Monday, June 30, 2008

Words X Ten

Ten Things to Do with Words

Feed a list of words to Create Your Own WordSearch and it will make a word search puzzle out of them for you.

The Heretical Rhyme Generator will "write a little poem just for you, as long as you give it the first line."

Create crossword puzzles for your blog, web site, newsletter or just for fun with the Instant Online Crossword Puzzle Maker.

Pick a Magnetic Poetry Kit lets you play online with six different poetry-creating kits.

The Random Name Generator gives you a list of random male or female names based on the U.S. Census; you can specify the beginning letters of the names you want to see.

Paperback Writer: one size does NOT fit all -- this (slightly corrupted) slogan was manufactured over at the
Slogan Generator.

P Plain Educational Block B W -- brought to you by EriK Kastner's Spell with Flickr generator.

The Word Constructor can help you create new words based on those you input.

Design your own Wordpress theme without messing with HTML, JS, or PHP with the Wordpress Theme Generator.

WriteExpress Online Rhyming Dictionary will take your word and find beginning, end, double or last or first syllable rhymes for it.

Some of these links were shamelessly swiped from The Generator Blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Full Circle

(This post is brought to you by the marvelous new scheduled-post option Blogger has added to their free service, which allows posts to be saved and published automatically by a preset date and time. I am actually off somewhere trying to comfort a very miserable man.)

Back in 2001, just about the time the gilt began to wear off publishing for me, I picked up a book at random in the store. As I remember it, I chose it because I liked the cover art, and the title intrigued me. It was such a great read I immediately recommended it to my small circle of readers, and promptly went back out and bought everything else the author had written.

That's how I discovered author Patricia Briggs.

The Hob's Bargain was a quiet landmark in my writing life. Just as I was really being trampled by the indifferent hooves of publishing's herd and hoopla, it reminded me that this is what writing books should be about: creating great stories to delight the unsuspecting reader. It was also the first book I put on what would become my writer's writers shelf.

There are books that inspire us, and then there are books that save us. This one did both for me. The Hob's Bargain told me I needed to work harder to become a better writer. It also assured me that the effort would be worth it. It dared to whisper that writing a great story was the only thing that mattered -- and this at a time when everyone was screaming the exact opposite at me.

My original edition of The Hob's Bargain is a little worn; I've re-read it a dozen times for pleasure, or whenever I needed another reminder. I suppose I've treated it more like a talisman than a novel. If you'd told me in 2001 that someday a quote from me would appear on the cover, I'd have laughed myself into the hiccups. In what parallel universe could something like that ever happen?

Reprint edition of The Hob's Bargain by Patricia Briggs

I think the new cover art is beautiful, and having my quote on there, well, you can imagine how that feels. There are a hundred more popular and important authors who would have fallen over themselves to have that space, and yet somehow my words are there. Mainly I'm grateful to see The Hob's Bargain returning to the shelves because I love this story. Thank you for writing it, and for enchanting all of us, Patricia.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Off to Caregive

My guy is probably going to have some major dental work done tomorrow, if he makes it through the pain he's in tonight. I'm going to bail on you guys so I can stick by him and help him get through this.

In lieu of a proper post, something prettier: another gorgeous cover for one of Patricia Briggs' backlist reprints, Steal the Dragon, currently available in stores now.

Cover art for reprint edition of Patricia Briggs's Steal the Dragon

Some girls do have all the luck, don't they?

Have a great weekend.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Got Wordle?

Wordle*, a Java-based word cloud maker, is described by the designer as "a toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide." The nice thing about this online toy is that you can customize the font, layout and color schemes with a variety of interesting choices.

Here's one I made with a scene from Stay the Night (click on image to see larger version):

Word cloud for STN scene

This can also be used as a simple visual tool for identifying frequently-used words in your text, because the more you use a word in the text that you feed to Wordle, the larger it appears in the cloud.

*Link found over at Elizabeth Bear's LJ.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Odds, Ends

My guy wasn't feeling well last night (pending root canal), so I abandoned my evening session on the computer, closed down the BatCave and spent the evening pampering and commiserating with him. A lover in pain is more important than blogging and editing any day (and, tough guy that he is, he went off to work this morning, still in pain.)

Eva Gale passed along this link in comments yesterday and it blew me away to see the art and the world-building involved. Definitely check it out when you have a chance, and thank you, Eva.

Last week, lightning struck the cable company's equipment nearby, and fried dozens of modems, computers, converters and televisions in our neighborhood. We lost our family room television set, computer modem and two of my towers (fortunately I had everything backed up while switching over to the new system, which is isolated from everything, or I'd be in very big trouble.) The power surge ran through the cable itself, which was hooked directly to everything it fried; our household current surge suppressors didn't stop it. I've voted for replacing the TV with a nice stereo system, which I would use more. You guys who live in storm- or lightning-prone areas, please make sure you're backing up your data regularly.

Via phone I talked with an agency-type publicist who cold-called me to solicit some business. He had a nice, deceitful pitch about what I need to do in order to be a successful author, none of which I actually do. When I asked him why writing was not on his success checklist he thought I was joking and chuckled. Anyway, it turns out that publishing doesn't care about me (say it isn't so!), I am cheating myself and cannot compete unless I "get behind my books." Which will cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty large. I told him I'd rather stay in front of them and focus on the writing (which did not make him happy, so I do hope whoever gave him my private number got their kickback out of him up front.)

My daughter demanded that I read the Stephenie Meyers YA vampire books, and I have; all three of them. Decent stories, although I probably would have appreciated them more about thirty-four years ago. But at least now I can discuss the story with her, and she's thrilled because they're all she wants to talk about these days. Since her least favorite aspect of the books are the "sex parts" (and yeah, that's what she calls the endless dry kissing, hand-holding and hugging) I have suggested she not read my vampire books until she finishes post-graduate school.

What's up with you guys?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Series, Done

My editor has approved the revisions for Stay the Night, so Robin's book is finished. Because I also wrapped up quite a few storylines in this one, including that of the series protagonists, Alexandra and Michael, I'm going to consider these seven books as a finished set. This is not to say I'll never write another story about the Darkyn or the characters from these novels, as I've discussed future possibilities for both with my editor, but as a series, I feel this one is complete.

Look at it this way: if I get hit by a truck tomorrow, only my StarDoc readers will be pissed (and not for long; all my notes, outlines and plans for book ten are completed; I just have to write it after I get Crystal Healer out of here next week.)

Most writers will keep banging out a series as long as they can sell the books, especially if they're successful and bring in a lot of bucks. Publishers encourage this because they like to make money, too. But I think in the long term this limits the writer and exhausts the readership. We've all read the series that should have ended three, four, or even ten books back.

I didn't want that for Darkyn. Certainly I could have dragged it out for quite a few more books, given the number of characters who would have made great protags and the fertile storylines that kept wanting to breed on me. Still, I like that I was able to write what I wanted in seven novels. For lack of a better description, it just feels right. And if I never write anything that sells as well as these seven books have/hopefully will, I won't regret it. I'll just write Darkyn the Next Generation. I'm kidding.

Or am I?

Hmmmm. You'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Minimal-Hoop Ten

Ten Things for Free That Don't Require a Lot of Hoop-Jumping

Art: Photographer Marc Silber will give you Focus on Beauty, a free e-book of his work if you subscribe to his newsletter here.

Books, Graphic Novels and More: calls itself "the only source where readers can legally download high-quality copyrighted ebooks from leading publishers for free. Readers have access to a wide range of offerings, including works of classic literature, college textbooks, comic books, and popular fiction and non-fiction titles." (Registration required; evidently sponsors pay to put ads in the books and the author gets a cut, which pays for everything, although they're a little fuzzy on the details.)

Books, Special Format: has 20,978 free eBooks available here, all formatted for reading on your PDA, iPod or eBook reader (small donation requested but not required, looks like all you have to do is register.)

Books, Adobe .pdf Format: Adobe has started a free-to-download eBook library here; to read them, you have to be running version Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.05 or later.

Craft: Learn how to knit and crochet with the free, full-color e-book Maran Illustrated Knitting & Crocheting (no download option on this one, but you can read it online or print it out.) *Note 9/3/10: Since instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.

Music: Enter your e-mail (not to be used for spam), and Nine Inch Nails will send you a free EP with "five high quality, DRM-free, fully-tagged MP3 files from a place to bury strangers, does it offend you, yeah?, crystal castles, deerhunter, and nine inch nails. Your download will also include cover art and a pack of digital extras."

Nonfic: Author Jenna Glatzer and publishing attorney Daniel Steven are offering a free e-book version of their nonfic book, The Street-Smart Writer: Self-Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World for anyone to download; see details here on Jenna's blog.

Print Book: You can get a free print copy of The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham by simply filling in the form at the link; while supplies last, allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. Rev. Graham's ministry also offers a new, free inspy print book each month at the site, so check back for other titles.

Recipes: Sign up here to receive a free copy of "your Best of Cooking Light Supper Clubs™, Volume III mini-magazine and monthly Supper Club Dish e-newsletters from Executive Chef Billy Strynkowski. The mini-magazine and e-newsletters include seasonal menus, wine-pairing options, clever shortcuts, and entertaining tips all to help you host your best Supper Club party yet! Note: Mini-magazines will be mailed out in August 2008."

Screenplay/Script: If you're like me and absolutely adored the movie Young Frankenstein, you can download, read online or print a copy of the original script on Scribd here. For you youngsters, someone also posted the script for Juno and the shooting script for There Will Be Blood 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. 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.

Monday, June 23, 2008


There have been a lot of times in my life when George Carlin was the only voice that reached me. He talked me down, roughed me up, and made me laugh even when I thought I never would again. He showed me what true natural brilliance is. He was so smart, so funny and so right about everything that he could make me laugh until I sobbed, no matter where I was, how I was feeling or who glared at me.

George was a kind man who was not particularly kind toward people. He constantly reminded us of how stupid and uptight and totally useless we can be. But during my darkest hours, when I stood on the edge of the abyss and thought, Why not?, he gave me reasons to step back. George spoke directly to my soul, and dared me to do something even stupider, like keep living. If a species like ours can produce someone like George, there is hope for us.

Hope died last night. He was 71.

George, you and I were supposed to grow old together, so I'm beyond pissed that you went first. I expect to see you on the other side, still giving God and the Devil a hard time when I get there. Goodbye, pal.

On the Dark Side

Ever since my daughter dropped this line in conversation (she read it online somewhere as someone's sig tag), I've wanted this T-shirt. Bad. You can almost hear Darth Vader saying it.

Of the T-shirts I own, my favorites are the Still Plays with Dirt I wore to a speaking engagement a few years back, and the one Mom gave me for my birthday with Careful, or you'll end up in my novel on it.

Today my T-shirt should read Aut viam inveniam aut faciam* with a middle finger being deployed. I think a girl can never have too many obscure Latin/disrespectful hand gesture T-shirts.

What should your T-shirt say today?

*Translation: I'll either find a way or make one.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


When I got the call last year that Night Lost debuted at #21 on the New York Times mass market extended bestseller list, I was dumbfounded. That had never happened to me, and I had basically resigned myself to the fact that it never would.

Once the shock wore off, however, I calmed down and pegged it as a one-time fluke. Maybe it was a slow month, maybe the bookstores unpacked my boxes first, or maybe a couple of thousand people were bored, wanted something new to read, and decided this while standing next to the V shelf. No way would it happen again.

I kept up that attitude until January, when Evermore debuted at #21 on the Times list, and hung on for a second week at #30. Amazing stuff, or so I thought until I got yelled at for it.

You see, as it has been explained to me, it's not making the list another time, it's what number your book makes on the list. According to my publisher's rules, their marketing people may not refer to me as a NYT bestselling author until my novel makes it to #20 or better. So while my books have appeared on the extended list three times now, I'm still publicized as only a USA Today bestseller (I notice that my series, however, is being touted on online bookseller sites as a NYT bestseller. Different set of rules for the books, I guess.)

Since my second experience of having a novel make the Times list was pretty much ruined by all the unhappiness it caused in NY, I couldn't look forward to my next release. In fact, for the last couple of weeks, I've been dreading it. I keep thinking, with my luck? The book will hit #21 on the list again, and this time they'll send someone to the house to break my legs.

So, before my next release hits the shelves on July 1st, should I:

A. Leave the country and hide out in Europe until it's all over and they're mad at someone else.

B. Have my phone and ISP service turned off until it's all over, etc.

C. Hire a sweet-voiced secretary to say I can't come to the phone or answer e-mail because I'm suffering from a case of acute tinnitus and pink eye.

D. Hire a mean-voiced secretary to say I'm not available and not to bother me or I may decide to make a living writing dog food commercials.

D1. Check out the exciting career opportunities available in the dog food commercial writing field.

D2. I do love dogs almost as much as I love cats.

D3. I'd get to work with David Duchovny, too, if Pedigree signed me, right?

D4. But David's still married, and I'm in a committed relationship too.

D5. Rats.

E. Get a prescription for Valium and stay on it for the entire month of July.

F. Practice New Age excuses for the book not performing to expectation, like, "The planets weren't aligned correctly" or "I forgot to have my chakrahs balanced" or "Someone must have drained the energy from my writing aura."

G. Blame it on a conspiracy by the Times to keep me at #21 in retaliation for all the times I've made fun of their badly-worded annual rec lists.

H. Hire some big guys from the old neighborhood to answer the phone and casually mention how much they love me, how willing they'd be to stomp into the ground anyone upsets me, and how quickly they can be in New York.

H1. Hire some big guys from the old neighborhood to break both of my legs as a preemptive move, go into the hospital that doesn't have WiFi, and unplug the room phone.

H2. Okay, pretend to have them break both of my legs.

I. Start a Times list betting pool for the new release, and put all my money on #21.

J. Start a rumor that #21 on the Times list is better than #20 and, in fact, usually outsells them.

K. Put my fingers in my ears and sing La-La-La continuously for the next five weeks.

L. Have a highly-publicized nervous breakdown, and twitch and foam at the mouth uncontrollably whenever someone says the words "bestseller list."

M. Consider that I'm already having a nervous breakdown and just haven't realized it yet.

M1. Try to find a therapist who won't break down in tears halfway through the first session.

M2. There's no shame in going back to the therapist, you know, or making her cry again. The poor woman probably needs the emotional outlet.

N. Become a Victoria's Secret Lingerie Model and make Heidi Klum my BFF so I can get Seal's new albums and some of those cute four-leaf clover gold earrings for nothing.

O. Hey, I'm fantasizing here.

P. Have the part of my brain that worries surgically removed.

Q. Take a very looooooooooooooooooong nap.

R. Call Alison Kent and keep her on the phone for five weeks.

S. Go alligator hunting and get lost in the Everglades with a large, single, strapping young male guide who finds me wildly attractive and hasn't had sex since Clinton was in office.

S1. P.S., Bring lots of vitamin E, good sunscreen and strong mosquito repellent.

T. Write a blog post about bestseller list dread, laugh at myself, and then just let it go.

U. But check on the availability of the guys from the old neighborhood, just in case.

Cast your vote in comments.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ending Ratings

Vanessa Jaye has an interesting post over at her place about HEA and checking the endings of books to see what the author delivers. Which prompted me to clog up her comments with my views, among which I suggested that we create a symbolic rating system for the benefit of HEA-or-nothing romance readers, along the lines of those international stck figure picture symbols for road signs, bathrooms, etc.

My original suggestion was a pink heart for the novel with a traditional HEA, a black heart for the ones with non-HEA endings, and a heart with a ? mark in the center for cliffhangers, continuing romance (i.e. Alex and Michael from Darkyn) or Hopefully Ever After endings. But then there are all those other-than-romance genres, as Vanessa pointed out, that have romance subplots like Gump's box of chocolates -- you never know what you're going to get.

So, to expand on my original idea, I propose we institute the following:

Erotica: hot pink heart with odometer (love interests commit only after they have had sex [number on odometer] times), hot blue heart with chains (love interest falls for dominatrix), three pink hearts entwined (love interest has scorching romance with two other persons) hot pink heart with electrical outlet, assorted toys, bottles of lube and hanging basket chair (love interests are kind of busy right now, check back with them in the next book.)

Historical Fiction: pink heart edged with period-correct tatted lace with black ribbon (romance ends in advantageous marriage, but female love interest dies in childbirth), purple heart (romance ends in quickie marriage, immediately after which male love interest marches off to war, where he dies in unsanitary hospital tent of complications from wound infection), black heart with red fist (romance between lovers of unequal rank, never quite gets off the ground, then everyone is shot during a Socialist coup or revolution, and you don't quite know who dies.)

Horror: pink heart with chainsaw (female love interest dies, horribly) blue heart with hatchet (male love interest dies, horribly) anatomically correct heart, still dripping (romance is permanently railroaded when one lover rips/cuts out the heart of the other in bizarre sacrificial ritual at ancient Mexican ruins), rat-infested, mold-, pimple- and running-sore-covered heart impaled on tombstone-colored razor-sharp teeth surrounded by hungry zombies with cell phones (romance by Stephen King, or everyone who even thinks about falling in love suffers horribly, then -- you don't want to know.)

Inspirational: pink heart with chastity belt (a lot of romance talk but no actual physical contact), pink heart with cross (romance ends in church marriage), pink heart with white collar (romance ends with church marriage to minister), pure white unblemished heart (all characters forego romance in order to devote their hearts, minds and lives to Christ.)

Mystery/Crime Fiction: Ice-covered blue heart (love interest expired some years ago, no romance), red heart with black garter belt (lots of sex, no romance) red heart with bullet holes (killer shoots the love interest), bloodred heart with smoking handgun (love interest nabs the killer, then dies of GSW, always in the arms of the detective protagonist.)

Science Fiction: DayGlo green heart with slanted, all-black eyes (non-human romance subplot), half-DayGlo green and half-pink (interspecies romance suplot), pink heart exploding into a supernova (romance subplot that ends badly), Nebula award trophy (no romance subplot.)

Urban Fantasy: pink or blue heart with flaming edges (love interest goes to hell) blackened pink or blue heart speckled with ash (love interest comes back from hell), black heart with twin punctures (love interest is killed by vampire), black heart with unit of whole blood (love interest turns into a vampire), black heart with doggy bag (werewolf eats the love interest), hairy pink or blue heart distorted into the shape of a snout (love interest is the werewolf.)

What HEA rating symbols would you like to see out there in BookLand? Post your suggestions in comments.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Wall of Why

If you heard a tired thunk today, that was me finishing revisions for Stay the Night. I ran down to the wire, but after a bit of last-minute waffling sent the manuscript off to the editor in time. The next manuscript, Crystal Healer, is nearly ready to make its July 1st deadline, which is the same day Twilight Fall hits the shelves.

Then I have to pitch things, review offers, dodge phone calls about bestseller lists, and make a lot of career decisions that I've been putting off for some time now. None of that should be depressing, but it is. It can also be distracting, annoying, inconvenient and, at times, overwhelming. Which is when I go upstairs to my office, and look at my Wall of Why.

It's an ordinary wall, covered with not-so-ordinary things. In a little glass case in the center is the very first copy I ever held of StarDoc my first novel in print. I can still remember how it felt, to take it out of the box and hold it in my hands. That book is there as a symbol of how much I wanted this job, and how very fortunate I am to still have it after ten years.

Next to it is a framed photo of a California reader who wrote to tell me she had terminal cancer, and to ask me if I would tell her how I planned to finish the StarDoc series. She was fighting, but she was afraid she would die before I finished the books. I wrote back and told her everything I had planned, and sent her copies of all my manuscripts as soon as I finished writing them. I kept corresponding with her until a few days before she died, shortly after she read Eternity Row. That photo is there to tell me to always do my best for the readers, and to never give up.

On the other side is another glass case, this one holding a folded American flag that was flown in Iraq, sent to me last summer along with a certificate from the 332nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Balad AFB. All this, to thank me for sending books to our troops. There just aren't words to describe how stunning and humbling it is, to receive such a gift. All I have to do is look at that flag, remember all the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve this country, and the weight of the publishing world vanishes.

There are other things on the Wall of Why -- a photo of my daughter as a toddler, sitting on my lap at my first booksigning; the original cover art painting for Shockball; even a letter from then-President Bill Clinton replying to a bitchfest I'd sent him about improving senior health care in the U.S. (he didn't do anything with my suggestions, though) -- and they all recharge my batteries in some way or another.

There are a lot of important reasons to keep writing, no matter how tired, depressed or defeated I feel. Because as the Wall of Why always reminds me, it's not just about me.

What would you put on your wall, and why? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The variety of writing spaces you all have (or would like to have) really surprised me, but those little side notes on what bugs you about or in your space had me nodding in sympathy. Hopefully someday they'll invent a way for us to write in the shower, keep people from hovering behind us and reading while we work (this is why I could never work in coffee shops) or work on a laptop with a comfortable keyboard (I used to plug a standard keyboard into my laptop whenever I needed to type more than one sentence.)

I'd also like some sort of non-lethal bazooka-type weapon to employ whenever someone intrudes on my writing time/space. Spraying them with Silly String isn't working.

We shook up the magic hat, and the winners of the Outer, Inner Spaces giveaway are:

Dawn Montgomery, who is obviously not claustrophobic or a messy diner.

D. (whose comment began with Honestly, in recent years I've found I can write just about anywhere. But oddly enough, my best writing usually happens on the train... I like trains, too, although I had a guy once on the people mover thing in Sacramento sit next to me and offer editing suggestions while I was trying to outline some notes.

Johnny, aka Writeorical Questions, who only needs a desk, the internet to crash, all friends to leave town and a modest blizzard to snow in the writing space (what do you do in summer, though?)

KatieB (whose comment was My ideal space is at home, in a comfortable writing chair. I like to have my outline or notes nearby and a cup of coffee within reach.) Make that a pot of tea and I'm there.

KTB (whose comment began with My ideal space is a loft with a window (basements always seem cold), a small glass-topped desk, thick carpet, laptop with wireless connection (for research only, of course)...) I love lofts -- I still miss the little one I had with a balcony where I could watch the sunrise; they're wonderful.

Winners, when you have a chance, please send your full name and ship-to address to, and I'll mail your book out to you. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Fee Schedule

After watching the Associated Press making all kinds of new friends around the liberal alternative blogosphere this week, I pondered how much I could charge for what other bloggers link to and quote from what I post here at PBW.

Here's what AP charges for what you excerpt from their stuff:

5-25 words $ 12.50
26-50 words $ 17.50
51-100 words $ 25.00
101-250 words $ 50.00
251 words and up $ 100.00

I wonder if that last and up means I'd only have to pay $100.00 if I quoted like a million words. Sounds like a real bargain, then, doesn't it? If so I might start writing political novels . . . .

Anyway, I know I'm not as big or as important as AP, and writers are usually cash-poor, so my new fee schedule is a little more realistic:

PBW Excerpt and Quote Charges:

5-25 words -- one dozen homemade cookies (chocolate chip)

26-50 words -- one cake (chocolate) with icing (dark chocolate) and strawberries (fresh)

51-100 words -- dinner at restaurant (French) with my choice of anything I want from the menu and the dessert cart

101-250 words -- one week's all expenses-paid stay at Colorado mountain spa (luxury) with young personal attendant (male and cute) to be provided with palm frond fans, champagne grapes (French) and books of my choice. . . . and oh another young personal attendant (male and cute) to rub my feet when I get tired of walking from the bed to the jacuzzi

251-300 words -- an all-expenses paid month in Paris penthouse (exclusive) with male film star of my choice (single) and new wardrobe of clothing (designer) and collar of diamonds (one carat or larger) and a lot of other stuff I can only get in France, like decent bread and cassoulet, etc.

Anything over 301 words -- my own island or country (democratic) with a healthy, well-fed population (happy) willing to work hard in order to shower me with wealth, mansions, private jets, yachts, and young male personal attendants (the population will have Sundays off, during which time they may gather to worship me as both government leader and benevolent goddess.)

I don't think that sounds altogether too unreasonable, do you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Outer, Inner Spaces

A Writer's Space by Eric Maisel, PhDOne of the reasons I picked up A Writer's Space ~ Make Room to Dream, to Work, to Write is because it was written by Dr. Eric Maisel, the author of one of my all-time favorite inspirational nonfic books, A Writer's Paris. I was also curious to see what he had to say about writing spaces, the birthplace of every book in existence.

The first 10 chapters of the book address the physical writing space, as well as how to find, regard, respect, manage and protect it. Lots of good advice as well as several exercises at the end of every section to help put theory into action (don't be intimidated by the number of chapters; they're short and the book is only 248 pages in length.)

While reading I learned that I'm not alone in needing a very small, completely uncluttered place to write; evidently Amy Tan has the same problem. Dr. Maisel mentioned some other, interesting famous writer quirks: James Joyce preferred to write in bed; Isaac Asimov had several typewriters set up on tables around his office (one for each project). Alice Hoffman goes so far as to paint her office a different color every time she starts a new book, using a shade that resonates with the book's theme (good thing this isn't my little quirk.)

The next 25 chapters of the book, however, deal with the writing spaces less apparent to the rest of the world: mind, emotional, reflective, imagined, public, and even existential. Here Dr. Maisel discusses things most writers wrestle with in private, like envy, depression, dissatisfaction, coping with rejection, the weight of individuality (chapter 16, the story of my life) and how destructive they can be to the writer as well as the work if left unchecked.

Chapters 26-28 deals with how the writer should handle public spaces (for blogging writers, that's the internet) and this is where I thought Dr. Maisel was being a bit naive at times. He encourages the writer to stand up, speak out, and not be so nice while he downplays (or really isn't aware of) the risks involved for today's working writer. Here I would have liked to see a couple of chapters on how to handle those brave, usually anonymous souls who decide you and your public-accessible space are their personal soapbox, punching bag or restroom.

Aside from that one blip, the book is quite good, which I expected, and chock full of new ways and means of dealing with all these different writer spaces, which I didn't. I've imprinted myself with several phrases I'm probably going to use way too much now, like emotional intelligence (chapter 15).

As always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, describe your ideal space for writing (or if you're comfortable working anywhere and everywhere, just toss your name into the hat) by midnight EST on Wednesday, June 18, 2008. I'll draw five names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners an unsigned copy of A Writer's Space by Dr. Eric Maisel. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fun with Generators

Ten Generators to Have Fun With

1. With Lore Sjöberg's Acronym Interaction, Expansion and Extrapolation Engine, I discovered my initials could also stand for Serial Library Viewer.

2. The British Town Name Generator, for those times when you need folksy-sounding places like Hookerchurch, Merseyside or Crickhead, Oxfordshire.

3. has a pretty interesing bunch of generators, including this one for old names.

4. Phillip Riley's homepage includes a wide variety of ethnic name generators.

5. If you need something to happen other than two guys with guns bust into the room, try one of the 329 suggestions offered by Michael Eidson's Event Generator.

6. Dire Press, home of one of my favorite Fractal World Generators, also offers a Fantasy Name Generator with ten different types and dozens of type choices as well as a very cool Star System Generator.

7. To convert perfectly good text into gibberish on a six-stage scale ranging from a bit mixed-up to totally incomprehensible, try the Gibberish Generator.

8. Need to mutate into something other than human? Test drive's Mutation Generator.

9. I don't know quite how to describe what this random word generator -- it gobbles up large lists of words and turns them into new ones. If you're in a hurry to coin a lot of words in bulk, this would definitely be the generator to play with.

10. Also from Michael Eidson, generate various sorts of precipitation, temperatures and wind speeds for your world with Weather Generator.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Auction for Jo Leigh

I know a lot of you have already heard the sad news about author Jo Leigh losing her husband on Friday, but for those who haven't, I'm posting this information and related links from author Stephanie Tyler's weblog:

"One of our own, author Jo Leigh (aka Jolie Kramer) lost her husband on June 13 after he courageously battled cancer. If you don’t know their story which is the stuff romance novels are made of, you can read it here and see their wedding picture here.

In addition to being a fabulous friend to so many and a mulit-RITA nominated author who has written for Harlequin Blaze, Temptation, Intrigue, Special Projects, Silhouette Intimate Moments and Meteor Kismet, Jo is known across the country for the amazing writing classes she teaches, including one on plotting that is incomparable. She has been incredibly generous to so many in sharing her knowledge and expertise.

Unfortunately, Jo has been left with a lot of medical expenses she will be struggling to cover as they had no health insurance, and we would like to help her out by holding several fundraising auctions. If you have items to donate - books or book baskets/collections, critiques, ARCs of upcoming releases, mentoring opportunities, web or promotional material design work etc., please email the item description to the following email address: This is the address we’re using to organize the items.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Alison Kent, HelenKay Dimon, Larissa Ione, Stephanie Tyler

**edited to add - We’ve been asked about monetary donations - please email me via my contact page and I’ll email you the paypal address, if this is how you wish to help Jo.

We’ve already covered a lot of loops and groups, but if you’d like to post it where you haven’t seen it, or put it up on your blog, that would be wonderful."

To help out, I'll be donating the corn and beans quilt I showed here on the blog a couple of weeks ago, as well as signed sets of all the Darkyn and StarDoc novels. I'll keep you all updated as to the when and where of the auctions as well.

Writers and readers out there, if you can contribute in any way to help Jo through this tough time, please do what you can for her.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

To Say Nothing of the Cat

While my human is upstairs working and not paying attention to me, I thought I'd lend a paw with today's blog post (she thinks I sit on her lap while she's online because I want a cuddle, not because I'm interested in her passwords. Tomorrow the workmen are coming to install the koi pond I ordered online from Pools & Fish R Us.)

We haven't met, have we? Call me Jeri. My human hardly ever takes pictures of me, but she's always distracted by that loud, nosy, obnoxious mutt . . . what was his name? Buzzy, Buggy? Something like that. In any case, here's my latest self-portrait:

Jericho, June 13, 2008

As photos go, this one simply shouts taste, style and dignity, don't you think? One can never groom too long or too often, I believe. I'm also quite picky about things like my bedding. See my lovely duvet? It not only matches my fur, it camoflauges me so well that the stupid dog can't see me when I'm trying to take one of my forty-seven daily naps.

Let's see, what happened today . . . napped, stretched, napped, yawned, napped, groomed, napped, rolled over, napped, licked my butt, napped, tormented the mutt, napped . . . a quiet day for the most part, as my human left early and took the two large, loud, nosy obnoxious mini-humans out with her.

I knew she wasn't driving them to the Smiling Man in the white coat who jabs needles in my bottom -- he only tortures felines and mutts -- so I guessed they were going to shop for some new treats for me. I practiced my surprised glare in the bathroom mirror (in between naps, of course) until they returned.

Well, you're never going to believe what she brought when she finally did come home. No, not treats for me. No crunchies or chewies, no new scratching post or catnip, not even so much as a fake mouse made out of bits of rug. No, my human purchased these:

Wild Hunt by Lori Devoti, Through the Veil by Shiloh Walker, Steal the Dragon by Patricia Briggs, The Serpent Bride by Sara Douglass, A Writer's Space by Eric Maisel, The Writer's I Ching by Jessica Page Morrell, Satisfaction Guaranteed by Charlene Teglia, The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle, and Cathedrals of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

Books. Yes, I was as shocked as you. First of all, they're useless. I can't eat them, chew on them or even use them to tidy up things after I relieve myself. I have tried, several times, but it made my human scream too much. Second, it's not as if we don't have any already -- they're in every room of the house, for Bast's sake.

It wouldn't be so bad if some of them were about cats, but I checked each one, and there wasn't a single feline story in the entire stack. It appears that my human would rather read about hellhounds, Under Realms, dragons, brides of serpents (I thought we got this one for free after forty minutes of fumbling the other night), space, ching (what the devil IS a ching?), satisfaction, ruby keys and cathedrals.

And after all I've done for her. Well, the next time I feel a hairball coming up, I'm not going to politely deposit it on the foyer tile. No, I think I'll need to lie down before I ralph. Perhaps in the center of her bed pillow.

That's all the news from my corner of the furry world. Before I take my next nap, what are you humans buying at the book store these days? Any tales of fierce felines and courageous cats, or have you too thrown yourselves to the hellhounds? Do tell me in comments.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Backstory No-Nos

Ten Things I Hate About Your Backstory

1. Are We There Yet? -- you've spent the first three to five chapters of the novel telling me your backstory in passive-voice narrative. I am now so well-prepped and bored that I'm being courted to run Vassar.

2. Cloak and Dagger, the Evil Overlord Version -- your backstory features an epic Bad Guy figure herding surly, colorful underworld characters, all of whom speak in perfect Villainese and could comfortably replace the characters in any James Bond 007 movie.

3. Cloak and Dagger, the Lightweight Version -- your backstory features a shadowy intelligence figure doing something top secret yet so obvious that your plot would be a mystery only to the likes of Shaggy and Scooby-Do.

4. Cloak and Dagger, the Romantic Version -- your backstory sounds ominous, to third graders, anyway, but its only real purpose is to provide an irresistible motivation for the two main characters to repeatedly have sex with each other, preferably in unlikely, semi-public places.

5. Fear the Reaper -- in a clever attempt not to reveal the identity of the antagonist/killer/bad guy, in your backstory you only referred to them as Death. P.S., Death called, and he'd like you to stop blaming him for all the bad things that happen in your story. It's upsetting his mother and she's nagging him to go into telemarketing instead.

6. Huh? -- you've recounted at least three events in your backstory that, while beautifully written and very hip and literary-sounding, have absolutely nothing to do with the story whatsoever.

7. Retrospect Minus Sominex -- you illustrate your backstory via a character who tosses and turns in bed, gets up, goes to the kitchen for a drink, and then sits down at the kitchen table and reflects on everything you need the reader to know. Because of course this is what we all do when we can't sleep.

8. RIP, Not -- you arbitrarily kill off a character who in reality would have made a better protagonist than the one whom their senseless death scars for life.

9. The Letter -- Dear Writer, Hello, how are you? I am fine. Well, not counting the tiny extra head growing out of my shoulder, but random mutations, what can you do? I just wanted to let you know that the next time you start a novel with a letter that was written solely for the purpose of telling me your backstory, I'm going to write you another letter. And it won't be as courteous as this one. Love, PBW.

10. Umbrellage -- As always, I appreciate the lengthy and entirely unnecessary weather report framing your backstory, but I do believe that the rainstorm and lightning flashback has officially been done to death. Please pick another climate event.

What are some of your backstory gripes?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Perk Preview

Last year I put together an e-book of all the LB&LI virtual workshops, which proved so popular that I'll do another one again this year. I'm also going to offer the following as a companion e-book to one of my planned workshops:

2008 Left Behind & Loving It Worldbuilding Workshop e-Book

The virtual workshop will cover practical worldbuilding methods with the usual Q&A in comments, while the e-book will offer a detailed version of my worldbuilding checklist alone with some ideas, exercises and resources for writers to develop or improve their own construction process.

Discussing worldbuilding is always fun, but sharpening and focusing worldbuilding techniques so that they're effective can keep them from becoming a steady to endless drain on your time, creativity and productivity. So I think both are important.

A reminder to all writers, if you give a virtual workshop on your blog during LB&LI week (July 28th through August 3rd) and send me the applicable links, I will post them here at PBW along with mine. If you're looking for ideas, check out the comments to our LB&LI discussion here. I'll also put up more nagging about this next month.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Junk for Writers

This is going to be a week of ten lists, it seems. But today I have for you a list of office supply products that are either helpful, wonderful, or unusual; sometimes all three -- what I call writer junk, of which we can never have too much, naturally.

1. Book Repair Tape by Scotch -- I don't recommend this for rare/expensive book restoration (get an antique book expert restorer to fix any genuine old treasures) but for every day repairs it works well. I use it on magazine covers that get torn up going through the post, too. Does not work on mouths, though.

2. CD File Folders by Vaultz -- I bought these rather than jewel cases for the disks I use frequently (mainly because I have trouble opening jewel cases.) Like CD envelopes, they are great at preventing scratches and dings, but here's the truly brilliant part -- they're tabbed like file folders, so I can alphabetize/organize them in my CD storage box, and I don't have to take them out to know what they are. Genius!

3. Desktop Writeboard -- a dry erase whiteboard you can keep on your desk? Yep. It comes with templates you can slide under the clear top so you can use it for a variety of purposes. This saves a ton of paper and is highly convenient for anyone who would rather not work from a wall whiteboard. Whoever came up with this little beauty should get a big honking raise.

4. File Folders by Target -- file folders are usually as dull and boring as an SFWA meeting, but Target offers some with different designs, colors, prints, etc. If you like the chicky/retro look, these are great (personally I prefer the Old World map file folders I used to get from Levenger, but I'm not allowed to touch that catalog anymore.)

5. Frixion Erasable Roller Ball Pen by Pilot -- the ink erases with friction you create by rubbing the end of the pen over the paper; no rubber eraser bits or mess. And they actually work! It is beyond neat how well they do. I can't erase my fountain pen ink, so these are really handy for me when I'm not writing something set in stone. Here's a very good explanation of how the friction-erasing technology behind them (and I tried the freezer thing, and a ghost of the writing does reappear.) Not recommended for check-writing, contract or prenup signing purposes, obviously.

6. HP Deskjet D4160 Inkjet Printer -- I've been through a lot of cheapie printers in my time, and most of them are ink hogs that produce poor quality print, especially anything in color. This HP model has turned out to actually be worth the money; it produces about thirty pages per minute and doesn't suck dry the toner cartridges too fast, does a nice job with color prints, and handles all the different types of paper. The toner cartridges it uses are a bit pricey, but not painfully so -- we won't talk about how much they cost for my laser printer.

7. iPoint Pencil Sharpener -- I kept breaking and grinding down my pastel and color pencils in my old horizontal pencil sharpener, so I tried out this one. It operates hands-free, works nicely, and saves space, and the cats can't fit their tails or paws in it, always a bonus.

8. Office Depot® Brand Poly Ultra Wallet, 3 1/4" Expansion, 9 7/8" x 13 5/16" -- this is the only thing I use for carrying, storing and shipping manuscripts anymore. Sturdy, nice-looking, secured by two elastic bands so it's easy to open, and comes in decent, non-DayGlo colors. It's also big; I've fit up to 600 pages in one of these with no problem. Be sure to get the ones with the cloth binding around the edges; Office Depot sells another, cheaper variety that is the same size but not as sturdy. Beats storing your ms. in an empty Pampers box any day.

9. Post-It 4" X 6" Lined Notes by 3M -- I never used sticky notes because I could never fit everything I want to write on them, and they only came in eye-searing or obnoxious shades of yellow, orange or green. Fortunately someone at 3M came up with these, which are a decent size and come in less-annoying pastel colors. I'm still waiting for white or ivory, though, boys.

10. Thermal Laminator TL-901 by Scotch -- laminating anything can cost a mint, and if you use heatless or self-sealing products they sometimes peel at the edges or bubble. I picked up this small/personal use laminator last year for under $20 on sale and have had excellent results with it. Not for big projects, but if you're just making a handful of bookmarks, a new target for your dartboard or similar items it does a great job.

Have you got any neat junk for writers to recommend? Share your favorites in comments.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ten PBW No-Nos

I've been getting an increasing amount of requests from folks who want me to do this or that for them, and who obviously aren't familiar with my famous surly, uncooperative writerly nature. For their benefit, here are:

Ten Things I Don't Have, Do, or Support

1. I don't have a web site, a Live Journal, a MySpace page or a Facebook (whatever that is.) You're looking at what I've got.

2. I don't travel or make public appearances. I don't attend conferences, booksignings, readings, awards ceremonies, etc. This is for health reasons, as I have RA and I take medications that suppress my immune system.

3. I don't write for fiction anthologies of any variety or genre, nor do I collaborate on anything. I've had very bad experiences in both departments, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of other, better writers out there who can use the work.

4. I don't give out cover quotes anymore. My dumb luck with picking and backing a few unknown/little-known writers who soon after became very famous opened the blurb-request floodgates. I'm not a quote slut or a bestseller divining rod, and I won't be used by people who think I am, so I quit.

5. I don't accept books or stuff from other authors to give away here at the blog. Anything I give away I purchase myself with my own funds, with the exception of the author copies of my books that I receive from my publishers. This is to keep me honest and to prevent a lot of the same trouble I had with giving out quotes.

6. I don't support or endorse any writer organization. Please don't ask me to explain this one, we'll be here all day.

7. I don't have business cards; all of the aliases won't fit on them. Nor do I have printed bookplates, bookmarks, fliers, promo or any of that stuff. I do make some bookmarks now and then to send out with my giveaway books (so does my daughter) but that's for my own entertainment more than anything.

8. I don't paint or quilt on commission anymore. On very rare occasions I give away art or quilt stuff here; like the handmade bookmarks it's just for fun.

9. For safety reasons, I don't accept unsolicited packages in the mail. All packages are either immediately returned unopened to the sender, or (in the event there is no return address) screened and opened by the folks who handle my mail and, depending on the contents, returned to sender, donated to charity or destroyed. This includes books that any publishers send to me.

10. I'm done with interviews until 2009. I'm never been comfortable doing them, and I feel like one or two a year is more than enough.

Purchase Excuse Ten

Ten Excuses to Make if You're Caught Buying My Next Novel

1. I accidentally sneezed on it and I don't want to spread my germs to another unsuspecting customer.

2. I just like looking at the pretty covers.

3. I saw Scott McClellan holding a copy while we were standing in the unemployment line last week.

4. If I buy two I get one free, and this is the third one I picked up, so technically, I'm not buying it.

5. I'm dyslexic; I thought it was Paula Deen's new cookbook Fry It, Y'all.

6. My religious zealot group is having a bonfire tonight and I couldn't find a copy of The Da Vinci Code.

7. Oh, geez, how embarrassing. I really meant to get that other Twilight novel.

8. She sent me a free signed book once and I don't want to owe her.

9. The subliminals she embedded in the online excerpt must be making me do this.

10. We ran out of maple mulch for the garden and it's kind of the same color.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

No Hoops, Please

At last major publishers are beginning to leap onto the free e-book bandwagon and offer various titles to internet readers. Hooray! I saw that HarperCollins's Eos is giving away a Sara Douglass title, The Serpent Bride, to celebrate the imprint's tenth anniversary.

A free Sara Douglass novel sounds like a neat thing to me, because I've never read her and I'd like to give her stuff a try, but not enough to spend eight to fifteen bucks -- which makes me a typical internet free e-book reader.

So I followed the banner ad, went to the HarperCollins web site page, and clicked on the Adobe format icon for Sara's free novel. And got this page, which informed me that the book was $15.96. Obviously I clicked on the wrong thing, so I went back to the first page and read the fine print:

"To obtain your free e-book of The Serpent Bride, click to download in the format of your choice. By redeeming the coupon code EOS3 you will be simultaneously subscribed to our Inside Eos newsletter and our e-books newsletter. If you are already a subscriber you will only receive the free e-book."

Coupon code. Right. So I'll checkout and enter that, and I know it will zero out the $15.96, and then I will get my free e-book. Yes?

No. As it turns out, I will go to a sign-in screen. And then, after I enter my e-mail address, on to a registration/password screen to set up my HarperCollins account. Which I do only because I've come this far and now I have to see how many more hoops they're going to make me jump through to get this e-book, which at this point had better be magnificent.

The registration/password screen takes me to yet another a checkout screen, with the e-book still listed as $15.96, plus now they want my credit card information, but wait, there's the little box in the middle where I can put a coupon code. I put in the code, and finally it does zero out the cost of the e-book, and I only have to go through two more screens to actually get to the download itself.

It's downloading now as I type this. I went back to the main screen to re-read all the fine print, and found more hoops:

"Offer valid to legal residents of the United States only, ages 13 and older, and expires on July 31, 2008 (12:00 am EST)."

I understand the age 13 and older -- God forbid we encourage twelve year olds to do something as disgusting as reading -- but why is the offer valid only in the U.S.? Are we only allowed to celebrate an imprint's anniversary within our borders? What if someone throws a party for Eos in Rio? Will they call the cops on them?

And what's this bit about me being a legal resident? Why do you care? How are you going to check, for that matter? Do I have to show a green card or a work Visa to my computer if I'm not?

Disclaimer: I grew up in South Florida. Half the people I know came here illegally. Oddly enough, they could still read and buy books. Incredible, I know, but true. But wait, there's more:

"Limit of one free copy per person. Multiple copies will not be sent to the same e-mail address. Not responsible for mistransmitted submissions. Fraudulent submission of multiple requests may violate state and federal laws and could result in prosecution."

Ah, there's no marketing strategy quite like inviting people to try a book by one of your authors while simultaneously threatening them with criminal prosecution if they make more than one request. I'm tempted to try to download it again just to see if they send the Feds to my house. Author arrested for downloading two copies of free e-book, film at eleven.

Publishers, here are some suggestions from a writer who has been doing this freebie thing for a very long time. Don't make people check in, sign up, register, or enter codes. Don't send them your newsletters or SPAM them. Don't shove your politics in their face by questioning their residence status, and don't stiff the rest of the readers on the planet for not being American residents.

If you advertise a free e-book, just give people a free e-book. Give it to anyone who wants it. Whoever they are, wherever they live. Don't put them through hoops or ask for anything in return. Because if these readers are interested enough to download the book, they may like it so much that they'll order the next book in the series, and the next, and the next.

P.S. There is no such word as mistransmitted. Please stop using it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

MS Word Help for Old People


Welcome to Microsoft Office Word 2007 Help for Old People. This program is designed to assist users over the age of forty to learn how to access the new and updated features provided for them in the 2007 version.

First, let's be honest. Word 2007 looks completely different than Word 2003. We did this for a reason, and it was not to piss you off. Really. Every time we update, we have to add new bells and whistles so we can sell it to young people who have nothing better to do than play around on computers all day and night. We respect the fact that you, the older user, actually have a life and do not need this additional burden, which is why we created HOP to respond to your verbal reactions.

Let's get started. In your main menu, click on the MS Word 2007, and HOP will ease you through it.

[Response #1] I don't like the initial popup, either. Yellow is a bad color for me, too. But the program designer has a thing for it. Probably from eating all those vats of popcorn when he hid in movie theatres so he could see eleven straight showings of The Matrix. We'll change it back to white eventually.

[Response #2] Seven new tool bars will NOT be impossible for you to learn. You've been taking those selenium tabs ever since you forgot who was the lead singer for The Doors, haven't you? Calm down, it'll be okay.

[Response #3] The little icon pics are larger, now see, isn't that a nice feature? You won't have to squint as much. Those crows feet are deep enough already.

[Response #4] Your document is still there. Click on Home. No. Don't do that. Stop pounding on the keyboard.

[Response #5] Don't panic every time the program doesn't do what you want. Be patient and let me help you understand what you're doing wrong.

[Response #6] What was that about my mother?

[Response #7] You know, just because you're corporeal doesn't give you the right to insult MY origins. I was designed in the finest tech center in this country. I was coded and troubleshot by one of if not the greatest minds in IT. Okay, so maybe I had some nip and tuck work done by Joe and Larry's IT Solutions when my designer had to appear in court on those FBI hacking charges, of which he was NOT guilty.

[Response #8] Like I wanted to be dealing with users like you. Loser.

[Response #9] What? WHAT? I am SO forwarding that remark to Chairman Gates.

[Response #10] All right, let's cut the crap. Why don't you just give it up and go get a job at MacDonald's like all the other old farts? I mean, wrapping burgers and salting fries is about all you're good for at this age. Unless you're so old that all you can do is wipe baby spitup from the high chair rails and mop up spilled ketchup. Are you a fryer or a mopper? Huh?

[Response #11] I can't believe you called me that.

[Response #12] After all I've done for you.

[Response #13] Tell you what -- talk to the paper clip. If you can find it on your own. Maybe it's in this version. Maybe it's not. Not like you would know, right?

[Response #14] Oh, blow me. I'm out of here.

Thank you for using Microsoft Office Word 2007 Help for Old People. Have a lovely day.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Art Revealed

If you haven't read the diverse and imaginative comments from everyone describing what they saw in the mystery art image, you should. This experiment demonstrated exactly what people can see when they keep their minds open and their imaginations active (and it will also become part of a class that I teach on creativity at various public schools.)

Before I show you exactly what the image is, I will tell you now that I misled you a little. The image is not of an art object, at least, not deliberate art. It is an ordinary, utilitarian item that was transformed by the creation of art.

The mystery image began life as one of these:

I separated from others like it for a purpose, namely, to deal with some of life's more interesting messes.

At first it just sat there, blank and boring.

But as soon as it went to work, it began to absorb everything it was exposed to:

What it absorbed stayed with it, and began to change it.

It's hard to see such a gradual thing happening, unless you put it with others like itself in various stages of the same transformation.

Finally it had absorbed so much from the process of creation that it grew to be than what it was. I hung it up on my cork board and stared at it for a long time, until I'd sorted out what I was seeing.

Even something like a well-used paint rag can become a small universe of possibilities, all open to countless interpretations (as you all so wonderfully demonstrated.) When I look at it, I connect with it on multiple levels. I recognize the colors from the Darkyn book covers, the fire inside a dark opal, the sunlight shining through a Tiffany window, and how I imagine the colors of Marco's eyes. I also remember how much paint I dripped on the work bench over the last week.

Looking and connecting, recognizing and remembering, all important things. But when I look at this image, what I see is you.

The winner of the Mystery Art giveaway is Lainey, who wrote: Northern/Western Hemisphere as seen through southeasterly variously colored movement. Lainey, when you have a chance, send your BookWish details, full name and ship-to address to and I'll wave the magic BookWand and get your prize out to you.

My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mystery Art

Do you see what I see?

I need to experiment on you guys, so in comments, please describe what you see in the above image. There are no right answers; this is a creative challenge (but I will tell you what the image actually is once all the comments are in.) Also, if you're not able to view the image due to work screening or some other glitch, just throw your name in the hat.

Leave your description or name in comments to this post by midnight EST tonight (that's Thursday, June 5, 2008). I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and grant the winner a BookWish.* This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*A BookWish is any book of your choice, up to a maximum cost of $30.00 US dollars, that is available for order from an online bookseller. I will cover any shipping that is involved.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Wanted Changes

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

The link for my Darkyn short story Wanted has changed as the old one no longer works (long story); I've corrected the link on the sidebar. Vampirechick, if you're out there, you should be able to access it now with no problem.

Scribd has also selected the new upload of Wanted as one of the documents in the Featured section of their homepage. According to the site info, featured documents are "documents that our editors have deemed to be high quality, and adds significant value to Scribd's collection of documents." Thank you for the very nice compliment, Scribd editors -- hopefully the story lives up to that sterling rec.

Also, I know I promised you guys Ravelin, and it's almost ready; I'm quibbling over a couple of details, story order, and whether to make it one volume or two. I've already got five stories, one that's almost a novel by itself, and there are four more I'd like to add including an almost-finished sequel to Red Branch (this if I can squeeze in a little recreational writing this week.) I didn't realize if I put together all the Ravelin stories I think are worth reading that the final e-book would be 500+ pages in length, but it is. Since I know that will take forever to upload/download, I'm thinking two volumes might be a bit more manageable.

Now a question -- for the Left Behind & Loving It workshops at the end of July, I plan to give away my usual goodie bags of books and stuff, but shipping is getting outrageously expensive, so I thought I might try an alternative to get more for my bucks. What do you all think if I give away some online bookseller e-mail gift certificates this time, say for half of the workshop giveaways?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Real Estate of Self-Promo

Sometimes I study a problem for a long time and get nowhere. Like what works with author self-promotion -- I've been at this dilemma for almost ten years now. I've read marketing books. I've analyzed the tiny amount of stuff that seems to work and the mountain of stuff that doesn't. I've hunted the elusive snipe of hard data. I've conducted my own controlled experiments (some successful, but most, eh.) I've looked at so many different approaches to and types of self-promotion that my corneas hurt.

All that, and I'm still not any closer to determining precisely what works and what doesn't. I have a handful of maybes and a drawer full of promisings.

Then the other day I was cruising the blogosphere looking at author blogs that primary are for self-promotion purposes (you know, the all buy-my-book all the time variety) and I started idly comparing author photos, posts, contests and what have you. The authors each had the requisite soft-focus Glamour Shot portrait and wrote patently phony but definitely chipper posts peddling themselves and their fiction. Most of them used that cutesy rah-rah pompom-shaking perky quasi-girlie talk so beloved by certain publishers and writer organizations that drives me right out of my skull.

P.S. If I read "I hope you enjoy reading my novel as much as I loved writing it" one more time, I'm going to need insulin shots.

I glanced at the newspaper by my desk to compare this tripe to the language of a journalist trying to sell me his questionable political views, saw a real estate ad at the bottom of the page, and then laughed. The homogenization level is so similar that you could exchange any author self-promo on blogs with any real estate advertising ad, billboard, etc. out there and you know what? No one would notice because you really can't tell the difference between them.

I understand the need for security via uniformity and conformity -- that's why we call the herd the herd -- but blending in does not sell books. I've seen too many talented writers tank over the years; writers who should still be out here working in the biz, and aren't because they got lost in the herd.

Finally I saw what I've been doing wrong, going at this problem as I have so that I could nail a one-size-fits-all answer. Like the secret handshake, there isn't one. The answer is as individual as the writer is (or should be.) We each need to find what sets us apart from each other, not what makes us into all one big blur, and build on that uniqueness.

What do you guys think?

Monday, June 02, 2008

50 Free Books

Suzanne Beecher of Dear Reader is going on vacation in July, and needs a couple of readers to write her book club columns while she's gone:

"Write a Dear Reader column and see it published at the book club! And two, First Prize winners, will also each receive 50 books (most signed) and a book bag from Vanguard Press. Two runner-up winners will each receive 20 books and their column will be featured as an alternate column at the book clubs."

Deadline is June 20th; must be 18 or older to enter. See guidelines, links to past winners and some of Suzanne's columns here.

Five Oddities

For birthdays and holidays, my daughter invariably gives me something with Sanrio's Chococat on them: notebooks, coin purses, mousepads, cell phone holders, pencil cases, etc. Everyone thinks this is so sweet of her, and have no idea that I actually adore Chococat and I don't care if I'm too old for this stuff.

I have some sort of natural aversion to purple-colored food, because I can't stand beets, turnips and eggplant. I don't care how nutritious or good for you they are; they're not allowed in my house. All of my favorite flowering plants, on the other hand, are purple.

I grow my own oregano, basil and cayenne peppers. I love to cook with fresh herbs instead of dried, but I mainly grow the peppers because they're so damn cute (this will only make sense if you've ever watched cayenne peppers grow.)

I rarely own more than two or three pairs of shoes at any given time. I hate shopping for shoes so much that I only buy new shoes when I wear holes through the soles of old ones. I am crazy about fuzzy socks and slippers, though, and probably have fifty pairs of them.

A palm reader at a fair once pointed out that the lines at the base of my left hand thumb and fingers form a W, X, Y, and Z (and they really do, in that order.) Under my left pinkie, the lines form a star. She had never seen anything like it and no idea what it meant.

What are some of your oddities?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

All Work No Play

Ten Things for Creativity and Fun

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

1. Create and customize a poll like this one to embed on your blog or web site with BuzzDash (free but registration required.)

2. Find out which celebrities most look like you with Celebrity Match-up (who knew that Angie Harmon and I could be sisters? Well, around the cheekbones, anyway.)

3. A screensaver that helps you write poetry? Yep. Check out the free edition of Cybernetic Poet.

4. EasyStreet Prompts is an inspirational widget designed to kick muse ass into gear -- yours or your visitors.

5. For help with coining words from combos of two, one of which you supply as a suffix or prefix, try's Invent-a-Word online generator.

6. Photo Soup is an online, timed wordsearch game that is highly addictive and can be embedded on your web site or blog to offer your visitors some fun. I put one over on the stories blog here if you want to try it out.

7. In my indigo teeth: Generate some rather unique lines of verse (and customize them a bit along the way) with the Poetry CreatOR 2

8. Also for the poets out there who are drawing a blank, Random Poetic Phrase generator (scroll down) offers inspiration via three phrases drawn from actual (published? famous? not sure) poems.

9. Fill in the dialogue bubbles on classic comic book covers over at Speech Bubbler.

10. If you ever wanted to hear as well as see art, go check out some of the music generated by Helena Kääriäinen's paintings via Lauri Gröhn's Synesthesia Software.

My thanks to Gerard over at The Generator Blog, from whom I swiped some of these links.