Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hey Miss Snark...Come On..Give A Look This-A-Way....(A Little More To Your Left Please)

Well I'll be danged! Knocked my socks right off of me! Jaw dropped! Scratching head! And a long Sheeeeeeeeeeshhhhhhhhhhhh...

Over at Miss Snark's blog I read a post which I thought at first to be oh-so-typical Snark humor. The ole' Snarkipoo Tongue and Cheek stuff. You know, the posts where Her Holiness adopts that quiet, serious tone to see how many of us will drop our underwear when we get to the punch line.

But OH MY GOD! There was no punch line. In a post entitled "Web Sites", I thought Miss Snark had finally packed it in. Gone bonkers! Bazoodis! Off the deep end!

But NO. "NO" she says. "I am serious. Author's web sites are really important. I google for them. I skim them." She says and I quote:
"I look at author's websites ALL the time now. This is probably one of the biggest changes in my business practices in the last two years. Previously you couldn't have dragged me to a site unless you offered cash AND pictures of Mr. Clooney. Now I'm all over them practically before the ink is dry on your query letter. (High speed access and a speedy little computer are the reasons.)"

"I look for what's not mentioned as well as what is."
Well don't that take a bite out of my baseball cap!

Here I am, with a collection of short stories, "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends", really trying to figure out just how to get Miss Snark to read just one of the stories, and voila, all I need is a web site and my blogs! (Links to the blogs, dear reader, including this one are at the end of this genius post!)

Woohoo! The battle has been won. Especially since I seriously do fall into this category as the venerable Miss Snark writes:
"I pay particular attention to the websites for authors querying me if they've had previous books or they are changing agents."
Now the only thing I need to do is to figure out how to get Miss Snark over to this Blog and my web site to read all about me!

I GOT IT! I know how to get Miss Snark to come see my blogs and my web site! Yes. Genius finally strikes in all its glory!

If this does not attract Miss Snark's attention and makes her my Literary Agent forever and ever, then I don't know what will:

I really need this Miss Snark. Come on take a look! I am published too with some really great short stories to boot (hey if you don't believe me just go over to The Deepening for starters (which meets with your criteria by the way!) Or google my name. I love it when people google my name. Gives me the fuzzies.



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The Chronicles of the Children of Heaven The View From Jerusalem T3 - Teddy's Techie Tips Cobwebs Of The Mind Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Over At The Blog of The Rejecter....

All The Secrets About Dealing With Your Professor In One Easy Lesson

Just before I was about to pack it in, I chanced to take a peek at the blog of The Rejecter. Now if you follow Cobwebs Of The Mind you will know I have developed a soft spot for The Rejecter. (Forget it Miss Snark, you already got your official Fire Extinguisher!)

Anyways, in her recent post, NEVER TAKE AN MFA PROGRAM, The Rejecter apologized for not posting a great deal as life, liberty and the pursuit of knowledge and happiness has interfered with her regularly posting schedule. But she did have a few choice things to imply about her Professor. It seems that nothing she could write would make her Professor happy. It was frustrating and very upsetting.

As she writes about her Prof. in the Post, NEVER TAKE AN MFA PROGRAM:
"He rejects just about everything I submit, and sometimes I give him whole, publishable novels, but they aren't about me, so they are apparently worthless. Somehow he then succeeds in making me feel guilty about not rising to his challenge to write from the heart, because producing stories people enjoy isn't enough - I should strive to write something great."
What do you know, The Rejecter GOT rejected! Oh My! Oh Golly Gee! Uh-Oh! A woman scorned and all that jazz!

So of course I want to cheer up The Rejecter. Don't take it to heart. We have all been there and done it!

I like The Rejecter and thus that mean old Prof has become the enemy! Yes sirree. We are going to deal with him right now! After all what are friends for?

So folks here I present to you the official version of:

All The Secrets About Dealing With Your Professor In One Easy Lesson

First lesson to learn in life is that if you want your Professor to accept your work then know just how to deal with the Professor. What did you think? This is all about your talent? Who told you that in University you would be judged soley according to talent and brains and marks?

In University you really have to learn how to kiss some serious butt!

Now, Ms. Rejecter. Do you actually think Prof. is looking for orginality? Something new? A great new and wonderful voice in writing? Come on now. I know you are more realistic than that. Prof. wants to be able to read the same stuff over and over and over again. He needs to show that he is the only unique voice in the group.

He is out to prove the one great rule of Conformity:

Hey! "Stop" you scream at me. "Don't you realize Teddy I still have to write something for this professor? He still has to grade me, and be willing to read my stuff! I need ideas. I need to get my tushy into gear here. Otherwise I really am going to end up in deep doo-doo. Nothing I write is good enough for this guy. I just don't know what to do anymore!"

Hey Lady You think you got problems now? Just wait until you hand in that next paper!

Do you really think it is a matter of trying harder? Putting your best foot forward and all that? Do you actually think your Prof. is going to notice? Will he care? Come on now, people like that are always out to get us writers!

Hey Rejecter. No matter what you do humiliation is just a step away! Rule #1 in trying to achieve those great things in life by really giving it your all - is:

Now as much as I hate to say this, you still have not grasped the one great rule in life. You have still not understood just what every writer has learned through sweat and tears to understand. It still has not sunk in. You need that mark. You must succeed. There is no other option but success. And you will write that great piece. And your Professor is going to give you an A+ for it. And your 4.0 index will remain. Oh yes there is no other option for you but success. And by golly that is what you are going to do. You are going to succeed. It is your destiny.


Yeah. And just what planet are you living on?

Now finally, we must end this lesson. So I leave you with but a word to the wise. Study well the lesson above. Don't ever forget it. But if there does come a time when doubt creeps into your heart, then be of strong courage and great fortitude.

Never let burnout get to you. Don't give up. Take heart and know that it is always true when they say about Teddy:

(Now can we please discuss that query letter I just sent your agency and you are getting ready to read?)

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On Love, Obsession, Selfishness & Caring

In the Mishnah, (the precursor to the Talmud) it states in Ethics of the Fathers (5:19):
"Any love which is dependent on something, when the 'something' ceases, the love ceases. Any love which is not dependent on anything will never cease."
This Talmudic statement has become somewhat famous in our day and age. It deals with the endless discussions and obsession with that that word "love" and its definition throughout the ages of mankind on this earth. The Talmud was clear in its perspective on love. When love is dependent upon something, it is mortal. When it is beyond dependency it will endure.

As humans we always strive to create and nourish a love that will endure. It is the search for the "holy grail"; the need to find the "golden fleece"; the effort we make to find "the end of the rainbow". All cliches. All true. All desperately and sorrowfully at times, very true.

We often mix up the terms "sex" and "love" and we discuss and ruminate about them endlessly. I am not free of this human condition as well. In a recent short story published at TD (The Deepening) entitled "Addiction, Obsession, Love" I also tried to delve deep into this phenomena from one person's point of view.

In a thread over at Absolute Write, which started out as a discussion on premarital sex, "Premarital Sex - Does it have moral implications?" not surprisingly, the posts quickly deviated to a discussion of love.

It is never ending this discussion on love and our need to find its true essence.

The other day a friend of mine sent me via email something she wrote in 2001. It is yet another perspective on the meaning of love which I found incredibly interesting. She is a writer and I thought that perhaps sharing this piece with all the readers of Cobwebs Of The Mind would be interesting. (Of course I have her permission to reproduce the whole piece here.) Since Cobwebs Of The Mind is about writing and publishing, this piece does have a place here.

What is thought provoking about this work, In Defense of Love, is that B.E. Meissner takes no captives nor prisoners. She is clear about what the word should mean and all that it should represent. If you are in the mood for something serious, read on. If nothing else, I think you will be forced to think about the author's perspective.

In Defense of Love

By: B.E. Meissner – 2001.

Throughout history, love has been both praised and shunned by man, but at no other time has a worse injustice been wrought against love. Love – once reserved as a response to the highest values of Man – has been perverted by philosophers to mean a kind of selfless duty; as consequence, men have come to view the simple phrase, “I love you” as meaning: “You owe me.”

Equating love with duty demands that everyone love his fellow man without cause. Under this demand, Man is supposed to love with equal fervor his wife and a thief; his child and a killer; the productive and the bum on the corner begging for change. He is never to consider each person’s value or lack thereof. In loving everyone, Man loves nothing. It is only value that makes love possible. Where value is lacking, love cannot exist. No amount of duty will make that fact any different.

Although it is often used as such, the phrase “I love you” is not a whip with which to beat a similar proclamation from a loved one nor is the phrase a salve for easing pain. Love is too valuable to be used as such. If one says to his wife that he loves her in an attempt to avoid disappointing her, one is guilty of devaluing love. If one says to her husband, “I love you” in order to force him to profess his love, one is devaluing love. Love is not a debt owed to anyone without cause. When someone says, “I love you,” one is not duty bound to repeat it back to them like a parrot – one is duty bound to oneself to say those words only to those who have earned it.

On the other hand, expressions of sincere love have been lost to milquetoast terms uttered by people afraid to express themselves for fear that the simple act of saying “I love you” will somehow indenture them to the person they love. ‘I love you’ is simply man’s way of telling another man that he is vitally important -- that the other person represents a mirror of his own values and that he enjoys having the other person’s presence in his life. Man’s ability to proclaim or accept true emotion where it exists has become atrophied and this is as a result of the dilution and misuse of the word Love by equating it with duty.

One cannot truly love an unknown panhandler or some starving child in another country; one can only love that which one values. Love is the deepest emotion one man can feel for another. Love is based on value and to love everyone or everything devalues everyone and everything. Only when Man refuses to either give or receive causeless love can ‘Love’ reclaim its place as the just response to the highest of his values.
I wish to thank B.E. Meissner for her permission to reprint this here.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review: Gillian Polack's "Even in a little thing"

Gillian PolackLet me start off by saying that Gillian Polack's Blog "Even in a little thing" does not do her justice. Indeed, it is but a very small facet of this incredibly multi-faceted and obviously extremely intelligent woman. Gilian uses her blog, Even in a little thing to relax and just let it all out. It is a very interesting blog but still, Gillian is extremely modest of her accomplishments, and I am willing to bet that most of her friends and fellow writers over at Absolute Write have no clue as to how accomplished she is.

Gillian is "originally from Melbourne, Australia but I somehow ended up 600 miles northish, in Canberra, Australia." I make a point of this as the incredible portrayal of the world and all its places can be found among the writers interviewed in Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Reviews. But let us dig deeper into who Gillian really is for a moment.
"My life doesn't fit into neat compartments. My publisher and a bunch of writers have consulted historian-Gillian on historical backdrops. They kept asking for me to combine my history and my fiction. Eventually the pressure got the better of me: the Subterranean Magazine story features a Medieval literary historian in deep, deep trouble and the novel I just finished (I was recently given a couple of writing fellowships) is 50% Medieval. This leads to quite different issues with readers."
Here we learn Gillian has published (and we will get to her novel in a moment).
"Over 150 short non-fiction pieces published, ranging from a booklet covering Medieval Rosh Hashanah food (reprinted online - it eventually led to the food history blog) to how to do historical research for novels. Some of these articles are light and in newspapers, magazines and on the web; some are in encyclopedias and academic journals.

I have twelve short stories published (The most recent - "Horrible Historians" - in Subterranean Magazine) and one novel (Illuminations). My second novel ("The Art of Effective Dreaming") is on its way to publication - due to appear sometime next year."
The more you read about Gillian the more you are shocked at her accomplishments. On one hand an historian who published in encyclopedias and academic journals on the other hand a fiction writer. So I did a bit of digging and following links that Gillian in her modesty did not send me. After all I said "blog review". But in this case we make an exception, a well warranted one. So I mosey over in a few clicks to Gillian's Web page aptly named Gillian Polack. Over there I find out in a little drop in a quote that Gillian is not only a writer and author and has been published, but to boot she is a PhD. So in essence it is Dr. Gillian Polack. And this is her introduction over at her web page, Gillian Polack:
"I am Gillian Polack. I answer mainly to Gillian, but also to Dr Polack, Ms Polack, Miss Polack and "Hey, you". I live in the centre of the known universe (Canberra, ACT, Australia).

I write, I think, I serve on committees, I teach. I am passionate about people, about books, about history.

I talk a lot. I dream a lot. The Middle Ages sneaks into my dreaming, and so does speculative fiction. Cooking sneaks onto my waistline."
And folks we are still not done! Let us dig a bit deeper this taken from the Author Introduction on for her novel: Illuminations
"Dr. Gillian Polack has an academic and public service background. She completed her doctoral thesis in French and English Medieval history at the University of Sydney in 1987. She has also studied at the Centre for Medieval Studies in Toronto, Canada, as well as in London and Paris."
We know Gillian writes, we know she is published, and now we know she has a passion for food and the Middle Ages. So Gillian combines these into Food History a blog that deals with the History of Food and has entries for recipes from the Middle Ages. (We will be using some of these over at Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen in a comprehensive discussion of Food History and some of Gillian's recipes.)
"Non-fiction wise, I am interested in how people write and what they write about (my food history blog is more about how food appears in written places than about how recipes taste). The fiction side of me enjoys reading most genres. I read any history (with a particular love for the Middle Ages) and anything with historical themes. I collect Arthuriana (desultorily)"
So from her blog, Even in a little thing, which is a newsy personal blog on her life and trials, and certainly well written, traveling through Gillian's "life" that is offered on the net, we discover an incredibly multi-faceted, intelligent, awesome woman who is full of life and giving.

I not only suggest her blog, Even in a little thing, but Food History and her web page, Gillian Polack. And then if you still are not impressed mosey over to her publisher Trivium Publishing and take a look at Illuminations.

It is a pleasure at times to see a writer, intellectual, and modest person all combined into one package. (And of course to keep this professional we will not mention pretty too!)

All in all Dr. Gillian Polack's works and musing are a pleasure to read and definitely well worth the time. One of those blogs and people that should not be missed.

Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Reviews are posted from time to time based on blogs that are serious endeavors on the part of their owners in writing. For those of you who wish to have their blog reviewed at Cobwebs Of The Mind please email me by using the GMail Icon below. Members of Absolute Write (AW) who wish their blog reviewed please go to the following thread and read the instructions in the first post in the thread.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Gulliver's Travels

Today my muse has deserted me. I really want to post something witty and funny; something new and something blue; something cynical and something interesting; but alas, sigh, the muse has left me.

I needed information. I needed fodder. I needed something, anything to feed the mind. I was Gulliver in the land of small people who were supposed to entertain me. Hey, that is the rule! Entertain me! Sheesh, is that so hard?

I clicked over to Miss Snark and found myself yawning. Yawning while reading Miss Snark can get one in deep trouble! Yeah, Miss Snark, come on, I need fodder for the cannon ya know. You are being so so so so impossible cause for some reason you are giving out sane advice. Come on. Tell me something funny! Sheesh!


I clicked over to The Rejecter. She is into Nano Pambo Shmambo Whatchamacallit, and seems to have taken a bit of time off from daily posts. And as readers of Cobwebs Of The Mind know I am really not a fan of writing 50,000 words for nothing. (NanoWriMo-Whatchamacallit? - The Point Being????)


I went to the Evil Editor. That blog makes me feel stupid. I never understand what this guy is on about, and I always get the feeling that I am missing some inside jokes. I end up always scratching my head and wondering just what he is talking about. I don't like feeling stupid. Yikes!


I mosey over to Absolute Write. Here at least I usually get my lips to turn up in a grin. Ack. Nada. The normal "please critique this and that" and even the Political thread bored my mind this morning. The same people posting the same stuff. Over and over and over again. There is always the House of Love. But all the regulars are off. Some sick, some busy, some reading, some changing diapers. Nothing. No laughs. Sigh!


I move to Writer's Beware. Maybe there is some real dirt I can sink my teeth into. Nope. Reiterations of a court case that goes back at least 5 years and sentencing is taking place. Nothing really to get excited about.


OH! Maybe Lit Agent X, Literary Agent's Rachel Vater Blog will have something. Her blog always makes me feel small and like a failure. She usually posts success stories and no-nonsense stuff. I like reading it from time to time when my very frail ego can handle it. So maybe there I will find something. Something to get the coal burning.


Of course there is Jenny this and Jenny that and quite a few other agent blogs. Usually they are spin offs of people trying to sound like Miss Snark (OMG - no one can imitate the Snark!) or trying to imitate each other.


I check my email. Maybe, just maybe, that mag read the submission of mine. Hah! Yeah right!

And Another Yawn!

This is going to be such a boring day. And a little voice inside of my head says, "Well maybe you will just have to write for entertainment today." Write? I try to remember just what that is. "Write?" I ask myself. "You mean like putting words down on paper with a pen or on the computer screen to form sentences and paragraphs? Just what the hell is that! I thought all I had to do was read Miss Snark to become famous!"

That's it. Work? Write? Agonize? Edit? Submit?

Yeah, right. And today I am going to divide the sea into two as well.

I am so out of here!

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh! Lookit! Lookit! Lookit! Yay! A New Blog!

When I started blogging seriously at Cobwebs Of The Mind, I was intent on just combining some posts on technology and writing. Technology because I served as Chief Technological Officer (CTO) for many years in some very successful companies. Writing because that is what I live, eat and breathe.

However, Cobwebs Of The Mind became much more popular in the writing arena than I had dreamed, and posts that I wanted to make in the technology arena were being constantly put on the "back burner". As Cobwebs Of The Mind began to become ever more popular, I also began two other blogs not connected directly with it.

Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen began on a blog because of a WIP of mine that became sort of a lost orphan. It is all about single parenting and learning how to cook. Readers are encouraged and welcome to submit recipes and humorous stories about their adventures in the kitchen. If you are interested is that sort of Blog, and I promise you it is funny and serious at the same time, take a look at Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen. If you want to submit your material there gravitate over to this post: Want To Submit a Humorous Story or Recipe?

Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen is slowly becoming fairly popular but still not to the extent of Cobwebs Of The Mind or the next blog I started, The View From Jerusalem.

Okay. Two blogs for one normal, sane individual ought to be enough, right? Well fortunately or unfortunately I am not what one call "normative" or "sane" (yes, I full admit it!) I guess one could say that The View From Jerusalem began because I truly felt their was a need for it. It is impossible at times to combat the utter junk and idiocy that makes its way out on to the Internet about Israel, and as many others out there, I too, had something to say about the Middle East and all that is going on here. I truly never expected especially in the case of the The View From Jerusalem that it would pick up in popularity as swiftly as it has done. If you are interested in a different perspective and not only about politics on Israel and world Jewry, then come visit The View From Jerusalem.

Ahh...but in all this the technology got left behind. I was spending time answering emails from friends who needed a favor or some information on how to do this and that. These are my "Technologically Challenged" friends and even some of the most elementary aspects of Blogging are way beyond them.

And so T3 - Teddy's Techie Tips has been born. Technology For The Technologically Challenged" is what the essence of the blog is. It will hopefully answer questions and facts about elementary and not so elementary questions in terms of blogging, tools, web design, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and various and sundry subjects.

Blogging has gone from a pastime to serious business. Hopefully T3 - Teddy's Techie Tips will show you how to, if you wish to, to keep your Blog as well, in the limelight among those who wish to read it. There are no magic answers here by the way. Some work, most of it just clicking away, and you will need a modicum of intelligence! But I will always attempt to simplify in the best way possible.

So if you are interested, mosey over to T3 - Teddy's Techie Tips and enjoy it. It is truly going to be a place in which Technology For The Technologically Challenged will be spread out as easily as possible for you.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Writers And Despair Happy Hour (Part 7)

The saga must continue....

Welcome to Part Seven of the Writing & Despair Happy Hour!

Where We Present

So You Wanted To Be A Writer!
(Being The Second Volume Under This Title)

What Insanity Possessed You?

For the first volume of So You Wanted To Be A Writer! please read:

And so you continued to grapple with the characters in your novel. You totally ignored all friends and family. You gave in to that little voice in your head. You wrote like a demon possessed you. You were on a roll. Words poured out one after the other and your fingers could not keep up.

One day you awoke and realized that you were almost done! The first writing of your first novel is almost ready for those coveted words "The End". You looked up and found the sun shining. Your children had grown. Your spouse had lost twenty pounds and looked great. Life was good. It felt great. You were sure you had a bestseller on your hands.

And then you made the first, critical mistake. You began reading your work from the very first chapter. You began to look deep into it. And you cringed. Because there was so much that was not needed. Your characters ran away off the page. Your protagonist started off being a Blond hair blue eyed bombshell of a spy and by Chapter 10 she was a stodgy grandmother who gave advice in cliche after cliche.

You were honest with yourself though. This had to be fixed. It was a problem but not an insurmountable one. It would all work out in the end. The book would flow like butter.

"There are no problems", you told yourself, "only solutions".

Guess what?

And so you went back to work. You fixed all those problems. Edited and edited again. You worked tirelessly and endlessly. You forced every creative fiber in your being to be there for you. Nothing else mattered. This was the book. This was what was killing you inside and now it was on paper. This was the work that would establish your name.

You knew once it was done, once all the spelling mistakes were out and all the long hours of editing and changing and erasing and deleting and adding would be at an end, those people who laughed at you would be jealous of you. Edward down the block would be green with envy. Karen, who always took great pleasure in chiding you in front of your spouse would be speechless. Your children would walk with their heads up high and proudly display you as their parent. No more hiding.

You were going to live up to your potential. You were going to make it. Inside of you potential and reality had finally reached an apex and married each other. You would make it, because didn't your mother always tell you: "Darling you have so much potential!"

And just then - just when you are about to wrap up the manuscript and start with your query letters, right then you spouse sits you down with the intention of a heart-to-heart talk. You listen first to the "I only want what is best for you" line. Then you listen patiently to the litany of complaints. All valid. You have been ignoring the children. You forgot their names. You no longer know what your spouse looks like let alone go out from time to time. Your neighbors are talking. Even your doctor has called to see if you are okay.

You nod and are acquiescent. You really do not want to start a fight. And you really do want to be a great partner and parent. You just had to get this book out.

"It will work", you tell your spouse. "You'll see. Haven't I always been lucky? Have I not always given this family everything and provided for them?" You tell your spouse with a calming voice. "You yourself tell me darling, that I am the luckiest person you know. Luck is here and with my talent and that luck I will get an agent and this book will be on the New York Times bestseller list by this time next year! Don't you worry. Hard work, talent and luck always pay off."

If you believe that line, buddy, your troubles have really only just begun!

So the discussion ends. Your spouse leaves the room shaking their head, but a little calmer. Okay you are not as crazy as they feared. You were delusional. You believed in your luck. You had hope. Hope cannot be that bad, can it? And so your spouse decided the madness could go on just a bit longer. You wanted to see if your wishes would come true and they would not stand in your way. At least not for the next few days.

Now it was time for you to put that manuscript where your mouth is. You had to get those query letters out. You had to see what would happen. You knew that somewhere out there were a few agents who would appreciate your genius. You knew that you would persevere. You knew it would happen. You had made your bed. You were full of positive vibes. You said your prayers to the God that ruled your life. And you were one who believed that wishes could come true. Was not your spouse a wish come true? And were not your children? Yes you affirmed.

Wishes do and will come true. All one has to do is wish hard enough and long enough with the right intention and for all the right reasons and those wishes will come true!

(Stay tuned for Volume Three of So You Wanted To Be A Writer! - Which will be presented in Part Eight of the Writing & Despair Happy Hour!)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Avoidance Of The Excuse Of Ignorance

In many, many posts I have tried to warn, explain and otherwise make it clear about scams that seem to perpetuate and are geared for writers. I have tried to do this in a straightforward manner in posts such as When Is Being Published NOT Being Published?; and There Is A Sucker Born Every Minute; and even in my ongoing "Writing & Despair Happy Hour Series" (to which I thank all of you for the great emails I am getting - but leave a comment...sheesh!) "Writing & Despair Happy Hour Series - Part 5". (Also see Kristen King's great blog Inkthinker and the post entitled: Ignorance is not bliss; it's just ignorance)

Now while the object or purpose of Cobwebs Of The Mind is not to concentrate on scams, from time to time it is important to post information for authors who need to know that such exists. It seems though even with the plethora of Blogs out there warning and warning again about scams, there is no end to the ingenuity of scams for writers. Perhaps it is perceived that writers as an overall community are willing to pay out good money for dreams. I do not know. But in this post I am just offering the writing community a varied list of places to go and check out BEFORE you decide to put your hard earned money on the table. I hope this helps. And I hope you learn from what you read on the various web-sites and blogs posted here.
  1. Writer Beware Blogs! this should be your first stop. Period. If it is a known scam it will be listed here and discussed and search the archives. I personally have emailed Victoria Strauss twice about a request for information. She has always been fairly prompt, always incredibly nice, and always forthcoming with the information. This blog is your first and most important step to the world of writing scams. Just take a look at her recent entry, "Victoria Strauss -- The Identity of Author Identity" to see how much work and effort she goes through to make sure her facts are correct and totally right.

  2. Absolute Write Bewares and Background Check - This is your next stop. You do not have to be a member of Ablsolute Write to view these threads. You can search for a name of an agent or agency at your leisure and find out if anything has been said about them and what. This is a critical resource of information, and perhaps the most important reason for Ablsolute Write to exist on the Internet.

  3. Preditors & Editors' - Your next stop. Here I will quote from their About Page to give you an understanding of what they are about in terms of scamming. (They have other really important purposes too for writers.)

    "Preditors & Editors' sole purpose is to provide writers with information and contacts for the purpose of seeking publication of their work. Because artists, composers, and game designers often face the same challenges, they have been included in our coverage...."

    "...After considerable thought, we realized that Preditors & Editors would perform a disservice to writers, artists, and composers if it does not warn them about known scams or problems within the industry. Consequently, the policy of not criticizing any publishers, publications, writing services, or resources was changed as of 28 September 1997. A new Warnings page can now be referenced by anyone interested in protecting himself. However, most warnings are posted beside the appropriate entries in the listings so that those can be found easier. Additionally, we are very interested in learning about anyone who treats writers shabbily, even if they don't have anything to do with writing."

  4. AgentQuery - This is a place where most writers who look for reputable agents go to. Here you can discover web sites, email addresses and the like along with the fact if they are members of the AAR or another group that gives a stamp of approval for an agent. And Again I quote from their Home Page:

    "Agent Query has been recognized by Writer's Digest Magazine May 2006 Issue as one of the Best Websites for Writers. Second Year in a Row!

    Agent Query offers the largest, most current searchable database of literary agents on the web—a treasure trove of reputable, established literary agents seeking writers just like you. And it's free (not because there's a catch, but simply because not enough things in this world are free). "

  5. Backspace is also a place you may want to visit. Lots or interviews and interesting information for writers.

    "The Backspace Community is dedicated to helping writers navigate the often confusing world of Big Publishing. With over 400 members from a dozen countries and a constantly revolving line-up of guest speakers including literary agents, editors, and authors, the online forums are a virtual writer's conference that runs year round."

  6. AAR - Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc. - This is where you can discover if your agent is a member of the AAR. While not critical if your agent is listed here, you have little to worry about usually. Read their CANON OF ETHICS
There are many more sites. These though are pretty much where you will find the information you need. If you do not find it and Google produces nothing in your search for the Agent's name, then be wary. I certainly would suggest a trip over to Writer Beware Blogs! if all else fails, and an email to A.C. Crispin or Victoria Strauss.

Okay there you have it. A somewhat partial list. If you know of any more sites to really recommend please leave a comment and I will add them to the original post.

Now there is no excuse: Avoidance Of The Excuse Of Ignorance. Don't say you did not have the tools. Don't say you were not informed. Don't jump for joy until you know just why you are jumping for joy when an Agent says: "Here is my contract. Please sign it!"

Be aware. Be knowledgeable. Be smart. And avoid costly mistakes.

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Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review: Alan Sorum's "A View From The Waterfront"

When Alan asked me to review his blog, A View From The Waterfront my immediate reaction was to decline. I had made it incredibly clear that I would only review blogs about writing, and by the way that rule still stands. However, to be fair to Alan, I went over to A View From The Waterfront, to see just what it was all about and if there was absolutely anything I could use for a blog review on writing and writers.

I always am amazed by the places people choose to live. One blog review we have done, was from someone in Siberia. (See: Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review: Diana Bocco's "writing, coffee and other obsessions"). Alan lives in Alaska, a life choice for him, and one that has worked out fairly well as we can tell from his blog. Alan has moved around as he writes:
"We have lived in Alaska for about 17 years, currently live in Valdez, Alaska, and moved here from Wrangell, Alaska. Grew up and lived in the American Southwest, Arizona and New Mexico.

We're a small family, my wife and two children. Moving to Alaska was a growth opportunity for all of us. The State is more like a small city, there is only a population of just over 600,000 and you end up knowing people from across the entire state. It's hard to describe to outsiders the vast scale of the land. Travel takes on a new meaning here."
His blog is mostly about boating and life in Alaska, which in and of itself is fairly fascinating. Admit it! Besides the occasional Television series like "Northern Exposure" and a few articles Alaska to most of us remains in the realm of uncharted and mysterious. So there is this element of mystery which cannot be denied.

But still, Cobwebs Of The Mind, does not review boats and harbors and life in Alaska no matter how much "mystery" the subject may entail.

Alan is also a non-fiction, freelance writer. He writes in an area that many of his writer associates choose to ignore. He gets to write actually about the things he loves, and gets paid for it to boot!
I had a book published by the Alaska Sea Grant College Program earlier this year called Northern Harbors and Small Ports – Operations and Maintenance. The book has spun off three other projects this year. It was adopted by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans for their federal boat harbors, the University of Alaska Southeast is using it as a text for a new online marina employee education program, and several resource agencies are working with me on a clean boating publication using material first developed in Northern Harbors. I have written for marine trade related publications and have a boating section at Suite101.
Here is a link to one of his books: Northern Harbors & Small Ports: Operation and Maintenance

And this is why I am presenting this review here. Alan Sorum has turned what he likes into a profession. We are not reading about someone who wants to be the next Clancy (well maybe Alan does but for now he is working on what he likes best!) We read about someone who loves Alaska and boating, likes what he does, is interested in a niche and has written books on it, spinning them off into other projects.

This is a lesson for writers in the non-fiction genre and thus a very valid entry into the Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Reviews. It shows us how a freelance writer can do what he wants in writing, and write about the things that he enjoys, and sell them as well.

All in all, if you are interested in Alaska and boating then certainly pay a visit to A View From The Waterfront. If you want to see just how someone turned his hobby and life love into money from writing - then you must go visit Alan's Blog!

Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Reviews are posted from time to time based on blogs that are serious endeavors on the part of their owners in writing. For those of you who wish to have their blog reviewed at Cobwebs Of The Mind please email me by using the GMail Icon below. Members of Absolute Write (AW) who wish their blog reviewed please go to the following thread and read the instructions in the first post in the thread.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Writing And Despair Happy Hour (Part 6)

The saga must continue....

Welcome to Part Six of the Writing & Despair Happy Hour!


So You Wanted To Be A Writer!


What Insanity Possessed You?

And so one day you woke up and discovered deep in your heart that what you really wanted to do was write. You wanted to effect people with your words. You wanted to make them love you, hate you, read you - and enter into your head and soul. You wanted to use words to change the world if only a little part of it.

You dreamed of having your books, stories and articles published.
You dreamed of meeting people in the street and them saying: "Oh you are so-and-so. I love to read what you write!
You dreamed of book-signings, along with radio and television appearances.
You dreamed of royalty checks that could get you through the next year or even month.
You dreamed of Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes.
You dreamed of poems, and love, and angst and sorrow - all sharing with an adoring reading public.
You dreamed and dreamed. Oh boy, did you dream!

Hey - here is a message for all you dreamers!

Oh you knew it would be hard. Maybe not as hard as it turned out, but hard nonetheless. You knew you would have to sacrifice. You knew you would have to work hard and double hours. You knew it was going to be a long hard road. But you were sure it was well worth it in the end. You went by the adage "I don't want to bitch about what I want to do with my life. I want to try and live it". You adopted the old cliche, "It is better to have tried and failed then never to have tried at all". You acknowledged your own failing. You knew where your strengths lie and where your weakness was. You were a well-aware, balanced and intelligent human being. You did it all. Any obstacle the was placed in front of you - was immediately challenged.

There were no limitations that you would accept. You were spreading your wings. And damn well sure that with patience, hard work and fortitude you were going to fly.

Oh the road was so lonely. Friends laughed at you. "You?" they said with a derisive smirk on their face. "You? A writer?" You just smiled and walked away.

Your family at first was understanding. "Hey, when am I going to read your book?" Your kids would ask. "You can read it now if you like," you would answer honestly, wanting their opinions. "No thanks, I want to read it when it is a real book. Not something on your computer!" they would answer in dismay.

Your spouse or your significant other was understanding as well. Up to a point. Up to the point when you forgot their birthday and anniversary. Up to the point when one day you looked up from your manuscript and said "Remind me please. Who are you again?"

No one really understood you. No one understood this craziness that overwhelmed you and took over every fiber of your being. No one could feel what you were going through.

And you discovered just how alone you were. Even though you were surrounded by loving people who only wanted the best for you, and felt you should be put on proper meds. You discovered just how loneliness can feel.

And so your life continued. The kids discovered that they had a new person living with them. Your significant other did not know what you turned into. Your friends smiled in pity when they saw you.

As you walked down the street you would longingly look into the windows of book stores. Your mind fantasized about seeing your great work right there with your name in Bold Print. You went inside and all you could see in that vast Barnes & Nobel was a huge crowd around a table where you sat signing book after book until your fingers hurt and your hand was cramped with strain.

You carried on conversations with your inner self. You argued with the voices in your head. You found them funny and humorous and sad all at the same time. You talked all day but not one word escaped from your lips.

You would sit alone in your room, and more than once your significant other or a child would burst in, look around in growing shock and ask: "Who are you talking to? We could hear you laughing over the television!"

And you would just shrug, knowing that introducing your family to those people in your head was not a good idea. You would be medicated so fast that you would never be able to write another coherent word.

Therapy was brought up. You were called "unrealistic". You were labeled "a bit off". Your children were embarrassed to be seen with you, because you would suddenly chuckle when no one said anything. You became known as the neighborhood eccentric.

One day you overheard your best friend whisper to a group of people at a party you had no idea what you were doing at:

"Poor guy. Once he was great. Now we think he lost his marbles. Walks around talking to himself all day. I feel sorry for his family. Thinks he is going to be a great writer. Can you just imagine? Him! A great writer! Talk about madness and insanity. That is one for the books! I think his family should get him on meds real quick. Otherwise he is going to end up like that guy in The Shining!"

And you laugh. Cause inside your head all the voices are telling you to ignore all the jealous people who just don't understand how great a writer you really are!

All illustrations above are from the All hyperlinks on the posters will take you to their original page @

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Think Long And Hard Before...It May Be Your Only Chance

There is an incredibly interesting and vociferous argument going on among writers these days about the wisdom of trashing one's own publisher in public. (I would assume this would go for a literary agent as well.)

It seems that this all started with an interview given by Anne Stuart, a Romance Novelist, which was then printed on the Internet at "All About Romance" in their "Writer's Corner for October, 2006" highlighting Anne Stuart.

Now since I do not read nor am a fan of Romance novels you will have to excuse my ignorance in terms of the people and names and titles involved.

On the face of it what Anne Stuart said seemed to be fairly normative. (I strongly suggest you read it.) She was upset about not being given the proper marketing and PR she felt she deserved. I would not suggest that a writer starting out do this, but we will get to that later. I am leery of quoting too much from Writer's Corner for October, 2006" highlighting Anne Stuart due to the possibility of copyright infringement. But here is a small excerpt to give you the general idea (you should read the piece hyperlinked above to get a full picture). Anne Stuart here is talking about her current publisher:
"...And maybe they do, but they could do more. I know every writer says that, and I hate to be greedy and ungrateful, but they're not so much about the books. They're about slots and numbers, not about passion for what they're putting out there. Or so it seems to me. But then, right now I'm pretty disillusioned about the lack of support from them. I'll get over it. Maybe they're right and I'm wrong and I'm a middle of the road writer.

No, they're wrong. I'm a goddess.

And maybe I've misjudged them. It seems to me that they look at my books like boxes of cereal on a shelf, and they're in the business of selling cereal, not loving it.

Rats. You had to ask me that question! Some day I'll learn to be discreet."
Certainly that seems to be fairly innocuous. Ms. Stuart was speaking from the heart and had a complaint. She aired that complaint in an interview, though second thinking herself, she thought it may have been a bit wiser to be discreet. But then again, she did not say anything bitter or mean. She was just talking about her own current book situation.

I feel it necessary to repeat again, I have absolutely no clue how famous or known Anne Stuart is in the world of Romance Novels.

For some reason this kind of attitude upset Miss Snark. She posted about it, in very cynical and strong terms. In a post entitled: Nitwit of the Day!, Miss Snark in a strongly worded post and obviously nasty title, even for her, among other things says:
"Here's a big hunk of clue cake for everyone at the book buffet: don't diss your publisher in public. Not now, not ever. Not even if you think you're right, especially when I know you're wrong....

Here's why dissing your publisher is stupid. It removes every desire to go the extra mile for you. Every and any."
Now putting aside the cynical attitude for just a moment, Miss Snark also has a point. It is really not a good idea, even if you are 100% right to go around trashing a publisher or agent of yours in public. Small world. And you do kind of destroy all motivation to help you afterwards.

Now as to the cynicism. In quite a few posts here at Cobwebs Of The Mind I have said over and over again, that while I respect Miss Snark for all the help she gives, sometimes she does carry it over the top in being cynical. The original post in regard to this specific point was The "House" Effect. Sometimes it seems things Miss Snark posts about, hit a funny-bone with her. Almost as if they touched on some personal part of the real person that lies behind the Snark persona. I am not offering this as an excuse or a reason, it is actually just a personal observation. Some topics seem to drive Miss Snark into convulsions and I can only assume they do because of some real event that took place to the real person who invented Miss Snark.

Okay one point for Anne Stuart. One Point for Miss Snark. Each has a plus, each a minus, I guess. One believes you should speak up and say what is on your mind, one thinks you should keep your mouth shut.

And I think that would be where it should have ended. You can either say Anne Stuart was venting frustration at not selling what she thought to be enough copies of her books or she had a viable and very plausible reason for being upset with her publisher. But all in all she does have a valid response and certainly had every right to vent if she felt this to be correct.

In all cases the important discussion here - the advice to new and not so new authors - do not go around venting against your publisher in public - is sound advice. Really sound advice.

But the beat goes on....

In Jenny Crusie's Blog, Argh Ink, (she is a published author), in a post entitled: Clue Cake, Anonymity, and Other Unprofessional Behavior Ms. Crusie expressed her extreme distaste and anger at Miss Snark's statements. Now Ms. Crusie makes a point I have made in quite a few posts on this blog about anonymous blogs and posters. Just a smattering of these can be found here in the following posts:
  1. The "House" Effect
  2. Doesn't This Attitude Offend Anyone Else Out There?
  3. Give Me A Break.....
  4. Deep Throat - The Life of Anonymous Authors, Agents & Publishers On The Internet
  5. The Butter Battle Wars
  6. A Climate Of Fear
I have also made this a point at Absolute Write Forums as well. However, I was recently asked to stop by the new owner of AW for whatever reasons which I assume for her are legitimate. Thus I only post these things here in Cobwebs Of The Mind. But Jenny Crusie does have a point. A BIG POINT. A really really really good point. Anonymous blogs from anonymous posters should be incredibly suspect. And yet, there are always exceptions to the rule. Miss Snark does seem to have a handle on the publishing world. I cannot even entertain the thought that someone running that blog is privy to the information she imparts without being intimately involved in the world of literary agents and publishing.

But Jenny Crusie is also talking from friendship when she defends her friend, Anne Stuart's reaction. And she further says (extrapolated from her long post at: Clue Cake, Anonymity, and Other Unprofessional Behavior)
That was when I thought, “Who is this person and why isn’t she taking her meds?” The day my agent told me “Don’t diss your publisher in public” and then followed it up with “even if you think you’re right, especially when I know you’re wrong” would be the day I’d be announcing on the net that Jenny Crusie was looking for a new agent. Talk about unprofessional behavior; this is not the way a good agent speaks to a client or writes on the internet. (I know, ironic, isn’t it?) She’s telling authors in general and Anne Stuart in particular, “Do not say disrespectful things about your publisher on the internet because I know it’s wrong. Do what I say, because I know all.” Which is when I say to her clients, “Run, Forrest, run.” Or whatever the hell your names are, which you don’t know, either, because she’s anonymous. But if you’re an author and your agent has ever said to you, “Don’t argue with me, just do what I say because I know this is right,” run. Delusion of omnipotence is a bad sign in an agent.
Seems like a really smart and fair look at the game doesn't it? There is absolutely nothing untoward or illogical about the above. Jenny Crusie is giving sound advice as well. She is also of course, taking on Miss Snark and why she feels that Miss Snark had absolutely no right to say what she did. Again I strongly suggest you read the whole post: Clue Cake, Anonymity, and Other Unprofessional Behavior)

Also she must get some points there, additionally so because she came to the defense of her friend, Anne Stuart. (I have a soft spot for people with gumption who will defend their friends. Friends like Jenny Crusie are not easy to find and even more difficult to keep. She gets five stars for what she did on that basis alone.)

No, an agent will usually not tell a client that they are wrong when the client is right. An agent though will tell a client to keep their big yap shut, even if they are right, especially if that client is fairly new and wants to see a publishing contract.

And I say this from personal experience. And you know what? No matter how much I wanted to scream and yell and froth from the mouth, my agent was right. Do not go and bad mouth that publisher in public. Because editors move around. The publishing world is real small. And that kind of reputation you simply do not need.

(Read the user comments on both Miss Snark's blog and on Jenny Crusie's blog. They also will tell you a great deal.)

So what is the difference here? What is going on? Why did this subject even get some strong reactions over at Absolute Write in the thread: Should You Ever Speak Out Against Your Publisher?.

Jenny Crusie and Anne Stuart are published authors with more than a few books under their belts. They have long, established careers in writing. They can afford to, if they wish, to say what they like in interviews. And they should. They should say what they want and how they feel. But keep in mind they are making money for their publishers.

However, I would not be so quick to apply that logic to the new, starting off writer or even most seasoned ones. If such a thing happened I would beg them to think a 1000 times before trashing their publisher on the Net or in a newspaper or in a public forum. This game when dealing with publishers and agents - no matter what you heard - is also a power game of sorts. With pretentious people who have power. Editors who are vindictive. People who are professional rumor mongers. All of it. Unless you are a someone they cannot afford to ignore, which simply means - you are making them money - keep your mouth shut. Swallow it as much as it hurts. Don't blow off steam before you think about the consequences.

When you get as many books as Anne Stuart and Jenny Crusie in your resume, say whatever the hell you want to say. Just know there are and will always be consequences. And maybe you can afford those consequences by then.

Right now for new authors? Swallow it whole. No matter how much it sticks in your throat. And any sane agent will say that to any new client - whether this is one of the biggest problems in publishing or it is just a small problem.

And by the way - it is a huge problem in publishing. Just go meet a marketing department and you will know exactly what is being talked about here in these blogs.

So Anne Stuart is right.
Miss Snark is right.
Jenny Crusie is right and gets points in admiration for sticking up for a friend.

(And yes .. both Miss Snark and Jenny Crusie could have been more effective if they had just toned down the cynical tone a notch.)

They are all right. So you be the judge of your own career.
My Humble Advice:
Walk real softly and have a real long, delayed fuse.
Think Long And Hard Before Opening Your Mouth In Public.
It May Be Your Only Chance.
Goes for everyone.

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