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The Shins have changed my lifeElizabeth Hand02-10-07  07:06 am
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 04:47 am:   

Just kidding.

But okay, blogging. I was brooding in the night on this, then woke and read Cory Doctorow's column on the subject.

My main concern about blogging is that I worry it would drain energy and time from my writing. I realize this may be some sort of magical thinking -- you know, like athletes abstaining from sex before the big game -- but it's the truth. Time constraints are a real issue for me, and I carry on lively correspondences (I welcome and relish private letters through my website) with a lot of people and worry that blogging would divert my energy from that as well.

But my main concern is that many -- most -- of the writer blogs I read just don't compel me. Authors whose work buzzes on the page come off as pompous or fretful or self-promoting or -- worst of all-- just plain dull on the screen. Doctorow refers to the "negative charisma" of writers who don't blog, but what of the negative charisma of those who don't blog well? I think that blogging is a gift and even an art, just like writing fiction, and some people just don't have it. (Doctorow obviously does.)

It's like making the leap from the silent screen to sound -- cue my Norma Desmond/Garbo moment! Maybe it's better to just keep my mouth shut?

Or not. I dunno. I obviously think about it. But I've never really kept a journal, either.

And I'm afraid I would be indiscreet -- the most entertaining blogs, like the best journals, are filled with salacious detail, scurrilous remarks, litigous statements, vicious backbiting, intimate revelations and tender confessions, rather than self-promotion (few private diarists promote themselves to themselves, I suspect). I'd be constrained by fear of hurting someone's feelings, or revealing their sexual predilictions or details of their secret, ongoing gender-reassignment operations, or their poor choice of political affiliation or foundation garment.

The truth is that most of my fiction is so autobiographical, it seems like it would be redundant to blog. And most of my reading is either for published reviews or research -- the latter, again, goes into the fiction.

And I'm also, I have to admit, kind of private. I have a tiny cottage where I retreat to work, several miles from my house, and that's a good analogy for how I function: I really need a place to hide. It might be a psychological weakness, but I fear that having a blog would expose me too much to the world.

I may very well end up having a blog -- never say never! For the nonce, recent fiction, like ILLYRIA or GENERATION LOSS, or the forthcoming stories "Vignette" and "Winter's Wife," are very much taken from my life and my friends. Someday I will publish a concordance linking all my fictional characters to their real-life analogs.

It's all grist for the mill. YOU may end up in a story someday.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 07:48 am:   

A litblog I do read: M. John Harrison's

http://uzwi.wordpress.com/
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sharyn november
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 11:15 am:   

i can totally understand where you're coming from; look at my own livejournal, which has no content, all the time.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 01:05 pm:   

I have a blog, which someone set up for me, but I have yet to make an entry for much the same reasons as you.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 02:10 pm:   

Maybe we should give this another thought, and make a point of *not* writing a blog. We could call it a blahg.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 02:26 pm:   

Whatever you call it, I do it. People give me a lot of shit about not havin one, saying it'll boost your sales, and I suppose there's some truth to that, but I know myself--I'd start crafting my blog, and I'd rather craft a new story.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 03:03 pm:   

Yup. Me too. I'd rather be working on a book, or taking a walk, or hanging out with my kids, or my friends, or ...
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 03:04 pm:   

I feel that I participate enough online with my topic here on Nightshade, and going online in various other groups. That's already time consuming enough. And I'd much rather read more fiction by you and Lucius than read blogs by you!

I don't have a need to bare my soul on a blog. Been there, done that with journals in my early 20s.
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Jeffrey Ford
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 03:21 pm:   

Liz: I have a blog and its purpose is, unabashedly, to get word of my writing out there -- advertising. The same reason, I would assume, you have an internet presence here. I want to let readers know what's coming out and also where I'm going to be when I'm reading. I've been amazed at the amount of readers I've been able to come in contact with. I'm not writing this fiction stuff so it can languish in obscurity. Publishers do so much and then if you want more done, you gotta do it yourself. I remember having a conversation about this with someone once. That's something I've learned the hard way. If you look at the post I did today -- it took me less than five minutes to put that up, pictures and all. Sometimes I write little stories for it or observational essays. I liked doing them, though. Sometimes I put up stories either previously published or not. Some of the original stuff from the blog will be coming out in a small book.
Lucius -- You spend far more time online on the NS board per/week than I do putting my blog up, not that it matters -- who cares. When I'm busy, I don't bother with it, when I'm not, like now I'm off from work, I have some fun with it. But the main objective is getting the reader to know the work exists. I don't see it as a big deal. Also, why does there have to be a reason not to have one. Why not just not have one if you don't want one? : )
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 04:54 pm:   

Absolutely, Jeff. But I spend it in moments, between sentences as it were. I don't set aside a chunk of time for doing my blog; and, if i did, I'd make a big deal out of it. I'd try and write something every day and make it intelligent or at least coherent. It would be another duty. I don't have to do that on the board. I just scat out stuff. I'm at the computer 12-13 hours day, writing stuff for publishing, for Central Amercian projects, etc. The board is my breaktime. As far as writing stuff that languishes in obscurity, I don't care. I'd like to sell more, but I doubt a blog makes that much difference. If I write a big book, I'll do my best to sell it and maybe then I'll do a blog. But you have a good personality for a blog. I don't. So what works for you might not work for me. It might work for Liz--she's pretty nice--but then again it might not. If I gave a blog and nobody came, I'd be bummed. So no blogging for me, thanks. I'm happy on earth while you soar above. :-)
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Jeffrey Ford
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 05:41 pm:   

Well, I never mentioned soaring, and there are plenty of times when I give a blog and nobody shows, but I don't give a shit. I think the blog does make a difference in sales. And would more so for writers like you and Liz who have a lot of loyal readers already. In any event, I'm just suggesting another way of looking at it -- that it's not really that time consuming or difficult.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 07:36 pm:   

Jeff's blog is great-- I was looking at it earlier today -- and also very funny. Probably I shouldn't have referred strictly to writers' blogs, as MOST blogs are dull. The writers I know -- see everyone posting or referred to here, and some others -- tend to be witty and sharp and also young enough to have adapted to the medium. No scratching at our papyrus tablet and holding them up for passers-by. (Does John Updike blog?)

But I didn't mean to start a debate on the merit of blogs per se -- though as we can see, it generates traffic. Lucius's presence here on the Nightshade BB constitutes a sort of meta-blog, I think -- the world is your blog, we just read it.

I'm with Jeff on this one -- I think a blog most effectively functions as another means to sell books; to establish a relationship with readers, as Cory D. pointed out, so that they feel as though they know the author and are engaged in a personal relationship. The best blogs give that sense of sitting at the bar with the author and having a few and shooting the shit about their own work and others'. If I felt like I could do that effectively and in a timely manner, I'd probably do it. And if I could do it in as consistently amusing and entertaining a fashion as you guys do, and people like MJH, I would. But I feel like I need an audience there to respond (throwback to my theater background) and without that energy I lose the impulse. So, unlike Jeff, I'd wilt and lose heart all those days when no one was listening or responding ("clap your hands if you believe!")

But you know, it is true -- I have never, ever been able to keep a journal. So there just may be a self-consciousness gene (also a laziness gene) there that prevents me from having the kind of openness and fearlessness that you guys (and others) have, and which I think really makes a good blog. I would be censoring myself, rewriting stuff and painstakingly trying to get it all perfect; and that seems like it would defeat the purpose. Not that a blog should be shoddy or slapdash, but it should be visceral and alive and real.

There is one blog I do read, by a teenager, not a kid I know, not anyone remotely near Maine, someone I stumbled on -- it's brilliant and alive and slapdash and wonderful and real. I feel sort of guilty for reading it -- it's a kid, putting their kid heart out there for anyone to read -- but I love it. And I think all the time, if suddenly a million people, or a hundred, started reading this, it would spoil it: this kid would become self-conscious and dry up, or remove the blog. Or maybe it would be the best thing that ever happened. Probably not, but maybe.

But what I love about it, is that it's this little window that someone left open so you can look inside their head. If I could do that, I would. But I'd probably need a time machine. And maybe some inhibition-lowering drugs.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 08:32 pm:   

Jeff, Liz, I'm not talking about y'all, I'm talking about me. My personality, my nature. I doubt I'd pick up readers because half the people that read this board get pissed off at me. If I had a blog, I'd obsess over it and spend half the day blog-tending. That's just how I am. Believe me, I've tried to be Mr. Nice Guy, but sooner or later I get annoyed and say something crusty.

And Liz, Updyke may not, but John Crowley does. :-)
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Jeffrey Ford
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 09:58 pm:   

Liz: It's cool. I'm not thinking your dissing my miserable blog. Even if I thought you were, it would be ok. I was trying to play the devil's advocate, as I had an idea you were mulling over having a blog. So I gave what I thought were the positives about doing it. Now I see the only way to get you and Shepard to listen to sense is I'm gonna have to mess both yas up next time I see ya.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 03:17 am:   

Why, you ...!

Jeff's blog is one of the best advertisements for having one that I can think of. And Lucius's presence here too.

So I dunno, maybe I will enter the fray. I have nothing to lose but my time.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a petty mind."
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Michael Harrison
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 03:35 am:   

I've kept a journal for thirty years. It's a halfway house between notes and finished pieces & for thinking-by-writing. Perhaps half what I do goes on in that space & only a fraction of it ever sees publication in any form. It seemed like a nice idea to upload a percentage of it & call it a blog. It gives readers access to a layer they would otherwise never suspect. One of the advantages is I don't feel compelled to interact. & I can stop any time (honest, Lucius) & it go back to being a private journal. I like Liz's example of the teenager uploading their heart for anyone to see. I wish we could all write that way although I understand as well as anyone the reasons we don't.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 06:11 am:   

Mike's blog is far more polished than mine would ever be, but then so is all his writing and, I suspect, the inside of his skull and arteries. I like it that you take portions of your journal and put that onto the blog -- cool idea.

I actually do enjoy interacting with readers, though I worry it would take time away from other pursuits. But so be it.

Clute just came in and told me he had been looking at Robert Anton Wilson's blog, preparatory for doing an obit, and that Wilson was there blogging almost until the very end (he died this morning). Sort of "That's all, folks!"

Which reminded me of your posting yesterday, Mike ... could there be a causal connection?
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Jeffrey Ford
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 06:21 am:   

I saw the Wilson blog. There's only a few entries on it, but when you think about the person and the situation he was in, it's a remarkably powerful testament. God I could be that cool when the string is played, but I can almost guarantee I won't.
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Jeffrey Ford
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 06:22 am:   

Sorry, that's supposed to be "God, I wish I could be that cool..."
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 07:57 am:   

Mike, I'm like Liz in that I've never been able to keep a journal and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to sustain a blog. I may give it a try, but I anticipate failure.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 09:26 am:   

Maybe we should have a blogathon, Lucius. You know, like flagpole sitters.

On second thought, I don't think I can climb all the way up there ...

Cousin Paul pointed out to me earlier that there's no point blogging unless one does it all the time -- an intermittent blog is worse than none aty all. That would be my undoing, I'm afraid.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 09:32 am:   

Yup. I'd just blow it off. F'rinstance, I'm gonna be in Europe this summer for about six weeks. Think I'm gonna keep up with a blog then? Not a chance. Intermittent wouldn't be the word for it.

Maybe in the fall I'll give it a try.
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Kelly Christopher Shaw
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 09:37 am:   

Maybe there could be a unified, shared blog for like-minded writers who don't want to tend to their own blog but would still like some of a blog's PR benefits? Lucius, Elizabeth, and whomever else could blog when they're inspired.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 10:15 am:   

Not a bad idea. A group blog for the blog-impaired.
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Paul Jessup
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 12:46 pm:   

Liz-
I just read some of your Illyuim, and would be definitely interested in reading a blog, if you had one.

Although, personally, I find blogs based entirely on daily excursions boring. Blogs that are more like nonlinear conversations (like decentralized forums, in a way) I find much more interesting. If that makes sense.

It's not too hard to setup a group blog for several writers. Livejournal has something like this built into it, and I've set up similar things myself as part of my dayjob (using wordpress).

The more blogs the better. Esp by talented writers.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 12:48 pm:   

That's a cool idea. I was just running errands and musing on all this, thinking how the next time I get depressed all bets will be off. I'll be in Europe this summer, too in Finland & London, but I probably would write from there.

I dunno, Lucius -- what do you think? Do you have a website? I could see about setting it up on mine. Maybe Cousin Paul would want to post there, too. We could have special heavyweight bouts, and feature people like Jeff or whoever else wanted to drop in. Kind of like one of those 1950s TV talk shows that would broadcast from NYC, and visitng actors or whoever would just happen to drop by the studio set. Paul said this mroning I could call s blog Liz's Playhouse. I was thinking I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, after the X song.

Whaddya think? I call that I get to be Steve Allen.

Or Gracie Allen.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 12:53 pm:   

Kelly, you should be there too, since you thunk of it!

Paul, thanks for the info about LiveJournal. I'll try to look some of this stuff up over the weekend. I'm not computer-illiterate so much as lazy and shiftless, so if I can get my act together I could probably figure it out.

So you got a copy of ILLYRIA? I still haven't seen the finished book -- is it out there in the world? That was a real heartbreaker to write, I'll tell you that.
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Paul Jessup
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 01:10 pm:   

Yes, I got a copy as part of my PostScripts subscription. It is a heart break to read as well, but absolutely beautifull.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 01:22 pm:   

Oh, thank you -- you're almost the first person who's read it, other than the editors at PS. And also the dedicatee, who the story is about and for -- my dear friend and longtime muse of some 30++ years. He said he cried while reading it (he read the pdf). I cried while I was writing it.
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Kelly Christopher Shaw
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 01:53 pm:   

Thanks for the invite, Liz. But I already have a hard enough time getting myself to write regularly on my own blog, which is really just a place to pimp the books and movies I (dis)like. Anyway, the reason for this shared blog is to get a bunch of kick-ass writers represented on the web. Who else doesn't have a web presence that could be a part of this?
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 02:04 pm:   

We'll have to put our thinking caps on. Paul Park? Paul Di Fillipo? We could have 3 Pauls, no waiting.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 02:29 pm:   

I'm up for it, Gracie. Sounds cool. I have a website and a LJ blog -- we could just rename the blog and maybe upgrade so we could upload pictures and like that. Get Witcover, for sure. The other Pauls, too. Whoever. You gotta love it. Mass Hype.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 02:37 pm:   

Major cool! Monsters of Blog!

This will be big fun. I'll wear my big shoes. DiFi & Deb arrive tomorrow, so I'll run it by them and see who salutes. Ditto Cousin PW.

So, how does your LJ work? Does someone manage it for you? Can a dummy like moi figure it out? Maybe we should suss this out over the phone. Or maybe phones are passe now.

Whatever, I'm up for it.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 02:48 pm:   

Sure. the phone's cool. Send me an email. would you please. and I'll send you my number, you send me yours (lost it), and we'll sort it out at a time of your convenience. I'm home tonight and all weekend.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 04:03 pm:   

Hey, I read Illyria at your house, remember? I loved it!
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 04:11 pm:   

Yeah, but you're an editor, not a reader!

Just kidding.

Will do, Lucius. I'll give you a call.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 08:11 am:   

waaaaaa. That hurt ;-)
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Paul Witcover
Posted on Sunday, January 14, 2007 - 12:44 pm:   

Blogapolooza -- I'm there!
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, January 14, 2007 - 02:05 pm:   

I'd read it but please guys, continue to post here, as well.
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Monday, January 15, 2007 - 11:51 am:   

This is a great idea! A Diablog. Sharing the workload is a wonderful compromise that readers will really enjoy. Also, the blog's cross-fertilization of fans will likely enhance everyone's exposure. People will log on every day just to see which of their favorite authors has posted.

I think y'all hit the nail on having your own blog: it does steal some of the fire from your work. This diablog solution seems perfect. I can't wait to see it up and running. Ditto Ellen's remark that you also keep posting here, too.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Monday, January 15, 2007 - 05:06 pm:   

A diablog! What a diablogical idea! Did you make that word up?

No, I would definitely continue to post here. And I like th idea of a small group of folks (like boingboing) offering different perspectives on stuff.

So watch this space. And another space, TBA ...
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Monday, January 15, 2007 - 05:18 pm:   

Actually, a couple years when I was contemplating forming a cross-border blog for Canadians and Americans, my friend Alice made it up. Or so we at first thought. When we goggled diablog, however, somebody had beat her to the punch by a couple months. I think there were about 40 hits on google back then. I'm sure there a lots more now.

A diablog comprised of great writers has gobs of potential, could be a lot of fun.
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Richard Bowes
Posted on Monday, January 15, 2007 - 07:53 pm:   

The blog equivilent of assisted living? It sounds good to me.
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justin headrick
Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 - 10:59 pm:   

wanted to let you know Illyuim landed in Denver, haven't had time to get more than a few pages in, but it is a beautiful book! hoping to etch out some time to finish reading it tomorrow...so far very compelling...
glad to hear more is coming later in the year...
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Friday, January 26, 2007 - 02:30 pm:   

Hey Justin! Great to hear from you,and I loved the Christmas card -- thanks so much! I never get my act together to mail any ...maybe NEXT year.

But that little book was sort of my CHristmas card, anyway. I still haven't seen it, not sure what the holdup is. But I hope you dig it.

So are you totally snowed in? It's freezing here but no white stuff.
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justin headrick
Posted on Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 05:57 am:   

snowing again this morning. i work with the Post Office and we are SO over any snowfall.

i loved the book. trying to convince my wife that she has time to read it herself, but she's got a lot of reading on her plate currently. she's working on a collection of short stories by many authors...fun, but time consuming.
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Robert Wexler
Posted on Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 10:39 am:   

Hi Liz,

My copy came a couple of days ago, so yours should be there soon.

Robert
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PM
Posted on Sunday, February 04, 2007 - 05:14 am:   

I have no issue with those who do not wish to engage in ongoing blogs.

How's a new reader to discover what you've written? I recall using Books in Print in "the distant past".

In general, I take issue with this difficulty presented to the new reader. A new reader will want to google an author and visit that author's website and/or blog to view a list of that author's works (title, publisher, date). More times than not I find that I have to use some third party site to piecemeal this information.
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Monday, February 05, 2007 - 10:04 am:   

Yes, I did receive mine at last and they're beautiful -- a really lovely book.

So do most author websites not have info re: new publications (and older ones)? I try to put stuff up on my site about new & forthcoming material, but I can see how frustrating it would be not to have that available. So I guess the moral is for an author to have a (frequently updated) website.
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PM
Posted on Monday, February 05, 2007 - 11:07 am:   

Yes, your author website http://www.elizabethhand.com
(as the young folk say) kicks ass!

My statement was/is intended as a general comment as there are any number of writers "round here and elsewhere" who are lagging. It's also good to throw in the short stories in various publications where appropriate as someone may want to purchase those back issues.

Of course in some cases the publishers could be doing more as well...
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Thursday, February 08, 2007 - 04:06 am:   

Thanks -- I think you young kids of today are just swell!

I held out for a while against a website, and finally caved when I admitted how useful they were to me as a reviewer and reader. So I've tried to make sure mine (which is all the doing of my amazing webmaster, Zali) has all (or most) of the info that readers and reviewers might need. I'm always open to suggestions for what would make it more useful. Sometime soon I'm going to get a podcast of a GL reading up there, and may even do a webcast (!) to post on youtube of same.
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PM
Posted on Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 07:29 am:   

The website was a great decision (many thanks to Zali!).

Looking forward to the podcast and perhaps an eventual video.

Don't forget myspace as for better or worse that's where the masses congregate...

And while on the topic of blogging there's no reason why one can't create a blog, link to the wonderful website, and put in a simple explanation as to why the writer isn't able to blog on an ongoing basis. That would be my 2 cents if I had 2 cents :-)
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Elizabeth Hand
Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 05:08 am:   

Yeah, that non-blogging blog answer is pretty good. I always feel like this bulletin board is sort of like a blog, only interactive & thus more fun (for me).

I look at myspace now & then but it kind of overwhelms me, not in a good way -- the webpages look too busy and clunky, and there's this mass-produced vibe it gives off, I guess because it's -- designed for the masses! Which isn't to say I haven't thought about doing something there.

But then you're in the position of having to maintain a website, a bulletin board, and a myspace page. Which for someone as lazy as me is just too much work. I'd much rather have a professional like Zali wave his magic wand and have it all appear, plus I know he does a far better job than I ever would, solo.

Here's a question: how interested are people in reading new material, in toto or excerpts, online? I don't think I can post new stories that are slated to appear in print, but I wonder about putting work-in-progress or novel excerpts up there. I don't like to read stuff like that myself, but I'm curious as to whether other people do? Lucius (if you're out there), do you do that?
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PM
Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 06:58 am:   

I agree that myspace is an eyesore but it's reached a critical mass of acceptance. And that would be the reason for participating.

Zali could subdue some of the visual ugliness. Ideally the publisher would be either providing the service or compensating the author.

A reader may be unsure of whether they're interested in reading a work. An excerpt can help.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, February 23, 2007 - 05:59 pm:   

Liz, naw but I'm gonna start.
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Sunday, March 18, 2007 - 11:21 am:   

Excerpts from a work in progress engages readers on many levels; they enjoy seeing the story take shape right before their eyes, hot from the author's mindpress. The serial approach used by Dickens certainly garnered the rapt attention of the masses. I think it's a great hook.

RE: the writer's diablog. Imagine five great author's posting excerpts from their work once a month??? Five terrific stories-in-progress would hook a lot of readers, I think. Having a variety of fiction on one blog would also maximize the amount of entertainment a visitor receives for one click.

At a blogger's conference here in Van a couple years ago, leaders in the field said the most successful blogs, in terms of number of hits, were not personal diaries, but provided entertainment and/or useful information. So film and/or book reviews, even gardening tips from the wilds of Maine are great. :-)

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