Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Story and Plot

People, even writers, tend to use the words "plot" and "story" interchangeably. In general, that is acceptable, but in a discussion of the art of the novel it is not useful. I would like to adopt E. M. Forster's distinction between the two, made in his delicious treatise, Aspects of the Novel. The examples Forster gives are more elegant than his discussion. "The king died and, then, the queen died" is story. "The king died, and, then, the queen died of grief" is plot. Story is, simply, a sequence of events. Plot introduces causality.

This distinction is not absolute truth, but it is enormously useful.

We have all read or heard endless stories that have no plot, i.e. sequences of events lacking causality. We call them "shaggy-dog stories." This happens and then this happens and then this happens … ad infinitum until the storyteller runs out of steam. Life often conforms to story, an endless sequence of events, connected only by sequence and proximity. Fiction holds to a different standard, and that is causality.

For the sake of this discussion, keep this distinction in mind. I will use the words "story" and "plot" based on Forster's insight.

Plot is the heart of the novel. Let me say that again: Plot is the heart of the novel. Many experienced writers who attempt to write novels—writers with a strong command of language and craft—nevertheless stumble trying to sustain plot. They can create characters, establish settings, and compose scenes, but that doesn't help when it comes to making a plot cohere.

The good news and my gospel is found in a very old, profoundly succinct discussion: The Poetics by Aristotle. Writing roughly 2,400 years ago, Aristotle discussed a tradition of writing, mostly drama written in verse, that preceded him. At that time, fiction had not been identified. “There is [an] art which imitates by means of language alone [that] has hitherto been without a name.” Ancient Greek had no word for "fiction." The closest word was "lie". That is worth keeping in mind: fiction is a lie, something made up, something that does not exist, which is not to say that it is false or untrue, just not factual.

It is Aristotle's discussion of plot, in part one of The Poetics, that I will focus on.

to be continued ...

Monday, October 24, 2011

"the illusion of validity" and the Primacy of Story

What does a Nobel Laureate in Economics have to say that every author needs to hear?
A lot.
I've just returned from a week of working with a group of writers struggling with their stories. Each of them is a strong writer, each has a compelling story to tell, and each is pushing to a new level in his or her writing. My wife, the novelist Carolyn Coman, and I did our best to support them in their efforts. When I got home I discovered this op-ed piece, "Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence" (October 19, 2011), in The New York Times by Daniel Kahneman, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. His new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is coming out this month and will be read, I am sure, by many money managers on Wall Street. However, I'm inclined to think that it would be worthwhile for writers to dip into it, if the excerpt I read is representative of what he has to say. Here are a few quotes worth pondering.
 … We are prone to think that the world is more regular and predictable than it really is, because our memory automatically and continuously maintains a story about what is going on, and because the rules of memory tend to make that story as coherent as possible and to suppress alternatives.
… Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable.
… people come up with coherent stories and confident predictions even when they know little or nothing.
Kahneman’s point is that money-managers make up stories and make financial decisions based on them, not on data. Moreover, when the data is shown to them, they ignore it in the face of the “stories” they have concocted. In effect, story trumps reality, even when the stakes are high, i.e. money. This is bad news for people who put their savings in the hands of money managers, but it is wonderful news for authors.
Kahneman insists that we are hard-wired to believe coherent stories, “even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable.” This should make every author writing fiction rejoice!

Another great thinker, who was ineligible for the Nobel Prize, spoke about coherent stories. Aristotle, in his Poetics (ca. 350 B.C.E), wrote,  “There is [an] art which imitates by means of language alone [that] has hitherto been without a name.” Aristotle’s nameless art—one of many reasons I named my company namelos—is what we call fiction and Aristotle’s discussion is a primer for everyone who attempts to write a coherent story
This will be the first of several pieces examining the earliest document of literary criticism in the western world and its immediate and direct relevance to writers today. This may sound painfully academic, but it has been the basis of my editorial approach for decades and has helped a great many writers find their way through the labyrinth of plotting a novel. 
To be continued.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What up?

I took four months off from blogging and, for those of you trying to maintain a blog and despairing, I'm here to say, take a break. It may not be the right thing to do, but it's the best thing to do. You can blog on schedule with nothing to say, because you're supposed to keep the channel open, or you can blog when you have something to say, and let the channel go neutral in the interim. I vote for the latter.

Here's what I have to say four months later.

The summer was lovely and bizarre. Anyone who denies climate change needs to go outside, dig in the dirt, mow the lawn, weed the garden, and look up periodically. Repeat until light dawns on marble head.

Our raspberry patch presented unforeseen challenges and delights. Challenges: I have a whole new appreciation of weeds. They will inherit the earth! And, sad to say, they are very close to the ground which requires a posture I am less and less inclined to assume. We spent two weeks in the early summer and two weeks in the late summer weeding. It is a zen occupation, but, I hasten to say, not all zen occupations are equal. BTAIM, we got raspberries galore, more raspberries than you can imagine (unless you are a raspberry farmer). Here is a recipe for joy: pour two glasses of Prosecco (the other one for someone you really like), wander out to the raspberry patch and pick, carefully, three perfectly fresh raspberries for each glass and drop them in. Sit in the early evening light and sip as you watch the dragonflies dart about. I'm not sure which is better, raspberry-flavored wine, or wine-flavored raspberries. Bliss!

Now, how about those Boston Red Sox! Never mind.

I guess that just leaves publishing and ebooks. The "news" is fraught with a wide array of gambits being made by authors, agents, and publishers. Some seem, to me, really smart. Others are obvious. And a few, make me think we'll soon have company out here on the lunatic fringe—to them I say "Hail fellow! Welcome." I'll just talk about the smart ones. I think HarperCollins making a large portion of their backlist available for local print-on-demand via the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) in bookstores is the single most intelligent and potentially business-saving (for publishers and bookstores) initiative I've seen to date by one of the big six publishers. For those of you who haven't thought it through, print-on-demand is a manifestation of the ebook revolution. The book is delivered electronically, just to a different machine, not an e-reader, but an e-printer, if you get my drift. What I call the revolution is about delivery, i.e. distribution, not about final form. More and more of us are happy on screens, but a lot of readers still want ink-on-paper in the codex form. The most important aspect of all of this is availability of content to the customer where/when/how they want it, at a price they are willing to pay. Some will point out that there aren't that many EBMs around. True, and there weren't that many e-readers around a few years ago. Hold your breath: there will be more around when you exhale. Another smart move, neither the first or the only of its kind, is the Perseus Group's new Argo Navis Publishing Service, a platform for authors to self-publish. It's disappointing to me that at launch this service is offered only to agents, not authors, but that will change, even if Perseus isn't the one to change it. The smartness comes from a serious player realizing that trying to hold off the self-publishing/re-publishing wave is foolish, and, instead, offering an array of services a publisher provides for its own books at a viable price, i.e. 70% goes to the author/self-publisher, rather than the usual and unacceptable 25%, or even the unusual 50% offered by few. Don't misunderstand me: a flock of businesses offer these services—and more and more agents are cobbling together resources to do it themselves—but none makes as much sense or has the credibility of Perseus, long known as a purveyor of independent voices. That matters, even though the publisher is not attaching its name to the books. As for Perseus it is a very smart move, they have just leveraged their resources to create a new revenue stream. Nicely done. I expect that soon many will follow the lead of HarperCollins and Perseus.

Finally, Steve Jobs died at 56. A great loss. He changed the world. Who knows what he might have gone on to accomplish. Ave atque valle!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Red-Breasted Grosbeak

I'd never seen this bird before it showed up in my garden ... 

 ... neither had Pup! 

Monday, June 13, 2011


Lunch crowd.
(Female Cardinal, Sparrow, Finch)

Checking it out.
(Downy Woodpecker)

(Fledgling, male, Cardinal)

Happy bee!
(Bumble Bee)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sumer is icumen in

Today the temperature is supposed to hit 95 degrees.

It's granddaughter Belle's last day of school.

Carolyn is in Pennsylvania teaching at a Whole Novel Workshop for the Highlights Foundation.

I'm reading six novels for my own "Editing for Writers" workshop from June 19-22.

On the 24th I'm off to New Orleans for the ALA.

Lhude sing cuccu!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Knowns, Known Unknowns & Unknown Unknowns

Yesterday's news was Bowker's Books in Print report with preliminary estimates of the number of titles published in 2010. "Traditional" print is up by 5% and "non-traditional" is up 169%. The growth in the traditional sector is lead by Science & Technology. Fiction, the largest category, is down by 3%. Children's, the second largest category, is also down. The leaders in the non-traditional sectors, "books marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and 'micro-niche' publications." (from the Bowker announcement). These are the knowns.

Publishers Lunch points out that books that don't use ISBN's are not included in the report—many self-publishers don't use ISBNs—and, to my mind more significant, Bowker doesn't include any ebooks in the count. Those are the very big known unknowns.

These known's have already generated a lot of enthusiastic commentary, much of it interpreting the numbers as positive for publishing and indicative of a thriving culture of reading. I think that interpretation may be optimistic. On-demand printing has made it possible to bring an enormous number of public domain titles back into print and a mountain of self-published titles into print. But publishers know all too well that having titles in print doesn't mean anybody is buying them, but only that someone is manufacturing them, and we've all published books that lots of people bought and few people read, which really isn't something to celebrate.

Looking beyond the numbers, we know that something approaching the universal availability of books, either in print or digital formats, is rapidly becoming a possibility. Once the Google Book Settlement is settled, that will be even more evident. We don't know how people will respond to this deluge of content, and, closer to home, what impact it will have on the publishing industry.

As for the unknown unknowns, that's tomorrow's news.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm losing interest in ebook news

I've mentioned many times before that changes affecting the publishing industry are taking place at an amazing pace. I keep up with them, but I don't know how long I can keep talking about them. Take today, for instance. Two big things happened.

Kobo, the Canadian ebookseller with its own ereading device, dropped the price of the Kobo Wireless eReader to $99.99 (with free shipping). That's huge! You now have a high-end device for a low-end price. You know that Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's nook will soon drop to that price or lower. Price of the reading device is no longer relevant to the ebook discussion.

Ed Victor, the venerable British literary agent, announced that he was forming a print-on-demand and ebook publishing venture called Bedford Square Books. He follows other recent moves by literary agencies such as Andrew Wylie's Odyssey Editions, Scot Waxman's Diversion Books, and, of course, the forerunner of them all Richard Curtis' E-Reads. All of these ventures offer slight variations on the business model but, short form, they all represent a significant shift in the industry enabled by ebooks and print on demand technology. After publishers, agents control more publishing rights than anybody. They are now exploiting those rights. It makes such good sense. What is now a trickle will soon be a flood.

Okay, so agents are going into competition with publishers. Yesterday, or maybe the day before, three of the big six announced the pending launch of, a social networking site that looks a lot like publishers going into competition with booksellers, at least of the Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Google type. I just watched an interview with the head of Lulu, the self-publishing giant, announcing a change in initiative inviting authors to become publishers, so that authors are in competition with publishers.

Imagine an elephant (the Big Six publishers) being swarmed by ants (content providers of all ilk). Will the ants eat the elephant's lunch? Or will the ants eat the elephant for lunch? If I were an elephant, I'd be nervous.

Be that as it may, publishing is changing irrevocably and precipitously. The news is outdated almost before it's reported. It's time to start focusing on what this is all going to look like on the other side of the news.

Birds on my mind

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day! May Day! May Day!

The official distress call—MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY—derives from the French m'aider, an abbreviation of the sentence, "Come help me." However, I am not in distress. I am merely celebrating May 1st. It has been a long winter and today finally convinces me that spring has come. In honor of the day, I would like to give to you, and, as it happens, ask for your help in passing along, a book we are publishing soon.

WINDOWS ON THE WORLD by Andrea White is science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world in which an orphan girl, Shama Katooee, is summoned to an elite military academy in order to travel back in time to New York City on September 11, 2001, to save the future. This is the first title in the UpCity Chronicles trilogy and we would like to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.

To that end, we are offering a free ebook edition (.mobi, .epub, or .pdf) of the book to all and sundry. To get a copy, go to the namelos web site, and click on WINDOWS ON THE WORLD. Enter the promotional code "wotw" in the box under the menu of editions and click "submit." That will take you to a page where you enter your name and email address and the format you require. You will receive an email with a download link. The file will be delivered to your hard drive and from there you can transfer it to your e-reader. That's it: the whole process should take less than two minutes. Please note that the files are generic with no DRM and, therefore, can be shared with anybody. Also you can send the promotional code and the recipient can download a copy. We want as many people as possible to enjoy the book. We will disable the promotional code on the official publication date: June, 1, 2011. 

We hope you enjoy the book and this glorious day! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not-So-Hidden Pictures

I'm really trying to do some editorial work today, and managing to do some, albeit not as much as I should. The birds in my favorite old pear tree are putting on a show. Here are a few highlights! (btw: If you click on the images, they expand.) 

Friday, April 15, 2011

In Memoriam-Felix Knauth

Many years ago I edited and published a book titled WINGS AND ROOTS by Susan Terris. The book involved a boy, crippled by a childhood disease. Susan later introduced me to a friend who was an inspiration for the book, Felix Knauth. Felix suffered from polio as a child and had a leg brace. He grew up to do many things, all in service to others, and when I met him he was retired and living a full life. In those days I was an avid rock climber and Felix, a veteran and pioneer of Yosemite climbing, invited me to join him for a climb. We met in San Francisco, drove to Yosemite, and headed up the southwest arete of Lower Brother.  It was  a multiple pitch climb, 10 or more if memory serves me (and it doesn't always these days). A memorable moment was when I looked down and saw a Piper Cub flying below me in the valley. Felix led the climb (was first up, the climber at most risk) but, at one point, he suggested I take the lead. We were about to start a pitch up a flake that seemed to be a dead end, with no apparent route forward. The only way to find out what was there was to climb it. I was nervous. Felix looked at me and said, "Gut check time." That meant look into yourself and see if you have what you need to make the climb. I did and I did, but had I not taken that moment to focus, I would have put us both at risk. At the top  of the flake, there was a clear path and we completed the ascent. Trouble was, it was late afternoon. We spent a few minutes enjoying the view from the top and headed down. After a few pitches, I rappelled to a sheer drop to the valley floor. There was no clear route, and I had to climb back up the rope to the ledge Felix was belaying me from.  We made the decision to bivouac for the night. Unfortunately I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts and the temperature dropped to the 40's during the night.  The moonlight was bright, but not bright enough to continue our decent. We spent a miserable night on a shelf half the size of a desktop. Felix was better dressed than I was (he was  a veteran), and he took the lead as soon as the sun came up. We finished the descent in good time but I was suffering from hypothermia. Felix made me jog to our camper where he whipped up a pot of instant oat meal cooked in cheap red wine. It was the best meal of my life.

Felix and I lost touch with each other many years ago. I've just learned that in his 80th year, Felix bought a sail boat—he was a deeply experienced sailor—and headed out on an extended solo voyage. A few days later his boat was discovered, abandoned. An extensive search was conducted to no avail. I'm sure that Felix had a gut check moment. He did and he did.  A remarkable man. Ave atque vale, old friend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Game Changes

Various sources are reporting two separate developments that, combined, initiate the next stage in the evolution of publishing. Not surprisingly, both involve Amazon. I wrote about self-publishing star, Amanda Hocking, whose four-book YA dystopian series was sold at auction for over $2 million a couple of weeks ago. Apparently Amazon was an underbidder in that auction, losing out, it is speculated,  because Amazon wanted to retain exclusive distribution rights for the ebooks. While Amazon has something like 60% of the ebook market, that leaves 40% untapped by an exclusive arrangement, not chicken feed for an author with Hocking's track in the ebook world. Okay, so you win a few and you lose a few. Amazon doesn't lose many. The other deal that is being reported is that Houghton Harcourt will distribute selected Amazon titles in bookstores! That's right, the world's largest bookstore has arranged with a traditional publisher to distribute its titles, which heretofore were only available from, in bookstores. What these two developments mean is that Amazon is now ready, willing, and able to compete directly with traditional publishers on their home ground, i.e. bookstore distribution. To me that sounds a lot like a bell tolling, albeit quietly and in the distance.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bologna 2011

The fair is over and the assembled hordes have departed. This was my 30th and, in one word, this fair was noteworthy for its efficiency. I don't know the official attendance numbers, but I do know attendance was way down. Usually the parking lots are full, here they were seldom more than half filled. The restaurant in Hall 29 was closed for the first time in my experience. And the halls were not so crowded that the walk between appointments was a constantly shifting slalom run. But everywhere I looked—all day long, all week—people were sitting across from each other at tables looking at and talking about books. The people who actually do the buying and selling of rights were doing their work, steadily and efficiently. The rest of the bodies that crowd these parking lots, restaurants, and halls are students, supernumeraries, and tourists. The economy has made this a leaner affair, but, I suspect, not less productive.

Generally when an editor is buying, i.e. acquiring rights, she goes to the other publisher's booth. Those who are selling, i.e. licensing rights, are pretty much chained to their own booth, where the books are at hand. This year I roamed the halls, taking appointments here, there, and everywhere. This is my preferred mode and I was able to do so because the namelos list is still small enough to be a movable feast. Next year, however, I will need to spend a large chunk of time anchored to a booth (shared with Lemniscaat), with a shelf of namelos titles behind me.

Two years ago, I was very much a voice crying in the wilderness. Last year, I was more like Dennis Kucinich in the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination for President, i.e. a necessary voice that nobody thought stood a chance in hell of making it to the general election. This year everybody is aware of ebooks and apps and print-on-demand, and the Tools of Change pre-conference was packed. I heard mixed reports about the TOC conference, but a lot of senior executives felt it was necessary to be there. The fair itself is still overwhelmingly print oriented, but the digital pulse is steady and strong and the patient is alert. In my cursory search, I spotted only three booths that were exclusively digital (i.e. no print offerings), but everybody has a digital initiative and spoke about what they were doing with energy and excitement. As for namelos, the agents, scouts, publishers, and authors I met with were as interested in our business model as in the titles we are publishing. The publishing "space" and conversation has expanded to include namelos. We're still on the lunatic fringe, but not quite so far out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The week that still is.

As many of us gather our bags and begin the pilgrimage to Bologna for next week's Fiera del Libro per Ragazzi, events that I mentioned in a blog earlier this week continue to unfold. Apparently Amanda Hocking has landed at St. Martin's for an advance reported to be over $2 million for her new YA paranormal series. This resets the bar for self-publishing success stories. Good for her!

Closer to home, I'm delighted to report that the SCBWI has granted PAL status to books published by namelos. What this means is that we have been accepted into the community of approved publishers. There was considerable debate because our evaluations-for-a-fee service raised the question of whether or not the authors we publish subsidize their books. The short answer to this question is no, they don't, but it took a lot of effort on all parts to get to that short answer. I'm very grateful to Lin Oliver, Stephen Mooser, and the SCBWI board for their efforts.

Finally, the fourth title on our fledgling list, The Sundown Rule by Wendy Townsend (pub. date March 1, 2011), in addition to the two starred reviews it has already received, garnered a terrific review in Shelf Awareness on Wednesday (here) that concludes "Jean Craighead George fans will be thrilled to discover Wendy Townsend, a writer with a kindred spirit." Can't beat that with a stick!

And so, as the week rushes to a close, I'm off. I'll post if and when I can from Bologna. Ciao!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


When she was a baby,  I called her Wild Belle Hiccup, but now...

So far this week!

For the last couple of years I've given a lot of talks addressing the impact of digital change on the publishing industry. I always say that things are changing very quickly, so quickly that what I say on Monday will be old news on Friday. Well, I was wrong.

Here's what's happened this week. Barry Eisler, author of the enormously successful John Rain series, walked away from a $500,000 two-book deal to self-publish his next book(s). Amanda Hocking, the self-publishing phenomenon, who reportedly has sold some 900,000 books (mostly ebooks) since January, is shopping a four-book series to traditional publishers. Yesterday, a judge rejected the Google Book Settlement. And, according to The New York Times this morning, two major textbook publishers are moving toward enabling textbooks to be downloaded whole or chapter-by-chapter to tablet computers.

Each of these warrants close attention—and all are generating much discussion—but my point here is that it's only Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to Make (and Publish) a Book

My 6-year-old granddaughter, Belle, gave me this for my birthday.

how to make a book

1. Sloppy coppy
2. rite
3. dro pickshers
4. dummy (osomy)*
5. read over
6. puplish
7. love the book or don't love the book

*Belle felt that "dummy" was mean and proposed "osomy"—her spelling of "awesome-y"—as an alternative.

She added #7 just for me, because I'm a "puplisher." If there is anything about the whole process that is missing from this list, I don't know what it is.

"love the book or don't love the book" are words to live by.

And that's all she wrote.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And it was good!

Looking back on the day,  it was good. Thank you all.

Enjoy the day!

Today is my 61st birthday and I'm sitting pretty. Thanks to all and sundry for making it so. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Slush is dead

Recently I was on a panel at an SCBWI conference in Austin, Texas. The conference was fabulous! At the end of the day, a panel was convened. Among others on the panel were four senior publishers—not elderly, other than me, but people with a lot of miles on their odometers. The inevitable questions about submissions were raised and apocryphal stories about manuscripts pulled from the slush pile were solicited. Like all apocrypha, there is truth in the stories, but it is buffered by time and tailored to the hopes and dreams of the audience. Although I didn't share mine, I, too, have a few examples that would warm the cockles of an aspiring author's heart. ... A few examples, collected over three and a half decades, out of tens of thousands of unsolicited submissions, a Himalaya of manuscripts.

The anecdotal/apocryphal exceptions prove the rule. Submitting unsolicited manuscripts is not a viable way to get published. It's over people. Don't do it any more. It is a waste of your time. You will grow old waiting for a response, which will often not be forthcoming. So, just stop doing it.

The "unsolicited" barrier is not insurmountable. You need to clear that hurdle; you need to get your manuscript solicited. It's not easy, but it's eminently doable. Go to conferences. Editors and agents who attend are there to find books, and are always open to submissions. Agents are more open than editors, but good agents are almost as hard to find as a publisher. Develop and work your networks. Connections who are connected can connect you. Use your energy, your intelligence, and your time to find connections. Don't put a stamp on an envelope and send it off with a hope and a prayer. You might just as well stuff your manuscript in a bottle and toss it into the ocean.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Things that make no sense to me #1

There's an interesting review of Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin in The New York Times this morning. It made me want to read Chatwin's classic, In Patagonia. This was a pure impulse buy, the kind enabled by ebooks that I am painfully prone to. So I went to Amazon to see if the book was available for the Kindle. It is, for $12.99. I'm not adverse to paying more than $9.99 for an ebook, but I wonder why I should when it's a deep backlist title such as this. Then I noticed that I can get a paperback for $10.99, again from Amazon. So I checked Barnes & The ebook price is the same, $12.99, and the paperback price is $11.13. What makes no sense to me is why the publisher thinks—and the ebook price is set by the publisher under the agency pricing model—a consumer would spend more for the ebook version, which is really only a license to read the book, than a paperback. As it happens, this is not a book I want for my overfull bookcases; I wanted it on my ereader so that when I'm flying to Italy next month for the Bologna book fair, I'll be able to read it. I tend to read travel books when I'm traveling, but I'm not going to pay a premium for the experience. Anyway, my impulse to buy the book dissipated and Penguin lost an easy sale. How does this pricing serve anybody, be it the publisher, author, bookseller, or reader?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Toys

This post is not about books or publishing. It's about two new toys. One is enabling me to write and post the blog: we have incorporated Wordpress into the namelos website. Previously in order to post a blog I needed to open the webpage in DreamWeaver and muddle through the HTML code, cutting and pasting. I was always afraid that I'd muck something up and crash the site. It took considerable effort and effectively squashed any enthusiasm I had for blogging. Now, however, I can type and click away, using the Wordpress toolbar, which is intuitive, easy, and fun. This may make me a more frequent blogger, if not a better one. You get to judge.

The other toy is a Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, a higher-end point-and-shoot than the Olympus X-845 I used to use. There is an old pear tree about 25 feet in back of my office and I can look at it while I'm sitting at my desk. I've festooned the tree with suet feeders to entice whatever birds are in the area and every day I spend a lot of time watching them flock to the tree. I felt a compelling need to take pictures, although I'm neither a photographer nor a bird watcher. I just happen to watch birds and have a camera. Anyway, here's a picture taken with my old Olympus.

That's a crow at the bottom of the tree.

Here are a few pictures taken with the Canon.

I'm likely to blog more often and I'll definitely be sharing more photos of the pear tree and its visitors.