Wednesday, December 29

Stranger Than Fiction

Life really is stranger than fiction. That was my response when I read Matt Hickey's article on Nissan's new electric car, the Leaf, entitled, "Nissan's Leaf featuring automatic gaming system". Let me explain.

Many massively multiplayer on-line games -- World of Warcraft for instance -- include achievement systems. For example, if a person completes 500 quests he would earn an Achievement and a certain number of Achievement Points. Achievement Points can be earned for things like reaching the level cap (e.g., level 85) or fully exploring a certain area. You can then compare your achievement points with other the achievement points of others and give yourself a congratulatory chuckle if yours are higher.

Now, back to the Leaf.

The Leaf displays information about things like how much less CO2 the car is producing when compared to other cars AND it displays Achievements
... averaging a driver's usage with others, assigning rankings, both regionally and globally. There's a notion that electric car drivers tend to be smug, and this allows them to measure that smugness. It's a fun idea, and contributes to the gamification trend, something that we expect to see show up everywhere in the next year.
I just had to smile.

Here's my picture of the day:

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Tuesday, December 28

Amanda Hocking's Story

Amanda writes:
Switched - the book that was last rejected in February because there wasn't a market for it - has sold 13,555 copies at Amazon, 9929 copies at Barnes & Noble, and 314 paperbacks in December alone
For anyone unfamiliar with Amanda Hocking's story -- or anyone who is -- this is a great blog post.

Picture of the day:

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Thursday, December 23

Holiday Gifts and Discounts

iMedia Converter: Free till Dec 27th, 2010

I was going to email a friend about this but then I thought, why not share it with everyone?

From today, Dec 23rd, till the 27th of this month iSkysoft is giving away their iMedia Converter software for free; it regularly sells for 49 dollars. If you're interested, here's the link.

If you're thinking that there has to be a catch, well, you're right.  You have to have a Facebook account and you have to "like" the company, but, other than that, the software is completely free.  Nice!

Kim Harrison's book Dead Witch Walking

I love Kim Harrison's Hollows series so I was thrilled when I saw that the ebook version of Dead Witch Walking, the first book in the series, is being given away for free.  I'm not sure how long that's going to last for.

Happy Holidays! :)

Amazon to sell 8 million kindles in 2010

Cnet reports that Amazon is likely to sell 8 million Kindles in 2010.  They site an article from SFGate which states that Inc. is likely to sell more than 8 million Kindle electronic-book readers this year, at least 60 percent more than analysts have predicted, according to two people who are aware of the company's sales projections.
 Wow!  The cnet article also mentions that
Apple sold 7.46 million iPads from April through September, and many analysts are predicting the iPad will easily surpass the 10 million mark after this holiday buying season.
Perhaps 2011 will be the year of the electronic book.

Photo(s) of the day:

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Monday, December 20

iPad 2

Edit:  Update on the iPad 2 from cnet. (Dec 23, 2010)

A couple of months ago I decided that I was going to buy a tablet in the new year, but wanted to wait until the iPad 2 came out before I made my final decision.  A month or so ago there were a few reports of the iPad 2 being shipped for Valentines.  My heart went pitter patter and I felt like I was five years old waiting for Christmas to come! 

Today I goggled "iPad 2" and came up with this link.  The video isn't new, it was posted Sept 30th, but it speculated that the iPad would be available for sale in June 2011.  June!  I hope not.

Others speculate that the iPad 2 will have a dual camera, a USB port and a longer battery life.  It would certainly be nice.

Picture of the day:

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Thursday, December 9

Brian S. Pratt: The Energizer Bunny of Self Publishing

Brian Pratt is projected to earn over 100,000 dollars next year at Smashwords and, when his Amazon sales are included, over 200,000 dollars overall. Here's a link to the blog post.

Almost as interesting as his amazing financial success is the story of his adventures in self-publishing.

[MC] You joined Smashwords March 27, 2009 10:26pm (I checked!). Can you take us back to that moment in time, and recall what was going through your mind

[BSP] Let's see. I was a single dad living with three kids and boy, was I poor (under the poverty level). Up until then, I hadn't really thought much about eBooks. I tried Mobipocket for a while and had great sales for three months, then it died off. Sales for my paperbacks, which I had published through iUniverse had fallen off dramatically. Where I had been breaking 4 figures a quarter, I was now less than 600 per quarter and bleeding red. I typed in "self publishing" and saw a quirky little site called Smashwords. It said, Your eBook, Your way. Didn't cost a thing so what did I have to lose? First quarter sales at Smashwords were dismal, 2009-04-07 — $7.92 As it happened, April 7th is my birthday. That was cool. But I wasn't deterred. Books were selling. Sometimes, one or two a week, but they sold. I stayed with it and refused to allow all the naysayers (and there were those by the droves) to stifle my dream. Sales gradually improved and, well, here we are. Can't give up on your dream, EVER!

Below are a few helpful links Brian listed.  For a complete list: Helpful Info for the Self-Publisher.

obooko: Free ebooks and free publishing.
Project Wonderful: Advertising for even a small budget.
FanStory: Share your writing and get helpful feedback.

Also, can't forget Brian's website which has a lot of useful info.

Picture of the day:

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Tuesday, December 7

In the trenches

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Hi again. :)  I feel badly for not blogging recently and decided to remedy matters.  Guilt can be wonderfully motivating! 

What have I been busy doing, you ask.  Good question.  I've started the second book in my Death trilogy. Very exciting.  At least it was the first week, now I'm in the trenches, as it were, doing some of the research I put off when I was writing the first book (they're going to be released together, so I can make small adjustments to the first book as I go along.)  Most of it is riveting -- right now I'm reading about the Salem witch trails.

I have a tendency to get caught up in minutia.  How much research is enough?  Too much?

I'm reading J.R. Ward's book, Lover Avenged and am about 1/3 of the way through.  Wow!  That lady can really tell a story.

Monday, November 22

Stephen Leather's book, Once Bitten, reaches top of Amazon's bestseller list

I took a break from writing to nose around the internet and found out that, on this November 15th, a self-published book had reached the number one spot on the paid Kindle list at  I don't know if this is the first time that's happened but, even if it isn't, congratulations to Stephen Leather on his success.  

I bought the book from -- at 99 cents who could resist? -- but haven't had a chance to read it.  Here is a quote from the site:

Jamie Beaverbrook is an English psychologist working for the Los Angeles Police Department. His job - to sort out the insane from the sane, the crazies from the ones who are pretending to be crazy. But Beaverbrook's life is turned upside down one night when the police find a girl crouched over a man with his throat torn out. The girl has blood on her lips but claims she only found the body. Beaverbrook doesn't take long to establish that she's totally sane - but he is forced to face a bigger question. Is she a vampire? And what does she want from him?

I look forward to reading more of Stephen Leather's books in the future.

Stephen Leather's Blog

Friday, November 19


A friend told me about fotopedia, a "collaborative photo encyclopedia", the other day and it seemed like a fabulous idea! I searched on the keyword "cats", because I love cats, and came up with this picture and thought I'd share. :)

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Thursday, November 18

Amanda Hocking

Indie author Amanda Hocking just tweeted this:

"Wow. Just did some crazy math: I have sold over 30,000 books in the past 214 days. Prior to 214 days ago, I had never sold a single book."

Good for her!  

Tuesday, November 16

Jamie Oliver Rules the World ... or at least the world of books

I was just reading an article over at about how Jamine sold about 86,000 copies of his book, 30-Minute Meals, last week.

Philip Stone writes that:

... the biggest high-profile release of the week, George W Bush's Decision Points (Virgin), sold just 4,300 copies across all editions (3,736 in hardback; 564 in trade paperback) in its first week in UK bookshops, and fails to chart in The Bookseller's bestseller lists. Its opening-week sale is around one fifth of the 21,069 first-week figure posted by his predecessor Bill Clinton's My Life (Hutchinson) in 2004. Decision Points was the 77th bestselling hardbook book of the week and falls short, in volume sales terms,  of titles such as Hannah Montana Annual (Egmont) and Ben Collins' (a.k.a. The Stig) The Man in the White Suit (HarperCollins).
Go Jamie!

Sunday, November 14

Robin McKinley

Another wonderful thing happened yesterday -- a lot of good stuff happened yesterday! -- I discovered an author who I am sure will become a new favorite, Robin McKinley.  I went to a ... not sure what to call it ... a Robin McKinley party to celebrate the launch of her new book, Pegasus.  Everyone at the party was fabulous and I had a wonderful time.  We took a picture -- a number of them! -- that our intrepid organizer is going to post on a blog.  When she emails me the link I'll try and remember to post it here.

The Hero's 2 Journeys

Yesterday I watched The Hero's 2 Journeys by Michael Hauge and Christopher Vogler.  Awesome stuff.  Inspiring and helpful.  The visual quality of the video isn't the best but that wasn't what I was interested in so it was, at most, a minor irritation. 

As I write this I'm thinking of a story I wrote years ago when I was a teenager and how I felt there was something missing from the climax but I couldn't pin it down.  I finished the book but something stayed with me, a niggling doubt.  Well, now I think I might know what was wrong.  I had completed the hero's outer journey, but I had left the inner journey unresolved.  

I can't recommend these videos highly enough to writers. 

Wednesday, November 10

Scams and Scammers

I like to keep my blog posts only about writing but I think today I'm going to write about something else as well.

I belong to The Romance Writer's of America -- a group I can't recommend highly enough.  They provide all kinds of support and information to writers at every level of the profession, but (at least, this is what I have found) with an emphasis on helping serious new writers.  And they do help.  A lot.

Today one of the members of my local chapter sent out a link to a blog post by Daryl Sedore detailing how he had been scammed.  Daryl Sedore is a writer who says he was scammed out of 10,000 dollars US by an independent editor.  He tells the entire story in three blog posts and, at the end of the post, he names names.

The names shocked me because the two people he names, an agent and an independent editor, have in the past attended a well known writers' convention in my area, one that I attended for the first time this year.  (To be clear, they didn't attend the year I went.)

My skin crawls.  I like to think that I would not be an easy mark for this kind of a scheme but I have looked up the edtior's website and read the blog of at least one other person who uses her.  She talks a really good talk and I don't think I would have sensed anything amiss, at least not until it was too late.

This story made me think of how things can go so very wrong, how our expectations can be subverted in the cruelest ways.  Yesterday (and this is the part that doesn't relate to writing) I watched Frontline: The Confessions.  The program was about four men who, incredibly, were coerced into confessing to a crime they did not commit, a crime three of them had absolutely no connection to and, in at least one case, had a rock-solid alibi for.

The connection I felt between the two cases is this: the 'scammers' in each case were people  I would trust.  I know that there are bad police officers but I think most of them are the good guys doing a tough job in the best way they know how.  Similarly, the agent and editor had been invited to a well respected writers' convention.  I would have taken that as a tacit stamp of approval.

When I went to my local writers' conference if an editor had said, "I think you have a best seller here, but it needs just a bit of work before it is ready to be sent out.  I don't usually do this, but I know a top NY agent who would be interested in reading the manuscript when it is ready," I think that I would have believed her and, if I had the money, may have payed the editor for her services to whip the manuscript into shape.

Perhaps the moral is that it can be very dangerous to be naive.

Next blog I'll try to write a more upbeat post!  Till next time.

Monday, November 8

Query, Synopsis and First Three Chapters are In The Mail :-)

Today I (finally!) mailed off the requested materials for my story, Until Death, to Harlequin.   Yea!  My writer friends told me that I simply had to celebrate this milestone so I treated myself to a tall eggnog latte and holiday gingerbread at Starbucks.  Yum.

I had planned to mail the Synopsis out a week ago but one thing after another came up until I felt like Sisyphus, but instead of pushing a rock up a hill I was trying to put my query in the mail!  Most of the things that came up were silly things like not realizing I had to buy US stamps for the SASE and my printer running out of ink -- instances of Murphy's Law rearing its ugly and unpredictable head.

Talk to you tomorrow. :)

Saturday, November 6

On Writing by Stephen King

 For years I have wanted to read Stephen Kings book, On Writing.  Last week I broke procrastination's steely grip and picked up a copy.  Wow!  I wish I had read it when it was first published.  Death to Adverbs!  We'll let the occasional adjective live, but only on prisoner's rations.  I realize I'm flirting with cliches and other bad habits, but it's fun and that's what writing should be, right?

Today I’ve been looking through some of my favorite books with a critical eye.  Do they rely on adverbs or the passive voice, etc.?  The results have been interesting.  I opened a friend's book to a random page.  Those paragraphs which had few or no sentences using the passive voice, adverbs, etc., were much easier to read, they flowed off the tongue.  It makes me feel like a dunce, I should have realized this before.  Better late than never.

Thursday, November 4

Cirque du Freak

A couple of weeks ago I watched The Vampires Assistant.  When the movie was reviewed on At The Movies, the TV show, the reviewer thought was watchable.  Overall I share his opinion but I was dissatisfied with the ending: there wasn’t one.  There was no resolution.

The day after I watched The Vampires Assistant I heard that it had been based on a series of books by Darren Shan.  More to find out what the ending was than for any other reason I started reading the series and am very glad I did.  C. S. Lewis once said that, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."  These are good children's stories.

Here is the reading order for the series:

Cirque Du Freak: A living nightmare
The Vampire’s Assistant
Tunnels of Blood
Vampire Mountain
Trials of Death
The Vampire Prince
Hunters of the Dusk
Allies of the Night
Killers of the Dawn
The Lake of Souls
Lord of the Shadows
Sons of Destiny


Darkly Dream Dexter, a novel by Jeff Lindsay

A couple of weeks ago I was prowling through my local bookstore looking for something interesting to read, and I found it: Dexter is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay. 

Have you ever been bored while reading a book?  I'm not talking about cardboard characters or a plot that makes no sense or an action, such as looking out the window, that seems to take up an entire chapter.  I'm talking about prose that is flat.  Lackluster.  Jeff Lindsay's prose is perky.  It jumps and pirouettes. 

I haven't read Dexter is Delicious, just the first chapter, but that was enough to make me feel that I absolutely had to read the first book in the series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter.  I did and I loved it. 

If any of you watch Dexter on HBO, I thought the first book stayed very close to the TV show, but I have been told that isn't the case for the rest of the series.

I am delighted to have found a new favorite author.

Tuesday, November 2

Friday, October 29

Writer Beware

Plagiarism is rare but it happens.  Click here for the story of David Boyer, 'writer' and publisher and how he published other authors' work under his own name.  Thankfully he didn't get away with it.

Thursday, October 28

The dreaded synopsis

I just finished the synopsis for my book, "Until Death".  Putting it together was almost harder than writing the book!  Not only did it have to accurately reflect the book but it had to be sprightly and engaging.  Argh!  (I'm not saying that it _is_ sprightly and engaging, just that that was what I was aiming for.)

It feels good to be done, now I can catch up on some of the blogs I've been following. :)

Tuesday, October 26

Surrey International Writers' Conference

This past weekend I attended the Surrey International Writers' Conference.  I had never gone before and had no idea what to expect.  It was amazing!  It was great spending the weekend with other people who loved to both read and write.  I enjoyed discussing plot lines and characterization, the writing market today, the pros and cons of independent publishing, etc., with other writers.  I especially loved the workshops and feel that I learned much that can I can use to improve my writing in the coming year. 

I'm looking forward to attending the conference next year, if I can come up with the money.

Saturday, October 2

My new blogging home

My first post on blogger!  For the last couple of months I have been blogging on my site but noticed the great doodads Blogger provided and was seduced.

I'll see if I can copy my old posts over here and post-date them.  If I can't, oh well.