Question Everything / Nullius in verba / by dullhunk, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  dullhunk 

In my last post, I talked about a lot of things, but one thing I said was that it was time for me to decide what’s important to me.

Last Friday at work, I was almost by myself for most of the day, and I had very little to do. So I made myself a time matrix so I could map out how long I spend doing various things that are required so I could see what was left for me to apportion to the things I want to do with my copious free time.

It turns out that my free time is actually kind of copious, when looked at from a certain perspective.

When left to my own devices — in other words, no alarms and without being sick — I will sleep right at seven hours per night. It seems to be what my body requires in order to be fully rested. I can function at a decent level on five. Below that, and I’m firing on too few cylinders to be useful for much of anything that requires concentration. Even reading or listening to podcasts. If I get more than seven — unless I’m sick — I feel tired and logy and worn out.

So I started by marking off seven full hours per day for sleep. And I arbitrarily set those hours between midnight and 07:00. Why? Because if I go to bed before midnight, I somehow feel like I’m missing something. Don’t ask me why, I just do. (The brain weirds psychology.)

Time Commitments

Time Commitments

And because I don’t spring from bed perfectly clean, coiffed (I shave my head), and ready to go, I will add another hour five days per week of ‘getting ready,’ which includes all of the above plus having breakfast, checking my email, etc.

Then for another forty hours, I must work, at least if I want to eat, have a house and a car, and be (relatively) sane. And because I live and work in the Greater Atlanta Metropolitan Area, that means another two hours of commuting, to work and back. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more; it averages out to about one and a half hours.

By the way, don’t take this as me grousing. :) I enjoy my job. It doesn’t just “pay the bills”; it is fulfilling on most days. But it is, for the most part, doing things that other people value, and which I would not do if they didn’t pay me. Ideally, I’d be rich and able to do whatever I wanted.1

Now, there are a few other “required” items I have marked off. They’re all writing-related, so that’s good. Two weekly critique groups and one biweekly critique group. I also marked off time to read for the biweekly group, because the submissions can add up to 40,000 words, and that takes a while.

What that leaves me is a surprising fifty hours per week (fifty-nine on alternate weeks) that are basically free and clear.

Now, what do I currently do with all that free time?

My housemate and I are currently working our way through Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Doctor Who, and Jonathan Creek. This is what little TV we actually watch: catching up on shows via NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, and whatever other sources we can find.

I subscribe to . . . an embarrassing number of channels on YouTube. Musicians, vloggers, comedians, scientists, and others. I spend an embarrassing amount of time watching these videos. I mean, it probably takes up almost the entirety of the remaining hours.

Then there’s Facebook. Ah, Facebook. I spend too much time on it, as well. I’ve been easing off on that, reading it for a few minutes here and there during the day, and for the most part not obsessing over it. I don’t, as it turns out, have to know every aspect of every one of my friends’ lives for every minute of their day. Nor do they need or want to know mine.

I also subscribe to quite a few podcasts2, resulting in many hours of content per week, but I find that I can do this while working or driving, so there is generally ample time that isn’t devoted solely to podcasts.

Here are the categories of things I would like to spend time on, with the most important ones underscored for emphasis.

Health: sleep, exercise, lose weight

Writing: writing, reading, blogging, critiquing, Codex, submitting

Work: advancement/learning, projects to which I’ve been assigned, proactive projects

Social: spending time with friends, watching TV, YouTube, podcasts, Facebook (yeah, it gets in there), Twitter, whatever (Yes, I’m aware that a lot of what I’m putting under “social” are, on the face of it, solitary pursuits. But there’s a reason it’s called ‘social’ media.)

Family: mom-visits, other family

So there are my five big buckets of time to apportion. As I said above, I put almost all of my uncommitted time, at the moment, into the Social bucket, neglecting everything else. That needs to change.

I get zero exercise. So I figure one of the big things that has to change is setting aside some time each week dedicated to exercise. Just walking, at first. For various reasons I won’t go into, lifting weights or doing any serious training is right out for the foreseeable future, so if I can just walk a few times per week, that might go a long way toward increasing my stamina, health, and fitness. I might even lose weight, if I can also curtail some calories while I’m at it. (My housemate is a personal chef who specializes in people with special dietary needs. She can definitely help on that front, and has been.)

So, let’s say 3 hours per week of walking, briskly. I could do it at work on breaks (one does need breaks away from the computer). I could take the stairs during the day when I’m not having to drag my rolling computer bag with me. The while-at-work stuff is free, because it still counts as work time. So that doesn’t require me to “give up” any of my uncommitted time. I figure I can stop at a nearby mall for an hour-long walk around the inside three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, perhaps).

I’ve been getting way less sleep. That’s how much time the ‘social’ category takes up. I just have to watch one more YouTube video or see one more page of statuses on Facebook . . . I think my average sleep time has been closer to five hours than seven for . . . years? And that’s just sad, really. These raccoon eyes aren’t because I’m a goth. :)

When I was going to physical therapy for a shoulder injury late last year, I was able to get up at 5, be at work by 6:30 or 7:00, and then leave at 14:00 or 15:00, giving me ample time to get to my physical therapy between 16:00 and 16:45, depending on the day. That proved to me, briefly, that I can rearrange my work day if need be, and no one raises too much of a fuss. Most meetings take place between 10 and 3 precisely because people have varied schedules.

If I can get a replacement power cord for my work laptop, I could even work from home on Tuesdays, which would obviate the need for me to wrestle traffic for that one day per week, and the only thing for which I’d have to leave the house would be the critique group. I could get back two whole hours of “uncommitted time” for doing things like laundry.

So, what’s my point in all this? My point is that I have a crap-ton of time that I could spend writing, reading, critiquing, and generally improving myself as a writer. But instead, I squander almost all of it doing things that have no relevance to me, or any of my long-term goals.

It’s time to man up, in other words, and take the reins. Do what needs to be done. Quit wasting my time and start spending it.

Unfortunately, my inner child (who, by the way, is a four-year-old brat named Bradford; it’s a very long story) is right now stamping his feet and shouting “NO! NO NO NO NO NO!” and refusing to do anything he sees as not fun. He has even been known to hold his breath until he turns blue, and no one wants that, believe me.

So, how can I make exercise fun? How can I make improving my skills at work fun? How can I make giving up — or at least severely curtailing — YouTube fun?

How can I make writing fun?

Step one: Gamify it. More on that in the next post. :) (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?)

  1. Well, if I’m being 100% truthful, ideally, I’d have a skull-shaped, volcanic island lair with fast internet and a helipad. And to which all of my friends could freely come as a writing retreat or whatever. But that’s never going to happen. Probably.
  2. This is what we like to call ‘understatement.’ At last count, it would take me 109.8 continuous days — meaning no sleeping — to listen to everything I have downloaded.


The Naming of Blogs

So, where did the name of my blog come from? I shall tell you, and it’s a short tale.

I needed a ‘professional’ site, unassociated with my other two blogs, where I could blog about all things writing-related. My non-writer friends didn’t want to see that for the most part, and the kinds of things I write about on the other two sites aren’t “professional.” I use language I don’t use here, etc.

I wanted my name as a domain, but some lawyer already owned garyhenderson, so with some trepidation, I looked for and did not find ‘garydhenderson.’ So I bought it. Looked for hosting, and set up WordPress. Within days I was ready to go, having picked what I had been told was the best kind of template to use for writing: black text on a white background, with a simple design and no extraneous pictures or colors or fonts.

But I didn’t want to just call the blog ‘Gary D. Henderson’s blog’ either. I wanted something with pizzaz. Panache. A certain . . . je ne sais quoi.

I love me some puns. And I also love homophones. Words that sound alike but have different meanings and etymologies. Words like pear, pare, and pair. Or pedal, peddle, and petal (if you’re from the south, they’re practically identical).

Or write, rite, wright, and right.

I tried desperately to work all four in, but in the end, none of those sounded like anything I wanted to read, much less write.

And what is a writer if not a wright, of a sort. So: write wright. Or WriteWright.

Since that domain is taken and so is the Twitter account (I tried to get the guy parked on it to let me have it, but he did not answer), I couldn’t fully embrace it other than using it as my blog title, which I’ve done, as you can see.

I also own several other domains relating to the series of novels I’m working on, but they are parked and not pointed at anything right/write/wright/rite now.

All in good time. :)

If you’re at all curious about my other two blogs and how they got their names, you can find the entries here (LiveJournal) and here (Blogger).

This post is in response to The Writer’s Post Blog Hop 2014 #4 prompt, Explain the Name of Your Blog. The host is Suzy Que. Other entries are linked from her blog post.


WorldCon Report

WorldCon Badge

This is my badge from WorldCon 71 / LonestarCon 3 in San Antonio, TX, August 29 – September 2, 2013.

I know, I know. WorldCon was, like, a month and a half ago, and here I am just now posting about it. Frankly, it’s because I’ve been unsure what to say. I’m a little conflicted.

On the whole, the experience was awesome. It was much more enjoyable on several levels than my usual alternative, which was Dragon*Con, here in Atlanta, GA. I mean, any person you randomly meet at WorldCon is most likely a writer, whether published (self- or traditionally) or aspiring. And that’s just neat. :)

Now, don’t get me wrong: Dragon*Con is awesome and enjoyable for what it is.

<digression>And what is it? A media con. Meaning that the most important things at Dragon*Con are the TV and movie stars who come to be adored and sign autographs for money. Last I checked, there are thirty-one simultaneous tracks of programming running from 10 am to midnight or later on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the con, and a half-day each on Sunday and Thursday. That’s a crapload of content. If you cannot find something to entertain you in all that, well . . . you’re probably at the wrong convention.

It’s also 50,000 people shoulder-to-shoulder in sweltering heat and stifling humidity1, all trying to get from point A to point B in the thirty minutes between events. (50,000 is a conservative estimate.)

Dragon*Con is a geek con. Pretty much everyone there is a geek about something, be it writing, Star Trek, Japanese anime, conspiracy theories, ghosts, skepticism, <insert TV show or movie name here>, <insert actor or actress name here>, roleplaying, gaming, costuming, et-freaking-cetera. Stop any random person at Dragon*Con and chances are high that they will get you.

That said, I am interested primarily in writing, but also podcasting and skeptical topics. The Skeptic, Podcasting, and Writing Tracks are three of the thirty-one tracks.

The writing track is held at the Hyatt. In the basement. Of the basement. Down a long hall. And then in another basement. Underneath and between the two main towers. In a total of about ten rooms.2 A lot of the content is geared toward first-time writers. A lot of the rest of it is . . . how shall I phrase this? “Repetitive.” As in, it’s the same writers in the same panels in the same rooms as last year. And the year before. And the year before.

I’ve enjoyed Dragon*Con since 2007, when I went for the first time. But each year, it seemed like something was missing. I found myself . . . wanting something that they weren’t providing. (See “wrong convention” above.)</digression>

WorldCon, on the other hand, was eighteen simultaneous tracks over the same four days. All. About. Writing. Yes, much of it was geared toward beginning writers. And a good bit of it was hero-worship. Of writers. With less than 1/10th of the attendance of Dragon*Con.

In other words, it is a writers’ con. A readers’ con. A publishers’ con. An agents’ con. It’s where the creators and producers go to meet and mingle.

And that’s partly why I’m conflicted.

Seven members of my local writers’ group went on the trip. Three of my Viable Paradise classmates were also in attendance. I hung out with each of them a little. And while I was with them, I mingled and chatted. I talked with other writers. I met people like David Marusek and Lawrence Schoen and Vylar Kaftan. Reconnected briefly with VP instructors Elizabeth Bear, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Steven Gould, and Steven Brust. I got a guest sticker for the SFWA suite through one of my VP friends and was able to hang around in the room with writers whose names most people reading this would recognize. I went to the Codex breakfast and met a couple of people there.

Common wisdom is that WorldCon is really two cons going on at the same time and place. There’s the con everyone sees — the one in the program; the one that’s scheduled — and the one that happens in between the panels and the readings. And it’s the second one that really matters.

And it’s that second one that I feel like I mostly missed out on.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t miss it for lack of desire or trying. I did go to several parties, including the Tor party, at which were a number of well-known writers, none of whom I actually spoke to because it was crowded and they were surrounded by many, many people.

But outside doing stuff with people I already knew? Outside that, I felt like an outsider. Now, once again, I must stress this: this is just me. This has nothing to do with the other people there, every single one of whom I talked to was unbelievably welcoming, warm, and friendly.

I think it’s Impostor Syndrome, which I’ve spoken about before. I’m using it here in a more literal sense. I felt like everyone else there deserved to be where they were, but I was a pretender. Especially in the SFWA suite, where, although I had a guest sticker, I felt like every single published author who came into the room took one look at me and thought, “Wannabe. What’s he doing in here?”

Silly, isn’t it? It literally could not be farther from the truth. Everyone I spoke to was, as I said, warm, friendly, and welcoming. Whatever feelings of inadequacy I had are entirely in my own head. But knowing this and believing it are . . . different things. :)

I have found that if other people approach me, I’m fine. If someone comes up to me and starts a conversation, I’m much more relaxed about it. It’s basically how I know almost everyone I know — because they initiated the contact, or we were thrown into a situation where contact was facilitated.

I want to get over this. I need to get over this. I would love to walk up to Jim Butcher or Kat Richardson or Ilona Andrews3 at a party and say, “Hi, I’m Gary Henderson, and I really love your books and I want to be you when I grow up,” (OK, maybe not that last part . . .) and have it continue beyond that without that awkward, “OK, now what do I say?” moment. Or to strike up a conversation with someone random and just get to know them.

In effect, I am an introvert desperately wishing he could be an extrovert and not knowing how to go about it. :) Is that even something you can change?

WorldCon was awesome. But it was also very frustrating. Not because of anyone else, but because of me. I felt like everyone else there made contacts and got to know people and had a better experience than I did. And I know it’s no one’s fault but mine, and that’s another layer of the frustration. (Frustration, it turns out, is like an onion. Who knew?)

So that’s pretty much why I haven’t talked about it, yet, in a nutshell (onions and now nuts; my frustration is tasty, at least). Because saying, “Yeah, it was great!” is both true and misleading. Saying, “I had a lot of fun!” is an honest answer and a white lie at the same time.

So I guess I have a personal goal for 2014, don’t I?

And all of that being said, I had the most fun of the con hanging out with the people I went with, playing Cards Against Humanity for several hours in the food court of the mall. Having dinner at the rotating Chart House Restaurant atop the Tower of the Americas. Having breakfast in an un-air-conditioned little hole-in-the-wall restaurant (The Oasis Café) a few blocks from the hotel. Or in the mall at the IHOP. Or at the horrendously overpriced hotel restaurant buffet. At the Hugos, clapping and cheering like mad when the winners were announced.

And that’s the unvarnished, unqualified truth.

And at Dragon*Con, I always have the most fun hanging out with people I know.

And when I got together with friends at the Romance Writers of America conference4 in Atlanta a couple of months ago, that was the whole point, as well.

Is there an extrovert pill? <goes looking> :)

  1. This is the point where a lot of people would make some snarky comment about the ha-ha unwashed stupid geeks who ha-ha are so socially inept, they don’t ha-ha know that they have to take showers! Well, to those people, I say, “Shove it.” Dragon*Con is no smellier than any other unbelievably hot, humid place in summer where 50,000+ people are packed like sardines. So get over it. I have never been offended even once by anyone’s body odor at Dragon*Con. I have, however, been deeply offended by the constant harping on it by people who don’t know any better. Yes, this hits a nerve, why do you ask?
  2. You may be getting the impression that I’m suggesting that the Writing Track is being hidden away in a sub-sub-sub basement in windowless rooms in purpose, like it’s some sort of afterthought. I would never imply such a thing. Never.
  3. Ilona Andrews is a husband-and-wife duo who write as one person, but I didn’t know how to convey that without a footnote, which, hey, look! :)
  4. Just to clarify, I did not attend the conference, but visited the venue for the purpose of reconnecting with some Viable Paradise friends. And there’s nothing wrong with attending the RWA conference; I’m just not a romance writer and would have felt very out of place, indeed.


BlogLovin Post

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This is a post just used to claim this blog as my own on BlogLovin. There’s really nothing to see here. :)


I Should Be Stopped

Insane by fraleyla, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  fraleyla 

I’m trying to design some business cards for WorldCon later this year. I’ve got it down to a couple of designs, the only difference being how the picture of me is oriented with relation to the text, which consists of my email, Twitter, Facebook, and website addresses (that would be here).

Both of them have a picture of me (different pictures), and underneath the image it has my name in full, and underneath that, my Twitter bio, which is this.

Creator and Destroyer of Worlds

But a couple of days ago in a chat with a friend of mine, I said the following.

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

I don’t know why, but I find this quite funny. My friend, it must be noted, neither laughed nor even reacted, but that is probably because she expects these kind of statements out of me, and believes that any reaction — positive or negative — could be taken as encouragement.

Is it just me, or is that better than Creator and Destroyer of Worlds? It’s a big longer, but . . . maybe I could make it work. I don’t know.

What do you think?


The Next Big Thing: Death Scene

Hi, everyone. It’s been a few days since I posted. Well, OK, it’s been since November 30th. Since I completed NaNoWriMo. A lot of Real Life™ has happened and I’ve not had the time to write, much less update a blog. But that’s winding down for the most part, now, and I’m going to try to maintain some semblance of a regular schedule (said the serial procrastinator).

But in the meantime, I was tagged! A friend of mine from Viable Paradise, Camille Griep, tagged me to participate in “The Next Big Thing,” a blog-tagging activity especially for writers. There are ten questions about our current work in progress (i.e., the “next big thing”) which we are to answer, and then tag other writer bloggers to do the same.

And now, for the self-interview.

What is the working title of your book?

The book’s working title is Death Scene, but I’m thinking Scene of the Crime or Crime Scene might also work. It is the first book in a series I’m calling “The PCIU Case Files.” PCIU stands for “Paranormal Crimes Investigation Unit.” I have the plots of the first and third books basically done, the second one in the works, and there’s a three-book arc that ties those together. I also have ideas for books four and five.

The reason the first and third books are plotted (and partially written) is that book three used to be book one, and book one used to be book two. Which means book two was originally book three, so it’s the one I hadn’t worked on at all. You’re welcome to diagram that if you like, but you may need four dimensions.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The opening scene, wherein a boy scout troop leader happens across the scene of a crime while hiking with his scouts to where they’re going to camp for the weekend, popped into my head fully formed. The scene he finds is a young woman burning at the stake. But it’s frozen in stasis, flames and all.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban fantasy. It’s set in present-day Atlanta, but magic works.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t ever think in terms of movies when it comes to the characters, at least as far as who in the real world would play them in a movie (with two caveats I’ll mention below). But when I gave it serious consideration, I realized I only have vague notions of what two of my characters look like. So I went through literally hundreds of actors in IMDB (by birth year) and by Googling. I don’t picture my characters as ‘beautiful people,’ and actors with recognizable names are sort of ‘beautiful people’ by definition, so this was hard. (Also, seriously, have you ever tried to get a list of ‘normal-looking actors in their 30s’ or 20s? Try it. You get nothing but ‘hottest’ lists.) But I’ve picked out some names that come reasonably close to the general look I have in mind (disregard acting ability; I don’t even know some of these people’s work). I also realized that I haven’t actually decided on the race of one of my characters. I’ve used Caucasian actors below, but I may make him African American.

Special Agent Nick Damon: Ben Affleck. Mark Wahlberg. Desmond Harrington. Along those lines, but not “pretty.”

Special Agent Javier Ellis: Josué Gutierrez or Shalim Ortiz (I’ve actually been picturing a younger Jimmy Smits, which is one caveat I mentioned above).

Detective Charlotte “Chuck” Norris: Eliza Dushku, Alyson Hannigan, Laura Prepon, or Felicia Day (I have always pictured Chuck in my head as a petite strawberry blonde with an attitude, but when I thought about it . . .)

Detective Derek Meads: Hunter Parrish comes closest, although Shia LeBeouf would work, I guess. Derek is the most recent addition to my cast so he’s a bit . . . amorphous. He could even turn out to be African-American.

Manny Gutierrez: And here we run into a problem. Manny is nearly 7 feet tall, rail thin, and has a dyed, spiked mohawk. Good luck finding that. If Aarón Díaz were seven or eight inches taller, he’d be about right. But much too pretty.

TV reporter Monique Johnson: Since she actually is a TV personality, she is allowed to be “beautiful.” (I’ve been picturing her as a younger Alfre Woodard, which is the other caveat I mentioned above.) So: Yaya DaCosta or Annjee Diggs.

Now, as I said before, I never think of these things, but having now Googled many image searches looking for actors and actresses of approximately the right ethnicity, age, hair color, and height . . . I may have a better idea in my head what these people look like. So, yay for being tagged!

Disclaimer: I loves me some Eliza Dushku, Alyson Hannigan, and Felicia Day (Buffy for the win!). Adore. And Laura Prepon got in there because of one particularly bad-ass image of her I ran across that said “Chuck Norris” to me. Eliza would make her hair red(dish) for this role, I’m sure of it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

FBI mages cooperate with the Atlanta Police in a race against the clock to solve a series of seemingly unrelated, escalating, horrific murders committed using magic.

The X-Files meets Criminal Minds is one of my “pitches,” but I’m not sure it’s accurate. I had a completely accurate one one day and didn’t write it down. It is gone forever.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

In a perfect universe, I’ll send in my query letter and Big Publishing will throw bags of money at me. Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski will get into a fist-fight over which one of them gets to direct the movie made from my book. But if that doesn’t end up happening, I’m not entirely averse to the idea of self-publishing. :) But I’m gonna try traditional before that.

The Viable Paradise oath involved submitting until Hell wouldn’t have it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It was a NaNoWriMo novel to begin with, so it took 30 days. But it had no subplots, very little in the way of character development, and no arc.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Since I identified the genre as Urban Fantasy, I’ve been eagerly reading other UF books, hoping not to see anything too close to what I’ve developed. So far, so good. Kat Richardson, Katharine Kerr, Jim Butcher, and Ilona Andrews come closest in “feel” to what I’m aiming for, but all of them are so different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This book was originally the second book in the series. I was working on the first one (now the third one) when NaNoWriMo came up and I needed something else to write. So I thought, “Why not work on book 2?” As I said above, the opening scene popped into my head, and the rest flowed from that. I figured out who my “bad guy” was about the same time my characters did.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

As I said, I’ve purposefully gone out of the way to keep it different than what else is out there. There are several other UF series set in Atlanta where magic works, and mine is nothing like any of them.

Magic is not a crutch. It doesn’t automatically solve all problems; all too often, it causes as many as it helps solve. What matters is good detective work, team work, and the proper application of magic when needed. The characters are more important than their magic.

My magic system is not overpowered and there is a price to using it. So if any of that appeals . . .

And to pay the meme forward, I tag:


My Interview is Live

The Quillians

The Quillians

On the Quillian Chronicles, each time we present a story, we follow it up with an interview with the author. My interview is now live, if you have any desire to hear it. :)

I loathe the sound of my own voice. But I think everyone does. So . . . there you have it. Go. Listen. Download. Share. But only after you share the story as well. :)


T – 2 Days and Counting

It should come as no surprise to anyone who either knows me or reads this blog that I am participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. This will be my seventh consecutive year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I hope it will be my fifth consecutive win. As I said in a previous post, I already have my project picked out for this year, and it promises to be something kind of fun, but more importantly, useful to me as I write my PCIU Case Files novels.

What this means for those of you who do see these posts is that the frequency is going to pick up. Perhaps drastically. From one or two per week to one every day, or perhaps multiple posts per day.

For those of you seeing this over on LiveJournal, I’ll kindly put a cut so you aren’t inundated by my spewing effusively about whatever I’ve written that day. Or, alternatively, lamenting the words I did not write that day. But please bear with me as the link-up between WordPress and LiveJournal is . . . a little fickle at times, and I’ve never gotten the cut to work just right.

So, I’m going to test it, right now. On my WordPress site, you’re about to see a "more" link, and on LJ, it should show up as an LJ-cut.


Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate it, truly.

I apologize, however, for requiring registration in order to leave a comment. I know it’s a hassle. I really do. I would open things up if I could, but from the first day I set up this blog, I started getting spam comments, spam pingbacks, and spam user registrations. I’m still getting spam user registrations to the tune of five or ten per new blog post. The point of it just escapes me. They’re all using emails from 163.com, mail15.com, and hotmail.com.

If you have any useful suggestions on how to stem the tide without making it impossible for real people to comment, I’d be grateful to hear them.


The Pulitzer Scam

Note: I don’t make it a habit to rant, here, but I felt the need to vent about this.

This is something I wasn’t aware of until some friends of mine pointed it out last night. A writer of their acquaintance whom I shall call "Jack" sent out an email to the Atlanta Writers Club with the following title:

Jack Writer Has a New Pulitzer Nominated Book

Jack is published through what I will call a small press, but an argument could be made for calling it a vanity press. I’ve met the owner of this publishing house, and although he seems like a nice, earnest person, there was something about his answers to basic business-of-writing questions that told us he’s not really all that knowledgeable about things like contracts and rights. Which a publisher should be, if he expects to stay in business long.

The email provided a link to the book’s PR site (part of the service provided by his publisher). The page contains a number of blurbs (a.k.a. "puffs") written in that breathless style seemingly reserved for such purposes. "An instant classic!" "A tour-de-force!" "I wasn’t able to put it down!" "Jack’s story grabs you by the throat and won’t let go until the final page!" Etc. You know the type. The purpose of a blurb or puff is to influence you to buy the book. Authors (or their publishers) generally get well-known authors in their genre to provide quotes. According to Marilyn Henderson on AbsoluteWrite,

When an author gives another writer a blurb, it implies an endorsement or recommendation of the novel. Her fans may buy your book on the strength of her liking it enough to let her name be on it. It also implies her fans will like your book, so you must choose the author you ask carefully.

If her stories do not include on-stage murder, violence or profanity, for example, her fans don’t expect any in a book she recommends. They assume a novel she "endorses" will be similar to hers. If it isn’t, her publisher may get angry letters, and she may lose fans and sales.

Just as you must know the audience you write for, you must know the audience of the authors you ask for blurbs.

Recognizing none of these authors’ names, I looked a few of them up and discovered that they, too, are either self-published authors or published by small, niche-market publishers. One of them was billed as a critic for a prominent online newspaper which I will decline to mention. I looked him up, and sure enough, he’s a critic. A film and TV critic. Who publishes his reviews on his own site. And then this newspaper links to them.1 He has several books . . . also published by a small, niche publisher.

My point is that these book blurbs were all written by people in the same basic position as Jack: an author whose small publisher is probably pushing them to scratch a back in the interest of reciprocity. I have no proof of this; I’m supposing.

Now, let me be absolutely, crystal clear: none of that is an issue. I don’t have a problem with self publishing. I don’t have a problem with small publishers. I don’t have a problem with niche markets. I don’t have a problem with people getting their work in front of people by any reasonable means necessary. Except for one thing.

Pulitzer Nominated.

Surely that can’t be right. Can it? The Pulitzer is a major award. It seems unlikely that a book by an unknown writer would be nominated for such a prestigious honor.

So my friends looked into this a bit.

Turns out, anyone can enter the Pulitzer Prize competition. You pay $50 and send off a few copies and it’s "submitted." Officially entered in the contest for the Pulitzer. Notice that "submitted" is not the same as "nominated." That is a very fine distinction.

Read more here (Huffington Post article by Steve Lehto). A salient quote from that article:

The Pulitzer Prize organization has juries which select finalists in various categories and then the Pulitzer Prize Board picks the winners from those finalists. According to their own website, the only people who should say they are "nominated" for a Pulitzer Prize are the finalists who have been selected by the juries for consideration by the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Jack himself may not have had any say in this. The publisher may very well have paid the $50 and be urging him to hype the "Pulitzer Nominated" nonsense. And having met him, I can’t say that I would put it past him. That very earnestness I noted above may blind him to the negative impact something like this could have on both Jack’s and his own reputation.

So the morals of this story are these:

  1. Do not ever do this. It is at best a cheap marketing ploy. It is at worst a bold-faced lie. And if you’re caught at it by your peers, you’re going to have a hard time regaining whatever trust this costs you.
  2. If you hear of an author claiming his book is "Pulitzer Nominated," check the Pulitzer site before you believe it.

  1. My problem is the implied lie. Or lie of omission, if you will. Saying he is a "critic" "for" the ElectroNews Times (or whatever) implies that he is a full-time book / literature critic working directly on the payroll, not that he is a film / TV critic on his blog, which the publication then features. It’s the difference in saying, "Here comes the president" vs. "Here comes the president of the PTA." Both are true, but one is more truthful.

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