porters/guards as “boys,” as in “Send the boys for water.”   Happily this order is translated as “Envoi chercher de l’eau” – just a neutral “send” with no boy mentioned.  The “boys” reference is dropped elsewhere too.

In other scenes, these grown African men are at least referred to as men (hommes), as in “Get the men started, Bomba, we’re going up,” which nevertheless gets chopped down to a mere “Nous montons, Bomba.”  Then there’s “Men say no go, Bwana.  Men say ju-ju,” which becomes “Hommes pas vouloir, Bwana. Ju-ju.”

Oh well.  At least by turning on the French subtitles I can tell people that I’m not really vegging out while watching a fun old movie.   I’m busy studying French.