Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I've talked to many people about piracy (and no, not the Jack Sparrow kind). I've gotten reactions ranging from rabidly anti-piracy to "I wasn't going to buy it anyway."

I don't like piracy, but it doesn't keep me up at night. Thieves steal, that's what they do, and they'll continue to do it no matter what you do or what kind of DRM you come up with. They're smarter than you that way. Not that I wouldn't go through the motions if it was brought to my attention, and I'd certainly be annoyed, but I'm pretty jaded about it, and I don't believe in DRM. All DRM does is make your legitimate customers angry and frustrated, and less likely to buy your stuff in the future.

But if you're going to freaking pirate, at least admit it's stealing. The Husband and I talked to one guy, a few years ago now, who was a total white-bread yuppie-geek college student who bragged about how much stuff he'd pirated. And yet, no matter how we talked him in circles, he wouldn't admit it was theft.

"I wasn't going to buy it anyway, so it's not like they would've gotten my money."

Well, then, if you weren't going to pay for it, you shouldn't have gotten to play it, now should you? Why "waste time" on something that's not worth "wasting money" on?

"The artists got paid, this is just denying my money to big corporations."

No, this is stealing from big corporations. Who pay the artists. Who might decide not to pay the artists if the sales are too crappy because of pirating. Also, if you break into my house and steal my stuff, you are not stealing from my insurance company. You are stealing from me.

"It's not like it cost them anything. It's not like I'm taking a physical CD or something."

Bull. You're taking sales from them. That game or music or book or whatever cost someone money and time to put together. You are stealing because you are reaping the benefits of having the media without having paid for the media. End of story. If you don't want to pay for it, don't partake of the media. Most things have a demo nowadays anyway, so you can try before you buy and make sure it's worth it. Gods, the number of songs I've bought after listening to them for free on YouTube videos put up by the bands...

"Everybody does it."

Don't make me get all Mommy on your rear, punk. Odds are I hit a lot harder than your mommy did, or you might not have this entitlement attitude.

Besides, there is so much stuff out there that is legitimately free, why do you need to steal stuff? If you want that particular media that badly, then it's worth paying for. (Note: The Husband and I are patient people. He waits until the games he wants go on sale at Steam. I wait until SciFi Book Club has a sale, and I make crazy use of the library. We both wait for movies and TV shows to be available on Netflix. Etc.)

I know thieves. Like, people who used to break into your car or mug you on the street kind of thieves. (They got better.) And you know what? They admit that it was stealing. No one justifies lifting a car stereo by claiming that the owner played crappy music, so it's okay.

People are going to pirate stuff. I know that. People are mean, and selfish, and self-centered. But at least sack up and admit that you're stealing, to yourself if no one else.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, May 27, 2011

100 Words About: Cold

I'm from Wisconsin. I'm used to cold, I deal with it for long stretches every year.

I've lived in Wisconsin my whole life, and I have to say this is one of the weirdest springs I can recall. (Caveat: my memory sucks.) Here we are, nearly to June, and I had to put the quilt back on the bed. The low yesterday was 37 degrees. The average low is 50 degrees.

It took forever this year to finally be done with snow, and frost is still a real possibility. The only upside to that is that the crops got planted so late that they probably suffered little damage from all the hail we've had.

The really weird part is that all the trees and the spring plants did their thing anyway, so the maples are nearly fully leafed, and the violets are done and the dandelions have gone to seed and the lilacs are out. You look out the window and it looks like it should be warm.

Please tell me we're not going to skip straight to hot and humid? The nice spring warm-but-not-muggy weather lasts such a short time normally, can we please not just skip it entirely? Pretty please?

Image: Suvro Datta / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Quick Post and a Ballgame

Just got home from a Brewers game, so today's post is going to be a quickie. (Don't you love quickies?) Trash is put out and The Husband is out walking The Bulldog--thank goodness, because I don't think my tendons would take much more tonight.

This was the first Brewer game I've been to in, oh, nearly 30 years. (And yes, I like the old logo better than the new ones.) I don't follow baseball so I had no idea who any of the players were; but oddly, that didn't matter. How quickly one settles into the rhythm of the game, and the cheering for the home team, the hot dogs and fried food, the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. (This is traditionally followed by "Roll Out the Barrel" in Wisconsin, which confused the Iowa-born Husband. Hey, we like to polka.)

It was great to see the Brew Crew win, and I had a great time, but I don't think I'd pay regular price to see them play. (Not even against the Twins, our traditional enemy.) Tonight was the $6-a-seat night. Tomorrow (well, today), the seats we had go for $38.00. That's a lot of money to go to a place where a beer costs $7 at a minimum, and Crackerjack costs $6. I can't imagine taking a family of four on a regular price night. Admission alone is astronomical, much less the food. And they wonder why attendance is down?

Friday, May 20, 2011

100 Words About: May Flowers

Gods know April was rainy enough to bring some awesome May flowers. Every year my yard gets closer to my goal of being nothing but violets and creeping charlie. The violets are just starting to wilt in some of my neighbors' yards, but my honeysuckle are starting to bloom, and while the dogwood has lost most of its petals, the chives are about to flower.

And the lilacs have started blooming. Bliss! I swear there's heroin in lilac blossoms.

The roses had been off to a good start, but the Husband cut them back and now one is taking awhile to put out new growth. The other is well on its way. My lavender plant has new shoots, and the woody nightshade is starting to put out leaves. I transplanted some along the fence, and I think some of the transplants will take. And the creeping bellflower is, well, creeping farther and farther into the rosebed, but I like the stuff. Like the honeysuckle, it just showed up one year, and I approve of that kind of initiative.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Tip: The Whiteboard, Post-Its, and Cheat Sheet Method

The whiteboard-and-Post-Its method is something I learned from Amy Knupp, and it really helped me in planning out my revision process on the novel. Apologies for the picture quality; that's not really what my cellphone is good at, but it works.

The method is similar to storyboarding, but I find it to be even more visually useful. Everyone has different things that work for them; this is just something that seems to work well for me. Take from it what you will.

You start out with a whiteboard that has been divided (use permanent marker, it makes life easier) into a number of squares. You want the squares to be around 5" by 5" so there is plenty of room. Each square represents one chapter.

Then you go to the office supply store (such a dangerous place!) and get a whole bunch of colored Post-Its. Amy recommends the Super Sticky kind, because regular ones will start to fall off after you move them around a couple times. Some of my Super Sticky ones started falling off anyway, so your mileage may vary.

You're going to be using the Post-Its on the board to help you figure out your storyline. If you know this scene comes before that plot point, you can arrange them in roughly where you think they will be, and you can always move them around later as you need to.

Use notes stacked on top of each other to denote separate scenes. "Scene" is sort of loose here—I mostly used it to mean changes in setting, but if the action moved through more than one setting I counted it as one scene.

Figure out what you want your colors to mean. I used the following colors:
  • Green = setting. This is just a note to myself saying where the scene is taking place.
  • Pink = scene contains female main character's point of view
  • Blue = scene contains male main character's point of view
  • Yellow = Subplot #1
  • Purple = Subplot #2
  • Orange = something important to the main plot
  • Red = blood, sex, or death (hey, it's a vampire novel)
But you can use whatever colors to denote whatever you want, like character arc, clues or red herrings, romantic arc, etc.

Since I already had a working draft, I used the whiteboard to lay out where my novel was currently. I'd already started the revision, so the first two rows (chapters 1 to 8) were pretty well fleshed out. You can see that I left a bunch of white space in the third row. I knew that part needed a lot of revision, and I only had a little idea of what needed to be there (hence the two scenes in that row). You also might notice that a number of scenes are on the line between chapters. This is because the scene starts in one chapter and continues into the next.

As I kept revising and breaking longer chapters in to several shorter ones, I would update the whiteboard and also consult the Post-Its to see what I was short on. One thing I could see was a serious lack of yellow, purple, and blue in the middle. Now, I didn't need a lot of blue for this story, but I wanted to sort of check in between the blue section at the beginning and the blue section near the end. Here you can see I've added a little to the beginning of row three and made a few notes that I haven't found a place for yet down on the bottom row.

After much staring at the whiteboard and scribbling notes, I've found places for the scene bits I came up with previously, and filled in row three. Row four's been modified a little, and I've found places to add in the blue, yellow, and purple I was looking for. The red seems to be nicely distributed.

Then it was on to breaking up my super long chapters at the end. The old manuscript was 15 chapters; the new one ended up being 28. At this point I've got 24, and I've realized I'm going to have to add a chapter into row three. I also need more yellow at the end. In fact, I end up adding a whole bunch to that subplot, which rocked.

Finally, I've got all 28 chapters laid out. I can see that the subplots and the red bits are fairly evenly distributed. Now, as I move into the tweaking and editing stage, I make one more tool to help me. Like a cheat sheet for my novel, I make a document where each chapter is reduced to one line of text which contains the date in story-time (the novel takes place in 1999), the chapter word count, a brief summary, and what color Post-Its I used (not counting green or orange). Here's an example:

"1. 3442. F 05/14/99. Introduce [list of names], world. (PK, BU, YW, PU)"

The cheat sheet lets me find a particular scene faster than the whiteboard does, and also lets me see if any of the chapters are significantly longer or shorter than the others. It also helps me keep track of story time.

Between the cheat sheet and the whiteboard, I have a detailed map of the novel to use as I move around making editorial changes. It made my revision process soooo much easier. For example, by looking at the whiteboard I could see that I needed to add a little more yellow between chapters 13 and 22. By referencing the cheat sheet, I easily found a place in the action where I could slip in an aside, and added a cut scene to chapter 16. (I thought I had taken a final pic, but apparently not.)

When I was done using the whiteboard, I taped all the Post-It stacks to blank pieces of paper and numbered the chapters. I have these in a folder in case I need to go back to them during or after the writer's workshop next month.

While I don't think I could use this method to outline, which is what Amy does (I just can't outline, I have to pants it), I absolutely love it as far as revision goes, and I intend to use it on my next project.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Still haven't been able to get the pictures off my phone. Will have a great post once that happens. Hopefully next week.

Books are a sickness and lately I've been having a relapse. I'm listening to two audiobooks at work, The Prestige and How to Win Friends and Influence People. We're listening to A Storm of Swords in the car on the way to and from work.

I have twelve books out from the library, including three books on Constantinople, one on the dark ages, one on Mehmet II, The Forgotten Founding Father, The Gray Man, two books on blogging, Podcasting for Dummies, How to Be Your Own Literary Agent, and The Writer's Journey.

I also have a bunch of books I recently ordered online that I'm dying to read. Plus at least three shelves-worth of books I already own that I either haven't finished or haven't started.

And what did I do yesterday while out running errands?

Stop at the used book store, of course.

Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, May 6, 2011

100 Words About: The American Cultural Dichotomy

Growing up as a WASP in small-town America, many moral values were impressed upon me. I was told that honesty was valued, and honor, and chastity, and loving one's neighbor. I was told that compassion was important, and sharing was praised, and understanding and empathy and charity were supposed to guide my actions.

All of these virtues were given lip service.

But we are a country where cunning is often valued more highly than honesty, and skillful manipulation is admired. People talk about honor to their kids, but they don't practice it, and it's often derided in favor of "sense." ("She said she would do X and he believed her? That boy don't have a lick of sense.")

Maybe it comes from being a country founded on using guerrilla tactics against "honorably" ranked and drawn-up troops. The founding fathers weren't terrorists; they had "sense."

This dichotomy has often left me feeling conflicted. Honesty is the one that gets me the most often. I admire honesty, but I also admire sophistry. (More in the classic sense than the modern, but both apply.) Sophistry requires skill. Honesty requires courage. The fable of George Washington and the cherry tree never seems to end with the serious ass-whuppin' his honesty probably would've gotten him. If it did, I think most Americans would probably have the attitude of "well, snaps to him and all, but that was dumb."

We admire bravery. But we admire it more when it's coupled with cleverness. And we never forgive or forget when it comes to getting caught out.

Image: vichie81 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday Tip: When to Be Done

I have until May 15th to make changes to my novel before turning it back in to Write By the Lake, but I realize I'm already mostly done revising this draft.

How do I know? The law of diminishing returns.

As things stand right now, there are still improvements to be made to the prose, but the improvements I'm making now are generally not worth the time I'm putting into them. I'm making small tweaks here and there, tightening things up a little, and yes, it's making the novel better. But not that much better.

This is the point where you need to set the project aside. Submit it somewhere, send it out into the world, and start something new.

I have this nagging feeling in the back of my head that there's a connection I forgot to make involving the new subplot, but for the life of me I can't find it. So my plan is to print the whole thing out again and read through it one more time, and then be done until the retreat starts.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the other projects I was working on before Write By the Lake said yes. 1794 is going down, by God. And then probably the three sample chapters of my non-fiction book proposal so I can get that circulating. I'm hoping to have a draft of 1794 finished by Write By the Lake, but I doubt the non-fiction will be done by then. After that we'll have to see, but there are at least four projects on my back burners that I'd really love to get back to.

If only I didn't need to sleep...

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net