Friday, February 29, 2008

Blaze Bonanza

I went to the bookstore today to pick up among other things Alison Kent's latest Blaze release. As I was looking through the titles, other familiar names started jumping off the shelf and smacking me in the head. Turns out that in addition to Alison, Jo Leigh, Jordan Summers and Stephanie Tyler all have new Blaze releases out this month.

What are the odds of seeing four blogpals, all with new books, all published under the same imprint, all hit the same shelf at the exact same time? I don't know, either, but I feel like someone at Harlequin wants me to be very happy.

Tex Appeal is actually a trio of stories by Alison Kent, Kimberly Raye and Cara Summers. I don't think I've ever read a Blaze trilogy before, and romance short stories are tough to write. The stories are about some of our favorite heroes, cowboys, so I'm looking forward to seeing what these three ladies have delivered.

Coming Soon by Jo Leigh is a novel set in the very hot Hush hotel from the Do Not Disturb line, one of my favorite Blaze miniseries. Who wouldn't love a hotel that caters to your private fantasies? Just imagine the room service menu. Or what's stocked in the each room's armoire. Jo never disappoints, so I know this one will be a great read.

Off Limits is Jordan Summers' first release for Blaze. As soon as I saw it I remembered back to the day she posted about selling this book, and then I teared up. When a writer friend who works as hard and cares as much about writing as Jordan does gets on the shelf, I do get a little emotional. I love the cover art for this one, too. It's both provocative and lovely, which suits Jordan's writing style perfectly.

Beyond His Control by Stephanie Tyler features one of her much-loved Navy SEAL heroes. I admit it, I love her guys. Seeing Stephanie in print also takes me back to the days when I first started PBW and (virtually) met her and so many other new young writers pursuing publication. Watching this next generation of writers turn pro is beyond cool.

I've got plenty to read now, so thank you, Harlequin.

I'd like to celebrate my blogpals' releases with a giveaway, so if you want a chance to read these novels, in comments to this post list a link or URL for any writer weblog that you enjoy visiting (or, if you can't pick a favorite, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, March 1st, 2008. I'll draw four names from all those who participate and send the winners unsigned copies of Tex Appeal by Alison Kent, Kimberly Raye and Cara Summers, Coming Soon by Jo Leigh, Off Limits by Jordan Summers, Beyond His Control by Stephanie Tyler, plus a surprise. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Real Writing Awards

The endless glam of being a writer just took another hit; seems that the Quill Awards are history. Ah, well, it was nice while it lasted, wasn't it? Maybe they'll create something to replace it that recognizes the achievements of the working writer, such as:

The Marquis de Sade Statue: for most rejections endured in a one-year period

The Oliver Twist Trophy: for smallest advance check received by a full-time writer.

The Helen Keller Cross: for maintaining membership in a writer organization for more than one year.

The Phoenix Ribbon: for continuing to write after being dumped by a publisher.

The Maalox Plaque: for continuing to write after being dumped by an agent.

The Silver Trash Can: for throwing away up to 20 manuscript pages of lousy writing.

The Golden Valium: for throwing away up to 100 manuscript pages of lousy writing.

The Diamond Therapist's Couch: for throwing away an entire lousy manuscript of 101 pages or more.

The PBW Medal of Honor: for burning all copies, disk and manuscript, of the Book of Your Heart manuscript, in your backyard, and resisting the urge to sift through the ashes or ask your friend Lisa if she still has those chapters from it you asked her to read last February.

If you could create an award for working writers, what would you call it, and who would qualify?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dancing with Story

While sorting through some old boxes of writing, I found an English term paper I wrote in the ninth grade comparing how the characters interacted in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to different types of dances, like the waltz (Elizabeth and Darcy), the cha cha (Elizabeth and Mr. Collins), the hustle (Elizabeth and Mr. Wickham), etc.

I remember how many times I rewrote the paper until I felt I'd made the comparisons and meanings crystal clear. You had to with that teacher. But despite my efforts, I got a B minus for not having correctly set margins, for (again) misspelling occasionally four times, and for presenting an original idea. Yep. Under the grade, my English teacher wrote "Dance theory has no references or footnotes" (that's because it was my theory. Oh, the shame.)

You can imagine how gratifying it's been for me to see how film makers use dance scenes in the recent movie versions of P&P to illustrate things other than dancing.

The dance theory evidently influenced me as a writer as well. About thirty years later a song I was listening to in the car from the River Dance soundtrack, Reel Around the Sun, started up my story machine. The sound of the dancers' tap shoes made me think of swords, and I reimagined the river dancers as lines of warriors fencing with each other. That inspired what would eventually become my novel Blade Dancer.

Dances are great metaphors to use in stories for things unrelated to dancing. For years Hollywood has shamelessly used the tango in scenes to illustrate sexual tension, clashes of will, outright seduction, etc. (in fact they used it twice in True Lies.) Movies like The Turning Point, Footloose, Flash Dance, Dirty Dancing, You Got Served use dance not only as the storyline but as metaphors to illustrate the characters' emotions, issues and personal choices.

I don't have dances in every story I write, but they do show up fairly regularly. Alex and Phillipe have an interesting dance scene in If Angels Burn that was a metaphor for a pivotal point in their friendship. Dancing helped me (finally) get Jayr and Byrne to quit tiptoeing around each other in Evermore. Most recently, I wrote a dance scene in the beginning of Stay the Night, using dance both as action and metaphor, to help throw together two stubborn characters. Visualizing these two dance helped me nail the flow and pacing I wanted in the scene, too.

This is not to say you always have to have your protag grab the nearest gal and swing her around the floor in every story, but if it's an appropriate time and place, you might give it a go and see how it works for you.

Now, today's assignment for the writers out there: look at a scene in your WIP and imagine the interaction between the two central characters as a dance. How are they dancing, slow or fast, together or apart? Is it hip hop or ballet, the macarena or the foxtrot (or, what dance would be a good metaphor for the action in your scene? How about the emotion?) If you'd like to share your answers, post them in comments.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kyn Poll

It seems like I'm polling you poor people mercilessly this week, but Judiebabie and other Kyn readers are wanting some answers.

I am planning to write another free Darkyn e-book this year, probably a novella this time, to give away on Halloween (or, if for some reason I can't make that date, I'll publish it somewhere between the release of Twilight Fall in July and Stay the Night in January next year.)

Rather than introduce new characters this time, as I did with the Juliana trilogy, I'd like to work with an existing storyline. That's as much as I've decided about the project. So my poll for today is, which character(s) do you Kyn readers want to star in the 2008 e-book?

Before you answer, some things to consider:

Alex and Michael are the series protagonists, and their storyline is progressing in print, so they're really not candidates for anything more than maybe a brief cameo appearance in the new e-book. Same goes for Phillipe and John, as they both are closely involved in A&M's storyline.

Thierry and Jema, Lucan and Sam, Gabriel and Nick, and Jayr and Byrne are definite possibilities as protagonists for this story. Some secondary characters like Richard, Eliane, Jamys, Korvel, Cella, Beaumaris, etc. might work, too, if (for future print novel purposes) I can keep their storylines open to a certain degree, i.e. no killing them off, no placing them in permanent relationships and so forth.

Gets complicated, doesn't it? But this one isn't too bad. You don't even want to know how many storylines I'm juggling over in the StarDoc universe.

Think it over and, if you have a preference, let me know in comments which character(s) you'd like to see featured in the new e-book.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Personal Note to Chan

My e-mails to you aren't going through, but I did find the info you were looking for. I'll keep trying to send it via e-mail, but I'm going to post the links here in case you stop by the blog.

Write This freeware version 2.0, plus the older version I think you were looking for, are available here: http://www.theprint.dk/writethis.html

Leftover Ten

Ten Things That Didn't Make Other Ten Lists

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

1. The freeware starter version of ArtRage enables you to paint with natural tools in a creative environment, and "allows unlimited loading, saving, and printing of your paintings" (OS: Win 2000/XP/Vista)

2. So your protagonist has some sort of futuristic weapon in his hand, and phaser is taken, so you're going to call it a . . . ? No worries, just head over to Seventh Sanctum and get a name for it from the fabulous and funny Firearms Generator. If you need something for your protag to fire at, try the Techno-Fantasy Monster Generator.

3. I can't tell if this is freeware, shareware, guiltware or payware, but I know a few people who could really use Good Idea Generator software (OS: ?)

4. Draw freely with Inkscape, "an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format" (OS: OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3; Mac OS X, Linux*)

5. Modjex Coaxer shareware "encourages a writer to write for a sustained period of time. If they stop typing, Coaxer will prompt them with a low humming sound while offering constructive writing suggestions." (This sounds like a nicer, virtual version of my mom.) "This stream of consciousness approach keeps the writer productive, helping them to generate a large body of work from which to condense more polished texts. Users can enter and use their own suggestions" (OS: Win95, 98, 2000, ME, NT 4.x, XP)

6. PageFour shareware is "a tabbed word processor and outliner for creative writers. Where other word processors were designed with the business user in mind, PageFour aims to meet the needs of a different class of writer. It does not improve your prose or make you a better writer - only you can do that, but PageFour does make your job just that little bit easier" (OS: Windows 98, 2000, 2003, ME, NT 4.x, XP)

7. Pin Notesis "a simple, but effective sticky note program. Allowing full control and rich text support, each sticky note that is generated can be saved, customised (including transparency, window position, etc) and re-opened when the program is opened again" (OS: Win ME/2000/XP/2003/Vista)

8. For help with furnishing your interior scenes, Sweet Home 3D is "a free interior design application that helps you placing your furniture on a house 2D plan, with a 3D preview"; available in English and French (OS: Windows, Mac OS X 10.4, Solaris and Linux)

9. TinyBooks is "an easy-to-use, non-bloated, single-entry accounting and bookkeeping system for the Macintosh. Designed for Sole Proprietors, and small businesses, TinyBooks can also be used to help with the family finances" (OS: Mac OS X)

10. If you need "an Open Source visual text file differencing and merging tool for Win32 platforms, highly useful for determing what has changed between project versions, and then merging changes between versions", give WinMerge a whirl (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3)

*Thanks to Solidus for the OS tip

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Visitor Poll

I enabled anonymous comments on PBW mainly to protect the identity of visitors who are minors, and professionals who don't want their opinions used against them. I know some of my regulars are lurkers who prefer to use the anonymous option, too. However, lately Tom and I are seeing a lot more anonymous snotty comments being left for posts that cannot be considered offensive by any means. In hopes of being fair (and because I don't like censoring comments) I've let most of them squeak by, but this seems to be only encouraging the trolls.

Here's my view: leaving anonymous snotty comments on someone else's blog or web site is cowardly. If you have a problem with me or what I post here, then I can't imagine why you'd even want to read my blog, much less comment on it. But if you do feel that strongly about your point of view, and you simply have to post it onto my blog, why not sign your name to it? Seriously, what are you afraid of?

I'd like to impose on my non-troll visitors and ask if you all would let me know in how you feel about the anonymous comment option. Should I keep it enabled, or should I do away with it? Is there another option I'm not considering? I guess I could start censoring comments -- at the moment we only delete SPAM and inappropriate/offensive comments -- but if it gets to that point, I feel like I might as well shut down comments altogether. And yeah, then the trolls win.

Anyway, when you have a chance, let me know what you think about the situation in comments.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Specialty Writing Jobs

Swiped from Craigslist New York:

Blogger Needed -- I'll quote directly from the listing: "An international film school is seeking a blogger to make regular entries on the school website. The blog would focus on the film, television and acting industries. Interesting news, current events, happenings and issues would be addressed in the blogs. Blogging experience or similar writing experience is a must."

Freelance Writer Wanted -- Seeking a writer for five articles about HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.) Length 800-1000 words per article, pays $20-25 per article. Performance may lead to more work in the future. Requires the writer be a college graduate with a degree in journalism, writing or editing.

Health & Fitness Freelance Writers Needed -- the powers that be behind LIVESTRONG™.com, launching mid 2008, are looking for New York area writers with "extensive experience in the fitness, diet and nutrition areas" to write info articles for them. They're also interested in writers who can cover senior and public health topics (including locally relevant subjects). Prefer writers with accreditation in these fields. Pay varies.

Seeking Chef Bloggers -- A soon-to-launch culinary web site is looking for professionals in their industry (chefs, front of house, restaurant manager, sommelier, server, business side, etc.) to blog for them. Candidates need to be actively employed in the culinary industry, not foodies. The pay is $25-$50 per 500-word post, depending on your experience. Sounds like this could be a regular gig.

Writer for Casual Game/Comic Book Format -- A game/interactive media development company in SoHo needs a writer to work on one of their projects and write the storyline and dialogue (more may be involved, so definitely get details on this one. You'll be working with game designers and producers, and you should have familiarity with game writing and/or design. Prefer experience with comic book/graphic novel writing.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Looking for Mr. GoodRep

At Queries nightclub, people on the prowl packed the place from the bouncer's station to the bathroom doors, so it took Harrison Hotdeals some time to work his way toward his reserved barstool. Lucky, the cocktail-slinger/wannbe screenplay writer behind the bar, served up a frozen strawberry Margarita and a cheeky grin.

"Haven't seen you around here lately, big guy," Lucky said. "Spending all your time at the negotiating tables?"

"You know it." Harry scanned the crowd. "God, what a mob. Everyone's dressed like extras from The Matrix. What is it, Sci-fi Saturday?"

Lucky shook his head. "New Genre Trend Night. Everyone's heavy on the Future Gothwear. Happy Wallpaper Historical Hour starts in about ten minutes, though. Two for one Virgin Mary Sues."

"You're HotWheels Harry, aren't you?" a shrill young thang shouted into Harry's right ear as she moved into the empty space next to his barstool.

They never got his name right. "Harrison Hotdeals," Harry said politely. "And you are. . . ?"

"The next Laurell K. Hamilton." She dropped an eight-pound manuscript on the bar in front of him. "I'm going to do you a huge personal favor and tell you all about my baby. It's erotic, fresh, hip, now, and the best thing you'll ever put your hands on for the rest of your life. Maybe, if you're really nice to me, I might even let you, you know." She winked. "Personally rep me."

As she blathered on, Harry quickly emptied his Margarita glass. When Lucky glanced his way, he pointed to the glass and held up one finger.

"Hey." Shrill young thang elbowed him. "I just told you about the greatest rubber diaper love scene in the history of fiction, and you don't say anything nice or buy me a drink? What kind of guy are you?"

"Excuse me." A pale man dressed in cyberpunk black grabbed the next Laurell K. Hamilton by her dark curly hair extensions and yanked her out of his way. He picked up her manuscript and heaved it over his shoulder. "Mr. Hotdeals, I'm Dr. B. Famous Nofaultleroy the Third. You can call me Famous."

"Uh-huh." Harry accepted his second drink from Lucky and watched the shrill young thang scrambling to gather her manuscript pages before they were trampled.

"I'm a member of SFWA, MWA, HWA and currently Assistant Minutes Secretary of the Lord of the Wrongs speculative fiction critters online," the man told him, pointed to several enamelled pins gleaming on the spray-glittered bike tire he'd wrapped diagonally over his black Tolkien Sucks Heinlein T-shirt. "I've figured out what the singularity will be, you know, but I don't want to publish my findings and embarrass Vinge."

Harry smothered a yawn. "How many novels have you published?"

"Three critically-acclaimed short stories in very important speculative fiction magazines," Famous said. "I'm looking for someone intelligent enough to rep my first novel, which will be called the first and greatest masterpiece of the new weirdsteamurbanpunklit movement."

"Is that right." Harry eyed him and decided to cut things short. "What's the title?"

"Nightlife at Starship NecroTroopers Station." A hand clapped over his mouth. "Oh, God, I can't believe you tricked me like that. I know how you sleazebags operate. Now you'll tell someone else who is published and they'll steal it from me for their novel." As his cell phone rang, playing the theme music to Babylon Five, he glared at Harry. "I have to take this in private. I just want you to know that my cousin is a very successful personal injury attorney, and if you dare mention my title to anyone, he will have you in court in a heartbeat." He whipped a finger up under Harry's nose. "A heartbeat, Mr. Hotdeals."

Lucky came over to watch the skiffy writer stalk off. "He tell you the real title of his book?"

"Yeah."

"Poor bastard." Lucky gestured for one of the waitresses and handed her a pink lemonade and vodka. "Tell Famous it's on the house, and mention that Harry happens to suffer from short-term memory loss."

"Got it." The waitress whisked away the drink.

"So tell me something, Luck," Harry said, trying not to watch as the shrill young thang handed over a stack of bills and went out on the dance floor with a scam artist posing as an author's rep. "Why haven't you ever hit me with a proposal?"

"You want the truth?" When Harry nodded, Lucky said, "I don't really write screenplays. I just say I do. It's like eyebrow scars and hot cars -- deeply impresses the chicks, you know?" He grinned. "So why do you keep coming here? I figure, nice guy like you should be checking out the ladies at the foodie stores and love churches."

"Homecooking chefs and inspirational chick-lit?" Harry suppressed a shudder. "No thanks."

"Then what are you looking for, big guy?"

"My ideal?" He thought about it for a minute. "Someone with an attractive, confident and marketable story. You know, articulate without being wordy, exciting without being vulgar, artistic without needing conflict injections or character peels."

Lucky chuckled. "Who writes that kind of stuff these days?"

Harry thought of the few who had gotten away. "A beautiful dreamer. One who writes like a tire factory fire burns."

"Wow." Lucky rested his chin on his hand and sighed. "If you ever meet someone like that, find out if they have a sister who writes erotica."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

25 Agents

The March '08 issue of The Writer magazine has the lowdown on 25 agents currently looking for submissions. They cover what the agents want to see, what type of proposal to send, commission and complete contact information. Some of the listings offer response times, too. Writer's House, which has me as a client, is one of the agencies listed. If you're looking for representation, might be worth picking up the issue.

Reading listings like these can offer some interesting bits of info, too. Agents can be very specific about what they don't want, i.e. "queries only" and "no science fiction." They also drop helpful or encouraging hints, like "Especially interested in writers from the Pacific Northwest, the West, Alaska and the Pacific Rim" and "Unpublished writers considered."

Nine of the agents/agencies listed in The Writer also mentioned how many queries and manuscripts they on an annual basis:

Abrams Artists Agency: 1,000
Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency: 10,000
Jeff Herman Literary Agency: 5,000
Linda Konner Literary Agency: 1,500
Nancy Love Literary Agency: 2,000
Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency: 6,000
Alison Picard: 5,000
Wendy Schmalz Agency: 4,000
Scott Treimel: 2,000

Take your calculator and divide those numbers by 250 (the average number of weekday workdays in a year) and you'll get an idea of just how many queries and manuscripts these agents receive on a daily basis. Now imagine reading them and responding to them. Yeah, I think I'll stick to being a writer.

I recommend checking out any agent thoroughly before you submit or sign on with them. Make sure they're a member of AAR, and try to get some recommendations from other writers you know on who they like, who they've had trouble with, and who might be a good match for you.

If you'd like more info on agents, Laura Resnick has an excellent three-part article series that covers agents, agent-hunting, and working with and without an agent, which you can read online here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Word Ten

Ten Things to Help (or Not) With Microsoft Word

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

1. Become more productive with Word efficiency tips from Jody Gilbert's article, 10 Obscure Word Tricks That Can Expedite Common Chores.

2. If you'd rather not fiddle with Word for everything, AkelPad 3.4.8 freeware is "an open source editor for plain text. It is designed to be a small and fast" (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3)

3. For the Mac lovers, who are lucky and don't have to deal with Word at all, iVerbum 2.3.2 is a "FAST index & search program" that allows you to "search & view RTF/DOC/PDF/HTML files, create and index textual databases, search for desired "hits" and bring data up in document window" (OS: Mac OS X.4)

4. KKopy freeware for Microsoft Word evidently makes cut 'n pasting text and code a breeze (OS: Windows 2000 or above + Microsoft Word 2000 or above)

5. The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) has a good article on how to make Word more accessible for the disabled here.

6. Wouldn't you know it, just as I was finally getting the hang of the 2003 version? The powers that be at Microsoft are offering a free 60 day "fully featured" trial download of Office System 2007, which includes updated and retuned versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and Power Point. (OS: Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, or later operating system)

7. Find out the "five things you need to understand in order to troubleshoot and fix most of your Word problems" with Linda Johnson's article Troubleshooting Microsoft Word. None of these include the use of a sledgehammer or breaker bar, much to my disappointment.

8. Not really Word-related, but sounds cool anyway -- WinPDF Writer "allows any user of a computer running a Microsoft OS to create PDF-files from any printable document out of any Windows application which is able to print on an installed printer. WinPDF Writer installs as a virtual Windows printer driver. The only thing you have to do to create a professional looking PDF-document is to print it with the Windows application of your choice and choose WinPDF Writer as the printer in the print-dialogue." Could be a viable alternative to the very pricey Adobe software, too (OS: Microsoft Windows 98/Me/2000 Professional/XP/2003 Server/VISTA)

9. Where were these guys when they made me stop using Word Perfect? The 15-day free trial of Yeah Write is an "easy to use fill-in-the-blank word processor for the computer illiterate or for those business professionals that want to create a document quickly and easily, without having to worry about formatting" (OS: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, & Vista)

10. One more for you smart Mac users -- Z-Write 1.5 is a beta testing upgrade of Z-Write, the word processor program for creative writers. Looks like you can download the beta version as freeware until March '08 (OS: Mac OS, OS X)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taggedy

The soft, warm night settled around John and Marcia, a blissfully cozy chenille-like throw that cuddled the lovers' entwined limbs and tickled their bare cheeks. Cheeks that were ruddy with that special pinkness indicating recent, very intimate activity, as it happened. And their faces glowed, too.

"Marcia," John blurted out suddenly and impetuously. "Can we discuss something?"

"John," sighed Marcia, the contentment after achieving three orgasms enriching the exhaled name with feminine satisfaction. "I'm all ears."

John wrapped the slightly damp sheet around his manly chest, sat up and tried to think of how to confess what he had been pondering without sounding as if he were complaining before he murmured, "I've been thinking about us, sweetheart."

"Darling," Marcia purred like a kitten with a ball of interesting yarn (not, you understand, the imported cheap acrylic crap you can buy for $1 a pound, but that expensive designer stuff like Caron Bliss that costs an arm and a leg for one piddly skein.) "Tell me," she continued, picking up the thread of conversation and toying with it, just in case someone forgot she was the one speaking, "what about us?"

John reached for his trousers and then turned to look at Marcia while opening his mouth to utter in honesty, "We" -- he put one leg in his jeans, jeans that were comfortably faded but still a bit stiff, as he had hung them out to dry versus using the dryer as part of his endeavors to go green -- "never" -- he pulled up the waistband just like that very hot but sexually waffling young man in the Levi's 501 commercials-- "talk" -- he zippered the fly and fastened the button with what he hoped was a casual disregard for the fact that the woman he loved was watching him wrap his package -- "anymore."

"We're talking now," Marcia retorted with passion and the natural emphasis of her emotions, tossing her head as she leapt out of bed and jerked on her own clothing as her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkled with temper and annoyance that made her assume the position of a highly indignant painter's anatomical doll. Her rich brunette hair settled around her blushing features as her lips, the lipstick on which had been kissed away during the last, loving hours of delight, turned a little white with her swiftly-shifting mood. A loose eyelash, uprooted by the more-rapid blinking of her eyelids, drifted from her upper lid to land in the crease next to her right nostril.

Jumping jacks seemed like the thing to do to work off some of his own ire, and so John began the exercise as he carefully formulated his response to her retort and let the words, which might have sounded defensive if he wasn't careful to modulate his tone, come up out of the spot in his chest that transformed speech into a cavemanlike guttural growl of masculine frustration as he blithely informed the woman he loved more than life itself, "I just want to say things." He dragged in a breath, filling out his muscular chest, now covered with tiny but sensual beads of sweat from this, the latest round of vigorous exertions. Would that it could have been from making love to Marcia again, but even John needed five minutes to recharge his supply tanks. "To you."

"Oh, for God's sake . . . " Marcia trailed off, first to a blown breath and then to a sharply-drawn inhaled snort of contempt, which whistled through her deviated septum with high-pitched irritation, much like the sharp sensation in her heart which provoked her to add with equally pointed intonation, ". . . . say whatever you want," she snapped like a fourteen-day-old oak twig left in a seasoning shed on a cold fortnight in November that knew no humidity, among the crackling brown leaves and the chips and wood dust left behind by the merciless teeth of the chainsaw, which seemed to her to be as destructive as the man she loved, at least whenever he decided to discuss things with her that were better left unsaid. "Whatever you want," she repeated, much more gently this time, because with her own eyes she saw that John was staring at her with weary acceptance and tolerance that made her own impatience seem ungrateful and childish.

"Tell me you love me."

Marcia frowned before she attempted to button the front of her dress to give herself time to compose a new tag for her dialogue.

"No." John put his hands over hers to stop the buttoning and composing. "Tell me you love me."

"I," Marcia offered, desperate now to gain some space to properly tag her words so the reader would know absolutely everything she was feeling, doing and physically experiencing, "need--"

John kissed her. "Say it."

"Darling, you don't--"

"Say it."

"I love you," Marcia whimpered.

"Don't whimper."

Marcia whined, "But John--"

"Or whine."

"Oh, all right," Marcia said. "I love you. There. Happy now?"

"Not yet." John grinned, picked up Marcia and without another word or dialogue tag, tossed her back on the bed.

(Dedicated to my ninth grade English teacher, who maintained that important published writers never stoop to use the plodding, unimaginative word "said.")

Monday, February 18, 2008

33 Hours, 1.1 Million + Downloads

Thanks to an endorsement and hosting by Oprah, the (temporarily) free e-book version of Suze Orman's Women & Money got downloaded over a million times on Valentine's Day. Truly amazing results. Now I wonder if Romantic Times will accuse Oprah and Suze of undercutting other writers' advances, the way they did with me and Melanie last year. I'm thinking no, how about you?

Major publishers are now beginning to dabble in free e-books as marketing tools. NAL linked to my Midnight Blues free Darkyn e-book over on their new paranormal web page, which gave me some nice exposure and them some no-cost content for their site. Win/win. I think this is also one of if not the first time a major publisher has used free, author-published fiction like this.

Over at HarperCollins, they've launched their new full-access Browse Inside ~ Try Before You Buy feature which offers free online-reading versions of published books. They also offer a link/widget code for some of the books that interested readers can put on their blogs or web sites (I attempted to copy and paste the code from HC to show you the widget, but Blogger refuses to accept the HTML, and it's way over my head so I can't tell what's wrong with it, other than what the warning box says -- some tag isn't closed.)

I browsed through Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb, and while the content has some problems (slow loading, fuzzy text, and weird gray shading behind the text that made the letters harder to see) it's readable. However, there were only 131 pages available to read, so evidently not all the books advertised on the Browse Inside page are full-access.

I have discovered something interesting while moving my freebie archives over to Scribd*. Before the move, tracking how many copies of my free e-books* were read or downloaded was impossible. Not anymore. Since I uploaded Lunar Marshall four days ago, for example, Scribd* tells me that 240 folks have taken a look, read it online or downloaded it. It's not 1.1+ million copies, to be sure, but it's the virtual equivalent of hanging out sixty free books a day to interested readers all over the place -- at no cost to me or the recipients. Can't do that with print copies. *Note 9/3/10: Since Scribd.com 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 debate over free e-books and content will doubtless continue, but it's nice to see a few publishers at least dipping their toes in the pool. If you know of and want to share any freebies being posted online or given away by publishers, please post a link in comments.

*All of my freebies started as new, never-before-published work, much of which I wrote specifically as giveaways. I don't advocate giving away gratis e-copies of print-published books (unless you can get Oprah to host them for a day on her web site; then, baby, jump at it.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Well Ten

Ten Things for Online Creative Fun

1. Sign up as an early bird to beta-test a very ambitious series of online creative tools and services over at Aviary.

2. First get your Chinese name here, then copy the result and add it to a Chinese painting here (the Phoenix is particularly gorgeous.)

3. Ballistic Publishing's page for Exotique 3, a collection of "The World's Most Beautiful CG Characters" has a very cool book previewer that allows you to (virtually) flip through the book online. Worth it just to see the quality of the artwork (via issue #77 of Art Scene International.)

4. Observe art in motion by watching F. Permadi's Fractal Twister applet, Moire Pattern applet, and fly through an imaginary terrain via the Voxel Speed Test applet.

5. Customize and write your own name/message graffiti on the Berlin Wall, the Mona Lisa and more over at Graffiti Generator.

6. Generate your own legends via archaic tapestry with the Historic Tale Construction Kit.

7. Customize the text on your own Chance or Community Chest cards with the Monopoly Game Card Generator.

8. I knew I'd find one eventually -- NestleTreasures.com has an online bookmark generator (the generator does add in promotional text/image for Nestle Treasures chocolates, but if you authors hand them out at your booksignings, that would mesh nicely.)

9. Put together your own word searches (great idea for authors needing some fun for their print newsletters or those of you who are homeschooling your kids), mazes, math squares and more with The Puzzlemaker.

10. Have your scribblings improved on by The Scribbler.

Finally, Hewlett-Packard offers a bunch of different projects to create, customize and print out over at their Activity Center. I was particularly impressed by the range of projects; they've got everything from calendars, cards and stationery to iron-ons, scrapbooking and projects. I ended up printing out some custom quilt labels for my own projects.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

PV Winners

I had no idea that you all were such a romantic bunch -- reading your excellent suggestions for Valentine's Day gifts made me vow to be more creative next year (for the record, I gave my guy his favorite home-cooked meal, an ice cream cake, and then I [censored because my mother is probably reading this].)

Once we caught our breath, though, we put the magic hat in action and drew the names of the PBW's Valentine giveaway winners, and they are:

Margaret Yang

Kris

Mary2 (whose comment began with: think someone shoveling my walks and scraping off my car and warming it up would be the best Valentine's gift right now!)

Gabriel Campbell

Shanna

Laughing Gecko

Marg

Robin F (whose comment began with: A perfect present would be the completely unromantic, some time to myself...)

Eliza

Julie Doe

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I will get these books out to you. And to everyone, thanks for sharing the love.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PBW's Valentine

I thought I'd celebrate Valentine's Day here on the blog by talking about something we all love: a great story by a gifted storyteller.

Luckily for me, today is the release date for The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi. The novel takes us to a small South Carolina town, where a restless wanderer named John Dodge arrives to stir things up. John likes to take over small, failing businesses and resurrect them, but for some reason he never sticks around after he's achieved success. While meeting the always-interesting shopkeepers of Lambert Square, however, John encounters Julia Darrow, the lovely but rather standoffish owner of a rare linens shop. John is startled to discover that Julia and her employees work all day in their pajamas, but he soon learns that there is a lot more going on with Julia than her unusual business attire.

I first discovered Rosina Lippi when I read her novel Tied to the Tracks back in 2006. I've given away a lot of copies of that book in the last two years, but one of the delights of discovering an amazing storyteller like Rosina is sharing her work with others. I suspect I'll be giving away twice as many copies with this new novel. I've tried my best to think of a category for The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square, but the book refuses to be pigeon-holed or labeled. I think this is because it has something for every reader: adventure, romance, mystery, humor, drama, tragedy and hope.

I loved this book so much that I wish I could give all of you a copy, but until I have the millions to finance something like that we'll do the next best thing: have a giveaway. In comments to this post, name something you think would make an excellent Valentine's Day gift (or if you can't think of anything, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, February 15, 2008. I will draw ten names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned hardcover copy of The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

First/New Look

My ever-patient StarDoc readers have been waiting a while for a look at this one:

Cover art for Omega Games, StarDoc book eight

My publisher decided to update the look of the series covers, thus the hip new design. If you want one for your very own, the book will be hitting the shelves in August.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ginger Clark

Today I'm sending you all back over to Jordan Summer's blog to read what her agent Ginger Clark had to say in response to some of the questions posted by Jordan's visitors.

LM Up

Can be read online or downloaded, click on cover to go to Scribd document page

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Writer Retreats

We've been discussing writer groups over at Jordan's blog, and I mentioned writer retreats as a working alternative to the annual org cons. I've been on a few private retreats and they were all good experiences -- got to hang with a good variety of writers, knocked out a lot of work, relaxed, talked about the reality of the biz, etc. Because they were private events we arranged ourselves, all we had to pay for was travel costs, hotel rooms and meals. Car pooling and sharing rooms helped keep those reasonable, too.

There are commercial writer retreat sites out there like this one that offer a variety of locations, services and pricing. I recommend getting in touch with a writer who's attended the retreat and asking some questions before committing.

Are there any commercial/non-commercial writer retreats you all know of that you can recommend for the working writers in need of a getaway/battery recharge? If you do, please post some info and any links you might have in comments.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Original Cover Art

I keep an eye out for sales of original cover art (the actual paintings on which novel cover art is based) and got an alert this week on a Ron Lesser oil painting for a late '80's Harlequin Presents, Vampire Lover by Charlotte Lamb. A very subtle, provocative composition, and if it is the original, not a bad price.

Investing in original art can be expensive, but if you have the chance as a published novelist to buy a painting from one of your cover artists, it's a unique way to preserve part of your personal history as a writer. Paintings usually last a lot longer than books, and it's interesting to see how an artist interprets your fiction.

I own two paintings by artist Alan Pollack that were used for the covers of my novels Beyond Varallan and Shockball. When I give talks about how books are published at the local schools, I sometimes bring one of the paintings with me to show the kids how cover art begins. This, btw, always impresses them -- almost as much as the packs of M&Ms I toss to the smart question askers.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Master This

Last year during my blue period, we drove to the beach for no reason in particular other than we love the beach. I brought my camera to get some shots of the sky and the sea, and I was walking back to the truck when this graffiti on the sea wall caught my eye.



I snapped a shot mainly because most graffiti at the beach isn't this lovely or diplomatically-worded. I figured the two words -- Master yourself -- were most likely a Gatorade slogan or something. A stupid one, because you can't master yourself. You aren't something aside from yourself. You're just you, a single entity. A work in progress. No one can master something that is forever unfinished, incomplete, under construction. And when you're done, you won't be around to master anything. Master that concept, pal.

Sometimes words stick with you, though. That phrase became a like a puzzle that through the winter I kept taking apart, analyzing and trying to fit back together in a different construct. Master = control? Master = gain expertise? Yourself = ego? Yourself = personal talent? What the hell did it mean?

I stuck a copy of the photo on the fridge, mostly as a reminder to master my snacking urges.

Fast forward to tonight, when I made chicken and rice for dinner. It's my own adaptation of the amazing arroz con pollo my Latina friends' moms would stuff us with when we were kids in South Florida. I've spent decades perfecting this dish; I could probably make it in my sleep. My guy, who loathes all chicken except maybe the occasional bucket of KFC extra crispy, loves my chicken and rice. I know because he makes those nonverbal happy-man sounds while he's eating.

Me, I always think I could do a little better with it next time. Because that's how I am. I know I'm never going to be a chef like my dad. I don't have the mojo he has that turns food into ambrosia. I do okay with baking, stir-frying and the occasional casserole, but I know I'll never be more than an ordinary, decent cook. That doesn't matter. The food and the family are what's important to me.

I was washing dishes when I looked over at the graffiti photo and thought Okay, at least I've gotten pretty close to mastering chicken and rice, does that count? That's when I finally solved the puzzle, and I laughed, and I decided to write this post.

So now I will pass long the words for you to ponder: Master yourself

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pajama Girls Meme

Need to buy some books but running short of funds? Bored by the latest blogosphere snitfest and looking instead for something fun to post? Got you covered today:

Author Rosina Lippi has started a new meme contest to get the word out about her upcoming Valentine's Day release, The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square. The grand prize is a $100.00 Amazon.com gift certificate and a signed copy of the novel, but that's only the beginning. The more people who participate, the more the size of the gift certificate will grow.

Here's the contest picture, for which you have to think up a caption:

Muriel wore her sunglasses to bed because she read in Cosmo that claimed it drove men into a sexual frenzy.  Now all she needed was the men.

Once you've thought up something brilliant, post the pic, your caption and this ad on your web site or weblog:



You'll also need to post a link to Rosina's weblog, Storytelling, one for the novel's official web site, Lambert Square, and leave a link to your entry in comments to her contest announcement post.

You've got until February 17th, when the contest will end and the winner will be chosen by reader poll over at Rosina's place.

I will have more to say about The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square very shortly, but for now I have to be all shadowy and mysterious. Maybe Muriel will lend me her sunglasses . . . in the meantime, to add a little temptation for my readers, I'll send whoever wins Rosina's contest a signed unbound galley copy of my next Darkyn novel, Twilight Fall.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Widgets from Hell

Ten Promotional Products Authors Should Probably Avoid

Caution: Some of these links are not work-safe.

1. Beanie Babies -- yes, they're precious, and soft, and cuddly, and so sweet, and you have ten thousand of them on shelves in your bedroom and decorating your bookshelves and piled up the rear window of your car, and please, I ask, no, I beg you, don't infect anyone else with the beanie baby craziness. Besides, you know the ones you give away will be worth a fortune in a few years, right? Best keep them in your personal collection.

2. Book Matches -- Why do we even have these anymore? I thought everyone quit smoking by now. Anyway, the first rule of advertising is: never give the buyer a promotional item that can actually destroy your product.

3. Condoms -- Not what you want to be handing out at the Christian Booksellers Association's annual con, but I'd pay money to watch someone do it at RWA National. My suggestion: sneak them into the big luncheon and put them on top of the freebies they stack on the seats.

4. Hard Hat -- useless, unless your reader is attending a SFWA-run conference, in which case it would be more practical to offer promotional hip waders.

5. Fake Tattoo -- Think about the many places on the body to which this item can and will be applied. Or, guess where I'd put it. Yep. Next.

6. Fly Swatter -- I want you to close your eyes, and imagine your cover art. Now festoon it with the smushed bodies of flies and fly parts. Yum. (Might work for the New Weird authors, though.)

7. Herb Grinder, Pocket-Size -- For God's sake, do I even have to explain this one?

8. Nipple Rings -- Look, just keep your advertising away from my womanly curves altogether, got it?

9. Playboy Playmate Calendar -- The average book buyer in the US is female, middle-aged and straight. For us, you need to invest in the PlayGIRL Promotional Calendar.

10. Rolling Papers -- Yeah, sure. Nothing says "Search my body cavities" at the airport like getting caught with a thousand of these in your carry-on.

Monday, February 04, 2008

In Scribd

*Note 9/3/10: Since Scribd.com 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.

All of the free stories, anthos, novels and books over on the right sidebar are now available for reading online or download over at my Scribd page. In a few weeks I will be deleting the old .pdf files currently still available and finalizing the complete transition of all my free content to Scribd, so please adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

No Knights

My mother subscribes to a certain book club, and when one of my books shows up in their catalog, she always sends me a full color copy of the page. I think she expects me to frame it. Forget making the Times list twice; my novel is in the book club -- this to her is authentic fame.

When these book club folks kindly ran a full-page ad on my work (first time, this) Mom went zinging over the moon with joy and immediately sent me a copy, which I received today. It's a very lovely ad, but at the top of the page is a banner that reads "THE KNIGHTS OF DARKYN."

For a split second I thought Someone helped themselves to my series title? until I saw from the cover art that no, they were talking about my novel. My novel Evermore. That doesn't have any knights in it. Not a one. There are lots of immortal pathogen-mutated beings, tourists, weapons, horses, banquets, dancing, songs, battles and even a working moat with submersible bastions, but I'm sorry, no knights.

The characters in the novel are vampire-like immortals, most of whom were Templars about seven hundred years ago, but fortunately they got over it. They now dress up and pretend they're knights in front of humans as part of their cover in order to live how they want, make a few bucks and co-exist with mortals. Because really, how else are you going to justify living in medieval conditions in a real castle with a working moat in the middle of freaking twenty-first century Florida unless you:

A) Make it invisible with a big honking spell, which is magic, which I don't do.

B) Hide it in an enormous forest of darkness, but this is the sunshine state, and most of our forests burned down during the wildfires last year, so all we have are brightly-lit scorched-black fields with a couple little teeny tiny treelings sprouting at the moment.

C) Use time travel, which would have to be science-based because again, the magic thing, which would then make the story a science fiction time travel vampire fiction paranormal dark fantasy, which I'm pretty sure would make my editor's head explode.

D) Turn it into a tourist attraction and charge everyone fifty bucks to get in.

See? "D" is the best solution, right?

While I thought about it, I remembered that the formal name I gave Byrne's castle/tourist attraction was Knight's Realm, which is likely the keyword culprit here. That or my Kyn are extremely good actors and fooled the book club reader into believing they were knights. I wouldn't put anything past them.

Why make the big deal out of so small a thing? Please, let me make a prediction: in a couple of weeks I'll start getting snail mail and e-mail from every book club member who saw that banner, didn't read the rest of the ad copy (or assumed it was a Jude Devereaux novel or whatever) and ordered the book. They'll complain that they expected a nice historical knightly romance and instead got icky disgusting dark fantasy with vampires dressed up as fake knights. And it'll be my fault. Trust me. It's always the author's fault.

Although I'm not responsible for this banner, I'll make the disclaimer now: there are no knights of Darkyn, I don't write knight books, and no actual knights appear in Evermore. Any knight you may think you're reading about is a vampire-like being dressed up like one to fool you and the tourists. For novels with real knights, please read Jude Devereaux.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Now Showing

I've got a major editing job to tackle today, so to inspire you, here are some of the covers I've made over the years for my promotional e-books, writing and quilt workshops, and the collections of my private work.

Art that you create to promote your work or inspire you while you write doesn't have to be elaborate or complicated. Half the covers I've made are just background photos with a title and byline. The idea is to have fun with it and create something that reflects what you see in your head as well as what you write on the page.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

   

If you've got some art you'd like to share, post a link in comments (and please, be sure to note if it's not work-safe.)