Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

January 2 to January 18, 1998

Hayden Grayell Sun Jan 18 18:11:50 PST 1998

Hey gang,

One small point being overlooked by us, IMHO: Cost to the consumer. E-books better be cheaper than the other books 'cause I know which will get purchased if they are more expensive. (I have absolutely no idea of what costs are involved.)

And if it is less expensive to the consumer, then there will be less money to throw around. Which means a lot more writers will get published, but they will be paid less as well.

Also, the marketing of e-book better be bloody fantastic to draw in the readers, 'cause readers who are frustrated by trying to find a book on a list somewhere are going to give it all the flick faster than you can spit. There are enough other forms of entertainment there to drag them away. Pop up splash screens or "billboards" will not help.

At the moment it is a simple trickle compared to the deluge that is there on the horizon. And I say to the bloody Ark and build it fast!

Thirdly, e-books will so quickly change from text strings to mulitmedia events that the concept of writing for some hand-held "wireless" reader is going to be eclipsed and those that "make it big" will be authoring for MM.

In my opininon it is small minded to think that it won't change to this form. Get ready and learn to swim.

Colleen Sun Jan 18 17:14:36 PST 1998

Hi again. In the workbook there are poets thriving. I'm begining to feel at home. As for electronic publishing, I haven't responded because I am not fluent in electronic media. I do feel that a book, held in your hands has a sensory component to it that a computer doesn't. When I am done e-mailing, web surfing and goofing around here, I still return to the comfort of a book to end my day. I can't resist spending hours in libraries or at a large, maze like bookstore. Books have a soothing quality, like chocolate or hot tea. Maybe it's just me, but I believe in them, especially the elegant, beautifully illustrated children's books that exist. They are their own form of art. Because we can print artwork on a screen, does that mean we will no longer need the canvas? I hope not. Books in themselves have value. Electronic media has a special place of it's own.

Gary S Sun Jan 18 09:02:39 PST 1998

Britomart. You are so brito-smart.
I think your words are art.
You tear my mind apart.
I just may lose my heart.
To our fair Britomart.

Sun Jan 18 08:52:51 PST 1998

Britomart Sat Jan 17 23:59:14 PST 1998

Doesn't matter if it's published on paper or electornically, it's still a story, and we'll all still be able both to write them and read them. That's the important part.

Gary S. Sat Jan 17 22:17:06 PST 1998

I don't think we need to fear the disappearance of the print medium in our lifetimes, boys and girls. Babies are being born today who will be reading books when they are old people; books with pages. There will be a new kind of ink and a new kind of paper. The covers might be some post space age synthetic but they will be books. How do I know these things? Trust me I know these things. If I told you S/F dudes that I'm from the future would you believe me? I don't think so; I just know this s---.

T.M. Spell: I thought everybody knew that when Joe McCarthy
put on a skirt he partied with J. Edgar Hoover.

You guys keep on truckin'.

P.S. Lets not lose touch with reality. A lot of the big paid writers got there because they are damn good writers.
We ought to be careful about how we react to the state of the trade. We don't want to start believing that the object of the industry is to keep us (unpublished dudes) down.

Joan, we know you're out there.

Gary S. Sat Jan 17 22:12:10 PST 1998

I don't think we need to fear the disappearance of the print medium in our lifetimes, boys and girls. Babies are being born today who will be reading books when they are old people; books with pages. There will be a new kind of ink and a new kind of paper. The covers might be some post space age synthetic but they will be books. How do I know these things? Trust me I know these things. If I told you S/F dudes that I'm from the future would you believe me? I don't think so; I just know this s---.

T.M. Spell: I thought everybody knew that when Joe McCarthy
put on a skirt he partied with J. Edgar Hoover.

You guys keep on truckin'.

P.S. Lets not lose touch with reality. A lot of the big paid writers got there because they are damn good writers.
We ought to be careful about how we react to the state of the trade. We don't want to start believing that the object of the industry is to keep us (unpublished dudes) down.

Joan, we know you're out there. Sat Jan 17 21:43:40 PST 1998

While it may be true that e-books spare the reader such tedious tasks such as pageturning, squinting, and the ever-deadly paper cut, there lies a certain eloquence in the sight of typewritten script against the pale yellow of a decaying page. It gives the book a soul.
And the Midwest is sometimes a goldmine when it comes to obscure books. In my neck of the prarie, we have quite a few charming little shoppes run by Vietnam vets with glass left eyes, and more books than they know what to do with. I find that books are easier to obtain in a place that fails to recognize their value.

T. M. Spell Sat Jan 17 19:12:53 PST 1998

Greetings, all.

Joan, haven't heard from you lately. Hope all is well.

Just wanted to invite anyone interested to visit my recently updated Home Page, listed above. The site features a rather long story of mine, "Brain Dam," which originally appeared in Dream International Quarterly. It is about Gloria, a banned author whose creative left-brain has been blocked by an oppressive presidential administration intent upon protecting women from "hate speech" -- even if the words aren't spoken in hatred; even if the author is a woman, too. Or, to put it another way, this is a story about what happens when Joe McCarthy puts on a skirt.

The version of "Brain Dam" on my Home Page contains material that was cut from the published version. Although there are scenes depicting adult situations and graphic violence here, they serve a serious literary purpose and were not created with the intention of offending -- or titillating -- anyone. Those of you who don't mind reading this kind of thing, please do, and let me know what you think.

If this weren't such a potentially controversial story, I would have posted it on the Workbook. But I understand that there are underage readers here, and "Brain Dam" is definitely not appropriate nor intended for the under-18 crowd. So...YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Thanks, all. Take care.

Goodweed of the North Sat Jan 17 18:07:37 PST 1998

Naomi: please be careful when speaking for everybody. I too thoroughly enjoy the written word. However, there is a place for e-books. They would come in handy for instance, while out camping where available light might be hard to come by. Also, if you don't live in a metropolitan area, books are often hard to come buy. It seems that large book chains only set up where there is a large potential market. I live in a small town on the US/Canada border. Our libraries, public and university, lack the resources to get enough reading material to satisfy the needs of those of us who want more than just the literary classics. I do enjoy classic literature but I also like SF&F. The e-book might make good reading available to more people.

I don't think traditional book lovers need worry. It will be a long time before anyone replaces the conveniance of paper. But just as paper replaced papyrus, and papyrus replaced soft metal plates, which replaced stone tablets, something will probably one day replace paper. Let face it. Paper yellows over time, it oxidises and crumbles. The inks smear, etc. I just want to get my work out to someone who will enjoy it. I realy don't care what medium is used. The artof writing is the ability of the story teller to capture the imaginations of readers, not the paper it is written on.

Sincerely; Goodweed of the North

Sat Jan 17 18:07:29 PST 1998

Sat Jan 17 18:07:16 PST 1998

Sat Jan 17 18:06:54 PST 1998

Sat Jan 17 08:58:55 PST 1998

my fond greetings to all.
A book is a staple of our collective consciousness as humans, as well as something we will never replace with a glowing electronic substitute.

Goodweed of the North Sat Jan 17 03:54:36 PST 1998

HI everyone. As has been stated by many here, the portability, ease of reading, and long term storage capabilities of books make them popular. That plus familiarity give them the advantage at present over e-books.
The computer industry however, is out to change that. Science fiction often predicts science fact. In my third story, a science fiction work, a device is used which handles like paper and works like a computer screen. It works by building strings of flexible lcd's into a plastic fiber as well as the micro-chips required to drive them. This isn't so far away as I thought. I just recieved my newest issue of Poular Science and read of a product similar to the one I just described. It isn't flexible yet, and is still in its infancy, but it has been created. This isn't just a screen either but a full fledged computer which uses handwriting recognition on a touch sensitive sreen for input. It also has a built in antenna for internet modem use.

This could be the end of the first hurdle. As for another, the pirating of purchased work, this could be handled by selling an access code which would be required to open a file. The code could be sent via IRC and be downloaded at the time of purchase. Of course, it would have to be put on some type of permanent storage device such as a cdrom which could be shared by multiple users. But then, I have been known to swap a few paperbacks in my day with fellow reading enthusiasts. The point being, Like tapes, cd's books, etc., the e-book on disk (which could be sent through the mail could be just the ticket.

Another useful device is the Iomega Click. This is a matchbook sided disk which holds 40 meg of data. My 383 page novel uses about 609K of memory.

I believe the advantages of paper are being eliminated very quickly. E-publishing is just around the corner.

Meanwhile, I still want to have my stories in print. How do you autograph ana electronic screen. Status symbols are good for the ego after all.

I hope everyone here is succesful with their stories.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Jan 17 02:45:03 PST 1998

     Speaking only as a dyed in the wool card carrying reading addict of the worst order with a books that overflow my living room and bedroom and the basement and everywhere else, as much as I love the look, feel and smell of books, the thought of having it all at my fingertips only a keyword search away delights me. In particular this is true when I discover the second or first or eighth in a series and would love to read these in order. I know I have that second book of Elizabeth Moon's Paksennarion. Now, where to I find the second book and when I've found that the third. Hmmmmmm. My libary numbers in the thousands and my organizational skills fall more into the archeological. The only problem is that the piles have gotten tall enough to fall over, so it is not just a simple matter of digging down deep enough to find the strata that represents the last time that I read that particular book or bought that other and put it away in a nice safe place where I could not miss it. Riiiiiight.

    Sorry, just got back from Rusty. Little blitzed, but I am very delighted to hear about DOI. The thought of ensuring and tracking the copyright of our material and somehow being able to market it ourselves and completely sidestepping the big publishing houses is fascinating. Or, here's a thought, a group of writers like those present here collaborating and creating an island in the choppy and storm wracked waves where others can find the stories and books they want presented directly from the writers to the readers and reimbursed on the spot. Might happen someday. Just a rambling thought that I will most likely consider more advisedly with sleep and less partying. Take care everyone and I do promise to archive when I can face the computer with less fumble fingers.

    Victoria, I agree that obsolence is a valid point. A hard copy is always good. I believe it was Rollerball, a grade B science fiction movie, where the computer program has a glitch and loses the thirteenth century. Since all knowledge resided in the electronic archives, when it was gone there it was gone. So, hard copy and multiple hard copies are nice. Take care and excuse this very long and convoluted post.

Clyde Dixon Fri Jan 16 22:31:09 PST 1998

Joan - I agree with you in most respects. As a reader, I think that I would prefer traditional books (my wife and I have hundreds of books) - as a writer, I may prefer e-books. In the long run, I think the industry will move toward some sort of e-publishing. I just hope that the transition bodes well for writers - it seems to have the potential to do so.

Good Writing and Reading,

Joan* Fri Jan 16 21:04:24 PST 1998

Hi all--

I didn't think I had anything to say on this week's topic. I was wrong! Gulp--here (risking ridicule) goes:

There is nothing like a room full of books. I can't say the same for a room full of one electronic reader or a pile of printed out pages. Sorry! I suspect--no, I know--I'm hopelessly outdated, but I feel a bit like I've falllen into "Farenheit 451." It's not a good analogy, I know, but that's the feeling I get. If I remember correctly, the government didn't allow books/reading, but the people loved and missed books (or reading) so much that they each memorized and "became" a walking book so that the stories wouldn't be lost. I realize it's not the same, that the stories wouldn't be lost, but still . . . something about the situations strikes me as being similar. I suppose I'll eventually get with the program if that's the direction we're going. But I'll never get over the awe of libraries or even home bookshelves with shelves of books waiting to be explored---all looking different. There's a smell and a feel to books, too, that I would miss terribly. A book is like a friend; I just can't get all warm-fuzzy about an electronic reader.


Victoria Fri Jan 16 17:58:52 PST 1998


You make a very persuasive case. There's actually technology in the works right now to solve the problem of e-publishing you mentioned, that anyone can get round copyright and royalties by just downloading an e-book and mailing it to all their friends. The technology is called DOI, or Digital Object Identifier. The DOI is a tag that would uniquely identify a piece of digital intellectual property (kind of like a super-ISBN number). This would make possible things that can't reliably be done now, such as royalty tracking, controlled distribution, and even the enclosure of e-pubs in "cryptolopes" with embedded, non-overrideable business instructions that would absolutely control distribution and payment. Several companies are working on prototypes right now, some of which are already in use. A lot of people believe this will change the face of e-publishing, and move it from the fringe to the forefront. I do believe that Jack's wireless reader will become a reality, and probably pretty soon--they probably already have a prototype at MIT. Greg Bear has a great article on this sort of thing in the SFWA handbook, by the way, a really viable vision of e-publication.

But, I still think that the question of obsolescence remains. If a substantial number of publishers go predominantly to e-publishing, or frustrated authors decide to e-publish themselves, how do they ensure the survival of their works? As long as there's one physical copy of your book in a library somewhere, it survives. But in 20 years, when no one can remember what Netscape was, where will all the e-books be?


Fri Jan 16 17:34:11 PST 1998

Mike Fri Jan 16 14:17:01 PST 1998

Hi all! Name's Mike, and this is my first time here. Can't stay long, but i hope to come back and get some advice on how to improve my writing style and whatnot. Anyway.... hope to get to each and every one of one.


Clyde Dixon Fri Jan 16 13:45:06 PST 1998

This site is centered around the idea of writing Speculative Fiction, so let’s do a little speculation about the future of Writing/Publishing and in particular why I wouldn’t write off Electronic Publishing too quickly. There are real economic forces at work that are pushing the industry in that direction (or some direction.)

First - The Status Quo:
1) Supply and Demand - Back when Asimov was first starting out in the pulps, the pay per word was about the same as it is now - only then, you could buy a couple of gallons of gas for a sentence. The success of the pulps created so much demand for SF that an individual like Asimov, even with a promising career ahead of him in the sciences, could decide to live on writing SF instead. From the ever increasing droves of readers came the likes of us; there appears to be no shortage of writers for the future thus, I would expect continued downward pressure on pay per word/book (in real dollars.)

2) Thor Power Tools vs. the IRS - A court case involving issues of inventory depreciation. This case is, in large part, responsible for the disappearance of the backlist. It is not that the publishers were all suddenly taken over by bean-counters, they were always there, it’s just that the Thor case changed the rules of the game. Until there is some change on this front, there is no way that a publisher is going to maintain an inventory of any size. Thus, expect your books to disappear from print in a very short time.

Electronic Publishing:
1) E-Publishing (Advantages to the Publisher)
--Near zero cost to publish and distribute another copy
--Near zero cost to keep older works in publication
--Easy access to world wide market
--No Inventory
--No Returns

2) E-Publishing (Advantages for the Author)
--All of the above
--The low costs of e-publishing may free up more money to pay authors (maybe!)
--More authors will get published because of the lower risks involved for the publisher
--Well known authors could self publish and keep ALL of the money themselves, which should mean more even and fair treatment of the authors that remain with a publisher (the monetary black holes like Mr. King would self publish.)
--The midlist and new authors would be desperately sought by publishers (new authors would need a publisher; on their own, they would not rise above the static of information overload and substandard self-published authors.)

3) Usability Issues of E-Publishing
--Yes, reading on screen text is far from perfect, but I have done it helping a friend with his novel, and we all do it as we do our own writing, and when we read this web page. A large high quality screen and the selection of a large font, can make on screen reading more feasible - no, I don’t have a nice monitor at home.
--Print it. The end user can print the work in any size text they wish (though the costs of doing this would equal a traditional paperback book).
--The text could be voiced by the computer (or a special reader.) The current market for books on tape goes well beyond functionally blind individuals.
--Some, as yet, unthought of solution could quickly change the ease of reading on-line text. Whatever we may think about the screen vs. the page, you can bet that once a new generation is exposed to using a faster cheaper technology, there will be no turning back.

4) Problems of E-Publishing
--You read an e-book and like it. You e-mail all of your friends about how good the book is - and include an attachment containing the entire book. This issue alone will prevent the spread of e-publishing, unless someone figures out a fix. Once this issue is fixed (if it can be) the economic incentives will drive the major publishing houses into e-publishing. This is THE thing holding back e-publishing.
--The aforementioned readability issues - for some people this will be a killer, but it will not stop e-publishing, anymore than it stops people from using computers. Ultimately, voicing, better monitors, cheaper home printing, or something as yet unknown will erase this liability.

Other ideas?
Perhaps book stores will custom print books to order from on-line databases?! No inventory, all the advantages of both e-publishing and traditional publishing.

I don’t pretend to “know” what is going to happen, but I am damn well interested in trying to figure out what the future of writing may be like - fore I intend to be a part of it, as do you. Does this inspire anyone out there to envision an alternative to what I have proposed, or perhaps solutions to some of the problems I mentioned?

Sorry for the leeeength, but the subject demands it.

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Jan 16 13:03:21 PST 1998

     My suspicion is that optical storage of some kind, whether CD-ROM or something else will prove more durable than paper. But, your core point that e-books will not replace paper anytime soon is very valid. Until you can read it in the can it just ain't there yet ;-). Still, I can see the day when I'll have a small reader that connects directly to every book ever written direct via a wireless connection via the internet. The database with all the books is not there yet. The reader technology is. The wireless technology for connecting to the internet is definitely there. While my wife drove from Seattle to Tacoma on I-5 I have used a wireless ricochet modem to download and read the Notebook. So, it is not that much of a stretch to see it added to a small reader and the books be available and most likely the patch to translate if the books are in an earlier format. The limiting factor here is that nobody has put all the elements together in an attractive package and marketed it well. My dream for it, however 'it' manifests in reality, is that the writer has a degree of greater control and the possibility of getting greater financial rewards than are built into the system at present, especially for the starting or midlist writer.

     On the Notebook is too long score, I will most likely archive in a day or so. It is up to 85k. Generally I wait until it reaches something between 90 and a 100k. Take care everyone. I am off to Rustycon for a weekend of science fiction and good friends. Always a very good combination. Sort of like here in a way. Peace. And may the stories come easily to your fingers.

Victoria Fri Jan 16 07:48:56 PST 1998

Re: this week's topic: It seems to me that there are a lot of current difficulties with e-publishing--lack of regulation, the issue of payments/royalties, quality, not to mention the fact that it's just not very nice to read off a screen. These issues are being addressed--at least there's a lot of discussion of them--and maybe eventually will be solved. But it seems to me that there's an even bigger issue that isn't really being discussed much at all: obsolescence. The rate of development of hardware and software guarantees that in ten or twenty years what we're using now will be completely obsolete, back there with the Commodore 64 and WordPerfect 1.0. And as hard/software becomes obsolete, so do the documents associated with them. It seems to me that whatever is put on the Net will simply vanish at some point, like radioactive half-life--unless, of course, some allowance is made for translation or conversion of documents to conform to newer technologies. But in the rush to development, little attention is being paid to the issue of preservation. And given the size of the Net, is it really practical or even desirable to attempt to preserve what's there anyway? I don't think print mediums will be replaced or even seriously threatened anytime soon, because they're the only way right now to guarantee a document's suvival.


Michele Fri Jan 16 07:30:43 PST 1998

General Query - is it me or is this Notebook getting looooong !

Re : Internet Publishing/E Commerce - I ordered my first book over the Internet today (gulp!) - it did cause me to swallow hard but I didn't tremble to much. I can't say that I'm desperately keen on the idea of electronic books per se - I guess I'm just an old-fashioned girl - I like *books* - I don't even like looking things up in these electronic encyclopaedias - mind you they rarely have what I want in them because I always want to know the weirdest things !

Then thing about looking things up in books is that you can wander backwards and forwards through the book following trains of thought or cross referencing - which I don't seem to be able to do as enjoyably in an electronic reference book.

Anyway that's my twopennyworth !


Michele Fri Jan 16 03:07:45 PST 1998

The above Web address is there because some of my writing will shortly be appearing there - I've been asked to contribute a 1000 word biography of Siegfried Sassoon to the Biographical Dictionary on this site !!

I'm so excited !! "In print" for the first time - and on the Web where a lot more people are going to see it. It will take me a little while to sort out what I want to include so it may be a week or so before I e-mail the bio. and then it might not be posted onto the site straight away - I'll let you know when I know that it's there.

Hayden - *glad* you got the file backup sorted and the rewrite.


Hayden Grayell Thu Jan 15 18:22:21 PST 1998

1: Supplejack completed after disk problem circumnavigated. The rewrite took two days.

2: Disk problem sorted out...but if one more person tells me to back up, I will scream. What all of us need is a programme that automatically saves the file as we work on a multiple level, and I gonna get it.

My computer will soon save to my email directory, to the windows directory on the hard disk of my computer, to my wife's computer via our home LAN, to floppy disk, to a back up file on my hard drive, and to tape back-up---all before the programme can be closed.

So the next time someone tells me to back up, I'll tell them to do the same!! :-)

Michael Hendrix (under construction) Thu Jan 15 13:51:51 PST 1998

Hey, I'm an up-and-coming writer like the rest of you.
However, do any of you have any professional methods to put my ideas on paper? Help, please...

Michele Thu Jan 15 01:07:20 PST 1998

Kay : Just read your story - I enjoyed it - keep up the good work !

Hayden : Did you sort your disk problem out yet ?

Toby : Look forward to seeing the last part of "6 Fingers" !


toby b Wed Jan 14 19:41:26 PST 1998

Hello all:

The dangers and pitfalls of the internet, and all the lunatics that are out there! It's all I hear. The truth is the American public is a very cuddled coddled sheltered thing, and any massive all out experience with non-normative surroundings is a shock to it. The Internet is like a step out into (although it isn't the real world) the rest of the world, there are more varied people (some who hide behind the anonymity). While spamming is the single most irratating thing I can think of, it is the only statistically realistic 'danger' from the web unless you are not a level headed individual. Sure someone can grab your credit card number easily enough through unprotected E-mail, but if one just puts a little thought into it you can be safe. As far as any lunatic trying to stalk me, it would be an interesting diversion, but the odds are very much against it.

On books on the internet: I think that short stories might flourish (I love dropping in on the Chatsubo etc,), but novels will forever be paper. As my (very non-literary) roomate puts it, it's nice to be able to grab a book on the way to the bathroom for something to read (is that solely a male thing?). My response is that portability is cool, as well as the way the book FOLDS into my hands, I hate it when people lend me a book and say, don't bend the spine! I give it right back. My books look like they've been through hell, but I love 'em. But electronic books have some merit. It'll be like hardcover vs paperback:)

As for corrupted files lost stories. Back-up back-up back-up back-up, and when that's done, back-up. I have everything I write on floppies in A)my room in a box ready to go. B) with my friends in a room across campus C)parents D)on my computer. Take no chances. I just recently lost a part of six-fingers that way because it was a new story and I wasn't paying attention and the disk got damaged. Remember, everything's out to get you!

On the inspiring how-to-books. I never really liked them, I always thought writing something first more important. I do like it when writers tell me about the history behind the story than any set RULES since I'm very anti-establishment. Robert Silverburg does that in one of his collections. I do have a signed copy of Stan Schmidt's 'how to...SF' that I like (but more for the fact that he sent it to me). The single coolest things are personalized rejection slips, they do more for your writing than anything else.

Thanks for listening.

JACK- just wrote my first C program! It tells you how much money you have if you type in the coins. Sometime within the next month I should finish my webpage (gotta find a good book or site on HTML).

For those wondering, the last quarter of 6 fingers should be going up sometime this week if not probably no later than monday!

Write Lots all...

Victoria Wed Jan 14 18:50:14 PST 1998

About names and e-mails on webpages, I agree with Jack--why worry? If you're a writer you have to put your name on your page, otherwise what's the point? You could consider having a different e-mail link from your page--your server probably provides you with a private mailbox--or else establishing a different e-mail address for your own private use. That way at least the spam and stalkers wouldn't be cramming your personal mail.

However, privacy is just an illusion these days. Did you know there's an internet service through which you can find an address and phone number (and often an e-mail address) for any human being in the United States who's listed in a phone book? And a map to their house, too. There's also a universal e-mail directory where you can look up nearly everyone who has an e-mail address, and many "friend-finder" services (many just a front for sending you ads and junk mail) that use the services I just described to locate people. So putting your name on a webpage is almost redundant. You're already out there.

Pat Christensen Wed Jan 14 16:30:40 PST 1998

Jack - forgive my shocking show of ignorance, but what is "harvesting" e-mail? Does that mean they intercept my incoming e-mail, or they just get my e-mail address and send me unwanted postings?

Somehow, it was the combination of my name and my e-mail that had my sister worried, but I'm dense, and I don't get it.

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Jan 14 01:06:49 PST 1998


    The main danger of having your name and more particularly your mailto email address is that the (EXPLATIVE #!!!$&%!! NOT QUITE DELETED) Spammers will use web crawlers to harvest emails. This happens routinely on newsgroups and, unfortunate to say, can happen on your web page or places like this. All of this said, just being an AOL member is probably more of a risk for this.

    Also, if you do become a published author the individuals you refer to will be just as likely to take notice of you. My own philosophy is to brazen it out and follow Alfred E. Newman's motto, what me worry? It is not as if any of us live on an island separated from the rest of the human race. So, to strongly sanitize a very old saying, To heck with them if they can't take a joke. And, yes, I would say this is part of electronic publication as well. :-)

Pat Christensen Tue Jan 13 19:18:21 PST 1998

Just a bit off-topic, thought I'd drop an argument my sister and I have been having into this forum to see what people think.

My sister is concerned because I have my name on several of my pages at my website. She feels this is hazardous in the extreme due to the lunatics that have been drawn to the Internet. As my sister is a programmer and knows the things that can happen, she may have a point. But, as a writer, I have always felt that, if you're brave enough to write it, you should be brave enough to sign your name to it.

In this "brave new world" of ours, where does the sane course of action lie anymore? Should I remove my name from all but my homepage? Should I leave my name there and risk whatever consequences there might be? Are the consequences too great these days? Is a "pen name" the wisest choice in this day and age? Or do we stick with the traditional path and take the chances that come with it?

Any thoughts?

Rhoda Tue Jan 13 15:56:59 PST 1998

Just wanted to post a note because I haven't for awhile. Greetings to all the many newcomers. Since new folks have popped up, the Notebook which I have always found exciting and friendly has become even more so.

Regarding the topic, I really don't have much to add that hasn't been so well said by others in previous posts. I will add what a writer friend told me about a conference she attended a year ago. The concensus among writers and agents there was that the publishing industry is watching internet publishing very closely. Many people from the major publishing houses believe that the internet will someday in the future greatly impact the industry as a whole. Some see the eventual demise of the book as we know it. A few publishers actually welcome the projected popularity of e-books because these publishers will no longer be required to put out the physical costs of producing books (paper, ink, binding, etc.). The only question is when and how soon this state of affairs will happen.

I believe the book as we know it will never fully go away. Looking at a computer screen, even the LCD on my notebook, tires my eyes very fast. I would rather read from paper. One advantage to e-books that hasn't been mentioned is that one can print the book with any font size one desires. Many older people complain about the small print in paperbacks. With an e-book that you print yourself, you can adjust the print. For some that is a great advantage. Also considering the fact that there is now software for voice commands and output for computers, the blind can utilize e-books and have a better selection than choosing from books in braile(I know I didn't spell this right, but I'm missing my dictionary).

I personally believe electronic books have a long way to go, but one of these days some Steve Job or Ted Turner sort of person will show us all how marketting e-books can be done profitably.

Sharon L Reddy Tue Jan 13 13:22:53 PST 1998

I followed a 'favorite places' link here and was delighted. You're topic of the week is an important one to me and the discussion of it so far is an indication it's being treated with objectivity, which it is too often not.

I made the decision to e-publish my books about six years ago. I watched the news of publishing house mergers and their purchase by large multi-media corporations and had a very good idea what it was going to mean to both writers and the reading public. It hasn't been pleasant watching those expectations be fulfilled, and to be even more sure now than I was then that I just don't want to do business with them.

I decided at that time that it would be some years before there were e-publishers, with good business skills, who were beginning to establish reputations for presenting quality work. I set the time to begin seeking them as late 1997 and began preparing for it. I've written several times the 'million words' Mr. Macallum (Please forgive me if I misspelled your name.) mentioned in the period between. In November, I began the search for e-publishers who met my criteria of responsible business practices. I did find a few.

One of the problems those publishers, and we writers who choose them, have is a very well organized campaign to assure the attitude "Well, that's not REALLY being published." continues. Of course that campaign exists. The multi-media conglomerates which control the major print publishers are far from naive and e-publishing is a burgeoning industry with the potential of being very stiff competition. The longer it's seen as amatuerish and presenting the work of only those "writers who aren't good enough to sell a book to a REAL publisher," the higher their interim profits.

I aso agree with the person who spoke of the need for a dedicated electronic book reader. Yes, isn't it odd someone hasn't put one on the market, especially considering there are a number of large companies that have had designs for such for several years? According to one design engineer, who is extremely careful who he tells, the probable price would be under $100. Are they all waiting for someone to come up with a standard format for e-books? No, but they are waiting until they're sure there's a fairly large market for the product.

I predict the first ones to hit the market will be available before the end of this year. Those won't be dedicated e-book readers, but electronic schedulers, or some such, with an e-book reader program and a price tag of about $300. Dedicated e-book readers, about the size of a closed paperback book, in the $100-150 price range, will be available sometime in 1999. I've been sure of it since I learned an e-publisher has contracted for two books by Robert Silverberg.


Clyde Dixon Tue Jan 13 12:36:38 PST 1998

On the subject of Electronic Publishing: I know of one writer who is trying to establish a presence in this "new media." I invited him to pass on his thoughts on the subject; I see below that he has (Michael McCollum is his name.) He publishes his own works, not the works of others.

If you are interested in Electronic Publishing, check out his expeiences and thoughts - also, visit his web site and see how he is doing it. He uses Adobe Acrobat, which, in my mind, has some important advantages over HTML (at least for publishing book length material.)

I have made some progress on my Fantasy novel - no "writing" yet, but the plotting and outlining is coming along nicely. And of course, I always have a few short stories in various stages of not being written.

It still surprises me that the Fantasy is moving along quicker than my SF work. Perhaps the Fantasy is sort of a refreshing break from constantly thinking about the SF stuff?

KOONTZ - So are the writing books by Koontz actually that good, or are they just hard to find? I have a few books that, to me anyway, hit upon the key elements of writing ("Writing to Sell" by Scott Meredith, Harper & Row 1977 - the Meredith Literary Agency was a big player.) Like the Koontz books, I imagine that the Meredith book would now be virtually impossible to find.

Oh, I have listed the address for my web page, nothing real interesting to anyone, but if you take a look let me know what you think.

What ever it is, may we all find what we need,

Michele Tue Jan 13 08:39:20 PST 1998

I mention my Web page for the first time in a while because I've just spent most of the afternoon updating it. I thought that you might like to take a look and let me know what you think - particularly as you guys get an honourable mention !!

If you've time to drop me a personal e-mail to say what you think I would appreciate it as I've had very little feed back on it previously and now that I've gone to the trouble of updating it I'd like to know what anyone thinks. (But please be kind - I am a newbie at this Web lark !)

Thanks :- )


Michele Tue Jan 13 02:09:22 PST 1998

Hayden - I do hope that you've managed to resurrect your disc file - I had a similar problem last night with an essay of my brother's - the file became corrupt and I had to perform an intense (but thankfully successful (since it's his course work) ) rescue operation - hope your rescue operation was also successful !


Jack Beslanwitch Mon Jan 12 18:05:33 PST 1998

Hayden: condolences on the corrupted file. This brings up a maxim that I have followed faithfully when working on something. I routinely save to my normal directory and to another directory on a separate hard drive to make sure that things do not expire if a hard drive goes south. Which, I hasten to say, has happened to me. I also, backup on either a JAZ cartridge or Zip Cartridge, but I have to say that that happens less consistently than it should.

    The only way to get indents is to use HTML. There is an HTML tag for this that I am using now. You can use view source if you would like to know what it is since if I type it it becomes part of this post. I will email you with the HTML for this.

Hayden Grayell Mon Jan 12 17:15:17 PST 1998


I've just spent three days frantically finishing Supplejack and rejoicing about it, and then discovered that the file has become corrupted. I feel like someone has put a great big gun against my head and left a hole big enough to park a bus in. I'd cry if I had the time. Hopefully the backup is sitting in the temp buffer...but I can't accecss that till I get home. If anyone has any helpful suggestions on how to prevent this happening I would be most interested. I already save to hard disk most of the time, and have backups running every few minutes, but I use a floppy to transport it between home and work. What else am I suppose to do!

Goddamn!! SPIT AND CURSE!!!

Thanks Michael for the comments re the plotlines etc. I've called the local library but they do not have either of those books, so it seems I will have to go to the National Library and research it there, which, luckily, is a pleasurable outing as I worked there for a while.

And of course I would be interested in the 26 plotlines that you have discovered so if you do not have the time to post to the workbook, then you could just reply to my email address above.

Sorry, this letter is a bit jagged, and rushed. I'll write when my mind is a little clearer. Or a little cleaver...which ever is more appropriate.


L.M. Worden Mon Jan 12 16:41:24 PST 1998

Hi Everyone!
As you can see I am a newcomer and have added my biography. Also, I posted a poem "Mirror". Feel free to comment.

Michael Parish Mon Jan 12 14:41:16 PST 1998

HAYDEN GRAYELL (I just used caps to get your attention; I'm not trying to shout or anything)- You brought up an interesting subject, and I hope I'm not too late to comment on it. On Jan. 6 you were wondering about "archetypal plot lines." Actually this is a subject open to much discussion and debate, and there isn't much of a common consensus. A lot of famous authors have voiced their opinions and their "number of choice." Some have said there are 60 plot types total. Others have said there are only 10; some claim 7 or even 3. Certain authors have said that the entire question is a waste of time, because it mires writers down in formulas, rather than being innovative and doing their own thing.

A lot of people talk about Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self, but I find these classifications so simplistic as to be almost useless. Most good stories contain combinations of these conflict types, and it's hard to classify an entire novel or story under one of these types.

If you are interested in books on the subject, I have two to suggest to you, both by Ronald Tobias. The first is "Theme and Strategy," one of the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing Series, published by Writer's Digest Books. Tobias dedicates a section of the book talking about (what he refers to as) a complete list of existing plot types, numbering 36. The other book is also published by WD, called "20 Master Plots."

Without boasting, I have read countless books on writing, and the number of all plot types that I have decided upon is 26. I was going to list and explain them here, but I have somebody here who has to use the phone, so I'll be back to give the list to you in another visit. Hope this helps!

Mon Jan 12 10:51:41 PST 1998

Mon Jan 12 10:50:59 PST 1998

Bob Hanford Mon Jan 12 08:15:00 PST 1998

Hello everyone,
Charles: Miss you guy! Above email address is correct. Hope you chose the snowball fight.
Colleen: Certainly we welcome struggling children's book writers. Come on in and help us.
I'd like to strongly suggest (as I did about a year ago) that everyone in the group read Barbara Wersba and Virgina Woolf (sp?), two of the best writers of young adult fiction. No matter which genre you write in, I believe reading their books will be a good reminder to all of us that we are here to tell a good story well. I read Barbara's, "Fat, A Love Story", over the weekend. Like all of her books, it would have been published irregarless of the midlist writers problems or the questions about electronic publishing.
Speaking of which, I (being an old stuck-in-the-mud traditionalist who dislikes even paperbacks) intend to totally ignore publishing on the net. Perhaps, if the day comes, when I can download a book and have it printed on quality paper, book-sized sheets, and nicely bound in leather, I will consider it. But I have an inbuilt resistance to reading a book in manuscript form and do not feel filled up when I've consumed it.
Has anyone else discovered John Dunning? Protagonist is ex-cop who now deals in rare books. Great reads. Can't wait for his next one.
Peace and good writing.

T. M. Spell Mon Jan 12 03:57:43 PST 1998

I posted a short story in the Workbook yesterday. For some odd reason, the indents didn't paste like they should have, but otherwise, everything is there. Please let me know what you think.


Take care all.

Michele Mon Jan 12 02:28:21 PST 1998

Gary - Page one looks a lot better than it did previously (from my point of view at least).

Toby - I liked your Six Fingers post so much I dug through the archives for the rest of the posts - you got me interested - "please sir, can I have some more ?"

Anyone who's interested might like to know I had an extra day off over the weekend and actually managed to get some research done - hoorah !! (And my sleep deprived brain is quite as sleep deprived as it was)


Charles Samuel Sun Jan 11 22:42:17 PST 1998

Hey everybody. It's snowing here in Jerusalem! If you want to see it live, check out

Since the city is under a blanket of snow, I've got the day off. Hopefully I'll be able to take advantage and get some writing done. But then again, the kids really want to go out and have a snowball fight... and my wife wants me to take some pictures and videos.

Have a great day everyone. Hi Ben. And Bob, I tried to email you, but got bounced. Do I have the correct address?


Michael McCollum Sun Jan 11 18:33:03 PST 1998

I am the author of eight science fiction novels and about 15 short stories and novellas. After more than a decade with Ballantine Del Rey, I found that the publisher was moving in a direction other than the one I wanted to go and retrieved the rights to all of my works in order that I could attempt to sell them on the web. I now have a virtual bookstore and publishing company (Sci Fi - Arizona) which went online on Labor Day, 1996.

My experiences on the web have been approximately the same as others who have attempted to publish commercially online. I have been gratified by the reception my web site has received, but find that people are still hesitant about purchasing books electronically. I believe this hesitancy comes from three sources:

1. People do not yet believe that books being offered online are equal to those that they can obtain in a bookstore. In this they are partially correct. The cost of publishing an electronic book on the web is dramatically lower than for bringing one out in hard copy through a commercial publisher. This means that the filter provided by the editor is not in place and just about anyone can publish anything, regardless of quality.

Unfortunately, most of us do not start writing in the full bloom of our talent. It takes time to develop the professional polish required to sell a work of fiction to a publsiher. The rule is that you have to write a million words before you write a single one that sells. I know that was true in my own case. I didn't sell until I was up to Opus 20 after three and a half years of effort. Some have done it faster, and many slower.

Without some method for sorting through the large number of books that readers will find less than compelling, they are naturally hesitant about purchasing any book.

I certainly don't advocate NOT publishing anything that you want on the web. I merely note that it will be awhile before we develop mechanisms that allow people to be sure that what they are spending their money on is something they will enjoy. I have attempted to solve this problem at my own site by providing three chapter excerpts of my books for free download. Some people like the way I write and others hate it. Hopefully, a sufficiently large sample will give readers a representative taste before they plunk down their hard earned cash.

2. There is no adequate funding mechanism for web commerce.

Like many businesses on the web, I accept credit cards, checks by mail, and even a form of electronic payment. So far I find that the people who like to be on the leading edge of technology are buying and everyone else is in "wait and see" mode. What we need is something akin to and electronic version of Mastercard or Visa for web purchases, along with probably several years of use before we will gain wide acceptance.

This is one area where we can all help each other. Whenever someone buys anything online, it helps all retailers on the web because it breaks down that native resistance to using the Internet for commerce. The first thing I ever purchased online was the Arizona Income Tax module from Turbotax for $29.95. I know that I almost had a heart attack while downloading the software. The next time it was easier and the time after that, even easier. Before commerce is going to take off, we will need a lot of training sessions to get people used to this new idea.

3. And of course, people are frightened to death about security on the web

I don't know about anyone else, but I really hated that IBM "it's not safe" commercial. I don't know what genius thought it up, but he should have kept the idea to himself. I figure it set back the cause of web commerce at least two years.

My wife recently sent our address to someone via email and almost had a heart attack over it. So long as that level of fear exists, we are going to have tough sledding ahead of us. Here again, time and experience should help.


What can web publishers do in the meantime? My plan is to position myself for the inevitable day when web commerce finally breaks loose. There is quite a lot of work involved in becoming a web publisher, especially if you can't afford to pay the $50-$100 per hour that most Internet Service Providers charge for page creation. For myself, I had to spend about $2000 and learn a dozen new skills to go online. If that seems a lot, consider that my bookstore has more outlets than does B. Dalton's and that I sell nearly as many books in Australia as I do in the United States. Considering that it allowed me to set up a worldwide business, that investment was amazingly inexpensive.

After nearly a year and a half online, I have reached the breakeven point and am concentrating on building my clientele. I do this with a writer's workshop where I publish monthly articles on writing. Recent articles are free, but articles in the past cost a nominal fee. I also host Don Dixon, one of the best space artists on the planet.

Between people arriving to check out the space scenes and to pick up the free articles, I typically have 100 visitors a day at my bookstore. Now if I can only get that up to a 1000, I'll finally be getting somewhere!

Any suggestions on that subject will be greatly appreciated.

Michael McCollum
Sci Fi - Arizona

T. M. Spell Sat Jan 10 06:25:02 PST 1998

On the subject of reading fees, my personal policy is NEVER pay a publisher, editor, or agent to read your work. Their job is to SELL books and pay YOU. The only reason a publisher, editor, or agent would need to charge a reading fee would be because s/he either won't or can't make a living selling books.

In any case, there are pleasant alternatives to vanity publishing. There's the small press, where many writers earn their first publication credits -- little or no money, usually, but free copies of the magazine your work appears in are customary. And these are honorable publication credits that you can mention in cover letters to professional editors with pride. They show that you've been out there practicing your craft and paying your dues, not paying some con artist to bilk you.

And if you want to promote your books or stories on the 'net yourself, there are programs available to help you create e-books (Microsoft Publisher 97, for instance, which retails for about $50), and sites that will let you advertise them for free.

A few (more) thoughts.

Take care.

T. M. Spell Fri Jan 9 20:10:47 PST 1998

Electronic publishing seems to be arriving on the scene rear end first. I've thought for years that there ought to be a handheld reader, similar perhaps to the Sega Game Gear, which offers a full-color visual environment, into which one could insert a book cartridge. Said e-book could be simply black print on a white background, or feature illustrations and/or a more interactive and visually interesting format. This sort of handheld unit would be so much handier than trying to read a book at one's desktop, or even on a laptop or palmtop. For better or worse, book cartridges or mini-CDs could replace paperbacks in this format. The possibilities are unlimited, but no one seems to be exploring them. Instead, readers are chained to their massive desktops if they want to read an electronic book.

(Note: I know that there are "green-screen," or monochrome, book readers out there, and reference works or study aids do well in this market, but the potential for this market is so much greater than anyone involved in it seems to realize, if only the visual format can be improved to appeal to the average reader.)

Just a few thoughts.

Take care.

Colleen Fri Jan 9 16:27:42 PST 1998

This looks like a nice site. Many of you offering helpful suggestions and support. Do you welcome struggling children's writers? I would also like to know if anyone has found a cure for procrastination. I can write like a bandit, but find many creative ways to avoid it.....

Great website for anyone interested in children's writing-and a cool one to visit is: The Purple Crayon, I will locate the location, the address I am trying works on my bookmarks but not when you type it into the location area on the screen.
Thank you for your time,


Jack Beslanwitch Fri Jan 9 09:58:25 PST 1998

     I am not sure who the last poster was, but I have been firmly opposed to readers fees of any kinds whether from agents or publishers. That is a subject that we could wax eloquently on at length and I encourage people to do so.

    However, since this partly arose out of consideration of electronic publication and there seems to be a bit of interest in that subject, as you will note if you are able to see the topic pop up box, our new topic for discussion is the whole range of electronic publishing from ezines to books on disk. To repeat what I said in the box for those who are unable to see it:

     With all the uncertainty in the arena of print publishing, at the same time we now have a burdgeoning prospect of electronic publishing. In some cases this is just another arm of the same players in the print publishing. In other cases it is whole new people. Some may be credible. Others not. And riding on the heels of this whole issue is the whole question of serialization rights.

     So, the topic for this coming week and beyond, is the status of publishing electronically. What are the promising aspects of this. What are the potential pitfalls. What to look out for. And are the pitfalls just the same old ones in different clothing. Also, what is the potential popularity of all of this. is very successful. It is not that much of a stretch to imagine something similar developing for electronic publication as well. So, what do people think?

As always, if you have an alternative subject that you are burning to talk about, chime in on that as well. Take care everyone and may the stories come easily to your finger tips :-).

Fri Jan 9 08:13:01 PST 1998

I want to add my support to Pat Christensen's views on 'paying reader's fees.' There have been agents around for years who exist on charging readers fees, accepting the fees, sending out a form letter rejctions and never even looking at the work submitted. They wouldn't know what to do with it if they did read it because they have no 'connection' to publishers and have never really 'agented'
anything. As a footnote, it is interesting that these people are often lawyers and offer a legal service as part of their resource. There are lawyers with financially failing practices who are not above a bit of legal scamming in order to bolster the cash flow.
I don't make the claim that this is the case with the cyber book people in question but anyone who imposes one's self into this business and charges a reader's fee, however small, risks being painted with this brush.

Pat Christensen Fri Jan 9 06:36:50 PST 1998

Saw the posts about the cyber books publishing. Excuse me, but Internet publishing or not, I'm wary of any "publisher" who wants an upfront reading fee, however small, to purchase a book. If it's that much work to evaluate a piece, why not just accept e-mail queries with synopsis?

I've made it a policy to not deal with "publishers" who want to charge me a fee to decide if they want to pay me for my work. I know cyber-publishing is a new field, but this sounds like an old, tired scam to me. Lower price, but given the potential returns, a profitable one for the publisher, nonetheless.

Having been on the board of a literary magazine that advertised in only two outlets for submissions, and seeing the number and quality of submissions we got from that limited venue, I can only imagine the profits these publishers hope to reap from this scheme. My advice - don't go there, folks.

But that's just my advice. Take it as you will.

By the way, I managed to get one of my New Year's resolutions filled -- my webpage is up and working! It's not done and it needs a LOT of work. The only content I have posted except for one chapter of a fanfic novel, are my initial "hi, I'm here and this is what to expect" pages. The real essays, et al, will be posted probably in a few weeks. But it's up and out there and I'm amazed at myself. I'm pretty much technically illiterate. Thank heaven for bundled web-editing programs, even low-end ones.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Jan 8 22:55:50 PST 1998

      I would only like to concur with what Victoria indicated, that internet postings in particular and electronic publication in general can in some publishers eyes consistute first publication. It is why in past posts I have been cautionary about what is posted on the Workbook and also cautionary notes about webzines and publications of that fashion in regards to some ezines claiming they are buying only 'First electronic rights'. I may be wrong on this and I am not a lawyer, but it is my understanding that electronic rights as couched in this manner is a fiction. It really is functionally first serialization rights. Someone else may be more forthcoming and knowledgable in this regard. if someone can pull off electronic publication that proves profitable to writers and publishers combined and not result in disappointments that would be a great thing. I have minimal knowledge about CyberNet Books, but I would want a lot more information to make any further comment about them. However, that may or may not be a good topic for the coming week. A discussion of the whole range of options and potential options presented by electronic publishing from internet to CD Rom to disk. I will have to think about it and perhaps add it as the focus topic for the coming week.

However, in regard to EosCon, I plan to try to attend at least for the morning sessions (PST). I have some competing responsibilities that will conflict later on.

Also, as some are aware, I have dropped off an occasional graphical essay on the workbook. I am working on a new one entitled "Woman On A Pedistal". If anyone would like to take off and explore the implications of this graphical essay in word form, please feel free to do so. I may even make a stab at myself, time permitting.

Victoria Thu Jan 8 18:17:52 PST 1998

Re: Cybernet Books post

Authors considering this offer should be aware that many publishers consider internet publication to be first publication, and are reluctant to buy secondary rights.


H.Delight CyberBoook@AOL.COM Thu Jan 8 13:22:06 PST 1998

Dear Author,
Cybernet Books will soon be offering downloadable books for sale to the reading public. The author receives 50% of the sale price of each copy sold. We are building a domain for this operation and hope to be ready very soon. Each book will have its own web page and, hopefully, a graphic displaying a scene from the story. The only cost involved to the author is $10 and that is paid by us to a reader to evaluate the work for errors and story content. The fee will be refunded if the work is accepted.
If you'd like to sell a book through Cybernet Books, just send a 3.5 diskette containing your work in ASCII text or any common word processing format and the reading fee. Our contract doesn't stop you from publishing it anywhere else and we will cease offering it at your request.
There are three partners involved in Cybernet Books. Two are writers and one is a computer wizard. In addition, all own their own businesses separately from the endeavor. Part of our agreed upon mission is to help writers showcase and sell their work without the pitfalls and hoops of the traditional paper method. Pls. E-mail with any questions. CyberBoook@AOL.COM
Cybernet Books
485 E.17th St.
Suite 220
Costa Mesa, Ca 92627

Kim JBHICCUPS@AOL.COM Thu Jan 8 12:41:30 PST 1998

This is my first visit to Writers Notebook, but I'll be back. I've written four romance novels, the first two pretty awful, the next two I have high hopes for. My goals for '98 are 1)to finish my fifth romance, which is about half finished, 2)to write the mystery that I'm two pages into, and 3)to SELL SOMETHING!! ANYTHING AT ALL!! At this point I'd settle for a personalized rejection letter. Happy Writing

J. Dishner Thu Jan 8 10:10:57 PST 1998

Joan: I checked out the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Assoc. site--thank you! I found it very helpful and printed out a few of the articles. I added it to my list of favorites. You should really check out the P & W site mentioned earlier. I tried out a few of the conferences, including the 10-minute writing exercise conference. It was fun, and I got to "meet" a few more writers. Gotta get back to work. Catch you later...J.D.

Victoria Thu Jan 8 09:23:00 PST 1998

For all those who are interested (and there do seem to be quite a few fantasy/sf writers here) my publisher, Avon, will be hosting an online Con this Saturday, January 10th, from 12:00 noon till 8:00pm, to celebrate the launch of its brand-new sf/fantasy imprint, EOS. There'll be panel discussions (with audience participation), author talks, downloadable readings, a round-robin story by four of the EOS authors, and more. This isn't just a promotional schtick--Avon is really putting a lot of resources into it, and it promises to be a first-class event. The address is:

Hope to see you there!


Joan Wed Jan 7 20:20:50 PST 1998

Hi all---

Just wanted to share the above web site with you. It's got tons of info---about writing, synopses, queries, manuscript format, etc. etc.



toby buckell Wed Jan 7 16:58:32 PST 1998


Posted another segment of 6 fingers, but I forgot how it looks if you don't take the time to space the lines out on the post.


TMSpell Wed Jan 7 13:48:37 PST 1998

Joan, I haven't read *Writing Popular Fiction*, I suppose because it was the older book and I reasoned (right or wrong) that the newer book would reflect more mature insights (nearly ten years' worth) on both the craft and the business of writing. Also, I tend to be in agreement with Koontz on the issue of transcending the category writer's niche, if at all possible, as soon as possible, and am working toward a writing career with that in mind.

However, the newer book devotes an entire chapter to mastering science fiction and mysteries, in addition to all the other good stuff he talks about, so for the money (if one is buying), I'd suggest *How to Write Best Selling Fiction*.

Kirstin Ramey Tue Jan 6 22:08:29 PST 1998

Thanks for all the help with finding a way to find the Koontz book. My next assignment is to actualy find the book. Also, thanks for all the comments on my poem and story. When my friends and english teacher are finished reading and critiqueing the first chapter of my novel, a whole five pages, I will post it and see what you all think of it.

Gary - My mother said that she didn't believe that her dog actually swong the motercycle around eather, exept for the fact that the person who told her and her family was the officer who had been on the motorcycle. He also told them that the dog had to go. He ended up being bought by a lady who owned a large farm that was far away from any motorcycles. He saved the ladies life when one of her bulls got loose while she was milking a cow; the bull decided to charge her. Basil came to her rescue and took on the bull saving her from possible injury or death. Basil lived a long and happy life. The End.


Joan Tue Jan 6 18:27:41 PST 1998

Oops--me again.

TM---Yes, I'm sure the Koontz book I'd looked at with the reference to not revising was his very early book. So---you recommend the later one?


Joan Tue Jan 6 18:26:10 PST 1998

Hi all--

J. Dishner---Hmmm, you're right. I tried to access all the links to Susan Graham Literary Agency and got the same message for nearly all of them. One did give me her E-mail, so I dropped her a brief message about the link problems in case she is not aware. Rats.


T. M. Spell Tue Jan 6 18:10:25 PST 1998

Hayden, I think the archetypal plots are:

1) man against man;

2) man against nature;

3) man against himself.

That, in any case, tends to be the consensus among academicians. Popular writers tend to describe plot a bit differently. Frankly, I find plotting to be one of the most difficult parts of fiction writing.

Hope the above helps.

Hayden Grayell Tue Jan 6 17:19:00 PST 1998

Kirsten...good work!! Should I suggest you should get bored more often so you will write more often? *shrug*

Greetings all.
Someone in the know told me there are a limited amount of archetypical plot lines...but no matter how much I search I can't find what they are. If I remembrer they were something like:

Man against God/Nature.
Nature/God against man.
Aliens invade earth.
Earth is invaded by Aliens...No that's the same thing...damn!
Ah...ummm...pineapples have sharp ends
umm...gee...errr *sweating* ...when the dog barks;
When the bee stings; when I'm feeling sad...
Doppelgangers are copycats!

Help me out here will you...or as the man in the pit said "Help me out of here, will you?


T. M. Spell Tue Jan 6 13:39:25 PST 1998

Joan, Koontz's other how-to book is *Writing Popular Fiction,* published in 1972 by Writer's Digest Books. This is a book on building a successful career as a category novelist -- e.g., science fiction, fantasy, Westerns, etc. -- whereas *How To Write Best Selling Fiction* is a guide to building a successful career as what Koontz tenaciously terms a "mainstream" writer. He carefully defines this to mean a type of fiction that is neither "literary" nor "category."

Insofar as I can discern, the term is a marketing handle for category fiction that has been tailored to appeal to the widest possible audience, and therefore is deemed to have *transcended* category. Note that the spines of Koontz's novels are labled, simply, "fiction," or "novel," even when the plots are clearly science fictional (*Shadowfires*) or horrific (*Tick Tock*). It's a neat trick, if you can pull it off.

I haven't read the older book, *Writing Popular Fiction,* which is probably the one that advises the writer to send work out to market without revising overmuch. I don't recall this advice in *How to Write Best Selling Fiction.*

J. Dishner Tue Jan 6 08:00:44 PST 1998

Joan: Tried to access the Graham Literary Agency but could not do it. The message on the screen said my attempt was "forbidden". Is there another way to access this site; I'd like to check it out. Thanks. J.D.

J. Dishner Tue Jan 6 07:55:32 PST 1998

Kirstin: Liked your poem. Check out the Poets & Editors site mentioned previously; in the conferences, somebody mentions about eight or nine sites for young people who want to be published. You might give it a try and see what happens. Do you belong to a writer's group in your area? You can probably find one through your local library. I have a friend whose daughter is also 15 and loves to write. She just sent me a short story (fantasy) she wrote last year, and it's terrific--with a few minor changes in grammar and clarification, I think she should also try to get it published. Your lucky to have found your passion so young. Keep it up!

Happy writing all!--J.D.

Joan Tue Jan 6 04:31:54 PST 1998


Felice--welcome! The site above has a good blurb on query letters, and also a link to "ask the agent" which answers questions about things like synopses, etc.

Kirstin--Liked your poem and story. About the Koontz book---if you can't find one to buy as TM did, you may find it at the public library which is where I did several years ago. Beware, tho; I think there are two versions. The earlier one basically says "don't rewrite anything, just send it in." The later one changes that. (Take that with a grain of salt as it's been a long time since I read them---hmmm, time to go to the library I think).

TM---which version did you have? (P.S. I need to bring my query home from work. Thanks for agreeing to take a look at it--I'll have it for you soon. Trial next week, tho---so ARGHGHGHGH!)

Toby---Good to see you back!

Hey Gary--how's the jungle? Hope you re-post soon.

See you later.


Michele Tue Jan 6 02:42:02 PST 1998

Jack - apologies in my half asleep state I posted my comments onto the Writers Workbook instead of here on the Notebook - apologies, my sleep deprived brain isn't up to much at the moment.

All work and no writing makes Michele very miserable (to paraphrase a cliche !).


Gary Souza Mon Jan 5 23:04:50 PST 1998

Hello All.

Joan and Michele, a separate nod to each of you. I just read KIRSTIN'S postings. She's a pistol. High school sophomore, hmmm. I try to remember back that far, I doubt that I would have compared well to this young lady. I did have an English bulldog when I was a boy, though I can't picture one swinging a mounted Harley full circle in an intersection, but if my mother had told me such a thing, I would have accepted it. Those bulldogs from the fifties were awesome.

Kirstin, you devil, I know you're reading this. Your talents are considerable. This is a good site for you,
nice people here, and when we know there are young ladies
in attendance it helps us to mind our manners. I told you that I liked your poem. I neglected to mention the bulldog story but I enjoyed that as well.

I don't have a suggestion for the site at the moment. I know Jack encouraged us to state our hopes for the coming(present)year. Mine, I guess is to keep on trucking.
I don't want to think about publication so much. That's like the young man in the jungle trying not to think about snakes. All the same, here's a sobering thought. Most of us here will never be published, if the state of the business is what we all say it is. Spreading negativism? If you say so, but what I mean to get across is that if we believe there is no accomplishment in writing for it's own sake we are like the spectator who, when his team lost the game said, "Hell, anybody could have done that." So maybe it isn't so negative after all. Besides folks, you know when I say most of us won't get published, I'm talking about the other guys.

Keep on swinging, everyone.

Gary S.

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Jan 5 18:52:57 PST 1998

This was a rather strange bit of server hiccupping. It seems to have duplicated the top third of the Notebook and appended it to the top. Oh, well, things have been corrected. BTW, on the Koontz book. The word I've gotten is that the author has specifically requested that it not be reissued and would be quite happy if the ideas he has exploited so well not get disseminated so widely. This could be a rumor also, but if you can get your hands on a copy. Hang on to it.

TMSpell Mon Jan 5 18:17:03 PST 1998

Kirstin, I managed to track down my own copy of Koontz's *How to Write Best Selling Fiction* through Tappin's Book Mine, a used book dealer in Jacksonville, Florida, who specializes in book searches of out of print titles. I believe I waited about three months before he located a copy that was in what I considered acceptable condition (he described its condition to me, accurately, over the telephone) for, I think, around $60. I arranged for payment via credit card over the telephone and it was shipped to me within the week.

This is a pretty hard to get title, and it doesn't come cheap, but in my opinion it's worth the money.

Tappin's Book Mine can be reached at (904)246-1388.

Kirstin Ramey Mon Jan 5 18:00:45 PST 1998

Has any one heard of the book "How to write Best-selling fiction" by Dean Koontz? It was one of the books listed at the end of book on how to write that I let my teacher borrow. He wanted to know if their was a way of obtaining a copy. He went to the local book stores but they don't have it because it's no longer in print. It would be great if anyone could suggest a way to find or obtain it.
Also, I posted a short non-fiction story my mother and I wrote 3 years ago. I also posted a poem I made on the spur of the moment. I was in a creative mood.
I would appreciate any feedback on the story, poem, and how to get that book. Thanks!

Toby Buckell Mon Jan 5 12:28:58 PST 1998


Just bought my laptop. Very happy about it.

Goals for the new year:
Buy laptop (goal one done!)
Finish *&%# novel (halfway there!)
Write more stories this year than last (see laptop)
Lighten up on the world, it's not as bad as I make it out to be.
Anything else that seems interesting that comes to mind as I go about (skydiving).

Hello everybody, it's just me. Nice to see everyone here, welcome all newcomers! I haven't been in contact much due to the amount of time spent at home for christmas. I will try to drop in more often and say hi etc, but I've been busy and look forward to being even more wonderfully busy as time goes on (yes I'm sarcastic).
Write lots edit later.

Felise Mon Jan 5 05:01:12 PST 1998

Hi everyone. As someone new to your site, I won't stay long on this visit. Just wanted to introduce myself and share my goal for 1998 - to finish the novel I'm working on (my 2nd; 1st unpublished) and give writing the time and energy it deserves if it is ever to be anything other than a maddening obsession. Judging by some of the comments in this Notebook, most of you have committed to your work in a big way; more power to you! Did any of you ever find that act of commitment a scary thing to do? I keep giving myself reality checks (this is NOT a crazy thing to do!). Finally, if I'm not outstaying my welcome, the old chestnut: I'd very much appreciate any hints or directions to sites on writing query letters, synopses etc. Thanks again, and Happy New Year!
Sharon, Perth, Australia.

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Jan 5 02:47:51 PST 1998

Trudy: I already emailed to your privately, but here I just wanted to repeat my prayers for successful treatment and gems of wisdom and laughter along the way. Laughter at times like this is a true blessing.

On real time chat of some kind, I have tried this several times in the life of the Notebook. Initially I attempted using a JAVA applet chatroom. This was marginal at best. Setting up an IRC channel and attempting that was not really successful either. It has been a while since I looked at the JAVA chatroom software. It could be that they have improved. I will try to take a look at them sometime this week.

The idea of setting up a list of books helpful to writers is a good one. Actually, I have been thinking about this one for a while. What I think I will do when I get some time is set up a bookstore using my affiliation so that the books we come up with that are useful can be ordered by others directly from the For Writers Only very own bookstore. Mainly this will be a service for some. But I like the idea.

If people have any additional ideas I am interested in hearing them as well as reflections on the past year and the dreams we all have for the coming year. And, yes, given that I had a hard time getting into the Notebook I have archived the Notebook, while retaining the last several days posts to keep the conversation flowing.

T. M. Spell Sun Jan 4 17:06:55 PST 1998

Deep dark confession #1: I was so busy surfing and posting this weekend that I didn't get any fiction writing done. Lots of good chat, but no story. *Must* do better next week. :-)

Thanks, Hayden, for the kind words about my posts in the Writer's Notebook. Your own post was quite intriguing. I will be interested to see where you go with it.

Who's responsible for Thunder Rabbit? Very nice.

Joan, I visited the agent's site you mentioned. She has a personable style and the site seems user friendly. Again, good luck there.

Jack, I wonder if you're familiar with Mary Soon Lee, sf/f writer, whose home page features a regularly updated log of her various rejections and acceptances? Christopher Reynaga's Virtual Sample Copy has a link to it, as does the SFWA site's Member's Pages thread. Maybe that sort of thing doesn't sound too fascinating to others, but Lee has such an interesting way of describing her "Mailbox Blues" that I find it a kick to read. Maybe you could start a similar thread here where regulars could post their own Mailbox Blues (rejections), and hopefully, occasionally some triumphs (those lovely acceptance letters and, oh goody, *checks*).

trudy Sun Jan 4 09:16:17 PST 1998

Hello all and happy new year! It's been forever it seems since I last visited and I'm happy to see many familiar and new, including some journalistic types like myself, names added to the lively conversation.

I'm afraid the end of 1997 has proven to be a difficult time for me and to make a long story short I have just completed my first bout of chemotherapy to hopefully get rid of a pesky tumor in my uterus. Though the doctor's assure me the cancer I have is 100 per cent curable, JACK, I understand completely now what you and your wife must have been feeling when she was struggling with breast cancer. Your success story often gives me strength when I'm feeling particularily down.

And because of all that has been going on in the past three months or so, writing outside of work (which was very busy over the Christmas season as anyone who works for a daily newspaper will attest) has not been in great abundance. I did finish a third book review (of Canadian short stories by women writers) and am waiting its publication this month. I have also come up with a few story ideas which may nag me until I just have to write...time will tell.

Well, just wanted to drop in and say hello. Hope 1998 finds you all healthy and well. Will return soon. Trudy

joan Sun Jan 4 07:29:13 PST 1998


Geez Gary, I didn't think it was gawdawful! And I wouldn't feel embarrassed by it---that's why we post stuff here, so people can give us their (not always correct) thoughts. There was a lot of good stuff in your post.

Tom---you asked about time transitions that don't leave the reader with a puzzled look on their face. I'm not an expert, but if you're talking about a flashback time transition, I've been told to tie it in to something physical. Something like the character looking at a table just like the one where her family had gathered when she was small, where her father used to tell stories to all of them on cold winter nights. This carries the character back to the time when she was young. You use the same table to bring her back to where she currently is in the story when you're done with the flashback. If you're not talking about flashbacks, but just sequaying (is that a word?---maybe I want to say bridging) to some time a week or a year later, you could use a newspaper date or a holiday event (such as New Years 1997), etc. Hope that helps. You do need to be fairly clear about it.

Goodweed---checked out your P&W site. Looks pretty neat (tho this one is so good I have trouble spending time elsewhere!). I had trouble, tho, with the tutorial and couldn't get past a certain point as it wouldn't let me click on "change". Will try later.

Welcome Kirstin! How great that you're so deeply involved in writing at a young age. Hope you stick with it.

Jack, I'm having a hard time coming up with new ideas for FWO. But I do second the idea of real-time discussions. Thanks for all of it!


Gary S. Sat Jan 3 23:18:42 PST 1998


I want to thank you again--publicly this time--for your helpful and encouraging criticism. I will work on page one and repost. In the meantime I hope someone takes down that god-awful first experiment from public view. I feel like I want to weasel out of it, now. Blame it on lack of sleep, or pesky in-laws, or even outlaws, prescription drugs, I don't know. I just wasn't myself, folks.

Funny you should ask, Joan, about the Graham agency. I don't know if it's good news to you or not, but I was rejected by Graham in a very timely 3 weeks or so. Your long wait might just mean that you are getting some consideration. I Hate to say the wrong thing to anyone about 'agent anxiety' but I felt I should let you know my experience.

Michele - Many thanks for your enlightenment, I begin to see a bit of what attracts you to Siegfried Sassoon. Thank you for the reference to which you directed me. It won't surprise you to hear that my original reference to Sassoon was very sparse. It was from Encarta (I confess my laziness) which doesn't even list him under writers but a different search brought up a small paragraph, I believe under English writers or poets. May your efforts triumph.

My best to you all.

Gary S.

Kirstin Ramey (K.C.) Sat Jan 3 16:15:41 PST 1998

I'm new here. I like this page and think I am going to stay. I am a sophmore in high school and hopping that one of the stories I am working on will be published. My goal for the new year is to finish one of my stories. Two of them are SF novels about twins who get seperated between two different worlds and how they find each other and the killer of their parents. The other story I am working on is a nonfiction story about my strugle to get my search dog, Albert, certified. When I get further in the stories I will post them. Any way, Happy New Year and may you goals be reached.

Ben Woestenburg Sat Jan 3 16:03:13 PST 1998

Hello from me, and 'Felish noddy-nod'.

I haven't been here for such I long time, as usual, that I had to spend an hour just trying to catch up on the postings. I was happy to see Kitty posted, and Phillip. I was even happier for Brit. She's great. I'm very pleased for you girlie!

As for myself, only time will tell. I managed to get my manuscript out and into the mail. It took a while, but I managed. Now all I have to do is wait? Yeah right. I'm starting the second volume on Monday -- although I cheated and already have about fifteen pages written. It's no easy feat to do in my house when the holiday season comes around. It's like trying to write during N.H.L. playoffs. (I think this year should be easier since my team's in dead last.)

But, yeah, what do I want for the next year? The same thong I've wanted for the last ten. I make the same resolution every year because I know it's the only one I won't break. I want to write every day, I want to publish, and I want success. The last one's not as important to me as it used to be. Just getting my chance is enough for me now.

More than all of that though, I just want happiness in my life. I don't want to have to worry about lack of money, or if I'll have a job next week, next month or next year. I want everyone I know and everyone I love to be safe and happy. My dreams and expectations are now second to my family. I'd like to put myself first, but I can't do that anymore. So yeah, having a best seller with movie rights and foriegn translations and all the other stuff that goes with it would be great. But I know it doesn't happen like that anymore. The publishing trade is a cut throat industry, and if you sell a book, you'll be lucky if it's on the shelves for a month, unless you hit the big times. But we all want that, don't we? I'd be happy just to have someone say yes: I like what I've read, and I think others will too. Yeah...that's all I want. Happiness, health and good friends over for dinner.

The best to you all, and never give up on the dream, even if the perspective changes a little during the year.


T. M. Spell Sat Jan 3 12:44:11 PST 1998


The idea for a "favorite authors and inspirations" thread is a good one. Perhaps, too, a section for favorite books and/or best new reads? Or suggestions on writer's how-to books that have really helped some of us in the past? For instance, Lucy Vaughan's *The Lively Art of Writing* really helped me identify and root passive voice out of my fiction when I was sixteen years old.

A few thoughts.

Best to all.

J. Dishner Sat Jan 3 10:00:47 PST 1998

Goodweed: I just checked out your Poets & Writers site on the web. It looks good. I printed out a list of contests to check out later for possible entry. I peeked in on the discussion sites and even checked out the catalogue. I know I'll go back there again. Thanks for the referral. Do you subscribe to the magazine--if so, do you like it?

Jack: This site is so inspirational with so much information to help out the writer. I cannot think of anything for you to add other than maybe scheduling "real time" discussions, so we can be assured there will someone out there to "talk" with while we are here. Thanks for the opportunity to share, and best wishes for your wife's good health.

Goodweed of the North Sat Jan 3 05:53:22 PST 1998

Hi everyone; Just a quick note to let everyone know I'm still alive and enjoying this site. I faithfully check in here every night as well as at the above listed site for Poets & Writers Speakeasy forum. That too is an incredible site.

I have completed the fifth revision of my first fantasy novel and am once more looking for an agent. My second novel is nearing the 100 page mark, and I've started, with the help of a good freind, who is acting as tech advisor, a science-fiction work based on mankinds reactions to a collapsing, rather than expanding universe. He has enriched the story trmendously, though I'm only half-way through the first page.

I need some other thoughts on a tendancy of mine. I tend to explain the universe. To me there is no real magic. That is, everything is explainable. We may not understand the forces which make things happen, but everything form of energy, be it gravity, electrical energy, magnetism, can be measured, quantified, utilyzed. The same is true of magic. It is simply a form of energy we don't yet understand. Even my Christian faith is supported by my own theories based on knowledge and study of chaos theory, and physics. Some say that trying to understand the ways of the Lord is heretical. I can't help it though. It's my nature to find out how and why things tick.

My question is; Can a series start with a civilization meshed in scorcery, who, as they become more sophisticated, learn the science behind the scorcery? Everything in my fantasy novel is subtly explained semewhere in the story. Even the methods by which the tallismans seemingly enhance their owners natural gifts is explained, not in detail, but enough so the reader doesn't have to accept anything on faith.

This is a two edge sword for me, as I accept much in real life on faith, yet am constantly striving to learn why things are the way they are and what makes things work.

Sometimes, I feel that I know too much for my own good as knowledge spawns a desire to learn more, and creates a need to understand. It can get in the way at times. Yet, it opens so many doors. One of the great truths that are taught in the religeon I follow is eternal progression. What a concept!

Anyway, I won't get on a soapbox. Suffise it to say that this site has increased my knowledge and for that, I am greatful. Thanks for a great site Jack. And thanks to everyone else for participating in the exchange of ideas. With some of you (you know who you are), I have had the pleasure of corresponding with via e-mail. There is nothing I have enjoyed more, ever (except marrying my wife and for the most part, raising my children, which is still ongoing, and my chosen faith), not even the dirt-biking, or downhil skiing, etc., etc.

Have a great new year. I hope everyone here gets published. Power to your pen.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Michele Sat Jan 3 00:44:02 PST 1998

Suggestion for something to add to the site in 98.

How about a "Books/People that have inspired me to write" section ? It would be interesting to know who/what has inspired people to start or continue writing - what does anyone else think ?


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