April 26, 2003

Spring Break Trip

We'd talked about flying some place warm and exotic for Zachary's spring break. As the deadline for DOG WARRIOR neared and I was far from done, that idea went by the wayside.

Just before Easter, Don announced that he had to go to Spain for the week that Zachary had Spring Break. I did the quick math. Five days of my son at home with no husband equals one slightly insane Wen. Day one would be okay, but by Day Three, he’d be clinging to me, whining “I’m BORED” no matter how many fun things we’d done that morning, hours or even minutes before.

Furthermore, I was showing signs of desperate flailing again on DOG WARRIOR. It would be good to brainstorm face to face with my first reader, Ann. Brainstorming usually equates to me trying to verbally explain why I’d did something in the first place, and where I was trying to get to, with lots of ‘oh, that contradicts what you said in x book’ and ‘that doesn’t make sense’ on top of ‘what if this happens’ suggestions.

So I decided it was time to visit Pittsburgh. I made reservations on Friday, put a hold on mail Saturday, kenneled the cats on Sunday, and dropped Don off at the airport shuttle bus Monday morning and we were on our way!!! I drove all twelve hours of the trip, starting at 10:00 leave the house so Don wouldn’t arrive at the airport too early (10:00 was a compromise) and arrived in Cranberry Township around 10:00 at night with no stops longer than ten minutes. We had a record of three bathroom emergencies – Mom I’ve got to go NOW! On the way home I drastically cut how much he had to drink!

We set up camp at the Residence Inn in Cranberry. Yes, the same one from ALIEN TASTE. I got a two-bedroom suite, with a desk for writing in my bedroom and a whole living room between me and the noise that Zachary puts out.

Tuesday I spent a good portion of the day with my folks, catching up with them. My mom retired last year from being a school teacher, and my father is now seventy, but my folks don’t seem to know how to slow down. They’ve got a litter of Labrador puppies, a rescued mustang from Neveda they’ve adopted, a mini-storage business that fuels summer yard sales (why anyone stores stuff they later abandon, I’ll never know), a garden hobby ranging across their sixty-acre farm (they put in a pond two summers ago, and this year they decided to plant fast growing pines along the fence line to replace the ones that the neighbor cut down), and so on. The newest hobby is taking old photos, scanning them, and then printing them out on some special paper to somehow affix to slate tiles for hanging. They’re actually fairly cool, but what really knocked me over was the photos they were using.

Where did they get all the old photos???? Well, it turned out that my mom had lots of old photos she never shared with us kids, plus ones she got off her parents when they died, and oh, yes, they’d found some old negatives and had them printed, and then the historical society saw the results of their work and loaned old photos so they could make slates to sell at the fund raisers. Josh, tons of cool pictures. One had my grandmother Spencer with her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother!

Best yet, my mom had most of these scanned and on her computer – which had a CD-R drive. WHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! A quick stop at Staples and I taught my mom how to copy files to her CD-R drive! (Of course grabbing a copy of everything for myself.) I hope to set up a Spencer website of old family photos later this summer.

Late in the afternoon, I left my son with grandma and headed down to Dormont to visit with Ann. They’ve got Fort Pitt bridge torn to shreds, but I needed the Liberty Bridge to get to her house so this wasn’t a problem. We went to a favorite Indian place for the buffet and talked, talked, talked. Unfortunately, on the way home I forgot about the construction. Ann’s one-way street let’s out on a street that convenient to drop onto Banksville road which merges with 279 right before it goes through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and out onto the Fort Pitt Bridge. Oops. Luckily it was fairly easy to loop around to the West End Bridge and catch 279 north from there.

Zachary, however, had not been happy to be left with his grandmother. He’s a rabid fan of the anime lineup on Cartoon Network’s afternoon show, Toonami. He’d missed all his shows because my mom and dad don’t have cable. Also he’s not crazy about my moms cooking. (And he HATES sleeping over because my mom has lots of house spiders!)

To make amends to Zachary, we go swimming the next morning. (Hot tub – ohhh ahhh) After breakfast at McDonalds (his favorite) and a stop at B&N (Mom to check on BITTER WATERS – not, not in yet – and him for his favorite magazine), and then a promise that he won’t be left at grandmothers during Toonami, he’s a happy camper again…..well, at least until Aunt Heidi shows up. My sister is a beautician and can cut a squirmy, complaining kid’s hair with ease. Since the last attempt to have someone else to cut his hair ended with Mom overtipping by five dollars, the child grounded for a week, and that store closing – well okay, so maybe it closing was just coincidence – Heidi still is the only one that cuts his hair even though she’s nearly 600 miles away. (Yes, yes, he had very long hair.)

My mother-in-law comes over to visit. My mom’s house is much better suited for Zachary since he can go outside and play with the dogs. (Sancho, who is like twelve, greeted me when he drove up and I fed him the last of the McDonald’s breakfast. Mom once again tried to get me to take him home with us. Sigh. Otis, the ten-month-old puppy, kept licking my fingers in attempt to be petted. The girls were all either in their kennels or with puppies.) I was going to go over to her place in the morning, but she’d forgotten about a hair appointment, and I needed to be at my moms in the afteroon to catch Heidi for the hair cut. She made the mistake of asking my mom what she was doing to keep herself busy now that she’s retired – she came away with three or four slates ordered. She also tells Zachary about her new kitten, replacing her 16 year old cat Casey that she had to put down. Zachary immediately wanted to go to Memaw’s house to play with the kitten.

After the haircut I dashed back to the hotel to be with Ann again to hammer down more plotline. We ordered Chinese and Ann went out to pick it up – and Zachary stripped naked for some reason!!! I just got his clothes back on when Ann returned. After Ann left for the night, Zachary vanished again and came back with all the skirt hangers clipped for him. HANGER BOY!!! (No, I don’t understand.)

Thursday we checked B&N and did one last round with Ann, and then went out to dinner with my folks at the Watering Hole. This is my folk’s favorite place to eat, located at the 18th hole of the local golf course. It’s claim to fame is its fried fish sandwiches. Once again, Zachary isn’t too happy, but we push through it. Afterwards, we stop at my mother-in-laws to play with the kitten. It’s a very frisky tabby she calls Ginger. It bounced around the room in a way I’d forgotten how kittens moved.

Back to the room to write and pack. Zachary refuses to go to bed. Sigh. Around 11:00 p.m. I finally get him to sleep.

Friday we start out slightly late, hitting the road at 9:00. I’ve decided to cut across I-80, and then cut up to I-84 through CT instead of going up I-79 to I-90 across NY. Ann says this is a much shorter way. It is very pretty, but OH MY GOSH THE MOUNTAINS!!!

Now, you have to understand I’ve been living in the flats of MA around Boston, where there is like ONE hill for the last three years. I’d forgotten what its like to zip down a mountain at 65 mph (okay, 78 mph, I’m a speed demon) and make a sharp bend while tractor trailers carrying loads of granite jockey around you. Wooo Whhheeee! Luckily it was a very nice day, so the drive was pleasant, but I’m only going to do that again if the weather is good.

Also, what is it about CT???? They say “Food, Gas at this exit” but when you get off, it’s no where to be found. And if you do manage to find it, there’s no clue how to get back to the highway! Strike CT off the list of places I’d be willing to live. (I know, it’s a flakey reason, but one needs to start somewhere!)

The conversation home is also odd. Zachary is full of questions, and proceeds to give my answers different spins. Oddest one. I point out that they’ve cut away a BIG hill to put in four lanes of traffic. Zachary comments “Oh, the mountain evolved, just like Pokemon.” “No, honey, they used bulldozers and backhoes and dynamite to clear out the rock and haul it away.” “Oh, you use bulldozers to evolve mountains.” I gave up. He’d have to go into biology and avoid geology as career choices.

The route isn’t that noticeably shorter, either. We left at 9:00 and hit Framingham by 7:30 to be in the door at 8:00.

But there is this slight problem. Don had armed the security system – he always is the one that arms it. I suddenly realize that I don’t know how to disarm it! I start calling him – he should have arrived at Logan by then – should be heading home – BETTER be home already. He calls me when I’m five miles from home to say he just got home, and had triggered the alarm himself!

8:00, in the door. YEAH.

I ordered Chinese, and watch EXCEL SAGA to unwind.

It's good to be home.




Posted by wen at 12:27 PM

April 19, 2003

Self-promotion

Self-promotion. Why does that always sound like a dirty word?

With the John Campbell nomination and Bitter Waters appearing all over the world (Sweden! Denmark!) I am spending the last 24 hours desperately trying to assemble the materials needed for self-promotion. It’s nearly a second full time job.

Last year while I was John Campbell finalist, I made up a booklet containing a chapter of Tainted Trail. The plan was to take them with me to Westercon and drum up some West Coast awareness. Westercon told me that in 2001 they had a 2000 membership, so I planned on making 2000, not wanting any leftovers. They were nice looking – if I must say so myself. I took the original chapter, corrected it to what was in the printed copy, and then took the file to Kinko’s for layout and printing. They misquoted me the price and only when I went back to okay the proof did they give me the right price. Heinously expensive. I nearly pulled the project, but after talking with Don, decided to bite the bullet. I had already bought airline tickets and talked the concom of Westercon into inviting me. When I went back to pick them up – nearly a week late – they once again made a mistake and gave them to me at the original price. Or maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe they decided since they ran so late that they stick to the original quote. Either way I didn’t correct them. I ended up having to express ship them to get them to California in time. (2000 booklets ends up being three large boxes!)

At Westercon, I think I only managed to push off like 500 of them. Luckily I had talked to Elaine Brennan (thank you thank you thank you) who was running ConJose registration and she allowed me to add them to the ConJose truck taking things from Westercon to San Jose for storage until ConJose. At ConJose, once again, only about 500 moved, so Ann Cecil’s brother (thank you thank you thank you) shipped them back to Massachusetts for me.

Lesson Number One: Booklets are not cost effective. Actually, they are a pain in the butt.

This left me with 1000 copies. What I should have done was to start parceling them out immediately, but being swamped with deadlines I sat on them until last week. Vera Nazarian taught me a trick – at Westercon actually. Hitting the www.locusmag.com site, I worked down the list of conventions, emailing them with a polite request to mail them a handful of the booklets to be put out on their freebee tables. So far nearly every convention has responded. I print off the email with their address, clip it down, and rubber band it a stack of booklets. I made ten bundles of end of April/May conventions and took them off to be mailed with a thank you note in padded envelopes.

Booklets taken care off, I turned my attention to my web site, which I hadn’t updated since last year. I used the LOCUS online listing again to update my Appearances page. Most of the conventions know I’m coming, but there are one or two I need to contact to let them know. (Note to self – follow this up!)

My first year of doing this I learned that the correct wordage is “Program Participant.” When I worked on Confluence in Pittsburgh, we called everyone Guest. Apparently the rest of the world considers only the people whose hotel room and transportation costs are covered as “Guest.” Many concom were quite offended when I emailed and asked to be a Guest. They were mollified when I explained that I merely wanted to be a “Program Participant.” This means I pay for my way there, and my hotel, and my food. With some cons, this even means paying for the convention itself. Other conventions will give you a free membership for you and a guest. Never assume that’s the case though.

So to become a Program Participant, email the programming head, state your qualifications (I have my first novel coming out, etc) and ask if you can be part of programming. Once at the convention, be nice and patient, these are volunteers in the middle of an extreme juggling act.

Okay, Appearances page taken care of. I added the cover of Bitter Waters to its page. I linked in this Blog. I updated the Blog with news of the John Campbell nomination. (I think about having a NEWS page, but that will come later.)

Reviews was my next project. I had entered many of the Alien Taste reviews but had none of the Tainted Trail reviews. I went to google.com and searched on my name and Tainted Trails. A dozen reviews came back. Some are from people’s personal web page, and while flattering, don’t pull a lot of weight with professionals. Sigh. I set up the best, getting permissions and all that. Lots of work. I also track down reviews that appeared only in print, get permission, type them in, making sure I credit them all.

I’m still working on a LINKS page.

My next promotion project is postcards for Bitter Waters. Don scanned in my cover on a very nice scanner we have, but I could have gotten the files from my publisher. (This was his excuse for buying a high-end scanner.) He sets up a 6 MB tif file for the postcard, and then smaller files for the web site so the pictures load fast and doesn’t kill our usage rate. I type up a WORD file with the info for the back.

365 Boston Post Road #202, Sudbury, MA 01776-3003

Bitter Waters
by Wen Spencer

Meet Ukiah Oregon, a unique young man with accelerated senses who was raised by wolves, domesticated by two women, and trained as a tracker by a private investigator. And that’s the normal part of his life…

Ukiah’s abilities are put to the test when he tracks a missing boy, who may be the most recent victim of a serial kidnapper. Then Ukiah finds himself under scrutiny by Homeland Security; a dead member of the Temple of New Reason cult was carrying stolen photographs of Ukiah. But before Ukiah can investigate the cult’s interest in him, his own son is abducted. Now, with suspicious government agents watching his every move, he must track down the kidnappers – and pray that they’re not enemies from his past, the alien Ontongard….

“An engrossing, thrill-filled adventure, full of fascinating alien -- and human -- weirdness.” -- LOCUS

Bitter Waters, Roc Books, ISBN: 0-451-45922-9

Read an excerpt at http://www.wenspencer.com

Note that this includes a P.O. Box, which is required if you plan to mail lots of them. (Else you annoy the post office.) I set up the P.O. Box so I didn’t have to give out my home address.

I use www.printingforless.com

They have a simple point and click upload process and produce a quality product inexpensively. For less than $300.00, I get 1000 postcards with four color front and an protective coating. For Alien Taste I made 5000 and mailed out 2000 but that was waaaaaaay overboard. These you can mail out, carry with you, take to conventions and leave on freebee tables, etc.

With Don already having set up the artwork, it takes me about 30 minutes to make up the WORD file, proof it, go through the online form, and complete the upload.

Lesson Number Two: Postcards are good.

Lastly, I check on my business cards.

I used www.vistaprint.com for my business cards. They have a number of forms that you merely type in the info. Some are at the print of shipping the cards – less than $10.00 for 250. Others are more.

I have two business cards. One is a slick coated, pricey number that I give editors, other writers, etc with my home phone and address. The other is a cheap stock card that I hand out if I don’t know the person. It has my web site address and book info, but no personal information. Since it is cheap, I can change it often.

What this card says currently:

Wen Spencer
John W. Campbell Award Finalist (left over from last year, but hey, it still works!)
The Ukiah Oregon Series
Roc Books
Alien Taste – ISBN: ########
2002 Compton Crook Award Winner
Tainted Trail – ISBN: #####
Bitter Waters – ISBN: #####
Dog Warrior – coming in 2004
www.wenspencer.com

I’ll have to update this at the end of summer. Not sure how I’m going to fit TINKER and A BROTHER’S PRICE on this. I’ll tackle that later…

Posted by wen at 03:38 PM

April 18, 2003

John Campbell Award Finalist

On Tuesday they let me know that I’d been nominated for the John Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer. I couldn’t tell anyone until now.

To be totally truthful I did tell my husband, and my parents, and my first readers Ann and June.

Late last night I got the official announcement that was to be released to public today:

Nominations for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
(259 nominations for 93 new writers)
Charles Coleman Finlay (second year of eligibility)
David D. Levine (second year of eligibility)
Karin Lowachee (first year of eligibility)
Wen Spencer (second year of eligibility)
Ken Wharton (second year of eligibility)

The nominations were made by attendees and supports of the ConJose: the 2002 World SF Convention and the members/supporters of Torcon3: the 2003 World SF Convention which will take place in Toronto at the end of August.

The members/supporters of Torcon3 alone will be able to vote for award. (Information on Torcon3 can be found at http://www.torcon3.org/ )

Worldcon, for one who has never been to one, is a Thurday-Monday gathering of SF&F fans numbering in the 4000-5000 range. Many of the SF writers, editors, agents, publishers, etc are on hand to discuss a wide range of things from HOW TO WRITE to HOW TO SELL to WHAT TO READ. In the evenings, at the party hotel, special interest groups hosts parties that last well into the night. There are readings, autograph sessions, tea with the authors, an stunning art show where you can buy original artwork, a dealers room with things you often only dream of finding and more books than god, and famous people EVERYWHERE! It’s a blast if you can afford it. (If you want to go, get a hotel room NOW because they usually go fast. The price of the membership continues to climb all year, so the sooner you buy it, the cheaper it is.)

On Sunday, the John Campbell is awarded along with the Hugo Awards in a long, long, long (2-3 hour) ceremony. While the presenters are not comedians, or actors, they do often manage to be quite entertaining.

The above is all the information we’ll receive until immediately after the awards. After the awards, there will be people on hand to give out booklets that show how many nominations each finalist received and how many votes they received.

Information on the finalist can be found at http://www.sff.net/campbell-awards/

A writer becomes eligible for the award upon their first professional sale in the SF&F market over a certain number of copies. Since ALIEN TASTE was my first professional sale, last year was the first year I qualified. There are many good writers that become eligible on the sale of one short story, and struggle the next year or two while their eligibility ticks away, to get a large enough body of work to attract notice.

I was a finalist last year -- Jo Walton, who was in her second year of eligibility, won – so I know what to expect this year. I’m very proud to have been nominated.

I REALLY WANT TO WIN.


Posted by wen at 02:55 PM

April 15, 2003

Midnight Call

I have three sisters. Marcia, Heidi and Kathy, in that order, oldest to youngest with me being the baby of the family. We're basically two years to eighteen months apart, so if I'm 40 (which I'll be on April 16, 2003) then Kathy is 42, Heidi 44, and Marcia is 46.

I'm vastly different from my sisters in many ways, and yet still, in the way families tend to be, very much the same.

My sister Heidi called me at midnight last night.

Now to put this into a little context, yesterday morning I had to go fetch
my son from school. The school nurse called to say he was sound asleep and
snoring. Not only that, but he'd been asleep for two hours. Sigh. I go to
fetch him and explain that with him being home sick since last tueday, that
I'd stop enforcing his bedtime. Friday night I'd been up to 3:00 p.m.
writing and my husband stayed up Saturday night until 4:30 or 5:00. We're
very much night owls.

And so when my sister called last night, she was just finishing dinner and I
was just thinking about going to bed. A perfect time to talk. (Oh, we're
both Eastern Time zone.)

She was just calling to wish me Happy Birthday two
days...opps...midnight...one day early. I'd been trying to get hold of her
since her birthday March 8th -- a close knit family we're not.

Typical of my family, we talked for like half an hour on the weather,
ailments, and puppies. (My family breeds dogs. My sister is whelping 11
puppies currently and between the whole family they have like four dogs due
this week. One Christmas they had fifty puppies between my mom and three
sisters.)

Only when we go to hang up does she mention, oh yes, her foster daughter had
a baby last month (I didn't know she was expecting), her son Jason and
daughter Christine are both expecting their first baby -- Jason's in August
and Christine's in October -- and our nephew Jimmy (Marcia's son) who runs a construction business with Jason is also going to be a first time daddy in August.

Puppies and babies! Is it any wonder I write about feral children?

Posted by wen at 07:50 AM

April 14, 2003

Writing Mysteries

Someone has asked for tips on writing mysteries. Here are eight things I try to do when I'm writing mysteries.

Whenever I write sf mystery I try to do the following.

1. Start the mystery in the first chapter, and if possible, on the first
page. In TAINTED TRAIL, we learn very early that Alicia is missing while
hiking. In BITTER WATERS, there have been several children kidnapped.

2. In Mysteries, you end the story by either solving the mystery OR
bringing the killer to justice.

3. The killer should be mentioned earlier. The more visible the killer is,
the better it turns out. Usually this requires you to bury the killer in
plain site by introducing a host of other killers. One very good example of
this is Dick Francis...I think the novel is HOT MONEY...but most of his are
well done...where fairly early its determined one of seven or eight children
are trying to kill the father. WHICH kid is the mystery, and you meet them
all and all their problems over and over again. They all seem as guilty and
innocent.

4. PI should be interesting people, but when they go talk to suspects, they
should let the suspects babble about their life. The range of likely
killers and witnesses are a great way to show a wide spectrum of society.
I'm not sure why more fantasies don't use this.

5. Its easiest to start with knowing who did what why and how, and then
deciding how the hero finds the clues.

6. The best way to write a mystery is to then build layers on top of it.
One Sue Grafton did that I liked a lot was about a woman that hires Kinsey
to go fetch her mother from out in the desert. The woman has lots of odd
hysterias and during the course of the story its revealed that she's not who
she thinks she is and her mother isn't really her mother. Eventually its
discovered that the hysteria is based on watching a brutal murder as a child
and being smuggled away by her maiden aunt, and that the killer is still
alive and the murder never discovered by police.

7. Readers are quick up with 'THIS IS IMPORTANT' and the more you describe
something, the more important it seems. Hide the important thing behind
something unimportant. ::Wen pauses as all examples that leap to mind,
unfortunately, come from Bitter Waters and are plot spoilers:: Okay, say
you wanted to do a murder where the orange juice is poisoned, hide the
detail like so:

"The flashlight is dead, where do you keep the batteries?"
"In the refrig."
I moved a nearly empty carton of orange juice aside and found the
batteries.
...and then later....
"Too bad about Tom. Can I get you something to drink?" I opened the frig
and checked the containers by picking them up. "There's a little milk in
here, and the a good bit of orange juice."

8. When thinking about plotline, try for the most misleading of information
to come out during a conversation and actions as you can think of. Take
radical turns. Go in unexpected directions....and then go back and make
sure that the clues are there if you look for them. Don't worry if they're
there in the rough draft, but make sure they get put in during rewrite.
Rewrite is when you start to look like a genius!

Posted by wen at 02:04 PM

April 11, 2003

Finding discipline

Once again today I hit Forward Motion and answered the question: How do you find the fire to sit down and actually write?

Okay, so its hard to write a lot. I'm in awe of some of the people that write MASSIVE amounts, but I still get through two novels a year, so I have so ability at it.

First I find it easier if I have a scene in mind to write. Pre-writing basically while I'm washing dishes, taking shower, whatever have you. So when I turn on the computer and go at it, I have stuff already poised in my brain.

Cold starts are harder. One trick that works for me is to have a little ritual. I pull up the stuff I wrote yesterday, read it over, make little edit changes, and when I get to the end, move into the new stuff. Usually this is enough to kick start me.

When I get really stuck, I jump ahead and write something fun. Not recommended for everyone, but it works for me. The fight scene not coming? I put in (They fight, x lives, y dies) and move on to the aftermath.

If I'm really really really stuck, I do a form of mega outlining where I sketch out the next chapter with:

x enters
"Dialogue bits"
Description bit.
More action.

For example:

-----
Atticus talks to Ukiah -- sitting someplace unusual like a roof or a tree or something.

“Do you live in x?”

“y.” (Atticus realizes that Ukiah used Ru's cell phone in guess.) “Ru and I have a z. (house? condo?) We both would like to get a dog, but we’re not home enough…”

Exchanging little bits of information seemed so inadequate to bridge the gulf between them. So he wanted a dog – who wouldn’t? What did actually say about him? How much more would the breed of dog add to Ukiah understanding him?

----

When I started to write, I basically had to say starting at 10:00 pm, I'd work until I dropped, which was about 2:00 a.m. It was hard because I was tired. Now that my son is in school, I rarely work evenings. I now work 7:30 a.m. - 6:00 pm. While some days I get loads done, others I only go back and fill little holes because I don't seem to have the creative drive to spin the new stuff. But that's fine, because I'm still writing.

Posted by wen at 09:38 PM

Fleshing out minor characters

I occassionally drop by Holly Lisle's Forward Motion online writing group. Their concept is to 'pay it forward.' Someone asked the question on how to flesh out minor characters without distracting from the main story.

The more we learn of a character, the more the reader expects them to matter to the plot line.

If the heroine jumps in a cab and says "Fourth and main," rides to the destination and gets out, the cabbie doesn't need a name or description.

If the heroine jumps in a cab, and the cabbie yells "Hey, my light isn't on. I'm on break" And the heroine tips him twenty bucks to go on duty, the cabbie still doesn't need a name or description.

If the cabbie is the same cabbie as a earlier trip, you can get away with something like "the red haird cabbie" but people start to suspect he matters in the story. In a comedy, its done to build humor "Oh no you again!" In a spy film, he'll probably end up being a spy. You don't need to talk about if he's married or if he has kids or necessarily even his name.

In fact, he can be just short of the heroine's side kick and still be just 'a cabbie with red hair' and the rest be up to the reader's imagination. Giving him a name like "John" or "Abdul" will be easier to deal with him than the descriptor, but makes him more important in the story still.

In mysteries you do go into lots of stray details because you want to hide information. So if the heroine goes to a English house party, there will be the villian, the lover interest, and then all the red herrings. At that point, you can give out info in great reams and not really detour the story -- because the story is the process of winnowing through the mass of info for the important clues.

So how do you add it?

There is the simple tell:

"The woman on the right is Lady Whimsey. Her husband is the famous Lord Whimsey who solves murders. You must know of him. Their courtship was quite remarkable -- she murdered her first husband -- poisoned him -- and Lord Whimsey got her off scott free!"

Or the character can talk about himself.

"I'm a Tigger. That's spelled T-i-gah-er. I'm the only one you know." And he went on to explain that his bottom was made of rubber and his tail made of springs -- quite unlikely if you ask me -- all the while careening around the place like a hyper ball. After close questioning, I discovered that -- yes, thankfully -- he was a sole creation of a mad scientist who is now dead.

Or the hero can already know the info.

That left me no choice but to take the empty seat next to Stinky Robert. Yes, he lived up to his name. My mother says I'm to take pity on him since his mother died years ago and his father was a drunkard, ill-fit to raising a child. I liked taking pity on him from across the room. Like usual, he was stealing something out of his coat pocket to nibble on when the teacher wasn't looking. No one in four years of grade school had ever figured out what he kept in his pockets. Eye witness reports say it was green and apparently hard, so rumor had it that it was rabbit pellets. I eyed him as his filthy hand dipped into his pocket.

How much you tell without side tracking the story depends on what level of detail you maintain through out the story.

If you give lush details on everyone the heroine meets, the result will be a lush world with a plot line slightly out of focus. Where are we going? We're not sure but we're enjoying the trip.

The tighter the plot line, the more frantic the pace, the less you will find out about anyone but the main characters.

The trick is to be sure everything MAINTAINS the level. If you're doing lean and mean and suddenly spend five paragraphs on a side character -- that character MUST matter. If you're doing lush, you can't stop the level of detail halfway through the book -- unless of course the heroine has her brain half-eaten by an alien and she's teleported to another world -- but you might loose a few readers there. ;-)

Posted by wen at 06:16 PM

April 10, 2003

In the beginning

Hi! Welcome! Come on in and don't mind the mess. I've decided to keep a blog. During the course of a day, I visit many sites and often sprinkle words of wisdom (ha!) that vanish in a few days or weeks, never to be seen again. Here, I'll have some control over things. And hopefully, this will keep people up to date with my doings.

"Well the Brazilians are gone, the vomit is cleaned up, and the hot sex
done with. I think I might take a nap."

Okay, so that needs explained. I posted that to Julie Czerneda's sff.net newsgroup after a difficult day on Tuesday. Let me reconstruct the day.

I'd been trying to bounce the scene of Atticus and Ru off friends of mine to see if it was okay. I was surprised by the following post:

Wen! Stop reading e-mail! More writing! (this post brought to you by the Editor Looking At Schedules...) Go on, back to your usual chatter...
-- Laura Anne

Laura Anne Gilman being my editor at Roc.

Naturally I respond:

Actually, the maid came a day early. I've got a house full of Brazilians
scrubbing like crazy and an sick autistic 10 year old bouncing off the walls
because there are strangers in the house. Sigh. Might as well dabble in hot gay sex while I'm not getting anything else done.

Well the story continued a short time later:

So no sooner as the Brazilians get all three upstairs full baths scrubbed
than Zachary goes does the bathroom dance for twenty minutes while they work
downstairs on the two half baths. I'm afraid to go look to see what he did
to it -- it was stunningly white. Sigh.

Well, he comes downstairs after this and VOMITS in the family room. It's
not horrible, he manages to get almost all of it in a bag...a paper
bag...that he carries through the kitchen and down the hall to my office to
show off that 'mom, i don't feel so well, I think i'm sick...blah blah blah
without using the words I THREW UP' until mom recognizes the smell...and the
fact that the paper is dripping and about to explode.

Well the Brazilians are gone, the vomit is cleaned up, and the hot sex done
with. I think I might take a nap.

------

That was Tuesday. I kept Zachary home Wednesday and planned to send him in today, but he woke up complaining of being sick. 'Faker' I thought, but the school district, which is normally cautious, has been doubly cautious with SAR in the air. So I kept him home. I'm feeling like vomiting, so things are not good. He seemed fairly well, but around dinner time, his temperature suddenly spiked and he was screaming from a headache. "Make it stop! Make it stop!"

I gave him some medicine, and an icebag and got him to lay down. He seems better after an hours sleep.

------

Less than sixty days to finish Dog Warrior. GAK! Updates on that later. I've been working in evenings and in the bathroom on a short story, a spare 2850 words, for an anthology for Baen. I finished it up today and sent it it. The title is MOON MONKEYS, a short and funny piece. I don't know the details on the anthology other than Toni is editing it. I must get details and publish it later.

I got word from Toni earlier this week that TINKER is into copyeditting. She didn't mention any changes, so I guess she was happy about it as is or I'll get the revisions at the same time as the copyedits.

Nancy Hanger emailed today that I'll have the galleys around the end of May. Wow. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

-------

Balticon has contacted me around room, tickets, guest, and program book info. Here's what I sent them:

Raised on the Southwestern Pennsylvanian farm where her father, grandmother, and great-grandfather were born, Wen Spencer is slightly bewildered how she ended up living outside of Boston, Massachusetts. It had something to do with owning four houses in two states, an eighteen-month pause in the Berkshire Mountains to finish construction on one of said houses, and stock options. Currently her family is down to one house and resisting all offers to move them out of the country.

Wen attended the University of Pittsburgh and put that time to good use playing D&D and discovering fandom. Her first ever SF convention was Balticon, back in 1982. She’s still not sure how she graduated -- with a respectable QPA at that. She helped run the Pittsburgh-based Confluence, and at one time was the vice-president of the SF fan club, PARSEC.

Wen Spencer was a 2002 finalist for the John Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The Compton Crook winning Alien Taste was Wen Spencer’s first professional sale. It marked the start of the Ukiah Oregon Series: Alien Taste, Tainted Trail (nominated for the 2002 Romantic Times Bookclub Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best SF) and the newly released Bitter Waters. LOCUS praises Bitter Waters, saying: As usual, it all ends up an engrossing, thrill-filled adventure, full of fascinating alien – and human – weirdness. A fourth book, Dog Warrior, will be released next May by Roc, followed by a stand alone novel, A Brother’s Price. Tinker will be released in November as a hardcover by Baen. Excerpts from all her novels can be found at her web site at www.wenspencer.com.

Well, I suppose I should leave something to talk about tomorrow other being sick.

Good night!

Posted by wen at 10:08 PM