I’ve been silent here a while, but <she says, brightly> I have an excuse! I contributed to a book.

For the past year and a half I’ve been writing essays for an examination of gender, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in the military family for a publication by the Museum of the American Military Family. The museum is near Albuquerque, New Mexico, but we writers are scattered across the country.

The book, E Pluribus Unum: GRAICE Under Pressure, is an examination of gender, religion, race, identity, culture, and ethnicity in the military family.

The project, led by Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, founder and director of the Museum, is in the final stages and should be released in July of this year. I’m happy to have been a writer in residence as a part of the project.

E Pluribus Unum: GRAICE Under Pressure

For years I’ve had one of Colin Dexter’s paperbacks floating around my bookshelves: The Secret of Annexe 3. The printing date is 1998, so I’ve had it a while.  During those years, I’d often look through my bookshelves at bedtime for a book to re-read. I prefer easy books when I’m trying to go to sleep. I’d look at Annexe 3, but always skipped over it because I knew that I hadn’t ‘got’ the story the first time around. Still, the book was an Inspector Morse story, so I never got rid of it.

About a week ago I was again browsing through my bookshelves and I decided to give Annexe 3 another try.  How hard could it be?

Eighty-eight pages into the story I found out why I had no clear recollection of the story: the page after 88 was 25 — the very same page-25 I’d already read.  I flipped through the following pages to see if this second page-25 was an anomaly, but it wasn’t.  The repeat pages didn’t end until page 56, and then they skipped to page 121.

Page 88 - 25 of The Secret of Annexe 3

Page 88 – 25 of The Secret of Annexe 3


Pages 56 - 121 of The Secret of Annexe 3

Pages 56 – 121 of The Secret of Annexe 3


I’m assuming I don’t need to point out that this goof-up severely interrupted my understanding of the story line. Don’t ask me why I kept this copy. Any memory of that reason is long gone.

In recent years I’ve complained to myself about the decline in the quality of recently-published books. Most complaints have to do with typographical gremlins that crept in, or story lines that don’t track well. Given this blooper from the last century, I’ll probably have to cut newer volumes a lot more slack.

I would be interested in reading the complete book, but I just checked and the library I use doesn’t have this volume. I’m leery of buying another Annexe 3 because the book shown at Amazon has the same cover as mine. I didn’t see any complaints about an entire section having been mis-inserted into any of the books that were reviewed, but it would be just my luck to get another from the same batch.  I think my next bedtime book will be one from my collection of Agatha’s books.

Magic.  E-publishing is magic.

Until about half an hour ago, I had a “Kindle app” only on my Ipod Touch I-gizmo.  For most purposes, reading on the I-gizmo was satisfactory but lately I’ve been buying instructional books and I wanted to make notes.  Using the I-gizmo to read books from which I want to take notes is do-able but the screen keeps turning off while I type (and if there is an off-button for the auto-off function, I haven’t found it).  If I take notes from the books, I also have to flip back and forth between reading the I-gizmo and typing on the computer.  Because of this, I bit the bullet and clicked on the Kindle app for computers.  Actually, I only clicked near the Kindle app button to find out more, but whaddya know, I’d downloaded something.

Seeing that I’d already taken that first step in putting a Kindle app on my laptop, I kept on clicking.  The app-fairies did their bit and, within a minute, all my e-books were neatly lined up awaiting my merest click.

I know that we all take for granted the stuff that we grow up with, which for my generation would be

  • Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor
  • televisions,  tape recorders and party-line telephones
  • supermarkets, yellow margarine and tv-dinners
  • Snoopy, Dagwood and Alfred E. Newman
  • Disneyland, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck
  • jet planes, the USSR and bomb shelters
  • Elvis, the Beatles and the Monkees
  • rock & roll, Dick Clark and teenagers (as a population demographic and not just as people older than 12 and younger than 20)

Just as all the above seemed as natural as air to me and my peers (but maybe not our parents), it seems as if the e-reading devices have been around for a long time.  In reality it has only been within the last decade or so that the computer capability explosion has magnificently rocked the amount of stuff — books, music, movies and games — made almost instantly available to customers.  The Kindle e-reader was introduced only in 2007.

I don’t know whether Hermione Granger could have conjured up dead-tree books any faster than my installation of the Kindle app, and if that’s not magic, [insert Harry Potter wand-wave] Publarium computatis!, I don’t know what is.

I can’t write about my fiction because, first off, it’s not yet published and that makes the stories difficult to promote.  They are accumulating, but the process is slow.  I also can’t write about my fiction as that would decrease the pressure I’m feeling to have it published.  Telling you that my heroine will be doing this, that or the other thing soothes my itch to tell her story.

I have drafts of general-interest blog posts, but they languish on the hard drive because the very act of writing them to demonstrate my superior way of thinking about the topics showed me I was right.  Once I’d shown myself the validity of my thinking, I didn’t need to tell everyone else about it.   (you’re welcome)

All the reasons I have for not writing leaves me with a problem — a blog needs entries to keep it from being Just Another WordPress Blog.  To keep things active, I’ve put together a list of Other Peoples’ Writings for your reading enjoyment.  I found these blog entries either amusing, illuminating or fun (and yes, Scalzi’s the outlier, but so worth it).

Happy reading!

Rhys Bowen, author of the books about Lady Georgiana Rannoch and Molly Murphy, poses a question about the entitlement felt by readers because of authors who give away full-length books online.

Giving it away, Rhys’s Pieces

A secondary concern is the amount of “rubbish” available, but the main concern is the expectation from readers that writers will work for free.

Linda Rodriguez, a winner of the St. Martin’s/Malice Domestic writing contest with her novel Every Last Secret, shared with the blogosphere a link to various St. Martin’s writing contests.

I’ve been busy elsewhere with fallout from Learning by Grace, Inc., et al, v. Idoni, an artifact from my other life, so I haven’t been blogging about stories, writing, or the audio books I’ve been entertaining myself with, the most recent being Anteater of Death (a cozy mystery set in a zoo) and Foul Matter (a wicked take on the publishing industry by Martha Grimes, with the best hit-men evah!)

A link this morning from one of the writers at SheWrites, though, gave me the opportunity to do a quick link to a piece whose subject is one I’ve thought about:  ‘staying in touch online,’ in contrast with the memory of long days of relative solitude, ie, Before the Internet (BI).

  • Jonathan Fields:  “Creative Kryptonite and the Death of Productivity”
    Hyperconnectivity requires a massive volume of switchtasking, which destroys true-productivity and efficiency because every time you page through your various modes of connectivity and respond to different prompts, you lose focus. To regain that focus requires a certain amount of time and cognitive effort.

I’m sure part of my BI wistfulness is nostalgia for youth. When things were slower I was a hell of a lot younger and didn’t have as many ‘things’ to do to maintain a normal-appearing life — hair color?  every three weeks? (and no, you don’t have to point out that not only is haircoloring optional but the salon is, too; I get that). But wistful nostalgia aside, I used to get more actual activities done, although I doubt that with four kids, two cats, and a dog, I’d have spent much time online, if we’d had an “online.”

Mr. Fields’s blog post has more to it than mourning a BI life in which the most common non-person-in-front-of-us interruption was the telephone.  Then, phones were stuck to the wall so you had to be near one for it to interrupt you, and unless you had one of those long cords, you had to stay within, say, four feet of the phone to continue to use it, as did anyone who called you.   About the only wireless devices for everyday people were CB radios or walkie talkies, and you could tell who had in-car telephones from the whip antenna tied in a curve from the trunk to the hood.  Cool.

Wistful nostalgia aside, read on at the link to Mr. Fields’s blog to find out about “intermittent reinforcement,” and the “Zeigarnik Effect.”

For me, it’s back to the electron mines.  Tschüss.

While ‘behaving like an author’ and researching markets, I find myself  amused that some of the least generous websites have binding copyright restrictions.

We are not a paying market, but if we deign to accept your story and expend server space on it, we own First North American rights, anthology rights, and if you ever republish this story anywhere, you have to say it was published here first.

Riiiiight.  No pay and limited author copyright is such an attractive deal.  Let me get back to you …

Ebooks are gaining ground in the literary marketplace, although I doubt that the  Literary gatekeepers will accept that ebooks are literature.  This blog post from the Idea Logical Company compares the burst of ebook growth to the early surge of paperback novels:  Ebooks are making me recall the history of mass-market publishing.

For writers who hope to attract readers to books they publish outside the mainstream, publishing either with indie publishers or self-publishing on ebooks, the difficulty in attracting readers is breaking through the noise — “‘Signal-to-noise ratio’ is sometimes used informally to refer to the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange.”  (Wikipedia)

Gar Haywood writes about self-promotion at:  The Most Stupendous Blog Post You Will Ever Read!

For indie-published writers, the “noise” is the avalanche of published material:  books, magazines, newspapers, comic books, online texts, cereal boxes and toothpaste tubes.  The modern world is swimming in text.  Making a publishing splash on your own that anyone notices is probably equal to the chances of anyone paying attention to a stone that a (fictional and conveniently located) tourist tosses into the thundering plunge pool under Niagara Falls.  Self-promotion is a must when the writer tosses her book into the stream of books that makes up the literary Niagara Falls.

The writers recommended these sites recommended during today’s Wednesday Chat:

  • Duotrope’s Digest:  writers’ resource listing over 3300 current Fiction and Poetry publications
  • QueryTracker:  Organize and track your query letters to literary agents and publishers.

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