Chronicle Books Redux

Wow - I've officially been noticed in writing circles! Do you know how it makes me feel that I'm one of the movers and shakers...

::shakes head, wonders where she is::

Oh, yeah, my daytime job.

Anyway, a bunch of other writers and me (see how nicely I slip myself into that delicious group known as writers? ;-)), received a polite comment from Joseph Ternes at Chronicle Books. In it, he cleared up a few things:
The information in the Newsweek article was incorrect. Chronicle Books will not receive a referral fee for recommending Blurb.com to aspiring authors or artists.

Just as from time to time our editors refer authors or artists to other trade houses, Blurb.com presents another option if they consider it an appropriate choice. This option will not be part of our response to every author submissions. There are many self-publishing options in the marketplace, though far fewer for illustrated book authors and artists. As an independent illustrated book publisher in San Francisco, Chronicle Books felt an affinity for the locally based Blurb.com and the quality of the product it is offering the public.
This is good to hear.



Communication Is the Key

Seems to me, communication is the key when dealing with your agent.

No, I'm not agented (yet), but I think I'll throw my opinion around on this one anyway. :-)

On one agent's blog, I noticed an anonymous comment from someone who, apparently, had an agent who'd been sitting on her ms. for three years. Three long, freakin' years.

What's up with that?

It's possible I misunderstood the post, but I don't think so. It sounded as if the poor writer was with a prestigious agency/agent, and it's possible that agent took on too many clients.

It happens.

The thing is, what was happening with her ms? Did her agent actually send out the puppy and get negatives all around? Did she communicate this to the writer? Did the writer ask? Did the agent ask for edits - as I assume she must have - or did the agent just leave things as is? (I would think even minor edits are necessary before sending a ms. on to editors.)

Whatever has happened, it's obvious the writer and the agent aren't communicating. It's possible the agent did ask for edits in that timeframe (3 years) and has sent it out with nobody wanting it. But it's also obvious this isn't getting through to the writer; obviously, or she wouldn't have asked about it.

Don't be afraid to ask your agent where she's sending your ms. It's part of the writer/agent relationship. You, as a writer, have the right to know where your agent is sending your ms.; after all, it's your baby, right? Whether the agent tells you straight out or you send a short email inquiry, it doesn't matter. Back scratching works both ways.

My advice to that poor dear was to politely let her agent know that she (the writer) didn't think it was working out, and to be released from her contract. Yeah, she'll have to do the whole query thing again (yuck!), and do the entire waiting game again (double yuck!), but I phrased it this way: In the 3 years your agent's been (ostensibly) sitting on your ms., another agent would've had you do some edits and sent it out to publishers, and, possibly, if the first one didn't sell, the agent would've asked for something else you're working on.

Don't be afraid to admit something is not working. Writing is hard work, as is agenting. Don't you want someone working as hard as you are?

Right. I thought so.

~Nancy Beck


What's Up With Chronicle Books?

This is just disgusting.

Read about this on the Absolute Write Bewares and Backgrounds forum and got my Irish (all right, Polish) up.

You can read Victoria Strauss' take on it here. The original article is here.

For those who don't feel like clicking on the links ;-), Chronicle Books, a commercial publisher, is teaming up with an outfit called Blurb (a self-publishing service). The bad thing for writers? Chronicle and Blurb have decided on what they call is a "mutual referral deal." Chronicle will funnel rejected writers to Blurb. If those writers purchase Blurb's services, Blurb pays Chronicle an undisclosed cut of the revenue.

Hunh? What's that you say? Conflict of interest? Yup. Even worse, this sounds like Kickback City to me. I mean, WTF is up with that?

Let's start with the conflict of interest part. When Chronicle is interested in a book, they'll offer a contract to said author; nothing wrong with that. Except Chronicle doesn't see any money until the book is on sale (after spending months on editing, marketing, etc.). What better thing to do than to reject an author, and push him or her over to something Chronicle has recommended? How can an author possibly trust a publisher like that? Victoria points out on the Writer Beware blog link above that the notorious Edit Ink pulled the same sort of crap.

Sorry, but this is just rotten. Writers get taken in by enough scam outfits like Publish America (that pretends to be a publisher) and places like Edit Ink (that pretended to be an editing outfit) without having to deal with more crap like this.

If Chronicle just came back to those they rejected and said, "You might want to try an editing service," without mentioning anybody, that I could accept (and I wouldn't expect Chronicle or any publisher to point me to anyone specific; that's what research is for).

As for the other? Well, Victoria said it quite succinctly on the Writer Beware blog:
Chronicle's referrals to Blurb will come with the weight and reputation of an established commercial publisher behind them. A reputable publisher won't tell you to do something that's not in your best interest, right? It's likely, therefore, that authors will take the recommendation seriously. This is bad enough for books that aren't publishable. But what about the books that don't fit Chronicle's list, but might be a good match for another reputable publisher? What if those books get sidelined into Blurb? Again, Chronicle will not be doing authors any favors.
Exactly. Chronicle should just stick to rejecting authors that don't fit their list. Period. If writers want to go the self publishing route...let them (the writers) do their own research and decide for themselves if they want to spend any dough.

Bad, very bad. Cross Chronicle Books off your list, unless they rescind this horrible idea.

~Nancy Beck


Muse Online Writer's Conference

Today has been an especially busy day for me at work, plus I had to endure a group-wide meeting.

Can't have everything.

Anyway, since I've never been to a writer's conference before (and since I can't afford to stay anywhere to go to one), I decided to sign up for an online one. The one I found is called the Muse Online Writer's Conference, and it's going from October 8 to October 14 (yup, a Sunday). I've signed up for a bunch of presentations/courses and online chats. I did do a little research on the people involved, trying to stay away from those who only have one book (fiction, that is) under their belts.

It's not that I want to diss one book (so far, anyway) authors; far from it. It's just that I don't think they can offer a lot in the way of publishing experience.

Meh. That sounds a bit elitest. Oh well. If they want to talk about something else where they've made money (for instance, one of the presenters has an ebook on doing reviews on just about anything, and has made money not only off that ebook, but in reviewing stuff; I would've liked to have listened to her take on the reviewing end of books and things, but she chose to give a presentation on how she got her book pubbed).

To each their own, I guess, and I truly applaud her for getting her book pubbed (definitely not an easy feat!), but I feel she had more to give on the non-fiction end of the equation.

But some of the presentations and chats sounded interesting, so I'll be giving it all a whirl. I've taken off the entire week, so we'll see how it goes (with plenty of time to continue with my revisions).

~Nancy Beck


What I'm Currently Reading

It's a mystery, specifically, what's considered a cozy. The idea behind a cozy, as I understand it, is it takes place in a village, usually an English village, and it's filled with all sorts of characters you'd typically find in such a village, such as a vicar. I think it all started with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple character, and having just recently seen one of the 1960s movies of Miss Marple (quite delightful and fun), I decided, on a whim, to pick up this particular one.

As I'm not yet sold on it, I'm not going to give out the title. All I'll say is that it's unconventional, in that the person doing the unravelling is a working-class woman who has a boring job in a nearby village. But it's the type of job wherein she can hear some interesting personal stuff...

That's it for now. Whether or not I'll review it will be up to how much I like it. Even if I'm lukewarm on a story, I'll review it. It's only the outright howlers I won't bother with (and there've been relatively few of those, thankfully).

~Nancy Beck

Throne of Jade - A Review

Throne of Jade
Del Ray, 432 pages

If you haven't read the first installment of this series, His Majesty's Dragon, you must read that first, as Ms. Novik doesn't spend time rehashing the first book and its characters.

Will Laurence has to give up Temeraire, his dragon (a Chinese Celestial), to the Chinese. Problem is, he won't do it.

And Temeraire? He won't have anything to do with it, either. After Temeraire escapes from where he's being held (and after attacking a blowhard from the diplomatic corps), Laurence learns that he won't have to give up Temeraire--at least, not right away. Instead, he's told he'll deliver Temeraire to the Chinese emperor, all the while having to deal with the emperor's currently out-of-favor son, Yongxing.

En route, on a specially-made ship with a dragondeck, all sorts of hell break loose, from an attack by one of the entourage (or was it an attack?), to a mini-war, all in the name of bringing back a Celestial that was originally meant for Napoleon.

The historical facts are still in this book as in the first; I'll leave it to those who are up on this period of British history as to whether or not Ms. Novik got everything down pat. For me, it seems thoroughly awash in the dress and flavor of that time; even the way this book and the prior book were written sounds as if it was part of that time period.

There are a few twists and turns in this book (especially an horrific one that ends in the death of one of the British on the ship), most I didn't see coming. There's a wrap-up at the end of the book--as to why Yongxing brought everyone to China--which sounded a bit too pat; I was left scratching my head, until I re-read it a couple of times. I'm still not sure if it makes sense, as I didn't think it was foreshadowed all that much, but that might be one of my shortcomings as a reader; of all the mysteries I've read through the years, I've yet to figure out whodunnit.

Other than that, this was a good, interesting read. I found Temeraire even more precious and believable than in the first book, and Laurence was just as good a character in this book; I could really feel the bond gel between him and Temeraire.

I've taken a temporary respite from the series, but I'll be tuning in for the 3rd installment, Black Powder War, once I finish what I'm reading now.

For once, the hype is spot on!

Hooray For My Teams!

Yesterday was a clean sweep for all New York-area teams. The Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Jets won!

It was gratifying to see the Yankees win, especially with Jobba striking out the last guy in the 9th. Yesssss. (Sorry to sound like Gollum. ;-)) And especially as my mother and her friend were at the game! That makes two out of two for her in seeing the Yanks win this year.

Before this year, she hadn't been to a Yankees game in about ::gasp:: 50 years! And you certainly can't put anything past her as to the scoring, etc., in baseball or football; she went to the Yankees farm club team, the Newark Bears, when she was growing up in Newark (her mother, who was born in Poland, loved going to those games, too).

Can't put anything past me, either. So there. ;-)

At least the Giants won a game, thank goodness.

Go Yankees!!!!!


Snobs and Publishing

I just went over to The Rejecter's blog, and I came away a little ticked off.

Not at her, mind you; I congratulated her on getting a publishing contract and agent (esp. nice as it's a fantasy novel :-)).

One of the posters, however, who couldn't even own up to a name, decided to look down his/her/its nose at The Rejecter having a genre novel published.

Ooo, aah, ow, yeow...the sky is falling! All that we've ever known is coming to an end!

Yup, he/she/it dissed it and her (calling her lazy for taking the easy way out).

I don't understand. A few years ago, there was a time when I looked down on those who write in an already-constructed universe (I'm thinking of Star Trek novels here). I thought it must be simple to write such stuff.

I don't think that way anymore. In fact, I think it's harder to write in, say, the Star Trek universe than coming up with something on your own. Because when it's your baby, it's something you and only you have worked on. Think of all the writers that have written in the various Star Trek universes. You have to conform to what's come before. You'd have to do that with your own stuff, too, but it's something you've come up with, not a million and one other writers.

I don't know. The whole idea of having to conform to something that came before that I haven't written...it just rubs me the wrong way. (Although I admire those who manage to write with that constraint.)

But at least I've gotten off my high horse and don't look down my nose at any genre or any mainstream writer. If there's a big enough audience out there for certain types of books, who am I to say that people shouldn't write that? Hell's bells!

Is it too obvious to point out that there are good books and bad books in all genres, and, yes, in literary fiction and mainstream, too?

Can you tell this sort of thinking makes me batty?

Getting back to the poster, he/she/it did say one thing that was telling: zero accomplishments. Hmm. Dude/dudette - maybe your attitude shows whenever you've shopped around your novels?

Another poster put it very nicely: You like what you like.

I'll leave it at that.

~Nancy Beck

Two Biggies in Fantasy Pass Away - Robert Jordan & Madeline L'Engle

I'm coming to this very late, I know, but I had to make some remarks (nothing nasty, of course).

Robert Jordan died on September 17, 2007 of a rare blood disease called primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, which caused the walls of his heart to thicken.

I enjoyed the first three books in his World of Time series, but I have to admit that I didn't care for the fourth book; I subsequently lost interest in the series. But...mucho others have continued to read the rest of the books, and more power - and kudos - to them.

This is what makes it so hard to break into fiction - it's so subjective!

My condolences to his wife and to those who worked with him.

Madeline L'Engle, who died on September 6, 2007, is generally known for A Wrinkle In Time, which was originally published in 1963. (Gadzooks, just a year before I was born! Yeah, I'm dating myself, but who cares?) I'll confess that I don't remember reading this as a kid. Is it possible I did? I suppose so, but the only story I remember reading from back then that made any sort of impression is one where I don't remember the name of the author, the title of it, nor the entire story.

Doesn't sound like a very good impression, eh?

Yet, I still have a sliver of it in my mind. It was about a young girl whose mother is a witch and keeps her locked up in a castle. It's possible that I'm confusing things, and that a witch rescues her.

But I digress.

From reading the above news story, it sounds to me like Ms. L'Engle was the female version of C. S. Lewis (I'm thinking of the Narnia series here), in that her stories were Christian allegory (for instance, Aslan, in Lewis' series, is obviously meant to be Jesus).

I wonder if her characters were as obvious as Lewis was in the Narnia books or if they were more like what J. R. R. Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings.

Maybe I should pick up the book and find out for myself. :-)

My condolences to her family.

~Nancy Beck


Too Many Words

Over on Evil Editor's blog, someone posted a query for an SF novel that's ::gulp:: 185,000 words.


Even though stories in spec fic can be a lot longer than other genres, even that's too much. SF and fantasy can top out at about 120,000 words, with a minimum of 80,000.

What the writer described in the first part of the query sounded like backstory; this, in itself, might be considered one book of a duology. (Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is a trilogy; he didn't want to break up what he considered one book--yeow! again--but his publisher wisely broke it up into three parts, because of a paper shortage after World War II and because most people in England at that couldn't afford anything that huge.)

We should always strive to keep in mind the uppermost limits (wordwise, that is) of whatever genre we're writing in. Another thought to keep in mind, and this can be somewhat harder, is where the story begins. It won't necessarily begin when the main character opens a door or hangs up the phone; not only do we, as writers, have to worry about a beginning hook, we also have to know what sets the plot, the main character, in motion.

So if you notice your story heading way, way up there, you might want to start snipping away those words. Insisting that all 200,000 words (or whatever) is necessary for one book will not bring agents to your table, no matter how good a writer you are. And that's especially true if you're a first timer, when agents and publishers have no idea how much you'll sell.

~Nancy Beck


Where Do Stories Come From?

You think of yourself as a writer, and, many times, this is what someone's first question is.

The answer is simple: Everywhere.

As Angie pointed out in a comment to my last post, stories and characters can bubble up soon after you've gone to bed (but not completely asleep), and soon after you've woken up. I've been hit with some good stuff in the shower and the bath.

The point is, something can smack you upside the head at the weirdest times. There's a good chance you might not use it, but then again...you never know.

Case in point the WIP I just went back to. This is one I revised several times about a year ago, then put aside. I think I put it out for critting at the wrong time, as I wasn't really ready for critting at that point.

But I digress. This began with a dream I had over several nights (yeah, reruns in the brain, lol). I then bought a map off of Ebay of one of the cities it would take place; I bought a travel map off Ebay for another city it's going to take place in.

I developed it off a dream, but I expanded it. The original draft was different than what it is right now. I originally envisioned a woman having to deal with a snarky, mean-spirited movie studio owner. It would take place during the "Golden Age" of Hollywood movies, when the studio system was in full force. The studio would be a poverty row studio (something like Monogram)...and so on.

What it is now developed out of the fact that I can't have kids, and the woman decided to adopt. I linked that up with her adopted daughter, who wants to find out who her birth mother is. The first woman (a former movie star) had reasons for not giving her daughter the correct information for her to find her birth mother...

Sounds a bit sinister, and the daughter resents it when she finds out, but there's a sad and sobering reason why the adopted mother did what she did.

I also threw in a goddess, who helps bring the adopted daughter back in time, to the 1942, when the adopted daughter is born. World War II, coupled with the Hollywood "dream factory" (along with the idea that not everyone was making huge salaries like Bette Davis or Cary Grant), well, I'm hoping it's something not only an agent would want to read, but lots of people would want to.

And I have another idea for a story, but it's not fantasy at all. It's a romance, and, again, the reruns in my head are making me consider fleshing it out.

In due time.

~Nancy Beck


Why I Write

I write because it takes me away from my personal life, which isn't in the greatest shape nowadays. I've read where people say they lead dull lives; do you really want the opposite of that?


If I could control things on a personal level, sure, I'd love to stay home and just write fiction all day while the bucks rolled in. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way (unless you're someone like Paris Hilton). With just some dough coming in from my day job, it's just not going to cut it, so I've started to look into freelancing, among other things.

But when I want to just get away from all sorts of bills and shrieking/crying relatives (you really don't want to know ::sigh::), I write fiction. And the fiction I'm writing--rewriting, actually--right now is a bit more light hearted. Oh, the MC desperately wants to find her birth mother (in the flesh, not just by looking at newspaper articles or whatever), but the fun stuff is in the story, too, as soon as she travels back in time...

It gives me a chance to let loose (if I want), to immerse myself in another world (sometimes literally). A lot of my musings won't go any further then what's typed on the screen, but that's okay: It allows me to vent so I won't pull all of my hair out (I just colored it, anyway, so I want to keep it on my head for a while longer, thank you ;-)).

Why do you write? For the same reason I do? To talk about certain injustices in the world? Just to tell what you think is a good story? There are all sorts of reasons.

For the money? In fiction? ::rolls eyes:: Puh-leez. Better to write and expect nothing to come of it, and be ecstatic when something does come of it.

Is that a bit defeatist? Maybe it is, but then I'm in a certain mood today. But I also think it's realistic.

I also think that if you're serious about this fiction thing you'll keep at it, until you have the basics down pat, until you've beaten down the door (politely) of every agent out there (that will take your type of writing).

It took one guy something like 10 years to get agented/published. I'm sure he didn't set out with that idea in mind, but it might take a while (especially if your personal life is screwy).

His persistence paid off, though, didn't it?

~Nancy Beck


Running Down a Dream - First 700 Words (or so)

Okay, so I lied. You got a problem with that? ;-)

Very brief synopsis: The year is 1974 (before the whole Watergate thing). Rita Fuentes is on the phone, trying to find out something from the woman on the other side of the receiver. Will it be good news, for a change, or will her search be at an end?


Rita Fuentes paced around the kitchen table until she was sure she'd leave a groove in the linoleum floor. Biting her nails, she waited for the woman on the other end of the phone to talk again. Tell me you've found me, she thought.

"Sorry," the genealogist said. "Just another minute."

Rita clenched her teeth when she heard a thump. "That's right, put the phone down," she said. She stopped at one of the kitchen chairs, turning her gaze to the nearest wall. What was her mother thinking when she put up that bright green and orange wallpaper?

"I guess Margaret has to make sure one part of the house fits in with what passes for decorating." Fitting in. For seven long years, since the hippies' Summer of Love, she'd wondered where she fit in.

"Thanks for holding, Mrs. Fuentes."

Rita held her breath.

"Unfortunately, I can't find anyone in Los Angeles with that last name who had a baby named Rita on September 28, 1942."

Rita blinked, but tears already pricked her eyes. "Adoption records?"

"Most adoption records aren't available to the public, Mrs. Fuentes."

Rita's shoulders drooped. Seven years wasted. Margaret's long ago search failed, so why did she think she could succeed where her mother had not? Because she contacted a professional genealogist? That was another thing. Why had the genealogist taken her on? For money? She breathed in and out several times, determined to control her anger; too much misery had come after she'd lost control. "I see," were the only words that came to mind.

"If you remember," said the genealogist, "I didn't promise anything. I told you I didn't want your money, but you sent me a check anyway."

"But, but--"

"Adoption records are sealed, remember?" the genealogist continued. Rita could almost feel nails being driven into her skin. "I'm really sorry. When you told me your mother said Rita was your name at birth...well, I've heard that before. I need something concrete that proves what your mother told you."

Pulling a chair from the kitchen table, Rita bit her lower lip as it screeched across the floor like chalk across a blackboard. "The newspaper picture doesn't help?"

The genealogist sighed. "If you'd given me a birth announcement...I'm sorry, but I couldn't help you even if I had access to those computers NASA used on the Apollo missions."

Rita stared at the blank sheet of paper on the table.

"Mrs. Fuentes," said the genealogist, "I took you on because I'm adopted. I know I shouldn't have; I've gotten in trouble with this before, but you sounded desperate. By the way, I haven't cashed your check."

Desperate? Rita thought. Damn, yeah. "Could you just rip it up?"

"Not a problem."

"Thanks," Rita said, massaging her forehead. She had one more idea. "Couldn't you get a list of all the Ritas born in September of 1942 in, say, San Francisco?"

The genealogist chuckled. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to laugh at that. I just remember my son wanting to go to San Francisco back in sixty-nine because it was such a 'groovy' place, whatever that means. Anyway, now you're scattering your resources like buckshot--"

"But could you come up with something?" Rita wrapped and unwrapped the phone cord around her finger.

"Like I was saying, you're scattering your resources like buckshot, hoping to hit something. Mrs. Fuentes, please, please listen. It can't be done that way, not with adoptees. And how do you know you were born in California? Maybe you were born in New York, and your mother brought you back just in time to have her picture snapped."

Or here in New Jersey, Rita thought, nodding. Her lower lip trembled, as she knew in her heart the woman was right. "Now what?"

"It's not much, but I'll give you the phone number and address of an adoptees organization called ALMA."

More numbers and addresses, Rita thought, sighing. "What's ALMA?"

"The Adoptee's Liberty Movement Association, which I think started in 1971, out of New York City. They probably won't be able to help you anymore than I have, but maybe they have access to resources I don't."

Probably. Maybe. The same regurgitated words. And a few years too late. "Sure," Rita said. She picked up her pencil as if she were lifting a tree trunk. Dutifully, she scribbled the address and phone number and thanked the genealogist for her help.

Rita's young daughter, Natalie, comes in to try to cheer her up, and to egg her on to keep at it. They get into a discussion about Japanese things (purses, called nerukes, and certain statues of Japanese gods); that part will serve as a foreshadowing of certain later events...

I'm unsure if this beginning will stand, but I'm going with it for now.

Hope you enjoyed it.

~Nancy Beck

My Works in Progress

I've officially shelved The Bone Eater for now; some of the personality traits I've decided Jackie should have are a little too close for comfort.

What is it that agents and editors say? That you should get your illness/whatever out of your system and then write? Yeah, that's what I need to do with this story right now.

I've gone back to the other story I'd been working on a couple of years ago. It's mostly finished, but I stuffed it too full of crap. The first chapter has been revised, and now I'm working on the second chapter, and hope to have that revised in a day or two.

I know that as I move along, I'm going to have to incorporate certain things I've thought would work better than my original thoughts. And the middle is going to be a bit of a mess. But I have some ideas for the middle, too, including deleting mucho words.

The ending is pretty much set (and it's kind of weepy, but it makes sense), but of course I'll have another look at it; never know what I can add or subtract to make it better.

Oh, and I'm going to post the first 400 or so words of this work in progress, which I've called (after going through three or four titles), Running Down a Dream.

~Nancy Beck


A Fun Blog

Here's a fun blog that's writer related (sort of): Beer Haiku Daily.

Yup, a haiku daily, related to beer (yes, Virginia, there are beers out there worth talking and writing about). And you're encouraged to write a haiku (lines of 5-7-5 syllables) and submit it. Who knows? You might get a blog post of your very own over there. :-)



Do Your Research, Dammit!

Yet another "publisher" bit the bullet, scamming people left and right. This one was called Martell Publishing.

When I first looked at the picture of where Martell's office was, I was reminded of several Jersey Shore motels.

Turns out it originally was a motel, converted into offices.

Repeat after me: You NEVER, EVER pay a publisher to print your story. Not upfront, and not by asking you for the names of family and friends (that's the end around).


These poor people would've done better by going to the local copy shop to have it done. Or they could've gone online and used either Lulu.com or CafePress. Any of these would've cost less (or would've been free) than what Martell asked for (and, unfortunately, received).

Now you're going to say: But you just said you never pay a publisher to publish your work in hard copy or paperback, that they should be paying you (royalties). And the last time you looked, the local copy shop would indeed cost money.

The copy shop is being honest; they'll print your stuff, but they won't claim they're publishing
you. All that the shop, Lulu.com, and CafePress claim is that they'll PRINT your work. That's a big difference. If you have any typos, they'll been in the final print. In other words, whatever is on the pieces of paper you're handing to a printer, they'll print. No editing, no marketing of your story, nothing.

At least they're being honest.

Shame on the guy who took advantage of people. I hope he gets thrown in jail for at least a year. Scumbag.

~Nancy Beck

So We Come to the 6 Year Anniversary of 9-11...

Where were you on 9/11/2001?

I was at home, recuperating from surgery; I was due to go to the doctor on 9/12, to have the catheter removed.

It was a very strange day to begin with. Turning on Turner Classic Movies, I usually settle in to watch whatever is on (with few exceptions).

But not that day.

The movie on that morning, Stanley and Livingstone, starring Spencer Tracy, is one that I normally would watch. But, strangely, I was very restless. It's possible that I was antsy because I'd been on short-term disability for several weeks; there's no way to know for sure.

Anyway, I turned the channel, flipping through various stations. I finally came upon one that showed a very tall, burning building. An announcer or reporter for this New York station said that a plane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center towers...

It was so unusual a thing, that I called my husband at work, telling him about it.

Later that morning, I watched in stupefied horror as the second plane hit the other tower.

Yeah, lucky me. Dark smoke billowed around the first tower, and I saw something coming in from one of the sides of the picture. I suddenly realized it was a plane. I said something like, "No, no, what are you doing?"

As we know now, the despicable guy at the controls knew exactly what he was doing.

The world hasn't been the same since.

~Nancy Beck


Weekend Stuff

A quick one - went to see bro-in-law Stu and his wife on Saturday. Haven't been to Ye Olde Watering Hole in a few weeks, but may go in this Saturday.

Yesterday, Sunday, was just Be-A-Slug Day.

And even though their offense looked okay, the Giants lost. Damn. I never thought I'd see a porous defense on the Giants, but the secondary...sucks (not that the rest of the defense looked that great, but the secondary is especially sucky). Another thing I thought I'd never see (or voice) was to talk nicely about the Giants offense. Poor Eli did something to his shoulder, but, I mean, the offense racked up 35 points, for goodness sake.

At least I have the Yankees. :-)

~Nancy Beck


What Writers Shouldn't Write About

First saw this on Kristin Nelson's blog, but here's the direct link (Associated Press).

Yeow! "Polish Author Convicted of Murder," is the headline, in case you're too lazy to click on the link (which I've done from time to time ;-)). So, what did the writer in this case do? Yup, wrote about the murder in his book.


Grisly but dopey.

And, no Polish jokes, please, although... (BTW, I'm 100% Polish, as Beck is my married name. Hubby is a mutt, being 1/2 German, with other parts Irish, Scottish, English, and French.)

Just thought you should know, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. (Yeah, I'm in one of my nutty/weird moods today, heh.)

~Nancy Beck

The da Vinci Code - A Review

The Da Vinci Code
Anchor, 496 pages

Yeah, I finally got around to reading this, finishing it this morning. I generally stay away from hyped books because I figure the hype is over the top. If I do decide to read a bestseller, I usually wait months or years to see what all the fuss was about.

Say what you will about 2-dimensional characters or stilted writing or whatever - it hooked me in right from the start. It's a thriller about the Holy Grail, and the lengths some people will go to either keep its secrets quiet or shout it from the rooftops.

Some Observations

In my view, the purpose of the characters is second to the puzzle: what the heck was the dead guy trying to tell Langdon? And, alternately, to the French cryptographer, Sophie Neveu? I had some interest in Neveu's background and felt sad for her at times, but if you're looking for a character study, you're reading the wrong book.

The beginning hooked me because it starts out with action: The almost-dead guy trying to deal with the guy with the gun. Okay, maybe it's farfetched to expect the Louvre guy to write out his scree on the Louvre floor and position his body in a certain way. Supposedly, his death was slow going.

Implausible? Could be, dahling. But Mr. Brown makes it sound like it could happen. It's the believability factor. Writing fantasy, that's a major concern. Am I going to pull this off so that people actually believe demons/goddesses/whatever walk the Earth? Or whatever else is fantastic in my story? Again, say what you will about word choice or stilted this or that, Mr. Brown made it believable in my mind.

The pace of this story made me almost breathless at times. Langdon and Neveu (and others) move around an awful lot - in only a few hours' time! This doesn't take place in a week or three days; this takes place late at night, into the early morning hours, finishing up (the major part of the story, anyway) later that day. One day, at most. This, I felt, kept the story well focused; there were lags, but there weren't many.

The epilogue made total sense, especially keeping in mind what a certain woman told Langdon in the very last chapter. It actually ends on a fairly quiet note, which I hadn't expected (most of the stuff I didn't figure out; I was blindsided by who the Teacher turned out to be). But it made total sense.

I was thinking: Yeah, that's what I want in my stories. The ending might be violent or quiet, but it should make sense to the story at hand. Throw in a twist or two along the way, and it makes for a good read.

So, What Did I Get Out of It?

Good question, grasshopper.

If nothing else, I read an example of what makes a bestseller: An interesting beginning, suspense, a fast pace, and an intriguing puzzle to keep people guessing. This won't necessarily work for every story (and who can pick out the next bestseller, anyway?), but the ingredients sure added up in this one.

Besides a couple of days of turning the pages and wondering what would happen next (some I guessed, some came from out of nowhere), this was a sorta learning experience for me. Would I have written it this way? Probably not. But I might just further analyze certain parts of it to see what hooked me in to begin with and what kept me turning the pages.

We should all be so fortunate to have a page turner, eh?

~Nancy Beck


A Weird Place to Run a Publishing Company

It's been the butt of jokes (Ralph Kramden: "And you're going to Bellevue, because you're nuts!") and was exposed as an horrific place to house psychiatric patients; I remember the TV news (in the 1970s) filled with shots of patients slumped over in the hallways, and those hallways being dimly lit.

Not good times for New York's Bellevue Hospital.

But times change.

I'm not sure how much of a venue this particular publisher is going to be, as, so far, it's only going to be putting out four books a year. I will give them credit for not jumping into every genre out there or for trying to put 50 or 60 books out there. It sounds as if they're living within their capacity to print books.

I haven't heard of any of these books, but then I don't read literary novels. Sounds interesting, though.

So, this might be something to consider if you have a novel that fits their criteria. Here's the MSNBC article, and here's their actual website for you to decide.

~Nancy Beck


Fun Stuff

Hope everyone in the U.S. had a nice and safe Labor Day weekend. (The weather over the weekend was pretty good - for a change!)

Anyway, I was over at Evil Editor's blog, and read through a fun post on his Writing Exercise. Basically, he asked the Minions to come up with publishing-type stuff that isn't in the dictionary.

My favorites were "Snubplot - a bad book review" and "Stubplot - a barely detectable storyline", although they're all fun (some I found absolutely hilarious).

Scroll down to the Saturday, September 1 entry called (duh) Writing Exercise Results.

~Nancy Beck