Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Need I Say Don't Buy This?

Click on screenshot to see larger version:

Has to be an ARC. My editor doesn't even have the finished book yet.

So why shouldn't you take advantage of this offer? Well, if you wait four more weeks to buy the mass market edition of Nightborn when it's released on March 6th, you will:

a) get an instant $992.00 discount.

b) assure that I actually receive royalties from your purchase (and that forty-two cents will go right in the piggy bank, I promise.)

c) be able to use all the money you save to buy 124 other paperback books you want to read.

Also you'll be demonstrating that you are, you know, a sane person.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Revisions Ten

Ten Things to Do While Working on Requested Revisions
(dedicated to me and Raine and every other writer out there working on revisions this week.)

Avoid e-mailing your friends who work as editors and asking them things like "Do you all belong to one big crazy club, or what?"

Don't answer comments or queries until you are feeling calm, cooperative and understanding, or the chocolate-covered Valium finally kicks in; whichever comes first.

Follow the directions on your writer's revision towel.

Invoke the Writer's Revision Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things my editor wants to change; the courage to change at least 75% of the things that I want to STET; and the wisdom not to mouth off about any of it.

Print out an extra copy of your editor's revisions request letter and (just for your own amusement) edit it. Go on, you know you want to.

Realize that you're in good company.

Remember while on the phone discussing revisions with your editor that you have the right to remain silent, and why.

Remove all firearms, lethal doses of drugs, ropes, sharp objects and telephones from arm's reach of your computer desk.

Repeat your revisions mantra: OMigod. OMigod. OMigod.

When all else fails, remind yourself of how lucky you are, because while you have to deal with 1 editor, your editor probably has to deal with at least 26 yous.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


You guys mentioned some very intriguing methods and sources of inspiration for the All the Answers giveaway; I'm definitely going to test-drive a few of them the next time I need to try something new.

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

Emily, who uses the 'open a book to a random spot' method

terlee, who has been inspired by the names from paint chip cards, a one-line lyric in a song, and conversations overheard while out and about

Deb Salisbury, who plotted an entire novel using a Tarot deck

Winners, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I'll get these cards & books out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Outfit the Author

A couple of you (you know who you are) have asked about the writer's revision towel I showed Raine in comments over at the Chicas.

Here's the towel (click to see larger image):

It's not bath towel-size (how would you get that in your mouth?); it's 7.5" X 11.5". It actually works nicely as a dusting cloth, with or without the spit.

If you want your own or one for a friend, you can order it online here at Author Outfitters. They have lots of neat products for writers, and can even customize them for you with your images or cover art. I love their mugs, which are a great size, immaculately printed and perfect when you need a gift for a writer or editor friend.

Domain Explained

Meet Stanley. Stanley is a gopher tortoise. Stanley has been hanging around my yard for about a month now, and sleeping in strange spots, so I'm pretty sure he's homeless.

Meet George. George lives in this burrow on my property, which has been his exclusive domain for seven years.

Now anyone want to guess why Stanley has been hanging around my yard?

Yes, it appears that Stanley would like to move into George's burrow. I can't ask him why, but I'll guess he wants it because it's roomy, well-established and in a great location. No doubt Stanley also realizes that moving into George's burrow will allow him to munch on all the nice greens in my yard and keep him from becoming tortoise tartar for the local predators.

George, however, does not want to give Stanley his burrow. I also can't ask George why, but I'll wager he feels that finding the spot first, digging the burrow himself and living in it for the last seven years gives him the right to call it his.

George doesn't actually own his burrow; he just dug it out and lives in it. He's protective of it, though, and has had to defend it a couple of times. The people who used to own this property before we bought it didn't like George, and according to neighbors they "filled in" the burrow once when George was out grazing in hopes of getting rid of him. Aside from this being heartless and illegal (gopher tortoises are an endangered species, and you have to have a permit even just to relocate them) the burrows can be up to thirty feet long and twelve feet deep; they probably only filled in the entry foyer. A couple of times we've noticed other critters like black racer snakes, owls and foxes have tried to evict George, too, but with no luck.

But let's consider this dilemma from Stanley's point of view. Since George doesn't really own the burrow, why doesn't he simply give it to Stanley? After all, Stanley is homeless, and he really wants it, and it is perfect for him. Of course giving up the burrow would make George homeless, but really, George has been around practically forever, and has all that experience with finding and digging and defending that Stanley doesn't. It would be nothing for old George to go somewhere else and start over, right?

The point of this story: when you two-legged Stanleys out there e-mail me and tell me all about you, and your plans for making a home for yourself online, and then mention how absolutely perfect the name Paperback Writer is for the weblog you want to start, and then beg me to do things like give you my URL, change the name of my blog, and/or go find another place to write?

From now on I'm going to refer you to George.

Friday, January 27, 2012


This entry into a digital diary contest in Italy won Matthew Brown the grand prize. Watch it and you'll see why (for those of you at work, this is narrated, also contains background music.)

Dreaming It{aly} from Matthew Brown (Matty Brown) on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

All the Answers

You never know what gems you'll find in your book store's discounted stock sections. At my local BAM they always have a pretty decent selection of mini boxed kits, usually discounted up to 75%. Rummage through these and you might find anything from Paris in a box to a little Zen garden for your desk.

I like to play with cards, so whenever I see a card deck of any kind it grabs my attention. Since I also have lots of questions, I definitely couldn't resist The Answer Deck, created and designed by Nicholas Zann.

The Answer Deck is a kind of alternative Tarot, with 73 illustrated divination cards that use concept words like Abundance, Challenge, Greed, Power, Truth, etc. Mixed among these are random characters (The Master, Dark Haired Woman, Friend, Hidden Enemy) and a few nouns (Battle, Journey, The Lesson.) The cards are all beautifully illustrated with graphic black and white images representing the corresponding words. According to the mini instruction booklet you ask a question, draw cards from the deck, arrange them on the included paper mat, and then interpret an answer* based on the layout and how they relate to each other (also briefly explained in the booklet.)

I paperclipped my mat to a piece of cardboard to keep it flat before I dealt a few layouts and ran some questions by it, and the answers were certainly entertaining. I'm either going to take over the world, become rich beyond my wildest dreams, or finally find the egg slicer my guy put away and subsequently forgot where he put it. If the fates are listening, I'd really like the egg slicer back now ((and click on any of the following images to view a larger version):

The really interesting thing about these cards for me was how well they might work as creative prompts. Simply shuffle the deck, deal out a couple of cards, and see what ideas they spark, which you can jot down like this:

Woman of the World - Scandal

Immediate thoughts: How do you take down a woman of the world? Scandal certainly does an excellent job, but if she is a woman of the world, why didn't she see it coming? Or maybe she became a woman of the world because of a scandal in her past, or she intends to cause one.

The Fool - Talent

Immediate thoughts: Talent and wisdom rarely go hand-in-hand. One is random, the other has to be earned (usually the hard way.) I also recalled something from a baseball documentary about a very talented player who still had to be actively discouraged from chasing after firetrucks.

Add more cards to what you deal out, and you can see story patterns beginning to emerge:

Faith - Clarity - Change - Fair/Gray Haired Man

Immediate thoughts: What we believe can change in an instant. One is never so adamantly confirmed in their beliefs as the moment just before they're ripped apart. Like believing you're done with love, and your life is so much better lived alone, and then that fair-haired guy with the amazing voice and gorgeous green eyes smiles at you . . . . well, we'll save the rest of that for the autobiography. You get the general idea.

I had such a blast playing with these cards that I went back and bought three more decks for a giveaway. If you'd like a chance to win one, in comments to this post tell us about an unconventional source of inspiration you've tried (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, January 28, 2012. I'll choose three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners The Answer Deck and a signed copy of my Kyndred novel Nightshine. This giveaway is open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*Please note that as with most mass-produced divination tools The Answer Deck is intended for entertainment purposes only.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Digging for Story

The January/February issue of Archaeology magazine features among other way cool stuff the top 10 archaeological discoveries of 2011. These include:

- A Viking boat burial found in western Scotland

- An untouched burial chamber in Guatemala that may be the tomb of a rare female ruler from the second or third century AD

- An ancient Roman ludus (gladiator school) in Austria that is being digitally reconstructed

-- A bronze vessel unearthed in Xinjiang, China found to contain the world's oldest soup, with millet noodles still intact after 2,400 years

There are articles about researchers finding evidence off the coast of Sicily of why Rome won the war at sea it waged with Carthage (bronze battering rams fitted to the prows of their ships); interesting theories about what fulachtaí fia, mysterious burnt mounds in Ireland, were used for; and the rush by scholars at the University of Chicago to create digital images of tens of thousands of clay tablets unearthed in Iran in 1930 before some ongoing and very complicated legal battles result in the sale of the tablets or their return to the Iranian government.

All of these real-life discoveries, theories and issues make terrific reading, but they also provide innumerable opportunities for storytellers. Reading about such marvelous finds always invokes a sense of wonder in me. Who is that Viking, and why is he buried in Scotland? How did a female end up ruling a male-dominated culture? What subjects did they teach at gladiator school? Were they really eating Ramen noodles as far back as 2,400 years ago?

Archaeological discoveries are always a goldmine for the historical fiction writer, but they offer a lot for a modern-day story as well. Imagine a university intern rushing to scan those embattled ancient Persian tablets, and in the process he accidentally drops one. It breaks open and . . . what happens next? Does he find something concealed inside the clay? Does it release some kind of ancient Persian demon? What if just arranging the tablets in a certain pattern can open a doorway to another time, another world, another reality? Maybe the legal disputes over the tablets is a ruse, or a way to disguise the real battle (and if you're a political thriller writer, I'm sure you can run with that all the way to Tehran.)

Antiquity attracts me as a storyteller not just for the evidence of it that archaeologists discover, but for all the details we'll likely never know. Ireland's burnt mounds, which date back to the Bronze Age, may have been used for cooking, bathing, brewing alcohol or dyeing textiles -- some activity that involved heat intense enough to crack stone. Since there is no general consensus among the scholars, the purpose of the mounds is up for grabs (from the way they're described, they sound to me like some kind of ancient kilns.)

Even small details from real life discoveries can enrich your fiction. On page 14 of this issue is a little sidebar with an image of a gold and sapphire medieval ring and a brief explanation of why sapphires in the medieval period were primarily worn by royalty, nobility and important members of the clergy. Wearing sapphires was (and still is) supposed to bring clear thinking, enlightenment and good luck. One of my characters from the new Darkyn trilogy definitely needs all three, so now by reading this I've learned something I can use in that book.

I love this magazine, but there are also plenty of resources on the web where you can go virtually digging for story for free:

UK's Antiquity offers some free articles from their archives to read on their web site (scroll down to the bottom left for the editor's choice.)

Exploring Ancient World Cultures takes you on a virtual reading trip around the world by way of the distant past.

Run searches on specific eras and topics you're interesting in researching, and you'll find sites like Friends of the Hunley, a group dedicated to educating people about the recovery, conservation, and exhibition of a Civil War-era combat submarine.

LiveScience -- at the moment the history section is running an interesting piece here on a strange ancient Roman "winged" stone stucture found in England.

Why do civilizations collapse, anyway? Here's an interactive web site set up by Annenberg Learner to answer your questions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scarab Outlining

Last night, after rescuing a ladybug trapped on the porch -- yes, I occasionally do insect search and rescue -- I got an idea for a quick way to outline a scene or story. I then went in search of my ancient Egyptian coloring book (what, you expected Dora the Explorer?) and found what I wanted:

This is a scarab, a symbol inspired by a common black beetle (Scarabeus sacer) which was held in high regard by the Egyptians. To them the scarab represented the sun god Khepera (also known as Kheper, Khephri and a couple other names) who represented renewal and eternity; both very important themes in their culture.

For our purposes this elegant creature is going to help prepare a micro-outline for writing, and to do that I'm going to borrow the letters from its name: SCARAB.

Each letter of its name represents an idea prompt to help you think about what you need to know in order to write your story:

Situation: Here's your main premise. What is it?
Characters: Decide on your cast. Who is involved?
Action: These are the main events. What happens?
Reason: Determine the motivating factor. Why does it happen?
Ambiance: The type of story this is. What's the mood, theme or genre?
Building: The world of your story. Where/when does it happen?

Be brief when you answer these questions, as you don't want to write a synopsis. This is a very basic outline, the sort of thing you'd scribble down in a pocket notebook. I have a story I'm writing based on my story card prompt for January, so I'll use that as an example:

Situation: a lady delivering flowers is trapped inside a haunted house and must befriend (the thing?) haunting it in order to survive.
Characters: the lady, her business partner, the thing.
Action: lady delivers flowers to haunted house, is trapped inside by homicidal business partner, discovers the thing. The thing protects the lady in exchange for her promise to stay. The lady discovers the thing's real motives, must choose to escape or stay/risk her life to protect it (from business partner? Public discovery? Whatever made it a thing?)
Reason: the thing has been secretly watching the lady for some time, wants her for itself, and manipulated business partner into bringing her there.
Ambiance: dark fantasy, scary, erotic, ironic
Building: modern day northern California (rural, city?)

At this point you don't have to chisel in stone all the story details, either. As you can see I've included in my scarab micro-outline a couple of questions for myself; these are elements I haven't yet decided on, like exactly what the thing is, what the final threat is, and where the story takes place.

I think the scarab approach can help you nail down an idea for a scene as well as a full story, or even rough out the main premise for a novel. Adapt it to suit your needs. It may also prove easier to deal with for writers who would like to play with the basic framework but don't want to work out a lot of detail ahead of time.

Scarab image credit: Ancient Egyptian Design Coloring Book by Ed Sibbett, Jr., ISBN# 048623746X, published by Dover Publications

Monday, January 23, 2012

Outline Ten

Ten Things to Help Outline Your Novel

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

The Lite version of Action Outline "consists of an Explorer-like interface where you can store and arrange all your information in a tree outline form. Arrange items using your keyboard or mouse, cut and paste branches, place checks or tags next to listed items, search information, print data, export to the external file, or link to web or local files" (OS: Windows 2000, 2003, 2008, XP, Vista and Windows 7.)

Essential PIM is a "personal information manager that allows you to keep all your information in electronic form. All your appointments, tasks, notes, contacts, password entries and email messages are stored in a graphical user interface and easily accessible form. Automatically import your data from pretty much any PIM software that just isn't working for you. Synchronize with popular online services such as Google Calendar and Contacts, Yahoo Contacts, SyncML and CalDAV servers and more, always keeping your data up-to-date and accessible anywhere, anytime" (OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7)

The Guide "evolved from the need to have an application that could organize information and ideas in a hierarchical, tree-like structure. Tree-based structures are frequently employed to manage information through a "divide-and-conquer" approach, wherein each level of the tree represents a further level of specialization of the parent-level topic — the best example of this being a book. The Guide is an application that allows you create documents ("guides") which inherently have a tree (which you can modify as you please) and text associated with each node of the tree. The text itself is of the rich-text variety, and the editor allows you to modify the style and formatting of the text (fonts, bold, italics etc). For the initiated, the Guide is a two-pane extrinsic outliner. This concept is similar to mindmapping in some ways" (OS: Designer notes: "The Guide is available as an installable package for Microsoft Windows 2000 and upwards (XP, 2003, 2008, Vista). The binaries are also available as a zip file that requires no installation and supports portable use. The Guide is a 32-bit native C++ Win32 application (that uses MFC). It will work on 64-bit platforms also.")

MemPad "is a plain text outliner and note taking program with a structured index. All pages are stored in a single file. User interface available in 15 languages. The program offers standard editing functions including cut, copy, paste, undo, date/time insert, drag&drop, and supports Web links as well as network and local file or folder links (full path not required) and internal page links. Environmental variables can be used in file links to run programs, for example" (OS: Win95 / Win98 / WinME / WinNT / Win2K / WinXP / Vista / Win7)

Mind Raider is a "personal notebook and outliner. It aims to connect the tradition of outline editors with emerging technologies. MindRaider mission is to help you in organization of your knowledge and associated web, local and realworld resources in a way that enables quick navigation, concise representation and inferencing" (OS: Windows, Linux and Mac)

The Note & Do free plugin for MS Office applications (Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Word) allows you to: "Drag and drop text from the documents to instantly create notes or tasks; Drag task or note text directly into your document; Categorize notes and tasks with color; Auto arrange the notes; Remove all notes at once; Pin a note to all applications or just the ones you choose; Create application-specific tasks; Complete and re-enable tasks (OS:Windows 7 (x86, x64), Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista (x86, x64), Windows 2003, Windows XP. .NET Framework 2.0 must be installed.)

NotesLogExp "can store, retrieve, catalog, manage, search, sort and export notes, documents, links, etc. The program can save and automatically fill forms as well as usernames and passwords (with auto login). The program includes a search tool, the database is password protected, and includes export to HTML" (OS: Windows 98, Vista, 7)

Text Tree was built on Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake outlining method, and "is designed make structured, understandable documents easily and quickly. Text Tree has been found useful for story writing, FAQ creation, novel planning, manual writing, software support, biographies, and lesson planning. What really sets Text Tree apart from other outliners is its export abilities. In other outliners, you make a outline of everything, then you have to cut and paste or go node by node to get your information out. Text Tree allows you to quickly export all or part of the information in your outline" (OS: Windows XP with Java installed)

Tkoutline is "a single pane, cross-platform outline editor written in Tcl/Tk. With this editor, information can be structured hierarchically in an outline and outlines can be hyperlinked together to create a web of outlines" (OS: Win95 / Win98 / WinME / WinNT / Win2K / WinXP)

TreeLine is "a structured information storage program. Some would call TreeLine an Outliner, others would call it a PIM. Basically, it just stores almost any kind of information. A tree structure makes it easy to keep things organized. And each node in the tree can contain several fields, forming a mini-database. The output format for each node can be defined, and the output can be shown on the screen, printed, or exported to html (OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, Linux)

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Series writers are rejoicing all over NetPubLand, thanks to the many wonderful series mentions for 6-1/2 Weeks giveaway. Makes me pretty freaking happy, too. I love reading great series and there were plenty listed that I haven't sampled yet.

We put the magic hat in action, and the winner is:

B.C. Matthews, who hands out to friends "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (dragons + dragonriding + Napoleonic era = awesome), Jeff Sommer's Avery Cates series (dystopia + explosions + attitude = awesome), and Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series (tea cozies + werewolves + Victorian era = awesome)"

B.C., when you have a chance please send your ship-to info to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get this book + surprise out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Depression, Despair and Do Nothing

After a fairly wretched day online I unplug and escape to the porch to do a nightly meditation. I do this because the alternative is to hide under the bed, and that always annoys the cat, who considers it his exclusive domain.

"Second time today, huh?" Depression observes as she plops down next to me. "Is that my favorite color I smell?"

"She's not feeling blue," Despair moans from under the table. "She's too white-lipped. It was that calendar thing. Or maybe the chocolate thing. Or that completely stupid thing. I just don't know. Nor do I care. It's all good to me."

"You mean bad," Do Nothing chimes in as he slithers out from under a stack of unread e-mails. "It's all bad, every bit of it. And -- in case anyone forgot -- she can't do anything about any of it. Not even joke."

"I am calm," I lie out loud. "I am centered. My problems are lotus petals, and I'm peeling them away, one by one."

"Speaking of flowers." Depression peers out at the rose garden. "I think that last bad freeze actually killed that ugly rose bush. You know, the one you love to hate?"

"Cranky," I correct her. "Cranky rose bush. I am centered. My petals are peeling away, like Presidential GOP candidates."

"Cranky, ugly, BFD." Depression sighs. "Such a shame, though. I'd hoped it would torment you for at least another couple years. But no, it's gone. Forever, Bu-bye, pretty flowers that lasted a whole week and smelled so nice."

Do Nothing nods. "That's what you get for listening to me."

"My petals are floating away along with my problems," I snarl. "I am centered. I am calm."

"No blossom will ever smell as sweet again. Oh, woe." Despair curls a cold hand around my shoulders. "Is you."

As the lotus in my imagination grows five times larger, acquires razor-sharp teeth and grins at me, I imagine a beautiful garden. It's filled with cranky rose bushes that are only half-dead and three cages suspended over a pool of piranha-infested water.

"How are we going to plant anything this Spring, with three books in production and that other deadline?" Depression ponders out loud. "And there's no room in the yard for a fish pond. I thought you hated artificial fish . . . " her pallid face pales just a little more. "Hey, now wait a second."

Do Nothing shakes his head. "She'll never do it."

"But what if she tries?" Despair despairs. "I've been busting my ass lately here, but all that art and writing every day is really starting to wear me down. If she were to push me away, I mean, really hard like she does in the mornings . . ."

"Oh, like you should be the one to complain," Depression snarls. "I had to put up with all those Christmas CDs during the holidays. Do you have any idea what it's like listening to her sing the twelve days of Christmas? Twelve times a day? Ten drummers are still drumming in my ears."

Despair sniffs. "Well, someone obviously dropped the ball."

They both eye Do Nothing, who shrugs. "What can I say? If nothing happens, my work is done."

"Okay." I stand up. "I need to do some digging. Which one of the neighbors has a back hoe?" I look at Depression, whose jaw drops before she quickly fades away. "Well?" I ask Despair, who gulps. "Which one?"

"You'd always regret it," she whispers in a tiny voice. "At least, I think you would. It's not like -- I've tried so hard to -- but we've been together for so long."

"You won't do it." Do Nothing sits back and folds his hands behind his scrawny neck, which I grab and use to hurl him off the porch. "Okay, that hurt."

"They don't sell piranha at any of the local exotic fish stores, you know," Despair whimpers.

I nod. "I'll get them off eBay."

"Oh." She begins to shrivel. "But will you really have time for that? I mean, you still have the calendar thing, and the chocolate thing, and that really stupid thing." Her voice ends in a squeak as she turns into a mouse and scurries away.

Satisfaction appears, a big burly biker dude who always laughs from his belly. He cuffs my shoulder. "Nice going, kid."

Friday, January 20, 2012

6-1/2 Weeks

Since wrapping up the StarDoc series back in 2010, more folks around the biz than I can count have let me know that they were a silent, unknown part of my readership. The mentions range from You should write more SF to God, I loved those books. Often the way they tell me (usually a quick aside in an e-mail or during a phone chat) seems like a confession of bad behavior, like we're discussing something that has to be whispered so as not to be overheard by others.

In a strange way it reminds me of that weird interval following a bad divorce. After it's all over, people you know who have never once commented on the situation begin confiding how happy they are that you're free of the jerk, or the many reasons why they disliked your ex, or even how they knew he was cheating on you but never said anything because they didn't want to hurt your feelings. It's nice that they want you to know, but . . . why tell you now?

It's also difficult to know how to react to these confessions. Of course I say thank you, and I am grateful (who wouldn't be?), but for me personally it's history. This is because for the readers StarDoc came to an end in August of 2010, but for me it happened in 2007, when I discussed wrapping up the series here. While back then I still had a couple of books under contract to write, I knew I was heading down the same road as I had with the first five books, and I couldn't put my readership through that again.

It's been five years since I made that very difficult decision, and while I will always love StarDoc and the readers who kept me writing the series, I've moved on.

Now that I'm returning to writing Darkyn novels, I do wonder at times if history might repeat itself. For the second time in my career I've revived a series that my publisher killed but that the readers wanted me to keep writing. I have three new Darkyn novels under contract, and if these do well, I can certainly write more after this trilogy concludes. Since this has been my bestselling series to date, and readers have been very vocal about wanting more books, I think I have a fairly decent shot.

That said, I can't take anything for granted. While how well the new trilogy does is 99% dependent on things beyond my control, I know I can make more of an effort to do what I can for the series and its readership. So this time around I'm trying to approach the problem differently. Primarily I'm focused on selling all the books that share a storyline under one contract; this should keep me from getting entangled in a series that I may or may not be able to end. I think this works better for the readers, too, as from what I've observed most of them don't seem interested in following lengthy series any more.

I'm also getting more involved and taking some new directions with promotion and marketing for this trilogy. That's been more painful -- I'm always going to be better at writing than self-promoting -- and I don't know if it will actually make a difference. I figure if nothing else I'll learn from it.

Nightborn will be hitting the shelves on March 6th, and as part of my do-more effort I'm also trying to make myself more available. So: if you have a weblog and would like to interview me, get some info about the book, or have me write a guest post for you, and you can post that between now and March 6th, please e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com to let me know. I have a few ARCs of Nightborn left that I can offer as giveaways (not many, so this will be first come first served) or signed copies of my other Darkyn novels. In late February I should have the final edition author copies of Nightborn if you'd prefer those as prizes.

If you were one of the readers or a reviewer who got a Nightborn ARC (either from me or my publisher), and you have the time and inclination to post a review on your site or at one of the online booksellers' pages before the book is released, that would also be great, and much appreciated.

I'm also going to put one last signed Nightborn ARC up for grabs here, so if you'd like a chance at winning it, in comments to this post name a novel series that you wish other people would read (or if you can't think of any, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, January 21, 2012. I will choose one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner a signed ARC of Nightborn along with a surprise (and no, I won't tell you what that is, but my surprises are always good ones.) This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Scrabbling Ideas

I've been playing Scrabble® since they tried to teach me how to spell in elementary school, and after chess it's my favorite board game. It's an excellent way to spend an unplugged evening with the kids. We regularly have Scrabble® nights here at Casa PBW, and (when I can get a couple of teams together) the occasional Scrabble home tournament. Last weekend Mom and I paired up and kicked everyone's butt all over the board.

I also have an electronic version of the game that allows me to play against the computer. A game takes about ten minutes to play by computer so it's the perfect mini-break past time. I usually win about half the games I play up to the expert level, at which point I always lose, but I do try to be graceful about it. Plus one of these days I am going to beat it; I just have to figure out how to make a word out of Q, J, K, X and three Is (I swear, the expert mode always sticks me with the worst letters.)

A Scrabble® game can be used for other things, too. Tonight while I was playing against the computer these were the first three words that landed on the board:

I arranged the words in my head -- Lost City Loot/Loot Lost City/City Lost Loot -- and realized I had three different basic premises for a story: Someone finds treasure from a lost city; a lost city is discovered (and looted); a city loses its treasure. While I probably won't get story ideas from every game I play, from now on I think I'm going to be paying more attention to what lands on the board.

At the moment I'm putting together a trilogy proposal, and I needed six names for the protagonists. My usual methods weren't producing much, so on a whim I took out my hands-on Scrabble® board (Diamond edition, naturally) and started playing with the tiles. I had the first four names I needed in a couple of minutes, and after switching out tiles for a while I hit on the last two. I even got a bonus in the process; the name of the character who brings the final two protagonists together.

Although the limited number of letter tiles can seem restrictive, I find it's actually a good thing. I think in some cases too many choices can be overwhelming. I had to do some creative thinking while I was working with the letters versus using as many as I wanted, and that helped me focus on what was important. If you want more letters, you can make your own from squares of cardboard, or pick up an extra game from a thrift store just for the tiles.

Other ways you can use a Scrabble® board:

Set up keywords and rearrange them to find new ideas for titles, settings and other named story elements.

Work with the tiles to coin words for world-building purposes.

Sort out the names in your story by first letter and eliminate sound-alike given names (this prevents your cast from sounding like a new branch of the Duggar family.)

Have you ever used a Scrabble® board to work out something with writing? Are there any other ways you can think of using one to help? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Please Don't Break the Internet

I'm not a group-joiner, but I despise censorship, so to show my support for those fighting to protect the internet and our freedom of speech, here's a video to watch:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The magic hat has handed me the winners of the Bright and Shadow giveaway, and they are:

Tami in Jacksonville, whose favorite magical world is Mercedes Lackey's 500 Kingdoms

fionaphoenix, who digs Kim Harrison's The Hollows series

Ellen, who likes both Patricia Briggs' and Ilona Andrews' worlds

Stephen B. Bagley, who wouldn't mind visiting Discworld (brave guy)

Jessica, who picks Karen Moning's Fever series

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mac Ten

Ten Things for the Mac Freeware Lovers

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

The free lite version (or possibly a free trial download; my links are not jiving with each other) of Art Text is "a powerful tool. Create compelling text for your advertisements, brochures, letterheads, newsletters and more. Spice up these documents by designing decorative graphics that are sure to impress others. If you're creating a website for a business or your personal needs, Art Text has all of the tools you need. The 250 editable materials and 600 supplied vector icons and shapes will give you a quick start to getting your site up and running, or create your own web graphics effortlessly with the help of multiple layers. A logo often creates a strong association with your business in the minds of customers. You want your logo to make a statement. Design your company's logo right in Art Text and make it unique by taking advantage of 100 additional fonts (Extras Pack only) and the large library of shapes included in the program" (OS:Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, Intel only. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion compatible.)

Calendar is an app "for those would want to put a calendar directly into their menu bar, allowing for easy access. It provides a quick look at today’s date, and one click brings up the calendar, and a schedule sidebar. Switching between months and years is handled quickly" (OS: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later)

Dropbox is "a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website. Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others, whether you’re a student or professional, parent or grandparent. Even if you accidentally spill a latte on your laptop, have no fear! You can relax knowing that Dropbox always has you covered, and none of your stuff will ever be lost" (OS: Mac, Windows, Linux and various mobile devices)

Growly Notes "lets you capture everything you’re interested in, all in one place. Organize research projects, trips, to-do lists, or journals. Scrapbook your images, web links, and video clips. Your imagination is the only limitation. Pages can contain almost anything: formatted text, images, movies, audio clips, PDF files, tables, lists, web and file links, and drawings you create in Notes. There are no rules for where things have to go: put an image beside text or under it. Draw shapes on top of other notes. Put two snippets of text right next to each other. Click anywhere and start typing. It’s really that simple. Notebooks are organized into sections (the larger tabs on the left in the image above), each of which contains as many pages as you like. All the open notebooks are shown in one window, for easy navigation and quick jumps" (OS: Mac)

Jet Photo Studio 5 is "a feature-rich and easy-to-use digital photography software. Features: Organizes photos in albums; Manage photos with the calendar and map; Geotag photos with GPS; Create Flash and Web galleries; Publish web albums with JetPhoto Server. New version 5 can also manage video clips and make Flash or web galleries contains videos" (OS: Mac OS X 10.3 / 10.4 / 10.5 / 10.6 / 10.7; this one also has a Windows version for Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7)

MovingPhotos3D is "a visualization that lets you see your photo library in a new way. It sends your photos flying around the screen in 3D. You can see hundreds of pictures move into different patterns and shapes" (OS:Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later)

Scene Painter is a Mac freeware "for those who are looking to tell a story using a graphics component library as its source. You can create comics with this tool, or create other various pieces of art. You can get in depth with the program, utilizing advanced tactics or keep it simple" (OS: Mac, Jave version 1.6)

smallQWERTY is a free "keyboard app. You can input the following functions in groups of 4x5 buttons with left clicks, some of which in groups of 3x3 buttons with left or right clicks: 1. Letters (with standard ABC and efficient smallQWERTY layouts) 2. Numbers (1 ~ 0) 3. Symbols (all the symbols in standard keyboard) 4. Cursor keys (Left, Right, Up, Down, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down) 5. Function keys (F1 ~ F12) 6. Common File menus (New, Open, Save, Close, Hide, Minimize, Quit, ...) 7. Common Edit menus (Cut, Copy, Paste, Duplicate, Undo, Redo, Find, ...) 8. More menus (Folder creation, Preferences, Spotlight, Trash, ...) 9. Useful commands (Navigation, Screen capture, Media control, ...) 10. System commands (Monitor, Log off, Restart, Shutdown, Sleep) 11. Desktop commands (Mission control, Dashboard, Launchpad, App/window switcher, ...) 12. All the individual keys of standard keyboard 13. Modifiers (Command, Shift, Option/Alt, Control) 14. Custom app launcher. More functions in 3x3 keyboard interface are coming soon" (OS: Mac OS X 10.6 or later)

Speakline is a "simple language tool allows users to type a message onto the notepad and have their Mac read it back. The app supports the Mac system voices. Speakline will save the text, and can be exported as a AIFF file" (OS: Mac OS X 10.6 or later)

Wunderlist is a task manager that "stands apart from other like it, for being on the cloud. This free app will help you to boost productivity, and will work across a wide variety of devices, including: Macs, Windows, iPad, iPhone, Android, and on the web. You can share you lists with friends and co-workers to maximize efficiency when trying to get things done" (OS: Mac OS X, also Windows, Linux and various mobile devices)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Invasion from Above

For your viewing pleasure: watch an alien invasion of Earth in this superbly animated video (some background music but otherwise safe for those of you at work):

Operation White Widow (2011) from Jmtm00 on Vimeo.

Originally spotted over at Kuriositas.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Collecting Characters

At the market the other day I was fortunate enough to get in line behind an elderly woman using an electric cart. She had a corona of curly white hair, wore a lovely floral blouse that matched her lilac trousers, and from her size had to be six feet tall or better standing.

I zoomed in on the details about her that interested me most: large hands laced with ecru age spots; on the left she sported a thin gold wedding band and modest diamond engagement ring that still sparkled. An old, chunky man's wristwatch (her husband's?) with big, easy-to-read numbers hung a little loose from her wrist. She gave off an aura of genteel perfume that I couldn't identify but reminded me of the Chantilly my mom likes to wear.

She had a full cart of groceries (I noted a gorgeous eggplant, three containers of fresh strawberries, and a gallon fat free milk.) As the clerk bagged everything for her in brown paper she gave direction on what was to be bagged together. She also listened and nodded as the cashier gave her an easy shortcut recipe for eggplant Parmesan, and then told her a funny cooking mishap story involving turkey gravy and peanut butter.

The lady had a strong, deep voice with a beautiful northeastern accent, maybe New Hampshire, and laughed out loud at herself several times with a big woman's booming, hearty laugh. Each time she did it tickled me, inviting me to laugh along (but I kept quiet so she wouldn't realize how closely I was eavesdropping.)

At some point during their exchange my order was also rung up, but the cashier and I had to wait as the lady's bags were loaded up in another cart. I paid in cash instead of using my card so I wouldn't have to ask the lady to move (her wheels were actually blocking my access to the card machine). All this took about ten minutes.

As soon as the lady left the cashier immediately apologized for making me wait, and I told her not to worry about it. "She's ninety-three," the cashier confided, shaking her head. She wasn't complaining, she was smiling.

So was I. Standing by that lady had been a privilege for me, not an inconvenience. It was like being in the presence of royalty; I was completely dazzled. Even as I write this a day later, I can still recall perfectly the sound of her laugh and the smell of her perfume. I also have no doubt a version of this magnificent creature will show up in one of my novels.

Observing strangers contributes most to my character collection. A chance encounter, like the one I had at the market, allows me to gather just enough information to start my imagination rolling. I need a little mystery to jump start the storytelling, and not knowing the name of the lady at the market, or where she lives, or any of her personal history gives me the room I need to invent. Finding out one small detail, like the fact she was born in 1919, gave me just enough to build on.

Imagine what this woman might have seen in her lifetime: the Great Depression, WWII, all those presidents, so much history. Was she a USO girl, or maybe a Rosie the Riveter? I bet she was. Does that old watch belong to the same guy who gave her those rings, or did it belong to her dad, her brother, a long-lost love? To still be shopping for herself -- and laughing -- at the age of ninety-three speaks of who she is at the very heart: strong, determined, dignified, joyous.

Every time you go out in the world, you have an opportunity to collect story elements from real life. People are walking characterization treasuries, and if you pay attention, you can borrow some of that personality gold and reinvest it in your fictional cast.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bright and Shadow

There are few events more exciting for a writer than the official release day of your first book, and that day has arrived for our blogpal L.J. Cohen with the debut of her YA novel The Between.

Here's how the story starts: at school, no one notices Lydia Hawthorne except Clive Barrow, a gorgeous new boy who is fawned over by everyone but her. Even more puzzling, Clive won't leave Lydia alone; he follows her everywhere -- and he always seems to know exactly where she'll be at any given moment.

Lydia does her best to dodge Clive, but he shows up on her bus on Friday afternoon to make some weird references to the characters from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights' Dream. Only this isn't a classroom exercise; Clive speaks of Oberon as if he were a real, living King. As cute as he is, it's obvious to Lydia that Clive is more than a little weird; he might be serious trouble.

Just as Lydia has had enough of his creepy stalker craziness, a lightning storm and an enormous dark force envelope the bus, and Clive drags her from her world through a window of rainbows into a place he calls Between. There he tells Lydia that she is a changeling, a trueborn Fae whom Oberon, King of the Bright court, exchanged with a dying mortal infant. The magic protecting her has been gradually wearing thin, and now that it's about to collapse, she has to walk away from her mortal life and return to the Fae. Worse, the King wants Lydia back for his own reasons -- and apparently so does his nemesis, Queen Tatiana of the Shadow court.

In a sense L.J. Cohen is the reader's Clive; without warning she steals us away from the real world and transports us to the beautiful and dangerous realms of the Fae. Like Lydia, we're quickly caught up in the labyrinthine personalities and politics of the Faerie courts, where nothing is what it seems. As the story unfolds, we see past the surface spectacle to the explosive secrets lurking beneath, and along with Lydia uncover each one to determine if the wrongs of the past can be set to rights -- or if the world of the Fae is doomed to war, destruction and extinction.

I've always been very selective about the fantasy I read because I generally don't care for magic books. Too often fictional magic systems are illogical, implausible, and regularly employed without any consequences at all. In bad magic books the spells are piled on in every scene, the same way makeup is trowelled on by certain women who believe it fools everyone into thinking they're younger and more attractive when it's simply sad and clownish.

This isn't the case with The Between. L.J. Cohen's classic-based magic system suits the world-building and the characters, makes sense and doesn't smother the story with a lot of unnecessary spell gunk. I think L.J.'s skill with using the magic elements (as well as handling the Shakespearean world-building) comes from her poet side. I kept seeing that lyrical influence throughout the story, too; from the rhythms of the dialogue and the action to the descriptive passages.

Also, this is a YA novel, and I'm fairly conservative about what I consider age- and subject matter-appropriate fiction for teenagers. After reading L.J.'s book I'd feel comfortable handing it out to teens of any age. Parents of kids twelve and under might want to prescreen the novel as there are a few scenes with some moderately nightmarish and violent content that I thought might be frightening to kids who are especially sensitive.

I really appreciate the many formats the author chose to use for publication. Via Smashwords I was able to purchase a .pdf copy, download it and print it out, and then I discovered I could get print copies from Amazon.com as well. I don't own an e-reader, and due to vision problems I can't read for long periods of time from a computer screen. For those reasons when an author goes strictly electronic and doesn't enable a printing option I don't buy their book. No print version makes it difficult for me to have giveaways, too. I have given away e-books in the past, but with some e-publishers this can get pretty convoluted so print is just more convenient. L.J. gave me all the options I wanted at mulptiple retailers, and it made me wish every indie author would do such a great job with distribution.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, and I think you will, too -- but as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, name your favorite magical novel world or author (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, January 16, 2012. I'll choose five names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners a trade paperback copy of The Between by L.J. Cohen. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


We got the magic hat to do its thing, and the winner of the Mistake Me For giveaway is:


Sherry, when you have a chance please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com so I can get your prize out to you. My thanks to everyone for joining in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordle Scribing

Whenever I want to creatively juggle words and phrases I go straight to my favorite online toy, Wordle, which creates word clouds out of any text or URL you feed to it. Among other things I regularly use it to coin words, create story titles, and play with character profiles.

This time I went to Wordle with a less well-defined task on hand: pulling together some concept sketches. For me concepts often begin as simply a handful of words, images or feelings I want to stir together and see how they blend. Wordle helps with the stirring and the mixing.

I decided to tackle defining the concepts better by taking four defining/descriptive keywords, pulling a bunch of synonyms for them from the thesaurus and feeding the entire pile to Wordle to see what it made of them. If nothing else I figured I might get a few title ideas out of the exercise (and click on any of the following images to get a bigger view of the cloud.)

Concept #1: green, evening, ghost, sorrow

Several phrases overlapped and ended up being repeated, and as I read them I could see some new connections I hadn't made. Wordle's pairings of Winter demon, sunset vision and witching night also helped me further refine the concept. This cloud definitely sent me in the right direction.

Concept #2: desire, steal, time, secret

Not many phrases overlapped in this cloud, and at first glance it seemed, well, overly wordy. But once I gave it a few minutes I began focusing on individual words that seemed to jump out at me: underground, ransom, thieve, clouded, hunger and longing. Together they gave me the protagonist, who will be the hub of this concept.

Concept #3: heart, jewel, bright, fire

Again, not a lot of overlap, but probably the best results of all three attempts. Inspired by great pairings like white luster, twinkling cross, burning charm and individual words like solitaire, aglow and incandescent I found my plot and both protagonists as well as one possible setting.

If you want to try this method for your story concept, my advice is to use descriptive words that relate in some way to your story rather than stringently define it. Think mood instead of details. It also helps to employ keywords that are synonym-friendly, and do use plenty of synonyms, as the more you feed to Wordle, the more diversity you'll get in return.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mistake Me For

For some reason I am often the victim of mistaken authorial identity. Being confused with other writers gives me the opportunity to live vicariously for a few hours, though, so it's not all bad.

Like when some strange folks decided that author Stephen Leigh and I were the same person (that one even had a hilariously idiotic web site devoted to it for a while.) I was quite flattered, because I mean who wouldn't want to be Stephen Leigh? He teaches writing at university, plays in three bands and studies Aikido. He has a great beard, too. Truth is I'd love to be a scholarly musician author professor who can genuinely kick your ass. And while I'm still not sure how anyone could build an entire conspiracy theory based solely on the fact that Stephen and I use the same first two initials (S.L.), it was a nice thrill while it lasted.

Since this is evidently going to be a regular thing with me, I think I should get to pick the next author I'm mistaken for. It's my turn, isn't it? That way I can spend an afternoon or a week or even a couple of months not being me while I'm being someone else I'm not. I could dress up, make people call me by names I've never used -- I think there are still a couple left -- and quite possibly write stories I'd never write.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions for the next time someone decides to make me a writer I've never been:

Jane Austen: I know, she's moved on to the next place, but maybe we could work a reincarnation theory or something. Of course I'd need this to go on long enough for me to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, bury the appropriately fake-aged manuscript somewhere in England, and leave clues so people know where to dig it up.

Jude Devereaux: With this identity I'll need a sample of her handwriting so I can sign some of her books for my mom, who adores everything she writes. She doesn't have a hard signature to fake, does she?

Thomas Harris: The beard isn't as nice as Stephen's, but we'll pretend I shaved it off. Actually I'd just like five minutes access to his brain so I can find out why he ended Hannibal the way he did.

Barry Hughart: so I could rummage through his files and see if there's a follow-up anywhere to Eight Skilled Gentlemen (the third book in his Bridge of Birds saga). Please note that I wouldn't steal it, I'd simply read it while I hid under his desk.

Jan Karon: Have you ever see her office? It's like Oprah's, only better. Plus she's believably blonde and makes helmet hair look elegant.

Stephen King: idle curiosity for the most part; I'd like to know how it feels to be the only living writer who is actually less photogenic than I am.

Shiloh Walker: because she can run and I can't, she does way better on her diet than I do, and I secretly suspect she's tireless.

I have a signed ARC of Nightborn to give away today, so if you're interested in a chance of winning it, in comments to this post name an author you'd like to be mistaken for, and why (or if you'd rather keep your own identity, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Wednesday, January 11, 2012. I'll choose one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner a signed ARC of Nightborn, my upcoming March release and the first novel in my new Lords of the Darkyn trilogy. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won someone here at PBW in the past.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sub Ops Ten

Carina Press Senior Editor Angela James issued an open call for novel submissions last month, and is looking for ". . . an author who has a contemporary romance trilogy or series planned. Any heat level considered! I’m specifically looking for contemporary romance novels (over 70k) but will consider a novella series (for novellas, even better if they’re erotic, but not necessary)." Also: "A new paranormal romance (or urban fantasy w/romantic elements) series. The good news for you is that I’ll consider all manner of paranormal, including vampires, shifters, etc. I’m not wore out on paranormal, so hit me with your A-game, even if it’s a vampire series! Again, any heat level considered." Also: "A very, very hot erotic romance series. Smokin’ hot. Any subgenre, any length. Can be BDSM or m/m. Just looking for smokin’ hot erotic romance (not erotica, please)." She also notes: "So the trend here is that I’m looking for an author/authors I can build within a series in these particular genres. I’m not looking for standalone novels or novellas for this particular submissions call for myself (though Carina Press is always willing to and does acquire standalones)." No deadline mentioned, but as she mentions acquiring for Fall 2012 I wouldn't wait forever to submit. Carina pays royalties with no advance; I don't have the latest figures but they're decent. See blog post for more details.

SF author David Conyers has an open call for his Extreme Planets Antho, and is looking for "short stories set on or about alien worlds that push the limits of what we believe is possible in a planetary environment. These could be planets with gravities many times that of the Earth or orbiting neutron stars so their oceans are elongated into egg shapes. Carbon worlds or diamond worlds, iron worlds, or planets with extremely elliptical orbits. Worlds made of exotic elements or with bizarre atmospheres. Planets were time and space behaves strangely or against the laws of physics. Even artificially created worlds can find a home in this anthology, either transformed by bizarre technology or the creation of alien civilisations. Mostly, we hope you dazzle us with worlds we haven’t even thought about." Length: 4-10K (established authors, up to 20K; query first), Payment: "US 3 cents a word and 3 contributor copies" No reprints (may make exception for pro/established authors; again query first), electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: June 30, 2012.

Fantastique Unfettered quarterly print & e-zine will be accepting submissions for their fifth issue during February & March 2012, and is looking for most sub-genre speculative fiction. Length: Ralan notes: ¾k-9k (prefers 4k-5k; >6k=masterpiece); Payment: fic=1¢/word; poem=3¢/word ($5min/$10max); +PDF copy. Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. See a sample of the e-zine online here.

Flash Fiction Online e-zine is open to submissions, and is looking for: "science fiction and fantasy, but we also like literary fiction; and in any case, great flash stories aren’t always easily classified. If you wrote it, and you love it, then submit it. Second-person point of view has a hard time running our gauntlet. Some of us like it, some don’t. You can submit it, but the odds of publication are lower than first- or third-person. We want our publication to be accessible to a variety of ages, so please, no erotica, porn, or graphic sex or violence. Think Law and Order: Special Victims Unit or Criminal Minds on TV: they handle horrific situations, but always obliquely enough to be shown on TV — and for the most part, you never notice that the graphic elements aren’t shown. But sex is also a part of life: if your story addresses sexual issues or contains non-graphic sexual content for a purpose, nobody on the editorial staff will be offended if you send it in. The worst we can do is say “no”, right? In the same way, we won’t publish profanity. However, you don’t need to remove profanity to submit to us; just be prepared to modify it if we accept the story. There are things that we’ll consider, but that are a hard sell for us. These include: Second-person point-of-view (does the story really need that perspective?), queer fiction (in particular, stories which would be obvious or trite if the characters had been straight), polemical fiction (we prefer stories with messages in them over messages told as stories). That said, we won’t rule out any of these, so the worst case is that we say “no”. Length: .5 to 1k; Payment $50.00, no reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Flashquake e-zine is seeking "complete works, stories, essays and poems that demonstrate a mastery of the English language, contain original thoughts, demonstrate imagination, and weave their magic with power. We don’t appreciate romance stories, nor work with excessive gore or violence, “goth” vampire tales, hard-core science fiction, rhyming poetry, or works of a religious nature. FQ has a long tradition of publishing: Flash Fiction (up to 1,000 words); Flash Nonfiction—Essays, Memoir, Stories, Etc (up to 1,000 words) Poetry (up to 35 lines); Prose Poetry (up to 300 words) FQ also seeks to publish (From the Editor’s Desk section): 10 Minute Plays; Haibun (up to 1,000 words); Other forms which could be considered flash (up to 1,000 words); Book Reviews, esp. as they pertain to the flash reader and/or flash writer, including poetry (up to 1,000 words); Author Interviews, especially as they pertain to the flash reader and/or flash writer, including poetry (up to 1,000 words). In addition, FQ has a special affinity for: Translations, esp. those in which audio and/or video can be obtained from both the original language and the English version." Payment: .pdf and exposure. No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Current reading period: January 1 - February 20, 2012.

Innsmouth Free Press has an open call for their Fungi antho, and are looking for "dark speculative fiction (horror, fantasy, science fiction, and any other variant, such as steampunk) focused solely on the fungal. No happy mushrooms from Mario Bros. A fungus of some type must be a key element in the story, not just a throwaway element. A character can attempt to poison someone with a mushroom, mushroom cultivation may be of importance to the story, the dark patch of mould on the ceiling may begin to terrify an unhappy tenant, a group of people may consume hallucinogenic mushrooms, etc. We are looking for a variety of settings and protagonists. Mushrooms sprout around the world, after all." [And just when I stopped writing about the Lok-Teel, too. Rats.] Length: up to 5K, Payment: "1 cent per word for original stories; Reprints paid at a flat rate of $35. Canadian dollars, eh. One complimentary print copy and one e-book copy provided." Reprints okay, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period opens January 15, 2012; Deadline February 15, 2012.

Heads up for Canadian publishers and published authors: Imaginarium, the best Canadian speculative writing has a call for submissions: "Publishers are invited to submit their anthologies or short story collections to editors Halli Villegas and Sandra Kasturi in hard copy or by PDF. If the work is from a collection or anthology, it must have appeared there for the first time. Reprints published within the last year are not eligible. Individual authors, if they wish, are also invited to submit work that may have appeared in a low print run or other obscure place if it was published in the preceding year (Jan 1 - Dec 31) and compensation was received for it. We will also accept submissions from Canadian authors writing in another language, but they must have a publishable English translation along with the original." No Length limit, Payment: CA1¢/word. Reprints only, electronic and snail mail submission, see announcement for more details. Deadline: January 31, 2012.

Journalstone is holding a horror novel contest: "Our first one turned out so well we decided to do it again, and again, and again. . . If you are interested please submit your 75,000 words or more manuscript/novel to joel@journalstone.com on or before April 1, 2012, and you will be entered. The winner will receive a $2,000 advance against future royalties and have his/her novel published by JournalStone. Grammar counts, have it edited before you submit your entry." See guidelines for more details.

Science Fiction Trails magazine features "stories with science fiction content that are set in the Wild West era. Stories must take place on earth during the time period 1850-1900 AD. All stories should have a strong connection to the western region of the United States [this can include western Canada or northern Mexico]." and are looking for "... character driven adventure. Take the time to develop interesting characters. We want science, but we want characters, too. A few things we like are The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr and the short-lived Legend TV shows, Aaron Larson’s Haakon Jones stories or our editor’s Miles O’Malley stories. Not all of these shows or stories had SF content, but many did. The point is, they were fun to watch or read with interesting characters. It would be worth your time to ask your library to get some of them for you. A few things that don’t really work are aliens in some mine or cave for some inexplicable reason or some clod goes back in time and doesn’t really belong there. Time travel is discouraged because it's an easy crutch for the writer to use and it rarely leads to an entertaining story.
Things we'd really like to see: an alchemy tale; something with flying machines. Please do not submit stories about copyrighted characters you did not create. We liked Jim West and Artamus Gordon, but they are someone else’s creation and we won’t use them." Length: 1-7k; Payment: $20.00 + contributor's copy, query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details.

Stonetelling e-zine is looking for "literary speculative poems with a strong emotional core. We focus on fantasy, science fiction, surrealism, and slipstream, but would consider outstanding science poetry and non-speculative poetry that fits the flavor of the magazine. Please note that we are not a mainstream literary poetry market, and non-speculative poetry will be an extremely hard sell. While we are open to all speculative poetry, we are especially interested in seeing work that is multi-cultural and boundary-crossing, work that deals with othering and Others, work that considers race, gender, sexuality, identity, and disability issues in nontrivial and evocative ways. We’d love to see multilingual poetry, though that can sometimes be tricky. Try us! There are no style limitations, but rhymed poetry will be a hard sell. Please try us with visual poetry, prose poetry, and other genre-bending forms. We will consider experimental poetry, but please remember that not all experimental poems are easy to represent in an e-zine format." Length: no limits; Payment: $5.00; query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Open to submission through February 20, 2012.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Changed by Books

Author Kris Reisz is looking for some opinions on a project he's contemplating -- and I'll quote here -- "I want to start a website where people can send in anecdotes about books, stories, poems, etc. that helped them somehow, whether they gave them the courage to ask the pretty girl out or maybe served as an escape during a rough patch in their lives."

Since this is the kind of thing you guys tell me in comments during giveaways here at PBW, I thought I'd ask if you'd head over to his LJ to read the post and (if you're inclined) offer him some thoughts on the subject.

I've never found a site devoted to this kind of content, so I think the idea is very cool. I imagine keeping out the marketing people, trolls and self-promo sluts would be something of a challenge, and it would probably have to be closely moderated to boot out the trolls looking to pick fights, but even so, I think it's a lovely concept.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Story Prompt Cards

I never run short of story ideas, but for writing prompts I usually depend on music, poetry, art or anything random to strike me and start the gears turning. My habit is to wait for it to come to me, and I've always viewed this as a necessary evil, as my interest needs to be seriously engaged by concept before I dive in to investing my writing in it.

To change my habits and step outside my comfort zone, I decide to challenge myself to write some short stories based on a preset collection of prompts. I still wanted a random element involved (mainly to prevent myself from deliberately or subconsciously picking out easy or story-sympathetic prompts), so for that I went to my jar of fortune cookie fortunes -- yes, I save every one I get -- and pulled out twenty slips at random.

To prevent misplacing or losing my 2011 theme fortune, I made it into an artist trading card, something I'm using as my annual art project for this year (more on that at the photoblog here.) I decided to do the same thing with these fortunes and make them into an ATC series. I've named the cards my story prompt deck, and my goal is to pick at least one card at random every month and use it to inspire a short piece of fiction.

It's good writing practice; it's definitely different for me and I'm hoping to get at least one novel idea out of the exercise. The real creative room is in the interpretation of the prompt while (hopefully) remaining faithful to it. I'm not giving myself any limits on length, genre or time period -- during my busy months, I may only be able to write a couple hundred words -- but I do want to tell a complete story for each prompt.

Some of the fortunes are a bit odd, and I don't agree with a couple of them, so I've also given myself permission to flip, twist, and otherwise put my own spin on them. Such as the Fearless courage is the foundation of victory card; I don't buy that at all. The truly fearless don't need courage; they operate on self-assurance, certainty, narcissism or whatever drives their confidence. In my experience the courageous are generally terrified souls, but somehow endure it, plow through it and persist in spite of it. Courage doesn't even exist until you acknowledge that the odds are against you and no matter what you do you're probably going to fail. Fearless people are by their nature incapable of feeling anything like that. When I pull this card I have no doubt I'll write a story that turns it on its head.

If you'd like to create a deck of your own story prompt cards, you don't have to eat Chinese take-out from now until March. Try clipping interesting words and phrases from magazines, newspapers or other printed materials, or gathering some interesting images (faces, objects, landscapes or any other story element would work well.) Write or print out some lyrics to your favorite poems or songs and snip some lines from them, or feed them to Wordle and see what pops up in the cloud. If you'd like less obvious prompting, collect some paint chip cards from your local home improvement store, pick a color at random and use the color name or the color itself in some way in your story.

Related links:

Big Huge Lab's photo trading card generator can help you design and print out some very cool-looking cards.

Creative Writing Prompts.com has 346 story prompts here to help spark ideas; hover your cursor over each number to read them.

Seventh Sanctum has an entire page of writing generators here that range from silly to seriously neat.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Bound for Adventure

One of the gifts I received over the holidays was a copy of Adventures in Bookbinding by Jeannine Stein, published by Quarry Books. The author, a veteran book artist, offers ten mixed-media projects (each with two variations) that push the boundaries of bookbinding by combining traditional techniques with handcrafting that is generally not used to make books.

The projects are clearly explained and are accompanied by several helpful reference photos; all of them are in color. The back of the book contains templates, patterns and resources, and it looks like all the stitching involved is clearly illustrated. Beautiful photos of the completed projects are also included in each section to give the finished look. Quarry obviously does not skimp on production, and the end result is a lovely edition.

The extreme coolness of this artisan's book is in the diversity of the materials and projects. Ms. Stein doesn't confine herself to journals and paper. There are projects in here that include needle felting, weaving, doll making, clay sculpting, jewelry, metal work, painting quilting, crochet, lino-printing and decoupage, and go into creating sketchbooks, mini books, idea books, notebooks and work books. When I want to go on a creative adventure, this is the kind of variety I want.

That said, this is not a book for the total beginner or the casual hobbyist who wants to slap it together in less than an hour; most of the projects require a certain amount of time, materials and handcraft skills to accomplish. A basic bookbinding tool kit is a necessity (and the author explains this in the getting started section), but it's not difficult to put together an inexpensive one. Anyone with basic sewing skill could attempt the quilted workbook project, but the jewelry and metal pocket sketchbook would probably be pretty difficult for someone who has never before made jewelry. I was glad to see the author used a lot of recycled and on-hand materials throughout the book, and showed shortcut variations of each project that produce a similar look with less time and expense involved.

If you're seriously into book making, and want to extend your range or take your binding to the next level, this is a book you'll want to add to your instructional collection. Art journalers who are interested in creating unique mixed-media bindings should also check it out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I'm in the process of testing a few template changes here and at PBWindow; if things turn a bit wonky it's probably because I clicked on the wrong option, and will correct it as soon as possible. I did switch the photoblog to one of Blogger's new template designs, and in the process lost my sidebar (or maybe I just haven't found it yet; not sure.)

Although I thought it would be good to try out some of the new looks, I'm still not inclined to extensively change PBW. I like it plain with plenty of room to write, and so far none of the new Blogger templates seem to offer that. I am having problems focusing on the text on PBW, so for the time being I've switched it to a font that is easier for me to read. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.

While I'm tinkering on it, are there any changes to the blog's format that you'd like to see? Let me know in comments.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Cover Art

My German publisher continues to give me amazing artwork. Judging by the listing for the book I'm sure this edition is a translation of Twilight Fall, book six from the original series.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Yearly Ten

Ten Things to Help You Schedule 2012

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

Calendar Magic is "an easy-to-use program that is entertaining, informative, educational and of equal applicability in the home and in the office" (OS: Designer notes "Calendar Magic has been tested on Windows 95, 98, Me, XP, Vista (32-bit) and Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit), and has also been reported to run without problems on other versions of Windows")

Calme is "made for creating and printing beautifully looking monthly planners, yearly planners and picture calendars in minutes. Creating individual calendars by choosing your own colors, picture themes, fonts, borders and your own personal photos is very easy. You can download holidays right out of the application and display them in your calendars. It is also possible to change your calendar language. Many languages from all over the world are available" (OS: Win 9x/NT/2000/XP/Vista/7)

Desktop Calendar is a "small calendar and event reminder that unobtrusively sits on your desktop and is ready to use any time. No taskbar button or system tray icon. The calendar is transparent so it's not an eyesore and consumes very little memory. Enter as many daily or regular reminders as you like. Float your mouse over a day to see all reminders for the day. Shows a short list of upcoming reminders below the calendar. Fonts, colours and tooltips are customisable so it blends in with your desktop colour and font schemes" (OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7)

Easy Diary allows you to "write your memories or appointments with ease. Easy Diary saves your data only in your own computer and helps you keep them private. Features: multi-user supported; every single user unlocks his/her data by using his/her password; you can search your data; interface is customizable; backup import & export is provided" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

My Diary is "reliable for storing everyday blogs or journals. Your diary is password protected, and blogs are encrypted using a simple yet powerful encryption algorithm to ensure that your journals are secured. myDiary automatically saves as you type so you don´t have to worry about saving. It´s very simple and easy to use - enter your password, pick a date, start typing. It´s that easy!" (OS: Win 98/NT/XP/Vista/Windows 7, Linux, designer notes it also requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.)

The free Lite version of Rainlendar is "a customizable calendar that displays the current month, events, and reminders. It is a very lightweight application that doesn´t use much system resources or take much space on your desktop" (OS: Windows XP/2003/Vista/7)

SSuite Office My Calendar Diary Portable is a portable calendar and diary for people on the go (OS: all Windows and USB devices)

There's an interesting concept behind Stay Focused freeware: "If you would like to concentrate on your daily stuff, Stayfocused is your choice. The idea of Stayfocused is based on The Pomodoro Technique®. The root of the idea is that you work for 25 minutes straight and then break for 5 minutes" (OS: Windows XP/Vista/7)

UK's Kalendar is "a MS Windows program intended to remind you of upcoming events and todos. There are several views for your dates that are organized similar to a calendar sheet. Dates and appointments can be entered into the calendar via an input form. You can enter a forewarn time, so as long as "UK´s Kalender" is running in the background you´ll be reminded of your dates as soon as the forewarn time is reached. Independent from the calendar function there is also a todo list where you can enter tasks with a deadline and a forewarn time. If the forewarn time is reached, "UK´s Kalender" will inform you of the due tasks with symbols and colors" (OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7)

The free Lite version of VueMinder Calendar 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)

While I prefer my paper calendars I'm still using some scheduling freeware: RedNotebook for writing schedules, deadlines, editing task lists and so forth, and Chaos Manager for personal & family scheduling. I recommend both as useful, practical electronic schedule keepers.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Wishing You