Blogger beta

I made the transition to the Beta version of Blogger/Google. So far it seems without problems.

Am I the last to make the switch? Any of you guys have any problems with the Beta version yet?

This weekend I'll try upgrading the template. Wish me luck.

Sling Words off to explore the supposed new features.

Finally, a new Matrix movie

Muppet Matrix is fantastic. Kermit as Neo and Miss Piggy as Trinity. What more can you ask for in a paranormal movie?

Beyond hooking the reader

I'm judging a couple of contests and thought I'd give all you aspiring writers a bit of advice. Too many contest entries show that writer worked really hard at creating a hook beginning. Unfortunately, the same amount of effort didn't go toward the part of the manuscript beyond the beginning.

You create a dynamite hook sentence for your novel which leads into a hookable first chapter. Right. Then what? Well, if this is the usual contest entry, the first chapter is all I generally see, but a synopsis of the whole book is, most times, also submitted. That's where the story really falls apart for a lot of beginning writers. Somehow the more they write, the less magic they create. I imagine that happens when they come to the muddle of the book. That's the middle for all you who haven't got that far yet.

Suddenly, Chance, your hero, is fighting for his life against an armed assailant. Oh my gosh! It's Surely, his psychotic twin brother who left town a decade ago. Chance reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out - a Glock 9 mm. and blows Lance to kingdom come!

Hold it! Hold it! Just a darn minute!

Where did that evil twin brother come from? You never mentioned in the beginning of the book that Chance had any kind of brother. You never indicated that your hero carried a gun, much less a Glock! And why on earth is he fighting for his life? Aren't you writing a romance novel?

What happened to your book? How did you go from a great hook to unbelievable contrivance? Your novel skidded from Great Beginning to Muddled Middle in less time than it takes an editor to slap a form rejection on a slush pile manuscript. What happened is that you didn't pay attention to your beginning.

The beginning of a book is the critically important first fourth of your manuscript. From the hook sentence to the first plot point which concludes that first fourth of the book, you must set everything up. If you don't, then you constantly will be going from the scene in the middle of the book which you are writing back to the beginning, making notes (and later revisions) to insert in that beginning to account for characters, motivations, and actions that have occurred later in the book. As you do this, your taut beginning can start to bloat, even to sag.

In the campy sample above, you must let the reader know that the hero has an evil twin before the man appears out of the blue. If the hero draws a gun, then by golly, the reader needs to know in the beginning that he carries a gun and what kind - and that he is the kind of guy who would use a gun - or not use one.

If the story is going to have the hero fighting for his life, then the mood from the beginning should indicate to the reader that this might be a possibility.

In the crucial first fourth of the book, a writer must do this for her reader:

* hook the reader (apparently, everyone knows this)
* show the setting (evocative description to make it real to the reader and allow her/him to suspend disbelief
* introduce all the important characters (never introduce a major player after this part of the book)
* create a sense of immediacy that glues the reader to the page (you want the reader concerned about what is going to happen next)
* present the conflict that keeps your characters from getting what they want (a book without adequate conflict is an unpublished book)
* create suspense (will she get her man, will he win his lady fair, will they catch the terrorists before a bomb is planted)
* show the characters' motivations for doing what they do (unmotivated characters are unbelievable characters)
* show a decision that must be made (what to do, oh, dear, what to do, and of course the decision brings disastrous results)
* show the dominant emotion that colors the book (is it a happy book, a sad book, a hopeful book, pessimistic)
* set the tone for the book (is it a comedy, a horror, a romantic suspense
* introduce all the plots of the book (small books may have only a main plot line such as boy meets girl but big books can have the main plot line, a secondary plot, and an information plot; whatever the scope of your book be sure to introduce all the different plot lines during the beginning)
* end the beginning with a plot point that will propel the story into complications (an action or event that spins the story around, sending it perhaps in a different direction, but definitely propelling it into complications, the dreaded middle of the book).

Once you have successfully reached this point, your middle should not turn into a muddle because you know where your story is going, and you should have developed and presented enough conflict for your motivated characters that they will act and react and interact, leaving you just to record what happens. Right?

Ha! If it were only that easy!

Tickle your funny bone

I received this in an email yesterday, and I laughed so hard I wanted to share the picture. Guess it's easy to see who rules the pet roost around there, huh?

Contract advice

There's been an ongoing discussion on one of my lists about an author's disappointment in discovering the true meaning of her contract - after she'd signed it.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to give a bit of advice about book contracts.

Do NOT sign a book contract unless:

1. You have read the entire contract.
2. You understand the entire contract.

If you and the editor discussed anything that is NOT in the contract, then no matter what the editor promised, it doesn't count. Only what is in the contract is legal. If there's something you've been promised, then don't sign until the contract has been revised to represent that.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it any way, an agent is the ideal person to handle contracts. However, many of you do not have an agent as of yet, so you have to educate yourself about contract terms.

Romance Writers of America has published excellent articles about the different publishing house boilerplate contracts. Join RWA and look these up.

If you have already published, then you may be eligible for membership in Authors Guild Inc. They offer a contract review service for a relatively inexpensive fee.

As a last resort, ask your friends who are published if they will go over the contract with you or even go on your lists and ask for help.

Yes, there are individuals like attorneys and some agents who will review contracts, but they usually charge a couple hundred bucks minimum. If you're thinking of signing an E publishing or small press contract, chances are you won't be getting an advance or will receive only a nominal advance so that fee has to come out of your personal pocket. Use some common sense. Don't pay $500.00 to someone to interpret your contract when you are getting $-0- advance and the publisher has a track record of only producing a hundred dollars or less in earn out on its projects.

There are many books out there (check Writers Digest Books) on understanding contracts. Educate yourself even if you eventually plan to get an agent. An informed writer is a writer who is less likely to be taken advantage of.

Good food, good meat, good grief did I eat!

I think my planets are all alligned against me. Had a late night yesterday, or last-erday as precocious little Katelyn calls the day before today, and am feeling the effects today. How else do you explain reaching for a washcloth from the cabinet above the toilet, knocking an extra one off the stack, and then flushing it down the old loo? I just hope the sewer gods are lenient because an expensive plumbing bill I do not need.

By the way, if you want a great meal, try the fried asparagus and the steak and lobster combo at Pappas Grill on the Southwest Freeway in Houston. The Hess 97 bottle of red wine was perfect with it, but by this time I can't remember what kind of red it was. Hmmm. Perhaps I had one too many glasses of the smooth red. Even better than the dinner was the company. (Hi, Cindy! Great seeing you again.)

When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a white stretch limo parked out front. As I finished a cell phone conversation, another white stretch limo pulled in. Of course, I scoped out the restaurant to see who might be there. The only person I saw who might have arrived via limo was good old Tom Delay. So was Tom in the limo and his guest in the other? A vehicle the length of a Greyhound bus for each?

Now, I'm a rather simple person. Of course, I wondered why Tom (if in fact he was the limo passenger) couldn't have just jumped in his own car and driven from his house which is mere miles away. Then he could have parked in the parking lot with us peons and walked to the door.

Oh, right.

Enough rambling. Time to sling a few words together in hope they make a scene.


Today is April 27, 2012. I received an email from Ellen M. Cuomo who informed me that she is the author of the article from which I quoted in the essay below.

 Unfortunately, the essay that I wrote--6 years ago--quoted from a piece in a church bulletin that had no attribution other than "received in an email from one of those things that floats around the Internet."

I replied to Ms. Cuomo and told her that I would definitely have provided attribution had I know she penned the original article. I do not know her or her work so I did not recognize the piece.

I also told her I would remove the post and place a link to her work if she so wished. Therefore, I am following through by removing the post. I await Ms. Cuomo's response and will post a link here to her work should she provide the URL.

Rounding up writing news

Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America is having a conference. There are still some spots open if you'd like to attend. It's going to be held October 7 and features author Mary Buckham as the keynote speaker. Visit Northwest Houston RWA's web site for more information. Check out Mary at her web site to find out more about her.

Beware of the writing contest being conducted by the Nat Sobol Literary Agency. Many of you have already heard about or read about it on several blogs already. As someone pointed out, they're asking for an $85 entry fee. If you multiply that times the maximum number of entries, which is 50, 000, the result is $4.25 million for the Nat Sobol Literary Agency. With $100,000 first prize, $25,000 second prize, $10,000 third prize, and $7,000 split between fourth through 10th places, that leaves the literary agency with a tidy not-so-little profit.

You know, anyone can hold a writing contest. Just as anyone can call themself, a literary agent. There are no certifications required to call oneself a literary agent. In fact, over the years. I've known a few writers who couldn't get published, who ended up calling themselves literary agents. Most of them never got a publication contract for anyone. Of course, there are exceptions, but beware of anyone who will not tell you who their clients are.

If I were unscrupulous, I could hold a writing contest. Let's see, we could say it's the Starving Writers Annual Novel Competition. So everyone out there, send me your fiction entry. There's no word count limit, and any genre is accepted. Just be sure to include cash, check or money order (as Wolfman Jack used to say when he broadcast south of the border) in the amount of $85. Don't call us, we'll call you. But only if you win.

Sling Words out to go check my inbox to see if I've received any entries yet.

Slow Fuse Detonation

"The possible's slow fuse is lit by the imagination." So said Emily Dickinson and found on my box of Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Tea. Good tea and wisdom make a great combo don't you think?

Sling Words out.

Dragon tamed

I did it. I am now dictating this blog entry using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. I do see that it's a little wanky in using it to dictate the blog entry. I'm sure this is because of the HTML nature of Blogger's software.

That's score one for Joan. Taming the dragon wasn't as difficult as I feared it would be. The training part took the most time. Getting used to the microphone is a little difficult, because I'm just not a headphone person they always bother me.

I've got the new Microsoft ergonomic digital keyboard operating. I've got the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software working, and I've got the new antivirus loaded. So I'm ready to rock 'n roll.

If anyone wants to try the voice recognition software, do use the tutorial that's included and use the headset that's included also. The microphones most computer users have connected just don't work as well.

So far I've dictated e-mails, and I've dictated a blog entry. Now comes the real test - dictating a scene into WordPerfect for my work in progress.

Sling Words out.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Hey, does anyone out there use Mozilla Thunderbird as their email application? I've decided to give it a try. Everyone I talk to who does use it praises its superior spam filters. I'm just tired of being inundated with junk spam multiple times each day.

So that's what I'm up to today. Just hope I don't screw up all my folders when I import the Outlook Express account. I'll let you know how it proceeds.

Sling Words out.

RIP Croc hunter

I was shocked and saddened to read about the death of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter from Australia. Our family watched him on television as he wrestled crocodiles. Many times, we held our collective breath, certain he was about to have a huge chunk bit out of him, but it never happened.

How utterly ironic that he was killed by a stingray's poisonous barb in a freak accident. I guess you'd call having a hole punched in a heart a freak accident. If it had pierced him anywhere else, he'd have lived to captivate world audiences with the tale.

Rest in peace, Steve.

Take The Lead

If you know me, you know I'm a sucker for dance movies. I saw the original LET'S DANCE in Japanese long before the Richard Gere-Susan Sarandon version hit the silver screen.

TAKE THE LEAD starring Antonio Banderas is fabulous. I saw it in the theater and now it's available on DVD. It's about Pierre Dulaine who started a ballroom dancing program in New York City public schools. If the tango scene between Antonio and Morgan leaves you untouched, then you better check to see if you still have a pulse.

Great music. Great story. Great dancing. Get your own copy. I did.

Sling Words tango-ing out for the evening.