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Birol
01-07-2006, 09:51 AM
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A transcript of the chat with Jenna follows:

BIROL

Hello, welcome to the AbsoluteWrite's inaugural chat featuring as your guest speaker this evening Jenna Glatzer, owner of AbsoluteWrite and multi-published author. If everyone could take their virtual seats, we can get started.


As a reminder, this is a moderated chat with a guest speaker so voice capabilities has been deactivated. You will not be able to type in the main window. Individuals may still Private Message (PM) one another. You may PM each other by double-clicking on a user's id. A new window will open up allowing you to converse with just that member.


I will be serving as the moderator-host for this evening's chat. Should you have a question for Jenna, you may PM them to me. Please do not PM the guest speaker (Jenna). You may PM your questions to me at any time during the chat. I will hold them for the Q&A session after Jenna's talk.

If you are having any technical difficulties or the person sitting behind you refuses to quit kicking the back of your seat no matter how many times you ask, please PM MacAllister. She will be serving as our moderator-moderator (otherwise known as help desk, bouncer, and other duties as assigned) for this chat.


If there are any other mods present, please de-op yourself at this time in order to avoid any confusion.


At the end of tonight's chat, we will have a trivia question. The first person with the correct answer will receive a copy of Jenna's latest book The Street Smart Writer: Self-Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World.


I truly think among this group Jenna Glatzer is an individual who needs no introduction, though many of us may not know quite as much about her as we think. She is the owner of AbsoluteWrite and our beloved Water Cooler, the editor of multiple newsletters, and a talented ghost- and non-fiction writer. Her books include Fear Is No Longer My Reality, co-written with Jamie Blyth, Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders, Make a Real Living As A Freelance Writer, Celiné Dion: For Keeps, The Street Smart Writer, and the children's book Hattie, Get A Haircut!


I now turn tonight's chat over to Jenna.*



JENNA

After more than 3,700 posts, I can’t believe you still want to hear more from me. But I’m delighted, so here we go. If I’m going too fast, please PM Birol (just double-click on her name) and she can tell me to slow down.


I’m going to talk today about stage fright, and how it relates to being a writer. As some of you know, I never intended to become a writer. The love of my life was the theatre, and I wanted nothing more than to be an actress. Broadway, films, little dinner theatres, didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to perform.


I started acting at age 4. My dad was a director, and he recruited me to play a small role in the play Teahouse of the August Moon. I had two lines to speak, in Japanese, and I was charged with bringing a goat out on stage. The goat, however, had terrible stage fright, and refused to budge.


It took all the strength in my 4-year-old body to drag that goat out, and it must have been quite a sight, because by the time I managed, the whole audience was hooting and stomping and applauding. For me! Boy, was I hooked. I began auditioning for every play in town (even if they didn’t have goats).


Only problem was, as I got a little older, my stage fright was worse than the goat’s. Before auditions, I would have to visit the bathroom 15 times. My hands and knees and voice would shake, my heart would race, and I would have the darnedest time making my way to the stage to perform my song for the director and crew.


But somehow I almost always managed to do well. I landed lead roles most of the time. Performance nights were even worse, though… just before my first entrance, you could always find me crouched down backstage, just trying to tame my bladder. At least twice, I didn’t succeed. That was… embarrassing.


I remember one of the stage crew members finding me this way, and being incredulous. “But you always get the lead roles!” she said. “I can’t believe you’re so nervous!” Well, the thing was, it was the most important thing in my life. Theatre mattered to me in a way that nothing else did. I felt extremely vulnerable out there on stage, and I desperately wanted that audience to love me.


I didn’t want to be good; I wanted to be great. And I was never sure of myself. The audience’s reactions were what I lived for, and I obsessed about them. I was terrified about cracking on the high notes, worried about forgetting a line. I was never, ever satisfied with my performances.


My mom hated visiting me backstage after a show, because she knew I’d be there fretting about a note I didn’t hit quite right, or a song that wasn’t as strong as it should have been. Sometimes she asked why I did this to myself. If I was so terrified, and so prone to beating myself up afterwards, why? Because I never felt so alive anywhere else.


Stage fright was something entirely different from panic disorder, though, which hit completely without warning and at inopportune times. Panic disorder led to agoraphobia, and I wound up having to quit the job I loved dearly (I was acting in a children’s theatre at the time). I moved back in with my parents because I couldn’t be independent anymore.


A college professor of mine had told me that I was going to be a writer. And now, housebound, I couldn’t think of any other career choice, so I began researching and reading books about writing. “Maybe I could be a writer,” I thought. I began writing and submitting.


There was a reason I was never happy with my performances. When you’re terrified, your throat gets tight, and the notes don’t flow the way they could if you were relaxed. When you’re constantly worried about sounding “right” and impressing people, you can’t take the risks that lead to greatness.


When I got that first writing assignment-- an article for a magazine-- I reacted similarly. I wanted to impress the editor, so I used lots of big words and tried to be clever and sound “smart.” Instead, the article was tremendously stilted.


“Stilted” is the word for “trying too hard.” It’s what happens when you’re trying to get an A-plus, so you write very formally and without personality, clutching a thesaurus. It’s what happens when you try to sound like a writer, instead of trying to sound like you.


I got very lucky. The editor probably should have just rejected the article outright, but he didn’t. He told me gently that it sounded more like a press release than an article, and that the tone was way too serious. This magazine was informal in style, and the piece needed some humor and breathing room in between all the facts. I rewrote it entirely and it was accepted.


My self-worth as an actress was tied into audience reactions. If they gave me a standing ovation, I was good. If they didn’t laugh at the funny lines, I thought it meant that I stunk. But the truth is that audiences don’t always react the way they “should.” Sometimes you get a quiet audience that doesn’t react even if you give them the best performance of your life, and other times, you get a boisterous audience that pays no attention to the fact that people messed up their lines and hit flat notes.


Of course you want to strive to do your best every time, but you can’t let other people’s reactions define you. Somehow, I approached my writing differently than I approached acting. When I auditioned for a role and didn’t get it, I was crushed. But when I submitted a piece and got a rejection, I didn’t think much of it. Sure, it was disappointing, but I don’t ever remember thinking I was a worthless failure because one editor didn’t like my work.


Yet I get it. Other writers would tell me how terrified they were to submit something, and I’d understand what they meant only because of what I went through with my acting. Those writers were getting their self-worth all tied into what an editor thought. They were terrified to be that vulnerable, to hand over something so personally meaningful and have it sent back with an impersonal rejection letter.


Maybe I’ve gained perspective over the years. Maybe it’s because writing wasn’t my original dream that I’m able to take things less personally. I don’t know which, but here are some things I do know:


1. One rejection, or ten, or twenty, means nothing. They are not commentaries on your talent or your worth as a writer. If they come with critiques, use what’s valuable and toss the rest. Know that every writer goes through rejection. Know that some of the most famous writers throughout history have also been some of the most rejected writers. They just stuck with it.


2. The more you worry about trying to be impressive, the less able you will be to write authentically. Readers do not need writers who sound like other writers. There is no precedent for your writing. Learn the craft, read books, take classes, but when it comes down to it, trust your pen. Copy no one’s style but your own.


3. Be patient with yourself. You may not know what your style is yet. You may not be comfortable with your voice yet. That’s okay. The cure for that is more writing.


4. If you write while picturing an unsympathetic audience, writing will become a chore. For most of us, there’s a little critic on our shoulders as we write. That critic may be your idea of an editor or agent or reviewer who’s out to prove that you’re a fraud and every word you write is stupid. If you tell a child every day that he is bad, he becomes bad. So it is with writing. Kick the critic in the teeth and get on with it.


5. Validation must come internally. Think of a writer you love. Chances are very high that that writer received dozens of rejection letters before the first acceptance. Was this writer an untalented hack before that first acceptance letter? Was it the acceptance that made the writer talented? We all crave outside validation, but first you need to believe what you’re writing is worthy, or it’ll be very hard to stick with it and keep submitting your work.


6. The way to believe that is to earn it. Writing requires sweat equity. Almost no one starts out by pumping out a first draft and having it proclaimed a masterpiece. Dumping all those ideas down on the page may be the fun part, but it’s far from the most important part. You prove you’re a writer by rewriting. And rewriting. And possibly realizing that manuscript is awful and you need to write something new. And rewrite it. Show your story it’s worthy by polishing it until it shines. Never stop learning from others. Welcome feedback, and read like crazy.


7. Don’t compare. When I was acting, I was constantly comparing myself to others-- was I as good as she was? Could I ever be as good as so-and-so? Compare yourself today to yourself last year, not to someone else. If you spend your time trying to measure up to someone else, you can’t find out what it is that makes your writing unique and important.


8. Once you’ve sent a manuscript out, forget it exists. It does no one any good for you to sit around obsessing about what the editor or agent is thinking, whether there were typos you missed, how soon you’re allowed to follow up, etc. Allow yourself to move on to the next project. That’s the best treatment for post-submittal anxiety.


A little bit of stage fright is good-- it keeps you from sending out your first draft all over town and forces you to proofread your query letters. But don’t let it interfere with your writing or submissions. Hold your head high, and if all else fails, picture the editors in their underwear (hey, those old acting tricks have to be handy some time!).


Thus endeth the lesson. Now I’m going to open up the floor for questions-- of all sorts. Please feel free to ask whatever you like about my life, writing, anything. Just PM your questions to Birol and she’ll post them for you. When I’m finished answering a question, I’ll type *.



BIROL

Jenna, the first question is, what type of underwear do you picture the editors in? ;)


JENNA

LOL. Preferably floral bloomers.


BIROL

(I haven't received a great many questions -- Ah, there they come.)


BIROL (SHAI?)

This was a great piece. Can you post a transcript of it at the website?


JENNA

You bet. Thanks!


BIROL/(TIMANDRA)

How do you handle the fear and pain of sharing what is most precious?


JENNA

Ooh, good question. While I'm writing it, it's personal and precious... but the moment I submit it, I am able to put it in a different "category" in my head-- It's no longer my heart that I'm offering to strangers. It's a product. A piece of writing. I'm able to see it as something separate from myself.


If it gets rejected, it's not *me* or my experience that's being invalidated-- it just means that those particular words weren't right for that particular editor at that particular time. (And, of course, I then believe that that editor is TOTALLY MISSING OUT! ;)


While I'm submitting, I'm writing the next piece and the next, so I don't have all my hopes tied to one piece. I think it becomes easier to detach from the process the more you do it.


BIROL

There was a request to name the individuals asking the questions. I will do my best. The first questioner chooses to remain anonymous (no, it wasn't me).


JENNA

Yeah, who asked the underwear question?! :) LOL. Charrrrrlie?


BIROL

The second question, about fear and panic, was Timandra.


JENNA

Cool. Thanks, Timandra!


BIROL

The third.... I'm afraid I forget... So sorry. I had lots of windows popping up then.


JENNA

Actually, I think those are the only two so far.


BIROL

Okay, well the third one, I didn't mark the identity for... They can claim it when they see it. I've marked the identity of the questioner for all the rest, but if you would prefer to remain anonymous, please let me know.


Also, I must say, both Mac and Charlie are innocent of that first question, too. :) Moving on...


JENNA

* JennaG will keep guessing, privately.


BIROL/JEN

Will international writers benefit much from your latest book? Or has it been written with the American market in mind? Thanks.


JENNA

From the Street-Smart Writer? I believe it's applicable to all writers. The scams and dangers for writers are pretty universal.


Thanks! *


BIROL

That last question was from Jen. Thanks, Jen.


QUEENB

Since your background was in theatre, have you ever tried your hand at writing plays? (I'm a theatre teacher/director/actor myself, and write plays.)


JENNA

Oooh, yes! I've had two short plays produced, and it was amazing to see. The director and actors did things differently than I had imagined when I wrote the plays. Was very cool to sit in the audience and hear reactions, too.


I haven't tried writing a full-length play yet-- mostly monologues and shorts. But someday. *


ELINCOLN

Did you ever imagine AW to be such a great resource when you first conceived it? Or was it a "I'll make this website and hope someone finds something." kind of thing?


JENNA

Totally the second. It started out as something entirely different-- I had this little Geocities page to promote my screenplays. I hoped to attract agents and producers to read my stuff. Well, that didn't happen. But oddly, it attracted a great deal of traffic from writers... They kept writing to ask questions about how I got a script optioned, or what a query letter should look like, or formatting questions... Eventually I realized that I should just forget about promoting my own stuff and start a genuine site for writers.


It began as a Geocities site again-- "The Screenwriting Spot." But my interests grew-- I wasn't just writing screenplays, I was writing articles, greeting cards, etc. So I bought the domain absolutewrite.com and it's grown beyond my wildest expectations.


It's always been a labor of love. I'm glad that I get to share it with so many people! *


KELVIN

I want to release my name to the public. How do you write for magazines? If you have any advice, for freelancers, where can one write? This is more of like a teenage freelancer.


JENNA

Big question. Two places I can direct you: First, there's a section on Absolute Write that has lots of articles and interviews about writing for magazines. http://www.absolutewrite.com/freelance_writing/freelance_writing1.htm (http://../freelance_writing/freelance_writing1.htm). I have a "beginner's guide" in the articles section.


Second is my book, Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, which shares everything I know about writing for magazines. *


TIMANDRA

Regarding the connection between writing and acting, writers began as reciting singer/poets. Timandra was a hetaira, Greek courtesan who composed and recited. Do you feel the need to recite, to share what you create on the spot like a hetaira?


JENNA

Ha! Neat question. I don't usually recite my writing out loud until the end, when I'm checking for typos, bad syntax, etc... but I'm forever "acting" it in my head. *


WILLIAM

What was the impetus for TSSW? Was it an outgrowth of your awareness of PA? Of other "bewares" type forums? From personally being burnt at some point in your career?


JENNA

A few things converged-- first, my editor for Make a Real Living asked me to write this book... she (Nomad) is active on our boards, and felt there was a need for something like this because of what she saw on the Bewares board... she had mentioned it kind of casually. I wasn't sure I wanted to get into it at the time... about a year later, I had completely forgotten she ever mentioned it, and I wrote to her to propose this book idea... "I think it should be a warning guide for writers, like an extension of the Bewares board..." she politely did not say, "You idiot. I gave you that idea a year ago."


But anyway... Yes, I was burned myself, 3 notable times.






I submitted to the International Library of Poetry when I was 10... My mom shelled out for the book and all. This was the earlier incarnation of Poetry.com.


I paid an "agent" a fee of about $250 for "upfront expenses"-- he never submitted my work anywhere and made me feel like I was an unprofessional pain in the butt when I asked him where my work was going.


I signed with a completely clueless screenwriting agent on the basis of fabricated credits. She turned around and tried to steal a deal I had brought in (a rewrite assignment)... quite a messy and weird situation.
But it wasn't until I got involved with PublishAmerica that I realized how prevalent the problem was, and how much it could really affect someone's life, and cause people to doubt their writing talents (by "got involved," I mean that I began reading stories from people who were stung by PA, and trying to help them.) So, it was sort of all of the above. *

BIROL In a related question...


ROBIEA

How much do your efforts regarding PA cost you professionally (time, energy, etc.)?


JENNA

Wooo. Another great question. Truth is that it takes up way too much of my time and mental energy to be healthy... I can't fully explain why I care so much about the issue, but I do. I grew to care a lot about some of the writers who were burned by this company, and I've always been of the belief that when something's wrong, good people can fix it... I trusted that the only reason this company was still able to operate in such a shady manner was that people in authority just didn't know about it, or didn't understand. Unfortunately, I came to find out that it's more a matter of people in authority not caring very much. And I'll keep fighting to fix that. In the meantime...


Yes, I get a lot of backlash for it. Happy PA'ers have written to the media to try to discredit me, I've had a few situations that border on scary, and it seems to keep me on an emotional rollercoaster. I often think I need to step back from it, but -- the problem still isn't fixed! Hence, my dilemma. *


BIROL

Jenna, we scheduled this chat for an hour, which is up, but I still have five questions on the table. Do you have time for a couple of more before you have to head out?


JENNA

I can hang around until 10:30 for anyone who wants to stay. (Promised my bro I'd listen to him practice for a piano concert after the chat. :)


BIROL

(That would be another 30 minutes for those not in the same time zone as Jenna.)


Okay then, next question up... :)


KATIEMAC

What do you feel is your greatest personal accomplishment to date? (as opposed to professional)


JENNA

Beating agoraphobia. Hands down, toughest thing I've ever done, and never thought I'd get better. *


WMYERS

When is it appropriate to use a pen name?


JENNA

Appropriate? Whenever you want. I know that people often use pen names if they write in very different genres (erotica and children's writing, for instance), but some people just prefer keeping their personal and professional lives separate, so they use a pen name all the time... I chose to keep my maiden name for my writing. *


KTC

Does your latest book uncover specific scams writers should be aware of? Also, if it does, if it uncovers any Canadian scams that freelancers should know about? Thanks.


JENNA

Yes, and yes. I had to be careful about naming names in a few cases, but whenever I was allowed to, I did name names... I remember one Canadian company we talked about, but luckily, that company was forced out of business. The book does a combination-- it tells about types of writers' scams in general, then gives specific examples whenever possible. *


ALPHABET

Are you going to admit that in fact you are not actually one person, but really Jenna Glatzer stands for Jane, Emily, Nina, Nellie, Anna, Grace, Laura, Alice, Teresa, Zoe, Elaine and Rita ? After all, you've done more than most dozen I know!


JENNA

LOL Blame that on the agoraphobic years-- I had absolutely nothing else to do with my life, so I got a lot of writing done! ;) *


BIROL

One last question for you, Jenna, and then we can move onto the bonus round. :)


JENNA

Ha!


TIMANDRA

Are you shocked by how we need others' approval?


JENNA

Not at all shocked, but yes, I'm super-aware of it. I think what surprises me more is that I'm *not* more worried about rejections than I am.. I'm worse about it in most other areas of my life, but somehow, I'm able to take the professional reactions to my writing less personally... however, reviews are another story. I live in fear of a reader feeling my book wasn't a worthy purchase. I think writers, in general, are sensitive, approval-craving people. That's why we need to learn to validate ourselves first, and look at outside validation as something nice, but optional. *


BIROL

Jenna, I did just receive to last minute questions, but looking at the clock, why don't we ask the trivia question now and then, if it is not yet time for your brother's recital, we can get back to the questions or I can e-mail them to you to answer later on the board perhaps?


JENNA

Oh yeah! That's a good idea. I have about 15 minutes left; anything that comes in later, I'd be happy to answer on the board.


BIROL

Okay, everyone's typing fingers ready?


The "bonus round" I referred to is the trivia question. It will be asked by me and answered by the members of the audience. That's you. As previously mentioned, the winner will receive a copy of The Street Smart Writer: Self-Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World.


In order to answer the question, PM me. The first person to PM me with the correct answer wins. PMs sent to Jenna, MacAllister, or anyone else are invalid, even if they were the first correct answer. The correct answer must be PM'd to me.


(Sorry, supermods and admins are ineligible to win. Non-supermods (aren't all mods really super?), feel free to race for the correct answer.)


JENNA

(In the chat, not the forums PM function.)


BIROL

Yes. Thanks for that clarification. :)


Okay. Everyone ready?


The question is:


What (US) holiday was Jenna born on?


JENNA

(Clue: answer's on my website)


BIROL

Okay. I've got a bunch of answers already.


The first responder was Richard. Let's see if he's got the right answer....


He says:


Thanksgiving.


JENNA

Yep! *ding ding ding* We have a winner. :)


BIROL

(A lot of people seem to think you make a great Independence Day baby.)


Congratulations, Richard.


JENNA

LOL


BIROL

If you could provide me with your full contact information: AW ID (if available), legal name, and postal mailing address, I'll make certain you receive your prize! If you have a board ID PM me there or I can provide you with my e-mail address.


Jenna, it's been suggested I voice the room before you run out the door and honestly, I've got a mess of trivia answer windows to clean up....


JENNA

Good idea. Open the dams! ;)



[What followed was a brief, informal period which included thank yous from the attendees for Jenna's time and efforts.]



[Special thanks to MacAllister for helping moderate the chat and working behind the scenes assisting late arrivals and those with technical difficulties and Pthom (Peter) for helping train the moderators before this evening's chat as well as assisting with technical difficulties as they arose.]



Please join us for our next scheduled chat on Friday, February 3rd when our guest speaker will be Victoria Strauss, noted fantasy author and Vice-Chair of SFWA's Committee on Writing Scams, better known as Writer Beware.

ChunkyC
02-04-2006, 10:40 PM
Download a copy of this chat in the following formats:

Microsoft Word (DOC) (http://absolutewrite.com/images/chats/Victoria%20Strauss.doc)
Microsoft Pocket Word (PSW) (http://absolutewrite/images/chats/Victoria%20Strauss.psw)
Adobe Acrobat (PDF) (http://absolutewrite/images/chats/Victoria%20Strauss.pdf)
AportisDoc (PDB) (http://absolutewrite/images/chats/Victoria%20Strauss.pdb)
OpenOffice 2 (ODT) (http://absolutewrite/images/chats/Victoria%20Strauss.odt)

A transcript of the chat with Victoria follows:

Birol

Welcome to the second ever AbsoluteWrite chat. If everyone has their drinks and snacks and are sitting comfortably with their feet on their desks so their fuzzy bunny slippers can see the screen and follow along, we'll get started.

As a reminder, this is a moderated chat with Victoria Strauss as the guest speaker. Voice capabilities have been deactivated. Don't panic if you can't type in the main window. With few exceptions, you shouldn't be able to do so. Individuals may still Private Message (PM) one another.

In fact, in a couple of seconds, I will encourage you get a message buddy. You can save time by finding one now if you like. For those unfamiliar with chatting tools, you PM another individual by double-clicking on their userid in the list on the right. A new window will open allowing you to converse with just that person.

In our inaugural chat, people kept timing out, meaning the chat system would terminate their connection because they had not done anything for awhile. You may be able to prevent this from happening by occasionally sending a PM to another individual. If you haven't done so already, find a PM partner. Maybe someone you know from AW or the person just above or below you on the list of names might be willing to be your message buddy for the evening.

Another thing we learned from our first chat is that two stagehands were not enough. This evening, we have four. As you may have guessed by now, I'll be serving as your Host. It's an easy job, but someone has to do it.

Julia (JuliaTemlyn) is serving as our Q&A person. PM any questions you have for Victoria to her. You may PM Julia at any point during tonight's chat. Julia will hold all questions until Victoria is ready for them.

Please do not PM Victoria.

MacAllister is our Usher this evening. She will assist any late-comers as they arrive. Also, if the person sitting behind you starts throwing their popcorn at you or refuses to stop kicking the back of your seat, PM her for assistance

Peter (Pthom) is working behind the scenes this evening as are Technical Guru. If you are having technical difficulties or if you know of someone who is, please PM him.

If there are any other mods present, please de-op yourself at this time in order to avoid confusion.

At the end of tonight's chat, there will be a trivia question. The first person with the correct answer will win a copy of Victoria Strauss's newest novel The Awakened City. The answer to the trivia question can be found on Victoria's website: www.victoriastrauss.com (http://www.victoriastrauss.com/).

A transcript of tonight's chat will be posted on AW within 48-hours. Charlie (ChunkyC) has graciously offered to edit the chat log from this evening.

With all that said, allow me to introduce Victoria Strauss as tonight's guest speaker.

Those of you who frequent the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler may recognize Victoria as one of the voices of reason on the Bewares & Background Check forum or as the experienced Sage from the Science Fiction/Fantasy forum, but she is better known as a dedicated scam-hunter and oft-published fantasy writer.

Although Victoria has been described as "a fantasy writer for adults," she has published both young adult and adult fantasy novels. Among these are Worldstone, Garden of the Hills, The Arm of the Stone, The Garden of the Stone, and The Burning Land.

She also serves as the Vice-Chair of Writer Beware, the SFWA's Committee on Writing Scams and has prevented more than one writer from making a regrettable mistake.

With all that said, I turn tonight's chat over to Victoria Strauss. (APPLAUD)

Victoria

Hi, everyone. I've told my cat she can't help me type tonight. Hope she'll heed me.

Many of the milestones in my writing life have been reached by accident. Writing my first novel, finding my agent, the novel that launched my adult fiction career, and starting Writer Beware--all were things I stumbled into in spite of myself.

I wasn't one of those kids who knows from an early age that she's going to be a writer. Growing up, I wrote occasional poems and stories (my mother, embarrassingly, has kept them all), and enjoyed composing essays in English class. And I was always a voracious reader. But it never occurred to me to think of writing as a career choice.

Right after I graduated from high school, my father (a university professor) got a year-long research fellowship in Germany. My entire family was going, and I wanted to go too, so I asked if I could defer college for a year. I thought I'd spend the time reading, exploring, and generally messing around. My father had a different plan. He gave me a choice: attend school in Germany, or come up with some kind of educational project to occupy my time. There was no way I was going to go to school for an extra year, even if I'd been able to speak German, so that left the project. I'd just taken an English class in which we wrote a number of short stories, and I'd been playing around with the notion of maybe pursuing the writing thing a little further. So I told my dad, "OK--I'll write a novel!"

This really was just a ploy to get my year off (I still don't know why my dad said yes). I didn't have any expectation of actually completing the novel. I figured I'd fiddle with it for a month or three, then tell my dad it wasn't working out and spend the rest of the year doing something else. But that's not what happened. I got hooked. The research, the plotting, the writing--I loved it all. Not only did I finish the novel, I discovered that writing was the passion I'd been searching for without realizing it, waiting for me in a place I'd never seriously thought to look. So really, I became a writer by accident.

Accident number two arrived a few years later. Having finished and polished my novel, I began to submit it. This was the 1970's, before publishing became a realm of conglomerates; you could easily submit direct to publishers, with no literary agent involved. Despite what I now realize was an atrocious query letter, I had no trouble getting readings from most of the publishers I approached. Lots of complimentary rejections later, I sent my ms. to a publisher that, unbeknownst to me, was going out of business. It landed on the desk of an editor who was planning to become an agent. She liked my ms., and offered me representation. I hesitated before saying yes. Those really were different days--it was unusual for an unpublished novelist to have an agent, and I wondered if I really needed her. But since I wasn't having any luck on my own, I decided it couldn't hurt. Luckily for me, she went on to become very successful.

I'd written the novel (as I thought) for adults, but it had a teenage protagonist, and when it eventually sold, it was to a YA publisher. The editor who bought it became a mentor and a friend. Though my real interest was adult fiction, I wrote two more YA novels so I could continue to work with her. At last I decided to make my move on the adult market with an ambitious fantasy-historical novel about Hernando de Soto's strange and violent trek through the Southeastern United States. I did a lot of research, created a careful plot synopsis (a new technique for me, as I'd always been a seat-of-the-pants writer), banged out five chapters, and mailed them off to my agent.

She called and asked me to come down and have lunch. I assumed we were going to talk about how terrific my chapters were and how she planned to market them. Imagine my shock when she told me that she wouldn't represent the book. It was over-researched. It was dull. It had no interesting relationships. In fact, if my chapters had come in as a submission from someone she didn't know, she would have stopped reading after the first ten pages. As I listened to her eviscerate what, until that moment, I'd thought was the best writing I'd ever done, I realized to my horror that she was absolutely right. The book was crap.

I was crushed. I seriously thought about quitting. I didn't want to write YA anymore and I obviously couldn't write adult fiction--if I could be so wrong about my de Soto book, how could I ever tell if what I was writing was worthwhile? To try and figure out if there was any merit at all in my work, I picked up one of my YA books, WORLDSTONE, and began to read through it. And something completely unexpected happened. In that book, I found an untold story, a story that really wanted to be told: the story of WORLDSTONE'S villain, Bron.

That was accident number three. Bron's story became THE ARM OF THE STONE, my first adult novel, which my agent not only agreed to represent but sold, with a sequel, in three months.

After I signed the contract for ARM, I joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America--something I'd always wanted to do. I also went online for the first time, and got active in writers' forums and bulletin boards. I was amazed to see how many writers had gotten mixed up with disreputable agents, publishers, freelance editors, etc. My own publishing experiences had generally been good--I'd never been victimized by a scammer, at any rate--and naively, I'd thought that my experience was typical. It was a real shock to discover this slimy underbelly of the publishing world.

One day I was looking at the "help wanted" section of the SFWA website, and saw a call for a volunteer to create a section of the site warning about literary scams. With my interest in the subject, I jumped at the chance. At the same time, Ann Crispin, who was then SFWA's Vice-President, was taking the first steps to establish a committee to focus on writing scams. Neither of us had any idea what the other was doing until a mutual acquaintance put us in touch. It was like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercial, where the guy with the chocolate bar slams into the guy with the jar of peanut butter. We decided we were better together. The warning website plus the Writing Scams Committee became Writer Beware. That was accident number four.

Here's a brief summary of what we do, for anyone who isn't familiar with Writer Beware. The website (www.writerbeware.org/ (http://www.writerbeware.org/)) provides warnings about literary scams, schemes and pitfalls, advice on how to avoid them, and links to online resources. There are sections on literary agents, vanity publishers, freelance editors, contests, print-on-demand, electronic publishing, writers' services, and copyright, as well as a page of Alerts for writers and a series of case studies of actual scams. Our most recent addition is a blog, where we talk about scams in a more informal (and hopefully more humorous) way. The Writing Scams Committee collects documentation on questionable agents and publishers (right now we have about 600 files), provides a free research service to writers who want to know about agents' and publishers' reputations (email us at beware@sfwa.org), and assists law enforcement with criminal investigations.

So that's my largely accidental career so far. I'm sure that more accidents are waiting further on.

Here are a few things I'd like to pass on, both as a writer and as a scamhunter.

Read voraciously--and think critically about what you read. Apart from actually writing, it's the single best way to hone your craft.

Educate yourself about the publishing industry! Knowledge is vital not just to your success, since you'll be able to submit your manuscript much more effectively if you understand how publishing works, but to your protection, as it'll keep you out of the hands of scammers and amateurs. Find books about publishing. Read industry publications like Publishers Weekly. Check websites like Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors (www.anotherealm.com (http://www.anotherealm.com/)), which teach you how to recognize literary fraud. Contrary to what some writers seem to believe, it’s actually very easy to identify and avoid the bad guys, if you have the proper knowledge and the right approach.

Do your homework. Research the people you approach BEFORE you approach them. Make sure the agents and/or publishers you query are appropriate for your work. Never query an agent without checking to be certain she has a track record. Never submit to a publisher unless you’re sure it can market and distribute its books.

Don't believe the mythology. Urban legends abound in the writing world. You may have heard that successful agents aren't interested in first-timers, or that publishers don't want to take a risk with new talent, or that original writing has no chance because publishers are only interested in cookie-cutter copycats of bestselling authors. 'Tain't so. Publishing is a tough business, and rejection is a given--but it IS possible for a new writer to break in.

The search for publication is not a crapshoot. Sure, thousands of manuscripts are produced every year, and only a tiny percentage of these find commercial publication. But this isn't due to whim and serendipity, as many aspiring writers fear. The truth (as anyone who has ever looked at a publisher's slush pile knows) is that very few of those manuscripts even approaches publishability. If your work is marketable, your ms. isn't in competition with every other ms. out there--just with the small number of marketable ones. In fact, if your work is marketable, your odds are better than not.

Be persistent. Talent is important. So, to some degree, is luck--being in the right place at the right time. But one of the things that characterizes working writers is persistence. Writers write. They keep writing, even in the face of rejection. (How do I know this? Because for five years I failed to follow my own advice.) If your current manuscript can't find a home, maybe your next one will.

Be realistic. It's important to believe in yourself. But while consistent rejection by the commercial market may be shortsighted and unfair, it's also possible it may be justified. There may come a point at which you have to reassess your writing goals, or, as I did, abandon a beloved project.

That's it! Thanks for having me here this evening, and if anyone has questions I'll be glad to answer them now.

Birol

Thanks, V!

* Peter puts up the applause sign

Birol

As a reminder, send your questions to Julia.

* Birol steps aside and lets Julia have the floor.

JuliaTemlyn

Alrighty! Our first question comes from yeyeman9, who asks: I would like to know if you would suggest AuthorHouse for my first book. It is a 30,000 words Time Traveling novella. If not, what self-publishing company would you suggest? I’ve heard normal publishers won't touch 30,000 words Novellas anymore...and much less time traveling stories.

Victoria

Novellas are indeed a tough sell. However, rather than go the self-publishing route initially, I'd suggest you submit to one of the SF/fantasy magazines...such as Fantasy & Science Fiction or Black Gate (there are a lot of others). They do publish at least some novellas, and many people read these magazines. If you publish through AuthorHouse, on the other hand, it's very likely that the only people who'll read your novella will be the people you personally contact. Self-publishing is appropriate for some projects (usually nonfiction with a niche audience the author knows how to reach directly)...but for fiction it's really not the best choice. Try selling your novella professionally first, and turn to self-pub only as a fallback option--that'd be my advice.*

JuliaTemlyn

Thanks, Victoria! Our next question comes from MacAllister. MacAllister asks: How has your education influenced the world-view presented in the novels? Arm of the Stone is sort of grim but with overtones of hope. Is that a comp. religions perspective?

Victoria

I'm afraid that grim is my own perspective! No one who reads my novels believe that I have a sense of humor. I love to read novels with happy endings, and I enjoy feel-good movies, but as a writer I'm somehow drawn to dark themes. I don't really think it's a result of my comp. religions education--which, by the way, definitely does inform my writing, as just about everything I write is in some way about belief... The darker themes just seem to be the ones that inspire me most. What does that say about me? I'm not sure I want to know...*

JuliaTemlyn

Wow...I don't think we were anticipating that! :o) Kelvin asks: My question to you, Victoria, is what advice do you have for young writers (as I am 17 for a few more days). I am wanting to start writing a book, what can you suggest to me?

Victoria

Well, I wrote my first novel when I was 17, so I'm very sympathetic to the aspirations of young writers. When I started my first novel, I knew nothing whatever about writing, had never read a how-to book... I just plunged in and started writing. That wasn't necessarily the best approach, and I think it makes sense to spend at least some time reading writing books... but by the same token, if you spend too much time thinking about HOW to do it, you'll never get started. So I'd suggest that you simply write. Just about everyone produces crap at first...don't worry about how good it is. As you keep writing, you'll get better--or not. Not everyone who wants to write actually has the ability. But you have to do it to find out."*

JuliaTemlyn

Excellent advice. SNantus asks: I have a novel coming out in 2007 from a small press and am unsure how to get it into stores, since it's not one of the Big Publishers. It's Mundania Press so it's reliable and "real" but I don't know how to get it into stores - your suggestions?

Victoria

That is a very tough question. If your publisher doesn't have a distributor (as distinct from a wholesaler), about the only thing you can do is to approach stores yourself. That is very difficult and very grueling, and you probably won't have a lot of luck with the big chains. The independents may be more willing to stock your book.

Another thing... Press your publisher to send out review copies, and to follow up. Good reviews in industry venues or specialty magazines (like Locus for SF/fantasy) can really help persuade a bookseller to consider you for stocking.

What DOESN'T work, IMO, are things like press releases. Booksellers get thousands of these, and they pay them very little attention. I'd concentrate on getting reviews and on approaching independents.*

JuliaTemlyn

Wow, that's really helpful info for the archives, Victoria. These days press releases seem so important. That's great advice and information for many of us!

Okay, next question. Jenna asks: What's been your proudest moment as a literary scam hunter? Proudest moment as a writer?

Victoria

Proudest scamhunter moment--Martha Ivery's indictment. That was such a vindication and a victory for us and for the FBI agent who was instrumental in constructing the case against her. I can't tell you how thrilled we were when the wheels of justice finally squashed her flat.

Proudest moment as a writer...hmmm. That's more difficult. I think what makes me proudest as a writer is the letters I get from readers (the ones who liked the books, that is. I get the other kind too). It's just a thrill that never fails to connect with readers that way.*

JuliaTemlyn

It's so nice to know there are still authors out there who really do appreciate what readers have to say.

I'm really curious about this next question... curious asks: What is your favorite book on how to write?

Victoria

It's a tie between Don Maass's THE CAREER NOVELIST (really great, down-to-earth information) and Anne LaMott's BIRD BY BIRD (for some reason, that book really speaks to me emotionally and artistically).

You didn't ask this one, but I'll answer anyway--my least favorite is anything by Julia Cameron. Just too touchy-feely and woo-woo for me.

JuliaTemlyn

Oooh, good question/answer of your own! Thanks for the recommendation of BIRD BY BIRD--it's on my to-read list. So, just because someone like Julia Cameron is so "popular" doesn't mean she's the greatest. ;o)

Victoria

Well, it's just an opinion. And you know what opinions are like...

JuliaTemlyn

True, true, but it's reassuring to those of us who try and get into some of those reads, and can't always enjoy them.

We have one more... Jenna asks: Do you have a writing schedule/routine?

Victoria

Yes. I spend the morning doing mundane things like email, because that's the time that I seem to have most energy for stuff like that. Then I go for a walk or a run, have lunch, and get to work on whatever writing project I'm doing around 2:00. I work till 5:00 or so, then cook dinner, then go back to work till 10:00pm or so.

This schedule isn't totally my choice; it's a compromise based on the realities of living with someone else. I'm really a night owl, and if I had my druthers I'd work at night. But that just isn't really practical right now, so I stick to the semi-afternoon schedule.

JuliaTemlyn

Thanks, Victoria! I'd like to reintroduce Birol, to give the trivia question, and then open the room up for chit-chat.

Birol

Thanks, Julia. You did a great job fielding the questions and Victoria, once again, thank you for being here.

Victoria

Thank you!

Birol

We'll let you and J take a little break now and see if we can't figure out who your biggest fan is among the people gathered here today. As previously mentioned, the correct answer can be found on Victoria's website: www.victoriastrauss.com (http://www.victoriastrauss.com/). In order to answer the question, PM me here, in the chat. PMs sent to Victoria, Julia, MacAllister, Pthom, or anyone else are invalid.

The first person to PM me with the correct answer will win a copy of Victoria's newest novel The Awakened City. I will ask Victoria to verify the answer here.

Is everyone ready? The question is: What was the title of Victoria's first novel? *Jeopardy music*

(Spelling counts.)

I've got one answer so far.... Want to see if it's correct, V?

Victoria

Sure.

Birol

yeyeman9 believes that your first novel was The Burning Land.

Victoria

Nope! Sorry.

Birol

Okay. I'm getting more answers now. Kelvin thinks it is: The Arm of the Stone.

Victoria

Oh dear. Wrong again.

Birol

I think they're looking at the list of novels I gave earlier.

Victoria

There's a clue in that list, Birol...

Birol

Just as a hint.... We are counting her YA books.

Tilly believes it is: The Lady of Rhuddesmere

Victoria

Yay! Tilly gets the big prize!

Birol

YEA!

Peter

TADA!

Victoria

Spelled right and everything!

* Birol cues balloons and streamers.

MacAllister

I suspect there was some confusion about the whether we were counting the YA books.

Birol

Congratulations, Tilly. Either send me a PM on AW or, if you aren't registered on the boards, I'll provide you with my e-mail address so you can send me your legal name and postal mailing address so your prize can be mailed to you.

Probably so, Mac.

If there are no objections, I'm going to revoice the room now.

MacAllister

I want to read the de Soto book </nonsequitor>

Victoria

I want to write the de Soto book. I plan to return to it someday.

MacAllister

YAY!!!

Transcriptionist's Note – general hubbub and banter ensued, in which a few more questions folks might find interesting were asked....

JennaG

Vic, you still have the same agent from the beginning, right?

Victoria

Yes, I do, believe it or not.

JennaG

That's so cool. Very few writer/agent teams are that loyal.

Victoria

Well, part of it is that I'm not very prolific, and she leaves me alone--doesn't prod me about my career. But she's getting close to retirement, so I'm thinking soon I'll have to foray out into the scary world of agent hunting. Not looking forward to it.

Yeyeman9

Being a published author will make it easier to find agents, no?

Victoria

It should.

JuliaTemlyn

Victoria, would you mind one last question?

Victoria

No, not at all. Please ask away.

JuliaTemlyn

yeyeman9 asks: What is the most challenging things a published author has to face today?

Victoria

Ah. Good question. In my opinion... the toughest thing is to sustain a career. It's no harder for a first writer to break in than it ever was, but it's getting harder and harder to stay in the game. If your sales numbers are flat, or if they fall, after a few books you're toast. I know many authors who've changed their names in order to keep writing. This is a depressing truth of the industry. Getting first publication isn't the end of the struggle, just the start of a different one. I don't mean to sound too negative, though. Even with the ups and downs and the uncertainty, I wouldn't be doing anything else.

I told you I was grim....

ChunkyC
04-03-2006, 01:03 AM
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A transcript of the chat with Chris follows (edited for continuity and clarity):

Birol

Chris, it looks like Spring Fever has struck AW and we have a slightly smaller crowd than normal, so we thought we'd keep it informal. We'll just sit back and let you tell us what you have to tell us about your children's books, the best way to promote--

Chris

Should I take my shoes off--wait, that wouldn't be a good idea.

Birol

--and we'll pester you with all kinds of questions. Oh, are you one of those people who make the new airport security lines a biohazardous area?

Chris

No but I always set off the detector. I have a metal hip. Really. Hip replacement. Would you like me to start my intro?

Birol

Yes. Why don't you?

Chris

Hi. It's a privilege to be here. Before we continue, I think everyone needs to know that I don't type very well. And speed? Forget it! I've come up with a variation of the old “hunt and peck” method (I sort of know the keyboard) that works when I do manuscripts. I'm afraid going is going to be a little slow in this format.

Also, I've never been in a chat room before! I am comfortable surfing the Internet; as-a-matter-of-fact, I use it extensively when I market my books. For whatever reason, I've never been active in the “chat room thing.”

I began writing to get published back in 1988. As a kid, I always enjoyed reading and writing and did well in my English classes but didn't consider going “pro” until I was about 30.

The first piece I ever had published was an essay on the old ballpark used by the Phillies during my childhood. It appeared in the GETTYSBURG TIMES and I didn't receive a penny for my efforts. (I was working as an announcer at a radio station owned by the TIMES and I guess they figured as an employee I owed them a bit of pro bono work!) I didn't mind; it was a published clip in a reputable newspaper. I was a PUBLISHED writer!

About a year later, I landed my first paid piece in PHILLIES REPORT (are you starting to get the idea who my favorite team is?). Then it was another 5 years before I had anything else published. Things have been on the upswing since 1994 and I've been fortunate enough to have numerous short stories, 5 e-books, and two (soon-to-be three) traditional paper and ink books published. But to this day, even with some decent publishing credits, I'm still get the privilege of hearing “Thanks but no thanks!” from publishers.

Moo Press, publisher of my ONE INCREDIBLE DOG! series is a smaller press with limited money for promotion. One successful strategy that I've employed to compensate for lack of resources is to electronically contact public and school libraries all over the country (and England) about my books. I send a short, non-pushy email query that invites the librarian to visit the Moo Press website if the books sound like something they might want in their collections. I don't just blast out hundreds of queries at a time; painstakingly, I go to library websites, find out contact names and email addresses and one-by-one, send that one person a query. It takes time and although I do use a form query, adding the name avoids much of the stigma of it being considered SPAM. If a name is not on the site, I will often direct the email to the Library Director or some specific title mentioned but never “To Whom It May Concern.” That's too impersonal and screams "SPAM!"

Now, I can almost hear some of you asking, "But ISN'T what you're doing “Spamming'?” My answer is "No" and the reasons are:

1) Any email address that appears on the Internet is considered public domain. Most libraries are run by governmental agencies and if you hold an office or position, such as Library Director or Public Librarian, you're right to privacy disappears whenever you function in that capacity. No, we don't have the right to contact these folks at home, using their personal email addresses but when they are at the Library, it's completely acceptable for them to be contacted via a publicly posted email address regarding the availability of a book. In the past three years, I've contacted over 1,000 libraries. Only 2 or 3 have complained and asked for me to take their names off my mailing list. Out of courtesy, I oblige. But technically and legally speaking, if I'm not soliciting them about pornography or other objectionable material, it's not necessary.

2) More importantly, I am a professional contacting another professional about a service (my books) that can enhance and improve their business (library). I am not contacting complete strangers cold, at home, in an aggressive manner. I've talked to several librarians about this practice and they've told that they have no problem with it and couldn't see their colleagues being bothered by an occasional email query about new titles. Most understand that conglomerates have taken over the publishing industry and the little guys (like Moo Press) need to do what they can do (legally and ethically) to stay in business. Left up to people like RANDOM HOUSE (who turned down the manuscript), these books about these wonderful dogs would have never been published. Most librarians want their collections to be as good as possible and an email tip leading them to a good book or two doesn't bother them at all!

Well, that's the main tip about marketing I wanted to share tonight-use email! But use it carefully, respectfully, and in moderation. It's worked for the ONE INCREDIBLE DOG! Series and I think it can work for you.

Now I guess it's time for me to take some questions*

MacAllister/Birol

Thanks, Chris

Chris

You're welcome*

JuliaTemlyn

I have several questions. Unless someone else wants to jump in first.

Birol

One sec, Julia. To keep everyone from flooding Chris with questions, let's keep to the protocol of PMing you with questions, if that's alright with everyone? Just double click on Julia's id and your questions to her for Chris.

MacAllister

sounds fine

Chris

I don't know... kidding

Birol

LOL. I'd tell you to be quiet and behave, but you ARE our guest. ;) Okay, Julia, I'll retire back behind the curtain*

JuliaTemlyn

All right. First, Jenna Glatzer couldn't be here with us tonight. But she wanted to ask Chris something. What type of publicity (newspaper articles, reviews, radio, Internet, etc.) has shown him the biggest results in terms of book sales?

Chris

TV. Without a doubt. We've done several interviews and sales on Amazon have always spiked. After that--Internet. Radio is OK.

JuliaTemlyn

Hmmm.

Chris

I could change my answer.

JuliaTemlyn

TV is an interesting answer, especially with the internet being the big thing. No, lol. I was just surprised!

Chris

TV has tremendous power. I never realized. You still have to think when you use the Internet.

JuliaTemlyn

It really is interesting to me. I was struggling with what I wanted to say, when I said "hmm."

Chris

Getting on TV is the hard part. Oprah never returns my calls.

JuliaTemlyn

The internet seems so "right there," but you're exactly right. Television is like the medium of media. People who aren't online watch TV. So, may I ask...how did you go about getting on TV?

Chris

We've been on local and regional TV, which is easier to crack. Getting on TV? Let me answer... You need to contact the news department and present a local or regional angle. In our case, we pushed the fact that these books were about real, live dogs from central PA. Phone calls are best but be patient--those folks are busy! A nice press release helps too. And I know it might sound like a contradiction but i wouldn't send them an email. I use email for remote locations--in my own backyard, I try to use the personal touch.

Kage

Chris: Do you find when you are writing that you have to catch yourself and say, this is a Childrens book, that word or idea is to much?

Chris

Yes, I do all the time. And if I don't pick it up, my wife does.

JuliaTemlyn

We wives are good for that, eh?

Chris

Yes! My wife is my greatest asset. She actually knows how to type! Among other things, she's a lot more patient than me. I want to get things done and move on--sometimes at the cost of quality.

JuliaTemlyn

Sounds like me. My husband calls me his "built-in spell-checker."

Okay, William wanted to ask: what are your insights into the children's publishing industry's receptiveness to verse? in what vein does verse perform best in today's market? Humor? Fantasy? Absurdism?

Chris

Hi William. Good questions and I'll try to answer. In my opinion, the children's publishing industry seems to be most interested in things that are SAFE. Tried and true. Established. The "Money Boys" have taken over and their tolerance for risk is almost zero.

MacAllister

Hmm. it would sort of seem like there's a long tradition of verse in childrens lit though.

Chris

Yes there is. But how much "new stuff" is being published? I think they're afraid to stick their necks out.

JuliaTemlyn

Considering Robert Louis Stevenson and poetry of times past. Even poetry in general seemed to be more accepted years ago, and not so much now.

MacAllister

Right--I wasn't contradicting you at all. It just seems like an market that produced Dr. Suess and Maurice Sendak should be a little more experimental *sigh*

Chris

It's sad. May I tell a somewhat lengthy story?

MacAllister

Do you ever chafe at those restrictions? -- please.

JuliaTemlyn

Sure you can, Chris.

Chris

Five years ago, I sent a manuscript to Water Brook Press, a subsidiary of Random House. The children's editor loved it--we worked on putting together a proposal. She took it to her sales team and they loved it, thought it hilarious but...turned it down because I DIDN'T HAVE A NAME IN THE MARKETPLACE! That was their stated reason. They even said they wanted to put me on retainer to keep them amused. Honestly.

JuliaTemlyn

Truly? I wonder what they'd think now? Let me know when you're ready for another question, Chris. I wasn't sure if you're finished with your story.

Chris

Yes. I would NEVER lie to YOU. Hey--I apologize if this sounds like a bitter tirade. I'm generally positive about my prospects and have decided to keep plugging despite the odds.

JuliaTemlyn

No, it doesn't sound like a tirade at all. It's very realistic, and disheartening.

Chris

Don't be disheartened! But I would shoot for medium and small publishers first. The big boys are tough to crack. To say the least.

MacAllister

It seems pretty natural to chafe at those restrictions.

JuliaTemlyn

Thanks for the encouraging words! Okay, let's see... dahmnait wanted to ask: what is considered tried and true? Verse seems to be used in many ways within the children's market.

Chris

Tried and true, to me, means something that has been published before, or is the continuation of a long running series, or was written by someone with a name. Things that almost guarantee a return on their investment. Hey--I might be wrong. It's just my opinion.

MacAllister

ahh, Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Birol

Or the Berenstein Bears and fill in the blank....

JuliaTemlyn

Exactly.

Yall

Dr. Suess

Chris

Good stuff. But who knows what new Clifford-type book languishes in some slush pile out there. Dr. Suess? I wonder if he'd have a chance today. Perhaps, his stuff was THAT good.

JuliaTemlyn

Okay, we have one more question, I think. Let me know when you're ready, Chris. And MacAllister, did you have another question?

MacAllister

It sort of seems like that leads to a horrible and boring homogeny I'd think, is that ever discouraging?

Chris

Ready. And please forgive the tone. I'm not really a negative person, you know.

JuliaTemlyn

Chris, like you just said, it really makes you wonder how many good books are being passed over.

MacAllister

You don't sound negative, Chris. A certain amount of realism is awfully important--

Birol

Realistic, I'd say.

MacAllister

--and few enough would-be authors can bring that to the table.

Chris

Discouraged? Yes. I think my best stuff has yet to be published. But my stories are quirky and not so mainstream. A publisher would be taking a chance.

JuliaTemlyn

Feel free to continue chatting on this subject. I just want to get the last question out there in the open. (and sometimes a chance is a good thing to take, right?) Dawno asks: Have you ever considered writing for an older audience and if not, why?

Chris

Yes, and I have. Short stories. feature articles.

MacAllister

What do you most like about writing for kids? (I've actually never considered it)

Chris

It's fun. Plus I have this "thing" about literacy--I want to see kid's develop a love for books and reading. It's empowering!

Birol

As a writer for adults, I really appreciate that. Let them read your things when they're young and maybe they'll want to read mine when they're older.

Chris

I also like to hear kids laugh. That's why I'd love to see some of my children's fiction published.

JuliaTemlyn

That's always a great reason!

Chris

Money and fame are secondary.

Birol

Chris, I see the time I promised to keep you captive has nearly expired.

Chris

I'll stay longer if you need me.

JuliaTemlyn

Oh, we have another question...

Chris

OK

Birol

Cool. What is it, Julia?

JuliaTemlyn

dahmnait wants to know briefly how you first broke into the children's market.

Chris

Bribes.

Yall

lol that works

dahmnait

lol...thanks.

Chris

I'll be serious. I contacted a few small publishers--queried them about LADY, the first book in the ONE INCREDIBLE DOG! Series. Moo Press was first to offer a contract but two others contacted us after we had signed.

Birol

Chris, we do thank you for your time and all the answers to your questions.

JuliaTemlyn

Thank you, Chris!

Dahmnait

Thank you Chris, I have hungry children to feed. I really appreciate your time and answers. Gives me reason to keep at it.

Dawno

::applaudes::

yall

Thanks, Chris.

Birol

When we first talked, I believe there was mention of a trivia question with one of your books as the prize?

Chris

Yes. A signed copy of BOONE.

Birol

Why don't we see how well everyone's done their homework then?

Chris

OK.

Birol

The answer to the trivia question can be found at either http://www.keenebooks.com/Lady/ChrisBio.pdf or http://www.keenebooks.com/dog.asp.

Chris

Am I eligible?

Birol

If everyone's ready, you can PM me (not Julia or Chris) with your answers.

Yall

You can whisper the answer to me :) lol

Birol

Sure. ;)

Chris

The answer is---George Bush.

Birol

The question is

Chris

Ooops.

Dahmnait

LOL

Birol

Wow!

Yall

lol

Birol

See Mac, GW does have some talent.

Robeiae

I'm gonna bust some heads...

Dawno

rofl

Birol

Sorry, Rob. Just poking at Mac, not you.

MacAllister

lol

JuliaTemlyn

roflol

MacAllister

It's okay, poke Rob, too.

Chris

What was the question?

Birol

(Politics is a full contact sport among this crowd, Chris.) The question is: Who is the illustrator of the One Incredible Dog! series? Remember PM ME with the answer.

Nope, nope. Chris is a very talented individual, but he did not illustrate his own books.

Chris

Include a name and I'll write a dedication too! It's been fun! Thanks!

Birol

And, Rob, Picasso is long since dead.

Chris

I have trouble with stick people.

MacAllister

Chris, you've been really terrific. :) Thanks so very much.

Chris

Later you all!

MacAllister

I suspect Birol is sorting Pms just now.

* Chris has quit IRC (Quit: Leaving¤)

Birol

On the plus side, if you can't draw stick people, you can never lose at hangman.

MacAllister

oops we lost him

Yall

Good thinking, Birol

robeiae

Thanks, Chris!...Chris?... ...Chris?

Birol

Anyway, Dahmnait has the right answer. It was Judith Friedman.

Yall

Wtg

JuliaTemlyn

Yay dahmnait!!!

MacAllister

Remember to send Birol your name, and Chris said he'd write a dedication

robeiae

Didn't she call herself "picasso" in her early years?

Birol

I'll track Chris down Dahmnait and you can send me your mailing info. And thank you all for attending.

Dahmnait

Wow, I was off feeding the kids. Cool.

Birol

They must've brought you luck. Night, All. And thank you for attending.

ChunkyC
04-16-2006, 08:52 PM
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A transcript of the chat with Jim follows (edited for continuity and clarity):


Birol

Welcome to April's – yes, it is April; I just had to check my calendar – chat. Slip into something comfortable (I recommend sweats or your favorite holey shorts) and settle in.

Tonight's guest is James D. MacDonald (with a possible substitution by his writing partner Debra Doyle should he be called away for a medical emergency – Uncle Jim volunteers on his local ambulance squad).

Most of you probably know James as "Uncle Jim" from the "Learn Writing with Uncle Jim" thread on the AW Water Cooler. Or you may know him as Yog, the author of Yog's Law: Money Flows Toward the Writer, or an instructor at Viable Paradise's Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' workshop, not to mention he's also the co-author of several science fiction books along with Debra Doyle. Uncle Jim graciously agreed to come tonight to answer a few questions in real time. We appreciate his commitment to helping aspiring writers grow in their craft.

The room is moderated, meaning it's not open for direct chatting. To ask your questions, PM Dawno. You may PM her by double-clicking her userid in the list on the right at any time. If you have any other problems, questions, or concerns, please PM MacAllister, Peter(Pthom), or me. To keep from timing out, from time-to-time PM another member. Please do not PM Jim directly.

With all that said, let's welcome Uncle Jim to the AWWCOC (the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler Online Chat).

Uncle Jim?

Uncle Jim

Waves to the crowd. Blows kisses. "You're a lovely audience!"

MacAllister

*applause, applause*

Birol

applauds

Dawno

whoot whoot

Uncle Jim

+Dazzling smile+ More waving.

What shall we talk about tonight?

Birol

Feel free to PM Dawno with any questions you might have.

Dawno

Are you ready for the first question, then Jim?

Uncle Jim

Sure, fire away.

Dawno

What is the mistake you most notice new writers making?

Uncle Jim

Oh, lordie. The easy mistakes are too many adjectives and adverbs. The bigger mistake is staring the story at the wrong place. The biggest mistake is not having a story to start with. Grammar and such are easy fixes. Not having a story is very hard to fix. Mid-range, you have Telling Not Showing. (But that's actually an easier fix than you'd expect.)

Dawno

I'm having trouble imagining writing a story without having a story ... what would you say that looks like?

Uncle Jim

It looks like meandering all over the place, a set of events, not necessarily connected, that come to no conclusion -- they stop, rather than end. I'm trying to come up with an example – Briefly: Billy's daddy was always mean to him. Even when he was growing up daddy was mean, and when he got older Billy's daddy was still mean. The end.

Dawno

Cat would like to know if you would define "starting a story at the wrong place"

Uncle Jim

Okay, a story starts when you can't summarize all the previous action in a single sentence. Or, a story starts when the characters can't say, "To heck with this; let's get a pizza." If what happens on page one doesn't affect everything else all the way to page The End, then that's the wrong beginning.

Expanding a bit -- I recall one student story from a while back. It detailed the deaths of nearly everyone due to some super-chemical weapon. This went on for some 40 pages, including a description of how Tivo works, so the readers would know how the main character was aware of some things that happened while he was asleep. I took that, and rewrote those forty pages as:

The day after the world ended, Fred got into his pickup truck and drove to town.

Even though lots and lots of people died, in terms of story nothing happened in those forty pages.

Dawno

BTW folks - if you want your question anonymous please say so, otherwise I'll give your name with your question, ok?

Thank you Jim, the next question comes from JenNipps "What do most people obsess about that they really should leave alone?"

Uncle Jim

The thing that most people obsess about that they should leave alone is simple punctuation. Mostly if you play it by ear you're going to be right. Of course, you have to prepare for that by reading a lot of well-written books, but you're doing that anyway. Right?

Dawno

Thank you - HConn asks "is it true that fantasy outsells SF two to one?

Uncle Jim

Is it true that Fantasy outsells SF? I have no idea. I do know that anytime you try to break down that market it you get lost in the squishy definitions in the middle.

Dawno

Any idea where HConn could get info on that?

Uncle Jim

I can tell you that as a group, fantasy and science fiction have represented about 11% of the fiction sold in the US, year after year, for decades. Fantasy -- the best definition of that is "Fantasy is the sort of book that Fantasy Fans read."

Dawno

Jim, I have a couple questions about elaborating on the show vs. tell - seems to confuse many new writers

Uncle Jim

Elaborating on Show v. Tell. Lessee ... Tell: Molly was angry at Fred. Show: When he got home Fred found all his clothes on the sidewalk.

Dawno

Bobb would like to know how you made it through that period where "you always seemed 'this close' to publication, but the rejections kept pouring in.

Uncle Jim

I had a day job.

Dawno

And what motivated you to keep at it since you had that day job?

Uncle Jim

The alternatives where I was were alcoholism, adultery, and amateur theatricals, and none of them really appealed.

Dawno

lol! thanks - I have an anon. question "If there was one thing you would want to impart to a new writer struggling to get a ms. into publishable form, what would it be?"

Uncle Jim

Cut up your credit cards. But, other than that ... keep trying out your stories on your friends, on your family, on casual acquaintances, on absolute strangers. When you're publishable, people you've never heard of will start asking you to see your next. I'd also suggest writing, a lot, and reading, even more.

Dawno

Do you believe that just about anyone can learn to write, with enough practice and instruction?

Uncle Jim

The answer to that, just about anyone, is "yes and no." That's like asking if just about anyone can learn to run. Sure, unless they're physically handicapped, they can. But will they win races? I can't guarantee that. I think that anyone can improve, with practice and feedback. But actually having story ... that's tough. I can teach all kinds of tricks, but those are just tricks. It's like learning to play a musical instrument. If you do it every day for three hours a day, for thirty years, you'll sound as good as someone with a natural knack for it does after an hour.

Dawno

Hoping I'm not jumping the gun - ChunkyC wants to know "Times New Roman or Courier"

Uncle Jim

Courier. Always, without exception.

Imagine you're a karate student. The master teaches you how to do a front snap kick. And you practice it every day. Then one day you get it right, and you say "Ah hah! That's what it feels like!"

When I teach writing I don't try to teach grammar or spelling, or much of anything other than how a writer thinks and how a writer looks at the world. The world is made of words. If you can look at the world and see it made of words, like when you're in the Matrix (in the movie by that name) you look at the world and see it made of numbers, then you're there.

Dawno

Peter wants to know "How deep a hole am I digging myself into if I write a story in First Person, Present Tense"

Uncle Jim

It's been done, successfully. No writing is wasted. If that's how the story sounds to you, write it that way. You won't know until you do it whether you were successful. And you won't actually know -- your readers will tell you.

Dawno

HConn wants to know "What question do you wish people would ask you? What do you think people should want to know but never ask?"

Uncle Jim

What question do I wish people would ask me? "Gee, Uncle Jim, can I buy you another beer?"

Shall I tell a story while I'm working my way around to answering that? A brief Writing Autobiography.

Many years ago, I wanted to be a writer. I was always writing stories, filling notebooks with poems and story ideas, lists of titles, keeping a journal. Then, one day, I stopped. And I got a job, and did this and that, for about fifteen years.

Then, when we were down in Panama (with the Navy, this was) I started writing again, because the boredom was so intense, and there were so few things written in English available. Eventually, I showed what I was writing to my wife, and she showed me what she'd been writing. Then we wrote for each other. After a while we started sending bits to one of our friends, and she kept saying "more! more!"

One day, there I was on leave in the USA. And we were staying with a friend who was in a writer's group. So, out of hospitality (the group was meeting right there) we were asked if we'd like to sit in. And while Doyle hid in a bedroom (being shy), I went, and took along some of what we'd been working on. And when the time came to read it, I did.

Afterward, the Pro Writer who was the Big Cheese in the group asked me, privately, "If you can write like that why aren't you submitting it somewhere?" And so, I did. And that was the life-changing question: "Why aren't you submitting?"

But no, I still don't know what question I wish people would ask me, but I do know the question I want to ask people: "Why aren't you submitting?"

Dawno

I think I speak for all of us when I say, thank you for sharing that story.

Peter had a follow up on the First Person Present Tense - "what if the dang thing is over 25k words?"

Uncle Jim

25,000 words? You aren't into novel territory yet. Have you reached "The End" yet? If not, keep going.

Dawno

A number of people have similar questions - like, you do an awful lot to help aspiring writers; are there any particular events that stand out as moments when you've felt like, "This is why I do it"? Anything that's stood out as really gratifying?

Uncle Jim

Any time I hear that someone I've talked to has sold something, I'm overjoyed. Our own Liam, for example.

Dawno

Thanks! Tilly would like to know if you get the mid-book blues and how you deal with it.

Uncle Jim

Oh, I definitely get 'em. When writing is a chore, and The End looks like it's a million miles away. What do I do? I write another five pages. It can be horrible tripe. I just do it. I give myself permission to write garbage. Not that I do -- I have fun with it. In a medieval fantasy I have the characters discuss how this adventure will look in the movie version. Sometimes I add myself as a character, and as a character have conversations with the participants in the story....

"This dialog is pretty lame," Ranulf said. "Are you sure this is the best you can do?"

"Hey, give me a break," Jim replied. "I haven't had my coffee yet."

"That's some excuse," Ranulf grumbled. "Can you at least make me witty? I've always wanted to be witty."

...and so on. It fills the pages, and pretty soon something will occur to me. In the second draft, I'll know that 'a conversation goes here' and, y'know something? I just learned something about Ranulf's character.

Dawno

I'll remember that! Along the lines of the question about what's gratifying - some of us want to know what prompted you to become an instructor at Viable Paradise?

Uncle Jim

What prompted me was this: The workshop organizer had tried to get someone famous to instruct, but that person turned her down. And in turning her down, said, "Why don't you call Jim Macdonald? He lives around there somewhere." So she called me. And I said, "I really don't have the time," and she said "We'll pay you," and I said, "Gee, I've always wanted to spend a week on Martha's Vineyard."

Since then -- Doyle and I are the only two instructors who've been there every year. My main job is working out the student/teacher schedule and keeping things on track. Plus, I get to BS about writing for a solid week.

And, there's beer.

Dawno

Ah, the organizer had to really twist your arm. JenNipps asks, "Do you do detailed character sketches/bios or do you wing it?"

Uncle Jim

The answer is ... sometimes. I do create character sheets as I go. As I write I learn things about my characters, from their eye color to their favorite foods, to the thing they hope no one ever finds out. If I write them down, I can make sure I stay consistent in the second draft.

I have done some work-for-hire tie-in novels, and with those you get very detailed character information, which you can't vary even if the plot requires it. When the plot requires it, I have to change the plot. That's where I get the advice to Cherish Your Minor Characters. I can do a lot with the minor characters and their own subplots.

Dawno

AC asks about those mid book pages - "Have you ever thought of leaving those pages in as an interesting break for the reader, too?"

Unfortunately. Those mid-book pages are what sets up the startling, yet satisfying, conclusion. How many times have you bought a book, then torn off and discarded the first 3/4 of the pages? After all, you'll get the whole climax that way.

Later on, after I've written them, I really enjoy my middle pages. No matter how lousy they looked while I was writing them, they come back and are wonderful after the book's sat in a desk drawer for three months or so. It's possible that the real beginning of the story may be in those pages. I won't know that until after I've written them, gotten to The End, and re--read the whole piece.

I also throw in scenes that I know I'll never use, like the bit in the middle of one space opera where I had Harry Houdini escape from a milk cannister full of maple syrup, just because it sounded funny.

Birol

I'd just like to interrupt again. We're at the hour mark and I promised Jim we'd only keep him for an hour and a half. If you have any questions that you've been too shy to ask, now's the time to screw up your courage and PM them to Dawno to get them in the queue.

Uncle Jim

I'm still here. I love hearing the sound of my own typing.

Birol

Thanks, Uncle Jim. Well, then, as long as you're here and we have questions, the room is yours.

Uncle Jim

One of the things I do, to help me write, is this: I imagine that my characters are actors who were hired to play the roles in my stories. And they have lives of their own that aren't on the pages. The last chapter, after The End, is a cast party, where they take on their natural personas, and the couple who were playing brother and sister vanish into the bedroom for an hour, and the solid, respectable guy turns up in a Hawaiian shirt, and the minor character who got killed in chapter two is schmoozing to find a bigger role in the next book.

Dawno

If someone isn't sure they can come up with the money for Viable Paradise, should they apply anyway?

Uncle Jim

If you aren't sure about the money, please, save up for next year. We've had people apply, get accepted, then drop out ... and it isn't fair to them, or to the others.

Dawno

Peter would like to know what prompted you to start the Learn Writing thread in Novels?

Uncle Jim

What prompted me to start Learn Writing was that I was running my mouth in all the other threads, so I figured that if I was going to be spouting off all the time I ought to be doing it in one place so people who'd had enough of me could avoid it.

Dawno

HConn says "Your pages are wonderful after three months in a drawer? I have the opposite reaction to mine. When should we stop revising?"

Uncle Jim

You should stop revising when revising stops being fun. At the point you're adding a comma in the morning and taking it out in the afternoon, you've had that story too long. If you're no longer making substantive changes. If you aren't rearranging whole scenes. Adding and subtracting characters. At the time you're down to single word twiddles -- send that story out, and start a new one.

Another Major Newbie Error: Writing One Story and spending the rest of their lives trying to sell That One Story. Be aware that you may write stories that no one but you will ever read. Imagine being a runner, and only running one race. Then taking your time from that race to other races, and comparing that time to the times of the other runners. You may never turn in a winning time if that time is the only one you have to show.

(Was that a mixed-enough metaphor?)

Dawno

Thank you. Spike would like to know if you stick to an outline - if the story starts to deviate, do you change the outline to reflect the change?*

Uncle Jim

I start out with an outline in mind -- but when the story deviates (and it will) I follow the story, not the outline. The exception to that, again, is things like movie novelizations. Those, you can't play with. (But those, too, usually have a pretty solid structure to them.)

(Except Cutthroat Island, an adventure that I, thankfully, missed. But a friend of mine got caught in that one, and hasn't been quite the same since.)

Dawno

Anon asks: "at what point should you stop taking advice from other writers and just do what you like?"

Uncle Jim

You should stop taking advice from other writers when it doesn't work for you. I keep saying, "If it works, it's right." Same with advice. If you can clearly see the way ... go with your way. The readers are the ultimate judges, not other writers.

(Oh -- commercial part of this complete chat: http://www.sff.net/paradise/ )

Dawno

AC would like to know where he can find out more about Viable Paradise.

Uncle Jim

Hah!

Dawno

I think you just answered it! lol!

Uncle Jim

Answered that one before you asked!

Birol

Uncle Jim is good. ;)

Dawno

You're psychic as well as smart!

Uncle Jim

Also devilishly handsome.

MacAllister

There are nifty VP graphics you can use to link your own blog or site, too. :)

Dawno

What would you say to someone who wanted to start a new fiction publication or ezine?

Uncle Jim

http://www.sff.net/paradise/images/BlueHeadline.gif

Looking for more.

Birol

We'll let you. Meanwhile, Dawno can make funny faces at the audience.

Dawno

*-*

8-*

that's what I meant

8o)

And now for a musical interlude ::please imagine your favorite song::

Birol

No. Please. Not singing.

Uncle Jim

There are more, I'll post 'em in the Learn Writing thread. They aren't very important as a use of everyone's time here.

Dawno

We have a question pending about how to get more info on ViableParadise and a couple more in queue.

Uncle Jim

Go to the VP website. http://www.viableparadise.com (http://www.viableparadise.com/)

Which re-directs to here: http://www.sff.net/paradise/

Dawno

Meanwhile with less than 15 minutes, will you have time to answer a couple more questions?

Chac would like you to say a few words about building an non-fiction platform.

Uncle Jim

Oh, goodness. That's something on the order of this: If you already are a chef with your own TV cooking show, you can probably sell a cookbook. That's all that platform is. What makes you the expert? Why would someone come to you for non-fiction? Why are you the expert?

It isn't always necessary to have a platform. For example, our own Underthecity, wrote a book about a subway system. What's his platform? None. It's his publisher's reputation for putting out good non-fiction on esoterica subjects that gives him his sales.

Dawno

I'm not sure that I caught the answer to the question about starting a new fiction pub or ezine - if you did, sorry!

Uncle Jim

Nope, didn't catch it. But my advice is: don't do it.

Dawno

Our next question is: Did anyone mentor you when you were a new writer?

Uncle Jim

The answer is: no. Unless you count my beloved wife, who wasn't published either. The writing world is small. You eventually get to meet most of the folks in it.

Dawno

Do you still have any times of doubt or blocks as a writer? (other than the mid book thing)

Uncle Jim

Times of doubt? On a daily basis. Every single day I wonder if maybe it'll all go away, or if today will be the day the editors will realize that I've been faking it all along.

So what can I do? I keep faking it.

Dawno

Dawno wants to know will you be at LACon?

Uncle Jim

No, that's a bit out of my range.

Dawno

Oh well. :-)

Uncle Jim

I mostly stay in the Northeast.

Dawno

yall would like to know where you get your story ideas.

Uncle Jim

Me, I play Mix 'n Match, then file off the serial numbers. For example, mix and match Sweeney Todd with Beauty and the Beast. Then set it in a small New England town in 1863. There you go! New story!

Dawno

:-) I seem to recall a recent exercise in Learn Writing that was along those lines ... HConn asks "how do you research a novel?"

Uncle Jim

I research a novel by going to the library and reading every word they have on the subject. Here's how I know I'm ready. I imagine I'm a contestant on Jeopardy. And the category is Whatever The Subject Of My Novel Is About. And I get a Daily Double. And before the answer (to which I must find the question is revealed), I look ol' Alex Trebec in the eye, and say "All of it, Alex. Every penny." If I can do that, I've researched the novel enough.

I once wrote a novel set in gangland Chicago. Prohibition. I know what day of the week Bugs Moran got out of jail (he was in for breaking and entering). I also know what brand of cigarettes Bugs Moran smoked. And I know where Johnny Torrio is buried, and I know what's in his mausoleum. Are any of those things in the novel? No, they aren't. But I know them.

Dawno

Which brand? :-)

Uncle Jim

Clown brand.

Dawno

Not something you can find today.

Well, I see it's past the half hour - Birol?

Birol

And based on backstage conversation, I believe there's no more questions in the queue either?

Dawno

Nope...ok, Birol - stage is yours again.

Birol

Jim, I see your audience is starting to shift in their seats. I'm going to open up the room for conversation again and let everyone say their good-byes.

Uncle Jim

You've been a lovely audience! Don't forget to tip your waitress! I recommend the chef's special!

Dawno

*applaud, applaud*

Uncle Jim

I'll be here all week!

(general banter and hubbub as the audience thanks Jim)

Birol

Thanks so much for doing this, Jim.

Uncle Jim

No problem.

And I'm happy to report that no one in town appears to have had a heart attack over the past hour and a half.

Dawno

albedo! I forgot that question for you!! :-( I'm sorry.

Uncle Jim

What question?

Dawno

albedo wanted to ask if he could buy you another beer.

Uncle Jim

Sure! Whatever's on tap, except Lite.

ChunkyC
10-08-2006, 08:26 PM
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A transcript of the chat with Liam follows (edited for continuity and clarity):


Birol

Hello, All. Welcome once again to a scheduled chat, the first in a few months. For that I apologize. Tonight’s treat, er guest, is AW’s own Liam Jackson. For those who aren’t familiar with him, I’ll try to embarrass him with a proper introduction in just a sec. First, let’s get back to the whole lack of a monthly chat thing.

I do apologize for letting the chats slide by the wayside, because I know everyone enjoyed them. We are going to start them up again, but not with me at the helm. Our own Julia Temlyn, who has served as the MC for a good number of these, is going to take over the organization. Please thank her when you get the opportunity. I know she has my gratitude.

Now, just let me take a deep breath and go through all the technical stuff real quick before introducing Liam. Given the number of people attending, I have moderated the chat. This means voice capabilities are deactivated and you will not be able to type directly into the main room. Except for those few of you who can, you know, like our guest. ;) Should you have any problems, you may contact me, ChunkyC, or Peter.

PM Julia with any questions you have for Liam. Please don’t be shy. Ask lots.

We have found that people are prone to timing out during chats. To prevent this, find a PM partner, maybe the person just above or below you in the list of names, and send them an occasional comment in order to remain active. To PM, or Private Message, someone, double-click on their name in the list at the right. A new window will open. Please do not PM Liam, no matter how much he begs you to.

*whew* With that out of the way, let’s get Liam introduced.

This is probably the most difficult introduction I’ve ever written for one of these, not just because there is so much that can be said about Liam, but because he is such a good friend not to just me but to so many of us on AW.

There are the basics: He has had a career in law enforcement and the military and is married to a wonderful woman named Jo who makes him watch TV with guinea pigs. (I understand the guinea pigs get control of the remote.)

Liam

*nods*

Birol

Recently in the world of publishing – he signed a multi-book contract with St. Martin’s Press. The first book of that contract, Offspring: The Call, was released this week, and has been making the Amazon numbers go up and down ever since.

With that, I don’t know what else to say without dominating the evening myself, so let’s turn the stage over to Liam and Julia.

JuliaTemlyn

Thank you, Lori! And thank you for the kind comments about the future of AW chats. I'm looking forward to being a part of this!

Welcome, Liam! How are ya doing this evening?

Liam

Doing well, thanks!

JuliaTemlyn

Wonderful!

Liam

At least all the major parts are still working.

JuliaTemlyn

Ha ha!

Liam

And I appreciate the opportunity to get together with so many I admire from the boards.

JuliaTemlyn

I for one am so excited about the release of your book. Did you time it just around Halloween, though a bit early? That may be a silly question, but I can't help but wonder about the spooky supernatural nature of the story.

Liam

We decided last year to time it for Halloween ... but I postponed the release for personal reasons.

JuliaTemlyn

Ahh, I see.

Liam

This is my last year as a guv'ment rat, so the timing works out well.

JuliaTemlyn

Wow! Would you mind expanding on that a bit? I know there are some who are probably curious about your role.

Liam

*groan* I almost hate the utter the words “Weapons of Mass Destruction detection and mitigation.”

JuliaTemlyn

Well, you don't have to. :o)

How about telling us a bit about your book, to start off?

Liam

Well, this may violate all the rules of marketing, but CAVEAT LECTOR: if dark fantasy doesn't do it for you, dont buy it.

The premise is pretty simple; using mulitple religions, I drew from the belief/mythos that angels mated with humans as interpretd by some in the Old Testament. These Offspring play an inportant part in the pivitol "End of Days", a free for all between the Host of Heaven, the Fallen, Legion and mankind.

If the answer seems trite, or lacking just say, "WTF?" and I'll try to explain.

JuliaTemlyn

I've heard it compared to something like a Frank Peretti book, but I gather it's darker.

Liam

I've never read Peretti but I have talked with him ... it seems Offspring was a little violent for his taste, though the premises of our works are close enough.

JuliaTemlyn

Ah, I see. Do you have any religious background that inspired it?

Liam

No actual experience, but rather an interest in how various religions treat the same subject matter. It was fun to mix and match the various ideological themes and mythos.

JuliaTemlyn

That really is interesting, to take one subject and view it from various religious theories and views.

Liam

I had a blast playing with the concept of Sithra Akhra, a plane of existence in fringe Hebrew lore that states this plane is the origin of Legion and so far removed from God, they won't even acknowledge His (Her?) existence. A fiction writer's dream to find or create a setting like that.

There is one inherent problem with borrowing from mainstream and fringe religion: to some, you'll never, ever get it right. And unlike epic fantasy fans who just gripe, people get seriously bent when you play with religion.

JuliaTemlyn

Excellent, that leads to our next question....

Liam

Please forgive the typos ... I'm loosing another wrestling match to the Australian Cattledog ... losing, too.

JuliaTemlyn

No problem! I just caught one of mine, too.

Birol

(We'll have Charlie edit out the typos in the log. Really. ;) )

JuliaTemlyn

In the same vein of your last thought ... are you looking forward to being banned by the religious right?

Liam

lol ... I'm hoping that they realize this is just a story ... they don't have to like it, or agree with it ... just respect the fact that it presents another view. I'm not sure Offspring will make a dent on anyone's moral radar. Then again, I think some moral radars could benefit from an occasional dent.

JuliaTemlyn

It sure sounds like it's thought provoking, and I'd hope people would read it with an open mind.

Shweta asks: I'm wondering whether the multiple religions are all Judeo-Christian?

Liam

In the first book, yes. In the second and third books, other world religions become very prominent. By the time the second trilogy starts, the characters are thinking more in terms of Universial Truth as opposed to religious dogma.

JuliaTemlyn

Interesting!

Liam

I hope so :)

JuliaTemlyn

Draco asks: How did you choose your name for the characters? What was your chosen methodology if any?

Liam

I actually pulled the names from people I've known and were very close to in real life. A former partner and fallen comrade served as inspirations for two of the MCs. I stayed with traditional names for the angels mentioned in various religious text. The MC Sam Conner is the lone exception. He's EveryKid, growing into EveryMan ... mediocre in every way ... well, except in one way :)

Maybe I should add ... that's the theme of the entire book: that ordinary people usually aren't as ordinary as they appear ... layered like onions and sometimes you have to strip away a few layers to find what truly lies beneath and what you find might just surprise the hell of out ya.

The other theme is that humanity for all its flaws is extremely resilient in the face of overwhelming adversity. Never count out the human race, no matter the gloom and doomsayers.

JuliaTemlyn

Macallister couldn't be here, but she sent along a question: What part surprised you most, of the whole process of selling your first book, and then getting it out?

Liam

Heh ... like I posted on my website, I was too ignorant of the whole process to be too surprised. But one thing sticks out; as a raw newb, I heard all the war stories about old hacks seeing new blood as "the competition" and they would either ignore you, try to derail you, or brow-beat you into submission. And the truth is, there are a lot of very experienced people who really believe in the pay it forward attitude. I was a little taken aback by the number of published authors willing to share experience.

JuliaTemlyn

That's very encouraging to those of us yet unpublished.

batyler65 asks: Which character in Offspring do you identify with the most?

Liam

One might assume it's the college jock turned cop :) but I think I most identify with the kid, Sam.

JuliaTemlyn

How so, if you don't mind sharing?

Liam

He's vulnerable in some ways, gritty in others, observant and distrusting until he sees a reason to trust. Once you have his trust, he'd walk across a parking lot of broken glass on his hands and knees for you.

JuliaTemlyn

batyler65 also asks: How long did it take to research the religious elements of the books?

Liam

Hard to answer. Its always been a hobby of mine, comparative religions, but I didn't really begin a serious study until the year I decided to finish the book. Research took about 6 months, and several, several midnight conversations with the Incorrigibles.

JuliaTemlyn

The Incorrigibles?

Liam

The Incorrigibles are my ideal readers and did the beta work on two of my books. Once you know their names you'll understand the attribution, a motley lot of whip snappers and task masters.

JuliaTemlyn

lol

Liam

Lori, Barb, Mac, and Ray (Maestro) were with me from start to finish on the project.

JuliaTemlyn

Ahh, that makes more sense now. ;o)

Birol

At least one of us is eagerly awaiting the sequel to Offspring. It's far better than what my professors assign.

Liam

Charlie and Rtilyarms also weighed in on the early chapters and Jim MacDonald provided some very good suggestions for book two.

ChunkyC

I'm tellin' Mac you said she was motley, Liam.

Liam

She knows, Charlie ... remember, she invited Uncle Cletus ;) invented, rather. And Barb ... well, we've all seen pics of Bud in the hot tub.

JuliaTemlyn

lol

TsukiRyoko asks something in a similar vein: How long did it take you to write the book?

Liam

Six months to write, a year to edit (thanks to my publisher *grumble, grumble*)

Another lesson learned. Eds aren't the control freaks that most of us hear about. We did have some rounds over keeping or losing a character and they wanted more violence when I thought I had already killed off enough chars to populate a 51st state. In hindsight, it was a pretty painless experience. The only battle I lost was over the cover.

JuliaTemlyn

Medievalist and jdkiggins have similar questions: When you began writing Offspring did you know you would have enough material for three books? And were all three books plotted out in advance? (And you must expand about the cover too!)

Liam

A tiny bit of backstory here....

Twice in my life I've been in a hospital for longer than two days. The first time, I wrote the outline and much of the book and I did it out of sheet boredom. I had no intentions of publishing a book. I was flat on my back while the bones in my chest and shoulder knitted and I needed a diversion. Telling myself stories was the diversion. I was more surprised than anyone when I finally counted the words and found I had written a 400k+ "short story.”

JuliaTemlyn

emmanuel_goldstein asks: What insights have your career in the military and in law enforcement given you into the human condition, and do you find that that the harsh realities inherent in those careers has made you more empathetic toward your characters, or do you find cynicism creeping in sometimes?

Liam

(anyone want a good deal on an Australian cattledog?)

Good question, and no easy answer. We'll start will human condition.

First, no one calls the marines, the army, or the police when they're having a GOOD day. Generally, you only see the worst case scenarios in those jobs and that can't but help jade your mindset to a degree. I've seen humanity as its most compassionate and heroic and at its monstrous worst. I worked Child Sex Crimes unit for a short time, it almost broke me. I'm not hardwired to deal with the victims and I think it shows in the way I handled some of the violence in the book.

As far as the characters and empathy, thats a funny equation. Yes, I was empathetic ... all the while I was pouring more misery on them. However, I always left a light at the end of the tunnel ... they just had to find it for themselves.

Birol

Liam, if I can interrupt for a moment,

Liam

Sure.

Birol

I put you on the calendar for an hour and a half, the hour part of which is up.

Liam

We need to quit early?

Birol

I know that Julia has more than a half hour of questions lined up though -- HA! More like stay longer or Julia needs to start doing a hard sort on questions.

Liam

I'll stay as long as people have comments or questions ... sorta like a book ... sure as hell don't want to bore anyone ;)

Birol

I'm not seeing any danger of that. Okay, need to stretch or a bio break since we're at the hour mark?

Liam

Take five?

Birol

Five it is.

Birol

Everyone smoke 'em if you got 'em. Let us know when' you're back.

Liam

*groan* you said that "bio" word!

Birol

lol

Jenna's asked me to voice the room and let everyone mill about while LJ is gone.

[I]*general milling about in the lobby, with much discussion about a topic the subject of which requested not be included in the transcript....*

Birol

Sorry to break up the party, but our host tells me he's succeeded in getting the cattle dog out of the chair so he can come back. If everyone could resume their virtual seats, I'll get Shweta to remod the room.

* Birol leaves the stage.

JuliaTemlyn

btw, nevada volunteered to take the dog, Liam. :o)

Liam

Send me an address.

JuliaTemlyn

Ha ha! Okay, back to some questions....

We want to know more about the cover, since you mentioned it earlier. Medievalist asks: Liam, what do you like best about your cover?

Liam

I like the concept, not at all crazy about the actual art. Marketing out voted me, so that was that. It DOES do a nice job of conveying the message of the angelic bloodline thats invisible or inert until time of crisis. Other than that ... blech! ;) Like the editor told me; you're not paid to critique artwork ... go write another book. Soooo ... I did. :)

JuliaTemlyn

jdkiggins asks: You're at a book signing and a woman says, "I don't read fantasy or religion. Tell me what will make me want to read your book." What will you tell her?

Liam

Religion is a side plot, fantasy is only relevant if you don't believe in the existence of demons and angels. However, if you don't, it's still a pretty good suspense yarn and if you dont like suspense, well, the self-help section is right over there.

JuliaTemlyn

Ha!

Liam

Not much else I could say lol.

The Pub markets the story as a thriller. That was another very short battle. It's kinda funny, when marketing calls my home, they talk about HWA (ed note: Horror Writers of America) nominations, and when the editor calls, he refers to it as a "thriller", while a very close friend in the publishing business calls it a supernatural epic. So, I really have no idea what genre it falls into.

JuliaTemlyn

Jenna wonders what you wanted it categorized as?

Liam

Barnes and Noble stuck it in mainstream fiction. I almost swallowed my tongue on THAT one.

JuliaTemlyn

Wow, that's all a broad range!

Liam

Supernatural thriller is as close as I can figure, with horror coming in a close second. Amazon placed it in the thriller category, too.

JuliaTemlyn

Just out of curiosity, is it not for the squeamish? I always wonder when I hear "horror."

Liam

Julia, this goes back to what I said about being a poor marketer. I tell people real quick, there are only 5-6 violent scenes in the story, but they're graphic. I figured if I was going to show "good" in all its glory, I needed to remain true and show "evil" in all its depravity. Maybe not a good idea ... we'll see.

JuliaTemlyn

TrainofThought asks: Which writers inspire you?

Liam

Early Stephen King, and later collaborations with Peter Straub ... Straub may be the most underrated horror superstar of all time. Jack Ketchum, brilliant writer. Cussler as a thriller author. Crichton because he's so intelligent he's spooky.

If you haven't read Straub's Ghost Story, treat yourself this Halloween *grins*

JuliaTemlyn

Liam, have you figured out what's up with the mods' user titles and sigs yet? ;)

Liam

Only that there's a conspiracy to paint my sig in fuschia :)

JuliaTemlyn

lol

Lori, care to expound?

* Birol fails to look innocent.

JuliaTemlyn

Or maybe you should go into AW and look, Liam....

Liam

I'm afraid to. Very afraid.

Birol

This one was not my primary doing or sole doing. Let's just say that we're letting our true natures show in our titles and in our own sigs.

Liam

Oh lawd! Save us from Lori and company. Amen.

(ed note: to honor Liam and his book, nearly a dozen of the admins and mods had changed the titles under their names to the names of various fallen angels and demons ... two days before this chat.)

* Birol bows respectfully in Liam's direction.

I've had a good mentor.

Liam

Well, there is that. Any other questions?

JuliaTemlyn

jdkiggins had one more that goes along ... if we have time?

Liam

You bet!

JuliaTemlyn

jdkiggins: What are the proposed deadlines for the sequels? And how close are you to meeting the deadline for the second?

Liam

Heh ... deadline for the second book was ninety days. The third is one year.

JuliaTemlyn

Wow!

Liam

It's about the release schedules. The major pubs plot two releases a year; spring and fall. So, depending on when you sell your book, you may have six months to finish the draft and all the edits. Or ... you can negotiate a release for the following year. You can ask for extensions and many times, you can get them, but again, it all depends on the release schedule.

I know many writers spend years working on that first book. Unless you're JK Rowling or King, you wont have that liberty for the second book. You've heard Uncle Jim and others say "start immediately on the next book?” Most excellent advice :)

If you're a fiction author, and unless you're very talented and VERY fortunate, you'll likely enter into a career as a midlist author. And if that happens, the key to earning a living is multiple titles in print, so stay busy.

JuliaTemlyn

Thank you so much, Liam!

Liam

My pleasure.

JuliaTemlyn

We appreciate you going overtime with our questions, and just being here tonight!

Liam

I really appreciate the opportunity and the turnout ... simply awesome ... thanks again.

Pthom
08-20-2007, 05:44 AM
The chat was to feature author BILL FITZHUGH, speaking on the topic: Characters and Characterizations: Making a Lasting Impression Through the People Populating Your World.


Bill Fitzhugh was there,* Guest has joined #absolutewrite

Several members
hi Guest

Guest
Hello.

Shwebb
Good to see you here, Guest. Would you like to have a name in here?

Guest
Thanks. Nice to be seen.

Shwebb
You can type "/nick yourname" "Yourname" being whatever you want us to call you.

Guest
How about Bill?

^Fingers^
type /nick bill

Guest
Wouldn't 'Bill' be easier?

Festus
Bill as in Bill Fitzhugh?

Guest
As in.

Peter
Welcome, Bill.
Folks, we'll let Bill get himself settled in, then we'll start the chat.

* Guest is now known as Bill

Bill
Ahhhh
but did not have a prepared talk, opting instead to answer questions from those present. The result follows:

Peter
Welcome to the Absolute Write chat room.

Bill
Thanks. Glad to be here

Peter
well, it's close enough to 9:00 PM for me...let's get started.
Folks, the chatroom is now moderated and we begin the August event, a visit with Bill Fitzhugh

Peter
Bill Fitzhugh is the award-winning author of seven satiric crime novels. The New York Times called Fitzhugh “a strange and deadly amalgam of screenwriter and comic novelist. His facility and wit, and his taste for the perverse, put him in a league with Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.” His novels Pest Control and Cross Dressing are in development at Warner Brothers and Universal Studios respectively. Reviewing his last novel, Highway 61 Resurfaced, Time Magazine said, “Fitzhugh’s dialogue is as cool as a pitcher of iced tea, and his characters are just over the top, like a Carl Hiaasen cast plucked from the Everglades and planted, as Dylan would put it, out on Highway 61.”

Since publication of Radio Activity, Fitzhugh has been writing, producing, and hosting a weekly show on XM Satellite Radio’s Deep Tracks channel called “Fitzhugh’s All Hand Mixed Vinyl.” He is one of only three outside hosts on Deep Tracks.

Bill
You know you haven't 'made it' when reviewers have to compare you to people who have...

Peter
The other two: Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Fitzhugh is currently working on two book projects: The Exterminators, the sequel to Pest Control and The Adventures of Slim and Howdy a fiction project based on the alter egos of country superstars, Brooks and Dunn that will be published in May of 2008. Canum Entertainment has just optioned the rights to develop Pest Control into a stage musical for Broadway.
Peter

Fitzhugh’s books have been translated into German, Japanese, and Italian. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, three dogs, and a cat named Crusty Boogers.

Bill
He has a sinus infection
the cat, that is.
Not Peter

Peter
my apologies for pasting in the previously posted bio, but it's all I have by way of introduction
Bill, I understand you have some words prepared for us?

Bill
You understand wrong.

Peter
Oh
[here, your intrepid staff frantically scrambled to come up with some questions for Mr. Fitzhugh]

Bill
Unless you count my books

Peter
do you have any unprepared?

Bill
Glad to answer questions
Don't have a sermon to give

Peter
All right. Then let's see if we can't get some ready for you. Those attending are welcome to ask Bill questions. Post them in PM message to ChaosTitan

Peter
While you're doing that, I have one from Tig.

Bill
hit me

Peter
Tig asks: Have you always wanted to write in this genre? And part two: Do you plan to venture into other genres?

Bill
I never gave a thought to writing a novel until I read an article in the LA TImes about a screenwriter who had a good script he couldn't sell. He turned it into a novel and then sold both film and publishing rights.

I had a screenplay (Pest Control) that I knew was good, so I decided to try writing a novel. Otherwise, I've just been trying to write comedy in various mediums for years.

I moved to LA to write sitcoms. Didn't have much luck, tried screenplays, had less luck. Tried novels, and had lotsa luck.

As to other genres...I don't think I could write a 'straight' novel. Also -- I never considered my first novels to be crime or mystery novels but they were embraced by the mystery reading community, so who am I to argue?

ChaosTitan
Festus asks: Do you have an agent and if so, did you have trouble finding one?

Bill
Yes and no. I do have an agent but getting my first one was tough. I got about 136 rejections for Pest Control. Agent 137 (Jimmy Vines) loved it, took it on, sold the film rights and the publishing right in several countries. Jimmy recently retired. So I had to find a new agent. I called my pal G.M. Ford who immediately hooked me up with his agent at Aaron Priest Lit Agency.

ChaosTitan
Fingers asks: What was the common reason for so many rejections?

Bill
Rejections?

ChaosTitan
136 rejections for Pest Control

Bill
Well, it wasn't an obvious best seller. Comic crime novels, it turns out, are notoriously difficult to sell. Both to publishers and to the public. I think this is because comedy is more subjective than thrillers or horror or other genres.

ChaosTitan
Jed asks: After so many rejections, did he ever get down hearted and feel like packing it in?

Bill
Boy howdy. Severe depression. But what're you gonna do? I'm not going to get hired for any job I'd want to do the rest of my life. My 'day job' in LA was working as a paralegal, summarizing depositions. Fine for the short term but not the long. I considered law school but just couldn't pull the trigger. So I kept at it....

ChaosTitan
A few people ask: What kept you going after so many rejections, and did you ever considering POD or vanity presses to get your work out there?

Bill
POD and vanity weren't as prevalent when I started. But I never considered doing it even though I knew it existed. I wanted to be published by a big house or not at all. Knowing about distribution and the work and money involved in doing it yourself made that choice easy.

ChaosTitan
Following up an earlier statement, Peter asks: What is a "straight" novel?

Bill
By 'straight' I mean a standard mystery or thriller.I'm interested in crime and criminals (whether they're street criminals or were elected to office). So my books all involve crime. But I wasn't thinking of that when I started. I just wanted to try writing a novel based on my screenplay (co-written with my long time pal, Matthew Scott Hansen) It happened to involve assassins (and assassin bugs). Many people get killed. Little did I know that that put me in the mystery/thriller genre.

ChaosTitan
Chaos asks: When beginning a new novel, do you start with the characters or the concept?

Bill
With the exception of The Adventures of Slim and Howdy, I've always started with the story, usually a weird scenario into which I drop my characters.

I like to put normal people into abnormal situations and watch what happens.

ChaosTitan
Shwebb asks: What makes a character memorable without making them seem like a cartoon?

Bill
Well, that's tough to answer. In fact the answer is different for different readers.

I'd say some of my characters might fairly be characterized as cartoonish, in much the same way as Congress.

But just because they're cartoonish doesn't mean they're one dimensional.

I've read many a book with characters who weren't portrayed as cartoonish but who are so banal as to be totally un-memorable.

ChaosTitan
Maji asks: What has been your favorite character to date, and which one was the hardest to write/create?

Bill
Arty in The Organ Grinders has a special place in my heart. And the four bluesmen in Highway 61 Resurfaced (Blind Buddy Cotton, Crippled Willie Jefferson, Crazy Earl Tate, and Pigfoot Morgan) came out especially well.

wait

Hardest to write?
I've got no answer for that.

ChaosTitan
Tjwriter and Tig ask: Do characters come to you fully or do you have to flesh them out after you've dumped into the scenario? If you have to flesh them out, what's your process? Do you use traits from people you know in real life?

Bill
Definitely flesh them out as I go. I always have to go back to my early chapters to polish characters because I figure stuff out about them as the story progresses.
The process?

ChaosTitan
Writing process. Routine?

Bill
No process per se. You just find stuff out about them as you go along. I do use traits from people I know and some I don't, frequently imagining how people are....

ChaosTitan
Going along with the theme, maji asks: How much research do you do to create the fundimentals of the charaters. The psyches?

Bill
I do most of my research on the world where the story takes place (biotech, pest control, the country music recording industry, politics, etc). I let the characters 'flow' from that. I suspect my psych degree helps with some of the character development. But I don't (I never have) create elaborate resumes for my characters before I start writing them.

ChaosTitan
Peter asks: Do you have any specific advice for writing comedy? Is writing comedy as the main genre different, in your opinion, than writing a humorous scene in an otherwise "straight" story?

Bill
My specific advice for writing anything, comedy inclued, is to marry well.

I attend lots of mystery/thriller conventions and all those guys (Lee Child, Gregg Hurwitz, Michael Connelly, etc) all talk about how they could never write comedy because it is so much more difficult than what they do. It's one thing to put a 'wise crack' into your character's mouth but it's something else alltogether to write, say, A Confederacy of Dunces. On the other hand, I don't think I can write what they do. I see the absurd or the comic in just about everything. I can't ignore it.

Not sure if that answers the question.

ChaosTitan
nevada asks: What is your daily writing routine?

Bill
Pot of coffee. Turn on computer. Read email and the news. Go over whatever I wrote the day before, then continue the story. Frequent interruptions to check email and look at Amazon ratings. Internet is a curse and blessing. I will stop writing to research arcane but related subject matter and get lost for hours.

I usually write all day. At night I'll go to my studio to smoke a cigar and look at the big picture of my story. During the day, I'm worried about the trees. At night I consider the forest.

ChaosTitan
Do you actually edit the previous day's work as you go, or do you simply revisit to remind yourself where you left off?

Bill
I edit every line as I go. I'll take days to write a scene, rewrite it several times, then rewrite again the next day. I don't move on to the next scene until I'm satisfied with the current one. My friend Christopher Moore says he writes his all at once, then goes back and rewrites. I can't work like that.

ChaosTitan
Do you outline, and if so, how in depth are they? Do you plan the whole project out or shoot from the hip?

Bill
I've written 3 novels that started as screenplays, so to that extent, they were based on thorough outlines. The others, I've had general ideas of the story but allow things to change as I go along. Sticking to a preconcieved notion for the sake of sticking to it seems like a bad idea. But I like to have some idea where I'm going so I don't paint myself into a corner.

ChaosTitan
Shwebb asks: How long does it take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Bill
So far, anywhere from a year and a half to about 7 months. Next year's Adventures of Slim and Howdy was the quickest. Might have had something to do with the fact that I was laid up in bed with a broken fibula and recovering from surgery. And the fact that the contract called for a MS of approx. 75,000 words where all my previous contracts called for approx. 100,000 words

ChaosTitan
Misslissy asks: what is your best advice to younger writers?

Bill
Damn, I've already used my 'marry well' joke....Still, it doesn't hurt. But seriously folks....

Write. Write. Write. Read a lot. Pay attention to how writers you admire, do what they do. Reread sentences and paragraphs and see how they do it. It takes me a LONG time to read fiction because I'm always analyzing how the writer did something.

ChaosTitan
QueenB asks: How many stories have gone the other way, from novel to screenplay? Is that more difficult since so much has to be left out?

Bill
I've only tried that once. I wrote a screenplay based on The Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love and God Save the Sweet Potato Queens. And it came out great. BUT-- It never went anywhere for reasons I can't go into here. Still, it was quite an easy adaptation because Jill Conner Browne created so many great scenes and dialogue. Plus I've known Jill for years and I felt I knew the 'character' well. The SPQ's are nonfiction. I've never tried to adapt a novel to a screenplay. I imagine it would be much more difficult. But with what you can get paid for doing it, I'd take the gig.

ChaosTitan
Tig asks: With two of your books at Warner, are you excited about seeing your characters on the silver screen? Do you have any say in the casting?

Bill
Actually, one's at Warner, the other's at Universal. And I would be quite excited to see the characters on screen if they ever bothered to make them.

But 'development' can be (and is, in my instance) a LONG process. Odds are they will never be made. (something like 1 in 27 projects get made where the underlying cost of the propery was under $300,000 get made; and only 1 in 6 get made when the underlying property cost more than that).

Still, I made more on the front end payments than I ever expected to earn.

ChaosTitan
Several chatters ask: Did you draw inspiration from any other writers, and if so who? Are there any writers you admire?

Bill
Oh, and NO, I have ZERO say in casting. Favorite comedy writers: Carl Hiaasen. The late John Kennedy Toole. David Sedaris. Woody Allen. T.R. Pearson (his novel "Polar" is one of the funniest things I've ever read). I also enjoy reading Lee Child and Michael Connelly -- both terrific thriller/mystery writers. I also admire Elmore Leonard.

ChaosTitan
Gregg asks: Humor I think is one of the toughest genres... do you like writing scenes or dialog better?

Bill
I can't separate the two. Sometimes I love writing the scene (both the action and the dialogue). Other times I hate the work. Some scenes come more easily than others. I like those best.

ChaosTitan
Fingers asks: How difficult was it to get into the xm radio thing and what is the most challenging part of putting together a show?

Bill
That thing just fell into my lap. The program director for the Deep Tracks channel (which plays the sort of music we used to play on FM rock radio) read my novel "Radio Activity" and loved it. Turns out I was toying with the idea of a radio show. So I sent the show, we talked, changed the format, and off we went.

The most challenging part is writing my introductions and backsells of the sets. I don't want them to be just artist and title and album info. I want the writing to be interesting. At least as interesting as the sets I do. It's the best radio gig I've ever had.

Peter
Bill, we've been at this for about an hour, but we are still getting questions from the members. We could go for another fifteen minutes if you're willing.

Bill
Sure.

Peter
Great, thanks.

ChaosTitan
Gregg asks: Clive Cussler is suing his studio about how they made SAHARA... How would you feel if your book was totally changed from the original to the screenplay?

Bill
Depends. Improved or screwed up? It's really a no-lose situation. If they make it better than the book I'll just say, "I wrote that." IF they screw it up, I'll say, "You should read the book. It's better." Either way, they have to send lots more money. And the book will sell more regardless. But in truth, you'd hate to see your idea really screwed up.

Still, it's like selling a car. You can't complain if the buyer paints it pink and jacks up the back end. You sold it to them so they could do whatever they wanted.

ChaosTitan
Jed asks: At what point during writing your novels do you come up with the title? and has an agent/publisher ever advised you to change it?

Bill
With the adaptations of the screenplays, I started with the title. Though Cross Dressing was originally Altar Ego. Then someone else publshed a book with that title so I had to change it. My pal Geoff Young came up with Cross Dressing in 10 minutes over pizza.

The Organ Grinders was originally called Xenograft, Inc. But my friend Victor Hawkins said (a) terrible title and (b) Organ Grinders was a bit of dialogue in the book and worked better as a title. Never had an agent / publisher advise me to change a title though.

ChaosTitan
The queue is empty, Bill. Thank you so much. :)

Shwebb
Bill, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. You've been engaging, entertaining, and patient. I'm sure you've gained some new readers because of this evening, and we look forward to seeing your work developed into a different medium. As long as they read the book first, of course, since it's better!

Bill
Thanks for inviting me.

Peter
Yes, thanks for your time, Bill. If you care to hang around, I'll open the room to general chat...and the buffet table is open.

ChaosTitan
We were glad to have you, and thanks to the members who posed questions.

Jed
Thanks for your time, Bill, I really enjoyed this chat

[here, profuse thanks from the audience.]

Bill
Thanks guys.

[here, approximately ten minutes of idle chatter and more thanks from the audience.]

Bill
Thanks everybody. Must go walk the dogs and make dinner ...
Adios.

ChaosTitan
Thanks again, Bill.

Peter
Thanks again, Bill. Be well.

* Bill has quit IRC

Pthom
03-31-2009, 02:14 AM
FPeter
Happy St. Patrick's Day and welcome to the Absolute Write Live Chat.

Now, to introduce tonight's guest, here is MacAllister Stone, owner of Absolute Write.

MacAllister
Hi, everyone, and welcome! I'll keep this brief, because we're all here for the same reason -- and it's not to watch Mac type. Heh.

It's my privilege to introduce Elizabeth Bear, our guest this evening. Bear has written many more short stories than I can count on my all fingers and toes, and a bunch of novels, besides. She's won a Hugo, and several other notable awards.

She's a prolific blogger and writes online for Shadow Unit, Tor.com, and Storytellers Unplugged. She's a terrific example of the fortitude, intelligence, and sheer stubbornness required to write professionally.

Also, I like her a heck of a lot and she's a very cool person to have a beer or three with. Please join me as soon as Peter opens everyone's voices again, in extending a very warm AW welcome to Elizabeth Bear.

* Ebear has joined #AbsoluteWrite

* Peter sets mode -m

* Cheers and applause *

Ebear
Hello all

* More cheers and applause *

Ebear
I'm overjoyed to be here.

MacAllister If we're ready, we can move along with the question parts, and mix a bit more after?

Peter
Sounds good. Closing the chat room now for the formal interview.

* Peter sets mode +m

Birol
Well, that was quite the warm welcome, wasn't it, Bear? Is it okay if I call you Bear? Or do you prefer Elizabeth? We didn't cover that backstage.

Ebear
Bear is fine. *g* It sorts me out from all the other Elizabeths.

Birol
Good. It's how I've gotten accustomed to thinking of you in my head. :)

How did you get the nickname Bear?

Ebear
It's what my friends call me.

Oh, complicated story. My legal name is Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky. I cut off the ends because they didn't fit on a book jacket. *g*

Birol
LOL. Always have to keep those book jackets in mind.

We had some people who weren't able to make it tonight, but they sent some questions along ahead.

Ebear
So in RL, people either call me Sarah or Bear, and in fandom, Bear.

Birol
Gotcha.

Ebear
(I'm totally ready for questions)

Birol
I thought we might start with one or two of those offline questions while Jed sorts out the others I hope he is receiving.

Maxmordon wanted to know: What would you recommend for young and unpublished authors--seek a stable job first, or take time off to pursue writing what they love?

Ebear
Oh, wow. That's a hard one. The thing is... you gotta eat. But frankly, I was kind of a failure at everything else I tried. I'm not real good at the corporate thing.So I worked for a lot of little nonprofits and small businesses that went underand got laid off a lot.

It was actually during the last layoff, after 9/11, when I got really obsessive about the writing and eventually found a good group of fellow travelers...and broke into print professionally.You do what you have to do, I think--I know good writers who are ER docs.And if you can do that and find time to write, you can do anything and find time to write.

Birol
Thank you.That gives a lot to ponder.

Ebear
You have to set your own goals based on your life, you know?

Birol
Personally, do you recommend the getting laid off a lot thing? ;-)

Ebear
Lots of ski bums work retail so they can take time off, and live cheap.(I'd say, Embrace Poverty.)

Birol
I'll keep that in mind.Moving on, our next questioner would prefer to remain anonymous.Some of them are shy like that,but this one has obviously been following publishing news because they want to know:

With recent news stories about tougher standards on things like imported manga, is there anything you'd refuse to write about? Anything you think simply cannot be handled with enough intelligence and sensitivity to be worthwhile?

Ebear
Oo. The Dangerous Visions question.

I've never had an idea for a story that I thought was good enough that I chose not to write because I thought it was too edgy. And some of my favorite stories of my own or others are really about uncomfortable topics.

There's an Akira Kurosawa quote that's on the wall over my computer: "To be an artist means never to avert one's eyes."

I think if you tell the truth, and you try to be honest about it rather than just going for the splatter or the shock value, then every topic is fair game.

Sensationalism, however, is not art.

Birol
Do you feel, then, that it is a writer's job to hold up a mirror to society?

Ebear
I think it's a writer's job to tell the truth.

Birol
*nods*

Ebear
I'm not a big fan of didactic literature, but I do think it's incumbent on all of us to ask hard questions.

Maybe questions that don't have answers.

And point out things that are off.

Birol
Ah. That's interesting and I like that. Moving forward to some questions we've received since our interview started, Dermit would like to know: As an author with both Sci-fi and Fantasy publications, which genre do you think is more difficult for an aspiring author to tap into?

Ebear
Well, to me, they're really marketing categories. I'm a lumper rather than a splitter, and as I say that, somewhere Kim Stanley Robinson is shaking his head and wondering why he feels unwell...

I don't see as much philosophical difference between them as many do. However, comma, I will say that I think it's a heck of a lot easier to sell a good SF story than a good fantasy story. Because there aren't as many of them. Are we talking novels or short fiction here?

There are probably more pro markets for short SF right now. Straight fantasy second-world short fiction is hard to move.

Dermit
My question was in reference to novels, but of course I'm curious about both.

Ebear
OK. SF is easier to break into, at novel length, because everybody is looking for good SF. The market and the readership is smaller, though. Of course, I don't write on the blockbuster end of fantasy--the Fat Fantasy With Maps and the paranormal romance is where the real sales are--but a really good print run for an SF original hardcover is 5,000. The readership is not big.

OTOH, the Hugos skew heavily to SF. And so does the criticism.

Birol
Well, according to the SyFy channel, the entire SF market is composed of geeks and anti-social adolescents living in their parents' basements and is entirely devoid of women, but I snark.

Ebear
Heh. Well, have you seen what they air? They may have their demo pegged.

Birol
I don't watch it as much since they stopped airing much SF.

Ebear
*nod*

Birol
:) Back on topic, Stonetable is curious about: How long it took you to break into print, from the time you started writing seriously?

Ebear
Oi. OK. I started submitting work when I was a teenager, but it was juvenilia. I was dead serious about it, though. And I'd been writing since second grade or so. 0.0 I got a couple of semipro sales in my twenties.

Birol
=D

Ebear
First professional sales in 2002 (two of them). First novel sale at the end of 2003, when I was... 32?(It was not the first novel I wrote, I probably need not say.)

What was really critical for my development was hooking up with the Bad Poets Society, which is my writing group--a bunch of people who were at about my stage of development as a writerand who taught me professional skills.

Birol
Would you recommend other up-and-coming writers find a writing group to help their growth? If so, what should they look for to find a good one?

Ebear
A good writing group is priceless. A bad one will cripple you.

Birol
Because, you know, as a published novelist, you know all of these things. :)

Ebear
Hee. I got lucky, finding mine.

Ebear
Basically, after I got laid off, I joined the Online Writing Workshop and Speculations Rumor Mill. And found some folks who were a little further along, who mentored me--notably, Charlie Finlay, aka C.C. Finlay, and some other writers who were about where I was, stuck in semipro hell.

Also! The thing that really made a difference was reading a TON of semipro slush. I worked for Abyss & Apex and Ideomancer, and I reviewed a LOT of subs on the OWW. And you know, you learn really fast why some things are just a bad idea that way.(Like the page two infodump.)

Birol
Eh. I've come to hold the belief that all aspiring writers need to spend some time slushing or on the other side of the editor's desk.

Ebear
I think so too.

Birol
It does help you see some of the mistakes in your own writing. Provides perspective.[NOTE TO THE AUDIENCE: Anyone with a 'zine, you just got a whole new batch of prospective beta readers.]

Ebear
(heh)

Birol
Well, Bear said so. ;-)

Ebear
But the question was bad writing groups, too, and--well, hey, if you have people who keep coming back with the same story, over and over, with minor polishing and no real substantive changes, or if it's all mutual admiration, or just slagging each other--or really prescriptive or jealous?

It's like any relationship. If you hate it, it's probably bad for you. If it never makes you think or challenges you, you're probably being lied to.

Birol
Excellent point. Challenges, as frustrating as they can be, are good things.

Now, I, of course, have tons of questions about your writing, but I've also received one or two personal questions. Do you mind if I ask them?

Ebear
uh oh. How personal? *g* Sure, ask away

Birol
You can always so no comment after hearing them.

Ebear
if it's too personal I'll claim the dog needs to go out.

Birol
Well, one is... I'm sure it's a funny story, but let's start with the tamer one...LOL. Bahamut up there wants to know more about your name... particularly...Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where were you born and is your last name Polish?

Ebear
Ukrainian. I'm second-generation Ukrainian and second-generation Swedish, and a bunch of other stuff. I was born in Hartford. It's not the real family name--it's apparently one of the most common Slavic last names, in its many variant forms and my great-grandfather was on the lam when he came here, and gave a false name. We don't know the real one.

BahamutBrat: Interesting.

Ebear
The family legend is that he was a conscript, deserting the Russian army. All I know is he was a Cossack.

Birol
That's fascinating that you know so much of your family history. One of AW's long-term mods also comes from a Ukranian background. He always talks about celebrating Christmas in January.... Did your family keep some of the Old World traditions?

Ebear
Cool! I've had to reclaim any Ukrainian-ness on my own. My family wasn't religious at all. And didn't keep any cultural traditions.(The Swedish side either. Though my Swedish grandfather liked sardines and knackebrot. *g*)

Birol
Our next personal question is from MrTact, whose userid seems to be a misnomer. He would like you to explain how you came to fall off the seawall at Martha's Vineyard?

Ebear
LOL. I didn't fall off the seawall.I fell off the *sidewalk*. It's worse. Um. I was somewhat the worse for alcohol and twisted my bad ankle and went down on my nose. La.

Birol
Bwhahahahahaha. I'm sorry. That was rude of me. *snerk* Bwhahahahaha.

Ebear
Well, see, I had laryngitis, and I was trying to treat it with bourbon so I could sing, and--I'm not making this any better, am I?(NB: Bourbon does not fix laryngitis.)

Birol
It's okay, I'm hearing behind the scenes that you're not the only one to take a tumble around the seawall at MV.

Ebear
So far, I'm 2 for 2 getting sick as a dog at VP. I am going to try not to do that this year. 2007 was sunburn. :-P

Birol
Tact would also like you to know that if you were sensible, both of you acrobats would have been drinking at the hotel with him, where the floors were padded.

Ebear
His logic is impeccable.

Birol
I'm sure it is. *snerk* Okay, back to business, another shy individual would like to know: How much do you read outside the SF genre?

Ebear
Tons. I read a lot of nonfiction, actually. And I have a weakness for sad pretty literary novels like The Remains Of The Day. Right now I'm ready a Terry Pratchett, a book on the gunfight down the street from the O.K. Corral, and a book on medieval huswifery.

Birol
From KittyPryde: I love 'Tideline'! It's like 'The Giving Tree', but with an awesome robot. What was your inspiration for that story?

Ebear
A necklace, actually. Made by Elise Matthesen. It's called "Sinners in the Hands of A Mildly Startled Buddha," and I just kind of knew it had a story in it.

Birol
Too bad you don't have a link to a picture.

Ebear
You know, there might be one on Elise's website. One sec. O look. http://www.flickr.com/photos/batwrangler/2501230569/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/batwrangler/2501230569/)

Birol
*clicking on link along with 40 other people*

Ebear
Hee. Can I kill a conversation or what?

Birol
Oh, wow, that's pretty. Too bad Dawno's not here. She's our mod who beads. That is too bad.

Birol
No, she's pretty good actually. ;-)

MacAllister (Dawno knows Elise - It's okay.)

Ebear
So the metaphor of the necklaces as stories was sort of a natural, given that.

Birol
We have received several questions about how to write in general. During the break, I compiled a few of them together, as they were related....

Birol
Several individuals have asked questions related to your personal writing habits, whether you write by hand or computer, where you write, and what you do to prepare a story for writing?

They would also like to know what you like most about being an author?

Ebear
Oh, I kind of make a fetish out of not establishing rituals. Some writers find them helpful, but I'm always scared that something will happen and I won’t be able to complete the ritual and then, pfft.

So usually I write on my laptop in my futon chair, because it’s comfy. But I also write longhand, or on a desktop computer, and on airplanes. I carry a notebook with me everywhere. I wrote big chunks of a current story during the lousy opening act of a Vienna Teng concert last winter. Writing time is everywhere!

What I like most about the job is, well, just about everything. I mean, the pay sucks, and there's a lot of stress, and it's weird being a sort of (very small) public figure. But I get to tell people stories and--oh, wait, I have a good answer.

Birol
That wasn't a good answer? :)

Ebear
The absolute best part of the job is when I get an email or a blog comment from somebody who my writing has helped in some way. And sometimes it's a really significant way.

There's a guy who emails me once in a while because one of my protagonists has PTSD, and so does he, and it helped him deal with it to find a fictional character he could identify with. That makes me feel like I'm justifying my oxygen usage, you know?

Birol
I hope to know, someday. What I'm hearing you say is words have power.

Ebear
yeah, they do.

Birol
Or, at least, that's part of what I'm hearing.

Ebear
Stories have power. And part of it is the power to heal. Which you know, intellectually--there are stories *I* have found healing, after all. but somehow it's kind of stunning when it comes back to you.

Birol
I can understand that. Have you ever been healed through writing one of your own stories?

Ebear
I've processed some stuff, but I haven't really found it cathartic? I think it's too intellectualized. Other people's stories, though, when they push my buttons just right--Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn, I cry like a fool every time I read it.

Birol
I have a couple of his books on my own shelf that I tend to reread.

Other individuals in our audience are interested in general writing advice… what advice have you received over the years that you feel would best be passed on to others?

Ebear
I can think of two really useful ones off the top of my head. One was something Algis Budrys said to me in a rejection letter in 1994. A rejection letter for a story that later became the foundation for the Jenny Casey books, which were the first novels I sold.

He said that he really liked the story, and then he got to the end and it fell apart. And he said "That made me sad." And I had an epiphany. Because I suddenly realized that the editor was rooting for me to pull it off. I'd never known that before.

The other thing is something Steve Brust said to me after I finished my first novel. Which was, more or less, that I should be proud, even though it probably sucked, because I had done something that 99% of the people who set out to write a novel never do. And even if it did suck, if I had finished one, I could finish two. And the second one would suck less than the first. *g* Steve's honest.

Birol
I know you have to get to your family this evening. I have 2-3 questions left in my queue that I definitely want to ask you.

Ebear
I'm yours until my company shows up, more or less.

Birol
The first is from Jed, who has been fielding questions for me behind the scenes...He would like to know: how much research did you do on PTSD before you wrote the story?

Ebear
Oh, tons. Um. Okay, this is personal TMI time, but I'm a trauma survivor. So I had personal experience and years of therapy to draw on. And I also read everything I could get my hands on. Which of course is contradictory and--the thing is, there's no one experience. There's just individuals who may have responses in common. Traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain than regular memories. It's neurochemical. Fascinating stuff.

Birol
Well, I'm certain that individual whose life you touched is glad you opened that particular vein.

Birol
Harkening back to SF, Blackcoat would like to know: from an author’s perspective of fandom, do you feel the SF community as a whole is more divided then the fantasy community?

Ebear
It's the write what you know thing, I guess. Except I've always thought "know what you write" is a better way to put it. Huh.You know, I don't know? My friend-group in fandom is cogenre. And I try to stay out of the My Genre Rulez/Ur Genre Droolz conversations.

Birol
I know we're jumping around here a bit, but a good friend of mine has always said the axiom should be, "Write what you want to understand."

Ebear
Oh, yeah. That's lovely.

Birol
She has an annoying habit of being right. ;-)

One final set of questions from Stonetable, and then we'll relax the setting a bit. You've talked about writers groups, but what about workshops? You've taught at Viable Pardise and (soon) Clarion West. What are your thoughts on workshops? Can you offer any advice to writers applying to a workshop, including at what point in their career it's most useful?

Ebear
Well, I never workshopped myself, as an aspiring writer. I didn't have the money or the time. So, you know, it's totally possible to do pretty well without that.I did do Sycamore Hill in 2006, which is a pro writer workshop. And it was excellent, but it was also emotionally brutal. It took me about sixteen months to put myself back together so I could write confidently after that.(As those of you who read my blog know.)

I think workshops can be beneficial at any level? Because I sure wasn't writing the quality of prose before then that I am now. But I also think they're a risk. Many, many people have the response I did--where it breaks something in side you for a while. Cory Doctorow, I know, couldn't write after Clarion until he went for hypnotherapy to get past his block. OTOH, now he's Cory Doctorow. *g* So he obviously learned something.

Birol
Sounds like there are pros and cons both ways.

Ebear
I think you start applying to the workshops when you feel like it will help you, and--you have to be willing to take risks to grow as an artist. And as a craftsperson. And I believe writing is both. So you decide if it's worth it to you. And how bad you want it.

There are critiques that workshops teach certain habits that become epidemic in the genre? And maybe create a uniformity of voice? I haven't seen that with my VP students, though. And I know a lot of Clarion grads and I don't think they sound much alike.

Birol
Thank you for that very insightful answer. Although I know I didn't get to everyone's questions, that's really all the structured time we have left for.

Peter That's all the time we have for questions. Thanks, Elizabeth. It is such a pleasure to have you talk with us. We are honored.

Ebear
*I'm* honored.

Peter The chat room is once again open for normal chatting. Huge thanks to Elizabeth Bear for taking the time to visit with the Absolute Writers. Let's have a round of applause for our guest!

*cheers and applause*

Peter
Let's also thank our interviewer, Birol, without whom, this chat wouldn't have been the stellar event it was. And not to forget the behind-the-scenes crew, Jed, KittyPryde, Bahamutchild and ChaosTitan. And last, but not least, thanks to MacAllister Stone, owner of this crazy place for convincing Elizabeth Bear to come visit with us awhile.

Birol
Is there anything you'd like to say?

Ebear
Thank you all so much, and I hope I was helpful.

*cheers and applause*

Ebear
(I feel like we should be doing a round of Namastes)

Ebear
(Namaste)

*Namastes all around*

Andrhia
Hey Bear, are you coming back to I-CON this year, do you think?

Ebear
I haven't been invited this year, so probably not. Penguicon and Wiscon for sure, maybe 4th Street if I can swing it.

Leeflower
Bear, before you go, your story about the dragon at the smithsonian made me cry like a little girl.

Ebear
Thank you! That's one my favorites, actually. And also inspired by an Elise necklace, which is where I got the title. Also, Sarah Monette and I have been writing dragon stories back and forth at each other for a while now--we're at two apiece.

If you liked Orm the Beautiful, it's a response to her story Draco Campestris, which is at Strange Horizons I think.

Leeflower
hands Ebear the internets. You have won them, and they are yours.

Ebear
Aww, thank you. They're kind of too big for the trophy shelf.

Birol
Bear, did you convince your dog that chocolate was bad for him?

Ebear
I convinced him that I didn't have any more chocolate...He's a new dog. We're still negotiating boundaries.

DniC
Heh. What breed?

Ebear
Briard, which most people have never heard of. My mom breeds and shows them. http://www.eiledonbriards.com (http://www.eiledonbriards.com/) You can see a photo of him on the "contact us" page. He's the dark gray one with the stuffed toy.

Birol
I bet they're a pain to brush.

Ebear
There was one in the Chuck Norris movie Top Dog. 0.0 Also, on Dharma and Greg.

I should probably go take the dog out, speaking of which. It's about the scheduled time.

MacAllister
Thanks very much, Bear

Ebear
Thank you guys so much for having me. This was a blast.(And these were really good questions)

*cheers and thank yous*

Ebear
Bye!
* Ebear has left #AbsoluteWrite