Saturday, March 31, 2007

In good company, but sold out?

Like many authors these days, I have a “google alert.” This is a nifty service which sends me an email when someone does a search for either Pamela J. Dodd or Trinity on Tylos, and lets me know what that person clicked on after doing the search. My latest alert apprised me that Trinity is now available from The Dungeon Bookstore. Okay, I admit, my first thought was, “Say what? There’s not any BDSM in Trinity!” I touched on that in The Gift Horse, but not in Trinity. However, a visit to the site states: Science Fiction, fantasy, horror, and witch craft/magic books are our main categories, we've also begun to add science fiction dvd's and comic graphic novels.

Some of The Dungeon Bookstore’s other offerings are books I like quite a lot, including the series by Elizabeth Vaughan which begins with Warprize. Indeed, they have titles from Tor, Baen, and Eos, which is top notch content, and I am really glad to be included. Another great aspect of this site is that they offer free shipping, without up-pricing the books. The printer, Pawprints, sells it via Amazon, and they raised the price a dollar, which along with Amazon’s standard shipping price of 3.49 yields a purchase price of $18.48. Ouch.

Unfortunately, the product page lists the book as being sold out. I clicked on a couple of my fellow Whiskey Creek Press author’s titles, they were “sold out” as well. I asked over at the WCP author group, and the webmaster replied that this page just links to the WCP site, and customers are supposed to buy there. That's too bad, huh? I guess I'll always be "sold out" in the Dungeon.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007


I am preparing to teach a course at a local technical college, and while the longest paper those students will write is a research project with a suggested length of two to four pages, this will be the first time I have evaluated student writing since I published my books. Having basked in the praises of some wonderful reviews and been skewered by others, I will find it a bit more challenging to write those comments this time. What is wrong will still be wrong, but having the experience of dealing with reviewers will make me more sensitive to the emotional side of criticism, I am sure.

One of the reviewers who shredded Trinity (and me, of course) claims to be an award-winning author, but on her website, she acknowledges that she won her prize in middle school. That same site offers free “exerpts” from her works— no kidding. Sometime I’ll publish the link to her “jack of all trades” site, but this post is actually supposed to be serious, and y’all would be laughing when you returned to my post.

Any rebuttal to a bad review is considered bad form for the author, but reading one (and knowing that others are reading it) is worse than any other aspect of publishing. In an article published in P&W this author acknowledges the pain of a bad review, which is quite real, I do assure you.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Being Nobody

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise—you know!

How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!

Did you ever consider how difficult it might be to actually prove who you are? I applied for a job recently, and my pre-employment requirements were quite an eye-opening experience. Oh, I was expecting to have to supply official transcripts from my under grad and grad schools— education matters only in education jobs, but it does matter there, so I sent off forms and checks to schools I haven’t attended for decades to prove what courses I took way back when.

But my birth certificate is with my marriage certificate, my high school and college diplomas, my original social security card, and my baptismal certificate. Only the last item on that list will be of any importance in the long run, but in the short run, my new employer wants a copy of my birth certificate in addition to my driver’s license. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen that envelope labeled “certificates” since I moved to my current residence in 1998. Daughter asked if my lack of documentation means that I don’t exist. Not to worry, for a mere $36.00 some entity known as “Vital Check” will certify that I’m me, without having ever seen me!

Certainly, I’ve had to use my DL for identification many times, including my last mammogram. Now, there is an interesting question. Why on earth would anyone submit to that rather onerous test for someone else, I wonder? I asked the clerk who handled the paperwork, but she didn’t answer me. Perhaps that is what it means to be a nobody— people just look at you rather than answering your questions.

I’ve heard that Emily (Dickinson, the author of my introductory poem) was a bit weird. A pity she didn’t live in the twenty first century, because nowadays everything is weird.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Things I've Learned (in my first fifty-one years)

• You never really know a person until you deal with his (or her) pocketbook.
• “Judge not” is absent from the creed of some so-called Christians. In fact, some seem to view judging others as recreation.
• There is no point in paying the locker rental at Jefferson High School. The other children will call your kid a female canine if she approaches the door, and if she actually tries to use it, physical assault can result. Buy extra book bags instead.
• Fast food will make you fat and diabetes could result as well. (I don’t have it yet, but the genetic seeds are there!)
• Women are meaner than men. Lord Byron said it long ago, but he was right.
• The best place to buy Christmas cards or a plastic sword is Party City.
• Paying bills online saves money on stamps and keeps your checks out of the hands of criminals.
• eBooks cost less than print books, and you don’t have to dispose of them after you’ve read them.
• Change your oil every 5,000 miles, and always buy a full set of good tires.
• Never trust the government to take care of your needs. Here are some examples to consider:
school bus vs. private car
veterans hospital vs. private physician
Georgia’s hope scholarship vs. your 529 plan
• Prune your crepe myrtles in February for better shape and more blooms during the summer.
• As people age, they tend to either “blow up” or “dry up.”
• Thieves can steal almost anything, but not your education, so get the best one you can afford and your brain will tolerate.
• Civic groups never invite a speaker twice, but science fiction cons goers seem to like seeing familiar faces.
• Don’t call Rite Aid in Jefferson for a prescription refill within three days of the first day of the month. If you forget to order ahead, just do without.
• Don’t use the intersection of Old Pendergrass Road and the Jefferson Bypass, because it is poorly designed and too heavily traveled. Using the intersection could result in property damage, bodily injury, and/or fatality. Find another way, and try to remember that the five minutes you lose is a lot less than a fews days in the hospital (or worse!)
• Family Dollar sells 2 liter Cokes for a dollar and a dime. Everyday.
• Don't plant anything when the wind comes from the east. This makes for damp and cold conditions, which isn't conducive to germination. (Nanny Dodd always said this!)
• American Eagle clothing is available online, so buy there and you don’t have to deal with loud, obnoxious “music” in the store or rude salespeople.
• All human behavior is driven by pleasure or pain. The need to derive pleasure and avoid pain are instinctive. This is part of our make up as human beings. Avoid people who derive pleasure from inflicting pain on others.
• Choose your friends wisely, because you don’t have any choice about your relatives.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Generation without Heros

I have been wrestling with a manuscript for about a year. This story is finished, in that it has a beginning and ending, an engaging main character, sufficient world building for the reader to understand the situation, a supporting cast of entertaining minor characters, and approximately 86,000 words. But it isn’t ready for primetime.

What’s wrong? That, dear reader, is what I’ve been wrestling with for months. I’ve come to the conclusion that it lacks peril and heroism. In fiction, peril is absolutely necessary. At each break in the story, a reader must wonder how the main character will overcome the challenges before him (or her) and succeed or fail. If the possibility of failure is lacking, then there is no real peril, no real conflict, and you are left with a boring storyline.

Peril, real danger, requires heroism to overcome it. And that seems to be this novel’s failing. A hero must reach within and come up with a strength that he (or she) didn’t know he possessed.

When I was taking American history in high school, our teacher, an experienced older lady once observed, “Yours is a generation without heros.” I do remember those exact words. Since it has been some thirty years since she made that statement, my memory fails regarding her exact follow up, but it probably went something like this: The American Revolution had John Paul Jones, the Civil War had Ulysses S. Grant, World War I had Alvin York, World War II had Audie Murphy. Which heros she listed doesn’t matter, so much as the ones she didn’t list. At the time I took that class, we were at the end of the Vietnam War, and heroism wasn’t being recognized as such, hence her remark about my generation.

Recently, Bruce Crandall, a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor, some forty years after his exploits saved many lives in that same unpopular war. His heroism was finally acknowledged by the medal, but the recognition by our generation is still sadly lacking. The story was all the way back on page 15 of the New York Times. No doubt, more important matters were on the minds of modern citizens, like the final resting place of the iconic Anna Nicole Smith.

Yes, I grew up in a generation devoid of heros and heroism. A writer pulls from experience, and I am having trouble with heroism in my fiction. That’s the problem of growing up in a generation without heros.

(Note: I posted this a couple of days ago on the SFReader Forum under World Events. Some of the replies were quite thought provoking.)

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