Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

from March 3, 1998 to March 12, 1998


Tue Mar 24 17:25:51 PST 1998
Jack Beslanwitch Tue Mar 24 17:25:51 PST 1998

OK: Everyone, since some have already started posting on the new Notebook site, I think I'll get ready to archive this location and leave a forwarding address here to the new site. So, change your bookmarks or favorites for the Notebook to

I wish I had a brilliant new topic to start things off with, but I'll just have to see if inspiration gets the better of me. Also, if you have a 4.0 browser check out the URL above. I am just experimenting with Dynamic HTML and rather like what I could accomplish. You will have to scroll down toward the bottom of the page to see it, but I rather like it.

Hope to try getting the password area working tomorrow, unless something comes up on the contracted webwork. I'll announce it here and on the new location and archive this tomorrow. Take care.


Tue Mar 24 08:56:57 PST 1998

Michele Tue Mar 24 05:46:27 PST 1998

Hayden - no I don't know any good panel beaters but given the stress I'm currently dealing with I could do the job EASILY !! I'd love you to lend me the Porsche but I don't drive so unless you're going to drive it for me - or find me a driver, there's not much point in lending it to me.

Yes the opening to Supplejack is effective.


Hayden Grayell Tue Mar 24 01:11:04 PST 1998

See how inventive I can be? You thought I had smashed up the Porsche, didn't you? Well, it's still going well, and if you want I will lend it to you real soon.

As to opening lines in books, how about my own great starting line from Supplejack: "People are like cutlery." Not bad, huh?

Oh, by the way Michelle, do you know any really good panel beaters? Ones that don't charge too much, 'cause I aint got many pennies left.

Michele Tue Mar 24 00:22:48 PST 1998

HAYDEN !!!!!!!

Re: Openings to books. I said I'd take a look at the openings lines of my favourite books but I was busy doing some research until late last night and by the time I remembered I was too tired to bother writing many down so I've only got a couple. One is very famous (in the UK at least).

"It's a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice.

"It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful." Roald Dahl - Matilda.

If I catch that Hayden I'll make him wish he'd never even heard of cars let alone crashed that beautiful Porsche I paid for !!!!!!!


Hayden Grayell Mon Mar 23 17:47:32 PST 1998

"Ah...well, it's like this, Officer: I thought it was the accelerator, but it turned out to be the clutch, so the car rolled backwards when I was anticipating a forward momentum up the hill to the next set of lights. I had even braced myself forward over the steering wheel, in order to get the maximum acceleration. Still, the semi could have anticipated that I was slow off the mark, and could have eased into the flow of the intersection rather than driving up and over the Porsche."

"You gotcha licence there?'

"Licence? What's a licence?"

Philip Mon Mar 23 15:39:40 PST 1998


Re: first lines of a book.

Wild Swans
by Jung Chang

At age fifteen my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China. The year was 1924 and China was in chaos. Much of it, including Manchuria, where my grandmother lived, was ruled by warlords. The liaison was arranged by her father, a police official in the provincial town of Yixian in southwest Manchuria, about a hundred miles north of the Great Wall and 250 miles northeast of Peking.

This opening paragraph of a true story about three generations of Chinese women, combined many of the desirable features modern writers aim for in one swoop: time, place, main characters, perceived peril and in this case we could claim exotica, as it is set in a really different culture to our own.

In Australia this book was on our national best seller list for almost a year.


Michele Mon Mar 23 01:25:17 PST 1998

Guys and girls thank you so much for all your kind comments about my continued presence here. I will be here definitely until April 24, and on a less frequent basis after that until the Autumn.

Colleen - it's very kind of you to say that I lend a knowledgeable gentle air to the proceedings - but are you sure that you have the right person ??

I hope Hayden is looking after that Porsche properly - has anyone seen him since Friday ? If he's crashed it I'll withdraw the pennies for good !

Opening lines - I love the opening to The Hobbit but then I love The Hobbit ! I can't quote you any opening lines as I have no memory cells, left but I will look up a couple of my favourites tonight and quote them at you tomorrow. Personally where fiction is concerned if I get past the first page then I will buy/read the book. I did that with Anne Michael's "Fugitive Pieces" a couple of weeks ago - I had read a review of it and it sounded good so I went into the local bookshop and submitted it to the Fry First Page Test - I got three-quarters of the way down the second page and decided I had better buy it or I'd stand in the shop reading it all afternoon ! (Funnily enough it's about WW2 not WW1 !)


BTW you can still use the geocities email address ( but I'm putting the Yahoo one on the Notebook to get me into the habit of using it !

Pat Christensen Sun Mar 22 20:40:16 PST 1998

Oh, I wish I had a copy, so I could put the opening line, no the entire opening paragraph, here. Maybe somebody else can do it for me. Does anyone have a copy of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House." This is my all-time favorite opening to a book. But then, almost all of Jackson's opening lines, graphs, et al, are brilliant.

As for myself, I'm not as good. I have two that I kind of like, both from novels I'm working on currently.

First, a short one from an as-yet-untitled opus:


Murder isn't exactly the best way to find a date, but as my grandmother used to say, beggars can't be choosers.


And secondly, a longer one (I almost posted the entire preface I liked it so much,) from "And Unto Dust...":


He could feel the dirt grinding under his shoulder blades and suddenly he was very afraid that he was about to soil himself.

That was how he thought of it. Soiling himself. Let others use the more common vulgarities. It was a point of pride with him that he had never once soiled himself after the age of three. No matter what.

Even now, as the steady pressure on his throat cut off his air and reduced his vision to a small cone of light, it was the terrible pressure on his bladder he feared most.


I think, as a death scene, this works very well. It goes on for several more paragraphs, but this is the basic essence of it.

It's not Shirley Jackson, but it'll do for me. God, but I'm easy to please.


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Mar 22 20:12:24 PST 1998


Please check and just email me privately rather than cluttering things up here. Thanks :-).

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Mar 22 20:10:58 PST 1998

I am enjoying this discussion and happy to see your takes on first lines, Philip. Look forward to see Jung Chang's Wild Swans quote since this is an author I have not heard of. Oh, BTW, I have made my first baby steps on establishing at least the Notebook at The first beta test is up and running. When I make the next archive I will move us over there. Just as a request especially those who are farther afield. If you could check and see if you can get to this location I would appreciate it. I am assuming that the DNS databases have caught up through the world. If this is technical gobbledigook, all it means is that they update the numbers that let everyone know if you type in you go to a UNIX box in an office in Bellevue, Washington. Now that I have this up and running, next step is experimenting with password protected areas and see if I can get the workbook working behind it. Take care and good writing for everybody else and myself included.

Philip Sun Mar 22 18:29:12 PST 1998


Re: the all important first lines of a book.

First lines and book covers determine if a book is bought and read. Despite the adage, people do judge books by covers. The cover design, incorporating the latest Madison Avenue, market tested research (visual and blurb) must drive the buyer-reader to crack a peep at the first lines. This is your acid test, so your hook had better be baited or your book will be promptly placed back on the shelf. In a world were governments are navigated by economic rationalism and every thing is reduced to consumerism, it should surprise no one that the business of publishing falls into step with the rest of the world.

"A shot rang out in the dark."

I can't remember who wrote this, do you? Anyway, it was explained to me that this line may have signalled the beginning of the move by modern writers (publishers) at hooking readers (consumers) into stories with seductive first lines.

Television has a lot to answer for in this. Coming straight from a commercial break they smack you in the face, before you even have a chance to reach for the remote. Firstly with the music, you know right away you can't tune out, even though the show you really wanted to see is about to come on another channel. Visuals flash on and off: a female walks nervously from the bus stop, she is in peril (the music told you so). A man emerges from the murkiness of the shadows. You're hooked! You know the deal.... it's a shooting, a stabbing, a sex scene, a chase, a plane's engine ignites, a child is kidnapped, a bank vault is drilled, a quiet village is lit by napalm, or Miss Vine appears wearing a more ridiculous tight fitting, more slutty dress than normal; or Kramer spins through Jerry's door mouthing one of his classic schemes or one liners. Or the big time hook, silence, is used as Big Bird tries to fix something he has little hope of fixing (but we have to watch him try or our kids will make our lives miserable).

There are many books with brilliant openings that your first lines have to compete with. One of the best openings that hooked me in recent times was that of Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I don't have it here to copy and post for you, it's loaned out. I'll post it later.

The last words I write are always my first lines.


CLS Sat Mar 21 19:17:19 PST 1998

Here are some beginings in the realm of children's fiction that I like:
From my all time favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle: "It was a dark and stormy night. In her Attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.
The house shook.
Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook."
This is a book I have turned to on many a sleepless night.
From: The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman:"The young prince was known here and there (and about everywhere else) as Prince Brat. Not even black cats would cross his path."
And may I add a line from the end of one of my favorite stories, that said so much to me about dealing with life in general: From p.148 of "The Great Gilly Hopkins"by Katherine Paterson: "But you just fool yourself if you expect good things all the time. They ain't what's regular-don't nobody owe 'em to you."
"If life is so bad, how come you're so happy?"
"Did I say bad? I said it was tough. Nothing to make you happy like doing good on a tough job, now is there?"

Back to writing, (Although I am enjoying this topic.) Take care everyone. Colleen

Rhoda Sat Mar 21 14:09:57 PST 1998

I've come up with more examples of good hooks. One of my favorites from Henry V. It really isn't too pertinent to this discussion, but it is so good.


O from a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars, and at his heels
(Leashed in , like hounds) should famine, sword, and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that hath dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object. Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?

Unfortunately, such a hook wouldn't work in most modern novels, but having heard it once and read it once, I never forgot it. What can lesson can we take from this? Have a fine poetic, flowing beginning for a book that says something and in someway foreshadows what the book is about. Some critics don't like foreshadowing, but I believe that well-implemented foreshadowing often enhances a story. A hook such as this makes a story remembered and loved forever.

I like this one from Victoria Holt's THE SECRET WOMAN:

When my Aunt Charlotte died suddenly many people believed that I had killed her and that if it had not been for Nurse Loman's evidence at the inquest, the verdict would have been one of murder by some person or persons unknown; there would have been a probing into the dark secrets of the Queens House, and the truth would have come out.

I love this hook because the reader is immediately drawn into a woman's shadowy past and dark secrets at a house. This sentence says a lot, and all of it compelling.

From THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL by Baroness Orczy, there is this one:

Paris: September, 1792

A surging, seething , murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage cratures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.

The baroness doesn't really have to give the place and the date. Her first paragraph says it all and sets the whole tone for the book. An interesting setting and tone put as succintly as possible into one paragraph always makes for a good hook. Some authors would have said what she said in three to four pages.

I am amazed thumbing through some of my favorite books how many don't have a snappy beginning. Not every good book has a great hook, and I have read books with good hooks that greatly disappointed me. I would say in this current climate of people having little time to involve themselves in a book, tht we must begin our books with the best hook our minds can conjure up.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. I'm sure I could think of more, but I've taken up more than my share of space here.

Have a great week-end!


Goodweed of the North Sat Mar 21 08:27:43 PST 1998

Fritz Lieber has always been one of my favorite authors. He starts a short story titled "Comming Attraction" with this opening: The coupe with the fishhooks welded to the fender shouldered up over the curb like the nose of a nightmare. The girl in its path stood frozen, her face probably stiff with fright under her mask. For once my reflexes weren't shy. I took a fast step toward her, grabbed her elbow, yanked her back. Her black skirt swirled out. The big coupe shot by, its turbine humming. I glimpsed three faces. Something ripped. I felt the hot exhaust on my ankles as the big coupe swerved back into the street. A thick cloud like a black flower blossomed from its jouncing rear end, while from the fishhooks flew a black shimmering rag.
"Did they get you?" I asked the girl.

This story is more speculative fiction than Mr. Lieber's more famous Sword and Scorcery work. Great story by a great author, with a great opening sequence.

I think the opening sentence is important but doesn't have to be all encompasing. IMHO the first couple of paragraghs are what draw the reader in. Few people I have met read only the first sentence. They will read the first page or two though. I try to make each sentence draw the reader quickly, and smoothly to the next sentence. The ideas presented should immerse the reader into an enigma, make him/her curious about what comes next. It must be simple enough to tell the reader imediatley that it won't be a "hard read", but rather a relaxing, yet exciting experiance.

I have read stories where I had to wade through many pages of boring text where the characters and storyline were being developed, and still enjoyed the story. I only did it though, because I was familiar with other work by the author, and knew that he, or she was a quality writer.

And that, kind lasses and lads is my humble opinion. I have to agree, this is a great topic. Thanks Hayden.

Michelle; I have to join the others who have said hurah that you are able to remain with us. Now that Hayden has the Porsche (I'm jealous of course), how can he afford the insurance, let alone gas without your pennies? Heh heh heh.

I have to anounce once to everyone (those 5:00 a.m. writing sessions do pay off) that I have finished my latest revision of my first novel and am starting the search yet again for an agent.

Clyde; You are absolutely right. Binges take too long. A couple hours a day is all it takes. I use the 5 to 6:30 a.m. time and my lunch hours at work. Time during the rest of the day is taken up by family, work, and various other projects. In the words of the famous shoemaker, "Just do it!" I know you have it in you.

Everyone else, Hi and good luck. It is now Saturday morning, about 11:30 a.m. and I have a garage to repair. Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

P.S. Hayden; Want to see how the story ends? E-mail me.

CLS Sat Mar 21 07:36:54 PST 1998

Hi, everyone, great idea for discussion! I will be scanning my children's books for some to add. Michele-I am so glad you will be able to participate. You lend a knowledgeable gentle air to our work here.
Jack-Thank you for your efforts.
Hayden and Co.-I am now trying to play a will probably hear my efforts-even from where you are, not pleasant.

Take care, Colleen

Joan Fri Mar 20 18:45:05 PST 1998

Hayden and Jack--

Great topics! How about this:

According to a two shamans, a Bhuddist monk, several Mormon elders and no less than seven Assembly of God preachers, I was going to hell; as I looked at my surroundings, it seemed I'd finally reached my destination.

Or how about this one from Charles de Lint's "Yarrow": "Old ghosts lived behind Cat Midhir's eyes, memories that had no home until they came to haunt her."

Wow--this is fun! And an important skill. Thanks for the topic, guys.

Michele---So glad you've got E-mail!

I'm going to try to stay off the net for a week or so and finish up some writing projects. See you all later.


Clyde Dixon Fri Mar 20 17:28:11 PST 1998

Fun topic, here are a few of my favorite openings to books:

"Two minutes before he disappeared forever from the face of the Earth he knew, Joseph Schwartz strolled along the pleasant streets of suburban Chicago quoting Browning to himself."
--Asimov; Pebble in the Sky; 1950

"The bedroom murmured to itself gently. It was almost below the limits of hearing--an irregular little sound, yet quite unmistakable, and quite deadly."
--Asimov; The Stars Like Dust; 1950
(my favorite book title)

"How to explain? How to describe? Even the omniscient viewpoint quails."
--Vernor Vinge; A Fire Upon the Deep; 1992

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
--J.R.R. Tolkien; The Hobbit; 1937

A first sentence, a very important thing. They seem to work best when they present a good deal of information about the situation, while at the same time raising many questions in the reader's mind, not unlike science itself--the more we know, the more we question.

A first page; I like to get some dialog going ASAP, start building the reader's interest in the character, get them concerned for the character but not quite sure yet what is going on, except that something certainly is.

"The Left Hand of Darkness"; Ursula K. LeGuin, another great title, though I have lent out my copy so I don't know if it has a great first sentence or not.

Now to get on with it and write something of my own. Like Jack, I need to make the time every day to write, just don't get much done using the binge method--I go way too long between writing binges (to many other binges.)


Jack Beslanwitch Fri Mar 20 14:26:48 PST 1998

Re the suggested topic for discussion. I like it. So, let's make it so.

The Topic for discussion will be:

  1. How to come up with the best first line or paragraph to hook the reader.
    What are the elements that work. What are the ones that do not.

  2. What are your most impressive examples of first lines, paragraphs or pages that lock you as the reader into a book or story.

And I'll throw my own personal favorites out. In terms of a one liner, William Gibson's Neuromancer is a winner for me. 'The sky was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.' grabs you, locks you and reals you into a world you know is going to be noire and corrupt and dystopic. All in one line. Not bad.
     My other personal favorite is actually a whole prologue, the one at the beginning of the Deeds of Packsennarion by Elizabeth Moon where you are shown a mystery and a magical sword and tales of adventure you just know you want to hear about. If you have not read this opening paragraph, do so. Actually, read the whole trilogy. Very Very good.


Toby B Fri Mar 20 12:07:59 PST 1998


You too? My desktop froze during a netscape session and now it refuses to acknowledge the existence of my C: drive. Luckily I have my laptop back now!

hi Fri Mar 20 10:30:31 PST 1998


Rhoda Fri Mar 20 09:42:27 PST 1998


What a great topic! There was some writer who gave some expensive seminar in our town awhile ago. I couldn't go because it was too expensive (not that it might not have been worth the cost, but I was saving my pennies for a conference in Mesa, Arizona). A friend of mine did go, and shared what she had learned with me and a few of our other writer friends. This author claimed that the very first page is the most important part of your whole novel. All of your best writing needs to be done in the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter because with most editors and perspective agents, the first paragraph or page might be the only chance you get to get them reading the rest of whatever you submitted.

For a reader, this is also true. Many times when I am at a bookstore, I see a book that I know I shouldn't get because buying a new book isn't in the budget. If I read the first page of the book and it is compelling enough, too bad for the budget, I buy the book. Who can resist a gripping hook?

It might be interesting to put down those opening lines of books we just can't forget. I'm sure most of us know some. The one that comes to mind for me is from Daphne Du Murier's REBECCA: "Last night I dreamed I was at Manderly again."
So simple really, but very compelling and I've never forgotten it for twenty-five years. Most of us are familier with, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
Shame that Charles Dickens thought of it first. Who wouldn't want to use this for the opening of a novel? I'm sure in the next several days I'll think of more.


Thank you for all you do. You don't post as much as some here, but you are definitely the glue who holds this whole thing together. I appreciate the work you are doing to get up and perfect the new site.


I'm glad to hear you won't be leaving us. If you were to go, Hayden's Porsche would be repossessed, for who else would leave the pennies for Hayden's payments? Just think, your pennies are British pennies and worth more than the American ones I or any of the other Yanks on this site could contribute.

Well, I must go. The laundry awaits my attention.


Hayden Grayell Fri Mar 20 03:47:30 PST 1998

It's not the way you say it but what you say.

I'd like to suggest a topic which I find worthwhile; that of first lines, or paragraphs, for novels. They are a skill to write, and they are the hook which drags the reader up onto the boat that is the novel. If ever I was going to give a lecture on writing, it would be on writing the first line in a novel.

One of the best I can remember was from "A Briefing for a Descent into Hell" by Doris Lessing, which, off the top of my head, is " I need a wind. A good strong wind."

Something similar was written by Melanee Rawn when she began "The Golden Key" with "He remembered the wind."
Nicholas Evans begins "The Horse Whisperer" with the line "There was death at its beginning as there would be death again at its end."

Each of these lines has such an enigmatic air that the reader cannot go away satisfied until they know what the sentence is connected to. The reader needs a second sentence to fill out an explanation of the first, or even a whole book to explain it to them.

Anyone else have opinions on this? Of course you do. After all, it's not the way you say it, but what you say.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Mar 19 22:09:57 PST 1998

   Ben Good to see you back :-). One of these days we have to set a date and meet in Vancouver. Actually, I am hoping to definitely make it up into your neck of the woods sometime this summer. I am sort of getting a itch to see Victoria and knock around Vancouver. And I definitely want to cart four or five cases of Okenogan Cider back.

    Well, just so everyone knows. I now have the site up at the new UNIX address. In case you want to a test run, you can find it at It will take a day or two or more before the DNS databases catch up and automatically kick it to the new server. In the mean time I will be experimenting with setting up the password protected area and getting the PERL scripts for the forums up and running in the new location. However, I just finalized a second commercial web design contract and will most likely have to fit in the update as I am able to take a break. So, it may take a little while.

    Also, I had the unenviable experience of getting ready to give a presentation before my Seattle HTML SIG only to have my laptop melt down, static on the screen and refusing to recognize the C: drive. Have not taken it to the shop yet, but have a definite frustration with technology at the moment.

    Might I suggest that someone else propose a topic on writing or two and start things flowing again. If I spot something I particularly like, I'll throw it up on the topic window. Hope someone else has a few more brain cells than me. Take care and good writing. I am hoping to sometime soon set a definite amount of time each day and work on my novel.

Thu Mar 19 18:03:06 PST 1998

Rosemary Thu Mar 19 16:49:54 PST 1998

I've been using the Si-Fi Book Club and the Mystery Book Club that way for more than twenty years. For the $1 you get 4 to 6 books, depending on the offer. Usually there is also $3.99 for the first of four you are obliged to buy. Also, you have a choice of a tote bag or another book. I always take the book. I usually wind up with eight hard back books for about $13 after shipping and handling. When I have bought the remaining three books, I always cancel the membership. Generally I'll need to wait a year or so before doing it again so enough new books will be offered. I don't feel a bit guilty about this method. If they didn't like it, they wouldn't allow it. Of course, the down side is that in the next few months, I plan to relocate and I must have a few thousand pounds of books.
Never think you are outsmarting big business.

Thu Mar 19 16:49:53 PST 1998

Thu Mar 19 09:38:18 PST 1998

Sherry Thu Mar 19 05:33:31 PST 1998

I'm glad to know there's at least one other person who abuses the book club system. I've got a Compact Oxford English Dictionary! They must have lots of bookworms doing it, and if it bothered them they would put us all on a black list and refuse our subscriptions. The catch is they make it so difficult to "unsubscribe". You have to actually write them a letter and explain to them that you've had enough of filling out their little forms every 2 weeks and paying hundreds of dollars for all the books you forgot to ask them not to send. They'll never run it electronically. It would be way too easy to stop them sending more books, and too marvelously simple to push a button when you're ready to split!

As for the slanging matches: Isn't it the norm around here? I've been following the Notebook for about two-and-a-half months now and I think the verbal sparing far outweighs the "serious" criticism and advice. Why change now? It's fun, and it's all writing! Why hide it from the outside world? It's creative!

Michele Thu Mar 19 04:22:37 PST 1998

Please note the new email address above ! It has significance . . .

I found out that our local library - whilst short of that essential resource : books - has got Internet capable PCs ! Well you could have knocked me down with a feather ! Anyway the point is that I can access a "yahoo" email address from there and therefore can remain in electronic contact with everyone here - so you can cancel the leaving party ! I may not be able to access every day as I do now, but at least I'll be able to drop by now and again (maybe once a week) - and those who wish to will be able to email me at the above address as well . . .

Has Hayden crashed that Porsche yet ?


Michele Thu Mar 19 00:40:04 PST 1998

Hayden -

mind that cat ! hey ! watch out ! Slow down !! For goodness sakes man, will you watch where you're going !!

(Don't you hate back seat drivers !!)


Ben Woestenburg Wed Mar 18 22:43:10 PST 1998

Hello From Me!

I can't Believe what I just read in the archives. Read? Hell, I skimmed most of it because it was just so petty and ridiculous. Egos? Not here. Not us!

I got sick and took some time off. I lost my posting and so I'm back to steady days --but I think I said that -- so that cuts back on my availability here. Didn't miss much apparently, but I did miss you Charles. I'm so glad to see you're back with us (not that I'm really back all that often). Anyway, I got over my illness just in time for the blow out of the decade. I turned 40. I can't believe it myself. But it just sort of crept up on me, and bam, blind sided. I had to drink Paralyzers all night long. Real torture if you enjoy them as much as I do. Vodka, Khaluha, milk and coke. Being the experienced drunk I am, I usually free pour my drinks. Unfortunately I let my niece make them for me. She told me she was an experienced Vodka drinker. Experienced? Hell, she was making me triples all night. Dummy that I am, I kept drinking them. Almost finished the entire forty pounder myself. (Something about that #40 that just keeps popping up.) But March is a difficult month because nine days after my birthday, Renu has hers. That would be March 13th, Friday and a full moon. I took good care of her. Went to friends and told them I was the designated driver for the night, and she was the designated drunk. Held myself back to about five or six drinks over the course of the night. Can't expect me to drive home on an empty head, can we?

So now it's Spring break up here for the kids and I took the week off because I have to eat up some of my holidays. Been doing the Dad thing. You know, give them the money when they say they want to go to the store? My son told me I was doing an excellent job of parenting after I gave him two bucks and he ducked out of the house to hit the corner mall with his cousins. The kid's a real card sometimes. I think he's got my sense of humor.

On the writing front, I've come to a bit of a standstill because of the illness and the birthdays, and the holidays. With my new printer, the kids are on the computer all the time now because they can actually print up the pictures they make on the paint program. Lucky me. Moved the T.V. out of the bedroom for the party and told the wife I didn't want it back there -- who wants a T.V. in the bedroom anyway? Big mistake. Now there's no privacy except for the mornings I guess. I think I'm going to have to get up an hour earlier.

I joined BOMC again so I could get four books for a dollar. Soon as I get the obligatory one book during the next year , I'll quit again. When they sent the renewal crap through the mail, I'll join again and get another four or five books for dirt cheap. It sounds cheap and underhanded, but hey, I've got Gibbons DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and Will Durant HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION, seven and ten volumes respectively. Both for less than thiry bucks each. It might be a scam, but it's working quite well, thank-you. I managed to pick up a book about St.Paul that's quite an eye opener. The author suggests that maybe the Acts of St. Luke was written as a brief defense for Paul in Rome. I like that Idea. I might even use it.

Before I go any further, and you know I will, I want to add my hearty congrats to you Brit. It's only a matter of time before you hit the markets out here.

So my hair is really long now, and to satisfy the little woman, I got it coloured. When anyone asks when I'm going to get it cut, I just say the same thing to them: "The book is in the mail." It's the waiting part that kills me. I just passed the six week point and sent a polite letter last week inquiring about it. I don't want to appear anxious or impatient. I know these things take time, but at this pace, my hair's going to be hanging down to my butt! So I'll work on volume ll and short stories in the meantime and play the waiting game. I have to go through my research papers and find something I remember copying at the library three or four years ago about the Syrian calender and their clock. I know I've got it, I just have to go through my duffle bag to find it. I love the resaearch part of it the most, but I think that's because I'm basically a blue collar guy and uneducated. I keep coming across pieces of information that just blow me away. I like it when I write a scene that I think is ficticious, and then find out that it sort of happened the way I wrote it. Like when I wanted to transport a ship across the Isthmus of Corinth because it made more sense than sailing around the islands to the south and competing with the bad weather or harsh winds. By cracky! I found out that's what they did. Little things like that make me feel warm all over, like peeing in the lake...and who hasn't done that?

So Charles, now that we're both sort of back here, I think we should exchange some info about...history, Jerusalem, Rome, whatever. It's just great to see you back.

But now I do have to go. My poor lover's at home nursing a hangover because she thought it would be a good idea to have a fight with another bottle of Vodka that she bought for my party and hid on me. She was drinking Black Russians and lost big time. Now it's not that we're a couple of drunks or anything like that, but she is my favourite distraction, and being as cute as she is doesn't help much either. We've sort of fallen in love with each other all over again these last couple of months, and I can't really say I don't like the distraction. Laying in bed all day on afternoon shift when the kids are in school...hey, I'm a guy. I can't say no to that. So now I have to go home and pick her up off the couch, carry her up four flights of stairs -- which is a lot easier than trying to do it after a night of drinking -- and tuck her into bed with a kiss on the cheek. If she kisses me back, I'm toast, but if she just smiles, rolls over and goes to sleep, then I can slip downstairs to the computer and do some writing at last. Well, that's the plan.

So have a good night, and a great week. I'll try to get back later this week. I was going to print up the archives, but thank goodness I didn't. I don't even want to really read them. I saw enough. I never seem to have the time to read them anyway. I have to go shopping tomorrow because my daughter has to go to a birthday party and I have to drop off my nephews who are staying over for another night. And this is supposed to be a holiday for me?


Hayden Wed Mar 18 14:04:08 PST 1998

Brrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Brmmm Brmmm! hehehe

Michele Wed Mar 18 05:31:57 PST 1998

Many thanks Jack. If anyone is very desperate to stay in touch with me in the interim between when I leave the job and the autumn, you can always email me your snail mail address and I will write - in the old fashioned way !! But only if you really want to - don't anyone feel obliged !!

(I hope Hayden's looking after that Porsche properly !!)


Jack Beslanwitch Wed Mar 18 01:53:07 PST 1998

Just to let everyone know what is going on. I have secured the transfer of to the UNIX server. Over the next several days the DNS server databases will make the shift to the new IP address. When I am sure everything is stable I will begin experimenting with creating the password protected area, most likely sometime this weekend. When I am sure everything is working correctly and the PERL scripts are up and running, I will post a new address for the Notebook. Actually, the new address will be Somewhat easier to remember. There will be a forwarding address for it from here at that time that automatically switch to the new location. I will also begin the process of getting login names and passwords to everybody and nail down the procedure for newcomers. Take care. I have a presentation to set up for tomorrow and some other responsibilities that are keeping me somewhat rushed. So, take care everyone and good writing.

p.s. Michele: This is hoping that you can find your way back here. That goes for Ben as well. Good luck in any case.


Michele Wed Mar 18 00:33:15 PST 1998

Hayden - it's OK you can keep the porsche - no doubt your need is greater than mine - after all what do I need Internet access for ?? Enjoy the ride !!

Rhoda - no Wal-marts haven't made it across the Atlantic yet - although we do have an English equivalent in some of our bigger towns and cities - or rather on the outskirts of towns and cities. These are just big supermarkets as they're called over here.

Well gang - I handed in my notice yesterday so unless something comes up in the next 5 weeks I shall no longer be a party to all your discussions, rows, etc. - which will be a shame - I shall miss you all an awful lot - but I couldn't go on compromising my health and sanity working for this organisation that cares nothing for it's staff . . . at least if I'm unemployed I will be able to get on with the research !!


Hayden Grayell Tue Mar 17 13:50:43 PST 1998, do I really have to sell the Porsche so you can have your pennies back...Indian giver! Take them! See if I care.

Now, where did I put that tricycle?

Rhoda Tue Mar 17 05:23:13 PST 1998


You mean there isn't a Wal-mart in your town yet? Just wait, they will be crossing the Atlantic soon enough. These huge discount stores are in almost every town in the United States. They even have stores in Mexico, perhaps in Canada, and I understand there are some in South America. Started by Sam Walton in Bentonville, Arkansas some two or three decades ago, this company has grown to be the number one retail chain in the United States.

Wal-mart is more than just a shop, it is an American institution, sort of like Coke-a-Cola and MacDonalds. In small town America, Wal-mart is a cultural and social experience. You go there everytime you need anything from clothing to baby bottles to cat food or medicine; hence, you are there almost all the time. When you go to Wal-mart, you always see at least three or four people you know. The clerks who work there are like your old friends because you see them almost every day.

I lived in Dumas, Texas for 5 years. Dumas was a town of 10,000 out in the Texas Panhandle. The next town was 40 miles away. In a place like Dumas, there are other shops, but no others that have the selection and the prices that Wal-mart have. In Wyoming where towns are often 100 or more miles a part, the presence of Wal-mart is even more important. Some areas in Wyoming are extremely isolated. If a town doesn't have a Wal-mart, not only are your shopping options limited, but you miss out on the great social interaction.

Hope this clears things up a bit. Talk to you soon.


Joan Tue Mar 17 04:27:10 PST 1998

Hi all--

Happy St. Patty's day! I'm sitting here listening to my "Braveheart" CD, which I guess is not too PC, given the fact it's an Irish holiday and the tape is Scottish.

Rhoda--Thanks for the encouragement! Don't worry about your move to Liberal. I'm sure you'll find writer's there, and if you didn't, then we're all here. I live in a town of about 3,000 people (though I work 30 miles away in a town of about 60,000---big, for Montana) and there are writers coming out of the woodwork here and in neighboring small towns. Finishing up Valerie's Song? That's wonderful!

Thanks to all of your for your kind critiquing, and thanks to Jack for this great place. I concur, Jack, with others about the password-protected Workbook, now tha I know the issues.

Bye--and don't trip on any leprochauns!


Tue Mar 17 04:21:21 PST 1998

Michele Tue Mar 17 00:52:20 PST 1998

Hayden - red I think - it's meant to be the sexier colour I believe !!

Rhoda - Pardon my English ignorance but what on earth is a Wal-mart ?? Some kind of shop ??

Glad to hear that the writing is going so well - I wish you luck in your move, and in your hunt for writers groups.

I myself may not be Internet enabled for much longer - there's a likelihood that I'll be quitting my job here in the next month (work is HELL !) and unless I can find the pennies to pay for a PC upgrade so that I can be Internet enabled, I'll shall absent until the Autumn (when I go to College which has Internet access for all students) - Hayden can I have those pennies back please ?? !!


Rhoda Mon Mar 16 20:53:53 PST 1998

We just found out today that my husband has been transferred to Liberal, Kansas. Except for the middle of Wyoming that is probably as close to the sticks as we have in this country. I don't think Liberal is as isolated as the Australian outback, but it might be close.

We will probably move in about three months. If they have an Internet Service Provider then this move should not effect my participation here on the Notebook. I wonder how my writing career will fare with this move. Maybe not much will change, because the Farmington, New Mexico area where I currently live is pretty isolated too. I suppose I should feel fortunate--there was also an opening in Northwest Wyoming in a town so small it didn't even have a Wal-mart. I wonder if there are any writers in Liberal, Kansas. Farmington has 40,000 people and I haven't managed to find a stable critique group here yet. Liberal has 16,000. That really doesn't sound too promising.

Why is it that there aren't too many gas gathering systems and gas plants in the midwest or on the coasts? Why did God choose to put oil and gas in some of the most isolated areas on the globe? But I am determined that I am going to love Liberal. I enjoy Farmington and have been quite happy here.

I am wrapping up the first draft of VALERIE'S SONG now. These final scenes are really intense. I am writing up to twenty pages a day. I followed this same pattern on my first novel also. The first two hundred pages were as slow as molassas, but as I got nearer the end, my pace quickened considerably. If I could be so focused from beginning to end on a book, I could conceivably write one in four to six months.


Thank you for the suggestions you offered concerning the question I posed to you in a recent e-mail. I think your idea to change the Workbook is good. I'm glad that you have decided to keep the Notebook as it is.


Hang in there, Lady. It isn't fun having to deal with all the people in the marketing process. I remember it all too well when I tried to sell my first novel. We must really love what we are doing to put up with all this stuff we must endure from editors and agents. One of these days, you'll hit pay dirt. Keep sending out your manuscript and start working on the next project.

Well, I must be going. Happy writing!


Hayden Grayell JLJPetersen Mon Mar 16 20:02:50 PST 1998

Michelle..thanks for the pennies. What color should I make the Porsche: red or blue?

Toby B Mon Mar 16 15:06:48 PST 1998


Busy week. The mouse port on my laptop failed so I had to send it back to get fixed/replaced :( I've fallen in love with that thing. I also got a new E-mail adress (see above), and can now check my E-mail anywhere. (I like that!) As for what or who a TorHyth is, that's a long story that will hopefully one day see print :)

Jack- same notebook, different workbook sounds good!

Just recently got my stepfather to start sending in writing. He's a christian fiction writer (I think he's good). If anyone knows anything about places that would accept that (I haven't the foggiest, being very entrenched in spec-fic myself), we would really appreciate any pointers in the right direction.

Many thanks.

Michele Mon Mar 16 02:59:16 PST 1998

I'm glad to see my plea on behalf of newcomers and "lurkers" has taken effect. I've no objections to strong opinions being expressed - only to rows being conducted !

On the topic of a password protected area for the sake of protecting copyrights, I think it is a good idea. I was "berated" for asking one or two subscribers here for more of their stories because someone mistakenly assumed I wanted the authors to post their entire novel, or whatever on the Workbook. Partly my own fault because I didn't make it clear that I was asking the author to mail me the entire story. So I think that restricted access to work will be a good idea.

Anyway there's another couple of pennies worth from me - Hayden must be getting steadily richer at my expense ! ;-)


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Mar 15 22:40:12 PST 1998

Philip: The Notebook is going to stay just the way it is. After some considered thought I will continue leaving topics for the Notebook and leave it a public area as it has remained. The active Workbook will go behind the password protected area as soon as I have time to set things up.
    I concur that the password protected area is only for legal purposes and does not protect against plagiarism. However, I will be maintaining a separate archive of all posts and a record of what transpires. So, hopefully, that can be kept to a minimum. Writers Groups have this problem as well and I would suspect that email groups would have encountered this as well.
    As I have mentioned in private email I will be posting from my own work in progress and soliciting feedback as I have time to even get back to writing. There is some fear and trembling in saying that since I have been largely concentrated on technical writing for a long time and have only been dabbling back into fiction of late.
    A quick elaboration on my topic for consideration at least for a few more days. What other areas and features would people like to see here other than the password protection for manuscripts. That will be established as a given, but are there any other features you would like to see here.

Welcome Charles. I am absolutely delighted to see you back.
     Knowing the time it took to come to terms with my own father's death I am happy to hear that you feel ready to rejoin us on this forum. Take care and will look forward to your thoughts here.
P.S. Hope that Ben makes an appearance sometime soon as well. :-)
Philip Sun Mar 15 19:38:41 PST 1998

JACK: Personally I think the Notebook and Workbook sites are just fine as they are. However, I can understand why you might want to formalise and repackage what you'd established here some time ago. You will want to give them a fresh, more cohesive and dynamic 'look', probably taking in what you've learned about its operation and the technological advances in your design field during that time.

There are some legal concerns about exclusive rights to a writer's work on the net, as you and we have discussed several times on these pages, and enforceable international laws are very slow in coming. I have seen clauses in publishing contracts which allow for excerpts to be reproduced for study purposes only, this includes before and after publication. Publishing contracts are usually bound by the law of the state, province or territory, in which an offer is being made from, so it differs. As the internet has an international configuration and presentation, it is a lawyer's goldmine and a litigator's nightmare: Washington State laws will certainly differ from the many states in your country, not to mention the other countries and their states, boroughs and territories or provinces. There are some guidelines I've heard which say apply commonsense: if a short story in it's entirety is placed where it may be viewed by the public, it is published, its exclusivity can no longer be claimed (I was told that in law, this goes back to the public posting at a church or public square of marriage bands or similar). A password site may remove the 'public' aspect from our concerns but unscrupulous hackers or raiders may still be able to plagiarise and market any stuff placed there.

The password will give the site an association or club feel about it.



Welcome back from the wilderness my old friend!

I have always meant to tell you that I want to fall into biblical mode whenever you're around and quote from Deuteronomy or Numbers, using names like Rekem and Reba; Tophel and Laban. I know this is because I conjure up romantic images of the historically significant place where you live. In my earliest SF writing I included old testament names and places; and I called my first consultancy in the 60's 'Zardok', derived from the same source

JOAN: Please do email me your rewrite of the Elf and Groutwen.

MICHELE: Thank you for the offer, but no. I may be steeple chasing in Oxfordshire in your autumn.

BRITOMART: Does this mean you now have to fly off to Germany for a launch, media interviews and book signings? You poor thing.

CLYDE: Yes, you are quite right, the protection a 'password site' offers as a non public posting may be useful in law. Even so, I wouldn't want to contest it, would you? It may be wiser and safer to be thoughtful about what we actually post (anywhere) on the net.

RHODA: All things in moderation someone said, was it you? I'm pleased you did as you said .... I am interested in your VALERIE'S SONG revision.

EVERYONE: A few people have asked me who was the famous writer I quoted in one of my previous postings. The piece:

"The fewer people I'm bound to for eternity, the better."

.... was written by Britomart. It was the closing line from her book, THE INFERNAL. Watch out all Germans, it's coming soon to a bookstore near you!


Charles Samuel Sun Mar 15 13:20:07 PST 1998

Hi Everybody!

Before jumping into the pond, I'd better say hi to all my old friends.

JACK: Can you believe it's been a YEAR since I've been here participating? You are an amazing study in patience, reliability, perserverance and humility.

BRIT: I'm so happy for you, and I'm glad I was there at the beginning. I recently heard someone say that a great story is about the protagonist being changed by overcoming a tremendous obstacle. You are our living novel. You have grown so much. We're so proud to be a small part of your story. By the way, I think I might have forgotten to send you my snail mail address to complete out outstanding transaction:

c/o Providence House
POB 43294, Jerusalem
ISRAEL, 91431

Please don't forget the autograph.

PHILIP: I can't believe you're back here! It's so exciting. This place is buzzing with wisdom, energy and passion. What fun!

I haven't had time to go through the archives, so I'm not sure exactly who is still around and who is not. I got a nice note from BEN a while back. If you're out there buddy, can you believe it's been a year since both of our fathers passed away? That loss really sucked the creative energy out of me. I'm only just coming out of it now.

BOB are you there? Did SHERRIE ever publish her novels?

It has been a year of highs and lows. I finally found an agent, but I backed away from a non-fiction project for ethical reasons.For the past six months I've been commuting between Jerusalem and Toronto which has been a tremendous professional opportunity for me and I've met some wonderful people. I bought a notebook computer which I thought would help me get on with my writing projects and then I realized I needed the flying time for SLEEEEEP in order to avoid jet lag. Besides the batteries only last a couple of hours. Mark my words, "He who invents a ten hour battery wins."

Two shekels on the dialect dialogue you were having a few days ago. I agree with BRIT 100%. The story is everything. Funny spellings get in the way of the dialogue unless it is from a character with a few sentence cameo.My first novel was filled with American, Israeli and Palestinian characters set in Israel. They all spoke idiomatic American. I made it known who was Israeli, who was American, who was Arabic, and let the reader figure out what language was being spoken based on context. I think it worked. At least the readers and reviewers liked it.

For those of you waiting for MISSILES, MASKS and MIRACLES to be available from Amazon (my account of the Gulf War in Israel), it shouldn't be much longer. My publisher rescheduled its publication again and it should be out before the summer. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to working with a small publisher. I can't believe he missed the SCUD gas attack threat from Saddam. It was deja vu all over again (Didn't Yogi Berra say that?). We had to dig out all the old gas masks from the basement. After seven years, most of our kids faces had grown (thank G-d) and they had to be refitted. Anyway, not to worry. I still feel safer here in the Old City of Jerusalem than I do in Manhattan or Los Angeles.

As for the topics at hand:

Password protected area: I agree. I remember putting up a few chapters of my second novel on the workbook and JACK and PHILIP nearly jumped out of my screen and pinned my hands to the keyboard. Not only do we have to worry about losing first publication rights, but amazingly we have to worry about someone else cashing in on our first publication rights. There are LURKERS out there... ready to steal our words. And you thought Jerusalem was a scarry place to be... try cyberspace. SPAMMERS, LURKERS, GOOD TIMES VIRUSERS, HOAXES, FREELOADERS.

Keeping pace: You've got to hit the beats. That's what makes a story feel professional. A trick I use is to read, read, read the genre I'm writing in, and then pretend I'm reading the book I'm writing instead of writing it. I'm always asking myself... what would that bestselling author do next? let me smell something? throw in some dialogue? a bit of humor? describe the weather? I also try to imagine my reader curled up on a couch with a cup of fresh brewed coffee, or sitting on a subway riding into Manhattan to Brooklyn. What do THEY want to hear next? Have they had enough of the color of the heroine's eyes? Are they ready for action? Do they want some dialogue? What do you people in the NOTEBOOK want? Probably for me to stop rambling already...

Night all, nice to be back.


Joan Sat Mar 14 13:36:52 PST 1998

Hi all----

In case anyone else has an attack of blues over a rejection, here's a helpful blurb I found in a Writer's Digest article by Cynthia Whitcomb, a screenwriter. I know it's a variation on something we've all heard, but still, it reinforces. Here goes:

"All you have to do is keep moving forward, one step at a time. Don't think of success and failure as two equal possibilities. Failures are just the potholes and rocks and dog droppings along the path. You may step in them, trip on them or step over them, if you're lucky. When you encounter a failure, wipe off your shoe and keep moving. Even if you keep falling in the same direction, you'll move forward. If you keep moving forward, eventually you will succeed."

Well, wiping off my shoe, here I go.


Rosemary Sat Mar 14 13:33:54 PST 1998

The password format sounds fine as long as it is strictly for copyright protection. I assume that would mean an area like the Workbook only. As I mentioned in my E-Mail, I feel that a password for an area like the notebook would eliminate a group of writers who may be more timid about signing up for areas on the internet.

My misunderstanding earlier was because I had not noticed any mention of copyright problems, (I may have missed it because for a few days, I was doing very light skimming, hoping to find worthwhile postings.) At the time, I thought the password protection was because of the infighting on the Notebook.
timing is everything.

You're doing a great job and we can not mention it enough.

T. M. Spell Sat Mar 14 09:19:00 PST 1998

My apologies to everyone here for running off at the mouth. I quite agree with Jack and other commentators and will do my best not to get unnecessarily inflammatory and to address writing-related issues in the tone best suited to this site's stated purposes.

Also, I will happily drop the tit for tat, if Philip will kindly do the same.

With good will. --T. M. Spell--

Victoria Sat Mar 14 07:57:34 PST 1998

To everyone who was wondering--Clyde is absolutely right. Posting in a publically-accessible forum (whether it's a forum like the Workbook, your own webpage, someone else's webpage, or a non-password-protected mailing list) is generally considered to be first-rights publication. (I say "generally" because issues of electronic rights are still not well-defined, and there's little in this area that's really clear-cut.) Excerpts aren't such a problem, but if you post a whole work you may well be sacrificing your your chances of subsequent print publication, because publishers (especially newspaper and magazine publishers) are very reluctant to purchase secondary rights. How will publishers know, you ask, if you've posted something before submitting it to them for print publication? Well, maybe they won't ever find out. But maybe they will. And if they do, you will be blacklisted from that publication, and possibly from others, because people in the publishing biz talk to each other.

A password-protected Workbook would solve this problem. Posting in a limited-access forum is generally *not* considered publication.

On a related subject, the SFWA Caution Page that I've been working on will be going online within the next few days. Please check it out at and let me know what you think. As always, if you run into any writers scams or deceptions, please let me know.


Colleen Sat Mar 14 06:35:08 PST 1998

Dear Jack,
Thank you for the beautiful description of Seattle. I have
never been there but I have always wanted to see that coast.

As for the tit for tat-enough is really enough. While I have been absent and abstaining from the round of personal banter, I used my time to write two new children's stories which have now been polished and sent out to an editor I met at a conference. I am keeping my fingers crossed. It feels good to be productive and creative. Those of you who have so much time to banter should try it some time.

Michele-thank you for your kindness. YOU can e-mail me anytime.

Too bad we can't play music over our messages Jack, I even played the Titanic song for my students, they love it and are also touched by the is brief enjoy and create.


Jack Beslanwitch Sat Mar 14 03:21:02 PST 1998

Thank You Michele

   I really want to reiterate my previous request that point/counter point and tit for tat conversations not resurrect themselves on the Notebook. Please take it offline if at all possible. I would really like us to get back to that friendly place where aspiring writers could find the courage to become the writer that was inside of them.

   I have great hopes that the possibility of ensuring the safety of manuscripts will make this an even more useful and enlightening place for both the long standing professional and the unpublished and aspiring writer. I would like us to stop and smell the roses. There is a lot that is truly precious here.

   It has been an absolutely gorgeous day here in Seattle with absolutely stunning blue skies with tufts of clouds. The downtown skyscrapers aglow and the mountains clear and snow capped. Driving around listening to the Titanic CD I was absolutely giddy with joy. I would like a little of that enthusiasm and pleasure in a simple blue sky and sun on Friday the Thirteenth to carry over to here.

Respectfully yours, Jack :-)

Michele Sat Mar 14 02:28:05 PST 1998

Oh deary me ! We seem to have descended into a slanging match again . . . seems a great shame to me . . . I worry about new comers to the site coming in and seeing all this flak flying and then running a mile because they will think that this sort of thing is normal and happens all the time. If I was just coming into this area now and saw this kind of thing I would go away and not come back - and I bet plenty of other people would also. When I first arrived here I saw the banter and encouragement being handed round and I decided to stay because it seemed a friendly place that would welcome new people - now ? Now I'm not so sure. And I've been in private correspondence with both TM and Philip and they are consistently friendly, encouraging and fun to "talk" to - I won't take any sides in this fight unless it's the side of the newcomers that are going to be put off by this flak - guys think about what you're doing !!! Both of you should take thought for the consequences of this row that you're developing - what happened last week was unfotunate BUT if we're going to avoid losing people we have to think about what kind of atmosphere we're creating - do you two want to discourage newcomers ? Probably not - so can you PLEASE sort this out in a less public manner. TM I know you say that you don't want any of this "he said, she said he said" stuff that we had before but you're going to end up hurting other people even if you don't hurt yourselves with this row. Can I make a suggestion ?? As I get on reasonably well with both of you and I refuse to take sides, send your emails to each other through me - I will read them but not comment on them and act as "arbitrator" or whatever neutral name you want to use BUT do something to stop this flak flying around !!! PLEASE !


(Hayden more pennies for you . . . !)

Joan Fri Mar 13 20:25:22 PST 1998

Ok Jack, time for "true confessions."

I haven't really commented on password/private/public ideas for the Notebook/Workbook, because I'm not sure what the rationale for change is. I've seen several different thoughts on that. Clyde, I think, suggested that in posting our writing in a totally open, non-password protected area, we are actually "publishing" them for the first time. Is this true? (Clyde, I'm not questioning the truth of what you're saying---I just couldn't tell whether you were sure about that, or only wondering yourself.)

If that is not true, I can't decide what the use is of having to get a password. I assume that anyone who wants to submit writing could get one. If not, what are the criteria one must have to get into the critique group?

I don't mean to say I have any objection to the idea. I have such high regard for this site, all of these writers, and yourself (Jack) as webmaster, that I'd go along with just about any format you presented. But I do hate to not leave this site open to other new writers who are browsing and happen to find this great place. Regardless of any small flaws it may have, it still is quite wonderful.

Could you explain (and I feel a little thick-headed asking) what the benefits of changing the site are?



Jack Beslanwitch Fri Mar 13 18:47:40 PST 1998

I just discovered that I was pointing towards the wrong topic for discussion. However, Friday the Thirteenth gives me an excuse to add an alternate topic. I would like to know from everyone what people really want out of an online writers group. What are the aspects that work. What are not. What is your wish list for such a group.

As an initial comment from my own perspective. I would, respectfully, like to see any conversations of the point/counter point variety be shared via private email. Other thoughts are that given a private area, that a criticque group might be appropriate. Other thoughts might be interesting and forthcoming.

Philip Fri Mar 13 17:11:54 PST 1998

T M :

and then.....

T. M. Spell Fri Mar 13 16:53:48 PST 1998

Philip, thank you for sending me two e-mails after I specifically requested that you not do so. Before I reply, your comments, for the record, were as follows:

<BR> Date: 98-03-12 20:27:16 EST

Dear TM,

No, it's a joke really.

I don't know why you think I'll attack you privately. Have you had this happen to you before?



<BR> Date: 98-03-12 21:25:04 EST

Dear T M,

If you want to address me personally you may email me. Others may find
it preferable (not to mention boring) and you won't be clogging up
Jack's site with stuff you could easily send to me.

I promise I won't post anything on Jack's site without first getting your approval.


[Expletive above deleted for underage readers here. --T. M. Spell--]

As I wrote in the single e-mail I sent you in response to your initiating e-mail of 03/09/98, you may feel free to repeat anything I wrote privately in public -- and I will add, so long as you reprint my remarks accurately.

For someone who purports to ignore his critics in the press, you spend a lot of time responding to us low-profile hacks here on the web. And while I *don't* like taking up space on Jack's site with anything that resembles a flame, it's not in my nature to ignore the kind of vicious hypocrisy you've been puking up here lately. You attacked a *person* at this site because of your critical assessment of his *writing*. How good you are to people we've never met in a place most of us have never been isn't what's up for inspection here. How mean-spiritedly cruel you were to someone who, I believe, didn't even solicit your opinion, is. Also up for inspection are your repeated elitist nudges aimed at turning this site into a "Philip's Chosen Few Cult."

The reason I requested that you contact me here on the Notebook or not at all, is so that whatever's said can be witnessed by all. There will be no "he said that you said that he said, etc." until the truth gets lost somewhere between exaggerration, outrage, and embarrassment.

The purpose of the proposed password, as it has been explained to me, is to protect author's rights to a web-workshopped manuscript.

The purpose of my pen name is my own business. I've told others here why I use it. Your tone doesn't encourage me to share that information with you. Oh, well.

As to this remark: <>

It's no effort. It's what happens when a member of the fifth column openly confronts a schoolyard bully (and a snob) in professor's clothing.

Clyde Dixon Fri Mar 13 09:30:23 PST 1998

The “point” of the proposed password site, as I understand the issue, is to allow a “non-public” area for the posting of our writing--if we post our writing where it is accessible to “anyone” that may be considered first publication. A limited access area avoids that issue, allowing us to post and critique on-line without lessening the marketability of our work.

As to the real or serious writer factor--how to judge? Was Asimov a serious writer before he was published? Some would say that he wasn’t a serious writer after he was published--after all, he wrote that SF drivel, not “real” literature.

To each his own. I see no reason to limit, segregate, or otherwise interfere with the openness and congeniality of this site, except to protect first publication rights, as mentioned above.

Well that’s all I have time for, some of us certainly seem to have a lot of time available, must be nice! Good writing all,

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Mar 12 19:51:39 PST 1998

     We have been very busy this last ten days and it has proven time to archive. I have kept back the last few posts dealing mainly with the proposed changes that I hope to be able to get to next week (Crossed Fingers). I just finalized one web design contract today and perhaps a second is in the works, so this may take a little longer than I had hoped. Still, I would like to get as much feedback on this as possible and hopefully come up with something that meets with everybody's approval.

     Let me lay out what my thinking is in terms of the password protected area. The main reason for it in my mind is to provide a non public place to post manuscripts. The rest is just window dressing, although I am becoming more sympathetic to the idea of a separate area just for the criticques of the posted manuscripts and another for seriously discussing topics specific to writing and to post possible writing assignments. Writing life and the others issues of a more friendship oriented nature I think should stay on the Notebook. And the Notebook can and will, I think continue on in much the same way in has heretofore and definitely remain in public. The big question is whether to continue the weekly topics in public. I am inclined to think that is appropriate. Have the specific writing projects and more quote serious unquote discussion of writing on one of the forums in the private area. If others have different thoughts I would be very appreciative in hearing. Given the timing, some might think I want a password protected area to exclude someone. That is not really the purpose. Hope this clarifies and does not murk things up.

Jack Beslanwitch

Philip Thu Mar 12 17:35:21 PST 1998

And T M - don't go on with such 'crap' in an effort to be controversial.... you're journalist slip is showing..... :-D

Philip mclaren@magna, Thu Mar 12 17:22:39 PST 1998

T M:

Yes: only serious, musty, monks need apply, fresh from their cells. Must have previous experience as a journalist in Washington; never have revealed their first names (being careful to use their initials); and it might help if you bring your own quill, no one seems to make them anymore.... :-D

Seriously: (pun intended) I've received email from others in the group who have said they wished we had a more serious approach to our work in this place. I'm not sure how this can be achieved, are you? If there ought to be divisions or grades or lump everyone in the same bowl, whatever, the tone and expectations could be serious and called for in the site brief.

Maybe we ought to be asking why there should be a 'password site'? What's wrong with the Workbook and/or Notebook? If we understand their perceived failings or shortcomings, we could start constructing new places based on these responses.


Thu Mar 12 16:17:41 PST 1998

Philip, you wrote: << If that is adopted there might also be a 'password site' for those serious about their work; definitely a writers' only site. What could be posted there could be limited in size and those involved in the criticism of any work could do it privately by email - saving any embarrassment. Biographies of the form and type you suggested really ought to be posted as an essential entry requirement prior to the issue of a password. >>

I do wonder what you think a "serious" writer is. One who never smiles? Perhaps you're confusing us with Medieval monks.

Andrew Burt, host and director of Critters, has one of the most successful critique sites on the web, participants have sold their "Crittered" stories to pro markets on occasion, and the only requirement there for being taken seriously is that those who go there to read and post their work *participate.* The emphasis is on giving critiques in exchange for the critiques you get.

No one there gets blasted off the board for not measuring up to your very high standards. The worst that happens is they get a fistful of rejection slips for their efforts. Those who get hurtful and personal with their critiques (I assume repeatedly) may have their butts kicked out of the Password protected area. Having observed your sledgehammer critique methods when an author pisses you off, that idea strikes me as a sound one.

Posting a biography at Critters is *optional* and not a requirement for participation, or the issuance of a password. Why did you think it should be one here?

Yes, I know you and I have discussed some issues in private -- and you were the one who e-mailed me. But the longer I listen to your self-righteous posturing while you casually make eviscerating asides (in your posts of the past few days) about someone that no one else had any complaints about before you jumped on his case and provoked him to hostility, the wearier of it I get.

Don't consider this an attack. It's not. A challenge, perhaps, to you to explain yourself. If you feel like it. And here in public. If you e-mail me privately, I will just post it and reply here in public, anyway.

--T. M. Spell--

T. M. Spell Thu Mar 12 15:35:52 PST 1998

Jack, you've got some great ideas for improving your site and I look forward to seeing how you finally implement them. I wonder if you've considered having a page where *just* critiques get dropped off for public view (or for viewing by members with a password, depending on if you can get/develop the software for this)? Seeing how other readers reacted to a story, and how effective critics structured their critques could be a big help to those wanting to improve their critiquing skills, as well as provide participants with samples of what reaction other writers got to various manuscripts posted to the Workbook area(s). I don't see why the critiques need to be so private, unless the writer requests private responses only.

Talk about the craft of writing in general and chat could be confined to another area, where it wouldn't get in the way of the critiquing.

Andrew Burt sections off the Critters Workshop this way, and I think he has a splendid system going. He may even be willing to give you some tips on the software for creating a password protected area.

Thanks for inviting a round table on the changes.

--T. M. Spell--

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