Monday, September 24, 2007

Freely Ten

Ten Things for the Freeware Lovers

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

1. Budgie 1.6 freeware offers "a contacts manager, word processing capabilities, a database manager, a spreadsheet utility, an e-mail manager, an image tool, a scheduling utility, a ZIP manager, and a fax manager. You can use it as a stand-alone or as an add-on to your existing Office software."

2. Convert units of distance (like miles to kilometers), temperature (fahrenheit to celsius), volume (gallons to litres), as well as time, speed, mass, power, density, pressure, energy and many others (or customize your own conversions) with Josh Madison's Convert freeware.

3. Digital Calendar freeware (scroll down on page) has an embedded MP3 player so you can have music while you're planning out your month.

4. Polar Office freeware offers a free office suite with word processor, spreadsheet, charting and more.

5. Safeguard your Notepad contents with Secure Notepad freeware.

6. TimeSentry freeware is a small, multifunction time management app that simplifies retrieving the time and calendar info you need.

7. Create professional .pdf files from virtually any document with Tiny PDF.

8. UserClone freeware will copy the filing cabinet and favorite places from one AOL screen name to another (helpful when creating a new screen name.)

9. Wax freeware is "a high performance and flexible video compositing and special effects software. The idea for Wax is to be very general purpose and flexible in video compositing and effects, so that you can compose your dream video sequence with ease everytime."

10. Also from, warp and morph images to your heart's content with WinMorph freeware.

(posted by Tom)

Saturday, September 22, 2007


The winners of the RW: In the Pink giveaway are:

Any Sisson

Katherine Hazen


Winners, please send your full name and ship-to information to so I can get your books out to you, and thanks to everyone for joining in.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wild Weather

We've been getting hammered with severe thunderstorms for the last two days, with so much lightning I have to keep everything shut down. Today's forecast is more of the same, so I'm going to pass on trying to post regularly or have a Friday 20 this week. I will put up the names of the winners of the RW giveaway tomorrow, so if you haven't entered, you've got until midnight EST tonight.

Right now it's quiet enough to write this and do a backup. Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you backed up your data? If your answer is longer than a week, please take time to do it today. Trust me, I have fried more hard drives than I care to count, and all it takes is one virus, one mechanical failure, or one good zap and it's gone.

As soon as the dove returns with an olive branch, I'll be back online. In the meantime, you all have a good weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

RW: In the Pink

Not counting my own, I've been involved with some strange weddings. One of my friends got married to her honey on Hollywood Beach, and we all wore bikinis to the ceremony (this was way back when I had a bikini bod.) Tom, my technosavior here at the blog, married his lovely wife twice. The first ceremony took place at a hospital chapel in the middle of a work shift (long story) and Tommy barely had time to say I do before we had to leave to respond to a freeway pile-up (later we had a proper ceremony, with all the family present and no radios going off.)

I've also handmade and tailored a traditional white wedding gown with only two days notice, and baked a nine-layer wedding cake from scratch, and catered a reception for 75 people on a shoe-string budget -- three reasons why I won't ever get married again.

Somewhere in hell, I suspect, is a level where the damned have to run disastrous weddings for all eternity. And somehow, I think Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer may have gone there to research their latest novel, The Wedding from Hell novelAgnes and the Hitman. I picked up a copy on impulse over the weekend. I haven't read these two before now, but seeing how hard Jennifer worked at cleaning up her office made me want to show my support at the bookstore. Also, I knew it's one that Darlene wanted to read, and I'm terminally curious about the books you all pick for your TBR stacks. So I jumped in, and discovered why -- these two authors have cooked up some delightfully wicked stuff together.

There is Agnes, a food writer who will lose her house unless she hosts a wedding for the daughter of a childhood friend. The friend's crazy mother, however, is doing whatever she can to wreck the nuptials. Then there's the tiny problem with intruders who keep breaking into Agnes's new house, trying to shoot her and kidnap her dog. There is Shane, the hitman whose favorite uncle persuades him to set aside his latest assignment in order to protect Agnes from the steady stream of hitmen coming after her. Add in felonious families, a flaming pink wedding dress, fine food, missing fathers, flamingos, flying bullets, unfaithful fiances and five million mob bucks, and you've got all the ingredients for a fantastically funny farce.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name your favorite wedding-themed book or movie (or if you're not a fan of wedding fun, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, September 21, 2007. I'll pick three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned hardcover copy of Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Observations on Gang Blogging

I didn't find out until this week that Squawk Radio uttered its last peep as a daily blog back in June. I stopped reading it after I had a minor dustup with one of the more sensitive chickies over The Sex Thang, and angry reviewers started coming over and snotting in my comments. Ah, the good old days, when I was bitter and jealous.

It did surprise me, though, to discover that they'd closed up shop; that was one flock I thought would surely cackle on ad infinitum (although it seems they're returning to let the fans know whenever they have a new release, evidently the definition of "randomly and sporadically and possibly occasionally" blogging.)

The success of gang blogging, or a blog written by a group of writers, has waxed and waned since the publishing blogosphere took off. Most seem to wow for a time and then wane. Some fail almost immediately, like the anonymously-shrouded Latest Dark Cabal, which closed its doors after its members real names were outed by miffed LJ'ers. Even the ones with very talented writers often barely last a year.

I had hopes for some of the romance gang blogs with very promising participants, but after a while reading them was like reading RT: lots of fluff, little substance. PR jobs disguised as blogs are great for the fans, but don't hold much attraction for the working writer. Offering truth instead of beauty is dangerous, however, and I don't blame any writer for going the way of the fluff.

Other gang blogs endure, maybe because they're so obviously not fan fluff. Storytellers Unplugged, which passed the two-year blog anniversary mark back in June, is that type of gang blog. I think it owes its longevity to its very large group of authors -- one for every day of the month -- and the quality of the personal essays they post. They're also interested in what their visitors have to say; Storytellers' Chief Kahuna Joe Nasisse recently tossed out some questions about content, and I jumped right on that.

I don't know what the formula for success with gang blogging is, but going into it with the idea that it's going to be easier than blogging solo seems to be a huge mistake. Blogging of any variety is hard work, especially when you're serious about the quality of your content. You have to be realistic about how well you'd fit in with the group, too. I've turned down various offers to join group blogs (not counting the occasional RTB guest post) because I know I'd rather run with scissors than play well with others. I also like having total control over my content; something you have to share when you gang blog.

What are some good examples of enduring, successful or interesting gang blogs out there? If you've got them, post links in comments.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Unrelated Ten

Ten Things That Defied Categorization

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

1. The Library of Congress American Memory project "provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience."

2. Also from the LoC, France in America /France en Amérique, a "bilingual digital library" that explores "the history of the French presence in North America from the first decades of the 16th century to the end of the 19th century."

3. FreeMusicZilla freeware allows you to download music from social music services like, IMEEM, and Pandora at no cost.

4. Store and manage your bookmarks better with Link Collector freeware.

5. Use plain language to talk to Microsoft Word with Natural Word freeware.

6. Play with your web page colors with PagePainter and SwatchBook freeware.

7. For all the other would-that-everything-could-take-place-in-a-featureless-void writers, Manon at Serendipity has a room description generator.

8. Sources and Experts List compiled by Kitty Bennett for the newsroom of the St. Petersburg Times.

9. For those who think we #7's are weird -- decorate your fictional interiors to your heart's content with Sweet Home 3D freeware.

10. Generate variously-styled vampire names for your undead crew over at Seventh Sanctum's vampire name generator.

Some of what's upcoming this week on PBW:

Bypassing the Blues

Observations on Gang Blogging

RW: In the Pink

Missing in action post: Voice vs. Style

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Novel Outlining 101

Concept: To create a weblog post that presents a simple method of outlining a novel.

Plan: Demonstrate the method by using it to outline the post, then use the outline to write the post itself.

Prologue: Outlining Demo
Part One: Introduction to Novel Outlining, Definitions, Purpose
Part Two: Examples of Outlined Scenes, Chapters and Parts
Part Three: Common problems, Suggested Resolutions, Finale
Epilogue: Links to other posts and articles on novel outlining at PBW and elsewhere

I. Novel Outlining

A novel outline is a story plan, written in the abbreviated form of a traditional outline with headings and subheadings. We're often taught how to outline a novel in school when we learn how to write book reports. To borrow a theme from Jennifer Crusie's latest novel, the easiest way to think of it is as a story to-do list.

An outline is valuable in a couple of ways: it creates a map of your novel, so you know where you're going when you write. Depending on how detailed the outline is, it can also be the foundation or first draft of your synopsis.

An outline need not be lengthy or contain all the details of your story. It can be as simple as Peter De Vries suggested: a beginning, a muddle, and an end.

II. Outline Examples

The beginning of this post is the outline I wrote of it. It's the sort of outline I personally prefer: simple, concise, orderly, or just the facts, ma'am. Let's haul out John and Marcia and put some of their story into outline form:

Angel's Darkness by Temperance Rising -- Section Outline

I. Novel Part One

   A. Chapter One: Introduce John, Marcia, demon thief and mystic diamond at Halloween party.

   B. Chapter Two: John and Marcia prevent thief from retrieving diamond.

   C. Chapter Three: John's investigation of theft, diamond and Marcia reveal unholy demonic plan.

   D. Chapter Four: John and Marcia discover the truth about each other's half-blood, which should make them immortal enemies.

   E. Chapter Five: The thief forces John and Marcia to go on the run with the diamond.

Now all of the above are just main chapter points, or the gist of what happens in each chapter. There are no details of how we meet John, Marcia and the thief, or how John and Marcia keep the diamond from the thief, or in what way they discover they were born to be immortal enemies. For that, we do a chapter outline:

Angel's Darkness by Temperance Rising -- Chapter Outline

I. Chapter One

   A. Scene One: John and Marcia meet and have a quickie at the half-blood Halloween party.

   B. Scene Two: A demon thief plants a soul-stealing diamond on Marcia to smuggle it out of the house.

   C. Scene Three: John pursues Marcia and the diamond, and catches up with her at her house, where the demon is waiting.

   D. Scene Four: John senses evil, convinces Marcia to have coffee with him, and Marcia's house explodes.

Each of the above points outlines a scene in Chapter One. We have more details now of what happens while we're being introduced to John, Marcia, demon thief and mystic diamond at Halloween party. This may be as detailed as you want to get with your outline, or you can take it to the next level, which is the scene outline:

Angel's Darkness by Temperance Rising -- Scene Outline

I. Scene One

   A. John arrives at his friend Bruce's home for the annual half-blood Halloween party. There in the foyer he bumps into a beautiful human librarian named Marcia.

   B. Marcia doesn't know anyone at the party but Bruce, who is busy, so John takes her to get some refreshments and chats with her over the punchbowl.

   C. Marcia drinks a cup of punch which she and John don't know is spiked with half-blood aphrodisiac, and loses all of her inhibitions.

   D. John takes advantage of an adult version of Seven Minutes in Heaven to protect Marcia from the punch-spiker, and ends up having sex with her in Bruce's coat closet.

Now, you can put them all together, and you have a comprehensive outline:

Angel's Darkness by Temperance Rising

I. Novel Part One

  A. Chapter One: Introduce John, Marcia, demon thief and mystic diamond at Halloween party.

    1. Scene One: John and Marcia meet and have a quickie at the half-blood Halloween party.

      a. John arrives at his friend Bruce's home for the annual half-blood Halloween party. There in the foyer he bumps into a beautiful human librarian named Marcia.

III. Keeping It Simple and Useful

When you go to the grocery store, and you look at your shopping list, you see things like eggs, milk, bread, butter, and so forth. You don't see buy eggs because my honey likes them on Sunday or buy bread for sandwiches for the kids' lunches, my toast in the morning and grilled cheese on Thursday. You don't need that information to effectively shop, and you already know it. Plus you might change your mind and decide to use all the eggs to make potato salad, or take the bread down to the lake and feed it to the ducks.

It's the same thing with an outline. You just need a list of things that need to happen in the story. How much detail you get into is up to you, but I would keep it as simple as possible, so if you do decide to change something, you can without a major hassle.

If you're still not sure how you want to outline your novel, try outlining a novel you love by another writer. As with writing a synopsis, it's usually easier to practice on someone else's work, because the emotional attachment is different and probably not as intense.

Outlining a novel is becoming your story's architect, and drawing up plans for what will be built. Before you break ground on your project, make sure you've got the blue prints you need to make it a solid construct.

Related Links

On Novel Outlining by damongarr

Organize Your Novel by S.L. Bartlett

PBW's Plotting with Purpose virtual workshop and The Revised Novel Notebook

Writer's Digest Novel Idea Summary Sheet

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lost and Found

A writer friend and I were talking the other day about where we are in our careers -- we're both rapidly approaching the decade mark, which evidently these days makes us Incredibly Ancient Authors -- and he asked me how much I think I've lost, turning pro. I thought he meant that in a financial sense, and started to laugh. I've learned from my mistakes, but brother, they weren't cheap. When I started giving him figures, he clarified: what have I lost besides money.

I thought about it. There were my illusions, which Publishing ate, raw and still quivering, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Pride doesn't goeth before a fall in this biz; the people you put on pedestals do. So do misconceptions, assumptions, naivete and a large chunk of youthful fantasies. The industry made a very quick ragout out of my ignorance and innocence, and served it with a side order of extra crispy fried trust. Sure, some of these things needed to be the early bird special, but some should never have been put on the menu. I told him all this.

You can't move into a village of cannibals and expect to be a vegetarian, my friend calmly pointed out. Eat or be eaten.

I didn't like hearing that. Eat or be eaten, those are our only options? Where were the Here Be Cannibals signs? And who says you have to move in and pull a chair up to their table? Leave. Escape. Build your own village. Make it the Village of Extremely Pissed-Off Vegetarians. And, whenever possible, go back and kick some cannibal ass.

After assuring me that his diet was mainly vegan, my friend wisely moved on to ask what I'd found since turning pro. Access to the planet via print and the internet is a big one. I could never have met so many people if I'd remained unpublished. Being paid to do what you love is a privilege. Friendships, the rare kind, with a few select people who understand you as you understand them, as no one else ever has or will (even the mainly-vegan variety.) The immense satisfaction of seeing a lifelong dream turned into reality. Brief, silent, towering moments of victory after a battle with a book, before you head off into the next one. Beauty. Other, nebulous stuff that doesn't lend itself easily to words.

Feasts of flowers, not flesh.

What we lose and find as professional writers isn't the hardest part of working in this industry, though. I think that comes later, after you've been around for a while, and you watch other writers turn pro and make their choices. You can tell a writer whatever you've learned, and no matter what you say, most of them are going to believe it will be different for them, because they still have their illusions. Most will stroll right by whatever Here Be Cannibals signs you've put up, and insist whatever is bubbling in the industry cooking pot is simply mystery chicken for the next village con. You can make all the signs you want, but in the end all you can really do is hope that they don't end up sitting shock-eyed on a blue plate, or working diligently at becoming the village's next executive chef.

(dedicated to C., who should eat more vegetables)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Archiving the Friday 20

This week I want to get some feedback from you all and finalize what to do with the Friday 20 archives.

A couple of the RSS Feed people out there asked for the Q&A to be copied to a new post so they could read them more easily. I think it's a good idea. What if I copy the comments to a separate blog devoted just to posts with Friday 20 Q&As?

Also, I'd like to index the questions that have already been asked by topic, so that we can avoid some repeats and have an easier way to find specific Q&As. Here's how I thought I'd do the index, with topic headers and the questions listed by date order (the Q: is a link to the original question, and the Answer is a link to my response):


Q: What do you do when your characters don't want to behave? Answer


Q: Any suggestions on how to practice my dialogue writing skills? Answer


Q: How much do you plot out before you write? Answer


Q: How did you figure out what works for you and what do you suggest to help me figure out what works for me? Answer

The Writing Life

Q: Is there any advice you can give me about getting negative feelings out of my head, so I can get those last words on the page, and submitted, etc etc. Answer


It'll take a while to get everything sorted out and linked for the index, as there are currently 64 Friday 20 posts to go through, but once I catch up to the present, I can add new Q&A's to the index weekly. I only have to create a Friday 20 archive blog and cut and paste everything over there.

Time for feedback: Are the above the simplest/easiest/most useful ways to do the RSS Feed and the index, or would you guys rather see it done differently, or not at all? Let me know what you think in comments.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pub Stickers

I spend a couple hours on the road every day of the week hauling the kids back and forth to school, and I see a lot of interesting bumperstickers. The other day I spotted a skull-n-crossbones sticker that read The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves. It was on this cute little car in front of me at the pick-up line at school. I bet that mom doesn't get any grief when she says it's time to do geometry homework.

Publishing does not seem to merit bumperstickers, or if it does, I've never seen them. I think we need to fix that, because who says we're not as hostile, anti-social and demented as the liberals, conservatives, armchair warriors and anti-Bushies out there?

A couple I might put on my truck:

And your cry-baby whiny assed opinion of my novel would be?

Bitch about Harry Potter being over one more time and you'll be my new hood ornament.

Do not rush me. I have an editor to do that.

I am not unemployed. I'm between contract offers.

I bought a sword to research the fight scenes in my fantasy novel, and I'm not afraid to use it.

If you ride my ass, you had better be writing me an advance check.

I pretend to write great novels. They pretend to pay me for them.

Galley slave.

Let me guess: you write inspirational chick-lit.

May your debut be released in interesting times.

Your book is a temple. Mine is an amusement park.

What would your Publishing bumpersticker say?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

RW: Small Spaces

Jennifer Crusie is taking fifteen minutes a day to tidy up and organize her home office, and has been posting pics on her blog to show her progress. Go, see, and applaud; she's tackling a monster job.

I don't have anything quite as impressive to show off, but here's what I did with one corner of my office back on Labor Day:

The new book nook

This space is very small -- 21 inches by 49 inches, and right by the door, so I scratched my original idea of wall shelves. The minute that door slams, stuff would fall off the shelves. I couldn't fit anything under the shelves, either, except maybe a very narrow credenza, which I don't need there. This is also the corner of a second-floor room under the roof peak, and at five feet up the wall slopes inward at a 45 degree angle, so I thought shelves would look a little weird.

I finally decided to build a non-traditional bookcase. I made this one from two organize-it wire storage unit kits (Target, sale price $14.99 each.) It's the sort of thing college kids use in their dorms and apartments; very light and open (which lets my books and carpet breathe, and discourages silverfish and spiders.) It's simple to assemble, as there are only two components and they all snap together, and if I get tired of it, I can take it apart just as easily.

The bookcase that PBW built

I fit two rows of paperbacks on the top shelf, and one row of heavier trades and hardcovers on the lower three. Altogether, a total of 269 books. Yes, I counted. I do things like that. I still had enough room to tuck my laptop case between the side of the bookcase and the wall, and I can hang my library book bag from one of the top corners.

Another thing I try to do in little spaces is put some art in them. The wall above the printer table next to the new bookcase needed something, so I hung a lovely SF painting I own by Jose Antonio Torres Jr., aka Tony Taj, that turned out to fit the space perfectly:

SF art by Tony Taj

What do you guys do with your small spaces? Any ideas on how to make better use of them?

Added: I've got a guest post up over at Romancing the Blog today on freeware and shareware.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September: Blurbs, Endorsements, and Quotes

I. Buy This Book

Like any entertainment industry, Publishing uses endorsements as buyer enticements. An endorsement is basically anything inside quotation marks that casts a favorable light on the title. This can range from glowing quotations in print ads and sales copy to cover blurbs and pages of intro buzz. For the sake of this post, we'll call them all endorsements, because basically that's what they are.

As any author can tell you, the right endorsement by the right person at the right time can change a writer's career. Author Tom Clancy owes a big chunk of his success to an infamous endorsement of his first novel, The Hunt for Red October. It was called a perfect yarn and non-put-downable (is that a word?) Rather casual and not very infamous, as endorsements go, until you consider they were made by then-President Ronald Reagan.

An endorsement should grab some attention, and intrigue the reader as much as the status of the person making it. As personally repulsive as I find endorsements issued by fugitive terrorist butchers, they have some weight with certain mentalities.

Endorsements can also mean big bucks for Publishing. In a time when the winners of the National Book Award can barely move 5,000 copies of their books, Oprah and her on-again off-again reading club have rocketed every book they've endorsed into bestsellerdom. Just say the word Oprah around a bunch of literary writers and watch them go moon-eyed and slack-jawed.

Personally I don't care for the games involved with endorsements, as they're polluted with favoritism, cronyism, and big fat honking liars, but it is part of the biz. If you're looking for endorsements, you might as well do it as painlessly as possible.

II. Who Gets or Gives What?

A few lucky souls among you might never have to worry about endorsements, either -- the overnight successes, trend-setters and other A-listers will generate a ton of them, just by writing great books that a lot of people love (see Ward, J.R.) However, if you're a rookie, or you occupy someplace on the B- through Z-list, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for them to fall out of the sky into your lap.

I'm told most editors make an effort to get at least one decent endorsement for each title under their wing. Alas, I didn't get any of those editors myself, but I know they're out there; plenty of them have asked me to endorse other authors. Talk to your editor and see what they're willing to do to help you with your endorsement quest.

Agents are often great about getting endorsements for their authors. Your agent may have the contacts you don't to get your manuscript into the right hands to be read, so it's also a good idea to ask them for assistance.

When it comes to getting endorsements from writer friends, things get a little sticky. Some folks don't mind asking acquaintances and pals in the industry to endorse them; I try diligently not to impose on my friends that way. I guess it depends on you and your friends and how you feel about it. Third-party requests may be a little easier to handle -- a few times I have contacted writers I didn't know personally and asked them to read a friend's manuscript that I thought was marvelous, and no one took offense.

You can always forward reviews from reputable industry publications, bloggers and reader sites to your editor for use as endorsements, although there are some they probably won't use. Figure if an ellipse has to be inserted after every other word, it's not going to fly.

Endorsing yourself by having one pseudonym blurb another is viewed by some folks as cutesy. I think it makes you look a moron whom I will parody in a heartbeat. Your call.

III. How to Ask

I've retired from the endorsement game now, but back when I was being regarded as Oracle of Paranormal Fiction, I was offered bribes, reciprocal endorsements and other very nice things as incentives to give my endorsement. I also had a couple of folks try to strong-arm me into handing over one. The only approach I ever liked was an upfront, straightforward, just-asking request, preferably from another writer.

When requesting an endorsement, I recommend you make your contact brief, honest, and polite:

Dear Ms. Beegshot:

I'm writing to ask if you would consider reading my dark fantasy novel, Evermore, for a cover quotation. I think you'll enjoy seeing what I've done with the vampire mythology, and I would appreciate any recommendation you would care to make for the readers.

May I send you an advance reading copy? Please let me know when you have a chance.

Thank you,
Lynn Viehl

A couple of other points:

1. I don't think it's necessary to assure the prospective endorser that you know how busy they are (and yet I saw this in almost every endorsement quest that landed on my desk.) It's okay. We're all busy people.

2. Be upbeat and positive in your address. Groveling only works with a dominatrix.

3. If you're writing to a dominatrix, disregard #2.

4. Be professional. Don't offer details about your lousy marriage, your dire financial straits, or that sex-change operation you've been meaning to get. Don't use the endorser's first name unless you are on a first-name basis with them already. Be sure to work a thank-you somewhere in the request.

5. Be graceful if the prospective endorser refuses, and follow-up any response except #7 at all with a simple thank-you note. Even if they're rude, you don't have to be.

6. Don't be surprised if you don't get a response. Asking for an endorsement is probably the hardest thing a writer has to do. Refusing to give one is the second-hardest.

7. If the prospective endorser responds with hostility, abusive language, or any other inappropriate reaction, let it go and don't contact them again.

8. Don't criticize any endorsement you're offered, and don't alter it without permission from the source. If it's badly-worded, simply ask if you can change the wording.

9. If you do get an endorsement, don't send all of your friends to the endorser to ask for one for their books.

10. Be patient. The last endorsement I gave out was one I wanted to think about; I really obsess over my wording. Then I had a lot of other things happen and set it aside. In the end I made the recipient wait for quite a long time -- two or three months -- but I never heard a peep out of her. I genuinely appreciated that courtesy (that said, if you're getting close to the deadline you need endorsements by, drop the endorser a very brief reminder note.)

Related Links:

(Why you shouldn't ask Steve Almond for an endorsement)

Gary A. Braunbeck's On Book Blurbs

Joe Konrath's A Fistful of Blurbs

Monday, September 10, 2007

Magic Hat Ten

You saw this coming, right? Ha.

Ten Bloggers Who Won an Evermore ARC

1. Pamk

2. Charlene

3. Rosie

4. Marjorie

5. Ann

6. Rosina

7. Erin

8. Molly

9. Joely Sue

10. Mackan

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to info to, so I can get these ARCs out to you.

But wait, there's more.

I have a consolation prize to offer to the other bloggers who entered the drawing but didn't win an ARC this time. If you don't mind reading an unbound version of Evermore, send your full name and ship-to info to, and I will send you a signed copy of the galleys. This way everyone doesn't win, but everyone sort of wins.

Some of what's upcoming this week on PBW:

September Biz Post

Voice vs. Style

Novel Outlining 101

Lost and Found

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Winners & Announcements

Judging by the entries for the RW: Take Me Away giveaway, you all soak up a lot of interesting things from the authors you read. We made the magic hat give us some names this morning, and the winners are:

Megha (whose comment started with Sherwood Smith - that you can take a fairly cliched plot and make it into a novel . . .)

MyFlyAwayMoment (whose comment started with I just gotta say that bran fan cracks me up . . .)

rox (whose comment started with 1984 by George Orwell taught me that Big Brother is not good . . .)

Anna (whose comment started with Johanna Lindsey taught me medivial history facts . . .)

tetewa (whose comment started with I'm currently reading an ARC of When I'm Not Myself by Deborah J. Wolf . . .)

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to information to, and I'll get your packages in the mail. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

I also have a couple of announcements:

StarDoc news: Ace/Roc decided they didn't care for the original title of StarDoc book eight, Drednoc, and asked me to come up with a replacement. We agreed on Omega Games as the new title. If all goes well, Omega Games will be released in August 2008.

Darkyn news: I have an extra ten ARC copies of Evermore, Darkyn book five, which will be released in January 2008. This time I've decided to give them away to bloggers who can't get ARCs but want to read the novel (people without blogs, don't worry, I'll be giving away some copies of the final edition in December.) I don't expect anything in return, but if you enjoy the story and want to write about it on your blog, and/or tell everyone you know to buy it, I won't stop you.

So, if you're a publishing industry blogger (writer*, reader, reviewer or other), you do not already receive ARCs of my novels from my publisher, and you're interested in reading the novel, leave a link to your blog in comments to this post by midnight EST on Sunday, September 9, 2007. I'll draw ten bloggers at random and send the winners a signed ARC of Evermore. This drawing is open to any publishing industry blogger, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Added: *At any stage of the game -- published, as-yet-unpublished, or self-published is fine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

While I'm Unplugged

Please excuse PBW from blogging today, and possibly tomorrow. I need to unplug for a day or two to get some writer stuff done.

So that the time you spent stopping in isn't completely wasted, you might really waste it with one of these:

Create your own Dan Brown novel (complete with cover art, gushing review fragments and a pretty good novel synopsis.)

Over at, Scott Adams has a Performance Review Generator that always cracks me up. The review it generated for me was eerily almost identical to the last one I got when I worked in the corporate world:

Miss Viehl has been responsible for the changes in our work group dynamics. It would be accurate to say that Miss Viehl has name recognition throughout the divisions. I find that Miss Viehl is willing to take risks. She handles assignments with unlooked-for creativity. It is important to note that she appears ever productive and has been seen dropping in at off hours.

Put your name, slogan or whatever on your own personal space rocket* (I've already tried to put Thanks to NASA ineptitude I have a one in four failure rate, and I am carrying enough plutonium to wipe out the entire population of a large town if I crash on mine, but it didn't fit.)

See you when I plug back in.

*Link filched from The Generator Blog

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

RW: Take Me Away

I started reading romance as a teen, about the same time Harlequin started publishing their Presents line (yes. I am that old.) I used money I made babysitting to buy category romance novels, frankly because they were cheaper than the big historicals. My lack of cash helped me discover terrific authors like Robyn Donald, Ann Mather, and Margaret Rome.

Category romance writers rarely get the respect or attention they deserve, which is a shame. Everyone makes fun of Barbara Cartland for her sugary romances, for example, but that lady taught me more about English history than any school teacher ever did (and her novel Love Under Fire has remained on my keeper shelf for 35 years.) I've learned a lot from reading these authors, and still do.

If you're not convinced, then you should try writing a romance under 75K that adheres to guidelines so stringent and restrictive that they make strait jackets look comfy. Then try to sell it. I tried -- fifteen times -- and I never could.

Author Jo Leigh has done all of the above, over thirty times now, I believe. After meeting her via the publishing blogosphere, I picked up one of her books. It was just out of curiosity; I hadn't read a category in years, mainly because I thought all the good writers had moved on. Stupid me. Jo is a great storyteller, and the emotional realism she invests in her characters gets you in the heart every time. I struggle with that, so I admire and envy that kind of talent. Then there are her plots, which are so seamless and tight you can bounce quarters off them.

Kidnapped! is Jo Leigh's latest release, and I loved it for a number of reasons. It's so audacious, emotionally-charged and unpredictable that it leaves you breathless. You never know what's going to happen next in this novel. Technically speaking, the plotting in this one is insane; it demanded precise balancing in order for it to work, and she pulled it off without a single hitch. By the end I wasn't quite sure how she'd done it. I got so caught up in the story that I stopped paying attention to the mechanics.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name an author or novel you've read that taught you something, and what that something was (or, if you're still learning, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, September 7, 2007. I'll draw five names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners an unsigned copy of Kidnapped! by Jo Leigh, plus a surprise. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Writer Zen

A friend gave me a Zen desk calendar, probably in hopes of inspiring me every day. It's one of those blocky-types that displays one day per sheet, along with a quotation or saying that embraces all things Zen.

I love philosophy, and I love my friend, but for nine months this calendar has been pissing me off just about every day. It makes no sense. None. I don't get it. I've even saved some of the sayings and asked people. They don't get it either. For example:

January 8: "I know what the great cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world." -- Henry Miller

Giving up as a great cure. Sure. Somebody IM Sean Lindsay, will you? This is right up his alley.

February 2: "The night light is sooty -- a cold evening of snow." -- Etsujin

Sooty snow? Black snow? What?

February 18: "Do not linger about where the Buddha is, and where he is not, pass on." -- Zen saying

I swear, this was ripped off from that Go to Jail card from Monopoly. You know, do not pass Go, do not collect $200....

March 6: "Your soul isn't in your body; your body is in your soul!" -- Alan Watts

So tell me, does this skirt make my soul look big?

August 5: "When a man is instantly awakened, he comes back to his original mind." -- The Vimalakirti Sutra

When a man is instantly awakened, he usually has to take a whiz. Oh, wait, I get it now. Never mind.

August 18: "The whole world is you. Yet you keep thinking there is something else." -- Hsueh-Feng

If I'm the whole world, then who are all these other people? For that matter, who the heck are you?

I decided that next year I'm going to make my own Zen calendar. A Writer Zen calendar, because if anyone needs some Zen that works, it's us. Here are some of the sayings that I'm planning to put on mine:

January 1: While you sit and ponder the universe outside your window, I am mailing off my book proposal to your editor.

March 15: Your novel, it dwells in Library of Congress. Hatchet job review, it dwells on All is where it should be.

June 30: There, in your plot, a hole. See? Fix.

July 23: Where there is Hugo, Rita or Edgar, do not go. Where there is mystery chicken, do not eat. Where there is agent, editor, and cheap alcohol, do not drink.

September 6: They don't all hate you. Go and write.

September 7: Maybe two hate you. But only two, I promise. Could you write now?

September 8: All right. Fine. They all hate you. I hate you. Happy? Now go write something, or tomorrow we'll start talking about why we hate you.

Now it's your turn -- what saying would you put on your Writer Zen calendar?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Labor Day

No Monday 10 this week, folks. I'm going to spend Labor Day reorganizing part of my workspace by moving files, building wall shelves and rearranging some book cases (this is the PBW equivalent of bliss.)

If you're interested in doing something similar, Cottage Living has a nice piece on how editor Jessica Thuston made a few changes to brighten up her home office. For those of you who are looking for ideas on how to tidy up more efficiently, has a great page here packed with everyday cleaning tips.

Have a great Labor Day.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Resistance Reason #999

I wasn't going to write about this, but someone (you know who you are) suggested that it was a moral imperative, seeing as I was around the last time it happened, and my response basically got me blackballed from polite SF society for life.

About ten years ago I escaped from the Borg after the head drones created the WotC mess (for those who weren't around back then, read the third paragraph here. This was where it all started.) In the end the Borg made a financial deal with WotC on behalf of its membership that was not 100% supported by the membership, and I didn't want any part of it, so I quit. When they received my resignation, one of the board members actually called my house to browbeat and threaten me. It scared me because I was a rookie who didn't know any better, but it also convinced me that I'd made the right decision. Now it seems that the collective is at it again.

I'm not going to say I told you so. Much.

What an author chooses to publish for free on the internet is their decision (I would make sure to get a green light from the publisher for any work under contract so you don't end up in court.) I've published plenty of free stuff myself, I've been bootlegged, and I've had my issues with the Creative Commons crowd as well. Whatever my personal opinions, I'm never going to tell another author what they have to do with their work. Nor would I tolerate any writer or writer organization telling me what to do with mine.

I certainly would never remove their work from the internet without their expressed permission. Hello, this is like definition #1 under dumb in the dictionary.

I know this is a very weird concept, but writer organizations are supposed to support their membership. All the membership, not just the big names and Sacred Cows. I also understand the hysterics over bootlegging; some folks take exception to the virtual rabble despoiling all that net-virginal work. However, to use copyright law as an excuse to indulge in their own form of droit du seigneur is ridiculous and rather obscene.

I'm sure this will all be swept under the rug, the same way it was ten years ago, and the chief offenders punished for daring to stand up to the group. Excuse me for still hoping that it won't be, and that this time someone will be made to answer for their actions.


A friend sent me a link to a new Canadian band who took their name, Sygkenis, from my Darkyn books. They have a MySpace page here, and they'll be performing September 15, 2007 at Club Lambi, 4465 Saint-Laurent, Montreal, Quebec.

For me, this is like having a secret fantasy fulfilled. I only wish I could be there to see them perform. Break a leg, guys.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Relating back to this week's giveaway, I wanted to mention one more thing about keeping journals. One of my most prized possessions is my great-grandmother's journal, in which she talks about her family and domestic life just before the turn of the century. She also included photos of some of the soldiers she nursed when she was younger.

I don't think G-Grandma ever suspected her journal would survive for a hundred years to end up in my hands, or how fascinating her life would be to me, or I think she would have written more in her younger years. Or maybe she thought, "I'm just a nurse, not a soldier -- who would be interested in what I have to say about the Civil War?"

What seems so mundane to us now will eventually be history -- and no matter how well this era is documented by our leaders and academics, I think it's what's written by the common people who lived through it that means the most to future generations.

The winner of the RW: Book Making giveaway is Hanna. Hanna, when you get a chance, e-mail all the necessary name and shipping info to so I can get these goodies out to you.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas on what to put into handmade books.