Sunday, July 31, 2011

Journal Evolution

I've been keeping handwritten journals since 1974, and every now and then I like to take out one from an earlier year and compare it to what I'm writing now. Here are the two I was looking at tonight: July 2011 on the left, and July 2008 on the right.

Obviously I was a much neater journal writer back in 2008, but since completing Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal last year I think I've loosened up quite a bit. All my journals used to be absolutely flat and perfect, now they're filled with all sorts of things I never put in my older journals (fabrics, souvenirs, cards, clippings and what have you.) I also recovered the 2011 journal with paper printed to look like rain on a window because while I loved the pages the cover was beyond ugly.

Some things don't change, however. In July 2008 I started an entry by complaining about laundry, and did the exact same thing in 2011. Laundry seems to be my personal demon no matter what year it is.

My personal journals are filled with art. I added a lot more watercolor paintings in my journals in years past; now I tend to put in more of my photography. I still leave some pages blank, which is not me being mysterious -- I just don't backtrack through my journals, and sometimes skip one by accident.

Art populates all my journals, especially when I'm sad or going through a tough time. Here in 2011 I pasted in some fabric scraps from a crazy quilt project on the day I lost my uncle (and that passage is deliberately blurred for privacy); in 2008 I actually ironed one of my paint rags and pasted that in along with some trimmings from my watercolors after a stressful day dealing with the downside of Publishing.

Of the several hundred journals I've filled I've given away only a few to friends, but those were journals I wrote especially for them. I've also destroyed a pile that I felt didn't need to survive me, and I think that's important. If you don't want it published or passed around after you're gone, you should absolutely destroy it now, because no matter what your wishes are, they will probably be disregarded once you've gone on to the next place. If there are only certain passages you want to remove, I advise tearing out and trashing those pages.

After thirty-seven years of journaling I can't imagine not having one. With everything being electronic these days I'm afraid the handwritten journal will soon go the way of the handwritten letter, so I'm more determined than ever to keep up with mine. I don't think mine are especially interesting to anyone but me or possibly my family members, but it's good writing practice and it helps to clear my head and get me prepped to focus on the work.

Do you guys keep handwritten journals? What do you put in yours that you consider unusual? Let us know in comments.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I put a reminder on my virtual calendar to decide now whether or not I want to join in National Novel Writing Month 2011, which is only three months away. I've got a book being released in November and another due in December, plus all the usual holiday prep to deal with, so unless some miracle or disaster clears my schedule, I'm probably just going to be in the cheering section this year.

Are you guys planning to participate this year? Got any special plans? Let us know in comments.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Roses

Hang around me long enough and I will tell you a story about my roses. It's inevitable; I'm a rose addict. I began growing them because I like to have fresh flowers in the house, and roses remind me of what happened on the day I fell in love with my guy. That's why they're my favorite flower -- and why our daughter's middle name is Rose.

Most people don't realize just how long roses have been cultivated. The Chinese were probably the first to add them to their flower beds about five thousand years ago, and they've been bedevilling gardeners ever since. The ancient Romans used them in perfumes and medicines, and showered rose petals on their armies as they paraded through the streets. Many cultures consider the rose a sacred symbol, and have used them to represent everything from love to war.

I read a couple of books last week that reminded me of two of the roses I grow, which prompted me to cut a bloom from each of them while I wrote this post. The image up top there are the two roses just after I cut them and put them in water. You might think at first glance that the showpiece of my garden is my lady rose on the right. She produces white flowers with just the faintest tinge of pink, and they are always perfect, from bud to bloom. Lady's roses have the classic rose scent, and she also has perfect leaves and a nice shape. She responds well to pruning and produces steadily right on schedule, from late spring to early fall. They all look just like this one:

Then there is my cranky old rose bush, who is responsible for the dark pink bloom on the left. Cranky and I have a colorful history. She's pretended to die on me multiple times only to come back to life; I should really call her Zombie Rose. She also blooms whenever she feels like it; one year she gave me roses for three weeks in the middle of winter (that was right after the summer she got the black pox and spread it to every other bush in the garden.) I never know what to expect from her; one day she gives me a dozen blooms that all open at the same time; the next she turns into a brown stick and plays dead.

For an heirloom rose Cranky is old, ugly and she refuses to be cultivated, pruned or otherwise tamed. Her blooms don't smell like roses at all; they're a bit like baby powder plus cotton candy plus something else. They also look more like carnations than roses, and their crinkly petals will never win any beauty contests. Cranky spits on the word showpiece. I'm pretty sure she hates me, too, and I have the thorn scars to prove it.

I'd have kicked Cranky out of the garden years ago, except for the fact that (when she wants) she produces incredible, complex roses that seem to change color from year to year and last for more than a week after cutting. That and the fragrance of her blooms is like a drug (after one sniff you keep wanting to smell it, which is what gave me the idea for the Darkyn's l'attrait ability.)

I appreciate my lady rose, too, but for all her excellent qualities and endless perfection, she's really not much use to me. I can't cut any of her blooms because they fall apart immediately. Here are the two roses again, 12 hours after I cut them:

Now onto the books I read. Book #1 was by a writer who shall remain nameless (it's no one who visits here or knows me.) This writer is quite attractive, very popular, has won industry awards and is well spoken of by people who think all that stuff is important. These are also the reasons I've never read this writer, but a family member asked me if the writer's books were any good, so I thought I'd better actually read one and test the waters before I offered an opinion. While I was wading through the cloned characters, the knockoff worldbuilding, the pinhead plot, the endless housekeeping dialogue and sex scenes that read like Pilates instructions, I also realized how perfect this writer was. Technically speaking, I couldn't find a single thing wrong with the writing. The novel contained zero grammar mistakes, typos or broken genre rules. The writing also had no voice, no passion, nothing to distinguish it from a hundred others just like it. Reading it was like what I imagine eating library paste tastes like.

I read Book #2 a day after recovering from Book #1, and I was convinced I would hate it, too (#1 really left me in a hateful mood, which is probably why I went to another book I didn't want to read, to get all the suffering over with at once.) #2 was a Christmas gift from a friend across the pond; a literary novel set in a time period I don't especially care for. The main character was, God help me, a writer. There is no character that makes me cringe more that a fiction protagonist who is a writer. The title was waaaaay too long. The characters were poorly named. It wasn't even structured like a novel. But it was a gift from someone I care about, so I had to read it. Started out slow, but by the middle of the story I was on the edge of my seat, reading as fast as I could to find out what was going to happen next. The terribly-named characters stole my heart. So did the story, which wasn't like anything I'd ever read. It was brilliant stuff. I will remember this book forever (and once I get more copies, I'll tell you more and have a giveaway for it.)

When you're writing for publication, you will be pressured to deliver perfection. You'll be handed a lot of rules about what you should or shouldn't write. You'll have agents, editors and even writer friends give you advice on what you have to write to win awards, be more marketable, and appeal to the readers of other, better-selling writers. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to improve the work, or to train yourself to turn in the cleanest manuscript that you can, but don't be bullied into sacrificing who you are as a storyteller so that you look better. Don't surrender what is unique about you just to be more acceptable. Pretty might look really good, but as my poor lady rose proves, it has no substance, no surprises, and it never lasts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cover Déjà vu

I've seen the preliminary cover art for Nightborn, which is pretty spectacular, and as soon as I get the green light from my editor I'll be showing it off to you guys. There was something about it that was driving me a little bonkers, though -- one of the background elements, a fountain, looked really familiar. As in a serious déjà vu , I'd-photographed-it-myself moment. But where?

I started going through my old photo files and pulling everything I'd labeled with fountain:

Wasn't this behemoth.

Or this one, which I dubbed Le Crane Upchucks.

This Honey, Call the Plumber fountain wasn't it, either.

I never realized I had such a fetish for fountains.

Kind of weird fountains, too.

Possibly radioactive fountains.

Have you ever noticed how many fountains are built around the concept of the regurgitating critter?

Or critters who are relieving themselves in, um, other ways?

Anyway. After going through several dozen more image files, I started becoming annoyed with myself. Everything is not a message from the universe, and my memory is certainly not the steel trap it used to be when I was younger. I told myself I was just imagining things.

Only I couldn't leave it alone, so I looked at the artwork again, this time with a magnifying glass. I then saw two tiny details that escaped me on first glance: something behind the fountain that hadn't been altogether photoshopped out, and something in the middle of it. And then I knew exactly what it was, and where it was, and nearly fell on the floor.

Why I didn't recognize it immediately is anyone's guess, but I think it's one of those knee-jerk, "No, it couldn't be that" assumptions we make when we have a déjà vu moment. I've actually seen the fountain from my cover art in person a couple dozen times. It happens to be one of my favorite spots in the world. The last time I visited it, I didn't just photograph the fountain, I sat next to it for about an hour and wrote about it in my research journal, which ended up becoming part of a novel I wrote six books back.

Here's the last photograph I took of it in 2008:

I know it's probably just a coincidence, and it's silly to get happy about such things, but I'm still taking it as a good omen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Widget Quest

Now that I've tried reinventing the bookmark, my second creative challenge is to come up with three widgets to use with promo for my upcoming Lords of the Darkyn trilogy. The immediate problems: I'm not a widget lover; I think 99% of all widgets are a waste of time and materials. I want something unique and different that is my idea, which rules out all the mass-produced advertising-type junk (thank heavens.) And I want to make it myself, which limits the range of possibilities to what I can reasonably produce without making a complete hash of it.

I've been keeping my eye out for inspiration and hoping the universe would conk me on the head with something fabulous. Which it did last night when I made a stop at World Market for some international treats. I always check their bargain bins for interesting sale items, where this time I found a set of three notes made into scrolls:


It was a real eureka moment. Scrolls are what books were before there were books, and as it happens Nightborn, the first novel in the new Darkyn trilogy, features a scroll as an important part of the story. Perfect idea for a widget! I even knew what I could do with different materials to make it low-cost, give it my own personal spin, and end up with something that has a good chance of not landing in the trash bin.

Next problem: I've never actually made a scroll, so I needed to do some research. I promptly went over to BAM to hunt for some how-to guidance, and in the process found Alisa Golden's Making Handmade Books. This is practically an encyclopedia of book making, and features a wide variety of beautiful and unusual bindings and forms. Ms. Golden offers fully illustrated, step-by-step instructions paired with beautiful finished examples of the different styles, so you can see what the end result should look like. Btw, if you're an art journalist, book maker or someone who for whatever reason fashions and binds your own books, this should absolutely be in your library.

Lucky for me it also included how to make a scroll book, the instructions for which I can adapt to use for my widget project. Reading through it also gave me a great idea on how I can secure the scroll in an interesting way and still assure that every component of the widget can actually be used for practical purposes. I love art, but I love not wasting or throwing away things even more. Now I just have to experiment with the design and put together some prototypes to test out the vision and see if I can make it work in reality.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Test Your Vocab

Ever wonder what size English vocabulary you have? Here's a test you can take online to give you an estimate.

I took the test and gave honest responses (it's honor system based, so you can lie and say you know the tough words and probably make yourself look better.) I thought I'd absolutely bomb, especially when I hit the final column, but my results surprised me:

Test link nicked from Gerard over at The Presurfer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Freeware 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.

Book Tracker is "an organizer program for the book collector or manager of a small library. Book Tracker was designed to be simple to use, yet feature rich. Many of the features can be implemented with a single click or hot key and most of the information is presented on the main screen. Book Tracker Collector's Edition is a freeware program designed to be used by anyone needing to organize their books including avid readers, book collectors, law librarians, small school librarians, corporation librarians and more" (OS: Not specified but it looks like Windows)

Fusion "allows merging several images of the same scene in one. You can merge photos taken with the same exposure or images taken with different exposures. When blending together images taken with different exposure, the program creates an image with high dynamic range of brightness (HDR). Subsequent tone mapping to low range (LDR) uses nonlinear algorithms and allows preserving maximum details of the original images" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

ManicTime is "a time tracking software which automatically collects data on your computer usage. It records active and away time, as well as which applications you used and for how long you used them. The data ManicTime collects is stored in a local database on your computer. Once data is collected you can use our simple click and drag feature to accurately tag how you spent your time. Time tagging allows you to see how you spent your time based on your own time tags and gives you accurate information on how efficient you really are" (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/7)

NoteFly is "a very small, colorful note taking application. Features: very small application (Less than 200kb setup) if .net framework 2.0/Mono is installed; several skins for notes to select; make sticky notes on top or roll them up to save screen space; a lot of settings to customize NoteFly to your needs; fully xml based (does not need windows registry, except for running on logon) (OS: Win 2000/XP/Vista/7 + Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.)

NoteLiner "helps you structure and track your work; it provides a place to record meeting and conversation notes, manage todos, and store key project information that might otherwise be scattered about. It is a simple tool that will not slow you down, but will give you a means to stay on top of what you need to do and remember" (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/2008/7)

Piggydb is "an open source Web notebook application that provides you with a platform to build your knowledge personally or collaboratively" (OS: Windows/Mac OS X/etc with Java)

Qumana is "an easy-to-use desktop blog editor, enabling you to write, edit and post to one or more blogs. You can use Qumana even when you are offline. Save your blog posts to your hard drive and upload whenever you like. Great for bloggers on the move. Qumana features include easy text formatting and image insertion, simple Technorati tagging, and advertising insertion with Q Ads" (OS: Mac OS X)

Skim is a speedy pdf reader that Mac lovers say is better than Preview. It comes with a few powerful built-in editing tools such as adding an arrow/circle, or striking out unwanted text. With Skim, you can quickly sort through and edit your PDFs in a pinch (OS: Mac OS X)

Speak-a-Message "replaces written text with your voice: Just record and send. Speak-A-Message provides a rich communication experience that enables you to create and email your own audio messages and to listen to audio messages in your inbox. Speak-A-Message is free for private use. Speak-A-Message can also be used to add audio comments to text documents or to add your voice comments to presentations" (OS: Windows Vista/7)

VueMinder Lite is a "calendar and reminder program for Windows. It supports multiple calendars displayed simultaneously in layers. These can be viewed and printed by day, week, or month. They can also be visually distinguished using unlimited combinations of fonts, background colors, and gradient styles. It also integrates a semitransparent calendar into your Windows desktop, so you´ll always be able to see your upcoming events" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fake Agent E-mail Scam

I just read about this today over at YAHighway, and since this is a horrific scam I thought I'd post the info as well as my comment here, too.

From Publishers Lunch:

Writers House has learned that a series of fake emails claiming to be from WH agent Jodi Reamer have been circulating to self-published authors this week. "These emails, which contain a number of false statements, have not in fact come from Jodi Reamer and should thus be disregarded." One easy "tell": they advise that any e-mail from a non-Writers House address "expressing interest in representation is counterfeit."

I've been a client of Writers House for twelve years. When I queried WH back in 1998, I had a personal rec from a Big Name Author and a two-book contract offer from a major publisher in hand. My agent (Robin Rue) did not sign me instantly; she asked to see the full manuscripts plus other samples of my work, and then she called me to talk about my career goals. Then she had to think about it. The whole thing took about three weeks.

While some agencies or agents do move faster, and occasionally a promising writer will end up having agents fighting over them, when it comes to signing with a prestigious agency it generally does require some time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Characters R Us

Welcome to Characters R Us, the ultimate online character shopping experience. If you've got a story, we've got the perfect someone to star in it!

Today we're featuring a 10% discount on three of our most popular Standard Romance Heroine Models:

Anna All-American: A classic top selling model, Anna is the epitome of the ideal girl-next-door, and comes equipped with a stubborn chin, nose freckles, a large, untrained canine pet and a loving but constantly interfering spinster relation. When ordering, please specify unfashionable hair type (long ponytails, thick braids or short curly mop.)

Kitty KickButt: What's an urban fantasy without the perfect kickbutt heroine? Boring, that's what. Our Kitty model is strong, sassy and so ready to save the world that she'll take on (or have sex with) any monster you throw at her. Kitty comes complete with a weapon of unparalleled power, more tattoos than a biker gang and a tragic, troubled but wholly understandable wayward past. Please choose from the following ethnicities: Almost Asian, Kinda Caucasian, Not Quite African-American, or Half-Hybrid Hell Spawn.

Sally Shy Thang: This sweet young heroine is perfect for every ellipsis-lover, as she can mangle any line of dialogue you provide. Bitable lips, fluttering eyelashes, twistable fingers and a lifetime supply of adorable blushes are included at no extra charge.

Victoria Virgin: this multi-purpose model can give a delicate but determined feminine sparkle to your historical, paranormal or steampunk stories, and comes complete with uncut hair, unpainted features, uncommon education, uncompromised virtue and a battered trunk of shabby but serviceable period-appropriate gowns. If you order before 6 pm today we'll include a bonus destitute but devoted maid servant (colorful accent $5.00 extra.)

But wait, that's not all! Order in the next hour and we will send you absolutely free of charge one of these wonderfully supportive secondary characters:

Fond Friendly Father -- the amazing Dad none of us ever had

Boisterious Best Friend -- the ideal BFF, lots of spunky lines, no life whatsoever

Meddling Emotional Mom -- when she's not baking or cleaning she's crying or lying

Somewhat Skanky Sister -- has worked her way through the football team (twice) but always has sage advice and boxes of condoms

Not Altogether Evil Twin -- there but for the grace of God, huh? (includes your choice of gender!)

Thanks for shopping at Characters R Us, and stop in next week for our annual Hard Sci-Fi Fire Sale to pick from the best of the leftover/refurbished folks from the future!

Friday, July 22, 2011

One Week Only

Although writers almost never have any input as to the cover price for our books, every now and then we're given the opportunity to participate in a reduced price sale that is not covered by the terms of our contract. I got my chance the other day when one of my publishers asked if they could nominate my YA title for just such a sale. I gave them the green light, and to make it a very good sale I suggested they go with the lowest price possible.

My publisher agreed, and the sales people picked my title, and everyone was okay with the big discount, so if you're a Kindle owner and would like to save 90% on the Kindle edition of my YA debut novel After Midnight, head over to the Kindle Store sale page and get it now for just $0.99. This sale is only good for the next week, so if you're interested don't wait too long.

Still 100% free for everyone: Dark of Heart, my e-book novella set in the After Midnight universe, which you can read online, download, print out and share for non-profit purposes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Memory Inspiration

Kuriositas has an amazing pictorial post on Puzzlewood, a very old and beautiful English forest that was Tolkien's inspiration for middle Earth. I've never been there but it looks like storyteller heaven.

I think most writers include real life places and experiences as part of their stories; I certainly do. In Nightshine my protagonist Charlie Marena sports a turtle tattoo, which seems an odd choice (not very exciting, I suppose) until you know the story behind it.

Growing up by the sea as a kid exposed me to many neat things, such as our annual treks to Dania Beach whenever the loggerhead turtle nests started to hatch. Our entire community would go down at night to herd the babies. The hatchlings would often get confused and head up the beach toward the lights of highway A1A, which were brighter than the moon that was supposed to guide them to the ocean.

Baby loggerheads are fast -- like lightning -- and hundreds come out of the nest at the same time. One year when we went it seemed like all the nests were hatching at once, and we had to run back and forth for hours. I know it must have been hot, sticky, exhausting work, but all I remember is how much fun it was to see the little ones as they skittered over that last margin of wet sand into the waves.

These days I hear they make people go on turtle watch tours or keep them off the beaches when the nests hatch, and while that's probably for the best I feel sorry for the generations of children who will never have the experience I did. Being involved, even in a small part, in a nature rescue effort has a profound effect on a youngster, and helps shape positive attitudes toward wildlife preservation.

Thanks to my childhood memories I've always been fond of turtles, and like most of the things that mean a lot to me they were bound to show up in my fiction. In Nightshine the turtle tattoo Charlie sports has a logical meaning tied into the story and the worldbuilding, but also helped as a prompt to remind me of the qualities I wanted to invest in her as well as what she means to me.

Have you writers out there ever used a particular memory in this way to inspire your fiction? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Miracle Fish

I'm sorry I'm late posting today. Yesterday the kid and I went on a random adventure, which is when we jump in the car, point it in a direction and drive until we find something interesting enough to make us stop or we need food. It's not something I do very often, as I prefer to plan just about every second of my day, but the spontaneity is good for me.

This time we ended up at a small museum we'd never visited that featured an exhibit of installation art. Among the many fascinating pieces was an interactive display of fortune telling miracle fish, which we were invited to try out for ourselves. Since the artist's statement assured us that all of the fortunes were good ones, we decided to give it a go.

To receive our fortunes, we had to remove a little fish cut-out made of Mylar from the exhibit, and hold the fish on our palms until it reacted to our body heat. We then matched which part of it curled (or didn't curl) to the fortune on the back of a small envelope, also provided by the artist.

Kath's fish didn't curl (skinny teens have cold hands), so her fortune was "smooth sailing." My fish's tail curled, which meant "dream job." It figures my fortune would involve work. But as I already have my dream job, I think it was just reminding me to be a little more grateful for it.

As a reminder I've been keeping my 2011 motto fortune on my desk, but it's been migrating into my notes or falling to the floor, so I need to make it less likely to get lost. I didn't want to tape it to the computer, so I finally made it into a ATC. It's a bit harder to lose a card, and I wanted to experiment with making artist trading cards again.

I think at the end of the year I have to pass this one along to someone else; at least that's what my inner superstitious muse is muttering. The card will definitely make it easier to hand off.

I think we can make our own fortunes, good or bad, but it doesn't hurt to wish or let a random suggestion guide us along the way. The universe has an endless ocean of miracle fish waiting for someone to find them, and hold them in the palm of their hand, and see what might be happening next.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hunting Metaphors

I went with my guy and the kid to a flea market this past weekend, but the allure of cheap plastic clogs, temporary tattoos and cardboard bins of slightly dusty, almost-designer handbags couldn't compete with all the stuff waiting beyond in the fields behind the warehouses. I left my loved ones nibbling on boiled peanuts and headed for the really gritty outdoor section.

There's about an acre of everything you've ever seen set out at a garage sale, donated to a thrift store or abandoned to quietly rust in a field, multiplied by dozens, even hundreds. While I always love getting the perfect beautiful shot, I'm also drawn to things that are not so perfect; things left behind, things that were forgotten, and other debris piles from the past.

This is the kind of place where my camera and I mine for descriptions, by taking shots of interesting/ugly objects to study later, but this time I hit a metaphoric goldmine. Everywhere I looked I saw something that defined something else for me, so much so that I took out the notepad in my purse and started taking notes.

Here are a few of the snapshots, and what they made me think (to find out what that was, place your cursor over the image. To see a larger version, click on the image):

I spent a lot of time photographing the glassware tables. On this one everything felt brittle, crowded, transparent, uncomfortable, as if one wrong move would sending everything crashing. Everything here wants to see and be seen. Glassy expressions, gaping mouths, dangerous proximities, but nothing real or especially attractive.

Also lots of rusty things to be admired. This conglomeration of old bikes probably hasn't been moved in years. They've been left all jammed together, but when you look at each one it's as if they are wheedling you to give them another chance: "Come on, I still work. Buy me. Rescue me. Take me for a ride again."

I don't know their name, but these are such shy flowers, too bashful to even raise their blooms. I remember all the years I felt like this -- like if I kept my head down and said nothing, I wouldn't get stomped. And yeah, that actually doesn't work. If you listen you can almost hear them whisper, "Nothing to see here, lady, just move along." Still lovely, though, and wistful.

This is back inside, but when I looked up and saw the sunlight sparkling through this curtain of crystal I had to get the shot. Each gem threw its own rainbows and glitter at my head. All the shapes and colors -- how could you choose to take just one? Their dazzle makes you into a greedy kid. You want them all.

The lovely thing about hunting and collecting visual metaphors are the many ways you can use them; they don't have to be assigned a single meaning. The hanging crystals are definitely going in the story I'm working on now; they'll serve very well as part of a characterization. I like the rusty bikes, too, and I think I know just how to use them to illustrate a chunk of backstory.

Keeping a photographic metaphor journal can be a fun way to collect your visual trophies. If you're not into taking your own photographs, look for images online you can print out or cut out from magazines. If you don't want to keep a paper journal, put together a video or slideshow (everyone does music playlists for their stories, why not a video playlist?)

If you'd like to see more examples, I uploaded the best of my shots from this day and made a Visual Metaphors online photo album here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taggedy Ten

Ten Things I Think about Your Dialogue Tags

"!@#$," he grated.

This is an RWA staple, and I'm still trying to weed it out of my books. So I don't mind seeing it once. Even twice I'll let it pass. But when you use "grate" as a dialogue tag in every single chapter, I'm definitely going to nickname your hero CheeseBoy.

"All you ever do is swear," she croaked.

If you kiss her, does she turn into a princess?

"Betty is a complete slut!" he declared.

Am I too stupid to realize this is a declarative sentence? Survey says: nope. P.S., the exclamation point is just annoying.

"I don't give a hoot about Betty or anyone else you sleep with," she retorted.

We stopped retorting back in the nineteenth century. Didn't you get the memo?

"I thought you loved me, and now you think I'd do something as dastardly as go to bed with Betty and let her have her wicked way with me from dusk until dawn?" he gasped.

According to Random House dictionary, a gasp is "a sudden, short intake of breath, as in shock or surprise." Yes, I checked. So unless your hero has lungs the size of garment bags . . .

"Unless you want the mage to invoke the curse of Chaos, open the gates to Hell, release the demon horde and destroy the world in fifteen minutes," he growled, "we have to have wild monkey sex on top of the Chrysler Building. In front of Betty."

I actually tried to growl this line. I gave myself laryngitis.

"Sebastian, how could you cheat on me with Betty, of all people, when you could have assuaged your needs with the floozy redhead down at the tavern who puts out for every rake with a shilling?" she yelped.

A yelp is shorter than a gasp, I think. Like a microgasp, only louder. I should really conduct a scientific study of this. Until then, please pair with briefer utterances.

"Betty says that the sixth shiek's sixth sheep's sick," he stuttered.

Speaking on behalf of all stutterers, no. Just no.

"You and Betty can go tiptoe through the tulip patch together for all I care," she hissed.

A hiss should only be used by snakes, steam irons or overheating radiators. Homo sapiens who have to employ it should be hissing sibilant fricative words (words with "s" or "z"). Otherwise they're lithping the hith.

"Why do you hate Betty so much?" he complained.

This is a question, not a complaint. Here's a complaint: "You're sleeping with my sister, my best friend, your ex, the Domino Pizza delivery girl and Betty," she complained. "I love you. Please stop it."

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I appreciate all the great entries for the Coming Home giveaway, so much so that I think I'll take the comments with me next time I hit the book store.

Tonight we got the magic hat to do its thing, and the winners are:

Karla Jackson-Levine, who is on her third copy of Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke.

AthenaW, who was very pleased with Quinn by Iris Johansen.

Lorinda, whose current satisfying read is Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson.

SandyH, who is getting caught up on her reading with several great reads, including Sarah Addison Allen's The Peach Keeper (I just read that on myself last week, and it was terrific.)

Fran Kane, who found Jacquelyn Frank's Hunting Julian a satisfying read.

cymberleah, who particularly enjoyed A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin.

Lynne Connolly, who thought Loretta Chase's Silk and Seduction was a lovely read.

Erin Kendall, who picked Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh.

Rowan, who is reading the Sword of Change series by Patricia Bray.

Ilona, who often reads The Deeds Of Paksennarion series by Elizabeth Moon.

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to Also, please indicate if you'd like me to send along the other three Kyndred novels along with the Nightshine ARC. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blogger Account Heads Up

FYI for those of you who have very old Blogger accounts with static content -- the other day I was looking for help on a browser problem, and came across this official notice which I'm reposting verbatim:

"(This message only applies to a tiny fraction of users who haven’t logged in to Blogger since 2007. If you’ve logged in to Blogger at least one time since 2007, you won’t be affected and can disregard this message.)

There was a time early on in Blogger’s life where we had our own, custom account system for handling login authentication. Starting in 2006 all new Blogger accounts were created using the official Google accounts system, and then in 2007 we started the process of moving all of our legacy users over to the Google accounts system. Now, four years later, we’re finally at the home stretch of the transition. For a number of technical and operational reasons, we’ve decided to finally end our support for migrating legacy accounts and blogs after August 1st, 2011. So if you have a Blogger account and haven’t logged in since 2007, you will lose access to the account and associated content permanently unless you update to the Google Account system before August 1st.

Updating to the new account system is easy and should take just a few minutes. We really do value all of the content that has been created on Blogger and we hope that as many people as possible will reclaim their blogs. If you’ve been avoiding this task for a while, we encourage you to head over to the Legacy migration page and update your account.

We’ll be sending a similar notice later this week via email to all of the email addresses associated with the legacy accounts we have in our database. In a few weeks we’ll also make another announcement here on Buzz, with more specific updates on the transition.

If you have any other questions about this process, please let us know by posting your issue in the Login section of our Help Forum."

As of August 1st Blogger is also no longer going to support older browsers, which you can read about here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Coming Home

In a few months Nightshine, the fourth novel in the Kyndred series, will hit the shelves. Normally I would say that this is also the final book in the series, and as it happens I did wrap up as much as possible with the Kyndred in this story. But as I am currently back writing in the Darkyn universe again, who's to say what the future will bring? I have to leave it in the hands of the publisher and the readership.

I'm quite happy with what I got on the page while writing Nightshine. I had a lot of fun with the storyline, the cast and the world-building. As with the other books in the series it's definitely not the usual thing, but for all the exotic aspects involved in the story, writing it reminded me of how it feels to come home after a long road trip.

I don't think everyone should have to wait until November to read the book, though, so I've got a stack of Nightshine ARCs to give away today. If you'd like a chance to win one, in comments to this post name the title of a book you felt was a particularly satisfying reading experience (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, July 16, 2011. I'll draw ten names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a signed ARC copy of Nightshine (if you win and have not read the first three books in the Kyndred series, or would just like to have a matched set, I will send along signed copies of Shadowlight, Dreamveil and Frostfire as well.) I will also be including a Nightshine-inspired BookLoop in every winner's ARC. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Off to Play

I am bailing on you guys today to unplug, spend the day with my family and have some fun. While I'm out recharging my batteries, I thought I'd share some pics of what else is happening this summer at Casa PBW (and click on any image to see a larger version):


The bluebirds are back, and we've decided that they are nymphomaniacs, as we have batch #3 of babies now cheeping away and starting to look out at the world. We think they're another set of triplets, but we're not going near the birdhouse as Papa Bluebird has been especially anxious about this batch.

When he's not chasing away any other bird that comes within ten feet of the birdhouse, he's been delivering almost all the meals to the babies. I think Mama must be off at Bluebird Club Med trying to recover (or maybe she's avoiding him to prevent batch #4.)

During my morning breaks I've been fiddling with the BookLoop concept and trying different types of cords, ribbons and strings for the loops as well as an assortment of objects as anchors. I have a small collection of miniature dress forms, and this one came in handy as a place to hang my works in progress. I'll have more details on some variations you can try once I test a few more things.

The one big bright spot of the summer has been my Don Juan rose bush, which I thought had given up the ghost last winter. It tried to bloom this spring, puttered out after producing only three roses, and went back to dead-stick mode. I didn't give up on it, though, and it rewarded me by coming back to life. Seeing this new bud one morning made it all worthwhile, too.

Stop in tomorrow if you get a chance, as my editor just sent me some Nightshine ARCs, and (unless I have too much fun today) I'll be having a giveaway for a nice stack of them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quantum Writing Part II

Yesterday I talked about working on several writing projects at the same time and preparations to make in order to try this. Today we'll discuss how to do the actual work without driving yourself batty.

For each of your projects you now have a one-page outline, a notebook, folder or file for the paperwork, and a dedicated space for all research and reference materials. From here you can go three ways, depending on how you like to work your writing plan:

1. Write a detailed synopsis for each project.
2. Write chapter summaries for each project.
3. Work off the one-page outline for each project.

I don't like guessing what to write, and there is no such thing as too much planning for me, so I always go with #1 and a modified version of #2 (once I have the synopsis written, I divide it into approximate chapters.) This also automatically generates my daily task list, which we'll get to after we cover the other options.

If you're not interested in writing a synopsis for the project, you can put together chapter summaries based on your one-page outline. You can get as detailed or keep it as simple as you like, but you're basically answering this question for each chapter: What happens now?

Writers who don't want to fiddle with a synopsis or chapter summaries can write based on the one-page outline, which is probably the best choice for you organic writers out there.

Once you've decided on your writing plan, you are ready to make up your session task list. This is when decide exactly what part of the story you want to work on for each project during one writing session. To start off I strongly suggest doing a list for just one session at a time; it takes a while to get used to giving yourself defined writing assignments each day, and you may want to adjust the amount of work you're planning to accomplish.

Here's a session task list with just writing goals:

Project A -- Chapter 1 Scene 2 (Simone receives a cryptic message, knocks out courier, arms herself and rides to chateau)
Project B -- Chapter 6 Scene 4 (The colonists build a temporary shelter out of fuselage, discover new monster in caverns)
Project C -- Chapter 11 Scene 1 (Doyle takes Kit to Rumsen Main, where she is questioned and drugged)

If you'd rather not write on every project, you can write one and perform other tasks on the other(s):

Project A -- Chapter 1 Scene 2 (Simone receives a cryptic message, knocks out courier, arms herself and rides to chateau)
Project B -- Edit/research Chapter 5 (Estimate amount of food and water needed by colonists to survive, possible treatment for unknown venom, weight of fuselage)
Project C -- Type ins Chapter 10 Scene 3 (correct manuscript according to editing changes and rewrites)

Organic writers who don't want to plan anything can still assign themselves goals. If you have two projects and four hours in a session, estimate how many pages you can reasonably expect to write in that period of time, divide it by two, and that's your quota for each project.

When you've decided which writing tasks you're going to tackle for that session, then you just pick which one you want to start on first. This is a decision you make based on how you work, too. If you're not feeling too confident, you might start off with the easiest project first as a warm-up. If you tend to get crabby and tired toward the end of a writing session, save the easiest for last.

Work on each task straight through without backtracking or second-guessing yourself for the length of time you've allotted for that project. If you're working three projects over three hours, work for fifty minutes straight and then take a ten minute break before you begin the second project/task. During that ten minute break, don't think about anything, Make yourself a cup of tea, walk around, stretch, or whatever works best to help clear your mind. At the end of the break move on to the next item on your task list and repeat.

This sounds so easy, but of course it's really not. If things are going really well with your Project A, you're not going to want to move on to Project B. If things with Project B suck, you'll be tempted to shove it aside and work on Project C. The key here is to resist the urge to short or overextend yourself on any one task. Unless you are writing the most brilliant prose (or the most malodorous) ever to grace the page, it's best to stick to your writing schedule.

Sometimes you will need more than a ten minute break to shift project gears, and this is when focus breaks and project cues can be helpful. I mentioned a focus break yesterday in comments; it's something I do when for whatever reason I'm not ready to write during a writing session. I leave my writing space and do a short-term chore I dislike, such as folding laundry. That helps motivate me to get back into a writing frame of mind.

Project cues are something writers do to get their heads in the right place for a project. I usually listen to a song that I associate with the project and visualize the story over again. I also use sensory cues like scented candles or flavored teas. Occasionally I'll change my clothes (I used to put on my old scrubs whenever I worked on any of the StarDoc books; just wearing them put me into more of a medical frame of mind.)

Some other tips:

While you're working on each project, keep a blank notepad nearby to make any notes for unexpected editing changes or research needs. Once you've finish with that project, add the notes to the editing section of your project file/folder/notebook.

If you hit a stumbling block on the page and you can't get past it because you need to be in a different mood, or you need to do some research, or you just need to think about it, note the problem in brackets like this [describe the hotel in Avignon] and move on.

If you feel you're stretching yourself too thin, you're probably trying to accomplish too much each day. Adjust your task list or cut your writing time back an hour or two. You can also give yourself a couple of days to work on one project only, and then when you feel more relaxed, try the quantum approach again.

Don't think about the enormity of working on more than one project at the same time. Don't question your sanity. Don't decide you can't do this. Don't think about failing. Try not to think about anything at all but the work at hand and completing all the items on your task list. When they're done then you can go sit in your worry space and beat yourself up for an hour or two.

Quantum writing may or may not work for you, and the only person who can decide that is you. I suggest that you try it for a week, and then at the end of it look at what you've accomplished by counting the total number of pages of new material you've written for all your projects. Once you've done that, read what you've written, too. This is not just about knocking out a lot of pages on a lot of different projects, it's also about getting quality work done in a timely manner.

Working on more than one project at once can also cause you to burn out faster than the one-project writer, so be good to yourself. Eat healthy, take plenty of breaks, get a good night's sleep and do whatever else you can to make sure you're keeping your creative batteries charged.

And that wraps up this workshop -- any questions?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quantum Writing Part I

If you've ever played chess, you know that it's a game of simple strategy: Capture the king. You do this by eliminating the pieces guarding the king and opening up avenues to get to him, hopefully before your opponent does the same to your king. Easy. Only it's not easy because you have to plan your moves while guessing what your opponent's moves are going to be.

Okay, now imagine that writing a novel is playing a game of chess. One playing field, one set of chess pieces, and a whole lot of moves to make. It's enough to keep anyone busy. But what if you could play three games of chess at the same time?

With the right amount of planning and prep work, there is actually very little difference between working on one project and working on two or three simultaneously. It does take more time to finish multiple projects (no writer trick in the world can eliminate the actual work involved) but there are many potential benefits, from eradicating boredom and writer's block from your life to becoming a more efficient and productive writer.

If you're a one-story-at-a-time writer and would like to try this, I have a few preliminary suggestions:

Be conservative. Start off with two projects first (once you get in some practice, then you can try juggling three or more.)

Know your projects. This is not a technique you want to try with a vague idea or a glimmer of story; you want solid, strong, well-thought-out ideas that excite you on the creative level.

Have faith in yourself. If your main writing obstacle is fear, waffling, self-loathing or something along those lines, doing this is probably going to double it. The only way I know how to combat this is to give yourself permission to try this no matter how it turns out. Do it the first time just for fun.

Organize your life. Clear out your writing space, stock up on the office supplies you need, and communicate your plans to your family and loved ones. Eliminate all unnecessary distractions, and make a vow to avoid things that will lure you away from the work.

Once you're in a good place and feel ready to start, write up a working title and a one-page outline for each project (this is also the way to check and see if your idea is clear, strong, and appeals to you.) If you've never done a one-page outline, try my ten point novel template or Alicia Rasley's thirty minute novel outline technique. At this point you want to use broad strokes for outlining to avoid getting mired down in a lot of endless details (you will have time to get more into the details once you start working.)

Set up project files, fiction folders, novel notebooks, or whatever you use to keep your story paperwork organized while you're working on it. Once you have that ready, set up a drawer, box or other contained space where you can put reference materials related to the project (for each project I'm working on I dedicate a shelf in a bookcase near my writing space.) The idea is to have everything you need for the project in one place so you don't have to look around for things while you're writing.

The final prep step is to divide up your dedicated writing time between the projects, and this is where you tailor your time to suit your process. If you prefer to work on one project per day, designate days of the week (i.e. Monday - Project A, Tuesday - Project B, Wednesday - Project A, Thursday - Project B, etc.) If you're like me and you feel comfortable working on different projects during the same session, divide your writing time into hours (i.e. Monday - Project A 9-11 am, Project B 1-3pm; Tuesday - Project C 9-11 am, Project A 1-3 pm, etc.) If you've never tried this and don't know which will work for you, try a test run of each method for a week and find out which one makes you more productive.

A side note on dedicating the writing time: I know it's difficult for those of you with day jobs and/or busy home lives to find the time. If you don't have the time now to write, you'll have to pass on this. Or you might make the time, which means giving up something. Waking up an hour earlier is the simplest way to do it; if you get up before everyone else does that gives you an hour to write in peace and quiet. If you're spending an hour or two a day texting people, tell your friends you're going to take some time to write and turn off the phone. You can also sacrifice watching your favorite television shows to make time to write (if you're worried about missing something, record the shows while you're working, and hold onto the copies as a reward for yourself when you finish the manuscript.)

Tomorrow we'll talk about how to handle the work of quantum writing, how to get into the create-as-you-go zone (and stay there), and some ways to troubleshoot and self-correct common problems. Until then, any questions?

Image credit: © Tino Mager |

Monday, July 11, 2011

Liven It Up Ten

Ten Things to Revitalize Your Blog

Ask for Opinions: Get feedback from your visitors on what they'd like to see at your weblog. If you're not getting a lot of traffic, talk to your blogging friends, or cruise around and check out what they're doing at their places.

Change Your Template: If it's not a huge hassle putting up a new template, you may find switching to a different theme, page arrangement or color scheme will ignite your enthusiasm for new content.

Have a Mini-Workshop: Are you an amazing outliner? Do you have the ultimate character worksheet? Have you found the perfect deadline week diet? These are all great topics to discuss on your blog.

Hold a Challenge: Set a goal for yourself and challenge your visitors to join in. This can be anything from timed wordcount goals (aka write 500 words every day for a week) to reading a certain portion of your TBR (one fun variation is to see how many books you can read in a month.) With challenges you can do update posts, too.

Interview a Character: Sitting down with your favorite character and doing a Q&A is not only fun, it's also a good way to exercise your characterization skills. Angle your interview by taking on the role of a fan, a news reporter, a police detective or your character's nemesis.

Rename Your Blog: Sometimes a simple trick like renaming your blog can be the one thing that makes all the difference. If you're not sure what to rename it, see the next idea.

Run a Contest: Holding contests are fun, especially if your visitors are competing for a prize (doesn't have to be an expensive one.)

Show Off an Accomplishment: Sharing something you've done often inspires others to get going on their projects. It's also fun to talk about the ups and downs of any project you've tackled and finished.

Start a Weekly Feature: Designate one day for a particular feature: Biz News, Writing Wisdom, What I'm Reading, etc. If you can't think of a feature you'd like to do every week, join an ongoing weekly blog feature group.

Tell a Story: Your blog can be a window to your days, your life, your worlds. What would we see if we looked in there yesterday, last week or tomorrow? Tell us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reinventing the Bookmark Idea #3

I have a small collection of string-and-bead type bookmarks that are lovely . . . and pretty much useless, because they all tend to fall out of my books. This is because I am not especially careful when I pick up, put down or carry books, and a single length of string with pretty beads on either end offers no way to anchor it in place (unless you tie the ends in a knot, which you would then have to pick out every time you want to move the bookmark.)

I wanted to address this problem with my third and final design while keeping the same simple components: a length of string and beads. I also thought I could use a variation of the cinch-type looped knot I often use for things I want to secure, as that sort of knot is easy to release. Fiddling with a few of the corded pendants I sometimes wear resulted in the BookLoop.

For demonstration purposes, here's my BookLoop alongside Marjorie M. Liu's novel A Wild Light:

To make one you'll need a piece of cord, ribbon or string that is four times the height of your book plus two inches (for a standard paperback, that's thirty-two inches.) Don't use anything that is too puffy or dimensional; a simple length of narrow flat ribbon or satin cord will do fine. You'll also need a large bead, button or pendant to serve as the anchor.

Put your anchor on the string, and tie the ends together to make a loop, just as you would a necklace. Once you have your loop tied securely, place it in your book like so:

Bring the top part of the loop down along the spine of the book, and pull the pendant through the end of the loop:

When you pull on the anchor to tighten it, it should look like this:

The great thing about this is you can customize it however you like (and maybe finally do something with all those focal beads or orphaned pendants sitting in your jewelry box.) It doesn't require a lot of expensive bits, it's easy enough for any writer or reader to make and use, plus when you're reading and not using the BookLoop, you can hang it around your neck and no one will ever guess that it's a bookmark.

I really had fun with this challenge, and now that I have three design ideas to play with I'm going to work on variations on the themes and see how I can improve on the original concepts. How do you guys think I did? Let me know in comments.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


You guys provided a lot of great recs for the Seven Reasons giveaway, and I do want to add one more -- this week my daughter asked me to read Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember, which I did. Although dystopian YA lit isn't really my thing I liked the worldbuilding a lot.

We revved up the magic hat tonight, and the winners are:

B.E. Sanderson, who got a kick out of Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby

Shawna, whose most recent excellent reads are Steinbeck's Ghost and The Haunting of Charles Dickens

bluebamboo, who is in a fiction-reading slump (not anymore!)

knotdamomma, whose latest best read was Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

Marian Halcombe, who broke cardinal zombie rules and enjoyed Feed by Mira Grant

Signy, who was impressed with Heidi Cullinan's The Seventh Veil

DeeCee, who liked Vicki Pettersson's The Taste of Night

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

Friday, July 08, 2011

Reinventing the Bookmark Idea #2

While playing with bookmark ideas I did want to come up with a design made with recycled materials. Being a quilter I save all sorts of fabric and quilt scraps, yarns, threads, old buttons and other sewing stuff for repurposing projects, so I raided my stash boxes and put together a pile of materials.

In my latest batch of art mags I noticed a number of cuff-type mixed media bracelets that I thought were interesting, especially the designs that incorporated old textiles. That got me to wondering if I could make a cuff that turned into a bookmark instead of a bracelet, which lead to my second design, the BookCuff.

For this project I used an old cutter quilt piece I picked up at a garage sale, two glass buttons and a scrap of tapestry yarn. First I cut a strip out of the quilt with pinking shears (this prevents fraying) in a length that was a little over 15". To provide the means to close the cuff, I thought of the old interoffice envelopes we used in the old days with the two circular fasteners and a bit of string. I duplicated that fastener with the two buttons and the tapestry yarn, sewing one button to each end of the quilt piece. I also added a third button to the end of the yarn to have something to hold onto when winding the yarn.

Here you can see the finished product holding my place in Marjorie M. Liu's The Fire King. It's a bit too wide because I was trying to preserve the quilt block design, and while it held my place in the book perfectly the look of it didn't make me happy; I felt it covered up the cover art too much. As a bookmark the piece is really too floppy, too.

What doesn't work for one thing sometimes serves nicely for another purpose. I often give away sets of series books as gifts for friends, and I also like to shelve series books together and sometimes take a set with me when I travel. Usually I just put them in a tote bag, but I discovered that my BookCuff makes an excellent strap for more than one book:

This is very customizable, since you can cut the material you use for your bookcuff to whatever length you need for however many books you want to strap together. You can also use whatever materials appeal to you or relate to the books; leather, lace, tapestry, fun fur (wouldn't that be great for were novels?) along with whatever little bits you want to use for the fasteners (and if you write steampunk I'd definitely check out some art mags for inspiration.)

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Noteboek from Evelien Lohbeck on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Seven Reasons

I'm catching up on my reading for pleasure this summer, and I just finished Shadow Walkers by Brent Hartinger, an excellent YA paranormal romance that was not at all the usual thing. I originally purchased it due to the author's promotional video (which you can view here) and to riff of his theme, I thought I'd share the seven reasons I truly enjoyed this book:

1. Being gay is normal. Which it is, except in romance fiction. In romance fiction gay characters are treated as perky protagonist sidekicks, perky protagonist shopping partners, perky gossipy co-workers and perky next door neighbor gourmet chefs who do nothing but cook more food than they can eat and so must deliver the overage to the protagonist while nattering on about their current crush (who is, alas, inevitably, tragically straight; this so the gay character will not have any real chance of having sex during the course of the story.)

2. It is indeed a page turner. The author kept me turning them until I finished it at 1:43 am. Which makes him the primary reason I reached for the evil caffeinated tea the next morning, and why I had to take a nap that afternoon.

3. The cat scene was cute. I tried to convince my cat Jeri to play fetch with me this morning. He yawned in my face and went back to dozing in the sun while he considered a new plan to get rid of the dogs.

4. The villain was way cool. I haven't had one make me cringe like that since my daughter made me watch Alien, which I did up until the face lobster thing, at which point I decided I could get the rest of the story from the TV guide synopsis.

5. Not romance-typical at all. On this I speak from experience, having written almost fifty romance and romance-friendly novels, and having read several thousand of the typical variety. I'm also physically handicapped, and I can assure you that despite our myriad attractions we're usually not considered by the general public as romantic material.

6. It does have something to say about these other-than-real-world realms where our teens spend so much time.

7. The promotional video was not cheesy. It actually got me to buy the book -- only the second book video to accomplish that -- and it inspired this list.

My only complaint is that the novel was too short, but any novel I enjoy this much usually is.

As always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, list the title of the last book you read that you enjoyed, and why (or if you're in a reading slump, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, July 8, 2011. I will draw seven names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners an unsigned copy of Shadow Walkers by Brent Hartinger as well as a signed copy of After Midnight by Yours Truly. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Reinventing the Bookmark Idea #1

As you may recall, back in May I set a challenge for myself to come up with a new design for the standard bookmark. My objectives were to cook up an eye-catching design that would be easy to use and fun as well as functional. I also wanted a bookmark that wouldn't slip or fall out of place when the book was moved.

My first idea came along as I was sitting on the porch one morning watching Cole chase his tail. He likes to bite onto it and turn in a circle while holding his tail in his mouth; at the time I was thinking I really should have named him Ouroboros. That's when inspiration hit: what if I could design a bookmark that held its place by biting some part of the book -- or itself?

I sketched a bit, and initially came up with this design(click on any of the following images to see larger versions.) As for naming it, I thought of the Tale Holder or the TaleMark, but decided to go with The BiteMark as it was funnier.

The body of the BiteMark (here shown in the same dimensions as any standard bookmark) goes in the book. The head of the BiteMark sits above the top edge of the book, taking the place of the traditional tassel, which I moved to the bottom to serve as a "tail." By using a simple clip mechanism on which the head is mounted, the reader can secure the BiteMark in place by having the head bite the tail. Since the tail is long this makes it easily adjustable.

This is a paper mockup of what one would look like:

Here's what it looks like marking my place in Marjorie M. Liu's The Fire King:

Once I had put it all together I didn't much care for the clipboard look it has, so I think the body of the bookmark needs to be shaped differently. Also, one technical difficulty: the yarn I used for the tail was actually hard to put into the clip mechanism; there needs to be something more you can hold onto at the base of the tail to easily tuck it into the clip. I don't think beads are the answer, but a small trinket or shaped tab attached to the tail would work. I'm going to work on a couple versions of the design and fabricate them in cloth, pics of which I'll post here when I've got them finished.

This idea has instant novelty appeal for the children's market, but I think it also can be customized for books with a particular theme or icon. A book about pirates could feature a pirate's head and a tail with a little sword or blade tab he could hold between his teeth. The BiteMark doesn't even have to go with a head as the top component; you could use anything that holds whatever is attached to the bottom tassel (for example, if you wanted a Harry Potter-themed bookmark, you could do his owl and a message; for Star Wars you could do Darth Vader's gauntlet and his light saber.)

So what do you guys think of my first attempt to reinvent the bookmark?