Once, there was a broad river. On one side of the river lived many mice. Those mice would wander about, collecting eggs from the various birds that built nests throughout the area. For some mice, it was arduous work; for others, it was joyous. But it was work nonetheless.
The mice would gather their eggs, and bring them to the river. The river was so wide that none of the mice could see the other side. Swimming across the river was unthinkable. But on the far side of the river were men and women and children who loved their eggs for breakfast and baking. In exchange for the eggs, the humans would give the mice cheese.
Luckily, some enterprising souls had built steamships to cross the river. They steamed from the human side to the mouse side, gathered the eggs from the mice, and brought them to the men and women. Then they would bring back cheese to the mice. It wasn’t a bad life. The mice had to collect a great many eggs to get enough cheese to eat, because most of the cheese the men and women paid for the eggs went into maintaining the steamships. But the mice knew pretty well how much cheese each day’s work would bring.
Not all eggs were alike. Some were rare eggs. Many were bad eggs. The rare eggs would bring a much higher price, and the bad eggs? Well, the steamboat owners would refuse to take them, leaving the mice who had gathered them hungry and wistful. But mice who wanted cheese would learn which eggs were good, and which were not.
So things went for a very long time, until one day, an enterprising man built a bridge across the river. And everything changed.
The bridge owner invited the mice to bring their eggs onto the bridge. And he invited the men and women to come onto the bridge as well, to select the eggs they wanted from the selection.
“It won’t work!” said the angry steamship captains. “People want eggs that we’ve checked for quality.”
“It won’t work!” said many of the old and experienced mice. “We need the steamship captains’ services.”
But in a short while, it was apparent to everyone that things had changed. Soon enough, about a quarter of the egg traffic was happening on that bridge. The steamships still plied the waters, but they could not sell as many eggs as they once did. So they couldn’t pay as much cheese as they once did, either. The reduced cheese payment led many mice who had been using the steamships to sell their eggs to check the bridge out.
“We’ll just try the bridge today. Test it out. See how it goes.”
Some were thrilled by the results. Others were less happy.
The bridge was a raucous place. Thousands of mice sold their eggs on the bridge, and the number of men and women buying eggs there was so great they were difficult to count. But some of the eggs were terrible – old, rotten, stinky eggs. The good eggs, and even the rare and precious eggs, were difficult to spot in the mess. So the bridge owner began to give the mice spots on the bridge based on how well their eggs were selling. The mice whose eggs sold best got the best spots, where lots of men and women would see their wares. The mice who could not sell any eggs were given spots that were much harder to see.
“It won’t work,” the steamship captains muttered. “The men and women can’t tell good eggs from bad. They need us for that.”
But oddly, it seemed to be working. Some men and women complained long and loudly when they bought a bad egg. But that was noted by other people, and the mice selling those bad eggs had trouble selling more. Overall, the people buying eggs were content.
Another thing about the bridge was that the eggs there tended to cost less. Without the cost of the expensive steamships to maintain, and with only a small percentage of the cheese they earned going to the bridge owner, the mice were able to charge less cheese for their eggs, and still be much better fed at the end of the day. Not all mice did well; but those who consistently brought good eggs day after day found they were able to earn more cheese for the same work than they had using the steamships.
The grousing among the steamships began anew.
“They’re ruining the value of eggs!” complained the steamship captains. “They’re pricing too low, and soon men and women will think eggs are worth less than they ought.”
But despite the lower prices, the mice selling on the bridge continued to be better fed.
“They’re hurting my egg sales!” complained some of the older mice. These mice had become adept at finding eggs that people really wanted. And the steamship captains had learned to give their eggs special placement in shops, so they always sold. But on the bridge, these mice were just like anyone else. Without the special placement, their sales would drop. These mice railed long and loudly against the bridge.
But the sales on the bridge continued to climb.
Some cunning steamship captains saw ways to profit from this. They began charging the mice cheese to ferry their eggs across. “Give us some cheese,” said these captains, “and we’ll bring your eggs over. Then we’ll pay you a part of the cheese we get for selling them.”
Smart mice saw this for what it was, and avoided these captains. But some mice brought their eggs to these steamships – usually the most desperate or newest egg-gathering mice. The quality of these eggs was poor, but the steamships didn’t check them for quality. They took cheese from the mice, smiled nicely, brought the eggs over. And when they didn’t sell, and the mice were even hungrier than they had been? The steamship captains smiled toothy smiles, and suggested that for another payment of cheese, they would help the mice market the eggs once they were on the other side.
That didn’t work either, because men and women can tell bad eggs from good ones, and refused to buy the bad eggs. The mice were left poorer and sadder. And those steamships who had concocted the scheme were left with a tarnished reputation, with the other mice worrying what else they might do to try to skim more cheese. Mice began to avoid these ships, in favor of other ships and the bridge.
Other steamship captains saw the changes, and saw the old way of doing business fading. Instead of charging the mice cheese to transport the eggs, they began offering better services to the mice.
“Yes,” they said, “we do keep some of the cheese earned from selling your eggs. But we package those eggs up in beautiful ways. And we have worked hard to earn the trust of many men and women over the river. They buy eggs from us because they know we always, always, bring the sorts of eggs they like.”
Some steamship captains tried to do this, and failed. They were not able to effectively reach enough men and women. Their job had always been transporting the eggs, not dealing with the people who bought the eggs! Those ships grew worn out, carrying less eggs with each year. Eventually, they stopped crossing the river completely.
But other steamships understood that dealing with the people buying the eggs was the most important thing they did, now. The bridge made getting eggs across the river simple and easy. Any mouse could do it. The steamships were no longer necessary. So the steamship captains became experts at reaching the people who bought eggs, instead of just experts at shipping the eggs from one place to another. And they knew they had to treat the mice well, because the mice could leave them at any time, and use the bridge instead. Without the mice, the steamships had nothing to carry, nothing to sell.
The mice who used these ships were very happy with the cheese they earned.
The mice who used the bridge? Some of them were very happy indeed. Others were moderately happy. Some grew discouraged, because they could not sell their bad eggs, and didn’t understand that they had to gather good eggs to sell. Some were OK with just the chance to earn a few scraps of cheese. Others earned a great deal of cheese, enough that the good steamship captains would take notice, and offer to carry their eggs, perhaps even give them special placement in the shops on the far side.
The one thing everyone who survived understood was this: the bridge was not going away. It was too easy to build bridges, once you understood the principles involved. Even if a catastrophe tore down the first bridge, other bridges would be built – and in fact, some competing bridges went up, and much commerce moved to those bridges. The idea of the bridge had changed the way everything worked.
Because mice could sell across the bridges, they no longer needed the steamships.
Because the mice no longer needed them, the steamships had to make the mice want to use their ships instead of the bridge.
What they discovered was that when they did this, everyone was happier – mice, men, and captains alike. The bridges continued to have as much traffic as before. But the steamships and the mice who used them had a good share of the cheese, and were content.
Hey folks! Tara Maya’s a fantasy novelist who belongs to the same online team/collective of writers that I do. She’s just released the sixth book in her ongoing series – an interesting epic fantasy with some remarkable twists. To celebrate the new book coming out, she’s taking the spotlight in here today.
And here’s Tara:
5 Signs You Might Be a Writer
1. You read. A LOT.
You read constantly, or at least did at one point in your life. Some of us had more time to read (for pleasure) when we are kids, but are swamped with work now. For others, literature seemed boring when we were younger, but now has appeal. In my case, I devoured science fiction and fantasy when I was younger, but while I was in grad school most of my reading was non-fiction. Once I graduated, I had time for fiction again. I do still read non-fiction for pleasure and for research.
2. You have been coming up with stories since you were a kid.
You have way more story ideas than you could ever write down. When did you write your first “story”? Okay, maybe it wasn’t much of a story, but when did you start trying? In my case, I made little pretend “books” out of folded paper and scribbles before I could write my ABCs. I wrote my first four complete and illustrated stories in fifth grade and completed my first novel in Jr. High. Granted, they all sucked rocks. But I know I am not unusual in starting out young. Most writers I know began writing early. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they published early, or that those around them recognized their efforts.
3. You have a bunch of manuscripts under your bed.
It’s one thing to write stories in your head. That makes you a storyteller. But not yet a writer. If you’ve actually written down your words, that’s what makes you a writer. Not getting published. Writing is what makes a writer. Getting published, and more to the point, selling copies, is what makes you a paid writer, a professional writer, a writer who can actually eat something other than ramen noodles, and that’s a good thing. But you’ve already started writing without any idea whether you can sell those words or not.
4. You write for love, not for money.
Let’s face it. You know that being a writer is not as lucrative as other jobs, like doctor, lawyer or fast food employee. Screw that. You’re writing anyway. Cruel reality may force you into a day job. It happens. You write anyway. You’re jotting down ideas for your novel between flipping burgers or taking notes on your character in your office cubicle. You care enough to constantly hone your craft. You would write even if your plane crashed on a deserted island. Even if you were locked in a prison on Gamma Beta IV. Even if you had to become an accountant.
5. You write for money, not love.
Nah, this doesn’t really contradict what I just said. It only seems to. Because if you really love writing–or any art–enough, you’ll realize that the only way anyone will let you do it full time is if you can get good enough to earn mullah at the same time. Yeah. By selling your writing. So even though it feels like jabbing steak knives into your eyes, you send out queries, you send out review requests, you–ugh, self-promote. You sell your sweat and tears as if it were vacuum cleaner parts. And on days when the sky is grey and your nose is runny, you feel sorry for yourself because it turns out that writing is a job, and all jobs have moments that suck. The rest of the time, you appreciate–I sure hope you appreciate because otherwise why do this?–that you have the best damn job in the world.
About Tara Maya:
Tara Maya has lived in Africa, Europe and Asia. She’s pounded sorghum with mortar and pestle in a little clay village where the jungle meets the desert, meditated in a Buddhist monastery in the
Himalayas and sailed the Volga River to a secret city that was once the heart of the Soviet space program. This first-hand experience, as well as research into the strange and piquant histories of lost civilizations, inspires her writing. Her terrible housekeeping, however, is entirely the fault of pixies.
Dindi and Umbral have an uneasy truce, forced to work together to defeat a greater enemy: the Bone Whistler. The Bone Whistler’s scheme to sacrifice humanity and resurrect the Aelfae will culminate during an eclipse on the spring equinox…in three days.
Their fragile alliance may not withstand the terrors they face. Dindi hides as a clown, but even disguised, her dancing draws the eye of the Bone Whistler himself. She will have to defy him alone, for Umbral has his own troubles.
Finnadro, who has hunted Umbral for a year, finally catches up with him… determined to punish Umbral for all his black deeds.
Life and death, spring and autumn, human and faery, are all reeling out of balance, and these three days will determine the fate of all Faearth.
And after a long, long break, I’m back up and running again! This time, not from the wilds of Vermont, but from Boston’s Metro West.
The late summer, autumn, and early winter were a flurry of house hunting, house selecting, house buying, house packing, and then moving. We finally moved into the new home on November 20th, just before Thanksgiving.
Yes, it really has taken me two weeks to begin getting settled into the new place.
The kids enjoy the space though. Bigger rooms, bigger house, more rooms… The new house is about 150% the size of the one in Vermont. And my wife somehow managed to find a house a short walk from a 250 acre wooded park. Just outside Boston. I know, right? I mean, how does that happen? But we have trees and forest, which is a blessing for expatriate Vermonters, let me tell you!
I can only look at stained concrete for so long before feeling a little depressed and a lot exasperated.
On the plus side, I’ve begun writing again. Wifi is running. I’ve managed a couple of chapters on a story. As things settle down more (this weekend, we’re off to Vermont again to work on the old house and prep it for sale), I’m planning to get more writing done.
So, I’m back – if anyone is still stopping by, thanks! I’ll have more content of the sort I used to post soonish.
I’m writing this post on an iPad, using the virtual keyboard. No external keyboard, not bluetooth. Thus, writing on glass.
I was always a little iffy about the idea of writing on a virtual keyboard. I type pretty rapidly. On a good hour, I’m putting out fifteen hundred words. Losing writing speed in any serious way would be bad for me. But I had two experiences which made me want to give it a try.
First, I bought a laptop with one of those chicklet type keyboards about a year and a half ago. I’d typed on regular key type keyboards my entire life, you understand, starting with a manual typewriter over thirty years ago. It was a big adjustment. But I very quickly got my writing speed back up to full speed.
The second was talking to a college professor I know about tech. He commented that the new thing on campus was students using an iPad. Not alongside a laptop or desktop, but often instead of another computer. Simply typing out papers and assignments on the glass screen and turning them in.
OK. In my experience, college students are something of a litmus paper (perhaps canary in a coal mine is a better metaphor) for where tech is going. If the college students have moved to typing on glass keyboards, then not only can it be done, it’s likely things are moving in that direction for everyone. On the theory that this might be an upcoming vital life skill, I decided to give it a try.
A week in, and I’m basically up to full speed typing. There is no appreciable loss of speed. Oh, my fingers still stumble on the keys sometimes. But they always did that anyway. I’m back to touch typing, watching the screen more than my keys and fingers. Getting better as I go.
I’m not sure I’d have thought that was possible. But here I am. And it’s VERY freeing. With Storyist, I have a decent option for typing that I can export to my laptop. Daedalus Touch is a good program as well, but without support for RTF export there’s no way to retain formatting. Storyist retains bolds, italics, and other bits. I’ll be watching both as I go forward, as well as keeping eyes on the upcoming Scrivener for iPad.
So I can take this little pound and a half device with me anywhere, type away on it anywhere for eight or more hours, and upload it to my laptop via Dropbox when I hit an Internet connection. I’ve got a 3G iPad, but don’t have the service turned on right now. So far, I’m really liking it.
What have your experiences been with writing on tablets? Ever tried it? Thought about trying it? I’d love to hear your opinions on tablets for writing in general, and “writing on glass” in particular. I look forward to seeing what other folks are doing with these devices!
A long time ago, I had another domain, kevinwriting.com, which I had intended to use for this site. I swapped over to this one fairly early on, and I like having my full name in the URL. Just makes more sense.
When I switched over, I set the other one to auto-forward to this site. Either I messed up the forwarding script and Google just noticed it – or someone somehow got into the page and tweaked it. I suspect that Google just got more sensitive about a certain type of script.
But anyway, the old domain is nested with this one under the same hosting account, so both were tarred and feathered with the same brush when Google decided it disliked the script. The offending script has been removed, Google has been asked to review the site, so all should be good soon.
Just wanted to let anyone still coming through the big red screen that YES, the site is safe, and NO, you’re not going to mess your computer up by coming here. Totally what I wanted to spend my day doing today, let me tell you. ;)
Every doggone year, I want to do NaNoWriMo right. I want to get out there, and write not just 1600 words a day – but more than that!
And every doggone year, it seems like things just explode around me every November. Instead of getting more work done, I get less. Instead of having more wordcount accomplished by the end of the month, I find myself wondering if I can actually finish NaNo at all.
In 2009, I had to write 20,000 words in the last day, in order to finish the book in time.
In 2010, I wrote just over 25,000 words on November 30th, in order to finish By Darkness Revealed. Yes, that was a NaNoWriMo novel. Yes, the second half of the book really was written that fast. No, that was not a very fun day. Although it was exciting. And I noticed that the writing from that day was overall more crisp, more clear, and LESS in need of editing that the first half. Go figure.
So this year I’m sitting at something like 6000 words done on the 26th. I have work tonight, and work tomorrow night. If I’m lucky, I might be able to pull out a couple thousand words before Monday. Which leaves me three days.
About 72 hours.
To write maybe 42,000 words.
I’m off from work all three days.
Yes, I’m going to do this.
And as penance for being a dummy AGAIN this year, I’m going to let you all watch.
I’m going to update this blog at least daily, at least briefly, with little bits about how I’m doing. I’m also going to tweet progress on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So you can root for me – or mock me, if you prefer – on Twitter if you want to follow my feed there.
Forty two thousand words.
Signing off for work now. I’ll see you on Monday. ;)
So, today I am part of another blog hop – hope to see some folks popping in! This is the second time I’ve done this, and I’ll be doing things a little differently. This is an enormous hop. Tons of blogs involved. So if you’re new to the site, welcome! Please feel free to pop around a bit. I have an old award-winning short story of mine which I posted here for visitors to enjoy; if you’re into traditional fantasy stories, take a peek.
Tessa glanced up at the tower as she entered the glade. The shadows seemed to cling about its spire, and the sun seemed to shine less brightly upon it. The old stone building radiated an aura of awe and foreboding. Were a less intrepid mind to combine this feeling with all the tales the bards had spun about this place, a response of deep fear might be evoked.
But not from her. She strode down the path toward the tower without hesitation. The narrow gravel track crossed a lawn of bright green grass, spotted by the occasional tuft of a yellow dandelion. Somehow, Tessa thought, the flowers made the place seem less ominous. What truly horrible place would have dandelions growing in the front yard?
She felt decidedly uncomfortable walking in the new robes the village Elders had insisted on providing for her. In their “infinite wisdom”. At least she had been allowed to pick the color. The turquoise cloth provided a bright contrast to her red hair. She’d always liked wearing the color. But turquoise or no, the garment hampered her movements almost unbearably. She thought with longing of the soft deerskin breeches she’d been forced to leave behind. But the hide-bound idiots had informed her that if she was to be tested for apprenticeship with a wizard, she would go to the testing looking the part. Tessa brushed an unruly lock of hair away from her eyes. The Elders were a bunch of busybodies with too much free time to meddle.
She pulled a worn leather belt from where she’d kept it hidden beneath her robes. She buckled the belt around her waist, gaining confidence from the familiar weight of the knife on her right hip. Tessa had no idea what the Elders would think of their “young lady” wearing a six inch blade at her side. She didn’t care, either. That dirk had been a gift from her father, and she’d be damned before anyone would take it from her.
She reached the front door. It was constructed from thick oak planks, bound together by twisted bands of iron. A silver knocker hung in the middle of the door. Tessa ignored the implied request for courtesy and lifted the latch instead. At her insistent push the door creaked open.
The room inside was larger than it had looked from the outside. A crystal carafe filled with clear liquid sat upon a table in the otherwise bare room.
But it was the Efreet which immediately drew her eye. Continue Reading
Writers, I’m going to guess most of you are following Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. If you’re not, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. There’s very few websites I’d consider “required reading” for the modern fiction writer. That’s one. Passive Voice is another. Kris Rusch’s Thursday blogs on the writing business are right up there as well. Oh, just check my Links on the sidebar. Every website I have is there for a reason – they’re ALL worth checking out.
But anyway, Dean. There is an enormous wealth of information on his site, from his “Sacred Cows” articles debunking the myths around writing and publishing (sort of like Mythbusters, but for writers), to his New Age of Publishing, Thinking Like a Publisher series, and tons of other assorted posts, Dean gives from decades of experience writing over a hundred books. Really not kidding – super, super stuff there.
Back in January, he announced that in addition to his other writing, he was going to write a hundred short stories this year. He’d already done one a week before, so he wanted to make it really challenging. He would post each one on the website; he’d make a cover, and publish them to the major ebook sites. And he’d tell us how long he spent doing those things. The stories would stay up on his website until he wrote the next one, then he’d take the old one down.
The year started off well, but…life happened. And Dean wrote a post recently where he mentions that he’s only done 28 stories so far this year. Math wizards have already figured out that means he needed to write 72 more stories – and this was September 25th, with just 97 days left to go.
Most people would give up. Or at least, scale back expectations. No – instead, he wrote “But I still think I can do this, or give it a good run, … So not tossing in the towel just yet.”
This isn’t just a challenge anymore. This is epic, epic stuff. =)
My gut wanted to say I’d match him story for story for the rest of the year.
My head said that was crazy talk. I have work, and kids, and NaNoWriMo coming up in November, and two novels to finish and get out the door. So I bit my tongue and just posted an “attaboy!” comment to his post, saying how inspirational he is.
I got to thinking about that a little.
If we back away from chances to fail, we also back away from opportunities to be great. Dean isn’t a great writer because of his successes or because of his failures; he is a great writer because he is not afraid to fail.
Another writer, Bob Mayer, has a statement he believes in so strongly that he made it the name of his publishing company: “Who dares, wins.”
I’ve paused a few times in the writing of this. Because I take this sort of thing seriously. But if Dean’s going to keep going with his challenge, I will do my utmost to match him.
That’s what this is about: I will match Dean story for story til the end of the year.
Sometimes with longer stories; maybe sometimes with short ones. You’ll get to see them all – I’ll follow the same rules he has. I’ll be writing fast and streaming the work up here for you all to read, but each will be pulled down as the next is posted, available only from the major ebook retailers from then on. Some of the stories you’ll probably hate. Hopefully, some of them you’ll really like.
Should be an interesting time. It’s a lot of writing, but practice is how we get good.
Because it’s crazy.
Because it’s epic.
Because it supports the effort of a man I respect and admire, while at the same time pushes me to excel.
Because sometimes, you have to Dare to be Bad. ;)
And because if we do not dare, we cannot win.
I’ve been an Amazon Prime subscriber for a couple of years now. It’s been a huge money saver for the family. Free two day shipping on books and many other items is an absolute life-saver sometimes. It also means I don’t have to fret – or wait long! – on a print book I want. Love it. Two days isn’t the two minutes it takes to grab an ebook, but it’s pretty good. And some books, you just want the print version, you know?
Amazon’s been stepping up Prime benefits, though. They recently started adding free video to the membership. Lots of TV series, buckets of films. My wife tore through a couple of seasons of Torchwood using Amazon video – free. She’s watching Dr. Who right now. Stargate SG-1 is up for free as well.
And they’ve just added Star Trek. Not some of them, but every live actor televised episode of every series. The original is there, Next Gen is there, DS9 is there, Voyager is there, Enterprise is there… Wow.
I’m sure this is all part of the prep for the release of Amazon’s Android Tablet later this year. The idea is simple: tablets are not computers. Tablets are media consumption devices. Tablets are for listening to music, watching video, surfing the internet, reading books, etc. Amazon already dominates the ebook market. They have a Cloud Music player with free storage, and often cheaper prices than iTunes on the same tracks. They have an Android App store which is easier to navigate than the Apple one, and head and shoulders above the Google one. And now they have a video arsenal which seems to rival Netflicks. In short, Amazon is building the infrastructure they need to go toe to toe with the iPad.
But there’s a critical difference. Apple built the infrastructure for media consumption, but their focus is still on sales of the device, which costs $500-800. Amazon is building an equivalent media consumption system, but seems intent on making that their money-maker – with a device cost predicted to be $249 that includes free Prime membership (a $79 value), so the tablet effectively costs only $170. That’s remarkable for a color tablet. The low price coupled with the strong set of offerings makes Amazon’s entry into the tablet market a potent one.
And it’s good for the rest of us, too. Even if you’re not planning to buy their tablet, having access to thousands of hours of popular TV shows and films is pretty amazing!