Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Best Wine Deal of the Week

With the fine smoothness of rusty-nail corn mash distilled in a bathtub in a wooden cabin in the Tennessee mountains, the powerful aroma of wet bark, and hints of piccadilly and myrrh, this wine is a testament to the winey goodness of Washington State.

Scratch all that. It's meaty. It's chewy. It's red. After a couple glasses, you might become tipsy. It's from Red Diamond Winery and called Mysterious red blend (2013 vintage):

Just $6.99 at Baron's Market (and likely lotsa other cool places).


Friday, September 23, 2016

Why I Believe Fortune Cookies Are Likely Rigged



Aspiring Writer Tip #11—The Kill Test

So you've finished that manuscript, and you've had numerous peeps read it and tell you that it rocks. But how do really know for certain that your book doesn't completely suck?


that's how.

What be that, say ye?

It's pretty simple. Take all your little characters, line them up on the edge of a big ol' gutter, and shoot them one by one. Do you care that they died? Did a little tear traverse your cheek? Perhaps a twisted hot tear left a snail trail in red from the hot pain of realizing your favorite character has been offed?

Ah, you've succeeded. Great! Except for one thing. NO ONE CARES what you think of your own characters. Now, if you can make a total stranger cry, you've accomplished something.

It doesn't matter how readers react—they can laugh, cry, smile, whatever. But if a reader is indifferent every time you cap the ass of some characters, then you've failed, my friend. Time to begin again, as some might say.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Now Coming from Mother Russia

My newest awesome idea to clear up the saturated reading landscape:

Licensing for writers


Monday, September 19, 2016

Life—Pretty Much NOT Like a Box of Chocolates

I recently read a post that included that infamous freaking Forrest Gump quote:

"Mama always said, 'Life is like a box o' chocolates; you never know what you gonna get.'"[dialect added]

So let me first admit that I'm not a big Tom Hanks fan. It's not like I hate the guy or anything. It's worse—I'm apathetic. It's just that every time I watch Tom Hanks act, it's the same thing; I just see Tom Hanks. Sorry—I think he must be a great actor, but somehow I always just see Tom Hanks acting like someone else, not the actual character. Now Kevin Costner, on the other hand—don't even get me started on Kevin Costner.

But back to my point:


First off, every box o' chocolates I've ever seen had a little map with it, allowing even the most inept among us to divine the true nature of each little, tiny, chocolatey morsel.

Second, for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, chocolatiers have swirled the chocolate type on the top of each chocolatey piece of unicorn heaven. So even without a map to the riches of chocolate, those with some craftiness and intellect can find their favorites and avoid the nonfavorites.

Life, meanwhile—well, you know life. No road map and no swirl (most of the time).

And thus ends my subtle but desperate plea that folks stop using this now-cliched and incorrect phrase to exemplify events that are unpredictable. In doing so, you are creating irony upon a foundation of silliness.

Note: I'm joking.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Something Free . . .

Well, to be perfectly succinct, a chance at somethin' free:

Award-winning Kindle format of GERTRUDE AND TOBY'S FRIDAY ADVENTURE, an illustrated children's book appropriate for ages 6 to 8, or thereabouts.

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Gertrude and Toby's Friday Adventure (Gertrude and Toby Fairy-Tale Adventure Series Book 1) (Kindle Edition):


Get it while the gettin's good.


One of My Favorite Reviews for My Book Benny the Biplane

No, no, the first one.

I mean, truly, what writer doesn't want to be "not what I expected"?


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Not to Be Overly Misogynistic, But . . .

As if there's such a thing as appropriately misogynistic.


Man ---> Men
Woman ---> Women
Human ---> Humans

What? No humen?

The oddities continue.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Editor Confessions: Just Like Taxicab Confessions but without the Sex

So you wanna be an editor? Here are a few things that most editors were not warned about before becoming editors:

1. You will rarely/never be able to read for pleasure again.
2. You will rarely/never find time to write.
3. You think you saw bad (fake) writing in your editing classes? That's nothing compared with the drivel you'll see in the real world. The clients we take on are the good ones of the bunch. But it's a whole big world of terribleness out there.
4. Most people think they are wonderful writers.
5. Most people are not wonderful writers (though they may be wonderful people).

There are few true "rules" to writing, but a few rules I consider immutable truths:
  • Every word matters.
  • The ultimate goal of writing is to communicate.
  • Showing off only counts if you are communicating.
  • Just because you understand what you've written doesn't mean you are communicating effectively.
  • Just because you don't understand what you're reading doesn't mean that the writer isn't communicating effectively. 
  • A subtle aside is usually more effective than a hammer.
  • While it's true that good writers break the rules with some regularity, note that as a prerequisite, one must know the rules before breaking them. 
  • Yeah, I got it—not all "rules" are rules, they are simply guidelines. That's why people say silly things like, "Well, it can be done either way." Sometimes, however, there's only one right answer, or the "alternative" way looks, sounds, and reads terribly. 
There you go—some largely unfiltered thoughts from the front. 

Now go get 'em, Tiger! (too soon?)


Monday, September 5, 2016

10 Tips for Aspiring Writers—Tips 9 and 10

9. You're in the Writing Business, So Why Are You So Terrified of Looking Up Information about Words?

Not sure whether a word is spelled right or if you are using it correctly? Look it up.

I'm always baffled by this. Not only do I find writers who constantly get words wrong, but even when they are made aware of the error, they tend to either (1) think about it a bit, then decide whether they are right based on how they feel about it, or (2) ask a friend or search online until they find a forum in Slovenia where people are discussing the meaning of English words and usage. For some reason, the Chicago Manual of Style, Garner's Modern English Usage and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are too pedestrian for them, even though they are the bibles for most professional editors.

And don't even get me started with those who review my edits, then inform me that one of my edits is wrong. Most of the time, this assertion is based on feeling rather than fact. Although every editor (including me) makes mistakes from time to time, in matters of usage, especially those that are highly technical, you can be pretty sure that the editor has looked it up, for the umpteenth time, just to make sure before sending the edited copy to you. Not extending the same courtesy is a sign of laziness and a lack of interest in the field of which you are supposedly a member.

10. Learn the Lingo

As with knowing that writers don't edit their own work, but rather revise or rewrite it, it's important to understand the language, genres, and conventions of publishing, books, and what have you. The following are just a couple examples.

A typical novel may be just 200 pages, or it could be as many as 300–400. Rarely, however, especially with a debut author, is a novel 700 or 800 pages long:

Typically a book has 250 to 300 words per page, so this guy is assuming that his book is all rarin' to go with 700 to 800 pages. Dead in the water.

Next, this is an example of not understanding what "ghostwriting" is (and is not):

It's funnier because it's a request for someone to write school papers for the actual student, but you'd be surprised by how many "writers" have rough concepts and then want a "ghostwriter" to write the story for them so they can put their name on it and call it their own. I'm sure it happens, but that's not really ghostwriting—it's writing. Why would I write your book for you, unless you're a famous person with something to say or a story to tell, but without the writing skills to do so? If you have a random fiction idea, there's no reason for someone else to write it for you so you can call it your own. And besides, why would you even want that? It's not like you can proudly hold up the book and say, "I did this."

Sorry if the responses here seem a bit direct, but these are the things I know from a few years of editing fiction (and nonfiction, too).

Other tips in this multipart post (and a few others):


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Non, Non, Non, Non . . . Non, Non, Non, Non . . . Heey, Heey . . . Gooood-Bye

I bet lotsa folks think that publishing/writing/editing folks are superperfectionists (and superperfectionistas) who always spell and write everything perfectly. Not true. If it were, I wouldn't constantly be seeing these little gems:

ISBN number ("ISBN" means International Standard Book Number, so no "number" is needed at the end)

From a book sell sheet (a sell sheet is used in the trade to give commercial buyers information about a title—sort of like a one- or two-page product brochure):

I included one entire side of the sell sheet to show what one looks like, but also because despite a big error somewhere (hint: it's one of the headings), the sell sheet is solid and this is a great little series. Full disclosure: I got a cute T-shirt from these folks at the BEA convention in Chicago.

Give up? "Advanced Praise" should be "Advance Praise." Advanced would mean highly evolved or sophisticated, not beforehand or ahead of time as was obviously intended.

But here be the one that gets me the most. For years, the word "nonfiction" has been spelled by Merriam-Webster without a hyphen, just as many "non-" prefixed words are. In fact, virtually all words starting with re-, pre-, ultra-, non-, un-, etc. are not hyphenated. So why, for the love of all that is sacred, does the publishing industry insist on spelling it "non-fiction"? God only knows (or "Only God knows"? Oh, well, a post for another time). Trying to be sneaky? Snarky? Is it like Houston Street in downtown NYC, which is pronounced "HOW-STUN"? Or do people in the word business think that dictionaries do not apply to their own work?

I don't know, but I sure as hell wish they would get the message and get rid of that annoying freaking hyphen:
That is all.


Friday, September 2, 2016

10 Tips for Aspiring Writers—Tips 6, 7, and 8

6. Get a Good Cover

And not the kind where Duke yells to Bo, "Cover me, Bo!"

Covers sell 70%–80% of books. Sometimes with back cover marketing copy, but typically without any reading of the body of the book whatsoever. That's why reviews, covers, and marketing copy matter so much—most book purchase decisions are made based on the foregoing factors and word of mouth, and not based on the text of the book itself.

Unless you are a graphic designer, some sort of graphic artist (if you're not sure, you probably aren't), or have experience with cover design at a professional level, pay someone to create your cover for you.

7. If You Can't Write Perfect Copy, Hire Someone Who Can

I don't profess to understand copywriters and copywriting—they're almost as foreign to me as the way that the brains of graphic designers work.

Don't write a book description and copy littered with typos and grammatical errors (see the last part of #2). That's really marketing advice rather than writing advice. Think about it—would you really want to read a book for which the most important marketing prose is riddled with errors?

8. Stop It with the Bizarre and Nonsensical Dialogue Tags

Use "said" for all dialogue tags unless you have a really good reason for doing otherwise.

An example of a bad tag:

"Well, I'd like to see you without your knickers on, that's for sure," Ian smiled.

An example of a good tag:

"Well, I'd like to see you without your knickers on, that's for sure," Ian said.

You could replace "said" with "moaned," "stuttered," or something similar, but not with "leered," "grinned," or any other word not synonymous with "said." And don't try an end around by doing this:

"Well, I'd like to see you without your knickers on, that's for sure," Ian leeringly / grinningly / smilingly said.

No, that's not a joke. I've seen it. If you want to add something like that, then make your dialogue more enticing instead. Dialogue tags are roughly equivalent to "show, don't tell" for prose overall. Don't tell us "leeringly." Let us know that the guy's lips pulled back from his teeth until his teeth blinded the barfly and his gums were the crimson of half-dried blood. Or something, anything, other than "leeringly."

Other tips in this multipart post (and a few others):