Month: March 2008 Page 1 of 2


I finally got the bugs worked out of the Alien Blue plot. At least, in theory. I have: a two-sentence description, a four-page full summary, and a timeline.

I had been using the sticky-note layout to try to work out the timeline, but there were too many things to keep track of, so I put together a spreadsheet to track event, year, section (I have sections and chapters, go tech writer, go!), and–here’s the amazingly awesome part–subplot. If an event falls under a particular subplot, I flag it in that subplot’s separate column. After that, I can go back and find out if the subplot makes sense or if I’m missing something. Boy, did I ever find some missing pieces that way.

The current two-sentence desc (this keeps changing):

Alien Blue is the story—literally—of a New Mexico brewery owner who’s been reluctantly hiding an illegal alien—literally—for the last sixteen years. The alien’s pursuers have finally tracked him down, and have offered the bar owner a choice: wipe out everyone’s memories with a mysterious brew called Alien Blue, or let them destroy the town.

Let me know if you want a blank copy of the spreadsheet. It was handy 🙂

Word of the Day.

anamnesis: a recalling to mind

Platonism. recollection of the Ideas, which the soul had known in a previous existence, esp. by means of reasoning.

–You know, I’d completely and ironically (or appropriately) forgotten about this word.

Synchronicity of Alien Blue.

So I’m trying to patch up some plot holes and I decide the bartender’s father, an atheist who ends up trying to recreate the crucifixion (dying in the process), went nuts during WWII in Czechoslovakia while he was being hidden in the basement of a Catholic church (he was a commie, and the Nazis [right-wing] killed commies [left-wing] as quick as they could catch them, too). Because this story is basically a “hiding an outcast in the basement” story, with beer. So I start looking up churches, which leads me to catacombs…the first catacomb I come upon is Katakomby Klatovske:

The crypt of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Ignatius, nowadays known as the Klatovy Catacombs, was built between 1656 and 1676. As intended by the master builders, the crypt was the last resting place of members of the Jesuit Order and their benefactors from amongst the local nobility, army and burghers. Between 1676 and 1783 over 200 bodies were laid to rest here. In 1784 Emperor Joseph II banned interment in crypts, so the last to be buried here was Antonín Weichs. Perhaps the best-known person resting here is Father Albert Chanovský of Dlouhá Ves, a missionary operating in south-west Bohemia in the first half of the 17th century.

The bodies were laid on a bed of hops in oak coffins.

Yep. It’s all about the beer.

Update: Click here for pictures. Scroll down to find the mummies…remind you of Snow White’s glass coffin at all? Anyway, among other things, the place was used for a library after 1900, and was not destroyed/rebuilt during/after WWII. Whew 🙂

Brain Rules

John Medina, a geek on brains, gives 12 rules for using your brain (for example, “exercise”). Some snippets:

“Millions of years ago, if we sat on our behinds for even a few minutes, we could be somebody’s lunch.” “Active people have half the risk of Alzheimer’s of sedentary people.” “Any experience you have creates new wiring in the brain.” “You make three times more errors on a task when interrupted.” “When [the rats] were woken during REM sleep, they had to relearn the maze in the morning.”

(via Neatorama.)

The Category of Alien Blue.

I forgot–I did, eventually, work up the courage to ask where my book fit in.

Me: Beth Anne, I think you’re going to tell me my book is science fiction, but it really doesn’t feel like it.

BA: What’s the story about?

Me: It’s called Alien Blue. It’s about a bar owner who has to try to save everybody he loves after he’s been hiding an alien for the last sixteen years, and other aliens come to kill him. It’s more like Tom Robbins than Arthur C. Clark, though.

BA: That’s paranormal. I don’t have any alien paranormals yet, but you could start something new.

Me: Coooool.

Audience member: It’s not science fiction?

Me: There’s no math. And no science.

March Write Brain

The March Write Brain for PPW was on Tuesday. Topic: “Fish or Fowl: Where does my book fit in?” Speaker: Beth Anne Steckiel, owner of Beth Anne’s Book Corner.

Beth Anne gave a short talk but reserved most of the time for questions. For some reason, I didn’t end up taking very good notes, but here are some things I picked up (not necessarily things she said, also observations):

  • “There is no such thing as general fiction.”
  • Ingram’s is a book distributor; Beth Anne orders her books there. She brought in some Advance catalogues….mmm.
  • Beth Anne’s bookstore is particular about genre: SF is separated from F, Paranormal is separated from both, Romance is next to Paranormal, etc. SF customers don’t buy fantasy. Paranormal is a blanket category for urban fantasy, dark fantasy, etc., to separate it from “high” fantasy. A lot of paranormal series writers came from the category romance trenches, so the crossover market is strong.
  • People who won’t read a historical novel will read a paranormal novel set in historical times.
  • The difference between romance and paranormal fiction (if paranormal and romantic elements are found in both) is that romance has a happy ending.
  • The difference between mystery and suspense is that a mystery focuses on who done it, while suspense focuses on the character’s adventures, regardless of the mystery.
  • Spiritual = Christian only.
  • Write the book and then categorize it.
  • The Horror market is smaller than it used to be. Fantasy–via Dark Fantasy–is sucking up the books.
  • Don’t get caught only writing one type of book.
  • Changing genres doesn’t always lose you readership (Nora Roberts). But you can’t just decide your book is in a different genre; for example, Sharyn McCrumb’s “mainstream” books still get shelved under Mysteries.
  • Lots of authors don’t get a say in what’s on the cover.
  • Comic-book-style covers are a bad way to sell novels (personally, I feel cheated–where’s the art?!?). The covers have generally been perpetrated by publishers who don’t want to pay for a “real” cover and are often using royalty-free images.
  • Caldecott-medal-winning children’s books are not necessarily the best-written children’s books, as the award is for illustration only.
  • The best booksellers take time to educate their readers. The last thing you want is for a potential reader to get turned off by a bad book.
  • Genres really don’t have any hard and fast rules anymore.
  • A lot of books are going trade-paperback sized (hardback sized with soft covers) instead of mass-market paperbacks (regular paperback size). Why? Because the books sell for more, even if you sell fewer books. Also, trade paperbacks tend to stay stocked on the shelves longer. The NYT bestseller list now lists trade paperbacks separately from mass market paperbacks.
  • Crossing genres often involves use of a pseudonym and/or a new publisher. The pseudonym may or may not be linked back to the author’s name, depending on whether it will boost or lower sales. –For example, a now-mainstream author’s sales may be dragged down if his or her pseudonymous category romance books are published under the author’s name, as category romances often aren’t written to the same standards. However, if the bookseller educates the reader, it can work out.
  • Submitting a book to a contest means picking a genre (based on the genres included in the contest).
  • Telepathy is paranormal; psychological focus goes under suspense.
  • VC Andrews only wrote the first five of “her” books; a variety of authors have written the rest.
  • The difference between horror and suspense lies in their subjects (not their mode of telling). Horror involves plot elements that do things they’re not supposed to do.
  • Anne Rice now writes Inspirational books. (Question, why does the picture of Christ on the cover look like a woman with a false beard?) Color me T.S. Eliot. A long way from Beauty’s Punishment, which she doesn’t even admit to anymore.
  • If X novel is set in the same period as a Western, that doesn’t make it a Western. Beth Anne says, “That’s one category that will never change.” Adult Westerns are enough to make her, a veteran romance-novel reader and seller, blush. She noted Western writers are the best historians.
  • Nonfiction is a smaller market than fiction. Nonfiction that’s written like fiction (creative fiction?) sells better. Too many nonfiction books go into too much detail to really entertain readers.
  • True Crime isn’t as big as it was even five years ago.
  • It takes a lot of money to sue over plagiarism, even if your book is already published.
  • If you have too many conflicts in a book, turn it into a series.
  • Cliffhangers are a no-no. Once you leave a reader hanging, even if the reader likes the book, they’re more likely to Wait Until The Series Is Done before buying any more books.
  • Don’t cheat the reader.
  • Publishing has two faces (or outfits). One is dressed normally; the other has to wear business-professional dress in order to be taken seriously.
  • Writing conferences are like any other business conference. The real benefit is at the bar, afterwards.

Kid Stuff

via ***Dave.

List 5 things you still do, that you did when you were a baby/little kid.

1. I read. A lot.
2. I like to fall asleep next to cats. Too bad our cat has been such a jerk this winter.
3. I sing/whistle/tell myself stories when I don’t think anybody’s listening.
4. I’m shy around new people but will sometimes talk the hind leg off a more familiar donkey.
5. I still can’t keep my fingers out of my mouth. I don’t suck my thumb anymore, but there you go.

Terry Pratchett Updates.

The link to multiple trailers for the Colour of Magic. Um, how did Twoflower get to be not old enough to be a grandfather? Ah, a trivial quibble. I’m not over-fond of Rincewind, but I really like the actor.

…And Terry Pratchett will be in Phoenix, AZ, September 4-7, 2009 at the first North American Discworld Convention. Right around Lee’s birthday.

Writerly Event in Colorado Springs

The Pikes Peak Library District sponsors the Mountain of Authors event on April 12th. Local authors include Kevin Anderson, Beth Groundwater, and Katherine Pebley O’Neal. It’s at East Library from 10-3:30. It’s free, includes free lunch, & no registration required.


One of my favorite language shifts of the last few years is the construction “yeah, no.” I remember back in the day (high school) when people would ask you a negatively-phrased question–“You don’t like sauerkraut, do you?”–and wait for you to answer. Answer “yes,” and they’d say, “Oh, so you do like sauerkraut?” Answer “no,” and you’d get the same response.


“You don’t like sauerkraut, do you?”

“Yeah, no.”

“What about Britney? I thought you used to be a big fan.”

“Yeah, no.”

And everybody knows what you mean.

–If only there were a good solution to the “this week/next week” thing. I HATE it when people try to explain their reasoning behind using one or the other. If it were so simple and clear, why the @#$% does it need to be explained?

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