Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sub Ops

Night Shade Books has open submissions for Eclipse Two, an "unthemed" SF anthology to be edited by Jonathan Strahan, submission period begins 02/01/08 and ends 02/29/08; length 2-10K with a preference of 7.5K, submit in rtf format, decent pay of .06 per word, electronic subs only (via

New York Habitat, "one of the foremost purveyors of furnished apartments in New York, Paris, London and The South of France" has three writer job ads on Craigslist NY, to write blog pieces on the French Riviera and Provence, London and New York City as it relates to their business; telecommuting okay, prefer candidates with firsthand knowledge of the specific geographical areas, pays $40 per article, position is ongoing, e-sub resume.

Samhain Publishing editor Angela James has posted a call for submissions for Samhain Publishing's 2008 Fall M√©nage and More themed anthology; deadline 5/15/08; length 24–30K, submit with a 2–5 page synopsis and (if you've never signed with Samhain) an intro/query letter; no payment terms listed but Samhain pays single-work authors 40% of cover price as royalties so it's probably decent (definitely inquire before signing, though), electronic subs only (via Brianna's Mommy)

Finally, for those of you who would are in the market for an agent, this month author Jordan Summers will be interviewing her excellent agent, Ginger Clark from Curtis Brown. Jordan has also generously opened the Q&A to her visitors, so if you'd like a chance to ask Ms. Clark a specific question, stop in at Jordan's place and post it here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


While we're talking about images this week, a few of you have asked where I get the pics for my e-book cover art. Most I make from my own photographs, paintings, digital art and works in other mediums. I've hired a few people to design cover art for special projects for me, too.

Very recently, however, I've been purchasing royalty-free photos for my e-book cover art from Dreamstime. I'm very impressed by the service and the quality of the photos I've purchased there. I absolutely love the site's search engine. You can also earn credits by uploading your own photos (subject to approval by Dreamstime) so if you're a great photographer it can become like a barter system. Some images are made available for free download every day, another bonus.

When you buy photos from a royalty-free service like Dreamstime, you need to read the terms and conditions of use very carefully. I was fine with all the terms, but I still wasn't sure about using Dreamstime's images on cover art for a promotional e-book. Although use in free/promotional items is permitted, an e-book has to be downloaded in .pdf format by the reader, which might qualify it as redistribution as they defined it; a definite no-no in their terms. So I used their online help form, explained what I wanted to do, and asked them if it was okay. Within 24 hours I received this answer:

Thank you for contacting us. It is acceptable with the regular royalty free license to use the images on e-book covers as long as you comply with our other terms (i.e. no sensitive material*, etc.) Feel free to contact us with any further questions.

Very quick and classy. I like that.

According to the site, Dreamstime has over 26,000 contributing photographers as well as 500,000 registered members. When you buy an image, you get to pick from more than two million images in their online archive. Given the range of styles, subjects and talent, there is probably something there for everyone. The site also offers a wide range of package deals for the subscriber/photo buyer, and while I rarely recommend a service you have to pay for, you can get Dreamstime photos for as little as twenty-nine cents each. You just can't beat that price.

*As defined in the section on unauthorized use -- trademarks, pornography, violation of a person's privacy, etc.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Battery Charge Ten

Ten Things to Jumpstart Your Muse

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads for viruses and other bugs before you dump them on your hard drive.

1. To be or not to be? If you need to answer that question, take a cruise around's BE Your Self site.

2. For those who like experimenting with new approaches to creation and problem-solving, Creating has a well-packed toolbox page of creativity tips and techniques.

3. Magic, like other unexpected contributions to our lives, happens. So do some interesting pieces on creativity over at Enchanted Mind.

4. I've been looking for an equivalent of Rough Draft for Mac, and I think I've found it: Glass Writer Pro offers a 30 day free trial of its very reasonably priced software, which "has features which are especially useful to writers who have to manage large amounts of text. If you're writing an epic novel with a large cast of characters, complex plot lines which you need to go back and refer to, then GWP2 is for you. Will your word processor allow you to see and edit two chapters at the same time?" (OS: Mac OS X)

5. Faster than a stationary bullet: The HalfBakery.

6. Imagination Engineering Software appears to be a mind-mapper or some sort, and has a free 30 day trial download (guiltware; love that term, guys.) They ask that you buy a downloadable companion e-book if you like the software (OS:Supports Windows 3.1x, 9x, Me, XP. Note: there is a minor installer glitch that happens on XP; check out the specific notes at the site on how to solve.)

7. You can test drive Tony Buzan's iMindMap software freely for seven days; it's touted as the only official mind-mapping tool that allows you to produce true MindMaps(TM) on a computer (despite the Mac-y name, the OS is cross-platform, and lists as okay for Windows, Mac, and Linux)

8. Hot rod your head over at's PhotoReading site.

9. This NaNoWriMo Resource Page has some good links to name randomizers and .pdf formatted character and plotting sheets.

10. For fun: Carrot brains, beware: PBW is a hammer! It moulds vegetables! Get your own surreal statement from The Prior-Art-O-Matic.

Monday, January 28, 2008

STET Please

Yarn Harlot, aka nonfiction author Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, has an informative post on correcting proofs and answering reader questions that made me laugh out loud (and thanks to Kaplooey Mom for the link.) If you check it out, be sure to read the part about color and colour.

Copyeditors should probably get combat pay for working on my manuscripts. I seriously dislike ellipses (and if you see them appear more than twice in one of my books, an editor or copyeditor likely put them there.) I coin words freely, disdain ordinary names and draw on archaic terms whenever I feel like it, so my style sheets tend to be small novels on their own. I echo and capitalize words incessantly, and I overuse and abuse pronouns in dialogue tags. And we just won't talk about my penchant for beginning sentences with conjunctions. Story is more important to me than anything, and I hated nearly every English teacher I had in school, so when I'm writing I will happily shove any inconvenient grammar rule or accepted writing practice out of my way.

That said, my favorite copyeditors are the ones who are unrelenting. They're tough on me and don't let anything slide. I learn from copy-edits like that. If the correction is very obvious and really stings, I'll try to remember it when I'm writing my next novel (although I'll probably never get the whole lay-lie thing burned into my brain.)

I don't think I'm the worst author in the world to copy-edit, but I might be runner up and capable of carrying out the duties should s/he be unable to submit a manuscript. I doubt my publishers' copyeditors are drawing straws to see who has to work on one of my books (yet) but I could probably be a bit nicer to them when I correct a proof and pen please next to my STETs. If only to keep my author pic off the NAL copyeditor lounge dartboard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Face Generator

While I was hunting around for some links to go with the character cards post, I came across the Morphases Editor, an online composite face generator. I put a link in comments, but this one is so interesting and potentially helpful in creating character portraits that I thought I'd put up a finished example, too, to show you all what can be done with it:

Will Scarlet, composite face made online with Morphases Editor

This is something like my vision of my character Will Scarlet. I took elements from five different faces and manipulated them to generate the composite, so it's my creation and does not require a model's release form for me to use the image. If I decided to use this in a promotional character card, it would need more work -- I'd like to run it through photoshop to clean up the image, change the length of his hair, even out his skin tone, pack up those dark bags under his eyes and otherwise fiddle with it -- but it's a very good place to start.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Character Cards

I've been looking around for a character worksheet or template that would be useful and easy for every one to use, no matter where they are with their story. A lightbulb went off when my son was talking about the Yu-Gi-Oh tournament he's playing in this weekend: trading cards. We have them for RPGs, baseball players and enemies of the Bush admnistration, why not fictional characters?

What better way to remember important character stats?

I made this one in a hurry with an online Trading Card Maker, but I imagine you could come up with your own design, images, links to your web site, ISBN#'s and so forth. You authors out there, this would be a very unique and inexpensive way to do promo on your series novels or backlist; something you could hand out like bookmarks but way more fun.

What do you all think? Also, could we use these for something other than characters?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Test Drive Ten

Ten Things for the Demo/Free/Free Trial/Shareware Lovers

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

1. Dr. Louis Crew from Rutgers University has an entire page of shareware for writers which he makes available as freeware, too. Of special note for those of us who are grammar-challenged: Styled, which "monitors sentence length, word length, punctuation, syntax, weak verbs, and nominalization. It reports to disk files which you can use when you edit. It also graphs and lists to the screen" (OS: looks like Windows only, but correct me if I'm wrong in comments.)

2. Celtx bills itself as "the world's first fully integrated solution for media pre-production and collaboration. It replaces old fashioned 'paper, pen & binder' media creation with a digital approach to writing and organizing that's more complete, simpler to work with, and easier to share." Appears to be freeware but don't hold me to that. Celtx also has an interesting project site where Celtx users hang out, post work and compare notes. Although primarily designed for visual media, this one might work as a story mapper and/or a virtual whiteboard for writers (OS: Looks like Windows but I couldn't find a definite system requirement section or notation anywhere. If anyone knows, please give us a heads-up in comments.)

3. Consideo Modeler mind-mapping freeware allows you to "visualize, explore, evaluate, communicate and foresee intuitively the complex connections in any field. As easy to use as mindmapping though more powerful you can model you everyday's decisions" (OS: Windows, Linux, Mac OSX)

4. Liquid Story Binder XE provides a fully functional 30 trial download of its shareware, that is a "uniquely designed word processor for professional and aspiring authors, poets, and novelists. Writing software for those who require the editing ability of a commercial text editor as well as a document tracking system. It is for those who want the freedom to create, outline and revise but are tired of losing track of their work" (OS: Windows XP, Vista)

5. Vincenzo Ciancia's PDF200 is not a .pdf editor, but it does allow you to "import pdf files in openoffice. It takes a pdf in input, and exports an openoffice presentation where each page of the original document is put as an high-resolution image. It supports transparency and color. The pdf exporting facility of allows you to use it as a "free pdf editor", even if documents will get bigger and will have worse quality" (OS: Linux, may run in Windows and Mac, see requirements)

6. Power Writer has a free demo download to show you how it can "jump from outline to manuscript, from research to character development then back to your manuscript again all without ever losing a beat" (OS: "Windows 95 or better and will run fine on any operating system through Windows XP. Macintosh programs typically require a PowerPC CPU running OS 8.1 or better unless otherwise specified")

7. Summarizer is "a simple freeware Cocoa application that allows you to breakdown the structure of any book or text that is available electronically. Load the book, go through it and add separator markers, then just hit "Summarize". A list of sections along with corresponding word counts will be generated, ready for you to enter a summary for each. You can import the results into Scrivener should you wish to emulate the structure of your favourite book in your own writing." (OS: Mac OS X Tiger 10.4)

8. The free trial version of TextAloud "reads text from email, web pages, reports and more, aloud on your PC. TextAloud can also save your daily reading to MP3 or Windows Media files ready for playback on your iPod, PocketPC, or even on your TV with Tivo's Home Media Option" (OS:Win 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista)

9. Thinking Rock freeware "to collect your thoughts and process them into actions, projects, information or future possibilities. Actions can be done by you, delegated to someone else or scheduled for a particular date. Projects can be organised with ordered actions and sub-projects. You can review all of your actions, projects and other information quickly and easily to see what you need to do or to choose what you want to do at a particular time" (OS: Windows, Linux, Mac)

10. Writers Blocks shareware offers a fully functional free trial download that "will help you pull together your ideas, notes, and research for your complex writing projects. Use blocks to capture, organize, outline, and structure your documents" (OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 2000, Windows 98, Windows ME)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Novel GPS

When my nephew came to visit us this past weekend, he drove up in his new Chevy doolie dually*, which among other things has one of those talking GPS devices that tell you where you are, where things are, when to turn, alternate routes around traffic jams and so forth. My guy loved it, and my kids thought it was the coolest thing ever.

The GPS didn't do much for me. I imagine it's very helpful to people who are on the road a lot in strange places, and to be honest my nephew never got lost once while he was up here. But what it really reminded me of that nerve-wracking time during my teen driving years with my dad riding shotgun in the car and barking out directions at me (Tom is somewhere in L.A. laughing right now because I taught him to drive and did the same thing to him during his rookie year behind the wheel.)

Technology is definitely cool, but you know, I still prefer reading maps and learning landmarks and making my own way through the world. I even like getting lost on occasion, because finding my way back to where I'm going is a little adventure.

We often refer to writing as a journey, and the story as a vehicle, so that got me thinking about what guides us when we're behind the novel wheel. At first the internal editor tries to stomp on the brakes every three sentences, but once you tell that bitch to shut up and make her sit in the back seat, you can work your way through the pages without any U-turns.

Every book is new territory for a writer, even when you're revisiting old, familiar friends. It doesn't matter how many times you've made the trip, it's different every time. Whenever I start a novel, a small part of me wonders if I can make it through to the end without getting sidetracked, road-blocked or lost. Arriving at the end of the trip is still always a nice, gratifying surprise.

I don't think I have a muse or a guide or a nag riding shotgun, but I get feelings while I'm writing that affect how I write. The most obvious one is what regulates my pacing -- it's not a voice that says Come on, come on, you're taking forever or Whoa, go any faster and you'll blow out their optic nerves, but it's almost like that. The flow of the words onto the page doesn't feel right, and I become aware that I'm crawling or teleporting my way through the prose.

Other novel GPS blips for me are problems with description, dialogue, action and character interaction. As I'm writing I can feel the scene turning bland and colorless or gaudy and loud, silent or noisy, motionless or confusing, or filled with stick or wallpaper people. Rather than backtrack, I'll insert notes to myself for the editing phase, i.e.: [more color here] [trim down conversation] [too much introspection/Phillipe] [get rid of hovering waiter] and move on.

Maybe someday they'll invent a novel GPS we can stick on our computers that tell us all these things to help us improve the quality of our stories while we're in the process of writing them. Until then we'll have to be content with finding our own way, making our own maps, learning the landmarks and even getting lost a little now and then. Sure, we may not get there as fast or as smoothly, but we won't have to give up that unexpected, pleasant feeling of accomplishment when we arrive.

Have any of you a story or novel GPS that keeps you on track? What does yours tell you?

*A very big pickup truck with two sets of two tires in the back. Great for hauling things like boats, ATVs, trailers, etc. (thanks to Rob in Denver for the correct spelling.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sub Ops

CatsCurious Press is now open until 3/31/08 to submissions for "all well-written, humorous fairy tale re-tellings! But there's a catch -- these stories must be written from ONE POV only... the protagonist's." Length 5-10K, emphasis on humor and POV requirement, decent pay, guidelines here, electronic subs only.

Coach's Midnight Diner, a hardboiled antho of horror, crime, detective, paranormal and weird fiction with a Christian slant, is now open to submission until 5/01/08. Length to 10K, contributor copy and chance at Editor's Choice (three stories will be picked and the writers awarded $100), guidelines and categorizations table here, special online upload submission instructions here (This one barely qualifies as a paying market, but we rarely see a Christian-slanted antho like this, so I thought it would be of interest to the unconventional/inspirational writers out there.)

Wolfsinger Publications will be open to submission for WolfSong, a wolf fiction-themed antho, from 2/01/08-5/01/08, length 2-7.5K, pay is $5 advance and 50% royalty split with authors, guidelines here, electronic subs only.

All of the sub ops above were found while sifting through the market listings at Ralan's place.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Title Seven

My editor and I have passed around the alternate title possibility list for Rob's book and come up with a final pick. Although nothing is absolute until the cover flats are printed, I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that Darkyn book seven, to be released in January '09, will be titled Stay the Night.

Book seven is the last Darkyn novel I have under contract. Usually this is the point where a writer like me has to decide whether to continue the series, go on a short sabbatical and do something else, or let it end there. However, I created the Darkyn universe to be, like StarDoc, open-ended, which means I can pretty much keep writing it as long as I like -- or end it whenever I want.

Right now I'm thinking that five years and seven novels is a respectable run for a series like this, and maybe it's time to do something else.

When you have a successful series, the temptation is to stick with what works versus trying something new. This is true of writers as well as publishers, and Darkyn is the most successful series of my career to date. But there are also other considerations that (in my view, anyway) are more important than the Almighty Buck. Being around to finish what I started, for one thing. There's nothing wrong with me, other than I'm not a kid anymore, but anything can happen. I guess since Robert Jordan passed away I've been thinking more and more about this kind of thing.

We talked about that and other factors when I was debating the same thing about the StarDoc finale. If I can impose on you all again, what do you think about the end of the Darkyn series? If you were in my place, would you keep it going, take a sabbatical, or end it with book seven?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weeding Words

Over at Storytelling, Rosina Lippi has an interesting post about descriptive words overused by writers. I'm probably guilty of a whole list of those (off the top of my head: whole, great, terrific, probably and wonderful.)

I tend to notice more the object words I overuse. Like my obsession with doors. If I'm not careful, a door will sprout up like crab grass every couple of pages in my story. As will bodies of water, quilts, window sills, paintings or art of some kind, kitchen tables and (lately) flower arrangements. But mostly I'm plagued by doors.

I can't say exactly why my subconscious keeps trying to add these weed words to every scene. I like doors because they are a focal point in any room and part of the setting that actually does something. Bodies of water, well, I'm a girl who grew up near some of the nicest beaches in the country; that likely has something to do with it. I use window sill imagery in a lot of my poetry, that's a cross-over weed word. The rest are just things I find comforting, I guess.

I always spot my weed words after the book is published, but not always before. During the editing phase I try to remember to weed them out with Word's find and replace tool, but even then I'm a bit blind to them or forget to look for them. You can tell when I've rushed too much on editing one of my novels because of the thirty or more door references in the story.

I used to have a weed words list, but last year I filed it away in a place where I wouldn't forget it and have since forgot where that is. I think I'll make a new one and pin it to the wall or something. You writers out there, what are some of your weed words? How do you all deal with keeping them from spreading from scene to scene?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Beth Miller from Writers House, a delightful woman who puts up with my nonsense on a regular basis, gave an informative online interview and Q&A here. She offers a lot of excellent tips that will be valuable to those of you who are looking for an agent. (Beth does lovely things for her authors like e-mailing me today to let me know that Evermore hit the Times extended list again; it came in at #30 this time around.)

I'm juggling bowling balls and chainsaws this week. We've got finals, science projects to turn in, family in the hospital (nothing serious) to visit and incoming weekend guests to welcome. Somewhere in there is a vet appointment for the pup and an eye exam for me. Not at the vet, but maybe I can talk him into doing it to save me some road time. I mean, I just have to look at a chart and tell him what letters I see, right? And I usually don't bite.

The results of my daughter's science project experiments proved that Puffs Ultra is the strongest facial tissue wet or dry on the market, and Puffs Plus Lotion is the softest. Yes, you heard it here first. We also now have enough boxes of tissues here to mop up every nose in America, Canada and possibly Mexico.

If your offspring are knocking out the science project this week and need to put a bar (or other) graph on their board, the National Center for Educational Statistics has a kid-friendly Create A Graph generator that makes beautiful, correctable, printable graphs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coming Soon

In addition to writing series novels, I like to write short story series. The Darkyn started out as a trilogy of short stories, as it happens, that I wrote to test drive the Kyn universe for me and my readers.

A lot of these series stories are scattered through my old web site collections; some have never been read and are sitting in folders in my filing cabinet. Very often a reader will write to me about one story (usually to ask for more) and never realize there are already more out there in different e-books.

To organize things better for the readers, and to add some stories that have never been published, I'm going to edit and repackage each of my short story series and post them to my account over at Scribd. *Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

The first will be the one I get the most reader requests on:

Lunar Marshall, The Holly Noriko Stories by S.L. Viehl

Like the switchover of my e-books to Scribd, this is going to take some time, but I think it will end a lot of confusion and give the readers all the stories in one place.

Lots of Stars

So far no 1-star reviews have posted on for Evermore, so the names of everyone who participated in last week's 1-star pool contest went into the magic hat. The winner is:

JC Coy

JC, when you have a chance, send your ship-to address to, and I'll get your prize out to you. You'll also be on the mailing list for an ARC of Twilight Fall.

Thanks to everyone for joining in.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cover Art Hell

You have this dream of the beautiful cover art that will someday grace your novel. If you're artistic, you sketch or paint or scrapbook fanciful mockups of it. If you're not, you still create them in your mind. If it's your first novel, Da Vinci likely could never equal the masterpiece of cover art in your imagination.

Nothing, however, can equal the dream of the moment you first see what your publisher has wrapped around your story. You've been fretting about it for months, if not years, and at last the day has arrived. It's here. Here for all of publishing and the world to admire, and of course they're going to. Because it's going to be perfectly executed, exquisitely tasteful and wholly appropriate for the book.

And then? You wake up and smell the rainbow transvestite dolphin.

Books are identified by the general public with the author, not the editor or the publisher. The average writer has little to zero input or control over what's slapped on their cover, yet when the art goes horribly wrong, it's the writer who takes it on the chin and in the heart. And it takes a lot of spine for an author to voluntarily post an image of a novel in cover art hell for all the internet world to see.

During my rookie year I was told that writers have two options when it comes to cover art: 1) Never complain about anything they put on your novel, and 2) Never complain about anything they put on your novel. Although I've mellowed quite a bit in my old crone years and try to be more diplomatic when I pass along my opinion of my cover art, I do give my opinion. Even when I express concern for the lacerations it may inflict on my readers' corneas.

One insider tip: when an editor shows you a lot of cover art examples and then asks your honest opinion of them? Find out if she likes them first before you answer the question.

Bad cover art is not the end of the world. Most pro writers become resigned to having stories regularly sent to cover art hell as part of the job. If nothing else, it's best to laugh at it and move on. Maybe to a cave in Tibet where no one knows you wrote the book.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Witch Hunts

One of the few pieces of literature they threw at me in high school that actually helped me understand the human condition was The Crucible, a play by Pulitzer-prize winner Arthur Miller. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it.

Miller wrote of the Salem witch trials of 1692, not a very bright moment in the history of our country, to illustrate the harm being done by Senator Joseph McCarthy and The House Un-American Activities Committee during their tireless pursuit of Americans they believed to have pro-Communist sympathies. Miller helped me understand why fear of persecution encourages group hostility, and results in condoning outrageous things like burning women at the stake simply because someone's cow dropped dead.

Miller always believed that he had been targeted by the HUAC because he refused to allow a member of the committee to be photographed with his wife, Marilyn Monroe. Hell hath no fury like a rebuffed fan, I suppose. His subsequent refusal to cooperate with the HUAC -- he wouldn't give them a list of names of writers they wanted -- resulted in him being labeled a pro-Communist.

Imagine, losing your writing career because you wouldn't pick up a torch and set another helpless writer on fire in front of a screaming mob. Not that something like that could ever happen or even be suggested in today's enlightened, fair-minded and intelligent publishing industry.

There is no doubt that Arthur Miller's silence cost him, because one of the most effective group control tactics is to use fear of persecution: the "If you're not with us, you're against us" threat of reprisal. He took a big risk, refused to cooperate with the HUAC, and was made into an example by them, at least until a judge overturned the unfair conviction in 1958.

When the president finally shut down Joe McCarthy and the committee, I imagine Arthur Miller was one of the few people involved who didn't have to wash the writer soot from his hands, bury the burned-out torches and pretend it never happened. His hands stayed clean.

Thank heavens we no longer live in the era of witch hunts, of the women or writer variety.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Every January I put together my writing plan for the year and fill out my desk planner. I start by marking off birthdays, holidays, friends visiting, family plans and personal stuff. They have nothing to do with writing, but they still come first.

Contracted work comes next, and I block off an appropriate amount of time for writing and editing each book I've sold. Work not under contract but that I'm fairly sure I will sell and have to write this year (such as future novels for my active series) gets the next chunk of my time.

From that point, the remainder of the year is open for on-spec work, checking on open subs, writing freebies and special or private projects that may or may not involve enriching uranium. In some cases this is easy to schedule, like the free stories I want to post during the lag time between releases, or finishing projects related to particular dates or holidays, like the virtual workshops I have over the summer.

Once all that is penciled onto the planner, I look at the year and start shifting things that conflict or collide with family stuff, deadlines, release dates and that vaguely familiar concept I think I used to do called my annual vacation. Occasionally when I've stacked the schedule too heavily I'll cross out the non-paying projects to give myself a little breathing room.

The planner then goes in my office, where it sits open to the current date on my desk and waits for me to check it every morning when I write my private journal entries, letters, pay bills, etc. It also comes in handy when someone from New York calls and asks, "Can you do this by this date?"

I've only misplaced my planner once, during a household move, but after witnessing my reaction my guy and the kids searched ceaselessly until they found it. My guy then offered to chain it to my wrist or nail it to the top of my desk. All that because I shrieked a few times, tore out a little hair and kicked a few boxes into orbit. What can I say? I'm very attached to that planner.

Planning an entire writing year in advance won't work for everyone, especially writers who need more spontaneity to be creative, but it keeps me happy and I feel better knowing what my workload is. After January 1st most book stores have 2008 calendars and planners marked down 50-75%, so if you'd like to do something similar you can get a nice one for a couple of bucks.

One more plannering secret: if you can manage it, leave a few days to one week blank every quarter to create some space for the unexpected. I always end up needing the extra time for something, and if it's there already, I can add in a job or project without piling up more demands on my prescheduled time.

Friday, January 11, 2008

More News

My latest proposal got a green light, so Darkyn book seven will feature Robin from Evermore as the Kyn protagonist. The working title is still Rob Forever, but that will definitely be changing in the near future. And, if all goes well, it will likely be released in January 2009.

The pitch for this particular novel involved submitting a formal synopsis and taking two phone calls to discuss it. I was very glad I had my series notebook (like a novel notebook, although more like an encyclopedia in format) on my desk while I was talking to the editor. Sometimes series proposals require you to reference back to details from earlier books, something that isn't too tough at book two but can be a real bear at book seven. As a series grows, just keeping correct running character name, status, backstory and appears-in lists is a challenge. Doing it over the phone and off the top of your head is nearly impossible.

I prefer written proposals to verbal pitches because you have time to think things through, work them out and polish them up before you put them in front of an editor. Verbal pitches often fluster me because I'm more comfortable on paper versus the phone. You never know when an editor will put you on the spot with unexpected questions during a telephone pitch, either. You can be talking about book A, and she/he may ask something like, "So who do you see as the protagonists for book B, C and D?"

I know some writers prepare index cards for pitching, and I tried that at a couple of conference editor appointments during my first years in the biz, but I never felt comfortable with handling the cards. Too nervous, I suppose. I always forgot to glance casually at the ones that I didn't drop while shuffling. And God forbid the editor ask me something that wasn't on the cards.

Have you guys any special methods or memory boosters that help you with verbal pitches and/or written proposals? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Lists

The news I hinted at is that Evermore is doing quite well, thanks to everyone who went out and purchased it. Apparently everyone did, as the book debuted as:

#7 on Border's and B&N's romance bestseller lists
#16 on Border's Group overall fiction mass market paperback list
#22 on B&N's overall fiction mass market paperback list
#23 on B&N's overall mass market paperback list
#96 on USA Today bestseller list (that's everything, hardcover, trade & mm)

And, deja vu, Evermore will come in at #21 on the next New York Times extended bestseller list.

How to say this without sobbing all over you guys and the blog, now that's the tricky part. For a writer, these are the moments when you put on your ratty old bathrobe, stuff some Kleenex in the pocket and curl up in your favorite chair. You hug your knees and think and shake your head a lot. And while you stare at your shins and try to fathom it all, you also wonder if the Times has any idea that you haven't shaved your legs since last Tuesday.

Okay, if you're me.

To everyone who took the time, made the effort and invested in Evermore, thank you.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Until Later Ten

I've been offline getting the kids back to school, writing and talking to the powers that be. All is well at Casa PBW, just somewhat chaotic and release-week busy. I may have some news to pass along later today, but until then:

Ten Things That Won't Cost a Cent

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

1. 3D Canvas is a "real-time 3D modeling and animation tool that incorporates an intuitive drag-and-drop approach to 3D modeling" (OS: Win 2000/XP/Vista)

2. A-PDF Text Extractor is a "utility designed to extract text from Adobe PDF files for use in other applications. The program is a standalone application. No Adobe Acrobat needed" (OS: Windows 98/NT4/Me/2000/XP)

3. Inside Clipboard allows you to see and save the contents of your clipboard (OS: Win 98/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3/Vista)

4. IQ-Notes is a virtual sticky notes freeware (OS: Windows XP/Vista)

5. Magical Glass is a screen magnifier that moves along with your cursor; helps with editing and seeing small details -- this one got a thumbs up from my pal Tom (OS: Win 9x/ME/2K/NT/XP)

6. Rendera is "a different kind of painting package. Almost any combination of tool, stroke, blender, cloning, wrapping, etc can be combined, saving lots of time in doing things like photo retouching or seamless tile production" (OS: Windows XP)

7. Total Text Container stores "information, documentation, notes, passwords, images, bookmarks, contacts, Spreadsheet, calendar events & tasks, import/export Google iCal files. Powerfull Multi layer encryption, portable, xml database, all in one powerful user friendly PIM app" (OS: Win 2K/XP/2K3)

8. Scan2PDF allows you to scan documents and save them in .pdf format -- for those of you like me with a lot of old handwritten stuff that you might want to save on disc but not spend the rest of your life typing it up, this might be a real help (OS: Win 98/2000/XP/Vista)

9. Transfz is "an integrated search agent" that "allows the user to launch online searches from any document or application on both the desktop and the web" -- if this works the way I think it does, this could help with fact-checking while you're working on the whip (OS: Win 2000/XP/Vista)

10. Get information about any registered domain with WhoIsThisDomain (OS: Win 98/ME/2K/XP/2K3)

Monday, January 07, 2008

The 1-Star Pool

It seems that as of this hour Evermore has snagged seven straight 5-star reviews on, something that to my knowledge hasn't ever happened with any of my public work.

Naturally a friend and I had to make a charity bet on when the first 1-star review would show up, because we're writers, we have no lives and that's the sort of thing we do to amuse ourselves.

I thought you guys might want to get in on the betting pool this time, too. If you're game, read the rules below* and then guess the position number of the first 1-star review on for Evermore (or if you're not sure what I mean, pick a number from 8 to infinity) by midnight EST on January 14, 2008. I will draw one name at random from everyone who chooses the correct position number and send the winner a signed copy of Evermore. As a bonus incentive, I will also add the winner's name to the ARC mailing list for Twilight Fall. This contest is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*Rule #1: Post only one guess. Anyone who posts multiple guesses will be tossed out of the contest.

Rule #2: The participants agree on their honor not to go over to and post a 1-star review in order to influence the contest. This goes for your friends, too.

Rule #3: If by some bizarre chance no 1-star review for Evermore posts on by 1/14/2008, and I don't drop dead of a heart attack, I'll draw the name of the winner from everyone who participates.


John sat in front of his computer and adjusted the microphone in front of his mouth. "I met Marcia on a Tuesday in June," he told his voice recognition software program, which typed the words onto the screen for him. "Strike that. I met Marcia at a Halloween party in October."

"Honey, I'm coming up." Marcia climbed the short flight of stairs to John's library, and ignored the stacks of books partially blocking the entrance. Why the man had to own so many books was beyond her. She pushed back her Trane ballcap to peer down at him. "Want me to grill some lamb tonight?"

John's expression turned as pained as his bad knee felt. "Sure, that'll be fine. If I'm not down put mine on a covered plate in the microwave."

"But last night you said you were going vegan because you're too fat," Marcia reminded him.

"Then forget what I said and eat mine and yours, and I'll have a salad later." John saw his words show up on the screen and ordered the VRS to turn off the microphone. He would have done it belatedly, but he felt an unexpected, deep and abiding aversion to using the adverb.

Marcia, having snared his attention, was in no hurry to leave. "You sure about that?"

"Sweetheart," John said, resisting an urge to drag her downstairs and have sex with her on the back of his Harley, "we agreed that two to four p.m. on Saturdays is my working time. Working time is alone time."

"Uh-huh." Marcia leaned over his shoulder to read the screen. "And you're working on catching that diamond-snitching demon, or does this just look like you're writing your weblog to lull him into a false sense of security?"

"My weblog is part of my work, and a very good ruse to keep the demon guessing. Like my quilting, for example." John beamed at her. "Did you see the new one? I'm basting it on the diningroom table."

Marcia ran a hand through her short gray hair, which had receded several inches. "I thought my hair was brown, and that thing on the table was a new tablecloth."

"What?" John favored his good knee as he got out of the chair. "How can you mistake a quilt for a tablecloth?"

"I don't know, but the kids are eating pizza on it." Marcia belatedly recalled that she and John had no children, and then kicked herself for using belatedly. "The kids from next door, I mean."

"Oh, honey." John sighed. "I can't bleach that top, not with all the crimson and pine patchwork in it. I'll never get the sauce stains out of that white polished cotton in the sashing, not even if I use my Tide pen." He felt confused by some of his words. "What's sashing?"

Marcia shrugged. "Something you put around the waist of a dress. And when did we start feeding the kids next door pizza?" When John didn't answer, she glanced up. "Temperance? We're a little lost here. What happened to the diamond, and the diamond-thieving demon, and the library downstairs with the pukey green wall paper?"

"That wallpaper was a lovely sage green," John said, sniffing. "Actually, now that you mention it, I'm rather puzzled about that Trane hat you're wearing. And why you're grilling, of all things. You couldn't boil water in Chapter Three." He lifted his gaze. "Are you revising the story again, All-Knowing and All-Seeing One?"

"Well, sort of," Temperance the Story Goddess answered in her disembodied fashion. "I went to a writing workshop yesterday. The speaker said I have to endow you both with aspects of my life, personality and of those I love in order to lend more authenticity to the story. You know, write what I know. And not to use any adverbs. Adverbs suck."

"I see." John looked down at his short, wide feet. "Would that be the reason I'm wearing pink bunny slippers?"

Marcia scratched the bristles on her chin. "And why I have a five o'clock shadow, and this unbelievably strong urge to go and change the oil on John's pickup truck? The unbelievably is an adjective, by the way."

"Truck?" John yelped. "What happened to my Beemer?"

"It turned into the truck about an hour ago," Marcia said. "About the same time the story got really dull, you became a writer and I starting acquiring some very odd gender characteristics." She suppressed a small belch and scratched her tummy. "Temp, you gotta do something about this before I start peeing standing up."

"Like give us back all the exciting parts of the story," John added.

Lightning struck an oak tree outside the house. "Are you saying that my realism, my authenticity, and my guy and I are boring?"

John looked at Marcia, who nodded. They both answered with, "Yep."

"I damn it. I knew that workshop was nothing but baloney." The loft vanished, along with John's aches and pains and Marcia's ballcap and body hair. The two found themselves back in the library, surrounded by the familiar hideousness of the wallpaper and antique furnishings that Temperance could never afford. On John's desk sat the black velvet pouch containing the mystic rhinestone.

Marcia folded her arms. "Temperance."

On John's desk appeared another black velvet pouch, this one containing the mystic diamond.

John eyed his handmade Italian leather shoes which, while more exciting and exotic, would never be as comfortable as the bunny slippers he had loved and lost. "So I take it we're not belatedly having unbelievably good sex on the back of the motorcycle, then?"

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mystery Mark

A bookmark mystery fell into my lap -- literally -- over the weekend. While I was cleaning out a closet, I decided to trash a lot of old military paperwork I've lugged around for the last thirty years. While sorting through paystubs, I found a couple of old tourist pamphlets. When I opened one, this fell out:

It's a 1-5/8" X 7" bookmark for Book Works, a book shop I used to hang out at in Pacific Grove when I was stationed in California. On the back is a lovely little letter, written by a polite fellow named Tom:

Shannon -- I have marked a few points of personal interest herein, however I encourage you to explore a bit through all the galleries. My home address is below. Please do drop me a line once you have made an excursion or two. I am glad of the chance of pointing a fellow art-lover in the direction of local culture. Please write! Glad I met you! -- Tom

I didn't know a Shannon in those days, and my Tom lived in L.A. at the time, so they're not friends of mine. Odds are that I found it in a used book I bought and tucked it away, intending to write to Tom, who included his full name and address on the bookmark for Shannon. Likely I got my orders soon after that, started packing to go and in the rush forgot about it. It's been mixed in with my DOD paperwork ever since.

Tom probably doesn't live at this address any longer (he's not listed in the white pages, anyway.) Still, I'm going to write a letter and see if he is, and let him know what became of his bookmark (and apologize for taking thirty years to let him know.) Maybe Shannon will write back and finish the story.

What do you do when you find stuff like this in books?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Scribd Fun

*Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

While I'm uploading my stories to Scribd, I've been looking around and finding some very fun stuff from the other members, like Trip's Hilarious Response to MIT Letter.

I think Scribd has a lot of potential as a tool for writers. It's not just the free storage and opportunity to reach new readers; I think it could be like a MySpace place specifically for writers and readers. More on that as I poke around, get a feel for the place and think about it some more.

I'd also like to thank everyone for the many generous comments, e-mails, blog posts and links you've done for Evermore. The first couple of days after a book hits the shelves are always stressful, no matter how many novels you've written, but you guys chased off my new release week jitters before I had to start popping TUMs.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


*Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

One of my goals for January is to copy all of my online e-books over to This puts them all in one place versus scattered over six different FTP accounts, makes them available to interested Scribd readers, and creates a kind of virtual story vault for these, future and even some private work.

This is my Scribd account page, and there are a couple of things I like about it. I can flag stories with graphic content as adult, which I think is important when you store it at a public site like this. You see the cover art (as long as it's the first page of the document) next to the title and description, and you can categorize and tag your work as you see fit. Three more nice perks are that you can upload a profile pic, a link to your blog or web site, and do that "friend" thing with other Scribd users.

I am having some problems with directly uploading, as Scribd and my computer don't seem to like each other much (Scribd can't seem to convert anything I upload from my hard drive successfully.) Happily, there's an option to "slurp" (Scribd's term, not mine) the stories from the online URLs where they're presently parked, and that's worked fine.

If this works out, this will be where all my free stories go in the future. Have any of you guys got Scribd accounts? If you've got a minute, give us a link in comments, and tell us how you like the service.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Evermore Arrives

In stores today nationwide

Evermore, my fifth Darkyn novel, has made it to the shelves. If you'd like to read an excerpt, Borders Group is very kindly hosting one here along with a letter I wrote for their readers here.

I've never been very good at the buy my freaking book thing, obviously. But if you happen to like dark fantasy or vampire fiction, and you have a couple of bucks left on a bookstore gift card from the holidays, I hope you'll pick up Evermore.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome 2008

To kick off the new year, I have the final story in the Juliana/Neal/Shamaras trilogy, which began with Worthy and Willing:

Wanted by Lynn Viehl

I wish you all a safe, happy and productive 2008.