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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cover possibilities -- comments, please!

Here are two slightly different takes on a cover for my WIP, Reflections. I suspect the ideal cover would be somewhere in between, as far as the text goes. (Photo is by Nick Carver.) Comments??

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sneak Peek at a passage from WIP

Thought I'd let folks get a look at just a bit of the novel I'm editing, tentatively titled Reflections. As it's still a draft, the wording may end up changing slightly.

This is the first time that Sarah and Jack meet. (They become the parents and grandparents of Eleanor and Cassidy respectively. All are important characters, but Eleanor and Cassidy are closer to being the "main" characters.)


Sarah stood on a slab of golden rock. A few yards from her feet, the rock fell away in a cliff that cut back toward her, as if she were standing on the deck of an enormous ship. Overhead was an intensely blue sky full of puffy white clouds. It was hot, but not humid, at least not for a girl from Toledo. She looked across Kings Canyon to the sheer red rock of the opposite wall. It had been a good, invigorating hike. She was glad she had outdistanced the tourists behind her on the trail, moaning about sore knees and thirst. Even the occasional Australian accent did not make it worthwhile listening to that sort of thing. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, soaking in the sunshine.

She heard footsteps on the rock, off to her left, and then heard them stop. She looked left and saw a man. He was tall and broad-chested, with muscular legs -- now that's what a hiking partner should look like! -- and coarse black hair. The hair, and the man's khaki-colored T-shirt, were soaked with sweat, but the man showed no discomfort. At the moment, indeed, he looked positively joyful. He was staring at her. When she raised her eyebrows, he blushed.

[confusing-without-context bit deleted]

Jack stared at the girl with the long red hair. The girl looked as if hiking up a mountain was trivial, a warm-up. She looked ready for anything. She radiated energy, vibrated with it. Jack could imagine her hacking through a jungle, or grasping a handhold and reaching down to help a companion up a cliff. He could go anywhere, do anything, with a girl like that.

She seemed to be waiting for him to speak. Jack tried to think. He tried to remember his name. He had to do something, before she lost interest. He opened his mouth and heard himself say, idiotically: "Do you come here often?" . . .


That's all for now!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Character Interview: La-ren from my SF novel Twin-Bred

Here's an interview with one of the Tofa characters from my science fiction novel Twin-Bred.

Q. Please introduce yourself.

A. My name is La-ren. The hyphen represents a sound that humans usually compare to a hiccup. Any approximation will do. I am not easily offended.

Q. How did you come to know any humans?

A. My species, the Tofa, is acquainted with humans because a small group of them came to my planet, Tofarn, approximately 85 Terran years ago and established a colony. I personally became acquainted with one human, my twin sister Judy, from the moment I can be said to have existed at all. Our host mother Laura carried us both. (Actually, Judy is Laura's biological daughter as well, but I do not believe it has made much difference.) Judy and I lived with Laura, in a cottage on the grounds of the L.E.V.I. Project, until our early teens, when we moved into the main compound to share a room near other Twin-Bred pairs. We are very fond of our host mother, but it is more entertaining and less constricting to live near our peers -- even with the constant oversight of Project staff.

Q. What is the L.E.V.I. Project?

A. The initials stand for Long-term Emissary Viviparous Initiative. The acronym has a significance that I am not at liberty to explain.

The goal of the Project is to enable the human and Tofa communities to understand each other better. Before the Project was initiated, and even while it has been underway, our mutual inability to comprehend each other's attitudes, motivations and behavior has led to many confrontations, any of which could have escalated into a major conflict.

Q. What do you think of humans?

A. My experience of humans is somewhat limited so far. I cannot expect those humans who chose to join the Project to be typical. If I did make that assumption, I would believe humans to be dedicated, curious, hard-working, friendly, and relatively hard to startle. But if that were the general human profile, I doubt the Project -- and Judy and I -- would exist at all.

Q. What is your role in the Project?

A. I am meant to serve multiple functions. From birth onward, I and the other Tofa Twin-Bred have been accessible for human observation and study. The difficulty is that we present a perhaps extreme example of the observer altering the phenomenon observed. We were altered in small ways at an embryonic stage in order that human women could carry us. We shared a womb with a human fetus, with results difficult to isolate. And we have been raised around more humans than Tofa. I wish I could tell you -- I wish I could know -- how much we differ from what you might call "normal" Tofa.

I hope to have the opportunity, before too long, to answer that question. We -- all of us Twin-Bred, Tofa and human -- have been trained to act as mediators between the human and Tofa communities. That is the second essential function we are meant to perform. There appear to be political obstacles. My friends and I are becoming impatient.

Advice for New and Would-Be Authors

This is a presumptuous blog post. I am an appellate attorney and thus write for a living, but I have been writing fiction (after a thirty-year hiatus) for less than two years -- surely too short a time for me to pose as an experienced author deigning to instruct the novice. However, I spent much of the last year and more not only writing and revising, but searching out and devouring advice by authors for authors. What follows are suggestions that I have found in my reading and then verified by experience.

With no further apology, here is some advice for the new or would-be author.

• Read, read, read. Read fiction, biography, history -- whatever interests you. Read authors whose voice appeals to you.

• Don't let anyone tell you whether you're meant to be, or whether you are, a writer. Even well-meaning folks may be poor critics, and not everyone who makes pronouncements on your potential will be well-meaning.

• Keep pen and paper, or some other means of taking notes, with you at all times. Don't assume you'll remember your great idea five minutes from now -- write it down immediately! Get or jury-rig a lighted note pad for your bedside table. (A clip-on book light attached to a cheap note pad will work.) If you get ideas in the shower, mutter them over and over to yourself until you reach dry land.

• Become compulsive about multiple backups of your idea notes, works in progress, rough drafts, subsequent drafts, etc. Use "the cloud" (Web-based storage), e.g., Dropbox or Evernote. (I use Dropbox. Once it's running on your computer, it will back up a document stored in your Dropbox folder every time you save. But check periodically to make sure it's still running!) Email attachments to yourself (and then check whether your email host is periodically deleting them). Put files on a separate hard drive and on flash drives.

• This one is YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). That said, I and many other authors find it essential to keep the inner editor gagged and stuffed in a closet when we're working on a rough draft. Don't be afraid to leave blanks or bracketed notes as you go. (My second-to-latest rough draft had one that read "[insert appropriate South American country here].") National Novel Writing Month (, in which participants aim to write a novel of at least 50,000 words within the month of November, is a great way to accomplish this. There'll be time enough later for lots and lots of rewriting.

• A related point: find the process that works for you. Some authors outline in detail. Others find too specific an outline stifling, and work from less organized notes of possible scenes, or with no notes at all. Some have a fixed time of day for writing, and allow nothing to disrupt it; others flit back and forth all day between writing and other tasks. Some use computers; some still write longhand, and a few swear by typerwriters.

• Think seriously about self-publishing. There's a wealth of info and support out there for indie authors. Conversely, this is a risky time to sign a contract with an agent or publisher. Because of the uncertain and fast-changing conditions in the publishing industry, many agents and publishers are inserting "rights grabs" and other clauses in their contracts that could cripple an author's career. Some of the worst language may be hidden in unexpected places like "warranty" clauses. If you do sign with an agent or publisher, try to find a way to pay a good IP attorney to go through the contract with a microscope. Don't let the allure of "having an agent" or "being published" lead you to grab at an offer of representation or publication without vetting it thoroughly.

That's all for now. Happy writing!

Monday, February 13, 2012

New blog with book covers and descriptions

Just a shout-out to a new blog, Tomtey, that's helping authors by showing a nice big image of their book's cover. Click on the cover and you find the cover again :-), but this time with a description and a link to the Amazon purchase page. Thanks to the (unidentified) person who started this blog!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, Republican Primary Edition

Great job, guys.

You've been sailing along on the good ship Republican Primary, shooting holes in the deck under each other's feet. The public is getting heartily sick of you: Obama's starting to whip your sorry butts in the polls. You may as well haul down the dishonored flag of the ex-president whose 11th Commandment you've been ignoring, and set fire to the foundering wreck.

Let's hope someone can bring that almost forgotten vessel Brokered Convention out of dry dock and plot a true course in her.