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>Vorpal swords and derivation

>’And his vorpal sword went snicker-snack…’ – we all know where it comes from and the derivation automatically carries us to a certain mental setting for any story it is used in. Sort of instant setting-gel. Now this is a valuable tool (shared associations) for writers – but it is also a very dangerous beast because it is so infectious. Books – particularly when the author has a distinctive style and voice creep in to my own writing like memes-in-the-night. I try to work with this if possible – When I was writing the Karres books I read only Schmitz to try and be influenced by it (and in the last one I slipped and read an Andre Norton – I can SEE the influence). I use combinations of other writers to ‘set’ myself for other kinds of books. CS Lewis, Michael Scott Rohan, Peter Beagle, and McKillip, and a dash of Heyer for Dragon’s Ring for eg. Or for Slow Train to Arcturus, Heinlein, Niven, Hal Clement. For Rats Bats and Vats – Tom Sharpe, Terry Pratchett, Niven.

So: am I alone in this, or do others find themselves writing derivative style and voice? And if so, how do you control it and who do you use?
I have fairly limited access BTW, so commenting is difficult for me right now.

>Weekly Wrap-up and Holiday Madness

>This has been a slow week for almost everyone in the U.S. except sports teams — and their fans – and shoppers. Most businesses closed down for the week on Wednesday and their employees looked forward to a long weekend of food, drink, family, more food and sports. For some, shopping was included. First you had Black Friday. For those of you not familiar with Black Friday, think about the biggest mosh pit you can, add in deals on toys every child wants or electronics the man in your life desires or that particular pair of shoes you’ve been lusting after. It’s usually the most active and profitable retail day in the US. All that’s left is Cyber Monday, the day most employers know their employees will be using company time and computers to shop the internet for the best buys around.

So, what does this have to do with publishing? Well, it means there wasn’t much going on in the publishing world this week. While Harlequin has followed through with its announcement to change the name of Harlequin Horizons, there hasn’t been response from those organizations that had been quick to re-cast Harlequin as a vanity press. According to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware, instead of HH, we have DellArte Press. There are a few sites referencing this, including SFWA, Dear Author (noting that the new site has the same feel as the HH site but that the Harlequin name is no longer present, something Harlequin had promised), and the Ripoff Report where a call was placed to DellArte and the representative they spoke with claimed that J. K. Rowling started off as a self-published author after having Harry Potter rejected by so many publishers. On Nov. 25th, Publisher’s Weekly posted a short article noting the name change and ending with, “Harlequin did not respond to a request for comment this morning on the name change or if it was back in the good graces of the RWA. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers have called for Harlequin to completely cut ties to the self-pub program.”

The beginning of the holiday season can also signal a slow down in publishing. Some agents close to submissions until after the first of the year. This is to give them time to catch up with their query stack and try to tie up the last of the details for client sales (e.g. Jenny Rappaport). Some magazines close their reading periods as well. So, if you have something ready to send out, be sure to check on-line to confirm whether the agent or publisher is still open for subs. A great place to check for sf/f is

But the holiday season brings something totally different to writers. We’re observers. We try, or at least I do, to take in the world around us. Think about it. When else do we see people willing to do just about anything to get that one toy their kid is begging for for Christmas. You know the one. The one the manufacturer made only three of. But little Junior just has to have it or he’ll die. Don’t deny it. We’ve all been there, either as frazzled parents becoming ever more panicked as store after store tells us they’re sold out or as the demanding kid who knows Christmas won’t come because that an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! won’t be under the tree (if you don’t get the reference, check out the movie A Christmas Story).

So, what is the most crazy or touching or just “OMG what were they thinking?” moment you’ve had during holiday shopping and how would you work that into a story? It can be an incident, a person, even a family tradition.

>Saturday Special Open Discussion

>Thanksgiving is over and hopefully those who celebrated are coming out from under their turkey-induced comas. With all the stores, both brick and mortar and cyber, offering Black Friday and Monday Madness deals, I thought I’d throw open the doors today. So the floor is yours. Is there anything you want to ask or discuss? Perhaps there’s something you’re thankful for you want to share. Whatever it is, now’s your chance to let us know.

As always, the only rule is no politics or religion unless it has to do with a story you want to discuss or ask questions about. Even then, remember, we discuss the story and not the politics of it.

>Movember Madness

> Talking of mind-body connections, I have recently been hosting a symbiotic alien on my upper lip in support of men’s health (that’s me in the front pointing off into the distance).

It’s certainly been interesting watching the various reactions of people to being a mustachioed individual. I’ve also discovered that people can’t resist matching you up with famous people who had mustaches. Our HR manager has Inspector Clouseau down pat, while I have it from various reliable sources that I am indeed Zorro. This now explains all those flamboyant Z’s that have been scribed on walls all around the house, and the masks I find in my laptop bag.

The mustachioed experience has been in support of Movember – to raise money for and promote awareness of men’s health, particularly prostate cancer and depression. As many men die from prostrate cancer as women from breast cancer so it is an important issue.Its been fun so far, with a local hamburger chain giving away free burgers to Mo-Men. Its certainly amusing to line up with around twenty to thirty very dodgy looking guys.

One of the guys in our office, from India, had us beat on day three – he already looked like he’d been growing his for a month.I would say I have definitely suffered for my facial art. My wife had been away for the first two weeks I had grown it, and when she came back she couldn’t stop laughing. ‘I can’t look at you!’ It took a little persuasion to get a kiss. ‘Like kissing a bristle brush,’ was her comment. Things have certainly changed since my father’s generation. He was fond of telling me an old saying he got from his father: ‘Kissing a man without a mustache is like having soup without salt.’ Well it certainly must have made sense once.

Here we are enjoying a pint at the local (I’m second from the far right).

Here I am feeding my symbiotic alien Belgian beer in order to neutralize its psychic power. It claims to have the ability to give me Mojo, but I suspect that this power only worked in the 1970s.

If I can raise $200 by the end of the month, then Movember will do the removal operation at no charge! Help save me from this megalomaniac mustache.

If you feel like donating to a worthy cause please use the link below:

>And now for something completely different

>You can blame Sarah for this: her post this week got me thinking, and that’s always a dangerous thing. It goes to strange places.

The progression is something like this – creative types tend to have something of a disconnect between head and body, and not notice the kind of discomfort that would send others screaming for the good painkillers that make you all loopy. That’s what Sarah talked about.

So I thought, well yeah, I’m a pretty good example of this. I’ve done some pretty dumb stuff because of this. But then, I’ve done some pretty dumb stuff for other reasons, most of them related to being a writer and being off in writer-headspace when I shouldn’t have been.

By the time I’d stopped thinking (you sort of have to focus when you’re following recipes, or the results can be… interesting in all the wrong ways) I’d gotten to this:

Creative types, particularly writers, tend to have issues when it comes to dealing with the real world (for those who wish to argue over which world is real or claim they all are, when I use the term, I mean the world where your physical body resides). It’s more than just forgetting little things like paying bills and so forth – a lot of us have issues with society in general. Which, for people who spend so much of their time being keen observers of humanity is kind of weird, but then, writer and weird go together. The vast majority of the writers I’ve met are just functional enough to avoid the delights of the mental health ward.

Yes, we Mad Geniuses are a bit saner than that, but it’s a matter of degree.

Okay, that’s the long rambling introduction. Now for the meat – the Kate guide to living in the real world when the rest of you wants to be elsewhere, otherwise known as playing the game.

  • Everyone else is not stupid. It is very important to remember this. Everyone believes at some level that everyone else is like them and thinks like them, but writers think at strange, possibly abolished angles to the rest of the world.
  • There are rules. You can’t break them with impunity, but you can use them to your advantage. This is usually called ‘politics’ (in the office politics sense). Do not attempt to ignore the rules.
  • People recognize “not like me”. It’s instinctive. Learn to play chameleon and hide the writer-weird. Excuse slips as brain farts.
  • No matter how brilliant you are – and many of you are legitimately brilliant (no, I am not naming names: the blushes would light up the whole world) – the vast majority of people out there don’t give a damn. With few exceptions we’re not even little fish in the ocean. We’re plankton. Maybe. Unless we bother the wrong person, and then we’re dinner.
  • Whether you like it or not (most of the time I find it something of a relief) creativity, especially the writer-flavor, isn’t compatible with things like business or political success. Those of us who are drawn to positions of power/responsibility tend to get there because we’re sick to death of it being done wrong all the time, and we just want to fix the mess then let someone else keep it all running.
  • There are times when you need to be 100% in the real world. Learn to recognize these or they’ll remind you. Emphatically. Usually in the form of grevious bodily harm or death.
  • Learn the difference between putty and vaseline. Otherwise your windows will fall out.
  • Never, ever play nude leapfrog with a unicorn.

And on that note, I leave it to you to come up with more advice, suggestions or whatever. I’m going to try to cook a turkey and do other Thanksgiving-type stuff.

>Like Onto the Angels


Writers are very odd creatures. Not just speaking for myself. I mean, look, I’m quirky enough on my own, unless there is something that explains why today, in between doctor visits and a problem with the installation of the new toilet upstairs, I had an absolute need to gold-leaf the walls of the downstairs bathroom. No, don’t try to explain it. There are things even I don’t want to know.

However, compared to other writers I’m a piker. I know, in my relatively small circle of writerly acquaintance a man who has a morbid fear of bananas, another who has an elaborate routine before he can sit down to write. Being afraid of driving and an avid reader of omens and signs is not even an oddity. Every other writer I know has this issue. Other characteristics that seem way out of proportion among writers but are less alarming are a passion for cooking, working in animal rescue and oh, yes… a relative disconnect between mind and body.

Perhaps all humans to a certain extent have a dichotomy between body and mind. I know this is the theme of several myths – Eros and Psyche, for one – and it seems deeply ingrained. But for writers… well, we take it to extremes. And then we leave it all alone in the extremes with no bus fare home.

Writers, perhaps because we spend so much time inside our own heads, talking to people who don’t exist (not that I discriminate on the basis of non-existence. Some of my best friends are ontologically challenged) tend to forget that the body is there and that it’s important.
I say this as today – after several months of increasing discomfort, I sought help for a skin problem that most normal people would PROBABLY have tried to get treated within a week. You see, I didn’t think it was important compared to the stuff inside the head. Mind you, this skin issue is probably causing my frequent respiratory issues, since the two are tied in. But I just tried to bully my way through the colds and flus and I ignored pain because it wasn’t important.
The thing is that what goes on with the body affects the mind. Time and again, I note something off in someone’s writing and then find out they had a heart attack while writing the book; or they were undergoing chemotherapy, or even they were losing or gaining a lot of weight or something was going on with their sugar chemistry.

Of my own experience, there was the hormonal problem that flattened me for almost a year, in which I couldn’t muster the interest to write and deadlines made a lovely sound as they wizzed past. And there was this swine flu thingy, when I’d find myself crying because no one wanted to watch “Walking with dinosaurs” with me – for the tenth or so time. During this time I wrote an outline I can’t explain. Seemed perfectly logical at the time. Fortunately the editor is giving me a second chance.

Apparently we’re not like unto the angels, all flying-free minds and souls.
So… How do we keep mind and body in balance? Should we watch the mind when the body is slightly off? And other than eat right and exercise – which can be iffy when you’re typing for eight hours a day – what can one do to stay healthy? And more importantly, how can one develop enough self-awareness to know when he/she isn’t.

(And I leafed about an eighth of the wall, thank you so much.)

>Book Trailers, what next?

>Okay, who hasn’t thought, ‘Gee, I’d love a glossy book trailer for my new book!’?

See the Troy Patterson article here. Everyone is doing it, even Stephen King, with varying success. When every second book has a book trailer and the only people who come to look at your book trailer are your mum and friends, unless you’re Stephen King, you have to wonder what having a book trailer achieves.

This is where I have to confess here that I have a book trailer. Yes, I gave in and asked my wonderful husband to make one for the Lost Shimmaron series. You can see it here. I can’t listen to it. We used my voice and I have a slight lisp. Of course every second word began or ended with an ‘S’.

Actually I’ve been dabbling with book trailers for a while now.
Back when the last book of my T’En Trilogy came out, my husband made a book trailer for it. This was in 2002 and my publisher didn’t know what to do with the trailer.

There’s even an award for book trailers here, the New Covey Trailer Awards, where you can waste far too much time viewing other people’s book trailers.

And, right now, my long suffering husband is working on a book trailer for my new fantasy series, King Rolen’s Kin. So I am going to come clean, I am a book trailer addict.

Be honest, would a good book trailer intrigue enough to go out and buy a book?