Monday, December 26, 2011

See you in the New Year!!!

The Alliterati are taking a break for the holidays. We'll return on January 9th. Happy End-of-2011, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A tiny question for a slow blogging week

It's the week before Christmas, which means that while I know I have a lot of loyal lurkers out there, I'm not expecting many people to be keeping up on their blogs. So I just have a simple question, one that's been nagging me for a while.

I hear people talk about "drafts" a lot. To me, a draft is a significantly different version of a manuscript. Perhaps a complete re-write. But when I hear people talk about drafts, I don't usually think they mean a complete tear-down and re-dress.

Or do they?

Tell me, dear readers: what do you consider to be a draft?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Amazon and the "Death" of Brick and Mortar Stores

Anyone following the news lately will have heard about's new Price Checker app. If you haven't a summation is this: the app allows you to scan a barcode on a product using your iPhone or Android smart phone and check how much the item costs on Amazon versus how much it costs in-store. To entice users into test-driving the app, Amazon offered a deal on December 10th that offered savings of 15% (up to $5) off qualifying items.

Predictably, this announcement led to outrage among independent retailers of all stripes. News websites and blogs have blown up with coverage about the app about how it's an attack on small business. The New York Times ran a blog post about Amazon's seeming small-business problem, Fox Business reported on Amazon taking heat from Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the American Booksellers Association calls it a "cheesy marketing move" in an open letter, Josie Leavitt at the Publishers Weekly ShelfTalker blog said it was a "new low for Amazon," and that's just a smattering of the coverage. A quick Google News search resulted in nearly 150 news articles and blog posts about this very topic in the past few days.

But, like I said, this outrage was all terribly predictable. Amazon has been in an implied war with traditional business structures like brick-and-mortar retailers basically since its inception, so an app like this where it turns consumers into spies isn't really that big of a surprise (to me at least). One of the things that's struck me so far, however, is the argument many independent retailers make for why they're a better shopping option than Amazon. This has so far included charitable contributions to the surrounding community, keeping people employed in the community, and having the ability to hand-sell books people might not otherwise find. That's not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. And these things are all well and good, but to illustrate my point I'm going to tell you a story.

When I was 16, I got a job at a local Wegmans supermarket. The company, which had been in business since the 1930s, was fairly high-priced in terms of groceries when compared to other stores like Price Chopper, Giant Markets (a local chain), and the Wal Mart supercenter. Wegmans had locations in New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia (I think), and a few other states by that point, but they were by no means a major player in the marketplace. Mostly because of their prices, I think, but that's a story for another day.

Wegmans knew they weren't going to compete with major supermarkets like Kroger, Safeway, and Supervalu among others. And they were OK with this, because they'd discovered a philosophy that worked for them: "Do fewer things better." I got educated in this philosophy over the course of those two years I worked at Wegmans, and it's stuck with me ever since. The crux of it is this: You can't compete with the big boys on price, product selection, or any number of other things. Rather than do that, look at what you do really well and focus on offering that product to customers better than anybody else possibly can.

For independent bookstores, the philosophy of "Do fewer things better" might include shrinking certain sections of the store. If you don't sell a lot of history books, for example, you might eliminate that section from your salesfloor and shift it to an "order only" status. You might choose to stock more copies of books by local authors than NY Times bestsellers, or maybe you decide you're going to devote more space of your salesfloor to things like science fiction and fantasy, romance, and mysteries to the point where functionally all of your fiction section is those three genres. Maybe you've got an expert in unknown books on your staff and you give them a vehicle on your website to talk about great finds. There's a lot of possibilities open.

Sure, Amazon has their suggestion engine that people say shows them books they might not have otherwise thought of. But are you really going to trust Amazon to recommend a book from 10 years ago when you're purchasing the latest bestseller?

At the end of the day though, I feel like independent brick-and-mortar bookstores will still be around for some time to come. There's a major backlash already happening against Amazon, and this is going to only keep growing.What say you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Am I Worthy ... ?

Whenever something great happens to me, there's always that niggling thought. Am I worthy?

Well this week, I got a promotion at work. WAAAAAHOOOOOOO!!!! It's been in the works for about five months now. I'm so so so so so so so so happy that it finally went through. But I still can't help but wonder, do I deserve this? Am I really smart or skilled enough to be paid for what I do all day? What if one day they realize I'm not worth it and they just get rid of me?

I guess it comes down to the notion that I still don't feel like an official adult. For one, I still get scared of the dark sometimes. Or wake up from a nightmare and can't fall back asleep because...


Just last night I dreamt that a tsunami was coming and my plan was to dive head first into the 50-foot wave and try to swim. Yeah, smart move.

I also feel like there's still so much that I don't know about the world. Maybe other people just pretend to know what they're talking about. Maybe no one knows as much as they act like they know. Maybe everyone else is just as clueless as I feel sometimes.

I guess it comes down to that when I was a kid, being an adult seemed so different than what it's actually like. I'm 27, and I still feel like the kid I was in high school. Unsure of herself, afraid of what other people think, constantly checking to make sure I don't have food in my teeth or pantylines showing, wondering if my breath stinks or if I should exercise more.

Adults always seemed to know what to do. They were so responsible and busy and made so much money. But now that I've been an adult for almost 10 years, I now realize that no matter how old you are, those insecurities never truly go away.

Do you still feel like a naive kid trying to wear big girl/boy pants? Or do you feel totally worthy of your adult title, ready to tackle any day with a cup of coffee and a detailed plan of attack? Or maybe, being insecure and humble is the way we should go through life so that we can appreciate every day?

What has happened in your life to make you question whether you're worthy?

Monday, December 12, 2011

If These Walls Could Talk, They Might Only Scream (With Joy?)

As I write this, I'm sitting in my newly-Christmas'ed-out house, sipping a mug of hot chocolate and curling up under every blanket we own because it's San Diego, it's not supposed to get this cold, darnit. I'm also typing up a blog post. Uh, well I guess that last part was probably pretty obvious.

Yesterday, I got to play keeper to some lowland nyala, which are these creatures.Then I got to help one of our keepers clear another exhibit which held some scary gigantic birds (which I totally love, by the way). Then I got to play with our rats, and played trainer with one of our trainers.

Today, I go to my new volunteer place, where I'll get to play with anything from hedgehogs to porcupines to wallabies to macaws to marmosets to foxes to rabbits to--

Sorry. I got carried away. I think you get the idea.Then I'll get to hang out with some cheetahs (though I won't be playing any games with them... haha... cheetah... get it?)

I get to work with a lot of animals.

This is quite literally a dream come true. 

Sometimes it feels like I'm chasing a forever dream-- you know, the kind you can't wake up from. The kind that never ends. The kind that just keeps going and going.

Lately, I've been feeling kind of frustrated because things aren't happening fast enough for me. I had always thought that by this stage in my life, I'd be well established in a solid career. It didn't seem like such a big deal when I was 25. But now, for some reason, it feels like I'm approaching doomsday. (Yes, I'm an overachiever. And dramatic).

But today, I realized--really, really realized, not just thought it-- that I have it pretty darn good where I am. And while I'm not giving up on my lofty goals, I should be more okay being where I am until things happen. Especially because, while I hate to think it, there's always the chance that they won't happen. And even more especially because, where I am is pretty awesome!

We'll see how long my new-found pragmatism lasts. Here's hoping it's a while.

Tell me: a crazy dream you have, or a pragmatic one!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mission Statement. Sort Of.

so I've been thinking about my latest project --yeah thinking about more than working on. Hopefull that will change between now and when next semester starts -- and what its main purpose is.

Well Ok, its MAIN purpose is to be awsome but WHY it is going to be so awsome.

Appart from the fact that it has knights in it. I like knights a lot. Hard to have something with knights in it and it not be awsome.

But I digress.

Actually not. That flows rather well into my next point.

Except that I just messed it up.

Oh well. Moving forward.

I like old books. A LOT. Shakespeare. Chaucer. Sir Walter Scott. Spencer. BEOWULF. I am pretty much salvitating here as I type. Any combination of poetry, knights, complex language, people fighting with swords --I'm repeating myself a little here aren't I? Sorry. But you get the idea. Old legends. Old myths. The more obscure and less identified author the better.

Unfortunately most people don't. Or they don't have time to sit down and decipher them or maybe they just haven't heard of them (No really. You would be surprised). The versions people do know are typically --well Disney-ified or hollywood-ified. For example fairy tales. It took me a long time to figure out why Collodi's Pinochio is in the new ABC show Once Upon a Time when that is actually a victorian children's allegory rather than a folk tale. Then I realized it's a Disney movie and for most people that is synonimous with fairy tale. Yeah they recognize who the Grimm brothers are. They might even know who Charles Paurault is. But to them fairy tales are princesses and pixie dust and happy endings.

Not like a real fairy tale at all.

The original fairy tales were DARK. People in them cut off their own toes and heels to marry a prince or got blinded falling off a tower. They were punished by being rolled down a hill inside a barrel enbedded with nails or forced to dance in iron shoes heated in the fire place. Princes saw dead girls and decided to take them home to decorate their palaces. They were forced to marry ogres and locked inside towers with no walls or windows for decades at a time.

And Little Red Riding Hood? There was no huntsman in the original version. She didn't listen and she got eaten. The end.

But sometimes --if a kind stepdaughter or resourceful youngest son were kind and resourceful enough--they might make it through the dangers and mysteries alive and reach a happily ever after.

I love the one with the seven swan brothers whose sister has to spend seven years without talking while she weaves shirts out of nettles to return them to their human state. And the one brother who's shirt isn't quite finsished and spends the rest of his life with a wing instead of an arm.

And the Goose Girl who talks to the head of her dead horse while under cover at the castle of the prince she's supposed to marry and bears her soul to an iron stove in the hearing of the king because she is sworn not to tell a living soul what happened to her.

To me these are Fairy Tales. Not that silly pixie dust stuff.

So what does this have to do with my writing? My current project is an Arthurian piece. But not just the typical Arthur becomes King or Lancelot and Guenivere fiasco that we usually hear about. I'm going back further than that. To the older legends. The once we might read in school but hardly ever encounter for entertainment purposes. I want to stay as true to the legends as possible while still making them accesable to a modern audience --the audience that might not understand why a knight would travel through the countryside challenging every nobleman he saw just for the heck of it.

And that --for the time being --is why I am writing. To share a world of legend and mystery with this world. To show them that the next new exciting thing just might be ancient and sweltering in time.

So do you have mission statement for your current project?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's Right That's Left to Write About Right Writing?

Is anyone else tired of writing about writing? And reading about writing. Instead of reading good writing or writing good writing to be read?

It's not that the tipic bores me. Conversations about writing are quite pleasant its just thatwhen I think, Ok, the topic is writing, what shall I write?

my mind goes . . .


. . .




:P :D :P


Sure. I could write about writing methods.

But we all know that everybody has their own method. Golly, each of my manuscripts has its own method. That would take forever to cover and be relevent to only a few.

> > >

. . .



So I could write about structure . . .

but the thought of it makes me want to run and screem.

:O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O :O


I could write about the lack of structure.

But it would be a very short post:



. . .


I could write about being a writer.

About staying motivated to write.

About the challenges of trying to get published.

About writing (or trying to write) queries.

About what should be in your novel and what shouldn't.

About why short stories are supeirior.

About why short stories are inferior.

About just letting your creativity out and not worrying about the market.

About researching your market and not letting over ambitious "artistic ideas" get in your way.


Google any of those topics and you'll find a thousand blog posts addressing them.A thousand re-hashings of the same metaphors, the same "insights" the same experiences, the same conflicting conclusions. A story can be re-told no matter how many versions there are floating around in the world. Every version is going to be slightly different and just as worth reading. Because it is personal and relevant to a particular imaginary or sometimes real event. It happens to a specific person. But information is vague and overstating. It is just information in whatever new clothes you dress it up in. People can only read it so many times without going a little bit insane.

I may have gone a little bit insane.

But then again I already was a little bit insane.

I do however have some very basic information that I shall share with you now.

There is no "right" way to write.

Never has been. Never will be. Embrace your own adventure.