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What is the Future of Assassination? Meet Rico, A Genetically-Enhanced Hitman

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Liberty Island

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 6.54.10 AM

Killing is ugly. A living body is designed to survive; killing opposes its entire purpose. Nothing dies in an artful manner — a body is just damaged until it fails to sustain itself anymore. Put enough holes in something, and it will eventually stop moving, stop functioning. And often a living creature’s last moments are spent in a pointless struggle, twisting and writhing in a vain attempt to continue its existence. I’ve seen it many times. I’ve known it myself.

But that’s just an aesthetic quibble. The ugliness of death aside, I always enjoyed the challenge of being a hitman.

The receptionist was ignoring me. She (I wasn’t familiar with the species — purplish with tentacley things on her head — but she appeared to be the childbearing variety) was talking on the phone in a clearly non-work-related manner while I waited. We were in a spacious lobby with walls and floors of glass and ivory. Everything was curved, not many hard angles where surfaces met. Several bunches of flowers and other potted plants decorated the walls and otherwise empty floor space. I noted one exit to my right and a hallway leading further into the building to my left — so I only had two directions to be wary of.

I knocked on the hard white top of her desk. She finished her call and looked at me with gray eyes. “I’m sorry for the wait, but I don’t think this resort is able to accommodate your species.”

“That’s okay. I’m actually here on business. My name is Rico, and I am here to see Chal Naus.”

“He didn’t say he was expecting anyone, and he doesn’t see anyone without an appointment. And business hours ended half an hour ago.”

“No, he is not expecting me, but I do need to see him personally. And I specifically came after business hours because I wanted to be polite and not interrupt whatever it is he does here.”

Her face tensed. I had no idea what that meant — and didn’t care. “I can’t help you. I think you need to leave.” Her tenor had changed — I think she was threatening me. She wasn’t very good at it. Perhaps I could teach her something.

The job of a hitman is always changing, always invigorating, and it often requires that I perform at my best. Plus, it makes me get out and interact with people — which is good, since I’m basically anti-social. I have trouble seeing that as my fault, though; I rarely encounter an individual worth talking to. Everyone seems so pointless, coasting through drab, rote lives. They have nothing useful to say, nothing useful to do. They just are.

I partly blame civilization for that. It allows people to get through life with so little effort. Take this receptionist. Most animals exist in a daily life-and-death struggle, and if they don’t give it everything they’ve got, they end up with that messy death I just described. The receptionist, on other hand, just had to sit at a desk and smile… and she couldn’t even be bothered to put much effort into that. I can’t imagine why someone would waste her life going to a job she doesn’t care to do. I can’t imagine such a person would have anything to say that might be worth listening to. So I’m anti-social.

But I’m working on it.

Sure, I find pretty much all sentients boring in their normal lives, but that doesn’t mean they lack the potential to be interesting. It’s just a matter of focus. No matter how lazy or unmotivated a person is, if he feels his life is on the line, he will devote every available resource to not being killed. Civilization goes out the door, and pure survival kicks in. When people are that awake and that focused, they intrigue me. So you can say I have a job that brings out the best in people.

“Are you familiar with the Nystrom syndicate? I am here on their behalf, so one way or another I will speak to your boss. In person.”

Her eyes grew wider. I could have guessed at the meaning of that but, again, I didn’t care. “Is he aware you are coming?”

I thought I’d covered that. Sometimes — due to my lack of social skills — I’m not as clear as I think I am. So I tried again. “I’ll make this simple: You tell Chal Naus that I am going to speak to him personally and that I will kill anyone who stands in my way, starting with you.” I didn’t think she was actually going to get in my way, but as I said, people can be quite focused when they feel their lives are on the line. “I’m going to go sit down while I wait for a response.” I smiled politely, wondering what color her species bled; you can never tell by skin color.

I sat down in one of the odd circular chairs across from the desk. The purple, tentacle-headed receptionist was back on the phone, talking much more frantically than she had before. Soon six other creatures entered the lobby: larger tentacle-headed things I assumed were male. I think they were supposed to intimidate me, and the tense faces they wore were probably their angry expressions.

I remained seated and relaxed, arms folded. There is little in body language that is universal between species, but ignoring someone is a good way to assert dominance; it communicates that I do not find an individual or group to be threatening or even worth my time.

A screen appeared on one of the walls. On the screen was the image of another creature of the same species, and admittedly able to judge by only a small sample, he seemed obese. That wasn’t necessarily a weakness — it could be a cultural thing.

“That is Chal Naus,” Dip, my “partner,” chimed in my ear.


Join us again next week for another excerpt from SuperEgo and more provocative essays from Frank J. Fleming and the Liberty Island team.


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Enter an Enchanted World

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg


Hi gang! I’m releasing my new novel, Bulfinch, this August, and in the weeks leading up to it I’m sharing one free short story per week online. If you’re in search of a fun and short read this week during your lunch hour, check out one of these:

Belle” is an inventive retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a struggling single mother who feels like a prisoner of circumstance — and of her heavily tattooed landlord, whom she calls The Beast. But their unlikely attraction may have the power to change both their lives…with some help from Mrs. Teapot.

“Bridal Sour” is a quirky twist on the zombie genre. When all the recently engaged women in town start turning into zombies, one girl thinks she knows the cause — and its unlikely solution.

Click the titles to download either story at NoiseTrade!


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15 Writing Tips From a Pro So You Can Start and Finish Your Book With Success

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt


Editor’s Note: This extraordinary series of writing advice articles was published on Saturdays last Spring, from February 28 through June 15, 2013. I’m hoping that Sarah’s thoughtful, encouraging writing can inspire other writers as it has me. (Check out her newest book Witchfinder here, her first indie novel, and read about how she wrote it with her blog here. Sarah’s on the cutting edge, carving new territory in the world of sci-fi/fantasy publishing. There’s so much other writers can learn from her.) With the recent launch of the new fiction platform Liberty Island now’s a better time than ever to give that novel a shot. Please check out this interview Sarah conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” – Dave Swindle

Tip 1: The Thirteen Weeks Novel Writing Program

How to apply the Charlie Martin Method to your first book.

Tip 2: Three Questions To Ask Before You Write Your Novel

Is your book big enough to choke a goat?

Tip 3: First You Catch Your Idea

Hunting ideas out in the wild.

Tip 4: The Plot Wars

By all means take up arms in the fight between “plotters” and “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-ers.” Just remember to take up a pen too.

Tip 5: How to Find the Time for Writing

5 time management rules for writers.

Tip 6: How to Escape the Blackhole of Endless Research

With these tips you can avoid dying buried In books and focus on writing.

Tip 7: How to Develop a Dynamite Writing Voice

In which we break open the safe to reveal the secrets of crafting exciting prose to hook your reader from the first page.

Tip 8: My Tricks for Beating Procrastination

Stop rotating the cat!

Tip 9: How To Ensure Your Novel Flies Right

Achieving Literary Liftoff.

Tip 10: How to Avoid Giving Up on Writing Your Book

Slow Dancing in the Dark.

Tip 11: How to Read Fiction and Watch Movies to Add Depth and Feeling to Your Writing

Look, Ma, No Hands!

Tip 12: What To Do When Writing Clicks Together

I Believe I Can Fly!

Tip 13: How to Build Your Writing Career

Block by Block

Tip 14: The Secret to Crafting a Conflict of Biblical Proportions…

The Duel.

Tip 15: Managing Your Deadlines

Beat the devil!

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How To Create Fantastic Covers For Your E-Books

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt


Editor’s Note: This supplement to Sarah Hoyt’s Selling Your Writing In 13 Weeks series first ran during January and February of 2014. Independent authors and self-publishing entrepreneurs should also check out Sarah and Charlie Martin’s weekly Book Plug Friday series where they can submit their books for inclusion. 

Part 1: How to Judge Good Covers From Bad

Part 2: How to Create Your Covers Affordably

Part 3: The Tools You Need To Get Started

Measuring Up Outlets For Indie Publishing

Saturday, November 30th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling Your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 8

Like a beautiful mirage in the desert of publishing, for decades ebooks were cool, interesting, but never quite there.

Like a beautiful mirage in the desert of publishing, for decades ebooks were cool, interesting, but never quite there.

For a long time ebooks were sort of a mirage.

When I attended my first writers’ conference twenty years ago, the publishing world was abuzz with rumors of ebooks and how great they would be.

There were all sorts of panels which in retrospect seem rather silly about how ebooks would change the reading experience. You’d have these integrated “smart books” with lines you could click on to get more background.

Being a notoriously doubtful kind of person, I remember thinking “Uh… not unless people operate very differently from my household.”

There was no way I could lug my monitor to the bathroom or the kitchen.

Besides the whole idea of books with click through points seemed… odd.  It might be okay, I thought, for non fiction – while reading a book on, say, glass blowing, I could see the clicking on some link for “older techniques” (still, unless those excursions were brief, it would become disruptive.)  However, people were talking about “click through to find the character’s personal history” or “click through for a summary of how they got to this situation” or – more ridiculous – “click through for a map of the land” or schemata of the spaceship or…

I was greener than grass, but I was not so green that I did not know the experience of reading is following the writers’ voice and storytelling ability.  As tempting as it is, in the second and subsequent books in a series to cue in the readers who haven’t read previous books without distracting the others, my guess is that the experience would be lacking.

I must have been right.  For the next fifteen years, at conference, workshop, gathering of writers and editors, this wonderful idea of an ebook future was brought up. But, like rejuvenation or teleporting, it was a scientific development that was always in the future.

Does this mean nothing happened?  Oh, no.  Baen Books had a vibrant ebook store, and, as pagers gave way to personal organizers, people started reading on those and on other portable devices.  (At the time my own dream device was the Irex Iliad.  I was never able to afford it)

However most ebook reading devices were massively expensive, uncomfortable on the eyes, and not used unless you had some special incentive – like traveling a lot.  Baen sold comfortably to a segment of the population who liked ebooks, but most other houses – after a few abortive attempts at an ebook department – more or less ignored the whole thing.

The outlet for indie books I became aware of was Smashwords, and the quality of most books posted there, from the bizarrely off-size covers to the writing, reinforced every stereotype of the self-published author.

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Ensuring Your Book Is All That It Can be

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling Your Writing In Thirteen Weeks — Week 7

So you maggots think you're novels!

So you maggots think you’re novels!

This is important whether you’re going the “new, new indie” or the traditionally published route. The level to which you want your manuscript bullet-proofed might be different, but you should still have someone look over your story before sending it in.

Yes, I know, the big houses are supposed to do their own editing, checking and proofreading, just like the big newspapers are supposed to have layers and layers of fact checkers. Don’t count on it.

The quality of the editing you get is proportional to their hopes of your selling really well, which in turn is proportional to the size of your advance.

That means if your advance is under ten thousand dollars (and most advances are) you cannot expect your book to get more than a cursory look by someone who finished college last year, and whose most notable reading – let alone editing – achievement was devouring Fifty Shades of Gray at one sitting.

But the more important thing, if your advance is ten thousand or less, is that copy-editing for punctuation and typos might be the only editing you get.

And this is a problem, because no matter how good you are, how smart you are, or how carefully you researched your subject, in the middle of the book, your brain is going to do something utterly bizarre and you’re going to reverse the name of two towns; you’re going to introduce a technology that didn’t exist at the time, or you’re going to forget the color of your character’s eyes… or remember it wrong.

Now how much you spend depends on what you expect to be paid, whether you’re going indie or traditional, what your expectations are of the book and well… who you know.

It also is important that you know what you’re paying for – and what the person reading is supposed to do for you.

So, let’s take this thing in order –

You’ve finished a novel. Good for you! I suppose if it’s your first novel, I can’t prevent you from letting your mom read it. (Unless you’re like me. I give thanks daily that mom can’t speak/read English.)

That’s fine. Just don’t take it seriously. Your mom, unless your mom is a published author in that genre and notoriously mean (ask my kids) in critique, is not an appropriate judge of marketability or how publishers/the market will react to your story.

The first thing you should do is find what we call in the field “beta readers.” This comes from software, where they have beta testers. Every writer should have beta readers. Yes, I know that this can be a problem. Way back almost thirty years ago, as a young author, I had trouble finding three people who knew enough about the genre I was trying to break in and who were willing to read my book. Which was a pity because I desperately needed a reality check.

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How to Write Queries, Synopsis and Proposals

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling you writing in 13 weeks, supplemental post 1, part 1

We will not teach you how to do this!

We will not teach you how to do this!


How to pitch and query.

No, we don’t mean we’ll teach you how to propose marriage, though if you need help of that kind, read the first proposal – by Mr. Darcy – in Pride and Prejudice and then make sure you don’t do that.

However, I promised a supplemental post to my 13 weeks series, about how to approach traditional markets, should you decide to do so.

I don’t know if my experience is normal — since I came from so far outside the field that I came from another country, culture and language – but I spent eight years unable to submit any of my stories, because while I knew how to write the stories themselves, I was in the dark on how to write those strange things “queries” and “proposals” and “synopsis.”

Then one day at a writers’ group meeting I asked a published author next to me how one did it, and – after looking at me like I’d taken leave of my senses – she showed me.  On the back of an envelope.  In five minutes.

Which was handy, because a year later, when I met an editor at a workshop, she asked me to send her a proposal.  And I did.  It was the proposal for Ill Met By Moonlight, which sold to that editor three days after I sent it.

If you’re trying to go the traditional route you will come – perhaps you’ve already come – up on these words “query” and “synopsis” and “proposal”.  If you attend conventions you might also have need of a magical thing called “pitch” or “elevator pitch.”

The only two houses – that I know of, though it’s possible there are still some in Romance and/or mystery – that take submissions in the form of a full manuscript are Baen and DAW (though I heard rumors TOR did, or was intending to.) All the others will have either a line saying “No unsolicited submissions” or “send query”  Or “Send proposal”.

So, let’s start with how you magically turn your submission from “unsolicited” to “solicited.”

This usually involves attending a convention or workshop also attended by the editor you wish to work with.

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How to Make Sure your Story Is Publishable

Saturday, November 9th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
You must look for the flaws in your own work, so you can fix them.

You must look for the flaws in your own work so you can fix them.

So you’ve decided to go indie. What is the first thing you should do?

No, you shouldn’t – really, truly, trust me – make space in your basement for all those piles of money you intend to roll around in. Yes there are some people who made quite a lot of money right off the bat. There are also a lot of people (cumulatively) who win the lottery. However, just like your retirement plan shouldn’t be “first, win the lottery” your plan for indie success shouldn’t be “put one book out, make a pile of money.”

Most of the people who buy a lottery ticket do not win the lottery. And most of the people who have a single book out do not immediately and suddenly become bestsellers with millions of dollars flowing in.

If you are one of those people, you’re one of luck’s own children, and you don’t need my humble advice any more than you need an extra arm or a third eye. Go forth and perform magic, or something.

However, let’s suppose you’re a normal human being and you just wrote a short story or a novel, or a novella, which you’ve decided to throw out there for sale to the general public.

First of all let me caution you: the first piece of completed writing you ever do will seem to you like the most amazing and miraculous thing.

Even if you’ve been writing for years, and have been aware that there was something lacking in your efforts, there will be a story you finish that you know is “a real story.” And you’ll think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

The same thing happens with your first “real” heart piece, your first “real” song, your first “real” computer program, and just about any other endeavor that involves both art and craft. The first one that you think is “good enough” will also seem wonderful to you.

Most of the time it will not be.

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Payment Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Put your Story Teller's Bowl out. Who knows what might fall in it?

Put your Storyteller’s Bowl out. Who knows what might fall in it?

So, you want to sell your writing?  No?  You don’t?  Wait… why not?

Oh, art, you say, and you don’t wish to sell out.  I see.  But see, where I come from compliments are easy – and cheap – but when people dig into their pocket and take the approximate price of a chicken or a six-pack of decent beer and lay it out for my novel, THEN I know I’m appreciated.

Writing – or any form of storytelling, really – is a two-way communication.  At least it is if it’s working right.  It might seem to you that you’re just standing on the corner, rattling off the story to an unresponsive audience, but if you’re doing it right, it’s just not that way.  (And realizing this was the difference between being an amateur and starting to sell my stories at pro level.)  That beautiful metaphor you just crafted with your amazing word skills goes for nothing if it doesn’t evoke a mood or a feeling in your reader.

It might seem to you that the ultimate product of the storyteller’s craft is the words that appear on the page of that are spoken out into the crowd.  This is not true.  The words are just the tools you use to bring your art about.  Calling them the product of your art would be like calling pastel sticks the product of the artist’s craft.  The result of the artist’s efforts with the pastel is a completed portrait or scene.  And the result of your craft with words is the emotions the reader/listener feels.  If you’re doing it right, you’ll evoke just the right emotions and take your reader on a ride through comedy or tragedy to catharsis and either an escape from the everyday or – ideally, though few of us attain it – a return to the everyday equipped with tools to face real life emotions in a new way.

When a traditional storyteller is doing this, it is not unusual to have a begging bowl at his or her feet.  The storyteller can tell how well the emotions are being invoked in the public by how fast that rain of coins hits the begging bowl.

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If You’re Trying to Do Two Things at Once, Pick One

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
It makes for a very exciting way to start a book, but I could use a little less excitement in real life.

It makes for a very exciting way to start a book, but I could use a little less excitement in real life.

Organizing your Creative Life in Thirteen Weeks, Week 10

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You

Week Nine: After an Upset in Your Routine Catching Up Is Hard to Do 



Patricia Wentworth has a novel by that title.  Exclamation mark and all.  I don’t remember if this was her first book that I bought – I do remember that that book grabbed me right from the title, and since that was also the very first word on the book, it caught me and made me read it right to the end.

Putting your character in a situation where they must do or die right off the bat will grab the reader and not let go.  At least if you have the ability to keep the pace going the rest of the book.  (Okay, Wentworth slacks off a little.  She’s more romantic suspense than suspense.)

So, does this mean that I’ve given up on organizing my creative life and taken to dispensing writing advice again?

Not exactly.  I’m here to tell you that finding myself in the position of that character in that book is a lot less fun than it is reading about it.

No, I wasn’t lost in fog outside a creepy old house.  I didn’t hear steps behind me, and someone didn’t pass me, running, while yelling “run.”  Well, not literally.  In a metaphorical sense, it came pretty close.

The good news is that I’ve finally finished revising Witchfinder and sending it off to editors, including the real one (though it will come out from a small indie press, Goldport – mostly because even though I love Baen books, I want to keep a foot on the indie thing.  It’s a new avenue, and I like exploring.)

The bad news is that I’ve still not finished Through Fire, mostly through having tried to back up and do it from a different perspective.  Don’t go there.  Just don’t.

Part of the issue with the two books was something that I’ve heard of other writers running into: you’re working on a piece, which blocks the other piece you’d like to work on.  This happens.

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Eating an Elephant

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin


Sarah and I agreed to write two sides of the question of writing rituals, me taking the anti-ritual side. So now, I’m home from the day job, dressed in my comfy pants, in my writing corner where my computer faces a window and my cats have convenient places to sit and watch. I get the editor open (my new love in software, Ulysses III, which I’m going to review next week), arrange the windows the way I like, get a bottle of water next to me, and, as my last step, I wind my tomato timer and start it ticking at my left elbow.

I’m now prepared to write about why I think writing rituals can be harmful.

The fact is that I think every writer has rituals, and they’re not all harmful. Writing is a funny process — you sit in a room looking at an empty screen, and push words out. As I said a few days ago, for me this empty screen used to be the step at which I’d start to sweat blood. I’d write a few words or a paragraph, or even some pages, and not like them, and start over — something made easier by a computer although without the satisfying feeling of crumpling the paper into a ball and throwing it away. Eventually something would click and I’d get moving, and eventually find something I liked.

Oddly, I could write at length, with some fluency, and with some verve when I was writing something like a USENET comment, or later writing blog comments and emails. It was just when I had to sit down and write something real that I had troubles.

Steven Pressfield calls this Resistance, and identifies it as a powerful force. In his book The War of Art he sees Resistance as a shadowy force that interferes any time you try to do something challenging, whether it’s writing a book or following a diet or saving a marriage. For me, most often it’s the Critic’s Voice, a part of me that looks over my shoulder, reads what I’ve written, and sniffs “Meh.”

When Resistance is thwarted, you get into a different state, a state of flow — the words are coming and you know what you’re actually doing — sometimes you look at what you’re writing and say “Whoa, where’d that come from?”

It’s a mental state that I suspect is very much like hypnosis, a trance state. Certainly it has many of the characteristics of trance, with time compression and single-minded focus. What our rituals do for us is prepare us to enter that trance. With my Pomodoro timers — and before that, when I started drafts with a fountain pen and paper even though I would be typing later — part of the ritual for me is to tell the Critic’s Voice to sod off, because I’m just writing something quickly, it’s only a few minutes and it doesn’t have to be good anyway — in 25 minutes I’ll stop and then you can say “meh”. So I start typing, the Voice lets up, and I write.

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Eating a Mountain is Easy

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
mmmmm nummy!

mmmmm nummy!

First you get used to eating a pebble a day.

What I mean by this is that in writing, and in a lot of other things, ritual is important – ritual and routine and establishing an habit of doing something.

Charlie and I [This is Sarah!] were talking about this in the opposite and upside down of this – how and when do you break ritual and does breaking ritual liberate creative fire, or not?

I will leave that part of the argument to my partner in crime [Waves at Charlie] but for now, I’ll discuss the uses and importance of ritual.

There is a – perhaps apocryphal — story that goes around the science fiction community.  It is attached to one particular author and it is used to explain a prolonged dry spell of his.  I’m not going to use his name because I heard this story second, third and sixteenth hand (at least) but never close enough to be sure.

However the story keeps getting told, because all of us, professional writers, identify with it and can understand it.

It is said that a young and hopeful writer turned on his lamp by the desk before he started to write.  Maybe he started out because his desk was in a dark corner, or he wrote only at night. As he started selling, he noticed that stories he wrote while the lamp was on sold, while stories he wrote while the lamp was off didn’t.  Then he realized this light bulb never seemed to burn out.  Year after year he turned on the lamp and the magic light bulb cast its light on his work as he rose up the ranks to bestseller.

Which is when he got divorced.  And his wife told him that for years she’s been replacing the light bulb every week, to make sure it was always fresh and wouldn’t burn out.

And he didn’t write for years.

This story illustrates both ritual and superstition – and their dangers.

That they are dangerous goes without saying, and I’ll let Charlie explain why.  But they are useful, too, because they are what humans use to tame the unknown, and to try to reliably harness forces they can’t quite understand.

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After an Upset in Your Routine Catching Up Is Hard to Do

Saturday, August 31st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Organizing your Creative Life in 13 Weeks: Week 9

Like an upended turtle, it's not easy to get your creative life right side up after being upended.  But it can be done.

Like an upended turtle, it’s not easy to get your creative life right side up after being upended. But it can be done.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You


After the chaos that was last week, due to illness in what can only be called extended family – our friend is doing better, thank you – all I can say is that catching up is hard to do.

Yes, I had the techniques from combining Getting Things Done and The Pomodoro Technique.

The problem is as follows: I faced both a boatload of things not done, and the chaos of the week in which my sons returned to college, (with attendant difficulties in finding a given book, issues with parking permits, etc.) combined with this weird lassitude and inability to concentrate which I think is the aftermath of an emotional shock.

The combination made me forget to do the page proofs for a short story and the back-of-book text for the Omnibus of the first two of my shifter books Draw One In the Dark and Gentleman Takes a Chance.

Part of the reason these didn’t get done is that – because of the turmoil of the previous week – I never wrote them down on the index cards.  Mind you, I have the short story sitting right here on my desk, but I forgot to look at it.

Of course, this is because I violated one of the rules of Getting Things Done, which is that when you get an email you should either do it immediately (which would have been possible with either) or enter it in your system and note the priority on the calendar.  This was, of course, because I was what is technically known as “knocked for an emotional loop.”

Of course this is not new for either creative people nor frankly for mothers.  The world goes on, no matter what private shocks you suffer.  To the extent your private world – and both writing and motherhood can be extremely private in process if not in result – interact with other people’s commercial or personal activities, you’re going to have to learn to function when everything around you is falling apart.

It used to shock me that my mother could turn from, say, a problem with her parents’ health, to dealing with a client, and use her best business voice, and sound perfectly composed.

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Michael Walsh Names the Founder of the Criminal Organization Destroying America for Two Centuries…

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Imacon Color Scanner      7-the-people-v-the

For season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen each weekday I juxtapose book excerpts with a selection of recent headlines. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of humanity’s place in the universe. Each day also starts with highlighting the contributions of an important writer.  

Dear Michael,

I’d really like to thank you for the great writing you deliver week after week. Your PJ Media and National Review blog posts and articles, and your New York Post columns, are some of the most vigorous, engaging articulations of American values today. Your career journalist’s understanding of the real world and novelist’s gift for rich, electrifying prose have combined to articulate a vital argument which you’ve crystallized into a pamphlet that today I promote with enthusiasm: your amazing historical polemic The People v. the Democratic Party should serve as a foundational example in its ideas, style, and format for all activists striving to defend American freedom.

I’m not sure when I first saw you articulating the argument in your PJ Media columns — sometime last year probably — but it was a conclusion I too was beginning to tepidly consider: the Democratic Party is best understood as a criminal organization masquerading as a political party. And therefore attempting to defeat them at the ballot box is doomed to failure. Trying to win elections against criminal Democrats who have practiced gang-orchestrated voter fraud for centuries is like knowingly playing poker against a man with aces hidden in his sleeves. Who would be such a fool to do that, betting their own money against an opponent they knew was cheating? The Republican Party.

The People v. the Democratic Party should be taken very seriously and inspire activists and writers in these three ways, in a way, echoing and implementing the values I highlighted in my write-ups of Roger Kimball and Andrew Klavan. Together, the three of you – and the fourth writer I will name in this series’ next installment – form a new literary foundation for all aspiring cultural-political creative activists. (In other words, these are three of the lessons I have taken myself and that I pass along to my writing, editing, and activist friends…)

  1. We need to re-balance the scales in our historical understanding of the Democratic Party’s criminal origins. It begins with looking at who Aaron Burr was, why he got away with murder, and how his legacy – not Thomas Jefferson’s – became the slippery soul of the Democratic Party. How does Tammany Hall foreshadow the Clintons and Obamas? The People v. The Democratic Party tells the story of history repeating itself.
  2. Part of what makes your analysis of the criminal history of the Democrats so effective is your use of classical references – Paradise Lost in the polemic’s conclusion for example — and a high, traditional style when appropriate. This is the political polemic as art. You set a high standard for the rest of us to pursue.
  3. This format of Encounter Broadside – Roger Kimball’s creation – is tremendously effective for articulating important ideas in an accessible fashion. Yours and Glenn Reynolds’ are the ones that I’ve read so far and they’re examples of a format that I hope you both do again and that other publishers and organizations imitate.

I hope to start writing more about the themes in The People v. The Democratic Party and also your inspiring manual of counter-attack, Rules for Radical Conservatives, in the coming months and look forward to seeing you continue to apply your erudite eye and precise pen as the crimes of the Obama administration become harder and harder for even his most devoted collaborators in the mainstream media to conceal…


David Swindle


Wednesday Reading:

The opening of The People v. the Democratic Party


Weekend News Round Up

Lead PJM Stories this Weekend

Tom Blumer: All Barack and No Populist Bite

Ron Radosh: The Nation’s Continuing Denial of Soviet Espionage

Kim Zigfeld: Russia’s Economy in Steep Decline, Yet U.S. Passes on Chance to Crush Putin

Helen Smith: BMW Owners Really Are Jerks, Study Finds

Rick Moran: Obama: Health Insurance a ‘Right’


PJ Lifestyle Stories on the Home Page This Weekend

David Forsmark: How the West Really Lost God — and How It Didn’t

Rhonda Robinson: How to Remove the Shame from Your Financial Struggles

P. David Hornik: Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 2: That Bird Could Be a Mossad Agent!

Becky Graebner: Pimp My Hybrid?


New at PJ Lifestyle last Weekend

Self Improvement Saturday:

Sarah Hoyt: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Paula Bolyard: Duggar Family Joins 24-year-old Ohio Lawmaker to Reintroduce Heartbeat Bill

Walter Hudson: Media Piracy Cannot Be Rationalized

Charlie Martin: 13 Weeks: What Do We Make of Times of Little Change?

Rhonda Robinson: Mind The Little Things… They Bite Hard if You Don’t

Spirituality Sunday:

Susan L.M. Goldberg: Girls: As Famous as their Daddies

P. David Hornik: Israel: Leper or Light Unto the Nations? Part 3: From Woodstock to the Promised Land

Walter Hudson: What Price Will American Christians Pay for Their Faith?

Rhonda Robinson: Who Was Pontius Pilate? Benevolent Pawn, Bloodthirsty Tyrant or Misunderstood Hunk?

Charlie Martin: Buddha and the Elephant


New at PJ Tatler this Weekend:


Rick Moran: Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Daily Protests Against Coup

Rick Moran: USOC Says Russian Anti-Gay Law is ‘Inconsistent with Olympic Principles’

Patrick Poole: Reuters: Wife of Muslim Brotherhood leader OKd gunmen to open fire from mosque

Rick Moran: State Attorneys General Express Concerns Over Obamacare Navigators

Patrick Poole: Pallywood: AlJazeera and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood edition — UPDATED

Rick Moran: ‘The Bible Belt is Collapsing’


Rick Moran: Snowden E-Mail Provider Under Threat of Arrest for Non-Cooperation

Rick Moran: The ‘Third Force’ in Egypt’s Meltdown

Rick Moran: Another Vote to Defund NSA Surveillance Programs?

Rick Moran: Rep. Schock: IRS Just Can’t Help Acting Illegally


Also Around the Web this Weekend:

Via Drudge:

ABC: Undocumented students push for change to tuition policy

The Hill: States raise privacy concerns over health law navigators (video)

At National Review:

Andrew C. McCarthy: Egypt’s Only Hope

More to the point, Egypt has never had a “democracy,” so the military cannot be said to have “restored” one. Yet there was a welcome bit of common sense in Kerry’s declaration, even if it eluded the declarant.

The defining mission of the Muslim Brotherhood is the implementation of sharia, as noted for several years by a hardy few of us Islamophobes. An “Islamophobe,” by the way, is someone who takes seriously the things Muslim Brotherhood operatives say and the scriptures on which they rely; the Muslims who say the things that Islamophobes have the temerity to mention are called “moderates” — see how this works?

Sharia is Islam’s societal framework and legal code. Particularly as construed by Islamic supremacists, whose ideology dominates the Middle East, sharia is authoritarian, anti-liberty, anti-equality, and intolerant of minority rights. Indeed, in 1990, Islamic supremacists felt the need to issue their own “Declaration of Human Rights in Islam,” precisely because they cannot abide the aspirations laid out in the purportedly “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” promulgated by the United Nations in 1948. Human rights, for the Islamist, must bow to the repressive injunctions of sharia.

Consequently, in a couple of books that are largely about the history, ideology, methodology, and goals of the Muslim Brotherhood — The Grand Jihad and, last year, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy — I tried to establish two premises. The first is that Islamic supremacism is fundamentally anti-democratic. That proposition cannot be too Islamophobic since influential Islamic supremacists themselves freely concede that sharia cannot coexist with a secular civil society or with any system in which people are free to ignore sharia in enacting their own law.

The second is that elections do not equal democracy. To the contrary, democracy is a culture of governance committed to the protection of minority rights and equality of opportunity. Sharia abides neither of those principles.

Katrina Trinko: Santorum’s Storytelling

At Salon:

Email is killing us: Reclaim your mind from technology

For video games, a moral reckoning is coming

Science for stoners: Here’s how pot works

“Zealot” paints Jesus as a Nazarene Che Guevara

Via Memeorandum:

Associated Press: Egypt: Islamists hit Christian churches

Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 percent of the population of 90 million. Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists. But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt’s military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi’s reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide.

Mike Flynn at Breitbart: Exclusive Report: Egypt Sending Diplomatic Mission to Russia

At Deadline Hollywood:

Could A Viacom-Sony Deal Lead Cable Operators To Raise Prices For Streaming?

At the Daily Mail:

It’s a dog’s life: Pets depressed because they are left home alone all day by working owners

Cops take care of the munchies by giving Seattle marijuana festival goers Doritos with warning sign

‘I’ve smoked cannabis five nights a week for 44 years and my dealer’s on speed dial’: Shock confession by bestselling thriller writer Lee Child

He is one of the world’s biggest-selling thriller writers, with his Jack Reacher novels so successful one is bought every two seconds.

Now author Lee Child has admitted he keeps his writing razor-sharp by working while high on cannabis and even claims that it should be made compulsory.

‘I’ve been smoking weed for 44 years, five nights a week,’ the author confessed. ‘I’m the poster boy to prove it doesn’t do you much harm.

‘I have a guy on speed dial in New York who comes over with a huge range of marijuana. I smoke it in a pipe because I’ve never been any good at rolling my own joints.’

Child was brought up in Birmingham and moved to America in 1999 after he published the first of his Reacher novels, of which he has now sold 70 million.

Student sinks half court basketball shot to win FREE tuition on day one of college

At my alma mater, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana! Good for him!

The downside: the $11,000-valued prize will only cover one semester’s worth of expenses….

This vacation’s pretty good! Obama hits the golf course with Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David

Saturday Morning Book Reading:

Page 222 from Jacob Slavenburg’s The Hermetic Link, on the potential of Hermetic mysticism to bridge the gaps between Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and secularism:



Monday News Round Up:

Lead PJM Stories on Monday:

Roger Kimball: Cairo Is Burning. Where Is President Obama?

Michael Ledeen: It’s War, You Idiots

Hans A. von Spakovsky: FACE Act Abuse: Justice Dept. Suit Against Pro-Life Advocate Thrown Out

Rick Moran: Breaking: Ted Cruz Birth Certificate a Forgery!

Victor Davis Hanson: Obama Bets Against Human Nature — and Usually Loses

Rodrigo Sermeno: Cardin Touts Obamacare Benefits to Maryland Healthcare Providers


PJ Lifestyle Articles Featured on the Main Page:

Dave Swindle: 6 Books Victor Davis Hanson Suggests You Read in 2013

Paula Bolyard: Duggar Family Joins 24-Year-Old Ohio Lawmaker to Reintroduce Heartbeat Bill

Becky Graebner: 4 Dumb TV Cliches I HopeOrange Is the New BlackAvoids

Sarah Hoyt: An Act of Radical Virginity

Chris Queen: Smearing the South: First Honey Boo-Boo, Now ‘The Angry Ginger’?

Walter Hudson: The Church Shouldn’t Promote Self-Esteem


New At PJ Lifestyle on Monday:

Sarah Hoyt: Online Courses’ Role in the Fight to Take Back Education

Paula Bolyard: The 5 Best American Historical Fiction Books to Read Aloud to Your Kids

Robert Spencer: What is the Difference Between ‘Extremist’ and ‘Moderate’ Muslim Brothers?

Ahmed Bedier, former chief of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is widely regarded as a “moderate” Muslim leader – in this guise, he even appeared on Glenn Beck’s CNN show in March 2007 to speak out against “extremism.” On the show, he declared: “We condemn any nation, country or group that uses Islam or misuses and misinterprets Islam in violent ways.” Later, when he announced his departure from CAIR, he explained his future plans in terms to warm any multiculturalist’s heart: “I’m going to expand on and build upon my work as a civil rights and human rights leader into broader areas of peace building, interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.”

As is so often the case, things are not always as they seem. Unfortunately, like so many putative moderate Muslim groups and individuals in the United States, Bedier is not really all that moderate. He has said that before 1995, when the State Department declared Palestinian Islamic Jihad a terrorist group, there was “nothing immoral” about associating with the group. The anti-terror advocacy group Americans Against Hate notes that “Bedier’s answer is startling, given the fact that, prior to 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad took credit for five terrorist attacks, which resulted in the murders of eight innocent people. This includes a suicide bombing in the town of Netzarim Junction, in November of 1994.”

And when two Muslim college students, Youseff Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, were found with pipe bombs (and one of whom admitted to making a video about how to use remote-controlled bombs against American soldiers), Bedier claimed that the pipe bomb material was just fireworks and said, “Both of them are really naïve kids.” On a Florida TV show, Bedier sidestepped numerous opportunities to condemn the barbaric practice of stoning.

Bonnie Ramthun: The Terrors of the Minivan! Why Popular Culture Wages War Against Large Families

Walter Hudson: Now the Family Can Watch Different Shows on the Same Television

Me: 6 Books Victor Davis Hanson Suggests You Read in 2013

Rhonda Robinson: Why Your New Diet is Doomed to Fail


New At PJ Tatler on Monday:

Bryan Preston: Egypt: While Chaos Rises, US Debates Suspending Aid

Bryan Preston: Congressional Research Service: Obamacare Has Already Missed Half Its Deadlines (Update: Chicago Trib Rips Obamacare)

Bryan Preston: Common Core Math: 3×4=11?

Bryan Preston: If You Work at Forever 21, Obamacare has Made You Forever Part-Time

Stephen Green: POLL: Americans Really Sour on Egypt

Bryan Preston: Dallas Morning News Reporter Christy Hoppe Editorializes for Wendy Davis in ‘News’ Story

Bryan Preston: Dying California GOP: Pass Amnesty, It’s Our Only Hope!

Huda N.: Cairo Correspondent: Muslim Brotherhood Spreading Terrorism in All of Egypt

Stephen Kruiser: Illinois Puts Useless Regulatory Band-Aid On Gun Violence Problem

Stephen Kruiser: Government ‘Help’: CA Bureaucracy Makes Food Stamps Hard To Get For Those Who Need Them

Bryan Preston: Head of Security Guard Union Gets Prison Time for Theft

Bryan Preston: Obama’s Twitter Feed Writer Needs Remedial English

Bryan Preston: Egypt: Islamists Capture, Parade Nuns Like ‘Prisoners of War’

Rick Moran: Judge in Fort Hood Terrorist Trial Rules Against Jihad as Motive

Bryan Preston: CNN Hires Al Gore Crockumentarian to Produce Hillary Flick

Stephen Green: BREAKING: Lamar to Get Primaried?

Stephen Kruiser: Can We Ever Lighten The Crushing Weight Of Federal Regulations?

Stephen Kruiser: Heh-10 Lies That TV And Movies Always Tell You

Stephen Kruiser: Open Thread: The Once, Maybe Twice A Week Political Palate Cleanser From The Onion


Also Around the Web Monday:

Via Drudge:

Financial Times: Guardian newspaper ordered to destroy files, claims editor

My 19 NJ: New Jersey’s Boomerang Generation

Is 27 the new 18 when it comes to living at your parents’ house?

According to the US census Bureau, at least 1 in 4 N.J. adults, ages 18-31 live at home and 42% are 24 or older. Experts call it an “epidemic” of millennials leaching off their parents, but does a bad economy and student loan debt crisis justify the situation?

A new survey from Coldwell Banker says parents in the Northeast region are more lenient on this than anywhere else in the US on children moving back home.

But, according to the survey, more than two in three Americans believe that too many adults living at home with their parents are avoiding responsibility, and 65 percent believe too many young adults who move back home after college are overstaying their welcome.

Via Memeorandum:

Reuters: Glenn Greenwald To Publish UK Secrets After Britain Detains Partner

Politico: White House: U.S. had no role in detention of Greenwald’s partner

At USA Today:

Glenn Reynolds: Scandals costing us American exceptionalism

Meanwhile, new revelations of NSA lawbreaking have come out. As the Washington Post reported, the NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times per year. It appears that despite assurances that there was no domestic spying program, the NSA was, in fact, hoovering up vast numbers of phone calls, emails, etc. in order to spy on Americans. (New White House talking point: Hey, it’s not a domestic spying program, it’s just a program that does a lot of domestic spying!)

Back in June, President Obama told us that if you trust Congress, you can trust the NSA. That wasn’t all that reassuring, considering how few Americans trust Congress. And, in fact, it appears that Congressional overseers either didn’t know what was going on, or went along with the lawbreaking. (Last week we also saw the conclusion to the Bradley Manning trial, where we discovered that Bradley Manning’s most damaging revelation was that our national-security establishment was willing to put dangerous secrets in the hands of . . . a guy like Bradley Manning).

Meanwhile, the Benghazi scandal — successfully pushed off past the 2012 elections by scapegoating an obscure YouTube filmmaker – is looking worse and worse. Although government officials blamed the video the administration in fact knew that Al Qaeda was involved from the beginning.

And now former Washington U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova, representing a Benghazi whistleblower, even says that missiles were being funneled through Benghazi to the Syrian rebels and that 400 were stolen by Al Qaeda terrorists at the time of the attack. CNN has reported that dozens of CIA agents were on the ground in Benghazi — and that they’re being pressured to keep quiet. Are these missiles real, or figments of Di Genova’s imagination? Who knows?

At The Daily Mail:

Professor’s son, 22, pleads guilty to stabbing and dismembering his roommate before eating his heart and brain

‘The film was run like a CIA operation’: Inside the secretive documentary ‘Salinger’ that promises major revelations about reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye

Executed with their hands tied: Islamist militants slaughter 25 Egyptian policemen in Sinai ambush

At Mediaite:

Noah Rothman: Conservative Amy Holmes Scorches Discriminatory ‘Stop-And-Frisk’ On MSNBC

Noah Rothman: Are The Media Turning Trayvon Martin’s Mother Into Cindy Sheehan?


Sunday Morning Book Reading

“In his The Freedom of the Will (1754) Edwards insists that human beings are free because they act according to their perception and conviction of their own good.” — Paul Johnson on “frontier religion” from page 112 of A History of the American People.




See the first six weeks of reading and headline round-ups:

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four 

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven

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4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Saturday, August 17th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
It is a well known but rarely mentioned fact that, having adopted The Pomodoro Technique, dinosaurs scheduled themselves to death.

It is a well known but rarely mentioned fact that, having adopted The Pomodoro Technique, dinosaurs scheduled themselves to death.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws


Death by Penguin is a terrible thing to contemplate.

Or death by tomato. My friend Charlie (Martin) who has also adopted the Pomodoro Technique and Getting Things Done methods, told me this week “the thing is that you can Pomodoro yourself to death. You keep thinking ‘Oh, I’ll do a tomato on that.”

This sounded like something out of Attack of The Killer Tomatoes to the un-initiated but of course it was perfectly sane and a danger I could see myself.

The Pomodoro Technique consists of timing yourself in 25 minute segments, with three five minute breaks, and then a full 20 minute break for each four 25 minute segments. It is in a way a lot like putting yourself back in school, though not the high schools with 50 minute periods.

I use a penguin timer instead of a tomato timer because the penguin amuses me – but the technique is the same.

Some people report it doesn’t work at all for them. For me it works, because 25 minutes is just short enough that I can postpone getting up to do something/clicking on a link to check something for that long.

Say I’m working and my email makes the sound that announces I have mail.

I think in my entire writing career there have been two emails that needed immediate response, and even then it wasn’t so much needed as I wanted to answer as quickly as possible – one of them being an offer to purchase a novel.

Publishers can’t know if you’ll be at the computer when the email hits and in fact, often during the week I’m not – I tend to go off to a remote and isolated location during the day when I can. It wasn’t really available much of the summer, which led to my going almost insane, but it is back now. While I can check email from this location, it involves going downstairs to the internet café, and so it only happens during breaks.

So if I’m doing a tomato, even if I’m at home and at my desk when the message hits, I tell myself that it can always wait twenty five minutes. This is okay. Telling myself it can wait an hour is something else entirely as, half the time, the email will be from a kid who forgot something or from a husband who needs something done in his home office. But twenty five minutes is manageable.

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Ghost? Angel? Mass Hallucination?

Sunday, August 11th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

What if one of your favorite books seemed to be happening in real life?

This story from the USA Today once more proves that truth is not only weirder than fiction — if you wrote this as fiction, no one would believe it:

Emergency workers and community members in eastern Missouri are not sure what to make of a mystery priest who showed up at a critical accident scene Sunday morning and whose prayer seemed to change life-threatening events for the positive.

Even odder, the black-garbed priest does not appear in any of the nearly 70 photos of the scene of the accident in which a 19-year-old girl almost died.

Perhaps it is because I grew up reading Giovanni Guareschi’s Don Camillo stories, after watching the movies and loving them, that I can’t help but be charmed by that image.  In the real world of rationality, one finds it hard to believe in the supernatural, and all sorts of explanations spring to mind about this story.  But for just now I’m going to think of the Don Camillo stories, where the wall between the living and the dead is very thin indeed, the Christ over the altar speaks to the village priest (who speaks back, sometimes not very politely), and miracles happen when they are truly needed — and I’m going to let this story be, just as it is.

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Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Saturday, August 10th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Don't try this at home.  Not unless you have some spare arms and legs.

Don’t try this at home. Not unless you have some spare arms and legs.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!


How do you juggle chainsaws?  Very carefully, of course.

No, I haven’t gone completely off my rocker and taken up another and completely different hobby/career.  In fact, part of my intent right now is figuring out how to reduce my needed tasks to the essential ones.

However, on the way there, I’ve come across the equivalent situation to when you’re just learning to juggle eggs and someone throws a chainsaw at you.  At best, it’s going to break your rhythm and concentration.  And at worst, it’s going to end up with a bunch of eggs broken, at the very worst, there will also be couple of fingers and a lot of blood on the floor.

Metaphorically, this week, while managing my creative life with Getting Things Done and The Pomodoro Technique, going along fine, working pretty well, ticking penguin by ticking penguin, I got a chainsaw thrown at me.  Worse, you could say I threw a chainsaw at myself, completely forgetting that I’m only a beginner in this time and task juggling thing.

I think I’ve broken a couple of eggs, in the sense that the first three days of the week were lost to a mire of emotional confusion, but I still have all my fingers and I’m getting ready to integrate the chainsaw in the flow – that is, I’m figuring out the difficult things that have to be done, and which will for a while disrupt my life, but which will lead to – hopefully – a much better way of working and perhaps of living.

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How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Perhaps there is a reason that every magical adventure starts with a clear separation.  You have to pass through the portal.

Perhaps there is a reason that every magical adventure starts with a clear separation. You have to pass through the portal.

Organizing Your Creative Life in 13 Weeks: Week 5

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.  

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks
Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists
Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water
Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 
Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters
Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious


Before you ask, no, my marriage is not in trouble and no separation is contemplated, though the lessons of this week do have to do with my marriage. In fact they have to do with our 28th anniversary, which we celebrated last weekend by going away for three days together at a hotel.

Yes, I can see all of you wrinkling your noses and getting ready to scream TMI. But it’s not. It relates to both writing and organization.

Since both of us are writers, we decided to make this – besides some time together without our kids, cats and household duties – a writing weekend.

This is something we used to do way back when, by getting a joint babysitter for our children and our best friends’ children, collecting all the kids in their house and all the writers in ours, and spending three days in concentrated writing, broken only by dinner out. In the last one of those Rebecca and Alan Lickiss and Dan and I held, we each wrote an average of twenty thousand words after revision.

So I knew that worked when you had the synergy of several writers together and working. What I didn’t know was that it could also work when it was just the two of us. It seems particularly unlikely that it would have any real effect since at this point our children are 22 and 18 and so rarely require that we stop them drawing on walls or even taking apart our electronics to see how they work. The cats are a little more trouble, particularly the one who is going through an excessively clingy phase, but surely – surely – going away and just writing isn’t that much of an improvement?

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Answering The Call To The Writer’s Journey

Friday, July 26th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Are you answering the call, or being pixie-led?

Are you answering the call, or being pixie-led?

We were talking the other day – Charlie and I – about the strange things that happen when you are a writer.

(C: One of those being you end up having conversations with your friends in print.)

What I mean by this – and I’ve spoken about it in my blog in the past – is that at some point, when you’re a writer and you let yourself go, you find yourself writing from a place that is not your rational self.

Most of us, being scientifically trained humans of the twentieth century, like to believe that our writing, as well as all our other work, is a portion of our intellectual labors, something rational and clear and obvious.

Most of us, at least most of us who have been working at this for any amount of time, also know that this is wishful thinking.

Oh, we talk a good game. At conventions and writers’ gatherings, you’ll hear us discussing how we decided to do this, and we tried to do that with the story, and about how this effect was put in to give you this idea.

But get us in the bar, after hours, when there’s nobody here but us chickens, and you’ll find us singing a different tune.

I don’t know any single professional writer who’s been doing this for more than ten years who hasn’t had one of the following happen to him:

  • A story was finished before you planned for it to be.  That is, you’d made an outline, and you were writing along, and suddenly, unexpectedly, you realized the sentence you’d just written was the last one in the short story – or novel – and when you went back and read the story, it was complete up to that point.  The rest of your beautiful outline would add nothing.
  • A character appears out of nowhere and takes over the story, and later you realize he/she is absolutely indispensable.
  • A character dies whom you’d intended to live.
  • Something you put in as a place holder for research you haven’t had the time to look up yet – something you could not possibly have known and which in fact takes you a while to track down when you finally can – is absolutely accurate.  This happens way too often to be mere lucky guess.
  • You pull a subplot out of thin air to pad your historical narrative and later discover it really happened.

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The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Saturday, July 20th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

One should don appropriate goggles and helmet before doing battle with primeval forces like Time.

Organizing Your Creative Life in 13 Weeks: Week 3

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.  

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks
Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists
Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water
Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done?


As the title indicates, this has been an exciting week. Okay, not that exciting, but constructive and – ah – a learning experience.

This is my third week of trying to organize my creative life using Getting Things Done by David Allen.

First the good:

This week I experienced far less stress than normal. This is good since I had to meet a lot of crisscrossing, quite a few of them unexpected. I made less progress than I expected on the long-term writing and editing projects, but that is probably due to the fact that I’m still recovering from serious respiratory issues. I tend to overestimate my strength at this point of recovery, and don’t count on all the sudden naps demanded by my body.

I am hoping that getting my life organized and stress under control will mean fewer illnesses. This year has been exceptionally bad on the illness front, and that puts a dent in anyone’s creativity and time.

So far the less stress thing is working.

The bad:

I’ve now tried something like a dozen applications to organize my lists of chores and the sub-lists of tasks, and I’ve been less than impressed with all of them. They seem to presuppose those using them are already hyper techy or hyper organized, which defeats the purpose. It would be like going to a sports store to buy two tiny barbells to start weight training and being shown the most complex weight bench, with intricacies only dedicated weight lifters will understand.

So, as far as that goes, I’m thinking of going back to basics. I have my lists in a notebook. That’s not going to work because it’s really hard to work through. However it occurs to me that a bunch of colored note cards would work, with a color per long-term project and white for the single task projects. I can then tack these up on the cork board over my secondary desk. I plan to integrate these with the other innovation this week.

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Walt Disney and the Fight for Mary Poppins

Friday, July 19th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Many writers and critics have suggested that the Disney Studios has cultivated such a rarefied image of Walt Disney that some people think of him as just a character — like Betty Crocker or Aunt Jemima. While Walt was quite a character, he was also very much a real human being, and until the end of his life he stayed involved in individual projects throughout the company.

One of the last projects Walt was directly and heavily involved with at the studios was Mary Poppins, the story of a magical British nanny who brings a family together. The film — a sort of labor of love for Walt — became a hit with critics and the public alike and went on to win five Academy Awards.

Walt had his eye on the original novel as a project for the studio for two decades, when he first spotted his daughter Diane reading it. In his excellent biography of Walt, Walt Disney: An American Original, Bob Thomas picks up the story:

Walt read the book and recognized immediately that it was Disney material. The author, P. L. Travers, didn’t agree. She was an Australian lady who had lived in England and had taken her son to New York to escape the London Blitz of World War II. Walt asked Roy, who was going to New York in early 1944, to call on Mrs. Travers and express the company’s interest in acquiring the Mary Poppins stories.


Walt followed up Roy’s visit with a letter to Mrs. Travers inviting her to visit the studio and discuss what kind of production she had in mind. She remained interested but noncommittal. That continued to be her attitude over the years… It was not until 1960 that Mrs. Travers finally agreed to deal with the Disneys. By this time, Walt’s eagerness for the property had grown so acute that he paid an extraordinary price: he gave her approval of the screen treatment.


Mrs. Travers made two journeys to Burbank to view the storyboards for Mary Poppins. She objected to many of the liberties that had been taken with her characters, and adjustments had to be made. Walt Disney exercised his own considerable powers of persuasion to win Mrs. Travers’s approval. By the time she returned to England, she seemed convinced that the Disney innovations had originated in her own books.

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How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Saturday, July 6th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Over this last week, I’ve been reading books on how to organize yourself while flying out to Chattanooga Tennessee for Liberty Con, a science fiction and fantasy convention with an emphasis on Baen authors and Baen books.

I went for the first time ten years ago and since then it’s become our home away from home in the convention circuit.  Over the years, my husband started attending, and then my sons (the older of whom is also a published professional in SF/F.)

While at the con I had to deliver a short story I was contracted for and also to keep up my blog posting. At the same time, as I said, I was reading books on how to organize myself.

The one that has so far captured most of my attention, and which shows the most possibility of success in helping me organize is Getting Things DoneI confess what is so attractive about it, is probably the subtitle: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen.

But there’s more to it than that, as the author emphasizes this book is directed at “knowledge workers” – which I think includes us creative bums.

You see, most of the other books seem to be directed at business situations.  I realize my knowledge of those is deficient, because the last time I had what could be described as “honest work” – by Heinlein’s definition, something that required one’s going to the office and spending time there – was a good twenty two years ago. However, they seem to be more hard-and-fast as compared to the fluidity of creative/knowledge work. You have goals that impose themselves on you externally: appointments, meetings, things to check off your to do list.

My husband is laughing at me as I write this. He’s often complained he comes home to work because at the office he gets interrupted by someone else’s emergency every five minutes. But since he works in scientific programing, I suppose he too is part of the “knowledge worker” industry, where things can be done everywhere and therefore work bleeds into free time and vice-versa.

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The Devil is In Deadlines

Saturday, June 15th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
What if your muse's ship sank?  What if she never gets here.

What if your muse’s ship sank? What if she never gets here.

And so we come to the end of the thirteen weeks, and I have about a quarter of the book/maybe a half written. The indecision is that I don’t know how much it will change and how much I’ll keep of what I wrote.

Part of this of course is that – as I explained – I started the book before I was quite ready to do it, and part of it is that I seem to have this odd relationship with deadlines, particularly self-imposed ones.

Take National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO), for instance. My very first year participating, I completed Darkship Thieves. But any attempt to recapture such success has been mixed at best. What seems to happen is that the moment I commit to NANOWRIMO all heck breaks loose in my personal life.

I’m not particularly inclined to New Age explanations of such things. I can completely understand how reluctance to finish a novel could give me a massive cold/sinus infection – or at least there seem to be indications of psycho-somatic effects of that kind in other contexts. However, I defy anyone short of a committed solipsist to tell me how it is possible for my reluctance to close with a deadline would cause my sons to get sick, appliances to break and/or other emergencies to land in my lap.

And yet they do. I’m not alone in this – I have a friend who refuses to do NANOWRIMO because when he tries it someone close to him dies. I have another friend who says she can’t afford the home-repair bills that NANOWRIMO induces. Having watched her through three bouts, I can say she’s right.

Perhaps there is some field of anxiety that writing generates. Perhaps a century from now someone will say “oh, of course, that was the book Gremlin field. How could they not have known it?”

I’m joking of course, but when I think of this one book I’m supposed to write that every time I start working on causes my basement to flood, the laughter turns a little shrill. That book has been under contract/on the backburner for eight years, but the effect never fails to happen. Perhaps I only work on it when I feel a flood coming at a subconscious level? Maybe I should just buy a sump pump and bite the bullet?

On the serious side – and something I’ve discussed with my publisher – I do have a serious adverse reaction to approaching deadlines. Besides the chaos that periodically engulfs my life, there seems to be a psychological aversion to writing to the deadline. I do regard this as a personality failing, but it seems pretty common to writers.

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Your Novel in 13 Weeks, Week 12: The Duel

Saturday, June 8th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
They got to fight for the story to win.

They got to fight for the story to win.

Editor’s Note: Sarah Hoyt’s 13 Weeks Novel Writing series will now be appearing on Saturdays alongside Charlie Martin’s original 13 Weeks series, my 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen, and additional upcoming 13 Week experiments. It’ll be a self-improvement-themed saturday with numerous writers exploring techniques to better themselves. -DMS


You’d think the title of the post would refer to my relationship with the book this week. Though mostly what kept me from engaging it too closely mano-a-keyboard was the fact that my eczema decided this was an excellent week to engage in a revival ALL over my palms and the tips of my fingers. I must find out if Dragon Naturally Speaking will work for me in its latest incarnation. Last time I tried was several versions ago and it couldn’t cope with the accent, even after training.

There are a number of my colleagues who do use Dragon, and I might have to try again, if my hands continue their current path of rapid disintegration. You too might consider it if you find yourself blocking hard. Sometimes just changing the way you work jiggles the block loose.

At any rate, despite the slow progress on the book and my fight with my body’s issues, the “duel” I’d like to discuss refers to “conflict” in the book.

My first introduction to some people’s concept of what conflict should be came in my first writing group, where a gentleman objected to the chapter I’d submitted because “there’s no conflict.”

In fact, there was a young man rapidly clearing out of the home he’d been living in for close on to twelve years, because he had come to the conclusion those who were hunting him had found his location. I explained that there was conflict, not just potentially between the character’s desire to get away and the certain objection of those hunting him, but also between the character’s need to escape and the desire of his patrons to protect him. Then there was the conflict inside the man himself, between his wish to stay in the only stable home he’d ever known, and his fear of bringing death on his adopted family.

The writers’ group member blinked at me stupidly, (I use the word advisedly) and said “But you know, conflict. Like fist fights. Arguments. He has to argue with someone.”

While I will agree that chapters are better for a bit of dialogue — these days when I have a character alone for a few chapters I have him mutter to himself, talk to a pet, plant or ghost of dead friend if I can at all contrive it without making him sound completely insane – and while I will concede that arguing (and fist fights!) are conflict, they are more the external expression of conflict than the real thing.

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