Thursday, December 22

Buyer Beware: Hephaestus Books

Robin Hobb writes about a new scam. Hephaestus Books, and others, are selling public domain articles ABOUT an author's books, but marketing it so it looks like they are getting the books themselves. Clear as mud? I'll let Robin explain it.

If you go to, or or and do a search for a book titled Novels byRobin Hobb, you will find one published by Hephaestus. In the description it lists my books, and even adds (novel), just like that, in parentheses, after some of the titles. So one might get the impression that for $12.29, you are getting a nice collection of my novels in a paperback format. After all, there is no detailed description to tell you otherwise. The astute buyer will look at the stats on the book and possibly be astonished to discover that all my novels will fit in a 42 page paperback.

Or they may immediately discern that this is a deceptive description. These are not my novels at all. These are a selection of ‘free to read’ articles about my novels gathered from the internet and put into a print on demand format.

Hephaestus Books is listed as the author. If you do a search for Hephaestus books, you will find that my readers are not the only ones they are luring to buy. There are ‘novels of’ books for readers of Ray Feist, Kurt Vonnegut, Diana Gabaldon, E.M. Forster, Sylvia Plath, Lloyd Alexander and, well, you get the idea. Each 42 pages long, and being sold for $12.29. Ouch. $12.29.

So, I’ve done what I can. I’ve posted a ‘review’ on each of those sites letting people know that Hephaestus is not my publisher, and those publications are not a collection of my novels. I hope I save a few readers from making a $12.29 plus shipping and handling mistake.

If you have bought one of these books, I urge you to post your own review, and to let Amazon and Barnes And Noble know how you feel about Hephaestus Books.

Click here to read Robin Hobb's entire article: Caveat Emptor! Hephaestus Books

Sunday, December 18

Brushing off the dust: Kinds of writers

I've been -- and still am -- caring for my dad, but I couldn't stay away from my blog any longer. I miss you folks!

It might be old news, but Zoe Winters has a fantastic blog post about her writing process. I love reading these kinds of posts and found this one particularly inspiring. She said she writes for 5 or 6 hours a day but when she edits she only works for 3 or 4 hours. I'm glad someone else finds editing harder than writing!

Here's the link to Zoe's article: The 10,000 Word Day.


Monday, November 21

Don't censor the internet, stop the Protect IP Act

Hank Green writes:
By attempting to control the internet, Congress can't help but do anything but screw it up. They want to create a system whereby any website in America could be turned off at a moment's notice. And if they can do it, don't worry, they will.
This information caught me by surprise, Hank's video was the first I've heard of it.

If you'd like to sign a petition to stop this, click here: Save the Internet

Have you heard of the Protect IP Act before? What do you think of it?

Interview With a Curmudgeon

Not too long ago, a charming Scottish writer emailed me with questions about book promotion. I hope I said something vaguely helpful. Since then he has begun blogging (Report From A Fugitive) and tweeting (@RLL_author). He even did an interview with me! RLL did most of the work. I emailed him a few questions and he did the rest. How marvelous!

Canadian writer Karen Woodward, author of Until Death, thought it would be a great idea to interview me. Wild horses dragged me to tame horses. Tame horses carried me to room 102. Room 101 was taken. Shining her spotlight on the face of the innocent dupe I’d hired to impersonate me, Karen began the interrogation…

KAREN WOODWARD: Please tell me a bit about your book.

RLL: Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords is my commentary on a disease-raddled, drug-addled, country known for its prominent blade culture. That country is a thinly-disguised Scotland. Drugs are plentiful. Violence is everywhere. Justice is in short supply. Lives are cheap. Alliances and allegiances are even cheaper. I try to ensure that my overly-optimistic view of the nation doesn’t get in the way of a rattling good story.

My approach was to squash the sorcery element of the standard sword and sorcery tale, placing science in its stead. Not a new notion. On top of that, the war fought out in the book’s pages was a Cold War. The icing on the literary cake was always this idea that old heroes, from legendary tales, would pass through the modern stuff. Old heroes, and old villains.

The strangeness of the mixture makes for a decidedly odd cake. That’s the beauty of self-publishing electronically. Every type of story is up for grabs. As author-publisher, the e-book writer can tackle a setting that might have limited appeal in a diminishing paper marketplace. So what. Appeal to that limit electronically, then publish the next story. Build a following. Or build several different followings. It’s all on the table, and it’s all to play for.

Is Neon Gods a series? Not in the conventional sense. It’s not a story about quests. I make this quite clear in my notes at the end. A second book would run in the same timeframe as the first, featuring some of the first novel’s characters in scenes witnessed from alternative viewpoints.

However, publishing a series is not my immediate plan. I have a small stack of unpublished novels and short stories sitting there, and I am formatting those for the Kindle before I return to the series. That doesn’t mean neglecting the story.

I’ve written more of book three than of book two, as I must keep a deathly grip on continuity. Yes, I could simply introduce unreliable narrators and leave the audience to sift through inconsistent debris. But I’m in this game to do the job properly.

The novel is an Amazon Kindle e-book. It was important to list story structure at the start, in a series of chapter links. A new thing for me. I want readers to see that the story ends with chapter 32. The book ends with the section ABOUT THIS BOOK.

It’s a warning to wannabe e-authors. If you end the story halfway through the overall page-count, and pad the rest of your book with articles and off-cuts, have the decency to warn readers of this. Aim for transparency. Don’t just dump that on readers as they hit the next page. Bad form. (My story takes up 95% of the publication.)

This peeve dates from all the research I did for a novel on comic books. Comic book readers judge the story by the thickness of the magazine. A sawn-off adventure featuring the main character doesn’t go down well if an unannounced back-up strip rears its head at the turn of a page. What happened to the hero? Who is this third-rate banana, drawn by a filler artist we’ve never heard of?

Bluntly, authors depend on the kindness of stranglers. If I generate a vast audience, I know that’s a vast audience I’ll never meet. Is it possible to respect all these unknown and unknowable people? At the basic level, in applying professional standards to the work.

I am reluctant to discuss the plot in an interview. Always leave ’em hungry.

KAREN WOODWARD: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

RLL: From the pen of C.S. Lewis. Read your work aloud. I must add that I do this in the voices of the characters I create. If they sound different as I’m typing, they will be different in the eyes and minds of my readers. Well, so I like to think.

One of the best ideas I ever absorbed from a writer came from Hans Andersen. He’d travel with rope, so that he could escape from a strange house in the event of a fire in the middle of the night. I’ve only used the escape rope once, thus far. That’s another story.

I’ll amplify on your original question, and give you the worst writing advice I ever received. This happened in school, no surprise, and was uttered by an English teacher. Again, hardly a shocker. “Never use and or but at the start of a sentence. It’s okay to do that in real life, but never in an exam.” The advice was seared into my mind, for all the wrong reasons.

Indicating that exams had no bearing on real life, as far as that teacher felt. A skewed view. Hardly the meaning she was attempting to convey. There is nothing wrong in using and or but at the start of a sentence. Avoid overuse, to keep your style from being nauseatingly repetitive. I live in a part of the world in which it is grammatically acceptable to place but at the end of a sentence. That’s just the way local grammar developed, but.

KAREN WOODWARD: I understand that you have written for many years, although you have just begun self-publishing. What advice would you give to a new writer?

RLL: You mean a writer of fiction. Writing non-fiction lies in the same solar system, though is one planet over – with its own local conditions. Some of this doubtless applies to non-fiction too. For new writers, the advice is obvious. Read. Discover what you like, and what you don’t like. Learn from both types of writing. I learned as much from crappy books as I learned from excellent ones. (Sometimes I think I learned more…)

Cut loose of the stuff you like reading. Be influenced by it, but don’t become it. Cut loose of the stuff you don’t like reading. Avoid spending your writing time hating that material. You have better things to do with your days. And tastes change, over time, in any case.

Learn beyond writing itself. If you look for inspiration in non-written material, whether painted or sculpted, then that’s a good thing. Have interests and pursuits outwith literature. Apply every piece of experience to your writing. Good or ill.

Read copyright law.

Enjoy what you do, though understand that some of your best material might end up being written while in a foul old mood, with the odds stacked against you, your back to the fiery wall, and time running out.

Be prepared to recycle ideas that fall apart. There’s no call to print a story, rip it up, and throw it away. (Unless it’s truly beyond saving. Even then, I’d think twice. And twice more.) I have stuff to get back to. Fragments. Snippets. Remnants. The ruins of stories. New writers should keep hold of everything. One rainy day, that neglected computer file will be dusted down…

Put the hours in. I know I’m always banging on about that. If stories really wrote themselves, I’d be in the Bahamas right now as this interview saw to itself. That takes me back to reading. Consider the size of a book you liked…

Calculate the number of words. Discover your typing speed. Work out how many hours you’d have to spend, to come up with a similar-sized book – based on typing alone. Now think about the number of hours you can spend a day, typing.

You’ll see how many weeks it’ll take to work through a story similar in length to the one you enjoyed reading. I’ve made that sound like a mechanical process. Well, it is. Discipline is a cliché to writers. Often spoken of reverently, without further explanation.

Get into the numbers. Develop a sense of scale. Set a goal, in words. How many? Do the basic arithmetic. If you want to write 100,000 words at 1,000 a day, every single day, you’ll spend 100 days marching to the last page. Not counting research, editing, medical emergencies, and all the other stuff life throws your way. If you type 10,000 words a day, it won’t take you 100 days. Doing the same job in just over a week is no crime.

Discipline is all about the numbers. Nothing to do with quality, or art, or the creative muse. Discipline has no handy shortcut. I feel inclined to say the same to old writers, just in case you think I’m blaming youth for being young.

If you want to be a writer, write. Stop wanting. Be. (No, kiddies, I’m not a little green alien living in a swamp.) A writer is always on the job. Even asleep. Wake, write the dream down. Type it up. Stuck in a queue? Observe. Play the game of faces, as you shop. That guy’s a rocket scientist. She’s a spy. He’s the stranger, come to town with a grudge.

For reasons of space, Scheherazade-like, the interview ceases. Read the full interview on the blog, REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

RLL's book will be available in December, for more details visit his his website: Report From A Fugitive.

Friday, November 18

My first drive in the snow

I'm not sure if I should tell you this, it's along the lines of a confession. I got my driver's license last year and -- although I live in BC, Canada -- have never, EVER, driven in the snow.

And, trust me, I had NO plans on starting. We have a great transit system and I like taking the bus; it's fast and cheap and I don't have to worry about parallel parking. However, yesterday, I wanted to go see my Dad in the hospital and it was fastest, easiest, to drive to the skytrain station (Vancouver's version of the subway).

I borrowed a friend's car and went to visit my Dad around four in the afternoon; at that point it wasn't even cloudy. Sure the air was a bit nippy, but that was it. I parked at the skytrain station, got to the hospital around five, visited with my father until eight and then prepared to leave. When I looked out the door of the hospital the world was white. There was about an inch of snow on the ground and it was falling like a white curtain. Gah!

As I rode the skytrain back I looked out the window thinking/praying, "It's only snowing in Surrey, right? There's no snow in Vancouver. RIGHT?"

Um, wrong.

By the time I sloshed my way back to my friend's car (btw, I was wearing tennis shoes!) it looked like a snowball. I hunted in the trunk for a snow scraper but the only thing it contained was a hammer. A hammer? I ask you, who carries a hammer, and only a hammer, around in their trunk? I mean, why? Who thinks: 'Oh, I might get a flat, better bring a hammer'? I don't want to seem ungrateful, my friend was very nice to lend me their car, but I gotta say, I'm a bit suspicious.

Moving on. Okay, so there wasn't a scraper. That's fine, I just used my arms to sweep the snow off the windows. Easy peasy. I started the car, cranked the heat and sat there for about five minutes trying to feel my toes. Eventually, I steeled myself, eased out into traffic and headed for home. Driving in the snow was a bit anticlimactic, actually. I had a tougher time driving over icy roads last spring.

Everything was fine until I drove to Pine Street where I'm staying. Now, there's something you need to know about this street: It's one big hill. No one can get up that hill once its covered in snow and black ice and I didn't want to leave my friend's car at the bottom where oncoming traffic could play Bumper Cars with it.

I can't convey to you the happiness that surged through me, right to the tips of my frozen toes, when I saw that Pine Street was snow free.

The car now sits snugly in my friend's garage and I am, once again, a devotee of Vancouver's transit system.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else who has a scary, or not so scary, driving story to share. Thanks for reading!

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Thursday, November 17

Thank you to my friends: an update about my Dad

A few weeks ago I posted about my Dad's illness and you've all been so very supportive, I can't thank you enough. You've been great.

My Dad is in the hospital again and it doesn't look good. Strangely, he seems to be taking the news better than I am!

Anyhow, I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for the support you've given me in the past and to thank you in advance for your patience in the days to come. This is for you:

A cure for the blogging blues

Remember the food pyramid? Did you know that it can help a person not only have a healthy body but also a healthy blog? Suitably tweaked, of course.

I'll let Ariel Hyatt tell you about it.
It happens to me all of the time when I teach artists social media.The face goes blank, the frustration begins to settle in and then the artist says it:

“I just don’t have anything interesting to say.”


I’m shocked by this every time. You are an artist; you do things we mere mortals are totally enamored by: you PLAY MUSIC, you write songs, you perform them in public!

So PHLEEASE, do not tell me you have nothing interesting to say. I ain’t buying it.

All you are missing is a System for Social Media Success.

Luckily, unlike sheer god-given musical talent, social media is a learnable skill.

As I was teaching my system to a client in my kitchen a few weeks ago over coffee and bagels and it HIT me… and so I created:

Remember that chart they brought out when we were in 2nd grade to show us how to eat well-rounded meals? I have re-tooled it for you so you can now participate on Social Media healthily! And you won’t even have to think about it – just follow along…

You wouldn’t eat only bagels all of the time. They are a treat once in awhile, but they are not healthy to eat every day – and a diet of only bagels would be boring!

Most artists are only serving their audiences bagels all of the time. Plain bagels. Over an over again.


We want a burger, or a giant green healthy salad, we want some candy, give us protein!

But you keep serving bagels, bagels, bagels!

These are five things that when used in concert with one another can help you ratchet up your social media effectively and manage it easily.
To read the rest of Ariel Hyatt's awesome post, click here: The Musician's Social Media Food Pyramid

For those of you who don't feel like clicking, here's the gist:

1. Network
It isn't all about blogging, it's about making a personal connection.
Frequency: 3 or 4 out of 10 posts.
- Facebook: Leave a comment (or comments!) and become involved.
- Twitter: Chat up your network! Send messages to people & use their twitternames.
- Blogs: Read other blogs and LEAVE COMMENTS!
- YouTube: Find videos you like, subscribe to the channel and make your own video comments.

2. Promote others
Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
Frequency: 3 out of every 10 posts
- Share profiles, photos and links to interesting articles on your Facebook page and your blog.
- Tweet others as you would have them tweet you (sorry, couldn't resist!) Participate in #FF (Follow Friday) and retweet others tweets. Review books or albums and talk about what effect they've had on you and your work.

3. Curate Content
Frequency: 2 or 3 out of every 10 posts
- RSS feeds: This is my favorite! Every day I prowl through my RSS feeds using Google Reader and select the articles I think are the most interesting and share them.
- Food: You don't have to blog about the same thing all the time. Share recipes or talk about your favorite restaurants. Are you a secret addict of any food reality shows? (me --> Diners, Drive-ins and Dives)
- Media: write a review, whether of a book, a movie or some music.
- Talk about something your audience is interested in. Parenting, sports, technology (the iPad!)

4. Pictures!
Take photos and share them.
Frequency: 2 out of every 10 posts
- Twitter: Use twitpic and yfrog.
- YouTube: Dive in! Instead of posting video replies (see above) post your own video. If you're shy, you can post videos others have made.
- Blog: It makes your blog more visually interesting if you add a photo or two and the best photo is one taken by you that has some personal connection to you. It doesn't have to be OF you -- although it can. People are naturally curious about others. What does the view out your window look like? What does your writing desk look like? Your readers want to know!

5. Promote yourself!
Frequency: 1 out of every 10 posts
Do you have a book coming out? A short story? An album? Tell people about it!

That's it! Oh, but before I end this post, two very important things.
1. Most important blogging tip ever: Whenever you post on your blog or on Facebook, tweet a link to your post!
2. My thanks to the marvelously talented Deborah ( who sent me the link to Ariel's article. Her voice is completely amazing, check out her YouTube channel and her Facebook page. You can also find her on iTunes.

I hope you found something that will help inspire your blog posts. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 15

Viddy: Twitter for videos

Viddy wants to be the new twitter, but for videos. Or, to put it another way, Viddy is to YouTube as Twitter is to blogging. With Viddy, you get 15 seconds to tell your story. Only 15 seconds!

But perhaps that's a blessing. Twitter has shown us how expressive we can be in 140 characters, perhaps this could revolutionize our videos. And for those of us who haven't uploaded a video to YouTube, Viddy can be a much less daunting alternative.

Right now, to help make your first video fun and painless, you can put one or the Muppets in your video. Being a huge fan of the show, I had a lot of fun and it didn't take long, less than 5 minutes. My Muppet video contains absolutely nothing writing related, but it does star my (very grumpy) cat.

Jason Boog used the Kermit pack (it was free) to make a short book trailer: How to put the in your book video. (Thanks to Passive Guy for the link!)


- Is New Viddy App Too Much Like Instagram, But For Videos?
- Viddy Launches Twitter for Video Mobile App

Monday, November 14

Story structure: What is it and why should I care?

I started this post intending to write about Kristen Lamb's article Structure Part 7–Genre Matters. Kristen's posts are always marvelous, but it got me thinking about the importance of story structure and I decided to talk about that instead.

In my opinion, one of the best books on story structure is The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Vogler tells a story about about how, when he worked for Disney, he wrote a memo that became wildly popular. He had no idea his memo had been attracting a lot of attention until people from other studios called him up to request a copy! This memo eventually became The Writer's Journey.

Why was Vogler's memo so popular? He says he was able to identify "a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of storytelling like physics and chemistry govern the physical world. (The Writer's Journey, ix)" Be that as it may, it clearly worked for many people, and it's something that I try to use in my own writing. I find it especially helpful when I'm stuck, or I feel that my story has gone off the rails.

What is Vogler's formula? He insists that it's a form not a formula, but, that said, here are the basics:

Vogler divides all stories into three acts: Act 1, Act 2 part one, Act 2 part two, Act three. Act one involves the hero's (when I say "hero" I mean someone either male or female; the hero is basically the protagonist of the story) ordinary world, their call to adventure, and their accepting that call. Act two shows the hero in a new world, one where he is tested, where he meets both allies and enemies. The hero goes through an ordeal and seizes a reward; in fairytales this is often depicted as an elixir. In act three the hero is shown back in the ordinary world, having returned with his reward/the elixir. Commonly, the hero's victory isn't just a personal victory, it is a victory for the tribe as well.

That's the outline. Perhaps I've played fast and loose with Vogler's account and the outline certainly doesn't do justice to the complexity of Vogler's book, but hopefully I've captured the gist.

For my next post in this series, I plan to go into more detail about Vogler's system, and perhaps talk more about other kinds of story structures and how they compare to one another.

The story structures I'm most familiar with are those used by Christopher Vogler, Michael Hauge and Dan Wells. If anyone can add to this list, please let me know in a comment! :-)

Interesting Links:
- Writing and the Archetypes: Are They the Best for Developing Characters?—Part 1
- Story Structure, because even a three ring circus is organized. I think the pdf is from

Don't committ professional suicide: protect your writing time

When I read this article I felt as though the author was speaking directly to me. Every day I plunk my posterior down and write blog posts. I've made that a priority, and I usually succeed in writing at least one. I was hoping that NaNoWriMo would help me sort me out as concerns my fiction writing -- but that was kinda like believing I could buy a chocolate bar and not eat it. It sounded good, plausible even, but it didn't have snowball's chance in hell of coming true.

Here is the article, curtsey of The Script Lab.
I talk about this a lot – simply because a lot of the time, people just don't do it. And that is professional suicide. You have to schedule your writing time and protect it like you would your own child. Then stick to it – like crazy glue. Because the writer's schedule is the writer's salvation.

Almost everyone who is really good at something finds that success because they practice their profession daily. It's not like the Olympian just shows up for the race. Four years of preparation can go into a single sprint that lasts less than ten seconds. Dedication is the key. You must show up every day and do it – whether it's the 100-meter dash or the next "Great American Novel". Being a writer – paid or not – is absolutely a job, so treat it like one. Be accountable. Be responsible. Be on time. Don't call in sick. Show up and write - Everyday!

This is no secret. Most of the best authors schedule their writing, and it's that dedication that makes them good. Even the "Father of American Literature" Mark Twain famously wrote every day between 8:30AM and 5:00PM from his writing studio at his home in Hartford, Connecticut, reading what he wrote each day to his children and wife after super. Apparently, Twain needed critical feedback too.

Now I understand that structuring a 40-hour writing workweek may be a fantasy for most people, but everyone has at least one hour a day. You just have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice. Watch TV a little less, get the kids in bed on time, and yes, try waking up earlier and knock out a few pages before the sun rises. Whatever you decide, you must make it routine.

Just think, without that kind of discipline, we may never have been blessed with some of the treasures Twain completed during his seventeen years at Hartford: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).

Obviously, we must give credit where credit is due – Mark Twain was a colossal talent, but it was his writing schedule that allowed him to maximize that talent. It's easy to thank Twain for his writing, but what we should really be thankful for is Twain's dedication to his writing schedule.
- Safeguard Your Writing Time
I'm going to do something Rebecca Bollwitt ( suggested during her workshop at the Surrey International Writers' Conference: keep a detailed daily diary. I manage to make it to my day job on schedule, I should be able to write (at least!) an hour a day.