Friday, April 29, 2011

100 Words About:

Recently it was revealed that a tenth-grade teacher in Pennsylvania writes erotica on the side.

Now she's looking at losing her job, or at best having to choose between teaching and writing.

Seriously, WTF people? She's been described even by her detractors as "a top-of-the-line teacher." You'd rather get rid of a top-rate teacher than possibly have a frank discussion with your kid about erotic fiction?

What she does on her own time is none of your business. If she writes under a pseudonym and doesn't discuss her work in the classroom, what is your problem? Do you think tenth graders don't know about sex yet? (If so, you're doing your kids a serious disservice.)

One comment from an offended parent said, "Now my son knows, so how is he thinking when he's sitting in her class knowing what she does on the side."

First off, do you expect your kid to be sitting in class thinking about the fact that all their teachers who have kids had sex at some point? Besides, you have a tenth-grade boy. He's going to be thinking about sex all the time anyway. (Don't believe me? Read Angela's Ashes.)

Hell, one of the books I had to read in my ninth-grade English class was Fade by Robert Cormier. That's a book that deals with inappropriate relations between an aunt and nephew, and incest between a brother and sister. That was far more messed up than finding out one of my teachers wrote erotica would be.

(And see, I turned out fine...oh, wait, I turned out to be an erotica writer. Um. But I'm willing to bet the rest of my class didn't. So there.)

Yes, this touches a nerve for me. A couple of nerves, given the systematic attacks on public-school teachers across our nation lately. (Public-school educated and proud of it!)

Of course, I wouldn't care if it turned out my kid's teacher was a stripper on the side, so maybe I'm already going to have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye with these folks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Things I Would Like to Do

As I sit here staring at my monitor, wondering what to blog about, I am struck by all the stuff I want to do that I keep pushing off.

I want to clean out the house, first off: a really thorough deep cleaning that involves getting rid of a lot of the crap I've accumulated over the years. Clothes, games, books, knick-knacks, all of it. Fine toothed comb. But that would take a good solid week, I think, to do it like I want to, and if I took a whole week off, shouldn't I be writing?

I want to weed my garden. When we first started looking at houses I couldn't wait to have a garden. But by the time I got a house, I didn't have the energy to garden. I can't even keep up with the small flower-bed that I do have, much less keep the landscaping looking the way it should.

I want to make a wiki for my world-building. Oh, that would be fun. I could spend hours cataloging, cross-referencing, researching... It might even be helpful. But it's not writing.

I want to make a new hat. I lost my old hat. It really wouldn't take more than a few hours. (I haven't made this pattern before.) I used to do a lot of sewing, but it's a lot like writing: it always takes longer than I think it will, and it's a whole lotta work while I'm doing it even if I do love the results. I'm not sure which the Husband dislikes more: me when I've started a sewing project, or me when I have a writing deadline coming up.

I sort of miss having hobbies. I get to game a little bit, but other than that, most of my "hobbies" are related to writing anymore. And I volunteer, when the writing doesn't get in the way. But I don't really consider the volunteering as a hobby. It's above hobby but below writing and day job. I miss feeling like I had time to waste. Not that I don't waste time, but I feel guilty. I should be getting something done! Even though sometimes you really just need to do nothing.

Maybe I need to come up with the envelope-method version of budgeting time. Except whenever I try to schedule my time like that I end up making myself crazy because I try to fit too much in. Hmm, ok, maybe the Husband should budget my time...

Friday, April 22, 2011

100 Words About: Working at Work

A federal jury ruled yesterday that Mattel does not own the Bratz dolls IP and the company must pay $88.5 million to MGA Entertainment.

The long-running dispute (seven years and counting - Mattel is expected to push for a new trial) centers around whether creator Carter Bryant worked on the Bratz dolls idea while employed by Mattel, with whom Bryant signed an invention agreement in 1999.

How does this apply to writing?

In short: know your contracts, folks. Also, doing work for yourself while you're on the clock is a bad, bad idea. Even though, as things stand now, the jury ruled that Mattel doesn't own the copyright, this is the third ruling on the suit, and Mattel did win one of those. Mattel is also rumored to have spent $400 million on the ongoing litigation.

Do you have $400 million? I sure as hell don't.

Image: scottchan /

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Pricing Debate

There's been much talk in the industry regarding the pricing of ebooks, as recently as yesterday over at Nathan Bransford's blog. The industry as a whole still hasn't settled down to a pricing structure for ebooks.

The Big Six have more or less all ascribed to the agency model, wherein the publisher sets the pricing, usually between $10.99 and $14.99. had been setting prices at $9.99. Indie authors (however you want to use the term) have prices starting at free and moving up from there to prices comparable with the Big Six.

Personally, I think $0.99 is too low for a novel, but it's a great price for a short story. I also think more than $10 is too high for most books: I grew up in an era where mass-market paperbacks were $3.99, and that's sort of stuck in my head as the baseline price for a book. (I'm not only dating myself here, I'm also showing the fact I do a lot of book shopping at the half-price stores, which is about the only place you can find a paperback for less than $5 anymore.)

I recently found a non-fiction book I was interested in purchasing because my library doesn't have a copy. I looked it up on Amazon, and it was $16.49 for the paperback, discounted from $24.99. The Kindle edition was $14.74. I don't have a Kindle, but I do have a Nook, so I popped over to B&N where it was selling for $16.82 print, and $14.99 Nookbook.

Now, I like my Nook a lot, but I hate not being able to flip through it, especially with reference books like the one I was contemplating. However, I also hate paying shipping. So my options were: drive to my local B&N and probably have to pay list price; buy it online and either have to pay shipping or find another book to add to my order that I wasn't planning on buying (and would probably blow my book-buying budget for the month [yes, I have to budget for that]); or buy the ebook version, which I could get right now without having to pay shipping or full price or even leave my freaking chair, but then I wouldn't be able to flip through from bit to bit as I like to do with reference books.

My decision?

I didn't buy the book.

Now, if the ebook version had been significantly cheaper than the print version, I probably would've downloaded it and just dealt with the search function. However, with only a couple of dollars difference between the ebook and online pricing, it just doesn't make sense to me to buy the ebook. And since I'm not planning on placing an order in the next couple of weeks, and I have the $17 price point stuck in my head from looking at the websites and don't feel like paying full price, I just added the book to the long list of "books I want to get eventually."

Some people prefer ebook to print, and for them the book might be worth $15, but I still prefer print. I have a really hard time paying $15 for a digital book. However, what really killed this sale was the online discounting of the physical book. Other than a selfless desire to support my local brick-and-mortar chain store (which still employs local people), I'd feel like an idiot paying $24.99 for something I can get for less than $17. Hell, even paying shipping, it would still be cheaper to buy online. But if I looked online and saw a price closer to list, I would either have bought the ebook which would now be closer to $10 off, or I would've driven out to the local store if I really wanted a print copy, because driving out to buy it would be cheaper and much faster than getting it online.

In economic times like these, when feeling like a smart shopper is so key to many people's buying decisions, I think the industry has more to worry about than just the pricing on ebooks.

Image: scottchan /

Friday, April 15, 2011

100 Words About: Digital Publishing (and Whiskey)

Publisher's Weekly has an interesting "whiskey poll" from the London Book Fair wherein of those who responded "nearly 80% of publishers expect e-book sales to surpass physical books within 15 years. Of that number, 32% expect e-book sales to overtake print sales within 10 years and 5% within five years. On the other hand, 18% said that e-book sales will never surpass physical book sales."

I spent this week doing an online seminar through How To Write Shop on Digital Self-Publishing for the Newbie. I'm also reading some books on the subject. (Oddly, one digital, one not. BTW, The Husband bought me a Nook! Go, Husband!) While many of the anthologies I've been in have been ebook only already, or had mostly ebook sales, I expect to jump into self-pubbing a few short stories in the next couple of months, just to see what the response is like. I don't know if that 80% of publishers are going to be right...but it doesn't hurt to try to get in before the train leaves, right?

What e-readers do you all use, and where do you download your books from? So far I've gotten a few from Barnes and Noble, of course, but I've also gotten several from Google Books and I expect I'll be using Smashwords, B&N, and Amazon. Where and in what formats would you like to see my work? Leave a comment and let me know!

And now I'm off to WhiskeyFest, woohoo!

Image: Suat Eman /

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Short Post

Short post today as I have lots of studying to do. I'm taking two online courses, plus putting some more time into the novel since the instructor says we can keep reworking them until the 15th of May. My brain's going to explode at some point soon, I'm sure, but hopefully next week things will be back to normal!

Friday, April 8, 2011

100 Words About: Construction

You know, when the city sent us a letter saying they were going to be doing some utility work and would be replacing part of our sidewalk and driveway apron, I thought the most annoying part would be the $1800-$2000 it was going to cost. But no. I forgot to factor in my sound-sensitive bulldog.

The poor boy just doesn't know what to do. There are noises outside! Noises! Outside! Alert! Alert!

So he's on some meds "to take the edge off," and we've got a little DAP plug-in, and I'm leaving music on when we're out of the house, but ugh. He's making me insane. And I can't even blame him, 'cause he's a guardian breed. This is what he's supposed to do. It's just that now he's gotten so overstimulated that even the cats meowing will set him off.

Besides walking him more or taking a pet-inclusive vacation, anyone have any further suggestions?

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Quiet in My Head

So I finished the latest draft of the novel last week and sent it off to my instructor for Write By The Lake. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited about that project again. And the fun part will be looking at it at the retreat in June, because a lot of it is really new and I haven't read it much. (Yes, I wrote it, but I haven't read it.) I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

The best thing about finishing a long project like that is the day or two of quiet in my head. That's my brain's vacation. No nagging worries about how I can make the plot tighter, or how I'm going to introduce more conflict. No characters talking to me, trying to work out their scenes. Just quiet. Ahhhhhh.

Of course, that doesn't last long, because there's always another project (or three) waiting in the wings. But at least my brain gives me a couple days of rest before we pick up again.

So far I've re-read the first six chapters of 1794, picked up a bunch of nonfiction research books from the library for the Constantinople novella, and found two short story anthologies I want to submit to. I've got one short story mostly outlined in my head, and another that's about halfway there. And of course Project Toadstool is simmering impatiently on the back burner.

I have to wonder how many other writers write so that they can have that day or two of quiet in between projects... I like the voices in my head, don't get me wrong, but they aren't exactly restful.

Image: luigi diamanti /

Friday, April 1, 2011

100 Words About: April Fools

It's April first, and Wisconsin played the best April Fool's Day prank.

It freaking snowed.

Great big huge puffy flakes for hours. It was really pretty.

Fortunately, it didn't stick. I guess Wisconsin isn't that cruel.

Spring in Wisconsin is such a see-saw. For weeks we wait with baited breath for the day when the snow finally melts, and I mean really melts, so that when you walk outside you don't have to wonder if the sidewalks are icy. And then we wait on tenter-hooks, wondering if we dare put away the snowblower yet, or the shovel, or our winter boots.

Once my heavy winter coat is hung upstairs in the storage closet, it's staying there until fall, by God. I spent several days shivering on the corner waiting for my carpool when I put it away a little too soon this year. (Note: my gloves have not yet been banished. I'm not that optimistic.)

Still, I love it here. Signs of spring are everywhere. The robins and the redwing blackbirds and the sandhill cranes are all back, and my chives have started to put up shoots, and Lake Monona is almost, almost open. A few more days and the ice will be a memory until next November or so. So I can laugh at my state's little prank.

Ha ha, Wisconsin. Good one.

Now make with the warmer weather already.