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FeBlueberry 1999

FeBlueberry 1999 Newsletter
Dream A Little
Story of an Article

This time there's a lot of other new material, so I'll have a marginally shorter column and refer you to the rest. One is the 5,000 word "Dream a Little" report on our trip to the Washington DC area to autograph with my collaborator, Julie Brady; that may be the only out-of-state trip I make this year, though one never can be sure of the future. Then there's the 3,000 word "Story of an Article," which should interest hopeful writers, as it has some savagely relevant advice. And "Trees" done with Dawn M. Burge, that shows the major family connections of Xanth characters. I originally had little heart symbols to show marriage, but feared the Internet could not handle them, so changed them to plus symbols. So it's not as pretty as it was, but should be useful for Xanthophiles. Maybe next time I'll put on the Xanth history Timeline, that gives the dates for everything; that's a big file. In short, there should be things to interest you at this site; don't be turned off by this sour HiPiers column. I do have some humor. HiPiers prints out and forwards e-mail letters to me. Sometimes I comment on some of that material in my weekly Letters to Jenny. Here are two examples:

Remember those emoticons? You know, the sidewise symbolistic ;~) crooked smile or the :-{ mustachioed frown or the 8:-) little girl or the :-) 8 big girl? This week someone sent HI PIERS a long email telling about his idea for "asscons." He may have something. If anyone is looking over your shoulder at the moment, fold this letter and hold it for private reading; I don't want to get in trouble. OK: the asscon is a bunch of symbols that you read right-side up, all representing asses. (_!_) is a regular ass. (__!__) is a fat ass. (!) is a tight ass. (_._) is a flat ass. (_^_) is a bubble ass. I'm not sure what kind that is; maybe I just haven't looked at enough of them. (_*_) is a sore ass. (_!__) is a lopsided ass. (_O_) is an ass that been around a lot. (_x_) is "kiss my ass." And so on. Isn't that hilarious? Or maybe asinine. Okay, one more, ass # ten, so as not to leave it at nine asses (you know: asinine): (_e=mc2_) is a smart ass. So, this missive says, now you can e-moon your friends. The sender is cosomoto@greynet.net, if you want to look it up for yourself.

One Shawn Mundane sent HiPiers an e-mail about a virus alert. If you receive an e-mail titled "Badtimes" delete it without opening, or it will erase everything on your hard drive, delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer, demagnetize all of your credit cards, reprogram your ATM access code, screw up the tracking on your VCR, and scratch any CD's you try to play. It will re-calibrate your refrigerator's settings so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles, and program your phone to dial only your mother in law's number. It will mix antifreeze into your fish tank, drink all your beer, leave dirty socks on the coffee table when you are expecting company, replace your shampoo with Nair and your Nair with Rogaine, while dating your current boyfriend behind your back and billing the hotel rendezvous to your Visa card. It will leave the toilet seat up and leave your hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub. It will change your perfume to smell like dill pickles. And more. What, you say your mother knows about that virus? In fact she wrote it? Wow!

Meanwhile, we have encountered mischief off the Internet: it seems that the old 800 HIPIERS number, which we gave up when we shut HiPiers down, has been given to a porno outfit, BLOWN. We called AT&T, but they say it's not their fault; another outfit has charge of those numbers. So is this a run-around? All we can do is say that it isn't us, and is not done with our approval. I have nothing against pornography; I just don't want folk thinking they're calling me and getting this stuff. I was alerted to this first by Jason Beebe; thanks, Jason.

Last time I discussed Xlibris.com and Pulpless.com. They are still largely in formation, but Xlibris looks good for the future, and Pulpless says it has the first 10 books, including my Realty Check, published and on sale at amazon.com. Apparently copies are on regular sale for money; I'm foggy on this, but think it's because a value has to be set before the rates for the advertising editions can be established. So the free edition is not yet available, but it will be in several months, as the full program gets implemented. Have patience, readers. Reader reports indicate that Xlibris has the high ground on courtesy to readers, and Pulpless the low ground. I'll comment further when the picture comes clearer. I will have a lot more to say on this subject another time; much has happened with both publishers.

I have had a number of requests for autographs from Germany. Each is politely phrased, with a return envelope; none evince any familiarity with my work. I presume it's an autograph club. I'd like to know how it got my snail mail address. My policy is to cut off anyone who publishes it, and that includes WHO'S WHO volumes. I don't like being solicited by those who have no apparent interest in my work. And the monetary solicitations continue. On Dismember 12 I received one from Australia, addressed to SIR/MADAM PIERS ANTHONY. No doubt it's a worthy cause - but I have yet to see a cause that doesn't consider itself worthy. So are they more worthy than the enterprises that don't beg money from strangers? I doubt it. I even got a missive addressed to Anthony W Piers. My guess is that the W stands for Writer. As a general rule, I ignore solicitations, preferring to limit my contributions to those causes I understand. On the other hand, a number of folk who have comment groups have asked HiPiers to set up connections to their sites. That's a different matter, and we're glad to cooperate.

In Jamboree we ordered a state of the art 450 MHz system with modem, scanner, 250 M zip drive and similar. Naturally the company, Tiger, had to back order, as if nobody bought one of those before, so I remain off-line. But we expect to receive it Real Soon Now, and then I'll see about learning the Internet. But that doesn't mean I'll be publishing my e-mail address; I'll do it anonymously, so I can feel my way privately. Mainly, we're getting the system so we can start scanning my old, reverted novels into the computer, so that they can be republished at Xlibris. I rather expect to become Xlibris' biggest one-author self publisher, as I have about 50 titles to catch up on, and eventually will want the rest online too. At the moment, I have had 112 books published, and more are in the pipeline. That means that those who truly want my titles will be able to get them; they will be in print, in hardcover and maybe for downloading, probably with added Author's Notes about their histories. This will take time, to scan, and proofread, and all. So it won't happen all at once. We hope to start with Chthon and Phthor, and continue with the Space Tyrant series. We'll see how it goes.

In fact the system arrived before I finished writing this column, so here's an update wedged in later: we unpacked it and set it up, and it worked, except for the sound - maybe that required separate software? Oh, the volume was turned down; it's fine - and one complication we always have: my Dvorak keyboard layout. I learned Dvorak, which is more efficient than the standard QWERTY layout, before personal computers came on the scene. For some reason that escapes me, they then changed some of the punctuation marks around for the computer version. I, having typed touch on the original, am unwilling to change, so we change the keyboard instead. But Microsoft always has to stick its finger in the pie, changing the way the keyboard translations tables work, so that what worked for DOS did not work for Windows 3.1, and what worked for 3.1 did not work for 95, and what worked for 95 may not work for 98. Each time they make it harder to do it my own way, just because they can. My wife, who was a programmer in the stone age, the 1960's, says if we have to, we can delete Win98 and put Win95 in, but I resent the need. So she is now struggling to figure it out, and I will not be using that system until she beats Microsoft back (again) or we trash 98 in favor of 95. Ha: she got it; this time they left the file the same, but hid it in a new location. What a cunning ploy! Meanwhile, because this is a Tiger system, instead of the Windows motif on the Desktop it has a pretty tiger. I like it. The 450 system sure is faster than the 66 it replaces. We were surprised when shutting down: instead of taking a minute to sort through things, it flashed the message IT IS NOW SAFE TO - and shut itself down. I mean it turned off the computer. So there will be no changing of minds with this system; touch that button and you're dead. So far, the little changes in Win98 seem okay; we can live with them. But our introduction to it turned out to be familiar in one respect: we got one of those messages YOUR APPLICATION HAS PERFORMED AN ILLEGAL OPERATION AND WILL BE SHUT DOWN. The application was Windows 98, as we were trying to ascertain which keyboard the system was using. Shame on you, Microsoft; I thought you were going to get rid of those gratuitous self-generated nuisances. I should have known better.

Stray notes: Something I'd like to know: where is Entwood Forest in Middle Earth? I got a map, but it doesn't seem to have that on it. Is there a Tolkien fan out there who knows? I read those books back in 1959 and have forgotten; now it bugs me. I get bugged by the stupidest things. Meanwhile, I am now writing the 4th Mode novel, DoOon Mode, and am two chapters into it, about 27,000 words. Everything has been coming out of the woodwork to take my time, and this threatens to continue, so progress is slow. Chapter one features the three Felines, Tom, Cat, and Pussy, who compete with other nulls, such as the Swine, for the privilege of going on the Virtual Mode when the chance comes. Chapter 2 picks up exactly where Chaos Mode left off, with Colene and company captured; the evil emperor Ddwng wants them to fetch the Chip that will enable him to make Virtual Modes of his own, and despoil the alternate Modes. Stay tuned. I commented a while back about the newspaper chess puzzle makers not seeming to know about the en passant aspect. Later I reread the rules and discovered that this applies only to a pawn taking a pawn, not to any other piece taking a pawn. Oh. I think the rule is wrong, but it does mean that en passant does not apply where I thought it did. However, those chess puzzles do make other mistakes.

My wife is the TV football fan in our family; she wowed others on our Washington DC trip, because they had never heard of a woman liking to watch football. I hadn't realized that it was that unusual. We once rescheduled a love making session because there was football on at that time. I can take it or leave it - I am referring to football - but some games I do watch. After seeing the Florida State vs. Tennessee college championship game, I was reminded of a sour joke I made up some time back: two billionaires made a bet as to who could assemble a football team and win in a year's time. One billionaire went at it scientifically, he thought. He bought the finest players and coaches and equipment, and saw to it that they got the best training and practice. The other billionaire was cheap, and settled for second or third best in all respects. Then they had a dinner while the big game was played; they didn't deign to watch it themselves. All they wanted was the result. And the second billionaire's team won. The first billionaire was astonished. "How could this happen? I bought the finest team in the world. Nobody could outplay it." Then the other billionaire revealed his secret: "I bought the officials." No, it's only a joke. I think. But it is why I can take or leave the game. Similar goes for the Olympics, and what passes for judging there.

A year or so back our tree farm was getting overrun by feral pigs. Fearing for the welfare of the wild creatures there - we regard it as an animal sanctuary - we made a deal with neighbors to trap the pigs. The pigs disappeared, and the land recovered. But now they are back; I don't dare wander our property too freely alone. I don't like that. So we'll see what the neighbors can do again. I'm a vegetarian because I don't like hurting animals. The trouble is, if we have pigs, we may not have many other animals here. One of the environmental organizations has a similar problem, and got blacklisted by another because it was trapping pigs. But I can appreciate its point. Those animals are destructive.

One of the magazines I read is THE NEW SCIENTIST. It's my favorite, a weekly British publication running about 100 pages an issue with much good material. The issue for Jamboree 16 had more than usual. One article was about Dark Matter. Now I'm a fan of Dark Matter; the mystery has intrigued me for years. In essence it is this: studies of the dynamics of galaxies suggest that they have to have about ten times as much matter as shows; were they as they appear to be, they would be flying apart. So where is the missing mass? I was about satisfied that it consisted in part of MACHOS: Massive Compact Halo Objects, or brown dwarfs, that is, failed stars you can't see because they're small and they don't glow. There could be a lot of them out there. But on occasion some should pass in front of stars, and become apparent by the lensing effect they have as their gravity distorts the light of those stars. Sophisticated observation has located some, but not enough to account for Dark Matter. The other candidate I favored was neutrinos. They are tiny particles that zoom right through planets and stars without interacting. They were thought to have no mass, but it turns out that they do have a little; they are tiny, but there are so many that this could account for much of Dark Matter. Except that they pass through whole galaxies too, not staying around. That means they're not clumping where Dark Matter must be. So they seem to be out too. But now the theorists are zeroing in on another candidate: a species of WIMP: Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. These may do the job. CERN is building a collider that may be able to create these WIMPs, proving that they exist. We'll see.

Another article is a review of a book titled Noah's Flood by William and Walter Pitman. This is something I would have explored in GEODYSSEY, had I not lost my market for serious writing; the fifth novel, Climate of Change sits stalled unfinished at 112,000 words. So I'm discussing it here. According to the Bible, the whole world was flooded, and only Noah's ship carried survivors. That is surely an exaggeration, but other lands have flood stories too, and it seems likely that there was something formidable. Well, they may have found it. The Mediterranean basin was at one time dry; then the sea came in and filled it, six million years ago. Too early for mankind to take note. But the Black Sea remained empty, and the ground there was rich; the first farmers may have settled there. When the word's oceans rose after the last Ice Age, the water finally broke through and poured into the Black Sea basin. The waters advanced across this settled area at the rate of about a quarter mile a day, for a year or two. The people had to flee to the hills. The mountains of Turkey, such as Mount Ararat, are in that vicinity. I think we have something here.

And in the same issue there's a comment that in the region where the Ice Man called Otzi (I have him and his daughter in Hope of Earth) was found they have a brisk trade in chocolate Otzis. Nothing like eating something shaped and colored like five thousand year old human flesh. But perhaps you can see why I like the magazine. I even sent it a question for its question column: why does the phoebe bird wag its tail? No, it never ran that question, so the mystery remains.

Back to mundane matters: I don't much like monopolies; they get arrogant, because there is no other game in town. That's why I'm encouraging Internet publishing. But computers themselves are run by an increasingly monopolistic operating system whose proprietors regard fixing bugs as not cost effective. Not cost effective to them, perhaps, but I don't much like system crashes. So I'm looking for another game, and it is coming into view: LINUX. When I get online I'll see what I can find there; my next system might be in that mode, if they can develop a good word processor and database. We'll see. I'm tired of having to fight Microsoft with each update. It was bad enough having to pay for two Windows, because I had two systems: one for novels, the other for letters, both used only by me because I'm the only one in the family using the Dvorak keyboard. I understand LINUX is free, and its source code is open. From here, that looks like nirvana.

There's a flap in the news that intrigues me. An aide to the mayor of Washington DC used the word "niggardly," meaning miserly. But because others with a smaller vocabulary thought it resembled a racial slur, he lost his job. I regard Political Correctness as a form of censorship. This goes that one better, because it means that ignorance is prevailing over informed usage. Columnists are having a field day, as they should. They inquire whether it should now be a firing offense to talk of flying a kite if a Jew is nearby, and banish spic and span if a Mexican is close? How about a nip in the air or a chink in the armor if certain Asians might overhear? Could you say you dislike orange juice in the vicinity of an Israeli redhead? What shall we call those invisible biting bugs in Florida known as chiggers? Will guinea pigs have to be renamed? Come Christmas, who will dare sing "Don we now our gay apparel"? I think we have already seen it in operation in computing, because Intel did not follow its 586 system called the Pentium with the obvious for the 686, the Sextium; they called it that lame Pentium II. Enough, already; haven't we got problems enough without inventing insults where none exist?

E-mail continues to pile in. I read the printouts, and answer those with snail mail addresses, and sometimes dictate answers to others if they seem to warrant it. Some have useful information, such as the one who alerted us to what happened to our old 800 number, or about how piersanthory.com is a celebrity poll unrelated to my works. Many are expressions of support; there seems to be a clear majority who feel that my portrayal of women in Xanth is apt rather than sexist. I especially appreciate the opinions of women who say I have good insight into the minds, hearts, and souls of women. I think it is no secret that I am not now and never have been a woman, but I do have considerable sympathy for the state of that gender in what is, let's face it, essentially a man's world. One note points out that Breanna of the Black Wave, who is militantly black, is depicted on the cover as almost white; she should be black and beautiful. That bothers me too, but I don't paint the cover pictures. A publisher once expurgated one of my black characters to white in the text; today I have better control, and don't allow that. One man said he liked everything I have written, except my collaborations, because when he read one of those it sucked. Some recommend Web sites for me to visit; I'll start a list of such suggestions, so I can check them, once I am secretly competent online. One mentions XANTH ONLINE, which plans to put Xanth into a 3D roamable perspective. Oh? I'll have to check that. Xanth is proprietary, meaning that I am obliged to defend against copyright infringements lest I lose the rights to my own creation. I may have to check with my rights agent about some things. There have been expressions of interest in the online self-publishers I have mentioned; good. Another reader, Rikki Walter, tells me of something called Scott's Page of Evil taking off on Xanth, saying it's for teenage boys. Actually it's for everyone with a sense of humor - sorry about that, critics - but is there something wrong with teenage boys? Of course I find teenage girls more interesting, but that's typical of most men. Thanks, Rikki; I'll check out that site, when. I suspect Scott, like other truants, just wants attention.

Let's conclude on something that came in as I finished this column: Julie Brady, co-author of Dream a Little Dream, found a review on the book. She's dismayed. It says the novel jumps awkwardly about, has cardboard characters, weak plotting, haphazard execution, precious tone, and is a downer. It says admirers of Anthony's Xanth series will miss the puns. I told Julie "Welcome to the club! This is a typical anonymous savaging passing for objective commentary. Now you know why writers dislike reviewers." Note how critics typically condemn Xanth for puns, yet also damn my novels that don't have puns. The point, of course, is to find a pretext to pan the novel and try to drive readers away from it. Sure, I'm a bad sport about bad reviews; I'm a writer. My theory is that some reviewers are failed writers who resent the success of those who succeed in getting published. So let me make up another little story: Grouch was an anonymous reviewer dedicated to the proposition that no book not authored by himself was worth reading, by definition. He savaged everything, and he was very good at it, so that the books he reviewed sold fewer and fewer copies. Then one day he lost his job, because he had succeeded in making all books sell so little that the publishers went out of business. Then at last Grouch was happy, though he starved.



The Experience of the Ogre and the Damsel
A trip report by Piers Anthony

Ogres hate to travel, so I don't do much of it, and when I do, it is for business or strong social reason, not for pleasure. My wife and I traveled to the Washington DC area for the weekend of Jamboree 8-10, 1999, so I could autograph copies of the hardcover publication of Dream a Little Dream with my collaborator Julie Brady. I don't do this with every collaborator, but I felt that it was appropriate this time. Sometimes a damsel needs an ogre's support. So Julie and I set it up near where she lives, and informed the store and the publisher, and I went at my own expense. Normally publishers organize autographings and pay the author's way, but I set my own agenda; I was always an independent cuss in such respects. So why did my wife come along? No, not from any concern about me getting together with a lovely girl the age of our daughters; my wife knows me. It's because I am as dependent in my private life as I am independent in my public life, and my wife takes care of me. It is perhaps an anomaly that when I travel to speak or autograph, I have no problem with audiences of any size, but get all knotted up at the prospect of traveling alone. I have reason; when I'm alone Fate takes an active interest in my case, and the weather fouls up, my flights get delayed or canceled, phones won't work for me, hotel reservations turn out to be inoperative, and after that things start going wrong. So while I was going to shepherd Julie through a process that was daunting for her but old hat for me, my wife came along to shepherd me through the daunting process of existing away from home. Fate doesn't mess with her; it knows better.

We left our home in the tree farm - where else would an ogre live? - Friday at 10 AM, driving to Orlando, Florida, to catch our flight north. The day was fine. The weekend before there had been storms across the nation, and travelers had gotten trapped for days in faraway places; maybe Fate had thought I traveling then. We arrived at the airport in good time, about 11:30, and threaded our way through the labyrinth that is the typical airport. This time I didn't even set off the metal alarms, which was weird, because I always set them off and have to go through several times while some young lady with a cattle prod pokes me repeatedly in private regions. This was getting suspiciously easy. Naturally it was merely the setup for mischief: when we checked in we learned that our flight was delayed two hours. In fact our plane hadn't yet taken off from the Wash area, because of bad weather. So we had to wait for three hours - we had of course arrived more than an hour early for our 1:16 flight, per airline requirement - in the waiting room, while other people coughed and hacked and snored. We just love to be a captive market for random illness. We got something to eat, but there was still a lot of time left over. It was hard on my wife because she's a heavy smoker, and they wouldn't allow smoking anywhere except at a bar, and she couldn't smoke there unless she bought something. So they got her reluctant business. But if the airlines think they are being smart forcing folk to do that, what do they think will be our attitude next time we consider traveling? Each rip-off entanglement is another reason for us not to travel. I don't smoke, but I am perforce familiar with the smokers' treatment because of my wife. It wouldn't be hard for them to provide smoking chambers or outdoor standing spots, if they cared half a whit. Meanwhile I read LIBERAL OPINION WEEK, the only place I can find the liberal columnists who care about the environment, civil rights, freedom of expression, education, and the human condition. I always travel prepared.

Our flight finally took off about 3:20 and was fortunately uneventful. Well, there was a minor annoyance: you know how they seat the folk in the rear of the plane first, so as to keep it orderly? We were on Row 8 of 19, and we waited our turn to board. Then, as we were putting up our bags and orienting on our seats, a woman behind me asked me to get out of her way, because her seat was on Row 19. I said "Then you should have gone before." But I squeezed over to let her by, where she got tangled with my wife and the third person on our bank of seats, messing them up and delaying things. So why the hell hadn't she taken her turn when it was called out, as we had, instead of coming in late and then blaming us for being in her way? Hadn't she had to come an hour early, like the rest of us? Failing that, why hadn't she simply waited for us to take our seats, since she, not we, was the one out of place? The plane was not likely to take off without her. I take exception to those who think the orderly rules of convenience don't apply to them. So I was curt with her, though if I had had more time to consider the case I might have been downright impolite. The flight was mostly through clouds, but at the very end - like maybe the final six inches - it cleared so the pilot could see to land, which was a relief. We landed about 5:30, admiring the inches deep snow on the ground - we had not seen such snow in forty years - and wended our mystified way through the crowded labyrinth that was the continuation of the one we had left in Florida, only worse. It is surely a truism that the closer you get to this country's government, the more fouled up things are. We found the shuttle to the main station, and it turned out to be a weird sort of bus set up like a subway car, and we jammed in the back. One more man came, but there was hardly room for him, until he said "Make way for the driver." Oh. He squeezed his way toward the front, and got the crate moving. Then we looked for the limousine shuttle service area, where we were to catch a shared-ride to our hotel. The hallway continued endlessly with signs galore - but not one of them said LIMO. We walked the whole blocks-long concourse without success. This is typical of my alone-traveling, but now it was happening to my wife, showing that Fate was really determined this time. Finally we asked at the taxi service information desk - and what we wanted was within 50 feet. It was 6:00 PM. We went there, found a limo - and the woman said that we should come back in half an hour. So we waited separately, me reading on a stone ledge inside - naturally there were no waiting room seats - and my wife outside in the freezing weather so she could smoke. Then at 6:30 the lady dispatcher apologised: they were jammed, there had been accidents in the weather, they had no limo. She directed us to the long taxi line. So we nudged our way through that, and were about halfway up when she reappeared at 6:45: they had found a limo! So we broke out of the line and hurried up, and there it was, with just two seats left. We piled in and were on our way to the hotel. We really appreciated the lady dispatcher's efforts on our behalf; she had steered us well throughout, considering the maelstrom that was the situation.

We reached the hotel at 7:15, about three hours late - and what do you know, they had not lost our reservation. Check-in via credit card was quick - I have my irritations with credit cards, but on the road they are papers from heaven - and the clerk gave us two messages, calls from collaborators Al and Julie. They were both naturally concerned about our failure to get in touch. The moment we got to our room - it was at the farthest end of the farthest hall, where they sequester smokers - I called Alfred Tella, my collaborator on The Willing Spirit, and he said they would come pick us up in half an hour. Then I called Julie to set things up for the morrow. So we got reorganized and the Tellas fetched us to their house. As I understand it, Al Tella and his wife Dorothy have worked in government, for Republican and Democrat administrations, and she had at one time been Chief U.S. Statistician for President Reagan. Al is also an ex economics professor. Their house is like a small museum, with square wood beams and walls, models of animals and birds perched everywhere, and paintings, including the original art for the novel. The library has complete collections of rare first editions of genre authors. Al is a pigeon fancier, as one might guess from the pigeon sequence in Spirit, and has an attached pigeon loft. They served an elegant vegetarian meal with cider and wine, and we chatted compatibly. Thus did a business association - the collaboration - became a personal one; we had not met before. Then they returned us to our hotel a bit after midnight.

Saturday dawned hazy and white. I looked out the window and saw two sets of human footprints tracking through the snow, the trails overlapping at just one point, as though a young woman had come out to kiss her lover and then retreated before her folks missed her. There was a fence of fir trees masking the highway beyond, giving the area a bit of a fairyland-in-winter aspect. Inside was interesting too: the room was roughly triangular, and the bathroom had an alcove with facing mirrors, so that I could see myself reflected endlessly to left and right. I could also see that my hair is not just retreating in front, but thinning in back. That was more than I really cared to know. The TV set not only had cable and pay-per-view - not that we bothered - it could be used to access the Internet. I am not at this moment Internet conversant, but I have bought some books on the subject and am about to upgrade a system so I can finally dip my ignorant toe and discover what it's all about. But that doesn't mean that I'll do it openly; strangers who want to reach me must continue to do so through the filter of HI PIERS, while I gad about anonymously. I hope.

We had a good breakfast in the smoking section of the hotel dining room, and that was just as well, because it would be about 6 PM before we ate again. We had set it up for a leisurely day, but naturally it failed to follow the script. Oh, it started okay; from 9-12 we rested, read, and snoozed. Then we had a call from Julie: they would arrive between 12 and 1. So I went down to the lobby while my wife remained in the room. I read until 1, getting buffeted by cold air each time the door opened, without spying them. Then my wife came down: Julie had called again. They had had trouble renting a car, because the weather had caused accidents and made for a glut of car renting, but would arrive in another half hour. I hadn't realized they would have to rent; I hadn't meant to put them to that trouble. I admired the amorphous paintings around the hotel lounge, lobby, and restaurant: like flying swans getting chewed up by snowstorms. We flew through that on the way up. Then they arrived, and we overlooked them, and they overlooked us, because Julie was wearing glasses, and we were seated to the side. But we soon got together. Julie Brady was trim and stunning in long loose curly red hair, and her boyfriend was Mark Tello. Now don't get confused: Al Tella is a collaborator, Mark Tello a boyfriend; they are different people. We put her change of clothing in our hotel closet, then set off as a party to find the house of Jane Frank, genre art dealer from whom Julie hoped to buy the original art for Dream, which was painted by Tristan Elwell. I had had a letter interchange with her in 1996, but did not make the connection, because I had simply asked Jane to take me off her mailing list because I hated having her waste postage on someone who was not looking to buy any art. Understand, I love genre art; I was a hopeful artist in high school and college, but gave it up because I judged that I would never be good enough to make it commercially. So it's like bird watching: I look with pleasure, but don't touch or own. So I, having forgotten the Jane Frank catalog, which strongly resembles an art book, expected a small house containing a woman who had a painting. Al Tella had helped, because he knew Jane, and the cover painting for Spirit was by the same artist, so he had suggested that she represent the one for Dream. The same artist did the cover painting for my three way collaboration Quest for the Fallen Star, incidentally. In my mind, Jane would have a single wrapped painting in a cubbyhole, and Julie would look at it and decide whether she could afford it, and soon we'd be on our way again.

Well, it wasn't like that. Jane and her husband greeted us warmly and showed us the house. I said that the Tella residence was reminiscent of a museum; well the Frank residence was reminiscent of an art gallery. I mean, they could charge admission for tours. Room after room, every wall with fantastic fantasy art, the kind I like. You know: rich exotic settings, weird alien creatures, futuristic machines, and phenomenally breasted young women with splendid heads of hair. Conceptually much of it is junk, because in real life you would seldom find a damsel that endowed, that bare, in the middle of a battle between spaceships and bug eyed monsters. But as a visual treat, it's hard to beat. And some of it really is art by elite definition. Those truly artistic paintings, I learned, are mostly unsalable; publishers want spot commercial appeal without anything as real as pubic hair. So some art is done for art's sake. It's not restricted to paintings; they had several elaborate sculptures of operative miniature Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, or roller coaster, replete with dragons and elves and other creatures, each aspect individual and finely crafted. Thus the Franks have become to an extent patrons of art, commissioning such sculptures without any expectation of selling them. Art for art's sake. I heartily approve. Some art I commissioned for the Xanth Calendar is there. The tour was an hour and a half, but then we had to depart, because we did have other commitments to meet. But this was a surprise as spectacular as unexpected. The house was multi-level, with a fine view of the forested valley and river beyond. I do get jealous of the mountainous scenery of other states; I think the highest spot in peninsular Florida is something like 150 feet. Come the meltdown of Antarctica, we may be in trouble. Their art was expanding beyond the capacity of the house, so they are taking the obvious step: no, not to get rid of any art, but to expand the house. Like the Tellas, they are refined collectors, and it's a state I well understand though my own collecting mania has been suppressed in favor of writing. I do have one piece I suspect they would envy: the original painting by Darrell Sweet for Bio of an Ogre. I never bought it; the publisher did, and gave it to me, in 1987, and it hangs on my living room wall. And yes, Julie made a deal to make time payments for the painting; she's not one of those who don't have to ask the price. Those interested in purchasing genre art can reach Jane Frank at her e-mail address wowart1@erols.com or snail-mail PO Box 814, McLean VA 22101.

We drove to the Borders Books, Music, Video, Café store, not for autographing but as a preliminary check. I don't like arriving on the scene and discovering there are no books or there's no place to sign, or whatever other foul-ups can happen, so I like to go early and see. There was also a small mystery: this was set up as a signing, but word was out that it was a reading. Now I have done readings and talks, and that's no problem, but I need to be prepared if I am to do it well. So we located Colleen Holt, the store's community relations coordinator, and inquired. Okay: they like to have the authors talk a bit about the book beforehand. That's easy to do; we'd tell how it came about, answer questions, then do the autographing. They had about 50 chairs set out in a corner, making a handy nook for the purpose. So now we knew the setup, and they knew we were in town; I said we'd return soon after 7 for the 7:30 event. I like to have time around the edges. I advised them not to let folk bring in any books except Dream at first, so that Julie would not be ignored as I signed unrelated copies. "That isn't going to happen," I said firmly, taking Julie by the arm in avuncular fashion. There was a larger message there: treat the damsel right, or I was the one who would react. There is no point in riling the ogre. Then we drove back to the hotel, where we changed clothing - no, stop sniggering, you folk with the lascivious minds; Julie changed in the bathroom, I changed in the main room. The object was to look presentable for the event; I may resemble a shaggy dog in real life, but I prefer to emulate a civilized person when on show. I had asked Julie to wear her hair loose so she would resemble her fetching picture; I wanted everyone to see how pretty she is. This sort of thing sells books, and I wanted a good event. So we were ready, but we didn't have much time left to eat; we had used it up looking at paintings. But we did have to eat; my wife and I were hungry, and Julie and Mark weren't any better off. Julie was afraid she'd grow faint, and certainly I didn't want that. Suppose she keeled over at the autographing? Readers might think I'd kept her locked in a cell without food when not on display. We went to a nice Italian restaurant that had a salad bar, so we wouldn't have to wait for service, and it was a good bar, and a good meal, though I couldn't resist having raw onions though I knew they'd get on my breath. Julie had some copies of my books for me to autograph, so we took care of that there. Just before the start of the trip, I had realized that in the time since we had written the novel in 1994, I had forgotten just about all of it; I had to reread the first fifty pages to restore my memory. But I figured that Julie would have all the details fresh in mind, so I could refer any technical questions to her. Then she said she had forgotten most of the novel. Oh, no! I offered her the Clechée cross she had sent to me, which she once wore always; it is in its fashion like her soul, which I was holding until sure she would have a good life to go with it, but she declined to take it back just yet. Ah, well; it returns to its place beside my computer monitor, for now. Then on to the store, and we were actually early, getting there about five before seven.

People were already gathering, sitting in the chairs, and reading their copies of Dream a Little Dream. Julie was nervous, but I assured her that it was like swimming in cold water: after the first shock you get numbed. Also, that it's much easier to answer a direct question, one on one, even in the presence of an audience, than it is to address the audience as a whole. I intended to run any interference required, so that she would not need to do anything herself. There were two high chairs before the signing table, so we sat in those, and I chatted with any who cared to meet me before the event. The chairs filled and overflowed; there were twice as many people there as could be seated, showing that we had drawn more than they had expected. I love doing that. It turned out that the store had done good promotion, so that readers did know about the event. The store had even commissioned a big layer cake with the words "DREAM A LITTLE DREAM - Piers Anthony and Julie Brady" written on the icing. That's a first for me; no one had done that before. It was a "Luberry" cake, from an invented berry in the novel. Luberries look like white cherries, and taste like a cross between blueberries and peaches. Would you believe: that is what that cake looked and tasted like. So the audience was treated to refreshment, and so were we, though we hardly had time to eat it. The program started on time, with Colleen Holt introducing us. Then I took over, speaking extemporaneously; this is easy for me to do, when I'm talking about myself or my projects. This is approximately what I said, drawn from memory:

"I'm Piers Anthony. I'm an old hand at this sort of thing; you folk don't faze me at all. But Julie is new to this, so I'll do the talking." I glanced at Julie, who sat there as demure and lovely as a model, the shy newcomer. That made it clear who was ogre and who was damsel, just in case there had been any doubt. "I have done 26 collaborations, and each is different. Julie first wrote to me in 1992, and she enclosed her picture. I noticed that." I think there was a murmur of response; Julie was of course as pretty as a picture. "But she also told me how she could do lucid dreaming. That's when you are asleep and dreaming, but you know it is a dream, and you can influence it. I think it could be really tempting to be able to step into your own dream realm, leaving the ugly mundane world behind." Then I drifted off track, mentioning depression, saying that while I am only mildly depressive, others stand much closer to the fires of Hell than I do, and I can appreciate their pain. But I didn't want to make too much of this aspect, so I hauled myself back to the main narrative. That's the problem with unrehearsed speech; you can drift. I told of the story I read long ago, "Dreams are Sacred" by Peter Phillips, wherein an agent was sent into the dream of a scientist, to break it up and make the scientist return to the real world. The agent started by abolishing one of the two suns in the dream world, and kept on until he had made the scientist laugh his way out of the dream. I loved that story. Then back to Julie: "She dreamed up a story in serial form, and recorded it. Then she sent me that record, and I thought it could, with some adjustment, make a novel. So we collaborated on it, and it became Dream a Little Dream, about a depressed girl with a horrible life who found a way into the realm of her dreams. Of course things weren't perfect there either, so it got complicated, but in the end things worked out. So this is Julie's dream, come to life as it were in the form of this novel." Then I threw the floor open to questions.

Then something wonderful happened. Until this moment Julie had not said a word; I had deliberately shielded her from the need. But the first question was to Julie, about lucid dreaming. Faced with a direct one-on-one dialogue, she handled it; response is so much easier than initiation. The second question was to her, and the third. In fact virtually all the questions were to her; the subject of lucid dreaming had evidently tweaked the audience's interest. There must have been about twenty of them, while I sat by, delighted. I broke in every so often to clarify and amplify, but this was very much Julie's turn. Colleen Holt had said the introductory discussion could be done in fifteen minutes, but this went 35 minutes before being brought to a halt, the audience still interested. After all, we did have autographing to do. "Wasn't I right?" I asked Julie. "Isn't it much easier now?" She, catching on to the keyed answer, agreed that it was. She had had her moment on stage, and had seen that the readers were genuinely interested in what she had done and in what she had to say. This was success beyond my expectation. Then we got off the stools and went behind the table, and the autograph line formed. They had the names they wanted written on cards, so I could write FOR SO&SO, and sign it, then pass the book to Julie. Sometimes she signed first. Autographing is easy; you just do it as they come to you. One woman brought her copy, and said that she had bought a book for her son, and gotten the wrong one by mistake: Dream. But he had read it anyway, and liked it so well that he had finished it in one night, not stopping. One could hardly have a more positive review than that. Most of the people there hadn't read it yet, because they had just bought it, but this was proof that it had been truly appreciated. I was so glad that Julie had that unexpected endorsement. I had gotten one myself, in the discussion: I was asked what my favorite book by someone else was, and I couldn't chose a particular one, but did say that I had really enjoyed J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit. Then Julie answered, and said hers was one of my Xanths, Dragon on A Pedestal. "I didn't put her up to this!" I protested, not sure the audience believed me. Julie later discovered that at least two people who attended the signing left with new copies of Dragon on a Pedestal. At any rate, the signing continued unabated for an hour for Dream, and over a hundred copies had been sold, a very good performance for an unknown fantasy in hardcover. In the second hour the line continued, but now interspersed with some of my individual titles. I was happy to sign them, now that we were catching up on the Dreams. Even then, Julie wasn't excluded; she was mentioned in the Author's Note for If I Pay Thee Not in Gold, so she autographed that mention for one person. It was after 10 PM before the line expired; it had carried on longer than expected, without slack. This was very good. In addition, Julie's office associates came in force, and Mark's family too, all of them thrilled by Julie's success. Kira Heston, to whom I had introduced Julie several years ago, was there; she gave us copies of her nice music on the synthesizer, Kira's Casio Christmas. There were several of my other correspondents, such as Kim Adams Sweeney and Rachel Browne, who was the one who suggested Breanna of the Black Wave, the heroine of Zombie Lover; Rachel looks a little like Ally McBeal. So, taken as a whole, it was exactly the kind of event I had hoped for, only better. (Readers who would like to contact the damsel without having to go through the ogre can do so via e-mail: Julie's address is psylentlucidity@yahoo.com.)

Meanwhile our partners were out of the picture. They got along okay, as they both love watching football, and my wife also found an art book I wanted, having just discovered it when a reader brought it to me for autographing that evening: Beyond Fantasy by Darrell K Sweet, published in 1996, for which I had written a Forward. This was unpaid labor, but I think at least the publisher might have sent me a copy, considering the number of paintings illustrating my books in it (nine), and my Forward, and the use of my name on the cover to help sell copies. But this is not my first such experience with publishers, who are hardly known for their generosity, so we just bought a copy for my files. We returned to the hotel in several cars, and had a gathering in the lobby, just chatting and unwinding: Julie and Mark, my wife and I, Mark's brother in law Mike Davis, who was a reader of mine, Kira Heston, and Julie's best friend LeJuane McNeill, with her two young children. It was a pleasant scene, a fitting conclusion to the evening. Then we parted; Julie gave me a hug (to say "nice" would be redundant), and my wife and I returned to our room just after midnight. The event was done.

In the morning I looked out the window and saw that the tracks in the snow had grown to resemble those of the Abominable Snowman and his female; who says there's no magic in Mundania? Our return on Sunday was without delay or stress; the weather was cold but nice, and we reached Florida and home just after 4:30 to be greeted by Daughter Cheryl and Obsidian Dog. And by six newspapers, 18 letters, more than 30 emails from HiPiers, and the manuscript of a novel to read, piled up over the weekend. Naturally the cold weather had followed us home, and we had a freezing night. We were back in drear Mundania. But there was one saving grace: Cheryl had made me a nice soft cushion for my chair. I'm lean, and sitting all day bruises my posterior, but this enabled me to type this report in comfort.

Story of an Article

On OctOgre 26, 1998 I received a letter from the editor of THE WRITER, one of the leading magazines dedicated to the craft of writing. I had done an article for it back in 1989, "Think of the Reader," which had been published in the magazine and republished in its annual. The editor enclosed a copy of a review for a collaborative novel, which I appreciated, because I had not seen it before. She asked me for a piece about the practical aspects and techniques for the writing of science fiction. Now you might think I would be thrilled to be invited, but the fact is the rates of that magazine are such that anything I do for it represents a loss, because I can earn more using the time to write my fiction, and certain aspects of our prior contact had left me less than eager. So I declined, saying that I have been mostly out of science fiction for the past decade, focusing mostly on light fantasy and serious historical fiction.

On NoRemember 16 came another letter: she had heard from two other SF writers with similar responses. So how about an article on the how-tos of fantasy writing, stressing the fundamentals such as plotting, characterization, and the way fantasy differs from science fiction but shares elements. Okay, she was being candid, and I do regard myself as qualified to do such an article. She had mapped out what she wanted in it, making it easy but also making me suspect that what she really wanted was her article with my name and phrasing. I'm a bit more independent than that, but I do try to help hopeful writers, having been the route myself - remember, it took me eight years before I sold my first story - so this time I agreed. I described what I planned to do: "I can establish the similarities of, and distinctions between, fantasy science fiction, horror, and historical fiction, and present my take on the best way to tackle fantasy. Basics are indeed important, But there's no getting around the fact that it is quite difficult for a beginner to achieve publication, even when the material is good, so that my normal advice to hopeful writers is to consider some other line of work. There is however another option developing: Internet publishing, and that may be the best future hope for aspiring writers."

Then I did my research: since I wasn't online myself, I asked a correspondent, Katharine Krueger, for information on Internet publishing. Katharine has had several novels published online, and keeps herself informed. She responded with generous and candid information, which I digested down to use in my article. I sent her a copy, explaining how I had tried to editor-proof it to prevent the editor from deleting its most useful aspect: the Internet information. I suspect Katharine thought I was being paranoid, as others have when I talk about publishers. No, I was speaking from decades of experience. The article started with a defense of the basics, because they are indeed important, with little examples to engage the reader's attention or bring a smile. I try to do a good job of whatever I do, including dull basics. Then I moved on to the essence. I gave a capsule personal writing history, because I am not so bold as to assume that all readers have heard of me, showing how slowly I started, but how well I finally succeeded. Then I got into the reality: it's damned tough to make it as a writer today. But there is an answer: the Internet. Note that this is exactly what I had told the editor I would do. But editors are tricky; I could not be sure that she would allow me to actually tell the truth about writing.

Sure enough, she didn't. She proposed putting the personal detail into a bio, which was okay, and cutting all of what followed it, about the Internet. That was not okay. I replied: "With reference to my article on writing fantasy: while it is the editor's prerogative to publish what she chooses, the author also has rights. My desire is to be genuinely helpful to novice writers. This means not only offering a guide to the basics of writing, but also realistically assessing the market, and suggesting a strategy to encourage success. I feel that the editing you propose harms the latter aspects of the article, and therefore diminishes its usefulness to those I wish to help. If you are unable to publish it essentially as I wrote it, discard the copy, and I will publish it elsewhere." There is a maxim I have for publishers: you can push around a hopeful writer, but you can't push around an established one. Publishers keep trying, however, and so they keep running into trouble with writers like me. To suggest, as THE WRITER seems to want to do, that all a hopeful writer has to do is write the best he can, and he will succeed - that's a cruel hoax. He'll be lucky even to get his material read. A magazine that does not tell the truth - well, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that it is more interested in making money off innocently hopeful writers than it is in actually helping them get published. I hope that's not the case, but my doubt remains.

At any rate, here is that article, as I wrote it, unedited. Judge for yourself.

Fantasy Writing
Piers Anthony

We have a problem. Standard advice for hopeful writers is to write about what you know, about what you have personal experience with. But how can you know about what can never be? I have some capsule definitions for the genres I have encountered: science fiction is the literature of the possible, fantasy of the impossible, horror of the horrible, and historical fiction is of the memorable. The average contemporary person will not have had much direct personal experience with any of these, apart from what s/he reads. So do we toss out that advice, especially for fantasy?

No, we don't, because it's not as irrelevant as it may seem. My most successful fantasy, which seems wild and crazy, is Xanth, and that has been freely adapted from what I know. I take the state of Florida, change the name, add magic and humor, and apply the venerable formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy recovers girl, with some adventure and naughtiness along the way. I make fantastic what isn't, and make seemingly real what isn't. I mix it well and serve it up to my readers, who actually contribute much of what's in it. So if the truth be known, I really am writing about what I know; it only seems far out. Adaptation is a powerful tool. When I turned a pun into a main character, in Night Mare, I drew on what I knew of my daughter's old black horse, and what I remembered of the terrors of my own childhood bad dreams, and those familiar things became a fantasy novel. I did something similar with the Monster Under the Bed, familiar to all children; the proper way to get on the bed at night is to leap from far out so your ankles won't get grabbed. Oh yes, I know about the fears of darkness - and so do most readers. The thing is, there are dull fundamentals that apply to almost all fiction, fantasy included. Young readers sometimes send me their stories for comment; I don't like this, in part because the news I have for them is almost invariably bad. They are not writing about what they know, and they seldom have the basics down, and that dooms them. Plotting is one: you have to tell a story, or your reader loses interest. Something must happen, and it has to make some sense, yet not be entirely predictable, and it has to conclude suitably. I liken it to the string that holds the beads: if it breaks, you'll soon be scrambling in the gutter for your treasures. Clarity is another: you have to handle the language well enough to make quite clear what is going on, especially if it is unbelievable. An artist once told me "It's a hell of a lot easier to say the plane fell out of the sky than it is to draw it." Yes, and you must become an artist to describe something that is by definition impossible. Characterization is another: you must make your characters seem real, or the reader won't care what happens to them. You must encourage the reader to identify. This may be easier than it seems. Have you noticed how things like astrology predictions are couched very generally and positively? Soon you will make a journey; you may suffer disappointment; a positive attitude will enable you to prevail. Just about anything fits. You may make a journey to your mailbox, and be dismayed to find a bill instead of notice of a story sale, but you resolve to do better tomorrow. Your mind makes that prediction fit. Well, you can do that as a writer. My leading men tend to be smart, my leading ladies tend to be attractive, and my children tend to be a bit rebellious. There are not many men, women, or children who will not identify with those. Of course there should be other details, but this is the simple basis that will make it work - for any fiction. Start with effective Story, Clarity, and Character, and you are well on your way to writing well.

The several genres do overlap. I believe it was John W. Campbell, the editor of the old ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, later called ANALOG (I go way back!) who pointed out that to a person of a primitive culture, advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. Consider the airplane (before it falls out of the sky): it's a magic flying device, perhaps carried by an invisible giant. Television: a magic mirror, showing all manner of impossibly distant scenes. Modern medicine: infernal devices and magic healing potions. The horror genre merely does another take on it, playing for fear rather than wonder. I think of this as the eerie music device: picture a dull housewife fixing a dull meal in a dull kitchen. Who cares? How can you make an interesting story of this? Now start the eerie background music. It gets louder as she approaches the covered pot on the stove. Suddenly we know it's not dull potatoes in that pot, at least not any more; we are nervous because we know that something awful is going to happen. Is it starting to boil over? Something blotchy green is pushing the lid up; is it a mere vegetable or something else? She reaches for the lid. The music becomes almost piecing. Don't do it, you fool! She starts to lift the lid - and suddenly the doorbell rings, making us jump. She lets the lid drop back and leaves the kitchen. But we know that whatever is in that pot is still lurking. Okay: your job as a writer is to introduce that eerie music when the time comes. To make your reader aware that something supernatural is incipient. Obviously you can't actually play music on the page, because you don't live in a magic realm, but you may be able to provide details that achieve the effect. To make the reader believe that there is something nervously wrong about this ordinary scene, or different, like maybe the child's doll lying careless on the counter, whose eyes begin to move, tracking the progress of the dull housewife.

I mentioned historical fiction. You may wonder what this has to do with fantasy. Well, I discovered when I got into it that it was quite comfortable and, yes, familiar. Because instead of a medieval fantasy land where magic works, there is a different culture from our own, with different clothing, food, and conventions. A strange alternate realm that nevertheless has some parallels to what we know. Of course it requires considerable research to discover the actual details of those historical settings, but there was nevertheless a similar feel. Also, the mythologies of other lands, past and present, are much like fantasy to us. So again, the fundamental rules apply. I'm not into the Romance genre, or the Mystery genre, or others, but I'm pretty sure that the fundamentals apply to all of them. A good story, good characters, and clear presentation of something the author seems to know about will surely do wonders anywhere.

One thing I have discovered is that the dullest research can make the most interesting fiction. I define research broadly: it's not just looking up historical accounts, or poring over technical manuals, or touring the region you hope to use as a setting. It's figuring out what kind of shoe a middle aged peasant woman would wear, or when the strawberry crop ripens in New England, or what effect an aspirin tablet would have on a person who has taken three recent drinks. Because one of the keys to making a scene real is detail; one wrong detail can break the mood. This is especially important in fantasy, because your whole story is impossible; you want to maintain the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. The homey mundane details can make the scene have verisimilitude - that is, to seem true. If the dull housewife is completely realistic, then the horror in the pot or the doll coming alive becomes credible. The reader may not notice the details consciously, but will nevertheless get a sense of realism.

I decided to become a writer at age 20, in college. I got my BA in Creative Writing, and wrote a science fiction novel for my thesis. I wrote stories and tried them on the market, with which I was well familiar; you do have to be conversant with your market. But I was 28 when I made my first story sale: a fantasy story for which I was paid $20. I went on to become one of the more prolific and successful figures of the SF/fantasy genre, with 110 books published. Will you do the same? I doubt it. You don't need a degree in writing or in anything else to be a writer, but you do need to know how to write well. It took me those eight years to learn how to write well enough, and even so, sales have always been chancy. Today, I believe, it is more difficult for the hopeful writer to make it than it was 40 years ago when I was trying. I said I have seen many stories that are not close to good enough. I have also seen some that are good enough - but are not making it into print. I suspect that there are more publishable pieces today than there are markets for them, so many good ones fail for reasons unrelated to their merit. What, then, is a competent but unlucky fantasy writer to do?

I have an answer that didn't exist in my day: the Internet. Online publishers are springing up and looking for material. This is largely an unpaid market, or even a self-publishing market: the author pays to put his book in print. This is not what is called subsidy or vanity publishing; the fees are nominal and royalties are paid on sold copies. All the world can find your book - if it wants to. I have published one novel that way, and so far the royalties have not repaid the initial fee, but it seems likely that in time they will. A second novel will be going online soon. Should online publishing catch on, it is possible that the novel will pay well. But my point is not the money, but the publication: my novel is available, and anyone who goes online can find it and order it and receive either an electronic copy to read on the computer, or a printed hardcover or trade paperback copy by mail, indistinguishable from a regularly published book. So if you have a novel, or a collection of stories that you truly believe in but can't get published conventionally, check the Internet. You probably won't get rich, but you will get published.

I'm not online myself, though I suspect I will be in the near future. I have to get others to make the connections and relay the responses. But I do know something about online publishing, because of my novels, and the fact that I have invested in two online publishers. That of course may skew my judgment; I invested for ideological reason, because I want to make it possible for writers to realize their dreams, but it is a conflict of interest when it comes to recommending publishers. So I queried a correspondent who has also been published on the Internet, and she provided me with more than twenty names of publishers there. So I'm compromising by presenting one I invested in, www.Xlibris.com, and one she recommended: The Fiction Works, at www.dreams-unlimited.com. Both are open to new writers and actively seeking new inventory. Look them up, download their promotional literature, and see what you think. Then there is Mary Wolf's guide to electronic publishing, at www.coredcs.com/~mermaid/epub.html, which may be the most comprehensive list of electronic publishers of fiction. Another site to check out is not a publisher, but a source of information: Write Connection, at www.geocities.com/SoHo/Square/5677/agents.html, which maintains an updated list of dubious agents and publishers. There are sharks on the Internet as well as elsewhere, so the novice must be wary.

In summary: write as well as you can, for markets with which you are familiar, and hope for success. If it eludes you, go to the Internet, where you, rather than a publisher, will make the final decision. This is no fantasy.

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