Saturday, June 30, 2007

Winner and Comments

You guys dazzled me with all the terrific responses to the Hopefully Ever After giveaway. But we can only have one winner this time, and tonight the magic hat says that is:

Crys (whose comment began with Robin Hobb's Assassin Trilogy, namely Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest. . . )

When you have a chance, Crys, please e-mail your full name and ship-to info to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get these books out to you. Thanks to everyone for majorly extending my shopping list.

For those who didn't catch what happened on Wednesday, I've had to switch on comment moderation. That means from now on I have to read and approve every comment before it posts to the blog. If you don't see your comment appear right away, don't worry, I will get to it as soon as possible.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 20

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snows melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace."

--Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, or Life in the Woods

Thoreau knew how mean life could be. He was 44 years old when he died of tuberculosis in 1862. He never made any money as a writer during his brief lifetime. To write his first book, he went and lived alone in the woods for two years, in a small cabin that belonged to a friend by a pond called Walden. I'm sure some of Thoreau's friends tried to talk him out of it. I can almost hear them saying "In a hundred years, who will care?"

I first read Walden when I was a teenager. In it I found answers to questions I'd never been able to ask anyone, mainly because I didn't know any other writers. By that time I was so disgusted with school that I would have jumped in front of a speeding truck before I'd ask an English teacher something.

Thoreau's work was not particularly kind. His truths were painful. He didn't mince words, or bother to suck up to anyone, even the people who might have helped him. Shrewd and blunt as he was, he reached a part of me no adult ever had, and changed a surly kid's despair into determination. And Henry, it's been one hundred and forty-five years, but I still care.

That's all from my corner of the writing world this week, folks. Got any questions for me?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Self-Promotion That Doesn't Suck

Author Mindy Klasky is running an interesting reader poll on her LJ about what promotional tools prompt people to buy a book. Not surprisingly, the top three responses so far are:

1. Previous familiarity with author's other work
2. Recommendation of friend
3. Reading about book on another person's blog or website


On the other hand, widgets, postcards and SPAM hardly induced anyone to make a purchase. These things are the definition of self-promo that sucks: anything you spend money, time and/or effort on that does not result in sales.

Let's examine the three things that evidently do work:

#1: I can already hear the rookies groaning over "previous familiarity with author's other work" as a no-go for them, as they have no backlist. Well, this is why God created free e-books and posting excerpts and short stories on websites. Offer readers something for free, and some of them will buy your print novels. Author Peter Watts did with his novel Blindsight, and it helped increase his sales of the print version.

#2: Friend recommendations may also seem to writers to be another impossible-to-get self-promo tool. Word of mouth cannot be bought. However, if you politely ask your readers when they enjoy one of your novels to let other people know, they will. I put that request at the top of every bibliography I send out, whether it's for my books or another writer's.

#3: Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks meme contest is a fun example of how, with a little creativity and modest investment, a writer can get the word out about a new release, and readers can hear about the book on another person's blog or website.

Spending a pile of money on widgets no one wants, schmoozing with the right people who could care less about you and your career, or killing yourself doing things you hate is not successful self-promotion. It's what everyone else in the herd is doing, and it's not working for them, so save yourself some grief and don't even go there.

Instead, look at your main strength: you're a writer. If you can convince me that a male stripper and an ex-nun can fall in love, or that the singularity will arrive in the form of a computer-eating toaster, or that fire-breathing dragons can shapeshift into squirrel-chasing kittens, or that your private investigator still gets away with wearing a silk fedora and calling men pals and women broads, you should be able to use that talent to persuade me to buy a book.

Just as a story with a fresh, unique spin stands out in a genre, a writer who tackles self-promotion with an approach that is as individual as they are is bound to grab more attention. Determine a dollar figure for the self-promotion you can afford to do, then sit down with a writer friend and bounce ideas around on how to best spend that money. A single ad in a big industry trade rag may cost you a thousand dollars, but sell an interview or article on writing to that same rag, and you get paid for it.

You don't have to go it alone. Pooling your resources with another writer or group of writers for self-promo gives you more of a budget to work with, and a partner or partners for figuring out the different angles. We've seen how well the group blog works, how about applying the same theory to a group self-promo project?

There's one more thing I harp on quite a bit: the fun factor. Whatever you do self-promotionwise should be something you enjoy. Because if you're not having fun, your resentment is going to end up running the show and giving you an ulcer.

Have you guys any examples of self-promotion that doesn't suck? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

RW: Hopefully Ever After

From reader e-mail: Would you explain why you don't write HEA endings for your Darkyn books?

I started reading romances when I was a kid. I found my first at the library, from which I tore out the last page order form and used my babysitting money (Mom kindly wrote a check) to order two more. All three novels ended with the heroine and hero married, or two seconds from getting married. Every other romance I read after that trio ended with the same HEA (Happily Ever After.)

I loved the books, but I thought the endings were boring. I knew that the couple didn't go into suspended animation after the last page. I wanted to know what happened after the insanely expensive wedding and exotic honeymoon. But I quickly discovered that one novel was all I was going to get, no matter what romance author I read, because the HEA was like the money shot in a porn flick; it was there whether it was appropriate or not because it was expected. HEA also meant NMS (No More Story.)

I think that was the first sign that I was destined to be a series writer.

All of my published traditional romances do have HEAs, and you can thank my romance editors for that. But writing a SF series, however, allowed me explore an intense, sometimes romantic relationship between two very complicated characters, whose story simply couldn't be told in one novel. To date, I've written seven novels developing Cherijo and Reever's relationship while completely avoiding the HEA (and have gotten away with it, too; not one reader has ever complained about that aspect of the story.)

What I learned from writing around the HEA in the StarDoc novels gave me a new perspective on writing romance. I didn't need to put in the money shot at all. Instead of the story-killing Happily Ever After, I could explore more of the relationship in the next book. And that's how I ended up writing Hopefully Ever Afters.

Today I'm giving away a complete set of my Darkyn novels, all of which have a Hopefully Ever After ending (you have been warned.) If you'd like a chance to win the set, in comments to this post name a book whose ending you really enjoyed, whatever type ending it was, by midnight EST on Friday, June 30, 2007 (or if you can't think of one, just throw your name into the hat.) I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates, and send the winner signed copies of If Angels Burn, Private Demon, Dark Need and Night Lost, along with a sneak preview of Evermore. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TTTT Meme

Rosina Lippi is having a meme contest for one of my favorite books of 2006, Tied to the Tracks. I am automatically disqualifying myself from the contest because I boycott Amazon.com, but that doesn't mean I can't join in just for fun. So:

Five Reasons Why the Best Writers Come from Joren

1. When we're not talking, we need something to do with our hands.

2. Our HouseClans come to every one of our booksignings.

3. If you don't buy our books, we won't pilot your ships.

4. We are not afraid of traitorous humanoids, raiding reptilian slavers, or death. Publishing? Is a walk in the park.

5. If you insult our novels, we will declare you ClanKill, eviscerate you alive, and use your steaming entrails to decorate the threshold to our homes. So, would you like an ARC?




Tied to the Tracks
by Rosina Lippi. July 3, 2007. ISBN: 0425215326

"[This] is a hilarious, smart, sexy novel with a heart of gold." -- Susan Wiggs

"[Lippi] turns her buoyant creative talents to the romantic comedy genre with an effervescent tale of a trio of offbeat Yankee filmmakers plunked down deep in the heart of Dixie." -- Booklist

Read an excerpt. (Adobe Reader required)| Watch the book trailer

You can find Tied to the Tracks at Amazon , Barnes & Nobel, Borders, Powells, or at your local independent bookseller.

This meme has been entered in the Tied to the Tracks contest, originating on Rosina Lippi's Storytelling2 weblog. If you'd like to enter the BUCKS & BOOKS meme contest, get the rules here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Overshopped Ten

Before we get to the Monday Ten, here's the winner of the Win What PBW Reads This Week giveaway:

Carolyn Bahm

Carolyn, when you have a chance, e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com with your ship-to info, and I will get this box out to you.

Onward:

Ten Signs That You've Attended Too Many Writing Workshops

1. Ask and Ye Shall Sound Smart: The night before the workshop, you write a very long, technical question for the speaker inside your notebook, and read it out loud to make sure it sounds intelligent. You also write a very long, technical back-up question in the event someone asks a question similar to your first one before you can. You already know the answers to both questions.

2. Colorized: You insist on calling red things crimson, scarlet or cherry, blue things azure, lapiz or turquoise, and green things by latin plant names, even when they're not plants. You become infuriated when the Department of Transportation will not change the eye color listed on your driver's license from brown to "terabinth at dusk."

3. Coordinated: You keep a personal supply of ten thousand 5 X 7 notebooks, twenty thousand pens, and every color of Post-It note and index card known to mankind. There is also a dry-erase board on the wall near your computer, along with a set of twelve color dry-erase markers. All of these items are brand new and will never be used.

4. GMC'd: You've outlined the goal, motivation and conflict for your boss, your friends, your family, the dog, the cat, the hamster and the parakeet, but you still can't decide on the GMC for your protagonist.

5. Handouted: You save and store your conference handouts in 4" binders that take up at least one entire bookcase. Once in a while you'll make copies for very special writer friends, but otherwise no one is allowed to touch them or look at them.

6. Is This Love?: You and your spouse separate because you can't think of twenty reasons (besides sex) as to why you should be in love. You cite "lack of character development" as your reason for wanting a divorce.

7. Plot-Savvy: You've never plotted out an entire novel because the ten thousand plotting methods you've already learned may not be the right ones for your story.

8. Saved by Clarion: Your justification for why your manuscript keeps getting rejected changes from all those editors hate me and buy only crap to I can't afford to go to Clarion yet.

8a. Ruined by Clarion: After you go to Clarion, you blame your rejections on 1) all the editors who hate you and buy only crap, and 2) Clarion.

9. Seating Arrangements: You will elbow your way past a fat blonde in stretch jeans and her friend, Heidi on Crack, to grab a seat in the first row in front of the speaker's podium. You will save the seats on either side of you "for friends" and then decide as people come up and ask you if they're taken who gets to sit there.

10. Sound Bites: You own workshop tapes from every con in your genre dating back to the year you started writing. Although you promise every speaker that you'll purchase their tape after the con, at least half of your tapes are bootlegged.

If any of the above might apply to you, try the PBW cure for workshopaholism: for every con you attend, write and submit two manuscripts.

Upcoming on PBW this week:

Your Best Writing Life Now

Self-Promotion That Doesn't Suck

John and Marcia: Darlingalingus

Scene Building 101

That vampire parody I promised, along with other interesting stuff, if I can get into the archives. If I can't, we'll just wing it . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Think I Need a Forklift

Added today to the Win What PBW Reads This Week box: Double Take by Catherine Coulter, The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards, The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton, Trowel & Error by Sharon Lovejoy*, and Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau**.

I'm planning to read the Sunday paper, the third Raintree novel and Lori Devoti's Unbound today, but whether I finish them or not I'll add them in as well. So the final manifest for the box will be:

Books

The Damned by L.A. Banks
Raintree: Sanctuary by Beverly Barton
Quantico by Greg Bear
Never Lie to a Lady by Liz Carlyle
Double Take by Catherine Coulter
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (audio book)
Unbound by Lori Devoti
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Transformers by Alan Dean Foster
The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton
Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones
Rage Therapy by Daniel Kalla
Blaze by Stephen King
FreeMasonry and its Ancienty Mystic Rites by C.W. Leadbeater
The Ruthless Marriage Proposal by Miranda Lee
Trowe; & Error by Sharon Lovejoy
Abandon by Carla Neggers
The Kristallis Baby by Natalie Rivers
Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith
Call Me Wicked by Jamie Sobrato
Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
Risking It All by Stephanie Tyler
Mammoth by John Varley

Magazines

American Artist July/August 2007
Cooking Light July 2007
Discover July 2007
National Geographic Traveler May/June 2007
Newsweek June 18, 2007
Quilter's Newsletter July/August 2007
Reader's Digest June 2007
Romantic Homes July 2007
Southern Living June 2007
Veranda August 2007
Waters Edge June 2007
Woman's Day June 19, 2007
The Writer July 2007

You all have until midnight EST tonight to enter the giveaway and a chance at winning the entire pile. Good luck to everyone.

*This is a little nonfic gardening book with amazing advice, remedies and tips for the home gardener.

*I've already read this one, many times, but I needed to look up a passage for a friend, and ended up re-reading several favorite chapters, so it counts.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Winners & Surprises

Added today to the Win What PBW Reads This Week box: The Damned by L.A. Banks, Rage Therapy by Daniel Kalla, Mammoth by John Varley, Cooking Light magazine July 2007 issue, National Geographic Traveler magazine May/June 2007 issue, and Reader's Digest magazine June 2007 issue.

We put the magic hat into action tonight for the Raintree: Haunted giveaway, and the winners are:

Karen, the lurker (whose comment started with Thunder and lightning.)

DiDi (whose comment started with I absolutely love rain.)

Elaine (whose comment started with I like snow.)

Rebecca (whose comment started with I desperately crave the sun...)

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and let me know if you'd like to have Linda Howard's Raintree: Inferno as well. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

I got a very big surprise this morning when I went out to meditate. I make a habit of bringing the camera onto the porch with me to photograph whatever comes to visit my yard. I'll never be a great photographer, but sometimes I get lucky, as with capturing the ongoing drama of who has been living in our bird house.

When I came out the door today, what I saw made me think the kids had been messing with it. It made me angry, because while the blue bird's chicks are all grown up and gone, I was pretty sure from a lingering odor that one of them didn't make it (and I kicked myself for not cleaning out the body a week ago, when I should have done it. I just didn't want to upset the mother, who has still been coming back to the birdhouse every day.)

I walked over to pull whatever the kids had stuck in the perch hole, and then stopped in my tracks.



I still thought it was a hose or a toy, until it slithered. Then I looked down and saw it had a much bigger parent with it.



Both are black racers; Big Mama likes to hunt in my garden and scare my socks off.



I'd never seen Junior before, and or two racers hunting together.



As I got closer, I discovered that Big Mama was just finishing up swallowing the deceased chick, which she must have gotten out of the birdhouse before I came out on the porch. Racers will eat just about anything.



I was able to get close enough to get both snakes in the picture. Junior didn't appreciate my curiosity, but Big Mama didn't twitch a scale.



The drama escalated when the mother blue bird came out of nowhere and began attacking the snakes, chasing off Big Mama immediately. It took her a bit more time to get Junior out of the birdhouse.

The entire incident took about an hour to play through from start to finish, with me mostly quietly sitting in a chair, camera in hand, jaw in lap. Just when I think I'm used to living in the country, something like this happens.

Tomorrow there will be a skunk living in that birdhouse. I just know it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Off to the Repair Shop

Added today to the Win What PBW Reads This Week box: FreeMasonry and its Ancienty Mystic Rites by C.W. Leadbeater, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (this one is audio book read by Hugh Laurie on CD; I've been listening to it in the car) American Artist magazine July/August 2007 issue, Discover magazine July 2007 issue, and The Writer magazine July 2007 issue.

I won't be having the Friday 20 today because this computer has to go into the shop first thing in the morning, my laptop Phillip does not like the wireless system, and the internet is not allowed on my work computer anymore (which has had no software or hardware problems whatsoever since I banned the internet from it.)

I should be back online tonight or tomorrow -- talk to you then.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Alternate Worldbuilding

Added today to the Win What PBW Reads This Week box: Transformers by Alan Dean Foster, Call Me Wicked by Jamie Sobrato, Risking It All by Stephanie Tyler, Newsweek June 18, 2007 issue, Quilter's Newsletter magazine July/August 2007 issue, Romantic Homes magazine July 2007 issue, and Southern Living magazine June 2007 issue.

Note: I may drop a book in the box that an editor sent to me. I gave up on this series about five books back, but it's a hardcover and one a lot of people want, so I'd rather pass it along to someone who might appreciate it. We'll just call it a bonus book.

While I've been working on Drednoc, I've been sketching and painting some of the characters and settings that I've never really transferred from vision onto paper (it helps that a friend sent me a set of amazing luminescent watercolors that are sucking my brains out of my skull.)

HouseClan Torin Pavilion, Joren

I doubt the Louvre will want to acquire it, but it was fun painting it, and pretty close to the colors and feel of Joren, anyway. I liked it so much I decided to use it as cover art for one of my personal projects.

When I'm not slinging paint, I also cruise the internet for interesting images and art to stir up new ideas for characters, setting or story. For example, I came across this as I was searching for castle art:

Space Fantasy Painting

which made me curious enough to visit the website, where I found this:

Flying Castles
(both images imported from the Niagara Art Collection website)

At first glance I knew the second painting wasn't Joren. The architecture is too human, there are no deserts on Joren, my floating cities are on Akkabarr, and the sky isn't right. Still, it had a Jorenian feel to it, so I sat and pondered the pic for a while.

In a quantum universe somewhere, this could be Joren -- one that was colonized by the League, enveloped by interstellar war, used as a troop depot, damaged by surface bombardment and ultimately abandoned by everyone but the natives, who have been in hiding since their world was occupied. How would these Jorenians evolve? Would they follow the same timeline and form HouseClans, or would their cultural response be some sort of quasi-socialist society? How would my StarDoc play into all this?

By the time I finished brooding, I had practically rewritten my own series in my head. I don't do this purely for self-amusement, so I also typed up a few notes on a logical historic timeline for my AH* Joren, in the event I want to flesh it out into a short story or novella.

I like revisiting stories from different angles, and seeing what else I might have done with them. Illumination over there on the sidebar is a short version of StarDoc book one from Reever's POV. I wrote that one as a challenge for myself, and to give the readers a different perspective on the character, who is a royal pain in the ass to write anyway. It's a little more difficult to rewrite an entire series, but I'm glad I thought out my AH Joren, because in the process I figured out something about two rather difficult characters I have in Drednoc.

Have you all ever approached a story you've written from another angle? Do you find any benefits from shifting POV or changing circumstances?

*Alternate History

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

RW: Raintree, Part II

Added today to the Win What PBW Reads This Week box: Quantico by Greg Bear, The Ruthless Marriage Proposal by Miranda Lee, Abandon by Carla Neggers, Woman's Day magazine June 19, 2007 issue and Veranda magazine August 2007 issue.

Raintree book two

That's beautiful cover art, isn't it? I love lightning. Well, not so much when it strikes within ten miles of the house, because it knocks out the electricity, the land phone lines, the cable, and anything else that isn't powered by Duracell. But aside from the way it messes with our gadgets, lightning is a beautiful part of Nature.

Back in April I did a giveaway for Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard, the first novel in a new Nocturne trilogy. Last week when I saw the second novel, Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones, was out I grabbed all the copies left at BAM (four.) And some of you, my Wednesday readers, are going to get your hands on them.

In comments to this post, tell us what element of Nature you admire most, and why, by midnight EST on Friday, June 22, 2007. I'll draw four names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Linda Winstead Jones' Raintree: Haunted (also, if the winner hasn't yet read it, I'll throw in an unsigned copy of the first book in the trilogy, Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard.) Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Extemporaneous

Yes, I am back, in a very disorganized muddle. Evidently I can create new posts, but I still can't access my archived drafts (and you know how I live to plan, outline, draft and redraft stuff.)

No worries. We'll just call it Improv Week at PBW.

I love summer because it's the best reading time of year for me. Every week I read on average ten to fifteen books, but I'm able to knock out a few more whenever the kids are out of school. I don't know exactly how many books I read per week during summer, but my TBR stack constantly needs replenishment.

I thought it would be fun to find out how much I read and make a giveaway out of it, so for this week (6/17-6/24), I'm going to take everything (books, magazines, newspaper articles, etc.) that I read, put it in a box, and send it to one of you. So far I've read Never Lie to a Lady by Liz Carlyle, Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones, Blaze by Stephen King, The Kristallis Baby by Natalie Rivers, Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith, Waters Edge magazine June 07 issue, and a pile of articles from the Sunday paper.

For a chance to win, in comments to this post, tell us the title and author of the book you're reading now (or, if you're in a reading dry spell, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight on Sunday, June 24, 2007. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the box with everything I read this week in it. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Intro Ten

Ten Things People Say When They Meet Writers
(and what we're really thinking while we're politely smiling)

1. Are you really a writer, or was he joking?

He was joking; I'm a retired porn film producer. Say hi to your husband for me.

2. Authors make big money, don't they?

Of course we do. I'm just putting these canapes in my purse for the dog.

3. Books put me to sleep.

Sounding out all those words must be pretty exhausting.

4. Can you write like Stephen King?

No, but I bet you could give him ideas for his next book.

5. Do you have a real job?

Yes, I beat the crap out of people who think writing isn't a real job. Can I talk to you outside for a minute?

6. Have I read anything you've written?

Oh, my God. You can read?

7. I never go into bookstores. I can't find anything I like.

Hey, maybe someday Barnes & Noble will carry pork rinds and personal massage units.

8. I have this great idea for a book. Would you write it for me?

Sure. Just as soon as I write the books for the forty thousand other people with great ideas that I met before you.

9. My sister/wife/mother reads all your romance novels.

Don't worry, Big Guy, your secret is safe with me.

10. You don't look like a famous writer.

While you, on the other hand, look exactly like a jackass.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

From PBW

Tom here, with a note from Lynn:

Folks, we're still working to get the blog back online. Archives may or may not be accessible, but I have them all backed up, so if they disappear don't worry -- we'll recover them. Due to technical difficulties, Reader Wednesday and Friday 20 for this week are cancelled.

A couple of announcements:

This week through Saturday, June 16th, Shop.HollyLisle.com is having a 10% off sale on everything, including Holly Lisle's wonderful series of books on how to create a plot, character, language and culture, as well as my own how-to book Way of the Cheetah. Stop by if you have a chance and check out the available titles.

The second book in the Raintree trilogy is out -- Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones hit the shelves this month -- and is selling out fast. I know Silhouette titles only stick around for a month before they're replaced by new ones, but this one has vanished from the stores like hotcakes. Once we get the blog back online, I will be giving away what copies I was able to grab before they sold out in my area.

Hope to be back to talk to you soon -- PBW

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Play With Your Desktop Ten

Ten Things for the Desktop Toy Lovers

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

1. Get easy and instant access to your desktop with AdingOd Desk.

2. Set transparent windows of any program running in Windows 2000 or XP with Chaos Crystal.

3. Custom Skin Clock allows you to customize a movable, scalable desktop clock with personal graphics.

4. Vandalize your own desktop with Desktop Graffitist.

5. Desktop Messager also lets you draw or write texts on your desktop.

6. Because you know you want one for your desktop: Digital Snowglobes.

7. Create beautiful fractals in real time and set them as your wallpapers with Fractal Wallpaper

8. Add HTML-Help-Toy (scroll down) to your desktop and learn HTML in your spare time.

9. The desktop toy Lava Lamp will never break, spill or explode on you (unless you hit your monitor with a hammer or something.)

10. Another screen-draw freeware, ScreenMarker.

Two freewares I found while I was putting together this list weren't desktop toys but seemed too neat to pass up:

11. Turn your keyboard into a garage band with Electronic Piano 2.5 freeware.

12. Copy the viewed contents of an explorer window in text format to the clipboard display with ExCopy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

While We're Tinkering

I'm having some problems with Blogger at the moment that are preventing new posts from showing up on PBW. Tommy is going to post this one for me so everyone doesn't worry.

While we're working on a fix, I was able to post the short story I promised over at the fiction blog:

Familiar by Lynn Viehl

A .pdf version of the story will also be available later today; Tommy or I'll post a link when FTP is working. can be downloaded by clicking here.

Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Winners

The magic hat put in some overtime tonight, and we have the winners for two giveaways.

First, for the RW: I Told You So giveaway, the winner is:

Misty

Second, for the Friday 20/Blade Dancer giveaway, the winners are:

Charlene Teglia

Lanisse, whose comment started with I can't think of a question, but I would love a copy of Blade Dancer as I've been looking for a while.

Hannah, whose comment started with *Hannah throws her name in the hat.

Pandababy

lleeo

Winners, please send your full names and ship-to addresses to LynnViehl@aol.com, so I can get your winnings out to you, and thanks to everyone for making this a very fun week here at PBW.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday 20

I have to apologize -- I thought I had posted the winner of the Mindtracks giveaway, but for some reason Blogger decided it was a draft instead of an entry, which is why it never showed up on the blog. We actually did get out the magic hat earlier this week, and the winner is:

Heather

Heather, when you have a chance, e-mail your musicwish and ship-to information to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get your winnings out to you, and thanks to everyone for sharing your musical inspirations.

Last week I was rearranging the filing cabinets when I came across the final manuscript for Blade Dancer, my first SF novel published in hardcover. Finding an old manuscript can be like thumbing through an old photo album; you sit down and fondly reminisce about the good old days. I felt a little startled by the date; five years ago I sent off this massive pile of paper to become a book.

Like the StarDoc novels, Blade Dancer sold well, and eventually came out in a mass market edition, which is still in print. Unfortunately, it was published just as Ace took over the Roc imprint, and most of my SF landed on the backburner. BD became a casualty of the move. The seven other novels I had planned to write about Jory and crew went into the Someday File and I moved on to other things.

Not much has happened with BD on the publishing front over the last five years, but behind the scenes, the book slowly gathered a following among high school and college students. These kids began writing to me, and oddly enough there were few demands for more BD novels. They had plenty of questions about the characters, however, as well as the HouseClans, Tarek Varena, journey philosophy, and the fighting arts involved in the story. Gamers, RPGers and graphic novel readers also seemed to like the novel a lot. So did fans of the Highlander television series. Many went on to read my StarDoc novels because of BD.

The continuing popularity did puzzle me for a while, until I realized that Blade Dancer's longevity is due to the willingness of booksellers to keep SF in stock for many months or even years. I see copies of this five-year-old book in stores that don't stock my books in other genres that were published only five months ago.

I can't really say if I will ever publish in print another short story, novella or novel about Jory and the crew. I know what happens to them far beyond the timeline of the novel, of course; I did outline seven more books about them. I wouldn't mind jumping back into their part of the StarDoc universe, either, and it's something to think about as a future project, possibly after I finish up StarDoc. But for now, Blade Dancer will go on as it has for the last five years; one of my quiet, out-of-sight successes.

I will celebrate BD's five year anniversary by drawing five names at random from everyone who responds to this post in comments today by midnight EST, and send the winners a signed mass market edition of Blade Dancer. You can ask me a question as always on Friday, or just throw your name in the hat. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet even if you've won something here in the past, etc.

So what's up with you guys?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Blog, Interrupted

A bit of series news: I got the green light today from my editor on my proposal for Darkyn book six, now titled Swans Fall, which will feature Valentin Jaus from Private Demon as one of the protagonists. If all goes well, Swans Fall should be hitting the shelves about six months after Evermore is released in January 2008.

Something else happened to me today that delayed the blog entry I had planned to post. Nothing dire, just something unusual for me.

I was happily engulfed in one of the WIPs, running through mine shafts and further endangering the lives of approximately five thousand clueless, possibly doomed colonists, when an alarm I'd set on my clock radio went off. This is why I hate having clocks in my writing space, but now that the kids are out of school I have five luxurious, uninterrupted hours from 5 to 10 am in the morning to write. If I don't use an alarm, I lose all sense of time.

I was really into the story. Things were going so well, in fact, that when the alarm went off I reached out, groped, and hit the snooze button. When it beeped a second time, I got so annoyed that I yanked the clock radio's cord out of the electrical outlet, and went back to work. The kids are out of school; I could spend another thirty minutes writing.

Some time later my voice gave out (the downside of writing with VRS) and I had to stop working for a while. I looked to see what time it was because surely it had only been thirty minutes. No power, no time display. Plugging the clock radio back in only told me it might be noon, or midnight.

Uh-oh.

Downstairs, I discovered it was 1:15 pm. The kids were still asleep, the housework still had to be done, and the dog really, really needed to go outside. On the internet computer, there were e-mails from the agent and two editors, waiting for replies; plus a drawing to do and the blog to update and comments to be read. In the garden, the Mexican heather I had set out to plant was still sitting there, potted. We won't talk about weeds. Breakfast was history; lunch and dinner still had to be planned, things defrosted, nutrition calculated, picky eaters catered to. And someone with fur had been playing skee-ball with the TV remote on the coffee table again, and knocked off the writing magazines waiting to be skimmed.

I had done the supremely selfish thing of spending an entire morning writing. Wrecked my whole schedule. From the moment I'd woken up, I had not spent one minute being Mom, author, blogger, housewife, friend, client, gardener, or anyone else. For eight hours, I had been just a writer.

There should have been some guilt involved, but you know what? It felt great.

I took the dog out, woke the kids, rustled up some brunch for them and made myself a gigantic glass of peach tea. Then I sat on the porch, soaked up the sunshine, and enjoyed fifteen minutes of being just a tired, happy writer before I went back inside and got to work on all the other stuff in my life. And as of midnight, I had everything done but the laundry and the blog, hence this entry.

Tomorrow I will not hit the snooze button on the clock radio, or yank that cord out of the wall. I will catch up, and be responsible, and stay on schedule because that's what I usually do, and that's important. But for today, it was very nice to take a little vacation from that.

Do any of you writers out there ever do this kind of thing? How do you feel about stealing a couple of hours away from your daily life to write?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

RW: I Told You So

Two years ago a big name author refused to read one of my own books for a possible quote. This isn't unusual, and I didn't personally make the request, but the circumstances involved made it such an unpleasant experience that it put me off getting quotes ever since.

A week after that smackdown, an editor asked me to read an ARC of a first book in a debut series for a possible quote. Perfect opportunity for revenge! All I had to do was surrender to the dark side and say Sorry, but I'm too busy with my bestselling career to take time out to blurb your rookie in a polite fashion.

Only I couldn't, because I really liked the editor, and I wasn't too busy, and my good angel, the sadistic bitch, advised me that it would be the wrong thing to do.

I (very reluctantly) agreed to read it, and the editor immediately sent me the ARC. I took it out of the mailbox and stomped all the way back to the house with it. I let it sit on my desk for a full day. I glared at it. My bad angel wanted it to suck. My bad angel assured me that it would likely be the biggest pile of trash I'd ever read. I even started mentally rehearsing polite ways of saying to the editor "Sorry, but your rookie can't write her way out of a trick-or-treat bag."

I finally read the first page, just to see how much it was going to suck, and lost myself in it. After I devoured the book, I wrote a quote for the author that will probably end up being the best blurb I will ever write. Everyone thought I was crazy for doing that for a complete stranger, but I didn't care. This book was that special.

Several months later the rest of the reading world discovered how great the book was. My good angel started crowing, "I told you so!" and hasn't shut up since.

I still don't know who was first to endorse J.R. Ward's Dark Lover, me or Nicole Jordan, but we both did it long before the Black Dagger Brotherhood series skyrocketed into the enormous success it is today. Having our names and quotes on one of the hottest-selling novels in paranormal romance doesn't hurt, either, but we didn't do it for that reason. Which counts? Pretty much forever.

To celebrate the two-year anniversary of my first reading J.R. Ward's terrific debut, I've put together a big I Told You So box of great paranormal romance and dark fantasy reads: unsigned copies of Hunting Midnight by Emma Holly, The Blood Books Volume One (Blood Price and Blood Trail) by Tanya Huff, Night Echoes by Holly Lisle, A Taste of Crimson by Marjorie M. Liu, Nightlife by Rob Thurman, Hunters: Heart and Soul by Shiloh Walker, and Dark Lover by J.R. Ward, along with a signed copy of my novel Night Lost and some other surprises.

For a chance to win this week's goodies, in comments to this post, write a quote for your favorite author or novel (or, if you're quote-blocked, just throw your name into the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, June 8, 2007. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the entire I Told You So box of books. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

June: Branding

I. A Rose by Any Other Name
What is Branding?


Branding is something we humans have been doing to show ownership forever. Some of the earliest depictions of humans branding livestock were carved into a tomb wall in Egypt four thousand years ago.

In the days of the old American West, a rancher would burn the same mark onto the hides of all his cattle. This brand mark, usually a symbol, letter, character or number, served as a simple means of identifying the cattle as belonging to the rancher, and discouraged others from taking and using the animal for their own purposes.

Today we don't use red hot irons to stamp our mark on our belongings -- we have label-making tape, Sharpies, and the heart-shaped tattoo for that -- but the brand lives on, and has become the keystone of successful modern marketing.

According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers."

Two phrases here are the keys to effective branding: "to identify the goods and services" and "to differentiate them from those of other sellers." Or, in other words, define what you've got, and how it's different from what everyone else has.

II. Hello, I Love You, Won't You Tell Me Your Name?
Brand Impressions


To create a brand, you need a brand name that instantly identifies you to the consumer. The brand can be your name or pseudonym, the title of a book or series, or something closely related to you and/or the work you do.

Acronyms, or words formed from the initial letters of a group of words, can be effective brands. ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), IBM (International Business Machines), PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), and RWA (Romance Writers of America) are all well-recognized acronym brands.

When you have a lengthy brand name, or a name not likely to be remembered, a clever acronym may be the way to go (which is why I've used PBW as both a personal and blog brand; it's easier to remember and to use than Paperback Writer, or all 486 of my pseudonyms.)

Abbreviated, coined and recombined words also make excellent brands. Microsoft (microcomputer software), FedEx (Federal Express), iPod (internet podium, I think), and Mac (MacIntosh computer). The uniqueness of this type of brand has differentiation built into it, which is why I like them a lot -- StarDoc and Darkyn, two of my coined series names, have been my most successful brands.

III. What Makes You So Hot?
Brand Differentiation


Everyone and their brother writes vampire fiction these days, but few stand out in my mind. Why? No branding. Having a great title is not enough; there are at least fifty other authors with great titles hitting the shelf at the same time as your books. A vampire fiction writer needs something that makes their book stand out from all the others being thrown at the reader. It should be a brand that will jog the readers' memory when the next novel is released, so there has to be some common connection, too.

Look at some of the brand names that are already out there on the market:

Black Dagger Brotherhood (J.R. Ward)
Darkyn (mine)
The Carpathians (Christine Feehan)
The Vampire Chronicles (Anne Rice)
Vampyricon (Douglas Clegg)

What do we all have in common? Unique brand names that 1) define our series, 2) connect our books, and 3) don't sound interchangeable. When you put together a brand name, you want to create something that becomes as synonymous with your vampire fiction as "Buffy" is with the television series.

Start by making lists of single words that relate to you, your work, the type of story you tell, your voice, and anything else you feel sets you apart from other writers and can be strongly defined. Use an online thesaurus to pull in synonyms, or search old poetry, song lyrics and prose for phrase inspiration. Play with the words you find and see what you can come up with.

IV. Only a Harley is a Harley
Brand Impact


I am not a marketing guru; I only play one here at the blog. But I have (informally) studied marketing for years, and I've watched what works. The right word or phrase can make all the difference. And a strong, creative brand name is like having a personal publicist who never sleeps.

One final thought on how a brand can impact many things, including customer expectations:

The impact of brands can be powerful, signaling positive or negative value to customers and other constituencies. All else being equal, a strong brand enables a company to command a premium price for a product or have higher market share when charging the same price as a competitor. In other words, brands have the power to "shift demand." For example, Harley-Davidson, which is an extremely strong brand in the motorcycle market, can charge up to three times the price of a competitor's product for a motorcycle with essentially the same engineering quality and performance characteristics as imitations. Moreover, Harley customers are willing to wait for months for a motorcycle, simplifying the company's inventory management. Only a Harley is a Harley. -- The Ultimate Intangible: Measuring and Managing Brands as Strategic Assets by Kenneth Roberts and Eric Almquist

Related Links:

Search for acronyms and abbreviations at Abbreviations.com.

BrandChannel.com, "the world's only online exchange about branding."

Creating a Unique Brand Name by Martin Jelsema

Snopes.com debunks the myth behind the three most valuable brand names on Earth.

The Reality of Brands: Toward an Ontology of Marketing by Wolfgang Grassl

Monday, June 04, 2007

Code Ten

Ten Things for the HTML-Challenged

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.

1. How to add basic and complex e-mail links to your web site or weblog.

2. For those who would rather work online than download, CreatingOnline.com has a Free HTML Page Maker Online Generator.

3. The University of Texas at Austin has a great page on Generating Colors in HTML.

4. HTML Code Tutorial explains web page code and maintains a related help forum.

5. HTML Color freeware allows you to easily create color values for your web document.

6. The "ultimate HTML resource": HTML Goodies.

7. W3Schools.com's HTML Tutorials for beginners break it all down into simple categories.

8. If you need a flexible, powerful code generator, give MyGeneration freeware a whirl.

9. Another HTML tutorial site: PageTutor.com.

10. Acme's Web Design Toy freeware features a split screen where you can type the HTML code on one side and see it instantly shown in web page form on the other.

If you presently can't afford a web site, check out the free services offered by these web hosting providers.

A sneak peek at what's coming up this week on PBW:

June's Biz Post: Branding

Meet the Vampyre Smythe, Vice President of VLAD

RW: The I Told You So Anniversary Giveaway

Blade Dancer, Five Years Later

(Possibly, if I can stop obessessing over it) A new free short story

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What WD Missed

Every year Writer's Digest publishes their 101 BEST Websites for Writers in their print mag. I don't know when they make it available online, but the 2006 list is here.

PBW, alas, didn't make the 2007 list. Not too long ago I slammed WD right in front of their senior editor for selling ad space to scammers. Not the sort of thing you should do if you want to get on their best of anything but the Total Bitch List.

Agent blogs were given their own category this year, with best honors shared out among Jennifer Jackson, Miss Snark (apparently they went to press before she closed up shop), the Knight Agency, Kristin Nelson and Rachel Vater. That sounds more like all versus the best agent blogs out there, but it's nice to see them get a nod.

The category of Genre/Niche utterly sucked, listing sites only vaguely concerned with copywriting (2), children's writing(3), erotica (1), fiction (1), freelance (4), poetry (4), romance (2), scriptwriting (2), and white papers (1 but what the hell do genre writers need with leaning how to write proposed government policies?).

Glaringly absent from the Genre/Niche list: crime fiction, media tie-in, fantasy, science fiction, inspirational, horror and historical sites. There were no sites or blogs which cover these on the list. As in zip, zilch, zero. And what's with listing four times as many poetry and freelance sites as fiction and erotica? Is this a best list, or wishful thinking?

Anyway, I have some sites I'd have like to see make the list. All are great for writers and, while WD might have overlooked them, are resources that I go back to use or send other writer pals to constantly.

Industry

Angela Booth -- Goddess of the freelancers, Angela regularly posts solid info on job and sub ops.
Authorlink -- publishing and market listings from Monster.com.
Marjorie M. Liu -- In addition to sharing her experiences as a bestselling novelist, Marjorie regularly posts info on decent writing opporunities.
Ralan.com -- quite simply the most well-maintained and updated market listing for SF/F and horror writers in existence.
WriteJobs.com -- another publishing and market listing site.

Creativity

The Generator Blog -- Possibly the greatest source of links to online generatores in the known universe.
Kleimo's Random Name Generator -- allows you to pull names based on gender and obscurity, up to fifty at a time, from US census data.
Seventh Sanctum -- Whatever you need -- a writing prompt, title, character, story idea, etc. -- Steven Savage has got a generator for it.

Freebies

PBW's Free Online Tools list -- I need to add to it and update it, but all the writing freeware and online tools I find for the Monday ten lists will eventually end up here.
FreewareFiles.com -- updated daily, searchable, plenty here for everyone, not just writers.
Freeware World Team -- like freewarefiles.com, only global.
OpenOffice -- the free office suite I hear most often recommended by other writers.
Rough Draft -- Richard Salsbury's extremely useful writing freeware.
StickIt -- a virtual sticky notes freeware that I use every day.
yWriter -- one of many freeware programs offered by our blog pal, author Simon Haynes.

Linkage

Louis Cantron's Annotated Sites for Writers page -- lots of excellent links here
Margaret Fisk's Writing Links -- an amazing collection, regularly updated by our pal Margaret.

Research

BibleGateway.com -- the best bible research site I have ever found, period.
Glossarist.com -- if you need to find an online specialty glossary or dictionary, here's where to look.
HyperHistory -- 2,000 files covering 3,000 years of world history.
The Labyrinth -- Georgetown's terrific medieval studies resource site.
Mobysaurus -- a freeware thesaurus that must be seen to be believed.

I'm going to get started on a proper genre resource link list, too -- I think WD really dropped the ball there -- and I'll post it at a later date.

Aside from PBW (because I know you all love it here), which web sites and/or weblogs would you consider best for writers? Share your recs and links in comments.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

MindTracks

Music is probably the single greatest source of creative inspiration for me. Whenever I listen to music, my brain goes into overdrive, and ideas begin to take visual form. The more I listen, the more characters, settings and details go into those ideas, until they become just like movies.

Once I can see the entire story, I hit the keyboard and translate the vision into words. I don't ever lose the story, either -- all I have to do is listen to the song that inspired it and the story movie plays out in my mind exactly as it did the first time I imagined it.

I have no musical preferences, and have come up with novels based on every type of music, from Mozart to Nine Inch Nails. The only strange thing is that I see images but I never hear dialogue, so in that sense, the movies in my head are silent (I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I prefer to compose dialogue spontaneously while I'm writing.)

If you've never tried visualizing story to music, here are a couple of tips on the process:

1. Fresh music won't have any associations for you, so try picking up some albums by musicians and bands you've never heard, or tune into a new station on the radio.

2. Listen when you're in a relaxing or quiet situation. I listen to CDs when I sit on the porch, take a bubble bath, fold laundry, or go for a drive in the country or down by the lake. The more relaxed you are, the more likely your imagination will want to come out and play.

3. Don't try to force it. Keep your mind open and let the images come to you in response to the music. If you're still having trouble envisioning things, try to imagine what colors would best express the song you're listening to. Once you have a palette in mind, imagine those colors defining something about a character or setting.

4. If you choose to listen to music that you've heard before, avoid songs that have bad associations, or that for whatever reason depress or upset you (unless that's a good writing mood for you, then go for it.)

5. After you've listened to music, go spend a little time on the keyboard. Write about whatever you thought of while you were listening. Don't worry about making it perfect, just describe what you saw in your head. I don't listen to music when I write because I find it actually becomes a distraction, but if you don't have a problem with that you can also play the song while you're writing.

Don't be afraid to experiment, either. About half the music I listen to is made outside the United States, and by trying bands from other countries I've discovered some terrific artists that normally don't get air time on our radio stations. I think I have a thing for Canadian bands in particular; Nickelback, The Golden Dogs, and Wintersleep have practically owned the CD player in my car for the last couple of years.

Let's hear what you have to say about music and story -- in comments to this post list a song that inspired you creatively (or if you're new at this, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, June 4, 2007. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates, and grant the winner a musicwish* along with a copy of the Nickelback album that inspired me while I was writing Night Lost, my personal notes about the songs involved, and a signed copy of the end result. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A musicwish is any music CD by any artist you choose, provided that the CD can be 1) ordered from an online source and 2) costs up to a maximum of $25.00 US dollars. I'll throw in for free any shipping and handling fees that are involved.

Related links:

Laurence O'Donnell's excellent article Music and the Brain.

Music and the Brain: Processing and Responding (A General Overview) by Feyza Sancar explains some of the nuts and bolts involved with the brain as it processes music.

Over There Winner

The ideas you all posted for my nephew's book box were great; I have a nice list now for when I hit the bookstore today. We also put the magic hat through its paces, and the winner of the Over There giveaway is:

JulieB (whose entry started with I really had a hard time thinking of anything you might not have already thought of/read...)

Julie, when you have a chance, e-mail your bookwish and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and thanks to everyone who joined in.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday 20

I'm making a late start again today; sorry, folks. The Dragon does not like me congested, and this week has been interpreting nearly everything I say as something you could sing to the tune of Camptown Ladies: I'd aching a laid dart a gain do day, doodah, doodah.

A couple of RWA writers have e-mailed to ask if they can pass around my old post, Why PAN was the God of Sheep, in response to the latest RWA mess. (Note: Edited to clarify, as I am not part of the Creative Commons crowd) As with anything from the blog, you may e-mail my posts as long as it's not for profit and you give me byline credit or link love. Fair use excerpts are fine, too.

If you don't buy into it, elitism in the industry is always entertaining. Ranking systems are rarely objective, especially when competitive human beings looking for shortcuts are involved, but they play on the almost universal lack of self-esteem writers suffer, and then the pissing contests commence. Groups like the the Borg are particularly gifted at this sort of infighting, but the nature of publishing encourages group hostility and professional cannabalism.

Imagine that the industry is a bake sale, and this is all about who makes the prettiest cupcakes, and then you can see how trivial it is.

That's all from my sniffly corner of publishing this week. Anyone out there have any questions for me?