Monday, March 31, 2008


I'm finishing the last of the edits today on Rob's story. Listen for the thunk, this time I think it's going to register on the Richter scale.

I have a visually-impaired reader who wrote to me and is looking for e-book versions of my Darkyn novels. As far as I know the only one in electronic format is Evermore, but then I usually am the last one my publisher tells (because of course why would the author need that sort of info, right?)

Anyway, has anyone seen the first four novels out there anywhere in e-form? If you have, and have a bookseller name or linkage, please post it in comments.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


It's interesting to see the many POVs on altering print books to make art journals. Donna made an excellent suggestion about using blank books versus print; it's a great alternative for those of us who have serious qualms about destroying someone else's work to make art.

We put all your names into the magic hat, and the winner of the Altered Print giveaway is:


When you have a chance, Kristal, please send your full name and ship-to address to, and I'll get this package out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in the discussion.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Critique No-Nos

Ten Things You Should Avoid Saying to Your Crit Partner

1. "Beautiful work! I just had a problem with the main characters, the conflict, the dialogue, the setting, the time period, the secondary characters, the antagonist, the POVs, the twists, the subplots, the pacing and the writing style you used. Oh, and the title -- that didn't work for me, either. But other than that, it's really brilliant stuff."

2. "Do you mind if I borrow your plot for my WIP? It's not like you're ever going to get yours published, and I'll give you a mention in the acknowledgments when mine is."

3. "Hmmmmm. People who read this sex scene are going to think you've never actually had an orgasm, you know."

4. "I heard that editors really don't mind if you misspell a few things, so I didn't bother checking for any typos."

5. "I know you weren't deliberately trying to be funny, but really, it made me laugh so long and so hard I nearly peed my pants six times."

6. "I think it's really great, how you're working through your divorce by writing about it."

7. "My baby spit up on your manuscript, but I wiped it off before I went ahead and mailed it to New York for you."

8. "The readers won't care if you have the antagonist toss the heroine's dog in the wood chipper in Chapter Ten."

9. "This is the best thing you've ever written. No, really, I'm being completely honest. Btw, you haven't quit your day job yet, have you?"

10. "Who is going to buy this novel? The plot is as ridiculous as having dragons in the Napoleonic Wars, putting a secret about Christ in a Renaissance painting, or creating a brotherhood of vampires who listen to rap music, for God's sake."

(this post is dedicated to A., for when you need another laugh)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Altered Print

I have great respect for art, and an abiding love for handwritten journals. I often sketch on my journal pages, or insert small watercolors or photos in between entries to illustrate a point. In magazines like Cloth Paper Scissors I've seen mixed media artists altering print books into art journals. I had some reservations -- destroying someone's book to make art seemed a bit like cannibalism to this writer -- but I could also think of a couple of novels that I'd like to rip to pieces, too.

I picked up two how-to books to get some ideas: Bev Brazelton's Altered Books Workshop (the nuts and bolts of how to alter a book), and Art Journals & Creative Healing by Sharon Soneff (how to create meaningful personal content and exorcise some of your demons.)

Ms. Brazelton's book was terrific; the instructions were easy to understand and I really liked her approach to turning print books into art. But I had to grab the Kleenex as I was reading Sharon Soneff's book, as most of the author/artists who contributed to it told some heart-wrenching stories.

Once I felt ready, I bought a small, short hardcover book from a library sale. Once I read it (and I had to at least read it first) I didn't think I'd have a problem destroying it. Come to find out, I did. I hesitated, long enough for some paint to drip from my brush onto the first page. That splatter sort of forced me to start painting over the text. Once I'd tinted all the pages, the book morphed into a canvas and it was a little easier. I painted, ripped, folded, altered and glued for the next three days, and the end result was a little messy and amateurish but intensely satisfying.

Here's one page from the finished product:

A page from my altered book art journal ~ Desire vs. Talent:  you can love music with all your heart, and it won't change the fact that you're tone deaf.

I don't think I can seriously get into altering books as a regular hobby, maybe because I have too much reverence for them. Still, I'm glad I gave it a whirl because it was fun, I got a lot of angst out of my system, and in the process I even came up with a couple of story ideas.

Today I'm going to give away the two books that I used to prepare for the project (they have been read once but are in pristine condition, no paint or glue splatters) along with some stuff to get someone else started. In comments to this post, write a line that might appear in your altered book/art journal (or if you'd rather keep that private, just throw your name into the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, March 29, 2008. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned, read-once copies of Altered Books Workshop by Bev Brazelton and Art Journals & Creative Healing by Sharon Soneff, along with some creative materials to use for altering books into art journals. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Writer Fantasy Tax Deductions

In the April '08 print issue of The Writer, Holly A. Johnson has an article on some general ways writers can save money at tax time. If you're mystified by qualifying deductions, loss years, whether the IRS considers your writing a hobby or a profession etc., it's worth a read.

So much of being a writer is not covered under general business deductions that I think we need to create some new ones. Such as:

Agent Angst Allowance: deduct $200.00 for every day a writer waits to hear from an agent; +100.00 if the agent is considering a query; +$500.00 if the agent is collecting money from a publisher for the writer; +$1000.00 if the agent is waiting for the Times list to come out to see if the writer's latest release is on it; +$5000.00 if the agent is meeting with a publisher about the writer's debut novel submission.

Booksigning Abuse Rate: deduct $100.00 for every time a writer is asked "do you work here?" by a customer at the book store; $500.00 for every time a reader grabs and hugs a writer at a booksigning (add $100.00 if this occurs in the book store rest room); $1000.00 for each time a reader who spits when they talk leans over the booksigning table; $20000.00 for each time a reader lays in wait for the writer in the parking lot "just so I can talk to you privately about how much I hated the ending of your last book!"

Check is in the Mail Depreciation: deduct $1000.00 per day a writer has to wait for a publisher to issue a payment; $1500.00 per phone call writer makes to the editor asking where the payment is; add an additional $2000.00 per lie the publisher tells and $10000.00 if at any time the editor uses the words "forgot" or "lost" in regard to a missing check.

Frantic Phone Calls Credit: deduct $100.00 plus costs for every call the writer makes to crit partners or very good friends at two a.m. to ask, "Tell me the truth -- everything I write is complete crap, isn't it?"

Rejection Rebound Expense: deduct $500.00 for each rejection a writer receives within a one-year period (special note: deduct an additional $1000.00 if the rejection is particularly crass or $5000.00 if the rejection is scribbled in pink ink in the margin of the writer's query letter.)

Review Recovery Consideration: deduct $10000.00 for each unpleasant mental and physical side effect endured from reading inappropriate, unfair, crass, revenge-driven or otherwise bogus reviews of their work (qualifying tantrums, facial twitches, benders, weeping sessions, consumption of inordinant amounts of chocolate, cookies, tranquilizers etc. to be listed on return as Symptom, Post Traumatic Hatchet Job Disorder.) An additional $2000.00 deduction is permitted if the writer's editor e-mails the review in question to him/her.

Title Change Exemption: deduct $1000.00 for each time the writer's story title is deemed "unmarketable" and the writer is told it must be changed; +5000.00 if the editor demands a new title within 24 hours; +10000.00 if the editor suggests a new title with the word "kissing" or "ravishing" in it.

Troll Handling Charges: deduct $500.00 for each time a blogging writer must delete an offensive comment posted by an anonymous troll; +$1000.00 for each subsequent hate-mail the writer receives from said troll; +5000.00 for each 1-star review the troll posts for the writer's latest release within 48 hours of being blocked from commenting.

All right, you writers out there, what are some of your fantasy tax deductions? Post them in comments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sneak Peek & Stuff

This is a deadline week for me, so posting will probably be a bit irregular for the next few days as I go through the usual separation anxiety and try to figure a way to pry the manuscript out of my clutching fingers long enough to get it to NY. Breaker bars may be involved.

We beta-tested the Complete Friday 20 Index that I promised to post, and our testers had problems with the length of most of the questions and how we worked the links to the original comments, so Tom and I are trying to make it simpler to read and use. Paraphrasing and switching the links around will take a little more time, but hang in there, it's almost done.

If you'd like a very early, first-draft look at Stay the Night, I've posted an excerpt over at the story blog here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fall Winners

You all really outdid yourselves listing risk-taking writers for the Take the Fall giveaway; I've added at least a dozen names to my shopping list.

We put the magic hat in action this morning, and the names of the winners are:

Darlene Ryan

Saint Andie


Holly (whose comment began with I'm in. I NEED that book...I thought I would be the only one to name Gaiman and Pratchett as two of my favorite risk takers...)


observations from the couch

Robin Bev



Amy (whose comment began with Almost all mine are already taken... I'll see your bets of LKH, JR Ward, Anne Bishop, Mercedes Lackey's Herald Mage books...)

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to, and I'll get your ARCs out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bunny Day!

Happy Easter from Paperback Writer

The kids are out of school for the holidays, so I'm taking off a few days to help them dye eggs, make baskets and otherwise wreck the kitchen. Tom will be around to moderate comments and put out any fires, and I'll be back on Tuesday to post the names of the winners of the Take the Fall giveaway. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

(photo credit: © Pryzmat |

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Take the Fall

When readers ask me which of the Darkyn books is my favorite (and hold a gun to my head to make me answer them) I think I usually say Dark Need. Writing Lucan as I actually envisioned him versus serving up the expected romance wonderbread version was an amazing experience. I never had so much fun, or colored so far outside the lines. It definitely helped me prepare for what I wanted to do when I set out to write Valentin's story in Twilight Fall.

No one but my editor has read TF yet, and she didn't say much, other than fix this and explain that (when you get to my stage of the game, they rarely do.) So I don't really know how it's going to be received. I try not to over-analyze my work, but in my head I keep making up these little novel billboards, and seeing myself in July on TF release day planting them down the length of the bookstore V aisle, like those old Burma Shave road signs:

Caution: Unconventional Protagonists

And Multiple Plot Lines Ahead

Exit Now, Militant Feminists

Because This Sure Ain't Wonderbread

and maybe a nice big shelf sitter, right in front of Twilight Fall, because I know I'm going to get grief for it:

Warning! Ends on Series Cliffhanger*

Sure, I probably could have saved myself a lot of hassle by penning a vanilla-pop version of Val, or churning out a clone of Night Lost or Evermore. But what fun would that be to write? And what would I do with all my nifty new signs?

I do have a nice stack of ARCs to pass along to those of you still willing to take TF for a test drive, so in comments to this post, name a writer who you think takes interesting risks with their work (or if you only read the safe and predictable sort, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, March 24, 2008. I'll draw ten names at random from all the daredevils who participate and send the winners a signed ARC of my sixth Darkyn novel, Twilight Fall. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something at PBW in the past.

*Val's story is resolved in the book, but someone else's gets much more interesting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Novel Synopsis-o-rama

Over at Tobias Buckell's blog I came across this list of links to writers posting synopses today online, among those who participated are Naomi Novik, Mindy Klasky and S.L. Farrell. I'd mention it for those of you out there who wrestle with the Dread Syn and like to see examples that actually sell books.

Last summer I put together a rough draft of my revised novel notebook (and I'm still revising the revision, as it happens; every time I think I'm finished I find one more thing I want to add or change.) Among other things I put in the notebook was the original synopsis for one of my published romantic suspense novels, Heat of the Moment. Naturally I forgot about it while I was transferring everything from the old ftp files, but I moved it tonight. You can now read it online or download it at Scribd here.*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. This e-book and all of 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.

Second to None

Secondary characters in stories are created for various reasons; most often because it's hard to write a story about only one person (unless you're doing one of those depressing post-apocalyptic things, in which case you can ignore this post.)

A good portion of the secondary characters I read in other writers' work are what I think of as reactors. Is the weary hero having a bad day? In pops his Reactor Good Buddy to buy him a beer and ask him why. Is the antagonist preparing to destroy the world? Over limps his Reactor Igor to hand him the Doomsday Remote Detonator. Is the angry heroine packing her bags to leave town? Her Reactor Best Friend is there to help her stow her toiletries, listen to her rant and reassure her that she's doing the right thing.

This is the biggest mistake I see made with secondary characters, too. While they might be well-crafted as people in an outline, once they appear in the story they seem to have no lives outside of what's happening to the prime time players. Most come off like paperdolls, dressed and posed and about as animated and interesting.

I think a writer should know much more about their characters than the reader ever will. Think about this when you're creating your secondary characters, and especially when you put them into play in your story. They're not just there to react to the protag, they're there to interact. To illustrate this, let's follow what happens in this scene from my novel Evermore:

As Byrne made his way to the stables, he stopped every man of the Realm who crossed his path and demanded to know if they had seen Jayr. All of them claimed they had not and offered to look for her. The innocence of their expressions aroused Byrne’s suspicions, and he made a detour to stop at the wardrobe keeper’s chambers.

Farlae came to the door in his shirt sleeves, an open bottle of bloodwine in his hand. “May I be of service, my lord?”

“You can tell me where Jayr is,” Byrne said. “Dinnae not bother to deny that you know. Nothing happens under my roof that you or your spies cannae see or hear.”

“I know that Jayr went into the city early this afternoon. Just as I know that you spent most of the morning sitting outside her bedchamber door.” Farlae propped himself against the doorframe, his one black eye glinting. “As does, I daresay, the entire jardin. Doesn’t seem like a very comfortable spot. Is there something amiss with your own bed?”

Byrne’s lips peeled back from his teeth. “What business is it of yours what I do? I am master here. I will take my rest naked, on the battlements, among a herd of goats if it pleases me.”

Farlae shrugged. “Goats are overrated, or so I have heard. Sheep, now, they are said to be quite another matter. I may have to investigate that myself.” He drank from the bottle.

This scene is in Byrne's POV, so his problems dominate the situation. However, Farlae is getting drunk -- or trying to -- and being insolent versus sympathetic to the lord he serves. As the scene progresses, we discover that not all of that has to do with Byrne:

Killing his wardrobe keeper, Byrne decided, would not take a great deal of effort. The hall held at least twenty objects with which he could end the man’s existence. Only the prospect of Rainer’s weeping held him back. “Why did Jayr go to town?”

“Deliveries held up, damaged goods, paperwork to be signed, feed deliveries rescheduled, the usual,” the wardrobe keeper said casually. “I hope she remembers to pick up the parts that came in at the Singer Center for my serger.” He thought for a moment. “I believe a week ago Rain requested Jayr order four gallons of latex paint from the hardware shop. It seems he tired of the colors in his rooms. Too bad he won’t be here to repair them.”

“These errands could be handled by anyone. These are the last days of the tournament; Jayr knows she is needed here—” Byrne stopped and gave Farlae an incredulous look. “You did this deliberately.”

“The serger failed on its own,” Farlae drawled. “I will need it repaired if I am to tailor all that Lycra the humans must have for their Spring season costumes. I had nothing to do with the paint order. Rain is gone off with Viviana. Good riddance.” He took a drink from the bottle.

Farlae is concerned about how Byrne is treating Jayr, but he's also miserable over the fact that Rain, his lover, has apparently run off with a woman. The combination makes him bitter and sarcastic. Meanwhile, Byrne doesn't help matters by getting angry with Farlae:

Byrne stabbed a finger in his face. “This nonsense was but an excuse to send her into the city. You did this to keep her away from me.”

Farlae lowered the bottle and smiled. “Perhaps we did this to keep you away from her.”

“You’ve gone mad,” Byrne said blankly. “Every one of you. My own men, rebelling and conspiring against me. In my own keepe.”

“Doubtless we are.” Unimpressed, Farlae studied the condition of his nails. “Will there be anything else, my lord?”

“Get stuffed.” Byrne walked away. “No.” He stopped and turned around. “Call Jayr on the contraption she hangs on her ear. Tell her I command her to return to the Realm and report to me at once.”

“Oh, dear.” Farlae held up a familiar-looking device. “Do you mean this contraption? I fear in her haste to go, it fell out of her pocket and into mine. Well, Harlech may have helped it get there.”

Byrne grabbed it and threw it against the wall, where it exploded into a hundred fragments.

“That,” he said, staring into Farlae’s black eye, “is what happens to man’s head when I lose my temper.”

“Indeed.” Farlae folded his arms and looked interested. “What happens to a woman’s?”

For a long time Byrne stood and said nothing, saw nothing. For his insolent wardrobe keeper’s questions explained everything. He had lived with these men, trained with them, fought besides them. They were loyal to him because he was suzerain, and they lived by Kyn rule. Some of them admired him. Most of them feared him.

They were loyal to Jayr because they loved her.

“I would never hurt the lass,” Byrne said.

Farlae’s mouth took on a faint sneer. “That is not what I saw last night, outside the ballroom.”

Byrne is shocked to find out that his own men are actively protecting Jayr from him. Farlae witnessed what he thought was Byrne manhandling Jayr the night before, and he doesn't approve. The characters' emotions are at an explosive point now. So, naturally, they both explode:

“I kissed her,” he roared.

“You terrified her,” Farlae shouted back, smashing the bottle of bloodwine against his doorway. “You see, my lord, you were not the only one tracking last night. So tell me, when did your seneschal become your prey?”

“I love her.”

The three words rang between them, echoing down the hall until the shocking sound of them died away. Farlae crouched and began picking up pieces of the broken bottle.

“Christ.” He knelt to help him. “This is a wretched bloody mess.”

“It need not be.” Something like kindness softened Farlae’s craggy face. “Aedan, if you love Jayr, do not force her into something for which she is not ready. Give her leave to come to you, if that is what she wishes. Give her time.” Sorrow filled his eyes. “God knows, you cannot hold someone you love if they do not feel the same for you.”

And right there, Farlae drops the act and shows his true emotions. He is utterly miserable over losing Rain, and draws on that to warn Byrne not to do something that will drive Jayr away. Byrne responds to that in kind:

There was no more time for this. “I’m riding out to the north side of the lake to meet with Cyprien. Tell anyone who is still interested that I will return in an hour.”

Farlae took the shards of glass from him. “Yes, my lord.”

“And Farlae,” he said, staring into his hellish eye, “Rain has as much interest in Viviana as I do in a herd of goats.”

The wardrobe keeper inclined his head. “Thank you, my lord.”

The key here is balance. While Byrne's problems dominate the scene, they don't overshadow or eliminate the existence of Farlae's problems. Both characters reacted according to their different personal situations. Farlae didn't assume the reactor position of responding only to Byrne's problems; he presented his own in various ways, and in fact drew on his pain to offer advice to Byrne.

Also, note that Farlae didn't offer a long monologue or info dump on his situation. He doesn't have to, because aside from the few hints he drops, his behavior reflects it. He's not reacting to Byrne as much as he's venting anger and misery, most of which is generated not by this confrontation, but by losing Rain.

We put a lot of work into creating our secondary characters, so we should take advantage of them. Don't let yours be mere Reactors to your protag(s). Know who your secondary characters are, what's happening in their lives, what they're feeling and how that motivates them before you bring them onstage. Invest them with as much realism as you can, and you'll never end up with a story about a protagonist surrounded by a herd of paperdolls.

Now it's your turn -- how do you handle your secondary characters? What problem(s) do you most often run into with writing them? Let us know in comments.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

We're having corned beef and cabbage at Casa PBW to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and I hope those of you who are doing the same have a safe and fun time out there tonight. Just remember, if you really like to get into the green beer, call a cab or designate a driver to take you home, please.

Last month I held an informal Kyn poll to ask you to vote for who you'd like to see featured in the next Darkyn free e-book. Here are the results:

Lucan and Sam -- 10
Jamys -- 8
Gabriel -- 7
Richard -- 7
Byrne and Jayr -- 6
Nick -- 6
Korvel -- 5
Cella -- 5
Eliane -- 4
Thierry - 2
Rain and Farlae -- 2
Phillipe -- 1
Jema -- 1
The Durands -- 1
Nottingham -- 1
Robin -- 1

I wish I had time to write e-books about all the characters, but I had to make a choice, and I prefer to go with popular demand. So Incarnatio, the next Darkyn free e-book, will feature Lucan, Sam and Jamys, with cameo appearances by Richard and Eliane.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Click on the cover art to go to the e-book on Scribd.* This one also has an exclusive excerpt from the eighth StarDoc novel, Omega Games, which won't be on the shelves until August.

*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. This e-book and all of 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.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Sweet Savage Salami

John closed the door and leaned back against it, enjoying for a moment the sight of the woman he loved preparing for something he adored as much as her. He hummed a few bars of Afternoon Delight until she glanced at him, and then said, "Marcia, it's time."

"Really?" His words made butterflies flutter in the gentle curve of Marcia's tummy, and she didn't know where to look. He was so big, so intense, so determined to conquer. All she could do was stand in the middle of the room, her hands neatly folded in front of her. "I've been anticipating this ever since we met," she told John softly. "Lately it's all I can think about. The thing is, thinking and pondering and fantasizing aren't the same as actually, you know, doing it."

"Don't worry." John put his hand over the rigid length in his pocket, massaging it a little as he straightened and walked toward her. "You're going to love it."

"Darling, I . . . " Marcia's voice disappeared as she stared at the betraying bulge in the front of his trousers. It had to be two feet long and at least eight inches wide. She sat down quickly. Had he been taking some sort of enhancer? "I think maybe . . . maybe it's too soon. Maybe we should wait until we're married."

"I know you're a little nervous about trying new things, Cupcake." John gave her a masterful look as he moved in, and the bulge bobbed under his pants. "But you know that there's absolutely nothing to be afraid of."

Sure, Marcia thought. He couldn't see how big that thing was. Did he want to make love or drill for oil? She took off her glasses, which thankfully made things a lot fuzzier. "But they say it's so much better on the wedding night--"

"I'm not waiting another minute." John loomed over her. "I'm starving for it." He studied her face and grinned. "So are you."

"No, I'm not. I'm perfectly fine. I'm . . . " Marcia swallowed, paled, quivered, trembled and then whispered through a throat so tight that her breathy words squeaked, "It's too much for me, John. Can't you see that?"

"So what if it's too much?" His smile turned wicked as he drew his hand out of his pocket. "We can save some for later." He ignored her shocked cry as he showed her the long, hard, reddened length of meat in his hand and let it drop on the kitchen table with a small thud. "What do you think, darling? Isn't it gorgeous?"

"Oh, my God! It's so huge!" Marcia scrambled to her feet and pressed her hands against her breast bone as her eyes bulged. "I can't handle all that!"

"Don't worry, baby, we'll take it slow and easy." John looked around. "Where's the bread and the mustard?" When Marcia only shook her head helplessly, he left the salami on the kitchen table and went to the fridge. "Do you want mayo on your sandwich?"

"John." Marcia's cheeks turned bright scarlet as she groped for her glasses, put them on and inspected the object on the table. "That's a salami."

"Of course it is. I know you said you'd never tried it before, but it's really good on rye bread. I told you one day I'd make you my famous salami sandwiches for lunch." John glanced over his shoulder. "What did you think, I was happy to see you?"

"No. Yes. I don't know." She tried to look stern. "When you whipped it out of your pants that way I thought it was something else."

John's brow furrowed. "You thought it was my p--?"

"Your manly part, yes," Marcia said quickly. When he began to chuckle, she stiffened. "I can't help it. You know how near-sighted I am without my glasses."

"Sweetheart, the kitchen table is the last place I'd plop my p--"

"Your aroused male flesh, I understand." Marcia began to pace. "I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions and mistook that luncheon meat for your you-know-what. I promise, I'll keep my glasses on and it will never happen again."

"I don't get it." John scratched his head. "This is chapter five. We had completely gratuitous wild monkey sex in in chapter one, and at the time you seemed to really enjoy riding my p--"

"Please don't," Marcia begged, "say that horrible word, or describe in clinical terms those terrible things we did."

"Penis is a horrible word?" John laughed. "Honey, it's a body part. Granted, one you don't personally have, but half of all the other people in the world carry one around with them. Like most men, I use mine frequently. I have to, or I couldn't urinate, masturbate or impregnate. And how else would I write my name in the snow?"

"Oh, John." Marcia's eyes filled with tears. "How can you be so crude?"

"Baby, I'd love for it to be called something else -- ramrod would be nice -- but when it comes right down to it, it's just a penis. And while you may hate it, it doesn't feel that way about you." He reached for her. "To be honest, it really wants to f--"

"Lalalalala," Marcia sang loudly, her hands pressed over her ears. "I can't hear you."

John forced her hands down. "What's wrong with saying I'd like to f--"

"Because nice people in love don't do that," Marcia said loudly. "We do other things, like getting swept off on a wave of passion, or moving together to unseen music until we become one, or hurtling up into the heavens until we find the ultimate pleasure together."

John stared at her. "Hurtling?"

"Hurtling." She thought for a moment. "There should be some fireworks, too. The inward, incandescent type. And white-hot wires running and sparking here and there. But no body parts words. And absolutely no Anglo-Saxon words for, you know, doing it."

"So I'm a roman candle? Or a pogo stick? What the . . . " John turned toward the PBW blog readers. "Kids, go visit Alison Kent's blog for a minute." He waited until all the minors had left the blog, and then regarded Marcia. "That's fucking ridiculous."


"Or ridiculous fucking," he added. "Take your pick."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm a nice girl. And nice girls only use the very vaguest terms to describe body parts and intimate activities. Didn't you read the romance heroine handbook? It's how our authors perpetuate society's delusions of inviolate feminine purity. By pretending we don't know what to call our body parts or what we do with them." With great dignity Marcia went to the kitchen table. Gingerly she picked up the salami and handed it to him. "I'd appreciate it if you and your manhood-shaped luncheon meat would leave now."

"I'm still hungry, and this is my house. If all it takes to get my wires crossed and my fuse lit are some nonspecific words, why then." John tossed the salami aside and grabbed Marcia, lifting her up onto the table. "Gimme some of that taco, baby."

Friday, March 14, 2008


I'm still playing catchup on e-mail and work stuff, but I have some fun planned for you all in the near future, which will include:

--A giveaway for some Twilight Fall ARCs

--The Complete Index to the Friday 20 Questions & Answers

--Who will be featured in the next free Darkyn e-book

--A sneak peek excerpt from Stay the Night

--Taking secondary characters to a new level (featuring Rain and Farlae)

--John & Marcia crash test the sex scene

and the next special collection of free short stories:

Coming soon for reading and dowloading on Scribd

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Titles from Hell

Let's see, I've covered bookmarks from hell and widgets from hell, so now it's time to move on. If you want to sell it, here are:

Ten Things You Probably Shouldn't Title Your Novel

1. Bill Clinton's Guide to Fine Cigars: Euw. Unless you can get Hilary to write the introduction. Then, hello, NYT bestseller!

2. Every Editor I've Slept with in Publishing, and How They Are in Bed: Oh, save it for True Confession Wednesday on the private author loop.

3. Hilarious Cartoons of Mohammed: Because there are none, infidel!

4. How to Mess with the IRS: I have to explain this?

5. I'm Okay, You're a Complete Jackass: I think Ann Coulter holds the trademark on that one.

6. Seven Steps to a Better Bank Heist: If you really know this, why are you writing books?

7. The Suicidal Virgin Cowboy's Pregnant HIV-Positive Girlfriend: We already know how it's going to end.

8. Typhoid: The Fun New Way to Lose Weight and Keep it Off: A no-brainer, right? Until you remember that women are voluntarily injecting botulism in their faces to paralyze the muscles in order to look younger. But I repeat myself.

9. Unprotected Sex -- Have it with Everyone!: Not for long.

10. What Shoes Would Jesus Wear with That?: I got dibs.

All right, your turn -- post your titles from hell in comments.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Make Me A Supernovelist

Bravo TV, home of your favorite reality shows, is halfway through the hunt for America's next Supernovelist! Co-hosts Nikki Trailer and Tyson Backenforth began with 14 beautiful and talented writers competing for a publication contract with a Major New York Publisher, which includes publication of their work in paperback*, 6% of royalties**, and an advance check of a whopping $5,000.00***!

While undergoing a series of creative challenges designed to test their professional writing skills as well as competing with each other on the Conwalk, seven writers have been put up for the vote and were rejected by you, America, and have to get day jobs! Way to go! Watch this week and vote for the novelist you want to dump! Thurs @ 10/9C

Episode #7
Love Scenes

Nikki Trailer, Supermodel
Tyson Backenforth, Supermodel
Jennifer Bigstar, Premiere Print Casting Agent
Corry Baptista, Career Manager

NIKKI (soberly): There are seven novelists standing before us now. One of you has shown that you can write a bestseller with intimate, sexy, believable love scenes. Well, sort of. Three of you have not, and will be put up for the vote.

TYSON (whispering): Uh, Nikki, that adds up to only four.

NIKKI (whispering): I know.

TYSON (whispering): There are seven of them.

NIKKI (whispering): We're saving three for the midlist. (louder) Sammie, you were almost late coming out on the Conwalk. Why is that?

SAMMIE (bravely): Well, I had to go to the hospital alone for my appendectomy because my husband is out job-hunting, but I heard from my girlfriend Rachel that he may be having an affair with Britney Spears. (scans the faces of the judges) Did I mention that we're poor and starving, our credit cards are maxed out and we're about to be evicted from our apartment? Again?

JENNIFER: Yet somehow you came in and, while again your work wasn't the greatest, you made it to the Conwalk. See, this is true professionalism.

TYSON (smiling): Definitely.

NIKKI (gently): What you've gone through for your art, you poor thing. It's an inspiration to all of us.

CORRY: Frankly, you don't have to write any love scenes for me, Sammie. Just keep suffering. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

NIKKI: I agree. Sammie, you are the winner, and you have immunity from all the reviewers next week. You may leave the Conwalk.

TYSON: Let's talk about Tiffany.


NIKKI: Tiffany, you were given beautiful cover art, a massive publicity campaign, and even a all-expenses-paid book tour. Yet when it came time to deliver the goods, your most erotic love scene reads like instructions for programming a DVD player.

TIFFANY: I . . . (swallows) I was just trying to be subtle, and use symbolism, and . . . show some depth.

CORRY: Show that you're literary, you mean. This is the big problem with you, Tiffany. Remember, you're not writing rocket science.

JENNIFER: I disagree. I think Tiffany can be a little literary now and then without alienating the readers. Must we dumb it all down for everyone?

NIKKI (frowning): I don't like symbolism. It makes my head hurt.

TYSON: Mine, too. Tiffany, you are up for the vote.

NIKKI: Lucky, you've shown us nothing but a bad attitude since you came here. You only work when you feel like it, you constantly trot out this mise en abyme style, and frankly, I don't want to listen to a story to tell a story about a love scene. Also, your overbite is annoying the hell out of me.

TYSON: Amen. Tell me something, Lucky -- do you think your novels are sexy?

LUCKY: What? (blushing) No.

TYSON: I knew it. I knew it. Man, you have got to loosen up. You're a novelist. Look in the mirror every morning and say, "I am a sexy bestseller."

LUCKY (wide-eyed): Dude, I can't do that. It's like, vain, you know? And can't I just have a monster have sex offstage with the chick before he, you know, devours her?

NIKKI: Not if we're only going to hear about it from the chick's great-grandson sixty years later.

LUCKY (sniffing): That's just, like, whacked, dude.

TYSON: Love that attitude, buddy. That's why you are also up for the vote.

NIKKI: Beanie, the challenge this week was to write erotic love scenes. Tell us, why is there a dog featured in every one of yours?

BEANIE: You don't let your dogs sleep in your bed? Geez. I do. All forty-seven of them.

TYSON (covering his eyes): Come and take me now, baby Jesus.

CORRY: A dog in a love scene is inappropriate. It could get hurt. Even killed.

JENNIFER: Well, I never . . . (clears throat) . . . I suppose Corry's right.

BEANIE (tears in his eyes): I don't understand. I love dogs. My dad would never let me have any. And it's not like the dog was having sex with anyone.

CORRY: This is a cruel business, Beanie. You've got to suck it up and dump the dogs.

NIKKI: Beanie, if you don't want to write for the market, I think you should get out now. Which is why you are also up for the vote.

TYSON: Beanie, Lucky and Tiffany, the decision is now conveniently out of our hands. America will vote and decide which of you cannot be made into a supernovelist. You may leave the Conwalk.

Next week: Someone goes home and gets a job at MacDonald's, Jennifer finds out her husband is having an affair with Tiffany, and Tyson throws a cocktail party for Nikki, during which Sammie bravely endures another personal crisis while the other novelists must read from their latest chapters while dodging rotten tomatoes! Don't miss this exciting episode!

*two years from now, after thorough revising and editing
**less agent fees and reserves against returns
***payable when we remember to cut the check

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Vacation Report

Two things I learned during my mini-vacation: 1) although I haven't been a bookseller for years, it still felt great to talk to complete strangers about books and 2) quilters love good stories almost as much as fat quarters and fusible bias tape.

While I was at the show I handed out books written by me and various authors, most at random to about forty people I didn't know. I kept it very low-key and friendly, talked about the authors and asked the recipients that if they enjoyed the book to pass the word around to others who might like it. The response was almost 100% enthusiastic (one lady was quite suspicious; she assumed she'd have to order something if she accepted the book. And I still got her to take it.)

In return, I discovered what these folks are reading, like to read and want to see in the stores. I'd say the average age of the readers I chatted with was about fifty. Among the romance fans, Nicholas Sparks was the name most often mentioned when I asked them who they liked to read. Nicholas, you have to stop saying you don't write romances now. The readers would also like you to stop killing off so many of your darlings, please. Kathleen Woodiwiss, you are greatly missed.

Women's fiction, cozy mysteries, soft thrillers, mainstream historicals, self-help, evangelist titles and celebrity biographies were also favorites among the readers I talked to; vampire fiction/paranormal romance, urban fantasy and science fiction were not mentioned at all. Younger readers were more willing to try something new (moms with babies seemed the most receptive); older readers grilled me more on what the book was about even before they accepted the free copy. I was glad I had read all the books by the other authors I was handing out and could give them a quick synopsis, to say the least.

With each book I also gave out a laminated bookmark I made up with book info on one side and the respective author's backlist and blog URL printed on the back (here's the one I made up for The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square.) I know that most readers prefer these to fliers or any other type of promo; they can slip the bookmark in their pocket or purse. The most common question -- other than "Why are you giving these books away, honey?" -- was "Can I get his/her other books at the book store/library?"

Several of the recipients were vendors at the show, and one promised that if she liked the book I gave her that she would mention it in her e-mail newsletter, which she sends out to 28,000 customers. This really got me to thinking -- if you could give a free book to ten small business owners with the same size mailing list, and earn a mention in their newsletters to customers, that's exposure to over a quarter of a million people.

It's all about what appeal your story might have for the customers involved. For example, Jennifer Chiaverni, the author of the Elm Creek Quilts novels, would have obvious appeal to customers of a quilt fabric shop. So would Lizbie Brown's and Earline Fowler's mysteries, and Suzanne Ellison and Ginger Chamber's romances, most of which are all titled with the names of quilt patterns and/or feature quilts as an integral part of the story.

Not having time to read was the most frequent complaint I heard; one I countered by showing them that I carry a paperback book in my purse to read when I have a spare moment (currently Madhouse by Rob Thurman, and everyone admired the cool cover art) and mentioning the nonfic audio book I'm listening to this week in my car. I definitely made some converts among the moms with the latter suggestion by pointing out that everyone has to sit for at least twenty minutes in the school pickup line every weekday and it's nice to have something more interesting to listen to than endless radio commercials and Rush Limbaugh.

The PBW character card was a hit; everyone smiled or laughed when they saw it (two of the mothers with kids who collect Yu-Gi-Oh cards groaned.) All thought it was an interesting and eye-catching alternative to the hohum business card. One lady suggested handing out "decks of authors and their books" -- something you authors with long backlists or group bloggers might think about trying at your next reader con.

As to what the readers would like to read, longer books with bigger casts of characters (aka the "meaty read" as one lady put it), epic romances ala Kathleen Woodiwiss, sweeping American historical/dynasty series like the old John Jakes books were requested. There was a lot of nostalgia for the good old days of book buying, when the readers picked up a book not because of the hype, the cover art or the pun-y title, but because they followed a specific author, often for the entire length of his/her career. As one lady put it, "I'd read anything LaVyrle Spencer wrote, it just had to have her name on it."

It was good to get out there and talk books with people, especially outside the biz box. Authors, consider checking out some of the non-publishing trade shows, conferences and conventions happening in your local area, and see if any of them might be an opportunity to make some connections.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Returned & Learned

Back, with batteries recharged, lots of info and feedback gathered, and some new ideas forming. Got an interesting job offer, too; should I decide to quit the biz I will definitely not starve. The character card as business card was a big hit, as were the free books I handed out. Plus I got to not be a writer for a couple of days, and much fun was had by all.

To the lovely and talented Diane, with whom I didn't get to talk as much as I would have liked, thank you for the beautiful hand-dyed silks. I'm always delighted to see your work. And I promise, I won't use vinegar as a neutralizer any more. :)

A more complete report is in the works. In the meantime, for those of you who like looking at beautiful quilts made by very talented hands, I took lots of photos at the show, which I uploaded here.

My favorite quilt from the show:

Thursday, March 06, 2008


I'm taking off to hang with my non-writer friends at one of our favorite annual gatherings, and I need a little break from blogging, so I won't be around for the next few days. Tom is also taking some vacation time, so any new comments will be posted when I get back, probably on Monday.

As an experiment this year I'm taking a box of my titles and my favorite authors' new releases to hand out to unsuspecting strangers while I make the rounds. I promise to bring back lots of pictures and details on how free books fare at a non-publishing event. I'm also going to field test the character card (I made up one for PBW) and see what sort of reception that gets.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Interview? Throwdown?

Sean Lindsay tries -- and fails, pretty much -- to browbeat me today over at 101 Reasons to Stop Writing.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Got Quirk?

A quirk is a peculiar action, behavior, mannerism or personality blip that is generally unique to an individual. Everyone has at least one, even if they aren't aware of it. Celebrity quirks are often fascinating, like the president who kept a jar of jelly beans on his desk, the talk show hostess whose entire wardrobe is black, or the world champion golfer who has to carry three pennies with him every time he plays.

Quirks can add dimension and realism to fictional characters. A perfect character is basically cardboard, but one who whistles old show tunes, wears a black bowler or calls everyone he meets "pal" or "doll" demands more attention. The quirks themselves don't have to be huge things, either. Sue Grafton's P.I. protagonist Kinsey Milhone loves sandwiches with the repulsive-sounding combination of peanut butter and pickles (and she was quite put out in one novel when she discovered that a long-lost relative shared the same quirk.)

Writers themselves have plenty of quirks. One writer friend of mine has a pair of lucky writing socks, Lord help his wife if she ever loses them in the wash. Another writer I know always prints out the first copy of a manuscript she's written on her favorite pale blue paper. Other quirks I've heard writers admit to seem to me more like a method of mental/physical/environmental preparation, as in praticing yoga before every writing session, lighting specifically-scented candles near the work space or perching a new Beanie Baby on top of the computer monitor.

I have my fair share of quirks, too. Years ago I stopped buying clothing with prints or patterns; my wardrobe is now 100% solid colors. I keep books to read, jars of pens and blank notebooks in every room in the house, including the bathrooms. As for work, I never eat an hour before I write or write while barefoot. I write facing a blank wall with my back to the windows in the room. When I know for whatever reason that I'm going to have a tough writing day, I wear a really big, ugly old torn-up T-shirt I stole years ago from my guy. Even if I don't reveal it in the story, I always give every one of my characters a birthdate and a full name. Whenever I finish writing a novel, I never type "The End."

What are some of your quirks, writing-related or otherwise?

Quirky links:

Jennifer Jensen's article on characterization and using quirks, Create Distinct Characters ~ Vary Personalities and Backgrounds for Interesting Fiction.

Author Judy Reeves has a entire page of interesting famous writer quirks here (I love the last one.)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Audition Ten

Ten Things That Offer Free Trial or Demo Versions

1. Create a database and table of acronyms from your document with AcroWizard (OS: Windows NT 4.0 SP6, 2000 SP3, XP SP1 + Word 2000 SP3, XP SP2, 2003)

2. CopyWrite is "a project manager for writers of all kinds. Rather than focus on formatting and layout, CopyWrite stands apart in its project-oriented approach. Word processors and page layout tools are good at what they do - formatting and layout - but they offer no help at all to a writer during the creative process. In fact, the 'gee-whiz' features crammed into these tools do more to hinder writers, getting in the way of their work flow. Put simply, these tools constipate writers; CopyWrite is like a tasty bran muffin ... with extra bran" (OS: Mac OS X 10.3 or higher)

3. Nonfic writers, EazyPaper will handle the formatting of your footnotes and bibliography for you; online demo at the web site (OS: Windows 98 or later and MS Word 2000 or later)

4. IdeaMason "brings together the database elements of both a bibliographical and information management tool in combination with a virtual writing platform. Store and categorize ideas and research in one comprehensive portfolio. Collect and manage sources in a virtual library. Then use IdeaMason's revolutionary Composition tool to organize your ideas and manage referenced sources in a single efficient step. When you are ready IdeaMason exports your work into a fully-formatted document complete with footnotes and citations. IdeaMason automatically generates a complete bibliography (including annotations) in your choice of the following major styles APA, MLA, Harvard Citations (UK & Austrialian variations supported), Chicago Notes-Bibliography, & Chicago Author-Date" (OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista [64-bit and 32-bit editions])

5. IdeaWeaver is "a writing and creativity software program that is easy and flexible to use. You can write the way you want, not the way the software dictates. You can see all your ideas on one screen along with an outline, topics, and categories, so you can organize and sort your ideas in many ways. Although it has a lot of features, unlike some software programs, you aren't FORCED to use them" (OS: Win 98/2k/Me/XP/2003)

6. Master Storyteller 2.0 "develops your writing skills while you develop your story. Using a series of Story Cards, you learn new storytelling techniques and then apply them to your own story. Each Story card moves you a step closer to a compelling story and to becoming a Master Storyteller yourself. This LE version of Storymind contains ten valuable writing exercises. The full version contains over 50. The LE version prints and exports but does not save. The full version allows the creation of your own Story Cards"(OS: Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP)

7. Mellel is "an advanced word processor for Mac OS X designed especially for scholars, creative and technical writers, and anyone seeking a feature-rich and reliable word processor" (OS: Mac OS X)

8. Movie Outline screenplay development software takes "the complexity out of the screenwriting process and give you the space to think and write your script scene by scene while simultaneously being able to compare your own story pacing with outlines and analyses of successful movies" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista; Mac OS X 10.3.9 or above)

9. Writers Assistant "helps with organization of writing projects and tracks any manuscript submissions that you may have" (OS: Palm PDA (?) 4.0 -- developer's web site is under construction, so not sure on this one.)

10. Writers Blocks 3 is "powerful writing software 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, Vista, 2000, 98, ME)

Search for more shareware by platform over at

Sunday, March 02, 2008

How to Post Comments

The names of the winners of the Blaze Bonanza giveaway are listed directly under this post.

After several days of mulling over the responses and suggestions offered during last week's visitor poll I asked Tom to disable the anonymous comment option.* I'm not happy about it, but I'm done catering to trolls and cowards. Thus I must impose on the rest of you to take an extra step to participate in discussions here, but the majority of you seem to be okay with that. I apologize to those who aren't.

When you go to comment on PBW now, you'll see the following choices:


Open ID: LiveJournal, Wordpress, Typepad, AIM (AOL Instant Message)

1. To use the Google/Blogger option, you need to sign in with your Google account ID [two entry fields, in which you enter your account ID name and your password]

Joining Blogger is free, but requires you open a Google Account (also free.) You can get more information and take a tour of Blogger here.

2. To use the LiveJournal option, you need to enter your LiveJournal URL: http://(user name)

Joining LiveJournal is completely free, and you can learn more about it and sign up here.

3. To use the Wordpress option, you need to enter your Wordpress URL: http://(user name)

WordPress also offers free blogs, but they may stick Google ads on your blog. You can read more about them here.

4. To use the Typepad option, you need to enter your Typepad profile URL: name)

Typepad is not free, but offers a 14-day trial membership, and you can learn more that here.

5. To use the AIM, or AOL Instant Messenger option, you need to enter your AOL ID URL: name)

AIM is also free, even if you don't subscribe to AOL as your Internet Service Provider. You will have to create a screen name, or use an existing e-mail account as a screen name, and you can read more on that here.

It would make me very happy if some of you turned this hassle into a writing opportunity. You know how I harp on journaling and writing daily, and if you've never written an online journal or blog it might be fun to start one now. Most of the free sites offer a private option, so you don't have to share your blog with the rest of the world. I've been using Blogger for seven years now, and while I've had some problems here and there, the service for the most part has been good.

As for those writers who scoff at the idea of a free weblog being worthwhile, consider that I've never paid a dime for PBW, and it's proven a hundred times more popular than any other online site I've had.

*Added, 10/31/08: Some time after this post Tom and I quietly re-enabled the anonymous comment option. I Still reserve the right to delete any anonymous comment I feel is SPAM or inappropriate.

Winners & Surprises

I have a whole list of interesting writer blogs to check out, thank you, everyone who entered the Blaze Bonanza giveaway. This morning we cranked up the magic hat, and the winners are:

Isabella (who recommends Storytellers Unplugged)

Heather (who recommends Holly Lisle)

Dawn Montgomery (who recommends Alison Kent, Michelle Hasker, Kim Knox, Morgan Hawke and Shiloh Walker)

Gail (who recommends Jennifer Crusie)

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to information to, and I'll get these books and the surprises out to you.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

For Fun

If you've always envied the hairstyles of the rich and famous, or you'd simply like to see what Angelina Jolie's hair would look like on you (or what your hair would look like on her), go and play with The HairMixer*.

Here's one of my photos**, a beautiful blonde famous person I can't identify, and what happens when I steal her hair:

You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can't....

*Swiped from Gerard over at The Generator Blog (at last, he's back)

**An incredibly ancient photo, I might add. I think I was only 28 in this one.