Thursday, April 28, 2011

Free YA e-book

You've been quite patient, so here is a little reward:

Dark of Heart, my YA novella story set in the same universe as my first YA print release, After Midnight, is now available for anyone to read online, download in .pdf format and freely distribute. Just click on the cover art to go and get your copy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bye Bye Bluebirds

Just stopping in to show off some pics I've taken while working on the porch. I know, I should be locked in my office, but I can't help it. The weather is lovely, as is the breeze, plus I can't resist watching the bluebirds.

Eastern bluebirds are great parents, btw. Several times each morning and afternoon I've been watching Mama deliver crickets and other bugs to the quadruplets (not sure what she has in her mouth here, though -- maybe a beetle -- and you can click on this or any image to see a larger version):

Yesterday she stopped the bug deliveries, though, and now just shows up to check on the little ones:

Judging by increased volume and frequency of their cheeping, the kids are getting hungry -- and brave:

And I think I'll have a new vacancy by tomorrow:

Birds are so cool (and I will have something else interesting to show you tomorrow, so stop by if you have a chance.)

Monday, April 25, 2011


No Monday ten list today, sorry. This is deadline week for two books, I'm also working on a copy-edit, and I'm running behind schedule on everything, so my internet time is going to be measured in seconds. Bear with me. After May 1st things around here should get back to normal-level chaos.

Even during an insane week like this it's not all work and no play for PBW. Now that Spring has arrived, I've relocated to the back porch for my meditation sessions and breaks. Mostly I sit and think, the dogs sit and watch the birds, the birds watch the dogs, etc.

Sometimes I get incredibly lucky with the camera:

Another fabulous photo op happened one morning last week, when the birds kept nervously zipping around and Cole (who takes his guard duties quite seriously) began barking up a storm. He behaved as though there was something in the old oak tree; something like an army of rabid squirrels. I tried to calm him down but finally I had to put him in the house or I'd never get any meditating done. At which point Cole jumped at the windows, still barking, and then the puppy, who only hates people, cars and all other dogs except Cole, started growling at the tree.

I figured some kind of hawk was perched up there (the furry people around here don't like big birds) and grabbed my camera before I went out to investigate. There was nothing in the tree. In fact, all the birds that are usually in the yard were suddenly not in the yard any more.

I heard a sound I haven't heard in almost a year. A brief, low whooshing sound that came from above the tree, like God just turned on his blow dryer for a few seconds. I looked up and saw this:

Although I've photographed this balloonist before, I took a snapshot for my journal. I know it's childish, but it always gives me a bit of thrill to see a hot air balloon. I've never ridden in one, but I can imagine how it feels to be up there, drifting along in such a beautiful airship, far above and away from all the stuff that happens on the ground, just you and the balloon and the sky.

I've also seen other balloons fly over my house in the past, but never more than one in the sky at a time. That might be why I started thinking about how I could this balloonist into a blog post about the writing life. I've been wrestling with the analogy ever since.

Writers are like balloonists in many ways. When we write, we build our own airships out of our dreams and imaginations, and hope someday to get them off the ground. We want to go up into that place that looks so peaceful and beautiful. We work so hard to build our airships so that they're sky-worthy, too, don't we? Even when we're exhausted by the pressures and responsibilities we have here on earth, we drag ourselves into our workshops to build just a little bit more before we go to bed. We make promises to ourselves that someday we will go up, and it will all be worth it.

The reality rarely measures up to our dreams. Half the time the first airships we build never get off the ground. Or when we finish them and try to go up, we crash right after liftoff. Naturally we pick up the pieces and put them back together, or we build something new and work toward another attempt. And another. And another.

If/When we ever do get into the air for the first time, and stay there long enough to get a good taste of it, we realize some new things. Actually going up is not as peaceful or as beautiful an experience as we thought it would be. It's not thrilling, it's kind of terrifying.

The sky that looked so gorgeous from the ground, we discover, is also endless and empty. There's nothing to hold onto up there. We look back, and all we can think is how much damage a fall from this height is going to cause. How much it will hurt us. How it might even kill our desire to ever go up again. We begin to fear things over which we have little to no control, like what people on the ground think of our balloon, or how we may never go as high or as far as we expected.

I think at some point during that first flight, and perhaps the next couple that come after it, we wish we could take it all back. Reverse time, clear out the workshop, sell the damn balloon-making stuff and take up something a little more sane, like transporting old dynamite or testing faulty chainsaws.

We do look for ways to cope with the fear. When we first get serious about going up, I think most of us look for other people who are also trying to get off the ground. We expect them to be kindred spirits, because they are the only people who really understand what we do. And over time we do meet a lot of people who want to go up, or who are already up there, or who were and are trying to get back up, but few turn out to be genuine friends.

Some say it's balloon envy, or simply inevitable, but I think it might be because no matter who we meet or what we talk about, when we go up, we know we have to fly alone.

We still try to find a place, a community, or a group of some kind that can provide practical and moral support. Some join balloonist clubs, and hang out with other hot air junkies, and haul their airships to big flying conventions. Those folks get very good at pretending to like each other, that's for sure. While the desire to go up seems to morph into a vicious competition for a particular spot in the sky.

That's always been the weirdest part to me. That anyone could consider such an endless sky to be something so small, as if it shrank down to some tiny little patch that everyone has to own. Everyone who wants it grouses about how there are too many balloons and not enough sky, when what they're really afraid of is that their airship will not be seen.

Over time the love of building and flying can be forgotten, especially when all that matters is to do whatever is necessary to be watched and admired and considered the best. The dream of going up dwindles beneath the obsession to have the biggest airship, or the most beautiful, or the one everyone wants to ride in. Soon going up is no longer a dream, and building offers no more pleasure. It all turns into some kind of unpleasant chore, a business necessity, something to dreaded and endured and hurried through and even avoided. But being left behind on the ground is even worse, so that can't happen.

Anyway. While I was brooding over all of this, and wondering why in this year of change certain things seem to be (depressingly) the same, I heard another, fainter blast of God's hair dryer in the distance, and looked out to see this:

The other balloonist was too distant for me to get a decent shot of his airship, but even faraway it was beautiful -- and strangely reassuring, like an answer to a question I didn't want to ask.

Definitely a cosmic message, although I think I will leave it up to you to decide what the universe is saying.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wishing You

Our newest occupants in the birdhouse have hatched, and this time it's quadruplet Eastern Bluebirds. See some shots of the adorable babies over at my JAlbum here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Productive Task Listing

Whenever the seasons change my guy is swamped with new chores around the house, and he gets a little aggravated. Being a hands-on, get-it-done type, he's not particular fond of multi-tasking or leaving things unfinished. At some point he starts grousing at me about all the work that needs to be done and how he can't keep up with it.

Because I'm the organized one, I always say the same thing: Prioritize everything and make a task list. Then start at the top of the list and do at least one thing every day.

He used to blow me off and continue spinning his wheels, but after 22 years together he's watched what I get done and knows it works, so now he writes up the list. Then about a week or two later, after he finishes everything on it, all the stuff is done, he's much happier and I get an extra kiss.

Here's his latest list (click on image to see larger version.) I like to read his lists when he's not around so I can help out here and there but also to see how he prioritizes things. My guy likes to do yard work, use his power tools and paint much more than he likes to clean or shop, so his favorite chores are always at the top of the list.

I think this is pretty typical of most people's approach to tasking: take care of the fun stuff first, leave the dull or boring stuff for last. This is also the main reason many people have trouble finishing their task lists because by the time they reach the un-fun part they don't have anything to look forward to, and they have to drag themselves through all that work they don't like to do.

I write task lists all the time, and one thing I've learned that helps me get through them faster is to alternate fun with dull. I always begin the work day with something difficult or that I don't especially like to do; this because at the start of the day I have the most energy and patience. I follow that with a task I really want to do, and this motivates me to get task #1 finished so I can move on to something fun. Then I just repeat that over and over through the work day until I finish everything.

Here's one of my reminder lists from this past week. I kicked off the day by working on three chapters of a copy-edit that is due back to my editor on May 2nd, possibly the most stressful thing I had to do all day. I followed up that with a rewrite of a chapter I wasn't happy with, something I really wanted to jump on because I'd been rewriting it in my head for a couple of days, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. After that I had a glossary to work on, which I dislike, and then my lunch break and a sewing project, which I love and that also recharges my creative batteries (Fall Crazy is not my state of mind; it's an autumn-themed crazy quilt I'm working on.)

The rest of the day alternated the same way, until I wrapped things up by working on the sewing project again -- something I love -- so when I finally got to bed I was in a good mood. I've found that saving for last a task that involves the least amount of work but offers the most fun is a great way to relax, unwind, and combat my chronic insomnia.

If you decide to start using task lists to better manage your time, remember to pace yourself. I get up and start working at 6 am, and generally don't finish until I go to bed at 11 pm, which would be insane if I didn't take plenty of breaks. I also reserve a couple of hours each day and keep them open so I can spend time with my family and be available to handle any unexpected/unplanned tasks that land in my lap.

You know the old saying about all work, too, so try to devote a little time every day for play. I sew, read, go for walks or listen to music, not because I want to goof off but because I know I need to, or I'll crack under the constant pressure. Doing things that are strictly for fun can help you become even more productive, because whatever makes you happy will eliminate stress, improve your mood and put you into a mind frame that allows you to accomplish more when you do go back to work.

Related links:'s article, How to Write an Effective To-Do List

iPrioritize, an online list-making/storage service, offers free accounts to registered users. You can create lists, rearrange them, print them, e-mail them, share them and access them even by phone.'s article To Do Lists ~ The Key to Efficiency

Friday, April 22, 2011


You all offered up some interesting entries for the Writer Wars giveaway. Some of the authors I haven't yet read, too, so once I slay my deadlines I definitely have to get to the bookstore.

We cranked up the magic hat tonight, and the giveaway winners are:

Kathy, who just finished reading Preston and Child's Fever Dreams

Shiloh Walker, who says she could use this one

Deneice Dykes, who read Wither by Lauren Destefano

Brittany, who is reading Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to so I can get these books out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Third and the Seventh

This video is engimatic, epic, and escapes the ordinary at lightspeed velocity. There is some background music, and now and then things in the film get a little surreal. Mostly it's just stunning. I strongly recommend fullscreening it for maximum effect.

If you haven't seen it before, it's also possibly the best twelve minutes and twenty-nine seconds of video you'll watch this year. Those who haven't seen it might also want to visit the filmmaker's Vimeo page (link below) to read about how he made it. That will be the second stunner.

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writer Wars

I see things are again getting a bit nasty out there in NetPubLand. I read a post this morning that sizzled with such contempt for traditional publishing I had to check afterward to see if I still had eyebrows. Then I ran into another elsewhere that repeatedly bashed self-publishing as if it were the root of all evil snaking through the open gates of Hell.

Kind of reminds me of the War of 2001, when the new crop of e-published authors were going to save/destroy Publishing as We Know It. Are these things on ten-year cycles, or what?

Relax and put down your guns; I'm not on either side. I don't think the self-published are talentless scum, nor do I think the traditionally published are clueless dinosaurs. I don't think one way is better than the other; both have pretty much an equal amount of merits and headaches. I don't think this situation should degenerate into a war between writers, but like anyone listens to me. Nor am I going to hold my breath wishing it wouldn't.

How we choose to publish is not nearly as important as the quality of what we produce. You won't hear hardly anyone talking about that because that's the boring work part. But the only war that should concern us as writers -- the only real war -- is the one that takes place on the page.

Fortunately there are some experienced allies out there who can help us win some of those battles, as author James Scott Bell does in his quite excellent writing nonfic, The Art of War for Writers.

I think Raine gets the blame for me picking up this book; I'm pretty sure she quoted it once and the title stuck in my head for months until I happened to see a copy at my local BAM. From the title there's no doubt the author was inspired by Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and in fact he quotes the famous Chinese general many times throughout the book. He also employs many of the same tactical philosophies as the famous warrior to provide a battle manual for writers.

As the author says in the introduction, "This is not a comprehensive "how-to" on fiction." -- and he's right, it's not. You won't find step-by-step instructions on how to write a synopsis, pitch an editor or set up a web site in this book. What you will discover is infinitely more valuable: keen observations on the biz and the business of writing, creative navigation, thoughtful strategies and useful exercises. Basically all the things that go into not just creating but sustaining a focused, productive career are in this book.

I was impressed by how the author illuminates virtually every major problem common to writers, and his practical approach to solving them. He also did this without slanting his advice toward any specific genre, or playing favorites with example authors. He speaks to every writer, so whatever you write, you can use this book. That's extremely hard to pull off.

Bell's brevity and sense of humor are terrific. The chapters are short, the language is concise, and the author never once wasted my time by nattering on and on about anything. The chapter titles are a bit on the long side, but for titles he uses statements versus the usual topical words, which makes even the table of contents interesting reading. As for the humor, Bell's is dry and subtle, but it's there, and that also contributes to the engaging aspects of the book.

I'm divided on whether or not I think this is a good book for beginning writers. On one hand I think it should be required reading for anyone who is thinking of getting into the biz, because this is it -- this is the war, right here. As I've always said, compete or die. On the other I think it may seem harsh and intimidating to the timid or undecided, especially when the author makes certain unequivocal statements.

Such as: Should you outline a novel? Bell says yes. He doesn't dance around it, he doesn't apologize and he doesn't offer warm fuzzies to people who hate outlining. He does point out that some successful authors don't outline -- and then he tells you why you should be outlining. So if you're looking for someone who is going to cater to all your quirks and preferences or kiss your butt, Bell is not your guy.

I seriously loved this book (and maybe it's because of my military background, but I think civilians will find it just as absorbing.) Every chapter had me from the first line, and the author always spoke to me as an equal, and never once to bitch or complain about his experiences. That I deeply appreciated, particularly as I've read far too many how-tos that delivered everything in a decidedly patronizing tone, or were nothing but neurotic whinefests.

As always you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name the last book you read that was superbly written (or if it's been too long for you to recall, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Thursday, April 21, 2011. I will select four names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned paperback copy of James Scott Bell's The Art of War for Writers. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Round About

As some of my regulars have noticed, we're experiencing an influx of new visitors to the blog. There are two possible reasons for this:

A. I've suddenly and mysteriously become wonderfully wise, totally hot, and simply irresistible.

B. I wrote a funny post about self-publishing.*

Modesty (plus the fact that I'm sitting here in my ancient fuzzy bathrobe and unmatched socks) has me leaning more toward B.

For those of you who are new to PBW, I started this blog in 2004 for some writer friends, and it evolved over the years into what it is today. As far as content goes I mainly talk shop, post sub ops and find whatever free stuff I can that may be of use to working writers. I also write humor, satire and parodies now and then to share some laughs about the writing life and the biz.

Please be advised that I am not on Twitter, Facebook or get involved in anything outside PBW, nor do I have the time or the ability to become involved in social media. Please do not e-mail asking me where my accounts or feeds are or to friend or follow you.

We have a fair amount of readers who stop in here; many belong to my long-suffering but wonderfully loyal readership. The writers are huge readers, too; occupational hazard. My regular visitors and blogpals are quite knowledgeable about books and authors, and have great insight to offer about what they enjoy reading. If you're looking for a great book, definitely read the comments; my people are like a living database of terrific stories.

My blogpals and I do welcome all writers, no matter where you are with your work, how you publish, what genre you publish or how much you've sold. If you write for fun and never intend to publish anything, you're still one of us. Everyone is invited to stop in whenever you like, share your thoughts, contribute ideas, and take away what you find helpful or want to test-drive.

For everything else you new folks might need to know about me and my blog, please visit the About PBW page.

*Which was actually a spoof of one I wrote about traditional publishing.

Graphic credit: © Yellowj |

Monday, April 18, 2011

No Cost Ten

Ten Things You Can Have for Free

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

Blender is an "open source software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback.
Blender has proven to be an extremely fast and versatile design instrument. The software has a personal touch, offering a unique approach to the world of Three Dimensions. Use it to create TV commercials, to make technical visualizations, business graphics, to do some morphing, or design user interfaces. You can easy build and manage complex environments. The renderer is versatile and extremely fast. All basic animation principles (curves & keys) are well implemented" [OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 (32, 64 bits), Mac OS X (PPC and Intel 32.64 bits), Linux (x86 32/64 bits),FreeBSD (AMD/Intel 64 bits)]

Creating mind maps with Bookvar is "as easy and fun as playing computer games. You can build your mind maps in a matter of seconds by using handy keyboard shortcuts. You can drag files from your computer and drop them in the mind map. Create mind maps together with your friends and colleagues. All you need is connection between computers. Each user receives a unique color which identifies topics created by him. Share thoughts and ideas using the integrated chat support. Use custom add-ins to extend Bookvar's functionality. Create custom skins to change the mind map appearance.Add images directly in your topics. Embed and play movies. Attach other resources to your topics as files. Attach links to web pages directly in your map's topics" (OS: Win2K, WinXP, Vista, +.Net 3.5)

Clipboard Master is a clipboard extension freeware for Windows that "stores all your texts, files and pictures copied to the clipboard; Paste any item in any windows application; Define any shortcut to show the clipbard list"(OS: Windows 7, Vista, XP, XP , 2000, 64 Bit versions as well)

EarthAlerts is "a Windows-based application that allows you to monitor in near real-time a variety of natural hazard events that are occurring anywhere around the world. Alert notifications, reports, and imagery provide the user with a convenient way to view natural phenomenon as they occur, whether close to home or some far-flung corner of the globe! Earth Alerts uses a variety of online resources provided by organizations such as the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Smithsonian Institution (just to name a few), to identify what sort of activities "Mother Earth" is currently dishing out on the planet. To use Earth Alerts, you simply select the specific natural hazards -- earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tropical cyclones, wildland fires, landslides, severe weather, local weather, etc. -- and the locations that interest you. The application will then automatically retrieve the latest information from various live data feeds available on the Internet and present it to you in a convenient arrangement of reports, maps and images" (OS: Windows 2000/ XP/Vista/7)

ErgoClock "helps you live a healthier more efficient life by providing a tool that periodically reminds you to exercise and do various exercises while sitting behind your desk" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

LinesmART is an "image manip, which turns ordinary photos into line art renderings. All it takes is to load a photo using the program, and the rest is done for you. There are customizable options if you want the art to look like a particular style. The output image is the same size as the one opened" (OS: Mac)

SandBox Game Maker is a "3D game design tool based on the Cube 2 engine that allows users to quickly and easily create and edit their own worlds in game, even cooperatively. It is free, Open Source, and easy to use for Kids and Adults. Lots of help is available for Installation; Getting started - Map Editing Basics and Beginner's video tutorials; Advanced topics; Tutorials; Development and more" (OS: Windows, Mac, Linux)

Based on FreeMind, SciPlore MindMapping is "the first mind mapping tool focusing on researchers’ needs by integrating mind mapping with reference and pdf management. SciPlore MindMapping offers all the features one would expect from a standard mind mapping software, plus special features for researchers" (OS: Win98, Win2K, WinXP, Vista, Win7)

TaskCoach is a simple open source todo manager to keep track of personal tasks and todo lists. It grew out of a frustration that most task managers do not provide facilities for composite tasks. Often, tasks and other things todo consist of several activities. Task Coach is designed to deal with composite tasks. In addition, it offers effort tracking, categories, and notes" (OS: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, and iPhone and iPod Touch)

WebSpeech is "a Javascript library for developers who want to write pages with voice" (OS: Unspecified)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Watch the Blog Pets

I'm still off writing, but while you're here, would you mind feeding my new fish? (click anywhere inside the tank):

Or feed my new hamster (click inside his cage to give him a snack; click on the center of his wheel to make him take a turn):

Or maybe you'd like to play follow-the-cursor with my new spider:

To get your own fish (or a hamster or a spider or other way cool gadgets) for your blog, check out Adam Bowman's page of widgets here.

(I so swiped this from Gerard over at The Presurfer.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The First Bookmark

I'm unplugging this weekend to get a jump on deadline week. But while you're here, you might check out National Geographic's Daily News's cool report on the discovery of an ancient Greek tablet with the oldest readable writing in Europe. According to the article:

Considered "magical or mysterious" in its time, the writing survives only because a trash heap caught fire some 3,500 years ago, according to researchers.

Although the article doesn't identify what the writing says, PBW called a pal in Greece, who provided this translation in English, as well as some enhancements to show that the tablet was in fact an ancient author's self-promotional item (which is probably why it was thrown in the garbage):

I don't know. I mean I know it's thousands of years old, but the choice of wording could have been better. And don't you think those beads on the tassels make it look a little cheap?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Night Weavers

Everyone, wait for second. Stephanie Tyler (and anyone else with arachnophobia) if you're out there, please stop reading and leave the blog right now, or you're going to freak out.

Are they gone? Okay. I had another backyard drama last night, this time involving this little lady:

If you live in the country like I do, then you probably deal with all kinds of arachnids. Since we moved here I've have close encounters with everything from wolf spiders as large as my hand to tiny crab spiders smaller than the tip of my pinkie. I've shooed them out of the house, relocated them out of the yard, and taken lots of pictures of their webs. They're not only beautiful and interesting, they also help get rid of disease carriers like mosquitoes and flies.

It's the orb weavers who fascinate me most. They come in different sizes, shapes and colors, and most set up house in quiet, undisturbed areas. Their webs are generally the large circular variety, but one huge golden lady I found last year spun her web across a ten foot space between two trees. She kept repairing the web and occupied the same spot at the back of our property for a good six months.

Several varieties of orb weavers come out only after dark to make one-night stand webs. As soon as the sun goes down they pick a spot and go to work, and within a couple of hours have a web in place. Their webs are huge, easily four to six feet in diameter, with anchoring threads that can stretch up to fifty feet. Yet by morning the spiders are gone -- and so are the webs they build.

It was one of these one-night standers that my guy found last night as he was walking the dogs. What he first saw was this:

He didn't actually see the spider itself -- she blended in perfectly with the grass -- but a glint of a single web thread did catch his eye, and he stopped in his tracks. Which is a good thing, because he almost walked through this:

Because I'm the resident bug expert he called me out to have a look at her. I'd never seen a spider like her before, but she was about two inches long, light brown and vaguely resembled a crab spider on steroids (later I did some research on the internet, and I'm pretty sure she's an Eriophora ravilla, or a tropical orb weaver.)

Because I took close-up shots the web really doesn't look that big, so let me show you what the area looks like in daylight (my lame red lines are the size and position of the web):

As my guy walks through that part of the yard every night he was not happy about the spider occupying it. He wanted to kill it and tear down the web, but I persuaded him not to. Once they move into a yard, these orb weavers build their webs in the virtually same spot, so we would now know where to watch out for her. Even though we didn't recognize her species, I thought for sure by morning she would be gone, too -- and sure enough, when he took the dogs out this morning, both spider and web had vanished.

I've never been able to take any decent photograph of these night weavers before last night because my camera doesn't focus well in low light. Luckily we have a flood light in this part of the yard, and the spider and the web were in just the right position to be partially lit up by it. Using my flash did the rest.

Now if I can just remember not to walk through that part of the yard the next time I take the pups out after dark . . .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Color Idea Cards

Tonight I went to Wal-Mart with my guy to pick up some light bulbs (to reduce our energy consumption, we've decided to switch over to those low-watt twisty ones that seem to last forever.) While he was looking at the different brands and figuring out which was the better buy, I drifted over to the paint aisle to pick up some chips for a setting palette I'm trying to rework.

Wal-Mart sells Glidden paint and keeps a nice, simple display of single-color cards showing the different shades you can buy or have mixed up. Scattered among these were also some very cool color idea cards. These cards, which are illustrated with gorgeous photographs of landscapes, flowers, fruits and even this adorable kitten here, have example pics of finished rooms and decor items along with info printed on the reverse side. They cover everything from how to use a color, how to combine it with other shades, the effect it has on people, what it means if you really like it, etc. etc.

On the back of the solid color paint chip cards (which Glidden made the same size as their color idea cards) the manufacturer put a photo of an attractive room painted in the same color with two accent colors, and listed all three with a small square swatch of the color, the shade name and stock number:

This is one of those little brilliant ideas someone thought up for people who want to use more than one color but aren't sure what to pick, how to coordinate them, or what they'll look like together.

I love cards of all types, so I picked up a bunch of the idea cards along with the specific color cards I wanted (here's a pic of the full spread.) Glidden's cards are small enough to tuck in the pocket of a binder but large enough to give you a decent feel for the color or color theme. I also like them being loose so I can shuffle them around and put them in different combinations to design my own palettes. Someone mentioned photo brag books in comments to another post, and I thought those would also make a perfect holder for these cards.

Here are two more of Glidden's color idea cards:

Glidden has also inspired me to start making some of my own color idea cards, too. I can use photographs I've taken or interesting color-themed images I find in magazines, catalogs or online, and customize them with notes on the back of how I want to use them, different synonyms and metaphors for a particular color or theme and so forth. I know it can't hurt, especially when I'm wrestling with imagery or description in the story.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Art Inspires Art

Inspiring other creative people is one of the huge perks of this job. The influence your work has on other writers forms connections and establishes a sense of continuity. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, that's how it works: the wisdom and craftsmanship belonging to generations of storytellers pasts is reborn in the souls of the writers who came after them.

I think book writers mainly inspire other book writers, but we also have an impact on artists who work in other mediums, like poets, musicians and movie makers. For me there is no finer accolade than learning that a poet has written a verse about my characters, a rock band has named themselves after one of my story elements, or that a reader has put together a video dream cast for one of my series.

The visual arts I've inspired are the most fun for me to discover, especially as I'm so often influenced by visual artists. A few days ago a friend who hangs out on Deviant Art sent me a link to this StarDoc-inspired piece by Autumn Haynes (.jpg of painting posted here with the artist's permission.) Seeing my characters through another artist's eyes is always delightful, but it also recharges my creative batteries, so that when I go to write new characters and stories I really think about it and put everything I've got into it.

I like to contact artists and express my appreciation for their efforts, but it's not always possible. Some choose not to respond to e-mail (probably because hearing directly from an author either scares or annoys them), and then sometimes there is just no way to reach them. My publishers send me reader mail that includes art like this portrait of Jayr and Byrne from the Darkyn series. Unfortunately in this case the publisher chose to send me just the contents of the letter to save on postage; they discarded the envelope it was sent to them in. Which means I have no return address. I did try searching for the artist online but I never found any contact info. If you're out there, Corine, thank you for this.

What should you do with reader art? It's really up to you and how much value you place on it. I think it's nice to collect and preserve it as part of your personal writing history. I've framed a lot of mine and put it up on my Wall of Why, and eventually I plan to put together a photo book of my collection for my kids. Other ideas: start a scrapbook, make a wall collage or photoshop them into a poster for your writing space.

If you're a reader who creates novel-inspired art, definitely try to send a copy to the author. I can't promise that you'll always get a reply or a thank-you in return, but you may end up giving a creative boost to the one whose work inspired you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Self-Publishing 911

Operator: Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Author: My new novel isn't selling. I'm sure sales will pick up next month; that's why I quit my day job. But right now, well . . . the utility company just shut off my power and I can't cook my Ramen noodles.

Operator: How many copies of your novel have you sold, ma'am?

Author: At least two or three thousand by now. Amazon just hasn't posted them yet.

Operator: Ma'am, how many sales have been posted?

Author: Two. I know what you're thinking, but my mother only bought one of them.

Operator: Call your old boss, ma'am, and see if you can get your day job back. (switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Writer: I want to self-publish but I'm afraid I'll fail and then that will be the last straw and I'll kill myself. Could you tell me what to do?

Operator: Don't kill yourself, sir.

Writer: I mean about self-publishing. Should I do it? Or should I keep enduring the rejections?

Operator: Sir, what's the title of your novel?

Writer: "All the Stories I Couldn't Sell to New York."

Operator: You need a new title, sir.

Writer: What? I can't change my title. It's the first book in a sixteen-part series.

Operator: What about titling it "All the Stories I Wouldn't Sell to New York."

Writer: Hmmmm. That's not half-bad. A little clunky, but I could work with it.

Operator: Glad I could help, sir. (switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Reviewer: I don't want to review self-published books. They're all nothing but crap.

Operator: (sighs) Then you should review traditionally published novels only, ma'am.

Reviewer: I'm not getting any ARCs to review. The publishers aren't printing them anymore, can you believe that? What am I going to sell on eBay now?

Operator: (checking eBay Pulse page) Fake Coach handbags are trending. (switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Writer: Okay, I'm ready to change my title. What do you think of "All the Stories New York Was Too Stupid to Buy"?

Operator: I think you need another title, sir. (switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Editor: I've been an editor at a major publishing house for seventeen years, and without any warning at all they gave me a pink slip today. They said they don't have enough titles to justify my position anymore. No one else is hiring. What am I going to do?

Operator: Ma'am, you could self-publish a memoir about being an editor.

Editor: What? Become an author? I'd rather eat dirt.

Operator: Well, self-published authors are hiring freelance editors now, ma'am.

Editor: Does that pay anything decent?

Operator: Let me redirect your call to a Freelancer Specialist. Please hold. (transfers call, switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Author: This awful book reviewer won't review my self-published novel. She says they're all crap and only wants printed ARCs from real publishers. So how am I going to get anyone to hear about my book?

Operator: (props head against hand) Have you created fake accounts and written any five-star reviews on for your novel, ma'am?

Author: I post a new one every day. How did you know?

Operator: It's my job, ma'am. Now, using the fake accounts you've created, go onto's discussion boards, pretend to be readers who loved your book, and gush about how good it is.

Author: Wow. That's a great idea. Thank you so much!

Operator: You're welcome, ma'am. (switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Author: My agent has been shopping around my zombie novel for twelve months with no luck. I want the prestige of being in print, but I could publish it myself tonight in twelve minutes and start making money right away.

Operator: Which do you want more, sir? The prestige or the money?

Author: Why can't I have both?

Operator: Sir, you're not Amanda Hocking.

Author: That's not an answer.

Operator: I know. Good luck, sir. (switches lines) Self-Publishing 911, what's your emergency?

Writer: Okay, I changed my title to what you said and uploaded it to, but it's been three minutes and it's not selling. I'm going to kill myself.

Operator: Don't kill yourself, sir. (takes a deep breath) Have you tried offering a discount coupon on your blog?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dollar Store Ten

Ten Things for Writers & Readers from a Dollar Store

1. & 2. 70-page wide-ruled spiral bound notebooks: If you burn through as many notebooks as I do, you can usually buy three or four at the dollar store for what you'd pay for one at an office supply place. Also an excellent buy if your kids need them for school.

3. & 4. Adjustable and Clip-on Book lights: All the book lights I've tried put out the same amount of light and never seem to last longer than a couple of months; they can also cost as much as $10.00 at book stores. I found two different types at the dollar store that work just as well, and (assuming I won't break them) both have replaceable batteries.

5. Wire Bookmark: I'm not exactly sure what shape this one is supposed to be -- maybe a flower -- but it works as well as the ones I've paid $5.00 each for from Hallmark. Crafters might also be able to do something with these.

6. Magnifying Bookmark: this magnifies just as well as the glass one I own, plus it's plastic so it'll be harder for me to break, and I can buy a couple and leave them around the house in my favorite reading spots.

7. Webster's Standard Dictionary, Paperback: for some reason I have to buy a new dictionary and thesaurus for my kid every school year because she loses them, or someone at school borrows hers and never gives them back. You can always find them (often in pocket-size editions, too) at the dollar store.

8. Nonfiction Hardcover Books: my dollar store has an entire shelf of these, mostly remainders and clunkers, but now and then I'll see one that appeals to me. The fiction selections also vary from store to store; mine usually has Tor hardcovers and Kensington paperbacks.

9. Bubble Mailer Multi-packs: one of the better values at the dollar store are the variety of envelopes they carry. I pay up to $2 each for 3M mailers at office supply stores; my dollar store sells them in 2- and 3-packs for $1.

10. Photo Paper: I don't use much photo paper or use it often, so it makes no sense for me to spend $30.00 for a pack of 50 at an office supply store when I can buy 10 sheets for $1. These are off-brands, and probably not as enduring as the better-quality stuff, but I mainly use them to print out photos to send along in cards and letters I write to my family.

Other reasons to shop your local dollar store: I don't recommend buying the food or cosmetic products, but you can generally find good-quality pens, pencils, note pads of various sizes, packing tape, adhesives, gift wrap, scrapbooking supplies, plastic totes and small baskets.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Word Power

I'm unplugging for a day to do some writing and catch up on work. So that your stop here was not entirely wasted, I recommend checking out this video (music plays in the background, for those of you at work.) I'm rarely moved by advertising, but it got me right in the heart:

(link nicked from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

BAM Deals and Steals

I made a stop at a brick-and-mortar Books-a-Million today and noticed they had a lot of clearance/remainder bins set up down the center aisle. I also had to avoid the towering stacks of the new Jean M. Auel book (I've decided, I'm not reading it until I know whether or not it's the last one in the series) so I went to investigate. Along with the usual remaindered/bargain books they had a lot of products on sale: journals, audio books, reader and writer gifts, DVDs and leftover seasonal items.

There seemed to be a lot more discount- and remainder-priced hardcovers this time in the clearance bins (this is addition to the enormous selection they regularly stock on their bargain table section.) I saw some novels that have just recently come out in paperback, but even more older titles that probably represent the publisher's pre-OOP stock. They had a range of prices on them from $5.97-$3.00, with most on the lower end of the pricing scale. If you prefer hardcover copies but can't afford them at release price, you might want to browse the bins and see if some of your favorite authors and titles are there.

BAM doesn't always put all their discounted products in bins, btw. Bookmarks that are marked down are kept on the bookmark racks, probably to prevent them from getting bent or torn up. Almost every time I visit BAM I can get at least two or three types of fancy bookmarks regularly priced $2.95 and up for 50% off; occasionally they will discount them down to $1.00.

Discounted audio books, fancy blank books and movie DVDs are probably the best values, as new they can be quite pricey. But while I'm happy to stock up on journals I'm always a bit leery of the other two, especially if the boxes are dented or banged up. If you're shopping for books or movies look for intact boxes that are still shrink-wrapped so you don't end up with discs that have been chipped, broken or partly pilfered.

The biggest steal of all was a bin filled with these little box kits by Running Press. Regularly priced from $5.95-$8.85, they were all marked down to $2.00. A few were in bad shape and a couple were leaking questionable content (in three cases, sand, soap powder, and little bits of metal) but most were intact and in good to new shape.

I love these kits because they make great motivational gifts for family and friends as well as nice little rewards for me when I get through a tough week. They did manage to fit a cute sampling of Paris in Paris in a Box -- more gag than substance, but I'm putting out everything in the guest room for the next time the Euro kid visits. The Classic Art of Calligraphy kit actually came with everything a first-time aspiring calligrapher would need to test their lettering skills (pen, ink, practice paper and a quickie guide book.) I might have to go back and buy a few more boxes of The Answer Deck, a mini-spin on the Tarot, which contained cards that double nicely as character and plot inspiration (tonight after I finish my editing I think I'll open up The Elemental Spa, run a tub and get in touch with my air, fire, earth and water sides.)

I am frustrated with the brick and mortars in my area -- not that we had that many to begin with. The only indy bookstores within an hour driving time for me are Christian-only, rare/antique or USBs. Now that the only Borders left has closed due to the bankruptcy, I'll have to start making a pilgrimage to the only Barnes & Noble left. It's an hour away, though, and with fuel prices climbing the way they are I probably won't visit unless I have to go to that city for other reasons, which averages about two or three trips a year. I don't want to be reduced to ordering strictly online, so BAM (which has two nice big stores only thirty minutes away) will continue to get the lion's share of my book-buying business.

I'm curious, from where are you guys buying the majority of your hardcover and paperback books these days? Are you still trying to get out to the stores, or are gas prices forcing you to order more online? Let us know in comments.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Three to Inspire

Over the winter we lost a bunch of rose bushes, and I thought for sure the cranky old heirloom we inherited along with the house would finally call it quits, too. She's always been scrawny and scraggly, but the cold killed one of the two big canes sprouting from her base. When my guy pruned off the dead part I thought for sure that would finish her off.

The old girl surprised me (again) by being the first to sprout leaves and then rosebuds. While our other surviving bushes were just beginning to leaf up, she got busy producing a half-dozen roses a week. She also changed her colors again; in March she was giving us blush pink blooms with tangerine hearts, now she's blooming with pale pink roses with pale yellow hearts (and you can see more of my first roses of spring here.)

So every time I feel tired, old and/or out of step with the world, I just look at Cranky's blooms on my desk and remember all she's been through and how steadily and beautifully she keeps producing.

When we were kids my guy and I were both artists; he liked to draw boats and planes while I incessantly painted portraits and miniatures. Both of our kids did the usual artistic things in school, but nothing really out of the ordinary. I have the proud parents' normal collection of painted pasta necklaces, handprint turkeys and foam-faced Santa Claus ornaments, of course, but I didn't think either of them would take it to the next level.

Our daughter doesn't like to show anyone her art, and has been hiding most of it from us (this should have been a sign to me; I did the same thing with writing), so we were a bit shocked when we saw the project her 3-D art teacher decided to exhibit during open house. It was definitely not the usual thing. Then the other day on the way home from school, the kid casually takes out of her book bag this ceramic head sculpture of a dismayed old man. Sculpting, of all things -- where the heck did that come from? Well, at least I now know exactly how the old guy feels.

Sometimes I do think I've been through so much that I'm incapable of being surprised, but my kid reminded me that there are still wonders ahead, waiting to be discovered.

Live long enough and you begin to think that you've seen everything. Like a sunset. Happens every day. I photograph them all the time. Growing up in South Florida, I have regularly witnessed dawns and twilights of such vivid, technicolor intensity that nothing surprises me anymore. So when my guy and I took a drive down by the lake on an overcast day, I wasn't expecting to see the sunset in our little corner of the world turn the world into one huge opal.

No huge lesson here, except that while I was photographing the lake everything was so soft and gorgeous that I didn't mind the color the light shed over the water. Or, to be more precise, it was the first time in a couple years I haven't been ticked off at seeing that particular shade of pink.

What's inspired you in your corner of the world this week? Let us know in comments.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Through Immortal Eyes

If you ever saw the movie version of Anne Rice's novel Queen of the Damned, you'll remember the final scene. As two of the vampire characters walked off, the human world around them began to speed up. I always thought that was a particularly neat visual metaphor for immortality.

Somehow the maker of this gorgeous video did the same thing with the city Paris. According to Vimeo it was made entirely out of photographs.

Le Flâneur (music by The XX) from Luke Shepard on Vimeo.

(link swiped from Gerard over at The Presurfer)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

No-Tech Note Solutions

While I do love the convenience and efficiency of technology, as a writer I don't think I'll ever trust it. I am ruthless about backing up my work, which improves the odds of avoiding technology-created problems, but at least once a year I still lose something. No matter how careful I am, all it takes is one power outage during a work session and hours of work can go poof. And the problem isn't mine alone -- ask any writer, and I bet they have stories about files becoming corrupted, programs glitches sending a manuscript to NeverGetItBackLand and the ultimate horror, a complete hard drive melt down.

The rapid advancement of technology also has another, built-in problem for writers who have been in the game for longer than a few years: it renders older technology obsolete and unusable, and by extension, anything you used them to create. Sure, I have multiple copies of every book I've ever written backed up and saved. About a fourth of those backups are now unusable because my current writing software can't convert the old file formats from the programs I used in the past. If ever decided to reprint my old Gena Hale romances, for example, I'd have to either retype the manuscripts or scan each page from my old hard copies and digitally convert them.

There are all kinds of new tech solutions to old tech problems, but sometimes technology simply interferes too much with my writing process for me to use it. Like note-taking. I could keep notes on the computer in some form or another and multi-task between documents or programs while writing. The thing is, I don't like jumping from one window to another when I'm writing; it destroys my rhythm and my momentum. I also like to be able to look at my story notes while I'm actively writing. This is why I still keep my notes in some hard copy form on my work station. I also like playing with office supplies, so over the years I've come up with some interesting, no-tech ways to manage the notes I use while writing:

Chapter Summary Deck

I admit, I've never been a huge fan of index cards. Because they're loose they're easy to shuffle out of order or misplace; they're really too small to contain much info, the only way to hold them together was by rubberbanding them, and a stack is usually too bulky to comfortable stow in the binder pocket of my novel notebook.

After years of working straight from a printed copy of a synopsis, I started experimenting with ways to break down a novel into brief chapter summaries. I tried small notepads, sticky notes and then decided to look at index cards again. That was when I discovered spiral-bound index cards. While the lines are still too narrow, binding the index cards into a deck solved all the other problems I had with them. When I'm finished, I simply hook the deck's spiral binding through the top clip of my novel notebook binder, which keeps it neatly in place.

Now I'm constantly finding new ways to use spiral-bound index cards: as character stat indexes, series mini-encyclopedias (when you invent an entire new universe, just trying to keep tracking of the names of all the different worlds can be a real headache), personal style Bibles and more.

Steno Noting

When I was a kid I never had enough paper to write on, and since new paper was too expensive to constantly buy, my mom got me into recycling used paper long before it was fashionable. My favorite recycled paper to use was the back of the pages in one of Mom's old steno pads. Instead of throwing them away when they were used up, she would bring them home from work and give them to me. Because she only wrote on one side of the pages, I'd just flip the book over and write my poems on the blank sides. I loved that red line running down the center of the page because I'd write my poem on the left side of the line and then use the right side to jot down alternative words and phrase ideas when I edited the poem.

I still use steno pads, which I buy new by the dozen from the local dollar store. Those two-column pages are great for writing everything from pro and con lists to character comparisons. When I'm working on a novel, I jot down my chapter objectives on the left side and while I'm writing make notes about things I need to find out, check in my research notes or otherwise redo during my daily editing session.

Steno pads also serve as excellent checklists (put your items on one side, and check off or date when you complete them on the other); daily quota tally sheets (list your dates and daily totals on the left and your running monthly total on the right) and even a simple planner for your week (days of the week on the left, lists of what you plan to do each day on the right.) Steno pads are also wonderful for compiling lists of title ideas, because you can run a column of ideas down one side and then jot some variations of the idea beside them.

Graph Paper Mapping

Many writers are insanely talented map makers and floor-plan creators, and a few rank right up there with professional cartographers and architects. Sadly, I am not one of these gifted folks. Using freehand, I couldn't map my way out of a 5X5 square cardboard box. Whenever I desperately needed to lay out a fictional location or make up a floor plan so I could choreograph a scene, I had to rely on what was in my head, or draw something that looked like driving directions an inebriated dyslexic had penned in complete darkness in felt-tip on a cocktail napkin.

Graph paper finally came to my rescue (via my quilting, no less.) Whenever I design a pattern for a patchwork quilt, I use graph paper because the little squares help keep my lines straight, and are easy to count when I'm trying to figure out proportions. After screwing up yet another hand-drawn blue print of a fictional location, in frustration I pulled out a graph paper pad to work on a quilt pattern design. At last the light bulb went on and I tried drawing my floor plan again, this time thinking about the design the same way I did a quilt block and using the squares on the graph paper as a line guide and an area mapper. Worked fabulously for me, and now I use graph paper for everything I map out.

Have you come up with any no-tech and/or non-tradition ways to manage your notes? Share your tips in comments.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Talking Internet & YA

My sixteen year old daughter and I were sitting and talking after dinner tonight, and (as I sometimes do) I asked her what she was doing on the internet.

Her answers:

1. She was working on her history homework before she got online (she even unplugged the laptop and put it on her bed so she wouldn't be tempted.) She did turn on her desktop to listen to some music, got bored with homework, and went on Facebook.

2. She posted her status as lurking on Facebook = looking at other people's dramas and then laughing because she has none of her own.

3. A guy on Facebook asked her to go to his church.

4. Her brother came on Facebook and commented in reference to her status, "I know you're lying."

At least the kid is honest. I decided to start taking notes on our conversation, which evolved into this:

Kat: I want to send you some songs.

Me: About what?

Kat: Have you ever hear about this person who writes free music, I think the name is MindThings, he writes a bunch of instrumental songs that are really pretty. They're like ambient sounds that are like New Age music, no lyrics. I can't listen to songs with lyrics when I'm doing homework.

Me: Send them to me. What's the most surprising thing you saw on the internet this week?

Kat: I found the (Facebook) page for one of the most popular senior guy at my school. He suddenly posted that he's single and not going to Prom. Shocker! Got dumped right before Prom. Everyone feels so bad for him. I finally found out how to make a server for [her favorite online video game.] I went on Skype with [friend of a friend] and he talked me through how to do it.

Me: Did you see anything this week about books on the internet?

Kat: No advertisements. I saw some ads but I ran away from them. No, saw one ad circulating around for some kind of Twilight rip-off. Not interested.

Me: Do you know who Amanda Hocking is?

Kat: Who?

Me: Do you know which big chain bookseller declared bankruptcy?

Kat: Nope.

Me: What book are you reading right now, and what book do you want to read next?

Kat: Reading DotHacker now and I want to read Aion next (both are manga).

Me: Other than manga, what books do your friends talk about?

Kat: Most people in my grade don't talk about books. We're all about video games. Right now everyone is talking about 3DS -- it's the DS in 3-D. This sounds cool. Can you get me some 3-D glasses so I can use the 3-D option on [her favorite online video game]?

Me: Sure. Since you've been reading so much manga, what's your favorite?

Kat: Blood+ is my favorite manga of all time. It's so awesome because I can reread it and see new things each time. It's pretty gory, not like the nice manga I usually read.

Me: Tell me about the story.

Kat: This girl is the last descendant of a vampire, and she has to slay vampire-like monsters developed by the military, which escaped to Japan where she goes around slaying them. Her twin sister, who is like the opposite of her, is working with the monsters, so she knows she's going to have to kill her sister. The storyline is unique, this girl is fighting for her life and trying to stop the monsters and save the world.

Me: You know that's not really a unique storyline.

Kat: (makes a face at me.)

Me: What book would you want me to take you to the book store right now to buy -- any author, any book.

Kat: Chris D'Lacey. I'd go to the bookstore to get a new dragon book by him.

Me: Do you ever hear any other kids in school talking about books?

Kat: Some guys in my history class are always talking about that book you asked me about the last time we were at BAM.

Me: The Hunger Games.

Kat: Yeah, that one. (makes another face.) It doesn't sound like a girl book so I don't want to read it. Why are you writing all those notes?

Me: So I can make this into a blog post for other writers to read. Do you want to tell them what you want to read -- what sort of book?

Kat: No more Twilight ripoffs. So over Twilight. Anything with unique storylines, big plot twists, surprises but not too many because you get jerked around too much.

Me: What do you think will be the next big thing in books for kids your age?

Kat: Nobody at my school has heard of steampunk yet but I think all the gears and stuff are cool. That could be the next big thing.

Me: Any advice you want to give to YA authors?

Kat: Write a good book first. You can have a million ads and stuff on the internet but if your book is crap we won't read it. Write something really great and then kids will talk about it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Abyss & Apex Magazine's next reading period is May 1st-31st 2011, and their mission is "to publish the finest in speculative and imaginative fiction and poetry, with special attention to character-driven stories that examine the depths and heights of emotion and motivation from a broad variety of cultural and social perspectives. A&A wants to publish powerful stories with emotions that resonate in our minds and hearts long after a first reading, stories that make us want to read them again and again. We look for the unique: stories that stand out in a genre that pushes the envelope of unusual. We take special delight in detailed world-building, and have no subgenre boundaries: we like slipstream, YA, hypertext fiction, dark fantasy, science fiction puzzle stories, magical realism, hard science fiction, soft science fiction, science fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, military science fiction, ghost stories, space opera, cyberpunk, steampunk . . . there is very little we will not look at, although we have a severe allergy to elves, retold fairytales, and gratuitous sex and violence. We have no subject/topic preference, beyond a requirement that the work have a speculative element. We are happy to read stories that don’t quite seem to fit elsewhere. We will consider dark speculative fiction, but we do not publish horror. We won’t publish extremely graphic violent or sexual content or over-the-top gore, and we are turned off by gratuitous foul language. In other words, if the primary purpose of a story is to scare us or make us queasy, we won’t buy it." Length: 1.5-10K (fiction), < 1.5K (flash fiction), Payment: 5¢/word ($75 max), query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details.

Arcane ~ Penny Dreadfuls for the 21st Century magazine publishes "the best horror and weird fiction quarterly in print and for ereaders" and has this to say about what they'd like to see: "Imagine if all of the “cool kids” from the original Weird Tales — H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, etc. — has been writing continuously from that day until this; what would they be producing? We prefer story lengths from 1,000 words up to 6,000 words but will consider longer – just realize that a long story will have to be better than the two or three shorter stories it would replace.The biggest plus a story can have is voice. Let us know that you’re comfortable with the English language — in fact, that it’ll sit up and bark like a dog for you." Payment: 1¢/word, query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details. 1st Issue Debut: April 2011.

Buzzy Magazine is "looking for original science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories up to 10,000 words. Thriller, suspense and paranormal tales that cross into traditional speculative fiction are welcome. In addition, we are interested in pieces that may be able to be developed into full length novels for publication by Buzzy Multimedia at a future date." Payment: 5 cents USD per word, no reprints, hard copy/snail mail submissions only, see guidelines page for more details. First issue debuts January 2012.

Exalt Press is looking for "book-length manuscripts from 65,000 to 120,000 words in length. We’ll consider shorter works (novellas and singles) when they’re proposed as a series" and is interested in seeing "Nonfiction: military history, memoir/autobiography, business (sales/marketing), health (anti-aging/anti-cancer); Fiction: apocalyptic/dystopian survival, straight erotica, dark fantasy/horror." Payment: print=5-15%; eBook=25-50%; reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details.

Editor Warren Lapine has an open call for his Fantastic Stories of the Imagination anthology, and is looking for "stories that cover the entire science fiction, fantasy, and horror spectrum. I love magic realism (think Tim Powers and Neil Gaiman) and hard sf. I want a story to surprise me and to take me to unexpected places. I love word play, and would like to see stories with a literary bent, though decidedly not a pretentious bent. I could spend some time telling you what I don’t want, but I’ve found that good stories can make me buy them regardless of how many of my rules they violate. Let your imagination run wild, push and blur the limits of genre, or send me something traditional. I want it to see it all. My experience as an editor tells me that over time I’ll develop preferences and that the anthology will take on its own personality. When that happens I’ll change the guidelines to be more specific, but for now I’m going to explore what’s out there before I decide what direction to go in." Length: "I have no limit on story length but the longer the story is the better it will have to be." Payment: 10 cents/word (max $250.00) or 2 cents/word for reprints (max $100.00). No electronic submissions, see his LJ open call post for more details.

Grand Mal Press is "seeking quality novels in the 70,000 to 90,000 word range. Genres we are looking for include: Horror, Sci Fi, Detective/Mystery, Thriller, Genre Related Humor (I.E. Christopher Moore, Douglas Adams), Mashups. We are NOT interested in Erotica, Vampires, Fantasy, or Graphic Novels." Payment: "Authors will receive a token advance up front. Authors will earn quarterly royalties equaling 8 percent on print/15 percent on e-books." No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details.

JournalStone is holding their first ever $2,000 in 2011 Publishing Contest, which offers the grand prize winner the opportunity to "Get your HORROR novel published and earn a $2,000 advance against future royalties. The #1 winner is also eligible for active membership to the HWA (Horror Writers Association)." [Nice to see them recruiting for HWA, too.] They also have this to say: "Second prize gets a $500 advance and a published novel. Yes, you have to sign a contract first. Third place gets a $200 advance and for the last time, also gets a published novel. Not one of the top three? No worries, you might still be good enough to get your novel published, you will just have to earn your money on the royalties. We only have so much to give out for free." Fair enough. Length: 75K or more, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see contest page for more details. Submission Deadline: "All submissions must be received no later than 11 p.m. Pacific time June 1, 2011. JournalStone highly recommends you submit your work early."

Kraken Press is open for submissions, and would like to see "novels, novellas and short story collection up to 120.000 words. We are interested in seeing manuscripts in the genres of horror, dark fiction and new weird. More importantly, we’re interested in fresh writing." Payment: unspecified royalty, query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details.

E-Chapbook publisher Twenty or Less Press accepts submissions "of short stories (10,000 words or less) in all fiction genres including romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, poetry and women’s fiction for electronic publication only." Payment: 40% net royalty, reprints okay, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details.

The Library of the Living Dead has an open call for their Zombiality 2 antho, and is looking for stories that "must be about zombies and include an emphasis on gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered plots, themes, and/or character(s) to them. This is horror with a queered twist with stories that can represent the horrific, gruesome, psychological, suspenseful, and satirical. If you need some guidance check out the first Zombiality." Length: 3-6K, Payment: 1¢/word + copy, no reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines page for more details. Deadline: June 30, 2011.

All of the above sub ops were found among the marvelous market listings over at

Sunday, April 03, 2011

County Quilt Show Album

Last month I didn't get a chance to post up any photos from the county quilt show. I had some problems with the camera on the first day, and on the second I had to leave early. Still, I managed to take some okay shots of the best entries in the show, which I parked over on my JAlbum account here.

This was one of my favorites. Just when I think I've seen everything that can be done with a black and white quilt, some imaginative soul comes up with a design to blow the mind. It reminds me of Savannah, where sometimes you see wildflowers in the spring growing up around an old black wrought iron gate. Gorgeous work.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Facebook Line & Sinker

I actually had a Facebook account for about three minutes today. No, that's not another April Fool's Day joke; I'm serious. And I know what you're thinking: Why would PBW do that when she doesn't use Facebook, never joins things and refuses to do any online self-promo outside her own blog?

Because, my friends and colleagues, occasionally even PBW is a gullible idiot. That's why.

The backstory: I don't like television, but now and then I watch The Weather Channel to get the forecast and check out the Doppler radar. The local forecast comes on every eight minutes, and it helps me decide when to take the dogs for a walk. Last night when I was checking to see what today's forecast was going to be, they ran a commercial for a photo contest promoting their new From the Edge show.

One of the prizes was a book of photographs by Peter Lik, which I thought was pretty cool. I love free books, and since I've gotten into amateur photography I'm always interesting in reading books about it and seeing what the pros do. I seriously doubted I'd win, but what the heck, I could try.

Although there were few details about what sort of photo you were supposed to enter in the contest, I figured I'd see if the rules would allow me to enter the shot I used to make my new blog banner, the one I took last November:

Sure, it's not perfect, but the colors and the composition are nice, and as amateur shots go I think it's pretty decent. So as the commercial directed me, I went to the Weather Channel's site, and hunted for the link to the contest, which was a real pain to find. Finally I located it and clicked on it.

It sent me to the show's Facebook page.

So it was a Facebook contest. Again. Great. I don't have anything against Facebook; I'm simply not interested in it. But I thought, okay, just this once I'll set up account solely for the purpose of entering the contest. And I could delete everything as soon as I lost the contest. Easy, right?

I know better. I really do. But I wanted a chance to win that book more than I wanted to listen to my common sense.

The second -- the absolute split second -- I created a Facebook account I got slammed. Two people instantly wanted to be my Friends (they must hook up something that reads the e-mail address you use to create the account that other people are watching for; both people send me endless amounts of SPAM on my regular e-mail.) Facebook demanded all kinds of personal information from me, too: what school had I gone to, who were my friends, who did I want to invite to be my friends, yada yada yada.

I skipped all that and went to make my profile private. No such luck. I could, however, put up a picture of myself. Tell everyone all about me on my permanently public profile. Stuff started popping up on the sidebar for me to buy, join, check out, etc. And the questions, God. Have you done this? Why not? You'd better do this. And this. My security was too low, fix that.

In two minutes so much crap was thrown at me I almost gave up. But I really wanted to enter the contest, so I skipped as much as I could, put phony info in the stuff I couldn't, and finally verified it all. At last. I could go to the contest page and get this over with one and for all.

Here's the real irony: on the contest page? The link to enter the contest didn't work. So I joined Facebook and went through all that nonsense for nothing.

Anyway. I took great pleasure in going to the account settings page so I could delete the stupid account. Only I discovered that I couldn't delete it; I was only given the option of "deactivating" the account. And before I could do that, I had to tell them why I was deactivating it. I had to explain myself by checking off one of their reason boxes (none of which said "You're pushy, intrusive dumbasses and I don't want you anywhere near me or my e-mail".)

I checked one of the idiot boxes (the "I don't think Facebook is useful" one, which has to be the understatement of the millenium) and finally, I thought, it was done. Over. I escaped Facebook! Only then Facebook assured me that I could come back and reactivate and use my account any time.

Well, at least I had enough sense to use a fake name.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Taking the Leap

I don't often get sucked into industry dramas, but lately all this "make or don't make millions by self-publishing" hoopla has provided me with a lot of free entertainment (which is also why John and Marcia came out of retirement last week.)

After you've worked in the biz for a while you can almost predict these things, especially when the herd and the possibility of making money is involved. They seem to occur at roughly two-year intervals. Give it enough time and it will even loop back right to where it started, as it has in romance:

1999: Why go through the submission process? Print is dead. Self-publish romance e-books, become an author and make millions.

2001: Romance e-books are dead. Write romantic suspense, become an author and make millions.

2003: Romantic suspense is dead. Write romantica e-books, become an author and make millions.

2005: Romantica e-books are dead. Write vampire brotherhood romances, become an author and make millions.

2007: Vampire brotherhood romances are dead. Write romantic mashups, become an author and make millions.

2009: Romantic mashups are dead. Write angel and demon romances, become an author and make millions.

2011: Angel and demon romances are dead. And hey, why go through the submission process? Self-publish on [online self-publishing entity], become an author and make millions.

Any time someone in Publishing says you can make millions doing something, a portion the herd will run toward it. It's the nature of the game as well as the herd. Now, when you tell the herd that they can make millions and avoid the submission process and publish whatever they want while it seems to cost them nothing, it's almost a given that there will be a general stampede in that direction.

It's not all bad, of course. Many of my writer friends, some who have been out of work, are now self-pubbing for profit and putting out some great books. NetPubLand seems to find a new self-pubbed author with fantastic sales every day, and I'm always happy to see a fellow writer earn a nice income. Authors also finally seem to have some real control over their work as well as the lion's share of the profits, which could even be viewed as a kind of poetic justice.

It all seems so wonderful, too, doesn't it? Big numbers. Money rolling in. Artistic freedom. Destiny control, at last! It almost sounds like a Publishing Renaissance. Which to me is usually the first sign I'm about to be fleeced.

The time, though, it seems that there really are pots of money to be made. A self-publishing service has made me a very generous offer, so generous in fact that I really can't refuse. This is why I have notified my agent that I'm firing her, and canceling the rest of my contracts with traditional publishers.

I can also give you an exclusive look at the first three books I'll be self-publishing in my Publishing: The Ugly Truth series:

In addition to all the stats about self-publishing, I will be revealing what I've learned over the last thirteen years about the non-writers involved in traditional publishing, including all the dirt I've been told by my editor friends about other editors. This includes all the drinking, lying, cheating, trashing, bad-mouthing, sabotaging and of course my personal favorite, the bloopers section (aka What Happens at the Conference Doesn't Always Stay at the Conference, with Photos!)

I am supportive of my writer friends, and they've always said they'd like to return the favor. I think it's high time they did, so I am spilling the beans -- all fourteen years of them. If you are a writer friend of mine and would like me to omit anything specific that I know about you, how you really feel about your colleagues, the number of cosmetic surgeries you've had, your much younger lovers or that tattoo you got of Donald Maass you know where, feel free to e-mail me and we'll talk about how much that's worth to you.

And finally, the third and most important volume in my Ugly Truth series, which will explain what really motivated me to take this leap. You do need to see this one full-sized, though, to truly appreciate what I'm trying to do, so click here.