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Twas the Night We Were Blogging

computerfix‘Twas the night we were blogging, when all through the house

Not an idea was stirring that would inspire a mouse;

Our manuscripts were flung by the chimney without care,

In hopes that inspiration soon would be there;

We wished we were nestled all snug in our beds,

While visions of blog stats danced in our heads;

And my wife in frustration and I in despair,

Were beginning to think we had nothing to share.

When out of the blue I got a great notion,

I sprang from my chair in a whirl of commotion.

Away to the computer I flew like a flash,

And opened the program but the thing promptly crashed.

I pounded the keyboard, right-clicked the mouse

Then uttered a yell that was heard through the house.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a Microsoft message that wasn’t too clear.

It’s an outdated driver, so slow and so sick,

I knew in a moment this wouldn’t be quick.

More rapid than eagles our curses they came,

We stamped, and we shouted, and called it some names;

“Now, Damn it! now, Darn it! now, How do we fix this!

Oh, Blast it! How stupid! oh, How do we nix this?

This is taking too long! We’re climbing the wall!

Just go away! go away! go away all!”

As frustration did grow and our tempers did fly,

We met with the obstacle, and said “Do or die!”

So back to the keyboard my fingers they flew,

With determination, and disk repair, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I saw on the screen

Another message from the hateful machine.

As I threw up my hands and was starting to frown

Error messages appeared with a bound.

They made no sense to me and no sense to my wife,

And had but one purpose; to cause us much strife;

A bundle of codes, which took us aback,

And made us believe we were on the wrong track.

Our eyes — how they twitched! our faces weren’t merry!

Our cheeks were like roses, our noses like cherries!

My wife’s little mouth was drawn tight as a bow,

And the look on her face as cold as the snow;

I turned to the screen and gritted my teeth,

The steam from my ears circled my head like a wreath;

I felt a sharp pain deep in my belly,

And was beginning to shake like a bowl full of jelly.

I grabbed a manual from off of the shelf,

And mumbled and murmured and read to myself;

My wife caught my eye and then shook her head,

Which let me know I had plenty to dread;

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,

And fixed all the problems; then turned with a jerk,

And giving the finger to the stupid machine,

I started it up and it worked like a dream!

My wife sprang to the keyboard and began typing away,

Creating a blog to post the next day.

But I heard her exclaim, as we finished that night,

“Blogging can be quite fun, but sometimes it bites.”

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

A Day in the Life…

I logged onto the computer to check the weather…

then I thought that I should check my email.

So I signed into my personal account…

and then decided I’d better check my business email, too.

While reading my business emails, I clicked on a link to a blog I follow…

and while reading the blog, I clicked another link…

which led to another…

and then another…

Which made me think of my Facebook page…

So I logged in.

And read my news feed…

And a few friends’ pages…

and a few business pages…

and caught up with my groups…

and my family…

and my friend requests…

and my messages…

(The messages that  I don’t receive via email)

Which made me think of Twitter…

So I logged in.

And scrolled through the tweets…

and scrolled…

and scrolled…

and scrolled…

and then checked my mentions…

and interactions…

and messages…

(The messages I don’t receive via email or Facebook)

Which made me think of my blog…

So I logged in.

And read the comments…

and checked the stats…

and tried out a few more widgets…

Which made me think of RebelMouse…

So I logged in.

And admired my front page…

and checked my drafts…

and played with the design…

and looked at the Goodies page…

Which made me think of Pinterest…

So I logged in.

And scrolled through the pins of people I follow…

and scrolled…

and scrolled…

and scrolled..

And I liked a few things…

and  repinned a few things…

and oohed and aah-ed over a few things…

including a photo of the sun setting over the ocean.

Which reminded me that I needed to check the weather…




Why Writers Need Toys

A yo-yo. A snow globe. A rubber ball filled with glitter that flashes blue light when you bounce it. A magic wand filled with sparkly confetti suspended in a pink gel.  Kaleidoscopes. These are some of the toys we keep in our offices.  Why?

1. They aid in creativity. There is something about toys that sparks ideas and loosens up that elusive, hard to define thing called creativity. One of the reasons kids have such great imaginations is that they play. Pacing around the office, bouncing that rubber ball, watching the blue lights flashing and the glitter spinning, is a great assistance when plotting a book.

2. They help your concentration. What? Aren’t toys a distraction? In a way, yes, but a good distraction. They occupy the conscious mind so the ol’ subconscious can have a chance to be heard. We have a plastic box with a clear cover that is about the size of a deck of cards. It is a tiny maze with several silver balls. The object is to get all the silver balls into the center of the maze. Just spend twenty minutes trying to do that! Your conscious mind will be so swept up in the challenge that your subconscious will soar.

3. They break your focus. New ideas come from thinking in new ways. Staring at a page of writing, thinking the same old thoughts about the characters, can feel like being on a treadmill.  A few minutes playing with a kaleidoscope can be enlightening.

4. They are calming. Slinkys®  are especially good for this. The motion and the sound are soothing. Get a nice rhythm going and you will discover their therapeutic powers.

5. They make you feel good. Simple, effective, non-addictive, toys are the perfect pick-me-up. So if you are feeling discouraged over a stuck story line, grab that yo-yo. You simply cannot feel bad while using a yo-yo.

6. They are fun. Toys are pure enjoyment. They exist to entertain. So why not have a little fun?

We know we’re not the only ones to have stumbled on this secret, and it certainly applies everyone, not just writers.  Do you keep a toy or two in your office?

The Future: If You Blink, You’ll Miss It

We were recently asked if it was difficult to write science fiction in a world where the future quickly and persistently becomes the present.

You betcha!

How lovely it must have been to be a sci-fi writer one hundred years ago. The inventions and devices you imagined and described were unlikely to show up not only in the near future but in your lifetime. Your futuristic world would remain just that, an imaginative journey into a far-off place.

Not so today. When we wrote the first draft of Time’s Edge twenty-five years ago, the future we imagined included wireless mobile computers, touch screens, voice-activated devices, quantum physics… Well, you get the picture. Flash forward twenty years. We haul out the manuscript, begin to polish it for publication, and notice a big problem. The future we described had pretty much become the present.

We rewrote the story and have since added two sequels, but we wonder how long it will be before the devices and ways of life we described become part of our present lives. And then we wonder what it will be like for the science fiction writers of tomorrow. Technology is evolving so quickly, the future will be happening as they are writing it!

FUTURE WRITER: Let’s see. Orion steps into his personal protection pod (PPP) which will shield him from the harmful rays of the sun that shine through the depleted ozone layer, filter the smog-laden air, protect him from the chemicals that saturate the ground…

NEWS FLASH: Get your very own Personal Protection Pod. Don’t put yourself at risk of our deadly environment again! PPP’s will shield the sun’s deadly rays, filter your air, protect you from toxic chemicals…

FUTURE WRITER: Sigh. I wish I lived in the 21st century. Life was so much simpler then. Let’s see. Maybe Orion could just wear a special suit. Wait a minute. An ultra-thin fabric, transparent yet tough, which provides all the protection he needs from the environment. It will be practically invisible, so no one will know he is wearing it… I’ll call it WonderFabric…

NEWS FLASH: WonderFabric, now available from fine eOutlets everywhere. Transparent yet tough, invisible to others…

FUTURE WRITER: I’m switching to historical fiction.






2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

We’re Blogging When We Should Be Writing

We saw an interesting post on Twitter last week. An author wrote that he was spending more time promoting his books than writing them.

We know the feeling.

Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Etc., etc., etc. Get the word out. Plug that book. Get another follower. Create some book trailers. Speak at a library, school, town fair, supermarket, doctor’s waiting room. (Yes, we did.) In short, SPREAD THE WORD.

Why do we spend all this time on promotion? We were asked that question by a student in a school where we recently spoke. Sigh. There are several reasons.

1. The book promotion elves are not taking any new clients.

2. The reading public, amazingly, had never heard of us before our first book came out.

3. Do you know how many books are published each year? (Um, we didn’t either. A quick check produced a figure of over 955,900 according to worldometers. The scary thing was the counter that was recording the number of published books changed every few minutes. Goodness knows what it will be when you are reading this.)

4. The cost of hiring someone to do it for us made us hyperventilate.

Seriously, book promotion is a necessary evil. Evil? Well, perhaps, time-suck would be a better term. Yes, yes, we have read the blogs from authors who tell us we should glory in promotion, look it in the eye, wrestle it into submission. We’ve also seen the posts about making book promotion our friend, lavishing it, loving it for all the good it does for us.

We admire the authors who are gung-ho about promoting their books. We marvel at them, wondering how they do it all, where they get the time. We are secretly convinced some of them have a time machine, or perhaps a Time-Turner just like Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Write a few chapters, turn back time, do some book promotion. Write a few more chapters, turn back time, do some more book promotion.

However, the small, rebellious writer in each of us resents the time spent promoting books. Time spent on promotion is time spent not writing. And writing is what we love to do. Does this mean we are going to stop blogging, tweeting, posting on facebook? No. We’re committed to our writing careers and therefore committed to promoting our books.

But if anyone has a spare Time-Turner they aren’t using, please let us know.



Statistics, The Curse of Social Networking

Everywhere you go these days the unending varieties of social networking sites provide an equally unending stream of information. And the stats to go with them.

It’s all too easy to get obsessed by statistics. You start out with your very first page. The site very helpfully provides information about how your page is doing, how many people have visited, how many have left comments or liked your page. Instant feedback. How nice! And at first it’s fun. Look! We had ten visitors! Ten! Isn’t that amazing? Ten more people now know about us! (And then you learn that the ten were your parents, siblings and a cousin, the one you can’t stand.)

You then begin to worry. Why only ten? We have to do better. You scan other pages, looking at the hundreds and thousands of fans and comments they have. How in the world does L.L. Bean do it? What does Madonna have that we don’t? Gee, Stephen King only has to write the first few pages of a new novel and the world beats a path to his page. You read other blogs, trying to fathom the mysterious secret, the magic combination that sets them apart and earns them such avid readership.

Well, you decide, if they can do it so can we. You try to determine how to get the most hits. What brings people to your page? What gets the most likes and comments? You experiment, try new things and often end up scratching your head at what works and what doesn’t. (Like the time we simply could not think of anything to blog about so we quickly wrote a spoof of A Visit from St. Nicholas which we called Twas the Night We Were Blogging. It has been our most popular blog to date. Go figure!)

Soon you are checking your stats daily. Are they up? Hooray! Down? Oh, no! Unchanged? WHY? Is the darn site glitching again? You start questioning yourself. Wondering. Worrying. Trying to come up with something new, something entertaining, something… Well, if we knew what the magical something was, we’d do it! And you still keep anxiously watching those stats.

It is not long before you are sneaking peeks at your stats a few times a day. Just a quick look. Just want to see if we’re doing better/worse/the same than we were this morning/this afternoon/this evening/ten minutes ago. Any new fans on Facebook? 55? Yea! We got a new one. You dance an Irish jig around the office until your significant other comes in and says that you already had 55 fans. You insist it was only 54. And you spend the next half hour arguing over that one fan, who is probably your cousin, the one you dislike.

Book sales are the worse type of all the stats. The figures change hourly. You can be selling in the top 2% one hour and drop down to 10% in the next. It’s worse than watching the stock market and just as unpredictable. When your sales are soaring you wonder (amid the cheering and fist-pumping) just why the world has suddenly flocked to your book. Was it the blog? Did they see the trailer on youtube? Perhaps it was the promotion on Goodreads? Just what in the world did we do to make this happen and how can we keep doing it? Unfortunately, when sales are dropping, you wonder the same things, in reverse. Didn’t anyone read the bog? Can’t they find the trailer on youtube? Is the Goodreads promotion just not enough? What in the world did we do to make this happen and how can we stop doing it?

Statistics obsession eventually reaches a peak. After the roller coaster of ups and downs, you chill out, knowing that your rankings can and will change at the drop of a hat for reasons unknown. It could be the phase of the moon. Or the stars might not be in the right position. Or perhaps your cousin, the one you dislike, has a big mouth and a lot of friends, which, for once, has worked to your advantage. Or maybe, just maybe, it was that last blog/Facebook post/book trailer/promotion that did it this time. Hmm. Perhaps we should check those stats again and try to figure it out…

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