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September 29, 2004

Look quick, before it goes away
Posted by Teresa at 10:20 AM *

Someone is offering to sell his unfinished manuscript on eBay, and has set a starting price of $150,000. The author figures that if someone like John Grisham or J. K. Rowling were to buy it and put their name on it, everyone would buy a copy anyway, so it’s worth the price.

What follows is his take on it. I’m afraid the paragraphing is mine:
I am a first time writer and have two more chapters to go, to complete my story. It’s fiction, a coming of age story that would be most enjoyed by adults. It’s a fascinating read that I had a couple of english teachers read themselves, telling me that they could not put my book down after the first chapter. It’s filled with suspense, along with fear and anxiety.

The story focuses on three 10 year old children, two girls and one boy. The story also focuses in on one of the father’s dealing with nightmares, which are somehow linked to his childhood, past. Everything comes to an end with a absolution and a twist, making sense in a reality way. I had a english teacher tell me that this story would be a great one to watch, in a movie format.

So what is this all about? Well here is the deal. I am putting my manuscript up for auction only to real popular writers and authors, which names are already known. Of course if just the ordinary joe wants to buy my script well, that’s ok too. My manuscript may seem expensive to ordinary people like me, but to a real author like John Grisham>The Client, The Firm, and A Time to Kill well if he bought my manuscript for 150,000 dollars and put his own title on it and copyrighted it, putting his name on the book as the writer, how much do you think he would profit from it? Well over 150,000 dollars I assure you, seeing that most of his books go right to the theaters immediately.

So that is why I am selling my manuscript mostly to well known authors and whether Oprah Winfrey reads this or Stephen King or the ever so popular J.K. Rawlings, if they bought my book for my price and put there name on it as the author, everyone will pick up the book and read it, because these authors have already earned a reputation.

Now I have actual pictures of my manuscript and a legit publshing Co. that will put my book in print for 695.00 dollars. The book will then be advertise to over 25,000 different book stores through the internet only. That sounds great right? But having a new author’s name on my book, … how many people will actually buy it? 3 mabe 100 mabe and if I’m lucky, a 1000. However I heard John Grisham self published his first book and the movie Legally Blonde, was also a self published book. So it also may sky rocket and people may buy over a million of my books, but it’s a long shot and I don’t want to take the route for now.

I also know this is a long shot, but I am throwing out there anyway, to any well known writer that can profit from this! For J.K. Rawlings or Stephen King to buy my manuscript and put there name on it, they can’t lose and neither can I. 150,000 dollars can sure help my family get me out of this apartment we have been living in for 9 years and finally get a house for my three children. A well known author can put my book in print and make over 2 million dollars with ease! We both win this way!

I have pictures and let me assure you that my manuscript is not yet copyrighted or even titled yet. Let me also assure you that this is a story that is fully typed and formatted for print and will probably add up to 450 pages, or so. I also had my family and a couple of english professors read my manuscript, all of them giving me thumbs up on the fascinating thought processing fiction, I put into this. I literally wrote over a 1000 pages and thrown it away, because I want to get this one story, right.

I have now spent about one year on this manuscript and have about two more chapters to go to complete, for publication. This is a serious book, one to be reconcile with. It’s emotional and heartfelt story that entertains from beginning, to end. If interested in buying my manuscript and of course if you are, you probably want to read it first, I will give you my address so you can come over and read it for yourself, or I can come to you with the manuscript, so you can read it. I will never give my writing out over an email address. That will only put me in danger of someone stealing my story and putting there name on it. I will do everything possible to come to you if it’s easier, so you can read my story. I will give you my email address so you can tell me if you are interested. Then we can set up a time to meet.

Warner brothers Co. and Paramount Pictures payed John Grisham 600,000 dollars for the rights to his writing of The Firm, so they could make a movie out of it. Paramount pictures if you are reading this, I believe my story is strong and willful just like all of John Grisham’s films. You can have my script for 150,000 dollars, that’s a bargain for your company. Serious inquires only please! Pictures are shown at the bottom and the last pic is an actual paragraph written by me, on chapter 6. So if you can excuse me, I have a story now to finish! Good day and good bidding!
Six photos accompany the offer. One of them is a closeup of the author’s own handwritten annotation at the top of a letter he has received. It says:
This is a legit company that has contacted me, asking me to let them put my book in print for a fee of $698.00. I don’t want to go this route. This would be my last option.
The next photo shows the letter itself:
Become a Published Author in 2004
Let this be the fall that AuthorHouse turns your manuscript into a professional grade, bookstore-quality paperback book and makes it available through the world’s largest brick and mortar booksellers and online retailers.

Publish with AuthorHouse for $698 and get all these benefits!

When you publish with AuthorHouse, you get all the benefits of publishing, with the leading provider of publishing and marketing services for authors. Our Standard Paperback Publishing Package includes:

Text formatting Full-color cover design
On-demand printing of your bookstore-quality paperback
ISBN number and bar code, which all books need to be sold by booksellers
In addition, your book is available for order through more than 25,000 retail outlets worldwide, on the Internet via Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, Borders.com, and through the AuthorHouse online store. Even if you still need to put the finishing touches on your manuscript and might not be able to send it right now, call me, toll free, at 888.519.5121 ext. 338 or email me at cpatton@authorhouse.com and I’ll guide you through everything that you need to know. Please mention Promo Code LP40902.

Sincerely,

[Craig?] Patton
[something] Representative
As I’ve said before, I don’t have anything against self-publishing. I’ve done it myself. I’m doing it right now. What I do mind are outfits that make their money by bunco-steering naive writers into vanity publishing deals that can only leave them sadder and poorer.

Whatever you think of his writing, the fact is that this guy has done a lot of honest work. Does he really think his book is publishable, and that with Grisham’s or Rowling’s name on it, it would easily be worth $150,000? Never doubt that he believes it. Every author with a book in the slushpile thinks their work is publishable. They literally can’t tell that it isn’t. If they could, they’d have written different books.

What does he want? Nothing out of the ordinary. For nine years he’s been living in an apartment with his three children, and he’d like to be able to give them a house to live in. That’s a Jimmy Stewart/Normal Rockwell kind of aspiration. And what has he gotten? A letter from AuthorHouse, formerly 1stbooks, offering to publish his book for only $700. You know the man hasn’t got it to spare.

The AuthorHouse letter is a small masterpiece of mendacity. Yes, they can physically turn his manuscript into a professional-grade trade paperback. No, they won’t turn it into a professional-grade book.

When they say they’ll make his book “available through the world’s largest brick and mortar booksellers and online retailers,” by which he thinks they mean his book will be stocked and shelved by all those stores, they actually mean that if someone special-orders his book through a retail bookstore, Ingram will send them a copy.

See the list of services they offer? Notice that editing and proofreading aren’t on it. If this guy takes their bait, his book will go out just as he wrote it. I’ll bet they’ll make him write his own cover copy, too.

The other thing missing from this scenario is any opportunity for this author to discover that AuthorHouse is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit brought by their dissatisfied authors. I believe the plaintiffs are charging misrepresentation and non-delivery.

Bottom line: How typical is this author? Absolutely typical, with two exceptions. One is that he’s trying to sell his manuscript on eBay. That’s a creative move.

The other reason he’s exceptional is that he’s given some serious thought to AuthorHouse’s offer, and realized that since nobody knows who he is, he’s not likely to sell more than a handful of copies. Give the man major credit for that one. I’ve seen a lot of writers with heavy-duty degrees and professional credentials who couldn’t spot that problem on their own, and stuck their fingers in their ears and chanted “na na na na na na na na na na” when someone pointed out to them.

Comments on Look quick, before it goes away:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:07 PM:

Reading his posting feels distressingly like the first time you realized that your parents actually had -sex- to produce you. Uncomfortable and icky, with an undertone of curious fascination ("Parents -did- that?!?").

I wish him the best of luck though - and can't help but think back to the thread about male authors needing the most editing...

#2 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:12 PM:

I can't imagine putting that kind of effort into writing an entire novel and then not want to see it through under my own name, no matter how much I needed the money.


#3 ::: Dawn B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:18 PM:

So, the big name author will make $150,000? Or even $2 mill? Having read what some of the going rates are for signings, I doubt it.

I also suspect anyone who writes "maybe" as "mabe". And the fact that English teachers like it has nothing to do with how well it will sell. Most of the stuff my English Creative Writing teacher liked was pretty much crap.

I hope he finds a way to get some good feedback on this book and sell it to a reputable publishing house.

#4 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:22 PM:

Suzanne: You and me both. I'd want to have my name on the novel--and I imagine that usually Ye Olde Famous Author wants the novel with their name on it to be their own work too. (Except Paris Hilton, but she doesn't count anyway.)

I keep thinking....notoriety online tends to make strange celebrities out of less probable stars. Think about the Star Wars kid and William Hung from American Idol's tryouts--so who knows what could happen to this fellow. Of course, in the mean time, he could also be the receptacle of Really Bad Advice. I have mental pictures of avid Publish America authors trying to sell him on PA. Or he might decide to go with AuthorHouse, his last resort, but I hope he doesn't.

#5 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:32 PM:

Oh, dear. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to sweep in with a pot of hot chocolate, a plate of cookies, a blankie and a stuffed animal, and a whole pile of unwanted good advice. I give him points for realizing that he's unlikely to make the kind of big bucks he wants with the manuscript he's got (and sadly, the prose in his offering statement doesn't inspire much confidence in the story) but...but couldn't he make big bucks selling heroin or robbing banks, something comparatively honest?

And why is it that so many people think that Big Name Authors are hurting for stories? Hell, I'm a Small Name Author and I have more story-ideas than I know what to do with--it's the time, focus and energy to turn the ideas into prose that I need more of!

#6 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:50 PM:

Suzanne — What I really like about this “offer” is the implication that King, Grisham, Rowling (er, “Rawlings”), et al. hate writing and would love to have someone else do it for them. If Mr. Rice thinks they don’t care about their work, and don’t care who wrote what gets published in their names, it doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t care what name his stuff gets published under.

(So how old do you think he is? I’m guessing either thirteen or thirty-five.)

Now I’m tempted to put my unwritten manuscript on eBay.

Under a pseudonym, of course.

#7 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 12:55 PM:

PicusFiche, I wonder the same thing. There ought to be a Top Ten Ebay celebrities of the week list somewhere. The guy who put his ex-wife's wedding dress up on ebay comes to mind. Iirc, he not only sold the dress for more than its original price, he got several marriage offers [boggle].
But that was just funny. This one actually has a suspense element to it, like watching the innocent soon-to-be-victim walking into the villain's lair. Ebay-noir.

Here's hoping he actually gets some good advice.

#8 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 01:06 PM:

It’s filled with suspense, along with fear and anxiety.

He's talking about the book, right, not the auction?

Has anyone actually tried contacting the fellow yet to give him some of the advice everyone thinks he needs? Or even just to point him to this blog entry?

(If the answer's "no," say so and I'll do it. I just don't want to be redundant if smarter people have already done it better.)

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 01:22 PM:

I'm hoping someone who isn't an acquiring editor will write to him.

David, thirty-five has to be closer to the target, and I think it's low. He's been living in his apartment for nine years with his three kids, though he doesn't specify that there were three of them during all those years.

#10 ::: Heather Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 01:29 PM:

Has anyone actually tried contacting the fellow yet to give him some of the advice everyone thinks he needs?

I considered doing this yesterday, but it was then pointed out to me that this might actually just be a joke.

Oh, my initial reaction was pretty much the same as Madeline's (a feeling of intense pity and desire to save him from himself) but I soon found myself clinging to the idea that it might all be a big joke (the fact that he realizes he wouldn't sell more than a few copies under his own name underscores this idea for me). It's easier that way.

#11 ::: Matthew Bin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 01:41 PM:

This guy has almost a conspiracy theory view of the publishing world -- he appears to think that the "Big" authors, even Rawlings, don't ever meet with editors, or rework any of their writing.

It's as though their books sell because of the name on the front, not because people have enjoyed reading the books that have had that name on the front in the past. I'm definitely not in the pro-King or pro-Grisham camps, but I've read more than one book by both of them and I can see why they sell.

As an aside, can someone point me to the thread about male authors needing the most editing? I've been reading this blog for a while but I don't remember seeing it. As an unpublished male author, I'd like to know what my problem is. :) Actually, it sounds like an opportunity for a competitive advantage...

M@

#12 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 01:54 PM:

He's been living in his apartment for nine years with his three kids, though he doesn't specify that there were three of them during all those years.

Ah. Good point, Teresa. I was distracted by the handwriting.

#13 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 02:33 PM:

Re: the "publishing is a big conspiracy" theory, check this out:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2491267640

An author is selling self-published novel on eBay, along with a rant about why he couldn't get published conventionally.

#14 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 02:46 PM:

The rant's quite entertaining. :-) A pity he doesn't know the difference between self and vanity publishing, but the rant does display a better command of the English language than most such rants I've seen.

#15 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 02:51 PM:

At the risk of this being a side issue, the conception that the "idea" of the book is what's valuable, the prose is just the soggy croissant one stuffs it into, goes way back; one used to see many comments by writers about how people would come up to them on social occasions with an "offer" to have the writer turn the Brilliant Notion into a book, in exchange for half the proceeds.

There actually is a sort of conspiracy theory at work, which is helped along by the short-term bestsellers with famous names that are widely known to have been ghosted. (There was an entertaining account some years ago of how WASHINGTON WIVES, allegedly by Maureen Dean, had been created to back up an already-scripted TV miniseries; Dean bragged that she hadn't even read the book.) Sometimes it gets weird, like the various hypotheses about who E. L. Doctorow "really is," most of them involving multiple authors using a code name ("Eight Ladies," "Eleven Doctors" -- no, I'm not kidding).

The idea fixation shows up a lot in the skiffy slush, not surprisingly; some idea prised from a bleeding-edge technical journal like PARADE magazine is stirred into a formula pulp story in the way that Godzilla visits the Japanese from time to time. The rejection is sometimes met with complaints that this is a brand-new and really important idea, certain to sell a million copies of Superheterodyne Stories and win the, you know, sci-fi prize thing, the Norman bel Pulitzer or whatever.

And backing up a little, it is an observable fact that "big name writers" sell a lot of their books (except when they don't, but that often goes unnoticed, even if the book is a serious failure), and the actual dynamics of Bestsellerism are complicated and contain a lot of quantum weirdness.

The film-sale bit -- the idea that a novel really desires to be a movie, and is somehow unfulfilled if it doesn't -- is a side issue, like three-bean salad.

#16 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 02:52 PM:
I considered doing this yesterday, but it was then pointed out to me that this might actually just be a joke.

That occurred to me, too, but it just doesn't read like one, somehow, though I can't put my finger on exactly why... the tone is wrong, I think.

A little Googling also turns up independent existence of a Daniel Rice at the address on the letter shown in the auction. Of course that could be his real name and address and it could still be a joke, but I think that unlikely.

#17 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 02:55 PM:

I'd guess the guy is pretty young, judging by the multiple references to English teachers.

I dunno, though. The whole thing boggles my mind, but it's really got me thinking about why I find the idea of selling one's MS on eBay so appalling. And since I just drank a half-gallon of NyQuil and my brain is all fuzzy-happy, I'm going to natter on for a little bit.

For me, the joy of making things is in the act of creation and the "payback" is seeing someone else enjoying them. And yes, I put my name on the things I make (though rarely prominently, all Gigantic Noreascon Signs aside). But I don't suppose that's any more valid a reason for creating things than the drive for monetary gain, and I've got a decent day job so I'm not constrained by having to make what I do pay. I guess everyone writes/paints/sculpts or what-have-you for different reasons, some more personal and some more practical than others, and maybe for this guy the idea of some Big Name Author adopting his words and getting a Big Fat Check in return is reward enough. Or maybe Ebay Fame is his chosen payback, and hey, I suppose that's valid too.

Well, anyhow. It'll be interesting to see if he gets any bids (-:

#18 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 03:10 PM:

I love the idea of the Norman bel Pulitzers. The winner of the Public Service category could get some sort of gold medal in the shape of an impossible flying boat.

The idea fixation has a long history. Byron on Shakespeare, for instance:

Shakespeare's name, you may depend on it, stands absurdly too high and will go down. He has no invention as to stories, none whatever. He took all his plots from old novels, and threw their stories into a dramatic shape, at as little expense of thought as you or I could turn his plays back again into prose tales. [Thank you, Google.]

Maybe so, George, but Will's name still shifts a lot more product than yours.

#19 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Okayyy. Taking all that as a "no," here's what I sent via the Ebay question link:

Dear Mr. Rice:

I thought you'd like to know that your auction is being discussed at a popular blog for writers and publishing professionals:
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005569.html

My advice is this: If you're proud of your work, stand behind it. No one else wants to put their name on your book; they're too busy writing their own. If you want to see this in print, it needs to be your name and your sweat.

And don't fall for scams. Learn how to send your book to real publishers, ones that'll pay *you* instead of the other way around, ones whose logo you can find on books in bookstores.

Will they publish it? Maybe. Maybe not. But the only person who can make your book work is you. Good luck to you.

#20 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 03:14 PM:

the conception that the "idea" of the book is what's valuable, the prose is just the soggy croissant one stuffs it into...

...may in fact be a valid model for certain areas of non-fiction. I'm thinking of scientific publishing, where prose is secondary to content. (Which is not to say that scientists don't admire well-written prose in scientific papers. To pick a random example, Claude Shannon's first paper on information theory is lauded for both qualities.) But that's not what we were talking about...

("Eight Ladies," "Eleven Doctors" -- no, I'm not kidding)

Twelve Monkeys? Nah, they wrote Shakespeare.

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 03:37 PM:

That would be Chris Patton, Author Services Representative at AuthorHouse.

Other services, available for additional fees, include copyediting, publicity, custom cover design, back cover, copyright registration, and bookstore returnability.

#22 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Oh the poor thing!

There's something so immensely sad about that. I read it twice. His entire life flashed before my eyes. I have this very strong image of him at a roadside diner, tired and unshaven, drinking coffee while clutching the manuscript box, on his way to visit some shadowy figure who may want to buy it. It would make a great movie.

Has anyone else read Donald Westlake's The Hook? Actually if you're a writer, I wouldn't recommend it, as I couldn't sleep after finishing it. It's about something a bit like this, only with more murder.

#23 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 03:55 PM:

I have this very strong image of him at a roadside diner, tired and unshaven, drinking coffee while clutching the manuscript box, on his way to visit some shadowy figure who may want to buy it. It would make a great movie.

It's not quite that bad-- if he's put it on ebay, he's not lacking in spunk. (The shadowy figure is J.K. Rawlings, the grizzled, cigar-smoking éminence grise behind the Harry Potter racket.)

#24 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 04:06 PM:

What's with the 10" x 13" paper?

The cover says "15-20 chapters." What, he can't count them to be sure?

It's supposed to be a 450 page book, but it's only 200 manuscript pages. That ain't no doublespaced Courier. Given his description, I'm guessing it's got no margins and no paragraph breaks, and is in ten-point Times Roman.

He "thrown away a 1000 pages" because he wants it to be perfect, but he couldn't finish the last two chapters before posting it to eBay? (And why thrown away? Did he use an actual typewriter?)

He spent a year writing it. That's 1200 pages, and given his word/page density, at least 600,000 words. In a year. Harry Turtledove can produce text at that rate, but I don't think anyone else.

I can only consider two alternatives: 1) this is a very cleverly constructed joke 2) he has a profoundly serious neurochemical disorder.

#25 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 04:24 PM:

I'm thinking about a collaboration between John Grisham and J.K. Rowling "Harry Potter and the Runaway Jury."

#26 ::: Nonny ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Lord Christ and Lady Bast. That's ... well ... I have to admire the person's guts and creativity. Really, I do. And at least he's honest enough to himself about not selling much with a self-published book.

Me being a nosy bitch, I wrote him and mentioned AuthorHouse's class-action lawsuit. And gave him some links to find more information. Figure, what the hell.

Nonny

#27 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 04:39 PM:

making sense in a reality way

Damn. I wish I had stuff that made sense in a reality way. I don't even know what that would look like.

#28 ::: veejane ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 04:49 PM:

Whatever Mr. Rice's ideas about the career of novel-writing, I'm not much of a fan of his copy-writing skills. I'm not sure the author is allowed to say "It's a fascinating read" unless he is quoting someone else (double points for a misquote out of context).

I wonder if he has submitted portions of this work to agents/publishers and been rejected already? He doesn't mention it if so, and I hope he doesn't think that leaping straight to the "don't pay me, I'll pay you" option is the way it works.

#29 ::: M. Hemmingson ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:01 PM:

Oh come on, this is just a joke.

#30 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:02 PM:

From the excerpt image posted on eBay, it looks like single-spaced Times New Roman. (Or an IBM Selectric Composer. It's so hard to tell, these days.) It also looks as though, had he submitted this portion to an agent or publisher, he wouldn’t have had much luck with it. Poor guy.

#31 ::: ChickenBoot ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:07 PM:

Con.
De.
Scend.
Ing.

#32 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:12 PM:

A hundred and fifty thousand? This guy’s small potatoes. Have a look at some of the other “books” listings on eBay. Current top of the heap: Life and Times of “Arcola Ray and the Mississippi Delta Blue’s”. Twelve million for “book and movie copyrights, as well as, the rights to two Blues/rock style songs titled ‘Mississippi's on the Rise’ and ‘Gon’ Be A Man,’ which are to be featured on the movie soundtrack.”

You know what the sad thing is? Sooner or later somebody really will sell one of these this way. And then we’ll see a whole pseudo-industry around marketing and packaging your unique artistic vision for eBay.

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:12 PM:

I don't think it's a joke. Or if it is, it's a joke contrived by someone with an extensive background in submissions, and a very precise command of tone. It's hard to write like that if you don't naturally write like that.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:14 PM:

Fallible ear, ChickenBoot. David's genuinely sympathetic.

#35 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:15 PM:

That’s not condescension, Boot, that’s a dispassionate appraisal.

#36 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:25 PM:

Oops. Cross-post. Thanks, Teresa.

What do you say to someone like this? I mean, when I was writing rejection letters for the Zeppelin book I didn’t say anything, except to the people I knew, the people who came close enough that I wanted to encourage them to submit something to my next anthology, and one nice old English guy who I wanted to thank for the attractive vintage aircraft stamps. But let's say you run into this kind of writing when you're teaching, or in a workshop; is there a way to deal with it that's both delicate and effective?

#37 ::: ChickenBoot ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:26 PM:

David's post just happened to be above mine and I don't have any issues with it. It's just a huge proportion of the other comments on this thread I find objectionable. Absolutely not directed toward your comment, David.

#38 ::: Holly Biffl ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:39 PM:

Let's be kind, shall we? Mr. Rice's tone is earnest enough. If anything was a joke, it would be Robert Ferrell's eBay listing, although something tells me that's a real book as well.

Perhaps this should remind all of us that publishing is a tough business to break into, period. Americans don't like to be told they can't do something. That's why PA and AuthorHouse do a flourishing business.

I shall now return to my customary lurk position.

#39 ::: Heather Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 05:58 PM:

I didn't mean to be unkind, I just really hoped it was a joke. If it's not, I feel terrible for Mr. Rice and I hope he takes the advice people are giving him to heart.

#40 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Every author with a book in the slushpile thinks their work is publishable. They literally can’t tell that it isn’t. If they could, they’d have written different books.

This is the thing I always have a hard time with. One hears, repeatedly, at conferences and whatnot, editors and agents saying, "Well, what you really need to do is write a good book." And, at many of those whatnots, I've heard people say, "But how can you *tell* if you've written a good book?"

And, of course, you can't. At least, you can't tell what other people are going to think. _You_ have to think it's a good book. And I was sitting here thinking, "Well, I know the book I sold last fall was good, and I knew it before I sold it. Same with others I've got out there. So I've always just *known* that what I was writing was good." Which is, I'm sure, exactly what everybody must think.

It suddenly occured to me that I could go dig up the manuscript of the first book I wrote, 12 years ago, and look at it (which I've been claiming I'm afraid to do) in order to see where it lies on the publishability scale. Obviously, at the time, I thought it was publishable. I seem to recall thinking it was good. Not great, but good. My suspicion now is that the underlying story isn't bad, but that the character development, motivation, and general writing is probably lacking.

Unfortunately, it's not in the bedroom where I thought it was. I'm going to have to go dig around in the garage, because now I'm *really* curious.

-Catie

#41 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 06:30 PM:

I spent many years in theatre, and most of the time I was surrounded at auditions by hundreds (thousands) of men and women of all ages who had absolutely no interest in the art and craft of acting, but merely wanted to be rich and famous. They genuinely believed in their assumptions that they only had to desire something to be entitled to it. If I tried to speak to them about my many years on stage, about hundreds of thousands of hours spent learning my craft, about Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neil and Beckett, about poverty and degradation and never having a dime in my pocket, their eyes glazed over. They couldn't make the connection. In turn they would point to magazines and say "they're famous - why can't I be?"

It's no wonder that this extreme naiveté towards the life of the artist and the cult of celebrity and money has spilled over into the world of writing. If Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton and Madonna can be "writers", why can't anyone? Why can't I, an average joe with a great idea and teachers who can't be bothered to tell me the truth about the writing "life" and my talent, NOT sell my wonderful manuscript and make millions of dollars? Look at reality shows, look at the hundred of pop stars and WB-actors that are churned up and out into the world every day. They've all "made it" - why can't we all?

Sadly, I don't think this is a joke, and while it's terribly funny, it's also, well: terrible. In my opinion, it's less of a bad reflection on this man than on the (incredibly lazy) so-called "teachers" (of dubious morals) who told him he was a good writer (!) and of the culture that surrounds him and tells him that this action is not only appropriate, but will reward him in ways that can't be obtained by simply trying his best and graciously accepting the fact that he is ordinary. It's no crime to NOT be rich and famous - at least, it's not supposed to be. Unfortunately, everything around him whispers something different.

#42 ::: MRose ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 06:39 PM:

"Slushpile" What a wonderful concept. It will warp your mind and your attitude toward humanity.

#43 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 06:44 PM:

What do you say to someone like this? I mean, when I was writing rejection letters for the Zeppelin book I didn?t say anything, except to the people I knew, the people who came close enough that I wanted to encourage them to submit something to my next anthology, and one nice old English guy who I wanted to thank for the attractive vintage aircraft stamps. But let's say you run into this kind of writing when you're teaching, or in a workshop; is there a way to deal with it that's both delicate and effective?

Rejection is so hard to do fairly, and honestly. And there's that underlying question: How would I take this rejection if it was me at the other end?

The honest person in me would want to say something blunt and straight. I'd want to know if my piece was poorly constructed or ungrammatical. I want to know if I still don't have the basics. It lets me know where to focus my efforts for the next while.

But hearing that about a piece you've submitted is... morale-crushing. If you're in a workshop, you maybe at least get to know the person enough to judge whether they would soak up any grammatical, writerly-how-to and other books you might throw their way.

I don't think there is a simple and effective way to handle it, as an editor rejecting something submitted. And it's not your job to educate the writer about their flaws, just to choose stories that will fit your collection, anthology, magazine or booklist.

[as an aside, and related.. there's an English mockumentary series called People Like Us, which has an episode called "the Artist" or "the Photographer". It follows a few days in the life of a very bad photographer who believes he's got "it" and takes his portfolio to a london gallery for commentary. She rejects him in the most heartbreakingly funny brutal-yet-honest way.]

#44 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 06:53 PM:

As alluded to above, AuthorHouse does do copyediting, which I happen to know because that's what the person I know who works there does for them.

But they of course charge extra for it.

If you look at their agreement, it's option #10 of a list of 24 options, all of which cost extra above and beyond that first $698. (Many of them require a second, special agreement; this is one of them.) According to their price sheet, they charge $0.015 per word; a mere $2250 extra if this author goes that route...

...that is, if they don't decide that your MS needs "excessive" editing, and charge you more, or decide they don't want to bother, of course.

Some other optional services include copyright registration ($150), the Booksellers Return Program ($699), and a one year domain name contract for a mere $75.

Although technically the return program might help address one of the problems with getting books on physical-store shelves discussed elsewhere, that $699 is only good for one year and, of course, AuthorHouse can choose to cancel that contract at any time as well.

I wish I could make my friend there understand the extent of how ungood this all is, but all he can focus on is the success stories. He probably doesn't enough realize how small a percentage that presumably is.

#45 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 06:59 PM:

Catie, the answer to your question is: find yourself a good critique group. Of course, that's work, too, but then, so's the whole process.

Hell, even handing it off to some literate and book-loving friends can help. Sure, your friends want to spare your feelings on average (unless you have my friends, who are champion critiquers and will, after saying they liked my book, start pointing out the flaws, see also "how I ended up adding two extra chapters to my first book to fix gaps"), but if they read a lot and you insist you really want an honest opinion, you probably can get an idea even if they try to softpedal any criticism.

#46 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 07:06 PM:

I may be biased by Robert Ferrell's being an e-mail acquaintance of mine, but I took his eBay listing as self-deprecating humor (and funny, at that). I don't see a rant there.

#47 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 07:09 PM:

The honest person in me would want to say something blunt and straight. I’d want to know if my piece was poorly constructed or ungrammatical. I want to know if I still don’t have the basics. It lets me know where to focus my efforts for the next while.

This is the problem, isn’t it? As previously noted here, often the people who most need to put in effort are the least likely to realize, or believe, that they need to. Maybe the trick is to distinguish those people who can accept the idea that writing is a game of skill, not chance, from those who can’t.

I mean, I have a pretty high opinion of my own writing, but if someone with Teresa’s experience were to tell me that my misuse of the semicolon goes beyond the bounds of civilized taste, I’d listen. :)

I don’t think there is a simple and effective way to handle it, as an editor rejecting something submitted. And it’s not your job to educate the writer about their flaws, just to choose stories that will fit your collection, anthology, magazine or booklist.

Right. Which is why I’m more interested in the pedagogical case.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 07:11 PM:

Goodness, ChickenBoot. Do you imagine that the rest of the people here aren't sincerely sympathetic? Perhaps if you just read for a while, you'd get a better sense of the conversation.

David, Zara, I say "I'm sorry, but this doesn't suit our current needs. Thank you for letting us see it, though." If it's a workshop, I say "You have a long way to go. I can help you. Let's talk. What are you finding difficult? What's coming easy? How long have you been working at it? What are you trying to do?"

Livia, I can't say this guy is ordinary, because I don't think he is. I do think his book isn't saleable. I also think AuthorHouse is lower than slime mold for trying to scam him. But he's written quite a substantial piece of work, he's out there trying to do his best with it, and he doesn't have his brain stuck on "idle."

Catie, a lot of the good ones can't tell either. I tell them all to get beta readers.

Jo, that's it exactly.

Jim, tell me it's not a good idea to phone Chris Patton and explain my views to him.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 07:14 PM:

David, I don't recall disparaging your semicolons.

#50 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 07:20 PM:

Teresa,

"Ordinary" was obviously not the best word to use. I agree, he's not ordinary. Actually, he's savvy enough to have made the connection between "recognizable celebrity name = some form of success", although he might not understand what success entails and how/why people have earned it. He most certainly has some innate understanding of how things work in the world. It's just terribly skewed.

#51 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 07:48 PM:

ChickenBoot, I think people here are being remarkably uncondescending considering the extremely sloppy quality of the author's prose. They are being encouraging and nurturing to someone who, as John M. Ford points out, is trying to push a slight variant of what almost every successful writer hears sooner or later, the "I've got a great story; you write it and we'll split the money" rap.

#52 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 08:29 PM:

"Slushpile" What a wonderful concept. It will warp your mind and your attitude toward humanity.

I was warped before I got here. I blame my violent childhood reading, like Homer and that bad girl Edie Hamilton.

But, y'know, not really. Reading too many slush stories at a sitting does produce a kind of aftereffect, like the world counter-rotating after stepping off the carousel, but it's temporary, and with experience one learns when to change the IV coffee drip and administer chocolate. Bad things can happen during backlog time -- and backlog time, like stuff, happens; if you should see a group of first readers out at lunch, and they are not talking about anything at all, it is Backlog Time; smile kindly as you pass.

Nor is there any marked alteration of the general view of humanity. The idea that everyone is, even potentially, equally talented at all possible tasks can't survive contact with reality; slush in this regard is just a concentrated narrow-spectrum dose of that reality. There are no doubt people who become embittered by the experience of first reading; one hopes they bail early and find fulfillment elsewhere.

Sometimes you get close -- say, after the fourth letter from a rejectee demanding to know how he will ever get good if he isn't "encouraged" (which invariably translates as "buy my next story no matter what its actual quality is"). Is there another art or science where one is expected to be rewarded first and get good later? Public office excepted.

It's not possible (and many of us have tried) to explain just how bad slushpile writing is; no one in civilian life ever sees so much faulty grammar, creative spelling, and non-Euclidean syntax. There's a frequent question that goes something like "How bad can it really be?" Quotes don't work as an answer, as it's assumed that they're being selected for pity-and-terror quotient, and reading a couple of mss. off the top in someone's office is not the same thing as reading twenty a day.

But the curious thing is that, when something puts a hand up out of the flow and waggles it for attention, there's a genuine pleasure in it. Even if the story as a whole falls short, or lurches into the pig-ironic ending that Rod Serling convinced way too many people was the asthenic heart of skiffy, the appearance of a charming minor character, a moment of authentic emotion, a few lines of dialogue not pasted in from dubbed anime, can redeem a piece of the day.

Maybe you're right. Getting through the day on that, plus Kit Kats and French roast, would warp anybody's attitude.

#53 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 09:04 PM:

Ok, I'm really missing something here. Why are people feeling so wretched for this pathetic binkus?

He's done precisely what many hundreds of thousands of people have done: wasted a whole pile of time writing an unsellable novel. We've all heard of the sea of unpublished manuscripts that slosh around the publishing biz. That sea represents the collected cluelessness of the myriad binkuses.

Say you decide to start working in a field that is new to you. What do you do first? You learn as much as you can about the field. If you still want to get into it after you've done that initial research, you seek an entry-level position or professional training.

What do the writers of the unsellable ocean of slush do? Many of them, including the guy we're feeling so sorry for, don't find out such basic facts as how to format a manuscript. They just dive in with little or no knowledge of how to write a novel, let alone how to sell it.

What does that behaviour say about the viewpoint of these "writers"? "Writing a novel can't be so tough, can it?" they seem to think. If it were tough, they might try to get some proper training and do some research. Don't you think that attitude is more than a tad insulting to professional writers?

An analogy: A few years ago my wife took an intro pottery night class at a local high school. The results were predictable: she had some mild fun, and we ended up with a small collection of well-intended but misshapen bowls. The most successful of them does fine duty as a scoop for dry cat food. It never crossed her mind to try to sell these things. She was, in fact, mildly embarrassed to bring them home.

Why, then, do would-be writers who have created the literary equivalents of those beginner bowls think they have created something that the world will want to pay money for?

And why on earth would we feel sorry for them because they hold this delusional belief in the value of their literary beginner bowls?

I have all sorts of time for unpublished writers who have studied the craft of writing and know how the publishing industry works. I respect the ones who have sought feedback from critical readers or joined writers' groups to help them hone their skill. I have even more time for them if they have tried to find out what sorts of novels will find an audience and have tried to write for that audience.

But for someone who can't even format the page properly? Feh! I'm glad to see him waste the eBay listing fee and make a public fool of himself.

#54 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 09:15 PM:

Nice, John! I haven't had to read slush for 21 years now, and I don't miss it slightly, not even as comic relief. How bad is slush? Much of it is far worse than people imagine. Perhaps the most vivid example of slushy wretchedness I encountered was a long religious rant, submitted to a mass-market fiction publisher, in which the author constantly referred to The Bibble.

#55 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 10:21 PM:

It's not possible (and many of us have tried) to explain just how bad slushpile writing is; no one in civilian life ever sees so much faulty grammar, creative spelling, and non-Euclidean syntax. There's a frequent question that goes something like "How bad can it really be?"

As a member of said civilian life, this is something I've been curious about for a while, and while I know it isn't possible to explain... How bad is slush compared to, say, the experience of reading the first twenty randomly chosen fanfics I find on fanfiction.net? Or (at least in terms of spelling and grammar) the experience of reading three posts each on ten randomly chosen livejournals? Is it that bad? Is it (shudder) worse?

#56 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2004, 11:09 PM:

Greg:

Because some of theose clueless people are, a few years later, writing decently and bemoaning their earlier haste.

I subbed my first pieces double-sided. I sent MZB's magazine a first draft that was at best incoherent because I couldn't wait the two weeks to get perspective ("Earthquake" rejection for those who recall the day). Two weeks later, I knew what I had done. I've always had decent spelling and passable grammar (I blame it on being in French Immersion as much as on reading a crazy number of books), but I didn't always know how to *use* the knowledge. Perhaps I still don't.

My personal favourite example of my own writing skills early on was the long stretch describing the characters studying the domed city they'd just been teleported into, noting a plethora of fine detail, ending with "It was only then they saw the crowd surrounding them."

I suspect every writer of a salable novel has also written a pathetic first attempt. It's only if they're lucky, or have good friends, that they can realise or be told it's just not ready in time.

#57 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 12:13 AM:

Why, then, do would-be writers who have created the literary equivalents of those beginner bowls think they have created something that the world will want to pay money for?

They clearly can't see that these are beginner bowls. I've seen published books that wouldn't make it out of many workshops alive, fwiw, so it's clear that the 'standard' for what constitutes a non-beginner bowl varies widely.

But I think it's just more emotional and internal than that. These writers know what they're trying to say -- and that's probably what they see when they look at what they've done. I think it boils down to this: they loved the novel by so-and-so, and they love this story they've written just as much and love=good.

And why on earth would we feel sorry for them because they hold this delusional belief in the value of their literary beginner bowls?

I'm not saying this is clever or even right; I just think there's some pathos in this. Pity is like compassion, but shorn of a certain basic peer-respect.

#58 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 12:16 AM:

Mike, I've read a lot of slush without ever being in publishing. I used to manage the AOL libraries for the GMI forums and there were an awful lot of people in the OMNI forum who thought Ellen would be reading everything uploaded to those libraries. I had to read every submission to make sure it didn't violate the Terms of Service, and while Ellen said to give her a link to any that were particularly coherent, I never found one that was.

#59 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:09 AM:

Finding a good critique group (or beta readers) is wildly effective, if you know *how* to find one. Giving the book to your mother and best friend isn't usually the way to get accurate criticisms, but I'm not sure how many new writers understand that.

I'm hardly disagreeing with the tactic, but I can't help wondering if many people in the early stages of a writing career literally don't know how to find a good critique group, or if they would know a good critique if it came up and bit them. To take G. Jules' fanfic example from above, I've seen an awful lot of fanfic with notes of grateful thanks to beta readers who, judging from the manuscript, have no grasp what-so-ever of how to use punctuation or even spell check, much less story structure or character deve...well, ok, a lot of fanfic character development comes pre-built. Nevermind that. :)

*I* know there are *lots* of ways to find critique groups; I remember checking college bulletin boards when I first started to write novels, so I must have had some kind of clue even then. I know I had classmates who would read my writing, and now you can find a critique group every five feet on the Internet. But how, I wonder, does someone who can't tell if her own writing is good judge whether the group she's got is a good one?

I'm largely spouting rhetoric here; I think the real answer is that you keep trying and you learn to recognize the talents, strengths, and weaknesses of the people around you in the growth process. It requires work on your own part, and if you never learn to recognize that, I suppose you stay in approximately the same place as a writer that you began in.

I also think some of what I'm responding to, at least emotionally, is the sheer frustration I've heard in people's voices as they ask how they can tell if their book is a good one. (I can hardly imagine actually being an editor. I think those waves of frustration would flatten me.) I'd love to be able to deliver a concrete answer to that question, even if I know perfectly well it's not one that concrete answers apply to.

...which, I suspect, brings us all the way back around to why PublishAmerica and AuthorHouse and other vanity presses succeed.

#60 ::: Nonny ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 07:58 AM:

Michelle> I know how truly horrible my first submissions were. Put it this way, I started when I was fifteen and what I wrote then probably should have been burned. Yet, I submitted it. (How sad is it that I was more professional in my submissions practices than my actual writing? :P)

Someone else, however, wrote to the guy, and posted the response in his LJ. It's here for anyone who's interested ... let's say, after reading that, I'll be quite surprised if I receive a civil reply.

Nonny

#61 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 08:08 AM:

Teresa, it's not a good idea to phone Chris Patton and explain your views to him.

#62 ::: Nonny ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 08:20 AM:

Cate> Finding a good critique group IRL can be near impossible depending on where you live and what you write. I never managed it, but I'm a bit of an antisocial person IRL, too.

Online, it's a touch easier, but it's easy to be intimidated by groups like Critters. Also, I was in Critters intensively for about six months. I did more critiquing than I received, and what I received was not that helpful. The one thing I got out of it was that it convinced me to put aside the novel I'd been banging my head against for three years and work on something else. (So, of course, I pick up one I've been banging my head against for four years.)

After which, I stopped writing for about eight months. :P

Critters has a wide userbase. This has its advantages as well as its detriments. I had a tendency to get people critiquing my work that were not familiar with my subgenres and really hated that type of story along with people that liked it. The people that hated the subgenre often had advice completely opposite from what people who liked it said. At the time, getting that many divided opinions confused the hell out of me.

I've had more luck over at Evolution, the writers' site I administrate. I have some good friends from there, who I know write well and are open to the sort of thing I write--and who aren't afraid to tell me, "Nonny, this sucks boulders through barstraws; it's not fit to line the litterbox with" if I've really screwed up.

For me, it's been more important to get the opinion of someone I know writes well rather than someone random--because I've also had numerous random people tell me to resort to cliches. *rolls eyes*

Nonny

#63 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 09:23 AM:

Catie, this is a learn by experience game, just like most things in life. It's like asking how do you know when you've found good friends. Sooner or later you figure it out.

Some of it seems like common sense to me. A good critique group offers, well, criticism, not just feel-good platitudes. If no one has even so much as a question about what you've done as a writer or a suggestion about how they might have done something differently, you're probably in a mutual appreciation society, not a critique group. If your group consists in part or whole of other writers, you probably can get some insight as to how good of a critiquer they are based partly on their writing and partly on how they respond to criticisms.

I'm not saying I don't understand the frustration that goes into a decision to go with someplace like PA. But nobody handed me the knowledge I've gotten and am still expanding on how it all really works. I looked things up. I read author's web sites, I Googled (back in the Olden Days, that would've been 'searched the card catalogue'), I read through online forums, I bought writing books. I read tons and tons of books and compare what I like with what I write; what works for me as a reader is important to know if I want to write something others will enjoy. And I talk about books with other people, so I get an idea of what seems to be more or less personal preference and what seems to be commonly thought of as good or bad.

And I know that it's extremely difficult to judge any craft one does completely objectively, so I ask other people about what I've written and what they think of it, and have learned that the most useful critiquers and beta readers are the ones that ask questions like "How come we don't see this character for 9 chapters after he's introduced?" or "Why does this character have a car in Chapter 3 but suddenly has to catch a bus to get somewhere in Chapter 4?" They also say things like "I really liked the way you handled getting these two characters to meet" or "The end of Chapter 12 is really creepy" (presuming that's what one intended), so you know what works as well as what doesn't, the last bit being the part I think is (again) common sense.

#64 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 09:30 AM:

A commentors in that link Nonny gave is speculating that PNH posted the eBay offering as a joke.

FYI.

#65 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 09:36 AM:

Re Online workshops: I joined Critters about eight years ago, back when I decided to get serious about writing. I've been pretty fortunate in getting good feedback through them, though as Nonny notes, it's a very large and diverse group, which means the quality of the critiques can vary. The same holds true for the OWW, another good online group, which also has a large and diverse membership.

One thing a large group can give you, however, is the chance to join up with other writers for smaller writing exchanges. I found several writing partners through Critters and the OWW. After I get their feedback, I often submit the revised manuscript to Critters to get a wider range of feedback.

But it's all what works best for the individual writer. Different groups offer different advantages, and the best way to find the right group is to try each one out for a while.

#66 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 10:28 AM:

In defense of Critters:

I've been a member there about five months. I also have a real-life writers group, which I've been with for about four years (a couple of them are semi-pros, agented by Budrys--a little out-of-date, but still legit).

I went into Critters with very low expectations, because I've been in several writers groups and yes, I've seen how bad the slush can get, including the neurochemical disorders. Nevertheless, I joined Critters because I had seen it mentioned here, because I liked the organization of it, and because my summer schedule was going to keep me away from my RL group.

Do I spend more time critting than being critted? Yeah. Is that any different from a RL group? No. If there are ten people in the group on a Saturday and everybody brings a story, odds are you're going to read five or six of them, and crit them, before they get to your story at the end of the day.

Critters is nice because it gives you a wide cross-section of your audience. Horror, SF and fantasy all gets lumped together, just like in Locus. It's kind of like selling your product at Wal-Mart; sooner or later, somebody from every walk of life is going to pass by. Some of them won't like what you're selling, some of them are looking for exactly that item, but the point is exposure--and if you can get the attention of people who *didn't* come looking for your product, so much the better.

I quickly learned that *how many* crits you got on Critters was just as important as what they said. If you get 20 or 25 crits on your story, when the average is 10, you must be doing something right, because people are interested enough to finish reading--the bad ones barely get critted at all. Furthermore, if each crit starts with, "Hey, this is a great read, I'd just change this one little thing--" you can also assume you're doing something right; subsequent comments may be assimilated or dismissed as needed.

If I get contradictory comments, I generally assume they cancel each other out, and don't worry about it. If I get a consensus, I take it seriously.

The other nice thing about Critters is it's fairly anonymous. People don't look at me and make assumptions about the kind of story it's going to be. I find myself more open-minded toward the text in front of me. Plus, writing a crit, as opposed to delivering it in a round-table, requires precision and gives you time to digest your impressions. Most writers I know are far more eloquent on paper than in person. Personally, I have no fear of public speaking, but it can be hard to think on your feet when the author is looking all eager and crushable and is apt to jump to conclusions.

This wasn't intended to contradict anything Nonny said; I've encountered some of those same problems on Critters. But I thought it only fair to provide an alternate point of view. For anyone thinking of joining Critters or another peer writer's group, bear in mind that writers are also readers, and even if somebody's writing isn't as good as yours, they probably have a legitimate idea of what works as entertainment. I've even had people tell me something was written well, but it left them with a "so-what?" feeling, which is certainly legit.

My advice? Use a peer group to test-market the story. Rely on Strunk and White, King, et al to help you with the mechanics.

One final point: Critter Joy Remy just got published in this year's Writers of the Future Anthology. Make of that what you will. Diff'rent strokes, etc.

#67 ::: Kass Fireborn ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 10:49 AM:

The weird thing about writing/crit groups is they make no sense in terms of population. They're all over the place in Pittsburgh--I learn about a new or new to me one nearly every year--but I've got a friend in NY, NY who can't find any that are genre. (If you count Alpha, Pittsburgh has five that are just genre, three of which can be blamed on one person.) However, if you really want and care enough about it, it's still surprisingly easy to start one. I've had plenty of other friends go that route successfully, and really, most established writing groups have that somewhere in their history: someone in the group wanted people to crit their stuff, and couldn't conveniently find anyone to do so. This person may or may not end up in charge of the group later on. (In WorD, this special place is reserved for Diane Turnshek, who we generally obey but who doesn't really run the group any more because she doesn't have time. If you or anyone you know comes across a Time Turner, please ship it to us immediately as she desperately, desperately needs it.)

The only difficult bits of making your own group are getting good people and establishing good guidelines. (Well, a meeting place can be somewhat difficult, but many libraries will have some sort of meeting room they're willing to donate to you, and in time the librarians may become fond enough to defend you to patrons and give you donuts even though the library is strictly no eating or drinking. True anecdotes.) Good guidelines can be obtained off the 'net, and you can simply present them as the unconditional rules at the first meeting, which will weed out some of your more problematic attendees right away. (WorD shamelessly stole our initial procedures from the former Worldwrights, for example.) Getting people isn't hard, either; you put up notices in bookstores, colleges, coffee shops, and other places writers congregate--I believe the Houston group my friends started took its core group from NaNoWriMo 2002. Getting good people requires a bit more work, but if you set up your guidelines right and phrase your notices to encourage what you're looking for, that helps. So does starting the group with a few friends or acquaintances, so you can drive out the problems by force of personality.

(It's very likely that any group of people meeting for a social or recreational purpose can, if deposited in a different and stressful location, instantly turn into an episode of Survivor.)

Even if the group isn't great, even an adaquate group will usually help you more than nothing at all, or just giving your work to your friends and/or teachers.

I admit, though, I'm spoiled--Write or Die meets at my local library, so when I decided I was really, truly serious about this, I just wandered into a meeting. It was a ready-made group where I fit in perfectly, to the point I was ready to put something on the chopping block for my third meeting (and it didn't even hurt too badly). Through this group, since it's open, I've also learned something that ties into an above comment: there are some good writers who don't give good critiques, and there are some mediocre writers who give extraordinary critiques. The skills involved in writing are not the same skills involved in being good at spotting problems in writing, which is another reason people have such a hard time telling if their own writing is good or not--because developing the eyes of a critiquer require an entirely different approach and workout than developing writing skills, so that even the people who are trying to put the time and effort into being a good writer may never realize how to be good at analyzing that writing.

So what I've found to be true is, the easiest way to start building up the ability to tell if you own work is good... is to start taking apart other people's work looking for the same thing.

Also: you can synthesize the Slushpile experience from the convenience of your own home by signing up as a moderator for any kind of online story archive. I spent about six months doing this for Elfwood, and forever will have a scar on my soul from one suicide story so bad it made me want to kill myself. I have no idea why a site specifically for genre stories gets so many about people ending it all in a distinctly non-genre way, though it's probably the teenager factor. I just know one thing: yes, the slushpile really is that bad, if not worse. (And also, watching MTS3K and learning how to mock the atrocity you're reading can help, a lot.)

#68 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Teachers aren't necessarily a help, either (I know, I know, don't throw things at me). Education, particularly at the college level, is a business as much as it's a craft, and if you get a teacher who's just sitting around collecting a paycheck, and gives credit simply for filling up the requisite number of pages, nobody learns anything.

My technical editor (I'm the style editor for a line of motorcycle repair manuals) thinks he's a terrific writer--he got straight A's in his English comp class at the community college. He gave me his history final project to read (and supposedly crit). I edited it just as I would one of our tech books--for grammar and clarity.

It was unreadable. It contained, commas, in strange places. Utilizing megolith verbiage was in inappropriate locations, nevertheless the writer, despite having put numerous man-hours, into crafting this masterpiece, revealed himself to have a dreadful tin ear. I can't even replicate it. Nominalizations are so foreign to me I can't even fake them.

The technical editor and I are still on good working terms, but we don't talk about writing anymore.

#69 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 11:10 AM:

Teachers aren't necessarily a help, either (I know, I know, don't throw things at me). Education, particularly at the college level, is a business as much as it's a craft, and if you get a teacher who's just sitting around collecting a paycheck, and gives credit simply for filling up the requisite number of pages, nobody learns anything.

My technical editor (I'm the style editor for a line of motorcycle repair manuals) thinks he's a terrific writer--he got straight A's in his English comp class at the community college. He gave me his history final project to read (and supposedly crit). I edited it just as I would one of our tech books--for grammar and clarity.

It was unreadable. It contained, commas, in strange places. Utilizing megolith verbiage was in inappropriate locations, nevertheless the writer, despite having put numerous man-hours, into crafting this masterpiece, revealed himself to have a dreadful tin ear. I can't even replicate it. Nominalizations are so foreign to me I can't even fake them.

The technical editor and I are still on good working terms, but we don't talk about writing anymore. Given the quality of the text we edit in the manuals, I've often wondered if it was a case of GIGO.

#70 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 01:08 PM:

Teresa wrote: David, I don't recall disparaging your semicolons.

You haven't. I was just trying to think of something technical I might be vulnerable on. :)

#71 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 01:16 PM:

I've seen people mentioning how writing and critiquing are two seperate skills, so I just wanted to chime in with the third piece to that puzzle; RECEIVING critiques. It's every bit as much a skill as the other two.

The first hurdle people have to get over is, of course, the battering to your ego. Having your work disected by people who have no particular reason to be nice to you hurts, more than people who've never been exposed to it think. Your ego wants you to reject their criticism as invalid for some reason and cling to the belief that your story is perfect. Learning how to beat your ego into submission can be tricky.

But even after you get to that point, it's still not easy to know what to do with all the feedback you've gotten. It's not a democracy. If everybody tells you X is screwed up in your story, there really is a chance they're all wrong. The weird-ass, out-of-left-field comment you get on a single critique may be the thing that takes your story to the next level.

Examples.

Everybody says one of your scenes is completely superfluous. It needs to be cut. Dead weight. Get it out of there.

So do you cut it?

Well . . . maybe.

All you know at this point is that your story has a problem, and people are noticing the problem in that scene. MAYBE they're absolutely right; maybe it's as simple as a block-delete. But . . . what if the problem actually lies elsewhere? What if this scene is actually VERY relevant, and you just did a lousy job of connecting it to the rest of the story? What if the way to correct the problem lies in editing the text that comes before and after it? It's possible that this hated passage can be fixed entirely without changing a single word within it.

Another example.

I once had a critiquer tell me he wanted to see more of character X -- a LOT more, she was barely in the piece.

Well, there was a good reason she was barely in the story -- she was a throwaway character, introduced between the first and second versions to illustrate a single plot point. She did her job, and I tossed her and went on. Initially, I ignored the comment; his request was entirely out of keeping with my vision of the piece.

Except . . . he was absolutely right. (The bastard.) Every time I thought about how I wanted to edit this story, I thought of ways to give this charcter more to do . . . and I liked where it was going. So I broke down and overhauled the story, converting her from a disposable walk-on to a main character. It worked. I like the story a lot better now.

Another example.

Another one of my critiquers pointed out a technical glitch in a story I had written. Nobody else saw it, nobody else made anything resembling that comment. So, I could ignore it, right?

Wrong.

As soon as the comment left her mouth, it marched across the table and started smacking me upside the head with how RIGHT it was. If you noticed this flaw, the entire story was sunk. Dead. In fact, I could no longer read the story without thinking "Yeah, but given what Flo pointed out, it doesn't really matter, does it?"

So, I got to work correcting the flaw. I found a way to do it, and my fix wound up making the story MUCH creepier than it had been originally. (And in the context of this story, that's a Good Thing.)

Sometimes it's obvious. Sometimes the group consensus is dead-on. Sometimes an idea that sounded stupid when you first heard it becomes, after some time as passed, really REALLY stupid. Sometimes your readers just flat-out miss what you were trying to do in the story and provide you with absolutely nothing you can use beyond typo corrections.

But not always.

Editing your story in response to honest feedback is a skill, one well worth learning.

(So says the guy with a single pro-rate sale to his name.)

#72 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 01:30 PM:

Paul: Very good points. I use many of the same guidelines when I'm reading critiques. (And here's an essay that I wrote about the subject.)

#73 ::: Nonny ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 01:32 PM:

Holly> You've got some definite points about Critters. However, it is a large time committment, and I no longer have that time to spare. It wasn't uncommon for me to do in depth crits that were between 1k - 3k when I was there. And, if I'm going to crit someone, I'm going to crit them; anything less isn't really an option for me.

On teachers ... at least at the college level, they generally are focused on a completely different writing style than what is commercially publishable. While this isn't true all the time, I've known too many people who had to unlearn what they'd been taught in college about writing to really place much faith in it as a good place to learn. :P

Nonny

#74 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 01:52 PM:

Nobody here seems to have commented that the eBay listing is actually costing the lister more that PublishAmerica would have charged him -- not sure of the exact numbers, but IIRC they charge about 2% on big sales (or $3,000 on $150,000).

Whether it sells or not. Yeah, you get to list it again free if it doesn't sell (once!), but is this a cost-effective marketing strategy? Sounds like lottery tickets as a major investment approach.

#75 ::: Dnl Rc ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 01:57 PM:

b gss m th tlk f th twn! knw xctl wht ws gng t hppn whn pt ths p fr ctn. Dd vrn thnk ws gng t st bck nd wt fr 1000 bds. knw wld gt n bds, bt whl lt f tlkng bt m. Ths s gd. Ys tht s my rl nm. Ys tht s my rl ddrss nd ys rll hv bn wrkng n bk fr yr nw. S wht m dng. xctl wht sd n my By. Y cnnt hnstl sy tht Stphn Kng wrts ll f hs wrk. f y dn't knw hm b hrt, thn w ll ssm hs nm n th bk s hs wrtng. Ys blv Stphn Kng wrts mst f hs wrk, bt ls cnnt sy fr sr tht ll hs bks r hs wn wrtng. Hs nm s n th bk nd s w ll sy h wrt t. Y dn't knw tht. m Stphn Kng, m wrth vr 40 mlln dllrs. hv lrd wrttn vr 30 bks nd 'm trd ths yr. wnt t tk n yr ff. Stphn hs hs wn dtrs nd pblshrs nd gnts. H sk hs gnt g nd fnd m grt str, wll y. H ds. Gvs t t Kng. Stphn thn hnds vr 7000.00 dllrs t hs dtr syng, "Pt ll th cmms nd prds n th rght plc fr m." Th dtr ds. Nw Stphn tks th bk, whch hs gnt lrd gv chck r mn t th rgnl wrtr tllng hm h cnnt gt n rlts nd hnds t vr t hs pblshng C. Thy f crs pblsh t. nw Stphn Kng nvl cmng t. Hw mn ppl r gng t by? zlln. n f th cmmnts n hr dsgr wth. Sh sys tht t's nt th nm tht slls str, bt th str tslf. Wll tht s jst pln bllsht! Hw mn ppl cn g n bk str nd rd n ntr nvl frst t s f thy lk t, bfr thy b t? N n. vrn wh lk Stphn Kng's bks wll b hs nxt n bcs hs nm s n t. S vrn thnks h rll wrt t. Bt n n knws tht fr sr. Thnk bt hs bks fr mmnt. Crr. Chrstn. Pt Cmtr. Th Shnnng. H ws s fms wth wrtng hrrr bks. Nw w gt bk frm Stphn Kng, whch gs n cmpltl dffrnt drctn. Shmshck Rdmsn. Stnd b M. Th vr s pplr Th Grn Ml. N f ths strs hv nythng t d wth hrrr. Thr grt strs, bt t's nt Kng. H wrts hrrr. Hw d y knw h wrt ths prtclr bks? Jk Rwlngs wrtng s th sm. ll bt mgc nd wtchcrft. Nw f sh cms t wth bk tht gs n vrng drctn, thn cn sy "Gs, tht's jst nt Rwlngs wrtng t m." Jhn Grshm. ll hs bks r crtrm ntrtnmnt. Th Clnt. Th Frm. tm T Kll nd hs rcnt wrk, bt frgt t's ttl, bt knw t hs t d wth crtrm nd lwyrs. Jhn Grshm s ttrn n rl lf. knw tht bfr lk hm p. Jst lk wht h wrts bt nd t ll mks sns. H knws ll bt lw. S Grshm cms t wth nw bk clld "Mr Hd Lttl Lmb" wll hv t sy, "Gs tht jst sn't Jhn Grshm t m, ths str s cmpltl dffrnt." Wll myb smn ls wrt t, nstd. Gt th pnt ppl! f y rll dn't knw ths thrs, thn y cnnt sy fr sr t's thr rl wrk! Stphn Kng s hrrr wrtr, s whr th hll dd Th Grn Ml Cm frm. Grt Bk nd Mv, bt t m, t's jst nt Stphn Kng's sl wrk. h nd t ll th ppl t thr tht gv m nslts, dn't cr. Bt thx vrn fr ll yr pblcty. nvr thght b s pplr lrd nd nvr vn gv y gys my scrpt t rd yt! 'v hd ppl tll m my cmms wr nt n th rght plc? Wll hw th hll dd y s tht. Dd y rd my str n yr drms lst nght? h gt t, y r ll tlkng bt my wrt p n b tslf. Wll wh th hll crs bt tht? wrt tht n mnt. t's nt my str, s ddn't pt n ffrt nt t. ls knw wht th t cm wld b ftr pstd my mnscrpt, s why wld pt n mr ffrt nt smthng thn hv t? Gd d ppl. T ll th nc cmmnts, th nn-jdgmntl ns, Thnk y....

#76 ::: Sugnwrgaed ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:09 PM:

Maybe a woman named J.K. Rowlings wrote J.K. Rawling's books? You think? I think so!!

#77 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:13 PM:

Sugnwrgaed, I beg to differ. J.K. Rowling wrote J.K. Rowlings' books.

#78 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:15 PM:

Man, now I feel compelled to apologize to everyone.

I'll resist that temptation -- pointing him here was the right thing to do, I believe, on the off chance he was sincere and not a loon. But reading the above, I can't help but feel a twinge inside. It's probably guilt; I'm pretty sure I don't have tapeworms.

#79 ::: Sugnwrgwaed ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Andy: LOL, you're right! A completely different woman altogether.

#80 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:18 PM:

One is reminded that, in the study at http://www.apa.org/journals/psp/psp7761121.html , the authors pointed out that those in the lowest percentiles (who grossly overestimated their abilities) tended to blame failure on something other than lack of skill or knowledge, and to be unable to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those more able.

#81 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:23 PM:

_The Shinning_:
"Ow! Ow! Will you *stop* kicking me? OW!"

#82 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:24 PM:

Apparently under Mr. Rice's theory, Steven Brust is either a conglomerate or suffers from MPD [*].

[*] This is a joke and I don't want to get into a discussion about MPD as a diagnosis. Thank you.

Words fail me. Well, no, they don't, but words useful to Mr. Rice fail me.

#83 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:35 PM:

Beth > (I THINK you were talking to me . . .) Thanks for the link; it's always interesting to see how other writers handle it. (And I love the secret diaries, BTW.)

Daniel > You're making a terrible mistake.

"Oh i get it, you are all talking about my write up on EBay itself. Well who the hell cares about that? I wrote that in a minute. It's not my story, so I didn't put any effort into it. I also knew what the out come would be after I posted my manuscript, so why would I put any more effort into something than I have to?"

Technically, you are absolutely right. The quality of the manuscript you're trying to sell has nothing to do with the quality of the EBay sales pitch.

But.

Let's say I'm Stephen King's agent. Let's say Mr. King wants to take a year off and have somebody ghostwrite a novel for him. And, thanks to all the hullabaloo, I see your manuscript up for sale on EBay, for a price that's massive in Normal Person money but actually well within Mr. King's budget.

The big question on my mind is not "Is this novel good enough?"; it's "Can this guy write?" After all, if I don't think you can string a sentence together, why would I want to bother reading an entire novel?

So, what's my first impression of Daniel Rice's writing ability?

Daniel Rice is difficult to read. He doesn't bother with paragraph breaks; his sales pitch is one enormous monolithic lump of text that fills my entire browser window. Damn thing just LOOKS exhausting before I've read a single word. His use of words is sloppy, and occasionally gramatically incorrect. He is confusing "Rawlings," a sporting goods manufacturer, with "J. K. Rowling," the Harry Potter creator every writer secretly wants to be. (Or, at least, have her bank account.) This is not the sign of a writer who pays attention to detail.

And, like most first-time writers, he is being very protective of his work, meaning I'll have to jump through hoops aplenty to even see this novel, which I have no objective reason to think will be any good in the first place. And the first draft is two chapters short of completion anyway.

Pass.

I give you credit for creativity and chutzpah, man. And you're right, from a self-promotion standpoint, your name most definitely is out there now. If that was, in fact, your goal all along, then take a bow; you've done very well. (Though again, I wish you'd left behind a better first impression of your actual writing talent.)

But make sure you don't spend that $150,000 just yet.

#84 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:37 PM:

Wasn't Steven King's "The Shinning" based on that Treehouse of Horror Episode of The Simpsons? Or a I getting mixed up?

Gad! Me so funny!

#85 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:39 PM:

I can't believe I missed Steven King's "The Shamshock Redempsion". Was that a sequel? Wasn't that the one starring Tim Robins Williams?

Gad! Me so funny!

#86 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:43 PM:

Nonny:

I sent you an e-mail that, now that I think about it, probably got shuffled into your spambox because of the return address. If you didn't get it at all, please let me know, and I'll send it again.

#87 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:49 PM:

Pete: Ack! I'm so sorry I typed the wrong name. *grovels in shame* My brain took off for parts unknown earlier this week. Glad you liked The Secret Diaries. We all enjoyed writing them.

#88 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 02:58 PM:

Pete: Neil Gaiman made a comment on his journal yesterday which seems to fit what you're saying:

Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what's wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
#89 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 03:12 PM:

To find a number of different examples of Robert Ferrell's writing, scroll down to the bottom of his website at http://www.robertgferrell.com/ and click on The Plinth at the bottom.

It's official: Daniel Rice is not only a lousy writer but also a boor.

#90 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 03:24 PM:

Daniel - if someone makes their living as an author, has spent years honing their craft and learning how to write well, learning how to engage an audience, it doesn't surprise me that they're capable of writing stories in more than one style.

I'm learning to be a potter. That doesn't restrict me to making only one form of pot using only one technique. If I'm good at my craft, I will be able to take the clay and make what I choose.

If an author is good at their craft, they'll be able to take words and spin tales of their choosing.

One of the qualities I admire about Stephen King (I'm not a horror buff) is that he doesn't limit himself to horror. And why should he?

#91 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 03:36 PM:

Nonny > [Critters] is a large time committment, and I no longer have that time to spare.

Amen to that. I myself go in waves; seven days of mass critting followed by weeks of ignoring the whole thing.

The ignorance and wishful thinking displayed in Mr. Rice's post reminded me of a college friend who wrote to Tom Clancy, proposing a collaboration; or, if Mr. Clancy didn't have time, could he please just send all his research materials to Dave K., c/o the Browning Hall Dorm Monitor?

#92 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 03:56 PM:
Nobody here seems to have commented that the eBay listing is actually costing the lister more that PublishAmerica would have charged him -- not sure of the exact numbers, but IIRC they charge about 2% on big sales (or $3,000 on $150,000).

Whether it sells or not. Yeah, you get to list it again free if it doesn't sell (once!), but is this a cost-effective marketing strategy? Sounds like lottery tickets as a major investment approach.


This is incorrect. eBay has two sets of fees - insertion fees, which you pay when you list an item, and final value fees, which you pay only when an item sells (for more than the reserve, if you set one). The final value fees are on a sliding scale and are calculated as a percentage of the final value, but the basic insertion fee tops out at $4.80, so Mr. Rice could have paid as little as that for the listing (there are additional fees for 10-day auctions, picture hosting, Gallery pictures, boldface listings, subtitles, featured auctions, etc.).

#93 ::: Lori ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Mr. Rice's idea of campaigning for attention that begets publication reminds me of a man I corresponded with over FIDOnet in the days of yore pre-world wide web. He mailed, to anyone who wanted it, a floppy disk containing his Star Trek novel. With it came a form letter you could print and send to Paramount and/or Pocket Books appealing to the editor for consideration. That grassroots campaign for publication didn't work. I read the novel, but couldn't endorse it in good conscience. The writing was pedestrian at best and the plot somewhat derivative. I've read better fan fiction.

While Mr. Rice is reaching a greater number of onlookers in his quest for attention, thanks to the internet, I suspect the results of his attempt will be the same. His lack of writing skill is a minor obstacle, easily remedied with some work on his part. His attitude and his unfounded and fixed assumptions are the major obstacles.

While these observations are probably preaching to the choir at this point, I labor under the perhaps-misguided hope that Mr. Rice might still be around to hear it. The habit of attempting to reason with the unreasonable persists, probably due to years of trying to deal with my mother. :)

#94 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:15 PM:

Strangely enough, Mr. Rice's strategy might not be as deeply flawed as one might think.

A friend of a friend -- a student of one of my workshop buddies -- was the moderator of a fanfic site for a series I'd never heard of before. He was approached by the copyright holders and asked to ghostwrite another novel in the series, to be published under a more famous name. (I don't remember the name, but I can find it out. It wasn't anybody I'd heard of.)

Of course, he made substantially less than $150,000. It was either a flat $600 or $2000, no royalties, and no credit whatsoever. To the outside world, he remains an unpublished writer.

In other words, he got completely screwed. Poor guy just didn't know any better; he thought novel deals fall like manna from heaven all the time.

#95 ::: Dnl Rc ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Wll, spps y ll hd grt lgh n m. 'm s srr tht ddn't ndnt my prgrphs whn frst wrt n hr.

Thr, s ths mch bttr! T ll tht hd nslts bt smthng y ddn't rd, chllng y t lk p my ddrss nd s m n prsn, s w cn tlk bt t.

T Grg nn, prsdnt f Clbrn Cmmnctns, lrd clld y n th phn. jst wnt t lt y knw s prsdnt f lrg C., y rprsntd yrslf s nprffsnl.

Y dd nt gv m yr dvs r xprts, jst nslts, Mr. nn.

Nw Grg nn, my gt sm mn ftr ll. clld lwyr nd snt vr yr rd nsltng cmmnts bt m.

H thn clld m mmdtl, sttng p tm t mt. H sys bcs y r Prsdnt f wll knw C. nd nt vrd J lk m, tht yr C. s nw n ht wtr, my frnd.

My ppntmnt s tmmrw t 1:30pm. fr cnslttn, whch mns hv cs gnst Mr. nn nd Clbrn Cmmnctn Cmpn.

My lwyr tld m bcs ths gntlmn s prsdnt f C. clld Clbrn Cmmnctns, h hs n rght t gv t rcl r nslts cmmnts t nn.

H s spps t b prfssnl gntlmn. My lwyr ls tld m f t ws vrg J tht sd ths nslts t m, wld nt hv cs t ll.

My lwyr wll b n tch wth y Mr. nn nd yr Clbr C. My lwyr ls sk m nt t spk t y n th phn gn. S wll tk hs dvs fr nw nwy.

S t vrn ls t thr tht hd ll ths trrbl thngs t sy t m, wll jst tk t n strd.

T y Mr. nn wll, wll jst lt ths lwyr tlk t m tmmrw nd wll g frm thr. Wll, myb wll gt sm mn ftr ll. Gd dy.

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:32 PM:

Hi, Daniel. Thanks for showing up. I know this can't be easy for you. I may not think your book is saleable, but I do respect you, and I wish you well. You're an ingenious and original thinker, and I trust that'll pay off for you someday.

In the meantime, I encourage you to stay away from outfits like AuthorHouse. You're less likely to find fame and fortune being published by them than you are to become rich overnight by selling Amway.

#97 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:37 PM:

The phone rings at the next desk. I hear one half of the conversation.

"Hello."

"Yes, Greg Ioannou works here."

"He's the company president."

"He doesn't have a boss. He owns the company."

"Bye."

I look over and raise a quizzical eyebrow. "Some guy trying to report you to your employer for something you wrote on Teresa's blog. What have you been up to?"

Who was it? Mr Rice, trying to get revenge for my posting last night.

We've finally stopped laughing. You never know how posting to these things will brighten your day.

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:41 PM:

That's a change. Usually they try to phone Tom Doherty to get me fired.

#99 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:42 PM:

Daniel, please stop. Posting blustering threats in Teresa's blog is not a good way to make a name for yourself in publishing. You'd be much better off if you removed the ad from eBay, joined a workshop, and tried to improve your craft.

#100 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:49 PM:

Okay, now I retract even my temptation of apology. The entertainment value of this has just risen sharply.

Note to Daniel Rice, since I do believe in talking to people rather than about them whenever possible: Stop trying. You don't have a case. If you actually are talking to a lawyer, he's preparing to scam you. You'll get a "free consultation" followed by a few hundred bucks in fees up front, which he'll promise you will be recovered after a court hearing that never happens. You'll have found the legal equivalent of AuthorHouse. That's if you're telling the truth.

So don't try. Really, for your own good. You're a natural sucker, because you just can't listen to people who tell you things you don't want to hear. You're convinced you're smarter than them, without actually looking at the evidence presented. At the same I suspect you'll listen to anyone anywhere who tells you what you do want to hear, and that's far more dangerous than listening to no one at all.

(Which means of course that you won't listen to this either. That's okay -- it was entertaining to type, and taught me something even if it teaches you nothing.)

#101 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Sheesh. Doesn't everyone know that Richard Bachman has been writing Stephen King's books for years?

#102 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:01 PM:

Christopher - :)

#103 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:09 PM:

Steve, this is a normal reaction for authors who've heard the bad news. They're unhappy and confused, and they explode into words. If he's still being a jerk twenty-four hours from now, I'll consider disliking him.

#104 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:31 PM:

Though I do feel reminded of "Tor Books, Tammany Hall, and the First Armoured Division".

#105 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:32 PM:

Daniel wrote:

Now Greg Ioannou, I may get some money after all. I called a lawyer and sent over your rude insulting comments about me.

Daniel - while I'd like to think that your strategy isn't "get money from somewhere, anywhere, by any means possible", it's hard not to read unpleasant motive into statements like the one quoted above.

My lawyer told me because this gentleman is a president of a Co. called Colbourne Communications, he has no right to give out racial or insults comments to anyone.

He is suppose to be a professional gentleman. My lawyer also told me if it was a average Joe that said these insults to me, I would not have a case at all.

Daniel - The truth is an absolute defence. Furthermore, only factual misrepresentation would be considered by the courts - not Greg's expression of his opinions about you and your writing.

[and quite frankly - even from the quotes of your writing that I've included here, it would be hard to argue that your writing meets a high standard]

#106 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:38 PM:

Mike -- a few of the readers of this blog have \some/ idea what slush readers go through; we've been first readers for the NESFA short story contest. I actually ran it for two years when I was much younger and more energetic.

There are two differences which don't come near balancing each other. One is that readers (and even the manager) are expected to read all of and comment coherently on every story; the other is that the volume is a tiny fraction (1%? 0.1%?) of what a professional slush reader might encounter. (Metric: in the busiest year, I had 80 stories come in, spread over at least a month.) Another difference I can only guess at; since all we offered was a plaque and maybe a book or Boskone membership (or maybe both--terms varied, and it's been a \long/ time since I ran the contest), we may have gotten fewer desperately hopeless wanna-see-my-words-in-print types. Certainly my impression is that there were more good stories than in a typical publisher's slushpile (is it as high as 1% possibles?)

IIRC, two of the \second/-place winners in the 1970's did get published; I haven't tracked since then. But if I had to read even the average quality I saw then for days at a stretch rather than a couple at a time, the white-jacket types would have to use a very large net before they could take me off to the rubber room.

#107 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:45 PM:

We've had two people named Rice recently post unfelicitously publicly. I wonder if there's a plague.

#108 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 05:58 PM:

We've had two people named Rice recently post unfelicitously publicly. I wonder if there's a plague.

We could write a book about it and call it The Year of Rice Assault.

#109 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 06:29 PM:

Alex wrote:

We could write a book about it and call it The Year of Rice Assault.

Picture the scene - Anne and Daniel in riced out cars, meeting in a distant parking lot under a single flickering light, exchanging papers with a furtive air ... suddenly a shot rings out!

#110 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Daniel, I'm impressed you came by here to talk with us, but if you're gonna, how about you, you know, talk with us?

I think you're also reading some things into Greg's posts he has not said, but as Teresa pointed out, you're understandably a bit, erm, cranky right now; I'll go ahead and hope that you'll reconsider what's been written in a new light after a bit of time has passed.

#111 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 06:38 PM:

Xeger sez: Picture the scene - Anne and Daniel in riced out cars...

Maybe Condi could referee the race. Or raid it and deport everyone to Syria...

#112 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 06:42 PM:

Chip and Marilee: Apologies; what I should have said was, "There's no way to understand the quality of slushpile fiction without actually reading it."

Eleanor Sullivan used to cull howlers from her slush (a habit not unique to her), and, after they had seasoned awhile, sell them to . . . hm, I believe it was the New Yorker. But the lines one saves (or remembers) this way are exceptional; mostly it's just characters who to call "stereotyped" would insult a worthy printing technology, skeletonized plots, expository landfills, and the everyday inability to spell, punctuate, or construct a sentence. In SF one gets the bonus of bad science. ("A tiny little pinhole had got made some way in St. Laurent's spacesuit. Espoused to the vaccumn of space, he instantly exploded. All over everywhere.")

Ah well, I guess I expressed that part already. And I also think this thread has left my interests behind; I'll probably be going now (not from the blog, just this thread).

#113 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 07:28 PM:

Steve Eley said:

Note to Daniel Rice, ... If you actually are talking to a lawyer, he's preparing to scam you. You'll get a "free consultation" followed by a few hundred bucks in fees up front, which he'll promise you will be recovered after a court hearing that never happens. You'll have found the legal equivalent of AuthorHouse. That's if you're telling the truth.
The lightbulb goes on over my head. I've been seeing "free consultation" ads from lawyers for years and years now, and it's never once occurred to me that they might be a come-on. Thank you.

#114 ::: Kass Fireborn ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 08:02 PM:

With the possible exception of disability lawyers, who will work for a percentage of your back-funds if they think it's winnable (or so I understand; I'll know more if I get turned down on my own again).

#115 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 08:33 PM:

Of course, one of the wonders brought to you by the Age of the Internet is a very public slushpile in the form of fanfiction.net. I'm told it's a fairly good example of a slushpile.

My own experience with it is, alas, limited to looking at a couple of stories at random, and then looking at the comments. Strangely, the "U R so kewl!!!" comments were all by names I did not recognise, while I did recognise most of the names attached to the attempts to gently and politely suggest that "beta reader" does not mean "my best friend who looked at this and said 'U R so kewl!!!'".

This may be connected with my involvement in a mailing list for that fandom which understands the concept "critique". :-)

#116 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 09:04 PM:

Julia - if you want to know how fanfiction.net really works, go to the LiveJournal community "deleterius". After reading a few entries, you'll quickly discover exactly what purpose ff.net serves in the Internet universe. It is indeed teh slushy kewl. :D

http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=deleterius

#117 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Teresa:
The lightbulb goes on over my head. I've been seeing "free consultation" ads from lawyers for years and years now, and it's never once occurred to me that they might be a come-on. Thank you.

Disclaimer: please don't pass that on as Known Truth on my account alone. I'm not a lawyer, I don't have any exposure to the legal industry, and I don't know for sure that that's what happens. It just seems like a pretty obvious way to make money to me. If I were a shady lawyer, it's the first thing I'd think of.

More to the point, it's the only scenario that comes to my mind that would explain Mr. Rice actually having an appointment with a lawyer tomorrow, and his hearing from a lawyer anything that might approximate what he claims to have heard.

#118 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2004, 09:56 PM:

Livia: insane giggling here.

I'd note that my experience of ffnet dates from before they a) got wary about X-rated material b)provided a way for the readership to suggest that things should be deleted for being really, really bad. But some of my friends are more masochistic than I ma. :-)

#119 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 12:21 AM:

Oh, come on! I insulted him, too! Don't I get any threats? Just because I'm not the head of a "co." nobody pays any attention to me.

Oh, well, back to my copy of Richard Bachman's "The Shamshock Redempsion".

#120 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 12:23 AM:

Back in Scott Joplin's day, there was a popular pastime at county fairs where a length of track would be set up in front of the bleachers and two old steam locomotives would be placed at either end. At a signal, both would have their throttles shoved into position so that they'd meet head-on in front of the crowd. This is where Joplin's "Train Wreck Rag" comes from.

I nominate it as the theme for this thread. Pass me the popcorn, we're in a perfect position to see Mr. Rice run headlong into reality.

(Oh, and when my dad quit the profession he told me "Bruce, there are two types of lawyers: those that want to help their clients and those that want to run up the bill. I've been running into too many of the second type lately." If Rice's second posting here is any example, he's in just the right mental state to fall victim to type two.)

#121 ::: Richard Cobbett ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:55 AM:

"Disclaimer: please don't pass that on as Known Truth on my account alone. I'm not a lawyer, I don't have any exposure to the legal industry,"

One big avenue for scamming is that 'no win, no fee' almost certainly won't apply to the lawyer's expenses/administrative costs. I hear they get through a lot of diamond encrusted pencils.

But be careful, Greg! It's always possible that Daniel could go with the ambulance chaser contingent instead, making the $150,000 claim "I was so shocked upon reading that nasty reality check that I fell backward off my chair and my writing hand fell into a beartrap I keep by my desk for some reason, and I was unable to finish my masterpiece and sell it on eBay!"

No crooked jury in the land would let you off, leaving Daniel with a whole shiny dime to fund an attempt to get Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks into the same room. Brr.

#122 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:36 AM:

I sincerely doubt Mr Rice has spoken to a lawyer, at least not one with any form of experience in his profession, as there are two blunders in there that even I, not being either legally trained or a citizen of the country he resides in, can spot:

1. It makes no difference whatsoever to his case how prominent Mr Ioannou is. Possibly to the amount he would be awarded, but not to the validity of the case.

2. I'm pretty sure that you can't sue a company for actions taken by its employees/directors that are in no official capacity (e.g., posting comments on a blog without mentioning the company's name).

#123 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:40 AM:

Sure, free legal consultations might be a scam, but more likely they're they're a business opportunity. My first job in the legal world was as a secretary for a personal injury firm, and I don't think they _ever_ turned down a request for a consultation--maybe it's a case, maybe not, but in any event, you're making contacts, meeting people, getting your name out there, and spreading the word that you're interested in new clients.

I really don't think there's a need to see scams in the fact of a free consultation. If anyone's concerned, simply ask up-front that you get something in writing when you agree to have the lawyer represent you, and state that you haven't agreed until you sign something; and if the lawyer balks, walk away.

#124 ::: Richard Cobbett ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:13 AM:

"Sure, free legal consultations might be a scam, but more likely they're they're a business opportunity."

Most of the ones I see are far, far too keen on "No win, no fee! No case, no problem! Shonky, Schilly and Schubert, Attorneys at Law: Call us, and we'll find someone to sue!"

And that's just in England. The US ones are amazing...

#125 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 12:14 PM:

Of course, here in England we have the world's "best" conditional fee arrangement. If you lose, nobody pays anything. If you win, the person you sued pays twice the usual rate to cover your fees and those of the one who lost.

#126 ::: Lori ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 12:17 PM:

I had a free consultation with a lawyer after I was rear-ended. He told me I had a solid enough case that I didn't need him, how much I should ask for, and that negotiating would be a snap. And he was right. Of course, I was referred to this lawyer by a friend's father who was a prominent attorney....

#127 ::: Dn ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:08 PM:

Hll vrn. 'm bck. hv m mnscrpt p fr sl, gn. t shld b p sn t s.

Kp n y t fr t! lv my lst prgrph th bst! Dcrbng smn's prsnl chrctr trt, s xtrml mprtnt!

#128 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:12 PM:

Alex Cohen said: We could write a book about it and call it The Year of Rice Assault.

::flings erasers at Alex::

#129 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:16 PM:

Hello again, Dan. Good luck with your auction.

#130 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:26 PM:

Dan: I see you've moved from threats to lies. It's progress, of a sort, but in the wrong direction. Do reconsider.

Teresa: Is our friend still within the grace period?

#131 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 01:29 PM:

Kate's right; free initial consultation is pretty standard for lawyers. They don't find out if someone really has a plausible case or not unless they talk to them. They won't do anything for you, other than tell you whether or not your case looks somewhat plausible, without a fee agreement, but honest lawyers who aren't already full up on clients need those free initial consultations as much as honest potential plaintiffs do.

And, Richard, you're overlooking the possibility (probability, I suspect) that what the lawyer has actually said to Mr. Rice is somewhat less effusive than what Mr. Rice heard.

#132 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 02:11 PM:

When I was practicing I wanted the option to say you haven't paid me anything yet, get lost.

I tried very hard not to give advice which would expose me to professional liability without getting paid - one of the gotcha's is a refusal to get involved (for any reason, could be distaste, could be bad hair day, could be a conflict) without advising the non-client that time could be running out and to see another attorney immediately at the risk of losing a won case.

Most important to me was that I wanted a full, frank and complete discussion with the potential client - I most assuredly did not want the client telling me his story with one eye on the clock and rushing through to keep the bill down. Nor at this stage did I want the client to give me short answers to my long questions.

#133 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 02:14 PM:

This is strange. Here's the last part of Mr. Rice's new auction:

"Oh and one last thing, I wanted to add. Greg Ioannou who works for Colbourne Communication, you are not allowed to buy my manuscript. He had already offered me money for my script, but I refused. I know Greg Ioannou quite well and let's just say he being an editor for his company, he is a splendid one, but we have are differences.

I told Greg Ioannou one day, money isn't everything, children must come first. I looked him in the eyes and said, "Money cannot save your family Greg, only you can do that." "You must be able to stand up for them and protect them, first and foremost." He looked back at me saying, "I simply cannot." "All I can do is provide money." "It's all I know." I shook my head and replied, "What a pity.""

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=6930413512

Mr. Rice, you are making yourself look like a crazy person.

#134 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 02:17 PM:

In the original auction, though not the second one, there is a photo of one paragraph of Mr Rice's manuscript that can actually be read. If you want to. I believe it says all you need to know.

The first sentence is clumsy and suffers from a needless attempt to force it into present tense. It would have been fine, and more natural, in the past tense.

The second sentence is a fragment, which should have been a dependent clause of the first sentence.

The fourth sentence is overlong, obscure, and nearly incomprehensible. And the entire paragraph's sense could have been conveyed in one short sentence, to its considerable benefit.

One paragraph (particularly where selected by the author as an exemplar) is enough to demonstrate that one lacks sufficient language skills to be a successful writer. I don't need to read anymore to know I'm not interested in the rest of it.

Or as someone once said, "I willingly edit, but editing does not mean having to rewrite the whole d****d thing."

#135 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 02:36 PM:

In his response that Nonny linked to on LJ, he used the word "omitted" when he meant "admitted". It's an interesting sort of typo.

Hopefully he is entertained by all of this attention.

#136 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 02:38 PM:

At the least, you'd have thought he'd be able to correct the typos the second time around, especially "publshing".

#137 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:26 PM:

Rachel Brown wrote:
Mr. Rice, you are making yourself look like a crazy person.

Out of propriety, I will not reproduce the e-mail I received yesterday in response to my Ebay note. He thanked me for my kind words, expressed optimism for his own future, etc. It was actually quite nice.

Except for the part where he suggested that everyone who sent him negative feedback should be killed.

#138 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:39 PM:

I've been corresponding with Mr. Rice as well, and in general he was polite and enthusiastic (except for the part about his friend who can kick my ass, and we got that out of the way early). However, when I sent him a fairly detailed critique of an excerpt that he sent me, he insisted that I was completely misunderstanding it. To me, that speaks to a Bush-like inability to recognize one's own mistakes, which in turn makes it unlikely that he will improve.

Everybody writes crap at first. I shudder when I think of my early attempts at fiction. But I listened to people's advice and, I'd like to think, got better. I'm still not satisfied with the quality of my own stuff -- in fact, I'm in this extremely annoying phase where I can barely read fiction without growing angry at the author for being so much better than me -- and maybe I never will be.

Mr. Rice, on the other hand, clearly thinks that his book is, well, spellbind and fascinating. It's good to be enthusiastic about your own work, and to some extent you have to be to produce a novel, a feat in which Mr. Rice has exceeded me. Maybe a year from now (when presumably this eBay thing will be long forgotten, and the hoped-for call from Oprah or Paramount Studios has not come), he'll pick up the manuscript and think "What a stinker! No wonder no one bought it," and go on to write a much better book.

#139 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Grace has run out like the tide.

#140 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:49 PM:

When I broke my ankle badly, on an icy landing on an interior staircase, I went for a free consultation with a lawyer. They told me I didn't have a case. So I took a day off work and went up and filed in Pennsylvania myself, which brought Hershey to offer a reasonable amount of money to stop the suit (considering that at the time I only had the broken ankle -- everything else wrong with me since has cascaded from that).

#141 ::: Richard Cobbett ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 03:50 PM:

"And, Richard, you're overlooking the possibility (probability, I suspect) that what the lawyer has actually said to Mr. Rice is somewhat less effusive than what Mr. Rice heard."

I was thinking specifically of the shifty Vanity Lawyers ones who play the games Steve was mentioning, not the genuine ones who would laugh such a ludicrous suit out of their office before you can say SCO.

#142 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 04:26 PM:

Wow. The new version marches along sounding so much less crazy than the previous version - Teresa's paragraph breaks really help - and then slams up against that weird fantasy about Greg Ioannou.

I mean, obviously that part is supposed to be revenge, but still - what the hell?

#143 ::: Pete Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 04:34 PM:

Give the man credit: he's learning.

You will note that the new auction description is seperated into discrete paragraphs and everything. The references to J. K. Rawlings are gone.

Though admittedly, the last few paragraphs make for a very peculiar addition.

Well, two steps forward and one back is still progress.

#144 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 04:37 PM:

Ja, that revenge bit is bizarre. I now have this sudden urge to write another Secret Diary for the collection -- unless someone else would rather do the honors.

#145 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 04:54 PM:

Clark E. Myers said about free legal consultations: Most important to me was that I wanted a full, frank and complete discussion with the potential client - I most assuredly did not want the client telling me his story with one eye on the clock and rushing through to keep the bill down. Nor at this stage did I want the client to give me short answers to my long questions.

I'd like to put big flashing stars around this, except that it would be rude.

It is sadly well-known among lawyers that people do not always tell them the truth, the whole truth, etc. This includes their own clients. Deliberate lies; omissions because the person doesn't think it was important; honest misrememberings that only are corrected very late in the game when other evidence turns up . . . Yes.

One of the small side benefits of my job is that usually a case that walks in the door is one my office has a statutory obligation to take. Deciding whether to represent a client has to be one of the more difficult skills in practicing law, and one that law school probably is even worse than usual at teaching.

#146 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 05:13 PM:

Thanks for the tip, Steve. Since this has come up before, let me once more explain my policy:

To whom it may concern:

Challenges to duels must be issued in person. Any traditional form, such as a glove at the feet, a chip on the shoulder, or a verbal invitation presented face to face, is acceptable. No challenges issued in writing or transmitted by any form of electronic media will be regarded as valid.

This procedure applies only to formal challenges. Vaguely threatening statements which do not state an intent, are presented in the passive voice, or rely on unnamed third parties, such as "I can kick your ass," "People like you should be killed," or "Someone should get you" are not true challenges and will be ignored.

Thank you,

Rachel Brown

#147 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 06:22 PM:

Steve Eley said: Except for the part where he suggested that everyone who sent him negative feedback should be killed.

"There is not one of them who would dare to criticize me or any one I chose to call my friend. And if they did, why! we could always kill them!"

--Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

#148 ::: Dn Rc ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 06:30 PM:

xcllnt wrtng bt m, ndd! Vr wll pt nd sd. lv th prt, "Wht Stnkr," n wndr n n bght t. Prsmbl, tht's vr gd wrd. Gd, nh tht's ls wrd.

Hy lk th d f gttng myslf pblshd, sng vnt ppl. mn why wt 20 yrs t gt pblshng cmpn t sy, "Hy lk ths!"

Dd y knw Jhn Grshm frst nvl, Tm T Kll ws rjctd b svrl pblshng cmpns. H fnll gt smll pblshng cmpn t pblsh t nd nl 30 f thm sld. Lk lk th nd f hs wrtng crr. Lck fr hm thgh, Jhn Grshm t tht tm ws lrd wrkng n hs nxt nvl, "Th Frm." Prmnt Pctrs tk tht bk nd gv hm 600,000 dllrs fr th mv rghts. t ws ftr tht hs crr tk ff nd f crs vr pblshng cmpn t thr thn, wlcm Mr. Grshm wth pn rms!

Pblshng cmpns pss m ff. Why th hll dd thy rjct Jhn Grshm frst nvl Tm T Kll, n th frst plc? Jst bcs hs nm ws wk nd h ws nbd. H ws cnsdr rsk t thm, tht's why. t hd nthng t d wth hs str. mgn wrtng tht pc f rt nd hvng t thrwn rght bck n yr fc syng, "Srr, t's jst nt gd ngh." Tr str, lk t p.

S f pblshng cmpns r ths prtclr, wht chncs d w hv? Tm T Kll ws snstnl bk, yt t ws rjctd?

t th tm nd h stll s, Jhn Grshm ws lwyr, mkng grt mny. lwyr, wh wld hv thght tht, rght? S h ws lrd mkng grt pychck. f h ws jst n rdnr J hwvr, lk mst ppl mkng nds mt, h f crs wld hv bn lvng sm pp drm, hpng n d smn wld s hs rt nd pt t nt bk. Lck fr hm, Prmnt Pctrs sw smthng th pblshng cmpns ddn't. f t wsn't fr thm, h stll td, myb strgglng wrtr, wtng fr hs mmnt, t rrv.

cnnt wrt lk Jhn Grshm knw tht! hv grt str ds nd scrpts, whch thnk r fscntng. Hwvr w s Jhn Grshm gt rjctd nd w cn nl s t rslvs, "Frgt t!" " dn't hv chnc n hll."

S f y thnk yr bk s tht splndd, thn why wt 50 yrs nd fnd t n n wnts yr str nwy, jst bcs yr nm s nt wll knwn. Hv t pblsh b vnt cmpn nd pt t n yr shlf nd chrsh t.

t gs t shw y tht pblshng cmpns cr mr bt, "s ths bk gng t sll?" "r w gng t wst r mn n ths gy?"

Fr th rcrd nd t ll ths pblshng cmpns t thr, rd bth nvls, Tm T Kll nd Th Frm. lkd thm bth, hwvr thght Tm T Kll ws mch mr dp nd thght prvkng bk, bt gss th pblshng prss dd nt.

S g hd nd wrt th bst nvl y cn. Hv vrn sy, "Ww, ths s grt stff!" Snd yr scrpt t nd gt dffrnt, "nswr." Jhn Grshm dd. W cn nl thnk Prmnt Pctrs fr mkng Mr. Grshm wht h s tdy, "n stnshng ccmplshmnt." Th pblshng cmpns hwvr t frst, thght dffrnt.

S s t vrn t thr wrtng, "Gd lck t y ll, y'll nd t!" Th pblshng ndstr t thr s brtl wr, bttl nrl t mpssbl, t rll wn!

#149 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 06:38 PM:

You'll have to excuse me. There's a task I need to go take care of. Retroactively.

#150 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 06:54 PM:

I think you'd be surprised, Mr. Rice, at how many of us have managed to sell a novel or novels in spite of having names most people wouldn't recognize, even now.

#151 ::: Lori ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:20 PM:

I wonder if Mr. Rice is familiar with any of these: thorazine, haldol, risperdal.... The persistance and depth of his delusion suggests that he might be. At this point, I would say further suggestions would be falling on deaf ears.

#152 ::: L. G. Booth ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:24 PM:

Mr. Rice, it might surprise you to learn that pretty much every published writer has received rejections. In fact, having a manuscript accepted on the first try, especially without a literary agent, is practically a miracle.

Writing is hard work, and getting published is even harder. You have to remember, though, that many things in life are hard, and if being published is truly important to you, you will work at it. If at first you don't succeed, etc., etc.

#153 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:24 PM:

Teresa, you are teh shiznits.

#154 ::: Dn Rc ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:40 PM:

Thr r lt f wrtrs t thr tht hv thr bk, pblshd. Hwvr, t stll sts n shlf lk t wld, f y hd vnt C., d t fr y.

Th nly dffrnc btwn rl pblshng C. nd vnlt C. s, vnt cmpn wll pblsh nn, s lng s y gv thm th fnds. pblshng cmpn wll tk yr scrpt nd pblsh t, nl f thy lk t. f thy d, thn y knw tht y cn wrt.

T sy yr bk gt pblshd, cngrtltns! Nw t g n nd sll vr 2 mlln cps nd b th nxt Tm Clnc wll, gd lck t y. Th nly dffrnc btwn rl pblsh bk nd n tht smn pyd t gt pblshd, s n wll b wrttn bttr, thn th thr. nfrtntl fr bth wrtrs thgh, thy stll rmn, brk!

#155 ::: Dn Rc ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:47 PM:

k, wh scrmbl m wrds p lk tht, hh? Ws t Tm Clnc? Tht's lrght, scrmbl ll ths sht p, ths rm s bgnng t br m, nwy. Gks nd Frks, s wht thy shld cll ths plc. Wlcm t th Gks nd Frks rm, my hlp y wth yr, "str?"

#156 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:52 PM:

Mr. Rice, we are guests here.

You have stretched the hospitality and goodwill of our hostess beyond the breaking point. The effect you see on your previous messages is a consequence of this.

#157 ::: Kass Fireborn ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 07:53 PM:

On the plus side, this has been a fascinating and often amusing education in More Of What Not To Do To Be a Successful Writer. And I do so love a good disemvoweling.

Err, also, Mr. Rice, you should probably note there are plenty of people who do, unashamedly, self-identify as 'geeks', and even some who equally unashamedly self-identify as 'freaks', and even some who happily identify as both a freak and a geek, and wear bunny ears in public. Though that last bit could just be me.

#158 ::: L. G. Booth ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:07 PM:

*sigh*

Mr. Rice, do you want to be published because you love writing and want to get your stories out where people can read them, or are you looking for a get-rich-quick plan? Because if you are only after the money, you are going about it in the wrong way. I suggest lottery tickets.

#159 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:14 PM:

There are a lot of writers out there that have thier book, published. However, it still sits on a shelf like it would, if you had a vanity Co., do it for you ... The only difference between a real publish book and one that someone payed to get published, is one will be written better, than the other. Unfortunately for both writers though, they still remain, broke!

I guess those writers I know who think they've been making their living by selling books, and who were known by no one at all before they sold same, are all deluded, then.

For that matter, I guess those months I thought I managed to pay some portion of the rent based on fiction income, I was only fooling myself, too. Funny how no one evicted me, though.

#160 ::: Dn Rc ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:19 PM:

My lst pst ws nc n nd smn scrmbl t p, n m. S nw lt m wrt smthng vrn wll ndrstnd, k. hkhkjlh ffrtk kkwwk r0wdkfkfkKkHhggfnq lflkll l dfll s l lskfs rrjJJK KK KGKG K GPP PSP K PP P PPPKFKFkk k k k lll ;; ; ;lgklg h crpp ppp! Sncrl yrs, Mr. Rc

#161 ::: Mr. Rc hr ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:26 PM:

m lghng s hrd rght nw. Ths plc ndd, s rt. vrn n hr s s srs. S smn s gng t s tht splld s wrng, nd lt m knw bt t. Lghtn p ppl, grb cld n nd lt's rck! F l l l, l l l l... Th nd.

#162 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:40 PM:

Verdict, please: insane, tedious, or heretofore-unheard-of variant of troll?

#163 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:46 PM:

As soon as you started ranting about how horrible it is a publishing company could reject a book that went on to make millions, you pretty much lost me, even if your next post showed a bit of clue.

But you might like this site. I think you'll fit right in.

#164 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:50 PM:

Ah, I see what I should have said was:

Y hv n chnce t srvve mk yr tm
H h h....

#165 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 08:56 PM:

:munches popcorn and opens a beer:

And here I was wondering what I was going to do tonight to procrastinate. I've never managed to catch a live disemvowelling before!

More seriously, though, I now find myself no longer so concerned about the pitiable Mr. Rice as I am about the wife and children he mentions. That is, if they aren't the products of his... active imagination.

I wonder--how often do aspiring writers move up the slushkiller list, from say, 5) basic sentences, but not paragraphs, to 3) serious neurochemical disorder?

#166 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 09:32 PM:

As I see it, when we're confused, or ill, or otherwise incapacitated, what we fall back on are those long-established habits that have become indistinguishable from our innate character. It's the best argument I know of for cultivating the copybook virtues.

#167 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:00 PM:

Lovely bit of cat-vacuuming available on Making Light tonight. :-) *And* it's reminded me that I still haven't deposited the royalty cheque that arrived last week. Must put Post-It on monitor before going to bed.

#168 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:09 PM:

This is SO entertaining!

:reaches over into alsafi's popcorn bag for munchies:

#169 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 10:16 PM:

Wow. That was one of the most btfl things I have ever sn. I am hmbld.

#170 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:07 PM:

Thank you, Mr Rice. I feel honoured. I don't believe I've been made a character in a work of fiction since Garfield Reeves Stevens put me in Children of the Shroud (as a detective, yet!?), which is quite a few years back.

It was quite interesting to see a disemvowelling. It has a spectacular effect on my family name. If Mr Rice persists, is he eventually made disconsonent as well? Or is that inconsonent?

#171 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Funny -- I guess I've come to rely on spell checkers more than I thought I had. Oh well, at least I was consistent in my misspelling. Sigh.

#172 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2004, 11:24 PM:

O.K., I got the name of the Joplin piece wrong. It's called "The Great Crush Collision." (There's an account with pictures at http://www.lsjunction.com/facts/crush.htm and a recording of Joplin's piece at http://www.lsjunction.com/midi/crush.mid but the most colorful account I've found is at http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/CC/llc1.html for the curious.)

Outside of that, didn't I call it right? I *knew* this one was worth the popcorn, and we don't need to worry about a boiler explosion wiping out Making Light. It brings back the halcyon days of my youth when Roller Derby ruled the late-Sunday afternoon airwaves...

It's like a real-time Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. "Aha! Hold it right there. Pronoun trouble. It's not 'He doesn't have to shoot you now,' it's 'He doesn't have to shoot ME now.' Well I say he does have to shoot me now! So shoot me now!" Or, considering how he's ignoring advice right and left, maybe it's more of a case of "NO, don't push the rwed one! Don't ever push the rwed one!!!"

#173 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 12:21 AM:

Neat site, Bruce, and a great story.

I found it interesting how the sites in some places use quite similar wording, as if one is influenced by the other or both are influenced by the same source -- I notice they both cite George Ward. (For example, "Within hours, the Katy cranes had removed the larger debris; souvenir seekers took care of the rest" in the first site and "The Katy wrecker-trains moved in to remove the larger wreckage, and souvenir hunters carried off the rest" in the second.) Despite that, numerous details are different in the two accounts. (For example, both boilers exploding versus one boiler exploding, two fatalities vs three fatalities.)

I can see why this conversation reminded you of the incident. But so far, only one boiler exploded here and no fatalities.

#174 ::: Dn s Bck ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 12:25 AM:

H t's m gn. Dn th mn. Y'r jst gng t scrmbl ths p nwy s wll b blnt, Grg nn, wht th hll knd f lst nm s tht nwys?

Wll Grg, gk frm mrs, jst wntd t lt y knw tht y'r pc f sht! Nw hrry p Grg nd chck my spllng bfr smn scrmbls ths p. ftrll Grg, y hv rpttn t hld n t. Nw fckng dt ths pg, wll y! Sy gdnght t yr kds fr m t, y wll, prbbl dn't knw hw t, yt.

#175 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Let's see: I've been considered at one time or another a Freak and a Geek. I've also had over 5,000 rejections in my literary career. That's what I endured, while learning my craft, to get almost 900 acceptances. I've even had people say that they can kick my ass. I usually invite them to my dojo to demonstrate their technique to my 6th degree Black Belt Shihan.

But I do know one thing about writing. With the handful of exceptions such as Grisham, King, J. K. Rawhide (the famous writer of Magical Westerns), it is NOT your name that sells. It is all those other words. You know, the ones in the works of fiction. If those words are crap, it's hard to sell them. If they are good words, well connected, coherent in plot and character, they will sell even if your name cannot be pronounced in English.

It is also possible to sue the manager of a company, under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior, if said manager has acted in the name of the company to cause a tortious injury. But I did not now that Teresa was a manager, nor acdting in the name of a company. And, I agree, the truth is an absolute defense against defamation. I know, because I HAVE had to sue people who defamed me. The case was in court for over 10 years. It cost both sides together at least $500,000. If you have that kind of money, you don't need to auction crapola written with crayola.

Recently there was some discussion on the Web about a mathematician who was selling/auctioning the rights to be his coauthor. But it's unlikely that there are mathematicians acting as Big Names to publish the work of amateur mathematicians.

Sometimes a mathematical editor can give exasperating rejections. Why, just tonight I had one write to me about something I'd submitted, which read, in part: "This prime is the sum of the 17th powers of the first 27 consecutive odd primes."

The editor wrote:

"Perhaps something like, '... the sum of the 72nd powers of the first 27 consecutive odd prime...'
would be a bit more interesting (where 72 and 27 are reversals)."

Unfortuntaely, I could not make 0 = 1, or otherwise violate the rules of Algebra to immediately comply. But I will think long and hard about what that editor told me, because he gave me the time and consideration to explain his subjective considerations. I'll look again at the numbers in my equations and see what they are if I read them backwards, if that makes him happy. After all, I have published things about numbers read backwards:

Eric W. Weisstein et al. "Emirpimes." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource. http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Emirpimes.html

I'm the "et al." there. But I did get a "contributed by" credit; anonymity here would make no sense.

Coincidently, I previewed Emirpimes first on the making Light Blog. The readers here, you see, include Freaks, Geeks, writers, editors, and some very decent people of various types.

Don't bite the hand that spoon-feeds you good advice.

#176 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:37 AM:

Perhaps I shouldn't have bothered, but I wasted a bit of time revoweling some postings to try to figure out what was said. I think I'm sadder now, but not necessarily wiser.

One thing: in the posting about the alleged phone conversation with the lawyer, Mr. Rice accused Mr. Ioannou of racist insults. This was curious, as there has never been an indication in any of this material what Mr. Rice's ethnic background may be - which makes it pretty hard to discriminate against him on the basis of race. Now in his most recent flaming attack, Mr. Rice is attempting to make fun of Mr. Ioannou's name on the basis of ethnicity, except that he didn't seem to know what ethnicity he's trying to slur. Interesting.

This is all very instructive as I read my critical thinking text for next week's class.

Mr. Rice, I wish you health and happiness and financial solvency. But your words and actions are not helping your cause in any of these areas. Please consider getting counseling, for your own sake.

With malice toward none,
Karen

#177 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 02:34 AM:

I have enough malice for both of us, Karen, but after Teresa disemvowels someone, there's really not much point in expressing it. It'd be like showing off my 20-year-old SAT and ACT scores to someone who'd just won the Nobel Prize. :)

FR GRT JSTCE.

#178 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 03:47 AM:

May I commend all present? This is certainly the most civilised treatment of this sad situation that I have ever witnessed, and I have witnessed several iterations of it.

One observation: it always ends in tears. I remember once advising a gentleman that it does not impress publishers if you decorate the margins of your manuscript with thumbnails downloaded from the internet, that it is not a good idea to write every third word in UPPER CASE, and that sentences are often improved by the presence of verbs. He spent some considerable time attempting to engage me in conversation and then, alas, correspondence on the treachery and perfidy of my comments, while accusing me of a number of interesting vices.

Such a reaction is not unknown elsewhere, I believe, and it constitutes good reason for the well-known reluctance of professional editors and publishers to give reasons for rejections.

We all enjoy other people's slants on reality. As writers, we peddle our own, to some extent. There are, however, limits. I think (speaking under the correction of a community that has shown itself to be far my superior in wisdom and charity) that the limits have been reached. Indeed, superabundantly exceeded.

I, too, wish only the best for Mr Rice, and hope that his work meets with the acclaim and professional attention that it deserves.

#179 ::: Kristjan Wager ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 04:23 AM:

This was an interesting trainwreck - I missed some of the later posts in their original form, but I don't really think I missed much.

As probably one of the few people here who have absolutely no tendency towards writing, and as one who seriously doubt I'll get my name on any pieces of writing, except for articles related to computer science, I am probably less inclinded to be nice to someone like Mr. Rice - I know my writing is bad, I don't inflict it on others (heck, I don't even inflict it on myself these days).

What I'm trying to say, is that I am in awe of peoples' contraint.

#180 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 04:53 AM:

Teresa - if you haven't already come across it, you might enjoy the book Ella Minnow Pea.

It's about an island society which begins to progressively outlaw the letters of the alphabet...

#181 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 05:38 AM:

Along the same lines, in case there's anyone not already familiar with it, I heartily recommend James Thurber's The Wonderful O, in which that vowel is banned on the island of Ooroo.

K

#182 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 09:03 AM:

Oh, The Wonderful O. My copy has Marc Simont's lovely illustrations, but choicer still is Mr. Thurber's musical prose: "The theater in the town was closed, for Shakespeare's lines without an O sound flat and muffled. No one could play Othello when Othello turned to Thell, and Desdemona was strangled at the start."

Heaven.

#183 ::: claire eddy ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 11:14 AM:

Thank you again, Ms. T. Good deeds in a weary world.

I would like to feel sorry for the guy but I can't. And as someone who has been in the editorial trenches for 20 years I just shake my head. This isn't a new show, folks. Unfortunately.

Freaks and Geeks. Yup, the best people are...which is why most of us can easily read his posts here without any vowels. And that is a good thing as nasty comments are usually easier on the eyes when read that way.

--claire (who will go back to lurking)

#184 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 12:38 PM:

Let me offer one very late thought on this debacle (and, no, I haven't struggled through Mr. Rice's posts): I think that part of the broader problem here is an utter failure of the educational system to engage creativity. One my first drawing instructors was fond of saying, "in order to do a good painting, one must first do 200 bad paintings." Yet it is perfectly possible to go through the standard twelve years of primary and secondary education in the USA without ever learning that most major intellectual works are created through a process of revision--without learning that truth. If many responses to critique are childish--perhaps this is because learning to respond to criticism involves a kind of maturation that many people do not have the opportunity to go through until adulthood.

#185 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:11 PM:

Randolph comments:

If many responses to critique are childish--perhaps this is because learning to respond to criticism involves a kind of maturation that many people do not have the opportunity to go through until adulthood.

I was fortunate enough to have a real character of a high school chemistry teacher, who was firmly of the opinion that everybody should have the experience of failure while they were still living in a supportive environment and it had few consequences. As a result, everybody in his classes had the experience of being challenged to their limits [and beyond], and of learning how to handle disappointment and frustration -before- going out into the broader world.

The current trend towards "feel good" teaching and parenting worries me more than a bit in this context. It's one thing to teach kids to have a healthy sense of self-esteem. It's another thing to teach them that it's okay to do things wrong [or not do them at all] as long as they're happy about it.

It reminds of a vendor who when informed that his company hadn't been selected as a finalist in the bidding process actually said "... but that's not fair!!!" in the same tones that I'd expect from a 4 year old. I was quite shocked, to say the least.

Hmm. You seem to have found a topic that I've got an opinion about, Randolph :)

#186 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:25 PM:

Xeger: reminds me of the bit in The Princess Bride where as a kid the world finally begins to make sense when an adult tells him:

'But Billy, the world isn't fair.'

He felt great, because, at last, someone told him the truth.

#187 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 01:43 PM:

Or Labyrinth.

Jennifer Connelly: "That's not fair!"
David Bowie: "You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is?"

#188 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 02:39 PM:

Greg: That one was easy. The one I can't seem to find (and there's supposed to be a book about it) is about a high-school teacher at (I believe) a small Texas town circa WWI. On May 18th of whatever year it happened he was pulled over by a cop while driving with a truckfull of dynamite and blew himself up. It turned out that he had packed the high school ceiling with dynamite in an effort to eliminate every high school student in the town--I can't remember if he got any of them or not.

This is mildly humiliating: I have a BA in History for ghu's sake so I should be able to find *something* about this somewhere, but no luck so far.

And yes, the current thread has been reminding me of that case as well...

#189 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 05:24 PM:

I'm also getting Princess Bride moments with this thread, but more on the "inconceivable!" side of things.

#190 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 06:11 PM:

I'm also getting Princess Bride moments with this thread...

"I do not think that means what you think it means."

#191 ::: John Walker ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 07:55 PM:

Echoing an earlier comment, I wanted to express how reading this thread has given me cause to reflect on my manner in similar circumstances. I have been humbled by people's patience, generosity, and most of all, humility. You set a good example people.

A thought for Mr Rice - you have expressed at least an interest in Stephen King. Have you read his book, 'On Writing'? I think it would prove interesting, as it details his times before being published. The rejections, the rejections, and the rejections. I think you will be surprised and inspired by how difficult King found this time, and how his combination of persistence and taking criticism from others led to his eventual success in being published.

I wish you all the best in your endevours.

#192 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2004, 08:15 PM:

More Princess Bride relevence:

"Life is pain, Highness. Anybody who says differently is selling something."

Such as a chance to get your Unique Artistic Vision into print.

Of course, I too would like to get my book into Barnes & Noble without any more of that nasty rejection sort of pain, thank you very much.

#193 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 01:41 AM:

I find it very strange that Daniel Rice seems to be using the fact that books published by professional publishers are better written than those published by vanity presses to mean he should NOT try to get himself published by a professional.

Maybe this is just one in the midst of a great many delusionary remarks (Of which the "Greg Ioannou" paragraphs are the most disturbing and possibly deranged), but this one, more even than those, sticks in my mind as a complete failure of logic.

Trying to get published is a long and heartbreaking task. But there is no shortcut, no easy road:

"Oh see you not that broad, broad road
that lies across the lily leaven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Though some think it the road to heaven.

"And see you not that narrow road,
So thick beset with thorn and briar?
That is the path of righteousness,
Though after it, but few enquire."


(For those who know how the quote ends... Most of us don't get Thomas of Ercildoune's third option. And if they do, I don't think it takes the form of an E-bay auction or an Authorhouse contract. For one, the third option requires absolute honesty...)

#194 ::: Neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 04:29 AM:

Well, would you really want to be True Thomas? Seven years in Elfland, and you get the a length of good cloth, a pair of velvet shoes, and the inability to lie to ANYONE even a little...

#195 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 02:55 PM:

Bruce, that sounds like a garbled version of the story of the Bath School explosion. (I picked that site to link to because it has links to so many other sources.)

#196 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 02:57 PM:

Hmm -- I guess the site doesn't like HTML. Oh well. http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~bauerle/disaster.htm

#197 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 05:41 PM:

Randolph, I'd have to agree that the revision process doesn't get emphasised at school, and my experience was mumble years ago in England. But I did get some slight knowledge of it, through Mr. Holt, the art teacher, and his descriptions of the process of painting. Not much, and not in any detail, and certainly not in other subjects. If anything, the push was for the reverse -- writing something quickly to pass an exam, with no revision.

In some ways that sticks with me, even with the advatantage of text edtiting. I punch out a stream of words, groping for the well-turned phrase, but it is quick and crude, grabbing for the rhythym of the text.

Sometimes it works.

And I still tend to find an idea petering out as it creeps over that boundary set by the need to write an essay in thirty minutes. And I failed O-level History anyway.

#198 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 07:21 PM:

I took one course in my entire academic career (through a B.A. in history) that made a point about revision. It was a writing course called Daily Themes, which was exactly that--five short (1-2 page, double spaced) papers a week, in theory to be handed in one a day, though that tended to slip as the semester went on. After the first week, one assignment for each week was to revise an essay from the previous week, based on our discussions with our tutors.

This wasn't a creative writing course: the goal was to improve skills and mechanics, not to produce something especially worthwhile by semester's end. The main problem with it, in retrospect, is that (because it was always oversubscribed, and they weren't budgeted for an infinite number of tutors/tutorials) it was limited to seniors and, if there was room, juniors: I suspect it would have been at least as valuable sooner.

#199 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 07:43 PM:

"If anything, the push was for the reverse -- writing something quickly to pass an exam, with no revision."

I think this is the problem, exactly--if one is writing to pass a test, or a series of them, there is no sense of the cycle of improvements that any finished work goes through. And that's all the writing most of us do until late in college.

Don't get me wrong--there's every reason to have the skills do good first drafts, sketches, and so on. But writing and painting are creative, rather than interpretive arts--the point is not making the first gesture perfect, but making the final piece good. Even in the interpretive arts there is usually much practice before performance.

Xeger, you chemistry teacher sounds wonderful. I share your concerns about self-esteem. The practice of extensive support exists as a reaction to teaching methods that left most people feeling like fools, making perfectly competent people ashamed of solid basic skill levels. But I think there's been an overreaction, and we don't seem to do a very good job of providing teaching most people can use.

#200 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 09:10 PM:

I was poking around on eBay, looking for obscure books and records and such. I realized I hadn't looked at Mr Rice's most recent listing, so decided to check it out. I tried to find it the easy way, or so I thought -- by doing a search for my last name. I was in for a surprise:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=279&item=7915920483&rd=1&ssPageName=WD1V

That's a book I wrote (on having fun with hockey statistics! Sheesh -- the things we do for money) that I didn't realize existed. I did write the wretched thing. Or at least I think I did. I definitely remember drafting an outline of it and some sample chapters. I may have finished writing it.

But the publisher, Somerville House, went bankrupt before it could be published. Or so I thought. (I was presumably paid for it -- Somerville House only owed me for one book when they went under, and it wasn't this one.)

#201 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 09:22 PM:

The mystery thickens:

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?show=Mass%20Market:Used:1581840330:5.95

Who the hell is Don Fraser? Here he is:

http://smcdsb.on.ca/secondary/OAME2002/mainspeakers.htm

But how did his name get on my book? Or mine on his, which seems as likely.

#202 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2004, 09:46 PM:

Beats me, but an ISBN search (the ISBN is 1581840330) on Bookfinder, and checking various links reveals that the book has two different covers - in addition to having different photographs, one has your name on the cover, one has Don Fraser's name on the cover.

#203 ::: Abby ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 12:37 AM:

Aww. I wanted to see what Mr. Rice had to say!

#204 ::: Sarah Avery ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 01:52 AM:

Vicki wrote:
I took one course in my entire academic career (through a B.A. in history) that made a point about revision. It was a writing course called Daily Themes, which was exactly that--five short (1-2 page, double spaced) papers a week, in theory to be handed in one a day, though that tended to slip as the semester went on. After the first week, one assignment for each week was to revise an essay from the previous week, based on our discussions with our tutors.
This wasn't a creative writing course: the goal was to improve skills and mechanics, not to produce something especially worthwhile by semester's end. The main problem with it, in retrospect, is that (because it was always oversubscribed, and they weren't budgeted for an infinite number of tutors/tutorials) it was limited to seniors and, if there was room, juniors: I suspect it would have been at least as valuable sooner.

It might have been more valuable sooner, and of more benefit if more widely available, but would students actually have enrolled voluntarily if there hadn't been a shortage of seats to make the course look desirable? I've lost count of how many sections of freshman composition I taught while I was at Rutgers, where the course is required for nearly all students, and there are literally hundreds of tutors available. The Writing Program standard requires six papers, 4-6 pages each, with a mandatory minimum of two drafts. If there is one thing the students hate most about being required to take a composition course--and they hate many, many things about it, having been told all their lives that their college years would be a glorious, lawless time when all that had been forbidden would be encouraged and they'd be free to cut class meetings at will--it is the inescapable necessity of revision as a condition of passing the class. At this very moment, the students in this fall semester's new crop of 10,000 Rutgers freshmen are pulling all-nighters for their second drafts of Paper 2 and hating revision with a profound ardor they'll remember for years.

#205 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 09:53 AM:

Well, if I were Don Fraser I'd be considerably miffed at my name being on the cover of that book. I just checked through my old invoices. I apparently quickly read through Don's sample chapters and prepared a suggested table of contents for the rest of the book. Total time spent on the "project": 1.0 hours. (I also sent them an estimate for ghostwriting the rest of the book, but they obviously used someone else.) I don't think I'll be adding the publication to my resume any time soon.

I can't imagine why they put my name on the book. Organizational confusion at a company going bankrupt? This has to be some sort of record for least effort expended to get a book published under your name. (It balances out some of the ones where I put in many months and wasn't even acknowledged.)

#206 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 10:30 AM:

I've never seen a disemvowelling before! Oohh ... *watches in fascination*

On disappointment and coddling kids -- I happened to watch Dateline last night (might be the 3rd time this year; I'm getting to be such a tv addict) -- and the talked about the "Y" or "now" generation. Apparently these are people from just out of college to elementary and make up 1/3 of the US population.

There were positive and negative observations about this group. One observation was that they were the most protected generation in history and were being treated by their parents as if they were "Baccarat crystal."

I wonder what happens when they all come of age. I mentally contrast it with China, which is raising a predominantly male generation. What is that generation like?
*gets mental image of sheep and wolves*
*starts making notes for possible sfnal near future chiller-thriller*

#207 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 11:15 AM:

This has to be some sort of record for least effort expended to get a book published under your name.

So, Greg, it sounds like what you're saying is that Dn Rc has a reason to be really p*ssed off at you : )

That disemvowelling was awfully cool (although it took me a while to figure out what Teresa meant by "retroactively"). Wow. Much better than just deleting the posts. I am in awe.

#208 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 11:21 AM:

Greg: all sorts of information can get lost during bankruptcy. My favorite story is about SF author Mack Reynolds, who wrote before being Boskone GoH (25 years ago) that his first sale had been paid for but not printed due to the publisher's bankruptcy. (Several of the people on this list can tell you how uncommon that was in the 40's and 50's; IIRC, outside of Astounding the best practice was pay-on-printing and at least one publisher had the reputation of paying only on threat of lawsuit.) For his GoH book I read every Reynolds story in MITSFS's extensive collection of magazines; when the collective opinion sent him copies of its preferences he found the story had been printed just ahead of the creditors.

In Reynolds' case they may not have had the time or money to send contributors' copies (if that was the practice); yours looks like massive confusion in the end times.

#209 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 01:21 PM:

For those interested in the process of revision, I once again recommend Howard S. Becker's Writing for Social Scientists. It's an amazing book about why revision is uncommon, how to do it and why it's important in the world of people who wish to be professionally published. Becker is one of the few sociologists who writes incredibly well, and the only sociologist whose books I pick up immediately when I see them. Mr. Rice -- I strongly recommend him to you. If you're not listening to folks here, maybe he will hand you a clue that will help.

#210 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 01:38 PM:

Greg: That's it--thank you. (Although I didn't know about the destruction of all the trees and vines on the property, or the sign: brrrr.) And, based on a quick look on addall.com, I'm not going to be getting a copy of "Mayday" by Grant Parker anytime soon. I'm interested, but not $75.00 worth.

#211 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 02:31 PM:

Greg: I think if she removes his consonants as well, he would become inconsonantial.

And disemvowellings are fun only when you've been reading the person's comments and saying "I can't believe Teresa hasn't disemvowelled him yet" for a while.

Which, Teresa being more patient by half than most of us, is usually.

#212 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 02:39 PM:

I think if she removes his consonants as well, he would become inconsonantial.

When he could no longer control his vowel movements, then he became inconsonant.

#213 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 03:02 PM:

<resists joke about the Great Vowel Momement of the 1500s>

---L.

#214 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 03:23 PM:

But what does Teresa *do* with all those vowels she collects?
Sell them to the French so they can fritter them away, unpronounced, at the ends of words?

#215 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 03:24 PM:

Bruce, did you notice the on-line book on the disaster? http://www.msu.edu/~daggy/tbsd/tbsd.htm

#216 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 03:34 PM:

Mr. Houghton wondered: But what does Teresa *do* with all those vowels she collects?

Being the kind and cultured person that she is, she finds homes for them in the opera.

#217 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 03:46 PM:

John Houghton: She saves them up for Hawaiian vacations, of course.

#218 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 03:46 PM:

Tracina, love, you owe me a new keyboard. And a new nose. (That coffee was hot.)

#219 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 04:07 PM:

Actually I think she sends them to the Dave Langford Foundation, a charity that supplies vowels to indigent or hard-of-hearing Welshmen...the vocalic poverty of Wales is apparent from reading their signs, as you know.

#220 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 04:35 PM:

Dear Beth: The lab says they need nose scrapings before they can begin cloning. Do you prefer to send some of your own, or shall I make do with what's available?

#221 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 04:39 PM:

I think the vowels may be going to this fine effort.

(Yes I know this is originally from The Onion, but their archive isn't readily available...)

#222 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 04:54 PM:

Tracina: As long as the lab has the right kind of pig snouts...


#223 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 07:59 PM:

John M. Ford has come up with my favorite phrase of the year, "non-Euclidean syntax."

Mind if I st... er, borrow it, John?

Thanks. I knew you would.

#224 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 10:27 PM:

John M. Ford:

This non-Euclidean syntax: is it Riemannian Rhetoric, or Lobachevskian Linguistics? Or, more properly:

Lobachevsky-Bolyai-Gauss Grammar, also known as Hyperbolic Hyperbole; or Riemannian Rhetoric, also known as Elliptical Ellipses?

"In three dimensions, there are three classes of constant curvature geometries. All are based on the first four of Euclid's postulates, but each uses its own version of the parallel postulate... It was not until 1868 that Beltrami proved that non-Euclidean geometries were as logically consistent as Euclidean geometry."

Reference: Eric W. Weisstein. "Non-Euclidean Geometry." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

I suppose it depends if you sing flat. Or speak in Parabolic Parables. Or am I throwing you a curve?

#226 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 12:19 AM:

Steve, that Onion article sounds like the recipe for writing a college application essay.

#227 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 01:49 AM:

Greg: had seen that it existed, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Andy: about three years ago the New York Times had an article that mentioned the "ultimate college application essay." I can't remember all the details, but it went something along the lines of "and then during summer vacation I isolated the cure for cancer..."

#228 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 04:29 AM:

Just started reading the 'online book' about the Bath School Disaster, and couldn't resist mentioning this rather unfortunate first sentence.

"I HAVE lived in Bath township thirteen years, where I successfully conducted a general store, wholesale butchered, and bought poultry"
There surely has to be a better descriptive phrase to use than "wholesale butchered" in this context.

#229 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 09:39 AM:

Welsh actually had more vowels than English, it's just that English doesn't recognize that "y" and "w" are vowels.

I am Welsh, and I grew up with the language. I never noticed there was anything odd about it until one day when I was about thirty, when I was reading the Grave Poem aloud at a party, quite late at night, and after I'd had a couple of pints of cider. (The Grave Poem consists of a list of names of heroes and where they're buried, but despite that it's terrific. As a party trick, it doesn't compete with splitting a banana in thirds lengthways, but somebody had asked me to do it.) Anyway, as I was reading it aloud, I could simultaneously see these names as perfectly reasonable names and as weird strings of bizarre consonants. So now I appreciate the kind of problems that people new to Welsh have to cope with.

Incidentally, "w" is "oooh" as in "Oooh, look, an airship!" and "y" is "uh" sometimes written "err" as in "Uh... I don't think that's an airship!"

Easy really.

#230 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 09:50 AM:

Jo, does pronunciation vary a greal deal from person to person, or region to region? One friend in Wales told me "hwyl" was "hwooo-ul" and another said "hoil."

#231 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 10:07 AM:

BRUCE. Jump! http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=378&item=6926584787&rd=1&ssPageName=WD1V

#232 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 10:14 AM:

Jo, I was referring back to the old "the Welsh are a people too poor to afford vowels" joke...no offense was intended. I guess it's not a completely inoffensive joke, come to think of it...apologies.

#233 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Tracina: finding homes for vowels at the opera is too appropriate; I'm again stuck with learning the difference between spoken French (acquired via immersion at age 11) and French ]classical[ music (which expects pronunciation of most of the vowels elided in speaking). If I weren't working with a new score I'd lose my way in the scribbles.

#234 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 06:35 AM:

Jo - Clwyd always seemed a good demonstration of both the lack of conventional vowels, and (if you know how it's pronounced) the 'w' and 'y' sounds in Welsh.

#235 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 07:54 AM:

Hmmm. What's the chances of being able to find an obscure book on the history of costume when you can't remember the proper title, nor the full name of the author (Mc[something]), nor just when or where or by whom it was published (before 1970 (I read it between 1968 & 1972), probably quite long before, probably in the UK)?

I can remember that it piked out in the nineteenth century because the author didn't like the fashions from then on.

It was almost obsessed with very great detail about the changes in costume in the Middle Ages. S/he used a lot of material from rubbings and tomb effigies. It also dealt with more of the Bronze Age of northern Europe, the Celts & so forth than most textbooks, which tend to go from Egypt to Greece, Rome, then mediaeval Europe.

How could one go about searching for it online? Maybe some of the reenactor groups would know of it. Would it be worthwhile even trying?

#236 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 12:05 PM:

Epacris mused:

Hmmm. What's the chances of being able to find an obscure book on the history of costume when you can't remember the proper title, nor the full name of the author (Mc[something]), nor just when or where or by whom it was published (before 1970 (I read it between 1968 & 1972), probably quite long before, probably in the UK)?

You might try trolling through the extensive listings at costumes.org. It doesn't ring any immediate bells, although ... do you recall if there was a section about what people did with cow hides?

#237 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 09:58 PM:

Epacris,

Try someone at the Fashion Institute of Technology (bookstore or library or both), or a university that has a good - as in professional - drama program (hence a good costume department). Also call The Drama Book Shop in NYC (I put the link below) - they have an incredibly knowledgable staff. The link posted by xeger has other links to online reference books, libraries and collections - it's a good starting point.

http://www.dramabookshop.com/NASApp/store/IndexJsp

#239 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 10:25 PM:

Apropos of the Welsh vowels thread: cwm ("valley" IIRC) got morphed into Pratchett's Koom Valley (like Torpenhow Hill or Bengloarafurd).

#241 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 11:59 AM:

Tracina: I think what you have there is attempts by different people to explain something that's difficult to do in writing.

I can see what both your friends meant. Imagine you were trying to explain to someone how to say "coil". Hwyl is a short little word like "coil" and the "y" is the same vowel as the "i" in "coil", but the first one isn't like the "o" in "coil", it's long, and it's something standard US English and standard British English don't have, except in "Ooooh!" that people make expressing appreciation.

It's a great word, hwyl, it means "good spirits". I'd be in favour of borrowing it for English if I could figure out how to tweak the spelling. (OTOH, as an English word with the original spelling it would be terrific for Scrabble.)

#242 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 12:36 PM:

A new $40,000 mural outside a California library contains eleven spelling errors.

''Our library director is very frustrated that she has this lovely new library and it has all these misspellings in front,'' Livermore City Councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich told The Associated Press.
#243 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 12:55 PM:

Even better - the artist is a former schoolteacher, yet she still misspelled Shakespeare. I hope she never taught English.

The SF Chron has a slightly different story.

#245 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 02:15 PM:

The artist wants the sculpture's owners to apologize? I assume for complaining about the misspellings?

I should insert a joke about engineers and spelling here, but I'm too busy boggling.

#246 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 04:02 PM:

It's all part of her Unique Artistic Vision, you see. It's not her fault that nobody understands her.

#247 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 04:51 PM:

I'm fond of "the La Brea Tar Pits," myself.

---L.

#248 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 04:59 PM:

Jo: Thanks muchly.

#249 ::: Jon Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 05:29 PM:

Hmm. Trolling through the all-seeing, all-knowing WorldCat database, the best candidate that matches up is this book:

McClellan, Elisabeth. History of American costume, 1607-1870: With an introductory chapter on dress in the Spanish and French settlements in Florida and Louisiana. New York: Tudor, 1937, 1942.
This has the chief flaw of not exactly matching your particulars.

#250 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 07:20 PM:

>Maria Alquilar said she was willing to fix the . . . work, but offered no apologizes for the 11 misspellings.... [emphasis added]

Is the SF Chron in need of a new copy editor? (or am I merely confused about the duties of a CE?)

Harriet

#251 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 08:36 PM:

Jo, I thought "w" in hwyl was like "oo" in goose.

#252 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 09:48 PM:

Not only that the SF Chron uses two different spellings of misspell.

#253 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2004, 10:07 PM:

The Chron has gone downhill since Hearst bought it. Typos are now par for the course. Also, it's becoming increasingly conservative and can now be relied upon to sheepishly echo Administration talking points.

It's reached the point where if I want a local paper, I buy the San Jose Merc. Which I don't really like either, I'm just less disappointed by it.

#254 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2004, 03:11 AM:

Not that the SJ Merc is much better about typos. Or grammar. Or, in fact, proper story construction.

But it's marginally less irritating than some newspapers.

#255 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2004, 09:31 AM:

Do Alpha-Bits in Wales come with marshmallow Ws and Ys?

It occurs to me that if we posted here in Alpha-Bits, disemvowelling would be more widespread than it is. Insert jokes about eating words.

#256 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2004, 10:32 AM:

Kip W:

A man and a wife have a fight at the dinner table while eating alphabet soup. They throw bowls of soup at each other. Hot words pass between them.

#257 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2004, 10:42 AM:

Am I the only one who, seeing "SF Chron" above, immediately thought "Science Fiction Chronicle"?

#258 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2004, 02:16 PM:

The Chron has an update on the misspelled mural, this time by a staff writer. It even manages to raise the issue of art vs. accuracy.

While I don't mind misspellings in artworks in general, the idea of them being installed outside a library is crazy-making. (And I'm guilty of more than my share of spelling errors, which I usually try to pass off as typos...)

#259 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2004, 05:37 PM:

Here's a drastic suggestion:

U.S. nuke city to correct Einstein misspelling

"There were some members of the community who felt very strongly it had to be corrected," said city council member Lorraine Dietrich.

#260 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 01:30 AM:

My comment on hearing about the misspelled artwork was to see it as an example of the folly of proofreading one's own work. Especially display work.

#261 ::: Aurora ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 05:11 AM:

Well, frankly, considering how uninspired and grammatically incorrect his eBay listing text is, it's no wonder it hasn't sold.

#262 ::: NancyP ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 12:54 PM:

There is a role for self-publishing. Small market books can be marketed by the author with success. Examples include local histories, genealogical treatises, commercially unattractive reprints of specialized historical interest, pamphlets, limited distribution textbooks and references (Iroquois-French dictionary, anyone? How about a 900+ page encyclopedia of quantitative PCR? Or a pamphlet historical essay on 19th century suffragist Mathilda Joslyn Gage? The first was marketed through historical associations, the second through scientific listservs, the third through feminist listservs).

#263 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2004, 11:05 PM:

NancyP: none of them, however, are fiction; niche non-fiction is a whole different situation than fiction.

#264 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 02:50 AM:

She won't fix the artwork.

When asked whether she chose the words and names for the work or whether the city provided her with a list, Alquilar took an artistic stance in response.

"The art chose the words," she said.

#265 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 08:51 AM:

Hoo boy! It were the Muses what done it.

Maria Alquilar can go whistle for any more commissions after this. And her fellow artists have got to be deeply impressed with her attitude. I can almost hear my in-laws on the subject.

#266 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 10:45 AM:

Hmm. For once I hope that there *isn't* an applicable public art preservation law in place. It would be poetic if all references to the artist, world without end, would be creatively misspelt.
Like on the check she received in payment.

Take that, Mario Assquilar!

#267 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 04:06 PM:

From the Miami Herald article: "People that really love art, they wouldn't even have noticed it if they hadn't pointed it out."

There you have it, folks: Anyone who's literate doesn't really love art. I don't know about you, but I certainly feel put in my place.

#268 ::: Dn th Rc Mn, Hr! ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 09:31 PM:

Grg nn, nc hcky bk. blv y prbbl wrt t. Vry xctng! My fml s rll nt hck, s cn hv 10,000 cps. Wht rt! Wh crs wh rll wrt th lm bk! Wh's gng t by t, nwys! Stts, mth md fn!

Snz! ZZZZZZZZZZ, 'll wk bck p, whn smn strts rdng my bk. Gd dy! Dn't frgt t scrmbl ths ll p nw. By Mr. nn. Y bg Hck fn, hh?

#269 ::: Pookel ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 12:56 AM:

Is the SF Chron in need of a new copy editor? (or am I merely confused about the duties of a CE?)

In defense of my profession, I'd like to point out that on an average day, I edit at least 10,000 words of copy in addition to designing and paginating at least one major feature front and several inside pages and writing the headlines for all those stories. I miss things like the mistake mentioned above on a regular basis, despite being good at what I do. I would hope they'd be less flooded with copy at a large paper like the Chronicle, but you never know. (Note also that newspaper copy editors not only fix typos, but are expected to rewrite copy for style, grammar and clarity.)

#270 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 06:00 AM:

*is referred here by a very well-read friend and clicks upon link innocently*

...

o.o

.....

O.O

.......

Blessed Buddha on a pogo stick.

*goes to get a drink of high alcohol content to settle gibbering brain*

Ahem. Well. I've spent the better part of the evening going through this thread, and I have to admit that I shook my head in unsurprised disbelief the entire time. Like some frequenting this lovely place, I too am a professional writer and editor (I do copyediting and substantive editing, for those who might be curious), and although I've edited for friends free of charge -- never mind that some of these friends are in high and well-established places -- I've always been both thorough and honest with my crit. I will now do that here.

Teresa, m'love, you've the patience of a saint to settle for disemvowelling Daniel's posts; by now I probably would have either deleted them or, even more simply, banned him from posting altogether. Everyone else, you've been for the most part not only utterly wonderful and helpful with your constructive criticism, but also excruciatingly civil well beyond the call of duty.

I may be making a mistake here, but -- Daniel Rice, I have a fair bit to say to you.

First off: I really am an editor, not yet another stranger trying to bash your stuff, so you may rest your fears on that score. ;P I'm not going to repeat what these people have said about how your writing skills could use improvement or how you may be better served by learning more on the ways of the writing business. It didn't come across as the good advice it was then, so I don't anticipate it will now; therefore, I won't bother. Suffice it to say that every author, published or not, always has potential for further growth; the really good ones never lose sight of this fact.

Secondly: No one buys or reads incomplete manuscripts. Submitting one tells the would-be buyer that you were in too much of a hurry to bother finishing it and will assume, often rightfully so, that you failed to pay attention to their submission criteria. Why? When you're a slushpile reader and you have no less than forty sheaves of copy clamoring for equal attention, you simply don't have the time to wait on one that's not done. While posting your work for sale on eBay was an interesting move, nobody will purchase a manuscript they haven't read beforehand. On a related note, you say in your eBay ad that "my manuscript is not yet copyrighted". Actually, it already is: according to both Canadian and American copyright laws, intellectual property is copyrighted as soon as it's produced -- it's not necessary to register it with any office for you to claim yourself its creator -- and unless you purposely sign away any rights of ownership to the work in a contract with your buyer, it's still yours. Keep in mind as well that while Canada recognizes a creator's moral rights -- which include the author's right to be associated with the work by name or pseudonym and the right to remain anonymous, and include the author's right to the integrity of the work (that is, the author's right to stop the work from being distorted, mutilated or modified, to the prejudice of the author's honour or reputation, or from being used in association with a product, service, cause or institution); source, Bowley Kerr Collins -- the US does not.

Thirdly: You want a professional author to buy your work -- yet you yourself see nothing wrong with behaving in what has been to date a distinctly unprofessional manner? It is an unfortunate fact of the business that how you behave in public forums -- including the Internet, which is extremely public and infinitely archivable -- reflects upon and colors your work as a whole. Were I a publishing house's acquisitions employee who looked at your eBay listing and then saw how you treated the responses to it, I would definitely have nothing to do with you. Why? Because it is obvious to me that unless I were one of those big-name authors, you would not respect me, and getting a reputation for disrespecting those either in the writing business or with connections to it is the fastest way to alienate all of them; industry people talk to each other, often sharing info about negative dealings, and bad news spreads like wildfire in a dry forest, especially in a relatively small industry/genre. It won't matter two frags if you've got the most brilliant story on the planet, for once they get wind you're difficult to work with (ie. not open to receiving criticism of any kind), your manuscript will most likely remain unpurchased until it rots on the shelf.

I've read your eBay listing, including the snippet of text you posted with it. In light of what I've read both there and your interactions here, I see no compelling reason to recommend your work for purchase to anyone. It's simply a case of you starting off on the wrong foot only to break your partner's ankle; why should anyone else want to dance with you when there are many better dancers out there?

#271 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 06:42 AM:

Greg: thanks for the info on the book: I managed to get the winning bid.

Karl T.: Thanks! I'd read a mention of that essay years ago in "The New York Times" but wasn't able to find a URL for it...

Teresa: I've sent copies of Maria Alquilar's little statement along to Margaret, and to the sculptor Kim Graham. I expect to hear the resulting explosions as soon as they check their mail, and if you open a window you may hear them too...

DtRM,H: You know, I started with a fair amount of sympathy for you since you'd obviously been lead down a primrose path by one of the vanity presses that's exploded onto the scene now that POD technology has become semi-affordable. However your combination of belligerence, pointless and inane invective, inability to understand that continued posting here will get you disemvoweled every time, and fixation on insulting someone who has no part in said disemvoweling has finally put you firmly in my "spot the looney" file. Also, based on your postings before the aforementioned disemvoweling, you should look at the essays of William McGonagall for writing tips--and probably his poetry as well.

#272 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 10:26 AM:

It were the Muses what done it.

From the movie Frida: Diego Rivera (muralist and Communist) is commissioned to paint a mural in the Rockefeller building.

Rockefeller: When you showed me the drafts, the central figure was an anonymous worker. But in the finished work, it's a portait of Vladimir Lenin. What made you think you could get away with that?

Rivera: He transformed himself into Lenin of his own accord.

#273 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 10:26 AM:

Regarding self-publishing: There is an author here in England, G.P. Taylor, who self-published his first novel Shadowmancer. It falls into the children's fantasy genre, and it has a rather un-subtle religious slant. He apparently spent Ł5000 on self-publishing, and sold the copies in local bookstores. Since then, it's been picked up by Faber Children's Books and they've recently put out the sequel.

#274 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 10:27 AM:

It were the Muses what done it.

From the movie Frida: Diego Rivera (muralist and Communist) is commissioned to paint a mural in the Rockefeller building.

Rockefeller: When you showed me the drafts, the central figure was an anonymous worker. But in the finished work, it's a portait of Vladimir Lenin. What made you think you could get away with that?

Rivera: He transformed himself into Lenin of his own accord.

#275 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 10:28 AM:

It were the Muses what done it.

From the movie Frida: Diego Rivera (muralist and Communist) is commissioned to paint a mural in the Rockefeller building.

Rockefeller: When you showed me the drafts, the central figure was an anonymous worker. But in the finished work, it's a portait of Vladimir Lenin. What made you think you could get away with that?

Rivera: He transformed himself into Lenin of his own accord.

#276 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 10:29 AM:

Apologise for the multiple posts - it gave me an error message.

#277 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 11:11 AM:

DtRM,H posts again, this time claiming he'll go to sleep until people start reading his book.

Long coma, Dan.

#278 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 01:47 PM:

I know that Arthur has been sleeping longer than Rip Van Winkle. Is there anyone that's been asleep longer than Arthur?

#279 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Hmm, I was going to say Barbarossa, but I think Arthur is actually older.

Cthulhu? :-)

Seems to me there's some deity or other in some pantheon or other who sleeps eternally...other than Cthulhu, I mean. Actually there's one in my personal pantheon, but she doesn't actually have a name per se. She's just "The Maiden Who Awaketh Nevermore" -- not terribly helpful in this context.

#280 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 02:42 PM:

Endymion. He's been asleep since the Greeks started telling fibs for fun.

Nishiko Takeuki, thank you and welcome. I'm currently in flux over whether I should feel more sorry or less sorry for wanna-be writers who don't know the most basic facts about their supposed trade. I'm appalled by their vulnerability, but I don't sympathize with their ignorance, and I'd have a better opinion of them if they gave more thought to their readers.

I may eventually decide that they come under the rule that says, "When they put on the Captain Lemming suit and head for the roof, there's not a lot you can do for them."

#281 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 03:00 PM:

Endymion. He's been asleep since the Greeks started telling fibs for fun.

Yes, there we go.

Actually, I bet the story goes back further than you say...outright fiction is later than religion stories, yes? And legends are older still?

But I bet yew wuz jes' funnin'.

#282 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Religion is older, but we were discussing myths and legends.

#283 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 04:01 PM:

Teresa: Thank you for the kind welcome, and sorry my inaugural comment had to be such a monster. :)

There's a saying (I believe it's Arab) which goes, "If one person calls you a donkey, ignore them. If another person calls you a donkey, ignore them. If a third person calls you a donkey, buy yourself a saddle." I think the most we can do is gently tell such wanna-be writers they may have been misinformed, then point them to the proper resources and suggest they spend some time gathering more information.

If they respond by calling us know-it-all bastards who are just jealous/trying to keep their preciousss in the dark/think they're stupid, and continue to be obstinate, then all we can do is shrug and say, "Oh well, we tried," then calmly recall a quote from the inimitable Harlan Ellison: "The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."

You put it very well when you said, "I'm appalled by their vulnerability, but I don't sympathize with their ignorance." The poor things see books being made into films and think writing is an easy way to success, but forget not only how many hours went into writing those books -- never mind how bloody hard it is to write to deadline -- but also how it's maybe one author in five thousand who is so lucky, and there's no guarantee they'll be that one. Very, very few people can afford to write for a living, but our get-rich-quick-and-easy entertainment culture cheerfully sweeps that fact under a glittering rug. The wanna-bes are so blinded by the glitter that they never notice the bumps in the rug.

I know I'm preaching to the choir ;) but I'm saying this as much for the benefit of those with popcorn as I am anyone without. Oh well, we tried. :)

#284 ::: Livia Llewellyn ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 04:23 PM:

By "wanna-be" writer, do you mean unpublished? If so, then that means I'm one of the wanna-be's, and in my defense I have to say that not all of us are asshats and psychotic fucktards. Some of us do the research and don't ask questions unless we've Googled until we can Google no more; and we do know to keep our mouths shut when it's appropriate to. Some of us know that we probably won't ever be published, but we don't send hate mail to publishers or bombard websites with poorly spelled death threats because we haven't made a kajillion dollars. Some of us know our place.

I'm being very defensive, I realize, but please understand that from my POV Mr. Rice (and others I won't mention) seems to be seen as representative of a very large portion of non-published writers - perhaps because of the massive attention, albeit negative. And I'm saying this as much to Mr. Rice as to the rest of you: a very silent majority of unpublished writers are cringing in shame right now because of his absolutely appalling actions. Not all of us are like this. Most of us aren't. Most of have respect for the profession and for those who've worked so hard and sacrificed so much to have some measure of success. We're not all "poor things".

I think I've worn out my welcome with this, but I thought it needed to be said. My apologies - I won't open my mouth again, at least until I've published something and have earned the right to.

#285 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 04:52 PM:

Livia Llewellyn:
I won't open my mouth again, at least until I've published something and have earned the right to.

That's rather a shame. Publishing seems very much about opening one's mouth, and I don't think it's one of the "rights" typically traded in a contract.

Nishiko's reflections aside, I don't think anyone was viewing Dan Rice's specific behavior as a generalization on anyone other than Dan Rice.

#286 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 05:08 PM:

Livia: I was responding to Teresa's comment with regards to those who specifically don't do the research but instead get the impression it's a cakewalk anyone can dance and refuse well-meant attempts at enlightenment. It wasn't intended to be a sweeping generalization of all unpublished writers, and I apologize if it seemed that way. Rest assured that I do know not all unpublished writers are like Daniel Rice: I'm one of them myself. :)

#287 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 05:13 PM:

Livia:
I think I've worn out my welcome with this, but I thought it needed to be said. My apologies - I won't open my mouth again, at least until I've published something and have earned the right to.

Nothing could be much further from the truth.

Ask questions. Many of us love the chance to help writers (or editors) who want to learn. Some of us even seem to like showing off how smart and/or knowledgable we are, or think we are.

Express opinions. Why not? If nothing else, everyone here loves to debate things.

In this place I'm a newbie too. I've worked on about 3,000 books. I have taught fiction editing for about 15 years, and have helped lots of writers with their novels. But I have never published a novel of my own. (All sorts of non-fiction, but never any full-length fiction.)

I'm working on two books of my own intermittently. One is a thriller, with a nicely thought out plot and a main character who is supposed to be charming. Everyone who has read the bits I've written has hated the main character. I'm working on giving him a personality transplant.

The other is a fantasy. The two main characters are wonderful, as is the situation I've placed them in. But the plot steadfastly refuses to click into place. I've written the starting point. I know where they end up and some of what happens in between. But some of the intervening bits....!

Like so many of us -- including, I suspect, you -- I have lots to teach and lots to learn. And even if I'm not teaching or learning, it is fun to hang out in intelligent company.

#288 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 05:37 PM:

I'll just say that myths and legends are the religion stories of other cultures, and let it go at that.

#289 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 05:39 PM:

"By 'wanna-be' writer, do you mean unpublished?"

I'd define the wannabe (in whatever field) as someone who would really like to be a famous and successful writer/actor/beer taster/whatever, but will not exert the effort necessary to succeed. In some cases, they won't even do the groundwork to enter the race, such as the prewriters who believe that spelling, grammar, and format are all stuff that other people get paid to do.

Someone who sends you a letter demanding a certified check for half a million bucks before he will even tell you what his novel is about (and as you might guess, I'm speaking from specific experience here) is not indicating any desire to achieve art or communication; he just wants the money, and has sold himself the idea that the Cool Idea is what makes the book a success, that Tom Clancy was the first fella to write gun porn and nobody'd ever told a quest story before that British professor guy.

It is genuinely not hard, while doing the heapsort rhumba, to tell who is trying to do something connected to fiction and someone who is looking for a free ride, or else thinks that publication is purely a lottery (why else is it called Random House?) Not all the books by those who actually want to write will be good, or even readable, but the difference of intent is clear. Add into that the somewhat more recent phenomenon of people who believe that success (in anything) is achieved by noisy stunts rather than achievement, and you end up with a wellspring that tends to carve its own paths to the sea. Or incarnadine some other deep place.

In general, the chief credential to speak in any openish forum is having something informed and relevant to say.

Off again to the lurkery. Last time, really.

#290 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 05:40 PM:

Livia:

Steve, Nishiko, and Greg have already covered this, but I'll summarize based on my experience:

If you are willing to listen, learn, and examine your beliefs (not necessarily change them)--you'll fit right in here, and please join the discussion.

Your post, far from wearing out your welcome, should reinforce it; you are willing to listen and learn, please speak and teach as well.

#291 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 05:47 PM:

*Warning: Long*

Livia, I can see how you might feel defensive. Me, I don't think anyone here thinks that all unpublished writers are asshats. Most folks here seem quite happy to answer genuine questions from people who want to know. And you can learn an awful lot by simply hanging out here.

Like Greg and others here, I have a lot of respect and a lot of time for would-be writers who take the time not only to finish their writing work, but also to do their homework, to frequent places like Making Light and Absolute Write, and who find the couage to ask people in the business.

Of course a lot of writers do this. That's how they find publishers and how we, the readers, get to discover new writers.

I get really frustrated with the number of people who seem to think that

1) writing is not real skill; anyone with a computer can do it;
2) publishing must be a sort of secret society in which only people with connections ever get published, because look at the amount of drek that's out there. Nobody really looks for talent;
3) writing is an easy way to get rich and famous, all I have to do is write the book and everyone will adore it;
4) the Lore of How to Get Published is So Arcane and Secret that it's no use trying to discover it as a neophyte; and
5) editors exist only to stifle people's creative genius and make money from the sweat of brilliant, misunderstood authors.

(I know, I know, I'm missing several.)

Teresa's been in the biz a heckuva lot longer and waaay deeper than I have—I've never worked in acquisitions, and I don't do much fiction. She's seen a lot more hubristic wannabes, and probably been subjected to a lot more rants. So, I think she may have over-generalized, in this instance, and used "unpublished writers" as a shorthand for "those unpublished writers who think that finishing the book, or even not finishing the book, but having an idea for a book, entails all the work they need to do."

I took a course called Publishing Overview I: Introduction to Trade Publishing, which is part of the Book Publishing Certificate program at a local university. Most of my classmates were wannabe or entry-level publishing types, like me. We also had one or two would-be authors. As classmates, I have to say, these guys weren't ideal. One of them spent a great deal of time trying to get the instructor, a veteran of the Canadian pubishing industry, to admit that he (the instructor) wasn't telling the whole truth, that authors really do get a better deal, more control over their books, more control over their rights sales, more control over the editorial process, the cover design, etc., etc., than they do. I don't think he heard what he wanted to hear.

But, as annoying a classmate as I found this fellow, at least he recognised that this information was important. At least he was taking it upon himself to gain some sort of understanding of how book publishing works in Canada. I admired that grudgingly at the time, and I admire it more wholeheartedly every time somebody comes along spouting nonsense about how books get published.

Not knowing something is fine. Clinging to ignorance is not.

It's not that all unpublished writers are asshats. It's not even that most unpublished writers are asshats. It's that, somehow, a lot of asshats seem to think that they should become writers. Or something. Heck, if all unpublished writers were asshats, then, given that all writers have gone through an unpublished period, we'd have to say the same about all writers. I don't think that would be a popular move, around here.

Most editors and publishers recognise that unpublished writers provide us with new, exciting writers.

#292 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 06:14 PM:

Anne Rice's unfortunate post at Amazon has made the NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/11/books/11rice.html?8hpib

#293 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 06:15 PM:

Envisat has produced a global pollution map:

http://www.esa.int/export/esaEO/SEM340NKPZD_index_0.html

#294 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 07:00 PM:

Others have made the point already, but this barely published writer (one sale that might have counted as pro if I'd made it *last* year, a couple of ebooks that pay beer money) has found much useful advice here. Much willingness to *give* advice to those who ask questions. And much entertainment. Thanks to you all. :-)

#295 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 07:24 PM:

Marilee: The NYTimes website requires registration before one can read the article. I can't be arsed to fill in all the fields -- but then I'm pausing in the midst of a book I need to finish reading today and a script I need to read by tomorrow, so I have an excuse. *augh* Got the general gist of it?

#296 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 08:56 PM:

Those who don't want to register for various sites can find userids and passwords at http://www.bugmenot.com

#297 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 08:58 PM:

Nishiko: Link without registration

Also you should know about Bugmenot, which supplies signin information for reg-required sites.

#298 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 09:31 PM:

Many thanks, James and Christopher. Neil Gaiman's mentioned Bugmenot in his blog before, but for the life of me I couldn't remember it. *duh*

I read Ms. Rice's assertion that if someone didn't like the book, they were reading it the wrong way: a classic case of an author defensively protecting her preciousss. In all fairness, I've never read any of her stuff, though I did see the movie adaptation of Interview with the Vampire (which I know isn't the same thing as reading it), so I can't comment on the quality of her writing. If I could respond to her, however, it would be to say, "Your readers do not live with these characters in their heads the way you do, and so can't be faulted for being unable to understand either them or your writings of them the way you are able."

I'm inclined to think this is a relatively fair assessment since it seems to be true of more or less every writer; I know I've got at least one or two characters who've taken up permanent residence in my brain (my friend Danielle calls them "head critters") and occasionally demand I Tell This Story of Mine RIGHTNOWthankyouverymuch. Yes, I know I'm hopeless. :)

I'm also inclined to wonder just where Ms. Rice got her impression of editors. :P

#299 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 09:59 PM:

Livia, if I ever fail to distinguish clueless wanna-be writers from those who are merely commercially unpublished, may the ghosts of Charles Burbee and Walt Willis haunt me without mercy.

#300 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 12:08 AM:

"Asshats."

"Fucktards."

If I don't utter those beautiful, blessed words every day, from this moment on, a pox be on me! I LOVE LANGUAGE!

#301 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:06 AM:

Nishiko, in the interview she gave the NYT, she also makes an inaccurate comparison. You don't hear another voice in with Luciano, but you *do* hear all of the conductors, teachers, and other singers he's worked with or heard. I think that's pretty comparable to having the hand of an editor in a book.

#302 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:49 AM:

Randall - in England we have a great term for someone who just sort of bumbles along in life: fuckwit. It tends to apply if you make stupid mistakes that could have been avoided if thought had been applied.

My friend always used to claim to be a master of fuckwittery.

#303 ::: Kathy Jackson ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 10:17 AM:

Nishiko -

"I know I've got at least one or two characters who've taken up permanent residence in my brain (my friend Danielle calls them "head critters") and occasionally demand I Tell This Story of Mine RIGHTNOWthankyouverymuch. Yes, I know I'm hopeless. :)"

Oh, no. Not hopeless. Just like the rest of us with stories to tell. The occasional character who marches out of a story and sits down next to my desk with a cup of tea to demand that I Write It All Down Right Now livens up my life. Now if I can just get the silly words to stick to the page, and make some sense.

Off to chase those slippery little things. Maybe some superglue this time, hmm?

#304 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 12:06 PM:

Randolph -- no, the "w" in hwyl is not the "oo" of goose. Similar, in some ways, but not the same at all.

Teresa: Endymion doesn't count, he's not sleeping in a cave somewhere people might find him, like Barbarossa and Arthur, he's sleeping on the moon. I have actually written something that considers the question of whether astronauts might one day find him. (Wouldn't that be cool? But would it be SF or fantasy or both flavours exploding at once?)

#305 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 12:39 PM:

Jo - do at as a somber little Bradburian mood piece. Then the question need never be asked.

#306 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:50 PM:

Welsh help needed:

how do you pronounce twrf?

I want to pronounce it with a standard "w" sound but suspect that is incorrect.

(It's from a children's book. When the alien hero breaks the villain's blasso with his zimulis, the blasso goes twrf.)

#308 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 02:24 PM:

Marilee wrote
Nishiko, in the interview she gave the NYT, she also makes an inaccurate comparison. You don't hear another voice in with Luciano, but you *do* hear all of the conductors, teachers, and other singers he's worked with or heard. I think that's pretty comparable to having the hand of an editor in a book.

You're also hearing the skill of the sound engineer in the recording hall or studio and the sound editors, making all the balance come out right, smoothing out the harshnesses, and working their wizardry.

#309 ::: Thurls ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:57 PM:

*A lurker steps forth from the shadows*

Our friend Dn Arsey has decided the writer's life is no longer for him. He's taking on Dell:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=52476&item=5130146526&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

*A lurker slunk away.
To return, perhaps, another day*

#310 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:03 PM:

"Custom Built Computer's"

AAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEE my eyes!!!!

#311 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 05:49 PM:

IIRC, Jo, The Welsh w is not like the oo in goose, but more like the oo in ooze, which is longer (timewise, since Long means something different in proper grammatical terminology), rounder, and just about the only word that I could think of besides your example of the "Oooh!" exclamation of doting parents over cute babies.

Thurls - Oh, that's evil.

#312 ::: Nishiko Takeuchi ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 07:29 PM:

Thurls: All I did was skim the ad, and my editing Muse tried to claw her eyes out. Wonderful thing, unfiltered saké...

#313 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:01 PM:

Wait a minute! I'm confused:

"Vry xctng! My fml s rll nt hck, s cn hv 10,000 cps."

Zeros aren't vowels? Let me check my box of Alphanumeric Bits here...

Note: The above is not an ellipsis. It is an appearance -- possibly an abuse -- of the Three Dots of Irony.

#314 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:27 PM:

Regarding the internal w as vowel in Welsh, there are in fact two different sounds, a long w as in tool, or spoon, or goose, and a short w as in roof or pull (this is less common, and is regarded by some as an "archaic" phoneme that is pre Indo-European.)

This is a Big Deal since these are two of the sounds Brythonic languages share with so called Continental Celtic languages, often lumped together as Gaulish. I once heard on Indo-European BNS (big name scholar) ask another "Where do you stand on Brythonic W?"

The other replied "At the top, of course."

I guess you had to be there.

There are complicated rules about the preceding and following consonants that determine whether the w will be long or short, but I'm not going to go look them up.

W is also an initial consonant sometimes, but it's sneaky because of lenited g disappearing.

#315 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 03:31 PM:

Y'all should probably know that Jo is from Wales.

#316 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 05:47 PM:

Marilee - I wasn't correcting Jo - I intended my post to be an inquiry whether my interpretation (based upon lessons in Welsh) was correct. Although looking back I forgot to include any hint of interrogative. Oops.

#317 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 06:00 PM:

Yes, I know Jo is from Wales—and a native speaker of Welsh.

But sometimes a native speaker is not the best person to talk about the sounds of a language. They hear more than the non-native speaker can hear. I suspect Jo can hear and identify the few remaining dialects of Welsh, beyond the North versus South distinctions that are fairly easy to spot.

I, on the other hand, have to explain the Welsh sound systems and how the language has changed to people from North America on a fairly regular basis.

#318 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 06:33 PM:

Question for the pros in line with the thread drift AKICIF - I read a native speaker is not the best person to talk about the sounds of a language. They hear more than the non-native speaker can hear and reflect that

in my own experience

the people I've known to be most adept at placing the regional origins of Americans by accent

were precisely non-native speakers mostly war brides or women students with acute full range (less acoustic trauma?) hearing trained by tonal languages and lots of cross cultural exposure young. Of course as Henry Higgins (Shaw Lerner&Lowe?) observed every English man makes some other Englishman despise him but can he hear himself speak? Myself today I can pretty well distinguish Gulf Coast from Kansas and that's about it.

Is it the insider or the outsider who can hear everything?

#319 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:06 PM:

Lisa: A native speaker is not the best person to talk about the sounds of a language.

Clark: Is it the insider or the outsider who can hear everything?

Like many things, I think that the answer is, "It depends."

As a native English speaker, I'm pretty good at picking out most regional US accents, many Canadian ones and even a few English ones. But I'd have a heck of a hard time explaining just how and why. I'm also aware that my own accent is slightly New York inflected standard English. Most people don't notice the New York, but I hear it when I say coffee or dog. It also comes out in my tendency to ask questions in the form of statements with an exaggerated rising tone.

In my limted experience as a language student, I've had both native and non-native teachers of German. The native German teachers were much better at correcting pronounciation and common usage, whereas the American teachers did better at breaking down and explaining the grammar.

This may have been a result of the Americans being professors teaching a university class, while the Germans were teachers at the Goethe Institut, which takes an immersion/whole language approach.

Interestingly, all of the native German teachers I've had say that they cannot understand Southerners, Scots or West Indians at all.

#320 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:09 PM:

Oops, I should have said that my own accent is slightly New York inflected standard American English. You folks from across the pond can rest assured that my speech is nowhere near "RP".

#321 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:22 PM:

Four datapoints come to mind. First, Bob Shaw once told me that he'd spent so much time in the United States that he was beginning to be able to distinguish Boston and Texas accents.

Second, Ken MacLeod once told me that all those Gaelic letters that seem superfluous to me when I hear the words pronounced -- as in Seosaimhin for Josephine, or Domhnaill for Donnell -- really do have distinguishable sounds attached to them. Apparently I just can't hear the distinctions.

Third, if outsiders are the ones who supposedly can hear accents clearly, why can't Americans duplicate British accents? For that matter, how come so many non-Southerners can't make sense of Southern accents? Dang. It's like they think Bill Gibson, Terry Bisson, Elizabeth Moon, Jack Womack, Doug Faunt, and Debra Doyle share a single accent.

Fourth, I can slightly distinguish my home accent from that of Snowflake and Winslow, we can both distinguish ours from that of Central Utah, and everyone makes fun of Markinfark. Like to see an outsider can do that.

#322 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:41 PM:

TNH: Fourth, I can slightly distinguish my home accent from that of Snowflake and Winslow, we can both distinguish ours from that of Central Utah, and everyone makes fun of Markinfark. Like to see an outsider can do that.

A friend of mine from Western North Carolina had the misfortune of living in the Bronx for a couple of years. Over this time, he was able to locate a key for telling Bronx accents from Brooklyn accents. To paraphrase:

Bronx: Woh, woh, woh.
Brooklyn: Wah, wah, wah.
(both nasal)

I think he nailed it.

#323 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 07:56 PM:

On the rare occasions that I actually talk to Americans in the Bay area (most of my friends are other ex-pats), more often than not the American assumes that I'm Australian. While this is technically correct in that my other passport is Australian, my accent is best described as approximately RP with occasional diversions. None of my ex-pat friends, including the ones who don't speak English as their first language, would think of it as Australian. My husband, who also gets this, is quite definitely English in accent.

It appears that the Americans concerned hear something that they can identify as non-American but native English speaker. Since there are a lot of Australians in the Bay area, that's their main experience of non-American native English speakers, and they hear all such accents as Australian.

#324 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 08:04 PM:

Oy!

Iff'n y'all are gwine quote me, gitit rite!

I said "Sometimes."

For instance. A native Welsh speaker is likely to have a British accent, and British vowels. A speaker from Pennsylvania is going to have different sounds associated with "oo" than one from Charlotte.

The "oo" in "spoon" and "roof" is used as a dialect marker for North American dialects ever since Hans Kurath's various Handbooks and Lingistic Atlas and such. There are dialects--and I'm not castin' aspersions--that render spoon as a word that approaches three syllables. I don't want to even think about the permutations of "roof" or "goose."

I've taped speakers, and transcribed their speech for dialect studies, here and in Wales, so I know that people don't always hear the same sounds as other people, and that some people are better at listening than others.

With digital signal processors I can see sounds that, to save my life, I still can't hear, even though intellectually I know they're there.

When I teach medieval languages to undergrads, my best students in terms of reading aloud are non-native English speakers who've had years of ESL work. They've learned to listen and duplicate sound.

In terms of those Gaelic letters, I'm not sure I'd say that they all have a sound--some of them merely change the sound of others, or mark the loss of a sound. But I suppose that's quibbling.

#325 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 08:07 PM:

John M. Ford wrote:

> I'd define the wannabe (in whatever field) as someone who would really like to be a famous and successful writer/actor/beer taster/whatever, but will not exert the effort necessary to succeed.

Which calls to mind an elegant formulation from a Chumbawamba song:

"I was a wannabe and wannabes don't know what they want to be"

#326 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 09:41 PM:

I was startled to discover that after a number of years away from Canada, in an environment that I'd generally describe as "standard middle american radio announcer" I could suddenly hear the "ou" sound that others find characteristic of the Canadian english accents.

It was doubly strange because I'd never identified the enviornment that I was in as being notably different in any specific linguistic sense -- obviously word usage differs regionally, and I'm still disturbed to admit that "dude" has made inroads into my vocabulary -- but nothing close to the constant reminder of a strong regional dialect like the Scots or West Virginians.

#327 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 12:00 AM:

A real accent oddity: I used to work for the Australian branch of an American company. Every week we'd have a phone conference with the U.S, so we'd have a table full of Australian accents, and a speakerphone with American voices coming out of it.

To my ears, everyone sounded normal - at a certain level I didn't even notice that anyone had an accent (at another level it was blindingly obvious of course - what I mean is that it didn't intrude into my consciousness).

Then one week one of our Australian co-workers happened to be in the Chicago office and when we heard his voice coming out of the bucketphone he sounded like some kind of total hick with bizarre vowels.

The moral: Don't feed an Australian accent into your American->Australian accent filter.

#328 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 07:56 PM:

I have weird accent blind spots. Sometimes I can be quite acute - I have been noticing a colleague (British), who spent several years in Silicon Valley and moved back home last year, gradually losing his faint American intonation. I can recognise several US dialects. Yet I can't reliably tell a Canadian accent from a US one, despite having worked with a lot of Canadians.

Steve Taylor: British actors using British accents in American TV shows always sound either fake or Australian to me.

I wonder if anyone can help me identify the accent of someone I used to know. It's years since I was in touch with him, but as far as I remember, the main difference from a British accent was that all the 'A' sounds were longer and lighter (like thaat). He also did something light and precise with his consonants, but that might have been just him.

Dutch comes near, but the guy's name was very English. I think I heard that he had lived somewhere in Africa. But he didn't sound at all like any South Africans I know, who do something quite different with their 'A's.

#329 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 08:28 PM:

Returning rather late in the thread to report that, as predicted, a new secret diary entry has magically appeared here.

#330 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 08:43 PM:

Eleanor, the guy you describe may well have been an English-speaking South African, if the only other white South Africans you've met are Afrikaaners. (Or conceivably vice versa, if he sounded Dutch.) Could also be from most of the other ex-colonies in Africa, or be a Brit who had lived in one.

#331 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 08:46 PM:

Eleanor - could your friend have been Scandinavian? Your description sounds like the way my late Norwegian grandmother used to speak. (WRT the Africa connection - Isek Dinesen comes to mind!)

#332 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 09:47 PM:

Eleanor, from your description I'd assign highest probability to his being an Anglophone South African, second highest (with a big gap) to his being a Kiwi who steps hard on his vowels.

#333 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 10:27 PM:

A data point on perceived accents: I grew up outside Washington DC, and spent some time going back and forth between there and New England (midstate New York and western and eastern Massachusetts) before settling in Boston. It wasn't until my last summer in DC (after accumulating over four years out of the area) that I realized some people were saying "y'all"; I knew it was a Southern marker (and Maryland outside the big cities was distinctly Southern then) but I didn't \hear/ it.

#334 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 11:11 PM:

It's amazing what you don't hear. I grew up in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood thick with Brooklyn accents. Many of my old friends and all of their parents have some sort of Brooklyn or New York accent. All the time I lived in New York (32 years), I never really noticed.

Now, when I go back I hear every "th" that gets shifted to "d", every nasal intonation and every usage oddity. Until I've been there for a couple of days, then I stop noticing.

#335 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 01:10 AM:

Apropos of Beth's secret diary link, I entered "in a reality way" into Google and got 28 links. Some were related to Mr Rc, but most were not. One example:

I decided to write Psi-Kick!! in story form. I did this in order to present my 'psyche energy' teaching in a reality way.

Uh, okay, kid. You do that.

Karen

#336 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 01:16 PM:

Larry--I'm glad I'm not the only one who's had that experience. It seems like there are 2 factors in hearing an accent really well: one, growing up surrounded by it, and two, getting away from it for a little while before coming back.

It was only when I'd left southern New England to go to college, been instantly identified as "sounding like a rich girl" by New Yorkers, and went home again for Thanksgiving, that I realized what part of my accent made me NOT sound like a rich girl: the dropp'n' of the i and g at the end of a gerund, and slipping by a bunch of other vowels that should be there (disemvowelling yourself--imagine!).

Of course, when I'm semiconsciously speaking carefully--when meeting people for the first time, for example--the i's and g's pop back into place. I HAD been talking like a rich girl!

#337 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 04:37 PM:

And one can lose one's ear for accents as well. Growing up in the mid-Atlantic coast, I could distinguish the NYC borrough accents (except Staten Island — that alwasys sounded Manhattan to me) well enough that after hearing Janni speak two sentences I knew she was from Long Island with Brooklyn parents. I couldn't do that now — I can barely hear City vs. Island.

OTOH, I can distinguish southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and northern NM in both English and Spanish.

---L.

#338 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 05:52 PM:

Darn, what a terrible time to be away from the internet for a few days. I've so wanted to witness a good disemvowelling in progress...

One thing that fascinated me as a first-time editor was the way different people took editing suggestions. Some were delighted with anything you suggested -- "you made it better! thank you!you found the word I needed and couldn't find!" -- and some ojbected to everything -- "I slaved over every word of this, how can you possibly suggest a change?" It has certainly made ME more appreciative of editing and less likely to object to editing suggestions on my own work. Maybe aspiring writers should try editing other peoples' work and observing how they react...

T'Chem wrote: It seems like there are 2 factors in hearing an accent really well: one, growing up surrounded by it, and two, getting away from it for a little while before coming back.

That explains why I found my first linguistic class in college so fascinating -- I'd grown up in Pittsburgh but was now in Indiana, and suddenly noticed that when I called home, people there sounded different. But I've been in other parts of the country too long and can no longer easily and naturally say "gumband." I'm betwixt and between -- can't say "yunz" and can't say "y'all."

#339 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 06:03 PM:

It's amazing what you don't hear.

People tell me that my father has a German accent. I believe them, but I can't hear it; he just sounds like Dad to me.

#340 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 06:15 PM:

T'Chem mentioned:

Of course, when I'm semiconsciously speaking carefully--when meeting people for the first time, for example--the i's and g's pop back into place. I HAD been talking like a rich girl!

I've noticed that I come from "Toronto" when I'm out of the country, and "Turanno" when I'm in the country. More to my amusement, my accent is regularly misidentified as 'english' by people in the US - and 'irish' by people from England.

#341 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 06:18 PM:

xeger: we need to test you against someone from Ireland, obviously, to see what they identify it as.

#342 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 06:57 PM:

T'Chem: Gumband?

I guess it's along the same lines as Kadjooma.

As in...

New York City law office, IT department, early afternoon

Co-worker: I'm gonna go get a kadjooma. You want one?
Me: A what?
CK: Kadjooma. What? You never had a kadjooma? I'll be right back.
Exit CW

Five minutes later
Enter CW with paper bag

CW: I'm back! Here's your kadjooma!

CW reaches into bag and produces a "kadjooma" Strawberry Shortcake popsicle

Me: Aaaargh. Thanks.

Exeunt omnes

#343 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 07:01 PM:

Whoops, it was Janet Croft who said "gumband". I'm still in the dark...

#344 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 09:56 PM:

Larry Brennan:
Gumband == rubber band == rubber binder == elastic (n.)

Janet Croft:
First sighting for me of yunz. I take it to be short for "you uns". Google leads me to believe Philadelphia regionalism. Yes?

#345 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2004, 03:27 AM:

Aha! (Pennsylvanian) Gumband == (German) -s Gummiband == (American) Rubber band.

Genau!

#346 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2004, 08:53 AM:

What I know about accents: if you are not very big, not very old, and a rather femmey sort of female, the best way to get people in a hardware store to take you seriously is to have a thick Minnesota accent. They hear the rooouuund Northern vooowwwels coming ooooouut and the thickness of the r's, and they are perfectly willing to believe that I know which end of a saw to hold. This worked even in the Bay Area, where I feel sure that most of the staff at the hardware stores had never been to Minnesota and could not identify the accent they were hearing.

I didn't do it consciously. It comes out under stress.

My dad used to make fun of my mom for maintaining her MN accent for 25 years in Nebraska. Then he accidentally recorded a phone conversation on his voicemail and had to listen to himself all the way through before it would let him delete it. He was extremely sheepish after that.

#347 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2004, 12:26 PM:

Mris mentions:

[I]f you are not very big, not very old, and a rather femmey sort of female, the best way to get people in a hardware store to take you seriously is to have a thick Minnesota accent.

That reminds me of the chinese farmer that used to come to my local farmers market. He wouldn't let me buy anything other than bok choi until the day that he brought edible chrysanthemum, and I was visibly enthused and excited that he had it. After that, while I still had no idea what the other things that he had for sale were, he was perfectly happy to sell them to me, with comments like "Good in soup, chop up" or "Fry" - and sometimes "You try this, you like" [I usually did, too!]

One of these years I'll remember to try and look up what "the stuff with while flowers" [as opposed to the stuff with yellow flowers, that's commonly known here as "Chinese Broccoli"] and the "neat viney stuff" is.

Hmmm. I wonder if anybody in Chinatown carries edible chrysanthemum.

#348 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2004, 01:12 PM:

xeger:

Coincidently, this week I cooked for a couple of friends (and my family) some rice noodles with wok-fried vietnamese sausage, baked tofu, bamboo shoots, forest mushrooms, scallions, onions, pickled garlic, orange marmalade, rice vinegar, "Chinese Broccoli," and baby bok choy with those yellow flowers placed on top for color. After I drive my son to college each day, I sometimes stop at an Asian supermarket, many of which exist in the San Gabriel Valley, which has the largest Asian suburb in the USA (as well as more college students than Manhattan, Boston/Cambridge, Los Angeles proper, Chicago, or San Francisco...).

Steamed spinach-mushroom bon as appetizer. Served with a wine from the Michigan vinyards of one of the friends. Dang, what was that wine -- picked to go well with slightly spicey food, as beta-tested with shrimp fajitas.

The first time I heard someone ask my son (then about 4 or 5) about accents, he said: "My mother speaks Scottish and Australian. My father talks New York."

#349 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2004, 02:02 PM:

xeger: Hmmm. I wonder if anybody in Chinatown carries edible chrysanthemum.

I don't know about fresh edible chrysanthemum, but they're sure to have it dried for tea. Nothing like oversweetened chrysanthemum tea with dim sum. Mmmmmmm.

#350 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 12:39 AM:

Larry caused me to salivate by writing:

I don't know about fresh edible chrysanthemum, but they're sure to have it dried for tea. Nothing like oversweetened chrysanthemum tea with dim sum. Mmmmmmm.

Oooh, damn! I wonder who I can talk into dim sum sometime soon - and if there's anywhere that servers chrysanthemum tea... I've never thought to ask for it. Mmmmm!

#351 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 12:56 AM:

OK, speaking of writers and eBay - -

Here's an approach that Mr. Rc didn't think of:
Will Shetterly is working on a new novel, and he's auctioning off the dedication

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=1467&item=5526987447&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

and the chance to be a character

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=1467&item=5527001086&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

(I've given up attempting to render these as hot links.)


#352 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 11:16 AM:

Larry, interesting derivation for "gumband." I just thought it was because gum = rubber at times in British usage. But there is a Pennsylvania Dutch influence on Pittsburghese, though it's much stronger in the center of the state.

"Yunz" is definitely a Pittsburghism -- I don't know if they say it in Philadelphia, though I think they don't. Supposedly an elision of "you ones." May be spelled "yinz" or "youns." At this website http://english.cmu.edu/pittsburghspeech/overview.html they say it's a Scots-Irish usage, and that it's found in other parts of the Appalachians as well. Here's another site: http://www.geocities.com/SouthBeach/Port/9832/pittsburgh.html. Wish I could have a chipped ham and jumbo sammich and some pop for lunch...

#353 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:27 PM:

xeger: your story reminds me of taking my dad to a local Korean restaurant; he spent several tours of duty there in the Army, so he was refreshing his limited language skills with the wait staff. Loads of fun to watch, and we got incredibly friendly service (it's usually pretty good, but this was jovial).

#354 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:28 PM:

Janet, wouldn't that be chipped-chopped ham? And you nearly forgot the ubiquitous Klondike.

I can verify that "youns/y'ouns/y'ons" is used in other parts of Appalachia. My scrapple-frying relatives from northern Pennsylvania didn't use it; I'm not sure it extends to Philly. Anybody have first-hand data?

#355 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 01:55 PM:

According to the (fascinating) Princeton Dialectical Survey, "You 'uns" and "Yins" appear to be a definite West Pennsylvanian phenomenon, although there are some outliers in the midwest at large (with a nice, clear drift towards the DFW residents at the far edge, interestingly).

Having heard it pronounced by a PA native, though, I probably would have spelled it "Younz" or "Yunz," also.

#356 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 03:05 PM:

Yeah, most of the vocabularies seem to list it as chip-chopped ham. But I always saw it in delis, and ordered it, as chipped ham. Maybe there are regional variations even within Pittsburgh -- I grew up in Monroeville, an eastern suburb, and we didn't have all the Pittsburghisms usually listed as typical, like "worsh" for "wash."

Klondikes you seem to be able to get almost anywhere now -- even in my local Wal-mart here in Oklahoma. What I miss is Isaly's tiger-tail -- chocolate ice cream swirled with orange sherbet. Yum!

Tracina, scrapple! Now that's really Pennsylvania Dutch -- my father's side of the family is from central PA, and that was more their thing. Do your relatives eat it with maple syrup?

#357 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 04:05 PM:

Janet: They did. And they were from Poland, so you might well get scrapple with syrup and onion pierogies for breakfast.

#358 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 05:36 PM:

Ok, so I didn't say "gumband", but my brain has been rolling over "kadjooma" all day to no avail. Enlightenment?

Reminds me of yet another NYC story--my mom was visiting a friend there, and playing tennis. The tennis ball goes into the other court. She asks if they can hand her the ball, and the players in the other court look at her strangely until her friend walks over and says "Da boowul". "Oh! Your tennis boowul went into our court!"

#359 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 05:53 PM:

Scrapple and pieroghies -- rare good ballast for an empty stomach, and damn the carbohydrates!

#360 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 06:27 PM:

TChem - Ok, kadjooma == "Good Humor" a brand of mass-market ice cream originally distributed by franchised trucks and carts, but now sold mostly in convenience stores.

Owned by Unilever, it shares a logo but not a product line with many other ice cream novelty brands around the world, including Germany's Langnese.

If you check out the web sites, you'll note a disctinct difference between their marketing strategies. In fact, if you work somewhere particularly uptight, the Langnese sight might even be NSFW.

#361 ::: Erin ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 08:14 PM:

I live in West Virginia right on the Pennsylvania border about an hour south from Pittsburgh. I find that y'all is far more common around here than y'unz. (Also, I say y'all, which means y'unz feels weird in my mouth--so I tend to notice it.)

I remember it as chip-chop ham. If there was an "ed" at the end of either of them it was said too fast to be heard. I think the sign on it in the deli always said chipped ham, however.

I also remember my grandmother used to cook green beans in saved bacon grease. Is that a regional eccentricity, or just an old thing? *g*

#362 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2004, 09:22 PM:

My mother's recipe for green beans (handed down from grandmother and great-grandmother) included bacon and sauteed onions.

That part of the family is from Indiana.

During my youthful Summer of the Endless Green Bean, when a perpetual harvest caused the very sight of them to cause spontaneous retching, it was the only way I'd eat 'em. I still think they're yummy that way.

#363 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 12:52 AM:

I was born and raised in Philly. We said "yooz" where the double oh was pronounced the way it is in "hoop."

I grew up eating scrapple, too. I hated it, because we always ate it with ketchup.

Don't wince! I feel bad enough about it already.

When I saw it prepared with maple syrup on a cooking show (hosted by the infamous Frugal Gourmet) I learned to love it.

#364 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 02:05 AM:

'We said "yooz" where the double oh was pronounced the way it is in "hoop."'

Aha! In Australia, that's also how it's pronounced, but it's usually spelt "youse", or sometimes "yous", as in the famous quote:
"I love youse all".
It seems to be gaining acceptance as a local plural form of 'you'.

#365 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 11:41 AM:

Erin: "Youns" used to be more common than "y'all" where you are, but with the influx of people going to school and looking for work there, it's getting crowded out. You'll hear it more among the older folks in the area, and you'll definitely hear it if you head towards Preston and the rural mountain communities.

The saved bacon grease thing used to be common enough that pamphlets on food sanitation specifically mentioned it not being a good idea, so I don't think it's just regional.

#366 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 11:58 AM:

Tracina:
I agree with Erin. I've always heard y'all here in northeastern West (bu God) Virginia, and yunz only from PA transplants and visitors. I've also heard y'all in the other areas of the state I have visited/know people from.

I worked with a guy who was from Jonestown PA and everytime he said yunz I'd cringe.

Just my two cents.

#367 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 12:12 PM:

I knew that I'd been in the virginias too long when I opened my mouth and "Y'all alright now?" came slithering out.

#368 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 02:07 PM:

Michelle: My NE WV-native relatives, who've never lived anywhere else, say "youns" and have never said "y'all" in my hearing. I mean, not one single time, which seems odd. I wonder if it's a socio-economic thing?

#369 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 02:59 PM:

Tracina: Good question. I've never heard my friends from Preston county or the other local environs use youns. It's always been associated with PA.

How close to the PA border are they? I wonder if that would make a difference?

#370 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 05:21 PM:

Here in Asheville (truly the nexus of the eastern South), how you refer to people in the second person plural seems to depend on where you're from. Y'all is most prevalent so far. However, anyone from the other side of the mountain (I have yet to figure out WHICH mountain) says "Yinz." Or youns, yuns, however you wish to spell it. Here, it sounds like "yinz."

And then there's my roommate from Bradenton, Florida, who says quite distinctly, "You all."

Recent transplants tend to use "you" as a singular and a plural.

And then there was the time I visited my family after being here for about a year. My sister stumbled, and I asked, "Y'all right?" She teased me for fifteen minutes.

For some reason, I can't say "Y'all" in reference to more than one person, though I am blending vowel sounds, rather than separating them. I also can't say, "Needs swept" or "needs cleaned" or "done gone" without feeling like I'm making fun of someone, but it has slipped out a few times. I've also noticed that I extend my words, drawing out the vowel sounds just a bit more.

I guess that's what happens when you have a generic American accent - spend time in any place for too long, and the local accent starts to bleed into my accent.

#371 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2004, 08:10 PM:

Am I misremembering that there was a Brooklyn "yooz" which allegedly spread from somewhere deep South? My ears were ambivalent, as there were illiterate gangsters in the neighborhood, as well as world-famous authors, and my parents (both with C** Laude and Magna C** Laude English Lit degrees) worked really hard to avoid my adopting the vernacular.
[selfdisemvowelandconsonentment to avoid autocensor]

Speaking of Brooklyn, I'm still sorry that the Dodgers were eliminated in the playoffs, but today's and yesterday's dramatic c*me from behind victories by the two underdogs (Astros and Red S*x) in their respective league championships were quite entertaining. And (in the case of the Yankees versus S*x) the longest ever.

I saw the latter on a High-Def at the home of a very intelligent (and science fiction literate)physicist who is nonethless a strong Bush supporter. I am happy to converse with those who differ politically, so long as they can give coherent explanations. I think our Host and Hostess agree. Am I correct?

#372 ::: jrieber ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2005, 03:00 PM:

harking back to mister rice and his auction:

it took me a moment to figure out why this struck me as being so inexplicably sad. but the story's there between the lines. gramatically challenged or not, publishing-savvy or not, mr. rice didn't begin his novel with the intention of pimping it away on ebay someday. but between then and now, he gave up.

the resonances between the plot of the, um, book and the details of his life given here suggest that the story was about something, once upon a time. three kids in the manuscript, three kids in the apartment. one dad grappling with nightmares. and no end to the story in sight.

on a lighter note--surely i'm not the only writer in the room who reckoned that he'd have done better to price the package for the midlist.

i say "y'all," by the way.

j

#373 ::: Kim Wittman ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2007, 05:40 PM:

I'm a terrible sucker who has paid authorhouse $20,000.00 for their whole line of services. Yes, I'm an idiot. Someone please shoot me. Of the many things they promised me and failed, the worst is I gave them $10,750.00 for 1100 copies of my book in September. I was to receive in 10-15 days and of course it is now 60 days later and not a book to be seen! In any case, can anyone out there point me (after the psychiatrist I'll need for trusting too much) to whoever is handling a class action lawsuit against them for misrepresentation and failure to deliver?

#374 ::: Ahndrah ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:08 AM:

so having read your comments on Mr Rice what advise would u give in publishing my somewhat abstract poetry

thanks

Ahndrah of Garroahnd

#375 ::: Ahndrah ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:19 AM:

Should anybody wish to recieve samples from my scribblings please feel free to contact me ahndrah@blueyonder.co.uk

#376 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 07:15 AM:

Just pointed to this thread in an attempt to warn someone away from Authorhouse...

#377 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2009, 10:29 AM:

Two points from the original post that weren't mentioned anywhere in the comment thread:

1) John Grisham did not self-publish his first book.

2) The movie Legally Blonde was not based on a book published by AuthorHouse (in the sense that the book came out, then someone from Hollywood saw it and thought "Gee, that would make a dandy movie!" and bought the rights).

The author published the novelization of her own screenplay via AuthorHouse after the movie was already in the can and ready for release. This suggests that she insisted that if there were to be a novelization that she should write it (not an unreasonable position). It also suggests that a) she was seriously deluded about publishing to the extent that she didn't know the difference between AuthorHouse and a non-vanity press, or b) it was such a turkey that no legitimate publisher would touch it despite the upcoming film.

#378 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2010, 07:02 PM:

Personal for Tony Liddicoat:

Even though your complaint against AuthorHouse would be otherwise on-topic here, the fact that you say "This information is being forwarded to the legal authorities in the UK and every blog site known..." tells me that you're spamming. Moreover, your post had enough spam markers that our automatic filters caught it and marked it for manual review.

Spam isn't welcome here, for all that you as a person are.

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