September 10th, 2007


[personal] Yeomen polishing their brightly colored yeos

I woke up this morning with my brain in neutral. This rarely happens, as I am almost always working on/thinking about something, whether it's a writing project, a work problem or a life issue. I was dreaming (in one single dream) about advertising, moon shots, zoos in Southeast Asia, cocaine deals, intergenerational romances and knitting. I've never had the slightest interest in coke, I don't knit, and I've never been to the moon. The other three I have some experience with. Go figure.

Stumbling to the shower, my first coherent thought was the fact that it was profoundly self-evident that Jesus was Jewish and so was the Virgin Mary, which made me question in yet another light 2,000 years of often highly organized Christian anti-Semitism. (I had somehow got there through a flash on Russian literature, so maybe it wasn't that coherent.)

Just in case you were wondering what it's like to live inside my head. Onward now to the day, and excelsior.

[links|lj] Weekened reacharound


[links] Link Salad at the beginning of the workday

A review passim of Trial of Flowers Powell's | Amazon ]

A lovely short film about Rendezvous With Rama.

Velociraptor safety precautions — Nicked, I believe, from dinogrl.

You too can and should be an intelligence analyst — Commentary on intelligence and government decision making. Courtesy of chriswjohnson. (Who is having his first professional photography exhibition shortly, btw.)

The Daily Triplicate covers the upcoming North Coast Redwoods Writers Conference — With a comment from me, and a mention of Mainspring Powell's | Amazon ].

Apparently I am pidley.

Military Seen as Best Able to Guide War — The story is serious (about public perceptions of the Iraq War) but that headline may be the stupidest I've seen in a long time.

Camel Case — A discussion of capitalization in English, with special attention to SoftWare UsaGe.

And finally, for dessert...

Chocolate deities — Courtesy of sheelangig.

The lime and the coconut were fighting for the strand
The lime beat the coconut all around the sand.
Some gave them margaritas, and some gave them beer;
Some gave pina coladas and drummed them out of there.

[links] Link Salad goes to lunch, brings back a doggie bag

The Ford Pinto memo — Ancient history, relatively speaking, but well worth remembering. When conservatives blather on about market self-regulation, this is one of the most profound counterarguments. Markets optimize for financial performance, not social good. I don't know why this is so hard for privatization advocates to understand. You want your healthcare decisions being made by minds like these?

The social life of information — A book review that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about privacy, personal information and information technology. (Thanks to karindira.)

David Brin on his tour de Asia, part 1 — (Thanks to dirkcjelli for the link.)

Should Governments Be Allowed To Install Spyware? — (Thanks to lillypond for this one.)

Aeon 11 is out — Includes my short story "A Very Old Man With No Wings At All."

Volunteers collect Baghdad's nameless dead.

Face-scan can spot genetic illnesses — Depending on how you look at it, this is either fascinating, or the return of some of the worst excesses of nineteenth century pseudoscience. Or quite possibly both.

A 1962 Czech short film about hoonage in a Tatra 603 — Worth watching for the music alone. Not to mention the weirdly mannered acting. And the incredibly cool Iron Curtain hod rod.

[lj] Minor lj neepery

This lj has been active for a little over three years. (Prior to that I had a presence on the Rumor Mill, and at In 39 months, I've posted 4,671 journal entries, made 9,557 comments, and received 29,626 comments. Should I give away a prize for the 30,000th comment?

[process] The black art of synopses, wisdom from foreign parts

Writing process notes from people who are smarter than me...

ladnews with the 10.5 Commandments of writing.

He also made the following comments on email (quoted here with permission), much of which he credits to Tim Powers and Australian fantasy goddess Kim Wilkins:

  • The outline is not the outline you work from while writing the book. This one reads like jacket copy, is all in present tense, has no 'style,' and shouldn't be more than five pages — ten at the most. (Like all "rules" in writing, this can be broken if circumstance or an editor demands it.)

  • When submitting an outline, remember that this and the cover letter are the first examples of your ability to write effectively that a publisher will see. Make sure you spend a lot of time and care on it. Note 'write effectively'. That is,effective for the purpose at hand, which is synopsizing, not showing off your ability to produce staggering metaphors. The sentences should be elegant and clean and should not be overloaded with obvious or clunky figurative language. Your style should be simple and clear.

  • Don't think of your synopsis as a description of your story. Think of it as a selling tool for your story. They have quite different functions.

  • You can't put the whole story in. You can only put in key points. Use words like 'increasingly,' 'starts to,' and 'continues' to summarise story-building scenes. Resist the temptation to summarise all your favourite scenes.

  • Include the end. You're not trying to surprise or move the editor, as you would a reader. You're simply trying to show that you know how to end a story.

  • There is no place in a synopsis for extensive character background. Don't use up a paragraph detailing how a character has developed a certain moral or philosophical view of life. If it's important, add it in a clause: 'Wynona, who had always felt that sex meant nothing without love, rejects his advances.' There's no need to convince the reader; she'll take you at your word.

  • Edit ruthlessly. Weigh up every clause and ask 'does this have to be here?' If it doesn't, get rid of it.

  • I find it easier to start with a pretend blurb — to strip the book right back to the hook, the thing that will really grab the reader — then expand out from there.

Kelly McCullough with a tri-partite disquisition on pitches and synopses:

Synopses Suck (Pitching Part 2)
Synopses Still Suck (Pitching Part 3)