December 21st, 2009

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Looking for Reviewers

xjenavivex is looking for people interested in a regular reviewing slot.  It doesn't pay, but if you're just getting started as a reviewer, this is a good opening.  I did several nonpaying columns before I started getting review gigs that paid -- and it's enough that some publishers will start sending you books if you ask.  This particular slot will be for a short fiction review site that's planned to start this coming year, and it will be open to cyberfunded projects.
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Due Process Is Dead

"Notes from Underground" has a post (unfortunately, without a direct link; here is a related one) about the official sanction of nonpersons in America, and how it's now considered okay to torture people.  Unless you consider that pesky Constitution thing an impediment.

Dear Mr. President: Please remove your cranium from your lower intestinal tract and stop asking the Supreme Court to commit treason and war crimes.  Unlike your predecessor, you have actually READ the Constitution.  You might want to review it.  And maybe pull down some Afro-American history too, on the topic of declaring human beings to be nonpersons legally and what a bad idea that is.  Of course it looks tempting from your current seat, but check out the list of other  people who believe that sort of thing is acceptable; that's not company you want to be keeping.

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How to Become a Reviewer

This started out as the answer to a question, but I'm going to repost it separately because it's information I share frequently. The most effective way to get established as a reviewer goes like this, and it will work for books/music/products/whatever.

1) Of the books you buy for yourself, pick your favorites and review them. Submit those reviews anywhere that will take them; what matters at first is building publication credits, rather than making money. Whenever you get a review published, send a copy of it to the publisher (and author if you have their address) of that book; this is called a "tearsheet" (because before copy machines and internet, it involved tearing a page out of a magazine).  Note that tearsheets used to be customary; now they are not.  So if you send tearsheets, publishers and authors will love you, and give you oodles of books, and tell all their friends about you.

2) Once you have some published reviews, watch for regular reviewing gigs to open; then apply to them, including some of your tearsheets as an examples of your skill. The first one or few you get will probably be volunteer. However, many review markets provide you with free review copies to read.  This saves you money because you don't have to buy all your own books now.

If you can't find author contact info directly, watch for people on the "attending guests" list at conventions.  You just print off tearsheets of your reviews for anyone who's at a con you're attending, and catch them after a panel, signing, or other activity they're scheduled to do.  It's a way to make a lot of friends very quickly, because Feedback Is Candy.  This trick also works for publisher parties at conventions, but it's easier to find publisher contact info: theirs is usually printed inside the book.

3) At this point, you can send some tearsheets to a favorite publisher and say, "I am a reviewer with a column in (market name). You may have seen my reviews in other markets such as (list). I have enclosed some tearsheets so that you can see my work. Please add me to your list of reviewers. You can send catalogs or review copies to me at (address)."  If you want to get fancy, you can specify whether you want just final ("shelf") copies or will also review from Advance Reading Copies (ARCs), galleys, manuscript pages, electronic files, etc.  Some publishers also save their "seconds" (shelf copies with a bent cover or other minor flaw) as review copies rather than destroying them; this custom saves trees and is to be encouraged.

If you've made friends with authors, you can also ask them to put you on the list of people to whom their publisher will send copies of their new books coming out.  Most publishers have a publicity form for authors to fill out, and it has a space for "please send a review copy to these people."  This can add up to a nontrivial amount of free books, for which consideration you provide reviews and tearsheets. 

4) Now that you have some good publication credits built up, you can hunt seriously for paying markets. It's easier to break into those if you've written a goodly number of reviews already.  Most review markets pay modestly ($10-20/review is common) but if you already enjoy reading, this is a pretty good deal when you count the free books and the fact that reviews are short and only take half an hour or so to write.  Some review markets pay quite a lot more than that -- I've seen listings for $100 and up, though I've never managed to get into those markets.
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First Lines Meme

I ran across this while looking for something else.  The idea is to quote the first line(s) from your fiction in progress.  So here is a brief tour of some stories in varying stages of completion...

In her thirty-third year, Raheem stepped upon a tarkan,  a place where someone had died. ("Adornments for the Dead")

The sunlight was escaping. ("And To Her We Shall Return")

The Ships descended on wings of silent thunder.  ("A Cacophany of Loss")

Negotiations sputtered to a halt when Licia Blaine shoved a bowl of jerky across the table to the Friskie delegate and said, "Here, bowser, have a chewie and shut up so the rest of us can get some work done." ("Copper's Game")

My job is to make mistakes.  ("Copycat, Copycat")

Why did our core programming have to include love?
  Brien wondered.  Unfair, of course, to blame those long-ago humans for the challenges brought on by emotions, when they had not meant to create silicon personalities in the first place.  (">Delete<")

Fringe-of-Emerald had swallowed a gun.  ("Diving for Pearls")

Fala ran up the path, towing her mother by the hand.  ("Fala the Leader")

The wind blew them into the oasis in the late afternoon.  They rode single-file: Kubraa in the lead on her dark horse Dusk, fleet Chardae and cheerful Bahaar sharing a riding camel, Shaaf the Healer on the gray mare Frond, Nimeh who had once been a prostitute now perched on their pack camel, and the warrior Gulaara bringing up the rear on sturdy Sandstorm.  ("False Sugar, Honest Salt")

It all began when Gertrude Forrester bent down to pick up what turned out not to be a penny, and knocked over her walker.  ("Find a Penny, Pick It Up")

“My career is mulched – hardly even started, and it’s already over!” I said, covering my face so I wouldn’t have to look at my empty message screen.  “Nobody wants to come to your Pangalactic Plant Show, huh?” said my roommate, Twer.  ("Foreign Customs")

In the Summer of Dancing Grass, a strange woman came from the sky riding a flying fish.  ("In the Eyes of the Children")

The corpse-candles guttered in an icy draft, tattered flames casting mad shadows on the wall.  ("The Last Match")

It took four crossbow bolts to pin Eshana to the wall.  ("The Most Dangerous Place")

Anjali Beck sat at the safety board, her slim strong hands sweeping over buttons and touchpads.  Seven screens framed her station.  Each showed her a different part of Verdigris, a separate team of workers on the moon’s surface.  ("Nirvana Moon")


I sold my soul on eBay today. ("¿Que Tiene Tumbao?")

The year that Tessie turned two, things began to happen.  The first thing is that Mama went back to doing magic, which she hadn’t done while Tessie was a baby and needed her all the time.  ("Tessie and the Door")

"My father thinks he raised me wrong, but I can't change his mind from prison," wrote Dandy Man, in response to a question from his girlfriend.  ("Turf")

The day that Amoretta first showed signs of magic, her father’s friends beat her and bound her and locked her in a tiny room at the top of a tower.  ("The Wizard's Wallflower Daughter")