Saturday, July 31, 2010

The All Aboard Diner

I've mentioned before how my son is a "trainiac," obsessed with everything train-related. There's a restaurant not too far from us that caters to his type. It's called the All Aboard Diner, and it features trains, trains, and more trains. We decided to take Alex there today on a whim.

As you walk into the diner, which is tucked into a strip mall, there's a model train setup next to the door. It's glassed off so kids can't touch it, but there's a raised platform they can stand on and lots of buttons they can push to make items move.

Another model train runs on a track near the ceiling:

More trains, from plates to murals, decorate the walls. Thomas the Tank Engine plays on the TV screens. But the chief attraction of the diner is the long U-shaped bar in the center, where a model train hauls your order to your seat:

Alex was too excited to eat much; he was more interested in the train whistle that came with dessert (a chocolate chip sundae with a cookie) than the dessert itself. Unfortunately, not even the promise of trains in the bathroom could entice him into using it. But the service was good, and I'm sure we'll be back there soon so he can watch more trains in action.

Friday, July 30, 2010

E-Reader Update

My post yesterday turned out to be quite timely, as Amazon announced they were coming out with a new version of the Kindle next month. I decided to jump on it and pre-order. I even pre-ordered my first book for it (Blameless, by Gail Carriger, due September 1.) I still have a slew of paper books to read, but I'm excited about the Kindle and can hardly wait.

How do you prefer to read, paper books or e-books? If you read e-books, do you have a reader, and if so, which one?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Where the SF E-Books Are

Although I've read a couple of e-books on my laptop, I've held off getting a reader like a Nook or a Kindle. I admit I have a soft spot for physical books; just handling them and rearranging them on my bookshelves brings back memories. Still, my bookshelves are nearly full, and I don't have much space in my office to add more. It might not be a bad idea to switch to e-books, but I wasn't sure which reader I preferred. And honestly, I wasn't even sure what the selection of e-books was like. I normally buy SF/fantasy paperbacks; how many of them are in electronic editions these days? I decided to conduct my own experiment.

I chose six books I recently purchased:

I took this picture on my cellphone, which is why it's so blurry. Here are the titles: The Dragon and the Stars (an anthology), Gaslight Dogs, A Cast-Off Coven (mystery), Infoquake, Nine Gates, and The Patriot Witch. I then checked both and Barnes and Nobles' website for electronic versions of these books.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were indeed digital versions of all these books available. However, had all six books, while Barnes and Noble did not have e-book versions of The Dragon and the Stars and Infoquake.

I put the Kindle on my wish list. It's temporarily out of stock, otherwise I might have been tempted to go ahead and buy it. There will probably be some books I will still want to buy in paper editions, but the Kindle might keep my bookshelves from overflowing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction--All the Lonely Planets

Planets--others in our solar system, gas giants, frozen planets, and many others--have long been a staple of science fiction. While these novel environments can evoke a sense of wonder, planets similar to ours could host something even more wonderful--life. When I was born, we hadn't found other planets outside our solar system. About fifteen years ago, the technology to find them became available, but at first, we could only find Jupiter-sized planets. Today, we've detected 150 Earth-sized planets, the kind most suitable for life as we know it. It's estimated there are 100 million planets similar to ours in our galaxy. For more details, check out this interview with astronomer Dimitar Sasselov on CNN.

If there really are so many other possibly habitable worlds out there, that should be good news for science fiction writers and explorers. The problem is our galaxy is so vast we couldn't visit these planets with our current technology, at least not in any reasonable time. This is why science fiction writers need to come up with some way of making faster-than-light (FTL) travel possible. For me, I use a wormhole; a spaceship can enter one end and pop out somewhere else.

One other interesting point in the article is how long life has been a part of the universe. According to Sasselov, it's been around (at least on Earth) for about a third of the universe's life. (We had to wait for other stars to create other elements besides hydrogen and helium.) With so many planets and so much time to work with, there can be all sorts of alien beings out there. Perhaps some are similar to those here on Earth, or perhaps there are worlds where the biology is just a little off. (For example, perhaps some lifeforms use the same chemicals as we do but different optical isomers of them.) Or perhaps some worlds have biology so bizarre it could have only been imagined by a science fiction writer.

Perhaps the planets aren't so lonely after all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weeding and Writing

We have a never-ending battle with weeds on our lawn. I seldom find the time to go out there and pull them, and with Eugene's schedule, he hasn't been able to spread the Weed-n-Feed recently. Yesterday, I did manage to get outside while Eugene was with Alex. I trimmed the roses so they weren't blocking the sidewalk, then pulled some nettles. Most of the ones I found were small, at least on the surface. When you look at the root (assuming I managed to get all of it), the root can be much longer than the rest of the plant. It made me think of a couple of ways in which story roots can be much more extensive than the actual story.

All stories require a certain amount of pre-planning, such as characters and plot. Even though I don't formally outline a story before writing it, I do have some ideas of the beginning, ending, and a few points along the way. For science fiction and fantasy, the pre-planning work can be more involved if you also have to create the setting or establish rules of magic. It's not enough just to create the parts specifically mentioned in the story; you have to know the underlying details that make the world realistic. This doesn't mean that you have to know every detail about the history of a location, for instance, but sometimes it can enrich the story. Sometimes it's useful to think about the resources and economy of a setting to make sure the story makes sense. For instance, if you're writing about a top predator such as a dragon, it'll need a large territory to find enough food to support itself. Dragons may seem to be a natural part of a desert, but if the area can't support dragon prey, it can't support a dragon either.

Story roots also make me think of the several drafts a story can go through before reaching the final version. The final draft may not have any traces of the original, but the writer still had to create that first draft before getting to the final one.

The final way in which stories can be like weeds is in the way they multiply. Once I get one idea for a story fleshed out, I'm more likely to come up with a sequel, possibly several of them. Sometimes it can be very hard to tug a beloved set of characters out of my head, even when I need to work on another story.

I think that's about as far as I can push this analogy. I certainly don't want other people thinking of my stories as weeds that need to be removed! :grin:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back on the Blog Chain: Revision

I'm back again with another blog chain. For this round, Sarah asked us this question:

How do you handle revisions? Do you revise as you're writing, or do you wait until you've gone through beta readers and crit partners to revise? How soon after you finish do you begin your revisions?

Amanda posted before me, and Christine follows me.

I'm one of the people who likes to revise as I go along. In fact, I usually start my writing session by reviewing what I last wrote and tweaking it. This helps me get back into the world of my story. Before I post a chapter to the OWW Writing Workshop or send it off to crit partners, I review the whole thing again. I'm pretty good about writing a "clean" draft, one that doesn't have many spelling or grammar mistakes, but I'd rather catch the mistakes myself first if I can. More importantly, I want to make sure my draft is as strong as I can make it. For instance, I know I have a tendency not to use much description in my initial drafts, so if I find the setting seems sparse to me, I'm not going to wait for someone to tell me to add description; I just weave it in. That way, my reviewers can focus on the problems I can't see myself.

If I'm revising on a chapter-by-chapter basis, I like to wait until I get feedback from several people (at least three or four) before revising. I'll print out the marked-up copies and go through them one by one, making changes to the manuscript. Sometimes, to speed things up, I'll lay out all the copies side-by-side so I can see all the suggestions at once. That way, I can see if several people pick up on the same problem.

When I finish a story, I believe in giving it a cooling-off period before looking at it again. After I finished the current version of Across Two Universes back in late April, I took about six weeks away from it. I filled the writing void in the meantime by writing a short story/first chapter about some different characters. I then go ahead and print out a copy so I can read the story on paper instead of onscreen; sometimes I can catch different things that way. I like to make notes on the paper manuscript, though sometimes I just go back to the electronic copy and work there. This is, of course, assuming I don't just toss the previous draft and start over. It may seem like a lot of work, but as the song "Simple Gifts" says, "To turn, turn will be our delight/Til by turning and turning we come round right."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alex's Bed Train

I've just written my shortest book ever, at 101 words.

As you may have guessed from my Ten-Word Tuesday, our three-year-old son is having trouble sleeping. He gets scared of noises, even asking about them long after they've stopped. He's a champion staller, and when we do get him into bed, he tosses and turns like I do before falling asleep. (Though I don't bring trains to bed and play with them to stay awake.) Lately he insists on having my husband stay in the room with him until he falls asleep, which can take well over an hour. (And Alex has a late bedtime to begin with.) If we leave Alex alone in his room, he bursts out, crying and looking for us. Even once he's safely asleep in his bed, if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he comes into our room, ensuring no one sleeps well.

Last night, to give my husband a break, I sat with Alex. I sat just outside the open room, watching him do everything but sleep. Finally, when it was past my bedtime, I tried to leave, and Alex went into crisis mode. I had to bring him back to his bed a couple of times. In the end, he finally fell asleep--probably because I gave in and sat by his bed until he fell asleep. But while I was there, I stroked his hair and told him a story about the bed train taking him to the sleep station. (He's quite the "trainiac.") At least tonight he slept through, though he has roused a couple of times this morning calling for me. So I jotted down a quick story for him. I plan to illustrate it with pictures of him and his bedroom. If I get ambitious enough, I may have a copy bound for him. (I hope this self-publishing doesn't turn off any editors or agents.) Who knows, maybe I should do some research into selling the text to a picture book publisher. I figure that would be even harder than the regular book market, though.

I'll be rewarded enough if Alex sleeps well--so we can too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Contest Annoucement

Michelle Davidson Argyle has a novella coming out next month. It's called Cinders, and it's a take on Cinderella, where the happily-ever-after didn't last and Cinderella has to find true love without magic. To celebrate, Michelle's giving away lots of prizes on her website. Spread the word about the contest and leave a comment to enter. The contest runs through August 13th. Good luck!

Ten Word Tuesday: Sleep Habits of Toddlers

It's amazing how toddlers can take over their parents' beds.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Queries

Last Friday, I discussed the difficulties of writing query letters, especially for science fiction/fantasy novels. Today, I'm going to post part of my original query letter and a second I wrote to address some of the concerns my reviewers had. I'm just posting the part specifically about my novel, Across Two Universes; it's the same length in both queries.

Query #1:

On the day Paul’s mother was murdered, he didn’t perform his key scene in Hamlet. But when he realizes his Great-Uncle Jack may have been behind his mother’s death, his life becomes more like the play than he ever wanted. As the clone of a 20th century rock star, Sean Quinn, seventeen-year-old Paul is the heir to musical talent his great-uncle yearns to possess. Now that Paul’s mother can’t stop him, Jack plans to force Paul to become a full-time Sean impersonator and give up his acting career.

Paul temporarily escapes his great-uncle by returning to the spaceship where he lives. Every year, the spaceship makes a round-trip passage through a wormhole to an alternate 20th century universe where Sean is still alive. If Paul can persuade Sean to let him make a holo-likeness, then he can impersonate Sean’s ghost and trick a confession out of his great-uncle. But before Paul can meet the man he was cloned from, he first must convince other wary time travelers to let him visit the 20th century Earth. Sean himself is slated to be murdered soon, something Paul’s mother tried to prevent. Would Paul honor her memory more by saving Sean or incriminating Great-Uncle Jack? If Paul chooses to save Sean, he could strand the spaceship in the 20th century—assuming he doesn’t die in Sean’s place. With his life at risk in one universe and his freedom in another, Paul will need his friends, his holoprojector costume, and a quantum talent he didn’t know he had to avoid tragedy.

Query #2:

Every year, the spaceship Sagan passes through a wormhole to an alternate 20th century Earth. Time travelers visit this planet to observe historic events as they occur and to take genetic samples back to their century. Sometimes they take samples from famous people, such as Sean Quinn, a rock star and peace activist.

Seventeen-year-old Paul lives on the Sagan with his family. After his mother is murdered during leave in the 22nd century, he learns he’s Sean’s clone, created at his great-uncle’s insistence to be a new Sean. Although Paul loves acting, he doesn’t want to be stuck in the same role all his life. He suspects Great-Uncle Jack had his mother murdered to make Paul’s life more like Sean’s, but there’s no evidence. Paul decides to trick a confession out of his great-uncle by impersonating Sean’s ghost. He feels the best way to do this is to meet the man he was cloned from. But the other travelers refuse to let him do so, fearing Paul could change the 20th century Earth’s history if he warns Sean about his own upcoming murder. Paul manages to escape from the time travelers to find himself caught in a horrible dilemma: continue with his original plans and let an innocent man die, or risk his own life to save Sean’s. Even that may be preferable to returning to face Great-Uncle Jack, who is plotting to use Paul’s girlfriend against him. Facing risks in two universes, Paul will need a quantum talent he didn’t know he had to avoid tragedy.

Which one do you think works better, and why? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? I'm planning to pitch this book as YA as well as science fiction; do you think one version would work better for that market than the other? Thanks in advance for your comments!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Query Letters: Mind the Gap

Well, Across Two Universes has been sent off to my beta readers (though I have room for a third reader, if anyone's interested), so now it's time to work on the query letter and synopsis. I've drafted both and posted the synopsis on OWW and the query letter on Absolute Write for feedback. So far, I've had one review on the synopsis, and there was only one paragraph the reviewer had trouble following. That's not bad. My query letter, on the other hand, still needs work.

Writing query letters is tough, but I think for SF/fantasy writers, it's even harder. It's not enough just to summarize the story; you have to explain the setting too, especially if it's much different from our world. To boil down a novel to a couple hundred words, you have to leave out a lot of details that help build credibility. There's a big gap between the novel and the query letter you have to mind, much like the famous "gap" of the London Undergound.

I think for my next draft of my query letter, I'm going to start with a background paragraph before diving into Paul's goals and conflicts. We'll have to see if that works better. In the meantime, have you experienced this gap between story and summary, and how did you deal with it?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Six Million Dollar Raid

I don't play some of the most popular games on Facebook, but I have a few I really enjoy.  Two of them involve raising pet dragons; you can find them here and here. The premise behind both of them is simple: you raise a dragon from an egg, deciding when it should grow, how it should train, and send it to attack other dragons for gold and assist your friends. Tuesday night I was looking for someone to raid and came across a dragon two wealth classes above me. The dragon was bigger than mine, so I wasn't sure I would win, but I tried it anyway, figuring it wouldn't hurt. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I found my dragon had brought home over six million units of treasure, earning me an achievement and sending me up to the next wealth class. I tried something similar with my other dragon, sending her to raid a dragon 1.5 times her size. It was a long battle, but in the end I emerged triumphant, though my take-home prize wasn't quite so big.

I'm telling you these stories not to brag or to entice you into trying out the Pet Dragon games, but to make a point about writing: sometimes you have to take risks to succeed. That can mean anything from trying something new with your writing to submitting to your dream agents/editors first instead of someplace that seems safer. Sometimes you're going to fail, and you have to accept that as part of the game. But sometimes you can succeed beyond your expectations.

While I think you can find writing metaphors anywhere you care to look, sometimes it's best not to push them too far. My newly wealthy dragon is under attack by a much bigger dragon, and I'd hate to take that to mean writers have to compete with each other* instead of helping each other along.

*if we do have to fight, remember that though I be little, I be fierce.**

** That's a Shakespeare reference. Anyone recognize the play?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: Microbes Are Us

 Warning: If you have a squeamish stomach, you may want to skip over some of the details here.

I'm back again with more microbe news, this time from the New York Times. From the moment we're born, we're constantly being colonized by different types of bacteria. In fact, the microbes in our bodies outnumber the human cells by a factor of 10 to 1. Each part of the body is home to different types of bacteria; the mouth alone can have up to a thousand different species. But before you run for the nearest bottle of Scope, don't panic; not all of these bacteria are going to make you sick. In fact, some of them are necessary to produce enzymes to help you digest certain types of food or prevent more harmful bacteria from settling in. Without exposure to microbes early in life, the immune system doesn't develop normally, which can possibly lead to asthma and autoimmune disorders. (It's nice to know the six-month stretch of musical colds/ear infections our family endured when our son first entered daycare may actually be good in the long run.) Scientists are now starting to study the populations of microbes in our bodies; this collection is called the microbiomes. Each person has a unique microbiome, and the microbiome can change in response to illness. For example, when our son was on antibiotics for ear infections, we needed to give him yogurt to replenish the good bacteria in his digestive tract. One doctor has even performed what could be called a microbial transplant, giving a woman who had a severe bacterial infection some of her husband's bacteria. The woman had lost 60 pounds due to diarrhea that had lasted for months, but the diarrhea disappeared a day after the transplant.

So, what can a science fiction writer do with a microbiome? For starters, you can explain why some people are resistant to some diseases while others aren't. You can even use the microbiome as a way to create differences in identical twins; they may have the same human DNA, but not the same microbes. I'm personally intrigued by what would happen when humans go into space or visit other planets. If you're stuck in a spaceship for a long time, without exposure to other new microbes, will that have an effect on your own microbiome? What happens when you go to another planet? Is it possible to find extraterrestrial microbes compatible with the human body? While it seems unlikely the biochemistries would be similar, microbes have short generation times and perhaps could evolve to work with us. Perhaps we might even develop a symbiotic relationship with them. Like all tools, bacteria can be used for good or bad purposes; it all depends on what you want to do with them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How To Write with a Toddler in the House

1. Tell your spouse that you want some writing time in the afternoon and would appreciate it if he/she could look after your toddler during that time.

2. To prepare your toddler for you not being by his side every single second, do some household chores upstairs first before settling into your office.

3. Try to ignore the questions of "Where's Mama?" coming from downstairs every five minutes.
3a. Do check in briefly before your toddler gets too upset.
3b. Do realize your toddler will be OK, even if he refuses to nap.

4. Since your time is limited, limit the amount of goofing off you do and actually write.

5. Wish your office had a door, especially when your toddler comes upstairs to find you.

6. If possible, finish what you're working on before devoting your attention back to your son.

7. When he goes to bed extra early because of the missed nap, take advantage of the time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Date Day: Adler Planetarium

On Wednesday, my husband and I took some time off work, dropped our son off at daycare, and visited the Adler Planetarium. Neither of us have been there in ages, so I thought that would be better than some of the other museums we've seen umpteen zillion times. We saw one of the shows (featuring what could be seen in the Chicago sky this time of year), lots of old telescopes and astrolabes, and items related to the Apollo missions. Afterwards, we went outside to take some photos:

(Sorry, I'm not sure how to fix the text wrap, so I can't put captions right by the photos.) The first photo is of the projector used for the show we saw. Believe it or not, it's not computerized. The next photo is of a sculpture outside the planetarium. That's Eugene, my husband, in the red shirt taking a picture.

The Shedd Aquarium.
Above is a statue of Copernicus. These flowers are next to a walkway outside the planetarium.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Quotations: Creativity

While I was cleaning out my office earlier this week, I found a clipping with quotes on creativity. I'm not sure where I found it, but I know I've had it for years. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from it:

Very few people do anything creative after the age of 35. The reason is that very few people do anything creative before the age of 35. -- Joel Hildebrand

Highly creative people are often off their rockers.--Stanley Hoffmann

Artists die twice. First creatively. Then physically. The second one is easier.--Sylvester Stallone

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Back on the Blog Chain: There's a Place

Welcome back to the Blog Chain! B.J. picked the topic this round:

Is there a place you like to write that's extra special? Have you carved out a writing niche? Is there a certain time of day (or night) when the words fall into place, and your brain is focused on nothing but writing?

Mandy posted before me, and Eric will post tomorrow.

It's taken me a long time to set up my office in this house. I finally cleared out all the boxes this Tuesday, so now I can show you a few pictures. The first one shows the Beatles poster and photos above my desk; a writer has to have her inspiration, after all. The second is of my desk. I had a third one of my office, but it was too dark.

I do write in here sometimes when Alex is asleep or out of the house (sometimes I take a vacation day and send him to daycare so I can get stuff done). Most of my writing these days is on my lunch hour at work. I bring in my laptop and write at my own desk. I used to be able to write at night, but these days, by the time my son is in bed, I'm too mentally drained or need to catch up on finances or household chores. Sometimes I like to go to the bookstore to write at the cafe. I feel more motivated to write there since I'm taking time out of my routine and reserving it for writing.

While it is useful to have a designated place/time set aside for writing, I've found that as a working mother, I have to be flexible to make the best use of my free time. In the past, I used to print out the current page from my WIP and bring it with me so if I had a free minute, I could jot down a sentence or two. I need to get back in that habit again. But I think first I have to relearn how to focus. There are so many distractions out there that it's hard sometimes to concentrate on my own work. If you're focused enough, you can write anywhere, anywhen. After all, the muse is everywhere!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: Robot Companions

A Silver Metal Lover may be much closer than you think.

According to this article in the New York Times, robots that look like animals (in this instance, a baby seal), have been developed that respond to their names and to touch. They are being used in nursing homes to provide comfort; the article called it "pet therapy without the pet." Other applications include a robot mentor for dieters (dieters report on their meals and activity on a daily basis and get encouragement in return) and sensors that help addicts cope with their cravings. In all of these situations, the responsive interaction is key. One manager at a nursing home conducted her own experiments and found that residents responded better to the interactive robot seal than to a teddy bear with the same type of fur. It's part of our psychology to treat something that responds to its environment as alive, even when it isn't.

Robots are such a staple of science fiction it's hard to think of new ways to write about them. Who could do them better than Asimov, after all?  As robots become more lifelike and better able to interact with people, will we see more stories featuring them as romantic interests? Perhaps we could have a new type of urban science fiction, with robots and androids replacing the vampires and werewolves of urban fantasy. Will we ever reach a point where we deal more with robots than people? What would society be like then? And if we learn to give sentient robots rights, will that help us tolerate the differences among human beings? I don't have answers, but I can always come up with more questions.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Expanding Universe Contest

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller are the author team behind the classic and ever-popular Liaden Universe®. This series of “adventurous romantic space opera” holds cross-over appeal for both romance and science fiction readers.

To celebrate the release of MOUSE AND DRAGON, Lee and Miller’s thirteenth Liaden novel, the authors are hosting a contest. It’s open to anyone and everyone who has yet to sample a Liaden Universe® novel. They're giving away 36 digital copies of THE DRAGON VARIATION omnibus, which includes CONFLICT OF HONORS, LOCAL CUSTOM, and SCOUT’S PROGRESS.

Not only that, but if you’re a blogger who wants to help spread the word about it, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $36.00 gift card from Barnes and Noble! And if you’re a blogger new to the Liaden novels of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, you can enter both tiers of the contest.

Here is an excerpt from the official announcement at Sharon Lee’s blog:
In celebration of the publication of Mouse and Dragon, the thirteenth novel set in their Liaden Universe®, authors Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are holding an Expanding Universe Contest!  Yes! No less than thirty-six electronic copies of The Dragon Variation will be given away.

The Dragon Variation is an omnibus edition of three Liaden Universe® novels — Conflict of Honors, one of the first modern SFRomances; Local Custom, second place winner of the Prism Award for best Futuristic of 2002; and Scout’s Progress, the first place winner of the Prism Award for best Futuristic of 2002, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice for Best SF Novel of its year, and the prequel to Mouse and Dragon.

That's three complete novels under one cover.  No prior knowledge of the Liaden Universe® required. Electronic! In Baen Books’ DRM-free, multiplatform style.  This omnibus can be read on your Kindle, your phone, your iPad, your desktop, or other ereader.
To enter the contest, visit the Expanding Universe post at Sharon Lee’s blog and follow the instructions you see there (it’s easy). The contest ends at "midnight Eastern Daylight Time (4:00 a.m. GMT) Friday, July 16". Winners will be announced on Saturday, July 17, 2010.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Sticky Post: You Make Me Want to Shout....

My writing friend Maria Zannini is looking for blogs to shout out. She'll be doing this until July 2. (That's why I've made this a sticky post.) All blogs are welcome as long as they're not spam or porn blogs. If you'd like her to give your blog a shout-out, e-mail her at mariazannini AT gmail DOT com. And to get you in the mood:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Twitter Pitch Contest--WINNER!

Thanks to all of you who commented on my Twitter pitches. It was good to get some feedback, and I think Maria's suggestion improved the pitch. Of course, now I have to wait until next week and see how the agent likes it. But in the meantime, here's the winner of the $10 gift card to B&N:


Congratulations, Barbara! Barnes and Noble offers e-cards that can be used online or in the store. If you can tell me your e-mail address (either here or by e-mailing me at my address: sandra at sandraulbrich dot com), I'll have a card out to you ASAP!


I finally joined the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum. You can find me there as SF4-EVER, though I still have to make my first post. I'm not sure yet if I'll start an introduction thread or just jump on in. It looks like a very useful site--as long as I don't use up my writing time on surfing!

My Twitter Query Contest ends today at 5:00 CDT. Which pitch should I use next week in a contest? Check out the link for your chance to win a $10 gift card to B&N.

If you look at the sticky post above this one, you'll see that today is also the last day you can ask Maria Zannini to give your blog a "shout-out." This is not only a chance to promote your blog; you can also win a very Texan prize package. Better hurry!

I'll be back later this evening to announce who won the gift card.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mid-Life Inspiration

If you've been "chasing paper, getting nowhere," for a long time, here are a few examples of writers and other talented people who didn't peak until mid-life or later.

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